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do i dare or do i dare? [userpic]

H50/Oceans: The Break-Even Point 4/6

January 28th, 2011 (03:12 pm)

 MASTER POST

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



PART FOUR

When Reuben was in the hospital, it freaked him out. Listening to the doctor delineate everything that was wrong with Reuben - it had been overwhelming - and being so freaked out had just pissed Turk off.

Now that he's in the hospital, Turk's in too much pain to be really freaked out, but that doesn't stop him from being pissed off.

"The bullet did extensive damage to your lung, especially since it splintered one of your ribs on the way in," the doctor explains. "We had to do a significant amount of repair and we've been monitoring you closely for a buildup of fluids in your lungs."

This is why Turk's chest feels like it's been ripped open and played with. Because it has, and it sucks as much in a hospital as Turk thinks it might in any other circumstance.

"One of the fragments from your rib perforated one of the arteries near your heart, so we had to infuse you with several units of blood," the doctor continues easily, as if nearly bleeding to death isn't something to worry about. "We did lose your pulse for a while during the procedure, but it was a short period of time."

Because being dead is okay as long as you're not dead too long.

"We kept you sedated so your lungs could recover," the doctor offers, as if this tidbit is somehow supposed to be taken as a mercy. "Many patients find the ventilator distressing."

Turk knows why. Having a tube shoved down your throat sounds awful, and given the raw state of his throat even days after its removal is pretty crappy, too.

The doctor smiles. "We were able to save your spleen, though."

As if Turk's spleen should somehow make him feel better about the fact that he's been peeing in a bag for a week and can't sit up without wanting to curl up and cry like a little girl.

The doctor nods, proud. "All in all, I think you're a very lucky man," he says.

Turk's put up with a lot of crap. He's put up with the not-quite-solid diet they've got him on, if only because crapping in a bag sounds less appealing than pissing in one. He's put up with the open backed gowns, because, okay, when it hurts to breathe, the notion of removing his clothes every time some nurse or doctor wants to cop a feel just sounds masochistic. And he's even put up with the prodding and the poking and the gaggle of interns that come buy for a show when the doctor checks his wound.

(Though he's tempted, really tempted, to kick the ass of the redheaded intern who not-so-helpfully suggested that Turk's response to pain was heightened due to his inactivity because some studies have suggested an inaccurate portrayal of pain when in the hospital and what the hell?)

And Turk's put up with the boring chitchat and the pills and the IVs and all of it, because he's never been shot before, so he knows this is not his area of expertise. After pulling jobs with Danny Ocean, he knows that sometimes he has to play his part and play it well, no matter what. For now he's pulled the patient gig, and no matter how much it sucks, there's a reason Turk's not a Danny Ocean or a Rusty Ryan.

But the fact is, he's been shot, and yeah, that matters. It matters and Turk's pissed off and he's tired and this doctor wants to play little miss sunshine while Turk's skin is held together by a few well placed stitches.

"You think I'm lucky?" Turk asks, and he's genuinely curious about this. "What part of this do you think is lucky? The part where you pulled a bullet from my chest? Or maybe the part where I died? Or maybe the part where I'm stuck in this tiny little room and every time I fall asleep, one of your damned lackeys comes in to ask me how I'm feeling today? You want to know how I'm feeling? I feel like crap, because I've been shot and I died and it sucks."

The doctor's face goes blank and he blinks.

This simply infuriates Turk more.

He lifts one hand as best he can. "And you think I'm lucky!"

Five minutes later, the doctor calls in a nurse to give him a sedative, and Turk's still ranting, even as he passes out

-o-

When he comes to again, he feels a little buzzed. This should relax him, but he's still crammed in a hospital bed attached to more strings than Pinocchio.

This time, Jason's there. He's grinning. "Did you really try to tell a nurse to inject herself and threaten to arrest her if she took another step?"

Turk has hazy memories of this. He shrugs. "I think I can make a case," he said. "Battery, at least."

"They have the right to sedate you if it's in your best interest," Jason reminds him.

Turk scoffs. "I was fine," he says.

"They said you got pretty worked up."

"The ranting wasn't a problem for me," Turk argues. "They wanted to sedate me because I was right and they didn't like hearing it."

Jason nods quite seriously. "You may have something there."

"I know I have something there," Turk counters.

Jason's serious face only lasts another second before he grins again. "I would have loved to see you like that."

"Pissed off and hurting?"

"Taking matters into your own hands," Jason says. "You play it kind of safe. This is Jersey. You have to take life by the balls and make it do what you want."

"Everything I did was completely in the name of the law," Turk says indignantly.

Jason composes his expression and nods again with faux control. "Of course," he says. "So when you threatened to use your cath tube to strangle the doctor...?"

"Self defense," Turk says easily. "No court would doubt me."

Jason looks down, laughing. He looks back up and meets Turk's eye. "We may make a Jersey boy out of you yet."

-o-

The thing is, most people say stuff like that, but Jason actually seems to mean it. He visits every day that Turk's in the hospital, once before work and once after, usually with some member of his family in tow. His sister, his brother, his favorite cousin. Even his mother, who Turk recognizes as the woman from before.

And they all act like they know Turk, thanking him every time for all that he's done for Jason. They sneak him cookies and pizza, and make jokes that distract him from the pain he's still in, especially when PT starts.

One night, when Jason comes alone, Turk's in a crappy mood and asks his partner why the hell he keeps coming.

Jason shrugs. "You're my partner."

"I was your partner before and we didn't make social visits every day."

Jason shrugs again, frowning a little. "I just want to make sure you're okay, is all."

"They pulled a bullet out of my chest," Turk reminds him. "How the hell am I supposed to be?"

He expects Jason to snark back, but instead he pales. He looks down, and nods a little. "Yeah, man," he says. "I know."

Turk gets it suddenly. It's like a lightbulb that goes on, just like that, and Turk wonders why he didn't see it before.

Jason's guilty and he's grateful, and Turk's been a selfish son of a bitch about it all. "Jase, come on," Turk says. "I didn't mean it like that."

Jason looks up and shakes his head. "No, I get it," he says. "You're right. I mean. You saved my life, man. I just - have been trying to figure out how to say thank you."

Turk swallows, feeling uncomfortable. But he doesn't shy away from it. He can't. Instead, he offers a half smile. "Well, you just did," Turk says, grinning a little.

Jason laughs. "Yeah," he says. "I guess I did."

-o-

Turk starts to look forward to the visits after that. Really, that's not so hard, considering the rest of his day consists of watching TV and being forced to endure physical pain in the name of recovery. But besides that, Jason is funny. He tells jokes that make Turk laugh, and all of Jason's family is amusing to be around. They've got the best stories, some of which involve Jason going skinny dipping in the neighbor's pool and having the footage from the security cameras played for the entire school.

Jason's mother practically dotes on him, and it's weird. Though, Turk suspects maybe his experience with mothers has been limited. As a child, his own mother had always been quick to criticize and quicker still to turn him outside to get him out of her kitchen, and the most attention she ever gave him was a lecture and a hard thwack on the backside when he got in trouble. As it is, when his parents relocated to Florida, he hadn't missed them much, since hearing about all the ways in which he failed got redundant after so many retellings.

So all things considered, this maternal style of mothering is foreign to him, but Turk'd be stupid if he didn't like the way she handles the doctors to get them to treat him nicer.

They watch TV together, talk about music, and discuss the latest in sports.

One day, when Turk starts complaining about the latest on Days of Our Lives with Jason's sister, Jason rolls his eyes. "Do you really just watch TV all day?"

Turk shrugs. "Not much else I can do."

"What do you do at home?"

"I don't know," Turk admits. "Read?"

Jason snickers and rolls his eyes. "We really, really need to find you a hobby, man."

-o-

The next day, Jason shows up with some books.

Turk can't help it. He smiles, not because he found a hobby, but Turk thinks maybe he found something so much better.

-o-

Recovery gets easier, but there's still something about this. Because Jason and his family - they love Danny Williams, and that's what it says on his ID bracelet, but sometimes Turk still knows.

His body is healing, but he wonders if the rest of him ever really will.

But when he starts thinking that, Jason shows up again, and there's not much time to think about it, and before he knows it, he's being released. His apartment is crowded with cards and a few vases of flowers. His fridge is full of food and dry goods are stacked on the counter.

"Just so you feel at home," Jason says casually as he helps Turk get settled in.

His bed looks suspiciously made and the pile of clothes he left on the floor are picked up and Turk can only hope they're in his closet.

"You serious?" Turk asks, running his finger on the coffee table, surprised by the lack of dust.

Jason pats him congenially on his shoulder. "Completely."

Turk doesn't know if he should feel guilty for conning this guy or good that he's pulled a con so completely.

But when Jason leaves, and Turk misses him, he realizes that it's actually neither.

-o-

Someone is pounding at his door. At first, Turk thinks it's just his headache, which hasn't gone away, even with the painkillers he's on. If not, he figures it's probably Jason or one of the other hundred Donnellys he's managed to meet in the last month. He's groggy enough that he doesn't really think to look before he opens it.

He stares for a minute, and blinks, and wonders if he has a head injury in addition to his healing bullet wound.

Because Virgil is standing there.

He's got a duffel slung over his shoulder and his shirt looks wrinkled. His eyes are red, and there are dark moons under his eyes.

"Well, at least you're alive!" Virgil says.

Turk blinks in reply.

Virgil takes a breath and then pushes past him. He dumps the bag unceremoniously on the floor and spins on Turk as he closed the door. "Why didn't you tell me you were alive!"

"I thought we said no contact," Turk says, actually surprised.

"Sure, if life is normal," Virgil says, and his voice sounds a little hysterical, just like on a con, but his brother isn't pulling anything right now.

"This isn't not normal," Turk tries to explain.

"You were shot!"

"Trust me, I know," Turk says.

Virgil's hands wave a little bit, wild and aimlessly. "I just didn't think I should have to hear you got shot from a third party," he says, and there's more than a hint of worry hiding behind his indignation.

Turk feels a little chagrined, and shrugs. "It wasn't a big deal."

"Oh. Right," Virgil says, throwing his hands up. "You nearly died and it's not a big deal."

Turk frowns. "Who told you anyway?"

"Rusty," he says. "Heard it from Frank, who's back and working in Atlantic City."

Turk's frown deepens. "And where'd he hear it?"

Virgil shrugs. "Even if we're dead, you know they're all going to keep tabs on us."

Turk cocks his head. He's not sure if it's reassuring or disconcerting that so many people from the former life he just gave up still know about the life he has now. He had sort of thought dying would take care of that, but then again, Danny Ocean and his team should never be underestimated. "That's weird."

"No, what's weird is that you didn't call me," Virgil asserts again, and if the breach in their cover bothers him, apparently Turk's near death experience bothers him more.

Turk rolls his eyes. "Technically, you're not my brother here."

"Technically, you can shove it up your ass," he says.

At that, Turk snickers. "I didn't know you cared."

"I don't," Virgil says stiffly.

"You flew all the way out here," he says, a little gleeful.

"Because Danny wouldn't stop calling to find out how you were," Virgil says. "Rusty called so many times, Sarah filed a restraining order."

Turk is smug. "You love me."

"Do not."

"Do."

Virgil thwaps him upside the head. "Idiot."

-o-

"You've changed," Virgil says.

Turk frowns. "I haven't changed."

Virgil shakes his head, adamant. "No, no, you've changed," he insists.

"I haven't changed," Turk says again, just as obstinate.

"You talk with an accent."

"I talk - I talk with an accent?" Turk asks, disbelieving.

Virgil nods, quite seriously. "Your entire rhythm of speech is different, complete with different slang."

Turk puffs his chest out defiantly. "My slang is no different."

"You asked if I wanted a pie," Virgil says.

Turk shrugs. "What's wrong with that?"

"I thought you had actual pie."

"Pizza is a type of pie."

"Pizza is pizza. Cherry is a type of pie."

Turk shakes his head, hands flailing. "I'm just getting into the part," he argues. "You know you have to sell a con from the inside out."

"There's selling a con and then there's when the con sells you," Virgil says.

Turk's face screws up. "That doesn't make any sense."

Virgil ponders that, nodding. "Yeah, I know."

Turk settles back, mollified. "I'm not the only one who's changed," he says after a moment.

"Oh, what, you think I've changed?"

Turk nods. "You've changed."

Virgil rolls his eyes. "I still speak standard English."

"You're married."

"You wear a badge."

"You're having a kid."

"You took a bullet in the line of duty."

Turk has to consider that. He shrugs a little. "Maybe we've both changed."

Virgil draws a breath and nods thoughtfully. "Yeah. Maybe we have."

-o-

For a day, it's just like it used to be. They sit on the couch watching TV, but instead of home cooked meals, Turk picks up carry out from the Chinese place down the street.

"So this is what you do?" Virgil asks.

Turk blinks. "What do you mean?"

Virgil nods to the apartment. "This. It's your life?"

"Normally, I go to work," Turk explains.

Virgil seems to consider that, nodding. "It doesn't get...lonely?"

Turk shrugs. "Just quiet. I'm getting used to the quiet."

"And you're okay with that?"

Turk shrugs again. "It's not quiet at work," he says. "I've got this crazy-ass partner. Good guy, but sometimes I wonder how he gets out of bed on time."

Virgil snickers.

Turk looks at him. "What?"

"Just you, being the punctual one."

"I've always been punctual."

"You thought school started at 9:15."

Turk cocks his head. "Wait, school didn't start at 9:15?"

-o-

For dessert, Turk has a leftover cake that one of his coworkers brought him. He dishes out two large slices and they eat in amiable silence at the table.

"So, what's your job like?" Turk finally asks.

Virgil looks vaguely surprised. "Better than the old one," he says. "I've started to work in a Java environment exclusively. More product development for clients rather than in-house work."

Turk nods even though he only sort of knows what he's talking about. "And Sarah is okay with it?"

Virgil smiles at that, a dumb boyish smile. "She doesn't care," he says. "She's been too busy setting up the nursery."

Turk tries to imagine that, but fails. On some level, he still wishes that babies came from storks. "That's coming up soon, isn't it?" he asks. "The baby?"

Virgil nods, still excited. "Less than a month," he says.

Turk whistles. "And she still let you come out here?"

Virgil looks away, shrugging, almost shy. "I wouldn't say she was thrilled with the idea," he admits.

Turk ponders that, but not too hard. Instead, he asks, "So are you really ready for this?"

Because asking about impending fatherhood is easier than talking about their relationship.

Virgil laughs. "I don't have much choice now."

"You think you can, you know," Turk says, shrugging a little. "Take care of it and all?"

Virgil shrugs back. "We took some classes."

Turk tries to imagine that. Tries to imagine Virgil changing a diaper. Tries to imagine anything else regarding babies.

He mostly fails.

The meager picture he does bring up consequently terrifies him.

Brow furrowing, Turk says, "And you think I'm the one with a dangerous life."

Virgil laughs.

-o-

After dessert, the evening turns to night. They watch infomercials until it's late, sharing a few beers. When Turk is buzzed, the questions come easier, and Virgil's answers are prompt.

"You're going to have to change diapers," Turk informs his brother.

"I know," Virgil says. "I've tried thinking of ways around it, but I've got nothing."

"And what about the whole childbirth thing?" Turk asks. "I mean, did you see that film in ninth grade health class?"

Virgil nods solemnly. "That's the reason I didn't have sex until I was twenty."

Turk pauses, then laughs. "Yeah, I'm sure that's it."

-o-

After a few more beers, Virgil doesn't need to be prompted.

"But it's like, my baby," he says. "Do you know how awesome that is?"

Turk actually doesn't even have a clue.

Virgil blows out a breath, shaking his head. "I know there's a lot of stuff that goes with it, but that fact sort of makes it all worth it."

That part, though, Turk understands.

After a moment, he cocks his head. "Do you have a name yet?"

Virgil nods. "We've been talking about it," he says. "For a girl, I really like Josephine."

Turk can't help it. He makes a face. "Didn't we have an aunt named Josephine?"

"We have an aunt named Joslene, and we never talked to her except at Christmas," Virgil supplies, as though he's actually thought about this. "It's totally different."

Turk's not so sure, but instead he asks, "What about for a boy?"

"I'm thinking simple. I like Roger, but the missus isn't so convinced."

"Roger Robinson?"

"I like the alliteration," Virgil says with a grin.

"Maybe you should let Sarah do the naming," Turk suggests finally.

"What's wrong with my names?"

"You're just not very good at naming," Turk says. "You're good at other things, but not that."

"Oh, and you're the expert on naming suddenly."

"I came up with Danny Williams, didn't I?"

Virgil's eyes widen indignantly. "That's your evidence?"

Turk shrugs, gesturing with one hand. "Danny Williams is the perfect name."

"You stole it."

Turk makes a face. "I did not."

"Williams is the street we grew up on."

"Exactly. Familiarity makes for better recall."

"It's boring."

"It's genius."

"It's generic," Virgil insists. "And I can't believe you really went with Danny."

"I picked a strong name."

"What, you think you can be Danny Ocean?"

"No, I think I can be Danny Williams," Turk says.

Virgil shakes his head, a little disgusted. "You're a wannabe."

"Oh, and you did so much better?"

Virgil's brow creases. "My name is excellent."

"Gil Robinson," Turk says, just to remind his brother.

"Short for Gilbert," Virgil says, as if it makes a difference.

"No one is named Gil."

"That's why it works."

"You sound like a fish," Turk says. "Maybe stick with the theme, name the baby Finn."

Virgil rolls his eyes, mocking laughing. "Gil is short for Virgil. I wanted to keep some connection to myself."

Turk snorts. "As if there's anything there worth holding onto."

"Well, then, that explains why you didn't stick with Turk," Virgil says.

It's Turk's turn to roll his eyes. He's quiet for a moment, thinking. "You know, Turk would make a great name for the baby."

"No," Virgil says flatly.

"It would," Turk says.

"No."

"Why not?"

"I would rather name the baby Finn."

Turk smiles triumphantly. "See, I told you I was good at naming!"

-o-

Virgil can't stay long. His wife is eight months pregnant, after all.

Turk figures that's really for the best, because he's not sure he wants to risk explaining how Gil Robinson is his brother.

Still, it's harder than Turk expects to say goodbye.

Virgil packs slowly and lingers. "So. See you in a year?"

"Yeah, under better circumstances, maybe," Turk suggests.

Virgil laughs. "Neutral ground?"

"Vegas might be nice."

"I know of a guy with the best casino in twenty years," Virgil says.

"Really?" Turk plays along. "That sounds promising."

"Very."

"We'll do it, then," Turk says.

Virgil nods. "It's a date."

They linger a moment more and Virgil shuffles his feet. He looks up, meets Turk's gaze and nods. "Try not to get shot, okay?"

Turk offers a smile. "Try not to drop the baby on its head."

"Yeah," Virgil says, smiling a little. "Will do."

Turk lifts his chin, lips quirked ruefully. "Yeah, me, too."

-o-

It's good to see Virgil, but it's a strange reminder of his past. Most days, Turk doesn't think too much about the fact that he's living a fabricated life, but when the lie meets reality, it gets a little harder. He's lived so purposefully as Danny Williams that some days he believes it without Virgil around to keep him grounded.

This time in Jersey, though, it's been something entirely different. This time in Jersey has been all in, all the time. He's Danny more than he's Turk and now that he's been Turk, it's hard to make sense of what he's doing.

Because what is he doing? Being a cop is serious, and he's got the bullet wound to prove it. And the Donnellys are good people and they all think he's a well meaning cop who saved his partner's life.

He took the bullet, and he doesn't regret it, and Jason is his partner, but Turk's not a cop. He's pulling a con, he's living a lie, so how can it be true and false all at once? Which one counts for more? Which one should he stick with? Does he have a right to any of this?

Maybe he's kidding himself. Maybe this gunshot is a wake up call.

He thinks, a year ago, he was pulling one of the biggest jobs that Vegas will never hear about. He likes being a cop, but a gun and a badge are a gun and a badge, and Turk's got a lifetime of crime and underachievement to suggest just how farcical this all is.

What if he gets shot again? What if someone finds out he's not really Danny Williams? What if he fails? After all this time, he has nothing to fall back on, and in all his planning, he never counted on failure as an option. He never stopped to think it might not work out.

But it might not work out.

The bullet wound on his chest is a convincing argument. Turk's just a guy. The same guy he's always been. Maybe this is nothing more than playing cops and robbers, only this time he's make believing for the wrong side.

But what's he supposed to do?

Turk sits in his apartment and wonders, what is he supposed to do?

-o-

He's not sure what he's supposed to do, so Turk just does what he's always done.

He sits in his apartment and reads. He watches a little TV, but since the Donnellys gave him a bona fide library, reading seems like the thing to do.

Besides, if he's reading, he's not thinking, and Turk thinks he should know by now not to think.

His doctor is happy with his progress and the department shrink thinks he's doing just fine. He'll be back on active duty soon.

That's good, or it should be good, but Turk doesn't know, so he keeps on reading because it seems to be the best option he has.

He also thought about buying a hotel and starting fresh, but he doesn't have the energy to contact Danny about the money, and it never seems to work for Rusty, so reading it is.

-o-

Two days before he's supposed to return to active duty, Turk gets a letter. It's postmarked from Cardiff, Wales, with no return address.

He recognizes the print, though, and when he opens it up, three pages fall out, all filled with Basher's precise prose.

A lot of the letter is rambly, telling him about the value of life and the importance of finding your calling, no matter what it may be. Turk gets lost when Basher launches into an analogy comparing police work to the migration of geese in the winter, but at the end, Basher brings it to a place Turk understands.

Ultimately, you've proved the point very well: death is only a beginning and living is a choice we make. And it's not just about who we think we are but what we do with our lives that matters. Criminal or cop, if we're true to ourselves and leave the world better than we found it, then we've achieved all there is to achieve.

I'm telling you this as a brother: Danny Williams is more than a name. He's even more than a cop. He's the self-made man we all want to be and no bullet can take that away so soon.

Recover strong, brother.

-Basher

Turk rereads it a few times, and then tucks it in his bedside table when he goes to bed that night. It's the best night of sleep he's had since getting shot, and when he wakes up, he thinks the hardest person to fool is himself and if he can just let go, this might just work out after all.

-o-

It gets easier. He's cleared for duty, and his first day back, everyone stops by to tell him how much they missed him. Falling back into the routine takes a little bit, but Jason slowly stops treating him like glass and starts piling paperwork on his desk again.

He still hurts, especially in the cold. When he breathes deep, he can feel the ache in his chest, and his scar seems to itch. But if he's stiff in his body, he's loose in spirit.

It gets easier.

The guys at the precinct are friendlier, and he never has to eat lunch alone. Jason's mother insists he comes for Sunday dinner, and it starts off as a one-time thing, but soon he's going to church with them and coming home for all the trimmings week after week.

His focus increases; his self-confidence soars. He's got the best arrest rate in the precinct, and it makes him proud to do his job so well.

It gets easier.

-o-

Turk's life rolls along. He and Jason work their beat; he joins a fantasy football league with some guys at the station. At night, he reads more books, tackling everything from law enforcement theory to the history of New Jersey.

It's rolling along, just right, just perfect. He doesn't get shot and he doesn't shoot anyone, so it feels good enough. It feels right enough.

Then one day, he's working a traffic route while Jason picks up some coffee when someone rams his cruiser from behind.

At first, he's shocked by the fact that someone had the idiocy to hit a cop, and then he's pissed off that someone had the idiocy to hit a cop.

Angry, he throws open his door and his hands are waving in the air until he sees the other driver.

She pretty and brunette, and her eyes are wide. She gets out and she's already apologizing.

Turk sees her eyes, her hair; he hears her English accent, and it's pretty much like he's been rear-ended all over again.

-o-

Her name is Rachel and she drives Turk crazy.

She's difficult and she's aggravating. She's argumentative and snobby. She never likes where he takes her for dinner and she criticizes everything about his apartment. She makes him rant, she makes him rave, and then she makes him kiss her like he's never kissed anyone before.

She makes Turk think about her all the time. She makes Turk want to be with her every spare moment he has. She makes Turk think maybe he's in love.

Then Turk realizes, damn it: he's in love.

-o-

The thing with Rachel is that she changes everything and nothing all at once. She fits into his life in a way that makes him think she was always supposed to be there, but now that's she's there, everything else feels different.

When Jason asks him if he wants to go to the game on Saturday, Turk doesn't have to check his schedule to know he can't. "Rachel wants to go to the city," he says. "Something about shopping."

Jason lifts his eyebrows. "A little whipped, aren't you, buddy?"

Turk glares. Glares a lot, but can't disagree. Because he knows he probably should, but he really doesn't want it to change. Turk's used to taking risks, but letting Rachel into his life, into his heart - this is the biggest one yet and when he's not terrified of what that means, he's loving every minute.

-o-

Rachel asks a lot about where he comes from. Turk keeps his answers vague. Rachel thinks he's ashamed of how badly he underachieved as a teen and is compensating for being the sole survivor of his family, and that's true enough that Turk doesn't have to contradict her.

After a month, he takes her home to meet Mama Donnelly, who seems to know him better than his own mother ever did, so it seems about right. They have a family meal, complete with all the trimmings. Afterward, Jason and his siblings break out a game of Catch-Phrase that makes Rachel snort with laughter.

Before Turk goes to take her home, Mama Donnelly squeezes his arm and winks at him. "She makes you happy, dear," she says, squeezing again. "And that means she makes you better."

-o-

Jason mocks him mercilessly. He taunts Turk with tickets to games he knows Turk can't attend. Turk endures it, and if he pouts a little, that's just normal.

Then Jason meets Holly, and Turk realizes what it means for everyone to grow up.

-o-

Most of Turk's life has seemed long. Years filled with nothing, seconds ticking by with painful clarity.

But this year has been fast. It feels like yesterday he moved here. It's been months since he wanted to think of himself as Turk Malloy at all. Turk's always been a good actor, but this isn't acting anymore.

But Turk still thinks of it all sometimes. He thinks of the rest of the team and what they're doing. He thinks of Danny Ocean hatching a plan, Rusty working a new angle. He thinks of Yen in a big house and Livingston trying to do standup. He thinks of Frank dealing cards and Basher rigging something to explode. He thinks of Saul at the races and Reuben opening his casino. He thinks of Linus making a name for himself and Benedict getting screwed.

He thinks of Virgil, settled in Arizona and a niece he's never met.

He can tell Rachel everything, but he can't tell her this, and of all the things he planned for, this isn't one of them.

The problem is, Turk can't have both. 364 days a year he's Danny Williams, but one day he's Turk Malloy.

And that day is today.

-o-

Turk books a room in The Midas, the latest casino on the strip. Somehow, Danny Williams' name gets tagged and he gets a free upgrade and VIP privileges.

"Compliments of management," the bellhop tells him.

Turk grins and looks around his suite. He tips the bellhop and sits down on one of the couches. The stylings are opulent but classic, just like Reuben.

It's funny, because in some ways Utah will always be his home and in others, his heart is all in Jersey, but still, there's something about this place that just seems so right and probably always will.

-o-

It's coincidence, of course, when Danny Williams is booked in a room next to Gilbert Robinson and family. Mrs. Robinson gets treated to full days of spa treatment on the premises, while Gil and Danny are fronted a few grand to spend at the casino as they please.

That's all well and good, and it's been a long time since Turk's had anything resembling a vacation, but none of that matters. The suite doesn't matter, the complimentary mini bar doesn't matter. The free perks, the decadent touches - there was a time when Turk may have enjoyed them. But today all Turk wants - the only thing he wants - is to shake his brother's hand and meet his niece.

-o-

Turk does the second thing straight away. It's hard not to, since he can hear the crying in the hall before Virgil even gets settled. Turk waits until the bellhop goes away before using the spare key Reuben left for him on the table.

Inside, Sarah is setting up a space for a nursery and Virgil is sitting on the floor, holding a blonde baby up on her feet. She can stand, but her chubby legs are ramrod straight and she's gripping Virgil's hand as she shifts her feet in a frenetic dance.

Her blonde hair is pulled up into a spiky ponytail, accenting with a bow. She's wearing a pink dress with a frill on the bottom. She's laughing.

Turk doesn't realize he's staring until Virgil looks up at him. "Hey, Finn," he says, leaning close to the baby. "Meet your Uncle Danny."

-o-

Her name is Finn Melissa Robinson, and she's ten months old. She's learning to walk because she's precocious like that, and her favorite hobbies, as best Turk can tell, are drooling and trying to eat things off the floor.

"She's amazing," Turk says, because she is. From the dimples in her cheeks to the pitch of her giggle, she's amazing.

Virgil beams. "Yeah, she's something else," he agrees.

Turk shakes his head and doesn't know what else to do. It's surreal watching her, watching Virgil. His brother has always been able to do anything he puts his mind to, but the way he seems to be settled into parenthood is remarkable. He's a natural father, gentle and loving. When Finn's hair starts to come out of its ponytail, he redoes it, almost better than before.

"You must be very proud," Turk says, because he's proud and he's never met her before.

Virgil nods. "She keeps life interesting," he says. Then he looks at his daughter, rubbing his nose to hers. She laughs gleefully. "Don't you, pumpkin?"

Turk laughs, shaking his head. "She couldn't be more perfect," he says. Then he pauses, watching as Virgil helps Finn turn the page in a board book.

Finn looks at the picture for a moment, then uses her hands to pick up the book, putting it haphazardly into her mouth as she begins to chew.

"But Finn?" Turk asks. "Really?"

Virgil shrugs. "Just a name I picked up somewhere."

Turk snorts.

Then Finn gurgles and coos, pushing to her feet. When she turns to Turk, struggling to take a tentative step, it doesn't matter what her name is. It just matters that she's Virgil's daughter, and for the second time in his life, Turk falls in love.

-o-

With Finn, there's not a lot they can do, but really, that seems about right. When Finn naps in the other room of the suite, Turk and Virgil sit sprawled on the couch, staring at the flat screen high definition TV.

"Reuben's got some style," Virgil observes, not looking away from the screen.

Turk nods. "He deserves it," he says. "All the years he's put into this town. He deserves it."

Virgil is silent for a moment. "I guess it goes to show."

Turk blinks at the screen, tilting his head. "Goes to show what?"

"Sometimes you really do get what you want," he says.

Turk looks at his brother.

Virgil looks at Turk.

Turk shakes his head, smiling. He thinks about Finn in the other room. He thinks about Rachel back in Jersey. "Yeah," he says. "I guess you do."

-o-

They get one night out, when Virgil's wife stays home with Finn. At the casino, they try a few hands, but neither of them have their hearts into it. They end up outside on the strip, strolling amongst the lights and tourists.

"I used to think this town was everything," Turk says, remembering the thrill of his first job here. "Watching Danny and Rusty - sometimes I thought if I could just make it here..."

His voice trails off, lost in the buzz of the night.

"I used to think working a job was the only way to challenge myself," Virgil adds.

"I thought the money would change my life."

Virgil nods. "I thought I could do this forever."

Turk glances at his brother. "We were good," he says, matter of fact.

Virgil meets his eyes, nodding back. "Yeah," he says. "We were."

They come to the fountain and neither of them say anything but they stop all the same. Leaning against the railing, they watch the water dance in the lights, moving in an intricate dance they both knew too well.

"I think I'll always miss it," Turk says. "A little bit."

"I don't think I can ever regret it," Virgil adds.

Turk looks back out at the water. Thinks about the first time he was here. Thinks about what this place means to him.

He laughs to himself, and looks down, before looking up at Virgil again. "Yeah," he agrees, then he smiles ruefully. "But I don't think I ever want to go back."

Virgil smiles back. "Me neither."

-o-

The trip is short. They fit a year into a day, and Turk doesn't realize until it's over how it doesn't seem like enough. When they get back to their rooms, they sit in Turk's empty suite and drink a couple of beers. Virgil tells Turk about his company in Arizona and his latest projects. He tells him about how much Finn is growing and all the things she's doing.

Turk tells Virgil about his caseload and some of the funnier arrests he's done. He tells him about Jason and the Donnellys and how he's learning to cook and has memorized the Bill of Rights. He tells him about Rachel.

They talk about what they have to go back to and where they want to be in a year.

Sometime past three, they fall asleep, empty bottles of beer in their hands and heads inclined together on the couch.

-o-

They next day before check out, Turk stops by and says goodbye. He hugs Sarah and picks up Finn and looks her in the eyes. She grins, a slobbering smile, and reaches out to touch the scruff on his chin with sticky hands. Turk smiles and leans in, nuzzling her a little.

"You take care of your daddy, okay?" he says to her.

She giggles in response.

Turk brushes his lips against her cheek before handing her back to her mother.

Virgil hesitates, swallowing hard. He tries to smile, and almost pulls it off. "So, see you in a year?" he asks.

Turk tries to find his voice around the lump in his throat. "Yeah," he says. "See you next year."

-o-

The flight home is crowded. There seems to be a group of elderly people on their way back to the East Coast, most of whom looks miserable and hung over, and Turk remembers belatedly that Vegas isn't all glitz and glamour to people who don't know how to circumvent the bank.

There's also this young couple all over each other across the aisle, and Turk doesn't have to wonder what they did on their vacation. There's a handful of businessmen, reading their newspapers or sleeping, and even a small family trying to play a game of Pictionary in their seats.

Turk watches all of them, and considers what they left, what they're going back to. He thinks of Jason and Rachel, and even though he knows he wasn't gone long, he still wonders if they missed him.

Then he thinks of Virgil and Sarah, driving with little Finn in the backseat. He wonders how much bigger she'll be the next time he sees her, if she'll remember him at all.

He thinks of Finn napping, of Virgil singing kids songs to make her laugh. He thinks of their breaks at fast food restaurants and rest stops on the way home, just to break things up.

It's funny. Because Turk's never been envious of his brother - at least not in ways that he would admit - but right then, Turk thinks Virgil may have everything Turk's ever wanted.

-o-

He gets in late, and catches a cab from the airport. He almost calls Rachel, but he knows she has to work early in the morning and doesn't want to disturb her. When he gets back to his place, he unlocks the door and drops his suitcase heavily inside.

There's a light on in the living room, and for a second, Turk's instincts kick in. He's not carrying his weapon, though, and his gun is in his bedroom. This could be a run of the mill robbery - considering where he lives, it wouldn't be unheard of - or it could be worse. Maybe Bank found them after all this time. Maybe he's made other enemies during his time in the game.

But then he sees Rachel standing in the light and she's smiling. Her eyes look a little sleepy, but her face is bright. "I couldn't imagine not seeing you," she says, almost as an apology.

Turk doesn't care that he hasn't slept for real in two days. He doesn't care that he has coffee breath and a sore back. He just cares that Rachel's here, standing in his apartment, because she couldn't imagine not seeing him.

He scales the distance between them in a few long steps. She looks like she's about to say something else, but he doesn't let her. He wraps his arms around her, runs his fingers through her hair, and kisses her.

She startles for a moment, but she gives in. When her fingers lace through his hair, they press closer together.

After a moment, he pulls away, resting his forehead against hers. She's grinning wildly. "Welcome home, Daniel," she whispers to him, her lips brushing against his nose.

"I should go away more often," he tells her.

She pouts a little. "Not on my life," she says. "I want you right here. Forever."

He laughs. "I think maybe I can pull that off," he says, and then he pulls her close again.

-o-

For a week, Turk lives. He laughs harder at Jason's jokes. He takes the time to say hi to more people at the station. He thanks everyone who waits on him, and he leaves extra large tips when he eats out. He whistles while on patrol and buys Rachel flowers just because.

When Turk does all of Jason's paperwork without a single comment, his partner sits across from him, staring at him critically. "Who are you anymore?"

Turk looks up, shrugging. "Your partner," he says. "Who do you think I am?"

"My partner is a wannabe Jersey boy whose favorite pastime is complaining," Jason says pointedly. "Look at you, you're positively chipper. I certainly can't pass you off as a native anymore. And to think, we were doing so good."

Turk rolls his eyes. "I'm just in a good mood is all," he says. "I like my life. Is that such a bad thing?"

Jason stares. "I ask you again, who are you?"

At this, Turk puts his pencil down and levels his partner with a glare. "I'm Danny Williams, your partner," he says, and he says it emphatically, because he means it. "And if you don't stop asking me that, you'll see just how Jersey I can be, got it?"

At that, Jason grins. "Thank God," he says. "I was beginning to worry there."

-o-

At Sunday lunch, Mama Donnelly pulls him to sit next to her on the couch. Rachel is in the next room, talking to Jason's sister about a movie they saw last week while Jason and his brother are about to settle into watch some sports on TV.

While Turk may only be adopted into this family, he knows enough not to cross Mama Donnelly.

"Something on your mind?" he asks, as casually as he can, because she's positively staring at him.

"I'm just trying to figure," she says, her accent thick.

Turk raises his eyebrows. "Trying to figure what?"

"What's different about you," she says.

This takes Turk by surprise. He shrugs. "There's nothing-"

She waves a hand at him in annoyance. "There's something different," she says decidedly. "You've always been a remarkable young man, ever since I first met you. And it's been something, watching you grow. And Rachel has changed you, but that's not it either."

Turk shakes his head. "I don't-"

She waves her hand again. "It's like you finally accepted that you fit here," she says, and Turk's heart skips a beat. "Lord knows, you always did, but everyone seemed to accept it but you. But now...it's different. Now you know you fit."

Turk blinks, not sure what to say.

Then her face breaks into a smile. She leans forward, squeezing his arm. "That's a good thing, son," she says. "I was just wondering who I should thank, is all."

And Turk feels his heart start to pound again, blood pouring through his body. This is home. This is family. This is life.

He swallows hard and smiles. "You can start with yourself," he says.

She clucks her tongue then leans over further, pulling him into a hug. Then she whispers into his ear, "You don't have to tell me your secrets for me to know you have them," she says. "You just need to know that it's never going to make a difference. Not in the least."

When she pulls away, Turk is speechless, but she doesn't linger any further. She pushes to her feet and goes to the kitchen, picking up a tray of cookies to offer them to the girls.

Turk just watches her, and wonders how much she knows. For a moment, there's panic in the thought, but as Mama Donnelly cajoles Rachel into eating a frosted sugar cookie, somehow he knows there's nothing to worry about.

-o-

As a criminal, Turk never seemed to have much to say. At least, not much that mattered. True, he and Virgil were highly adept at endless and pointless repartee, but it was all part of the con or a sheer result of the boredom that sometimes ensued while being on the job. In such situations, Turk could play twenty questions or debate the relative qualities of their equipment, but beyond that, there wasn't much to say.

As a cop, Turk increasingly finds the opposite is true. It'd be easy to blame Jason, who is skilled at talking about anything ad nauseum for no reason at all. If something can be said in four words, Jason is sure to use ten, and he uses hand motions to punctuate his points.

Turk's played enough cons that picking up on such nuances is pretty natural to him, but he's never played a con so long that it actually changes the very way he is. Because if Jason is impressive in his communication prowess, Turk becomes a damn genius.

He can order a slice of pizza without saying a word and can coerce Rachel to stay the night without more than two good looks and one beckoning finger.

And his ability to talk...

It puts Jason to shame.

If Jason uses ten words, Turk can come up with twenty. Without even trying. And his rants are known throughout the precinct - hell, the whole damn department, with whispers of his power all the way in NYC.

"And to think I was worried about you fitting in," Jason says one day, after Turk goes off on a tirade about diagonal parking lines.

Turk snorts, shrugging his shoulders. "You only wish, babe."

-o-

For all of Jason's crap, he's the one who pops the question first. Afterward, he's giddy and smiles for two weeks straight. When he finally gets his head out of the clouds long enough to have an adult conversation, he asks Turk to be his best man.

Turk stops and looks at his partner. "What about your brother?"

Jason huffs a laugh. "You mean the guy who lost every toy I ever owned and even lost my car in high school?" he asks, shaking his head. "No, I don't think so."

"He's your brother, man," Turk says, thinking of Virgil.

"Yeah," Jason agrees. "And you're not?"

Turk's stomach flutters. "It's not the same."

"No, it's better," Jason argues. "Some family you're born into. Some you make. I want you there by my side, man. I want you."

-o-

On Jason's wedding day, they're at the church. They're all in tuxes, and Turk double checks his in the mirror before fixing his partner's.

Jason smiles at him, grateful and nervous. "We've come a long way, haven't we?" he asks.

Turk smiles back, thinks about walking out of a Vegas casino with upwards of 160 million in cash. He thinks about stealing a Faberge egg and starting a worker's revolt in Mexico. He thinks about a gravestone in Utah and a list of burnt contacts he doesn't plan on using again.

He pats Jason on the shoulder. "Yeah," he says. "We definitely have."

PART FIVE