"See those two?"
"The grifters? I saw them five minutes ago. Amateurs."
"Did you see the third?"
"Who? … the bartender?"
"We gonna have any trouble?"
"They're just playing. Look at them!"
"We're not here to adopt any new minions, Parker."
"I'll keep an eye on them."
The chandeliers overhead sparkled in the soft glow they gave off, sending gentle shimmering light throughout the ballroom. The floor was smooth polished marble, solid and unbreakable beneath their feet. The decorations in the room were literally carved into the walls: statues were part of the decorative columns on the outer edges of the room that probably weren't actually supporting anything; intricate flowers were etched around the layer of stonework that ran halfway up the height of the walls and encircled the room.
It was by far the fanciest place Ezra had ever been, and even with Richard as his date for the evening he was buoyed up by excitement and looking forward to the night. His suit had been tailor-made to fit him, snuggly adapting itself to every contour of his body, and thanks to a clever trick on Jules' part they hadn't even had to pay for it. The golden champagne in his glass was probably more expensive than his first car had been.
Gentle music filtered through the room, just loud enough to permeate the quiet murmur of polite conversation and allow for a few couples here and there to take to the dance floor in the center.
Jules might have grown up on money like this, but he and Richard most certainly had not.
"Stop gaping," came a hurried whisper at his side as a woman in the black suits the waitstaff were wearing brushed past the two of them. Jules, frustrated with their antics as always – or, more likely, frustrated and amused by them, given the note in her voice.
Ezra blushed slightly, exchanging glances with Rich. His partner's eyes were just as wide as his own, his smile just as sheepish, but he pulled himself out of his funk.
"Shall we?" he asked, extending an arm to Ezra, elbow crooked. They were husbands that evening and would have no trouble looking the part, despite the distinct lack of any sort of romantic or sexual relationship between them.
Ezra grinned back. "Aren't you going to carry me over the threshold?" he asked, slipping his arm into Rich's.
The other man laughed, light and easy, at the reminder of one of their first few cons.
They were all in good moods at the moment. After everything, this con was easy. They had money to spend and time to spare (time to kill) and so they'd come here, the gathering ground of the idle rich, searching for an easy mark (or two, or three, or many).
They wanted something simple – slipping the keys to one of the mansions on the edge of town, lifting wallets from people who wouldn't miss them, stealing a fancy car or two on their way out that they could sell later. They wanted a break from the drama that seemed to follow them everywhere – from their ex-wife, from the doctor, from the FBI.
Richard – looking just as stunning in his own tailor-made suit – subtly put pressure on Ezra's arm in his, pushing them towards an older woman who seemed to be berating a waiter for not having put the correct number of ice cubes in her drink – never mind that she'd taken said drink from a passing tray. Ezra quirked an eyebrow at his partner, already feeling the thrill of the con.
Rich smirked in return. The game was on.
"Check this out," Jules murmured, satisfaction in her tone as she flashed a wave of bills in their direction, all hundreds.
Ezra grinned right back at her, caught up in a wave of pleasure from the night's activities so far. "Nice," he said, leaning over the bar, drink in hand.
"Now try putting it back," Richard said, sipping his own beverage.
Jules blinked at him. "What?"
Richard tapped the wallet with his free hand. "Ez and I have been playing a little game," he said. "Take the money, then put the wallet back."
"I've got one more than him," Ezra said proudly.
Richard scowled. "By one," he scoffed dismissively. They could all hear the pride and pleasure through the competitiveness in his voice.
Jules laughed, fingering the now-empty wallet thoughtfully. She glanced up, the light sparkling off her diamond earrings, glinting off the black-metallic sheen of her necklace. "Unless she comes back…" she said, giving them a look.
Right – Jules, tired of always having to be one half of whatever couple they had thrown together for a particular scheme, was wait staff this time, and Richard and Ezra were the couple out on the town. It meant she didn't have to socialize with the type of people she'd grown up around, gave her a break from dealing with the financial elite, but as a bartender it also meant she was effectively stuck behind her bar.
Ezra reached over the counter to grab the wallet, only for Rich to slip it from his fingers.
"Ah, ah, not so fast," the other man said with an eager grin. "Let me show you how it's done." He strolled off with a ready smirk toward his target.
The music was gentle, the mood festive, and the company was the best Ezra could ever ask for (he wasn't counting the other guests). He wondered if he'd ever been so happy in his life (and his thoughts strayed to Ava, to Maddie, and he pulled himself from them with less effort than it had taken in the past, focusing on the here and now).
"That's not the right woman, is it?" he asked Jules, back to her as he watched Richard work his charms with fondness.
The responding laugh was light and easy and just as fond. "Not even close."
"See? They're adorable."
"They're an unknown – a liability."
"Ah, chill out man, she's right. They're just having a little fun. Remember when we were that young?"
"Calm down boys, I got this."
"Is she doing what I think she's doing?"
"Your boys are adorable."
The voice came from a chipper young woman, though older than Jules, blond hair up in a ponytail and wearing the outfit of a waitress, rather than the bartender Jules was pretending to be. Her tray was empty, set down on the counter as she leaned suggestively toward Jules and nodded at Ezra and Richard.
At the moment the boys were arm in arm, charming and stealing in turn, competing to see who could return the most wallets without being noticed instead of for who could get the most money like they used to in the beginning. Even Jules could admit that they both looked stunning in their black tuxes but it was the smiles on their faces, smiles that reached their eyes, that her own eyes kept getting drawn to. They'd all needed this.
But she glanced over at her fellow worker, persona intact, and gave the other woman a polite frown. "I'm sorry?" she asked, as though she simply hadn't heard her correctly.
There were enough bars spread around the edge of the room that no one was currently in front of her, asking for a drink, and the two were able to converse without anything noticing or listening in.
The waitress laughed, bright and amused. "Don't worry," she said with a wink, raising her hand to point out another couple currently talking to the man who had funded the whole thing (a major Asshole, and part of the reason the three of them had come to this function in particular). "Those two are mine."
"I… I don't know…" Jules shook her head in denial, keeping the polite frown in place. Once she might have panicked. Once her thoughts might have turned toward the police (the FBI) or the doctor. But the world of con artists was bigger than just the doctor and Jules had learned so much since she'd first jumped in front of a car for 'her boys', as the woman called them.
Another laugh greeted her words, as though they were in on some inside joke together – and maybe they were.
"Just don't steal the grumpy one's wallet," the waitress continued, picking up her tray again. "He doesn't like that much."
And before Jules could respond she was gone, sashaying back into the crowd with her tray held high.
Jules watched her go carefully, but she didn't head for the men she had pointed out, simply turned back towards the kitchen to refill her tray. Her good mood for the evening had been effectively dampened and she scoured the floor, looking for anything out of place. Her eyes settled on the ones the waitress had claimed as her own.
Whichever one was the 'grumpy' one, Jules couldn't tell, at least, not at first. Both men wore stunning tuxes suited for the event and leaned into each other slightly in a way that suggested they were together – which didn't necessarily mean anything because Ezra and Richard were doing the same and Jules was positive that they were both straight.
They were talking politely with the evening's host though, which was potentially interesting.
"Gin and tonic," someone said absentmindedly, with the air of the idle rich.
Jules refrained from rolling her eyes at the way the man treated her as if she was invisible, giving him a polite but empty smile as she served up the drink and slipped his watch off his wrist. When he'd moved on, her gaze returned to the two unknown men.
She wasn't an amateur anymore: as she studied them more she saw the way the taller black man occasionally shifted his head, as if listening to something no one else could hear, and the way the longer haired white man was always moving, always looking around.
Searching for danger, Jules recognized, and was pleased with herself for doing so. He was the muscle, the one who always kept his eyes on the exits.
Fondness filled Jules once more as Ez and Richie drifted back to her, eyes slightly wary as they no doubt took in her own stance.
She shrugged, mind evaluating, thinking back to everything the other woman had said. "Think so," she said with a smile. "But we might not be the only thieves here."
Hours had passed, hours of listening to rich people complain, of taking their money, and of watching Ez and Richie have the time of their lives. Not that Jules wasn't enjoying herself, but they were living it up in the midst of the kind of money people dreamed about, a world they had never been exposed to before. At some point in the night they'd stopped returning wallets to their proper owners and had instead started putting them back in random people's pockets.
There were going to be a lot of confused rich Assholes when the party ended.
Richard had spent almost an hour genuinely talking to someone about the process of running for senator. Ezra had somehow found someone to talk French to about what Jules couldn't say – Spanish she could do, French only somewhat. And she'd somehow managed to find the only rich lesbian in the place, who surprisingly also wasn't an Asshole, and had spent the past half hour flirting with her before she'd been pulled away by her father to talk to someone important.
Jules knew that feeling. She grinned and nodded the woman off, surprised by how much fun she was having. She'd known that messing with rich people who hadn't earned their money and did nothing worthwhile with it would be enjoyable, but she hadn't expected to enjoy the party too.
A hand slipped unexpectedly into her apron pocket from behind, dropping something inside before pulling back again. "Hold this for me," a voice whispered playfully into her ear.
Jules spun in alarm, but the speaker was already walking away, her blond ponytail bobbing in the air and a tray of champagne held steady on one hand. She recognized the waitress from earlier and reached her hand into her pocket, grabbing the object that had been given to her. From the feel of it, it was a flash drive of some sort.
A million options flashed through Jules head – a million reasons she'd been given the USB, a million things she could have done with it, a million possible secrets that could have been contained on it. She hadn't even heard the woman come up behind her.
But Jules wasn't an amateur anymore. She fingered the flash drive, considering, then let it drop back into her pocket. The woman hadn't outed her and her partners. She'd see how this played out.
"You gave it to her?"
"She won't lose it."
"I don't think we're worried about her losing it."
"Camera caught a glimpse of the uniform. We always knew this job would be hard to pull off with just the three of us."
"That doesn't mean you just involve the first thief you run across!"
"Hardison's already done a background check."
"…well… I… That doesn't mean… Yeah, I did. They're clear. Or, as clear as three thieves can be."
"Besides, you can take them Elliot."
"That's not a good excuse, Parker."
The three of them weren't responsible for the commotion that disrupted the good mood of the party and ended up encouraging most people to head home, but Richard wished they had been – it was hilarious the way their host blew up. There was nothing like an Asshole getting what was coming to them and it was a shame that Rich couldn't claim credit for it.
The man was screaming at his waiters and waitresses, something about intruders and thieves, and despite the words Richard knew that he and Ez and Jules had nothing to do with it. No, he was yelling about his company's research, about an intruder into his office, and the three of them had only come for a little fun.
While the others at the party pulled back, startled and unsettled by the chaos erupting in front of them – not good form in these circles, Rich figured with a smirk – he and Ez drifted over towards Jules, watching happily.
"This is a better show than we were expecting," Rich said, as soon as they were close enough for Jules to hear them without being overheard.
Jules grinned in agreement. "You know those other thieves I was talking about?" she asked, holding up a small flash drive.
"No!" Rich asked in astonishment, beaming.
She just nodded and the three of them exchanged pleased glances. So they had had something to do with their host's meltdown after all – waitstaff arranged in an uncomfortable line in front of him as he screamed and raged at them, other partygoers slowly trickling out the front door while he wasn't looking.
Richard could get behind that.
"What's on it?" Ezra asked, ever practical.
Jules shrugged. "Something good from the sound of it."
"We gonna give it back?" Rich asked.
Ezra's gaze searched the floor as their host started demanding that security search all of the waiters and waitresses. When he seemed to stop, Rich turned to see what he was looking at: two men, trying to calm down the host, except he wouldn't listen to them. Behind the host's back the two men exchanged a smirk, eyes glinting. Rich barely caught it, but these days he knew what to look for.
"I think they've got it handled. Besides, thought we were here on vacation."
Rich glanced over at Jules. "I'm always up for fun on my vacations," he said.
She smiled fondly at him. "Me too," she admitted, slipping the flash drive back into her pocket, "but maybe not this time."
Rich rolled his eyes. Whatever, it wasn't like they hadn't had their fun. And with each member of his waitstaff he searched who had nothing in their pockets, their host's face got redder and redder. It was very amusing.
"He looks like a tomato."
The snort came from Ezra. "He looks like a balloon," he corrected. "Think he'll pop if I poke him?"
Back to Jules as he rested against the bar and watched the commotion, Rich held up a hand absentmindedly. "Nice one."
Ez slapped his hand in agreement and Richie didn't have to look behind him to know that Jules was the one to roll her eyes this time.
"Whatever," she said, handing Rich his next drink. "Here, pretty sure they won't search the guests."
Ez might have been the one with the magician's fingers but Rich was no klutz. He palmed the flash drive Jules handed him with the drink, grinning at her.
"Stay safe," he said fondly.
She nodded, and Richard turned to his other partner.
"Shall we take our leave of this party?" he asked, putting on his best high-and-mighty rich person voice.
And then it was Ezra's turn to roll his eyes, and he glanced back at Jules fondly, gaze also wishing her well, and took Rich's arm.
By the time they made it to the car they were 'borrowing', the flash drive had disappeared from his pocket.
"… and in local news, Dennis Haight was arrested yesterday after being caught on tape admitting to discriminatory hiring practices – and that wasn't all he admitted to. Haight's company, Whiteout Acoustics, recently acquired a small business then called Dynamicworth and proceeded to lay off over half of the employees. At the time, Haight's reasoning was financial, but his most recent words make it pretty clear that that wasn't the case."
The scene on the TV screen switched to a blank template as Haight started speaking, his words transcribed as they were spoken.
Rich leaned in with interest from his comfy chair in their latest suite, listening to the bigoted words. Racist, sexist, homophobic – Haight covered all the bases. He paused the TV when it shifted back to the video evidence of Haight's confession. He hadn't been looking for the news when he'd started flipping through the channels, but he wasn't about to click away now.
"Guys, you gotta see this!" he called out.
"We don't care about the Cardinals!" Jules called back from the kitchen. It was her turn to be responsible for dinner that night and she'd had a longing for something homecooked.
"No, it's about Haight!"
"That jerk whose party we went to over the weekend?" Ezra asked, entering the room with a book in hand.
"Check it out," Rich said in excitement, gesturing.
Ezra squinted at the frozen screen. "Isn't that…?"
"Those two men that thief said were with her? Yeah."
"What two men?"
Rich gestured again as Jules joined them.
"You think the three of them had something to do with this?" she asked, once she'd taken in what was going on, and the words at the bottom of the TV screen.
"I think that flash drive was more important than we knew," Ezra said simply. He took a seat next to Rich on the couch, Jules slipping in next to him.
"How do you think they pulled it off? I mean, he confessed," Rich asked, rewinding the TV for his friends.
Ezra leaned forward and Rich could see the other man's love for a challenge in his eyes.
"Let's see if we can figure it out."
"That was fun!"
"Yeah, for you maybe. Think we'll ever see those three again?"
"I wouldn't bet against it."
Richard didn't know his name, but he thought of the look in Eliot Spencer's eyes, the way he'd shifted his body in front of his partners'. Rich had played football – he knew what it meant to take one for the team.
He looked over at Jules and Ezra: his new team, his family, his life, his everything.
We need to protect ourselves. I need to protect them, he thought, mind shifting from jiu-jitsu to krav maga to boxing.
Jules didn't know how they got a hold of the tech, didn't know about Alec Hardison and his world-renowned skills with anything electronics, but she thought of the way the team of three had shifted their heads in response to each other's words, the flash drive that had been the catalyst in bringing down Haight. She remembered tracking down CeCe – Maddie – with a clever app and an email, remembered all the times she and Ez and Rich had been separated.
She looked over at Rich and Ezra: her new family, her team, her life, her everything.
We need to be prepared, she thought, mind shifting from computer languages to hidden earbuds to trackers.
Ezra didn't know anything about the team that took down Dennis Haight, but he thought of the fluidity of Parker's movements, her confidence in deciding to give Jules – a stranger – the flash drive. He wasn't a master thief, not quite yet. His thoughts strayed to Maddie, to Max and Sally, to Lenny Cohen and the doctor.
As much as he had once loved Maddie (still did? He tried not to think about it.), as grateful as he was of how much he'd learned from Max, in a detached, unemotional sort of way, for the first time he realized he'd found a con artist that he wanted to emulate.
He looked over at Richard and Jules: his everything, his reason for living, his family, his team.
We're going to do this, he realized, so let's do this right.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"I'm thinking maybe it's time we got back to our first code."
The three of them exchanged glances.
"Let's go find some Assholes."
AN: So I ended up binge watching this show last weekend and was disappointed to find out there's only like, five fics for the whole fandom! Which is why I wrote my own. I do plan on (someday) writing more, after the series finale, but I'll take prompts if anyone's interested over on my tumblr (justafandomfollower).
Thanks for reading, let me know what you think please!