Rating: R to be safe
Disclaimer: Don’t own recognizable characters. Not making money from this fic
Warning(s): MAJOR SPOILERS for Now You See Me and Now You See Me 2. There will be spanking/discipline of adults.
Verse/Setting: Post Now You See Me 2.
Summary: Dylan Rhodes firmly believes that some things shouldn’t be let go.
THE COST OF VENGEANCE
Dylan sat on the sofa, hunched over the picture frame he held in his hand. It had been several days since the Horsemen and he had made their daring escape, leaving Walter Mabry and Arthur Tressler to the authorities. The younger members of his elite magician team had quickly settled in, learning everything they could from The Eye. He’d begun the tentative process of training his successor- Atlas was eager to take the reins, so was currently paying close attention. Hopefully his ego wouldn’t get in the way.
Dylan sighed. Everything was seemingly ok.
Only it wasn’t. Nothing was ok. The revenge he’d thought he’d gotten for his father’s death and what his mother had gone through after? Well- seeing Tressler pay for his greediness was gratifying. Seeing Mabry pay for his own hubris and greed was more than gratifying (the bastard had tried to kill him after all). But he hadn’t really gotten revenge for his father’s death. It was hard to get vengeance when it was an honest to God accident that had caused the death.
To make it worse, the revenge he’d thought he’d gotten when he framed Thaddeus Bradley hadn’t made him feel better at all. Thirty years of plotting and setting everything up and the man he blamed for his father’s death was in maximum security- but all Dylan felt was empty. His whole reason for everything he did was fulfilled and he no longer had a purpose. It was partly that which had caused him to fall for Mabry’s trick in the first place; the need to have a purpose; the need to fill the emptiness inside with some type of meaningful activity.
Somehow they’d pulled off one of the biggest illusions of their life and exposed Mabry and Tressler. It hadn’t exactly freed them from the FBI’s pursuit- but it had at least enabled them to escape for the moment. Li and Bu Bu had taken them to the headquarters- the Eye- and there Dylan’s final illusion had been shattered. Thaddeus Bradley hadn’t been deliberately stalking and goading his father because of some type of dislike or need to hurt his father. Thaddeus Bradley wasn’t the enemy. He was his father’s partner and his ‘antagonism’ was part of the show.
He’d asked Thaddeus why he hadn’t told him the truth about the relationship before. Why he hadn’t mentioned it when Dylan had framed him and put him in jail- maybe he wouldn’t’ have spent 18 months in maximum. Thaddeus had felt guilty. That’s all it was. He felt guilt that he’d been a participant in something that had killed his friend and partner- and felt like maybe he deserved what he’d gotten even if he had been innocent. Of course he’d also let slip that he’d intended Dylan to be his successor but Dylan’s focus on vengeance at any price (including framing someone) meant Dylan hadn’t been ready. It was only when Dylan helped Thaddeus escape so that he could attempt to save the rest of the team- instead of leaving the older man in jail and leaving to save himself- that Thaddeus felt he was finally ready to take over and become the head of the Eye.
Dylan didn’t feel ready. Not by a long shot.
“You feel there is unfinished business between you and Thaddeus,” Bu Bu said out of nowhere, causing Dylan to jump in place and fumble with the picture of Thaddeus and his father.
“I framed him for a crime he didn’t commit. I caused him to spend 18 months in jail that he didn’t deserve to spend there. It feels like he should have unfinished business with me…” Dylan admitted with a shrug. Sighing, he put the photograph back onto the end table.
“You must dig deeper,” the older woman said enigmatically before leaving to go find her grandson for some scheme or other.
Dylan blinked and glanced around the room. They’d already looked behind the curtain. Sighing again, he walked to the window and glanced out onto the gardens outside. He stood that way for several moments before he saw the pattern. “I’ll be damned…” he muttered, quickly grabbing his jacket and heading outside, walking through the garden paths to one of the many recessed areas that held benches and statues; the one area that seemed to be a ‘dip’ in the ground because it was lower than the rest of the garden and the only area that had a statue of an everyday worker holding a shovel. Pushing his fingers into a recessed area on the statue caused the bench- which was really a rectangular stone block- to slide to the side. Dylan shook his head as he found a narrow set of stone steps going deep into the ground and taking a deep breath, followed them down. Pushing a button at the bottom of the steps caused the bench above to slide back into place and a light to come on simultaneously.
Three left turns, four right turns, and a gentle curving that went both left and right enough times to confuse his sense of direction and Dylan had finally reached another set of narrow steps. Pushing the button next to the bottom of those steps, the lights went out but the opening at the top was suddenly spilling light down onto his face; he carefully made his way up and found himself in what appeared to be a tiny cottage.
“May as well make yourself useful and help me pack,” Thaddeus called out, tossing a roll of packing tape at him as he walked into the room. “While doing that, you can explain why you came looking for me. I would have thought you’d have your hands full with training your successor and being in charge of the Eye.”
“It felt unfinished…” Dylan blurted. “…everything between us. It felt unfinished….” He swallowed and glanced around the room as he tried to gather his thoughts.
Thaddeus paused, before answering calmly. “I went to jail for 18 months. That’s as far as I’m willing to allow myself to be punished for what was essentially an accident. I thought you’d gotten over your need for vengeance.”
Dylan’s gaze was yanked back onto Thaddeus as he gave the man a shocked and almost horrified look. “No! I…No! I don’t want more vengeance! No! I…” he swallowed and found himself blushing, but he made himself continue to look at Thaddeus even though he wanted to look everywhere but at that older man. “I framed you…and you let me because you felt guilty…but it wasn’t your fault. And I…I was wrong to do what I did. I’m sorry….” He ran a hand through his hair in agitation.
“So…you think saying sorry will make you feel better for stealing 18 months of my life?” Thaddeus’s gaze was piercing and knowing, the slight frown on his face stern.
“Did being in jail for 18 months for a crime you hadn’t done help you feel better about my father dying? Or blame yourself less?” Dylan swallowed hard and had to look away. “I kinda wish it did- since Dad dying wasn’t your fault and at least then maybe some good could have come from what I did- but I doubt being in jail did anything more than irritate you,” he whispered.
“You’re right. Being in jail didn’t help me feel less guilty about your father’s death. But it did give me plenty of time to think. And to realize that it wasn’t my fault. We both agreed that he would do the act. And neither of us could have realized that the safe was made of shoddy material. It was a horrible, horrible accident and I regret his death every day. But I don’t feel guilty anymore. I suppose if you want to feel better about it, you can attribute my new understanding to the fact I was in jail for 18 months.” Thaddeus’s voice was droll and he snorted at the end.
“But I can’t. Not really. Even if I did, I wouldn’t feel better about what I did to you…” Dylan admitted with a whisper. “I’m going to turn myself in…to the FBI. Admit to them that you were framed. You won’t have to keep running and hiding….”
Thaddeus just watched Dylan, taking in his stooped shoulders, the guilty look in his eyes, the unhappy set of his mouth; he looked even closer and noticed the way the other man’s clothes were hanging off him slightly as if he’d lost weight and the paleness of his skin and the circles under his eyes indicating that he wasn’t eating well or wasn’t sleeping well or possibly both. “Seventy-six.” His abrupt declaration echoed around the room and Dylan’s head shot up as the younger man gave him a confused frown.
“Seventy-six?” Dylan repeated hesitantly.
“Yes. Seventy-six.” Thaddeus was walking toward Dylan by this point and took hold of his arm a few seconds later. “The amount of smacks you’re going to receive on your bare backside by my hand for the fact that you framed me for a crime I didn’t commit.” By this point he was gently tugging Dylan to the one chair that wasn’t covered in boxes.
“W…why seventy-six?” Dylan asked as if he was in shock. Maybe he was. He wasn’t attempting to get away from Thaddeus in the least and Thaddeus figured that meant he either was in shock, or he felt so incredibly guilty about what he’d done that he was willing to accept anything to try and make things right.
“Eighteen months of my life. Seventy-six weeks. I almost broke it down into days, but that would be over five-hundred and I’m not a cruel man. By the time I’m done though, you’ll have paid for what you did. More importantly, you’ll feel like you’ve paid. I already forgave you. I’d kinda like us to be able to move past it and be friends.” Thaddeus said honestly. Sitting down on the chair, he tugged Dylan forward, encouraging him to bend over his lap by placing a hand on the small of his back and gently pushing.
Dylan didn’t know what to say to that, so he swallowed again and kept quiet…and bent over Thaddeus’s lap.
As soon as he was in place, Thaddeus wasted no time in divesting him of his jeans and underwear. “You will count for me, son,” the older man said sternly, waiting until he’d received acknowledgment from Dylan before raising his hand and letting the first stinging swat land on the under-curve of Dylan’s bottom. He didn’t comment on the yelp Dylan couldn’t’ help but express…he knew the kid hadn’t expected his swing to be quite so firm or hard. Continuing, he made it to the count of twenty before he paused for the first time, letting his hand gently rest on the now pink bottom.
Dylan was breathing raggedly and it was becoming difficult for him to not whimper the number out. “T…twenty sir…” he winced as his last counted number sounded like a whine. His eyes were watering badly and his pride was non-existent. How could he even hope to keep a shred of pride when he was hanging bare-arsed over Thaddeus’s knee and being spanked like a naughty child? It was humiliating…disorienting…confusing. He felt out of control and worst of all? He felt like he deserved exactly what he was getting. The gentleness of Thaddeus’s hand on his bottom after the man had been raining harsh smacks down on him seconds prior caused his emotions to short circuit. Thaddeus’s words would do the rest.
“Do you submit?” Thaddeus asked calmly if sternly.
Dylan blinked, trying to focus on the words and not really understanding. “Wh…what?”
“I don’t want you turning yourself over to the FBI. I don’t mind hiding. I’d likely be doing so anyway. Do you submit to my will?” Thaddeus repeated himself along with clarification, rubbing gently at the reddened skin under his hand.
Dylan blushed darkly. “No…I have to turn myself in. It’s only right to clear your name- even if you don’t plan to become a public figure again….” He tried to sound as firm as Thaddeus but his confusion was leaking through despite himself.
“Hmm…” Thaddeus hummed slightly before raising the hand that was gently rubbing and letting it fall with another hard smack.
“Aaah! T…twenty-one, sir…” Dylan gasped out as the spanking began again in earnest.
Thaddeus was careful as he smacked the younger man. Yes, he was being harsh- he wanted this to be the only time he had to address this issue and he knew Dylan needed to feel sufficiently punished in order to let it go- but he was still watching where and how he smacked the younger man to be certain he didn’t cause harm to the boy. He covered every inch of Dylan’s backside with the hard, firm smacks watching as the lightly pink skin turned a rosier shade of pink and then began to turn red. He listened to Dylan’s voice as the younger man’s counting began to become shaky with the boy’s efforts to get the number out without crying. He could hear when tears began to form. When Dylan reached number forty-five Thaddeus stopped again, placing his hand on the now very hot bottom in front of him and began gently rubbing again.
“I don’t want you turning yourself over to the FBI. I don’t mind hiding. I’d likely be doing so anyway. I want you to remain free so that you can take care of the Eye... And the horsemen… And so that we can continue to talk freely. Do you submit to my will?” It was hard but Thaddeus managed to keep his voice calm and stern, letting Dylan know that refusal to submit wasn’t going to be allowed. He continued gently rubbing as he waited for Dylan’s answer.
Dylan choked back a tiny sob as he tried to form words but it took several seconds of deep breaths before he could force out, “No sir. I have to turn myself in. Atlas can take care of the eye with your help. I need to clear your name….”
Thaddeus let out a tiny, obviously disappointed sigh and stopped rubbing. Raising his hand he again let it fall with a resounding smack against an already red and sore backside.
Dylan couldn’t hold back the sob that escaped that time. “Forty-six, sir…” he cried helplessly before throwing his hand back to cover his bottom.
Thaddeus gently took Dylan’s hand in his, moving it to the small of the boy’s back and holding it in place before continuing. Dylan lost count at around fifty-five. He was unable to form the words when he was crying so hard so Thaddeus counted for him.
“Sixty-five,” the older man stopped for the third time, gently rubbing the now scarlet bottom in front of him. Dylan’s whimpers and cries caused him to feel protective of the child. “I don’t want you turning yourself over to the FBI. I don’t mind hiding. I’d likely be doing so anyway. I want you to remain free to take care of the Eye, to take care of the horsemen, and to continue to talk to me freely. Because I never had a child and you’ve gone thirty years without your father. And I think we could be good for each other- fill the need both of us have- but only if we can spend time together. If you are locked up, we can’t do that…” Thaddeus paused to let his words sink in. “Do you submit to my will?”
Dylan closed his eyes tightly, grasping blindly at the hand that still held his. Thaddeus wanted a relationship with him? Wanted to be a parent to him? As old as he was? Even after everything he’d done to the older man? Slumping, Dylan stopped fighting and just let himself cry. He wanted what Thaddeus wanted. “Yessir…” he sobbed. “I submit…I…I’ll obey your d…decision….”
“Good boy,” Thaddeus gently rubbed a few more seconds before gently shifting Dylan forward so his sit spots were more accessible. Dylan didn’t fight at all…just sobbed harder. It was all Thaddeus could do to force himself to continue- but he’d promised seventy-six and he wasn’t going to begin this new chapter in their life by breaking promises. Raising his hand again, he smacked the left sit-spot. “Sixty-six…”
He finished the last ten smacks quickly, not swatting quite as hard as he had been. The boy had submitted and pretty much broken by this point. The last ten were about keeping promises and helping Dylan feel secure in the decision he’d made to obey Thaddeus more than about punishment. As soon as he’d finished, he was drawing the younger man up so that the boy was sitting on his lap, cuddled in his arms. “I’ve got you kid. I’ve got you.” He kissed the side of Dylan’s head.
“I’m sorry…so sorry…” Dylan sobbed against Thaddeus’s chest, pressing as close as he could against the older man.
“I know you are. I forgive you. Everything is going to be alright.” Thaddeus soothed, rubbing Dylan’s back, neck, and hair gently.
Dylan didn’t know how much time had passed, but when he was finally able to stop crying and was just taking deep quivering breaths as he slumped in Thaddeus’s arms, the sun was going down outside. “Sorry…” he whispered, blushing at the fact that he’d literally soaked Thaddeus’s shirt with his tears.
“Don’t be,” Thaddeus admonished. “you needed to get it out…and I needed to be here for you to do it,” he admitted quietly.
Swallowing and wiping at his eyes with the back of his hand, Dylan looked around the room at all the boxes in various states of packing. “I don’t want you to leave…” he said, wincing when his voice came out sounding like a lost little boy.
Thaddeus sat back and just looked into Dylan’s face for a moment before smiling gently. “Ok. I won’t. But you’re going to help me unpack everything. And then I expect you to move into the room across the hall from mine. I’m staying for you, so I damn well better see you…” he said gruffly, giving Dylan a tiny shake, and then kissing the top of his boy’s head.
“Yes sir,” Dylan chuckled softly before carefully standing and pulling his pants back up with a hiss. “I can do that,” he smiled. Pausing, he slanted his head. “Thank you…it doesn’t feel unfinished anymore…” he said softly. “It…I feel whole…” he admitted. “Because of you.”
Thaddeus smiled. “Welcome home, son.”