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Silent collapse

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Silence was an art in itself and those who could maintain it were masters of unspoken secrecy and knowledge. Teller kept himself quiet while he listened to Penn, his partner. The interview had been going on for at least 15 minutes, yet Teller was bored to death. He nodded and smiled every once in a while but otherwise let his thoughts wander. They wandered through space and time, in English and Latin. Wondering when he decided to stop teaching. Trying to remember the phone call he made when he took a year of absence from the school he worked. He never called the principal back. He forgot the school too fast. Thinking back, Teller realized just how hard he missed teaching. His Latin had started to chip away. Pieces and bits he started to forget. He tried to study his Latin as much as possible just to keep at least that part of himself whole. He had changed over the years, but he still taught people valuable lessons.

One of those lessons was the art of silence. People would quietly watch him, the theatre drowned in ear deafening silence. He told the audience stories while they understood every single 'word'.

"While Teller and I were performing, one specific person in the audience started t..-" Penn's words were lost to Teller's ears. He looked around the studio with a smile curling his lips. His Cheshire like smile making people laugh quietly. He paid them no mind though.

When the interview was over, Teller followed Penn backstage. His eyes focused on his partner's back until Penn turned around.

"Alright. What's going on?" Penn asked his companion. Teller shook his head and waved Penn's question away with a smile.

"You've been spacing out during the interview. Don't think I didn't notice." He said with a frown. It wasn't concern which made Penn ask what was going on. Teller knew that. It was annoyance. Penn didn't like people zoning out on him and certainly not the one and only person he could call his best friend. Teller just shook his head again and went to his dressing room. He sensed Penn's rising anger but choose to ignore it. Was it for the better? He didn't know.

They left the building together with their backpacks packed. They went back to their hotel in silence. It was one block away which made it a short walk. The silence between the two men was comfortable on both parts. Teller crossed the street thoughtfully. His head a chaotic mess and his limbs an aching bunch of useless attachments. His head had been hurting all day and Penn grabbing him roughly pulling him back off the street didn't help his aching head at all. He watched a car drive by, nearly touching his toes. His eyes were wide as he looked back up at Penn. He stood with his back against the giant's stomach while the latter had an arm draped over him protectively.

"If you want to get killed I can find more effective ways. This would only end you up in the hospital with a few broken bones and a concussion." Penn said staring the other in the eyes. Teller breathed out in a loud sigh of relief. He hadn't even noticed he had been holding his breath. He let out a small breathy laugh but Penn kept his face stern. When Teller pulled away from his friend he watched the street carefully before attempting to cross it once more.

By the time they were in their room on the highest level of the hotel, Teller's head had started to spin. His eyes not quite following the world around him.

"Let's head straight to bed. You look tired and I want to be able to get up in the morning." Penn said with a yawn. Teller nodded in agreement as he watched Penn unlock the door. They shared a room but there were two separate beds. Teller didn't hesitate to throw himself right into his bed, not bothering to change into his nightwear or even take off his shoes. He heard the distinctive sound of Penn's laughter but it passed his ears innocently.

"You gonna sleep like that?" Penn asked. Teller responded with a sleepy groan and a flying pillow which missed Penn completely. The louder half of the duo just laughed. Teller heard some shuffling, Penn leaving the room and coming back. He felt someone tug at his feet but he didn’t have the strength to push the hands away. When his shoe fell to the floor he understood that they weren’t tugging at his feet but pulling at his shoes. He allowed his other shoe to follow the first while he lay sprawled on his stomach on the bed. It wasn’t until he felt two hands pulling at his collar when he decided to roll over so they would leave him alone. It only helped the hands more than it did him. They started loosening his tie until it came undone completely. The hands left him be for the rest of the night.

Teller woke up with a crippling headache. He opened his eyes only to see the room spinning in more ways than one. He took his time waking up before he pulled a light blanket off of him. The blanket wasn’t on the bed before. Ah well, Penn must have given it to him. Speaking of which. Penn was still asleep. It made Teller wonder what time it was. When he looked at the clock he saw it was early morning and time to start the day. He let Penn sleep a little longer while he dragged his aching limbs to the bathroom where he took an aspirin or two for the pain. By the time they started working he was dressed and ready to go. He woke up his partner and sat down on the couch patiently.

“Ready? Let’s go to the cafeteria downstairs, I heard they serve wonderful breakfast.” Penn said feeling around in his pockets. “If I find the key before noon that is.” He muttered silently. Teller smiled at the bigger man, watching the room for the key. Penn often lost keys all around the place and it made Teller anxious at times. Especially when they did tricks with locks. Penn was starting to look around as well, scratching his head in thought. Teller saw the key laying on the table and got up quickly to grab it before Penn saw it. He stood up too fast though. The room started spinning once more and he nearly tripped  if it weren’t for Penn’s strong arms holding him up.

“Got up too fast?” Penn asked with only a little hint of concern. It was more amusement playing in his eyes. “It’s the age I tell you.” He said making sure Teller could stand on his own before looking down at the table across the room. The very table Teller was willing to break his neck for. “Ah, there it is.” Penn said seeing the key he’d been looking for.

They had breakfast enjoying each other’s company. Penn’s stories filling up the silence Teller was so fond of. He listened intently, eating only small bits of his toast. He wasn’t hungry and his stomach hurt, but he knew he couldn’t skip breakfast on a busy day. He had to perform today.


Chapter Text

They rehearsed until it was time to get ready. The theatre was filling up nicely while both Penn and Teller were backstage running through everything.

“You have the palmed cards ready?” Penn asked seemingly uninterested. They had done this often enough, but one couldn’t be too sure. Teller made the universal “All ok” sign while Penn ran through his mental check list. “We’re ready.” He announced to no one in particular. They had to wait until everyone was ready before they could take their place. Teller hid a wince of pain here and there, masking it by shuffling nervously around and tapping the cables running across the floor with his toes.

“Will you stop that? What if the light dies? It’ll be on you, buddy.” Penn said only half joking. Teller smiled sheepishly, standing up straight which only made the pain in his stomach worse. Pain was something they all had the endure at some point in their life, but Teller was starting to wonder what made him feel like that specific pain. His limbs were aching, his head was pounding, his stomach hurt and not to mention the dizzy spells. Getting nauseous on stage was something he was disquieting about. He’d been feeling more and more weary as time passed. And it passed slowly. Penn hadn’t noticed anything amiss. Which Teller was greatful for. Penn would have considered blowing their performance off of that evening, now it’d be too late of course. But Penn would always find a solution. He’d be straight out honest about Teller feeling under the weather and apologise in advance for the lame tricks Penn would be performing mostly solo. He would do that. But Teller wouldn’t have let him. He’d insist he was fine until Penn believed him or let him be. Though Teller needn’t worry about all that for, like mentioned before, Penn hadn’t noticed.

“Into position!” Someone yelled out from afar. At least it sounded far away to Teller. It was their cue to go into position as well. Teller hid himself behind a mirror while Penn walked on stage with a mischievous grin. An ear deafening applause was heard when the audience saw the giant magician.

“Hello, my name is Penn Jillette and this is..-“ He stopped talking, pointing towards nothing but air. He looked  around before pushing the big mirror aside. “ partner Teller.” He finished before adding quickly, “We’re Penn and Teller and we’re going to show you how to do the cups and balls our way, explain a few things about the advantages of being slight of hand and how to catch a bullet with your teeth. There’ll be lots of other stuff as well so don’t leave your seat just yet.” Penn said just like they rehearsed.

Teller kept smiling throughout the tricks. Everthing was going well until the last few minutes of the show. He was starting to feel faint. The stage was turning into a ship which was entering dangerous waters. A raging storm swinging it from one side to the other. His eyes trying to focus but losing miserably. He heard Penn refer to their magic ‘wands’ as he pointed towards the guns. One wrong move and either one of them could end up hurt. There was never a one hundred percent of certainty for a trick to be completely safe. It made Teller anxious.

Penn caught Teller blinking rapidly but wisely ignored it. Teller copied Penn’s moves the best he could, staying on his side of the stage. How he managed to remain upright while the guy in the audience took his time writing his initials and drawing a smiley on the bullet was beyond him. All he knew was that his dizziness was starting to get worse. Penn glanced at his partner when they returned to the middle of the stage, both still on their own side. There was a hint of concern when he saw Teller’s movements become more sluggish. Teller caught him staring and knew it was futile to hide his weariness from the other magician. Penn nodded with a quick frown and something else only Teller could see. The smaller of the two knew what he meant though. They had their own sign language on stage. When they couldn’t communicate using words, Penn would always find a way to bring the message up to Teller who understood immediately. Teller shook his head in response. A quick unseen shake by the audience, but quite visible for Penn who started to look disgruntled at the idea of Teller  holding a real gun, facing him. What he didn’t expect when they both had opened their mouths to catch the bullet, was for Teller to drop his gun while Penn pulled the trigger. Teller toppled over, not because of a bullet lodging itself into his body, but because his dizziness had started to go from annoying to frightening. Sound sounded far away. Penn started to fade away into a world full of black and gravity…well…gravity did a fine job catching him a few moments after he heard the faint sound of a gun going off. He wasn’t sure if it was his or Penn’s though.

“I killed Teller.” Penn said trying to laugh the situation away. He knew the gun hadn’t actually send the bullet through the air. It was part of their safety messurement. All they needed to do were some quick slight of hand tricks before getting into position and firing the gun.


Chapter Text

Without the audience suspecting anything amiss. Penn managed to talk the audience into thinking it was all part of the show while the stage manager ordered real medics into getting Teller backstage without looking too suspicious. Penn abstained himself from insinuating his concern. Teller seemed fine one minute and weary the other! It was confusing to say the least. Penn bowed his farewell to the audience trying to keep himself from speeding the process along and rushing backstage.

“Penn, what the heck happened?” The stage manager asked not understanding any of it. He knew the duo was prone to pulling stunts like this, but the shorter half of the two was obviously ill. There’d been a second of fright where the stage manager had actually thought Penn had shot his own partner. But then he remembered the people he was thinking about were actually Penn and Teller, which should explain a lot.

“Hey, this is not my fault!” Penn said holding up his hands to emphasize his innocence. “If I had known he was unwell I would have cut the show short or blow it off altogether.” Penn said crossing his arms with a frown directed to everyone and everything. Bluntly said, he wasn’t just ticked off. He was absolutely pissed off. May it or might it not mean the same, he couldn’t care less. It shouldn’t have got that far.

“How come you didn’t know? He’s your partner, you should have noticed, for God’s sake!” The stage manager wasn’t getting any of it. He had literally felt his heart stop when Teller collapsed. It was his responsibility for the act to go smoothly. There were no mistakes allowed or it’d be on his head. Even if the performer died of a natural heart attack, it’d still be his fault. That. Or he might be exaggerating.

“We’re all human here and if a full grown man decides to keep something to himself, so be it.” Penn replied before storming off in search for his partner. He could understand Teller’s stubbornness when it came to being ill. Being the louder half he always told his partner when he felt off, but he knew Teller as being silent. Not shy, mind you. He was all but shy! The guy could talk up a storm, but just on his own way. He could tell stories and not move his lips. He could make people wonder about the simplest of things, yet make no sound whatsoever. Penn passed by many people. When he had no luck at finding his partner he decided to ask the next person he saw. His luck ran out on him though. The next person he saw was the stage manager.

“How is he?” He asked having cooled down dramatically. Penn was still weary of his presence but answered him like any grown man would.

“I haven’t found him yet.” He told the stage manager with a sigh. He was tired and the stress of Teller’s sudden collapse had been weighing him down as well.

“Still?” The stage manager asked silently. He looked thoughtful for a minute until he flicked his fingers and asked,

“How about the infirmary?” Penn kept himself from slapping his forehead in frustration. The urge to just kill the stage manager and be done with it was getting bigger the more the guy spoke.

“If I knew where the f*** it was, perhaps I would have started looking over there, yes.” Penn said making an obvious effort to keep himself calm and not lash out completely. The stage manager was starting to look offended. It didn’t bother Penn at all, in fact, it made him at ease knowing he had offended the guy who was adding up on his stress. He was usually a calm and collected guy, only acting to be pissed off on screen or on stage, but rarely feeling any real anger.

“I’ll show you.” The stage manager said allowing Penn to follow him to the infirmary. Penn silently thanked him, though it wasn’t audible enough for the other to hear. They walked through endless halls. The trip seeming to take longer than it actually did. Hours passed in Penn’s mind while it were just two minutes or less when they finally arrived. Crooked letters were pasted to the white door on the end of the hall. “INFIRMARY” it barely read. Penn took no time hasting towards the door and storming in. An EMT was working quietly, hovering over his patient while he checked the person’s vitals over. When Penn took a closer look he saw his partner on the examination table.

“How is he?” He asked repeating the stage managers words and way of speaking almost perfectly, which made him curse every single god he could think of. He didn’t believe in them anyway. The EMT turned around to face Penn. His flashy yellow vest seemed off in the otherwise white, brightly lit room. The EMT recognized Penn instantly.

“He’s doing fine. He was slightly dehydrated but we’ve got it covered.” The EMT said with a reassuring smile.

“You mean that’s it? He was just a little thirsty?” Penn asked not quite getting it. The EMT frowned at Penn’s words.

“No. He’s running a temperature as well, I thought you knew so it seemed like a useless fact if you already knew.” The EMT explained. Wherever the guy graduated. Penn would burn down the school, the hospital where he worked and even the guy’s home for his plain stupidity. How heartless did everyone think Penn was? If he had known Teller was ill, he would have cancelled the show. How often need he repeat himself?

“Mind blow, I didn’t know.” Penn stated before pushing the EMT out of the room. Only a few medics and Penn were left standing in the quiet room. “This is all your fault.” He said sitting down at Teller’s side. The unmoving form of his partner made his thoughts travel way too far into the future. He started to realize just how much older Teller was and that this might be the last position he might see the shorter man in. One day, this would all end. His career. His partner. He shook his head in order to clear his thoughts. This was just the flu, nothing too serious. But people died of the flu. He thought. Penn cursed himself. He was breaking his head over this too much. He cleared his throat, successfully catching a young medic’s attention.

“When can I take him home?” Penn asked quietly, his voice uncharacteristically soft. The medic looked at Teller before she took in Penn’s troubled eyes.

“When he wakes up. Just make sure to get the fever down and make him drink a lot of water.” The medic said. She was a beautiful young lady who seemed to understand the situation completely. “Also, bed rest will do him good. Tie him down if you need to.” She said with a small smile. Penn smiled in return. Yes. She understood. She knew Penn hadn’t forced Teller to perform. It made Penn wonder just how old and how experienced the young medic was. His speculations were all forgotten when he heard a sound next to him. As if on cue, Teller started to wake up. His eyes fluttering and his breathing speeding up, signing the fact that he was indeed waking up.

“You make me look like a heartless ponce, or something sexier.” Penn stated looking for a bottle of water and a glass. When he finally found one he poured Teller a glass of water and urged him to drink it until there was no drop left. His eyes were glassy and his skin looked clammy. Penn could only imagine how uncomfortable his partner felt.

“Are you ready to go back to the hotel?” Penn asked carefully. Teller had woken up enough by now and asking wouldn’t hurt anyone. He received a nod, making Penn sigh in relief. With how awful Teller looked, he could have thought the shorter man wouldn’t want to move away from his laying down position.

“Just lean on me.” Penn said once Teller had managed to stand up straight. Just, imagine a giant man supporting a much smaller person. It looked strange for those who didn’t know them. But even those who did recognize them shot questioning glances. Teller merely focused on trying to remain upright for the entire way out of the theater. Penn hailed over a cab, carefully descending Teller into the backseat until the older man sat as comfortable as he possibly could in his condition.

They somehow managed to get into their hotel room without incident. Teller looked plain out exhausted and Penn was feeling equally tired. He tucked Teller into bed before getting ready to catch the forty winks as well. Teller sighed miserably when Penn had left the room. How had it come to this? He wondered. He thought it was something small like a simple headache and his age finally catching up. But he was wrong on both fronts. He rubbed his face in both exhaustion and frustration. He fought sleep until Penn was back, his eyes losing the battle to remain open though. He heard the vague sound of Penn moving around the room and opened his eyes to see him squinting towards the bright light of his phone’s screen. Penn looked up from his phone, having sensed someone watching him.

“I thought you were asleep, did I wake you up?” Penn asked putting down his phone and taking off his glasses. Teller shook his head before smiling faintly. He took a deep breath before opening his mouth,

“Thank you and I am sorry.” Teller said softly. His voice dripping with exhaustion yet managing to sound intelligent all the same. Penn shook his head.

“It’s okay, it’s my fault as well.” Penn said before adding, “I shouldn’t have opened the window when you weren't looking.” Teller laughed before he allowed himself to fall into the arms of Morpheus.