Somewhere around Vienna, at the turn of the 20th century
"Are you sure it's here?"
"Yes, the chinaman was quite definite about it. Says his employer never leaves it out of his sight."
The whispers into the coal-black night were nigh inaudible, yet rang like tolling bells in the ears of the two men skulking in the darkness. Men, one of which sneaked towards the house crouching, tiptoeing, careful not to make unnecessary noise, while the other walked perfectly up-right beside him, happily ignoring any anxious gestures to have him follow his companion's example.
Their white shirts stood out like two sore thumbs against the spacious surroundings anyway, so Will didn't really see much point in crawling around, when all Eisenheim had to do was to glance out the window and they'd be discovered.
Reaching said window, Will leaned on the wall and crossed his arms over his chest, apparently in perfect harmony with the whole world. His eyes twinkled amusedly in the faint light coming from the house at the sight of his partner kneeling, head bent back so that his nose rested on the sill he was clutching to hold himself up to see.
"Do you see it?"
"Shhhh! Yes, I see it, be quiet." Shooting Will a glare, Jack got to his feet, brushing dirt off his knees. The window was definitely too high up the wall.
"Mmm?" Trying to make himself as invisible as possible, Jack peeked through the side of the glass with one eye, half of his face pressed against the wall.
"Why can't we just go in and get it?"
"What fun would that be?" The sheer glee of Jack's smile, aimed at Will, made him want to tackle the incorrigible bastard and kiss the smirk madly. Unfortunately, this was not the time or the place.
Growing serious, Jack continued his reasoning, "Besides, I don't want to hurt him. The man probably has enough problems of his own, you saw the police harassing the poor bugger." Jack returned to his prying, then suddenly reached out and pulled Will closer and lower, pointing into the room enthusiastically. "There, look. See?"
Inside the house sat a man by a table filled with scattered papers, tools and tidbits, frowning deeply at a familiar compass in his hand.
"Now what?" Will pulled Jack down to his eyelevel, who only stared at him blankly for a second.
"I dunno, I only wanted to make sure he has it," and Jack was back up.
"But you said--" Will's exasperated hiss was cut short by the startled look on Jack's face. "What is it, Jack?" Will popped his head up to see what Jack was seeing. "Oh…"
Eisenheim, The Illusionist had closed the compass and was obviously listening intently. When he started to rise from his chair, Jack hastily tugged at Will's arm, growling silently just above a whisper. "Come on, Will. Quick, run!"
Turning in his crouching position, Will watched Jack rushing towards the woods, and shrugged. In no particular hurry, Will rose and took a step, disappearing before his foot touched the ground.
Noticing something clearly missing, Jack slowed down and finally stopped altogether upon not finding Will anywhere in sight. After a moment of desperate peering into the darkness, Jack listed back when realization hit, and muttered, "Bloody show off."
Picking twigs out of his hair, Jack arrived at the spot where they'd left their coats and hats, and stomped straight to Will. Standing at attention in the flickering light of a freshly lit lantern, Will held out Jack's coat to assist and fought to keep his face in order, while Jack regarded him with a death-glare.
Wordlessly, Jack allowed himself and his hurt feelings to be dressed as overdramatically as he could muster, until Will took his hat off the branch it had been hanging from, and stepped in front of Jack.
"That was for omitting facts. You know I hate when you do that."
Jack looked at Will sheepishly, opening his mouth to say something, but was interrupted by Will latching his lips on Jack's, hugging him tightly to himself.
Genuinely surprised by the unexpected show of emotions, it took Jack almost a second to respond to the kiss.
Parting with a delighted sigh coming from both the lovers, Will still held Jack close. Looking deep into his eyes, he explained; "And that was for bringing me to Vienna."
The church bell announced midday when Will stood behind the door leading to the backroom of the theatre, gesticulating to shoo Jack back behind the corner that he constantly peeked around, despite it being his very own idea that Will should go in first. Alone.
Not believing for a moment Eisenheim would let him in, not, when the illusionist had a reputation of never letting anyone close to his secrets, Will straightened his vest, adjusted his bowler, and knocked politely on the door.
Just as expected, there was no answer. Nothing revealed that there even was anyone in the house, except that Jack and Will had witnessed with their own eyes the magician going in.
Will tried knocking again, louder, conjuring a charming smile on his lips, just in case.
Still nothing happened in response to his best efforts, so he took a step back and eyed the wall of the theatre. Checking the street for onlookers and finding none, he sucked in air and truckled against the lack of possibilities.
Then he promptly vanished into the wall.
"How did you do that?" Eisenheim, standing right there in the room the door led to, didn't seem surprised nor shaken by the strange happenstance. In stead, a cunning look appeared to his features as he narrowed his eyes, sweeping a deft hand over the wall, then tapped it here and there, down to the floor in silence.
Apparently not finding what he was looking for, Eisenheim questioned Will from his stooped position. "Have you been here before?"
"No, I have not," Will replied, patiently abiding to the keen gaze sweeping over him, then the wall again, trying to find something, anything that would give away his secret.
"Who then is your assistant?" The illusionist seemed to be entertained by Will's presence, straightening himself and brushing his hands together to rid them of any dust.
Before Will could answer, both men jumped at the loud, hasty knock on the door.
"You want to meet my assistant?" Will strolled to the door and opened it casually, like he'd been expecting visitors to his very own house.
"Assistant?" A sharp hiss, designed for Will's ears only, greeted him the moment the door cracked, followed by a sleek figure in a top hat. Instantly upon seeing Eisenheim, the newcomer melted into a wide, all too friendly, gold-speckled smile.
Alarmed, Eisenheim's demeanour changed to protective, his voice demanding. "Who are you? Why are you here? Did Inspector Uhl send you to spy on me?"
"Actually," Jack started, looking over at the table filled with all kinds of interesting items, following as Will poked at a small orange tree with great interest, ending up with one of the fruits in hand and glancing around in alarm before hiding it discreetly behind the jardiniere.
"We're here to make you an offer," Will completed Jack's sentence, stepping next to Eisenheim and throwing a casual, placating arm around the man's shoulders. Pulling a sealed envelope from his breast pocket with his other hand, he steered their stance, blocking Jack from their view.
"I will give you this," Will wiggled the letter, "In exchange for the directions of your greatest illusion."
Eisenheim scanned over Will's hand briefly, and scoffed, "It's impossible. Secrets of the trade, I never reveal them to anyone."
"And you expect me to believe you're not interested in how I did that?" Motioning to the brick wall he had recently used as an entrance, then waving the envelope again, Will noted his words starting to make a difference.
Standing still like a block of wood, Eisenheim mulled the situation over, his eyes not once lifting from the intriguing paper. Slowly, the magician raised a hand and touched the seal with his fingertips, then took a hold of it.
Will didn't let go right away, but yanked the envelope a little as if testing Eisenheim's grip. Feeling it being sufficient so that the paper wouldn't fall, Will allowed Eisenheim to take it, tightening his arm around the man's shoulders for a moment. "Good choice Mr. Eisenheim. You're about to enjoy one of the most extraordinary experiences a man can ever have. I promise."
A loud ruckus sounded behind them and Eisenheim whirled around, alerted, breaking loose from Will's friendly hold.
Both Eisenheim and Will stared at Jack who stood with his hat in his hands, a yellow folder peeking out of it with ridiculous obviousness. Jack himself looked like a raccoon caught rummaging the cupboards.
Stark, cold silence befell into the room while Eisenheim rapidly put the pieces together in his mind.
"You can tell the Inspector that if he doesn't have the decency to come here in person, he can expect to get nothing from me."
Seething with barely held anger, Eisenheim stepped briskly to stone-still Jack and snatched the folder from the hat. "Especially," he continued in clipped tones, "when he is stupid enough to send common thieves in his stead."
The illusionist walked to the door and unlocked it, holding it open with his posture stiff and his head up high.
"Before we leave," Will halted Jack by the arm and turned to Eisenheim. "You still have my trick. It would stand to reason you gave something in exchange."
"You're right, it would stand to reason." Thinking that it was a great chance to cause Inspector Uhl a grave disappointment, Eisenheim moved to take a small red ball from the table, then handed it to Will.
Turning his back to the men, the magician explained the proceedings. "Put the ball in your fist, raise your hand against your forehead. Concentrate on it, form a mental picture." Eisenheim paused to wait for a moment. "Have you got it?"
"Put your hands in front of you."
Eisenheim turned again to face the men and merely glimpsed at Will's extended fists. "It's in your right one."
Will gave Jack a sharp look as if suspecting him having given it away, then thought better of it and asked, "How?"
"Your hand. When you hold it up the blood drains from it. It will be paler than the other one, every time."
Taking the ball from Will, Eisenheim showed his arm to the open door and bowed slightly. "Now, gentlemen, it would be best if you left." Looking directly into Will's eyes, he added, clutching the envelope tightly in his hand. "I would appreciate if you didn't come back."
Without another word, the illusionist pushed the duo out, shutting the door firmly behind them.
The Captains strolled along the cobble-stoned street of Vienna, looking to all the world they were on a casual walk, perhaps seeing the sights, enjoying the beauty of the city, maybe looking for a place to sit down and get off their feet for a moment.
It might've had something to do with the cheerful appearance of the two.
Once they'd gotten to a far enough distance, Jack dared to talk about it, nudging Will to his side gently. "That went better than expected."
"At least it didn't turn into a catastrophe. Nice moves, birdie, very smooth." Will's voice carried the clear tone of teasing, his whole presence shining the light of relief and felicity that so often happens when everything goes according to plan.
"Ta, dove," Jack lift his hat assertively. "You weren't so bad yerself."
"Did you get it?"
"Yes, of course I did." Jack informed with distinct smugness, pulling the compass out of his pocket and tossing it to Will.
"Do you think he knew how to use it?" Will opened the box and watched the needle turn as if magnetized, showing him the set course of his desires. He grinned fondly, pleased with the result and snapped the lid shut, passing it back to Jack.
"Probably." Jack shrugged pocketing the gadget again. "Men like that usually figure these things out sooner than you'd think." He gave Will a short look, amused by his own thoughts before revealing them out loud; "Especially when it comes to the matters of them beating things…"
Will's smile sounded through his words as he recalled the finding of his own heart; "Took you long enough to spill it out. You could've saved us from a lot of trouble had you told me you knew the location all along."
"Well then you wouldn't be here, would you? Or rather, I wouldn't be here. Either way." For a few paces Jack dared to hold Will's hand, their fingers twined, before the pressure of the society demanded them to let go and fall back under the disguise of just a pair of harmless bachelors.
Jack waved the thought on its way with an airy hand, promptly changing the subject with a blandishing tone. "Say, William." He cleared his throat, buying time to choose the proper way to approach the matter. "You think I could learn that trick of yours, that… *SPLOCK*- thing you do…" Illustrating said trick with a leap, Jack then turned around swiftly, waiting for Will to pass him, and added to the diverging back; "…so remarkably well, eh? What say you?"
"No?" Jack rushed to catch up, utterly perplexed by the stern answer. "Why not? You ga-"
"No, Jack." If the words had been said to anyone else, the colour of the voice would have been enough to imply that the conversation was as good as over. However.
"But you gave it to Eisenheim! What's so special about him?!" He tried to cram every single bit of his misery into the pout he managed.
"I didn't give it to him." Will acted nonchalantly, joyfully kicking at a pebble, not paying heed to Jack's sulking, even though his fingers itched to touch his emersed lip.
"What d'you mean you didn't give it to him, we just left him there with the detailed instructions."
"I didn't give it to him, he earned it."
"And I haven't?"
It did take a beat for Will think of a valid argument, but he did. "He taught me a trick."
"Well," Jack huffed indignantly. "I've bloody well taught you a trick or two meself."
"A magic trick, Jack."
"Jack," Will decided to let him off the hook. "The instructions are useless, the only thing they reveal is how to make a divine posset." Noticing that Jack wasn't walking by his side, Will swung around and found Jack staring at him daftly with his mouth slightly open. Will flashed him a grin and stepped to pull him back into movement by the hand. "Don't look at me like that, it's your recipe."
"So that means I could in fact learn how to do it, yes?" They continued their midday stroll with Jack wrapping his arm under Will's gentlemanly offered one.
Will tried to hide his grin and the glint of his eyes under the brim of his hat. "Secrets of the trade."
As the night grew deeper and darker, the peace born from the understanding that they had succeeded, they had finally disappeared, together, had settled into the hearts of the re-united lovers. Edward held his beautiful Sophie in his arms, listening to her breathing, slowly drifting to the edge of sleep himself. He recalled with certain pride how it had all unraveled, even despite the disappearance of the mystifying compass, as significant as it had been in their original plan.
Edward pressed a gentle kiss to Sophie's hair and reveled in the feel of her delicate hand tightening around his arm in response.
Right before he fell from the dream he now lived, and into the realm of slumber, he remembered, gasping in sudden recognition, the traveling magician from his childhood - the man destiny had blessedly placed on his path, without whom Sophie would have never even looked at him twice.
The golden glint of the magician's tricksy smile was unmistakable.