A/N: It's about time, huh? Between working my day job, writing more seriously at night, and preparing for graduate school, I'm amazed I found the time to continue this little story. Get ready for the battle of wits!
"The Man in Black-."
"Oh, enough about him. Let's skip to a part that I'm in." The beginnings of a small smile started to play out on Connor's lips as he could see the irritation in Kevin rising from the pit of his stomach all the way up to his perfectly symmetrical face.
Kevin sucked his cheeks in and lowered his head.
"You will see, Connor, that you are actually in this scene. Of course, you could already know that by now if you would lay off the interruptions, darling!" He playfully spat the last word as Connor arched his eyebrows in surprise at Kevin's choice of words.
"Alright, sweetie," he replied teasingly. "No need to get so vicious."
"Ugh." Elder Price rolled his eyes and could only think how he was going to need some insulin after the sweetness in McKinley's words.
"The Man in Black approached the top of the hill, finally, happy for some potential repose. That is, until he saw a complete picnic laid out with a tablecloth and two goblets. It would've been a welcoming site if not for the obstacle of a figure seated on a small rock in front of the table. He held a dagger uncomfortably close to Connor's throat, who sat blindfolded next to him. One glance and it was easy to tell that although he tried to act tough, Connor was scared shitless. The Man in Black sighed deeply.
'There's always something,' he muttered, thinking that this could have been such a lovely spot to rest. He stopped abruptly and stared down the older gentleman.
'So it is down to you, and it is down to me,' Brigham spoke icily.
'That's how it would appear,' replied the Man in Black cautiously as he took a step nearer. Then another.
'If you dare to get any closer, I'll kill him.' The dagger made a gentle yet jarring contact with Connor's neck. He was so paralyzed with fear he couldn't stop the sharp intake of breath that occurred once he felt the frigid, taunting metal on his skin.
The Man in Black halted. 'Let me explain…'
'There's nothing to explain,' Brigham shrugged casually. 'You're trying to kidnap what I've rightfully stolen.'
'Stolen?! Wha- You kidnapped me first! Or does your memory fail you, you slimy bastard?' Connor growled. The Man in Black smirked at the look of shock on Brigham's face- no doubt due to Connor's random bout of feistiness- and took a tiny step forward.
'Surely we can settle this with some kind of compromise. One that benefits both, uh…all three of us.' The Man in Black tried desperately to lay the charm on extra thick for this guy. Brigham's reply came stern and deliberate.
'I'm afraid I don't like that solution. I'm afraid I don't like you, either…and you're killing him.' The masked man halted once more as Connor gasped sharply.
'Well,' The Man in Black shifted uncomfortably. 'Let's call it a draw, then?' He shrugged hopefully. Brigham smiled smugly.
'I'm afraid so. I can't compete with your physical strength, and you're certainly no match for me mentally.'
Clearly amused at Brigham's delusions of grandeur, The Man in Black merely rolled his eyes and smirked.
'You're that intelligent, huh?' Brigham nodded firmly, never taking his snaky eyes away from the masked figure.
'Don't believe me, do you?' he snarled.
'I'll admit I'm having a little trouble, yeah,' The Man in Black replied, tilting his head to one side as to examine Brigham's disposition.
'Ever heard of Socrates? Plato? Aristotle?' asked Brigham with a tone of arrogance.
'Dumbasses, all of them.' Brigham waved a dismissive hand at his still-unconvinced opponent. The Man in Black stood his ground, determined to beat this asshole at his own game.
'Well in that case, I challenge you to a Battle of Wits. Pour the wine, you cocky son of a bitch.'"
"Since when do you drink wine?"
"I'm just trying to keep it classy!" retorted Kevin.
Connor crossed his arms in mock retribution. "It's against the rules."
Price rolled his eyes. "Have you already forgotten that we've pretty much given a big 'fuck you' to the rules, Elder?"
"So how come I don't get to do anything cool or interesting
"Aw, Con, you will! You are an extremely plucky and intrepid character in my story."
Connor appreciated the sincerity of Kevin's description. As much as Kevin loved to tease Connor, he really was sweet.
"Kevin." He blushed furiously and allowed Elder Price to continue.
"The Man in Black held a small tube of grainy powder up to Brigham.
'Smell this, but don't touch it,' he ordered.
Brigham inhaled sharply and shook his head in confusion.
'I don't smell anything,'
'What you are incapable of smelling is called iocane powder. It's tasteless, odorless, and not to mention extremely soluble. It's also the most poisonous powder in the world. Just a tiny taste of this, and you'll be singing with the choir invisible,' explained the Man in Black.
Brigham scoffed as the Man in Black took both goblets and turned around. After switching the glasses up a few times, he placed one in front of each of them.
'Alright. Where's the poison? The Battle of Wits has begun. It only ends when you choose a goblet, and we both drink. The winner gets him-..' he jerked his head toward Connor- 'and gets to live. The loser, well, I think you know what happens to the loser.' The Man in Black offered a wry smile to the man gazing so intently at the goblets before him.
'I've totally got this in the bag,' they each thought to themselves.
A few agonizing moments of silence passed between them until Brigham suddenly shouted, 'Ha!'
The Man in Black jumped, startled. 'You've made your decision, I presume?'
'It's so simple. I almost feel insulted! All I have to do is take everything I know about you and apply it to this situation. Child's play!'
'Okay…' It was still too early for either the Man in Black or Connor to tell if Brigham truly lived up to his supposed intellect.
'Now,' Brigham continued. 'Are you the sort of man who would place the poison in my goblet or your own? Of course, only a simple-minded moron would foolishly reach for what was placed in front of him.' He paused for dramatic emphasis. 'But since we all know that I am not a moron, I clearly cannot choose the wine in front of me.'
'So that's your answer, then?' The masked man began to reach for his own cup before Brigham slapped his hand away.
'Don't be an idiot! Of course not! I'm sure you counted on that.' Brigham sighed deeply before continuing.
'What you probably didn't count on, however, is that I know the powder's origin- Australian!'
'Impressive.' The Man in Black nodded accordingly. 'No doubt the best thing to come out of Australia!'"
"You mean besides Hugh Jackman?" asked Connor with a wide grin.
"Uh, duh!" Kevin rolled his eyes. "And that's only because I'm not from Australia!"
"Oh whatever, Kevbear." Connor reached up to stroke Kevin's face lightly.
Elder Price's entire body grew hot at Connor's touch. McKinley was certainly becoming...flirty? Is this how people flirt? Kevin supposed it was, not that he would've known. But what he did know for sure was that it made him flustered and made his insides clench with excitement and confidence. He felt like he was going to implode, but in a good way. He never thought he would savor a moment where he felt so fuzzy and vulnerable.
"Brigham continued his harangue about poison and philosophy and Australia and God knows what else.
'Australia was originally entirely populated by criminals. And criminals aren't to be trusted as I don't trust you, so I clearly can't choose the wine in front of you.'
'Whoa! Your dizzying intellect is giving me whiplash!' As longwinded and tiresome as this whole thing was becoming, the Man in Black could not help but be impressed with the effort Brigham was putting into the Battle of Wits. Truly admirable, in his opinion. Like the Man in Black, Brigham clearly never half-assed anything.
'Just wait til I get going!' Brigham exclaimed excitedly. 'Now where was I?'
'Ah, yes!' And another interesting thing about Australia is-.'
The Man in Black groaned. 'You are putting me to sleep. Just choose your damn goblet already!'
'Aha! You also clearly lack patience. Wanting to get this over with as soon as possible, you must've put the poison in the goblet closest to myself, so I can clearly not choose the wine in front of me!'
'Now you're just stalling. Are you ready to make your decision or what?'
'You would like to think that wouldn't you?' Brigham jabbed a pointed finger at the Man in Black's chest as his lips curled into an evil snarl. 'You've beaten Arnold which means that you are physically fit, so you could've put the powder in your own goblet relying solely on your strength to save you! So I clearly cannot choose the wine in front of you!'
'Oh come on! What a cop out!' shouted the Man in Black exasperatedly.
'But you've also bested Nabulungi which means you have studied. And in studying, you must've learned that man is mortal. You would've wanted to have put the poison as far away from yourself as possible! So I clearly cannot choose the wine in front of me!'
'Just face it! You have no idea where the poison is! I win,' the Man in Black announced triumphantly.
'Maybe you do win! Maybe I'm not as intell- HOLY COW WHAT IS THAT THING?!' The Man in Black turned around, not knowing that Brigham had switched the goblets while he glanced in the opposite direction.
'I didn't see anything,' said the Man in Black simply to Brigham's shocked expression.
'Oh, well…probably just my eyes playing tricks on me. Let's drink, shall we? Me from my glass and you from yours. Cheers!' Brigham raised his glass a little too enthusiastically. The Man in Black followed suit and raised his goblet as well.
'Cheers! Here's to life…and death, which one of us shall be meeting shortly.'
'Death for you!' Brigham muttered under his breath. The two threw back their drinks and sat in silence for a moment, observing one another with great care.
'You might be interested to know that you guessed wrong.'
'Nu-uh!' Brigham retorted to the Man in Black's smug demeanor. 'You only think I did! I switched goblets while your back was turned! I can't believe you fell for it! I mean, Christ! How dumb do you have to-.'
And the former American warlord never got to finish his final sentence as the poison took effect.
' he got what he deserved,' muttered the Man in Black as he towered above Brigham's lifeless body. He chuckled lightly.
'Hey, you can laugh later. Get this blindfold off me, will you?' Connor's irritated voice interrupted the Man in Black's silent victory as he bent down to untie the poor, tired body.
'Who are you?' Connor demanded before he could even let his eyes adjust to the sunlight.
'The best thing that's ever happened to you,' replied the Man in Black matter-of-factly.
Deciding that this was no time to pick a fight, Connor shrugged and asked the next question that was burning in his mind.
'So let me get this straight…the poison was in your cup the entire time? How did you know he would switch them?' As if Connor was already suspicious enough of this masked man.
'I didn't. Both goblets contained the poison. I've been spending the last year building immunity to iocane powder. It's pretty much required in my line of work. Come on.' He dragged Connor to his feet and took off across the hilltops without another word.