Gently Bitten

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Hypnotist

"I think we should play Hypnotist."

"That's because you always--" Derren started, but didn't finish the sentence. After a moment Jack looked over, to see if he was going to continue. He could have sworn Derren had his eyes closed, opening them just as Jack looked over.

Jack met his eyes, but Derren didn't say anything, just looked back at him amiably. "Cory always... what?" Jack prompted.

"Huh?" said Derren. He looked quickly at Cory, then up aimlessly as if he were replaying the conversation in his head. "Oh! Um, Cory always wants to play Hypnotist," he said after a moment.

"Uh-huh," Jack said. "Okay, what is Hypnotist?"

Jen snorted, then said "Let's call it a local variant. You know that game Assassin where one player is the assassin and everybody sits in a circle looking around at each other in a totally paranoid way and if the assassin meets your eyes and winks at you, you're dead, so you try to figure out who it is before that happens to you, or else if you are the assassin you try to kill everyone else before they guess?"

"I haven't played it, but I think I've heard of that game," said Jack.

"Okay, well, this is basically like that. Only instead of an assassin there's a Hypnotist, and so if the Hypnotist gets you, instead of waiting a little while and then announcing you're dead, you stare blankly straight ahead for the rest of the game."

"And--" Bill started, but then there was a movement, as if Cory had kicked him under the table, and he stopped too.

"And?" Jack asked.

"And uh, that's how we play it," Bill continued. Cory smiled at him, and he bit his lip and seemed to squirm for just a moment.

"So, are you in, Jack?" Cory asked brightly. "Cindy, maybe you'd like to deal out the cards?" Cory pushed a small packet of playing cards across the table to Cindy, giving her a significant look. Cindy seemed frozen in that gaze like a deer in headlights, but after a moment she gave a very small almost unconscious nod. "Whoever gets the Ace of Spades is the Hypnotist," Cory explained to Jack while Cindy looked through the cards, confirmed they contained the Ace of Spades, and began shuffling.

"Okay..." said Jack. Cindy passed him a card, and he looked at it quickly. Jack of Spades. Funny that it was the Jack, like him. But not the Hypnotist. "Now what?"

"Now everyone, quickly look at your card, and then put it down," said Cory. A pause, and then "Okay, now everyone close your eyes. Good. In a moment, on my signal, you will open your eyes, and then we'll begin. Ready? Eyes open."

Jack looked at everyone else, who were themselves looking at everyone else. It felt like a scene from an overly melodramatic detective movie. But then he noticed that Bill wasn't looking around anymore, just staring straight ahead, blankly. Ooh, first victim of the Hypnotist!

Silence quickly settled over the table. A few moments passed before he noticed that Cindy was also staring straight ahead with a blank look on her face.

She and Bill actually made very convincing hypnosis victims. Jack wasn't sure Bill had even blinked once. He suppressed an urge to wave his hand in front of Bill and Cindy's faces, try to make them react. He wasn't sure if he'd be more disappointed if they didn't or if they did.

It was kind of eerie, sitting there with those two staring blankly into space.  It made the whole atmosphere feel just a bit more surreal.  Trance-like.  Like he was already starting to go under with them.  Starting to be hypnotized…

Jack shook his head, trying to snap out of it.  Across the table, Cory smirked.

Thinking back to Derren's comment, he started to wonder if Cory was the Hypnotist. Was that what he meant? "You always play the Hypnotist?" Jack wasn't sure how that could really be true-- Cindy had shuffled the cards, right? He hadn't actually watched her shuffle them, but still. Even if she could have stacked them, why would she stack the deck to make Cory the hypnotist?  It’s not like… he smiled wryly.  It’s not like Cindy was hypnotized to stack the deck the way Cory wanted.

Right?

He tried to keep an eye on Cory, but couldn't detect any winking. Just a subtle smirk.

It was actually a very attractive smirk. Jack wondered if he was blushing a little. Maybe it might not be so bad, looking into Cory's eyes, falling into them until his thoughts grew faint and far-away, and he forgot to do anything but stare, blankly, straight ahead... well, if this were hypnosis for real, instead of a game.

Out of the corner of his eye, Jack noticed that Jen was staring blankly ahead now, too.  When had that happened?

Cory was meeting his eyes more and more, still with that knowing smirk, and it almost felt like he was getting lost in them a little bit. He thought about what that would be like. Just letting his thoughts drift away. Could he be hypnotized, just from looking into Cory's eyes?

Cory was always the Hypnotist. Jack wanted that to be what Derren had meant. And maybe, that Bill had been about to say, before Cory stopped them, that once everyone was hypnotized, something else happened. Cory did something else. To all of them. While they were hypnotized.

Hypnotized.

He really had been looking into Cory's eyes for a long time now. They were a little wider now, inviting him in. Inviting him to lose himself, and not think of anything at all, while his mind drifted away... that knowing smirk seemed to mean it was okay, Cory knew Jack was falling into hypnosis, and it was all right, it was what he was supposed to do. He almost imagined he saw Cory give an imperceptible nod. That's right. Just drifting, falling into Cory's eyes.

Falling.

Hypnotized.

At long last, when the wink came, it was already far too late to matter.