Disclaimer: Don't own a thing! But my friend swears she owns Adrian Brody...
A/n: I saw this neat, quirky, adorable movie just yesterday and got hit today with inspiration for a one-shot. Trying a bit of a different style, so I'm extra interested in any feedback. Thanks! Enjoy!
SPOILER ALERT: Do *not* read further if you have not seen the movie. Not only will absolutely none of this or any of the references make any sense, but this one-shot contains heavy spoilers for the ending (and trust me, you don't want it spoiled if you haven't seen it). You've been warned.
You're sick and tired of it all.
He's your brother and you love him, but right now you hate him. He protects you, he provides for you, but he doesn't always get you. You've spent your whole life playing the parts in his cons and you've never been yourself. At this point you're not even sure who you really are, and that's why you're alone in the corner with a very strong drink playing solitaire, and later why you're yelling at Stephen on the park bench.
"I want... I want..." You're not even sure you can articulate it.
"An unwritten life?" Stephen supplies.
"Yes." That was it. "An unwritten life."
You don't want to do it.
You left, you went to Montenegro, you were getting away from him and his cons. He says it'll be one last con and of course, Stephen being who he is, he makes it sound too good to pass up (although if you'd known ahead of time about having to ride down a hill on a rickety bike and purposely get yourself hit by a Lamborghini, you surely wouldn't have gone with him). But your other choice is continuing on like you have been for the past few months, with the wine bottles, hating yourself for disappearing from Stephen and wishing you had the stones to just go back to him, because you've never been apart for too long. And though you told him not to even try to find you, he's Stephen, and she's Bang-Bang, so of course somehow he does. You're not even that surprised when after three months of not seeing him or knowing where he is, he climbs the stone steps, comes in as if he owns the place, throws opens your curtains and says it was Bang-Bang who found you.
And you say you're not interested and you make no promises. But you know you'd be lying if you said you weren't happy to be with your brother again.
"Where are we going?" You ask.
You roll your eyes as just a moment ago he'd said he wanted to show you something, making it sound like you were going to go look at a painting down the street.
"I'll get my coat."
You're in in it now.
He's your brother and you love him, but right now you're pretty sure you hate him. You wanted to walk away, you wanted to stand up to him, to really quit for good this time (and you'll make a show of getting your coat and say No Stephen, this time I meant it!). This one last time wasn't going to happen, because she was a woman, and the rule was no women. But Stephen ropes you in. He practically makes you promise you won't fall in love with the woman as your job is to woo her. But you shouldn't make promises you can't keep, because as the con goes on, you're not really playing a part. It's you, and it's her, and those feelings are real. They're kinda consuming and kinda mind-blowing and you kinda love it because you feel more alive then you ever have...
And more afraid because you know it has to end and you know it ends badly. Stephen's already written the ending.
You're sketching her face on the back of the plan.
When Diamond Dog shows up and you're alone, your first instinct is to run. Run for the hills, call out for Stephen, just get away. But Stephen's not there and there's no where to run so you stay frozen on that stool, babbling about how Stephen is on his way down and if he catches sight of Diamond Dog, it's all over. Diamond Dog laughs and goads you, just like he used to. Tells you that someday Stephen will fall (and it may be glorious, Bloom, but he will fall), that someday Stephen won't be around to protect you anymore and then where will you be?
He says you're too passive, he practically calls you a weak coward in so many words, and all the while you're frozen on the stool with a giant icy coil of fear in your stomach as you clutch the pencil in your right hand beside your thigh. You imagine breaking free of that paralyzing coil and using that pencil against Diamond Dog - taking out his other eye maybe or getting him in the chest - but that's where it ends: imagining. You would like to think you could do it.
But you don't and probably never would. And then Stephen comes storming in and without an ounce of hesitation, before Diamond Dog's greeting has barely left his lips, Stephen breaks a wine bottle with tremendous force and uses the jagged edge on Diamond Dog's hand.
You stand back trembling, slowly pocketing the pencil, trying not to wonder what you would do if Stephen ever didn't come for you, didn't protect you.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there," he says.
"You can't always be." You answer, with a twist of your gut as you basically repeat what Diamond Dog just said to you.
"Maybe you're right." Stephen pats your back then wraps his bleeding knuckles and together you go back to the hotel room.
You're either petrified or pissed and it's difficult to determine which.
He's your brother and you love him, but you really, really hate him right now for what he's probably putting you through. Because if it's real, then you're definitely petrified, having no clue where to turn or how to handle anything without Stephen there planning and conning - just like Diamond Dog said you would be. And if this is a con like you're quickly starting to believe it is, then you're definitely pissed and you're going to absolutely kill Stephen, if he isn't dead already.
The plan was to end it all, make it a clean, final break. Penelope would walk away heartbroken, thinking they were all dead. But then she wouldn't become a con herself and like you told Stephen the night she learned the truth and you punched him, you love her too much to let her join this life. The plan was to make it look like the Russians had double crossed you all and then you would all die in a fiery explosion and a hail of bullets, except Penelope. Except the Russians really did double cross you, and they shot the car off the road and while you were out, they took Stephen. Now they want a ransom.
You'd believe it - you were until Penelope read the ransom note and the sum the Russians wanted was a neat and tidy 1.75 million. Which is conveniently the exact number you and Stephen were trying to con Penelope out of prior to this whole Russian thing, so now you're sure it has to be a con. Except Penelope can't swallow that idea (do you really think he would do that? - Yes!). She just doesn't know Stephen as you do, and she'll see: this is his most elaborate plan ever. So she wires the money anyway and you drive to the secluded address to retrieve Stephen.
"I'll be here waiting for you," she says and gives you a quick kiss.
"See you soon."
You can't decide which would be worse: knowing this was all a set-up or knowing it was all real.
When you see him tied to the chair with the leering Russian over his shoulder, and his face is bloodied and swollen, you're still unbelievably torn. God, the blood looks so real - but Stephen was always so good at faking everything. He's relieved to hear that the money was wired and shouts at you for even considering that this was all a con when you shakily ask him.
So it's real and you're completely petrified as Diamond Dog is on the phone in your ear, reminding you of that conversation at the bar. This time you don't have a pencil, but you have a gun, and while Diamond Dog reminds you of your cowardice and inability to act, the paralysis that always stops you from doing what you want, the leering Russian shoves Stephen to the ground and raises his gun to end Stephen's life.
And for the first time in your life, your roles reverse, just for a moment.
It's you this time who, without an ounce of hesitation, flies into action. It's you this time who's protecting Stephen as you take wild shots at the Russian. But it's just a moment.
The Russian runs out of bullets, you step out of hiding to finish this, and Stephen screams that the Russian has another gun. He's back to protecting you as he jumps in front of you and takes a bullet for you, right in back. He crumples, the Russian flees, and as real as all this has seemed, watching the blood soak Stephen's shirt, you can only think about the countless times the two of you have faked being shot (tastes like tin foil). You beg him to tell you this is fake, that this is the best con he's ever pulled.
There's several horrifying minutes where you're filled with that icy coil of fear and Stephen's not moving and you think, Oh God, it was all real...
And then he laughs. "You said it, not me."
You swore you'd kill him, but right not you're too relieved to kill him, so you call him names and hug him tight and don't see the way he's wincing as he hugs you back. He tells you the plan changed, that the real plan is for you and Penelope to ride off into the sunset together. He says to play that he's dead, that you are on the run from the Russians (she'll love that). He tells you to go to Jersey or Montenegro or Mexico - it doesn't matter.
"And I'll see you when I see you." He grins - that characteristic Stephen grin that he always wears when he knows he pulled off a perfect con (where everyone involved gets exactly what they want).
You wave goodbye, thanking him for handing you the life you've always wanted. You can't wait to see him next, but for now you hurry off to meet back up with Penelope and complete the ending to Stephen's brilliant story.
You don't notice until several hours later.
You fell asleep and wake with a start, for a split second forgetting where you are and where Stephen is because you've never been apart for too long (that time you hid in Montenegro excluded, of course). You glance at Penelope who offers you a comforting and concerned smile and you smile back, hardly daring to believe the gift Stephen has given you.
And that's when you look down and see it. Your cuff, which hours earlier had been soaked with Stephen's fake red blood is now a rusty brown (Nah, that's fake. The real stuff turns brown when it dries) and your heart skips a few beats in a very unpleasant way. You look down at your chest where earlier Stephen had left a bloody hand print (the real stuff turns brown when it dries) and then your heart stops completely: it's brown, and the real stuff turns brown when it dries.
"Bloom?" Penelope looks over at you and the way you've stopped breathing and your face is pure white. "Are you alright?"
"Stop the car." You say and the tone you use makes her shiver with fright and worry. She pulls over immediately and she's barely come to a stop when you're already out of the car, on your hands in knees in the grassy ditch, sobbing your heart out for the brother you lost. Penelope thinks this is a delayed reaction to what you told her earlier about Stephen being dead. But now it's true and you realize you left him back at the abandoned theatre, shot for real this time (tastes like tin foil).
He's your brother and you love him - love him more than words can say and will be forever thankful for the way he gave you an unwritten life with Penelope - but right now you can safely say you hate him for making you think he was okay, for making you leave him behind like that.
The day I con you, Bloom, is the day I die.
A/n: Oh man, I can't believe Stephen died. It was so sad! I totally was loving him the whole movie. Anyways, thank you so much for reading and reviews are immensely loved. Thanks!