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H50/Oceans: The Break-Even Point 3/6

January 28th, 2011 (03:10 pm)

MASTER POST

PART ONE...PART TWO...PART THREE...PART FOUR...PART FIVE...PART SIX



PART THREE

Leaving is hard, but coming back is easy.

It's like no time has passed, and the team falls back into the same rhythms. Livingston can't sit still and Frank checks his nails. Saul sits heavily on the couch, usually with a glass of alka seltzer nearby. Linus spends too much time on the phone, usually talking loudly enough for everyone to hear, and Basher's always got a pet project he's toying with, be it for the job or not. Yen talks and Turk has no idea what the hell kind of language is coming out of his mouth, but he always understands him all the same.

Even Virgil fits in, making small talk with Basher that makes no sense to Turk and snickering over bad TV with Yen. And Danny's always there, careful and controlled, while Rusty comes and goes, but always shows up when he's needed.

Sometimes it's hard to remember why they're doing this, because it still feels like Turk's been doing this all his life.

And, really, he mostly has. The last year has been a foray into the unusual, and this job is a homecoming in all the ways that count. They stay in nice hotel rooms and there's always something to drink, and sometimes Turk gets to play with heavy machinery, which totally makes up for the time he spends pulling his part of the con.

Because, of all things, he's a waiter.

Yes, Turk's worked far less glorious positions, but the routine of taking orders and serving meals seems harder to deal with than it used to. He's carrying a meal ticket and a pen, when he's used to his gun and walkie talkie. He doesn't look bad in the red uniform, but sometimes he feels a little naked without his badge.

But Turk still remembers why they're doing this, even when it's hard. Someone hurt Reuben, and that's a problem they have to fix.

Turk tells himself that every morning and thinks it every night before bed. He keeps hoping that makes it easier. It never really does.

-o-

Turk's not listening.

He should be. Danny's going over something, and Turk knows that no details are irrelevant.

Still. He's not really listening.

"Did you hear me?" Danny asks.

Turk startles, looks up. "What?"

Danny smiles. "You okay?"

Turk nods automatically. "Sure."

Danny is watching him in that way that only Danny can. "You seem off."

Turk makes a face. "I'm not off."

"Are you upset that Virgil's the one in Mexico?"

Turk makes another face. "Why would I care about that?"

Danny shrugs. "You usually get paired with him."

This is true, but the insinuation bothers Turk. "I don't need Virgil."

"Okay," Danny says. "So what is it?"

Turk opens his mouth, but no words come out. Because it's not Virgil. It's not the job. It's nothing about what's happening here and now.

It's about what's happening back in Utah. It's about Davis getting a new partner and someone finishing up his cases. It's about the badge he had to give back and the job that made him happy. It's about wondering if he was just fooling himself thinking he could be a cop or if he's fooling himself now for thinking he can walk away.

He shuts his mouth, swallows. "I do miss Virgil," he says.

Danny smiles again. "He'll be home soon," he assures him. "We should be done with this in no time."

Turk manages a small smile. "I hope so."

-o-

Rusty is eating breakfast and Turk's pulled the opening shift at the restaurant. He's been playing his part for nearly two weeks now, and the fact that he's being tailed is beginning to annoy him.

But today's the big day.

"You got the dumplings?" Rusty asks.

Turk sighs. "Yes, I have the dumplings."

Rusty frowns a little. "Something wrong?"

There's a lot wrong. Turk's playing a damn waiter, for one thing. But, also: "I'm going to give some unsuspecting schmuck food poisoning."

"It's not poisonous," Rusty assures him.

"It's just not cool." And it qualifies as assault, if Turk remembers his police code well enough.

"He's getting 10 mill," Rusty reminds him.

"Personal comfort has no price tag."

"You think he needs more?" Rusty asks.

"Eleven," Turk suggests, remembering what Saul said. "At least."

Rusty takes a bite, chews, swallows. He nods. "We can do that."

Turk tries to think about that, all that money, when he switches out the dumplings. That much money will change this guy's life.

Although, Turk wonders briefly, why it hasn't changed his.

-o-

The thing is, he's a good waiter. Punctual and polite. He gets good tips, some of the best in the entire hotel, not that Turk's keeping track.

But it's hard to enjoy. Not just because it's a con, and it's short term, so he know he can't really like it. Not just because he still thinks about being a cop and how the precinct is doing without him back in Utah.

But because it's a con on a guy who doesn't deserve it. They've cased the reviewer well enough, and he's well liked and simple. For all the glitz of his job, he's just a guy who likes kicking back with his family on weekends and who will laugh at jokes just to be polite. He's good natured and pleasant and he reminds Turk of Davis.

He doesn't want to put this guy through this sort of stuff, but it's ends and means. As a cop, the means come first and the end result hopefully follows, but on this job, it's all about the ends by any means necessary. And they'll sacrifice a lot - money, comfort, and an innocent guy just doing his job - to get there.

In the grand scheme of things, Turk knows that this guy will be fine, even with the tainted dumplings Turk serves him. He knows that he'll make 10 mill off the ordeal and that Reuben will be vindicated and Bank will get what's coming to him. It's still justice, even in a unique microcosm of the world.

But when the guy leaves a 20 percent tip and Turk thanks him for stopping in, he still feels like crap and he's not even the one who had to eat the dumplings.

-o-

At first, the fact that he's getting shipped to Mexico annoys him. For one, he's got a job, and they're going to think he quit without giving notice. That probably shouldn't bother him, but it actually sort of does.

Second, why does everyone think he can make his brother do anything? True, Turk's been Virgil's brother all of his life, but the thing with brothers is that proximity breeds equal parts ridiculousness and contempt, and Virgil's more likely to listen to anyone else when he's got his mind decided on something.

So if Virgil wants to start a revolution, he's certainly going to follow through if Turk asks him not to. Because if there's a way to make Virgil do anything, it's to have Turk want the opposite.

On the plane ride down, Turk wonders why he hasn't realized this before, because it suddenly seems like powerful leverage.

Still, Virgil has picked a crazy time to make a stand for something, but when Turk gets down there and talks to his brother face to face, he understands.

"It's just wrong," Virgil says. "These guys - they do an honest day's work. They follow the rules. They give everything they have. They risk their lives, and they deserve credit for that."

And damn it, that's a story Turk knows.

Virgil looks at him, pleadingly. "You get it, don't you?"

Turk gets that this is a job and this is about Reuben. But he also gets the power of change, the sacrifice of the working man. He knows what it's like to earn something and to be rewarded. It's the thing inside him that has changed everything, and the thought of denying such a chance to someone else is almost more than he can handle.

Because computer geeks in a cubicle, cops walking a beat, or factory workers in Mexico - these people matter, not just to some master plan, but to the world.

Damn it.

He sighs, scrubbing a hand through his hair. "What do we have to do?"

Virgil's eyes brighten. "I was thinking something small, just to make a point."

"Small, huh?" Turk asks.

Virgil nods.

Turk snorts. "Okay, then. Let's start small." He stops, looks at his brother. "You do know your mustache looks hideous, don't you?"

Virgil glares. "I think we have bigger concerns."

"Have you looked at yourself lately?" Turk asks with a shrug. "Because that's pretty big."

"Shut up," Virgil replies.

"What?" Turk asks. "I can't hear you through all that hair on your face."

"Have you looked at the poor excuse for facial hair on your face?" Virgil asks.

Turk's hands go up to his manicured goatee. As a cop, this is one thing he's missed. And if it helps distinguish him from Danny Williams just in case, even better. "It's creative."

"For someone living in a trailer park, maybe."

"You look like a hillbilly," Turk fires back.

"White trash!"

As a cop, Turk might have exhibited some self-control. He's not a cop anymore. He has no moral code to worry about as he goes after his brother.

In ten minutes, Turk, Virgil, Turk's goatee, and Virgil's mustache are ready to start planning again.

-o-

In Turk's defense, he doesn't bring the alcohol or the lighters. But when such items appear and the barricade seems unbreachable, Turk is nothing if not resourceful.

After all, Danny wants them to finish the job, and that's exactly what Turk intends to do as he flings another flaming bottle over the fence.

-o-

Coming back to the States should be a relief. But it's a long drive, and Virgil's singing voice is horrible, even in Spanish.

Turk turns off the radio.

Virgil protests. "What'd you do that for?"

"You sound terrible."

"No, I don't."

"You sound worse than your mustache looks."

"I sound fine."

"But your mustache does look horrible."

"I look fine and sound fine."

"You sound like a dying whale."

"I was in the church choir back near the factory."

"They probably only let you in because they felt sorry for you."

Virgil glowers. "You know, you were nicer as a cop."

"Yeah, well, you were less annoying as a computer programmer."

"Jerk."

"Moron."

In a few miles, Virgil turns the radio back on and it's almost a welcome relief.

At least until he starts singing again.

-o-

When they get back, they have to move quickly. Between making sure the dice get to their proper spots and evicting the poor reviewer from his room, it's go-go-go, but Virgil takes the time to stop off in the bathroom.

"I need to shave!" he insists.

Turk frowns. The mustache is hideous, but this hardly seems like the time. "Now?"

"I don't know when I'll get another chance," Virgil says.

"Maybe when this is over," Turk suggests sarcastically.

"When this is over, I'm heading straight home and seeing my wife," he says.

Turk rolls his eyes. "So this is for her?"

Virgil shrugs. "She's okay with me doing this job, but she'll never be okay with the mustache," he says.

Turk sighs, rolls his eyes again. "Okay, make it quick," he says.

Virgil grins. "I'll just need five minutes."

Turk waits in the hallway, counting ceiling tiles. This isn't time they really have to waste, but he understands that Virgil has something to go home to.

Turk fingers his own goatee and thinks he could take the time, too, but then again, he doesn't really see the point.

-o-

Turk doesn't fit this job.

He puts the overalls on backward and he can't seem to get along with Virgil, no matter how hard he tries. Because he does feel guilty about mocking his singing voice, but only for a while because Virgil really can be a self-satisfied dick.

When they need someone to hack the system, Turk volunteers. He wants to feel useful.

No one believes him.

Virgil does it instead, probably better than Turk would, and he tries not to let it show but it really does bother him. It's crazy, but right then he misses Davis and Joseph Vincent and the entire department back in Salt Lake.

Then his face pops up, known associate of Livingston Dell, and Turk sees himself as the world knows him. A name in a database, marked and flagged. Virgil can change the features and it doesn't matter, because that's who Turk is.

This is who Turk is.

As much as he hates this part of the gig, he's glad that being underground while starting an earthquake gives him an excuse to feel apprehensive, at least as far as the rest of the team is concerned.

-o-

It takes two earthquakes, thirteen con men, a helicopter, and a guy inside the gaming commission, but they pull it off. Livingston's poor rigging almost gets them caught and Virgil's hack job during Basher's con barely pulls them through by the seat of their pants, but they pull it off.

Standing underground, feeling the earth shake, Turk can't help but think at how easily it might go wrong.

If Bank goes against code and calls the cops. If their inside man on the floor gets a conscience at the last minute. If Linus can't seduce the intoxicated general manager. If Benedict manages to really screw them again.

Turk doesn't just think of what can go wrong, he thinks of all the laws they're breaking.

Robbery's just at the top of the list. Conspiracy, extortion, trespassing. Probably even identity theft and illegally crossing the border. If they get caught, the cops who book them will be able to rake them all over the coals and probably get a mountain load of paperwork for their troubles.

For some reason, this bothers Turk, even when they all just walk away.

Because that's what they do: they finish the job and they walk away.

Turk's standing at the fountain, and the team is spread out down the line. They all made sacrifices to be here; Turk knows this. Each of them had to make this decision, and down the line, Turk knows all of them would do it again. But he wonders, as they peel away, one by one, where they're going to next.

If Saul will ever retire, if Yen will rejoin the circus. If Frank will go back to a nail salon, if Basher will keep working small jobs just to blow things up. If Livingston will find a job that doesn't make him sweat, if Linus will branch out on his own. If Reuben will start his casino, if Virgil will go back to Sarah and his day job. If Rusty will ever find the con to put him over the top, if Danny will ever find a reason to walk away.

Turk doesn't know, watching the fireworks light up the sky. Because this is the end of a job and it's time to walk away, but Turk doesn't know where to go.

He thinks he might know where he wants to go, but he doesn't know if he can.

He just doesn't know.

-o-

They go home.

Virgil goes back to his wife, and Turk doesn't see him for nearly three days. He calls once, but no one answers, and Turk sort of gets the hint. This has been a long job, and Sarah really does have the patience of a saint to let him go.

Turk goes home to his apartment. It's just as drab as he remembers. There are some messages on his phone, a few from the guys at the station.

He doesn't call them back.

He sits, watches TV, surfs the web. He thinks about going out to his garage, but he can't find the motivation. He could spend some of the cash, but he had Danny invest it again, and if he didn't know where it was stashed before, he's pretty sure it's going to be harder to find now.

Besides, he's not sure he wants to pick up the phone. And he wouldn't know what to buy anyway. The things he really wants aren't the kind of things with price tags.

After a month, things are a lot like they used to be. He eats at Virgil's most nights and sleeps on his couch until noon. After dinner one night, they're sitting on the couch, and Virgil says, "I need a new job."

Turk snorts. "No crap," he says. "You really think they'd let you take a six month hiatus?"

Virgil fidgets a little. "I have some leads on some possibilities," he says. He glances at Turk. "In Arizona."

Turk makes a face. "You're moving?"

Virgil looks at his hands. "I've been thinking about it."

"Why?" he asks.

Virgil shrugs. "A fresh start."

"With the cut from this job, you don't even need a job," Turk points out.

"It's too dangerous." "What's the point of the money if you don't use it?"

"What's the point of the money if we're dead?"

Turk blinks hard. "Danny said not to worry."

"Danny's not God," Virgil says back, his voice sharp.

"So, what, you think moving to Arizona will keep you safe?"

"No, but I think starting over will."

Turk shakes his head. "What do you mean, starting over?"

Virgil sighs, his anger deflating. "I've got to get out of this business. I know why we did this job, but I've got to get out."

It's still not making sense. "You're out," Turk says. "You make the choice."

"But I'm still implicated in a long string of crimes," Virgil says. "After this job, there are more flags on my record than ever."

"They haven't pinned you with anything," Turk says.

"How long do you think Virgil Malloy is really going to be able to fly under the radar?"

"Well, then you're screwed," Turk says. "Because you're Virgil Malloy until you die."

"Exactly," Virgil says.

"Exactly?"

"Virgil Malloy needs to die," his brother says definitely.

Turk blinks. Once, twice. "Excuse me?"

"Virgil Malloy needs to die," he says again. "And everything he did can be buried with his name."

Now Turk is gaping. His brother has always had ridiculous ideas - most of which defied any sense that Turk ever had of reality - but this one...this one really takes the cake. "You want to kill yourself?"

Virgil shakes his head, brow creased in annoyance. "Just enough so the law thinks I'm dead," he explains. "Then Sarah and I-we can start over. Get a new place, a new house, a new job. And we'll be safe."

Turk stares. He just stares. "What about Mom, Dad? Sarah's family?"

Virgil swallows hard. "It's the only choice."

"They'll think you're dead," Turk reminds him.

"It's the only way."

Turk gapes for another moment, breathing hard. "Even if you are okay with burning everyone in your life, how the hell are you going to do it?"

"Danny," Virgil says. "Danny can pull it off."

"You're going to ask Danny to stage your death?"

"He can do it."

"I'm sure he can," Turk agrees, because Danny Ocean is a little like God. He shakes his head. "But why? Why now? After all the jobs?"

Virgil takes a breath, blows it out. "We're having a baby."

Turk stares for a minute longer.

Then he blinks.

Finally, he swears.

Virgil smiles, a little stupidly. "You're going to be an uncle."

-o-

When Turk remembers how to speak again, he asks, "You knocked her up? You've only been home a month!"

"She missed me."

"I guess so!" Turk breathes again, shaking his head. "A baby. Really?"

Virgil nods, and he's got this glassy-eyed look of dumb excitement. "A baby."

"In Arizona?"

"It doesn't matter where," Virgil says. "Just - anywhere. Someplace new. Safe. It's not just about me anymore."

"You know, if you do this, you really have to do this," Turk says, reiterating the point. "You can't let the family know. Not even Mom and Dad."

"I know," Virgil says quickly.

"You're their golden boy," Turk reminds them.

Virgil nods, resolutely. "I know, but it's the only way."

Turk swears again. "A baby."

"I know."

Turk looks at his brother, who is trying not to smile. Turk can't help it - he grins. "You're such a moron," he says, swatting at his brother.

"I am not," Virgil says, ducking away.

"Are," Turk says again. "But congratulations anyway. Moron."

"Am not," Virgil insists. "And thanks."

-o-

Virgil doesn't ask him to leave, but Turk doesn't feel like he should stay. Virgil's made a decision now, a choice about family, and while Turk understands that, he also knows what it means. Virgil's choosing one family over everything else.

Even him.

Virgil Malloy will die, and Turk's going to be stuck in Salt Lake City with nothing. He has money from this job, and he'll have to call Danny Ocean to get it out again, but he's not sure what for.

He's just knows that the days are long and empty, and it's only going to get worse.

-o-

When Virgil visits one night, Turk knows it's going to be one of those conversations.

"You're not going to get sappy on me, are you?" Turk asks accusingly as they sit on Turk's lopsided couch.

Virgil makes a face. "What? No."

Turk isn't so sure.

"I just came by to tell you something."

"It's called a phone."

"I wanted to tell you this in person."

Turk rolls his eyes. "So it is sappy!"

"No, it's not sappy," Virgil says. "I mean. It's just-"

"If you cry, so help me, I will throw you out," Turk threatens.

"When I do this," Virgil says finally. "We can't be in contact."

"Yeah, I got that much," Turk says, hoping that if he focuses on how annoyed he is, it won't bother him as much.

"But I think we should try," Virgil continues, and his voice hinges, a little uncertain. It's not like his brother, to hesitate or doubt.

"We should try?" Turk repeats.

"Just once a year," Virgil says. "And have a line for emergencies."

Virgil is trying to keep this cool, but Turk can hear the longing behind it. Somehow, it actually surprises Turk to think his brother might actually miss him.

It's just as surprising to admit that he's going to miss Virgil, too. Because Virgil is his brother, and they've spent a lifetime together. If Virgil has taught him anything that matters, it's that love can be expressed in many ways, even in bickering.

Especially in bickering.

And Turk will never forget that.

And he'll never forget this.

That his brother will die to everyone and everything but leave one out - Turk.

Turk draws a breath. "Well, if that's what you need."

Virgil snorts. "I just need to know you don't completely self-destruct without me."

Turk waves his arms. "I'm going to be just fine."

"Yeah? What are you going to do?"

Turk shrugs. "Anything. Maybe buy a new car. Do it up right."

"Have you even been to the garage since we got back?"

"That's not important."

"So you're going to do nothing."

"What does it matter to you?" Turk says accusingly.

"You going to work some more jobs?" Virgil asks.

Turk shrugs. "Maybe."

For a second, Virgil simply nods. "You know," he says, hesitating just slightly. "You could go back to being a cop."

Turk rolls his eyes. "If you think your record might be a problem in programming, imagine it in law enforcement."

"You already have a working alias."

"And I just got pinged by the FBI on this case," Turk reminds him. "It's too risky."

Virgil shrugs. "Not if Turk Malloy dies. Starts new in another city. I bet you could do it."

It's funny, because Turk hasn't thought of that.

In all his free time, in all his moping, he really hasn't thought of that.

He looks at his brother.

Virgil shrugs.

Turk swears. Another bet. Another damn bet that he doesn't have to take, but doesn't think he can let go of.

Virgil shrugs again. "It made you happy," he says. "I'm just saying"

Virgil's just saying and Turk's just thinking about why he hadn't thought of that earlier.

-o-

Virgil goes home to his wife, and Turk stays up, staring at the ceiling.

The thing is, he can work jobs until he's as rich as Reuben, but it's not going to change anything. Virgil will still be gone, and he needs something to fill all the time from one year to the next.

He needs something.

Something he's not going to find working the con. Something he found in the police station. Something Turk Malloy has never had, but Danny Williams always did.

The con has taught him this: identity is fleeting and easy to change. Happiness, though - real contentment - that's the kind of thing you can work for all your life and never find. It's why Virgil is walking away. It's why Danny Ocean and Rusty Ryan never will.

This seems like it should be a hard decision, and Turk is up all night thinking about it. But when morning comes, he goes to the bathroom and shaves his goatee. When he's done, he picks up his phone and dials Danny Ocean's number and doesn't have to think anymore.

-o-

Danny is happy to meet him. He suggests a restaurant in Salt Lake City, nicer than Turk's ever been to. "Are you sure this is what you want?" he asks after Turk eats his burger.

Turk shrugs and breathes out hard, meeting Danny's eyes. He sits back in his chair; that's the question he's been asking himself all week. "I'm good at it."

"You're good at a lot of things," Danny reminds him.

Turk takes another breath and looks away. "This is different."

"And it's what you want?"

That's the silver bullet and Turk knows it. Because this isn't just about the con and it's not just about getting by. Turk has a lot of options, even some he's never let himself think about just yet. He could live his life as a criminal and get by pretty well, but if this last con has taught him anything, it's that all of it can't make him happy.

There's a certain thrill in the moment, but there's no future. He respects the hell out of Danny Ocean and he is downright amazed at everything Saul and Reuben have accomplished in their lives, but when he thinks about what he wants, when he thinks about where he wants to be, that's not what he sees.

He's not even sure what he sees, but he knows he doesn't see that. Living from job to job, months of flying under the radar with moments of excitement. Turk wants more than moments.

Turk wants a life.

This is the only life he knows that's actually worth fighting for. Even if that means dying.

He looks at Danny, this time with certainty. He nods. "Yeah, it's what I want."

Danny nods. There is no disappointment, no surprise. "Then consider it done."

-o-

Virgil and Sarah Malloy die in a house fire. The cops call it a gas leak, and they never had a chance. There wasn't anything left to salvage and just enough DNA to make the identifications.

Turk's entire family shows up for the funeral, and there's a lot of crying. Turk sits, silent and stoic through it all, because he knows this is supposed to be sad, but the truth is, he knows his brother has finally gotten out.

He loves his family in the way that everyone loves their family, but as he mingles with them at the wake, he realizes how little these people know about him. Even his parents, who fuss over his lack of decorum and frown at his lack of initiative, seem to only know Virgil as their pleasantly quirky kid - the one who didn't stress them out.

And it's funny, because he sees them all as they are. His father's a two-bit conman who doubled as an entrepreneur with less than savory business investments. Above board or not, his old man never had the stamina to make it big, blowing through money and business partners like most men blew through cheap tennis shoes.

His mother, while she didn't get her hands dirty as often, certainly was not innocent considering how thoroughly she advised and critiqued their father. Technically, she was a housewife, but with her hours at home, she spent more time worrying about how to look the part than actually playing it.

His entire family, from uncles to cousins to aunts, are poor excuses for criminals, and as Turk sits at the funeral, he tries to add up the jail time the Malloy family has served collectively and it gets to be bigger than he can manage.

His parents board a plane back to Florida, and his mother's eyes are still red-rimmed. She puts a hand on Turk's cheek and shakes her head. "You're all that's left," she says.

For a second, Turk's heart stutters.

Then she frowns, pulling her hand away and wiping her eyes. "God help us all."

Turk watches them go and they don't look back. It's not much of a goodbye, and somehow Turk knows he made the right choice.

-o-

It makes the paper: a small blurb, on the fourth page. There's a car fire in a garage outside Salt Lake City. There's not much left, but police find enough DNA to say that Turk Malloy, age 26, died in the flames.

There's a small service, but the victim didn't have much left in terms of surviving family, especially since his brother, Virgil, died not a month earlier. His grieving parents had no comment from their retirement community in Florida.

Their uncle is quoted as saying, "It's such a tragedy, but I can't say we're surprised. Where one of them went, the other wasn't far behind. Same way, too. Seems right."

Turk is buried next to his brother, and across the country, there's a dozen people who smile at the news.

-o-

It's weird being dead, and it's only after the news breaks that he realizes he can't go home. Fortunately, his apartment was crappy and nothing in there meant that much to him. It sucks to leave the cars behind, but most of them fried in the fire Danny rigged anyway, and Turk supposes it's a small price to pay for a second chance.

Or a second second chance.

For a week, Turk rents a motel room and drinks a lot, trying to make himself believe that he actually went through with it. It's lonely without Virgil, but since they're both starting new, hanging out with him just can't happen. They've agreed no contact, but picked one date a year to meet, just because.

Unfortunately, that date is a year away, and Turk Malloy is dead, and it suddenly occurs to him how permanent that is.

He's given up a lot of this. All his contacts, all his would-be friends. He's given up fame and excitement and notoriety. He's giving up Utah and his family and everything.

It's not much, but with it gone, Turk misses it more than he thought he would. Because it was his life. It wasn't much of one, but somehow he can't stop himself from mourning, even if it was his choice.

There's no pressure, though. Danny's arranged his finances so his money is safe, but he still has a monthly stipend, at least until he gets back on his feet.

Because Turk is supposed to get back on his feet.

But he's dead, so he figures it's okay if it takes him a while. After all, anyone who might have cared either thinks he's six feet under ground or knows better than to contact him now in this delicate state of transition.

After a week, he finds his resume in a duffel bag. It's attached to a few letters of recommendation that Joseph Vincent and Davis sent along when he resigned, just in case.

He remembers that conversation with Danny and the certainty of his answer: this is what he wants.

Working in Utah is too dangerous. Hell, the entire southwest is probably a no-go. But if Turk Malloy is dead, Danny Williams can finally live, and that's not a reason to mourn. It's a reason to celebrate.

Turk stops drinking and he gets himself in order. He starts scanning the internet for new positions. He finds one that looks promising in Newark, New Jersey.

It takes him a day to get his application together. When he sends it off, he feels more alive than he has in his entire life.

-o-

When they ask him for an interview, Turk says he can be there in two days. He doesn't have much to pack, and when he steps on the plane, he looks back at Utah, one last time.

When he gets off on the other side of the country, the air smells rank and the air is cold, and Turk has to bundle himself up as he gets a rental car and goes to the motel.

There's not much that's pretty about Newark, with its dirty streets and crammed blocks, but no place has ever felt more like home.

-o-

During the interview, Turk can't stop talking. Every question sparks excitement in him, and all he wants to do is tell these people how much he wants to be here. When they ask him about his reasons for being a cop, there's not even a hesitation.

"It makes a difference. Not always a big one, but even little differences count. I want to be a cop for the little differences, day in and day out. No matter what it takes."

Two days later, they ask how soon he can start.

-o-

The Newark PD is different from Salt Lake. The place is bigger, a little dirtier. There's a frenetic pitch to the action, and the offices are smaller, with Victorian stylings on the entryway and desks crammed into every nook and cranny. It's easy to get lost there, and there's an anonymity in that that is both reassuring and unnerving all at once.

The overall procedures are a little different, too, and Turk can already see that the filing system in Newark is a mess. The floor sergeant, some guy named Boothby, is a far cry from the congenial grandpa back in Salt Lake, and he talks in a heavy accent when Turk reports for duty his first day.

"So you're the new guy?" Boothby asks, tapping his pen on the desk.

Turk smiles. "I'm the new guy."

Boothby smirks a little. "You sound like the new guy," he says. "Not from here?"

Turk frowns now. "What makes you say that?"

"Your accent, it's all wrong," Boothby says.

"Just transferred out of Salt Lake."

At that, Boothby snorts. "Yeah, well, welcome to Jersey, kid," he says. "And trust me when I say good luck, because you're going to need it."

-o-

Boothby points him in the direction of his desk, but doesn't offer much beyond that. Turk finds it, but can't be sure he's got the right one. It's still covered with papers, some of which look recent, and he's looking around to figure out if he's in the right spot, when another cop passes by.

He stops at the desk across from Turk's and does a double take. "You Williams?"

Turk looks up. "What? Yeah?"

The cop is a few years older than Turk, evidence by the speckles of gray around his temples. He could have a baby face, with boyish features, but his chin is covered with day-old scruff. His brown hair is tousled, and his brown eyes are critical as he appraises Turk. Then he swears. "They told me you had experience."

Turk frowns. "Over a year down in Salt Lake."

The cop's eyebrows go up. "Utah?"

Turk nods.

The cop snickers. "I'm sure you did good work back in Utah," he says. "But a few weeks here, and we'll see what kind of cop you really are."

-o-

His name is Jason Donnelly, and he's been on the force for seven years. He comes from a family of cops, and he's got a sister and a brother on the force, both working different beats throughout the city. His uncle is a precinct captain and his father works in upper management.

Jason's talkative, but not big into helping Turk connect the dots. Turk eventually figures out that, yes, it's his desk, and that the pile of crap on it is up to him to sort. Jason doesn't seem to know much about paperwork, and Turk spends his first week trailing after his partner, trying to make sure it all gets done and filed on time.

For all this neglect, however, it's pretty clear that Jason's not a bad cop. He's clever and resourceful, and if he has a propensity for ignoring the rules, Turk figures he's there to make sure they have their bases covered. More than once, Turk is grateful for the orderly approach that Davis taught him back in Salt Lake, because keeping up with Jason is controlled chaos.

They're always working five cases at once, and Jason has more contacts than even Danny Ocean. But for the messy investigative tactics, Jason's actually pretty damn good, with instincts that pay off, even if their notes are scrawled on bar napkins and take-out fliers.

After two weeks in, Turk is exhausted keeping up. One night after work, he's settled down to finish their paperwork when Jason stops and gives him a look. "You're really going to do that now?"

"It has to get done," Turk says, a little helplessly.

Jason rolls his eyes. "You going for a promotion already? You've only been here two weeks."

"I just-"

Jason shakes his head. "Just get up."

Turk blinks. "What?"

Jason looks at him, emphatic. "Get up."

"But, I-"

"You want to stay a newbie forever or do you want to earn your stripes, Utah?"

Turk looks at his paperwork. Looks back at Jason.

He swallows and shrugs a little. "Um. Okay."

Jason grins, full throttled and bright-eyed. "Meet me out front in five."

Turk tables his paperwork, jiggling his knee for a moment as he watches Jason leave. With a breath, he remembers that Turk Malloy is dead and that this is what he left for, and he gets up and follows.

-o-

Jason takes him out to get drunk.

It's a bar Turk doesn't know, which isn't surprising since he hasn't been out much since he got to New Jersey. But Jason seems right at home, and Turk recognizes a handful of other guys from the precinct. Jason sidles them up to the bar and nods to the barkeep, who produces two bottles of beer.

Jason picks his up and tips it against Turk's. "Way better than paperwork, huh?" he asks wryly as he takes a drink.

Turk picks his up, eyeing his partner uncertainly. "The paperwork has to be done."

Jason shrugs disarmingly. "My paperwork always gets done."

"Because you pile it on my desk until I finally finish it," Turk shoots back.

Jason grins and he looks a little like a school boy. "You could always pile it right back," he says. He quirks an eyebrow. "Did you ever think of that?"

The fact is, no, Turk hasn't thought of that. His brow furrows and he takes a drink.

Jason laughs, slapping Turk on the shoulder. "You're pretty by the book, aren't you?" he asks.

"I do what needs to be done," Turk says defensively.

Jason holds up a hand. "That's not a criticism, man," he says. "Just an observation."

Turk bristles a little, but takes a drink. He's used to some characters, given his previous line of work, but Jason is a breed all his own. Brash and impulsive; he's fighting the good fight but with far less finesse than nearly any criminal Turk's ever worked with.

"You learn police work by the numbers at the academy," Jason says. "And that crap's important, it is, because if we don't cover our asses, it's the bad guys who get away. I know that, and you should never forget it." Jason pauses, leaning forward a little. His eyes are intense as he looks at Turk. "But after you learn to paint by numbers, you've got to learn the art of improvisation. Make police work more than a job. Make it a life."

Jason sounds like he's full of crap, but there's still something about it that seems right. That seems appealing. Not that Turk wants to be Jason, but he's got a grave back in Utah, so he's more than a little interested in starting to live again.

Finally, he nods. "That's what I'm going for," he says.

Jason's grin widens and he lifts his beer again. "Then maybe there's hope for us yet, partner," he says, before downing another long swallow.

-o-

It's about finding the rhythm. Turk's always been something of a chameleon, which is why he's good on a con. Once you figure out the patterns and the nuances of the environment, you have to fit yourself seamlessly inside. When he's on the con, this is the art of imitation and trickery. In New Jersey, it's a give and take with himself and the world around him.

He picks up the lingo pretty quickly, and understands the dynamics in the precinct. He knows who comes early and who stays late, and gauges his own decisions with what feels right. He's always punctual but is never the last to leave, and while Jason jokes his way through an interview, Turk sits back and watches for cues to see if someone is lying or telling the truth.

Turk learns to bring Boothby coffee if he wants a favor and masters the art of the file room within weeks. He knows to let Jason start the paperwork and to fill in the blanks when his partner is finished, and if Turk bitches about that, Jason grins and keeps on doing it.

Because he doesn't quite mean it, because it's not quite bad. It's balance. It's strengths and weaknesses and a complementary set. Jason knows to go left and Turk knows to go right, and when it's over, they're both good for a drink at the bar before heading home. Jason introduces him to the Mets and Turk shows him the power of NASCAR, and Turk thinks this is finally making sense.

It's different, this improvisation. Turk's so used to following a plan that there's something oddly liberating even in the dullest details of his life. Because it is a life, unique and his own, and when he wakes up in the morning, it's his to do with as he pleases.

This is what was missing on the Bank job. This is what was missing in Utah. Turk sits at his desk and laughs with Jason and thinks, this.

-o-

It's good. He cracks jokes with Jason in the squad car and watches games with the guys on weekends at the bar. It feels good, and most of the time, there's nothing more that Turk wants.

Most of the time, he's got enough paperwork to do and enough cases to think about, that he doesn't have to think about much else. Usually, one of the guys is doing something to break up his downtime from complete monotony.

Most of the time. Usually.

But if Turk knows anything, he knows that sometimes it's the bets placed against the odds that count.

So even when it's rare, the nights he can't sleep really do count for something. He stares into the darkness and remembers his brother, remembers Ocean's crew. He remembers Salt Lake and Davis and his little apartment. These are things he misses but doesn't quite want to go back to. Turk's ready to move ahead, this is all a lingering tickle of who he once was.

Who he really is.

Turk can change his name and he can move across the country, but sometimes it still feels like a farce. A con. A silly wager against his brother.

He wonders if he'll ever stop feeling that way as the night slips to day.

-o-

Turk needs a hobby.

He figures this has always been true, and quite possibly what his mother was trying to tell him all those years when she tried to convince him to join clubs and attend camps as a child. But Turk's never been overly inclined to such things, and he always figured that tormenting his brother was really the only hobby he needed. When that wasn't enough, he was decent with cars, although he much preferred driving them to anything else.

But his cars are burnt to ashes in Utah and his brother is living on the other side of the country in Scottsdale, Arizona, so Turk's pretty hard up on things to do in his free time.

For a while, Turk tries watching TV, but his reception is crappy and he doesn't want to spring for cable. Now that he's settled, he's stopped getting his stipend from the last gig in Vegas, and a cop's salary really doesn't go very far in New Jersey. He considers again, briefly, cashing out some of the bounty from the Bank job, but it seems silly to call Danny for that. It doesn't help that Turk can't shake the feeling that someday he'll need it.

There's not much to do in his apartment, considering it's a crappy one-bedroom that makes his old place look like the Ritz. He considers it a luxury that he blew a few grand on new furniture, cheap but not previously owned, but even with a comfortable couch and a dining room set that isn't falling apart, Turk really doesn't have much to do.

For a moment, he considers trying to do something conventional.

But he doesn't know anything conventional.

Jason talks about a basketball league at the Y, but Turk's small enough to know better. Gym class was an exercise in anger management growing up, and if he was always picked last for basketball, he was always first on the list for football, because tackles born of rage could do more than ones relying on size any day.

Without much to watch on TV and nothing to find on the internet, Turk turns to the only other things in his apartment.

Books.

He's not a reader by any stretch of the imagination, but boredom does strange things to a man. He's got a handful of police manuals on hand, and one night when he starts reading, it's just to pass the time.

In a week, he's read them all, and has started his second go around.

In another week, he's almost got whole sections memorized.

Funny, if he'd known studying was so easy, he might have done better in school.

When he's done with those, he finds more at work, and just keeps going. When he starts quoting police procedure in finite detail to Jason on the job, his partner gives him a look and says, "Man, we've got to get you laid."

Turk opens his mouth, a little too surprised to actually be insulted. "Maybe you need to review the department policy on sexual harassment," he says.

Jason just rolls his eyes.

-o-

It's not even two months in when a bust goes bad. Turk has read every book on police work he can find, and has started branching out into self-help books and even the occasional cookbook. But with all that growing reservoir of vast knowledge, none of it seems to help him when it counts.

There's a perp with a gun and an accomplice with two guns and just when they think it's all under control, a third perp comes out of the woodwork and starts firing.

Jason is busy cuffing one of the first suspects, so he's a sitting duck. Turk's instincts are to protect himself at all costs, which is how he's survived and stayed out of jail this long, but Danny's instincts are to protect his partner.

At all costs.

He pulls his gun and fires, but he doesn't have perfect aim and when all the crap is hitting the fan, sometimes it takes a little more than luck and a prayer.

Standing in front of Jason isn't something he thinks about, but it comes naturally, and he has the satisfaction of seeing the assailant go down and go down hard.

He turns to smile at Jason, to say, is that how you do it in Jersey? but Jason's staring at him, mouth open, eyes wide.

And then Turk feels the pain.

It takes him out at the knees and doubles him over. As he falls to the ground, he looks down, hands on his chest coming away with blood. His vest is ripped where the bullet went in, and Turk wonders why the department makes them standard procedure if that's all the better they work.

Things get hazy and when he blinks, he's on his back. Jason's face is above him, and his shaking hands are pressed into his torso. "Just hold on," he says. "Damn it, Danny, just hold on."

Turk knows never to risk a con, not even for the fear of death, but that's really easier said than done when he's bleeding out on the floor.

He thinks of his apartment back in Utah. He thinks of Virgil and his wife and his nine to five job. He thinks of Danny Ocean asking if he wants a job, he thinks of Rusty saying they need him, he's the best there is for that kind of thing.

He thinks.

Of what he traded to be here, of what he gave up to prove to Virgil that he could.

He thinks, he thinks, he thinks.

His mouth goes dry and his vision tunnels and everything hurts before it all just goes black.

-o-

Turk wakes up in a hospital. It's clean and generic, and he's hooked up to wires and stuff he doesn't recognize. Everything feels foggy, like he's floating in a haze, but as he looks around, he sees Jason crashed in the chair by his bed.

And not just Jason, but an older woman he doesn't recognize and Sergeant Boothby from the precinct.

This is weird, Turk thinks. He wonders if it was like this for Reuben, back in Vegas. Turk's not sure if he expected waking up alone or if he just didn't expect to wake up at all.

Turk knows what happened, but doesn't really want to. He doesn't want to think about it, and he doesn't want to think about Jason, or Boothby, or the woman. And if he doesn't want to think about them, he doesn't want to think about the perp who did this to him, and when he slips back into unconsciousness, he can still hear Virgil's voice:

I bet you can't hold a real job.

This is the first time Turk's wondered - really wondered - not if Virgil was right, but if Turk really should have proved him wrong.

PART FOUR