a/n: This was meant to be a drabble, but oh well. More is better, I suppose. Enjoy!
Sometimes the numbers don't add up and the card he draws from his deck doesn't seem to speak to him the way it did, so many years ago, on that tire swing in the middle of nowhere with nothing in his company but a deck of tarot cards in Italian. Sometimes everything doesn't align just so even after careful adjustment. Sometimes there is nothing done deliberately, simply because there is no logic, and definitely no rhythm and purpose to whatever it is until doing it just is.
There are five things you don't know about Jack Wilder.
One, he isn't the kid he appears to be. But you know that already, don't you.
No- he is the kid built on broken lives and summer dreams, the one who never really found respite in the high society he was born into, until he could bear no longer the creeping toxin buried under layers of plastic, and he ran away with the deck of tarot cards his grandmother gave him on his 8th birthday; away, away, away from his Stepford town. He is the kid made of street follies, weathered and beaten down until he learns to use every asset he has, especially (even) his good looks. Jack Wilder is the kid who learnt to appear like he never really grew up. People are more willing to help him if he looks helpless and adorable, so he uses that. Everything can be an asset on the street, and you never really know when something might happens. Expect everything, yet there are still some things that happen that you never really quite expect.
Like magic, for instance.
It just came to him like- well, like magic.
It wasn't all that clear to him from the start. At first it was just tarot and predicting people's futures using some brand of intuitive mentalism, but then there was that one show, on the street, that he just happened to catch.
It was a simple trick, really. The usual pick a card and let me guess which it is but just with an added flamboyant twist which made the whole thing seem a lot more magical. Jack knew then that it filled him with a wonder he had never felt before, although possibly equalling the excitement when he first got the tarot cards.
No, that was definitely a special moment.
But then the crowd swept him up as the magician collected his money and left, and Jack hadn't a chance to ask his name.
So he did what he could do. He hung around the library and bought a deck of normal cards. And the rest- well, you know the rest.
Two, Jack likes quick relationships.
If there's one thing Jack really understands, it is the concept of love. Love is about insecurity, and about being able to share those insecurities with someone until you feel a warm sense of security and sink into the soft fuzzy inviting divan that is love. Love is about caring for someone with all your heart, constantly worrying, and being willing to give up things for the person you love's safety. Love is not about feral physical reactions and satisfying brutish bodily requirements; it's not about adding one attractive person for arm-dangling purposes to the shopping cart, thank you very much, and while you're at it maybe two or three or five; nor is it about bland afternoons spent at cafés, both of you steadfastly trying to pretend that it's not a complete waste of time.
But he convinced himself that all three are what love is about, anyway, so he just used it to his advantage and it did guarantee him a steady income, for a while at least. (Back to Surviving Streets 101: use everything and everybody you can.) He saw flighty rich girls and upright blue-collar girls and the occasional, but very often spotted lingering, perverse old men. It gave him enough money to rent a place on his own, and he considered even permanently joining the dating industry.
It was on a date with one such airy mistress that he saw the street magician again.
He's more elaborate this time around, messing with flames and knives and boxes and using tricks Jack was sure he never even spotted variants of in all the magic books he could find in the libraries.
He abandoned his date to watch the magician, because it's completely worth the $200 that she had paid beforehand anyway. As the crowd trickled off slowly and he stood there stunned into silence, he somehow snapped out of his reverie long enough remembered to ask for the magician's name.
J. Daniel Atlas.
And then he studied those magic books even more and gained a certain reputation for winning fights using certain unorthodox methods and- I think you know how this part ends.
Three, Jack is maybe-not-quite in love with Daniel.
It was a roadside show, then it became performances involving scantily-clad female extras on huge proscenium stages, then back to the streets, and Jack went to every single one of them.
He began to pick up the tricks and learnt that everything was a variant of a basic trick somehow, combined and mixed around, and blown up on an sophisticated scale.
Magic, you see, never loses its elusive lure. It becomes a blurred tangent after a while though, and going through the motions muddles you until everything loses its logic, and you start to wonder why so much effort must be put in just for one trick. But then you see someone's expression when you actually perform the trick, and that mix of absolute awe and amusement is enough to fuel another trick. And another, and another, and another, and that's when you really fall in love with magic.
So of course Jack would hold a special place in his heart for J. Daniel Atlas, being the one who had introduced him of sorts to magic.
And of course he knows best when it comes to defining love.
But then all of a sudden he isn't just someone in the crowd anymore, he's part of a group of four magicians which includes J. Daniel Atlas and he thought he would crack his facade of childishness with the bout of wild enthusiasm that pierced through his veil, leaving spots where he knew that J. Daniel Atlas would be able to reach through and penetrate into his soul.
Well, Daniel isn't just a control freak, he's borderline sociopathic.
The Horsemen must walk around the stage just so and carry trackers just so (nowhere below the waist, mind you) and Jack must always be the stage hand, just so.
At night sometimes he spends his time throwing cards at bananas and apples and whatever fruit he can get his hands on, until he can slice said fruit cleanly into half. He seethes, because Jack knows he is a "big boy", and then he will not settle for just being second-best, thank you very much. It is at these times that he loathes Daniel, with his egomaniacal personality, controlling what he can and can't do in front of the audience. It is at these times that he truly crumples, and doubts his skills in magic. It is at these times that he wonders why he hasn't had his big break yet, why someone, master of delusion as he is, can be slighted for the very same thing he is glorified for.
It is at times like this that Jack feels like he is a little boy, on a tire swing in the middle of nowhere, shuffling a deck of tarot cards.
Four, Jack likes lasagna. No, I mean he really likes lasagna.
There's this Italian place off Brooklyn that serves the most heavenly food, and the owner knows him well enough to offer him a nice tall glass of Jack Daniels on the house each time he visits, no questions asked (because the name of the brand and its relativity to him cannot be more dubious.) The lasagna there is baked just so, and he has the feeling that Daniel would love the way it's moist with tomato sauce on the inside but crispy around the edges.
So that one time while Merritt and Henley had disappeared somewhere telling each other dirty jokes, and Daniel declared that he was hungry, Jack knew exactly where to bring him to.
When the owner came to cheerfully greet them both and set down two glasses of Jack Daniels, if Daniel was uncomfortable about the name, he didn't quite show it, wearing the same near-expressionless face he had on most of the time.
Jack ordered, and they ate their lasagna quietly, and that was when he truly felt that Daniel found him as an insignificant mere speck on the horizon, what with the silence and the intense concentrated staring he was giving his lasagna.
Jack tried to ease his tension, and did his usual act of adorableness and lame jokes, and after a while, Daniel cracked a soft smile.
It's easy to miss, but it's there at least.
"It's really good," Daniel told him. "Perfectly done, in fact, moist on the inside, crispy on the outside, and the dough doesn't taste sour-"
"What, you mean you've had lasagna with sour dough before?"
"Not really, but there was this one time..."
Jack let Daniel rant about all his tiny pet peeves, because that just was the way Daniel was, and that was the way Daniel attracted him, and afterward, Daniel insisted on paying and Merritt and Henley had somehow found them using mentalism (to this day, Jack still doesn't know quite how Merritt did it, but no matter) and for once, Jack felt truly content.
Five, Jack's favourite place is Central Park, in front of the Lionel Shrike tree.
Central Park was coated in a blanket of white, and the snow fell in drops that were more watery than anything else, in the way typical of snow in New York. The Four Horsemen had had three months into the initiation into the Eye, and there was something in the snow that reminded Jack of his childhood, of being reckless, and of home. Home, which would always be that apartment where they first met, more importantly, where Jack first met Daniel.
There's something about the snow that made Jack's head spin and caused him to lose his resolve, so much so that the holes in his facade were becoming painfully obvious, and the fact that Daniel looked positively glowing under the presence of the Lionel Shrike tree wasn't helping his silent mission at all.
Daniel reached out his hand to press against the glass, and his eyes fluttered close for exactly 2.8 seconds in a sign Jack came to recognise as his way of showing respect. Henley, Merritt and Jack continued casual conversation, in the way that was uniquely the Four Horsemen's: somehow excluding Jack yet including him at the same time.
They sat by the carousel and unpacked lunch: Henley had made sandwiches as usual. They talked rowdily as they ate, laughing, and playing cards at the same time. It was a Horsemen's thing. Jack had come to get used to the syncopation of his daily activities, and felt that, perhaps, for once, he belonged somewhere.
There was definitely something in the snow that was giving him all these sappy thoughts.
"Aw, come on, you can't be serious," Jack mumbled into his sandwich. "You've won, again?"
Daniel whooped and Henley threw a scathing remark at him.
"You'll get there, Jack," he beamed. "You're a big boy now."
He looked Jack in the eye and gave him one of those radiating-warmth-crinkly-eyed smiles that he had been throwing him ever since the car chase. Jack grimaced, and decided to show him that really, he was a "big boy" all along.
The next few games grew so intense and intellectually violent that even Merritt decided to let them have that little space on their own, dealing game after game- Jack won some, Daniel won some, but after a while they realised how ridiculous their situation was and collapsed in the grass giggling from sudden release of accumulated concentration.
"I love you," Jack said, feeling slightly high from the released tension, and catching himself too late. Curse the snow.
He found Daniel staring back at him with intent, in that way that he had learnt from Merritt along the way. "Do you, now?" He asked quietly, nearly in a sing-song manner.
Jack didn't answer, as if that could change the predicament he had gotten himself into. Daniel's bluish-grey eyes continued staring on, analysing every micro-expression he had on.
"Do you now?" Daniel asked again, this time in a manner that seemed more like he was muttering to himself.
And then Jack felt Daniel's lips on his, and he felt the crevices and dips that he had gazed at longingly for so long fitting exactly against his own, and he kissed back.
Jack is maybe-not-quite, definitely in love with Daniel and he's happy that way.