"You promised, man! Give him his money!" The man in the crowd yelled and Jack Wilder frowned almost imperceptibly. He opened his wallet and pulled out the hundred and turned to the man who outed him.
"Here. You have a good eye." As he handed over the bill with one hand, the sleight palmed the man's wallet out of his back pocket. With the hand that handed over the bill, he twisted him out of his watch and palmed the watch under his own sleeve. He nodded begrudgingly and walked off the boat and unto the deck. He had a few seconds of silence before he heard the same man scream.
"Hey! Get that guy! In the leather jacket!" Jack pushed himself further through the crowd, head ducked down, becoming anonymous.
He was good at that. Becoming anonymous. He smirked into the air and looked at the watch. Looks like he made a profit of about hundred fifty on the watch alone. And the wallet…
He walked to the edge of the dock and pulled out all of the money. Twenty, forty, fifty, three. Fifty-three dollars. He dumped the leather wallet into the water and turned to walk away. There on the ground was a tarot card. Knowing what this meant, and not quite believing it, he picked it up and flipped it over. Death. He'd never seen anything quite so right. Another flip of the card with nimble fingers revealed the time, place, and date. He nodded to himself and pocketed the tarot card. The sleight fixed his leather jacket and walked away.
"Because the closer you look-"
"THE LESS YOU'LL SEE!" The crowd responded, yelling, clapping, and cheering. J. Daniel Atlas smirked at the brunette in front of him and again showed her the deck of cards.
"Now, I want you to pick a card. Not this one; that would be too obvious." He gestured to the ace of spades in the front of the deck. He flipped through the deck before her eyes. "Oh, that was too fast. I'll do it again." He slowed down, the multiple seven of diamonds stacked right against each other making that the most prominent card to anyone viewing the trick. "Do you have a card?" He asked and she nodded. He quickly palmed every last one of the three seven of diamonds and again showed her the cards, this time fanning them out for her perusal. "Is your card here?" Confused, she shook her head. "Of course not. Because it's up there." The showman smirked and shot the cards into the air, directly in line of the building, whose lights lit up the seven of diamonds. He heard the crowd gasp and his smirk, somehow, got even cockier. A few mind games, a little bribery to light up the building, and the showman was getting laid.
He turned back to the amazed girl. They were leaving. Now.
"Well, thank you all! I'm J. Daniel Atlas and I hope you all enjoyed the show. Goodbye and goodnight!" He smirked at the girl, who ran a hand down his arm, and they walked together to his apartment.
Later, as he explained the trick to the girl, who proceeded to tear open his shirt, he noticed the tarot card. Lover. Well that certainly summed the situation up. "Hey, hold on."
"What? Are you serious?" The girl cried, outraged, but Daniel paid her no mind. He stood and walked carelessly to the card, checking the specifics on the back.
"Is this what you do to all the girls? Whatever, I'm out of here."
"Hey, I'll call you." No, I won't.
"You don't even have my number." Why would I need the number of a sure lay?
"I'm magic. I'll get your number." If you believe that, you're more stupid than I thought.
"You're such an asshole." She spit as she turned and walked out his door. He turned his attention back to the card.
"Henley?" Daniel asked as the red head came into view. The escape artist turned, astonished.
"Danny?" She asked. He flinched internally. He never liked that nickname. Even when someone he'd known for years such as Henley Reeves said it.
"You got a card, too?" She nodded and he bounded ahead of her. "Okay, I'll go in first, scope the area, and then-"
"I'm not your assistant anymore, Danny. I have my own show." She cut in and walked ahead of him.
"Ah, yes. How's that going, by the way?" He asked as he followed.
"You know. You've been leaving all those anonymous posts on my website."
"Oh, you have a website? That's nice."
Walking to the correct floor, they stopped talking as they viewed Merritt McKinny. The mentalist stood outside the door they needed and pursed his lips as he saw them.
"So, obviously none of us were individually picked. Let me be the first to kick my ego to the curb." Merritt said.
"The door?" Daniel asked.
"Locked," the mentalist admitted and proceeded to 'mentally' guess Henley's name.
"It's on your cup." Daniel muttered to her and she checked her coffee, amused.
"Keep me honest." Merritt replied, smirking.
"I'm J. Daniel Atlas," he stopped when the older magician flipped him off. "Yes, very nice, I know all about your 'mentalism' act and I just wanted you to know I'm not interested in-"
"I'm getting that you're a control freak." The mentalist said.
"I'm sorry, have we met?" He replied.
Henley scoffed beside him. "You don't have to know you to see that you're a control freak, Danny."
"And that's why you guys aren't a couple anymore?" Merritt asked.
Two arguing voices filled the air. "We were never a couple." Will never be a couple. And then the old argument about the damn trap door started and Daniel rolled his eyes. "Rebecca fit in that hole. She fit in it for years."
"Do you have any idea how hard it is to stay in those flimsy dresses?"
"No. I don't. Because I'm the main attraction." When Merritt started flirting with Henley, Daniel had had enough of this waste of his time.
"Alright, you two have fun-" he began to turn towards the staircase, when another person blocked his route. He was young, early to mid twenties, with short brown hair and mesmerizing chocolate brown eyes. He smiled wide, the first grin Daniel had seen in a very long time, and honestly it took his breath away.
"No way," he breathed and Daniel stared on. "J. Daniel Atlas. I've seen all of your work, man. I-I idolize you." He went to shake his hand.
Daniel smirked. "Ah, a true fan. It's nice to meet you." He shook his hand. It was warm, strong, and nimble. In comparison to his cold, steady, and quick hands.
"I'm Jack, by the way." The sleight admitted.
"Question, did you get one of these?" Merritt asked, holding his card.
Jack rummaged into his pocket nodding. "Yeah. Death."
"High Priestess." Henley offered.
"Lover." Daniel said and Henley coughed out a 'three minutes.'
"Hermit." Merritt finally said.
"So, uh…are we waiting for someone or…?" Jack asked and motioned to the door.
"Door's locked." They all answered together.
The young man smirked and again, Daniel's breath hitched in his throat. He knew his smirk disabled most girls but it was his signature move, and he was never caught up in someone else's smirk. Until now. Jack shook his head. "Oh no. Nothing's ever locked." He stepped forward gently and knelt beside the door. That was the first time Daniel ever saw Jack work his magic. The first time he was ever impressed by someone.
The door clicked open after seconds and Jack pushed through, body lithe and silent. Obviously a conman. The others followed after trading glances of agreement. They liked the kid. For different reasons, of course.
Inside they discovered the blueprints that detailed the next year and a half of their lives. And they would spend every day working together, training, planning, and building.
Later that day, as they all decided it would be best to spend the night in the room they'd found, Jack found himself beside his idol. He couldn't believe any of this. He was just a messed up orphan in New York, and there were plenty of those around. He knew. He was a mimic and a master at sleight of hand but these people? A legendary showman, an escape artist, and a mentalist? They were real magic and he had no business being here. He couldn't begin to understand why he was picked as the fourth horseman but he wasn't about to fight it. Not a chance. Not when he was spending his time with J. Daniel Atlas, the guy that first introduced him to magic, whether he knew it or not.
Little Jack, at twelve years old had runaway from home. His father was a right bastard with an abusive complex and he'd be damned if he'd be his punching bag for the rest of his life. With no mother or siblings to protect, Jack got the hell out of there. He'd been on the streets ever since, and he was hungry. He was still clumsy when it came to grabbing wallets from pockets. Bags were one thing; bags were easy. Pockets? How do you not feel a weight and bulge in your pocket become nothing? He was still undisciplined and his mimicking talent only got him so far. First he had to hear the voice and practice saying the same words for a couple of seconds. Opportunities never seemed to open up to him. He sat in central park for a couple of minutes to find his next prey. There's gotta be someone…
There stood an eighteen-year-old boy, surrounded by a crowd of people. Perplexed at why someone so close to his age was getting so much attention when he was just another street rat in New York, Jack Wilder stood and made himself part of the crowd. He disappeared. He was good at becoming anonymous. It's easy to disappear when no one's looking for you. He studied the teenager. Dark curly hair, scruff on his face, and cool grey eyes that calculated every risk stared out at the crowd. He was still young, but his confidence, his composure, spoke volumes of his adult years. He would be successful in whatever he did. And right now? It looked like magic.
Jack relaxed and watched the boy amaze his small crowd with card tricks, mind games and illusions. He found himself enjoying the performance. He found himself smiling. He hadn't smiled in years. He'd smirked, yeah, sure, when he pick pocketed someone. When he ate dinner on someone else's dime. But never smiled. He was smiling. The man (he was a man now. Anyone who could change his life was an adult in every way) waved at the crowd.
"Thank you. I hope you enjoyed the performance. I'm J. Daniel Atlas. And remember. The closer you look, the less you'll see." He bowed and stepped away, presumably to go home or something.
J. Daniel Atlas. He would find him again. Go to another show or something. See if this whole life changing experience was a one-time thing or not. In the meantime…
He sat. That was great and all, but he was still really hungry. Happy. But hungry. He glanced about the park once more. A father sat on a park bench, reading his newspaper and never looking up from it, even when a young boy of about seven would run up and talk to him. Bingo.
Jack stood and walked to the boy. "Hey," he greeted as the boy sat on the ground, pulling out blades of grass.
"I'm not supposed to talk to strangers." The boy answered immediately.
He held out a hand. "I'm Jack Wilder. There. Not a stranger anymore."
The boy shook his head with a small smile and observed Jack. "I'm Ben. Wanna play?"
He played with the boy for the next fifteen minutes and had at this point, characterized everything about his voice pattern. High pitchy voice. Upward inflection on every second word. Harsh approach to the letters t and p. Eventually, he stood and made up an excuse about going home. Ben nodded and continued to play alone in the grass.
He practically ran to the oblivious father. "Dad, can I have money for ice cream? Please?"
The father grumbled. "No, Ben. Your mother told me not to give you ice cream before dinner tonight. We're having meatloaf."
For a second, Jack wondered what it would be like to go home to a family every night with food waiting. Guess he'll never know. "Please, dad? I won't tell mom."
Silence. Then, "Fine. But this never happened. Grab the money out of my wallet, right there in my coat."
"Thanks." Jack answered and rummaged in the coat pocket until he found the wallet. A twenty should get him something good at the nearby McDonalds. He put the wallet back and ran away. That was a pretty solid victory, he'd like to think. And that magician guy? Jack would find him again. He knew his way around this city of his, after all.
Jack was shaken from his memories as his idol sighed. "I never did get your last name."
Jack looked up and blinked. Right. A surname. He had one of those. "Wilder. Jack Wilder."
J. Daniel Atlas nodded. "Right. So, you said you'd seen everything I did? When did you first see my work?"
The younger man grinned. "When I was twelve in Central Park. You put on a show as I was scoping for people to con. You were like…" he lifted one shoulder. "Eighteen?"
Daniel nodded, remembering working there for a few tossed bucks when he was starting out as an act. Six year difference then. That would make Jack twenty. "And you continued to watch me?"
Jack blushed slightly. "Well, you kind of introduced me to a different kind of life. Where being a conman was for delight and not deception."
Daniel considered that as he sat beside the younger man. "Thanks. I hope you enjoyed the shows."
Jack grinned and Daniel stared. "You always said that. Hey, once just for fun, could you say your tagline?"
Daniel smiled. Well and truly smiled. He never smiled. Only smirked. But he was smiling. "So look closely. No closer. Because the closer you look-"
"The less you'll see," Jack breathed and grinned. "Dude, you're so cool." He shook his head.
Daniel, for once, didn't smirk arrogantly at the compliment. He didn't get smug and answer in the affirmative. He simply relaxed and regarded his companion. "So what do you do? Besides pick locks?"
Jack shrugged. "Not a lot. A lot of sleight of hand. Pick pocketing. Mimicking."
"Mimicking?" Daniel asked, incredulous.
"It comes in handy when you need to be someone else." Jack answered perfectly in Daniel's voice. Daniel recoiled.
"How…how did you…?" He asked, mesmerized.
"Usually I need to spend a few seconds repeating words they say back at them. Or spend a little time with them. I've watched so many of your shows, I copied your voice pretty quickly." He shrugged again, humble.
Daniel smirked at the man and Jack gulped. God, he was beautiful.
"That's gonna be helpful when this plan starts to go through." Daniel commented.
Jack nodded. "I hope I can be of service to you three, Daniel."
Daniel hesitated before smiling indulgently. "Call me Danny."
No one but him. That nickname is for Jack alone.
Jack's smile lit up the room. "Okay. Danny."
Yep. Definitely Jack alone.
1 year later
"Guys? We have to start the show in like…now." Henley sighed, smiling slightly at the cute picture the boys made. Jack was playing with his boyfriend's hair as Daniel (as she was expressly forbidden from calling him 'Danny.' Only Jack could, as he was the only one that did) hummed softly with closed eyes.
"Coming." Jack sighed and pushed back Danny's hair. He opened his eyes to the smiling twenty-one year old and grinned back. Henley didn't think she'd ever seen Daniel smile as much as when Jack was around. They both stood and Jack fixed Danny's hair back into place as Danny fixed Jack's collar and righted the leather jacket.
Henley grinned indulgently. It was just too sweet. Like candy. She was going to get diabetes watching this. She rolled her eyes with the same smile gracing her lips and turned, calling out, "C'mon guys. We didn't plan this for a year just so you could be late fondling each other."
Jack grinned. "Fondling, eh?"
"Bet we could show her fondling if the time came." Danny smirked.
Jack shook his head. "Let's go Fabio. We have work to do."
"Fabio? You-you just called me Fabio?"
"Well, with the hair going on and the romantic innuendos-"
"Okay, okay, I'm sorry Danny. Truly sorry." He grinned and kissed the control freak. "To be honest, I'm a little surprised you're not all over this time thing. I know how much you love being in control of every situation. You should be out there with Henley, grumbling about how I'm holding you up."
Danny considered this before chastely kissing his boyfriend. "For the next two and a half hours, we will be on stage. I'll be J. Daniel Atlas, the smirky arrogant heartthrob. You'll be Jack Wilder, the cute, warm boy next door. Thousands of girls will be throwing themselves at us. And we're conmen. We need to appease. Be who they want us to be. But right now, here, I can be who I want to be. So, yeah, I want to prolong this before we go out there."
Jack smirked. "That may be the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me. But I don't know, Danny." His smirk turned more mischievous. "We could go out there and totally make out for the crowd. I hear gay couples are really making a comeback. It's the hot new thing to be questioning your sexuality." He laughed and Danny rolled his eyes.
"No. This is the control freak me you wanted. No. Hell. Fucking. No."
Jack walked towards the elevator where Henley and Merritt waited. "Oh, love. I want every you. Even the smirky, arrogant heartthrob."
Danny took a second for that to sink in before he walked after him. "Even the heartthrob?"
Jack lifted one shoulder in that considering way he does. "It's not your best persona. I still love it. It's just not your best."
Danny grumbled as Henley and Merritt laughed. The elevator lifted them to the stage, where the first performance began. Tonight, they would rob a bank.
"They're gonna arrest us soon." Jack sang as he collapsed on the couch beside Merritt. Merritt glanced over at the boy he loved like a little brother.
"That's kinda the plan, genius."
Jack playfully pouted. "Why, Merritt. No need to be harsh. Are you nervous because you need to speak with the big bad FBI agent?"
Merritt scoffed. "Please. And you're one to talk. Your job right now? Is to be taken into custody and do nothing while me and your boyfriend get us out."
"I know. Isn't it beautiful?" He smiled and laid down on the couch, forcing Merritt to grunt and change positions.
"It's something. 'Beautiful' is yet to be seen." He groaned.
Jack stared at the ceiling. He liked this hotel. Too bad it was gonna be ransacked in about twenty minutes or so. He snapped up and walked to the kitchen. Merritt immediately took the couch to himself, stretching out, and grabbing a book of his to peruse. Henley was upstairs doing God knows what. Danny was at the window, looking out over the city of Las Vegas, preparing himself for what was to come. Jack knew better than to go to him now. He'd already offered his faith and support to the man. Now, the plan was unraveling, the ball was rolling, and they just had to move with it. So he walked to his favorite chair and plopped himself down with all intentions of taking a nap. It wasn't long until he heard the crash of the front door being broken down. Uniformed men stormed in as he lifted his hands feebly into the air. They pointed guns at them all, as Merritt dropped his book enough to view the scene and Danny turned from the window to cock his head to the side. Henley walked downstairs and held up her gloved hands at the sight.
"Anybody want to help us with our bags?"
They were led through the casino with people cheering for them, despite the cops. Guess they'd gotten a bit of money last night. Jack smiled at the people and turned to the cops restraining him. "It's okay, you know. We're not at the precinct yet. You can let loose and tell me the truth. You love us, don't you?"
The cop rolled his eyes and sneered. "Not a chance. Magic isn't real."
"I wonder why we're being arrested then." Jack pondered and the cop tightened his hold on his arm. "Ouch, sir! That is a lot of pressure you're putting on that there arm." At this, Danny looked back from his position at the front of the line of horsemen. He quickly checked Jack over to see if he was hurt. Jack nodded almost imperceptibly. Unnoticeable to anyone but a fellow horsemen. Danny nodded back and turned around.
At the interrogation room, Jack kicked up his feet unto the table and, still handcuffed, fell asleep in the chair. Henley amused herself by spinning the chair in front of her on its leg, an astounding understanding of physics keeping the chair afloat. Danny was smirky to the FBI agent (Dylan Rhodes he thinks his name was) and that Alma Interpol girl. No way would he screw this up. He needed to protect Jack. And…everyone else. Merritt was enjoying life, analyzing every facial feature and muscle spasm that graced the agents' faces. Hypnotizing the rest of them to play Beethoven, well…that was the most fun he'd had in a long time.
Daniel had just finished speaking with Rhodes. He handed the bugged phone back over as the Interpol agent took the key in the Coke to unlock the handcuffs. Rhodes grumbled and spoke into his walkey talkey.
"Fuller? What's the status on the other horsemen?"
A second before the buzzed reply. "The mentalist asshole is sitting there, terrorizing the intern when he brought in a water. The girl is spinning a chair on its leg. It won't stop. Just keeps spinning. And the kid? Is asleep."
Danny smothered a laugh but couldn't choke off the snort of derision. Rhodes glared at him. "Sleeping?"
"Yep. Has been for a good ten minutes now. We've been so focused on the asshole and the heartthrob that he just kinda dozed off. Like this is so fucking boring, getting arrested is just another day, and he really needs to catch up on some beauty sleep."
Daniel could hear the mocking edge to the man's word and chose to stay silent. It wouldn't do for the police to know about his relationship.
Rhodes massaged the bridge of his nose. He stood and left, the French woman hot on his heels.
There you go, Jack. Fluff them up a little. He grinned and shook his head.
They were released soon enough.
Merritt sat on the plane, flirting with Henley again. He wondered when the red head would realize she loved him like a schoolgirl loves her first crush. Her face screamed it every time she looked at him. Jack was reading Merritt's book while Daniel stared out the window a few seats down from him. Comfortable silence rested between the four horsemen. Merritt turned again to Henley and raised his eyebrows. She nodded and nudged Daniel, who turned. It was time to get the password. Daniel playfully punched Jack who grinned into the book and closed it.
Phase One: Get Arthur to believe that Daniel needed to one-up Merritt.
Merritt began to flirt with Henley, who laughed obnoxiously loud. When enough time had passed with Daniel getting more and more flustered, he stood and confronted Merritt, claiming Merritt's skill was no skill at all and he could do it as well. Laughing, Merritt asked him to prove it.
"Do Henley." He prompted.
"Yeah, Daniel. Do me." She purred and Arthur perked up. Jack rolled his eyes with a smile and rested his head on his crossed arms.
"No. Henley's too easy. I'll…do Jasmine." He rested a hand on Arthur's assistant, who looked up at him, smiling flirtatiously. This time, Jack didn't smile at the offer. He bit his bottom lip and shifted awkwardly. According to everyone but the horsemen, Jack was the baby of the group, and Daniel was a flirt who was going to end up with Henley eventually. No matter how much he was assured Danny loved him. It gnawed at him to know that everyone knew how much more Danny deserved than him. He wasn't going to argue at his good luck. He just wished Danny was less attractive, or less talented or charming, just to even the playing field a bit. Just to make him feel a little more worthy.
"No. Do me." Arthur said from the front of the plane and the horsemen all exchanged looks. They moved closer to Arthur.
Phase Two: Get the Answers to the Security Questions.
"Okay. Uh. So you were a tough kid, a real fighting guy. And you had a big dog, a pitbull? With a really tough name like Butch." Danny took a shot in the wind, using his hands to exclaim his points. He always got more expressive when he got nervous. Jack grinned and hid his smiling face into his arms, chuckling outwardly at his mentalism attempt.
"Actually, I was a wimpy little tart with a poodle named Snuffles." Arthur laughed derisively.
"You're awful at this, Daniel." Henley laughed and Jack lifted his head and hand.
"Let me do it. Let me try." He prompted.
"Yeah, let him try, he's gotta be better than you." She laughed again.
Danny lifted his hands. "No, just let me try one more time. Okay. So, you had a really butch uncle with a tough name. Thompson? I…have no idea-"
And the game continued until Arthur Tressler had unknowingly given out every piece of personal information needed for the security lock.
Later, when they were about to touch down, Jasmine approached Daniel as he was coming out of the bathroom.
"Hey. So, I was wondering…if you were going to do your mentalism act on me…what would you say?"
Daniel froze and let out a nervous chuckle. "Uh, you saw how bad I was. I doubt I have the talent for it, so it's really no use."
"Really? You can't infer anything about me?" She purred, rubbing his arm up and down. Daniel hated that. Jack never did that. Jack took his hand and rubbed his thumb up his palm. He traced his quick magician hands with pick pocketing hands trained for stealth. He ran his hand through his hair to lull him to sleep.
With thoughts of the sleight running through his head, and knowing he wouldn't maintain much contact with Arthur or his assistant after tonight anyway, he politely pushed her away. "I'm sorry, Jasmine, but I'm just not available. I have someone." He tried to walk away before she tried to guess, but unfortunately, that was not what happened.
Jack was packing his things from the private jet into his bag, slinging it over his leather-clad shoulder. As Danny walked by, Jasmine followed him.
"It's Henley, isn't it? I knew you guys were hot for each other, I just didn't know you'd already gotten together." Her voice traveled throughout the tiny plane, and the horsemen all looked up.
Jack froze from grabbing one of his ties and looked fearfully at Henley and Merritt. It'd never gotten this far before. People were supposed to think they were together, were supposed to assume that was the next course of events for the two horsemen, but they never actually questioned it. Never. Jack sighed and sat his tie in the bag, resigning himself to the new rumor being his boyfriend being with someone he considered a sister.
Meanwhile, Daniel was trading glances with Henley, asking with his eyes how the hell they were going to work this situation. She shrugged helplessly. Danny scratched his nose and closed his eyes. He refused to look at Jack.
"Jasmine, I will not be discussing my personal relationships with you or anyone else." He answered. Though he neither confirmed nor denied the accusation, it became very clear that Jasmine thought it was Henley. She smirked at Henley, nodded, and turned away. Henley nodded uneasily and turned to Merritt, pleading with her eyes. Merritt sighed and turned to Jack, who was still packing his things away. He looked up at Henley and smiled the tiniest of smiles. He was fine, really. They would just need to play up the budding romance of the showman and the escape artist.
Daniel sighed heavily and sat down. "Fantastic." He breathed.
"You guys need to do your old act tonight." Jack spoke from behind a dress shirt he was folding.
"What?" Henley asked confused, as Daniel stared at his perplexing boyfriend.
"C'mon. She's going on every social media site ever. She's telling everybody that you guys finally got together. You need to play to that. Believe it or not, it'll make us more famous. People are always rooting for a romance." He chuckled and picked up his suspenders to place them in the bag.
"Are you serious? You're telling us to pretend to be together?" Henley asked, appalled.
Jack rolled his eyes. "No, because then I would have to kill you, Henley, and I like you." He joked, knowing that they knew he wouldn't do a thing to Henley. "I'm just saying you should do your old act, debunk the rabbit trick, appear on stage together. Put her in the bubble and catch her. Even if you guys feel completely platonic about it, the crowd will see something else."
Merritt considered this and smiled at the kid. "That's pretty smart, kiddo. A bit of mentalism to that."
Jack blushed and smiled back. "I'm learning." He grinned at Henley. "Besides, if anyone could be the most believable to handle his craziness, it's you, Henley."
She smiled happily. "I put up with his craziness for years. I got this."
Daniel coughed. "Thank you, another compliment."
Jack shook his head and picked up the last outfit, the one he was wearing for the next show tonight. He motioned to the bathroom. "I'm gonna change." He muttered and walked away.
Merritt breathed a sigh. "You just dodged a bullet, there, Danny Boy."
Daniel sighed. "Don't call me that. And I know. This," he motioned around, "could have gone much worse."
Henley shook her head. "You guys are so stupid, you don't even see what's wrong."
"Something's wrong? Nothing's wrong! This worked out." Daniel muttered, packing his own things away.
Henley shook her head and scrubbed her face with a gloved hand. "I'll handle it. No need for you guys to deal with something you don't even know exists."
Daniel grabbed her arm as she began to walk past. "Henley, if something is wrong with Jack, I need to know."
"I'm sure he'll tell you, sweetie. But right now, I think I'm the one that needs to put his fears to rest." She answered softly and turned back towards the bathroom. She knocked on the door. "Hey, are you changed yet Jack? I want to talk to you."
A rustle on the side of the door. A bang and a muffled curse. "Yep. I'm coming, Henley. Just give me a…second…" Another bang. "Shit!"
She frowned. "What are you doing?"
"This is a really small bathroom, okay? With sharp edges and linoleum counters and-ow! Son of a-"
"Jack," she giggled. "In the fight of you against the bathroom, am I to understand the bathroom is winning?"
"That's what the bathroom wants you to think!" He answered with a smile in his voice, before the door was wrenched open, a disheveled Jack Wilder on the other side. She giggled again at the look on the poor boy's face, before she fixed the collar of his shirt and tucked in a few loose ends.
"Thanks, Henley." He sighed, grateful for the bigger area. He walked to the guestroom on the plane where Arthur slept and closed the door behind them. "So, what did you want to talk about?"
"Well," she sighed and moved to sit on the bed. "I wanted to talk about this whole fake relationship thing with Daniel."
Jack's eyebrows knit together. "Why? I thought I already explained why it was a good idea."
"You did, yes. Of course, it makes sense, just until we're out of the public eye. But…Jack…" She sighed again heavily and rested a hand on his shoulder when he moved to sit down next to her. "Jack, you have the wrong idea of your relationship with Daniel."
He laughed, a little wildly. "What? The wrong idea of my relationship?"
"Well…I get the feeling that you think he's settling for you-"
"He is, Henley. It's not a feeling. It's not a thought. It's not a damn insecurity. It's a truth. A statement. Now, before you argue," he cut off as he saw her open her mouth. "I'm not saying he doesn't love me. For whatever reason, I know he does. I'm just saying for the rest of our lives, people are going to be wondering what the hell I did to win him. And what the hell was he thinking?"
Henley shook her head. "Jack, you were the best thing that could've happened to him."
Jack shrugged. "Look, Henley, I'm not saying he doesn't love me. That's not what I'm saying at all. I'm just thinking…I mean…what-why? Why me?" He stood and pulled at his short brown hair. "He's gorgeous, Hen. Gorgeous. He's confident, and arrogant, and kind, and brilliant, and talented, and charming, and…and people fall for him within seconds of meeting him. And…and me? I'm a kid with a few sleight of hand tricks, average looks, stupid boy next door personality, and…and I should never have been picked to be the fourth horseman."
Shocked and appalled, Henley stood and punched him in the arm, Jack wincing in pain and rubbing the area. "Dammit, Henley! What the hell?"
"Don't you ever say you don't belong to be right up there with us, getting initiated into the Eye. Don't you dare, Jackson Wilder! You're just as good as any of us and you're proving to be the most fundamental part of this group. Do you even know how highly the others think of you? You're the brother Merritt and I never had! You're adorably dorky and we had no choice but to want to protect you at all costs. And Daniel loves you more than anything! So don't you start putting yourself down!"
Jack sighed and sat again. "I'm sorry, Hen. I'm not trying to put myself down, not really. I know exactly who I am. I don't make myself any less. But I was an orphan on the streets who ran away from an abusive father. He was the magician who changed my life. How…how do I stop idolizing my idol?" He asked, broken, and Henley settled back.
"By remembering all of his shitty qualities. He's sometimes so arrogant that you want to hit him." She chuckled and he smiled with the corner of his mouth.
"He takes all of the covers. All of them." He stressed. She giggled.
"He has unrealistic expectations about trap doors."
"He has to be in charge of every operation."
"He won't eat his vegetables."
"Really?" She asked, shocked she didn't know something about J. Daniel Atlas.
He nodded with a smile. "Yeah. Really. I'm the kid. But he refuses to eat spinach." He chuckled with the same sad smile. "I love him, Henley."
She nodded and took his hand. "I know, Jack."
"And you know what else?"
"You love Merritt." He teased.
She hit him again. "Do not!"
"You're on the verge of it! Don't fight it, Henley! Don't fight these feelings anymore!"
From outside the room, Daniel and Merritt could hear Jack singing "Can't Fight This Feeling Anymore" as Henley screamed and objects were thrown about the room.
"Should we…?" Daniel asked.
"Absolutely not." Merritt answered, as he buttoned his shirt.
The show would be the night they screwed over Arthur and Tressler Insurance. Danny carefully approached Jack before the show. "So, uh…are we okay?" He asked, wringing his hands. He got expressive when he got nervous. Jack smirked.
"We were never not okay, Danny." He chuckled.
"What I mean is…well, Henley said something was wrong-"
"Not with you. You did nothing wrong." He reassured and took his hand to run his thumb across Danny's palm. Danny shivered.
"Well, uh. What was wrong, Jack? Are you okay? Henley was pretty adamant that-"
"I just. I had some things to work out for myself. Henley helped."
"Is the problem…solved?" He asked nervously, the control freak in him wanting so badly to remedy the situation.
"It's," he considered. "Better." He finally resolved and smiled at his boyfriend. "So. Are you ready to steal from our benefactor?" He chuckled.
Danny smirked. "Always."
As Jack took the stage, Daniel watched from side stage. The young magician shuffled the deck of cards a couple of times before looking at the crowd. "Hello, everyone. I'm Jack Wilder. How are you all doing tonight?"
A loud roar from the crowd was his answer. He nodded. "Good. Good. I'm going to take that as a 'pretty awesome, Jack' if you don't mind me paraphrasing." The crowd laughed and Daniel smirked from his spot beside the curtain.
"Now," he shuffled the deck again. "there are two pencils out there. Can you hold them up for me?"
"I've got one!" A voice called.
He nodded. "Alright. That's great. Could you stand and hold them up for me?"
The two women on opposite ends of the room stood and held up the pencils.
"Perfect. You girls are great. And beautiful, might I add. You'll be standing next to cars for those commercials before you know it." He grinned and the girls swooned. He was just one of those people who could smile and charm anybody into doing what he wanted. Daniel sighed as he watched him work.
"Wish he knew how much people loved him." A voice said beside him, and he looked to see Henley.
"What do you mean?"
"What was wrong. He doesn't understand why you're with him. He doesn't feel worthy of you. Meanwhile," she sighed and gestured to the crowd. "Everybody thinks the world of him."
"That…that was the problem?" He asked, confused.
"Yep. I guess Jasmine flirting and insinuating that it had to be me did a number on his ego." She shrugged and turned back to his performance.
"But. That doesn't make any sense. I'm an asshole." He said and she giggled.
"No argument here. But he finds that endearing." She shrugged again.
On stage, Jack had put down the cards in order to take off his suit jacket. "Sorry. Have to de-robe a little. Need to be all agile and stuff for this. The less clothes is where the magic really begins, after all." The crowds laughed again. He stood in his black button up and suspenders. "Alright, ladies? Hold up your cards real high. 'Cause I'm going to pull some Matrix stunts." Another rolling laugh.
He concentrated before he shot a flurry of cards to the first pencil, impaling one of the cards on the point of the writing utensil. As the crowd sat astounded at this, he quickly shot another at the second pencil and sliced it in half. The crowd clapped and cheered and spoke highly of the younger horseman's talents. He heard none of this, of course, and bowed humbly. "Thank you. And let's give a big hand to our two pencil holders!" The clapping continued as he smiled once more, put on his jacket, and waved. "Goodbye for now! Let me welcome to the stage, my dear colleague and friend, Merritt McKinny!"
He walked off as Merritt walked on. Daniel watched him and vowed that after this show, he would talk with the younger horseman about this. He would not let Jack sweep this under the rug.
Daniel did the debunking act with Henley, and he had to admit, he slipped into the partnered role with ease. They'd known each other for so long that it took little to no effort to work together. Still. He wanted little to do with spreading a rumor about their relationship. When he made the bubble that she floated in, he could hear the crowd oohing at the magic. It popped and she fell into his arms. The 'aws' echoed throughout the room, obviously viewing it all as a damsel in distress saved by her prince charming. Well, sorry. This prince charming had another prince charming whom was currently side stage smirking at him whenever he got a moment to look over.
And then, finally, came the moment of truth. They stole $140,000,000 from Arthur Tressler, right on stage. As they walked to the back of the stage, letting Arthur in on how they'd done it, Jack whispered to the others to follow him. They knew what he meant. He may be the youngest, but dammit if that kid didn't know his way around streets. Didn't know how to run. He'd been doing it his whole life.
"We're the Four Horsemen! Goodnight!" They called and were lifted into the air as Dylan Rhodes was tackled by twelve hypnotized civilians.
Starting at the roof, Jack took charge and immediately found the fire escape, slammed the metal into place, and jumped down a few flights. The others followed and did what they could. It was just very clear to them that Jack was the best criminal, and that's who they were turning out to be. Jack navigated the streets, even with the martigra celebrations in New Orleans. He was quick and silent as the others were hulking messes behind him. Daniel found himself at the end and then, he found himself lost. Knowing where they were supposed to meet, he took off through the crowds.
Jack and the others ran until they got to the hideout. But as Jack turned around, he noticed that Danny was missing. His blood turned to ice. Without another thought, he retraced his steps and ran back out into the night, with agents looking for him. Henley was about to yell for him to come back when Merritt shook his head. It would be no use.
Daniel knew the girl agent from Interpol was hot on his heels. She was catching up. He knew what Merritt had told him- that she was a first time agent off the desk. But that didn't mean she wouldn't shoot. Wouldn't take him in. He pushed through the crowds and finally ran into the open space. Better for comfort of running. Worse for blending in. She was there, behind him, yelling.
Jack had found him. Just about. He found the agent. Then he found the Interpol agent. And if there was any connection of their running, Danny should be close. He watched the Interpol agent break away from the crowd and…there! Danny was there. He sped up and cut down an alley that looked like it would open up where he needed to be. He just prayed. He ran and prayed.
When the alley opened he saw Danny at gunpoint. No. Absolutely not. Unacceptable.
Daniel was watching the Interpol lady as she held the gun. She couldn't shoot, could she? He was unarmed. Isn't there a law about that?
"Hey!" A voice cut through the air and the agent and the showman turned. Daniel became Danny as he saw his lover and was horrorstruck. "You don't want him. You want me." He said as he revealed a deck of cards, picked a few, and sent them slicing through the air. One cut at the hand holding the gun, and she dropped it out of inexperience and shock. Danny dropped from the wall and Jack disappeared down the alley as the FBI agent arrived.
Daniel arrived at the hideout first. The other two looked up from an embrace. Daniel shook his head.
"He'll come. He's probably just evading them." Henley encouraged but Daniel just walked to the window.
Jack was evading them alright, but that FBI agent had some stamina. When he felt he'd lost him, he blended into the crowd, becoming anonymous. It didn't take long to get to the hideout from there.
He knocked on the door, the door opened, and he was cleanly punched in the face. His head snapped back and banged against the wall behind him. His ears were ringing and his jaw killed when the same hand that had punched him grabbed the back of his head and pulled him into a fierce kiss. No. There was no way he could enjoy this now. Was that the point?
When the person released their hold on his head, he spit blood into the hallway. He frowned gravely. "Hello to you, too, Sweet Pea."
Danny glared at him. "Yeah. Thanks, Snookums. So glad you could make it."
Jack shrugged and stepped into the room. "I aim to please. Hey guys," he nodded to Merritt and Henley. "Thanks for witnessing some assault and being such good citizens about it."
"What the hell happened, Wilder? One second, you're here, the next you're not and Daniel's here, and then he wouldn't talk to us. Then he punched you. I can only assume you did something stupid." Henley gritted out.
"Stupid? No, no. You see, stupid is getting lost when you're in the middle of a chase and you're the criminal. That's stupid." Jack bit at her.
"I wasn't lost. I wasn't with you but I wasn't lost. I knew where I was. I was just behind. I would've gotten here eventually." Daniel yelled and spun Jack to look at him.
"Yeah, you looked real in control of the situation at gun point!" He yelled back and Henley flinched.
"Daniel? You were at gunpoint?" She asked, quiet.
Jack spun, flailing. "Sure was. Every last arrogant drop of him. Interpol lady. Gun. Pointed. Danny. Get the picture?"
"She wouldn't have shot!" Danny roared.
"But she would have captured you! Jail doesn't look too good either!" Jack replied and gently touched the growing bruise on his left cheek. He'd gotten worse. Much worse.
"You don't know that I couldn't have gotten away! And you bounding up offering yourself wasn't much help!"
"I disagree. Because it did help! It worked!"
"Yeah, and if it didn't? What if next time you get hurt?" Danny seethed.
"Oh, this doesn't count now?" Jack gestured to his aching face and something in Danny's face shifted. Jack raged on. "And were you planning on getting caught at gunpoint very many times?"
"That's not the point, Jack!" Danny screamed, desperate for the younger man to understand.
"Then what is, Danny? What's your goddamn point?" Jack asked, angry at everything his boyfriend said.
"That you're not fucking expendable! That you can't just throw yourself into the way of danger and expect me to be okay with it! That you gave me a goddamn heart attack when you appeared and she swung her gun to greet you! That you're the best fucking thing that's ever happened to me and if you dare do anything like that again, I will kill you and make the body disappear! 'Cause I'm magic!" He seethed, biting out every word inches from Jack's face.
Jack's face had morphed throughout the rant until it left the small smile gracing his features now. He leaned in and kissed Danny long and hard, curling his hands into his hair the way he knew Danny loved. Danny gasped like a man starved for air, and wrapped his arms around the sleight's waist, pulling him close, needing to know he was alright. Jack held his shuddering body and kissed him until the shaking became shivering became calm. He pulled away and kissed his lips once, twice, three times before he pulled away further and leaned their foreheads together.
"I'm okay, Danny. I'm not leaving you."
Danny sighed. "Just…don't scare me like that again, okay? Henley and Merritt didn't know what the hell to do."
Jack sighed. "Danny, I, uh…can't promise I won't do the same thing if the situation comes up again."
His grip tightened. "What?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "What I mean is, I'm never going to watch you in danger and not try to do something about it. Now, I can promise I won't offer myself up as sacrifice. But I will fight for you. And good thing, too, since I'm the only one that can fight." He grinned cheekily. He looked around at the empty room. "When did they leave?"
"Sometime in that red haze of memory I can't access because I was so unbelievably pissed at you." Danny answered.
"Yeah, I noticed." Jack smiled, swiping his cheek.
Danny's eyes filled with grief and regret. "I'm so sorry about that. After you told me about your father, I swore never to hit you. But when the knock on the door came I don't know. I both hated you and loved you. Couldn't decide which I wanted to convey. So I conveyed both."
Jack shrugged. "It's fine, Danny. I don't need you to treat me like a china doll for me to know you're not my father. You're a good man with a long fuse who I lit tonight and let it burn."
"Not tonight," he answered quickly and Jack looked at him quizzically.
"You didn't light my fuse tonight. You lit my fuse when you started thinking you didn't deserve me or some stupid shit like that." Danny was pissed again, although not as bad. Jack could always tell when Danny started swearing. Usually, Danny preferred to be eloquent, even when insulting others. So when he swore, he was raving mad. It didn't happen often.
Jack groaned. "Henley, I'm going to kill you."
"Of all the stupid, idiotic ideas you've had, and I'm counting that time you decided a card trick with fire and gasoline could be fun, this is by far the worst! What's your reasoning here? Because as far as I'm concerned, I'm rude, arrogant, stubborn and controlling. While you are smart, funny, kind, charming, talented, and just all around beautiful. To me, you are the most wonderful thing on this earth and I'm just anxious for that day when you realize it and leave me!" Danny huffed.
Jack massaged his scalp through his hair and Danny involuntarily hummed. "You think I'm going to leave you? Don't you know how much I love you?"
Danny sighed and nodded. "Yes. I do. It just doesn't make sense. None of this makes sense."
Jack smiled. "I love you. You love me. What more needs to be made sense of?"
"Your inferiority complex, for one!"
Jack kissed his raving lover. "What inferiority complex? I have the love of the most amazing man I know. I'm feeling pretty awesome right now."
Danny quieted. "Well. Good. Then. Okay. That's settled."
Jack chuckled. "I love you Danny Atlas."
"And I love you Jack Wilder."
"They'll be coming soon." Daniel said as he stared out the window. He quickly walked to pack more of the things away, getting everything from the room they would need. His boyfriend sat on the chair near the fire place, amusing himself with simple card illusions. "Now, you're sure of the plan-"
The sleight rolled his eyes. "Yes, Danny, I know the plan. I've only had a year to memorize what to do."
"You cannot get caught." Both for professional and personal reasons.
"And I won't. You know as well as I do that the only two people who are going to get into this room are Rhodes and the Tuesday Tranny wonder." Jack and Merritt exchanged a grin at Agent Fuller's expense.
"The body?" Daniel asked, trying not to concentrate on the dead person they had to pretend was his boyfriend.
"Revved and ready to go, complete in a black shirt, leather jacket, and a copy of the blueprints of ElCorn." He tilted his head consideringly. "Sickest game of dress up ever."
"Guys." Merritt said from the window. "They're here."
The three horsemen bustled around, grabbing their bags. Jack stood and slipped his deck of cards into his back pocket. When Henley and Merritt walked out, he grabbed Danny's arm.
"Be careful, alright? We're going to be separated for a few hours and, I love you, but you can't fight for the life of you. Neither can Merritt or Henley." Jack warned, nervous. At no stage of this had they been separated and it scared him.
Danny rolled his eyes. "Listen, we'll be fine. You're the one actually fighting someone. So please, try not to get hurt. Please."
Jack leaned in and kissed Danny sweetly. "See you soon." He whispered against his lips before he pushed him out the door and towards the escape hatch.
Daniel was driving the cab and speeding down the highway on the bridge. This had to be timed perfectly. He saw Jack swerving, trying to evade the cops and make himself look more reckless. This entire portion of the plan had been driving him insane for months. As soon as his relationship with Jack had gotten more than platonic, about a month after meeting, he'd looked at this part in a new light. A "screw the plan, let's run away to Mexico" light.
He saw Jack make room and Merritt pull in behind him. Knowing this was his cue, he swerved into the other line to break their line of vision to the plan. As Merritt pulled the release on the car with the cadaver, he swerved back and watched as the car holding "Jack Wilder" flipped a few times on the bridge before lighting on fire.
The horsemen drove away as Agent Rhodes dove into the car to recover the paper and try to save "Jack." They pulled into the warehouse they were directed to go to. Daniel tore off the mustache and exited the car. Jack opened the door and stood, taking a deep breath in. Daniel immediately was there, looking for injuries. Jack rolled his eyes but let him, knowing the control freak wouldn't rest until he knew things were safe. He found a few bruises on his hands from the fight. He immediately lifted his boyfriend's shirt, knowing he would hid any injuries under clothes. Jack yelped in surprise and had no chance to conceal the bruise in the shape of a boot on his chest and a thinner bruise on his back from when he was struck down. Nothing else. Though it became very clear that Jack had won whatever scuffle went down, he did not come out unscathed.
Danny had never been quite so thankful for his boyfriend's history on the streets of New York.
Danny, finally able to relax, laid his head on Jack's chest. "You're safe." He breathed.
Jack nodded and stroked his hand through Danny's hair. "Yeah, love. I'm safe. You are, too. Thanks for that." Jack grinned. "So. How was it, making a room a rabbit box? You know I'm jealous I wasn't there for that."
Danny smiled into his chest. "Not too amazing. Just lowered a mirror over the safe. You'll see it when you break in." He tightened up. "Shit. I forgot about that."
Jack laughed. "Please. There won't be anyone for me to get in trouble with. They'll all be chasing down the fake safe. I'll be fine." He turned and walked to the warehouse. "And now, I think, there's a news broadcast to watch. I wonder what the press is going to do to commemorate my life. I hope it's a montage of pictures with thousands of people crying, 'He was too young!'" He cackled.
Danny followed, feeling like something large and solid had been lodged into his gut. Sure enough, every news channel had the footage of the chase with the car flipping into the air, and lighting on fire, before it exploded. They watched but no montage appeared. Only a brief mention of his name and that he was a magician. Jack pouted. "This is bullshit. When I actually die, I want something more heartfelt than this."
Danny recoiled and shook his head. He couldn't seem to stop thinking about what if Jack had been in that car and not the cadaver. What if he had, indeed, died today? And all that would be mentioned of his life, the one that changed Danny's, was his name and occupation? He shook a little, unknown to the others, as the broadcast continued.
"Ok, ready? I sent Jack out of the room for a little while. From here on out, he is dead. He died yesterday in a horrible crash." Henley spoke and tried to ignore how Daniel flinched with every word. She had to ignore it. "You need to believe that. Even though we know it's not true, you need to get into that mindset for this broadcast to work." Danny took a deep shuddering breath.
"Hen," he breathed shakily. "I can't do both. I can't react the way I would if he were really gone and also pretend that we're completely platonic. I can't."
She considered this and nodded. "Okay. Then let the world know how truly un-platonic you are-were." She corrected.
He winced at the past tense. "You want me to reveal our relationship?"
She nodded. "You know Jack wants that. But he couldn't before. Now with him 'dead' you can tell the world."
Danny put his head in his hands.
And then, Henley was playing the footage. The three watched the familiar scene and imagined Jack being in the flaming car. It wasn't hard with the reporter continuously stating, "Mr. Jack Wilder, one of the Four Horsemen magician group."
Henley was crying. Merritt was stone faced as he wiped away a tear and knotted his hands together. And Danny was a mess. A flick of the remote Henley was holding, and the camera started.
She took a deep, shaky breath. "Hi. Um. We're the Four-" She choked and shook her head. "Three." She cried. "Three Horsemen." All of this was real. She had jumped off script. Danny and Merritt assumed they were winging this.
"We," She breathed and tried to maintain calm but was failing. "We would like to speak on behalf of our friend, Jack Wilder. Our friend and brother. The little brother I never had. The little brother I always wanted." She choked up and refused to say more.
Danny was shaking. Full body tremors took over and he stood up. "I can't do this."
"Danny! Please!" Henley pleaded.
He spun to face her, his eyes ablaze with pain. "You do not get to call me that! Only he can call me that!"
Merritt put a hand on his shoulder and turned him to face him. "Daniel. You need to tell them what he is to you. It's time."
Still shaking, Danny nodded and sat. He turned to face the screen. "Jack Wilder is…was-" He managed before he had to switch to the past tense. His face crumpled. "The best thing to ever enter my life. And it's funny, because he would always tell me I deserved so much more than him." He shook his head. "But that's not possible, Jack! There is nothing more than you!" He cried and tore his hands through his hair. "So listen to me. I know everyone thought Henley and I were together. But we aren't. We never were! The truth is, I have been proud to call Jack Wilder my boyfriend for a year now. Our anniversary is this coming Saturday." He said bitterly.
A second of silence as Merritt and Henley tried to let that settle in.
"Jack said he wanted to be the next best magician. I don't know if he achieved that. But wherever he is now, I hope it's full of magic." He choked before he hanged his head.
"You have to understand. We won't- we can't stop now. This is bigger than all of us and we will see it through." Merritt said, before he wiped a tear away.
"Remember the name Jack Wilder at tonight's performance at seven o'clock." Henley ended before she clicked off the recording. Danny ran from the room
Henley looked at Merritt. "I think maybe this was a bad idea for his psyche."
Jack was lounging in the living room of the warehouse in some old grey sweatpants, a black T-shirt, and a pillow. He stuffed the pillow under his head as he spread out on the couch and watched a Tom & Jerry episode he found on TV. Not ten minutes into the episode, Danny appeared in the doorway.
"Hey," Jack smiled and sat up. "Broadcast done already? That was fast. Thought you guys would need more time to memorize the script."
Danny stayed silent and merely watched him.
Jack stood up warily. "Danny?"
Before Jack could react or even think, Danny had taken three big steps and pulled Jack into the fiercest kiss they'd ever shared, easily beating the kiss he'd given him after the punch. Of course, Jack was biased, because he had been punched that day.
Teeth gnashed, tongues tangled, and hearts accelerated. Jack couldn't seem to catch his breath and he didn't care. He ran his hands through Danny's hair and the resulting groan made him smile into the kiss. He eventually pulled away from his lover in need of air. He laid his forehead against the showman's. "What's wrong, Danny?"
"Henley called me Danny." Was his only answer, the voice sounding empty.
"O…K. And that's…bad?" Jack asked, dropping one hand from his hair to cup his cheek.
"I hate it when she calls me Danny. Only you. Only you, Jack." He repeated, whispering "only you" over and over and Jack was beginning to get worried. The showman started to hyperventilate, his need for control making this entire situation worse.
"Uh…Danny? Danny, please, talk to me. Why did her calling you Danny have you so upset?"
"Because for a couple of minutes you were gone!" He roared, gasping for breath, hands tightening around Jack's waist. "You were gone, dead, gone, and she called me Danny and you would never call me Danny again and that's yours. Only you can call me Danny."
Jack was frantic, pressing kisses all over Danny's face, against his eyelids, his cheeks, the corners of his mouth, everything. "Please. Danny, I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere, please calm down. Danny."
Danny began to calm down at his voice. "Can't leave me, Jack. Can't. You're mine. And I'm yours. I'm your Danny."
Jack nodded, still scared for his boyfriend. "Yeah. I am. I'm yours. You're mine. You'll always be my Danny."
Danny grew quiet, hands releasing their tight hold on Jack's waist. Jack led him to the couch and laid him down on the pillow, before locating a blanket. He'd let his lover sleep for a couple of hours before their show. In the meantime…
He ran to the room where they taped the broadcast. Merritt and Henley were still there, uploading the video.
"What the fuck did you do to my Danny?" Jack raged as he walked in.
They jumped and turned. "Your Danny?" Merritt asked, smiling.
"Don't you fucking start, Merritt! He just had a fucking emotional breakdown because Henley called him by a nickname! Which triggered a panic attack because of his need for control! Now, what the hell happened in here?"
Merritt and Henley exchanged looks. Henley sighed. "We went off script."
"What? Why? You took the time to write out a perfectly nice script! Literally, all you had to do was read it." He seethed.
"It was staged, Jack! And the people would have known it was staged! We needed real emotion, not words! We needed the tape to be authentic." Henley explained, losing her patience even though she knew they didn't have a leg to stand on.
Jack's face remained unmoved. It was the scariest he'd ever been to Henley and Merritt. They'd never, even when they'd seen him in a fight before, seen him quite so angry. "Let me see the tape."
So they showed him every heart-wrenching moment as Danny fell apart. Jack's face got more and more closed off. The two other horsemen were anxious about what this new, far more frightening Jack Wilder, was going to do.
When it was over, there was silence. Then Jack spoke. "While I can appreciate that the world knows I'm with Danny, and I'm touched that the authentic reactions were tears, I'm also so unbelievably pissed at you right now that I want to take every memory of living on the streets and put them towards making your demise painful, long, and merciless." He took a deep breath and shook his head. "And if you ever hurt him again like you just did, I won't care that you're the family I never had and always wanted, I will end you." He nodded once more to let them know he was done before he walked out.
Merritt scratched the back of his neck. "So. We, uh, should never piss the kid off again. Agreed?"
"Agreed," whispered a shaky Henley.
Danny was shaken awake by Jack. He smiled down at his showman. "Hey love. Wake up."
He slowly came to awareness. He remembered the events before falling asleep. The video, the kiss, and the breakdown. The smiling face of his sleight let him know he thought no less of him. Jack grinned and helped him up.
"I have to go break into the safe now. But I didn't want to leave before saying goodbye." Something in his voice made it clear that he was scared that Danny would wake up alone and breakdown again. Danny was glad. He's pretty sure he would've.
"Ok. What time is it?"
Jack rolled up the sleeve on his black button up and checked his watch. "About half past five. You guys had better start getting ready for the show." He pushed back Danny's hair and smiled.
Danny sat up slowly and scrubbed his face. "Listen. About before-"
"No need, Danny, I know-"
"No, let me finish." He requested and Jack fell silent. "I had to imagine life without you. I had to imagine you dead. And it killed me, Jack. It really did. I went crazy. I just…thought you should know how much you mean to me." He concluded, playing with his hands. He was nervous.
Jack shook his head. "Danny. I already knew." He leaned in and quickly kissed the nervous magician, before he stood. "Now, I have a safe to rob. And you have an audience to please."
"They're not going to be too pleased." Merritt said from behind him. He turned.
"What do you mean?"
"1,783,249 posts?" Jack screamed.
"Yep," Henley sighed as they stared at the screen. Their YouTube video had been up for maybe four or five hours and there were that many posts?
"Everybody's super sad you're dead, Jack. That's gotta be a confidence booster." Merritt commented. Jack spun with a deck of cards.
"So help me, Merritt, I will use these."
"Honestly, they're more sad because the surprise romance is dead. People." Henley scoffed.
Jack rolled his eyes. "Ok. So, maybe this show will be a bit more glum. But you still need to get ready for it." He closed the laptop with a snap. "And I need to go. Now." He kissed Danny goodbye and grabbed his leather jacket off the table before he took off to grab his tools.
Henley let out a breath she didn't know she was holding. "I've never been scared to breathe around Jack before."
"Know what you mean. When he held up the deck of throwing cards? No joke, thought he was going to slit my throat." Merritt said.
"What are you guys talking about?" Daniel asked as he pushed off the blanket.
"Jack. After you fell asleep, he came to us and tore us a new one. I've never been so scared for my own well being and it was because of the kid which somehow makes it scarier." Merritt told him, motioning towards where Jack had left.
"Jack? My Jack?" Daniel asked, confused.
"Yeah, your Jack is a bit of a badass when it comes to protecting his Danny." Henley added and shivered. "The look in his eyes when he told us he'd make our deaths long and painful was not one I was expecting to see."
"We poked mama bear. You don't go poking mama bear." Merritt explained, shaking his head.
"Jack?" Daniel asked.
"Yeah, and you just thank your lucky stars that not only is he on your side, but your safety is the only thing that can trigger it. We should just unleash him on all of our enemies. FBI? No, sir. We've got an angry Jack Wilder. Your guns mean nothing!" Merritt proclaimed.
Daniel sat back, stunned. "You guys were scared of a twenty-one year old with some cards?"
Henley stiffened. "You don't even know, Daniel. You don't even know."
"Sweet Caroline. Bum bum bum. Good times never seemed so good. So good! So good! So good!" Jack sang as he walked steadily into the room at ElkHorn. The man continued to play the "violin," locked in the middle of Beethoven's Concerto. The sleight's hoodie was pulled up over his goggles and his hands were sheathed in leather gloves. This was his talent. This was what he did. He picked up the hammer and spun before releasing the tool, letting it twirl before it finally landed against the mirror, shattering the glass into millions of pieces. There the real safe stood, never stolen, never moved. He carefully stepped over the broken glass and pulled out the first tool from his backpack he'd slung over his shoulder. The gun released the melding gel that would quickly light and break through the metal. So he generously applied the adhesive around the door of the safe. Next came the blowtorch- by far his favorite. Maybe it's because deep inside he's still a little kid, but this was a blowtorch. Blowtorches were cool. He followed the line of the adhesive around and watched as the metal groaned and fell.
Stacked inside the safe were billions of dollars, wrapped up nice for Jack's convenience. He pulled down the hood and tore away the goggles. "Holy shit," he breathed. It was so pretty. And for a conman like him? It was beautiful. Almost the most beautiful sight he'd ever seen.
But then he pictured Danny laughing and, nope, he was wrong. It was time to move.
The ride in the elevator was filled with mixed emotions. Awe that they had achieved a year's worth of work and preparation. Happiness that they'd almost been accepted into the Eye. Sadness that their year and some odd months together were almost up. And finally, a tinge of anxiety that they still hadn't succeeded yet.
"Daniel, in a moment of sentiment and vulnerability, I would like to speak with you." Merritt said from his own corner adjacent to Daniel and diagonal from Henley.
Daniel was leaning against the corner. He tilted his head. "Ok."
"When I first met you, I thought you were a…dick." He finally admitted.
A few seconds of silence. "But?" Henley asked, smiling.
Merritt looked at her, startled. "Oh, no, nothing, I was just saying."
Henley laughed and Daniel scoffed and shook his head. "Thanks, I'm touched."
"Well, it's from the heart." Merritt said, touching his heart exaggeratedly.
"Oh, I didn't tell you where I was touched." Daniel smirked and Henley laughed.
"God, what are we gonna do after this?" She asked them and Daniel shrugged.
"Whatever we want. Our directions run out after the show."
"You know," she mused. "If we get caught, or this was just a big play, I just want you guys to know-"
"I know," Daniel nodded, half-smiling at her. "Me too."
"Oh, this is getting a little too sentimental for me." Merritt joked, turning away.
Henley scoffed. "Oh, please. At the very least, you're gonna miss Jack. You liked that kid from day one."
Merritt turned back, swiped his hand across his nose, and nodded slowly. "Yeah, well, the kid's pretty cool. He's the only one of the bunch of you that never got mad when I analyzed him."
"I wonder why that is." Henley wondered and turned to Daniel. "You know."
He rolled his eyes. "Why do you assume I know everything about Jack?"
"Because you do. Now spill it." She grinned and he held a sour look for all of two seconds before he smirked and rubbed the back of his neck.
"He doesn't mind you analyzing him for two reasons. For one, it's because he doesn't have any secrets to keep. He's basically an open book anyway. And for two, because every time you analyze him, it means you're paying attention to him, and he loves that. Nobody paid attention to him when he was a kid. He's always saying how good he is at becoming anonymous. When you do your mentalism thing on him, it makes him feel seen." He shrugged and leant harder against the corner. Did he know everything about his boyfriend? Was that possible?
Merritt considered this. "You know, you're damn lucky there, Daniel. Because I can read the faces on everyone. I've seen into everyone's heads. And your boy? Doesn't have a bad bone in him." He coughed uneasily. "Unless someone threatens you. I saw all kinds of things on his face when he went at us."
Henley laughed. "Well, you know we can't split up. I need to see you three after this. We have not spent a year and half together just to split up now." She smiled at them. "We're the Four Horsemen after all."
"I guess it depends on what the Eye wants to do with us." Daniel said and soon the elevator made it to the top.
After packing the money into Thaddeus Bradley's car, and that was not an easy task by any means, Jack made his way into Central Park. He jumped the fence because he could. He figured there weren't many more chances to act rebelliously. Once they were initiated into the Eye, who knows what they'd be doing. He knew he'd be with Danny. That's it. He didn't know if Henley would go out and make a new life for herself or if Merritt would use this title to get fame and fortune. He just didn't know. And after so many years of being alone and having no one to come back to at the end of the day, this year and a half of having a family was a dream. He found his family. And now it was going to be torn apart? He didn't want to be the kid of the group and guilt everyone into holding his hand for the rest of his life, but really? He'd come so far just to lose them now?
Well, he sighed to himself. One things for sure. He wasn't losing Danny.
He checked his watch. The horsemen finished their last show about fifteen minutes ago. They'd be arriving soon. He started making his way towards the entrance of the park, where the gate was chained shut.
And lo and behold, there were the other three horsemen. Henley grabbed at the padlock and groaned. "Locked."
Remembering their meeting and feeling like they'd come full circle, Jack chuckled as he walked up. "Didn't I tell you?" He asked as they turned and saw his face as it appeared under a light. "Nothing's ever locked."
Henley began clapping. "Good job, Mr. Wilder!"
"You're a big boy now, Jack!" Merritt said and Jack scoffed through a laugh. He opened the padlock within seconds and pulled off the chain.
He opened the gate silently, and just barely caught Henley as she jumped into his arms, giving him a hug. Shocked, he stood stiff for a second before he snapped out of it and reciprocated, burying his face in her hair. "I'm gonna miss you, Jack."
Feeling torn apart, he forced a smile and pulled back. "Why, going somewhere?"
She shook her head. "I just don't know what's gonna happen with us." Danny and Merritt had walked through the gate so Jack closed it once more and loosely reattached the lock. "Our whole lives have been planned for a year. What now?"
Jack didn't have an answer, especially since he'd been asking that same question just a few minutes ago. He just sidled up next to Danny, took his hand, and smiled at him. "Hey. How'd the last show go?"
Danny squeezed his hand and they all started walking through the park. "Different. You weren't there. A lot of signs were being held with your name on them. One of them had our names together with a heart around them."
Jack swore. "Dammit, the things I'd do to see your name encased in a little love heart, I can't even begin to explain."
Danny did not look pleased.
"It's fine, I'll just draw my own tonight." The sleight decided and that cracked a smile from the disgruntled showman.
"If this was all just a plot for us to get mugged at 2:00 A.M in Central Park-" Merritt started.
"No, this is exactly where we need to be. I can feel it." Danny said and squeezed Jack's hand again. The message was clear. Where you are is exactly where I need to be.
"We just need to find-"
"This?" Henley asked, flashing her flashlight on a tree they'd just walked by.
"The Lionel Shrike tree." Danny murmured and let go of Jack's hand.
"With the card encased in glass." Henley added.
They all reached into their pockets to retrieve their respective tarot cards. Handing them to Henley, they attached and became translucent. She waved it over the card in the glass and it seemed to glow. Seconds later, the lights turned on and the carousel powered on.
Walking towards the carousel, they saw the dark outline of a figure. And the more they looked- Agent Rhodes?
"No way, I did not see this coming." Merritt said loudly and Dylan Rhodes smirked a little bit and shifted where he stood.
Astonished at this plot twist, they just looked at him. Danny cleared his throat. "So uh, when I said to always be the smartest guy in the room-"
"We were in complete agreement." Dylan smiled.
"Ok." Danny submitted, bowing his head.
"Henley." The man greeted.
Henley said nothing, just stared at him smiling. "I've never seen her speechless." Danny commented and Dylan nodded.
"I'll take that as a compliment then."
"Dude, I'm so sorry I kicked your ass, really!" Jack urged, eyes wide.
Dylan laughed loudly, finding the young kid's urgency amusing.
"I just wanted to inform you of the amount of effort it took to keep these infants on point." Merritt laughed, elbowing Jack, who looked up at the man he considered an older brother and grinned widely at him.
"Merritt, you're in." Dylan said simply, smiling.
"God bless." Merritt nodded.
Dylan started walking closer to the carousel. "The best magic is taking four strong solo acts and making one great act. And you did that. So welcome." He grinned and turned. "Welcome to the Eye."
He grabbed unto a pole as it came by and he was lifted unto the carousel. The magician's watched as he disappeared behind a pole. Smiling, Jack and Danny grabbed hands. They jumped unto the carousel.
"If you wouldn't mind getting it done before I'm dead and buried, Daniel, that would be stupendous." Henley complained, sitting on the couch in Danny and Jack's apartment. They'd all been set up with different identities, jobs, and houses. Thankfully, they all lived in the same general vicinity, so they could visit whenever. Dylan told them this was just a temporary thing, until things settled down. Cops were still searching for the elusive three. Jack was safe because the world still thought he was dead. One day when they came back out to the world, and performed once more, Jack would return with them. For now, he was happy to be anonymous. Well, anonymous to everyone but his family and Dylan.
Surprisingly, Dylan had turned out to be more or less a father figure to the four and Alma Dray became the mother Jack never had. She would visit and ask them to show her card tricks and they complied, because in their boring jobs, they'd lost all the magic. That's why the four of them would meet up every now and then, usually once or twice a week, just to have a little fun together.
Daniel turned to glare at her. "I'm trying, Henley, but it's actually not that easy."
She rolled her eyes. "Men."
"Ok, Henley, the day you come to me freaking out because you have to propose to Merritt will be the day I empathize with you." He pretended to think. "Oh, wait yeah, he's the one who has to propose to you."
That was another big change. After the horsemen went their separate ways, Henley and Merritt had gotten together. They didn't live together yet because their relationship was so new, but it was working so far, and the escape artist and the mentalist seemed very happy together.
She huffed. "Why not just wait until Jack asks you? You're both guys. Eventually he's going to get the same idea. If it's making you so nervous, wait for him."
"Because I don't want to wait until he gets the idea and gets the ring and decides to ask me. I want it to be official. Now." Daniel urged, sitting on the chair adjacent to the couch.
Henley sighed and took his hand. "Listen, Daniel. You and I have known each other for years. Years, Atlas! And even though I've only known Jack for two, I like to think I know a lot about the kid. He makes you happy. Before him, you never used to smile. Now, whenever he's around, you can't stop! And you make him so happy, Daniel. He grins at you like you're the most important thing in his universe. So please, do yourself and him a favor, and just ask him to marry you." She pleaded.
He looked torn and was about to respond when the door opened. "Hey, Danny! Guess what? I was able to pick pockets some guy's wallet at the bistro!" Jack poked his head in and smiled. "Hi, Hen. So, yeah, I know there's the whole moral issue, but the guy was an ass to the checkout girl and he didn't even tip. Just call me Karma." He disappeared behind the wall and they heard bags dropping in the kitchen. "Henley, I didn't know you were coming or I would have gotten you a sandwich. You can have half of mine, though. I got a bacon cheeseburger." He reached into the bag and pulled out two massive sandwiches from the little sandwich shop down the road that Jack would walk to after work. Henley gave a pointed look at Daniel and motioned to the kitchen. Do it, you dumbass.
He pleaded with his eyes. You could stay for dinner. I could do it after that.
One harsh shake of the head. No.
"Thanks, Jack, but I just stopped by to tell you and Daniel about our next meeting. Merritt wants to go bowling and honestly, I could not convince him otherwise." She smiled.
Jack laughed. "No problem, bowling sounds great. Same time?"
"We'll tell you the specifics later. Goodnight guys." She smiled and glared a little at Danny before she closed the door behind her.
Danny shakily stood and palmed the black leather case in his pocket, checking its presence for the millionth time since he bought it a week and a half ago. He paced the living room too scared for words, anxiously playing with a thread on his shirt. Then he remembered that Jack figured out his tell for nervousness eons ago and made himself stop. Jack was at the counter, laying the sandwiches on plates. He placed his bacon cheeseburger on a black plate and Danny's pastrami and cheese on a blue plate. Then he walked to the fridge and pulled out two beers.
He turned to walk into the living room with the beverages and smiled at Danny as he placed them at the table. "Don't look so petrified. Bowling may not be your strongest point, but you can't be worse than Henley."
It surprised a laugh out of him, a relief he desperately needed. He knew that Jack knew bowling wasn't the problem. But he wasn't going to mention it until Danny did. It was one of the reasons he loved him. One of the many. And suddenly, Danny knew what to do.
Before Jack could walk away to grab the food, Danny took his hand. And knelt to the ground. Jack's eyes went wide and his breath caught in his throat. Danny took a deep breath and realized, he wasn't scared anymore. So he smiled. A real, honest to God smile that had never graced his lips before he'd met Jack.
He released that breath. "Jack, I love everything about you. I love that you know all my tells. I love that you can be silent, graceful and swift in everything you do. I love that you're the biggest kid I've ever met. I love that you sing 'Sweet Caroline' when you're alone and no one's there to judge you. I just…" He took another breath and took the time to notice the grin that was threatening to break his boyfriend's face. He grinned right back. "I love you." He rummaged through his pocket until he produced the case. He opened the hatch and revealed a silver band with white gold embellishments. "So marry me, Jack Wilder. Please, will you marry me?"
Jack's knees gave out as he sank to Danny's height. He took his fiancé's face between both hands and kissed him senseless. When Danny could pull away, he smiled slightly. "Should I take that as a yes or was that a goodbye kiss?"
Jack laughed loudly. "Yes, Danny! Yes! It's a 100%, without a doubt, I'm gonna go call up some people, yes!" He kissed him again.
Danny finally placed the ring on Jack's left ring finger. Where it would stay for the rest of their lives