blue flamingos


Fandom: The West Wing

Category/Rated: Slash, R

Year/Length: 2007/ ~8409 words

Pairing: various

Disclaimer: No, I don't own them, for which I should think they're profoundly grateful.

Summary: (Criminal AU) Being a master thief is supposed to be such a glamorous way of life...

Author's Notes: For [info]black_eyedgirl's TWW AU ficathon, for [info]littleloonlost who asked for the gang living a life of crime.

Feedback: Yes please. Even if it's bad. Especially if it's bad.


"Oh Josh," Zoey wheedles, giving him the look that's worked on every mark since she quit school, half little girl lost, half if only I could get you into my bed.

"Oh Zoey," Josh mimics. Of course, Josh is a bit more with it than most marks. "We don't need anyone else."

Zoey throws herself back into her seat with a flourish, kicking her boots up on Josh's desk. "Yes we do! Charlie and I can't be everywhere, all the time, and you're too busy playing at being boss while she's away. We need her!"

"We may need someone, but I don't see it." Josh steeples his fingers, looking at her over the glasses he wears as an approximation of the big businessman he's supposed to be. "She's too... Gina will never go for it."

Zoey grins and plays her trump card. "Gina's been training her with a gun for two weeks. She says she's ready as soon as you agree. Come on," she moans when Josh still doesn't look convinced. "Give her a try, she's desperate. Please."

"Oh God," Josh groans. "Will it give me five minutes peace to see our client?"

"You won't see me all day," Zoey promises expansively. "Does that mean yes?"

"All right, yes! Bring her in, what the hell. It's not like we're trying to run a smooth operation here."

"You're the best." Zoey leans over to kiss his cheek as his intercom chimes.

"Mr. Lyman, I've got Mr. Santos here for you," Margaret says smoothly.

"Send him in," Josh says, shooing at Zoey. "Go away now."

"Going." Zoey swings her jacket round her shoulder. She pauses in the doorway, watching Santos come down the hallway, then leans back into Josh's office, a small piece of plastic between her index and middle fingers. "Hope you don't mind – borrowed your credit card to take her shopping," she says, and saunters out, leaving Josh sputtering behind her.


Sam plants his feet firmly and doesn't shuffle at all as Detective Ziegler looks him up and down, tapping ash from his cigar as he does it. He's a cliché of a long-time detective, right down to the paper-strewn office and worn-looking suit, but Sam spent two years in White Collar before his transfer and he knows that appearances don't ever tell the whole story.

"Explain to me again what I did to deserve you," Ziegler says finally. Sam flashes back to three nights ago, Will leaning over his naked body and slurring the words into his skin, then pushes the image away. Will's back in California and they agreed that long distance relationships don't work.

"I asked to come here," he says. "They told me you were someone I could learn from."

What his boss actually said was, "watch what he does and then do the opposite," but Sam's got to work with this guy, and he doesn't want to make it any more unpleasant than it's already looking like it's going to be.

Ziegler raises an eyebrow like he knows what Sam isn't saying, then sighs and gestures Sam to the other desk, computer keyboard half-hidden under a pile of files. "Start with those, that's our biggest open case right now."

"Who are they?" Sam asks, flipping open the top file to a set of photographs: women in gowns and men in dinner jackets, young and attractive, with the kinds of smiles that make people hold onto their purses and not notice their necklaces being lifted.

"Thieves," Ziegler says derisively. "They specialize in easily fenced goods – jewelry, ornaments, some paintings, mostly lifted from private houses. This unit's been after them since they started expanding, but there's not been a lot of evidence so far."

He sighs at the end of his explanation, and Sam remembers McGarry telling him that Ziegler's solve rate hasn't been good for a while now, since his divorce, but that he's a good cop having a bad time. He can't see it, but McGarry's not usually wrong.

He turns the next page and stops.

"What?" Ziegler asks, watching him sharply.

"Uh, there might be a bit of a problem here," Sam says.


"OK." Josh drops the stack of papers on the conference table, already laden with coffee mugs, clothing catalogues, and the assorted papers that his team always have with them and he never gets a good look at. He pulls out a picture of the necklace and hands it to Zoey, sitting on his left. "Santos just hired us to get him that."

Zoey hands the picture on to Charlie, her expression pulled into dismay. "He wants *that*? Why?"

"It's Cartier," Charlie says. "Tutti frutti, also known as Moghul. Very popular in the 1920s. He'd sell it for 2 million, easy."

Zoey grins with pride and Josh thinks, not for the first time, how different Charlie is now from when they first took him on.

"He doesn't want to sell it; he wants it for his wife's birthday next month."

"But it's so..." Zoey waves her hand, then passes the picture on. "Donna, tell him. It's so tacky."

Zoey's new recruit tilts the picture before her, flicking her long blond hair back with a tiny gesture. "I'd prefer diamonds if it was me," she says, looking up from under her eye lashes. He can see why Zoey picked her out in the first place.

"I'll be sure to make Zoey and Charlie get you some when your birthday comes round," he tells her. "Until then, Santos is offering us $500,000 to get our hands on this, so let's get some work done."

Charlie's already tapping at his laptop. "It's in a private collection – but it's being loaned out for a high end fashion show in a couple of weeks." He glances across at Josh. "Which I'm guessing you already know."

Josh shrugs one shoulder; he did know, but only because Santos told him. "Santos has two tickets for us; Charlie, I want you to take Donna in."

"What?" Zoey bounces upright. "Oh Josh, come on! I just got a new dress!"

"You just got nearly arrested at the Plessis-Walkers'," Gina offers from the far end of the table, not looking up till Zoey looks at her. "The cops have got your picture, we can't risk it."

Zoey flops back in her chair, deferring, as always, to their security expert's advice. "I can't go at all?" she complains.

"We're going to want someone else in there; I think I can get someone in as catering staff," Josh says "You or Gina, fight it out amongst yourselves, but if it's you, Zoey, not looking like you do now. We can't afford for you to be recognized again."

Zoey nods, mildly appeased. They all know how the next few days will go. Zoey will claim her lengthy experience and charm, Gina will point out how unsafe it is, how she's better with security concerns, and in the end they'll charm Josh between them into getting them both in, then Charlie will beg until Josh cracks. Either that or he'll offer more details of his and Zoey's sex life than Josh ever wanted to hear, until Josh caves.

"Right. Gina, get a look at some of the blue prints, figure out what we'll need to get through any security they've got. Charlie, she'll need your help. Zoey, you can start walking Donna through how we do things – and practice your bar-tending, just in case."

They break up quickly, leaving the table empty again as Josh makes his way back to the office. He's always been more on the contact and legitimate cover side of the operation, and he's got a few calls blocked in for the afternoon, only one of which is likely to lead to another job.

Margaret catches him in the corridor. "There's a man waiting to see you."

"OK." Turner's not usually early, but stranger things have happened. "I'll be right there."

"Don't forget you've got Mr. Turner in twenty minutes," Margaret reminds him firmly, and goes into the ladies' room before Josh can ask any questions.

The man sitting in their tiny waiting room is instantly familiar, even if it's been five years since they saw each other. Josh firmly quells his initial rush of happiness and makes a mental note to get Charlie looking into the man's history when he's gone. The grin on his face when he strides into the room doesn't feel as fake as it should. "Sam!"

Sam stands up, grinning back, and comes over to hug him. It's warm outside and Josh can feel the heat of his skin through the dress shirt he's wearing. It's more difficult to let go then it should be, especially when Sam seems equally uneager.

"What are you doing here? Come into my office." He sits Sam down in his visitor's chair and closes the door firmly – his crew are nothing if not nosy, though they call it curious.

"I just got transferred from California last week." Sam loosens his tie and looks round the office while Josh subtly pushes the Santos file under some others that don't contain pictures of expensive necklaces they're planning to steal.

"Still a cop then?" he asks, trying not to sound suspicious. Everyone knows about his and Sam's long-standing friendship, from their college days when they thought they might want to go into politics, before Sam's quest for the truth took him into law enforcement and Josh's desire to win took him the other way.

"Still a cop," Sam agrees. His expression when he meets Josh's eyes is cloudy and distant. Josh wonders if Sam's above using their friendship for what his bosses want; they've agreed many times that his job makes it hard for them to be the kind of friends who hang out, with the rumors that follow Josh. Sam's never asked if they're true and Josh has never volunteered the answer, because friendship only goes so far and they both need plausible deniability.

"Well, I suppose someone's got to be." Josh grins at him and Sam smiles back. He's still the most attractive man – the most attractive person – Josh has ever met. "It's good to see you." Good, but not convenient, especially if Sam's transfer was out of White Collar and into something closer to home.

"You too," Sam say. He shuffles in his chair a little, then says, "So, listen, I don't know Washington that well. I was hoping you might be able to show me round a bit some time."

Josh watches him, picking up all Sam's tells that he catalogued a long time ago. This isn't just a friendly visit, and he's a little surprised by how much that hurts. "Sure. I've got some time this weekend."

"That sounds great." Sam stands up, straightens his cuffs. "I'll give you a call."

"Do that." Josh hands over his business card, even though Sam probably knows the number.

"Josh..." Sam trails off, his expression sliding into the puppy dog eyes that Josh remembers so well, the ones that mean he doesn't like what he's doing.

"Give me a call," Josh says firmly before Sam can say anything they'll both regret. If they're going to walk this line again, they'll need a *lot* of deniability.

He's got a few minutes before Turner's due, he thinks, booting up his computer as the door closes behind him, and clicks into Google.


Attractive women don't often come up to Toby in bars, in fact he often does his best to make sure they don't, so it's something of a surprise when a tall woman in a suit says, "Anyone sitting here?" and sits on the stool next to his before he has chance to say anything.

She orders a martini and raises it to him when it arrives. "Cheers."

Toby tilts his glass back at her and sips. He thinks about buying a cigar – that usually works to keep people away when he wants to – but doesn't. It didn't work on Sam either, who's disgustingly young and enthusiastic. He comes with Captain McGarry's recommendation though, so there must be something under the West Hollywood good looks.

"So," the woman says. She bites into her olive neatly. "Do you live in Washington?"

"Yes." She's attractive, with her long legs and expressive face, and she's looking at him almost appraisingly. Given the choice, he always avoids small talk – never once took Andy to a police Christmas party when they were married – but he feels compelled to ask, "and you?"

She shakes her head. "Well, yes," she amends, and laughs. It's a nice laugh, not like the tinkly giggles of the women he works with. "I moved here a few days ago."

He thinks for a moment of asking if she knows Sam, his detective brain cataloguing coincidences. "For work?"

"Mm." She sips her martini. "Well, back here, really. I was in San Francisco for six months."

"Ah." Toby's only been free to do this for a few months, and even before his marriage, he wasn't the best at... this. He's not sure if she's making conversation, being friendly, or actually interested.

She smiles at him again and holds out her hand. "CJ Cregg."

He takes it. "Toby Ziegler."

She squeezes lightly, and holds on for much longer than politeness dictates. Toby holds her gaze and waits for her to let go.


"Donna!" Zoey appears in the doorway with her usual abrupt enthusiasm as Donna's leaning over the security plans Gina has spread over the desk. They're only making initial plans, but it's fascinating. She's glad Zoey doesn't seem to have told anyone that Donna was working in a diner when they met, that all this is entirely new to her but, against all logic and her family's ideals, she actually thinks it might be the one thing she'll be good at, the one place she could belong.

"You need her?" Zoey asks Gina. "We need to go get a dress for next Friday."

Gina looks up and frowns. "You went three days ago. We need to make a profit on this. The boss is talking to Josh about relocating after this."

"Yeah?" A matching frown crosses Zoey's face. "Because of the Plessis-Walkers? Because they had nothing on me."

"Maybe. But the cops are getting closer, we can't stay forever."

"Whatever. New York would be nice. Or, oh, how about Europe? I took French in college, and Charlie's never seen the Eiffel Tower." Zoey grins and Donna can't help laughing. She's never seen Paris either, and the clothes, the parties, would be amazing. "I promise not to bankrupt us dress shopping," Zoey says contritely, grabbing Donna's wrist and pulling her out.

"Zoey! That doesn't mean steal something!" Gina calls after them.

"Zoey?" Donna asks, following her. Stealing a $2 million necklace from a fashion show is one thing, but last time she tried to take a dress, she ended up in an embarrassing argument with a store detective.

"It'll be fine," Zoey says cheerfully, flinging open the door to a startled young woman reaching for the handle. She starts back but Zoey keeps going and hugs her. "Hey, Ellie."

As soon as she says the name, Donna realizes they've met before: she didn't recognize Ellie in jeans and a shirt, her hair falling onto her face, when last time they met they were sweating on a dance floor, Ellie's hair sliding through her fingers.

Ellie extricates herself from Zoey's hug, her eyes apprehensive as she looks at Donna. Zoey doesn't pick up on it. "Donna, this is my sister Ellie. El, this is Donna, she's just joined the firm."

Donna takes Ellie's hand. "Please to meet you," she says politely. Nope, your sister never slid her hand up my thigh, never left a love bite on my breast, and Ellie relaxes into relief.

"You too," she says quietly. "Is Gina in?"

"Yeah, go on. Unless you want to come shopping with us?"

"No, thanks." Ellie stands to one side so they can pass and Donna lets her hand fall out slightly to brush against her waist, Ellie's breath catching.

Zoey drives like she's on the open road, pushing the dark blue convertible through spaces that Donna would swear aren't there, waving bright apologies to anyone who looks like they might be going to object.

"Does Ellie work there as well?" Donna asks. She's quickly learning the euphemisms for what they do, actually starting to believe in them.

"No. She's a med student, she's here for vacation." Zoey switches lanes smoothly and peals round a corner.

"I thought maybe your family..."

"Were all criminals? Nope, my mom's a doctor and my dad's a history professor." They come to a rapid halt at a stop light. "He ran for political office once," Zoey adds. "Before they had us, but he lost and then Mom got pregnant with Liz." She pulls away sharply.

"Oh," Donna says. She doesn't quite have the nerve to ask how Zoey got from that to this, or what her family think. "So Ellie's not... she knows?"

"Oh yeah. She's seeing Gina," Zoey says carelessly.

"Oh. Hey, mind if I turn the radio on>"

"Sure," Zoey says, and they drive the rest of the way to the mall in Top 40 accompanied silence.

Shopping with Zoey, Donna's already discovered, is nothing like shopping on a diner waitress' budget. They browse through mid-high end stores – nowhere with anything too unique, Zoey explains – and Zoey loads her down with dresses, skirts, shawls and accessories, the two of them ducking in and out of changing rooms, and always leaving with something they didn't come in with.

They've been at it for two hours when they find the perfect dress: ankle length red satin, low-cut but not indecent, with a lattice of straps across the back, covering just how low it swoops.

"Perfect," Zoey says, circling her in the changing room. "Josh will love it."

Donna checks the price tag. "He'll have to love it a lot at that price."

Zoey grins and gestures for her to take it off. "How do you feel about making a scene?" she asks.

She's wearing flat shoes, if she needs to she can make a decent run for it. "Sure."

Half an hour and a tearful fit at the counter on Donna's part later, they're strolling back to Zoey's car with the dress in Zoey's backpack.


Sam tries to keep his eyes on the file in front of him, but it's like they flicker to the clock without his control, and of course Ziegler notices as he walks in. "Something you'd like to say?" he asks, but not in the vaguely hostile tone he's been using all week. Sam wonders if this means Ziegler's getting used to him.

"Nope. Just wondering if anyone would've put the coffee machine on yet." He turns in his chair to watch Ziegler remove his coat. It's two days since his boss came in wearing the same shirt he'd left in the night before; he's wearing a fresh shirt today but he's got the same air about him that he did then.

"Get me a cup if you're going," he says, switching on his computer and not looking at Sam.

Sam brings back a Danish as well, to be on the safe side. Ziegler's gazing at the screen, but he turns to Sam as soon as he sits down. "You were going to phone Josh Lyman last night."

"I did." Sam sips his too-hot coffee and doesn't feel guilty at all. What Josh is doing – is suspected of doing, innocent until proven guilty – is illegal and it's not as though they're entrapping him or conducting illegal searches. What Sam's trying to do is slightly morally gray at worst. "We're going to the new Bond movie tomorrow."

He'd meant it to come out like a friendly invitation but it had sounded like he was asking Josh for a date, and Josh had thought the same thing if the drop in his voice was any indication. Sam knows he should tell Ziegler – if they end up in court, this could kill any case they build – but Sam's got self-control. Just because last time he went to the cinema he ended up sucking Will off in the men's room two thirds of the way through the movie, just because he's been reliving Josh's hug all week, there's no reason he won't manage an afternoon with him as friends.

"Good," Ziegler says, looking at him like he can read Sam's mind, or maybe just the blush he knows is creeping up his neck. "See what you can find out from him."


"Stop. Stop." Sam pulls back from the kiss, breathing heavily, his eyes a little wild, his hair even more so. Josh keeps his hands where they are on his back, pressing them close. All day together and they're on the edge of cracking, confessing or ending their friendship, and he'd rather do this than talk about it.

"What?" he asks, grinning.

Sam sucks in another breath, his hands still at Josh's waist. "We shouldn't – I shouldn't, Josh, you know what they say about your company..."

This is exactly the conversation Josh doesn't want to have. He pulls at Sam's shirt, pressing into the warm skin at the base of his spine and letting his fingers drift a little lower. "I won't tell if you don't," he promises.

"Josh..." Sam says, desperate and pleading, but he leans in anyway, kisses Josh hard, and lets him lead them through the apartment to his bed, shedding clothes as they go.

Sam closes his eyes when they're naked together, Josh pressing him down into the still-made bed, kissing his way across Sam's neck, over collar bones sharp beneath golden skin. He's never thought about Sam as a lover, forced himself not to, and his little gasps when Josh finds somewhere particularly sensitive are on incredible turn-on.

It's somewhere between frantic and tender, mapping Sam's body with trembling hands until he reaches his cock, and sucks him down, fast and messy, Sam's hands clenched on the bed like he can't let himself touch. He comes without warning as Josh tries to swallow and not choke, then pushes Josh onto his back and jerks him off, kissing him urgently while Josh tries to hang on.

He doesn't mean to fall asleep, but it's been a while since anyone touched him like that and he can't keep his eyes open, now even when Sam curls his arm round Josh's waist and rests his head on his shoulder.

It doesn't feel like he's been asleep long when he wakes up again. Sam is snoring lightly next to him, his body lax in sleep. It's easy for Josh to slip out from under his arm, pull on his discarded boxers and follow the trail of clothes they left. He's not really snooping, he tells himself, if he checks Sam's wallet while he's folding his pants. He's just curious; Charlie's checks found Sam working in robbery, part of a car crime squad, but he's got no cases attached to him, and both Josh and Charlie had agreed something was off.

Whatever it is, though, Josh can't find it in Sam's discarded clothes. He crawls back into bed disheartened and uncomfortable, and thinks about waking Sam up for round 2.

It's Sam who wakes him up, though he obviously doesn't mean to, closing a dresser drawer with a little more force than it needs – they all stick but that one. He keeps his eyes closed, forcing himself to relax and fake sleep. It's a shame he doesn't know for sure if he snores. Maybe Sam's just looking – for what? Clean underwear? Condoms? Evidence of Josh's criminal career?

He hears a picture being carefully lifted away from the wall then replaced and wants to laugh. Sam's tossing his place like he's a drug dealer, like Josh has kept up the front for ten years by being that careless, that obvious. He thinks, for a minute, of sitting up, telling Sam that anything he'd find useful is in the safe at the office. Josh believes in long hours, not bringing work home.

Instead, he lies still, waiting for Sam to leave or get back into bed. It's the latter, and he presses up against Josh, whispering, "I'm sorry," while he thinks Josh can't hear.

He gives Josh a blow job in the morning, when they're both awake, and Josh tries not to think about the real reason he's doing it.


"So," CJ says, leaning in the doorway as Toby throws the Chinese cartons away. She sips her wine and loosens the top button of her blouse.

"Yes?" he asks, sounding a little apprehensive. CJ's got used to it since she sat down next to him in that bar. She thinks it comes a little from being a detective and more than a little from just being him.

"I've got two tickets to a fashion show from work," she says carefully. "I have to go and I'd like to have someone to go with."

Toby's expression eloquently expresses what he thinks of that and CJ laughs, but there's something else there, just for an instant, that makes her think he might say yes.

"We wouldn't have to stay for long," she offers. "But we've put some money into it, so my boss expects someone to be there, and since I'm newest..."

"It's really not my thing," Toby says stiffly. He's already removed his tie and now pushes his shirt sleeves up. "I'm sure Sam would accompany you."

CJ looks down, fighting the urge to giggle. "He's a little young for me," she points out. She leans her head against the wall and takes another slow sip of her wine. "Anyway, I want you to come."

Toby rolls his eyes. "I don't have anything to wear," he says sarcastically.

"That's all right." CJ moves closer to him, placing her glass carefully on the counter. She trails her fingers over Toby's jaw and down the open neck of his shirt. "I'll think of something."

Lying in bed later, Toby's beard rough against her shoulder, CJ strokes her hand down his body and he mutters, "Fine, I'll go," grudgingly into her skin.


Sam thinks seriously about ringing in sick to work, which he's never done, or telling his captain he wants to transfer back. In the end, though, he puts his suit on like always and goes in.

He's finally got his own space, out of Ziegler's office, but he catches his partner looking up as he settles into his own desk. He expects Ziegler to summon him; instead he turns on his computer, goes to get coffee and goes through a few messages from Ginger, all the while feeling Ziegler's eyes on him, until he finally caves.

"How was your weekend?" he asks, pulling over the spare chair to sit in front of Ziegler's desk.

Ziegler nods. "And you?"

Sam thinks about pretending not to know what he's really asking about, telling him about the movie they went to, but he'll have to say it eventually and he might as well get it over with. "I don't have anything."

"Because?" Ziegler asks. He picks up a pen and starts chewing on the end, which Sam already knows isn't a good sign.

"I'm not comfortable with this," he says. "I don't think it's right to be using my friendship like this."

Ziegler sighs and rubs at his forehead. "This wasn't a problem last week."

Sam resists the urge to fidget and forces himself to meet Ziegler's eyes. He's good at hiding things, but something shifts in Ziegler's expression. "Close the door," he says quietly.

When Sam sits down again, Ziegler just looks at him for a minute and Sam keeps his mouth closed against the confession he shouldn't be making. "Tell me what happened," Ziegler says softly.

He can feel his face going red. He doesn't need to be told how stupid he's been, and now he has humiliation to go with it. "We slept together."

There's a long pause, then Ziegler says, "Sam," drawing it out in something between despair and what might be sympathy, or maybe pity. "Tell me this wasn't recently."

"On Saturday night." Sam can't look at him – he's pretty sure Ziegler's objection is to him sleeping with someone they suspect of major theft rather than to him sleeping with another man, but that's still more than he wants to see from someone he works with.

"OK," Ziegler says, sounding tired. "You'll have to be taken off the investigation."

"Yeah," Sam says. He's not disappointed, even though, bizarrely, he's got to like working with Toby over the past couple of weeks.

"Come on." Toby stands up. "Let's go see the captain." He past Sam on the arm awkwardly. "I won't tell him if you don't," he says, and precedes Sam into the bullpen.


"God, I hate these uniforms," Zoey grumbles, tugging at her tie as she follows Gina from the kitchen to the main room.

"You didn't have to come," Gina points out. "You talked Josh into this."

"Not really." Josh actually said yes the moment she finished asking the question, so she didn't need even one of her arguments. She's kind of worried about him, more so since he's got increasingly serious about upping sticks and moving them all to San Francisco.

"Seriously," she says when Gina ignores her. "Everyone thinks being a master thief is so glamorous, and instead it's all waitressing and serving drinks to fashion designers."

"Yes, you really suffer," Gina agrees sarcastically. "I mean, most people get to spend all week working, and you have to do terrible things like shop for dresses."

"Oh, shut up," Zoey says, grinning back at her. She opens the door, balancing her drinks tray on one hand. "See you later."

They circle in opposite directions through the well-dressed fashion designers, and models still in their catwalk outfits, smiling politely. There's a band on the catwalk playing soft jazz, which Zoey hates but supposes beats the pounding techno they played during the show.

She's been back to the bar twice for more drinks – apparently champagne is fine if you're a model but food isn't – when she catches sight of Donna and Charlie. They look good together, Donna's pale hair in contrast with the deep red dress and Charlie's black shirt under his tuxedo. They're arm in arm when Zoey spots them, Charlie leaning in slightly to hear what Donna's saying. She looks entirely relaxed, so either she's feeling a lot better or she's hiding her nerves well, considering she was literally shaking when Zoey was doing her hair earlier.

She keeps half an eye on them as she circulates again and again in gradually decreasing circles, each one taking her closer to them. They've got to give everyone chance to see the two of them together, even if no-one here is going to recognize either of them.

Josh isn't coming to this, though he's on the other end of the phone in case of an emergency, but that doesn't stop Zoey's eyes from flickering to the door every time she feels it open, looking for him. Most of the faces are only vaguely familiar at best until the door opens to let in a tall woman in a fabulous black dress, on the arm of a very familiar man in a suit.

"Oh hell," she mutters under her breath, surprising the barman handing back her refilled tray. "Sorry." She pulls the pin out of her hair, letting it fall forward to cover her face before she picks up the tray. She dyed it black a couple of days ago, and she looks pretty different but still... She could have done without him.

She glances across the room to see Gina offering her tray to Detective Ziegler. He takes two glasses and hands one to his date, looking round the room. Zoey turns her back to him and drifts towards Donna, who picks up the cue and moves away from Charlie.

"Hi," she says when she gets close to Charlie, balancing her tray on one hand so she can lean into him. "Would you like something?"

Charlie raises one eyebrow and Zoey doesn't need to fake the flirtatious smile she gives him in return. It's nowhere near as much fun as hanging on his arm in a beautiful dress, but waitressing had its moments. "A drink?" Charlie asks, taking a glass.

"Sure," Zoey says. She rests a hand on his shoulder, leaning in to whisper in his ear. "Ziegler's here."

"Really?" Charlie asks, like she's just offered to take him somewhere and get naked. "Just stick near me."

"Absolutely," Zoey says, and watches from the corner of her eye as Gina slips out the same way Donna went.


Donna jumps when Gina slips into the room, even though she's expecting her. The safe is supposed to be very secure, which apparently means the people who've lent jewelry don't feel the need to ask for guards, but she can't relax, keeps expecting someone to come in.

"Sorry," Gina says quickly, dropping her tray on the desk and reaching under her skirt to pull out a thin black case. "Slight problem."

"What sort of problem?" Donna asks, her mind instantly filled with cops and arrest, and OK, her probation ended a couple of months ago, but she can't afford to be picked up again.

"Nothing major." Gina opens the case and pulls out what looks like a small stethoscope. "The guy who nearly arrested Zoey on the last job is here."

"That's nothing major?" Donna squeaks. Gina shushes her and listens for a few minutes as she turns dials on the safe, then shakes her head and puts the stethoscope away.

"No, it'll be fine," she says confidently. She wraps a serving cloth round her hand and pulls the safe open.

Donna smoothes her skirt and crouches next to her, peering in. There's three bags at the back that are obviously cash bags, and a small pile of boxes in front. Her fingers itch for the cash bags, but she pulls on the elbow length gloves in her clutch and starts going through the boxes, replacing each one exactly where it was.

She finds the necklace on the fourth try and it really is as gaudy as it looked in the pictures. She's never met Santos, or his wife, but she can't imagine anyone with taste wanting this to keep. "Got it," she says, and hands it over to Gina, who starts checking it for tracking devices as Donna replaces the box and closes the safe up again.

She's just turning the dial back to its original position when she hears footsteps on the stairs outside.

"Fuck," Gina hisses. She shoves her case and the necklace into Donna's clutch purse hastily and grabs Donna's hand. "Follow my lead," she mutters, and pushes Donna up against the wall to the left of the door, her hands tight on Donna's hips and her mouth hot on Donna's.

Donna's usually the one doing the grabbing and kissing, so it takes her a few seconds to catch up. When the door swings open, though, they're pressed tight together, her hands on the small of Gina's back and their tongues in each others' mouths.

"Excuse me ladies," says a polite female voice, sounding like she's trying not to laugh.

Donna leans back from Gina, trying to catch her breath and not needing to fake her blush at all. "Hi," she says, feeling stupid.

"Now, ladies, I understand the need for privacy, but I'm afraid you can't be in here." The security guard leers – there's really no other word for the expression on her face – at Donna, and Donna feels like she's just been caught with her hand up Gina's skirt.

Gina's a very good kisser.

"Oh. Sorry. We'll, er – we'll just go," she says, and pulls Gina out of the office. Gina grabs her tray as they go.

She waits until they're almost back in the hall before she stops them. "What now?"

Gina takes her case out of Donna's bag and slips it back under her skirt while Donna tries not to look. "I've got to get back to work, in case she checks. Give me the necklace, then you and Charlie should get going." She reaches up and touches the side of Donna's mouth. "Your lipstick's smudged," she says with a smile; Donna forces herself not to lick her lips. "You go first."


Charlie's watching the door, so he sees Donna step back into the room, adjust her dress and look around for him. "Thanks for the drinks," he tells Zoey, replacing his empty glass on her tray. She glances sideways long enough to see Donna, then pats his arm and moves back into the crowd.

Donna steps up close to him and links her arm through his, leaning in to kiss his cheek.

"Everything go OK?" he asks quietly.

Donna pauses, enough to make him nervous, then says, "It was fine. Gina said we should leave."

"All right." Charlie looks around the room again. Gina's on the far side, collecting empty glasses, and he can't see Zoey; she's probably back in the kitchen. "She's got everything she needs?"

"Yeah." Donna's stepped back a little now, just far enough for Charlie to see the faint blush staining her cheeks. "Everything's fine," she says again, looking out into the crowd, and Charlie fights the sense of impending doom. Something's happened, and now there are going to be problems.

"All right then." He tightens his grip on Donna's arm and starts leading her through the crowd. "Let's get your coat and have an early night."

It's too early for the cloakroom to be busy, for which Charlie's incredibly grateful, when, as he's holding her black wool coat for her, Donna blurts, "I kissed her."

The attendant doesn't even blink, though he does take a couple of steps back; giving them their privacy or trying to avoid getting involved in the lovers' quarrel he seems to think is coming.

"OK," Charlie says carefully. This is probably the wrong moment to point out that strange things happen on jobs and it's no big deal, when Donna is clearly freaking out. He steers her towards the front door anyway, where they're less likely to be overheard. "What happened?"

Donna looks around before stepping closer to him and dropping her voice. "Someone came in, and we needed a cover." She pauses, then adds, "She started it."

He feels like he's dealing with his little sister all over again, experience that's actually proved incredibly useful where he is now. "Is that a problem?"

Donna shifts awkwardly. "I might've... I knew Ellie before. For a few weeks."

Charlie represses a groan and calls for their car. They definitely need privacy for this.


"Oh no," Toby says firmly, his eyes skittering round the room in something like fear. "You're not leaving me here with these – people."

CJ laughs and gently removes her arm from his. "I don't think they'll eat you while I'm using the ladies' room."

"That's not what I'm worried about," Toby says darkly, but he lets her go without any more fuss.

CJ slips easily through the crowd, feeling Toby's eyes on her as she opens the door to the corridor. She waits for it to close behind her before slipping through the door to her left and taking the flights of stairs quickly. It's quiet, now the music and people are behind her, but the thick carpet muffles her footsteps as it catches at the hem of her dress.

She taps lightly on the door as she opens it and steps into a dark room. A moment later, a desk light comes on and she blinks at the sight of a waitress pointing a tiny gun at her.

"Are you expecting someone in particular?" she asks.

"No, boss," Gina says, grinning, and lowers the gun. "You having fun?"

CJ shrugs. She is, actually: Toby is more entertaining company then she expected when she went up to him in the bar, and she's always liked putting on nice clothes and going out. It almost seems like a shame that she'll have to leave him behind. "Everything going OK?"

"So far." Gina's still smiling, but now there's something almost sly in the smile.

"And Donna?"

"She's fine," Gina says, and CJ decides to leave that one alone.

"So?" Gina's outfit isn't exactly revealing, but it doesn't seem to offer many places to hide things either; certainly not a $2 million necklace.

"Oh, right." Gina hops off the desk and starts unbuttoning her shirt. "Charlie and I came up with it," she explains, reaching for a tiny zipper in the side of her bra. "It seemed more secure than just tucking the necklace in there."

"Can't argue with that," CJ agrees, watching Gina's hands against her breast.

She doesn't jump at all when the door opens abruptly, but Gina has her gun in her hand before it finishes opening.

"You know, you could just say if you want to be alone," Zoey says brightly, closing the door behind her. "Hey, boss."

Gina drops her gun on the desk behind her and goes back to removing the necklace from her bra while CJ glares at her youngest employee. "You're supposed to be keeping up a professional impression."

Zoey makes a face. "She caught me flirting with Charlie and told me she didn't need me any more tonight."

"Well, we haven't had that happen for a while," CJ says diplomatically, and reminds herself to have a word with Josh about exactly what he's been telling them while she's been setting up shop in San Francisco and seducing their closest pursuer. "All right, you get out of here," she tells Zoey. "Charlie's taking Donna back to the office, you can meet them there."

"Yes, ma'am," Zoey says smartly.

Gina chooses that moment to pull the necklace from the pouch in her bra, leaving her cleavage a little lop-sided. Zoey leans in to look at the piece. "It's really ugly," she says.

CJ takes it from Gina and carefully turns it in her hands, the stones smooth and bright against her skin. "I'd pay $500,000 to get my hands on it."

"Or be paid that," Zoey adds, smiling. CJ glares at her and she holds her hands up, backing towards the door. "I'm leaving, I'm leaving."

She opens the door cautiously, and that's when it all goes to hell.


Zoey jumps back, automatically ducking her head so her hair falls over her face, though it's far too late.

"Toby," CJ says, taking a step towards him. The necklace has disappeared.

"CJ." He steps far enough into the office to close the door behind himself. "I assume I don't need to ask what's happening here."

Zoey watches CJ's face flicker for a second, deciding whether to try and bluff. Josh has always been the only one who really knows what their boss is doing, but it's not hard to put it together after seeing her walk in with Detective Ziegler. She just doesn't understand why CJ brought him here.

"I'm a little hurt that you were so suspicious of me," CJ says smoothly.

He looks across at Zoey, where she's backed up to stand by Gina, who's palmed her gun between the two of them. "I was suspicious of her. Last time I saw her she was a guest, not a waitress."

"Hard times," Zoey tries. She's not shaking at all, but she presses a little closer to Gina anyway.

"Mm hmm. Ms Cregg, I'm going to have to ask you to let me look into your purse."

Zoey feels Gina shift next to her, her arm coming up. "No," Gina says sharply, her gun pointing at the detective.

"You don't want to do that," Ziegler says. His hand twitches to his hip and his suit's not good enough to hide the gun once Zoey knows it's there. "Let me take that."

"No," Gina says again. "We were just leaving, and we need you to let us."

"Gina – " CJ says, turning to her. "This isn't necessary."

"Exactly," Ziegler agrees. "Now, come on." He holds his gun pointed mostly at the floor.

"No," Gina repeats.

Zoey's not sure what makes her do it – fear, maybe, or the way Gina sounds, cold and hard, but she pushes herself away from the desk, launches herself at Ziegler.

The gun shot is incredibly loud, jarring like the two of them hitting the floor, and she's braced for pain when she hears Gina's gasp behind her, CJ's sharp cry.


"I'm OK." She sounds more winded than hurt but Zoey can't look, straddling Ziegler and slamming his hand down until he drops his gun.

He blinks at her, clearly dazed. "Now what?"

Zoey's really not a violent person, but all she can think is that Gina's her friend and Ellie's going to kill her. She swings, pain shooting up her arm, and Ziegler's eyes close.


The knocking takes a minute to penetrate Ellie's dreams, mixing with the wind rushing by in freefall before she jerks awake, knocking her text book from Gina's coffee table.

She glances at the clock as she goes to open the door – five past eleven and the knocking is frantic, so she's far less surprised than she might have been to find Zoey and Donna outside the door, supporting Gina between them, Charlie hovering in the background.

"Hi Ellie," Gina says. She's a little slurred, but not too bad. Ellie holds the door for them all, nodding them towards the kitchen. In the hall light, she sees blood running down Gina's leg and takes a deep breath, pushing her panic away.

"Should I ask why you didn't go to a hospital?" she asks, watching Donna settle Gina into one chair and prop her injured leg on another, her hands dancing across Dina's skin like light. "Or do I not want to know?"

"She got shot," Charlie says, his tone neutral, "by a cop. By accident."

"OK." She was right, she doesn't want to know. "Zoey, get my first aid kit from the bathroom." She crouches next to Gina and pushes her skirt back carefully to reveal a deep groove cut across her thigh. Donna gasps, too close behind her, so when Ellie turns to take her kit from Zoey, she almost pushes the other woman away.

Not before she gets a good look at Donna's face though – paler than usually, her eyes huge and dark and frightened.

"Can we have a little privacy?" she says quietly, turning back to Gina. "You don't need to glare me into submission like you're in some mob film."

Zoey laughs and pulls Donna away. Ellie waits until the door closes behind them before glancing up at Gina's face as she starts unpacking bandages and a suture kit the hospital doesn't exactly know she has. Gina's looking right back at her, her eyes, under the pain, reflecting what Ellie knows her own are showing.

Just for a second, she lets herself smile.

"So," she says, loading a syringe with local anesthetic and wondering how she came to be here. "Did you at least get what you went for?"

"Yeah." Gina's hand closes, tight and reassuring, on her shoulder. "Don't we always?"


Sam's late, to the point that Josh is thinking about leaving. He's not even sure why he's waiting, whether Sam found something in his apartment after all and is setting up a net round the coffee shop for him. They haven't spoken since they said goodbye at his apartment door with something halfway between a hug and a handshake.

He should be back at the office, will actually have to leave fairly soon to get back in time to meet with Santos and finish the deal; he was tempted to leave it to Charlie, but the theft was in the news and he knows Santos will be nervous and in need of reassurance.

The door opens again, but Josh doesn't bother to look up. He's somehow not surprised anyway when Sam drops into the chair opposite, his face drawn and exhausted.

"I shouldn't be here," he says, reaching for a wooden stirrer and turning it in his hands.

Josh tries to smile, but his face won't do it. He knows how this is going to end. "How's your partner?" he asks.

"In a lot of trouble. Our captain doesn't believe he didn't know who he was seeing." Sam doesn't meet his eyes and Josh doesn't need to ask what they know about him and Sam. "How's your friend?"

"Fine." Gina's already gone, back to Baltimore with Ellie for the start of term, while they finish setting up in San Francisco. They've taken Donna with them, all weird tension and flickering glances.

"Why did you ask me here?" Sam asks, sounding as exhausted as he looks, tired of the conversation already.

Josh has several answers for that, but the one that comes out is, "Come with us."

Sam looks up fast, staring at him. Josh tells himself firmly that stunned disbelief was pretty much what he was expecting, that's he's not disappointed. "Why?" Sam asks.

"You're not – do you really think you're doing good here?" Josh has always wondered this, never been able to ask it. "Do you think they'll trust you, now?"

Sam's gaze slides away again, and Josh is hit by a sudden urge to reach out and touch his hair, falling artfully over his forehead. "I can't," Sam says. "That's not me."

San's stubborn, always has been, and Josh gave up on persuading him a long time ago. "I could change your mind," he says anyway.

A ghost of a smile flickers over Sam's face. "I know," he says.

Josh doesn't watch him walk out.


CJ knocks, even though she's already been buzzed in, because it's been a while and she knows better than to just walk in, even if she does know the door will be open.

It's worth the wait when the door opens on familiar blond hair, familiar blue eyes and a body she's known for years, "CJ," said with a smile.

"Ainsley," she says back, and lets the door close behind her, starting over.

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