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A Deep State of Honesty

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Tora bristled as he followed Quincey down the street, Poppy’s hand clasped tightly in his own. He didn’t like the idea of what they were about to do at all. Quincey had insisted though, telling him this guy was ‘the real deal’ and that he’d gift his Prada to the homeless before he missed this show. “Hurry up,” Quincey urged over his shoulder from his spot eight feet in front of them.

                Tora rolled his eyes, “she’s got little legs Quince, give her a minute,” he retorted, grunting when
Poppy whacked him.

                She huffed, “don’t you dare blame me, you’re the one dragging your feet you surly grouch. This is supposed to be fun!” she insisted.

                Quincey smirked as his ferocious tiny editor told off his intimidating bodyguard. He was glad he’d played matchmaker for the two of them. They were adorable together and Tora was much more agreeable with her around. He turned and held out his hand to Poppy, “come walk with me darling, Tora can miss the start of the show alone if he wants to move at the pace of a glacier so bad,” he cajoled.

                Poppy dropped Tora’s hand and ran up to Quincey’s side, interlocking their fingers as he swung her arm in excitement, ignoring the growling coming from the kill joy behind them. Poppy looked up at Quincey in anticipation as he regaled her once more with a story he’d heard of the great ‘Kahlid El Shikh’. She bounced as they walked, she couldn’t wait for the show. She looked back over her shoulder at Tora and he scowled when they made eye contact. “I have a free hand if you wanna move a little faster?” she offered, wiggling her fingers at him.

                Tora rolled his eyes, “I’m good sweetheart,” he muttered. The last thing he wanted was to skip down the god damn street with the two of them like some fucked up trio from the Wizard of Oz. He snorted to himself at his own joke. He supposed he wasn’t that far off. They were going to see a fucking con man alright; if Quincey only had a brain he’d see that. He chuckled to himself, thinking Poppy would actually look pretty damn good in a pair of sparkly red pumps. Well, in only a pair of sparkly red pumps anyways. He liked the idea of that; he’d have to thank her for making him watch that fucked up movie later. He was still weirded out by the fucking oompa loompas though…wait a sec…he was pretty sure he was getting the Wizard movie messed up with another one. He sighed, why were there so many creepy midgets in the movies she made him watch?

                He caught up to them five minutes later as they waited in line to enter the theatre. Tora dropped a kiss on the top of Poppy’s head, weaving his arm around her shoulders pulling her against his side and away from Quincey’s fingers. She giggled, “possessive as usual I see,” she murmured only loud enough for him to hear.

                He leaned down to whisper in her ear, “feisty as ever I see,” he retorted, the fingers of his free hand reaching for her ticklish spot.

                Quincey whipped around at Poppy’s shriek, rolling his eyes as he watched her try with futility to dance away from Tora’s fingertips. “Would you two knock it off, I know you struggle to keep your hands to yourself booboo but honestly, we’re in public, put your raging hormones away. K? Great. Thanks. Good chat,” he scolded, his voice dripping with condescension.

                Tora rolled his eyes but halted his tickle attack. “And he thinks I’m the one that’s no fun,” he whispered in Poppy’s ear before pressing a chaste kiss to her temple.  She giggled at his joke as he rose back up to his full height, his arm slipping off her shoulders so his hand could settle on her lower back as he guided her into the theatre while keeping an ever watchful eye over Quincey ahead of them.

                Quinceton wiggled his shoulders in anticipation as he handed over all three of their tickets to the usher; he’d been waiting months for this show! He nodded excitedly as the attendant directed them towards a row close to the stage. “Ooo, this is just so exciting!” he gushed to Poppy as he took his seat. She nodded in agreement as Tora settled into his seat on the other side of her, effectively sandwiching her between the two sets of wide shoulders. She didn’t mind though, she was small enough it didn’t bother her much. Tora sighed and placed his elbow on the arm rest, letting his hand settle on the inside of her leg, halfway up her thigh. She smirked, Quincey was right, the man did have difficulty keeping his hands to himself, not that she minded. She glanced over at Quincey who had stolen her other arm rest. She sighed and laced her own hands together, placing them in her lap. It was okay, they were big guys, they could spread out, she was sure Tora would lean over at one point or another during the show to complain about his knees cramping considering the way they were smashed up against the seat in front of him. She was a little surprised Quincey hadn’t bought an aisle seat so that he and Tora could take turns switching seats to stretch their legs but he’d obviously opted for the view. They were dead center of the row. Well, Quincey was dead center; she and Tora were slightly to the right.

                Tora leaned over to whisper to her, “ya know this is all bullshit right sweetheart?” he grumbled.

                She turned to him, “you know something Tora, I think you’re a negative nelly. How about some good old fashioned suspended disbelief for Quincey’s sake?” She chided, “He’s really looking forward to this. So why don’t you actually try to enjoy the show?”

                He squeezed her thigh gently, “hard to do when I know Quincey’s throwing his money away on a trickster,” he reasoned, keeping his voice low enough the other man wouldn’t hear.

                Poppy bit her lip in doubt, “I don’t know Tora, this guy is really well known, if he was a fraud don’t you think he would have been found out by now? He’s been preforming almost as long as we’ve been alive.” He arched a brow at her, “Well, almost as long as I’ve been alive anyways.” She corrected, a little annoyed, she hated when he brought unnecessary attention to their age difference. Being a handful of years older than her did not implicitly make him more worldly or wise than her.

                Tora leaned in closer, his lips brushing against the shell of her ear, “remember what I told ya, you’re only guilty if ya get caught, there’s only a crime if someone sees it. This bozo is just good at his game,” he insisted.

                She shook her head, causing her ponytail to brush gently against his shoulder, “I still think you’re just being negative. Even if he is a fraud it’s still entertaining right?” she offered, not wanting him to ruin this for her. “You watch wrestling every now and then and you know that’s fake.” She countered pointedly.

                He snorted, “true, Bobby one, Tora zero,” he replied with a smirk and a playful wink.  

                She traced a finger over the back of his hand, drawing patterns over the rough skin, “oh, what do I get for winning?” she whispered seductively, a little louder than she meant to.

                Quincey huffed in annoyance, turning his head towards the enamoured couple beside him. “Oh, for the love of – You both know I’m right here right? Like, I’m not invisible.” Tora and Poppy exchanged an amused look, as if anyone could ever miss or forget about Quincey in a crowd. “Quit making bedroom eyes at each other. There will be plenty of time to do the horizontal tango when I’m not around later tonight. Gawd.” He chastised them dramatically, “Couple of horn dogs,” he muttered under his breath.

                Tora smirked, whispering just loudly enough for her to hear, “he’s just jealous cause his booty call doesn’t come round when he wants her to, not my fault I get my dick wet more often than- oof, what the fuck was that for Bobby?” he asked, referring to the elbow she’d just delivered to his liver.

                Poppy scowled and kept her eyes straight ahead, “you know exactly what that was for you lecherous lout.” She reprimanded. Tora just smiled down at her, he loved teasing her, she was hot when she was annoyed.  

Poppy had to bite her lip to keep from giggling when Quincey reached down to pat her knee repeatedly, leaning forward as the house lights went out a moment later.

                A hush fell over the crowd as a spotlight came on, illuminating a short man with tan skin and a full head of salt and pepper hair standing in the middle of the stage, a row of empty chairs behind him. He held his arms out wide in a welcoming gesture to the crowd. “Good evening everyone! Thank you for coming!” A roar of applause echoed off the walls around them. Great, Tora thought, another creepy midget. “Thank you, thank you, I’m honoured. Please, clap your hands if you’ve ever attended one of my shows before,” Khalid asked his audience. He nodded at the quiet thunder that emanated as a result of his request, “excellent, excellent, so there are quite a few first timers tonight,” he grinned at the deafening roar of the crowd. “Well, you’re in for a treat,” he told them, his smile widening, already getting them accustomed to his voice, “for those of you who have never seen me preform, you’ll find I don’t do that much really, as with all my shows, you my friends, are the real show. So, for my newbies, I’m going to explain how this works. All of you are going to hold your hands out in front of you like this,” He prompted through his headset, clasping both his hands together in front of him.

Quincey and Poppy did as instructed immediately, Tora only participating after Poppy elbowed him again. “Interlock your fingers, placing your right thumb over your left, now stare hard at your right thumb,” Khalid coached. Tora smirked as he looked over at his companions, both of them concentrating hard on their thumbs. “Put all of your attention on that thumb, squeeze those hands tight together, look at your thumb, not at me, look at your thumb, not at me, that’s right look at your thumb not at me, focus on that spot and listen to my words, squeeze your hands together tight, squeeze them so tight you can feel them pressing together,” Tora rolled his eyes, if he had to spend the rest of the night listening to this guy give him orders he was never gonna let Quincey hear the end of it, “you’re squeezing them so tight, they begin to lock, they begin to lock as you’re squeezing them tight together, tighter and tighter so that the more you try to unstick those hands, the tighter they lock together. The more you try to pull them apart the more they just keep pressing tighter and tighter together, now, really feel that happen, they’re locked.” He paused to inhale, “Now try to pull them apart.” Khalid suggested, a smug look on his face.

Tora sighed in annoyance and parted his hands, placing his palm back on his girlfriend’s thigh, the other arm resting on the arm rest he’d tactically acquired from the man sitting beside him. He glanced over at Quincey’s disappointed face as he also separated his hands, leaning back against his seat, his elbows resting limply on the his arm rests.

Poppy blinked down at her hands in confusion as she attempted to pull them apart. They wouldn’t budge. She put all her force into it, straining, a small grunt escaping her as she fought with her own body. This was insane. It felt as useless as trying to separate her hand from Tora’s when he didn’t want to let go. The man in question chuckled as he watched her struggle for a moment, the sound capturing Quincey’s interest. “Quit playin’ sweetheart, you cute but I ain’t falling for it,” he muttered.

She turned worried eyes on him, whipping her head back and forth between the two men, a whimper escaping her as she fought harder to release her hands. “Uh, Tora, I don’t think she’s fooling around,” Quincey murmured.

“I’m not! They, they’re stuck!” She cried, her teeth nibbling her lip in worry.

Tora narrowed his eyes at her, “Bobby. Cut the crap. I’m not biting. Put your damn hands down,” He whispered harshly.

She turned wide, worried eyes at him, “I can’t. They’re stuck,” she insisted, attempting to pry them apart once more.

Tora was about to reply when Khalid’s voice rang out in the theatre again, cutting him off, “can everyone who’s hands are locked please make their way up to the stage?” He requested.

Chapter Text

Tora was about to reply when Khalid’s voice rang out in the theatre again, cutting him off, “can everyone whose hands are locked please make their way up to the stage?” He requested.

                Poppy stood up immediately at Khalid’s invitation, “Tora, move your knees please,” she whispered.

                He blinked at her in surprise, like fuck he was doing that. She could sit her cute ass right back down. She wasn’t going anywhere, especially not up to that creepy fucking midget who probably had every intention of doling out more orders the rest of the night. “yeah, no. Not happening, sit the fuck down,” he told her harshly. She glared at him before turning in the other direction, her hands still clasped into one big fist, well, little fist for her, in front of her body as she moved towards Quincey who immediately stood to let her by. “The fuck ya doing?” Tora spat at his blonde brother.

                Quincey shrugged, “I’m doing you a favour, assuming you’d like her to be able to touch you later,” he responded flippantly. Both a gold and azure set of eyes following her progress as she made her way up to the stage. Tora didn’t like this. Not one bit. His instincts were firing off alarm bells as he watched a stage hand hook a microphone to the collar of her shirt before directing her to one of the chairs behind the ‘famous’ Khalid. Poppy under another man’s control irked him on every level of his being. She was right, he was fucking possessive.

                Khalid smiled at the row of people seated behind him, all clasping their hands before turning back to the crowd, “Ladies and gentlemen, please give our volunteers a round of applause, they will be our entertainment this evening!” A roar erupted from the crowd as Poppy’s eyes grew wide at his words. She looked back and forth, up and down the line of chairs to either side of her. Two of the other people were smiling, the third looked as apprehensive as she did though. When the stage hand had asked if she was okay with being on stage she’d thought nothing of it. She hadn’t realized she was volunteering to be hypnotized! She breathed deeply. This was fine. Nothing to worry about, she wasn’t exactly a fan of being in the spotlight but what was the worst thing that could happen? Khalid could make her think she was a chicken and walk around flapping her arms, or believe he was some kind of celebrity? That wasn’t so bad. Well, if he could even do it at all. Though, by the looks of the other people on stage, none of them seemed like actors to her, and at the very least, she knew she wasn’t. She sighed, she was good at playing along and no one had ever accused her of being a poor sport. This was fine…wasn’t it?

                Tora crossed his arms and glared at his girlfriend on stage, still not entirely convinced she wasn’t faking the locked hands. She was a pretty good actress when she wanted to be, having caught him off guard with her false innocence at the beginning of their relationship more than a few times. However, this was taking it a little far even for her. Quincey leaned across the empty seat between them and patted his bicep, “cheer up booboo, she’ll be right back,” he promised, amused by Tora’s demeanor change whenever the sun to his sky was too far away.

                Khalid moved to stand behind the first chair and the young woman that occupied it as he spoke to the crowd through his headset. “So, before we get started I want to give you a little background, there’s a lot of different ideas surrounding hypnosis and I want to be as transparent as possible,” he began; in reality just giving his guinea pigs more time to get acquainted with his voice and lulled into a state of comfort. “When one becomes hypnotized they do not actually go to sleep, but they fall into an REM trance. I’m sure all of you have been there before, when you’re so hyper focused that your subconscious takes over and you fall into a state of relaxation where your body feels like it’s running on autopilot. For instance, I’m sure many of you have been driving home, a commute you’ve made hundreds of times and suddenly you’re home but you can’t remember the last ten minutes of driving. Does that ring true for some of you?” Khalid smiled and nodded as quiet murmurs of agreement reached him from the audience. “Hypnosis is similar,” he explained, “I just use my voice to relax my volunteers into a state where their consciousness ‘sleeps’ and their subconscious takes the wheel. The fun thing about the subconscious though, is that it is highly receptive to suggestion.” He paused as the crowd chuckled. “Some people are more receptive and open to suggestion than others, thus why my friends on stage feel as though their hands are super glued together and the majority of you are fine. For those of you who were not comfortable being on stage, I will release your hands momentarily, but I’d like to get to know my new friends first.” He said patting the shoulder of the curly haired, dark skinned woman in front of him.

                Tora watched as Khalid moved in front of the woman, bending down to look her in the eye, “hello, I’m Khalid, what’s your name?” he asked.

                She smiled widely, “Leona,” she replied.

                Khalid smiled, snapped his fingers and tapped her on the shoulder lightly with one finger, “hi Leona, nice to meet you. Can you do me a favour Leona?” she nodded, and he held up his hand tapping the center of his palm, “look right here for me and focus? That’s it, look right there, now Leona when I say sleep you’re going to fall into a deep state of relaxation, focus, focus completely on the sound of my voice, when I say sleep you’re going to relax completely, that’s right look right here, you’re safe, you’re going to hear and see other things but you’re not going to let them distract you, as you focus, listening only to the sound of my voice. You become more relaxed you stay perfectly balanced, no matter how relaxed you get you are not going to fall out of your chair,” he made a clicking noise with his tongue, “now,” he grabbed hold of her locked hands, “sleep” he commanded, jerking her fists forward, the woman slumping over in her chair.

                He turned to smile at the audience, “this is Leona, let’s meet our next guest,” he looked at the small brunette man seated next to Leona, “hello, what’s your name?” he asked.

                “Uh, Braxton,” he responded.

                Khalid chuckled, “Braxton huh? You don’t sound so sure about that,” He pointed out. The man just smiled. “Alright Braxton, look right here for me,” he said holding up his palm for him. The man stared where he was supposed to and Khalid repeated the process he’d just done with Leona, leaving him slumped over in his seat, his clasped hands dangling between his knees.

Poppy looked on with a mixture of apprehension and amusement, it was her turn. This was fine. She was a good sport, she’d play along. “I’m Poppylan!” she replied brightly, confidently as Khalid greeted her.

He smiled, “ah now you sound sure,” he commented before asking her to stare at his palm. Poppy did as instructed, listening to the sound of his voice. It was the strangest sensation. The more he talked, the more relaxed she felt, the more the world around her seemed to fade into white noise until all that remained were the lines on the inside of his hand, the small imperfections in his skin, the deep crevasse of his life line running the length of his palm, “sleep,” Khalid commanded, and Poppy felt like all the tension seeped out of her muscles as she was jerked forward. She felt more relaxed and limp than she did after a round of orgasms with Tora. She was both aware and not aware, floating on a lazy river, suspended by Khalid’s voice.

Tora frowned as he watched his girlfriend slump over in her chair. He wasn’t sure about this at all. He glanced over at Quincey who was grinning like a Cheshire cat as Khalid put the last person, a large bald guy named ‘Cade’ under as well. Tora crossed his arms, a scowl on his face, somewhat curious but mostly perturbed as to what was going to come next.

Satisfied that his volunteers were in a deep state of hypnosis now, he turned back to his audience, “Alright, wide awake everyone, wide awake,” he glanced behind him, reassured that all four of his new friends were sitting upright, clear eyed. “Stare down at your hands, you’ll notice they are no longer stuck,” he told them calmly.

Poppy smiled as she slide her hands apart and shook out her fingers, pleased to have control over her body once again. She watched as Khalid moved around behind her and the other people on stage touching all of them momentarily on the shoulder, “it’s weirdest thing though. Only the people that I’m touching, their hands are free but their feet are firmly rooted to the floor, like a tree, they cannot move.” He smirked at the audience, “go ahead, stand up, try to walk,” he insisted.

Tora leaned forward in his seat, his eyes narrowing as he watched Poppy’s face intently. He cocked his head to the side slightly as he watched her eyes widen in surprise and then annoyance as she stood and tried to take a step forward. Her feet didn’t move, she yanked on her leg but no. Zero movement from her feet. She looked out at the audience in distress before beginning her struggle anew. “Looks like your sweetheart is having a little trouble there honey,” Tora turned to glare at Quincey, “still a disbeliever booboo?” he teased.

“Shut the fuck up,” he snarled, his eyes returning to his struggling girlfriend as the audience laughed at Cade who had lost his balance and fallen back into his chair.

Khalid smiled, “alright, sit down,” he instructed as all four of his volunteers sat, “sleep,” he commanded and all of them slumped forward. “Okay everyone, time for some fun,” he began.

He moved to Leona, placing his hand gently on her shoulder, “only the person that I’m touching. When you wake up, I am going to be the most hideous person you have ever seen, but I’m hilarious, you don’t want me anywhere near you but the closer I get the harder you laugh,” he instructed before moving over next to Braxton.

He placed his hand on his head, “This is Braxton, does everyone remember Braxton?” the audience roared, “yeah, me too, the problem is though, Braxton doesn’t remember Braxton. Only the person that I’m touching, when you wake up, you won’t know your name and the harder you try to remember it the more it will escape you. Also, when I touch you, you will be afflicted with the worst case of jock itch imaginable; it will go away whenever I’m not touching you.” Khalid wagged his brows at the audience while they laughed.

Tora held his breath as he glared at the hand Khalid placed on Poppy’s shoulder, “Can the person or people who came with Poppy please make some noise,” Quincey hooted and hollered, Khalid pointed out at him with his freehand, “Perfect, you sir, give her a new name, any name,” he prompted.

Quincey smiled smugly, glancing at Tora momentarily, “Her new name is Tora!” he shouted, turning just in time to catch the death glare Tora shot him before giggling.

Khalid smiled, odd name but whatever, “Only the person that I’m touching, your name is Tora now, for the remainder of the show, you’re going to become increasingly upset when I can’t remember your name or mispronounce it.” He ordered. Poppy listened to his voice, the words made sense, of course her name was Tora, it had always been Tora. “Also, you have no filter and can only tell the truth, if you think something, you’ll say it. You cannot lie, only truth will escape your lips,” he instructed. Poppy felt liberated. Truth, of course she would speak the truth, was there any other way to say something? No of course not, the truth. Simple. What a great idea.

Quincey’s arm lashed out and grabbed onto Tora’s forearm, who was already looking at the blonde man in alarm. Truth was bad. Very bad. Poppy knew way too much. “Still think this is funny?” he whispered harshly.

Quincey’s face sagged in distress, “what do we do? She won’t say anything right?” he whispered back.

Tora glared at his tiny girlfriend, he trusted her but his heart was pounded with anxiety. She wouldn’t betray them. She wouldn’t. Even subconsciously. She couldn’t. Wouldn’t…he hoped. “I think it would look bad if I went up there and got her,” he commented hesitantly.

Quincey nodded, “I guess we’ll wait and see? And grab her if we have to?” he whispered.

Tora nodded as Khalid moved on to Cade, “only the person that I’m touching, you are madly in love with Poppy a.k.a, Tora, you will not touch her in anyway, you are glued to your seat, however you will shout out things to try to impress her whenever you think of something that might convince her to date you. They don’t have to be the truth you can lie as much as you want.” The audience roared with laughter as Quincey glanced over at Tora who was scowling heavily; the man obviously unable to take a joke. Quincey was relieved that Khalid had added in the no touching bit, the last thing he wanted was Tora going up on the stage to punch the guy out if he got handsy.

Khalid moved in front of the four volunteers and back to the middle of the stage, “Alright time to start the show. Let’s have some fun.” He snapped his fingers, “wide awake everyone!”

Chapter Text

Poppy sat up and smiled out at the crowd; she tried to wiggle her toes in her shoes but was annoyed to find they were still planted to the floor. Oh well, not like it really mattered. She narrowed her brows as Khalid approached Leona, the girl leaning away from him on her chair as far as she could go despite her laughter increasing in volume the closer he got. “What’s wrong with her?” she muttered.

Khalid turned to look at her and smirked as the audience laughed, “she thinks I’m funny,” he explained.

Poppy scrunched up her nose, “but you’re not.” She stated flatly. The audience laughed again. “Why are they laughing?” she asked, gesturing at the crowd.

Khalid smirked again, “because now they think you are funny,” he told her calmly.

Poppy narrowed her brows in confusion, “I don’t think I said anything funny.” She stated firmly.

Khalid smiled, “what’s your name dear?” he asked.

Poppy beamed at him, “I’m Tora!” she informed him brightly. The audience roared with laughter. Her face flooded with confusion. “Why is my name funny?” she asked seriously.

 “Well Flora-” Khalid began, only to be immediately cut off.

“Tora,” Poppy corrected.

Khalid nodded, “yes, right, Lora,” he agreed.

Poppy crossed her arms in annoyance, “no. Not Lora. It’s Tora. It’s a great name so get it right!” she snapped, ignoring the laughter erupting from the crowd.

Tora cocked his eyebrow at that. She liked his name that much? Quincey leaned across the empty seat between them and patted his knee, smiling knowingly.

Khalid smiled, “yes, yes of course, I’m sorry,” he placated before moving over to Braxton, “and you sir, what is your name?” he asked, extending his hand to him. Braxton shook it and immediately began to itch his crotch with his free hand, his mouth opening and closing but saying nothing. “You okay buddy? Looks like you’re pretty itchy,” Khalid teased.

Braxton scratched with renewed vigor, “yeah,” he replied stupidly.

Khalid nodded, “any luck with that name yet?” he inquired as Braxton shook his head ‘no’, “yeah, didn’t think so,” he patted his shoulder with his free hand, “if it comes back to you let me know,” he told him as the man continued to itch his crotch.

Poppy frowned, “that’s silly, who forgets their own name?” she muttered. Tora and Quincey exchanging a glance as the audience laughed.

Khalid smiled at her, “well, he’s a silly guy, not like you though Dora, you’d never forget your name,” he commented dryly.

She balled her fists in her lap, “you’re really starting to bother me you know. My name is Tora. With a ‘T’ say it right,” she insisted.

Khalid narrowed his brows at her, “oh no, my mistake, you’re just little and cute, I confused you with Dora the Explorer, my bad,” he explained.

She nodded, her fingers relaxing, “Not as little as you but okay, I forgive you,” she grinned. Tora beamed at her from his seat, that’s fucking right, Bobby one, Creepy midget zero.

Khalid looked past her, ignoring the dig at his own height, “Hey Cade, do you have anything to say?” he prompted.

“I’M THE ROCK!” he shouted, looking directly at Poppy.

Tora rolled his eyes. Like Poppy would ever care about a celebrity wrestler turned actor. She didn’t even watch tv all that often. He ignored Quincey who was giggling in his seat.

Poppy looked over at the man staring intently at her with wide eyes, “no you’re not. Why are you sweating?” she inquired.

“CAUSE I WAS WORKING OUT!” he shouted in reply, blinking furiously, his eyes bulging.

She cocked her head to the side and looked the large pudgy bald man up and down, “Good for you, you look like you could use it. I try to work out sometimes too.” She told him sincerely. Tora chuckled to himself, yeah right; the closest thing Bobby ever got to a workout was a vigorous romp with him.

Cade frowned and looked down at his shoes for a moment in deep concentration before looking over at her again, “I WORKOUT A LOT!” he yelled.

Poppy looked at him disbelievingly, “I doubt that, you remind me of a Snorlax,” she muttered.

Tora whacked Quincey in the arm, “what the fuck is a Snorlax?” he asked quietly.

Quincey bit his lip, “A big fat Pokémon that barely ever moves,” he informed him. Tora just smirked and returned his attention to the stage in time to see Leona leaning away from Khalid with a disgusted look on her face, laughing hysterically as he patted her shoulder.

Poppy crossed her arms, “I think something is seriously wrong with her,” she muttered. Braxton turned to look at her, nodding in agreement. “Do you seriously not know your name?” she asked him suspiciously. Braxton nodded again. “Why?” Braxton just shrugged.

“I’M RICH!” Cade shouted, waving his hands in the air to try to catch Poppy’s eye again, extremely upset she was giving Braxton so much attention.

Poppy looked over at the large man on the other side of her, “must be nice, I’m broke,” she muttered.

Cade’s eyes sparkled with excitement, “I’LL GIVE YOU ALL MY MONEY!” he shouted.

She bit her lip in confusion and cocked a brow at him, “why would you do that?” she asked in genuine befuddlement.

“BECAUSE I LOVE YOU!” he cried out passionately.

Quincey leaned over and patted Tora again, trying to calm him, the man was growling at Cade’s declaration.

Poppy blushed, “oh goodness, don’t say that so loud. Tora will get upset.” She muttered. Quincey burst out laughing as Tora’s scowl only deepened.

Khalid’s brow rose at that, “Who’s Tora?” he asked her.

Poppy smiled, “I’m Tora,” she replied sweetly.

Khalid chuckled and nodded, “yes, who is the other Tora? The one who would get upset?” he asked. Tora schooled his features into a blank mask and awaited her response.

She smiled, “my boyfriend,” she answered.

Khalid nodded, “so you’re Tora and your boyfriend is Tora,” he clarified. Poppy nodded, “is the blonde man your boyfriend then?” he asked.

Quincey giggled at that, glancing at Tora who was glaring straight ahead at his mystified girlfriend.

Poppy shook her head to the contrary, “oh no, that’s Quincey, Tora is the moody tall dark and handsome one, well, not that Quincey isn’t handsome in his own right, I’m just more attracted to Tora,” she clarified. Tora blushed in his seat as Quincey smirked smugly.

Khalid nodded, “what do you think of that Cade?” he prompted.

“I’M TALL DARK AND HANDSOME!” He shouted sincerely.

Poppy glanced at him and rolled her eyes, “you wish,” she muttered, the audience roaring with laughter.

Khalid arched a brow at her, “now Cora, that’s not very nice,” he scolded.

She frowned at him, “It’s Tora,” she snapped, “and lying isn’t very nice either, the man is delusional,” she stated, clearly challenging the hypnotist to disagree with her. Tora chuckled in amusement; his Bobby was being feisty as ever. Nice to know she was like that with everyone and not just him.

Khalid smirked, “oh come now, uh, sorry, what was your name again?” he prompted.

“TORA!” she snapped, making the actual man sit up straight in his chair out of reflex. He wasn’t used to hearing that harsh and angry a tone from her.

Khalid nodded, “yes, ‘Tora’, right. Sorry. You know poor Cade is just trying to woo you,” he explained.

Poppy looked over at Cade then back at Khalid, “but I’m taken,” she insisted. Tora’s lip curled up in amusement and satisfaction. Damn right she was.

Khalid nodded, “yes, yes, Quincey is your boyfriend, we know, you’ve told us,” he explained. Tora’s brows mirrored Poppy’s as they lowered in annoyance.

“No. Quincey is not my boyfriend,” she informed him sternly.

Khalid smiled, “no? My mistake, who is Quincey then?” he asked imploringly.

Tora and Quincey exchanged alarmed looks. Please for the love of god do not say ‘Young Master Balthuman or Q.B Noyouko’ Quincey prayed. Tora leaned forward in his chair, hands on his knees, unsure what to do. Quincey was a lot of things to her, there were a lot of possible answers she might give, only a few that could fuck them over. She could say he was a client, a writer, her boyfriend’s brother, the guy her boyfriend protected for a living.  What the fuck would she say? “Tora,” Quincey whined, wagging his hand up and down at the wrist in a panic. He glanced at him, what the fuck did he expect him to do? Even if he did try to go up there and shut her up he’d never make it in time.

Poppy smiled brightly and sucked in a breath, “Quincey is…”

Chapter Text

Poppy smiled brightly and sucked in a breath, “Quincey is…one of my dearest friends,” she replied honestly.

Quincey’s face brightened at her response, his hand lowering to pat Tora’s forearm as he leaned over to whisper to him, “Like I said, she won’t say anything,” he reassured, “I wasn’t worried at all,” he lied. Tora just rolled his eyes and relaxed back in his seat.

Khalid smiled and nodded, “that’s very sweet, so you came with your friend and your boyfriend,” he clarified.

Poppy nodded, “Yes, Quincey was very excited about the show, Tora is a skeptic, he doesn’t believe in hypnosis. Thinks it’s a ‘crock of shit.’” she explained using air quotations. The audience roared with laughter.

Khalid smiled and arched both brows, “interesting, I’d be very curious to know if he still feels that way once the show is over.” He stated in amusement. Tora ground his teeth together, clenching his jaw. He wouldn’t call it a ‘crock of shit’ anymore but he definitely wasn’t impressed either. Figures Quincey’s idea of a ‘fun night out’ would result in anxiety and annoyance on his part.

Khalid turned his attention away from Poppy and onto Braxton, “hey, my friend with no name,” he greeted him, walking around to stand behind him, placing both hands on his shoulders. Braxton reached down, itching himself absentmindedly, “sleep, sink deeper,” he instructed as the man slumped in his hands, “Only the person I am touching, you need to pee, terribly. There’s only one problem though, you can’t find your pecker. It’s disappeared. You don’t have one anymore. You won’t discover this until you reach the washroom though. When you do, you will run back in here and let me know immediately,” he instructed.

Poppy blinked as she watched Khalid give Braxton his new instructions, “that’s stupid, and crude,” she muttered.  Tora nodded slightly in agreement, he disliked Khalid even more now. Not only was he a creepy midget he was a creepy fucking perverted midget.

Khalid ignored her, “wide awake now,” he instructed Braxton who immediately rose to his feet, waving his arms in circles to keep his balance when he realized he couldn’t move. “What’s wrong, where are you off to?” he asked.

The brunette, turned to look at him, “I gotta take a leak but I can’t move,” he explained.

“I can’t move either,” Poppy agreed, still trying to wiggle her toes.

Khalid ignored her, “yes well, I think you’ll find your feet are free now, try again,” he instructed.

The man immediately walked to the side of the stage, down the stairs and out the theatre doors to the lobby. As soon as he started moving, Khalid approached Leona, who began pointing at him and laughing as she cringed away from him. He snapped his fingers at her, “sleep,” he instructed, before making contact with her arm, “only the person I am touching, when Braxton returns you will let him know you have stolen what he has lost and will only give it back if he can solve a riddle of your choice,” he informed her before stepping away. “Wide awake now Leona,” he instructed.

“I HAVE A REALLY NICE CAR!” Cade screamed in Poppy’s ear, leaning over to be closer to her.

Poppy cocked her head at him, “so does my boyfriend, do you drive and park like a jerk too?” she asked sincerely. Quincey bit his knuckle to keep from laughing and smacked Tora affectionately on the shoulder as he grumbled to himself at her remark.

“I’M A REALLY GOOD DRIVER! I’M AN EXPERT PARKER!!” Cade exclaimed, a bead of sweat trickling down the side of his face. Tora cocked a brow at that and crossed his arms, fuck this guy. Who the fuck cared?

She smiled at him, “I’m proud of you, it’s good to know your strengths, better to know your weaknesses though,” she commented in a friendly manner.

“I’M SCARED OF THE DARK!” he shouted in reply, much to the audience’s amusement.

She grinned at him, nodding her head, “so is my boyfriend, well, kinda. He doesn’t like the dark but I don’t think he’s actually scared of anything, pretty paranoid but not scared,” she told him and all the other people occupying the theatre. Tora’s crossed arms flexed in annoyance. She wasn’t lying but he also wasn’t exactly cool with her announcing it to the world.

“I WAS LYING, I’M SUPER BRAVE,” Cade backpedalled, desperate to make her like him.

Poppy scrunched up her face, “that’s a silly thing to lie about, there’s nothing to be ashamed of if you’re scared. I’m scared of lots of things,” she explained as Khalid stood off to the side of the stage, enjoying the interaction. Poppy was definitely one of the most entertaining people he’d hypnotized on stage in a long while.

“I’M SCARED OF ALL THE SAME THINGS AS YOU!” Cade insisted. Tora’s eyes widened in alarm. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Do not say you’re scared of me getting shot, or dying. He thought, leaning forwards in his seat again. They’d had that conversation too many times; he knew it was one of her greatest fears. That another person she cared about would die on her. 

Poppy looked doubtful, “Oh really? You’re scared of -”

“I CAN’T FIND MY DICK!” Braxton cut her off, stomping up one of the aisles towards the stage as the crowd laughed, his eyes glued to Khalid.

He laughed, “well don’t look at me my no named friend, I don’t have it,” he teased.

Leona smirked, “I have it!” she informed the man standing in the aisle, waving her arm back and forth above her head.

Braxton was silent a long moment, “…well I kinda need it. Can ya give it back?” he asked innocently.

Leona smiled wickedly, “yes but only if you can solve my riddle,” she pushed. Braxton just stared at her.

Another long moment passed as Poppy looked back and forth between the two people who were acting extremely oddly, “He’s waiting for you to give him the riddle!” She shouted as if it were the most obvious thing in the world.

Leona nodded, “right, the riddle. There was once a man who wanted to prove his love to his wife. So, he climbed the highest mountain, swam the deepest ocean and walked the biggest desert. What do you think his wife said?” she prompted.

Braxton scratched his head. Poppy huffed. “Nothing. She divorced him for never being home,” she muttered. Tora chuckled lightly along with the rest of the audience at that one.

Braxton pointed at Poppy, “yeah! What she said!”

Leona shook her head, “no, no, no, you have to solve it, not her,” she pointed out. “Okay, new one, I have a big mouth and I am also quite loud! I am NOT a gossip but I do get involved with everyone’s dirty business. What am I?” she asked, posing the next riddle.

“Quincey!” Poppy shouted before devolving into a giggle fit. It was Tora’s turn to lean over and pat Quincey’s leg this time as he scowled. Tora barked out a laugh at the look on his face.

Leona shook her head, “no, no, that’s not it.” She stated flatly.

Poppy drew her brows together in concentration as Braxton stared off into space. “Oh, oh, oh! I know! It’s a vaccum cleaner!” she shouted.

“I’M REALLY SMART, JUST LIKE YOU!” Cade cried.

Poppy turned and blinked at him, “you think I’m smart?” she smiled sweetly at him.

“YES AND BEAUTIFUL!” Cade assured her. Tora ground his teeth; he’d had just about enough of this fool.

Poppy’s grin widened, “aw thank you, you’re very sweet,” she cooed. Tora’s nose twitched in irritation. Cade flushed.

“Can I have my dick now?” Braxton piped up.

“Dick, dick, dick,” Cade muttered to himself for a moment, “I HAVE A BIG DICK!” he shouted, much to the amusement of the audience.

Poppy glanced over at him, her eyes falling to his lap appraisingly, unaware of how much the direction of her gaze was making Tora’s blood boil, “Not as big as Tora’s,” she stated disinterestedly, turning her attention back to Braxton and Leona as Tora deadpanned in the audience. Quincey howled with laughter, whacking him repeatedly in the arm.

Leona frowned, ignoring the interaction between Cade and Poppy, her attention on Braxton, “No, you haven’t guessed right yet. What flowers are kissable?” she questioned.

“POPPIES!” Cade shouted. Quincey had to bit his lip to keep from laughing as he watched the vein in Tora’s forehead begin to throb. Poppy frowned, “that doesn’t make any sense, I think you lied again. You’re not very intelligent at all. The answer is obviously Tulips.” She badgered.

Leona frowned, and pointed at Braxton, “He has to answer! Not you!” she shouted at Poppy, “Some try to hide, some try to cheat, but time will show, we always will meet. Try as you might to guess my name. I promise you’ll know when you I do claim. Who am I?” she attempted again.

Poppy laughed, “this one is easy! It’s Tora!” she exclaimed. Tora’s eyes widened in panic, holy shit she was out of her fucking mind. He knew this riddle and that was hitting a little too close to home. Quincey glanced at him with worried eyes; he obviously knew the answer as well.

“NO! IT’S DEATH! YOU KNOW! THE REAPER! THE GUY IN THE BLACK HOOD WITH THE BLADE AND…” Cade drew his finger over his throat.

Luckily, the crowd was laughing too loudly for Poppy’s muttered, “yeah, same thing though,” to be picked up by anyone other than Cade whose eyes widened a fraction in horror.

“Both of you be quiet!” Leona chastised them.

Poppy blinked at her in surprise, “I’m sorry, please don’t be upset with me, I can’t help it,” she pointed at Braxton, “come here,” she waved her hand in a beckoning motion, “I’ll help you,” she stated kindly. Braxton marched up on stage, both hands between his legs, shifting from foot to foot as he came to stand beside Poppy.

“My life is often a volume of grief, your help is needed to turn a new leaf. Stiff is my spine and my body is pale, but I’m always ready to tell a tale, what am I?” Leona said softly.

Poppy fisted her hand in Braxton’s shirt and yanked him down, cupping his ear with her hand, “It’s a book!” she said, loud enough for the microphone to just pick up.

“IT’S A BOOK!” Braxton cried out triumphantly, “NOW GIVE ME MY DICK! I GOTTA PISS!” he screamed.

Leona rolled her eyes and held out her hand, palms up, fingers slightly curled as if she were actually holding something. Braxton stomped over and swiped it from her aggressively before pulling the waistline of his jeans away from his body enough to shove the hand clutching air into his pants for a moment before stomping off stage and back down the aisle.

Tora kept his eyes glued to Poppy as Quincey trailed Braxton until he left the theatre for the lobby again. Tora’s knee bounced as he stared straight ahead. He needed to figure out a way to get her the fuck off that stage. She’d been good about Quincey but comparing him to the grim reaper was way too much public transparency for this liking.

“Well, wasn’t that amusing,” Khalid ruminated, “This is fairy dust, if it gets on you, you’ll fall into a deep sleep. He stated, holding out his empty palm to the audience before moving over Leona and Cade, pretending to sprinkle it on them. Both individuals slumped in their chairs. Khalid focused his attention on Poppy. “Fauna,” he said, very obviously referring to her as they made eye contact.

“Tora, as in Tiger. Stop referring to me like I’m a plant,” She snapped. Khalid cocked his head to the side in mock confusion. Poppy rolled her eyes, “You called me Flora earlier and just now you called me Fauna. Stop it,” she hissed, “my name isn’t that hard so get it right!” Tora smirked; his ferocious little hamster was feisty alright.

Khalid smiled at the quiet laughter coming from the audience, “sorry Tora, I’ll try harder to get it right. You’re just so beautiful and sweet I can’t help but associate you with a flower. Not a Tiger.” He explained, lowering himself into Braxton’s chair beside her.

Poppy side eyed him, “if you start talking to me like Cade on top of messing up my name, I might punch you,” she warned. Tora smirked, that’s my girl he thought with pride. Would serve the creepy midget right.

Khalid laughed, holding up his open palm he blew on it, “sleep,” he commanded before turning his attention back to the audience. “Poppy is rather entertaining isn’t she?” The crowded thundered in agreement. “I think we should have her preform for us, don’t you?” The crowded roared in approval. He reached over and placed a hand on her slumped shoulder. “Only the person I’m touching. You came here tonight with your friend and your boyfriend. You are a famous rapper, you’ve written a song for each of them. You will perform a verse from each song for us.” The audience laughed in anticipation.

Tora and Quincey exchanged another worried glance. “Hopefully it’ll just be silly, or metaphorical enough no one will get it?” Quincey whispered. Tora just grunted in reply, his eyes glued to Poppy. He had no idea what was going to come out of her mouth but he wasn’t looking forward to it.

Khalid tightened his hand on her shoulder, “ready everyone?” he asked wagging his brows at the audience. They gave him a round of applause. “Very well, only the person I am touching, wide awake now.”

Chapter Text

Poppy sat up and gazed out at the audience, blinking for a moment before she remembered who she was and where she was. “Yo, I need a mic,” she told Khalid, her hand outstretched towards him expectantly. Khalid laughed as a stage hand walked out from behind the curtain and handed her an unhooked portable microphone. Poppy accepted it with a small grin and stood, approaching the edge of the stage. “This one is for my boy Quincey B!” She barked putting all the emphasis on the ‘B’.  Quincey grimaced as Tora shook his and buried his face in his hands. This was bad; this was going to be so bad. Salsa music came over the speakers for her. Poppy closed her eyes, her head nodding to the beat for a moment before she took a deep breath and began,

“Now I like dollars, I like diamonds,

I like stunting, I like shining,

I like millon dollar deals 

Where’s my pen? Bitch I’m signin’

I like those Balenciagas, the ones that look like socks

I like going to the jeweler, I put rocks all in my watch,

I like texts from my exes when they want a second chance

I like proving gangstas wrong, I do what they say I can’t

They call me Quincey Bathey, banging body

Spicy mami, hot tamale,

Hotter than a Somali, fur coat, Ferrari

Hop out the stu’, jump in the coupe

Big Dipper on top of the roof

Flexing on bitches as hard as I can

Eating halal, driving the Lam’

Told that bitch I’m sorry though

‘Bout my coins like Mario

Yeah they call me Quincey B, I run this shit like cardio!

Ohhhhh, FACTS!”

The audience roared with applause. Tora glanced over at Quincey whose upper body was leaning towards Poppy, his eyes round as he stared at his little editor in wonder. Who knew she was such a word smith? He turned to meet Tora’s glance. “At least she only mentioned Gangsters once?” he whispered, still thoroughly impressed by the performance.

Tora unclenched his jaw, “she was pretty fuckin’ accurate though, what the fuck is she gonna say about me?” he whispered harshly. Quincey blanched. 

Poppy bowed and smiled. The track changed and she was met with a steady beat with an ‘oooo’ echoed on loop throughout. She nodded with the beat, closing her eyes again, vibing with it momentarily, “Ok, this one’s for my main man, love you boo!” she said pointing out into the audience at Tora who was blinking at her in surprise, his jaw slack. Had she just really said she loved him for the first time in a theatre full of people? Christ. He held his breath as she began:


“Yeah, look

I don't do drugs, I'm addicted to the pain though

Yeah, I been on it for a while, dunno how to put it down

Gotta have it, it's a habit I'ma break though

I just wanna take a hit, keep sayin' I'ma quit

Keep sayin' I'ma leave, but I stay though

I just want a little fix, I don't wanna take a risk

I don't like it when I drift from the safe zone

But lately, I been thinkin' I'ma have to

Lettin' go of things that I'm attached to

World don't stop just because I'm in a bad mood

You don't know what love is 'til you holdin' onto somethin' that you can't lose

I swear I'm tryna get it together

Sleeves up, puttin' work in, tryna be better

I like to fight, but I ain't gon' do it forever

Forget to charge up my focus, and I'm holdin' my head up

Moment I get up, I just wanna know I'm doin' my best

And if I'm not, Lord forgive me, you can handle regrets

'Cause I can feel the water tryna go up over my head

Most of my life, I always felt like I was holdin' my breath

Holdin' my chest to be honest, so I'm tired of it

Lookin' for somethin' in my life to be inspired again

I like to walk around and act like I don't know what it is

But I know what it is, I just never wanna commit

Runnin' from change

I'm lookin' for change

I'm searchin' for change

I'm lookin' for change

I just want, I just want change.”

Tora slumped back in his seat. Fuck. She got him on a whole other level. How the fuck had she just pulled that out of her ass? Damn she was incredible. He fuckin’ loved her. Damn right he couldn’t lose her. Quincey glanced over at Tora, taking in the stunned look on his face before smirking to himself. Poppy was definitely one of a kind. He congratulated himself again on his matchmaking skills. These two absolutely belonged together. He was practically giddy, getting high on their second hand love.

Khalid applauded Poppy along with the rest of the audience, stepping out from a momentary chat with a stage hand behind the curtain, “bravo my dear, thank you for the performance!” he exclaimed, taking the microphone from her before directing her back to her chair, sliding into Braxton’s beside her. “Time for an interview, please tell us, what do you do?” he asked, sticking the unhooked microphone under her mouth.

Poppy narrowed her brows at him in confusion, “you mean when I ain’t rappin’?” she asked seriously. Khalid nodded as the audience laughed. “I’m an editor,” she informed him cheerily.

He nodded, “and your friend Quincey? What does he do for work?” he asked. Quincey’s eyes widened in alarm, he had not spent the last few years protecting his identity for Poppy to spill it all over the stage. His brows narrowed as Poppy began to giggle.

She wiped a tear from the corner of her eye, “oh that’s a good one,” she panted trying to catch her breath, “Quincey doesn’t work. He just pursues whatever passion grips him in the moment. He has a lot of hobbies though, likes to write but I doubt it counts as ‘work’ to him.” She explained.

Quincey stuck his tongue into the side of his cheek, not sure how to feel about her response. Writing was hard work but he would admit he wouldn’t be doing it if he didn’t enjoy it. He did have enough money through Daddy Dearest he didn’t need to do anything or accumulate any of his own wealth if he didn’t want to. He glanced over at Tora who was smirking smugly, relaxed in his seat.

Khalid smiled, “interesting, and what does your boyfriend do?” he inquired.

Tora sat up ramrod straight, his jaw clenching, his breathing stilling as he waited for her response, Quincey’s fingers digging into his forearm. Poppy’s face fell, her humour gone, “whatever he has to,” she responded cryptically. Tora allowed himself to inhale but did not move.

Khalid cocked his head to the side, “sounds like he’s a hard worker unlike your friend,” he observed.

Poppy narrowed her brows, “Tora is a lot of things, don’t put him in a box, there’s more to him than his work,” she asserted. The man in question leaned forward, lacing his fingers together between his legs as his elbows rested on his knees, studying her carefully.

“You don’t sound happy about his career options,” Khalid commented.

Poppy turned pained eyes on him, “it makes me really sad that he forces himself to stay in a job that’s killing him,” she whispered. Tora’s nose burned as he fought off the emotion rising in his chest. Fuck this noise. Why the fuck was she airing his dirty laundry on a fucking stage. He shrugged off the comforting hand Quincey tried to place on his shoulder.

Khalid nodded, “sounds like you care about him a lot?” he remarked inquisitively.

“I love him.” She stated flatly, as though it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“Oh. My. God. Poppy.” Quincey breathed in wonder. Tora’s eyes burned as they stared at her, her casually stated response continuing to echo in his head. His heart clenched painfully in his chest. He wanted to kiss her, to take her home and hold her close and tell her he felt the same. That she was his world. That he would do whatever it took to hold onto her love and her trust for the rest of his life.

Khalid nodded as the rest of the audience ooo’d and awww’d. “What do you love most about him?” he asked, knowing his audience was hooked.

Poppy cocked her head to the side, “that’s a hard one, can I pick more than one thing?” she clarified. Khalid nodded, “His mental fortitude and his hands,” she responded honestly. Tora’s brow twitched. He wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting to hear but it wasn’t that. He wasn’t sure how to feel about her response.

Khalid read the crowd, they were dead silent, still hooked on her, he continued the honesty segment. “Why those two things?” he pried knowing she wouldn’t reveal anything she really didn’t want to. The power of suggestion was intense but he couldn’t actually make her do or say anything she wasn’t open to or willing to share readily.

Tora held his breath, his ears trained for her response. Poppy sighed, “he’s so strong all the time, he’s so smart, he’s an incredible problem solver and reads people so well. He’s so giving, putting others before himself, even when it hurts. He’s been through so much and he still finds it in himself to love openly, to find the humour in things, to care so deeply about his friends. I love his mind. The source of his strength,” she sighed wistfully along with all the other love struck people in the audience, “and his hands, they’re how he communicates. How he tells me he loves me without using his words, how he carries his burdens and forges his way through life. There’s nothing he can’t do with them. I don’t really have any words to adequately describe how I feel when I look at his hands. I just love them, along with the rest of him.” She replied as honestly as possible. The audience collectively sighed.

Tora kept his eyes on his love, his mind racing. He was almost positive no one had every cared for him with the depth and sincerity she had just claimed to, not even the woman that had birthed him. He felt rattled, shaken to his core. He had known she cared about him, had guessed her feelings might be strong enough before this evening that her admission of love hadn’t caught him that off guard. However, the depth of her admiration for him was jarring. Most of the time he felt shame and disappointment surrounding the way in which he’d forged his path through life. His chest constricted. He didn’t deserve her. Her admiration was severely misplaced. 

Khalid smirked, “well Tora sounds like a lucky person,” he stated humorously, knowing he needed to say something to get the laughter flowing again.

Poppy smiled, “I am lucky yeah,” she stated happily, causing the audience with the exception of two men to laugh. Quincey still awestruck by his little editor and Tora too lost in his own thoughts to pick up on the fact she still thought she had his name.

Khalid smiled, “what do you say we wake up the rest of our friends?” The audience clapped their applause. He touched Leona and Cade, “the individuals I just touched, wide awake now,” he commanded and they sat up.

Cade looked over at Poppy, as if seeing her for the first time, falling in love instantly, “I’D KILL FOR YOU!” he shouted at her.

Poppy glanced at him, “please don’t do that, that’s really not attractive,” she muttered her inner thoughts. Tora smirked; of course she wouldn’t think that was romantic. She probably hated knowing he could do that for her without thinking about it longer than it would take to blink.  

Khalid smiled, drawing Braxton out from behind the curtain, leading him back to his seat as the man scratched at his genitals, “look who my friends back stage found wondering around the lobby,” he joked, coaxing the man to sit. “What is your name?” he asked gently.

Braxton just gazed up at him, his jaw working soundlessly. “I think it’s about time we reminded him, what do you think?” he asked the audience. When they announced their approval he looked back at Braxton. He held up his hand, his thumb and forefinger pressed together and leaned towards Poppy, “this is his name, please take it,” he instructed. Poppy leaned forward and pretended to take the invisible word. “When you’re ready, give it to him, shove it right back into his head,” Khalid instructed, stepping back, rolling his eyes when Leona cringed and laughed at his passing.

Poppy gazed down at her own clasped fingers before leaning towards Braxton, tapping him on the side of the head with her thumb and first two fingers. “Do you know your name now?” she asked softly.

The brunette boy blinked at her, “yeah. I’m Braxton. Who are you?” he asked.

Poppy smiled, “I’m Tora,” she told him happily.

“I LOVE YOU TORA!” Cade screamed at her.

She turned her head to look at him in annoyance, “too damn bad. He’s mine,” she snapped. Tora leaned back in his seat, a shit eating grin spreading over his face as the audience laughed. Now who’s possessive? He thought with amusement as his feisty little hamster bristled on stage.

Khalid grinned, stepping up behind her as Cade looked at her in confusion. “Sleep everyone,” he commanded. All four of them slumped in their seats. “Breath deep, breath in and bring it out and going all the way back down into that wonderful state of relaxation, focus. The next time that you open your eyes you will no longer be hypnotized, no longer relaxed, in fact I’m going to count it from one to three, every number I count up from one to three you feel less relaxed and more full of life full of energy releasing yourself from hypnosis when I reach the number three. Starting with number one begin sitting up straight and tall now, that’s right beyond close to feeling full of energy, positive wonderful confident.” He snapped his fingers, “now into number two, now that’s right, less relaxed, more full of energy, feeling amazing in every way, getting ready now to open your eyes and release yourself from hypnosis at the final number three.” He snapped his fingers one last time.

Poppy opened her eyes and blinked out at the crowd. This was going to be fun. She was a good sport. She’d play along. She glanced down at her hands, surprised that they weren’t still clasped together. “Please give our wonderful volunteers a round of applause!” Khalid demanded, throwing his arms out wide to either side of himself. The audience roared as he bowed.

Khalid moved to stand in front of them, making his way down the row, “Lovely Leona, how are you feeling dear?” he asked the curly haired dark skinned woman.

She smiled at him, “wonderful thanks,” she replied.

Khalid smiled back, “glad to hear it, can I ask you to head back to your seat now please?” he requested. She nodded and walked off the stage. He thrust his hand out to the brunette beside Poppy, “and you sir, what’s your name, how are you feeling?” he asked.

Braxton grinned widely, shaking the hypnotist’s hand, “I’m Braxton,” he said confidently, “and I feel awesome!” he declared.

Khalid nodded, “no unpleasant itching sensation?” he asked.

Braxton’s brows narrowed in confusion, “uh, no, why?” he asked as the audience laughed.

Khalid smiled, “don’t worry about it, silly question on my part,” he stated shooting the audience a wink over his shoulder. “Do me a favour please and return to your seat?” he asked kindly. Braxton nodded and moved towards the stairs.

Khalid took a seat next to Poppy in the empty chair. “What’s your name dear?” he asked, his eyes twinkling with amusement.

Poppy smiled warmly at the short hypnotist, “My name is Poppy,” she replied sweetly.

He nodded, “Like the plant? Like flora and fauna? Like the flower?” he asked, a gleam in his eye. She nodded, not quite sure why the audience was laughing, “you’re sure you’re not a ferocious animal?” he inquired with amusement. Poppy blinked at him in confusion, her brows knitting together. “Sorry dear, just making sure. One last question though, just how big is Tora?” he asked flatly. The audience roared with laughter. Tora blushed.

Poppy blinked at the short man in front of her confused as to why his question was so amusing for the audience, “he’s six three…” she muttered in befuddlement.

Khalid grinned at her, “no dear, I meant his dick,” he clarified as he fell back off his chair, nose bloody, Poppy’s fist still extended into the space his face had occupied only a moment ago. “None of your business!” she shrieked.

Tora preened in his seat. Fucking A. That’s my girl. He thought with pride, as Poppy blushed, realizing she’d just punched the star of the show on stage out of reflex. She immediately began to fret, “Uh, um, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have hit you but what in the world kind of question was that! You creepy old perv!” she shouted.

Khalid laughed it off, climbing to his feet as he wiped the blood from beneath his nose, “I think I deserved that huh? She did warn me! I think it’s a safe bet she’d not under my honesty spell anymore,” he told the crowd with a wink. “Hey Cade, what do you think of Poppy?” he asked.

Cade shrugged, crossing his arms, “she’s a badass bitch, cute I guess. I wouldn’t wanna mess with her though. Aggressive women aren’t my type,” he stated dryly. The audience roared with laughter. He stared out at the crowd in confusion before looking back at Poppy who was the only other person not laughing. “Did I say something funny?” he asked her. Poppy shook her head ‘no’ still wondering what Khalid meant by ‘honesty spell’.

Khalid smiled warmly at them both, “Thank you Cade, please return to your seat,” he turned back to the audience. “How about one last round of applause for the star of our show tonight?” he asked, waving an outstretched arm towards Poppy. “Madam you are magnificent, thank you so much for your participation this evening,” he told her as the crowd applauded. “You can return to your seat now,” he informed her, gesturing towards the side of the stage.

Poppy moved to do as she was told, pausing long enough for the stage hand that intercepted her to take the microphone back he’d given her only minutes before. “You’re a real hoot,” he muttered as he detangled the wires, and let her pass. Poppy bit her lip in confusion as she made her way back to her seat, Tora moving his knees this time to let her by as Khalid continued to speak from the stage.

“Hey sweetheart, ya feeling okay?” Tora whispered, clasping her hand as she sat, entwining their fingers as he clasped her hand in her lap. She nodded at him as Quincey glanced over at the pair with a smirk.

~           ~             ~

Poppy walked slowly beside Tora as Quincey continued to prattle on a few feet in front of them about how worried he’d been and how hilariously she’d behaved, a blush so deep on her cheeks she was worried it would stain permanently. “It’s fine Bobby, you didn’t say anything wrong,” Tora whispered in her ear, drawing her attention away from Quincey.

Poppy grimaced, “I didn’t embarrass you then?” she asked hopefully.

Tora shrugged, “ya made me uncomfortable a few times and definitely had me worried about what ya were gonna say here and there, but not embarrassed,” he told her honestly.

She nodded, “sorry,” she whispered.

Tora smiled, “nothing to be sorry for,” he assured her, “by the way, I am capable of using my words and not just my hands to tell ya I love ya.”

Poppy stopped dead in her tracks, gazing up at him, tears welling in her eyes. That was the first time he’d ever said it. “I love you too!” She whined, releasing his hand in order to jump on him, her arms circling his neck as he caught her thighs, their mouths locked together in a passionate embrace.

Quincey glanced over his shoulder, “oh for the love of – Get a damn room you two!” he muttered, walking away from them. “The possessive man can’t keep his hands to himself for more than thirty seconds,” he muttered to himself with a small smirk and every intent of leaving his companions alone for the rest of the night.