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Tony Wonder had a problem.

Actually, he had several problems. Firstly, he was in need of a new assistant for his magic act, after his former assistants had experienced various issues with sabotaging his tricks, failing to move chairs when he'd repeatedly asked them to, and being his brother's widow. (It was bleeped up.)

He was also in need of a new act. The bread theme was played out, and starting to become old news as it attracted imitators. (The Stupendous Alex was threatening to steal his thunder with the "cheese into mice" thing, plus he'd heard word through the grapevine that Roger Zappi had plans to bake himself into a giant pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving.)

Suspicious that his former assistants had been sharing his secrets, Tony elected to set up an account on the Magical Assistant Network, a website that advertised itself as having been the internet's number one gathering space for magicians' assistants since the late 1990s.

Unfortunately, the forum software had also remained unchanged since the late 1990s, and his initial attempts at picking a username, DidSomebodySayWonder, TonyWonderFan, ILoveTonyW and WonderFan were all rejected for being too long. However, he was able to salvage the latter with the use of a cunning wand-related pun, and began his stealth campaign to insinuate himself among the network of magicians' assistants and discover what they knew about his act.

WandaFan: Hey, you guys, I'm a big fan of Tony Wonder! What do you know about his act?

What Tony was unaware of was that, due to numerous misunderstandings caused by the large sparkly site entry banner urging users to 'Visit our forums to find the MAN you've been looking for', most of the site's original membership had long since decamped to a private Yahoo group, leaving the forums largely devoid of activity except for posts by gay men looking for dates and the persistent spamming of acting CVs by a user named DrFunky. But Tony did eventually get a response from one forum user.

beefarms: Oh, wow, I'm a huge fan of Tony Wonder!

They had a lot in common.

And as they chatted, they soon discovered even more points of commonality.

beefarms: My legs left me, so in the end I had to get a guy with really smooth legs to do it.

WandaFan: Same! I had to paint my nails and be my own legs.

beefarms: You sound hot.

This was the point when Tony first realised that he'd unwittingly formed a connection with one of the many lonely gay men looking for dates now using the forum. But then he further realised that he could turn the situation to his advantage. No one else in the Magician's Alliance was targeting the gay market. If he kept up the illusion of being gay, he could get the inside information on what gay men were after and tailor his act to match.

Admittedly, this phase of the research was actually concluded fairly quickly. (As it turned out, gay dudes were mostly after other gay dudes.) But nonetheless, he found himself keeping up his correspondence with the man he only knew as beefarms. There was a strange kind of freedom in pretending to be somebody else, just as he'd experienced when he'd first started painting his toenails to play the role of his own lovely assistant.

And so Tony found himself confiding secrets he had never shared before.

WandaFan: You ever just, like, pound a packet of Cheetos into powder and then just eat the Cheeto dust?

beefarms: Same! Oh, wow. Hey, do you ever get, like, a whole bunch of fun-sized candy bars and then just pretend they're really normal-sized and you're a giant?

WandaFan: Same!

It seemed there was no end to the things that he and beefarms had in common. And soon, Tony found himself saying this.

WandaFan: Hey, maybe we should meet up sometime.

beefarms: Yeah, that would be great! And then we could have sex.

Obviously, Tony would have to find some way to avoid committing to this while still somehow preserving the illusion of being gay.

WandaFan: We could totally have sex!

(Apparently he was planning to think of one later.)

But that was when he received an unpleasant surprise.

beefarms: Oh, wait, no, I can't. I'm getting married. Her family are super religious, so they're down on the whole 'having sex with other people' thing.

WandaFan: Her?

Tony was deeply betrayed that the man he'd been lying to about being gay had been lying to him about being gay.

beefarms: Yeah, um, funny story actually. I said "marry me", and she thought I meant, you know, "marry me", so now I'm going to put on a big show at the wedding for all her family and try the Christian thing again.

Tony was crushed... but then he realised that he could put on a big show of his own. He'd spent weeks on the forum creating an illusion of being gay - well, now, he could use his illusion.

(Only not in those exact terms, due to a pending copyright infringement lawsuit over DVD titles.)

*

eighteen months later...

Gob Bluth was beginning to suspect that his days as a member of pop star Mark Cherry's entourage were numbered.

Actually, Gob had begun to suspect this fact every day for the past three weeks. However, he was caught in the clutches of what was known on the street as a roofie circle, an endless cycle of taking Forget-Me-Nows in a futile effort to erase the memory of a night before that was actually many, many nights before.

Hence, he was also unaware that on every one of those days, he had chosen to relieve the boredom of being shut outside the rest of the group's activities by checking old internet haunts on his phone. Therefore it seemed a lot more like fate when he logged in to the MAN forums to discover that an old acquaintance had also just checked in.

*

nineteen months earlier...

"Gob, why don't you do some work, instead of hanging around the office on your phone all day?" Michael demanded.

Stupid Michael.

"I'm working!" Gob insisted. "I've set myself up with a secret identity on the Magical Assistant Network so I can find out if the Alliance has been telling them all not to work with me."

Michael looked over his shoulder at the screen. "Right, 'Bee Farms'. Well, nobody's going to see through that cunning layer of deception."

"It's subliminal advertising." Michael would never understand the finer intricacies of running a business. Gob checked the replies to his forum messages. "Hey, this chick named Wanda is trying to cyber with me." They'd only been talking for a few days and she was already telling him about her sexy legs. He typed out a reply.

beefarms: You sound hot.

*

nineteen months later...

As Gob clicked on the 'Visit our forums to find the MAN you've been looking for' banner, he spotted that the list of other users currently online held a familiar name. Keen to show off his new Hollywood lifestyle (actually Mark Cherry's Hollywood lifestyle) he hurriedly typed out a private message.

beefarms: Hey, WandaFan, are you still around? Want to hook up?

WandaFan: Beefarms! Hey. I thought you got married?

beefarms: I couldn't go through with it. I tried to put on a big show at the wedding but it all went wrong and she said it was a mockery and ditched me. But at least I didn't spend the rest of my life trapped in a box, right?

Gob preferred to gloss over that dark time in his life and focus on the current exciting new chapter - unaware that over the course of dozens of iterations of the Forget-Me-Now cycle it had in fact become a tedious old chapter, and his new friends' tolerance of him was growing thin.

beefarms: You should come out to Malibu! I've been partying with a bunch of guys every night. It's wild.

And so it was agreed that he and Wanda would meet at the club where Mark Cherry was performing the next night, and have a raucous good time.

Unfortunately, Gob subsequently took his regular nightly Forget-Me-Now, and promptly forgot all about having made any such arrangement.

*

the next day...

Gob was beginning to get bored hanging around in a back room at the club. The guys had asked him to go on ahead and book them a private room, but he guessed that they'd gotten delayed somehow, because it had been almost an hour and they still hadn't arrived to join him. He was about to visit some old websites he hadn't been to in a while when he spotted a familiar face outside the doorway.

"Tony Wonder!"

Tony pointed at him with both hands. "Did somebody say... Wonder?"

(That one was a freebie.)

Tony sauntered into the room. Damn, that guy was so cool. "Haven't seen you in a while," he said. "Thought you were doing the Christian magician thing?"

"Yeah, that... wasn't really my scene," Gob said, and changed the subject fast. "But hey, Hollywood!" He tried for a casual shrug and showered coins across the floor from his sleeves. He kicked them under the couch. "There's so much money flying around I can't keep track of it." Smooth patter. That was the key. "So, um, what are you doing here?"

Tony sat down beside him, leaning forward to talk over the thumping music. "I'm supposed to be meeting this guy here named 'Beef Arms'," he said.

"Beef Arms?" Gob scoffed. "What kind of a name is 'Beef Arms'?" Then he remembered. "Oh, wait, you're the gay magician now." He'd collected all the magazine articles about it, including that issue of Attitude he'd had to send off for from England.

Tony tilted his head in closer. "Between you and me, that's just a gimmick. I'm not even gay, but the audiences eat that stuff up." He arched his eyebrows pointedly, then stood up. "Let me get us some drinks."

*

It was dangerous for Tony to confide this much to Gob, but he had a plan.

Initially, this plan had been to cement his cover as gay by meeting his internet friend Beef Arms for a date. At the end of the evening he had intended to slip Beef Arms a Forget-Me-Now to create the impression they had spent a drunken night together. (It would mean some naked cuddling and a slight possibility of morning sex, but hey. Tony was a pro.)

However, since Beef Arms had apparently stood him up, he saw this unexpected encounter with Gob Bluth as an opportunity to repurpose the plan. He would have the chance to share the secret of his greatest illusion with a fellow magician who would appreciate his craft, and then, through cunning application of a Forget-Me-Now, make sure that Gob didn't share it with anyone else.

Of course, to be able to slip him the Forget-Me-Now unnoticed, Tony had to get him drunk enough that he wouldn't notice the taste in a drink. "I hope you like wine," he said, bringing the bottle with him to the back room.

"I love wine!" Gob said, eyes widening as he sat up.

"Same!"

Tony poured them both glasses of red - the perfect drink to hide a dissolving Forget-Me-Now.

"So how did you come up with the whole 'pretending to be gay' thing, anyway?" Gob asked, gulping from his glass.

Tony sat down close beside him to speak confidentially. "Turns out gay men love my act." He indicated his trademarked 'W' beard. "It's the facial hair. Good grooming. Plus I moisturise." He pointed to his forehead. "Go on, feel."

Gob trailed his fingers over Tony's skin. "Wow. Smooth."

As Tony drank wine and shared his most intimate secrets with one of the few men in the world who could truly understand him, he began to experience a feeling that he'd never felt before.

Unfortunately, he misidentified this as another feeling he'd never felt before: guilt.

"So how do you meet chicks?" Gob asked, by now lounging back drunkenly on one of the back room's plush couches. "I mean, if they think that you're gay, they're not gonna bleep you, they're gonna, they're gonna want to go shopping in boutiques or whatever."

"See, I'm ahead of the game there, because I love shopping in boutiques," Tony told him.

"Same," Gob breathed, amazed.

It seemed they had any number of things in common - including one that Tony planned to take the opportunity of the upcoming amnesia to get off his chest.

He sipped his wine. "Anyway, the gay thing is great for meeting women who've decided that they hate all men," he said. "No competition, right?"

"Smart," Gob said, nodding along with his mouth slightly open.

"Like at your wedding," Tony said.

"You bleeped one of the bridesmaids at my wedding?" Gob asked.

"Actually I bleeped the bride," he admitted.

Gob snorted laughter. "Oh, good, 'cause I was going to say, those bridesmaids..." He squinted in confusion. "Wait, which one was the bride again?"

Tony moved a vague hand in front of his face. "Oh, you know, she was sort of..."

"Bland?"

He snapped his fingers. "That's her! I bleeped Bland."

"Her?" Gob said.

"Yeah." He wrinkled his nose. "Worst mistake ever!"

"Shyeah. I almost married her." Gob laughed. "Imagine: me, marrying her." He laughed harder. "I mean, imagine us being married. I mean, imagine: me, and her? Being married? I mean, that, th-that, that's, that's..." He took another hasty gulp of wine.

Tony tilted his head sideways where he was slumped down in the seat to look up at Gob. "She do that dead fish thing with her tongue when she was kissing you?" he asked.

Gob frowned a little. "Who?"

"You know..." What was her name again? He'd had it a moment ago... "Fish. Did Fish do the dead tongue thing with you?" That had been weird. And maybe kind of explained why Gob hadn't married her. Tony had been wondering.

Gob appeared to have lost all memory of his near-miss with matrimony. "What tongue thing?"

"Oo nuh, thuh-" It was hard to both explain and demonstrate with his tongue at the same time. He beckoned Gob to lean in closer. "This thing." He tugged Gob down and planted an open-mouthed kiss on him.

There was a moment of awkward silence as they both froze with their lips pressed together. Tony looked at Gob. Gob looked at him. Eventually, they peeled apart.

Gob coughed. "So, uh... you're really totally straight, right?" he said.

"Totally," Tony said. He spread his hands. "Hey, I'm just doing all this so I can sell tickets to my act and bleep women."

"It's an illusion!" said Gob.

"Exactly!" That sounded right.

Gob stuttered laughter. "Hey, you know, you know what would be really funny?" he said. "I should, I sh- I should just make out with you, and then all the women here will see that I'm so into women I'm even willing to make out with a gay guy to bleep women."

"Great plan!"

(It was possible that both Gob and Tony had absorbed a certain amount of misinformation by watching the StraightBait movies, a series that postulated that the ultimate expression of heterosexuality was being willing to have sex with another man in order to win over a woman.)

"You know what, I am so lucky I ran into you tonight instead of this guy Beef Arms," Tony said. "I was gonna try and pull off the illusion with a partner who wasn't in on it - mistake!"

"Yeah, and then you'd have been making out with a gay guy!" Gob said.

"I know!" Wow, he'd dodged that bullet. Making out with a straight guy was much better. And he was still going to slip Gob the Forget-Me-Now to make sure he didn't spill the secret behind Tony's act, so he wouldn't even remember they'd done it.

There was just one other loose end that needed tying up. Tony pulled out his phone. "I'd better tell Beef Arms not to bother showing up after all."

Gob looked over his shoulder as the forum banner loaded. "Hey, is that the MAN website? I cybered with this hot chick there once, but she broke up with me when she found out I was getting married."

"Yeah, it's all just gay guys looking for dates now," Tony said, shaking his head.

"I should probably delete my account," Gob said, shifting away and pulling out his own phone. "I haven't even been on there for years."

Still slightly hurt that his intended date had stood him up, Tony composed a brief private message to Beef Arms.

WandaFan: Hey, beefarms, how come you didn't show tonight? That's not cool.

He hit 'send', only to receive an error message in return.

"Hey, he just deleted his account!" he said indignantly.

Gob looked up from tucking his phone back into his pocket. "Ha, what a loser," he said. "Couldn't even face you after he stood you up. I would never do that," he said earnestly.

"Yeah, well, that's why..." Tony put an arm around Gob's shoulders and raised his voice for the benefit of any passing audience, "I'm dating you and not him."

Gob squeezed him back. "That's us! Just two gay guys on a date."

"Our totally gay date!" He leaned in close to whisper. "I'm not actually gay, though," he reminded Gob.

"Yeah, me neither," Gob whispered back.

"We should make out now!" Tony said, louder.

"Yeah, we should!"

Tony felt a brief flutter in his stomach as he leaned in. He didn't usually get stage fright - but then, pretending to be gay with Gob Bluth was surely going to be the performance of his life.

*

After the first twenty minutes of their makeout session, Gob was beginning to slightly suspect that Tony Wonder wasn't actually straight. There were several small but telling clues, such as the hand down the front of his pants, and the fact that Tony kept using his powers of magical misdirection to put Gob's hands in places Gob was fairly sure they couldn't have just gotten on their own.

This suspicion sent him into a tailspin of panic. He'd thought it had been safe to relax and enjoy himself since he was just making out with another straight guy, but now it turned out he'd been enjoying making out with a gay guy! And even worse, Tony would think he was nothing but a dumb How'd He Do Dat who'd been fooled by his "I'm not really gay" illusion.

(Although in Gob's defence, it had been clever. A gay guy pretending to be a straight guy pretending to be a gay guy? That was why Tony Wonder was the best.)

But Gob didn't need another humiliation after the disaster with the wedding escape. Fortunately, he still had one Forget-Me-Now in the container in his pocket. All he needed was an opportunity to slip it to Tony, and then he would forget all about how easily Gob had been fooled.

The next time they broke apart, Gob quickly jumped up. "Wine! We should have more wine."

Tony looked a little dazed for a moment, then his gaze abruptly cleared. "Yeah! Wine. Let me pour you some." As he turned his back on Gob to pour some out from the bottle, Gob took the opportunity to add the Forget-Me-Now to Tony's half-full glass.

He accepted his own glass when Tony handed it back to him, and raised it in a toast to make sure Tony drank. "Here's to our gay date!"

"To our gay date!" Tony said, clinking glasses with him.

They both drained their drinks. But just in case Tony somehow retained some memory of this after all, Gob leaned in speak in a low voice. "I knew this was really a real gay date all along," he confided.

Tony's eyes widened. "You... wanted to go on a gay date with me?" he said.

Gob's eyes widened in turn. "You... wanted to go on a gay date with me?" Tony Wonder really wanted to gay-date him? But he was Tony Wonder.

"I... like you?" Tony whispered uncertainly.

"Same," Gob breathed reverently.

And that was when they both slipped into roofie-induced unconsciousness.

*

some time later...

Tony woke up on a couch in an unfamiliar club with a headache, and a number of pressing questions. Where was he? Had he met up with Beef Arms yet? And was that baby-faced singer Mark Cherry who had just walked past?

One of the guys with Cherry glanced briefly into the room and then gave him a sudden shove to hurry him on faster. "Mark! Get away! Let's get out of here."

A guy Tony hadn't yet noticed was crashed out on the couch beside him lurched up and waved his arms at the group outside. "Hey, guys, guys, are you looking for me? I'm right here!" He jumped up to chase after them, apparently oblivious to the way they speeded up to escape.

Huh. Getaway, just like the song. Wow, some people really were hopelessly hopeless. Tony shook his head.

Absently humming, "Go away, Getaway, stay away, Getaway..." to himself, he turned his attention back from the retreating entourage to the room he'd woken up in. Had he really drunk all that wine by himself? No wonder he couldn't remember anything.

But what had happened to his date?

He checked the MAN forum on his phone, and found he had a bounced-back message and the beefarms account had been deleted. He guessed Beef Arms must have had another religious crisis and stood him up, and he'd stayed here at the club and gotten trashed until he passed out.

Well, that was probably for the best. He wasn't even sure why he'd agreed with meet up with Beef Arms anyway. It wasn't as if he was really into dudes. There was no way he would have enjoyed going on a gay date.

He got up to leave the club, stumbling out into the night, and narrowly avoided being run down by a limo on his way across the street as he headed for home.