Chapter 1: The Cat Returns
The Cat Returns
“I don’t think I have to tell you how stupid and irresponsible you all were tonight,” Dylan chastised.
The three Horsemen hung their heads in shame.
They made quite the sight, strewn around the living room as the effects of their alcohol fuelled night wore off. Merritt was shirtless, though he had at least bothered to put on pants. Jack was the opposite. He was wearing an oversized t-shirt bearing a slogan about saving the whales; Dylan couldn't be sure if he was wearing anything else. Danny was wearing pants. They weren't his, but he was wearing them, so Dylan had to give him that much. A pink, lacy bra that he'd been wearing when Dylan got home sat neatly folded next to him. Dylan couldn't even begin to fathom where Daniel had gotten that.
Henley and Lula were living separately from the boys and were lucky enough to miss out on the dressing down that the male Horsemen were surely about to get. Dylan was pissed off.
“We’re sorry, Dylan,” Jack offered, looking like he’d just been forced to kick a puppy. He hiccupped and seemed shocked by the action.
“It was mainly Merritt’s fault,” Danny added.
“I left you in charge,” Dylan retorted in a raised voice. His frustration and anger were evident.
Danny looked to the floor. It was true, he had been left in charge and things had not turned out like they were supposed to.
“J. Dlanliel… J. Danlaniel... Danliel Alas is NOT in charge of me!” Merritt slurred from the corner.
“That is obvious,” Dylan retorted, “otherwise you wouldn’t be so drunk, the liquor cupboard wouldn’t be so empty, the boys wouldn’t have been hypnotised and I wouldn’t have had to come home early to sort out this mess.”
“You’re just defending him ‘cause you’re sleeping with him,” Merritt shot back.
“Wait what?” Jack piped up, looking first to Danny and then to Dylan, shocked that he had missed what was going on right in front of his eyes.
“Oh Jack, Jack, Jack,” Merritt sighed. “Jackie, Jackie, Jackie. Are you really, are you really telling me you didn’t know? Surely you can’t be that naïve. When the bed springs were squeaking on Tuesday night, did you think they were, what, jumping on the bed?”
“Actually I was jumping on the bed,” Danny corrected. Merritt threw him a look of disbelief. “There was a spider on the roof right above my bed and I couldn’t reach it so I sort of had to jump and try to hit it with my shoe at the same time.”
“Did you get the spider?” Jack asked, as if this was the part to fixate on.
Danny nodded. “Squished him good.”
“Poor spider,” Merritt lamented. “Murdered just because he picked the wrong room to inhabit. How would you like it if you were a spider and people squished you? In fact, I’m going to hypnotise you so you think you’re a spider and then every time you see a person you’ll have to worry that they might flatten you.”
“No, Merritt!” the other three shouted almost simultaneously, moving towards him to hold him down if necessary.
“I think you’ve done enough hypnotism for one night,” Dylan said.
“But I didn’t even get to hypnotise you so you thought you were a dragon,” Merritt pouted, “and you could breathe fire and roaaaarrrr!”
“While I appreciate the thought, I’m going to have to say no on the whole dragon thing and you -” Dylan pointed an accusing finger at Merritt – “you need to stop hypnotising people, especially while drunk.”
“I only did it a little bit,” Merritt defended, pouting and looking like a scolded child. “It was just for fun.”
“It was not fun,” Danny argued.
“Oh lighten up,” Merritt shot back. “Get laid.”
“Oh and that reminds me,” Danny said as he turned back to face Dylan. “Do you know what these two were doing? On the kitchen table!”
“No, Danny, don’t tell him!” Jack whispered in horror. But his words went ignored.
“So not only was Merritt hypnotising us, I walked in on him and Jack defil-“
He was cut off by the two aforementioned table defilers.
“That’s not how it happened, Atlas, and you know it!”
Dylan held his hand up and there was silence.
“One at a time,” he requested. The three Horsemen all made a move to talk at once, only to be silenced again. “Danny, you can start.”
He would deny it when he returned to a state of sobriety, but Danny literally stuck his tongue out at Merritt.
“See, Jack, that’s what happens when you’re sleeping with the boss – special privileges,” Merritt said in a stage whisper. Jack giggled a very unmanly giggle.
“So do you want me to start with the hypnotism,” enquired Danny, satisfied that he now had Dylan’s full attention, “or how I found them using the table for their debauchery!”
“Tattle tale,” Merritt murmured before deciding it wasn’t enough of an insult. “kink-shaming, sexually repressed -“
“Okay, Danny has the talking stick right now,” Dylan interrupted. “And let’s just stick to the issue at hand – the hypnotism – and we’ll save all the other stories for another time.”
“I don’t see any talking stick,” Jack stated. “He’s not holding anything in his hands.”
“Please tell me it’s not a euphemism,” Merritt added. He turned to Jack, beckoning him closer as if he had a secret to share. It was a very loud secret.
“What if the reason we can’t see this stick in Danny’s hands is because it’s somewhere else on his person… somewhere we can’t see. It would explain a lot.”
Jack’s eyes went wide. Merritt tapped the side of his nose as he nodded knowingly like he was onto something.
“Look, it’s a metaphorical talking stick,” Dylan clarified. “Now can you just be quiet so I can find out what happened? I cannot even begin to fathom how you got yourselves into this situation.”
“Yes, sir,” Jack said, adding a sloppy salute. Dylan sighed in defeat.
There was silence for a moment.
“Let the record show that it was Jack who kept talking, not me,” Merritt announced. “I am being quiet like you said –“ Danny threw a look of annoyance Merritt’s way – “okay, I’m talking now, but that’s only to say that I wasn’t talking back then… or now… okay, I spoke again then, but I’m stopping now.”
There was another blissful moment of silence.
“Danny, you can start whenever you want,” Merritt announced, shattering the silence again. The others made noises of exasperation. They were never going to get this sorted out at this rate.
Dylan rubbed his hands over his eyes, seriously contemplating just forgetting about this whole mess and going to sleep. He could deal with it in the morning… or never. But no, Dylan had a responsibility as the team leader to sort out any issues within the team before they became a problem. He would have to wait it out and listen.
“Alright, Danny, tell me what happened.”
“Alright, Danny, tell me what happened,” Dylan sighed, resigned to the fact that there was no way to escape this.
Danny cleared his throat and began to recount the tale.
"So we were all sitting in the living room, working on the plans for our upcoming show. Well, at least, I was..."
They were all sitting in the living room, working on the plans for their upcoming show. Well, at least, Danny was. Jack and Merritt were sitting at opposite ends of the couch, tossing popcorn at each other and seeing if they could catch it in their mouths. Merritt was nothing if not enthusiastic in his attempts, but had a very low success rate. In fact, he was just shit at it. Jack was marginally better, but even he was averaging at less than 50%. They were making a huge mess that Daniel would later clean up so Dylan wouldn't have to come home to find his house destroyed.
"Suck up," Merritt interrupted.
"Thank you, Danny," Dylan said, ignoring Merritt. "Go on."
Danny cleared his throat before beginning again.
"Merritt, having had enough of decorating the living room with food, decided he would force me to get him a drink..."
Merritt, having had enough of decorating the living room with food, decided he would ask Danny to get him a drink.
"Hey, Danny, can you get me a drink while you're up?"
"I'm not your personal butler, Merritt, stop being so lazy and get it yourself. I'm much too busy doing the important things that Dylan asked us to do while he was away."
"I'll get it," Jack said, getting up off the couch and running off like Merritt's little bitch.
"Hey!" Jack protested just as Merritt made to push himself up off the floor towards Danny.
"Leave Jack out of this," Merritt said angrily. "He has done nothing wrong. He's the victim here."
Danny looked at Merritt with bewilderment.
"You're the one who made him a victim!"
"I am a victim of circumstance," Merritt retorted stubbornly.
"And whiskey," Jack muttered under his breath, low enough that only Dylan heard.
"You created those circumstances, Merritt!" Danny shot back with a level of frustration that was reserved only for Merritt. "You're a victim of yourself!"
"Alright, alright, let's get back to the story," Dylan intervened, trying to stop his Horsemen from fighting.
“Alright, but let the record show that I am not at fault. They were the ones who started drinking…”
Let the record show that J. Daniel Atlas is not at fault. Merritt and Jack were the ones who started drinking… at first. Jack returned to the living room with an assortment of bottles containing various alcoholic beverages.
“Jesus Christ, Jack, how much do you two plan on drinking?” Danny complained, briefly allowing himself to be distracted from the very important plans he was working on for Dylan.
“Come on, Danny. Lighten up,” Merritt called. “Come have a drink with us.”
“No, no.” Daniel was adamant. He was much too busy sorting out more important matters for Dylan.
Merritt shrugged and poured himself a drink. He paused, bottle hovering over one of the other glasses Jack had brought over.
“Now I forget,” Merritt mocked, “are you old enough to drink?”
“Very funny, old man,” Jack retorted, chuckling as he did so. He leant forwards and placed his hand over the top of Merritt’s hand on the bottle, forcibly tipping the bottle so the amber liquid filled his glass. Releasing Merritt’s hand, he picked up the glass and downed it in one go. He kept his eyes locked on Merritt’s the entire time in a silent challenge.
“You know I’m old enough.”
They were already so close that it took only the briefest of milliseconds for their lips to crash together. It was hot and needy yet leisurely and calculated. Their mouths separated only to crash back together time and time again, tongues tangled in a tantalising tryst. While Jack was giving, Merritt was taking, moving forwards to take more, more, more. Jack lay back as Merritt moved atop him, hands starting a slow exploration.
Realising that he hadn’t heard Merritt make a stupid remark in several minutes – which either meant he was dead or doing something he probably shouldn’t – Danny turned around to see the other two Horsemen horizontal on the couch.
“Can you two cut out the softcore porn show you’ve got going on over there,” he complained. “Some of us are trying to solve important life-changing problems over here.”
Merritt chuckled as he rocked back on his knees, reaching for his forgotten drink and bringing it to his lips.
“Have a drink,” he said again. He kept his eyes on Jack but spoke to Danny. “It might help you solve some of your problems.”
Danny scoffed. “I don’t think so.”
Merritt shrugged and sat back on the couch. Jack moved to sit up too, but Merritt placed a hand on his stomach to keep him down, fingers rubbing in little circles. He would get back to Jack in a moment.
“I know what you want, Daniel, even if you don’t know yourself,” Merritt called out across the room.
Danny was much too busy comparing the times of different routes out of the stadium they would be using for their next show to hear him.
Putting his nearly empty glass back on the table, Merritt turned his attention back to Jack. Time to play. Laying back atop him, Merritt met Jack’s eager, waiting lips. He would never fail to be surprised and swept away by the boy’s enthusiasm. It was in everything he did, but most noticeably when they kissed. It was like Jack thought he only had one chance and wanted to make sure it was a kiss with no regrets. Hips grinding into Jack’s, Merritt slid his hand down to cup Jack’s crotch, squeezing gently. Jack let out a soft noise, a cross between a moan and a whine.
“Seriously, you two.”
“Wanna see me hypnotise him?” Merritt whispered in Jack’s ear.
Jack, who was hard-pressed to think of anything more attractive than watching Merritt use his hypnotism skills to control another human being, nodded, biting his lip.
Danny heard Merritt’s footsteps towards him but thought nothing of it. The next thing he remembered was a soothing voice in his head, fingers clicking and the urge to submit.
Things were a little hazy after that. Danny remembered sitting on the couch alongside Jack and Merritt, a drink in his hand. It was, of course, through no volition of his own and he likely hated every minute of it. Drunken songs were sung and glasses were emptied, refilled and emptied again. He woke up hours later on the floor to find he was dressed only in a pink lacy bra that he was pretty sure was Henley's and a pair of Jack’s sweat pants. He had very little recollection of what had happened, but bits and pieces started to come back to him as he walked through the house and saw the evidence of their activities.
The plans he had been working so meticulously on were scattered across the floor. He noticed rough hand written comments had been added to some of them.
‘Escape: acquire super powers, fly away.’
‘What if instead of just picturing the audience naked they had to actually be naked?’ ‘Nah too distracting Jack.’
‘Have karaoke competition to decide who gets tickets to show.’
‘Turn audience into chickens. Also turn Atlas into a chicken. Permanently.’
The last one was definitely in Merritt’s handwriting and was the worst suggestion of the lot. Danny had a suspicion that the karaoke idea may have come from his experiences that night. He definitely remembered having an idea to sing ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’, but it didn’t seem like the sort of thing he would normally do. Not without some serious persuasion.
“That was gold,” Merritt announced. “I had no idea you could be so passionate.”
Jack sniggered while Dylan raised his eyebrows at Danny.
“Turn around, bright eyes,” Merritt teased in an imitation of Danny’s singing voice. “Every now and then I fall apart and I need you now tonight.”
“Anyway,” Danny interrupted, trying to draw Dylan’s attention back to his story about Merritt’s indiscretions, “I was just getting to the part about the dead body.”
“It wasn’t a dead body,” Merritt said, exasperated.
“Well, he looked pretty dead at the time.”
“But that’s not the same as actually being dead,” Merritt defended.
“So, I’m walking down the hall and I see a dead body lying on the floor,” Danny started.
So, Danny was walking down the hall and he spotted a dead body lying on the floor. Yes, Merritt, he was dead. He had dried blood on his neck and two small puncture marks, like he’d been bitten. The weirdest part was that Danny felt as though he was responsible, like he had bitten this man. He reached up to feel his teeth, recoiling in horror when he felt two fang-like points. There was only one logical explanation that fit: he was a vampire. Danny could feel it in his entire body. His identity was that of a bloodsucking creature of the night and he’d just killed a man.
Merritt burst out laughing.
“Okay, that one turned out better than I’d ever imagined. I never thought you’d be so gullible. I mean really, Daniel, supernatural bloodsucking monster? Really?”
“The only reason I thought that was because you hypnotised me to think that!” Danny shouted back. “You made me think I’d killed someone!”
“So that’s when you called me?” Dylan prompted. Danny nodded.
That’s when Danny called Dylan. It wasn’t that he wanted to interrupt him, but everything was falling apart and Danny was scared.
“Dylan? It’s me. I need you to come home,” Danny sobbed into the phone. “I’ve… I’ve… I’ve killed someone. Merritt made me do it. I just, I need to get rid of the body, dissolve it in acid or something. Do you have an acid-proof suit? Never mind, I’ll find one. Then I need to make sure no one knows he was here-“
“Danny, wait, slow down,” Dylan said, feeling in the pit of his stomach that this was one of those life-changing moments; it was all hanging in the balance and every decision would be crucial.
“How did this happen?”
“Oh shit. Shit, shit, shit. I’ve told you. Now you know. No, don’t come home. It’ll just make you an accessory after the fact. No, I’ll handle it.”
“Look, Danny, I’m coming home,” Dylan said softly. “I’m about 2 hours away, I can probably do it in an hour and a half. Just, don’t do anything until I get there and try to stay calm. I don’t care what you’ve done. Just let me help you.”
Danny hiccupped and let out a strangled sob.
“I’m on my way,” Dylan said above the sound of him putting the keys in the ignition and starting the car. It was lucky he’d filled it up with petrol the day before. “Danny, talk to me, are the boys still there?”
Danny took a shaky breath.
“I think so. I think I heard someone in the kitchen.”
“Okay, listen, Danny. Find Jack. He’ll look after you.”
Danny nodded, briefly forgetting that Dylan couldn’t see him.
“I think it’s best you stay away from Merritt for the time being.”
“I think it’s best I always stay away from Merritt,” Danny corrected.
Dylan chuckled softly. That sounded more like his boy.
“Find Jack, okay? I’ll be 90 minutes, tops.”
“Okay, bye, Dylan,” Danny said softly and forlornly before speaking again.
“Dylan? I’m scared.”
But the line was already dead.
He couldn’t get Jack. It had seemed like the best idea when Dylan had said it, but alone he realised he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t drag Jack into this. Not poor, innocent Jack.
He took a few deep breaths to calm himself. He couldn’t look away from the young man in the pizza delivery uniform. He’d never deliver a pizza ever again. It was sad, really. Danny wondered if maybe he should quit magic forever and take over the boy’s job delivering pizza as punishment for his sins.
Strangely, there was something in Danny’s head telling him to sing again. It seemed as good an idea as any.
“Mama, just killed a man,” he sung softly to himself.
From his spot slumped on the floor, he heard a familiar laugh behind him. He turned around to see Merritt standing there laughing.
“You bastard!” Danny growled, getting to his feet and lunging at Merritt. “What did you make me do?”
He felt an overwhelming desire to sleep and didn’t know what happened after that.
When he woke, he felt indisputably human and fangless.
“Wait, so where’s the body now?” Dylan asked, trying to piece together this strange story.
“Oh, he woke up and I hypnotised him to make him forget everything and he left,” Merritt said casually.
“You hypnotised him so he thought he was a porn star,” Jack corrected.
“Well he was a pizza delivery guy,” Merritt justified like it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“So he’s alive?” clarified Dylan.
“Yeah,” Merritt said, brushing off Dylan’s concern with a wave of his hand. “He was never dead, just sleeping. You could literally see his chest moving.”
Dylan sighed and rubbed his hands over his face.
“Okay, so no dead body, but I have a feeling there’s more to the story.”
“Right, I was just getting to the good bit,” said Danny.
“J. Daniel Atlas, you pervert,” Merritt chastised, knowing exactly what part Danny was referring to.
“I mean the good part as in the part where you get in trouble,” Danny clarified.
Merritt shrugged, not really expecting to get into any sort of serious trouble. “I suppose it was a good part for me. Was it a good part for you, Jack?”
Jack blushed which told Merritt all he needed to know.
Dylan sighed. What a long night.
“So I go into the kitchen and the first thing I see is Merritt’s naked butt, which is a sight no one should have to see.”
“You take that back!” Merritt demanded. “What has my butt ever done to you? It’s a beautiful butt. Jack, back me up here.”
“It is a beautiful butt,” Jack agreed sincerely.
“He’s biased, so it doesn’t count,” Danny complained.
“Okay, then Dylan can back me up,” Merritt said, turning to Dylan. “You saw me naked that time I forgot a towel after my shower.”
Dylan remembered the time in question, but it was far from the only time he'd seen Merritt naked. He sighed again and ran his hand through his greying hair. He had no desire to be in the middle of Danny and Merritt’s bickering. He would have to be diplomatic about it.
“Yes, Merritt has a nice butt, but Daniel probably didn’t want to see it and that’s understandable.
Both the aforementioned bickering children grinned smugly at their victory before realising the other also thought they had won and their faces fell.
“Right, so I walked into the kitchen and my eyes were assaulted by Merritt’s old ass.”
So Danny walked into the kitchen and his eyes were immediately drawn to Merritt’s ass, which was surprisingly firm and pert for a man his age, Danny thought. The next thing he noticed was Jack in front of Merritt. He was bent over the kitchen table as Merritt's hands gripped the sides. His breathing was heavy and his mouth was wide open as-“
“Okay, I don’t think we need details,” Dylan interrupted. “Is that all that happened?”
“Well no,” Danny replied honestly. “They were occupying the kitchen for a while and then when they moved their salacious acts to the shower I disinfected the table and all the other surfaces in the kitchen, just in case.
“Don’t tell him what we did on the grand piano,” Merritt muttered to Jack out of the corner of his mouth. But Danny heard.
“You did WHAT?”
Merritt shrugged as if it was no big deal.
“All right, I have had it,” Daniel yelled. “First you ruin what was supposed to be a nice, productive evening. Then you hypnotise me and then you tell me you’ve sullied half the surfaces in the house. Next you’ll be telling me you did it in my bed too.”
Merritt put a hand on Jack’s thigh to keep him silent. Sometimes the boy was just too honest.
“I am done! Tonight was all your fault!”
“That’s not true, Daniel, and you know it,” Merritt argued. “Let me tell you what happened.”
Dylan nodded, resigned to his fate of hearing it all again and having to listen to Merritt and Danny argue over what actually happened.
“Okay, Merritt’s turn.”
Some would say it was because of Merritt that Jack had a hypnotism kink. Others said he had Merritt because of it. All Merritt knew was that he was more than happy to take advantage of Jack's particular weakness.
“Okay, Merritt’s turn," Dylan said to be fair.
“Right, so Jack and I were trying to have some fun, like normal people.”
So Jack and Merritt were trying to have some fun, like normal people. They were lounging around on the couch trying to toss popcorn into each other’s mouths. Merritt was reasonably proficient at it and managed to catch the odd piece. But Jack, well, Jack seemed to naturally excel at it, having good reflexes and a natural talent for taking things in his mouth.
“I don’t think we need to know about that,” said Dylan.
“Yeah,” Jack agreed, a faint blush rising up over his cheeks, “I don’t think they need to know about that.”
“Like we didn’t already know,” Danny muttered, turning to Merritt. “You’re not exactly quiet. All we hear is ‘yes, Jack, take it’ and ‘you’re so good at this’ and ‘your tongue is so amazing’ and ‘your perfect ass is mine’ all night long. It’s nauseating.”
“I’ll be sure to mention how good you are at taking it if the read I got on Dylan is correct.”
“Alright,” Dylan interrupted, “from now on all comments are to be kept strictly to what happened tonight.”
“Where were we?” Merritt asked. “Oh, that’s right, Jack’s oral skills.”
Dylan sighed for what he estimated was the 500th time that night. It was turning into a very, very long night.
“Just tell us about the hypnotism,” Dylan said.
“But I was just getting to the part where Jack and I made out!”
“I think we can live without hearing about that again.”
“Yeah and some of us had to live through it the first time around,” Daniel interrupted.
“Danny, if you wanted to join in, all you had to do was ask,” Merritt said sincerely.
“Hypnotism. Now.” Dylan ordered.
“Fine, your loss,” Merritt said, defeated, before starting his story again.
“Right, so Jack loves it when I hypnotise people. He has a real hypnotism kink…”
Jack loves it when Merritt hypnotises people. He has a real hypnotism kink. Merritt is sure to use that to his advantage whenever he can. Although perhaps this isn’t the time or place to get into that… no. Okay, so hypnotism blah blah blah. Danny whined a lot… Alright, if you insist: details.
The first thing Merritt did was convince Danny to join them for a drink. Despite what Danny might imply, no hypnotism was used. Merritt only used the persuasive power of his wit. Well, Merritt had to hypnotise him to get him to stop working, but once Merritt snapped him out of it, it didn't take that much convincing to get Danny to drink. He was in need of a break and Merritt and Jack did look like they were having fun. The boys shared a few drinks and much laughter. With each drink, Danny talked less and less about the plans and began to relax and enjoy himself. Meanwhile, Merritt was making plans of his own.
“Alright, Atlas, let’s see what you can do,” Merritt said as he stood up and moved to stand behind Danny. He winked at Jack before leaning in and whispering in Danny’s ear.
“You know what?” Danny said as Merritt pulled back, grinning. “I bet I can walk from one end of the house to the other on my hands.
“No way, there’s no way you’d be able to do that,” Merritt goaded, knowing it would only solidify Danny’s resolve.
“This I’ve got to see,” Jack said, standing up, beer in his hand.
The three Horsemen reconvened at the Southern end of the house and prepared to watch the hypnotised horseman make a fool of himself. It took several unsuccessful attempts before Danny was actually able to get up into a handstand, but once he was up, he was remarkably steady.
“He won’t be able to stay up for longer than three minutes,” Merritt stated.
“Three minutes in a handstand is actually quite impressive,” Jack countered.
Merritt was spared from having to come up with another insult for Danny because the boy was off. He walked as fast as his hands could go with all the enthusiasm of a toddler learning to walk. He made it into the hallway, wobbling a little as he turned. Merritt and Jack hurried along behind him, just waiting for the impending hilarity that was sure to ensue. Sure enough, Danny made it about three-quarters of the way down the hallway before his arms gave way and he fell, crashing into a side table and sending a vase tumbling to the floor.
“Did I make it?” Danny asked from where he was sprawled on the floor.
“Not quite, buddy,” Merritt said, ruffling Danny’s hair as he stepped over him.
“Good try, though,” Jack encouraged. “Maybe with some practice.”
And that’s all the hypnotism there was. The end.
“Merritt,” Dylan warned. “Go on.”
“Okay, so we ended up searching for something to watch because Danny wasn’t really quality entertainment and he was only interesting for a short while,” Merritt continued.
They ended up searching for something to watch because Merritt got bored of hypnotising Danny to do ridiculous shit for his own amusement. They settled on Game of Thrones, one of Jack’s favourites. Merritt and Jack lay together on the couch while Danny sat on the floor at their feet.
They were watching a scene where Daenerys was making a passionate speech to her people when Merritt burst out laughing.
“What?” Jack prompted, repeating himself when it seemed Merritt was laughing too hard to share the joke.
“Dany and Danny,” was all Merritt said, pointing first to Daenerys on the screen and then to Daniel on the floor.
Jack chuckled. “Okay, yeah, I see the resemblance.”
Merritt got a glint in his eye as a grin spread over his face. Jack immediately knew what that meant.
“Do it,” Jack encouraged. He was such an enabler.
“Okay,” Merritt agreed, pulling Jack in for a chaste but deep kiss, “just for you.”
He leant down to whisper in Danny’s ear, snapped his fingers and then sat back to wait, sharing a look of eagerness with Jack.
At first, nothing seemed to change. Danny continued to watch, making the occasional remark about ways the leaders of Westeros could do things better and how he would run things if he was in charge. Merritt wondered if perhaps the hypnotism had failed. Maybe this was too ridiculous even for Danny.
Then, without a word, Danny got up and left the room. There was silence for a moment and then Merritt and Jack heard a scream from the other room.
Danny came running back in, frantic and panicked.
“Where are they?” he demanded.
Merritt and Jack shrugged. They didn’t know what Danny was missing or where it was.
Danny’s face hardened and his tone became more forceful, but there was panic detectable.
“WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?”
Merritt and Jack burst out laughing.
“WE HAVE TO FIND THEM!”
Merritt and Jack were no help, much too busy rolling around on the couch laughing their heads off.
Danny huffed. “Fine, I’ll find them myself.”
When Merritt and Jack had composed themselves enough to sit up, they realised that Danny had left the room. It was harder to make fun of him when he wasn’t there, so they went off in search of him.
They found Danny in the kitchen, standing by the gas stove. Three of the burners were lit, emitting low flames while Danny crooned over them.
“There you are, my babies. You’re such good dragons.”
He bumped the dial and the flames on one of the elements shot up.
“Drogon!” Danny chastised, managing to jump out of the way just in time to avoid singed eyebrows. “That is no way to treat your mother. You behave yourself.”
“Maybe we should save him before he and his ‘dragons’ burn the place down,” Merritt suggested dully. Jack nodded reluctantly.
Jack and Merritt couldn’t help laughing as Merritt recounted the tale. Even Dylan was struggling to keep a straight face. Danny’s face burned red. Some events of the night were best left forgotten.
“Alright, let’s move on,” Dylan said, deciding to spare his boyfriend further humiliation. Oh if only he knew.
“Right,” Merritt agreed. “So after that, we were a bit peckish and decided to order pizza. Jack loves pizza!”
The Horseman were peckish and decided to order pizza. Well, Merritt decided to. He’d picked up some interesting intel about Jack and pizza guys thanks to his mentalism skills.
The thing about pizza is that it always takes longer to arrive than you want it to. You order it and you want it now. You don’t order it and want it half an hour hence. Naturally, Merritt got bored. Bored and hungry was a bad combination.
Of course, Danny was the one who fell victim to Merritt’s need for entertainment and food. It only took a few words in his ear for him to be back under Merritt’s spell.
“Hello, my name is Daniel and I will be your waiter for this evening,” he said in a poor imitation of a French accent, a ratty old tea towel folded over his arm in an effort to look more like the waiter he thought he was.
Merritt chortled at Danny’s unintentional comedic performance.
“Can I interest you in some wine and perhaps an appetiser?”
His accent wasn’t improving. If anything, it was worse.
“Yes, we’ll have a bottle of your finest whatever,” Merritt, who was not much of a wine connoisseur, said. “And bring us that box of crackers we have in the back of the cupboard and some of those little dinosaur biscuits we love.”
“And popcorn!” Jack added.
Danny, who had probably just received the strangest order a fancy French waiter had ever heard, nodded courteously and turned to head back to the kitchen.
“Of course, gentleman.”
He returned five minutes later with a large bowl of popcorn for Jack, a box of crackers, a few packets of the chocolate-coated dinosaur biscuits (that are totally for adults, shut up, Dylan) Merritt and Jack loved so much and, of course, the wine.
Merritt started on the biscuits right away, opening up a packet and pulling out one of the dinosaur shaped treats to inspect.
“Here, it’s a diplodocus,” he said to Jack. “I know those are your favourite dinosaurs so you can have that one.”
A look of utter adoration came over Jack’s face at Merritt’s offer. If you asked him what love was, he would say it was this.
Jack savoured the biscuit while Merritt popped a couple of T-rexes and a raptor into his mouth, smiling and making a noise of enjoyment.
Danny poured their wine into a juice glass and a coffee mug – because you couldn’t expect 4 grown men sharing a house to have glasses for a beverage they very rarely drank or have clean dishes when they needed them.
Merritt made a bit of a face when he sipped his wine from the mug. It really wasn’t his sort of drink, but it was alcohol and so he wouldn’t turn it down. The funny thing was, Jack really enjoyed wine. He often had a glass with Henley when she was over while the others scoffed and chose to stick to their own “manlier” drinks. Most of Jack’s drinking seemed to be a social thing – a beer with the boys, something stronger with Merritt – and as such he rarely drank wine anymore. He did enjoy a good glass of white though. At least the others didn’t know his preference for the fruity cocktails he so enjoyed. That one was strictly between him and Henley. What happened on Girls’ (and Jack’s) Night stayed on Girls’ Night.
Merritt and Jack’s snacking was interrupted by a commotion. They followed the sound of raised voices to the front door where they found Danny, still believing he was a waiter, arguing with the pizza delivery boy.
“How dare you bring this rubbish to my restaurant! We only serve the finest French cuisine here.”
“Look, Man, I’m just trying to deliver the pizza.”
“Just ignore the guard dog,” Merritt said, snapping his fingers and bringing Danny out of his fantasy immediately.
“Oh good, the pizza’s here. I’m starving.”
The pizza guy took in Danny’s sudden change in attitude with a look of complete and utter confusion.
“Look, my shift was supposed to end 15 minutes ago,” the delivery guy said, completely exasperated with Danny. Yes, Merritt, we know he wasn’t the only one.
“Why don’t you stay,” Merritt offered. “There’s plenty of pizza, we’ve got booze and Danny could do with a friend. Plus, Jack loves pizza guys.”
Merritt grinned and nudged Jack in the ribs knowingly.
Jack hid his face in his hands. Thanks, Merritt.
“Jack does love pizza guys,” Merritt repeated for anyone who might not have gotten the implication the first time around. “This reminds me of a whole other Friday night with you and a certain pizza delivery. Remember?”
Jack blushed. He certainly remembered.
“Yeah, none of us want to hear about that,” Danny interrupted.
“You should,” Merritt retorted and winked. “It’s a good story. A really, really good story. I could probably be persuaded to tell it, maybe write it down, post it on the internet. Anything really. Ahh, that was a good night.”
“So you invited the pizza guy in?” prompted Dylan.
“Right, so we invited him in. He was a pretty great guy, but unfortunately Jack didn’t seem to like him as much as the pizza guy from that story I could definitely be convinced to tell.”
“Not old enough,” Danny said, meaning it as more of an insult to Merritt than to Jack.
“Like you can talk!” Jack shot back in defence of himself and his boyfriend. He mouthed an ‘I’m sorry’ to Dylan for indirectly insulting his age.
Merritt looked positively gleeful at Jack’s response, so proud of his boy for sticking up for himself.
“Ooh, kitties got claws!” he observed excitedly.
Jack shared a smirk with him in response.
“Daniel definitely goes for the father figure,” Merritt added before turning to Danny. “Or is it Daddy?”
“Oh my god, that was one time!” Danny exclaimed in exasperation.
“A very loud time,” Merritt muttered.
“We agreed to never speak of it again.”
“Look, what you and Dylan do in the privacy of your own room is your business, but when it’s 1 am and I’m trying to sleep and all I can hear is “take me, Daddy!” then it becomes my business too.”
“That particular incident has been redacted,” Danny said, trying not to relive the memories of the awkward moment. If there was one thing he’d done in the bedroom that he regretted, it was that (and that’s including the time he attempted to have a threesome with two girls looking to ‘experiment’ and ended up getting left out and then asked to leave because he kept insisting they should be paying him more attention; it also includes that time he got chlamydia).
“Yes, redacted,” Dylan agreed, blushing along with Daniel. That was one incident he didn’t want to be reminded of. They had agreed never to speak of it again lest things got really awkward between them.
“Right, pizza guy.”
They always got so distracted. Dylan didn’t know whether to blame Merritt or Danny; at least one of them was usually the culprit.
“So, pizza guy came in. We ate some pizza and drank some beer…”
The pizza guy came in. They ate some pizza and drank some beer. Merritt’s suggestion of strip poker was met with an emphatic yes. Surprisingly, Daniel was the most enthusiastic of them all.
What he forgot, and what pizza guy didn’t yet know, was that playing poker with Merritt and Jack involved sealing your fate right from the get go. There was no winning against those two. Danny was a reasonably accomplished poker player and had some pretty good cards. He enjoyed being the dealer and would show off his card skills, flipping them and revealing his hand in the most dramatic way when he was sure he had won. The pizza guy had average skills when it came to cards, but he provided good company and was a much needed buffer between Merritt and Danny. However, he had incredible luck when it came to the hand he was dealt and often found himself doing well despite his average skills.
But still, when it came to the end of the game, Merritt and Jack were without a doubt the clear winners, still in possession of most of their clothing. What Danny failed to remember, short-sighted by his own ego and his obsession with his own skills, was that Merritt and Jack had their own sets of skills that helped them along the way.
Jack was the type to win with a royal flush three times in a row and when asked he would simply say it was the luck of the draw. But Danny knew Jack had stolen the Queen of Hearts out of his hand and replaced it with a Two of Clubs, even if he couldn’t prove it. Jack’s skills for petty theft and pickpocketing were certainly an asset. No card was out of reach for him.
Then there was Merritt. He was the type who would win with a pair of twos, a six, a nine and a four, and that would be one of his better winning hands. Danny certainly underestimated him, forgetting that most people were like an open book to Merritt and he could discover their cards and their strategy as if they were plastered up on the wall. There was no such thing as bluffing when Merritt was around.
Yes, Jack and Merritt won big. They took their celebrations to the couch, horizontally, and played a few rounds of strip ‘poker’ on their own.
Danny had long since given up trying to get them to keep their raunchy activities behind closed doors. He swore they were like a pair of hormonal teenagers. Instead Danny decided to get dressed and partake in completely respectable activities that Dylan would approve of for the rest of the night. The problem wasn't his intentions, it was how he went about it. Somehow he ended up returning to the living room dressed in a hot pink bra with a pair of Jack's sweat pants slung low on his hips with no apparent explanation for his attire. Hey, Merritt wasn't responsible for this one.
Danny sat down with the pizza guy as if nothing was amiss and told him tales of their fearless leader.
“And so then Dylan said…”
“Dylan, my boyfriend…”
“And then Dylan did this really amazing thing, you won’t even believe me if I tell you.”
“Did you know he can breathe fire?”
It was only when he was hit in the head as Jack’s jeans flew across the room, certainly not of their own accord –thanks, Merritt - that he put his foot down.
“Enough, you two! Get a room!”
“Patience, patience, Danny boy,” Merritt replied as he climbed off Jack. “Don’t think I’m going to rush this.
He turned to Jack, leaning in to give him a chaste kiss on the lips, a taste of what was to come.
Merritt walked over to Danny, leaning in and whispering in his ear. As he spoke, Danny felt his teeth growing into fangs and he had the overwhelming urge to bite.
Danny turned to the pizza guy, a growl building up in his throat. He pounced.
Jack turned to Merritt, his voice low and gruff.
“I love it when you do that.”
“I know,” Merritt replied with a smirk, leaning in to capture Jack’s lips.
“Enough, you two,” Dylan interrupted. “Merritt, get back to the story.”
Jack pounced too, lips seeking out Merritt’s as he pushed him back onto the couch. Merritt would have chuckled had his lips not been otherwise occupied.
Some would say it was because of Merritt that Jack had a hypnotism kink. Others said he had Merritt because of it. All Merritt knew was that he was more than happy to take advantage of Jack’s particular weakness.
“You’re so hot when you hypnotise people,” Jack murmured as he kissed his way down Merritt’s neck.
Merritt chuckled, throat vibrating against Jack’s lips.
“Yeah? You like it when I put people under my spell?”
His hands made their way to Jack’s hips, pulling Jack further onto his lap.
Jack groaned, whether it was it was due to Merritt’s words or the fact that there was only a very thin layer of fabric currently covering his nether regions and the friction against his cock as he grinded against Merritt’s jean-clad erection was delightful.
There was a smile on Merritt’s lips as he leant in to whisper in Jack’s ear, his tongue lightly brushing Jack’s earlobe before he spoke.
“Listen to my voice. It is the only thing you need to hear. You will find yourself feeling horny.”
Jack nearly chuckled, or he would have if he hadn’t been so focused on the lull of Merritt’s voice. It wasn’t a proper hypnotism, but it was enough to do it for Jack. He didn’t need to be hypnotised; he just needed to hear Merritt do it.
“On the count of 3, you’ll be under. One, two, three and you’re under.”
At his last word, he grabbed Jack’s arms and flipped them so Jack was lying underneath him on the couch, breathless and eyes hungry with desire. He reached out to grab Merritt by the neck, pulling him down for a kiss and meeting him halfway. Merritt’s hand slipped in the side of Jack’s boxer briefs, pushing them down and-“
“And what was I doing at this point?” Danny interrupted.
“Er, I’m not really sure. I was a little preoccupied. You were off somewhere thinking you were a vampire.”
He waved his hand dismissively, clearly forgetting which part of the story Dylan was actually interested in. Hint: not the debauchery.
“Let’s skip ahead to the next events involving Danny.”
“I think it’s clear who the boss’ favourite is,” Merritt stage whispered to Jack.
Dylan was past the point of retaliation and Danny just rolled his eyes.
“Back on topic, Merritt,” said an exasperated Dylan.
“I walked in to find the pizza guy passed out on the floor and Danny lying next to him singing if that off-key wailing actually counted as singing.”
Merritt walked in to find the pizza guy passed out on the floor and Danny lying next to him performing a very heartfelt rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody. Jack felt a little bad at seeing Danny look so sorrowful, but Merritt found the whole thing quite hilarious. A deep laugh rumbled from his belly up as he took in the sight of Danny crying over a man who obviously wasn’t dead.
“It wasn’t that obvious,” Danny muttered under his breath.
“And then Daniel called me a very rude word meaning ‘person with unmarried parents’ and so I hypnotised him to go back to sleep,” Merritt finished.
Dylan cheered on the inside at the fact that Merritt’s story was finally over.
Oh if only.
“Then I hypnotised the pizza-guy-porn-star and sent him on his merry way. He was a very nice chap, very tolerant of Danny which practically makes him worthy of a sainthood. Then Jack just started ripping my clothes off. He was all over me, hands everywhere-“
“Thanks, Merritt, we don’t need to hear about that,” Dylan interrupted.
“But I didn’t even get to tell you the best part,” Merritt whined.
“Okay, you’ve got 15 seconds,” Dylan relented.
The time limit didn’t deter Merritt who spoke all in a rush.
“Jack and I had sex on the kitchen table and then Danny rudely interrupted us – probably because he’s jealous, you really need to try harder to entertain him – but it was still pretty great and we only broke the table a little bit and it can totally be fixed with duct tape.”
Dylan didn’t even have the energy to consider any of what Merritt had just said.
Dylan sighed yet again.
“Okay, Jack. Your turn.”
Jack and Dylan's Stories
“Okay, Jack. Your turn," Dylan said. Best to get it over and done with.
He suspected that this might be the only completely truthful retelling of the events.
Jack paused for a moment, thinking about how to start, before he blurted it all out at once, stumbling over his words in his haste.
“I’m sorry, Dylan, it’ll never happen again, please forgive me. I’m so sorry.”
Dylan took a moment to close his eyes, running his hands over his face.
"Nice work, Jack," Merritt whispered confidently. "I think we might be in the clear."
"Shut up, Merritt," Danny whispered back aggressively.
"You want to hear my take on what happened?" Dylan asked rhetorically, letting his anger leech out into his words.
Danny nodded loyally. Merritt shook his head – because he knew it wouldn't end well for him. Jack sat frozen like a rabbit in the headlights, unsure how Dylan wanted him to react.
"Okay," Dylan began again. "Here's what I think happened. I think that the three of you have the combined maturity of a seven year old and can't be left alone without adult supervision – and no I'm not counting any of you as adults capable of supervising anything right now.
"I think I had to leave a very important information gathering mission that was crucial to the success of our next show just to come home and sort out your petty arguments because the three of you can't behave like grown ups when I'm not here.
"I think you could have seriously compromised everything we're working towards tonight. You're on the run from the FBI, in case you hadn't noticed. You do need to be discrete and I hardly think partying with pizza boys is discrete. I can only imagine what the neighbours heard.
"Merritt, you've been doing this long enough to know how badly hypnotism can go wrong if you're not careful. And you never ever hypnotise someone when there's alcohol involved.
"Daniel, I thought I could trust you to keep things under control here, but clearly I was wrong. I won't say I'm disappointed in you, because you already know that, but I will say that I don't expect this sort of behaviour from you.
"And Jack. Jack, somehow you're both an enabler and a follower. Don't give in to peer pressure and stop encouraging Merritt. You can't let him see how impressed by him you are when he does even the most basic hypnotism, because, buddy, he's a show-off and he's doing this all for you.
"Now, I think that covers it and I hope we won't have a repeat performance of this. Think very carefully about what you say next because, Merritt and Danny, I am very sick of the pair of you arguing and I will go off. Have I made myself clear?"
For the first time that night, neither Danny nor Merritt had anything to say.
It was Jack who spoke, words laced with complete candour.
"We're so so sorry, Dylan."
Dylan's face softened. Merritt and Danny might be idiots, but he knew Jack was trying to do the right thing. Their hearts were in the right place, even if they got side-tracked occasionally. Jack was a good boy. Danny and Merritt were like a pair of kindergarteners who clearly couldn't be trusted to be left alone, but Dylan couldn't stay mad at his Horsemen.
“Alright,” Dylan said, feeling like the end might be in sight. “In light of your obvious remorse, Jack, I’m going to trust that you’ve learnt your lesson. You’re on kitchen clean up duty for two weeks and that includes making sure that table is fit for eating off again.”
“I already cleaned it,” Danny added in the background, keen to remind Dylan of his work.
“Right, thanks, Dylan. I’m off to bed,” Merritt announced, grabbing Jack’s hand and standing up to leave.
“Not so fast, Merritt,” said Dylan. “You’re not going on stage for a month – and yes that means you’ll miss the L.A. show. Since Henley has returned, she will replace you and Jack will do your hypnotism tricks. No going on stage, no side shows, nothing. Strictly behind the scenes only. You’re on probation. So any shenanigans, anything stupid and the consequences will be severe. I’m not messing around; you seriously jeopardised everything we’ve been working for tonight. You’ll also help Jack on kitchen duty and don’t let him do all the work. I’ll know and it’ll be an extra month if you do.”
“Ohh come on!” Merritt complained. “You can’t kick me out of the shows. No one else has to miss out on them.”
“Actually, I did once and I didn’t even do anything to deserve it,” Jack reminded everyone, still bitter about missing the Octa show, even if it was only the briefest of stage performances.
“Yeah!” Merritt agreed heartily. “And you told Jack back then that it wasn’t a punishment, so therefore you can’t use it to punish me now. Ha! Got you there! Merritt’s gonna be in the show.”
“You’re an idiot,” Danny announced, watching as Merritt smugly did a little dance on the spot.
“No, you’re an idiot,” Merritt retorted, sounding like a petulant toddler.
"Enough," Dylan ordered, raising his voice again. He took a breath so he could speak rationally. "You're both acting like idiots. Now off to bed, all of you."
Jack had his head hung in shame and Danny was suspiciously silent. Only Merritt seemed unaffected by the dressing down.
“Wait,” Merritt interrupted as everyone was about to leave. “What about Danny’s punishment? He was a part of it too.”
Dylan remained silent for a second. Merritt caught a faint hint of embarrassment cross his face.
“Off to bed, all of you,” was the only reply Dylan gave.
The Horsemen obeyed wordlessly – Merritt acting as though nothing was amiss, Jack looking ashamed and disappointed in himself and Danny with a hint of anticipation and excitement in his eyes.
“Hey, Jack,” Merritt whispered loudly, fingers tangled with the younger man’s as they walked down the hallway to their room. “I bet I can hypnotise Danny to think he’s a headless chicken. Wanna see?”
“Merritt, NO!” everyone yelled simultaneously before the sound of frantic chicken noises filled the apartment.