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A Necessary Condition

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Here's the thing: Tony Wonder didn't take a forget-me-now.

Pretending he did became part of the plan shortly after Gob casually mentioned he intended to take one, because how else are you supposed to respond to something like that? And okay, maybe he was a little pissed--pissed but not hurt because Tony stopped letting people hurt him shortly after he turned seventeen. It's just... He thought they were on the same page. The same page being the cusp of the kind of destined relationship that arises from what can only be described as a transcendent and somewhat magical sexual experience.

And who willingly forgets something like that?

Okay, maybe he was a little hurt.

Just not hurt enough to walk away, Tony swallowing his pride long enough to call Gob up and ask, forget-me-nows in play, if they were still on for their erstwhile but apparently forgotten sex date.

Gob not calling him back was never part of the plan.

It left Tony floundering for the first time in his life, so when Sally Sitwell, whom he genuinely likes but doesn't like, told him to get into a suitcase... Well, it seemed as good an escape plan as any. Besides, it wasn't like he knew the plan would turn into a cross-country flight trip that would see him abandoned in unclaimed baggage, weeks of lingering hurt--yes, hurt--now a festering wound, Gob Bluth a man he really wished he could hate.

Calling Gob wasn't part of the plan either, but there's only so much contorting a man can do before he cuts off oxygen to the brain. That was his excuse, anyway, because he's pretty sure he wouldn't have called had he been thinking clearly.

Just like he's pretty sure he wouldn't have called had he know Gob was going to pretend nothing was wrong. He certainly wouldn't have called had he known Gob would have a woman in the background. And so what if Gob got all coy and flirty the second he realized it was Tony on the phone. Weeks... Weeks of radio silence and Tony was just supposed to... what? Laugh it off? Pretend talking to Gob wasn't tantamount to pouring salt in the wound? Because now Tony was pissed. Pissed and just a lot little hurt. Hurt enough, anyway, to pretend he was calling to break things off.

And that's where it should have ended. That's where Tony should have put the Gob thing aside and moved on with his life. He was still a famous magician. He still had his act and his adoring fans and a kind of mutually beneficial relationship with the woman who'd funded the rebranding of his career. So it was fine. Certainly nothing worth crying over--which he couldn't have done even if he'd wanted because, as it turns out, spending the better part of a month confined to a suitcase isn't exactly conducive to fluid consumption.

So he wasn't going to risk dehydration crying over Gob. He wasn't going to lament the end of what he thought was going to be the best relationship of his life. He certainly wasn't going to mourn a night of frankly amazing sex. And so what if they were the same. So what if he'd spent the better part of his life disconnected from the people around him because no one got him only to have all of that change the second Gob agreed to steal some pies.

Besides, technically he was scamming Gob first, and if it weren't for Gob's freakishly talented tongue he would be the one ignoring Gob's calls while Gob crouched in a suitcase, too parched to cry.

So much for moving on.

This is the part of the story where he'd like to tell you it gets easier. That time heals all wounds or some such nonsense. Instead he spent the next few weeks pining for a man he was pretty sure couldn't care less; a man who'd fucked Tony over--somewhat literally--and then walked away, like the thing Tony thought existed between existed only in Tony's head.

And the thing about hurt is that it tends to fester. It gets twisted and ugly until you find yourself making plans. Carefully crafted plans. The kind of plans that lead to humiliation and defeat. The kind designed to destroy a man's career. The kind that might even land him another feature in Poof--which he maybe sort of needed what with his whole Fakeblock plan having gone awry.

But here's the other thing. Tony's not a good magician because he's mastered sleight of hand--Gob's so much better than him at that. And he's not a good magician because he's got any kind of grace on stage--again, there Gob has him beat. He's a good magician because he can plan. Because once he sets something in motion it very rarely leaves the tracks.

Which is why he finds himself locked inside a closet, waiting on the denouement of Gob's act, which just happens to be the opening of his plan, which, now that he's set it in motion, can't be stopped.

Sort of a shame, then, that he's changed his mind.

In hindsight, it's easy to see how he got it wrong. And sure, there's the possibility Gob's screwing with him again, but right now Gob has nothing to win and everything to lose so Tony's pretty sure that means he can take Gob's words at face value.

Also, he really likes the idea of a double act. That and the hotel room. He definitely likes the hotel room.

Unfortunately, there's a truckload of magic cement on its way down, so Tony says the only thing he can given the circumstances.

There's just one problem with your plan... I don't have a trapped door in here.

~*~

Later, after he's slipped out from under the float and disappeared into the crowd, he turns up at Sally's apartment so that she can chisel the now dry fake-cement-foam from his hair. Getting hit by the stuff wasn't part of the plan, but regret tends to make a person slow and so Tony ended up caked in it.

She hasn't asked him about it. Not yet, anyway. And maybe that's because she's preoccupied with her own stuff--some political cause, he thinks. Mostly, though, she's just really good about giving him the space he needs when he needs it. He'll tell her eventually, though only because they've got this mutual secret sharing agreement that is both surprisingly therapeutic and makes Tony think that, maybe, in another life, one in which his fear of commitment wasn't apparently rooted in repressed homosexuality, they probably would have ended up a genuine couple.

And anyway, he likes Sally. She gets him. Well, except for the magic thing, which she seems to think is an amusing hobby meant to tide Tony over until he gets started on his actual career. Aside from that, though, they really do have a lot in common.

He thinks maybe that might even make them friends, which is probably a good thing given that his un-repression homosexuality pretty much killed any interest he had in sleeping with her.

"Look, I know we've got this don't ask-don't tell thing going on, which, to be honest, is probably the only reason I tolerate you, but you haven't said anything for like twenty minutes and it's starting to creep me out. Plus, you're weirdly contemplative and, I'm going to be honest with you, Tony, thinking isn't one of your strong suits."

She tugs at a particularly stubborn bit of fake cement as she says it, Tony wincing because it's almost like she doesn't actually know the hair is attached to his scalp. He adds hair care to the ever growing list of things he won't allow Sally to do, right after leg shaving and three items down from making toast.

"Just... What the hell's going on? You've been weirdly distant, which is fine, we both agreed this was professional first and foremost, but you haven't performed in weeks and you wouldn't tell me anything about this latest act and now you come back covered in... What is this stuff, anyway? Styrofoam? Plus, you kind of look like someone just kicked your dog."

"I don't have a dog," Tony says before he gets the metaphor.

"Is this about me leaving you in baggage claim? Because we talked about that. And I apologized. And I left a message for your assistant. Your old assistant. And if you'd told me you'd replaced her, I would have called your new assistant instead, so..."

"No, that's not..."

"Is this about Gob Bluth then?" Sally presses, because she's sometimes way more perceptive than he gives her credit for.

Tony's inability to answer rather answers the question.

"I don't get your obsession with this guy. He's not even that great of a magician. I mean, if you're going to have a rivalry with anyone..."

Tony doesn't let her finish.

"He is a great magician. He just... gets too excited and misses the details sometimes. And anyway, that's not the point..."

"What is the point, then?" Sally asks, once again tugging painfully at his hair. "Look, I get wanting to destroy the Bluths. They're obnoxious. But why Gob specifically. I mean he's kind of a loser..."

"What the hell man," Tony says before he can stop himself. And then, because he's apparently bent on digging his own grave, adds: "You don't even know him."

How far back does it go, he wonders. He can pinpoint the exact moment he took notice of Gob. The exact moment he started following Gob's career. Was it more than just professional curiosity? Was it more than just friendly rivalry? He attended the man's wedding for fuck's sake. Slept with his would-be wife. How long has this been going on. How long has he been...

Obsessed.

"Look, I just..." Tony tries, but apparently there are limits to their mutual secret-sharing agreement because he can't quite bring himself to put all that he's feeling into words. Fortunately Sally, because she's Sally--and possibly because she doesn't care--doesn't press.

"Whatever it is, just don't draw attention to me. I really don't need people knowing we have a connection right now."

It's the sort of thing that would hurt if there were actual feelings involved. Since there isn't, Tony gives a brief nod, grits his teeth, and lets her finish with his hair.

~*~

The next time he hears from her it's in the form of a text.

What the hell are you playing at?

Tony presumes this means she's heard the news.

Hard not to, he supposes. It's getting plenty of media attention. First was the actual mishap--that's what they're calling it, like Tony's ever had an illusion go wrong. Then it was speculation as to his whereabouts, a thorough inspection of the closet having revealed the cement to be both fake and empty. One of the news clips shows Gob standing to the side, looking thoroughly dejected and more than a little betrayed. It's the first time Tony's actively hated himself for something he wishes he didn't do.

Forty-eight hours later, he still hasn't decided on his next course of action.

What he wants to do is call Gob, explain what happened, beg forgiveness, maybe ask if Gob was serious about that double-act/hotel thing. But his stunt kind of killed that future, what with Gob now out of both his metaphorical and literal closet. He's also pretty sure Gob won't forgive him, mostly because, were the situation reversed, he sure as hell wouldn't forgive Gob. The breaking each other's hearts thing he can handle--it sucks, but it's a forgivable offense--but he willfully destroyed Gob's career and that...

That's the kind of thing that gets a person kicked out of the Alliance.

Which means his grand finale, the one where he turns up alive and well two weeks later, can't happen. It leaves him hiding out in his actual closet, the one he keeps in a storage locked off the West Coast Highway in between shows, still stuck on where to go from here; still wishing he'd thought this through before jumping straight to revenge.

And actually, come to think of it, maybe that's the answer. Maybe he needs to give Gob a chance to settle the score. It would put them on even ground, anyway, two destroyed careers better than one. And okay, sure, it would mean walking away from an act he's put a lot of time and other people's money into, but sometimes you have to destroy something before you can rebuild.

The trick here is going to be convincing Gob he doesn't remember a thing.

As plans go, it's a pretty good one. He's feeling pretty confident about it, anyway, but before he can dial Gob's number--before he can bring a new set of forget-me-nows into play--a sharp clang echoes from outside the storage locker. It's followed by the obnoxious scraping of metal against metal, natural light spilling in from outside. Literally, and maybe metaphorically, trapped inside his own closet, Tony watches through the louvered doors as half a dozen or so heavily armed police officers file into the room.

Unlike the Hot Cops, whom Tony occasionally hires to use in his act, these ones are wearing an appropriate amount of clothes.

It doesn't take them long to find him, and before he's quite figured out what he did wrong--aside from the whole disappearing thing that is--he finds himself being arrested for the murder of a woman whose name only vaguely rings a bell.

Somewhere, in the distance, The Sound of Silence begins to play.