A/N: Right from the first time I saw NYSM 2, something about Dylan's response to the whole marketplace incident intrigued me. So here is my little look inside his head.
Disclaimer: I do not own Now You See Me (obviously).
"If you really want to help us you can leave."
He should have seen this coming. Instead, the words hit with all the force of a physical blow. Dylan stares at Daniel Atlas as everything he's said, everything that's been simmering under the surface for who knows how long – how did I not see it? – slowly sinks in. Atlas' eyes are hard, his expression uncompromising – he means every word.
You're nobody. We don't need you. Go home.
Unconsciously, Dylan turns to the side, then back, a physical counterpart to the internal double-take his mind is attempting. His face is a tightly controlled blank, and he finds it somewhere within him to mutter a response.
"I get it," he says, nodding a bit. That seems to trigger more realization, more finality, that this is happening and he finds himself agreeing, something too quiet to be anger tightening his tone and keeping his emotions from showing. Finds himself saying "Cool. Bye," and then following through. Walking away.
He doesn't know what to think. He's always been able to read situations, read people, accounting for every detail and deviation. Planning backups of backups. Easily responding to unexpected turns. But in the last few days…even every contingency in the world could not have prepared him for all this. The colossal upheaval of their last show and the subsequent realization of his worst fears, being forced to work with the man who all but destroyed his life while in a city that stirs up a cache of memories by mere proximity…and then this moment, just one more on top of many, too much and nothing at all; the impact is muted, dulled with the weariness of a mind that has grown used to seeing the world come crashing down. He searches, but everything that's driven him until this moment seems to have drifted beyond his reach.
After hearing Bradley's voice threatening to take everything from him again, has he finally made it here only to lose it all anyway?
Anger, fear, bitterness, guilt war within him – after that conversation, nothing is dominant; they buzz together in a nonsensical miserable noise, an endless circle of blame.
What does he think he's doing?
He can still hear Danny's voice in his head: You put everybody's lives in danger…
How could I let this happen?
Dylan shakes his head, momentary annoyance with himself snapping him out of those thoughts, redirecting his focus to the problem at hand. This reaction shouldn't be as much of a surprise as it is. It's not as if Danny's been subtle about his distaste for the waiting and hiding and lack of information that's defined the past year. But Dylan never thought that it went so deep. So deep that he no longer trusted his leader. So deep that he would even reach out on his own, who knows how long ago…
His mind returns to the growing unease he felt at one of Danny's remarks, unease that was momentarily overshadowed as the conversation evolved into confrontation.
Atlas said that he contacted the Eye, that he's meeting someone here. But it's not just that – he's been talking with them. Underneath reflexive irritation and a bit of hurt, the same unease stirs again at that thought.
Something's not right.
Despite what the others believe, even during the long period of stagnation, Dylan's been communicating with the Eye. From the moment the curtain fell on his final trick against Bradley, the Eye had told him clearly that he would be the line of communication between them and the Horsemen. The only line of communication.
Atlas said that he's talking to the Eye.
It could have been need for control or lack of trust or even a feeling of betrayal that caused him to jump on that point so insistently – but, at once, he knows it wasn't.
And the simultaneous realization of what it was stops Dylan in his tracks.
The Eye has never lied to him. They may keep him in the dark at times, but they never do what they expose others for. They never could.
Which can only mean…
Whoever Danny has been talking to is not the Eye.
And whatever's about to happen can't be good.
As he comes to this conclusion, he spins around – to see a small group of men standing where Atlas was.
He hurries back the way he came, keeping himself hidden among the bustling stands until he comes within range, ducking down behind a stall just beyond the gathering. Then he looks up to see that his instinct was right – everything about the way Danny is standing, backed up nearly to the wall behind him, screams that this is all wrong.
The man in front tosses a very blue hat to the side as he finishes addressing the Horseman in a sarcastically incredulous voice. "Did you actually think I'd let you go?"
"How did you do that?" Danny asks – and that quiet, blank calm is nothing like him.
The man starts to reply but Dylan misses the first few words, mind whirling as the pieces fall together. He recognizes this man now. Walter Mabry. Co-founder of Octa. Owen Case's partner. And supposedly, dead for a year now. The fact that he's here, addressing Danny with this degree of familiarity…
His focus snaps back in time to hear the man – Walter – reciting some sort of enigmatic advice in a mocking lilt. Advice that almost sounds like the sort of trivial thing a fortune teller would say. But Danny's averted eyes, the way he's retreating further into himself…It doesn't take a mentalist to see that those words ring with a deeper meaning. A suspicion that's confirmed when the magician quietly states, "That was you."
The remark causes something cold to settle in Dylan's stomach. How much of Danny's communication with the Eye had just been a part of Mabry's game?
As the man explains how part of this apparent encounter led to, essentially, the Horsemen's current situation, Dylan unconsciously clenches his fist. Anger begins to burn in his chest – at Walter, at himself, at Danny's carelessness, perhaps – but the feeling is interrupted when his eyes flash back to Atlas' face and he sees a flicker of something welling up inside the other, behind the expressionless mask. Guilt.
Of course. For all his anger at this situation, at Dylan, at whoever else seemed or was responsible for doing this to his team, Danny likely never imagined that he had a hand in any of it.
And now the man who takes pains to never be out of control knows just how badly he's been played.
There's a beat once Walter finishes, and Dylan instinctively knows – one more moment, and the man's victory will be complete.
What do I do now?
He knows he can't leave the stick in Walter's hands. But there's no reclaiming this situation…
And for a split second, Dylan sees himself walking away.
Would anything really make a difference?
Another time, on their terms, may be possible, but now…
There's no plan, no strategy, no miracle this time. They've all played their hands. This next moment is practically a formality. It's Walter who's won this game.
Haven't I already lost everything?
The thought even crosses his mind that Danny finally got the chance he wanted to prove himself. All it cost them was the most dangerous piece of technology in the world, their (mostly) safe existence, their team…
Haven't we all?
Then Walter demands the stick.
Atlas barely has time to refuse before one of the bodyguards punches him in the stomach. The magician gasps and doubles over, and a second hit sends him to his knees.
Dylan feels as though he's taken the punch himself. He's moving before he realizes, and in that second, he knows what he's going to do.
In that second, he realizes why there was never any question of him walking away.
Meeting Alma last year showed him one thing. That of all the unknown variables life could throw at him, people – that after everything, someone could walk into his heart and claim a place there – would be the one element that continually surprised him.
And if his time with her taught him anything, it's that even on a long-predetermined course, when that closeness develops, it can be chosen. Should be chosen; seized and protected. Before the chance is lost forever.
In that second, Dylan knows that despite everything, he cannot deny that that's what happened here as well. And he knows that unlike many years before, he does not have to stand here and watch as he loses everything he cares about. This time, he can choose to fight back. He can make this stop.
He knows that he is not going to let this man – one of his Horsemen, his friend – be hurt any further.
Even though he also knows, with calm certainty born through years spent in the FBI and plotting revenge with nothing to lose, that he probably won't be making it out himself.
Does it make any difference?
Danny holds up a hand, moves to take out the chip…
No sooner does the illusionist have it in his hand than Dylan barrels through the men standing in front of him and grabs onto his shirt with a force that sends them both crashing into the wall behind Atlas. He lets his lingering anger at the other's betrayal and reckless decision guide his act as he yells, yells at Danny and demands the stick himself, even hitting him once for good measure. With finality he snaps at Danny about his disrespect and shoves him away, through the door in the bright wall behind him.
Walter's men don't intervene. They see what Dylan wants them to see – an angry leader who's been kept in the dark and manipulated by even members of his own team, finally snapping and resolving to deal with things himself, to satisfy his own ego. They see another chance for them to win.
They don't see Dylan deftly remove the chip from its casing and place it inside Atlas' jacket as he shoves him through the door.
They don't see what flashes through his eyes in the moment that he pushes his Horseman out of harm's way.
They see only what they expect to see.
But as Dylan shoves Daniel Atlas through the door and out of harm's way, he knows that the true compassion and caring he feels for the young man in front of him must be visible in his eyes – because, in that moment, it swells up so tightly in his chest that he almost can't breathe. He knows that this young magician and all his fellow Horsemen have, once again out of nowhere, become the family he's been missing for most of his life. And this time, he's going to keep his family safe. Even if said family doesn't want him to.
Dylan's eyes rest on the wall for a moment as he dimly registers the pounding from behind the door, remembering the expression of confusion that didn't quite mask the actual vulnerability and fear he saw in the other's eyes. Then the Horsemen's leader turns to Walter and his men, his whole body tensed in readiness.
"So, the stick," Walter commands, his men shifting menacingly.
One corner of Dylan's mouth twitches.
Whatever he is or isn't, whatever this may or may not change, this man is going to learn the cost of messing with Dylan Shrike's family the hard way.
"Go to hell."