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Let's Go Throwing Stones and Stealing Cars

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“Got any twos?”

“Go fish, bitch,” Jack smirked.

“What? No way, you’re lying,” Danny exclaimed, looking flustered in that way he does when he’s been irrefutably beaten at anything.

“Am not. Maybe I’m just better at this game than you,” Jack was full-out smiling now, clearly enjoying the frustration on Danny’s face.

“Yeah, we’ll see.” He resignedly reached for a card from the middle. No one mentioned the fact that Jack had four sets laid down on the coffee table in front of him, while Danny only had one (hell, even Merritt had two down at that point). No one mentioned that he had lost the past five games in a row, either.

Henley walked back into the living room from the kitchen with drinks in hand. She had sat this round out, but she could tell it was going just like all the others. If Danny kept losing, she thought, they were going to be sitting there all night playing rematch after rematch. It had already been over an hour.

She stood back for a moment and just watched, Danny and Merritt on opposite sides of the couch and Jack on the floor across from them. Everyone looked to Merritt.

There was a short pause, where all he did was grin at his hand. He looked back to Henley, who stood a few feet behind him and could easily see his cards. She bit her lip to keep from laughing. “Oh Danny boy?” Merritt said teasingly.

“What?” he snapped.

“Got any twos?” He smiled coyly.

Jack lost it. He threw himself backwards on the floor laughing, almost in tears. Henley couldn’t contain herself anymore either.

“Motherfucker!” Danny yelled. The look on his face actually resembled betrayal, Merritt almost felt bad for the guy. Almost.

Henley decided now was probably a good time to hand out the drinks. She passed them out and went over to pat Danny on the shoulder.

“You know, for someone who thinks so highly of his ability to handle a deck of cards you would think you’d be just a bit better at this game” she laughed as she sat down on the floor across from him.

“You’d think for such an amazing group of magicians we’d be able to come up with a better card game to play, too,” Jack joked, leaning over to bump shoulders with Henley. She smiled.

“The kid does have a point,” Merritt said as he reached for his beer.

“No, uh-uh, this is personal now and we are not quitting. Jack, go.”

Jack smiled at Danny’s persistence. “You sure you wanna do this?”

“Positive.”

“Alright man.” He smirked again.

~~~

Three rounds of Go Fish and four rounds of drinks later, Danny finally won one. Jack may or may not have thrown the game for him, but he didn’t need to know that. Jack didn’t think he’d ever seen Danny smile that genuinely before.

“Ha, see, I told you I wasn’t bad at this game. I just needed some practice, that’s all,” Danny said, poking at Jack’s chest. At some point, they had both ended up on the floor together while Henley sat on the couch with her legs across Merritt’s lap. They were all more than a little buzzed.

“Ah, right, those other nine rounds didn’t count, you were just warming up,” Merritt said, winking exaggeratedly across the table. Henley threw her head back laughing.

“Hey, fuck you” Danny pointed at Merritt, but even he had a smile on his face.

“I don’t know about you guys, but I want another drink,” Jack said as he stood up (quite ungracefully). Danny threw himself at Jack and wrapped his arms around his legs before he could walk off into the kitchen.

“Get me one too, I think I’ve earned this,” he said as he hung onto Jack.

“Alright, alright I’ll get you one,” Jack laughed, prying his legs out of Danny’s hold. “Anyone else?”

Henley made a noise into the glass she was currently downing. She swallowed and shouted “me!”

Danny looked over at Merritt, who shook his head abruptly. “Sorry kid, I think I’m done for the night.”

Henley looked shocked. “Wha– c’mon! You can’t quit!” She said, smacking his arm lightly as Jack walked off into the kitchen. “Everyone else is doing it!”

“You know I was always told not to succumb to peer pressure,” Merritt replied, laughing.

“Well I guess I’m just a bad influence then,” she said in an overly-flirty voice, batting her eyelashes for good measure.

“That’s the truth,” Danny scoffed playfully from where he was sprawled out on his back across the floor.

“Hey, shut it,” she said as she threw a pillow at him, hitting him square in the face. He made a noise of surprise as his whole body convulsed slightly, and they all started laughing. Jack returned with four glasses and set them on the table.

“You guys were arguing so I took the liberty of deciding for you,” He said as he clapped Merritt on the shoulder. He walked past and saw Danny lying there with his eyes closed, so he threw himself down sideways across Danny’s stomach. He made an even more surprised sound and started giggling.

“What is wrong with you?” He said between laughs. Jack started laughing too. Danny started to sit up, shoving at Jack a little. “Come on Jacky, you gotta move. I want that drink I worked so hard for.” Henley almost choked on hers when he said this. Jack shifted slightly, but just enough so that he was lying across Danny’s lap. “To my victory,” Danny held up his glass in a toast, to no one in particular

Henley looked over at Merritt. “Hey, what happened to that drink you didn’t want a minute ago?” she asked, eyeing his empty glass suspiciously.

“Oh, you know,” Merritt waved his hand nonchalantly, “magic.”

Jack giggled from where he laid on Danny’s lap. Danny looked down as if he suddenly remembered he was there and smiled widely. His hands were resting on Jack’s stomach, and he splayed his fingers out where they laid. Jack reached up and grabbed Danny’s hands, lacing their fingers together. Danny peeled his eyes away from Jack’s when Henley started giggling. Apparently, Merritt had discovered her drunk-ticklish spots.

“Go for her neck!” Danny shouted. He did, and soon Henley was laughing loudly.

“No no quit it!” she cried out, scooting up to straddle Merritt’s lap. She pushed her lips to his sloppily to get him to stop.

“Ohhhhhh!” Jack shouted out in surprise, half laughing at the same time.

“No don’t look, your innocence!” Danny shouted dramatically, throwing his hands up over Jacks eyes, only causing him to laugh harder. Danny laughed too, lying backwards on the floor. Jack sat up with his movements, and readjusted himself to be lying beside the other boy. He stared into Danny’s eyes for a moment.

“God, I hope I remember tonight in the morning,” he smiled. Danny wrapped his arm around Jack’s waist.

“You know, I think you might have a hard time forgetting,” he smiled.

Whether J. Daniel Atlas actually leaned in and tenderly pressed his lips to Jacks’, or his foggy and drunk brain had created the whole scenario, Jack would wonder obsessively for at least the next week.

Chapter Text

Henley walked through the giant hotel suite in Vegas anxiously looking for Jack. They were all supposed to be meeting in the living room, tying up all of their loose ends for the show in 12 hours. Except, the youngest horseman was nowhere to be found. She walked upstairs in a last ditch attempt to check his room again, but instead found the nearby bathroom door closed.

She walked up to it and knocked lightly. “Jack?” She called gently. After a pause, she heard a faint noise from inside. She opened the door to the sight of Jack sitting on the edge of the bathtub, head in hands.

“What’s the matter?” She asked as she walked in slowly.

“Nothing, I’m fine,” he said, looking up from the ground and staring blankly at her.

Henley sat down on the tub next to him, putting her hand on his back. “Uh huh, thanks for that ‘saving face’ bullshit answer. So now tell me what’s really wrong.”

Jack sighed heavily, staring back down at the floor. “I’ve never done… anything like this. What we’re about to do.”

“What, rob a bank for a live audience? Because honey, I’m pretty sure none of us have ever done anything like this before.”

“No, I mean… a big show... I pickpocket, steal, whatever. I do sleight of hand tricks, not Vegas shows. There’s gonna be like a million people watching. I’m used to hiding my face to keep from getting arrested, not displaying it like this,” he said, meeting her eyes desperately.

She smiled sympathetically. “I see. So you’ve got stage fright.” He closed his eyes and nodded slowly. She leaned in and wrapped her arms around his shoulders in a hug, rubbing his back gently. “It’s okay, Jack. I still get stage fright sometimes too, it’s normal. But think about what we’re gonna get from all this. It’s gonna be so worth it, trust me. All of this is gonna be worth it,” she whispered. Jack buried his face in her shoulder.

They stayed like that for about a minute, until Henley pulled back. She gently grabbed Jack’s face in her hands and looked him in the eyes. “Are you okay?” He nodded. “You ready to go join Danny and Merritt?” He hesitated. She leaned in and kissed him softly on the lips. “You can do this, I know you can,” she whispered.

He nodded again, and Henley let go and stood up. She reached out her hand, which Jack took as he stood up as well. They walked out of the bathroom together, their hands clasped as they descended the stairs of the ritzy suite to go meet the others. Merritt was the first to notice them, his eyes lighting up the moment he saw them.

“And there he is!” He exclaimed.

“About time,” Danny said curtly, but Jack could still see the relief in his eyes. “So I was thinking, for the middle half of the show, Henley you could….”

Jack tuned him out for the time being. I can do this, he thought. With these guys by my side, I can do pretty much anything. He felt Henley squeeze his hand gently. We’ve got this.

Chapter Text

Henley woke up feeling like she'd been run over by a semi-truck.

Every muscle in her body ached, her head was pounding, her lungs fought her with every breath, and the scratchy-burning feeling in the back of her throat was practically unbearable. When she tried to sit up to grab the glass of water next to her bed, she actually thought she was going to die for a minute.

Scratch that, it was more like a full procession of semi-trucks. Ones who all made sure to throw it in reverse just for good measure.

She laid back and prayed to whatever would listen for sleep (or death, she wasn't picky) to please just take her. She wasn't ready to even turn her head yet, never mind face the rest of the world. The boys won't know what to do without me, I've never been sick before. This ought to be interesting, she thought, just as she managed to slip back into a dreamless, albeit uncomfortable, sleep.

~~~

Merritt stumbled out of his room in a daze, just like every morning. He made his way to the bathroom to brush his teeth and walked groggily out into the living room, where Danny was already fiddling with his cards. Something was off, he could tell, but he was too half-asleep to actually place what it was yet. He just needed his coffee and then he could--

Wait, that was it! Coffee! Henley hadn't given him his coffee yet. Come to think of it, he actually didn't smell any coffee in general. That was... extremely odd. He rounded the couch to look at Danny.

"Where's-"

"There's no coffee. Henley didn't make any. She isn't even up yet," Danny cut him off, speaking anxiously and only bothering to glance up at Merritt sporadically. Well, at least he wasn't the only one struggling to function that morning.

"What do you mean she isn't up yet? She's always up first, and she always makes coffee!" Merritt said. "Most days I'm not even out of the hallway before she's handing me a cup."

"Yeah I know but she's not and our whole daily routine is shot and now there's no coffee and-"

"Hey guys, what's wrong?" Jack asked, yawning as he scratched at his head from the living room entrance.

"There's no coffee!" Danny repeated in frustration. Jack's face scrunched up in confusion as he walked past Merritt to sit on the couch by Danny.

"Henley never got up," Merritt added.

Jack yawned again. Danny was nervously tapping at the deck sitting on his leg. "Someone should do something about that," Jack said, his eyes already half closed again.

Merritt sighed. "Fine, I'll go check on her." He walked through the apartment to her room and knocked lightly on the door. "Henley?" He called softly. There was no answer.

He sighed again as he pushed open her door. He was greeted by the sight of a sleeping and disheveled shell of the woman they all knew and loved. "Woah," he said in surprise.

Henley opened her eyes and immediately groaned in discomfort. Merritt walked over to her bedside and put his hand on her forehead.

"You are burning up right now, are you alright?"

"No," she croaked out painfully and winced. Her voice was barely there at all.

"Woah," Merritt repeated. He let his hand slide down from her forehead to cup her cheek. "Alright, so here's what we're gonna do; we're all gonna take care of you for a bit." She breathed out sharply in what Merritt could only assume was a scoff.

"No, I'm serious," he grinned. "You take care of us every day, the three of us can handle sick Henley for a little while. Don't you worry about a thing," he said charmingly. She looked like she tried to smile for a moment, but it just looked so pained. She reached up and laid her hand over his.

"Okay," she whispered, her eyes never leaving his.

"Good. Now get some more sleep." He pulled his hand back and picked her almost-empty water glass up off the bedside table. He left the room to go fill it up in the kitchen, and brought it back as quietly as possible, gently closing the door behind him as he exited again.

Merritt walked into the living room and immediately noticed a distinct lack of sound. He stepped in front of the couch facing the two boys who were now completely asleep. Jack had his arms wrapped around a pillow and his head resting on Danny's shoulder. Danny had his face buried in Jack's hair and his cards still grasped tightly in his hand. Merritt shook his head affectionately at the sight, contemplating taking a picture so he could make fun of them for it later.

"Hey kids," he said firmly. Both of them jumped awake, confusion clouding their features. "Henley's sick, so we're gonna be taking care of her for a little while. Which also means we're gonna be taking care of ourselves for a little while."

They both groaned. "This is it, guys. It's been nice knowing you," Jack said as he moved the other way to lay his head on the arm of the couch, closing his eyes.

"No, no. No way," Merritt said, intercepting Jack and pulling him back upright again. "We have to do this for Henley. Think about all she does for us. She looks like death right now, we gotta help her out."

There was a brief silence where everyone was trying to figure out how they were possibly going to survive the rest of the week.

"Where do we even start?" Jack asked finally.

"Coffee," Danny muttered, staring off at some distant spot on the wall.

"Right, perfect. I'll make coffee," Merritt said, and he hurried off into the kitchen. "Jack, uh, why don't you look around the kitchen, see what we've got in here. Make a shopping list and we'll go buy some stuff later. Um, Danny, you can google some stuff about taking care of sick people."

He scoffed. "Really?"

"Can't hurt," Merritt shouted back from the kitchen.

"Alright, shopping list, got it. But coffee first."

~~~

Once everyone was thoroughly caffeinated, they all set off to do something useful. Jack made his list, Merritt gathered blankets and pillows to take to Henley, and Danny scoured the Internet for any good information.

"Alright I've got a list, who wants to go shopping?" Jack shouted as he closed the fridge.

"Not it," Danny called from the table.

"Alright Merritt, looks like it's you and me," he said as Merritt walked out of the hallway and into view.

"You ready to go?" Jack nodded. "Okay kid, lets go. And Danny, just know you're at her beck and call until we get back. If she needs food, we've got a can of soup left here. If she just needs someone to talk to her, well, hope you feel like entertaining for a bit," Merritt smirked.

Danny flipped him off without even looking up from his computer. Merritt laughed and walked out the door, Jack close behind.

~~~

A little while later, Danny made his way to Henley's room. "Hey, wake up," he said softly. "Henley?"

Her eyes opened slowly. "Good. I need you to drink some water, okay? The Internet says you're gonna get super dehydrated if I don't make you drink."

She sighed and shakily moved to sit up. Danny helped her as much as he could and handed her the water glass. She drank the whole thing in one go.

"Wow, alright, yeah, dehydrated," he said, impressed.

~

"Alright so most important thing on the list is definitely chicken noodle soup, we only had one can at home," Jack said as he pushed the shopping cart along. Merritt read the list as they walked through the aisles.

"Uh huh, Jack? Why exactly do we need ice cream?" Merritt asked suspiciously.

"Because, old man, it's cold and feels nice on a sore throat," Jack replied. "Also it tastes good," he added quietly as he pushed the cart up ahead of Merritt and turned a corner.

Merritt stopped in his tracks and looked up from the list just as Jack disappeared. "Old man?!" He shouted indignantly. Jack laughed from the next aisle over.

~

"Listen, are you hungry? I can make you something if you're hungry," Danny asked nervously.

Henley paused for a moment. "A little," she half-whispered, half-spoke. Danny felt bad for her.

"Alright, cool, I'll make you some soup then. Just, sit tight, I'm gonna get you some more water too," he said as he grabbed her glass and rushed out the door.

~

"Okay Twinkies? Really? At least my ice cream had some justification to it," Jack laughed.

"Hey," Merritt said, punching Jack in the shoulder playfully. "Twinkies don't need any justification, we're getting them."

~

Danny waited for the microwave to beep and pulled the cup of soup out. He grabbed a spoon and a tray and brought it all to Henley's room. She smiled when she saw him. He helped her sit up and handed her the tray.

"This must be so hard for you," she whispered painfully, though her face didn't show it.

"Excuse me?"

She swallowed a spoonful of the liquid, pleased at the warmth it brought. "Putting someone else first like this," she said teasingly, glancing up at him.

Danny smiled and looked at the ground. "Yeah, well, you know I've always had a soft spot when it comes to you," he said softly. "And if you ever tell anyone I said that, I'll fight like hell."

She smiled as she drank more of the soup. "Thank you."

"Yeah." He moved closer to her and brushed the hair out of her face, her eyes falling closed. He leaned forward and kissed her forehead, his lips lingering just a bit longer than casual. "Feel better, Hen," he whispered. He pulled back and walked to the door, turning around before he left. "Just knock on the wall or something if you need me."

She nodded, and he pulled the door closed.

~

"Merritt, this is why we can't go anywhere with you!" Jack shouted as they hailed a taxi. His tone was as serious as he could make it with the giant smile spreading across his face.

"Hey, don't blame me, that cashier had no right to act like a dick to us just because his girlfriend broke up with him for his boss. We did nothing to deserve that sort of treatment!" He replied, his voice over saturated with false sincerity.

"I mean yeah he was being a dick but you can't just whip out the mentalism on random angry strangers," Jack laughed as they got into the taxi. "Especially not ones who're gonna call security on us!"

"That was wholly unnecessary, we had already paid and were just about to leave anyways. A careless waste of resources if you ask me," he said sarcastically.

Jack threw his head back and laughed even harder.

"See, you enjoyed it, don't lie to me," Merritt smiled.

Jack shook his head a little. "I hate you," he said, looking sidelong at Merritt and smiling again.

Merritt waved his hand dismissively. "And besides," he added, throwing his arm over Jack's shoulder, "we got everything we came for. I'd call this a success, Henley would be proud."

Jack nodded his head, grinning. "Yeah, you're right. She would."

 

Chapter Text

The bubble popped and Henley fell from the air, landing safely in Danny’s arms, and all he wanted to do was kiss her.

Right then and there, on that very stage, in front of everyone. He wanted nothing more than to kiss her until neither of them could breathe anymore. Looking into her eyes while he held her, just a few inches separating their faces, it would have been so easy.

In that moment, it was like nothing had changed, like years hadn’t passed and she was still his assistant, before they split up and she went off on her own. Before the Eye contacted any of them. Before the Horsemen.

Times had been simpler when all he had to worry about was putting on a good show, and Henley.

It’s not like he hadn’t kissed her since they’d reunited. He’d kissed all of them; it was just natural, kind of like a no-brainer for him. So he couldn’t figure out why he was feeling this way in those few seconds. He didn’t regret anything, didn’t want to go back in time or anything like that. He was happier than he’d ever been now. He still had Henley, he had Merritt, and Jack. He couldn’t ask for more.

He just wanted to kiss Henley right there, but he knew he couldn’t. They had a show to do, a really important one. After five seconds, he pulled his eyes away from hers, smiled up at the crowd, and the moment was gone.

Chapter Text

They all sat in a taxi on the way back to their apartment talking and laughing like they were having the times of their lives. The Four Horsemen had just pulled off their first successful show as a group and everything had gone off without a hitch. Every trick went right, every illusion amazed their audience, and every move they made worked in harmony with each other. Sure, this little show was nothing compared to the big ones they were going to be putting on later, but they had to start somewhere, and this couldn’t have gone more perfect.

Merritt was talking about the guy in the audience he’d hypnotized, something about the extra trigger word he’d secretly worked in. Everyone was laughing, but Danny wasn’t really listening. He was staring out the window, smiling. He hadn’t felt this good in a long time. He must have zoned out, because Jack suddenly tapped his fingers across the back of his hand. He turned his attention back to the other three.

“You good?” Jack asked quietly, his fingers lingering over Danny’s. His skin tingled slightly where they touched.

“Yeah, yeah I’m fine,” Danny said, half-smiling. “I’m just enjoying the moment. This was a lot of fun, actually.”

Jack smiled widely. “Good, awesome.” He turned his attention back to address everyone. “We should celebrate, this was awesome!”

“You know, I think we’ve got a bottle of tequila tucked away in a cabinet somewhere,” Henley said.

Merritt’s head snapped towards her. “And you’ve never mentioned this before?!” He exclaimed.

Laughing, Jack said “Perfect, it’ll be a party.”

~~~

Henley got two drinks down before she fell asleep. No one could really blame her; it’d been a long day.

“Alright, I’m gonna take Sleeping Beauty over there to her room, and then I think I’m gonna call it for the night too,” Merritt said as he stood up and stretched.

“Boooooo,” Jack shouted from where he sat on the kitchen counter.

“Oh hush, I didn’t say you guys had to quit.” Merritt leaned over and slid his arms under Henley, picking her up as gently as he could while also being tipsy. “Don’t have too much fun without us,” he said, winking as he left the room.

Danny barely heard him. All night he had been throwing glances at Jack, hoping he wouldn’t notice. Of course, he was pretty sure he had, but Jack hadn’t really seemed to mind. Actually, if Danny was honest, he thought he’d caught Jack staring at him a few times too.

This is crazy, he thought. I can’t… like him. We’re friends, housemates, coworkers, whatever. I do not want to sleep with him.

Jack reached his arms up behind his head and stretched, making a noise in the back of his throat. Danny swallowed hard. Okay I definitely want to sleep with him. He shook his head lightly.

“You want another drink?” Jack asked, grinning at him.

“Uh, yeah, sure.” Danny walked into the kitchen and handed Jack his glass. He poured them both a shot and handed Danny’s his, jumping down off the counter.

“A toast to a night gone well,” Jack said, raising his glass up. He was standing closer to Danny than he probably should be, but neither of them cared.

Danny bit his lip, his eyes dropping to Jack’s mouth for a moment before making eye contact again. “To all of this,” Danny said ambiguously, clinking their glasses together. They both threw the shot back. Jack coughed a little and made a face. Danny laughed. “Third one and it’s still getting to you?”

Jack grinned. “Yeah, I guess I just wasn’t ready for it. My mind is elsewhere tonight, I’ll admit.” He set his glass on the counter next to him and stepped forward. Danny’s breath caught in his throat. He turned his head to the side a second later.

“Do you know how much shit we’re gonna get in if we do this?” he whispered, half laughing.

“I don’t care,” Jack said, taking his glass from him too and placing his hands on Danny’s waist. “I want to,” he whispered, leaning his face into Danny’s exposed neck and pressing his lips to the skin there.

Danny could feel his whole body reacting, but his brain was still holding him back. “We live with two other people who would probably kill us if they ever found out. And we’re about to be big public icons soon. Everyone’s gonna see us,” he managed.

Jack kept kissing his neck, nipping softly every so often, trailing his way up to Danny’s jaw line. Somehow, Danny’s hand ended up in Jack’s hair, the other supporting his weight on the counter next to him. His eyes fell closed.

“Come on, Danny,” Jack practically moaned against his jaw. “I’m so into you.” He dug his fingers into his waist.

Danny couldn’t take it any longer. He turned his head back to face Jack, who detached himself from his neck. They stood there for a moment, breathing heavily, staring into each other’s eyes. Jack’s hands still on his waist, Danny’s hand against the back of his neck. Jack looked down at Danny’s lips and that was it.

Danny surged forward, finally connecting their lips. The kiss was heated and sloppy, tasting like alcohol. Jack reached up and pulled Danny’s hair a little, tilting his head to deepen the kiss. Suddenly, Jack was pinned to the counter behind him and it was Danny’s hands on his waist, his hands in Danny’s hair. Their bodies were so close, Jack’s heart racing a hundred miles an hour. He bit down on Danny’s lip, earning a moan that sent shivers up his spine.

Danny didn’t remember leaving the room. He didn’t remember opening or closing the door to Jack’s room (the furthest from everyone else’s). All he knew was that it was suddenly dark, his back was against the door, and Jack was fumbling to undo his belt. There was also a tongue down his throat, but that was to be expected. He slipped his hands under Jack’s shirt and started tracing the lines of his body. Jack faltered and made a small noise, then returned to attacking his mouth.

Danny pushed him off just long enough to pull Jack’s shirt over his head, immediately grabbing his face and pulling him back towards himself and connecting their lips again. Jack pulled him off the wall, never breaking contact, and moved them towards the bed. He finally got Danny’s belt undone and pushed him onto the bed.

Danny’s breath was coming fast and heavy, his heart racing. Jack crawled slowly onto the bed and over Danny’s body, holding his gaze the entire time. The way Danny’s chest was rising and falling, his arms thrown up above his head on the pillow, his eyes half lidded and his mouth slightly swollen… Jack wanted to remember this.

He slid his hands up Danny’s arms and laced their fingers together as he leaned down to kiss him again. Eventually, Danny wrapped a leg around Jack’s waist and flipped them, much to Jack’s surprise, then started sucking on Jack’s neck.

“So much for keeping this secret,” Jack panted, his voice strained.

Danny pulled back enough to look him in the eye. “Do you care?” he asked, even though he already knew the answer.

Jack bit his lip. “No,” he breathed, grabbing Danny’s neck and pulling him back down for more.

~~~

Sunlight flooded in through the window the next morning as Danny opened his eyes. He was slightly dazed, but memories of the night before were slowly returning to him. Bits and pieces started coming back; tangled limbs, sweat rolling down his neck, lips on his stomach, quiet gasps.

Jack.

He remembered Jack, and the burning desire he’d felt. Jack… God, that had been good. His eyes slipped closed again.

About a minute later, he felt movement against his side. He realized for the first time since he’d woke up that he wasn’t actually alone, his arm thrown across Jack’s naked back and their legs entwined together. Jack had his face buried in Danny’s shoulder and his arm around his stomach.

As he woke up, he pulled himself off of Danny and instead laid next to him. Danny opened his eyes again and rolled on his side to face him.

“Hey,” he said quietly, a small smile ghosting across his lips as he reached for Jack’s hand and laced their fingers together.

Jack grinned widely. “Hi.”

“So do you remember last night?”

Jack licked his lips and smiled again. “I don’t know, maybe you could refresh my memory?”

Danny laughed and leaned in, brushing their lips together softly. “Anything?”

Jack hummed against his lips in response, lazily kissing him some more. Danny brought his hand up to Jack’s chin gently.

“Oh right, that last night,” Jack said exaggeratedly. Danny laughed again as the door to the room suddenly opened.

“Jack, wake up, we can’t find-“ Merritt stopped short as soon as he could see in the room.

Jack craned his head around to look behind him, already blushing from embarrassment. Danny propped himself up on his elbow.

“Danny! There you are!” He shouted. They all heard a muffled “what?!” come from the living room.

“Did you guys have sex?” Merritt said loudly. They both groaned. Another “what?!” this time much closer. Suddenly Henley appeared in the doorway.

“Oh my god!” She gasped. Danny laid back down on the bed, wanting to disappear.

“That’s awesome,” Merritt laughed.

Danny’s brow furrowed as he sat up again. “Wait, what?”

“Are you guys still naked?” Henley asked, always the subtle one.

Jack lifted the sheets slightly to check. “No.”

“Good,” Merritt said as he pushed the door all the way open and they ran into the room, both of them jumping on the bed with them.

“Whoa, hold on a minute,” Jack said, shifting over and sitting up as Merritt settled between them. “You guys aren’t like, weirded out or anything?”

Henley laughed from where she lay sideways across all of them. “Are you kidding?”

“Yeah, invite us next time!” Merritt smirked. Jack looked over at Danny, but he looked just as confused as him.

Jack laughed nervously. “Careful, we might take you guys up on that,” he said.

“Please do!” Henley shouted, her face buried in the pillow next to Danny.

“Duly noted,” Danny muttered as Merritt wrapped his arm around him and Henley, laughing. In that moment, he couldn’t figure out why he ever thought they would have anything to hide.

Chapter Text

Air

Danny desperately needed air.

He couldn’t breathe, his head was spinning, and his heart was jumping out of his chest.

God, why couldn’t he just get air into his lungs?

He was afraid he was going to fall off the couch, hurt himself or something. Not that he could help it right now anyways, he couldn’t even see straight. Everything was blurry, and whether that was from the tears in his eyes or the panic attack as a whole, he had no idea.

He was barely aware that he was shaking, but the only thought running through his head at that point was can’t breathe can’t breathe

c a n ’ t  b r e a t h e.

He was terrified.

Eventually he noticed there was a hand on his back, rubbing slowly and comfortingly. He didn’t even register the fact that he was supposed to be alone. He just focused on the hand, the movement, and tried to bring himself back down to normal.

He vaguely heard a voice speaking near him, but it sounded so distant. When he could focus on it, the tone was calm and soothing.

It’s alright Danny.

Breathe.

You’re alright.

I’ve got you.

Over and over. It helped.

Five minutes later, Danny all but collapsed into the person’s arms. He was still shaking, his heart rate still elevated. But he could breathe again, and that’s what counted. The attack was over. He realized he was holding the front of this person’s shirt in a death grip, like they would disappear if he let go, or maybe like he would. A hand was trailing up and down his back. He buried his face into their chest and squeezed his eyes as tight as he could.

“How are you feeling?” the voice asked, and he realized finally that it was Merritt who held him then. He inhaled shakily, but didn’t answer. “Relax your mind. Everything’s okay,” he muttered into Danny’s hair.

Eventually the shaking stopped too, and Danny was all but normal again. He slowly released his hold on Merritt’s shirt and pulled back, refusing to meet his eye. Now, the only thing he felt was embarrassment.

“Sorry,” he muttered quietly, but in the late night silence of their apartment, his voice rang out.

“Don’t be. I’m just glad I walked out when I did.”

“…Why are you awake?”

“I needed water,” Merritt said casually. “When I walked out, you were sitting there, and, well, it didn’t take a mentalist to figure out was going on.”

Danny stared intently at the ground. “…Sorry,” he whispered again.

“Hey,” Merritt said insistently. He reached out and caught Danny’s chin between his fingers, tenderly turning his head so he was forced to look at him. “You’ve got nothing to be sorry or embarrassed about. This is natural, a lot of people deal with anxiety,” he said gently.

Danny’s eyes fell closed again as he laughed humorlessly and turned out of Merritt’s grip. “J. Daniel Atlas doesn’t. He’s always in control, always got the upper hand. Nothing can trip him up. Especially not stupid panic attacks,” he said bitterly.

Merritt suddenly reached out and wrapped a hand loosely around his wrist. “That’s fine and all, but I’m not talking to J. Daniel Atlas right now, am I? I’m talking to Danny. And Danny isn’t perfect. God, we all know that,” he said teasingly. “And I promise you that no one in this apartment would look at you any differently if they knew about this.”

Danny finally looked back up at Merritt again and paused. He didn’t say anything for a few seconds, just looked. “Don’t tell them anyways… please?”

“Okay… I won’t,” Merritt nodded.

“Thank you,” Danny said, and he suddenly grabbed Merritt’s neck and leaned forward to press their lips together, soft and brief. He lingered close though, their foreheads almost touching, and Danny’s eyes remained closed.

“Don’t worry about it,” Merritt whispered, closing the gap once more. Their lips brushed ever so lightly. Danny’s heart jumped again, but in a totally different way this time. How Merritt managed to kiss him while also keeping their lips barely touching was almost maddening. Danny pushed forward closer and bit gently on his bottom lip, but Merritt just chuckled and pulled away slowly.

“Get some sleep tonight kid, you need it,” Merritt said, patting his shoulder as he stood up.

He watched Merritt walk towards the hallway. “I will,” he said quietly.

To his surprise, he actually did.

Chapter Text

“Oh, I love this song,” Henley said dreamily as the sound of piano flowed out of the stereo and filled the living room.

Jack looked up from where he sat at the table with Danny and Merritt. She was standing in the middle of the room smiling.

“What is it?” he asked curiously.

“The Fray.” She turned to look at him and a grin spread across her face. “Jack, come dance with me,” she said, holding her hand out in his direction.

“Huh? Oh, um, I don’t really dance,” he said sheepishly, looking down at the table.

“Come on, it’s not hard, I’ll show you.” The first words of the song began to play as Jack looked back up.

If I don’t say this now, I will surely break as I’m leaving the one I want to take.

“Yeah Jack, go dance with her,” Danny said teasingly.

He sighed and stood up. “Alright, I will.”

Forget the urgency, but hurry up and wait. My heart has started to separate.

As he reached her, Jack took Henley’s outstretched hand. “Now how do we do this?” She smiled and placed his hand on her hip. She laid her hand on his shoulder and reached out to grab his other hand, lacing their fingers together.

“That’s it. Just… sway a little,” she said, stepping sideways almost imperceptibly. Jack followed, and they soon fell into a steady rhythm.

Oh, oh, be my baby, I’ll look after you.

She looked up at him, meeting his eyes, and he smiled widely.

There now, steady love, so few come and don’t go. Will you, won’t you, be the one I’ll always know?

“This isn’t so hard,” Jack said quietly. “It’s kind of fun.”

Henley laughed gently. “Good, I’m glad. And Jack?” she added in a gentle tone, “You don’t have to be afraid to touch me you know.” She reached down and pulled his hand closer against her waist, where he was barely making any contact before.

“Oh, sorry,” he said, blushing slightly. She just laughed a little in response.

“It’s okay, you’re learning.”

And I’ll look after you.

They danced in silence for a while, just staring into each other’s eyes. Henley leaned forward and laid her head against Jack’s chest, just under his chin. He lightly caressed the side of her thumb with his own, reveling in the softness of her skin everywhere they touched. She seemed so dainty then, even though he knew she was normally anything but.

 He leaned his head down, pressing a kiss into her hair.

It’s always have and never hold, and you begin to feel like home.

“You’re such a gentleman,” she said softly, half-teasing but still half-serious.

“I try,” he said smiling.

He felt her laugh into his chest, and he couldn’t help but think how adorable it was. He moved his hand to the small of her back, their bodies already pressed so close.

Jack’s eyes slipped shut as he leaned his chin down softly onto her head again, swaying away to the rhythm of the song as Henley hummed quietly along.

Chapter Text

“Stop!”

The shout echoed in his ears as he jumped onto the wall. He turned around slowly.

There was a gun pointed straight at him. He held his hands up in the air and locked eyes with the person holding it. He didn’t dare move for a few seconds, but it felt like an eternity. It was like Danny and that French agent were locked in a staring contest, both of their hearts pounding and adrenaline racing through their bodies. The question was who would crack first.

Danny waved his fingers lightly, his face taking on an almost apologetic expression, as he decided she was too new at this, too sweet, and there was no way she’d actually follow through.

He turned to jump.

There was a loud noise, and everything went red.

~~~

Jack heard the shout, and he almost ignored it to keep running, but something in his gut told him to turn around and see what was happening. He spotted Danny on the wall about ten feet back, hands raised, and in a flash he heard the sound of a gun go off.

Danny was falling.

There was a faint gasp on the other side of the wall, a muffled “oh my god,” but it barely registered with Jack. Danny was on his side, curled in on himself, holding his right shoulder at the bottom of the wall. Bleeding.

Jack sprinted towards him, leaning down and grabbing his face in his hands. “Come on Danny, come on, we gotta go! You gotta get up!” he shouted frantically, but the man barely looked conscious. Jack glanced around quickly and reached his arm under Danny’s left shoulder, grabbing him around his torso on the right side and pulling his left arm around his own shoulders. He lifted Danny up onto his feet, practically carrying all of his weight, and they started to move.

Danny was crying out in pain, his head hanging limp. Jack kept them running as fast as they could, but they weren’t in good shape. He heard Agent Rhodes making his way over the wall behind them, and Jack picked up the pace.

He was freaking out, his heart was pounding. He thought he might throw up soon. They weren’t gonna make it, they were actually gonna get caught, and all of this would have been for nothing. Danny had actually just been shot, and now they were alone with an FBI agent close on their tail. Jack had just about completely lost hope when Danny seemed to wake up, his legs moving faster and steadier beneath him.

It wasn’t much, but it allowed them to run quicker, and that was all they needed. “That’s right Danny I need you to stay with me, okay? Stay with me, we’re gonna be fine, you’re gonna be alright. Everything’s gonna be fine,” Jack repeated frantically, trying to sound sincere even though he knew he just sounded distressed. He wasn’t sure if he was saying it for Danny’s benefit or his own.

They had already long ditched the tracking devices, so all they needed to do was give Rhodes the slip. Jack just had to figure out how. They weaved their way through the Mardi Gras crowd, trying desperately to keep Danny’s shoulder from bumping into anyone. In a miraculous turn of events, the crowd behind them swelled shut, effectively cutting them off from Rhodes and allowing Jack to pull them around unnoticed into a crowded sideline. He ducked down, ushering Danny with him, and watched as Rhodes ran into the bar they were just outside of.

He let out a sigh of relief, feeling like a weight was lifted off his chest. Danny groaned quietly next to him, slipping down towards the ground. Jack shifted to catch him, but not before his injured shoulder hit the pavement.

Danny cried out at the searing pain, his face contorting in agony. “Shit,” Jack muttered, “No no no, man I’m so sorry.” There were tears streaming down Danny’s face, and when Jack got them back on their feet and in walking position again, there was blood on the ground.

“Alright Danny come on, we’ve gotta get back, we aren’t in the clear just yet,” Jack said, pulling him along again. Danny was panting, his vision fading in and out. He could barely even keep his eyes open.

“Jack…” Danny breathed out. “I… I can’t…” His face twisted up again and he hissed in pain.

“I know Danny, I know. But you have to, you can’t quit now. Don’t you quit on me, we’re gonna make it,” Jack said as they weaved their way through the endless streets of New Orleans.

“We’re gonna make it.”

~~~

Danny lay in unconscious in a shifty motel room bed a little while later. Merritt had pulled some strings, called in an old friend (and a favor), so within the hour there had been a doctor by his side, patching Danny up.

“He’s fine,” the man had said. “It was just his shoulder, luckily, nothing serious. He should be good to go within a few months. Keep his arm in a sling, don’t let him strain himself, keep the wound clean, etc. etc. Just let him rest for a while.”

Except, they didn’t have a while. The four (or three, really) horsemen were supposed to be putting on their final act the next day, they certainly didn’t have a few months to spare.

“We’re gonna have to push everything back, there’s no way we can keep this on schedule,” Henley said presently to Jack. They were standing outside the door to the room, and Merritt was talking to his doctor friend out by his car.

“I say we give him a week. We can cut down on any- and everything he has to physically do for the act, and he can do it in the sling,” Jack said, trying to keep his voice down. “Besides, Danny’s stubborn; he’ll hate having to stay confined for a long period of time like that. He’ll probably heal just out of spite.”

She sighed. “Yeah, I think you’re right,” Henley agreed just as Merritt walked up. The doctor’s car pulled out of the parking lot and drove off into the night.

“So what’s the plan?”

“One week, that’s all we can delay this for. We’re gonna have to ditch agent Rhodes’ phone now and find some other way to draw them out to New York when it comes time. Danny will have to be good enough to do this thing by then,” Henley said.

“Hey, sounds good to me. I’m going to work on getting us a flight out of here tomorrow,” Merritt said as he pulled out his phone.

“God, you’re right. We’re supposed to be on that right now, aren’t we?” Henley said, rubbing her hand against her forehead in aggravation.

“Twenty minutes ago,” Jack said quietly.

“Alright then, Merritt, while you do that I’ll be at the drugstore a few streets over, I’ll see what I can get for Danny. Jack, you stay here and make sure he doesn’t die or anything.”

“Got it.” Jack said, nodding.

“Aaaand break,” Merritt mumbled to himself as they all went their separate ways.

~~~

Ten minutes later and Danny was awake.

Well, sort of. His face was twisting up and he was groaning in pain, but he didn’t really seem fully aware yet. Jack rushed to his side anyways, pulling up a chair and sitting nervously.

When he started blinking hard, Jack knew he was back for real this time. He was struggling to sit up, but Jack got up and put his hand out against his chest. “Whoa hey, hey, relax. Relax Danny, you’re in a motel. Just lay still.”

Danny’s breathing started speeding up and Jack could tell he was freaking out. “What-“ he breathed out.

“You were shot in the shoulder. We got you taken care of, you’re gonna be fine, but you need to calm down, okay? Stop trying to move, you’re just hurting yourself more.” Jack slid his hand up and wrapped it around Danny’s good shoulder. “I’m here, everything’s okay,” he added quietly.

Danny’s face scrunched up in a mixture of disbelief and pain as his eyes shut. “No, no no no no no,” he muttered, his breathing heavy. “I can’t- we… no this can’t be happening.”

“I told you Danny, we’re taking care of it, everything’s gonna be alright, don’t worry about it,” Jack said soothingly, running his thumb across his collarbone.

He was silent for a moment. He swallowed hard, his eyes still closed. “Jack…”

“Yeah man?”

Danny’s tongue darted out to wet his lips, his chest rising and falling rapidly. “It hurts… A lot.” He opened his eyes and a tear ran down the side of his face. The look he gave Jack was one of pure desperation.

“I know, Danny, I know, I’m so sorry, I wish there was something I could do. Henley’s gonna be back from the drugstore anytime now,” Jack said, feeling helpless.

“Just-“ Danny started, his voice catching in his throat. He swallowed hard again. “Just don’t leave. Don’t leave me, okay?” he said, quiet but frantic.

“No way, not happening. I am not leaving your side, alright? I’m gonna be right here,” Jack said reassuringly. He reached out and took Danny’s left hand in his own, squeezing gently. “I’m right here.”

Danny nodded, closing his eyes again and praying for sleep.

~~~

Three days later, they had a system worked out. Danny was trying his hardest to get better, but it’s not like that was exactly easy. Jack had been right about one thing though; he was going stir crazy.

They had him confined to the bed for the first half of the week, only getting him up when absolutely necessary. (Not that he could have really handled being up for much more; he was in excruciating pain. But he was still going to complain about it nonetheless.)

They watched him in shifts. Each one of them spent a part of the day by his bedside while he was recovering, trading out every so often.

Merritt would drag his laptop in there and pull up movies for them to watch.

“You’ve gotta be bored out of your mind by now,” he would say, “and hopefully this’ll distract you for a bit.” Danny was grateful for it. Merritt sat in his bed next to him (on the left of course), their shoulders pressed close together. It wasn’t much, but it was comforting, and Danny knew he was trying. Once, their hands lay on the bed, back to back, and Danny bumped them together. Merritt spread his fingers apart and slotted Danny’s between them, pressing their fingertips together lightly, never once looking away from the movie. Danny smiled to himself.

Henley kissed him like she was dying.

Or rather, like he was dying, had almost died, whatever. She was like a drowning woman and he was the air she so desperately needed. There was so much passion and emotion that Danny thought he might drown in it. Not that he minded in the slightest. It was nice, and definitely distracting. Once, she’d leaned too close onto him, bumping his arm. “Careful, careful, careful!” he’d said, his head falling backwards and his eyes squinting closed in pain. She had apologized profusely, looking like she wanted to cry. He’d bit back the tears and reassured her, stroking her cheek and pulling her back down for another kiss.

(Merritt had walked in another time, clearing his throat exaggeratedly and smirking. She’d kissed Danny one last time and then walked to the door. “How come you never kiss me like that?” he’d asked teasingly. She just smiled, leaned in and pecked him on the lips. “Because you didn’t get shot,” she said simply, walking away.)

Jack laid next to him and talked for hours.

He would tell him stories about everything from his childhood to the fairytales his mother used to read him at night. Danny listened intently, always wanting to know more. He learned about Jack’s life, living on the streets, and he felt like he was really meeting him for the first time. He was falling all over again.

Sometimes, Jack would encourage him to talk, asking Danny to tell him stories about his life or his past. Once, Danny opened up about his control issues, like he never had before. “When I was a kid, my parents got a divorce,” he said, his eyes closed. Jack was sitting cross-legged on the bed facing him, holding his hand in between his own in his lap. “I changed schools constantly. I got bullied a lot. Like, a lot.” Jack squeezed his hand supportively. “So I got into magic, when I was ten years old. Come to think of it that probably didn’t help with whole bullying situation, but… it was an outlet. For the first time ever, I had found something that I had complete control over, even when everything else in my life was crazy and unpredictable. I could direct people’s attention, their emotions, their perceptions, however I wanted them. It was all just a matter of waving my hands and flipping some cards,” he laughed. Jack smiled at him, bringing his hand up to his lips and kissing it softly.

“As soon as I became an adult and had my own life, I started to micromanage everything. I always had to know what was happening, where, how, when, all that. Always had to be in charge of everything. It’s… a problem, I know. But, I can’t help it,” he smiled sheepishly. “And now, I’m stuck here in this bed, completely powerless to everything that’s happening to me and around me, and I can’t stand it. I can’t even do magic anymore.” He looked over at Jack sadly.

There was a short pause before Jack quietly said “I know. I’m sorry Danny. I’m sorry.”

He sighed. “It’s not your fault,” Danny said, this time squeezing Jack’s hand.

“Hey, just think; in four days, we’re gonna be back on track, and we’re gonna finish all of this.” Danny half-smiled and nodded his head. Jack paused for a moment, and added “Are you gonna be okay enough to do this thing in four days?”

Danny thought about it. “Yeah, I am,” he said confidently, smiling up at Jack. He smiled widely back at him.

“Good,” he grinned, leaning down and kissing him briefly. “Can’t wait to have you back.”

~~~

Four days later, the horsemen carried out their plan. Jack faked his death and fooled the world, and the other three made their great escape off the side of the Five Pointz building. Everything went off without a hitch as the curtain came down on the Four Horsemen’s final act. For now, that is.

Chapter Text

Jack hadn't come out of his room in two days.

No one really knew what was wrong, just that he wanted to be alone. This wasn't the first time, but everyone still worried.

The first time, Henley had freaked out. She went knocking on his door, trying to figure out why he wasn't up yet, but he just told her to go away, his voice harsh and emotionless. She sat on the couch staring at the wall for the next ten minutes, speechless.

An hour later, Merritt had knocked and asked if he was alright. "I'm fine," he'd muttered through the door. Merritt paused, but turned and left with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.

"Guys I think he just wants to be left alone. Give him a day, I'm sure he'll be fine," Danny had said.

Three days later, he emerged, and they all pretended nothing had happened.

Now, no one had seen him in two days again. This time they were more accustomed to working around him, no one was losing their mind with worry, but there was still a heavy weight that hung upon everyone throughout the days.

Henley brought him meals. She didn't ask if he wanted them or if she could come in, just announced herself before she carried in a tray and sat it next to his bed. He lay facing the wall on the other side of the room, not looking at her. She hesitated a moment, her hand reaching out towards him automatically, but she caught herself. She turned to leave instead.

"Thanks," Jack whispered just before she slipped out. She stopped, her mouth turning up in a sad smile.

"No problem."

Merritt and Danny tried to go on like nothing was wrong, but that wasn't easy. On the outside, Danny acted like he wasn't concerned, but he was dying inside. It wasn’t fair; Jack was always the bright and bouncy one. He was the happy-go-lucky kid who always brought everyone else up, but now he couldn’t even drag himself out of bed. And they couldn’t do anything about it, they were just supposed to let him be until he was better.

Danny couldn’t stand it.

~~~

The door opened and light flooded in momentarily. Jack squeezed his eyes shut until he heard the door click back into place.

“Hey,” Danny said meekly.

Silence filled the room for the longest minute of his life.

“I don’t want to talk.”

Danny let out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding. “Then don’t talk. That’s alright.” He walked over towards the bed. “I just… don’t want you to be alone.”

Jack didn’t say anything. God, Danny wished he could just see his face, look into his eyes and promise him everything would be okay. He wished everything was okay.

He took the lack of objection as a good sign and sat down lightly on the side of the bed. He pulled back the covers and settled under them, laying down and closing his eyes. He was careful not to touch Jack in the process, not wanting to disturb him any more than he knew he already was.

At some point he must have dozed off for a little while, because the next thing he knew, he woke up on his side with Jack’s head tucked against his chest. His arm was thrown over Jack, who was clinging to his waist and breathing steadily, seemingly asleep. Danny’s lips twitched upwards in a brief smile of surprise. He started slowly running his hand up and down Jack’s back in a small act of comfort.

About 15 minutes later, Jack woke up too. He didn’t say anything for a while, though they both knew the other was awake. Danny kept rubbing his back softly.

Suddenly, Jack let out a shaky sigh and pulled out of Danny’s arms. He lay on his back and stared up at the ceiling blankly. Danny moved to do the same.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Jack said quietly. Danny didn’t respond, just furrowed his brow.

“Most days I’m happy. Especially now, with you guys, I mean you guys are great. But some days I just… fall into this pit, and it’s dark, and heavy, a-and I don’t know why but it just happens and then it’s over and I’m fine again.”

Danny paused. “Everyone worries about you, you know?” Jack turned his head to look at him, but Danny kept talking up at the ceiling. “We want you to be okay, and no one knows what to do on days like this. We just want to make it better, but we don’t know how to.”

Jack turned back again. “I don’t know,” he said quietly.

Danny thought for a moment, then pulled his phone out of his pocket. He scrolled through it for a minute and grabbed a loose pair of headphones off of Jack’s bedside table. Jack glanced sidelong at him to see what he was doing as Danny plugged them in and offered him the right one. He took it, a questioning look spreading across his face.

“Come on,” Danny encouraged, so he put it in his ear. Soft piano flowed out, and he closed his eyes again.

When I wake up, well I know I’m gonna be, I’m gonna be the man who wakes up next to you.

Jack actually laughed in surprise once he recognized it. “Danny what the hell?” he asked, turning to look at him again.

He grinned. “What? It’s nice, just listen to it,” he replied.

Jack rolled his eyes. “Whatever,” he said, but there was still a small smile on his face. Danny was staring at him expectantly, which just made him laugh again. “Stop that,” he said, shoving Danny’s face away jokingly.

“It’s beautiful and you know it,” Danny laughed.

“Yeah, yeah.” Jack said sarcastically. They went silent again listening to the music, and Jack reached out to entwine their fingers. “Thanks Danny,” he whispered after a minute.

“No problem,” he whispered back.

Chapter Text

“I’m telling you guys, it’s Mean Girls or nothing!”

“Merritt, no one wants to watch Mean Girls!”

“Oh what do you know, Danny? Your suggestion was a bunch of dudes runnin’ around in tights.”

Jack almost choked on his drink.

“Um, okay first of all, it’s only one dude. One dude in tights. Second, it’s a superhero movie, that comes with the territory. And third, everyone loves Captain America! Back me up here, Henley.”

She threw her hands up. “Hey, leave me out of this one. Besides, my vote was for Jaws anyways,” she said from where she lay across the couch.

“Aw, come on, I don’t wanna watch two hours of shark attacks, that’s boring,” Jack groaned from the kitchen.

“Hey! It’s a classic!” she shouted back.

Jack walked into the living room with an enormous bowl of popcorn in his arms. “You know what? Merritt, you picked the last movie, you’re out of this one.”

“What? I did no such thing.”

“Yes you did, Pirates of the Caribbean was all you,” Henley said, pointing loosely at him.

Jack shifted the bowl to one arm and picked Henley’s legs up off the couch with the other as he sat down on her left.

“And it was delightful,” Merritt responded exaggeratedly. Henley giggled in response as he sat down on her right, laying his arm across the back of couch.

“I think it’s my turn to pick,” Jack said, throwing popcorn into the air and catching it in his mouth with ease.

“Actually, come to think of it you’re probably right,” Henley said, grabbing a handful. Everyone glanced to Danny, waiting for him to put up a fight.

He just sighed. “Fine. Alright, what are we watching Jack?”

A grin spread across his face. “Who’s up for a little Titanic?”

Everyone groaned simultaneously.

“Hey, it’s still a great movie even if it’s a chick flick. Come on, you guys’ll get over it,” he said. Merritt reached behind him and gave his head a shove.

“You are terrible, you know that?” he said.

“Oh shut up,” he replied as he got up to put on the movie.

Danny passed him as he went to sit on the couch, to the other side of Merritt. “Alright, just know if Henley cries, this is on you.”

“Wha- Hey! You asshole, I’ve seen this movie before!” she exclaimed, leaning around Merritt to punch Danny in the arm.

“Ow!” Merritt wrapped his arms around her body, restraining her while he laughed.

“Alright, down kitty. Danny doesn’t need to die tonight.” Jack laughed as he came back to sit down again next to Henley (on the couch that was really only meant to seat three).

“At least I wasn’t the one who cried at Marley and Me,” Henley muttered challengingly.

Merritt’s jaw dropped a little in appreciation, laughing again. “Hey, not cool Reeves, not cool at all, that movie was sad as hell and you know it,” Danny said accusingly.

“Oh it absolutely was. But I still didn’t cry,” she smirked.

“Guys shut up, it’s starting,” Jack hissed, and Merritt finally released Henley from his hold. He left his arm thrown around her shoulder though, and she settled against his side, a triumphant look still gracing her face.

“Oh I’m gonna get you, just wait,” Danny whispered, but Merritt just reached up behind him and squeezed at the back of his neck.

“Both of you calm down or I’ll turn this car around right now.” Jack smiled, and everyone finally fell silent to watch the movie.

~~~

Thirty minutes in and Danny started throwing popcorn at Henley.

“Excuse you!” she said as one landed in her hair.

“Oops, my hand slipped,” he replied, grinning.

Jack leaned forward and gave him a death glare. He raised his hands in surrender, though he was still smiling. “Alright, don’t mind me.”

He was good for another three minutes, then he started up again. Except this time, he missed, hitting Jack in the side of the head instead. It surprised the crap out of him, he was so focused on the movie, and he jumped practically off the couch. Danny bit his lips to keep from smiling, but Henley bust out laughing, and Merritt looked like he’d never been more entertained.

“Okay, that’s it, I actually have to kill you now,” he said, leaning across the couch and everyone on it, reaching out towards Danny. Henley looked exaggeratedly annoyed as she tried to shove him back into his spot. He fought against her, and Danny leaned back just barely out of his reach. Jack and Henley started bickering indistinguishably and Merritt just looked amused.

“What was that, dear? Love you too,” Danny called sarcastically.

“Oh, I’m gonna let him at you,” Henley said, throwing a challenging look over her shoulder at him.

Merritt leaned in towards Danny. “Which one of them was that even directed to?” he whispered, smiling.

Danny smiled back. “Yes.”

~~~

Jack and Rose were hooking up in the car when Henley and Merritt started making out on the couch. Danny was mostly asleep, so he definitely didn’t notice. Jack (theirs, not Leo) was so enthralled in the movie that it took him a minute to even realize.

When he finally peeled his eyes away from the screen, he had to do a double take before he even registered they were doing anything.

“Hey, hey cut it out,” he said, shoving at Henley with his elbow. “Watch the damn movie you guys, come on.”

Danny woke up then, and the first thing he saw was Merritt and Henley. “Whoa there, I was out for like ten minutes, what the hell did I miss?” he smirked.

“The movie, which we’re all missing again because you guys are the worst.” Merritt laughed and pulled away, turning back to face the TV.

“Alright, alright kid, if it means that much to you.”

~~~

The ship was sinking and everyone was a wreck. Danny was actually full out tears-rolling-down-his-face crying, his knees pulled up to his chest. Merritt had his arm thrown around him and was squeezing his shoulder comfortingly, but even he had tears in his eyes. Henley was blinking furiously, clutching Merritt’s hand and laying her head on Jack’s shoulder. His throat was tight and he was on the brink of tears himself, so he chewed on his bottom lip to keep from crying.

The popcorn sat half-eaten and forgotten on the coffee table in front of them.

~~~

I’ll never let go, Jack…

Danny involuntarily let out a soft yet pained “oh,” more tears falling. Merritt started blinking and looking around the room in an effort to not do the same (he failed). A silent sob caught in Jack’s chest, and Henley sniffled loudly.

~~~

The credits rolled and everyone was still piled together and entwined on the couch, eyes red and puffy and voices unstable.

After a brief silence, Danny spoke up. “So, never speak of this again?” he asked shakily.

“Agreed,” they all muttered.

Chapter Text

“Oh my god,” Henley said, her voice full of surprise.

“Right?” Jack smiled.

“Jack, this is the best pizza I’ve ever had!”

He laughed. “See, I told you guys this place was amazing.”

“Yeah, you weren’t kidding,” Merritt muttered through his mouthful of food.

“How did you even find this place? It’s so small and out of the way,” Danny asked.

Jack took a huge bite out of his slice. “My mom took me here when I was little,” he said (or tried to; it was more like a string of sounds, but they all got the gist of it).

“Well your mom had great taste,” Danny replied.

Henley looked over at him where he sat beside her and laughed. “Slow down Danny, it’s not a race.”

“I can’t help it, it’s so good,” he said smiling.

They all faintly heard a gasp from the other side of the room, but ignored it, figuring it was none of their business. That is, until someone said “Oh my god, mom, those are the four horsemen!”

That got everyone’s attention.

They had only done a handful of small shows around the city, so none of them had actually imagined they’d have a fan base built up by then. Merritt’s eyes flicked over towards the girl, and he looked away just as fast. She was probably around 11 years old.

“Uhh…” Jack started.

“Looks like we have a fan,” Danny said quietly, raising his eyebrows in amusement.

“So what do we do?” Jack asked, visibly confused.

“We smile and act nice, silly,” Henley said.

“….right.”

The girl came walking over excitedly, her parents following close behind.

“Hi!” she said brightly. “You guys are the four horsemen right?”

“Why, yes we are,” Henley smiled up at her warmly.

“I love you guys so much, I’ve seen your shows like five times, you’re the greatest!” she buzzed.

Jack smiled in surprise, staring down at the table. He was still kind of uncomfortable, but this kid just seemed so happy to talk to them. He’d never been in a situation like this before, this was the first time anyone had ever been excited to meet him. It was a surreal experience.

“… so now I carry around a deck of cards with me and try to learn tricks in my spare time, like you guys!” she was saying.

“Aw, that’s so cool,” Henley replied.

“How did you guys get to be so good at that stuff?”

Lots and lots of practice,” Danny answered, and even he had a small smile breaking through his usually rough exterior.

The girl’s smile just grew at that.

“We’re sorry to bother you, but she’s just such a big fan of you four. Is there any way she could get a picture?” her father asked.

“Of course!” Merritt said, and they moved to stand up.

They all smiled wide for the picture, but no one outshined the look on that girl’s face. She was absolutely ecstatic.

“Thank you so much,” her mom smiled as they all sat back down.

“Thank you!” the girl said.

“No problem,” Jack replied.

“Oh, by the way, you guys are soooo cute together,” she said, looking at Henley and grinning.

Henley’s expression shifted slightly, and her eyes flicked to the other three very briefly. Jack looked confused again, and Merritt pursed his lips to keep from smiling. Danny laughed in surprise, and Henley nudged him forcefully with her knee.

“Um, m-me and...?” she trailed off, trying to act normal.

“Daniel,” the girl replied. Everything was silent for a moment, like they were all trying to figure out what their next move would be.

Henley’s mouth moved like she was trying to respond, but she just couldn’t find the words. Finally Danny leaned forward a little and looked at the girl. “Thanks,” he said smiling, throwing his arm around Henley’s shoulders.

“Uh, yeah! Thank you,” Henley said, finally composing herself. Jack was looking anywhere but at the people around him, trying to find a wall or something to focus on to keep from busting out laughing. Merritt just grinned deviously.

“That’s what I always say, they just make the cutest couple!” he said teasingly. Henley kicked him under the table, but the grin on his face just got wider.

The little girl just kept on smiling, clearly unaware that anything was happening. “Well thank you guys so much, I can’t wait to see what you do next!”

Jack smirked. “We’ve got big things coming up, be sure to keep an eye out for us.”

The girl grinned again and said goodbye to them, walking off with her parents to go order food.

As soon as they were beyond earshot, the four of them erupted into hysterical laughter.

“Oh my god!”

“I know, holy shit!”

“I had no idea who she was even talking about!”

“That was the greatest thing that could have possibly happened.”

“I mean the kid wasn’t wrong.”

“I wish I could go back and relive that just to see the look on Henley’s face again.”

“I was so afraid for a second, it’s not like I could say ‘oh which boyfriend do I look so cute with?’ SHE WOULD HAVE FAINTED!”

They all started laughing even harder, if that was possible. Jack was practically in tears, and Danny couldn’t breathe.

“I’m so glad you brought us here Jack,” he grinned.

“Me too dude, me too.”

Eventually they all calmed down enough to finish their pizza. At random, Merritt just shook his head and muttered “my god,” and they all started giggling again.

~~~

On the walk back home, one thing led to another and Merritt was giving Henley a piggyback ride, and everyone was laughing again lightheartedly.

“This was a really great time, we should do it again,” Danny said smiling.

“Yeah, you know it was a little weird at first with the whole ‘fan’ thing, but it was totally cool in the end,” Jack said.

“Oh yeah, this would’ve been your first time dealing with that kind of thing, huh?” Henley asked from where she clung to Merritt’s back.

“Yep,” he nodded, half-smiling.

“Awww,” Danny cooed, reaching out and taking Jack’s hand.

“Shut up,” he said, elbowing him lightly.

“Um, Henley dear? Are you gonna let your boyfriend touch him like that?” Merritt asked jokingly.

“Which one?" she said, and they could all hear the smirk in her voice.

Merritt threw his head back and laughed, almost hitting Henley’s in the process. She made a noise as she moved to avoid impact, but it just made her laugh harder.

“People probably think we’re drunk as hell,” Jack giggled after they passed a woman who was giving them all a funny look.

“Yeah well people probably think we’re dating too,” Danny responded.

Merritt laughed even harder. Jack looked around in confusion, or maybe it was astonishment. “Yeah, one of those is true!” he exclaimed . “Literally no matter who it is, one of those is still true!”

Danny burst out laughing.

“Maybe he’s drunk too,” Henley smiled, leaning forward and leveling her face with Merritt’s.

“Not even,” Danny managed between laughs. The look on Jack’s face was just priceless, and now he was laughing too. “You’re adorable,” Danny grinned.

“I actually hate you,” Jack said, pulling his hand back and crossing his arms jokingly.

“Ah, yes! Join the dark side!” Henley shouted, reaching one of her hands out towards him and grabbing around Merritt’s neck even tighter with her other arm. He half-coughed, half-laughed.

“Join her, quick, before she kills me,” Merritt choked out. Henley just laughed again and went back to holding on in a non-lethal way.

“I hate all of you,” Jack exhaled as he smiled up at the sky.

“But baaaaaabe,” Merritt called playfully.

“We loooooooove you!” Henley added. They both giggled.

Danny threw his arms around Jack as they walked. “You know you’d be lost without us,” he teased, practically hanging on him.

Jack just snorted and shook his head again. “You have no idea,” he grinned.

Chapter Text

“So now you just, slide the spatula up under the end,” Henley said as she did just that, “and flip!”

The pancake landed perfectly on the other side in the open space of the pan.

“No way it’s that easy,” Merritt said, his arms crossed from where he stood off to the side.

“Here let me try, I got this,” Danny nudged her out of the way. He scooped up under the other pancake and flipped it up. He gave it too much force, though, so it flew upwards, double flipped, and landed on the middle of the stove. He also managed to blindly bump the handle on the pan while he watched it, sending it tumbling to the floor and everyone scattering away from it.

“Danny!” Henley shouted.

Jack was laughing loudly from where he sat at the kitchen counter videoing them. “Yeah, you got this alright.”

“Oh like you could do any better,” he snapped, trying to clean their floor.

Jack just laughed again in response, posting the video to his instagram and captioning it the #fourhorsemen learning to cook.

It had a thousand likes by the next day.

~~~

“I swear to god Merritt if you don’t stop leaving dirty laundry around this apartment I will go insane!”

“As opposed to?” he teased.

Danny flung the jacket he held towards Merritt, but he caught it with ease.

“You are intolerable,” Danny muttered, rolling his eyes and turning away.

“And you’re adorable when you’re angry!” Merritt called after him, smiling. Danny flipped him off a he walked away while Jack trailed him with the camera. He laughed to himself as he uploaded the video.

Danny’s cranky today. #fourhorsemen

~~~

“Alright, alright, I’ve been practicing tricks. Danny, pick a card,” Merritt said as splayed them out towards him. Jack had handed off his phone to Henley, and she was on video duty. (It’ll be funny, I swear, he’d said.)

Danny looked unimpressed. “You know this is my thing right? Like there’s no way you’re gonna be able to get me with this.”

“Just pick a card,” Merritt said. Jack walked around behind Danny to get a closer look.

“Fine,” Danny said, pulling one and looking at it.

“Now give it back.” Merritt shuffled the cards up really quick. “Is this your card?” he asked, holding up the top one.

“No,” Danny said, sounding bored.

“No? How ‘bout this one?”

“Nope.”

“Gosh, alright, well why don’t you check your wallet then?” Merritt said, a glint in his eyes.

Danny’s brow furrowed and he reached for his wallet, patting at his pocket to find… nothing.

He started looking around in confusion while he double checked all of his pockets, then his eyes shot over towards Jack, who was currently counting his money as he dangled the wallet from his pinky.

Merritt grinned and Henley started laughing. “Alright, ha ha very funny, you guys should be so proud,” Danny said sarcastically, snatching the wallet and shoving it into his pocket. Jack smiled and took his phone back from Henley, posting the video as soon as he watched it back a good three or four times.

Learning new magic tricks with the #fourhorsemen

~~~

“Seriously guys, where are we eating?” Henley laughed.

“Pizza!” Jack shouted.

“No we had pizza last time, let’s go for sushi or something,” Danny said from the couch.

“I don’t care as long as I can get ice cream,” Merritt said.

“You are a child,” Danny teased.

“Hey!“ Merritt started, but Henley cut him off.

“Come on guys, can’t we do something a little classier?”

“Us? Classy? Please.” Jack snorted.

Henley sighed, but there was still a smile on her face. “You guys suck.”

Jack smiled as he stopped the video and posted it.

Date night with the #fourhorsemen

Even though it was literally just a video of them all bickering, people really seemed to like that one.

~~~

That night at dinner, everyone found out about Jack’s secret Four Horsemen instagram. They thought it was great, it was a way to connect with people and reach a wider audience while also showing off their personalities and senses of humor, which fans really seemed to like. Plus, Danny only complained once or twice about how most of the videos embarrassed him; even he seemed to think it was funny.

“So how come you never actually told us about this?” Merritt asked as he ate his ice cream.

“Eh, I figured it was easier to catch you guys genuinely doing funny shit if you didn’t know I was looking for it,” Jack replied.

“Yeah, fair enough.”

~~~

Later that night, they were all attacking a bottle of rum when Jack decided he wanted to put up an announcement video for their performance that weekend.

He pulled out his phone and started the video on himself this time.

“Hey guys, we just wanted to let you know we’re doing a show this Saturday in Central Park, come see the Four Horsemen-“

Henley cut him off, giggling as she shoved her face into the shot next to him, wrapping her arms around his shoulders.

“I looooove you,” she said, kissing his cheek exaggeratedly.

“She’s drunk,” he laughed. Danny came up behind them at that moment and leaned around to Jack’s other side.

“Jaaaaaaack,” he grinned, leaning in and kissing his other cheek quickly. Henley looked so entertained at this, laughing in surprise.

“He’s drunk too,” Jack smiled widely, a blush spreading across his cheeks.

Merritt grabbed the phone out of his hand and held it up to his face. “We’re all drunk comeseetheshow!” he shouted quickly as the video cut off.

Danny started laughing so hard that no sound came out, and Henley thought that was just the funniest thing in the world, so she started laughing harder too.

“Guys there’s no way I can post that,” Jack chuckled.

“Whoops, too late,” Merritt said as he tossed the phone in Jack’s lap. He looked up at him in astonishment and scrolled through his phone to see the video.

Central Park, 3 pm Saturday, come watch us!! #fourhorsemen

Jack shook his head, but he was laughing along with the rest of them. “This is why I didn't tell you guys about this, now no one’s gonna show up.”

“Um, I think everyone’s gonna wanna see this now,” Merritt grinned.

~~~

That Saturday show turned out to have the biggest crowd they’d pulled yet.

Chapter Text

He’d heard the term thrown around before; the Four Horsemen.

At first, it had been in passing. Random conversations he’d heard on the street. He didn’t think anything of it, didn’t even know what it meant.

Then, he started hearing it whispered at his performances. Looks of boredom tended to accompany the words, where he used to see wonder and amazement. He started making significantly less in tips.

Finally, someone outright said it. “Nice try buddy, but the Four Horsemen already did that trick last week,” the man had sneered. Everyone around muttered in agreement, and within the minute he lost three quarters of his audience. That’s when he started worrying. When he got angry.

He went to watch one of their performances, silently and from the back of the crowd.

So these are the pricks that are stealing my gig, he thought. What’s so special about them anyways?

Then the old guy hypnotized half the crowd at once, and even he was a little impressed.

Three minutes later he left, too overcome with anger and resentment to stick around. He loathed them. They were cornering the market on street performances in general, let alone magic acts. This was his territory, and this new group of half-baked magicians had no business waltzing on out of the woodwork and taking over his city. He wouldn’t let them. He couldn’t.

He had to learn new material.

~~~

A month later, he was down to nothing. Crowds of what used to be fifty or more at any given time dwindled to a handful of people that might stop along their way to somewhere, just to see what he was doing. He was losing everything, and it was all because of those fucking horsemen.

He went to another show. They were better this time, immeasurably better. Even he couldn’t deny how remarkable they were. The chemistry between them, the harmony with which they moved and interacted, the fluidity of their tricks, their charisma with the audience; it was no wonder people loved them. He just couldn’t compete with all of that, there was no way. He was one man, and they were an extremely talented group act.

When he realized he had the same look of awe on his face as the strangers surrounding him, he turned around and weaved his way out of the crowd.

He hated them.

He went home.

~~~

The Horsemen were gone.

He didn’t know much, something about a Vegas show (damn them), but it didn’t really matter. He had his streets back. People started showing up to watch him again, appreciate him again. Soon they even stopped mentioning the Horsemen at his shows. He finally got to show off the new stuff he’d learned.

~~~

They were on the news.

Every news.

The four magicians who’d robbed a bank. The media loved them, and the Four Horsemen quickly became a household name all across the country.

Every time he turned on the TV, he saw their faces. He laughed to himself at the irony. Finally rid myself of them and now I can’t escape ‘em, no matter where I go. It was kind of funny, in a slightly cruel and painful way. But there was nothing he could do about it, and they weren’t really hurting him anymore. He had no real reason for hating them now.

And damn if they hadn't gotten better.

There was nothing he could do, so he just sat back in his apartment and quietly cheered them on.

Chapter Text

It was 2:30 in the morning and Merritt couldn't sleep.
This was the third night in a row. He was uncomfortable; his bed was too hard, his room was too hot (or too cold, it changed every few minutes), his mind was too awake. He just wanted to rest, but for the life of him he couldn't.
He sighed and climbed out of bed. He gently opened his door and stepped out into the hallway when he saw a dull light coming from the living room. Merritt quietly entered the room and saw someone sitting on the couch, their head laid back on the top of the headrest and lolling to the side.
He stepped around the couch and smiled at the sight of a mostly-asleep Jack, the TV forgotten and running indefinitely. He noticed absently that it was Family Guy playing in the background.
Merritt crouched down in front of Jack and put his hand on his shoulder.
"Jack." He gasped as his eyes shot open and he sat straight up. "Hey, it's alright, it's just me," Merritt said in his generally relaxed tone.
Jack sighed and rubbed at his eyes. "You scared the hell out of me, man."
Merritt laughed quietly. "Well sorry, you're sleeping on the couch at 2:30 in the morning, I figured you might want to move."
"I wasn't sleeping," Jack argued through a yawn. Merritt gave him one of those sarcastic really? looks, but he just rolled his eyes.
"Yeah, you're wide awake, got it," Merritt said as he stood up in front of the couch. Jack's eyes looked half closed and bleary. Merritt stretched his hand out towards him. "Come on, kid, you should get some rest," he said tenderly. Jack looked up at him for a moment, then clicked off the tv and took his hand. Merritt pulled him to his feet and guided him down the hallway to his room.
Merritt had planned to just shove him into the room and then go back to his own, but Jack just stumbled in blindly, like he was already half asleep again. Merritt sighed affectionately and walked in, pulling down the sheets on the bed and helping Jack under them.
"How come you're awake?" Jack yawned.
"Couldn't sleep," Merritt shrugged.
"Oh. Okay."
Merritt turned to leave, but a hand wrapped gently around his wrist. He heard a soft but distinct "wait."
"Yeah?" He asked as he turned back and looked at Jack. He was silent for a few moments, just pulling on Merritt's wrist gently.
"Stay here," he mumbled eventually.
Merritt looked down into Jack's pleading eyes (who's effect, he noted, was significantly lessened by the sleep clouding them) and hesitated. Jack just tugged on his wrist again, and Merritt finally gave in.
"Alright, fine," he said, moving to close the door and then climbing under the sheets next to him. Jack grinned and rolled in towards Merritt, who shifted to lay his arm over Jack's shoulders and pull him in closer. "Thank you," he breathed.
"No problem kid."
He was asleep almost instantaneously, breathing peacefully with his head on Merritt's shoulder. His heartbeat was calm and steady, so Merritt focused on it. He wasn't uncomfortable anymore, he realized. He yawned and let his eyes fall shut, turning his head to press his lips to the top of Jack's head momentarily, and within ten minutes Merritt was sound asleep too.

Chapter Text

When Jack was born, he was the pride and joy of his parents. He was an only child, and they treasured him like he was their own personal miracle. Of course, after five years of trying, he might as well have been. They gave him everything; threw themselves into being the best possible parents they could be. He was their precious little angel.

~~~

Jack’s first memory was from when he was three years old. His mother would sing him lullabies before putting him to bed at night. It was always comforting, and he would always fall silent to listen to her. She was so happy and kind and loving. He felt safe with her.

~~~

When Jack was five years old, his parents played Candyland with him all the time. He loved that game so much; they could barely get him to play anything else. He always stole the purple square card though, and they had no idea why. Jack would never tell, but purple was his mother’s favorite color, and he kept that card with him at all times because it reminded him of her. Even long after he quit playing Candyland with them, he held on to that card.

~~~

When Jack was six, he remembered watching his dad play with a deck of cards and being fascinated. He sat on the floor next to him and just observed. His dad smiled down at him. You wanna learn to play something? he’d asked. Jack had nodded excitedly, and his father sat down next to him and taught him to play war. They played for what seemed like forever, and Jack didn’t have a care in the world. His dad went out and bought him his own deck the next day, so Jack was the most popular kid in his class for about a week.

Nine days later his father had a heart attack. Jack was so young, so everything was told to him in kid terms, but he knew what they meant. His dad was gone, and he wasn’t coming back. He saw his mother cry for the first time in his life that day.

When they buried him, Jack had insisted they bury that deck of cards with him. He snagged the king of hearts beforehand, though. He never let go of that card. He kept it right by the purple Candyland card.

~~~

When Jack was ten, his mother taught him to play Monopoly. She had mastered the art of smiling through the pain by then, but Jack could still tell—her eyes didn’t lie. She wasn’t the same lighthearted and happy woman she had been four years prior. She masked the sadness by playing games with him all the time. He figured it was a way for her to spend time with him while having some semblance of fun, so Jack was determined to have as much fun as possible with those games.

~~~

By age twelve, Jack had developed a habit of swiping cards from games. He didn’t really know why, he just took the ones that meant something to him. They were like a security blanket almost. The Boardwalk title deed from Monopoly was his mother’s favorite in the game. The wild card from Uno was something his best friend had called him all the time. The candlestick card from Clue was just because he had always been entertained by the idea of someone using that as a real murder weapon. Resourceful, he had thought.

~~~

When he was fifteen, his mom fell ill.

Very ill.

She was in and out of the hospital for about six months, which meant Jack was in and out of the hospital for about six months too. He held her hand while she slept, talked to her when she was awake, and even sang to her sometimes, like she used to for him, because it made her happy. And happiness was a precious commodity in a place like that.

Jack’s grades started dropping, he stopped eating until it was absolutely necessary, didn’t talk to his friends anymore. Then she died.

Six months later his mom died. He wasn’t a little kid this time, nothing was sugarcoated. He was to go live with his aunt and uncle and their kid on the other side of the state. He was numb.

The second day he was there, they asked what he liked to do for fun. Board games, he had said apathetically. When his uncle came back five minutes later with Taboo, he had felt no joy, no happiness. Then he had pulled the lullaby card.

He had finished the game, grabbed the card, and ran away that same night.

~~~

Jack stood on the edge of the water years later, looking through his newest conquest. He grabbed the money and tossed the wallet. Then, he found the death card. He looked around in shock, his heart rate increasing steadily. He smiled to himself in disbelief, running his fingers through his hair. He pulled out his own wallet and tucked it in with the rest of his cards. The king of hearts was sticking out slightly, and he pulled it out and held it to the sky. All he could think about was his father when he was five years old, telling him that he was going to do great things.

“I’m gonna make you proud,” Jack whispered, bringing the card to his lips and kissing it before returning it to his wallet.

~~~

He was sitting on his bed flipping the boardwalk card through his fingers absentmindedly when Danny walked in.

“Hey,” he said as he sat on the bed next to him.

“Hey,” Jack smiled.

Danny glanced down at the card and frowned in confusion. “What are you doing?”

“Just, thinking… About my mom and stuff,” he replied, looking down at his hands.

Danny reached out and took the card, holding it up to look at it. Jack almost recoiled before he could grab it, but he stopped himself and let Danny have it. “With a Monopoly card?” he laughed.

Jack smiled sadly. “Yeah, I guess so. It was her favorite. I’ve got a bunch of them, they’re like little memories I carry around with me.”

“I see,” Danny said quietly, and after a moment he handed the card back, suddenly feeling invasive for having even touched it.

“It’s okay,” Jack said, seemingly knowing what he was thinking. Danny looked up at him and gave him a small smile.

They broke eye contact when Merritt walked through the door. “Are we havin’ a party in here or what?” he asked.

Jack laughed. “Yeah, come on in. Invite Henley too, then it’ll really be a party.”

“I heard my name!” she shouted from the living room. Everyone laughed, and Jack laid back on the bed smiling.

~~~

They were all standing backstage for their first Vegas show. Nerves were building, and everyone was clearly getting anxious.

“Two minutes!” someone shouted as they walked hurriedly by. Jack’s stomach was doing flips, and he was visibly freaking out. He fumbled for his wallet and opened it up, fingers hovering over his cards. He reached in and pulled out the Candyland card, holding it to his chest. He tried to breathe normally, and he suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder.

He looked over and found it was Merritt’s. “You’ve got this, kid. Don’t worry.”

Jack nodded and put the card back, returning his wallet to his pocket.

“Thirty seconds!”

Jack exhaled deeply, and Henley reached over and took his hand. She squeezed gently. He smiled at her, then she turned to Danny and held out her hand. He grabbed it as Merritt dropped his hand from Jack’s shoulder to entwine their fingers as well.

They all stared straight ahead, a million thoughts running through each of their brains. Danny stroked his thumb across Henley’s.

“Three… two… one… show time!” The lights went down, the crowd started cheering, and they started walking.

~~~

Jack stood in front of the bathroom mirror, staring at himself. He was about to die.

Well, sort of. He was about to die for everyone else. If all went according to plan, he shouldn’t actually be dying today. But the possibility still existed, which in itself was kind of exhilarating.

No one would be expecting this, he was about to take the world by surprise. That thought made him smile. He looked down at the Uno card in his hand.

“Wild card is right,” he said fondly. He looked back up into his own eyes with determination, then pushed off of the counter and walked out of the bathroom with a grin on his face.

~~~

“Hold on, hold on,” Jack sputtered out with his hands in the air as Dylan was walking towards him. In a split second, he had flicked out the cards from behind his fingers, and the look on Dylan’s face would’ve been funny in any other situation.

“Really?” he asked condescendingly.

Jack’s thoughts flickered to the candlestick card.

“Yup,” he said confidently, and the card sliced through the air towards Rhodes.

~~~

Jack sat on a bench in the middle of the park waiting for the other horsemen to arrive. He’d been keeping tabs on their Five Pointz show through social media, and so far it seemed like everything had gone well. They should be getting here anytime now, he thought.

Jack pulled out the lullaby card. He held it in his lap, staring down at it. Eventually, he felt a tear fall, and it landed on the card. He sniffed and wiped at his eyes, determined not to be a mess for when they all showed up. This was a night for celebrating.

I love you, mom, he thought as he tucked the card back into his wallet. At that moment, he heard familiar voices, and he wiped at his eyes one last time as he stood up to go meet his friends, grinning widely.

Chapter Text

“I’m back and you’ll never guess what I bought today,” Merritt announced as he closed the apartment door behind him.

“What’s that?” Danny asked indifferently, not looking up from the TV.

“Oh, little game called Cards Against Humanity, maybe you’ve heard of it?” Merritt said coyly. That actually got Danny’s attention, and he looked up to lock eyes with Merritt. A smile slowly spread across his face. Jack’s head popped around the corner.

“No way!” he grinned.

“Oh god,” Henley laughed from the kitchen. “This’ll be interesting.”

~~~

The game did not disappoint.

That night when they all sat down to play, they had only the vaguest ideas of what they were getting into. An hour in and they never wanted to quit playing.

“Come on, just imagine a Bond villain giving his big dramatic speech and ending it with ‘now let me show you my collection of high tech sex toys,’ that would be the greatest thing!” Henley shouted, waving her hands around excitedly.

“Yes, but not funnier than if he just pulled out some Harry Potter erotica,” Merritt reasoned.

She started to protest, but Danny spoke up. “Alright, alright, high tech sex toys it is,” he laughed. Merritt mumbled something about him having no imagination as Jack pulled the next black card.

“During sex, I like to think about ___,” he read. Merritt suddenly started laughing loudly to himself, and it made everyone else laugh at him.

“You okay over there?” Danny grinned.

“Just peachy,” Merritt chuckled.

When Jack had everyone’s cards, he picked them up and read them. “During sex I like to think about vigorous jazz hands.” He smiled.

“…I like to think about grandm- oh god why, why would you do this, who did this?!” Henley just bit her lip.

“During sex I like to think about angels interfering in an otherwise fair baseball game,” he finished, giggling through the end of the sentence. Merritt snorted and started laughing again from where he sat across from Jack. “I like that one.”

“Wha- Come on!” Henley said in outrage. “The grandma one was awesome and you know it!”

Merritt was still laughing about his own card. “It was awful,” Jack shook his head, grinning.

“That movie was great, but the thought of someone just poundin’ it out to Angels in the Outfield- I can’t,” Merritt laughed harder, struggling for air.

“That movie wasn’t even that good,” Danny smirked.

Merritt calmed down enough to fake seriousness for a moment. “Well clearly Daniel’s opinions are not to be trusted here, because that movie was cinematic gold.”

Jack smiled to himself as Merritt and Danny argued back and forth about the worth of Angels in the Outfield. He tossed the black card over to Merritt, but casually held onto the angels card. He forgot about it until a week later, when he was going through his stash of cards.

He hadn’t been one for taking game cards much anymore, but he was glad he grabbed this one. He laughed to himself every time he pulled it out.

When Merritt went away for a week to attend some funeral across the country, and the apartment felt just a little too big, too quiet, too uncomfortable without him, Jack would flip the card around absently and think about that night, grinning and telling himself that Merritt would be back soon.

~~~

Three days after that first night, the four of them were dying to play again.

“Okay, everyone drop whatever you’re doing and let’s play,” Henley insisted as she walked into the living room, holding the Cards Against Humanity box.

“Wooooooooo!” Jack shouted, throwing his hands into the air in satisfaction. Danny raised an eyebrow in amusement where he leaned on the kitchen counter.

“We’re gonna wear this game out pretty fast if we play it that often,” he said sarcastically.

“Oh, don’t be a party pooper Daniel, come on,” Merritt said teasingly. Danny just let out a scoff and shook his head, walking into the living room holding his cup of coffee.

“Dude, it’s like nine at night, why are you drinking that?” Jack laughed. Danny just locked eyes with him and took a long and deliberate sip.

“What are you, my mother?” Danny jabbed, setting his coffee on the table behind him as he sat on the floor with the other three.

“Fair enough,” Jack nodded, grabbing the white cards and shuffling them up before dealing them.

He grabbed a black card and held it up. “In the distant future, historians will agree that ___ marked the beginning of America’s decline.”

Danny immediately threw his card down in front of Jack, his lips pursed to keep from grinning.

Jack eyed him suspiciously, but he just reached behind him and grabbed his coffee cup. When Jack had everyone’s cards, he reached for Danny’s first, just as he went to take another sip.

“In the distant future, historians will agree that white people marked the beginning of America’s decline,” Jack giggled, his composure breaking at ‘white people’. Merritt laughed in surprise, and Danny almost spit out his coffee. He looked so pleased with himself. Henley buried her face in her hands, laughing loudly.

“Give it to him,” she said, her voice muffled by her hands. “Just give it to him, you don’t even need to read the others.” She finally looked back up and there were tears in her eyes from laughing so hard. Jack just tossed the card over towards Danny, the sound of laughter still filling the apartment.

“Thank you,” he said confidently, a wide grin on his face.

~~~

“Alright, okay, who had children on leashes?” Henley asked with a smirk.

There was a dramatic pause, just to build up the anticipation. “That would be me,” Jack finally announced, holding his hand out for the card.

“Oooohhh!” Danny laughed in excitement.

“I’m proud of you for that one, kid,” Merritt grinned, patting him on the shoulder.

“Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week,” Jack fake-bowed from his seat on the floor. He pulled another black card and cleared his throat. “___, it’s a trap!” he read mock-passionately.

Merritt furrowed his brow. “Yeah, I’ve got nothing, I’m just gonna burn a card,” he said, shaking his head and laying one out.

Jack picked them all up. “Okay,” he inhaled, preparing his false excitement. “A sad handjob, it’s a trap!” Henley let out a short laugh. “A disappointing birthday party, it’s a trap!” Jack quirked an eyebrow and looked over at Merritt.

“I warned you,” he grinned.

Jack shook his head and looked back at the cards. “And finally, hope, it’s a trap!”

Merritt laughed in surprise. “Well, damn!”

Danny’s expression was a mixture of amusement and sympathy as he laughed in appreciation. “You know, I think that’s probably the most depressing statement I’ve ever heard said so excitedly.”

Henley just sat back, laughing silently. “Okay, that one wins for sure,” Jack grinned. Henley reached out to accept her card, and Danny clapped approvingly. She just smiled smugly.

When no one was looking Jack snagged the hope card and slipped it into his pocket. As funny as that play was, he thought it was appropriate. She was definitely the hope card, and it was just fitting that she would be the one to play it.

When he went to bed later that night, he turned the card over in his hand, thinking about Henley and the hope that she tended to radiate.

Yep, that was definitely right. He tucked it into his wallet next to the angels card and smiled.

~~~

A week passed before they decided they had to play again.

Jack and Danny were laughing over the white card about Rush Limbaugh’s soft, shitty body when Merritt drew his black card.

“Alright, calm down you two.” He cleared his throat dramatically. “What will always get you laid?”

Silence filled the room as they all picked their cards. They laid them down in front of Merritt, and he picked them up.

“What will always get you laid? The Boy Scouts of America.” Everyone laughed, and Henley cringed a little. “What’ll always get you laid? The American dream. Which is technically true.”

“Yeah!” Jack added enthusiastically. Henley laughed at him.

“And finally, what’ll always get you laid? The homosexual agenda,” Merritt smirked.

“Hey, it always seems to work for Jack,” Henley teased, elbowing at Danny. His face actually turned a shade redder as he shoved her away.

“Shut up,” he stammered. Jack burst out laughing, which apparently made Danny feel better, because within seconds they were all laughing together.

“Well I’m not wrong!” Henley exclaimed.

“Nope, you’re not. Definitely not,” Danny grinned as he leaned over and grabbed the back of Jack’s neck, pulling him in and kissing him.

“Whoa whoa whoa, don’t you start enacting your agenda now, I’m not nearly drunk enough for that!” Henley laughed.

Jack pulled back abruptly to laugh too, and Danny sat back smiling. “Alright you fiends, whose card was that?” Merritt said jokingly.

“Mine,” Danny said proudly.

“Then take this,” Merritt said, holding the black card out towards him. When Danny grabbed for it, though, Merritt pulled it back just out of reach. He smirked and raised his eyebrows in challenge as Danny lowered his own, leaning forward onto his knees and reaching again.

Merritt pulled it further back and Danny bit his lip in frustration. “Come on kid, what’s wrong? You want this, right?” Merritt teased.

Jack grinned when he saw where this was going. “Oh my god,” he laughed.

Danny leaned forward again, over the stacks of cards they had in the middle of them, now moving at the same slow pace that Merritt pulled the card back, till it was beside his face (Danny right in front of it), and then held his arm out behind him as Danny’s lips crashed into his.

“Yesss!” Jack laughed and started clapping.

“Not you too!” Henley giggled. “I think I’m being converted! The agenda is working!”

Jack laughed again as Danny put a hand on Merritt’s shoulder for balance. The kiss had already gone from zero to deep in less than two seconds, and after about six Danny had a tongue in his mouth. He ran his hand slowly and gently down Merritt’s outstretched arm until he reached his hand, and then the kiss turned into an extension of their struggle over the card. Eventually, Merritt let Danny win, and he plucked the card from his hand, then ran his tongue down Merritt’s slowly and sensually before pulling back and sitting down in his spot.

Both of them were pretty out of breath. Henley looked around and pouted exaggeratedly. “You know, this is no fun if no one’s kissing me too.”

“Jack, go,” Danny half-panted, half-laughed. Except by the time he said it, Jack was already on his knees leaning over the piles in the middle and grabbing Henley’s waist, catching her bottom lip between his own. She giggled against his mouth, then brought her hand up to grab at his hair. She bit down on his lip and sucked lightly. Jack made a small noise in the back of his throat and slipped his tongue between Henley’s lips. He leaned forward against her, until he had her laying on the floor wither her arms around his neck, kissing her harder.

“Alright,” Merritt laughed appreciatively. Henley brought a leg up to hook around Jack’s waist loosely.

Okay, I’m going to grab water, if I come back and there’s already clothes coming off without me I’m gonna be very upset,” Danny said as he rocked up onto his feet.

Jack moved his mouth down to Henley’s neck. “Better hurry then!” she giggled after him, looking over at Merritt and biting her lip, then motioning for him to come over.

~~~

The next morning, Jack was the one to disentangle himself from everyone else first (against all of their protests). He went to clean up the mess they had made of the cards, which were spread all across the living room now. In picking them up, he came across that card from the night before, ‘the homosexual agenda’. He grinned to himself. Henley had been right about that, it did always seem to work for him. The image of Danny actually blushing—over him, no less—was something he undoubtedly wanted to remember. That, and the previous night as a whole had been something definitely worth remembering.

He kept that card, labeled it ‘the Danny card’ in his head, and put it right next to the Merritt and Henley cards in his wallet. He decided the rest of the day could wait, and moved to rejoin the other three (they were all in Henley’s room). He pushed open the door again, and was greeted by the sight of Merritt kissing Henley, slowly and lazily, and Danny laying on the other side of the bed with his eyes closed and his hands behind his head. As he got closer, Danny looked up and outstretched his arms towards him. Jack kneeled onto the edge of the bed to lean into his open arms, burying his face in Danny’s shoulder and pressing his lips there gently as Danny wrapped his arms around him.

Chapter Text

I need to talk to you guys

Danny frowned down at the message from Henley. He hesitated before he started to type out a response, but Merritt beat him to it.

Sure, what’s wrong?

A few seconds passed.

No, in person. It’s really important.

Danny looked up at the clock on the wall. It was only 3 p.m., still broad daylight.

Okay but it’ll have to wait until tonight, you guys know the drill.

Henley was the one to respond.

Yeah, I know. Be at my place around 9

Danny felt his breath catch at the thought. He hadn’t seen the others face-to-face in about three weeks now. They were all set up in separate apartments, trying to live as low profile as possible. Even with Dylan trying his hardest to misdirect the FBI and keep them protected, the horsemen still had to be as careful as possible about going out in public. God knows they could never be seen together, their chances of being recognized would just skyrocket. Jack was the only one who could move around with any semblance of freedom, and even he had to watch over his shoulder the whole time. He was supposed to be dead, after all.

Will do

Jack this time. About half a minute passed, then-

I miss you guys

Danny licked his lips and glanced around. They usually tried not to get too sentimental (it only hurt more in the long run), but he had to admit, the distance was killing him too. He was going crazy in his little apartment, all alone with no one to really talk to for days on end. The knowledge that the only three people he wanted to see were feeling the exact same way didn’t help at all- it was worse, they should all be together, not lonely and apart. But they knew that wasn’t feasible, so they all took what they could get. Like this little meeting Henley was calling.

Danny looked back at the phone in his hand and typed something out, short but more meaningful than anything else he could’ve mustered up at that point.

 Me too

Danny was just about to get up and do something, anything to distract himself, but Merritt sent one last message.

Alright you two, save the mushy crap for tonight lol

Danny couldn’t help but smile. That was Merritt, alright. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

~~~

That night, at exactly 9:03, Danny knocked on Henley’s door. He tapped his foot nervously as he waited for the door to open, and when it did, he was greeted by the sight of Merritt, dressed in a white t-shirt and a pair of long pajama pants.

Danny smirked curiously, looking him up and down. “Uh, what are you wearing?”

“Yeah, good to see you too, kid,” Merritt said sarcastically as he grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him into his arms, shutting the door behind them. Danny scoffed, but reached his arms up around Merritt’s back anyway, reveling in his warmth. He set his chin on Merritt’s shoulder, running his fingernails lightly across his back and sighing contently.

Danny pulled back and pressed their lips together, short and quick, then pulled out of his grip. He spotted Henley across the room on the couch, and made his way over to her.

“Hey Hen,” he smiled, leaning down and wrapping his arms around her before she could even stand up. He turned his head and pressed his lips into her hair, vaguely noting how nice she smelled. He let go of her and moved to sit on the couch beside her, taking her hand in his and holding it in his lap.

“So, anyone seen Jack?” she asked. Merritt shook his head as he walked over to join them, sitting down in the chair by Henley.

“No. How long have you been here?” Danny asked, nodding towards Merritt.

“Oh, two minutes?” he shrugged.

“Okay, good,” Danny said. “So again, I ask: What are you wearing?” he grinned.

Merritt shrugged. “It’s night time, it’s comfortable, and I don’t plan on going anywhere for a while, do you?”

“Fair enough,” Danny nodded.

About three seconds later, there was a soft knock at the door, and Henley jumped up. She walked quickly to the door, looking almost nervous as she unlocked it and turned the knob.

The door opened and Jack was inside in an instant. A huge grin spread across his face and he swept Henley up into his arms. She laughed as he lifted her slightly off the ground, clinging tightly to her.

“Alright Wilder, put me down!” He set her back down and moved to grip her shoulders gently instead.

“Sorry,” he said, but his smile only grew. He vaguely noticed that her eyes seemed watery, but before he could say anything, Merritt stood up and his attention shifted to him.

“How’s it goin’ Jack?” he asked with a grin. Jack walked over to him and threw his arms around Merritt’s shoulders, hugging tightly.

“Man, I am so glad to see you guys,” he said, his voice filled with delight. Merritt chuckled and pulled him closer for a few seconds, then stepped back. Jack turned to Danny, who was still sitting on the couch, and moved towards him.

“Hi,” Jack said quietly, and Danny smiled despite himself.

“Hey.” He reached a hand out and Jack pulled him up and straight into his arms. Danny buried his face in the fabric of Jack’s shirt, feeling a hand press against the small of his back. He squeezed his eyes shut, lost in the moment. He heard light footsteps though, and he opened his eyes and pulled back. Jack still had the most vibrant smile on his face.

“You boys want coffee or something?” Henley asked from the kitchen.

Merritt made an amused face. “It’s nine p.m. in the middle of August.”

“I’m aware,” she smirked. “Now do you want it or not?”

He laughed as he turned his head down towards the ground. “You know I do.”

She glanced over pointedly at Danny and Jack and raised her eyebrows. “Of course,” Danny said, turning away and sitting back down on the couch.

“Me too,” Jack added, kneeling on the couch and looking over the back of it towards Henley in the kitchen.

“Then, four coffees coming up,” she smiled.

~~~

About an hour passed where all they did was talk and drink and catch up. They desperately needed the time together, that much was clear. If they all sat just a bit too close to each other, brushed hands a few too many times, stared just a little too long, well, who was there to object?

Jack lay on the couch with his head in Merritt’s lap, who was running his fingers through his hair absentmindedly. Henley sat in the chair with her legs crisscrossed underneath her, Danny on the floor leaning his back against the chair and his head on her legs.

“So, I have something I need to talk about,” Henley said hesitantly. It struck Danny as odd; she was never the one to be unsure of herself, or nervous like this.

“Right, what’s up?” Jack asked with his eyes closed.

“I, um…” she struggled to find the words. Everyone sat silently, waiting for her to say something.

“What are we all doing?” she finally blurted out.

Jack’s eyes shot open in confusion at that, and he sat up slowly to look at her. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, what are we waiting around for? Nothing’s happened yet, all we’re doing is locking ourselves in separate apartments with nothing to do and no one to see, praying we don’t get caught by the authorities or recognized by people on the street. This isn’t living, guys,” she said, her voice turning desperate by the last sentence.

Danny sat forward and turned around to face her. “In case you’ve forgotten, we’re waiting for the Eye. You know, the people we’ve been working for for the past year and a half. This is what we’ve been working towards our entire lives, I- I don’t understand,” he said, his eyes narrowed.

“It’s been six months Danny! Six months and nothing has changed. We just keep getting lonelier and more secluded by the day, but nothing’s coming out of it. I feel like a caged bird, I can’t keep doing this!” she said, raising her voice.

Jack frowned “But Dylan says-”

“’The Eye has a plan,’ yes I know, I’ve been hearing that same brush-off for the past half of a year. Well, I can’t wait around like this for them to decide they want us. We spent a year following their every instruction, pulling off they’re crazy heists and doing what we were told so we could get into the Eye, not get tossed into limbo. This is not what we signed up for.” She stood up and started pacing the floor, Danny shifting to avoid getting accidentally kicked.

“And what exactly did we sign up for Henley? Because as far as I knew, this was supposed to be about blind faith,” Danny said angrily.

“We’re supposed to just take whatever comes. No one said getting into the Eye would be easy, or else everyone would be able to. They’re supposed to test us; to see if we really want it, if we’re really worthy. Henley, they’re testing you,” Merritt said calmly.

She laughed humorlessly, walking towards the door. “Yes, well, I’ve never been one to test well.” She sighed sharply, then turned around to face them all. “I can’t do this anymore. I can’t take this. I’m going insane in this shitty little place that I can’t leave with no one to talk to, no one to see. Hell, the only people I could talk to about any of this have to sneak into my apartment in the night so I can be with them for the first time in almost a month!” There were tears in her eyes threatening to spill over, but she was strong, and there would be no tears tonight.

Jack stood up slowly. “Henley, you can’t just leave us. We need you.”

“The four horsemen, remember?” Danny added from where he’d moved into the chair behind him.

She smiled. “Yeah, the four horsemen. And we had a great time, I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. But now, I can’t stay here. I’m an escape artist; my main act is getting out of situations where I’m stuck.” She ran her fingers through her hair. “Well guys, I’m stuck.”

“And that’s exactly why you have to stick through this,” Merritt said after a pause. “They want to push you out of your comfort zone. All of us, that is. They want to see if we’re strong enough, devoted enough to persevere. And Henley?” He stood up and walked past Jack to stand in front of her, placing his hands on her arms. “You are one of the strongest people I have ever met. I know you can do this.”

She shook her head, looking down, but Merritt wouldn’t have it. He nodded back and tipped her chin up to make her look at him. “Don’t give up on us just yet.”

She inhaled shakily. “I don’t- I don’t know.” Merritt leaned in and kissed her forehead, their eyes falling closed.

Jack glanced over desperately to Danny, but he just looked emotionless. He had his walls up- that cold, hard exterior he showed to everyone else was all he was projecting.

“If you walk out on us you’re throwing away something incredible,” Danny said, staring straight ahead of him. Jack wasn’t sure if he was talking about the eye or all of them, but then again that’s probably how he intended it to be.

Henley pulled away from Merritt with another sigh. “I’m gonna take a shower,” she said bluntly, and she walked off towards the bathroom door. It clicked quietly behind her. Jack wasn’t positive, but he thought he heard a soft thump, like someone leaning their weight against the door. He sighed and flopped back onto the couch, burying his head in his hands.

“So what do we do now?” he asked.

“Well, she hasn’t left yet,” Merritt said, and now he was pacing.

“She will,” Danny said plainly.

“No, she may not. She’s having doubts. Major ones. We may still be able to convince her to stay.”

“I know her. She won’t.” He stood up and walked slowly into the kitchen with his coffee cup. Jack got up to follow. He leaned on the counter next to Danny, just staring at the floor for a minute.

“Danny…”

“Just- don’t, Jack. Okay?” he said callously as he poured himself another cup.

Jack scoffed and looked around in surprise. “We’re about to lose her, okay? I don’t wanna lose you right now too,” he said, his voice softening towards the end.

Danny finally met his eyes. Jack could still see the mask, but behind it were the eyes of someone in pain. His heart ached.

“I remember now why I don’t get close to people. It’s better that way,” he said, pushing past Jack to go back out into the living room. Jack reached out and caught his arm, though (the one without the coffee), and forced him to turn back and face him.

“Then maybe that’s your test, huh? You struggle trusting other people, so to get through all this you had to put your faith in your friends. You had to make friends,” he smirked. “You said it yourself- this is something incredible. The fact that you of all people managed to get so close to us—to bare your soul how many times?—I think that was the real magic in all of this.” Jack stared intently into Danny’s eyes, his face hard set and his hand still on his arm. Merritt sat in the living room, smiling slightly.

Danny’s mouth opened like he wanted to say something, his face betraying his surprise, but no words came for a few seconds. He recovered quickly, though, his expression hardening again. “Are you done?” he asked dismissively.

Jack just looked up at the ceiling and let go of Danny’s arm. He met his eyes one more time.

 “You know what? I think I am.”

This time he was the one to push past Danny, headed for the front door. He could’ve sworn he saw a flicker of something in his eyes.

“Enjoy your solitude Danny,” Jack said, walking out and pulling the door shut forcefully.

Well, no turning back now, he thought. He took a few steps down the stairs, not entirely sure where to go. He really didn’t want to go back to his place. Oh well, he could just wing it. Just like the rest of his life. It’s not like he was any stranger to things going to shit in an instant; he was accustomed to bad things happening and having to just roll with them. Why should this be any different? He made it down one floor before he heard the sound of footsteps behind him.

“Jack, wait!”

He stopped, his shoulders tensed, but he didn’t turn around just yet.

“Come on, we shouldn’t be out here. Come back inside,” Danny said anxiously.

Jack whipped around to face him. “Why? I’m just making this easier for you,” he waved his hands angrily, backing down a step.

Danny closed his eyes for a few seconds. “Please?” his voice was soft and unsteady.

Jack clenched and unclenched his fists, then sighed and walked back up the stairs with him. They reentered Henley’s apartment and found the living room empty. Merritt must be talking to her, then, Jack thought.

The door shut behind him and he turned to face Danny, his expression impatient and harsh.

“What?” Jack said.

Danny sighed, his face wavering like it was unsure whether to be cold and detached or worried and pained.

“Don’t pull this shit with us Danny, we know you. I know you. Stop hiding behind your ego,” he bit out

Danny met his eyes, and there were tears forming. “I’ve already lost her once. And it was one of the worst times in my adult life. I don’t want to go through that again,” he said shakily.

“Then don’t fucking push us away! God Danny, you’re doing this to yourself! One thing starts going wrong and you’re just gonna shove us all out? And, what, pretend this whole last year and a half didn’t happen? No, I’m sorry, I don’t accept that, this would be when we all need each other the most,” Jack shouted, turning away.

“No, I don’t- that’s not what I want to do, I just…” he trailed off, leaning back heavily onto the door. “I don’t know how else to approach this.”

Jack stopped again and laughed, facing him again. “Well you’re doin’ a bang up job of it this way.”

“Maybe… maybe you’re right. Maybe that was my test. I don’t know. I don’t care. I just don’t want to lose anyone again,” he said softly.

Jack stepped closer to him. “I bet that thought just terrifies you, right? Like it shows weakness, or something dumb like that?” Danny closed his eyes and scoffed. “You’re ridiculous,” Jack said affectionately, reaching out and putting a hand on his shoulder.

Danny opened his eyes as he was pulled into Jack’s arms for the second time that night. It was different this time, though. Jack held onto him like he was afraid he’d slip away at any second. Or maybe that was him holding onto Jack like that. In reality, it was probably both of them. Jack squeezed his eyes shut and Danny sighed heavily.

“Don’t you leave, too,” he whispered.

“I won’t if you don’t,” Jack murmured into his shoulder.

“…Deal.”

Merritt walked into the room just then, Henley following close behind. “Are we all good out here?” he asked.

Jack stepped back, his hand lingering on Danny’s back. He nodded.

“Yeah, we’re all good,” Danny answered. “What about…” he trailed off, locking eyes with Henley.

She bit her lip. “We’re good,” she said quietly with a small smile.

Jack’s eyes lit up. “Yeah?” he asked excitedly. Henley laughed.

“Yes, Jack… I’m gonna stick around.” He flashed his signature grin and made his way over towards her. He wrapped his arms around her and laughed.

“Awesome.”

“Alright, time for the mushy crap now,” Merritt chuckled, throwing his arms around the two of them. Henley laughed and leaned her head against his chest.

“Come on Danny, join in!” she shouted.

He breathed a sigh of relief as he walked towards them. He put one arm around Henley’s back and one around Jack’s. They each moved an arm away from each other to pull him in, and Merritt reached a hand up to ruffle his hair. He dodged away, smiling, and closed his eyes, leaning his head on Henley’s shoulder.

“No one’s going anywhere now, right?” Merritt said.

“Right,” Henley and Jack mumbled together.

“Merritt, I don’t know what you said to her, but you must be some kind of god to have swung this,” Danny smirked. Henley made an indignant noise and knocked her shoulder into his head. He laughed and moved off of her.

“Hen, are your neighbors gonna be alright if they watch three dudes leave your apartment tomorrow morning?” Merritt raised his eyebrows in amusement.

“Well, they might have an aneurism, but I think they’ll get over it,” she giggled. “You guys should leave kind of early though.”

“We can do that,” Danny grinned. “But for right now, we’re all here. Let’s enjoy it while we’ve got it.”

Jack locked eyes with him and smiled. “Agreed.”

Chapter Text

“Yes, of course. No, we won’t let you down, sir.”

Jack walked into the living room and saw Danny pacing the floor, his phone to his ear. He sat down on the couch, vaguely curious as to what was going on. Danny locked eyes with him and smiled.

“Right. Thank you so much, you won’t regret this… Yes… We look forward to working with you, too,” Danny said, stopping and staring into the kitchen behind Jack. He exhaled in astonishment as he ended the call and slipped his phone into his pocket.

“Well? What was that?” Jack asked, his arms thrown casually over the back of the couch behind him.

“We officially just scored ourselves a benefactor,” Danny said quietly as he met Jack’s eyes.

Jack’s eyebrows shot upwards in surprise and he leaned forward, suddenly very interested. “Yeah?”

“None other than Arthur Tressler.”

Surprise turned to pure delight as Jack stood up and crossed the room, throwing his arms around Danny triumphantly. “Phase One complete, then,” he laughed in amazement.

Danny closed his eyes, smiling. “We’re actually doing this.”

Jack stepped back and pulled out his phone. “Where’re Henley and Merritt?”

“Getting groceries I think,” Danny said as he walked into the kitchen. He opened up the liquor cabinet and stared in contemplatively.

Jack laughed at him from the living room where he was getting ready to call Merritt. “Don’t you think we should wait for them?”

Danny just waved his had dismissively. “We need to celebrate. They can catch up when they get here,” he said.

“Well if we’re celebrating, we need champagne,” Jack replied, dropping his phone on the couch and walking up behind Danny to wrap his arms around his waist. He set his chin on his shoulder and started lazily pressing kisses to his neck.

Danny sighed dramatically, closing the cabinet. “Whatever. Tell them to pick some up on the way back then.” He leaned his head back, leaving even more of his throat exposed for Jack’s wandering lips. He brought his hands up and laid them over Jack’s.

“Mmmmm, I will,” he hummed into the bend in Danny’s shoulder. “Eventually.”

Danny just smirked and shifted forward away from Jack. “No no, if you want it you better call them now, before they leave to come home,” he said, turning to face him and putting his hands on the edge of the counter behind him.

Jack just leaned forward, effectively pinning him against the counter and closing his hands around Danny’s wrists. Their faces were almost touching, and Danny bit down on his bottom lip.

“Or, I could call them in about fifteen minutes, and then you and I could find some way to celebrate on our own in that time,” Jack grinned, his voice low and gravelly as he leaned in slowly.

Danny laughed silently, tilting his head away. “Or, you could call them now, and we can take more than fifteen minutes and celebrate however we want.”

Jack pursed his lips, and Danny could feel his breath against his cheek. “Alright,” he said finally, pulling back. He walked out into the living room to grab his phone and dialed.

“Hey, Merritt. Awesome news…” his voice trailed off as he got farther away. Danny turned back to the alcohol, thought for a moment, and opened the door again. He grabbed a bottle of Jack and poured them each a shot. Jack walked back into the kitchen again as he was putting the bottle back, a smile on his face.

“Shame on you Danny,” he teased.

Danny just smirked and handed him the glass. He accepted it readily. “Hey, like I said, however we want.”

“Cheers to that, I guess,” Jack smiled, lifting his glass slightly and then tossing it back. Danny did the same, and they both fought to keep their faces from scrunching up (unsuccessfully). Danny took both of their glasses and set them in the sink, then turned back to face Jack.

“Now about those fifteen minutes…” he raised an eyebrow, and Jack stepped forward, smirking, into his personal space to connect their lips heavily.

~~~

Henley and Merritt walked in the door with arms full of groceries to find the living room completely empty. Merritt set his bags on the counter and took Henley’s out of her hands to start putting the food away.

“Boys? We’re home!” Henley shouted. She then grabbed the frozen pizza out of Merritt’s hands before he could put it away. “You want dinner, right?” she smirked. He held his hands up in surrender and stepped out of her way so she could make it.

Just then, Danny and Jack emerged from the hallway. Danny’s hair was a mess, ruffled in every direction, and Jack wasn’t even wearing a shirt.

Henley glanced up at them and let out a laugh of surprise. Merritt raised his eyebrows questioningly.

“You guys had victory sex without us?” he asked jokingly.

Danny wrapped his arm around Jack’s waist and pulled him against his side. Jack smiled and kissed him on the cheek.

“We were drinking, too,” Danny smirked.

“Wow, you guys just couldn’t wait, huh?” Henley said, putting the pizza in the oven.

“Don’t worry, we’re not quitting yet. We’ve still gotta celebrate,” Jack said enthusiastically, his smile growing like he just remembered what exactly they’d accomplished.

“Hell yes,” Henley grinned. “We’ve earned this.”

~~~

“Cheers to us!” Henley shouted, holding up her champagne glass and giggling. Danny laughed lightheartedly, and they all brought their glasses together in a toast before taking a drink.

“To the Four Horsemen,” Merritt grinned.

“Uh, Henley? How many of those have you had already?” Danny asked, nodding towards her glass with a smirk on his face. She was presently laying against Jack’s side, and he was more than likely the only thing keeping her upright.

“I dunno, I lost count,” she laughed, leaning her head against Jack’s shoulder. He bit his lip and put his arm around her, keeping her steady while she clung to him.

“You know Jack, when I said they’d have to catch up when they got here, I never expected us to be the ones catching up,” Danny said as he went to lean against the counter beside Merritt.

“I think you overestimate how much I drink, Danny boy,” Merritt grinned.

“Well then, Mr. Psychic, I think that just means you need another drink,” Danny said smugly.

Jack laughed. “I agree!”

Henley took another sip from her glass, and then pointed at Danny excitedly before she could even finish swallowing it.

“What, what? Don’t hurt yourself,” he chuckled.

“Danny- truth or dare?” she said.

His brow furrowed in amusement. “Seriously?”

“Deadly. Now, truth or dare?”

He scoffed and looked around. “Alright fine. Truth.”

“Pfft, boring,” Merritt muttered.

Danny shot him a look, but ignored it. Henley bit her lip in thought. “Umm… what was your first kiss like?”

He glanced behind him and pushed himself up so that he was sitting on the counter. “Oh, it was boring, you guys don’t wanna hear about it,” he said uninterestedly.

“Wha- c’mon, we so do!” Jack said indignantly, tightening his arm around Henley.

Merritt just elbowed Danny’s leg, throwing out an overly enthusiastic “yeah!” for good measure.

“Alright, alright, fine. I was fifteen and it was at a school dance, are you people happy now?” Danny said as he took another drink.

“Gee, I never much took you for the dancing type,” Merritt grinned.

“Shut up, they weren’t actually about dancing, they were just social events.”

“Never took you to be into those either,” Jack added with a smirk. Danny just flipped him off, biting back his own smile.

“What was the song?” Henley asked.

“Excuse me?” Danny said, throwing her a look of confusion.

“What was the song you had your first kiss to? And don’t give me any of that ‘how should I know’ shit, let’s just skip to the part where you tell us, okay? Please?” She crossed her arms, but the way she swayed where she stood took away from her conviction.

Danny shook his head, looking down at the ground. “I hate you.” Everyone was silent, staring at him expectantly. He sighed and closed his eyes. “Ordinary World.”

Merritt slowly started laughing. Henley squinted at him. “Duran Duran?” she grinned.

“Alright you assholes, someone else’s turn,” Danny muttered.

“It’s your pick,” Henley said, still smiling.

“…Okay Merritt, truth or dare?”

“Dare, baby,” he said, leaning his elbows onto the counter and looking up at Danny.

“Uhhhh…” he looked around in thought. Henley stumbled over to him and whispered something up into his ear. He shrugged and looked back to Merritt. “Okay I dare you to make out with Jack for ten seconds.”

Merritt gave him a disappointed look. “Boy, you really are boring.” He pushed off the counter and walked over to Jack, who was laughing, and cradled the back of his head. The kiss was extremely sloppy due to their drunken states, but Henley cheered them on regardless. Ten seconds later, Merritt pulled back, and Jack was giggling.

“Who’s next?” Merritt asked, waving his finger around at them all.

“Do me, do me!” Henley said excitedly.

“Truth or dare?”

“Truth,” she said, sliding down to sit on the ground.

“Okay, um… how did you first get into magic?”

She stretched her arms above her head. “Well, when I was eight, my parents took me to this little magic shop in town. I thought it was the coolest thing. Then, I saw some TV movie on Houdini, and I was just enthralled by it. I wanted to be able to do all of those cool things he could do. And you know what they say, the rest is history.” She took another sip of her drink. “If you wanna hear a better-presented and more touching story, ask me again when I’m sober,” she added.

Merritt smiled. “Duly noted. Your turn.”

“Danny.”

“Oh my god, again?” he rolled his eyes.

“Yep,” she grinned.

He sighed again. “Fine, then truth again.”

She glanced up at him. “Do you have any hidden talents?”

He bit his lip in thought. “Well… I don’t know, other than magic?”

“Of course other than magic you dork,” Jack laughed.

“…. I can tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue?”

“Whoa, now we’re talking,” Merritt said in amusement. Henley pursed her lips and reached out for Danny’s hand to get him to pull her off the floor. She walked over to the pantry and pulled out a jar of candied cherries, her eyebrows raised. Jack laughed from the other side of the kitchen.

Danny grinned and held out his hand. “Alright, let’s do this I guess.”

Henley pulled one out and handed it to him. He ate the cherry and promptly pulled the stem into his mouth. Everyone stared in wonder as Danny’s jaw shifted and mouth moved rhythmically, his tongue working away at the stem for about a minute. Eventually, he stuck his tongue out, and there sat the cherry stem, tied perfectly into a loose knot.

Jack started clapping and Henley cheered. “Nice,” Merritt grinned. Danny just dropped the stem into the garbage and bowed exaggeratedly.

“Well, you know what they say… That means you’re a good kisser,” Danny said, smirking.

Jack smiled, looking away. Henley just scoffed. Danny shot a glare in her direction, but Merritt stepped over in between them and threw his arm around Danny’s shoulders. “Alright Atlas, your pick.”

Danny locked eyes with Jack and quirked an eyebrow. Jack grinned. “You know me- dare.”

A mischievous smile spread across Danny’s face.

“I dare you to streak down and back up the stairs of our apartment complex.”

Henley let out a gasp that turned into a laugh, and Merritt’s expression turned to shock. Jack refused to break eye contact with Danny, though his ‘glaring daggers’ effort would’ve worked much better if he hadn’t also been trying not to laugh.

“…I actually hate you,” Jack said as he shook his head. He turned around and walked out into the living room, everyone else following close behind.

“So are you actually gonna do it?” Henley beamed.

He turned around and started indignantly unbuttoning his pants, making distinctive eye contact with each one of them as he pulled them off. Merritt whistled after him as he turned around and walked to the front door.

“Fuck you guys, you’re not gettin’ a show,” he said over his shoulder as he slid off his boxers.

“Awwww…” Henley whined. Jack cracked open the door and peeked his head around, praying that it was already late enough at night that none of their neighbors would see him running around naked.

He exhaled slowly and pulled the door open, hiding behind it until the other three could slip into the hallway to watch, and stepped out after them.

He started jogging down the stairs as fast as he could while trying to cover his junk, his heart racing like crazy. He faintly heard another whistle from the top of the stairs. He also faintly noticed how cold he was without any clothes on.

He got down to the bottom and turned on his heel just as someone was walking into the building. His cheeks starting burning as he ran back up. He could tell that by the time he was halfway up the other three could see the person who’d come in, because they all exploded in shocked laughter. He finally got up to their level and raced through the door to their apartment out of breath. He collapsed on the floor in the middle of the living room, not even bothering with his clothes. The other three were laughing like crazy as they came in and shut the door behind him.

Jack groaned from where he lay on the floor. “I hate you guys so fucking much.”

Merritt walked over to the couch and grabbed the blanket off the back, chuckling as he tossed it over Jack’s body. “Here, save your dignity. Or what’s left of it, that is.”

Jack groaned again, but he also smiled slightly. “It’s aaaaaaall gone now.”

“You think you feel bad now, just wait until you remember this tomorrow,” Danny laughed.

Jack shook his head and grinned. “God, I hope I don’t.”

Chapter Text

It was a chilly night in October when Jack was taking a walk through the streets of New York. He was wandering aimlessly; no destination in sight, just enjoying the atmosphere. It was early enough in fall that the cold wasn’t biting, and it was late enough in the day that the sun was down, meaning the city lights were shining brilliantly. The sight was gorgeous, and Jack was determined not to grow numb to its glamour. He didn’t want to be like all the other people who lived there and took it for granted.

Living on the streets tended to give one an appreciation for the small beauties of life, and Jack didn’t want to lose that. Even if Merritt and Danny did give him funny looks when he said he just wanted to go out walking. It didn’t really bother him. Maybe one day, he might even get them out with him, show them all the sights they’d managed to go blind to, the ones in their very backyard.

Yeah, he thought, a smile overtaking his lips, that’s what I’ll do. Someday.

He pulled his coat tighter around his body, relishing in the warmth he felt on that cool autumn night. He saw a woman and her child walk by, and he waved at the little girl. She laughed, her face scrunching up in joy, and suddenly Jack felt a little warmer inside, too.

He heard a noise behind him and turned to look over his shoulder. There were three guys trailing him, and suddenly he had a very bad feeling. His stomach dropped slightly, and he picked up the pace. The magic of the night all abruptly seeped out at once, leaving nothing but a gnawing dread in Jack’s mind.

Just a few more blocks. Everything’ll be fine.

Of course, as Jack sped up, so did they, making it clear that he was their intended target.

“Shit,” he muttered under his breath as he broke into a run. He started surveying his surroundings, trying to find any way to lose them, because he sure as hell wasn’t leading them back to their apartment. He spotted an alley coming up on his right, and he turned into it, praying it wouldn’t end up being…

…A dead end. Of course, that was just his luck. He fumbled for his phone as he ran further in, Henley’s number being the most immediately available, and called her. She picked up on the second ring, just as he reached the back of the alley.

“Hel-”

“Henley, I’m in an alley off Hudson, I’m close to home, and there’s three guys here. Get help,” he cut her off, his voice steady but his breathing heavy. He tried to stay as calm as possible, but as he slid the phone back into his pocket, the three were advancing on him slowly, predatorily.

Well, someone’s gonna need help after this. Let’s just hope it’s them and not me.

“Hey you!” shouted the one in the middle. His voice was low and firm. “Your wallet,” he growled, stopping a few feet in front of Jack.

He inhaled deeply. “Alright, fellas, let’s not do anything hasty here-” he was cut off by the one on the right stomping his foot forcefully to the ground, jumping forward in a show of intimidation.

“Okay, okay,” Jack held up both his hands in a gesture of peace, then brought one down to his pocket and slid out his wallet slowly. “This is what you want, right?”

The one on the left looked him over. “And your jacket.”

“My- my jacket?” Jack stuttered in confusion.

“NOW!” he shouted, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a knife.

“Hey, alright, my jacket. You got it,” Jack said calmly, dropping the wallet on the ground a few inches in front of him to slide off his coat.

The next few seconds seemed to go by in slow motion. Jack analyzed the situation, his gaze shooting to each of the men and to his surroundings to figure out his best course of action. He watched as the guy in the middle slowly bent down to pick up the wallet, and in the moment before his hand touched the leather, Jack flung his coat towards the one with the weapon. In a split-second turn, he stepped forward to the man bent over and drove his knee straight into the guy’s nose. He let out a cry and fell backwards on the ground as the knife-guy regained his bearings. The one on the right stepped forward and swung at Jack, but he ducked under it and jabbed him in the stomach. He doubled over, and knife-guy advanced on him.

Knife-guy swung his weapon, and Jack threw his arm up to block. He caught the guy’s forearm and held it, keeping it extended there. The guy swung at him with his free hand, and managed to hit him right in the mouth. Through the pain, Jack tasted blood. He reached out with his other hand to grab the knife arm, twisting it painfully as the guy let out a noise. Jack jumped into motion, wrenching the arm behind him until he dropped the weapon. He managed to kick the knife well out of range just as the guy he’d punched in the stomach tackled him from behind.

Jack’s jaw hit the ground and the impact sent shockwaves through his head. He couldn’t tell if he actually cried out in pain or if that was just in his mind. The guy rolled him over and pulled his fist back, but at the last second Jack jerked his head to the side, so his fist made contact with the ground. He grunted, and Jack used the moment of hesitation to flip them over so he was on top and started pounding his face in.

He got about three good hits in before the no-longer-knife-guy hooked his arms through Jack’s and hauled him up, restraining him. Jack glanced over to where he thought the blade should be and let out the smallest sigh of relief; it was still there. He saw the first guy he’d touched was still on the ground, holding his face. There was a hell of a lot of blood around him—Jack figured he got him better than he’d intended. Oh well, serves him right, he thought.

The one he’d been on top of rose slowly and sauntered over towards Jack, a blood-stained grin on his face. Jack struggled against the arms restraining him, but they just held tighter, and the one in front of him decked him in the jaw. Jack thought the sound was probably the worst part of it.

The guy reared up again and hooked him across the nose. Jack made a noise and fought against the arms again, to no avail. He felt blood drip down his face, and as the man smiled again, he grinned back.

At that moment, Jack threw his head back with force, crashing into the man holding him. His grip loosened, and Jack wrenched out of it, swinging at the guy in front of him again before spinning on the one behind. He had brought his hand to his nose, and Jack used the moment to drive his knee between the man’s legs with a vengeance. He dropped almost instantly, a high pitched whine escaping his lips. He barely even had time to revel in his success, though, before hands reached out and gripped his arms from behind and he was thrown to the ground again.

The momentum caused him to roll twice before the guy got to him and started trying to kick his ribs in. Jack folded in on himself, his vision starting to fade in and out as the sharp pain spread throughout his body. Just when he thought he was going to pass out, he heard a shout from the entrance of the alley.

“Hey!” the voice yelled forcefully, and for a moment Jack thought it sounded like Merritt’s. Before he could actually register this, though, he saw a figure sprinting towards him, and suddenly the guy attacking him wasn’t near him anymore. He heard a sickening noise as the figure sucker punched him in his already-bloodied face, and then the guy was on the ground, knocked out.

Jack wheezed, struggling to get air into his lungs and the realization hit him that that was definitely Danny. He tried to make a sound, but his face twisted up in pain, and in a moment Henley was at his side, cradling his face and telling him that everything was going to be okay.

His vision started blacking out again, but he wouldn’t let himself go just yet. “Henley,” he croaked out.

She shushed him fervently, grabbing his hand in between hers. “Don’t worry, everything’s alright. I’ve got you.”

“No cops… No hospitals…” he spit out painfully. Through the haze in his vision he could see the look of confusion on her face. “Promise me,” he managed.

She looked around in concern, then met his eyes again. “Alright, I promise.”

That was the last thing Jack heard before his consciousness finally faded out.

~~~

Come on, Jack, you gotta wake up a little, you gotta move!

Hands—on his arms, on his back, curled around his waist.

A police siren in the distance.

~~~

We’re almost home Jack, just, stay with us.

Arms—around his back, under his shoulders, around other necks.

The blaring horn of a taxi speeding by.

~~~

Keep moving, c’mon baby you gotta keep your feet moving, we’re almost there.

Fingertips—pressed urgently into his forearms, his biceps, gripping his sides.

The ground, suddenly approaching fast.

~~~

Nothing but black.

~~~

Henley unlocked the door as fast as humanly possible and swung it open wide, stepping out of the way so Danny and Merritt could drag Jack in and lay him down on the couch. He made a pained noise, and Henley sincerely hoped that meant he was regaining consciousness.

“His nose is broken, I’m gonna have to reset it,” Merritt said from where he was leaning over Jack, his hands already brushing over his face in contemplation.

“Do what you have to,” Henley shouted as she jogged to the bathroom to retrieve their first aid kit. Danny was getting rags from the supply closet and wetting them in the kitchen sink when he heard the sharp cry of pain from the living room. He winced a little, but kept doing what he needed to before rejoining Merritt’s side.

“Alright, it’s done,” he muttered. Danny slid into Merritt’s spot, crouching down and bringing the rag gently to Jack’s face. He wiped at the blood caked onto his lip, sliding his hand against the side of Jack’s face to hold him steady. He moved to clean the blood from under his nose, and Jack’s eyelids fluttered. Slowly, they opened, and he locked eyes with Danny, breathing heavily.

“It’s… it’s okay, you’re safe now. You’re with us,” he said as he resumed wiping. “Just, be still, don’t strain yourself. We’re taking care of you.”

Henley was suddenly standing next to him, first aid kit in hand. He finished getting as much blood off as he could and rocked back onto his heels, walking into the kitchen to wash out the rag. It was Henley’s turn to crouch down and pull out a cotton ball with alcohol on it. She smiled wide at seeing his eyes open.

“Hey honey, how are you feeling?” she asked, her voice filled with concern. He just grinned, revealing the blood on his teeth, and she grimaced. “Bad question, sorry. This might sting a bit,” she said as she brought the cotton to his split lip. She had to give it to him; he didn’t flinch away or make a noise or anything. He just looked up and blinked to fight the tears coming to his eyes, and found Merritt hovering a few feet away. He stared into his eyes and sighed heavily, then grimaced at the new pain it caused.

“Don’t hurt yourself,” Merritt said, walking up and laying his hand softly against Jack’s forehead.

“How’d you guys get to me so fast?” Jack asked quietly.

 Danny walked back over with a glass of water in one hand and a bottle of painkillers in the other. “You were really close by, it didn’t take long to find at all. Here,” he said as he passed the glass and bottle to Henley. She was getting ready to help Jack take them, but he reached out and stopped her, grabbing the water from her hand. She faltered, but handed him two of the pills anyway. He threw them in his mouth and took a drink, breathing heavily once he’d swallowed.

“So it seems like you’re gonna have some bruised ribs, split lip, I’m sure a black eye or two, lots of swelling, and, uh, your nose was broken, but I already took care of that,” Merritt said, and Jack’s eyes fell shut in aggravation.

“As long as those assholes look just as bad, I’ll survive,” he joked.

Henley smirked. “Oh, believe me, they do. When we showed up, one of ‘em was unconscious in a pool of his own blood, one was curled up crying against the wall, and the one Danny dragged off of you already looked like he’d been in a terrible accident.”

Jack’s gaze flicked over to Danny. “Yeah, I saw that, what the hell?” he said, a small smile gracing his lips.

“What?” Danny squinted.

“Well, we know why I can fight, but why can you?” Jack asked incredulously.

Danny just shrugged. “I can’t. There’s no way in hell I could’ve pulled of what you did out there. But it’s not hard to pull one good punch when you’re watching someone you love getting beaten to a pulp.”

Silence filled the room and the smile on Jack’s face grew very slowly as he just stared at Danny. “What- Oh no. Nope, forget I said anything if you’re gonna be like that,” Danny said as he turned around and walked the other way. Jack’s smile remained though.

“No take-backsies,” he called after him.

Danny circled around the back of the couch to head down the hall. “Henley, Merritt, you guys can handle this, I’m gonna take a shower.”

Jack reached up to grab his arm over the couch before he could pass by, but hissed in pain instead. Danny stopped in his tracks, worry spreading over his features as he leaned back over the couch.

“Yeah, that’s right, that was your fault,” Jack joked, but his face was still scrunched up.

Danny sighed shakily. “Mhmm, what do you want?”

Jack looked up at him seriously. “I love you, too.”

Danny just stared for a while, and for a few seconds they all thought he was going to ignore it or just brush it off. But eventually, his lips twitched up into a small semblance of a smile. “Yeah, okay, good,” he said, brushing his fingers through Jack’s hair. “Feel better, okay?”

Jack grinned and Danny stood back up, looking out to Henley and Merritt again. “Guys?”

“We got him, go take your shower,” Merritt said, and for once he didn’t sound sarcastic or condescending, but genuine. Appreciation flickered in his eyes before he turned around and walked away.

“Did you guys get my wallet or my jacket?” Jack asked while Danny exited.

“Of course,” Henley said cheerfully.

“You know Jack, you should teach us to fight like that,” Merritt’s laugh trailed off as he got further away, and Danny just shook his head and smiled.

Chapter Text

Sometimes, Danny's hands shook.
He didn't know why- didn't always have a reason. Call it stress, anxiety, fear, whatever- sometimes it was nothing at all.
His hands would shake until his muscles were tense and adrenaline coursed through his body. He felt everything all at once and all too much.

Sometimes Danny's hands shook, but Jack could always steady them. He knew when things were getting bad- when Danny couldn't stop the trembling. He knew how to hold them, just tight enough that the pressure stopped the buzz, but just gentle enough to let Danny know that he was okay, like a small reminder that Jack was there.
His hands shook sometimes but Jack was always there, always holding on. And in those moments, Danny's hands didn't shake at all.

Sometimes, Danny's eyes darted frantically.
He figured it had something to do with the control thing- always checking everywhere to make sure things were as they should be, making certain nothing was going wrong. Danny needed to know what was happening, in front of him, beside him, behind, above, below- sometimes he couldn't look fast enough.
His eyes bounced around until they hurt in his head, and yet he still kept glancing.

Sometimes Danny's eyes darted frantically, but Merritt could always still them. He was certainly perceptive (it came with the whole 'mentalism' territory). He knew when Danny was obsessing again, could see it in the way his eyes shot around the room, landing on everything and nothing all at once. But Merritt could always catch his eye, and somehow his soft yet firm gaze kept Danny locked onto him. He was distracted from his glancing, and everything stilled for the time being.
His eyes darted sometimes but Merritt was always there, always catching his gaze. And in those moments, Danny didn't ever want to look away.

Sometimes, Danny's heart raced.
This was from the panic, he knew. He was always worried, a combination of the anxiety and the control issues. He had to micromanage everything to make sure nothing went awry, but he would still freak out, regardless.
His heart would race until his chest hurt and his breathing matched it, but he still couldn't stop worrying.

Sometimes Danny's heart raced, but Henley always knew how to calm it. She'd known him long enough to see the signs, as much as he wanted to hide it. She knew when to pull him close, not saying a word, just breathing, letting him feel her own heart beat. Henley could tell when he started coming back down to normal, when his heart rate finally began to slow. She would pull back, but she'd always leave a hand on him, be it the small of his back, the curve of his neck, wrapped around his wrist. Anywhere Danny could feel- could know that she was still there, and that he could relax.
His heart raced sometimes but Henley was always there, always bringing him back. And in those moments, Danny didn't worry about anything.

Chapter Text

“Danny! We need you for a minute!” Jack called from his spot on the couch.

Merritt locked eyes with him and returned his grin as they heard some incoherent muttering through the walls. “Aw, come on- it’ll be worth it, scout’s honor,” Merritt called in reply.

A few seconds later, Danny emerged from the hallway. His hair was a wet mess on the top of his head, and it was clear he had just taken a shower. “This better be good,” he grumbled.

“Yeah, yeah of course. I’ve been practicing a new trick and I just need a test subject. Cool?” Jack asked.

Danny rolled his eyes, but sat down on the floor in front of them anyways. “You couldn’t just do it to Merritt?”

A snort came from beside him, but Jack kept his gaze on Danny, trying not to crack a smile. “No, he already knows it.”

“Fine, whatever,” he sighed.

“Okay, first, I need you to clear your mind. Let all of the tension leave your body. You with me? Good.”

Danny made a sarcastic face, but felt himself relaxing all the same. It was actually kind of soothing, Jack’s voice. This better be a good trick, he thought as he heard Jack muttering some words in the background. He couldn’t really focus on them though, he just felt so tired. That was weird…

Suddenly he sat bolt upright, his full awareness returning to him as he realized the signs. “Uh-uh, no way, I know what you’re doing and it’s not gonna work. You can’t hypnotize me,” Danny said indignantly. Jack looked more than a little disappointed.

“I was so close though!” Jack exclaimed, throwing his arms in the air.

“No, you weren’t. But nice try though,” Danny smirked. “Besides, why are you trying to hypnotize me? I thought that was your gig,” he nodded towards Merritt.

“Actually, I’ve been teaching him. He’s starting to get the hang of it.”

“Well, I’m afraid you might need to up your game a little.” Danny vaguely noticed Merritt leaning closer toward him.

“He just needs a little more practice, that’s all,” Merritt said, his voice extra smooth and calming.

Danny tried to pull his eyes away from Merritt’s, but he just couldn’t find the energy or the will to do so. He raised his hand up, and that was the last thing Danny saw before his eyes fell shut while Merritt muttered “And sleep.”

He opened his eyes, blinking a few times, and looked around in confusion. His eyes landed first on Jack, who looked like a kid on Christmas, then on Merritt, who just wore a smug smirk.

“What? What are you guys looking at me like that for, it didn’t work. I told you, you can’t hypnotize me.”

Danny moved to stand up when Henley walked into the room. “Hey guys, what’s up?”

“Oh, not much. We just learned that Daniel here can’t be hypnotized,” Merritt said coyly, throwing in a little shrug for good measure.

Henley’s eyes suddenly had a little glint in them that wasn’t there before. “That so?” she asked as she walked up behind the couch, resting her arms across the top between Jack and Merritt’s heads.

“Yeah, you know, why don’t you ask him a question? We might learn something else about him that we didn’t know before,” Jack said, biting his lip in anticipation.

Henley glanced around the room in thought. “Umm… Danny, how old were you when you lost your virginity?” she asked innocently.

Danny looked visibly shocked at her words. He squinted at her and shook his head, but said “Nineteen. Even though I tell everyone I was seventeen.”

Suddenly, his eyes grew wide as he realized what had just unintentionally slipped out of his mouth. It was like the words just rolled right off his tongue and he couldn’t catch them before they fell, no matter how hard he tried to.

Henley’s jaw dropped, and her expression quickly morphed into a wide grin. Jack started laughing uncontrollably, and Merritt smirked again.

“Oh god, this is gonna be fun,” Jack giggled.

“Take it off. Take it the fuck off right now you assholes,” Danny said, his eyes filled with anger. Henley just kept on grinning though.

“Oh, come on, be a good sport Danny. You know you love us.”

Danny’s eye twitched slightly. “I… hate you all at this moment,” he struggled out. Jack’s eyes shot over to Henley and Merritt, then back to Danny mischievously.

“No, that wasn’t the question. The question was do you love us?” Jack smirked. Merritt turned away and laughed.

Danny’s eyes narrowed and he stared daggers at all of them. “Of course I love you,” he spit out.

“Who do you love?” Henley grinned without missing a beat.

You! All three of you fuckers now take this off of me!” Danny shouted, his voice taking on a pleading tone.

Merritt sighed. “Alright, alright, I think he’s had enough.” He sat forward again, getting close to Danny, and looked him in the eyes. He raised his hand and muttered “And sleep,” and Danny’s eyes closed again.

He opened them what felt like a second later and glanced around in worry. “Is it off?” he asked hurriedly.

Jack nodded and clapped him on the shoulder. “Yeah dude, it’s off.”

“Good, someone else’s turn, I’m done with this bullshit.” Danny grumbled as he stood up and stalked off into his room, slamming the door slightly behind him.

Henley sighed. “I’ll go talk to him.” She stood up a moment later and trailed after him, not even bothering to knock on the door before going in.

“I hope he isn’t too mad,” Jack said, glancing around nervously.

“Nah, he’ll be fine, just give him an hour,” Merritt said, waving his hand.

“I still didn’t really get to practice though, that sucks.”

“Oh, don’t worry Jack, we’ll find you someone at the next street show, you can practice on them,” Merritt said, grabbing his knee.

Jack thought for a few seconds. “Hey, could I try it on you?” Merritt frowned.

“Kid, I don’t think you’re that good yet.”

“Come on, just let me try,” Jack smiled.

Merritt shook his head and smiled as well. “What the hell, can’t hurt.”

He remembered looking into Jack’s eyes, hearing him saying some words over and over, but he didn’t really pay much mind. He kind of spaced out, which he didn’t exactly feel proud of, but it didn’t matter. He blinked a few times and saw Jack sitting back.

“Sorry, I told you it wouldn’t work. But that’s okay, you’re still learning.” Merritt said comfortingly.

“Yeah, you’re right. Hey, could you get me a glass of water? That was kind of exhausting work,” Jack said, biting his lip again.

Merritt furrowed his brow in confusion, but said ‘okay’ anyways. When he went to move his legs to stand up, however, nothing happened.

He frowned, trying to move again, but finding himself thoroughly stuck in his seat. Jack started laughing next to him, and Merritt’s gaze shot over toward him.

“My god, you did it,” he said, his voice filled with pride. “You actually did it!”

Jack’s face spread into his signature grin. “Hell yeah, I did,” he said as he stood up.

“That’s awesome. Now just, put me back and we can celebrate,” Merritt said, a hint of concern overtaking his voice.

Jack disappeared around the couch behind him. “I will… eventually,” he said, and Merritt could practically hear the smile in his voice. He struggled again against the invisible force pinning him down, but no matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t break free. Merritt sighed, defeated, and resigned himself to accept whatever forms of torture may come.

“Hey Danny, Henley, come out, you’re gonna love this!”

Merritt’s eyes grew slightly wider and he sighed. Well, shit.

Chapter Text

They were at some random bar a few streets behind their apartment and though he would never admit it, Danny was actually having fun.

Of course, the alcohol didn’t hurt in that regard, but that was beside the point.

“…So long story short, I woke up the next morning in a celebrity’s bed with a sprained ankle and the single worst hangover of my life,” Henley smirked, taking a sip of her beer.

“Whoa whoa whoa- I will not just accept that!” Jack exclaimed, sounding almost offended.

“Yeah, you can’t just leave us hangin’ like that, come on Hen!” Merritt smiled.

She laughed. “You guys are ridiculous, you don’t really wanna hear more. I don’t think you could handle it.”

“Uh, we definitely do. And don’t spare us the details,” Danny leaned forward intently.

“You know, normal people aren’t supposed to want to hear about who their significant other has slept with, it generally works the opposite,” Henley rolled her eyes, smirking again.

“Love, what could have possibly convinced you that we are even remotely normal people?” Merritt asked sarcastically. Danny laughed, nodding.

“Fine, you guys win. It was—“

“Wait, hold that thought, I’m gonna get us another round first,” Jack interjected. Merritt groaned in annoyance, and Danny’s expression was as if Jack had just slapped him.

“Are you joking?” he blurted out. Jack just shrugged, a smirk on his face as he turned to leave. Henley giggled in appreciation. “Tell us anyway, he can wait until he gets back but that doesn’t mean we have to,” Danny said adamantly.

Henley dropped her jaw in mock-surprise. “Daniel, that would be so rude!” she chided sarcastically. Danny just rolled his eyes and looked back over to Jack.

 As soon as he made it to the bar, some guy with dark tousled hair and a leather jacket stepped up next to him. They were too far away to hear anything, but Jack turned to look at the guy and smiled.

But not like a normal, friendly smile. One of his flirty, knockout grins. Danny’s brow furrowed and his body instantly tensed.

“Uhhh,” Henley laughed nervously. “What is he doing?”

“Winning?” Merritt replied, and she nodded.

“I mean he is pretty hot,” Henley raised her eyebrows in approval.

The guy brought his hand up and laid it casually on the side of Jack’s arm, smiling widely and talking away. Merritt smirked and Henley bit her lip in amusement. Danny seethed.

Just then, Jack grabbed a pen from the bartender and wrote something on the palm of the guy’s hand, and Danny stood up.

“Hold on there, kid,” Merritt said, but he was already walking away.

What the actual fuck, who does this guy think he is? Danny was shouting in his head as he approached them. Jack picked up a beer from the counter in front of him and grinned at the guy.

“…I’ve gotta get going, but I’ll call you,” Danny heard him say in an Australian accent as he got close. The guy was inching into Jack’s personal space, and he saw him wink.

“Hey Jack, what’s taking so long?” Danny asked, walking up and throwing an arm around his shoulder. “Three beers please,” he said, leaning forward towards the bartender, and pulling Jack forward a little with him. The guy smiled flirtatiously and waved goodbye to Jack before pushing off the bar and walking out the door.

Jack suddenly burst out laughing, and Danny retracted his arm. “What the fuck is your problem?” Danny asked bitterly. Jack stopped laughing, but the smile on his face remained.

“What are you talkin’ about, man?” he asked.

“I’m sorry, I guess I missed the part where we stopped being good enough for you,” Danny said, his eyes narrowed.

Jack looked beyond surprised. “Stopped being—Danny, I just got two free drinks out of that,” he chuckled.

Danny faltered a bit, but he wasn’t finished yet. “Yeah, well you sure looked flirty and into it,” he spit out as he picked up the three bottles the bartender had sat in front of him and turned to push by.

“Yes Danny, that’s how you get free drinks!” Jack laughed harder this time. He glanced over at Henley and Merritt, and luckily they both had huge grins on their faces. He figured they must have heard him.

Danny’s eyes flickered from Jack to Henley and Merritt, then back to Jack again. He paused for a moment.

“You gave him your number…” he tried, but it was clear he was grasping at straws by this point.

Jack shook his head. “No, I gave him the number to that Chinese takeout place we like.” Jack smiled hopefully, and slowly, Danny’s lips turned up into a small smile as well.

“Fine. Whatever, I’m sorry I doubted you,” Danny said hurriedly as he turned to head back to the booth again. Jack caught his arm.

“Hey, you know I don’t want anyone other than you guys. Right? Some hot foreign guy in a leather jacket hangin’ out at a seedy bar a few streets over isn’t gonna change that. Even if I do get free alcohol out of it,” Jack smirked. “My heart belongs to you,” he added in a sarcastically dreamy tone.

Danny scoffed and grabbed the front of Jack’s shirt, pulling him and catching his lips heavily. “Don’t you forget it,” he whispered against his mouth, then pulled back and stalked off towards Merritt and Henley.

“Called it,” he heard Henley say as he got closer, and Merritt just laughed.

“So Henley, who’d you sleep with?” Danny asked, though he sounded significantly less into it this time.

“Huh? Oh—Justin Timberlake. Now can we talk about Danny for a moment?”

All three of their jaws dropped at the same time. “What?!” Jack exclaimed.

“Hold on, wait a minute, you mean to tell me you spent the night with THE Justin Timberlake? Like, international pop star, actor, sex symbol—that Justin Timberlake? And you weren’t gonna tell us?!”  Danny shouted indignantly.

“Could you yell it any louder? I don’t think they heard you on top of the Empire State Building,” she said, her eyes wide.

“When was this?” Jack asked incredulously.

“I don’t know, years ago. I barely even remember it guys, calm down,” she laughed. “Besides, we can talk about that any time. How often are we gonna get to experience jealous and overly possessive Danny?” she asked, locking eyes with him and smirking.

Merritt suddenly turned to stare at him, also smirking. “She has a point, why don’t we talk about that?”

Danny rolled his eyes and finally slid back into the booth beside Merritt. “Why don’t we not?”

“Because it was hilarious,” Henley said, and Jack grinned at her. “For the record, I don’t know why you didn’t jump all over that, did you see him? He was gorgeous!” she exclaimed.

“I know right? What was up with that? He was Australian too,” he smiled, looking around at all of them.

Henley threw her head back. “Oh my goooood, and you let him go?!” she groaned.

Merritt laughed. “I, for one, would have fully supported you getting that.”

Danny just shook his head. “What is wrong with you people?” he muttered, but there was an almost-imperceptible grin on his face.

“So you mean to say that if Justin Timberlake walked in here right now and wanted to have sex with Henley again you wouldn’t let her?” Jack asked accusingly.

Danny looked around in confusion. “When did I—you know what, if a celebrity ever wants to hook up with any of you, you have my blessing. Random people on the streets though, that’s a different story entirely.”

Merritt and Jack laughed, and Henley grinned. “Good. So celebrity sex is totally still on the table then?”

“Absolutely,” Merritt said, grabbing one of the beers Danny had brought back.

“Agreed,” Jack smirked.

“Glad we’re all on the same page with that,” Danny rolled his eyes and grinned.

They kept talking for a few minutes, about hypothetical situations where they’d actually get to hook up with someone famous, but no one could imagine being able to realistically top Henley’s story. After they’d all calmed down and were quiet for a minute, Merritt spoke up again.

“So Henley,” he said casually, leaning forward on his elbows, his head resting in his hands.

“Yes?”

“How big was it?”

There was a pause, and then she closed her eyes.

“You are the worst person I’ve ever met,” Henley shook her head, grinning as the sound of Danny and Jack’s hysterical laughter filled the near empty bar.

Chapter Text

Henley wakes up in bed one morning in December, and even with three other bodies piled around her, she still finds herself shivering.

She has no idea whose room they’re in, but she can’t really bring herself to care. She just wants to go back to sleep—to drift back off into her warm and cozy little dream world where she can get another hour or two of rest—so she keeps her eyes shut.

She also has no idea whose body is whose (whose limbs those are, who she’s curled up against), but she’d rather not open her eyes to find out, since she knows then she’d have no chance of falling back asleep.

So she turns even farther into the chest beside her, slides her legs up to where they’re resting against the others in different spots in an attempt to warm up, and pulls the covers even higher over her body.

After 15 minutes, Henley finds herself cold, awake, and frustrated. She sighs heavily and cracks her eyes open. Looking up at the body half-under her, she finally realizes it’s Merritt. She turns and glances behind her, and the hand resting loosely over her hip turns out to be Jack’s, his forehead pressed lightly against the base of her neck. She can vaguely see Danny over the curve of his shoulder, an arm wrapped tightly around Jack’s body. She can’t help but smile.

As she twists back around to Merritt again, she feels Jack stir briefly. Oops, she thinks, a little guiltily. After a second though, she hears him yawn as he draws his arm even farther around her. She leans back into his warmth.

“Merry Christmas Eve,” he mumbles sleepily. Oh yeah, that’s right. Suddenly, Danny hums contently behind them, and the bed creaks slightly when he shifts in closer to Jack.

“Merry Christmas Eve,” Henley whispers back, a smile gracing her lips as she closes her eyes again. Merritt’s hand encloses around hers where it rests on his chest, and she vaguely notices that she’s stopped shivering.

As Henley starts to drift back off again, she thinks that this might be the happiest she’s been for Christmas in forever.

Chapter Text

Danny glanced around quickly at the group of people surrounding him. There were a fair amount of spectators, but nothing outrageous—nothing he couldn’t handle for a trick like this.

 He shuffled through the cards again and looked up at the pretty girl in front of him.

“I‘m going to flip through this deck and I want you to see one card—not this one, that’s too obvious,” he added, focusing on the girl intently. Within a split second he chose a card, picturing the seven of diamonds front and center in his mind. “Pay close attention.”

He carded through the deck quickly, subtly transferring the image of the seven of diamonds in the midst to the girl.

“That was too fast—I’ll do it again.” Now, to solidify it.

“Are you ready?”

“Mhmm,” she muttered, so far unamused.

Just you wait, he thought, keeping a straight face despite wanting to smirk. “Okay.”

He flipped through the cards again, envisioning the deck flying by in a blur, but lingering on the seven of diamonds for a millisecond longer. He watched the girl’s eyes glaze over slightly, in a way that would be virtually imperceptible to anyone else. But, after years of crafting these illusions, Danny knew his own work.

“Now did you see one?” he asked, quirking his eyebrows slightly.

“Yes,” she said confidently.

“Do you have one in mind?”

“Yes.”

“Now do you see your card here?” he asked, fanning them out before her. He covered the actual seven of diamonds with an image of another three of hearts, this time projecting to everyone within viewing distance. Just in case.

“No,” she answered, finally sounding a bit more intrigued.

“That’s because you’re looking too closely. And what have I been telling you all night?” Danny asked, mentally preparing himself for his next move.

“The closer you look…” he trailed off.

“The less you see,” the crowd responded in unison. At that moment, Danny set in motion the illusion of himself throwing the cards wildly into the air, the seven of diamonds blinking onto the tower behind him in lights. He tucked the real deck into his coat pocket, completely unnoticed, and watched as the people around him shouted in awe, enormous smiles spreading across every one of their faces. He pictured the cards fluttering slowly and gracefully to the ground, spread out evenly over all of the people around him. They were absolutely enthralled.

Danny looked up, focusing on keeping the skyscraper illusion in place. He rubbed his hands together and cracked a half-smile, satisfied by the reaction he’d gotten.

After years of street shows, networking, and big performances, J. Daniel Atlas had garnered the title of Illusionist within the magician world. The very idea of that always made him smirk.

They didn’t know. Of course no one knew—he was good at what he did. But the fact that, when asked what he did, he could say ‘I’m an illusionist’— well, that was just convenient. And ironic.

Illusionism. It was, after all, what he did best.

~~~

When the two had first walked in, Merritt knew right away he was about to score big time. A couple of tourists with stars in their eyes and money to blow (alright, well a woman with stars in her eyes, and a man with money to blow, that could work too)—those were always the best marks.

He dug around through their minds a little while they sat and drank their coffees, pulling out any memories he thought could be interesting, until he found what he was looking for. Well, better than he expected actually. Sister? Really? Who goes for sister? Merritt figured this guy deserved what he had coming.

The second the woman saw his setup, she was beaming with excitement.

“Now, look into my eyes. Aaaand sleep—okay.” The woman slumped against his shoulder and he leaned in close, mumbling commands into her ear and her mind. “Aaaand…” Merritt snapped his fingers, and the woman shot upright again.

He took a step back, pulling money out of his pocket. “If you can get this bill from me, you can have it. Go ahead—take it, get it. If you can say your name you can have it,” he said, punctuating each word in the last sentence with purpose. She struggled, smiling sheepishly.

“Alright. Just hang out there, wriggle a sec, I’m gonna take a little peek under the hood of your hubby.” He stepped over in front of the protesting man. “Alright, now, I’m picturing… don’t tell me… beach, cocktails,” he snapped his fingers again for show, as if he’d just figured out— “Florida!”

The man glanced around, trying to keep from appearing nervous. If only he knew that Merritt could see everything, maybe he’d stop replaying that whole encounter in his mind. God, Merritt wished he would. It wasn’t exactly pretty.

“Look, it was a business trip.”

“Well it is kind of business, maybe the, oldest business,” Merritt shot back, determined to have some fun with this.

“Uh, you know what, honeybee let’s—“ he started, but Merritt caught his arm.

“She can’t move, Mack,” (did he actually learn this guy’s name? Merritt couldn’t remember, but it’s not like he would really notice right now).

“You’re thinking of a woman’s name,” Merritt said firmly, and started rattling off the alphabet. He set the man with an intense stare, trying to come off like he was searching for something. It wasn’t necessarily easy to pretend to find an answer you already knew, but Merritt had had some practice, to say the least. When he hit J, he raised his eyebrows.

“J-Jean, Jane, Janet—wh-who’s Janet?” Mack’s face scrunched up slightly in defeat. Merritt wanted to laugh at the terror running through his head in that moment, but that would have looked odd. Instead, he addressed the woman.

“You know Janet?”                                                                                                                            

“Mhmm,” she smiled.

“It’s not your best friend, is it?” Of course he knew it wasn’t, they were both practically screaming it at him (mentally, at least), but he couldn’t hit a home run every single time, that just wouldn’t be realistic.

The woman struggled to get out “sis-ter,” her voice awkwardly muffled and her tongue unable to move.

Merritt gasped lightly. “Your sister.”

“No,” Mack stuttered out.

“Your sister? “

“Please,” he pleaded. Serves you right, Merritt thought to himself.

“Oh my god! You weren’t away on business, you were away on Janet! Your wife’s sister!” Merritt felt the anger rising up in Mack’s wife. My, did she have the mouth of a sailor. Or, the mind, anyways.

“Okay, now she’s gonna get upset, so let’s move over here. You want this to go away?”

Mack paused briefly, thinking. “Yes.”

“Okay pull out your wallet. Come on get it out.” Now, Mack’s mind was flooded with anger, but Merritt knew he was set. The guy had no other options.

“You shake down everyone like this?” he asked bitterly.

“Only the special few,” Merritt replied sarcastically. “What is this? Uh, two hundred seem fair? You know what, this is a big deal, let’s go two fifty.”

“You’re a stickup artist,” Mack bit out.

“Yeah,” he smirked.

No, he thought.

Of course.” Only for the assholes.

Merritt just grinned and walked over to the woman. “Okay, aaaand,” he snapped, “sleep. Now when I snap my fingers, you won’t remember any of this. And you, Warren Beatty, every time you see, or even think of Janet, you’re gonna picture me,” he smacked Mack on the forehead twice, “naked. And that’s not a pretty sight.”

Mack looked him up and down briefly. “Yeah.”

“Aaaand wide awake,” he snapped. There was a long pause, Merritt looking around smugly, Mack nervously staring at his wife, and her, radiating hopefulness. She really just wanted to have a fun experience, try out hypnosis. Merritt almost felt bad.

“Well, we did the best we could but, some people just aren’t to be hypnotized.”

“Oh… I did it wrong?” her face fell.

“No, you did it fine,” Merritt said as Mack pulled her away. “Take care of her.”

“Let me buy you dinner. Just have to… hit an ATM first.”

Merritt smirked after them. He was now two hundred and fifty dollars richer, Mack was going to be a bumbling mess for a while, and all was right in the world.

Well… except for the woman walking by the cafe whose family was about to be evicted from their apartment,

the man a few feet over who’s father had just been diagnosed with cancer,

the child around the building who couldn’t find his mother,

the kid sitting across the cafe who’d tried to kill himself last night,

the chef in the back about to lose her job for messing up one too many orders…

It was never ending. Out loud, people had a habit of complaining about their problems (somewhat) moderately, but internally, they just shouted. And for Merritt, there was no way to tune it out.

So, after years of enduring, he had learned to grit his teeth, fake a smile, and pretend not to care. Or know. Or feel. Sometimes, he wished with all of his heart that he was just a mentalist.

 If only it were that easy.

~~~

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am THE next great magician and I will give one hundred dollars to anyone who can tell me how this trick is done.”

A crowd of people sat staring up at him, some looking interested, some annoyed, and others unimpressed. Jack pulled a silver spoon out of his jacket pocket from right next to a set of fake spoon parts. He held it up high and addressed the people around him.

“I have an ordinary spoon from Mel’s Deli right here in Brooklyn. Check it out,” he said, hitting it against the handrail. “Now everyone please pay very, very close attention, because I’m about to bend this spoon with my mind.” Jack held the spoon up to eye-level, making a face of concentration and curling his hand in the air next to it for show. All of that was unnecessary; he really just had to think about it—focus a little. But showmanship was important, so he did what he knew people would like.

The handle started bending at the spot where his fingers grasped it, and the crowd began murmuring and exclaiming in awe. He put on a look of exhaustion (totally fake, that was nothing) just as he finished, then replaced it with triumph as he held the spoon up victoriously. The people were amazed.

“Thank you, thank you, pass that around,” he said, handing the spoon off to the closest person. A young-looking man pushed forward through the crowd, and Jack noticed him out of the corner of his eye. It’s go time, he thought as the guy got closer. He closed his eyes briefly and concentrated on the wallet the guy inevitably had on him, and bringing it to the very edge of whatever pocket it was in. From the pull he felt on his mind, Jack guessed it was in the back of his pants.

“What’s this?” he asked, grabbing Jack’s jacket and arm. Jack saw the watch on his wrist, and focused on releasing the clasp. It fell unnoticed into his hand and he quickly slipped it into his own pocket.

“Hey what are you doin’ man?” Jack said indignantly, stepping as close as he could, pulling the wallet from the guy’s pocket and dropping it into his own, all without ever touching it.

“Look at this! Looks like we got a spoon and a stem!” he announced proudly, holding them up for all to see. Jack tried his best to look flustered.

“I-I got other tricks!”

“Or you could give me my hundred bucks,” the guy demanded.

“You said you would,” chimed in one from the crowd.

Jack sighed in mock-defeat, throwing on a look of disappointment, when really this was exactly how the trick was meant to go. There was a reason he kept fake parts noticeably on him. It’s not like he actually needed them.

He pulled the guy’s own wallet from where it had just landed in his pocket and fingered through the money in it, silently thanking the universe that he had actually had a hundred dollars on him to give back. “Nice wallet,” the guy said, and Jack almost smirked.

“You have a very good eye, sir,” he said, handing him the bill.

“Thanks.”

Jack turned and walked back down the steps, staring at the closed gate in front of him and watching the latch fall. He stepped off the boat just as it was about to begin moving, imaging the gate pulling shut and locking again behind him. He heard the telltale clink and smiled. He was getting better at this; he definitely hadn’t been looking at it, yet he didn’t even have to close his eyes to concentrate.

Usually, he just had to think about manipulating something if he could physically see it, but if not, he would have to shut his eyes, blocking out everything around him and visualizing the object in question doing what he wanted it to. Rarely would he be able to pull something like that off with his eyes open, surrounded by distractions, but since he’d just manipulated the gate a few seconds prior, he figured that took the edge off.

Behind him, Jack could hear the guy’s moment of realization, so he dropped his head and sped up. “Stop that guy! Stop that guy in the leather jacket, he’s got my wallet!”

Jack passed a stack of crates as he speed-walked away, and with a thought sent them tumbling behind him in case anyone actually did try to grab him. Hey, he thought, eyes open again! Maybe, his heightened abilities actually came from necessity instead of familiarity. Wouldn’t that be neat?

He had learned to pick simple locks with his eyes open, something he was pretty proud of. If he kept practicing—kept doing—he might be able to move anything, regardless of its visibility.

Cool, he grinned widely as he kept on walking. Though he had to admit, saying telekinesis was cool was a major understatement.

~~~

“Whoo! Okay Los Angeles, are we ready to end this thing?” Henley asked as she walked up the stairs, but it was more like an enthusiastic statement than a question. She took off her jacket and swung it around her head, throwing it out behind her.

“Yeah! When that timer hits zero, a tank full of flesh eating piranhas will fall from above,” she announced to the cheering crowd. “A lady has to have handcuffs, right girls?” she asked as her assistants chained her up.

Henley started counting, and the crowd joined in fervently. “One! Two! Three!” Her clothes were ripped off, revealing a glittery silver leotard, and the building erupted in cheers. She shook her hips playfully, a huge smile on her face, and the alarm signaling the start of the timer sounded. She took a breath, and the floor dropped out from under her.

Henley immediately set to work. For this to go according to plan, she only really had to free one hand, and she’d practiced that enough that she could do it in her sleep. She made a show of getting it unlocked, holding her hand up triumphantly.

 Now came the easier part—all she had to do was panic. She had about thirty five seconds left, and she rationed her air accordingly. She bent down, pulling and tugging at the chains on the bottom bars until she decided that was sufficient, then she started screaming. She beat on the glass, calling for help. It was kind of fun, playing damsel-in-distress while all these guys scrambled to try and save her. Of course they couldn’t; that pipe some guy found was never gonna break through her tank. And of course she wasn’t; she knew exactly what she was doing.

At the last few seconds, when she knew everyone would be in a frenzy trying to get her out, Henley bent down again, and the chain shifted from around the bars to fully in the tank with her. Blink and you would have missed it, and that’s exactly what Henley was counting on. That’s exactly what everyone would think they’d done.

The timer ended as she swam up, and she broke the surface with just enough time to catch her breath before the tank above her opened up, more water and piranhas raining down on her as she screamed again.

Except, they weren’t really piranhas. They were actually a school of juvenile pacu fish—they only looked like piranhas. A lot like them, actually, and their uncanny similarity (and herbivorous nature) was great for people like Henley.

Okay, this is it, she thought. Just a few more seconds and…

The red coloring started leaking upwards from the grate below her, pouring into the tank at the exact moment they’d planned.

As the red enveloped her, Henley closed her eyes, counted to three, and then focused on the back edge of the room.

When she opened them, she was there, by herself behind the crowd of mortified people facing the tank. She grinned, watching the ‘blood’ swirl around with the fish and the water pour over the top, admiring her handiwork for a few seconds. Then, she made her way unnoticed into the mass of people

 “Come on! Whoever thought of this is a sick sadist!” she shouted, and all eyes turned to her. The looks on the faces of the crowd went from horror to confusion to pure admiration in a matter of two seconds, and cheers broke out all around her. People started high fiving her, fist bumping her, congratulating her, and she just took it all in. She loved it, seeing the fear in their eyes, then it suddenly flipping to joy, all because of her trick. Maybe that did make her a sadist. Who knows?

After all of the praise and celebration was finished, Henley’s assistants came by with a towel. She loudly thanked everyone for coming, and they unfolded the towel in front of her. It was about as tall as her, just like she’d asked for.

“There’s only one thing left to say, and that’s ‘goodnight Los Angeles!’” she shouted, and the two tossed the towel over her, shielding her body entirely. Just as she felt it touch her skin, she teleported to the back room, so that it never actually stopped falling. It landed in a pile on the ground between the assistants where Henley used to be, and she smiled from the back as she heard the crowd go wild again.

She was an escape artist, alright—the best in the business. There wasn’t a setup in the world Henley couldn’t get out of.

And boy did she have fun with that.

Chapter Text

Danny was five years old when he first remembered seeing his parents fight.

He had no idea what it was about, but it was around the holidays. He had been sitting by their neatly decorated Christmas tree with his older sister, holding the colorfully wrapped presents up to their ears and shaking them to see if they could figure out what was inside. Then they heard shouts coming from the kitchen. Both of them had thought they were getting busted, dropping the presents and scrambling away from the tree, but when no one came, all they’d felt was confusion.

 No one came, but the shouting didn’t stop. Instead, it got louder, more heated, until they heard something shatter. Their mother had come flying out of the kitchen then, racing up the stairs and locking herself in their parents’ room.  Their dad walked out the front door, slamming it behind him, and Danny glanced up at his sister. She just looked afraid.

~~~

Their dad didn’t come back until two days later, and suddenly everything was different.

Danny’s parents fought constantly after that night, over small things, big things, important things, stupid things—it didn’t matter, as long as there was something to scream about.

At five years old, Danny spent a lot of time hiding out in small places in his house. Corners, cabinets, under tables, closets, he just wanted to get away. He hated the yelling. But he couldn’t make it stop. There was absolutely nothing he could say or do to make them stop. He was powerless.

It made no difference what he said, so he learned to say nothing at all. Less chance of him getting yelled at in the process, anyway. He had started school that year, made a few friends, but his life at home had been preoccupying him. He started putting up walls to block out the pain. His ‘don’t say anything’ attitude started becoming a part of who he was, and growing up he decided it was much easier that way. If he blocked everyone out, never let anyone in, then who was there to hurt him? He had seen what had happened between his parents; why would he ever want to experience that with other people?

He didn’t make many more new friends.

~~~

When Danny turned eight, his parents tried to throw him a birthday party.

Only one kid showed up. And his sister, but that didn’t really count. She lived there.

~~~

Three months later, his parents got a divorce. He spent god-knows-how-long listening to his parents fight about that, too. A lot of it was about him and his sister; who was going to go where, and when. For how long. Danny learned what the word ‘custody’ meant then.

To him, it was just another word his parents used to fight with. Another way they were controlling his life, giving no thought to how he might have felt, what he might have wanted.

One thing’s for sure: number one on that list would have been a childhood.

Instead, Danny just retreated further.

~~~

At ten years old, Danny’s father decided to take him to a magic show.

It was some poor excuse at father-son bonding time that wouldn’t actually require any effort on his father’s part, so no one could have predicted the effect it would have on him.

Danny was captivated.

Enamored.

Mesmerized.

He stared up at the guy doing tricks in front of them and in that moment he had never felt so alive.

He wanted to be that enthralling—to have crowds of people in awe at his every move. That guy had the entire crowd in the palm of his hand, to do whatever he pleased with. He could make them see whatever he wanted them to, regardless of whether it was actually there or not.

There was an aspect of… control that Danny had never felt before, and he realized that was what was missing.

After years of bouncing back and forth between houses, parents, schools, Danny had had absolutely no control over anything that was happening in his life.

Following the show, he begged his dad to buy him the tacky ‘magic starter kit’ the guy was selling, and he didn’t put it down until he was practically dragged out of his room for breakfast the next morning.

~~~

At twelve years old, Danny got beat up for the first time.

He had dealt with mild bullying before; teasing here, mean comments there. Exclusion was the name of the game, but Danny had gotten used to it. In all honesty, he had done it to himself anyways, it was just easier to ignore everyone when no one actually wanted to hang out with him.

He was in his second week of middle school, and apparently his nerdy, anti-social personality had offended some kid he’d never talked to (how, he had no idea). So he found himself getting attacked behind the building after school that day, with no one around to hear him or care.

He went home that night and hid in his room, snatching up his deck of cards and trying frantically to distract himself from the pain. He was trying to ground himself, trying to bring back any semblance of control in his life with those cards, with magic, but this was just a bitter reminder—a slap in the face from reality telling him to wake up, he wasn’t in control, he had never been in control and any idea he had had of maybe possibly having a bit of power in his life had just been an illusion, and damn if that thought hadn’t been painfully ironic.

His hands tightened on the cards, bending them where his fingers dug into their sleek surface.

No, he had no control, his parents had the control, the courts had the control his school had control his new bullies had control everyone in his fucking life had control over his life except for him and it hurt and he hated it and he just wanted a say for once in his life and where was his say when a kid twice his size was pounding his face in behind the school huh where was the fairness in that

And suddenly he realized he couldn’t breathe, his heart was racing, and his legs were pulled so tightly to his chest that the muscles in his body ached. He had tears pouring down his cheeks, and even after everything he’d been through just that day, he had never felt more afraid.

He couldn’t calm down, no matter how much he consciously tried, and that just made his breathing even shallower, his heart racing even faster. The room started spinning, and Danny wished with every fiber of his being that he would die, right then and there.

The first time Danny had a panic attack he cried for an hour afterwards, because, in the cruelest twist of all, that was the night he found out he didn’t even have control over his own body.

~~~

When Danny was fifteen, he got his first gig doing magic.

Well, sort of. He was getting paid to perform at one of his mom’s neighbor’s kid’s birthday parties. He was turning eight years old.

Danny almost felt bitter, but when he pulled out his new cards and started doing tricks for the kids, any idea of that washed completely away, and he dove into performer mode. The kids adored it, they were fascinated by his every move, and in that moment he drank in the power. He wanted them to look over there? Every one of them turned. He wanted them to pay attention here? All eyes stared intently. He wanted them to be amazed next? Cheers and joyful laughter filled the backyard. He grinned as he realized that for the time being, he actually held the crowd in the palm of his hand.

Sure, they were a bunch of eight year olds, but that didn’t matter. It was the principle of it that he was high on.

Finally, Danny knew what true control felt like.

~~~

Danny turned eighteen and graduated a month later. Within two days, he moved into his own apartment in New York City, and it was the most exhilarating thing he had ever done.

He got to pick where he lived.

He got to make the call to live alone.

He got to pick out what to put in his apartment, and where everything went.

He got to decide when was breakfast, lunch and dinner, what he was eating for the day, when he was going out or staying in, whether he talked to anyone that day or not.

Everything, for the first time ever, was completely and utterly up to him.

He had total control.

It was like a drug to him; Danny couldn’t get enough. He absolutely loved it. He was high on the control, as odd as that may seem. He loved it and soon he was addicted, couldn’t give it up.

He had to be in control.

~~~

At twenty four years old, Danny started making a name for himself in the magic industry. People actually knew who he was, and he moved up from doing street corner shows to actual venue performances. People paid for tickets just to watch him do magic. He was like the puppet master, the ringleader, the man in complete control of everything happening, both onstage and off. It was incredible. The people watching him never saw or felt anything unless he wanted them to. The people working for him were following his every order, and he knew where everyone and everything was at every moment. His show was a well-oiled machine that went off without a hitch nearly every single time, because Danny made sure he was always in control.

It really was a good thing. At least, that’s how he saw it.

~~~

It was just before Henley left that Danny came to realize how deeply ironic his life had become.

He was so obsessed with being in control, with never having to feel powerless or weak again, that whenever something went the slightest bit astray, he felt like he was in the middle of an earthquake of cosmic proportions. He chased the control so he wouldn’t ever have to feel like an outsider helplessly watching things happen in his life. Yet this made him feel more helpless and powerless than ever when something did go wrong. His anxiety loved to take over then, which ultimately just made him strive for more control in the future. It only got worse every time. He learned to micromanage everything, and only in the silence of night when he was lying in bed, alone and unable to sleep, would he ever entertain the idea that maybe his control issues were just that: issues.

Maybe he really had a problem, and maybe he was only making it worse with each passing day.

The next mornings he would drink his coffee and pretend those thoughts had never even crossed his mind. He was fine. Everything was fine. As long as he held the reigns, everything would be smooth sailing.

When Henley left, Danny lost a lot more than control. When Henley left, he knew he was fucked.

~~~

Danny rebuilt those walls around him with a vengeance. He’d let them down for her (stupid) and she had destroyed him for it. He’d let her in and she’d let him down. She was gone, she’d never given a fuck about him, and he had been a blind fool to think she had. This was what happened when he let go of the reigns, when he let go of some of his control for the sake of someone else. He knew, he knew from five years old that he never wanted to get close to people, because this is the shit they would do to him. If he had just kept a handle on himself, kept control, none of this would be happening. He wouldn’t feel like this.

God, he wished he didn’t feel like this.

He wished he didn’t feel anything at all.

~~~

A card.

A card was sitting on his table and it was like his whole future was sitting there with it. He pushed the now-forgotten girl off of his lap and grabbed it in hesitant fingers, like it might dissolve if he was too rough with it.

He turned it over in his hands. The Lovers. He thought that was ironic, because he would probably describe himself as literally anything else, but whatever. This is what all of his obsessing and controlling had gotten him; this is what he’d  been hoping for for years. He finally had it, he finally had a chance.

This is what would make everything worthwhile.

~~~

Danny sat in the middle of his bed in the apartment he shared with three other people in thought.

Sometimes he can’t help it; sometimes he gets lost in his thoughts. Now, he’s thinking about his life before this all.

Before the eye, before the plans. Before the other horsemen.

When they’d first become a team, Danny had had his walls up. They were built tall and thick, and he’d definitely put them up around Henley. He’d come to accept that their situation wasn’t actually all her fault; he knew it was both of them. He’d stopped hating her once he realized that, but that didn’t stop him from being weary with her.

But, she’d tried and tried to talk to him, to get to him, to bring back the Danny she once knew, and somehow he felt her pulling his walls down all over again. One brick at a time.

Merritt had sort of forced his way in with his mentalist tricks, pushing out pieces here and there. But he also had a way of calming Danny, as unnerving as he could sometimes be, and soon Danny found himself letting Merritt push out pieces of his walls here and there.

Jack was something else entirely. Danny had no idea what it was, whether it had to do with the kid’s idolization of him from the beginning or just his warm personality, but something about him was different than anything Danny had ever experienced before. Jack had clearly wanted to get inside those walls from the moment they’d met, so carefully constructed and maintained. He’d been determined to get past them.

Jack had walls of his own, that was for sure, but he let them all in. He wasn’t afraid to show them who he was once he decided he trusted them. They were all important to him. Maybe that in itself had something to do with it—Jack’s willingness to let Danny in.

But Jack had a way of almost handing Danny a sledgehammer and getting him to bust through his own walls, instead of just passively letting Jack do it. And he actually wanted to. He wanted to tear down those barriers if it meant he could be closer to Jack, and Merritt and Henley too, he’d realized.

He realized that for the first time in his life, he loved people out of something other than familial obligation. He’d let them in and only been happier for it. Things outside of his control were actually going right for once, and it was amazing.

“Ahem…” Merritt cleared his throat from the doorway. Danny blinked a few times and looked up at him.

“What?” he asked, his voice quiet and distracted.

“Are you alright?” Merritt asked hesitantly, still hovering in the doorway.

Danny squinted in confusion briefly. “It’s just… you’ve been staring at that wall for at least two minutes that I’ve seen, even though so far nothing interesting’s happened,” he added.

Danny half smiled and looked down at his hands. “Just thinking.”

“Uh huh. And do you always have to be all secluded for that, Mr. broody-pants?” Merritt said as he walked into the room, laying down across the empty space on the bed next to Danny, who paused for a moment.

“No… not anymore,” he said, locking eyes with Merritt again. He gave him a look like he didn’t quite understand what Danny was getting at, propping himself up on his elbows.

Before he could say anything, Danny leaned forward slowly, laying his hand against Merritt’s cheek and kissing him softly. Merritt was taken a little by surprise, but he let his eyes fall shut as he slid his hand to the back of Danny’s neck.

Danny pushed down gently until Merritt was laying against the bed again, slotting their lips together slowly and deliberately. Merritt wound an arm around his back and tilted his head slightly. Danny tried to throw all of the emotions he could into kissing Merritt, hoping he was getting the picture.

After a few minutes, Danny pulled back, (though neither of them really wanted to).

Merritt grinned. “What exactly were you thinking so intently about before?” Danny just looked down at him in contemplation. He leaned in and kissed him again, once, twice, then—

“I love you,” Danny said, not a hint of sarcasm or humor in his voice. Merritt’s grin faltered, and his mouth stayed open in shock.

“…I… wow,” he muttered. “Of all the things you could have said there, that was not at all what I was expecting,” he chuckled.

Danny let out a small smile. “Yeah well… I do.”

Merritt stared at him for another second before leaning up and kissing him again. “I love you,” he mumbled back, their lips lingering close. Danny’s smile grew, and he closed his eyes and leaned forward again.

Chapter Text

The moment Henley and Daniel entered the building, Merritt knew.

Merritt knew that he wasn’t the only one chosen for this thing, but more importantly, he knew that he wasn’t alone anymore. It only took him about ten seconds to realize that they both had powers, like him. Never in his life had he met others with abilities (aside from his twin brother, that is), so when they finally reached him, he couldn’t help the look of surprise he still wore. They looked a little taken off guard as well, and he could immediately feel them tense up. They had no intentions of telling him about their powers just yet, but that was fine. He knew how to play the game—he’d been doing it his whole life; just grin, be a little sarcastic, drop a few cheesy-yet-oddly-charming lines and pretend.

When Jack got there, it was obvious that they weren’t ready to play show and tell, so Merritt kept what he knew to himself. They watched as Jack knelt down and made a show out of picking the lock, but Merritt saw how he really did it, and he was impressed. He wondered what else this kid could do.

When they got in the apartment and were faced with the blueprints displayed in front of them, they were all in awe. The shows seemed incredible, unbelievable, and downright impossible. The instructions only showed the end goal—what the audience would see. There was nothing about how they were supposed to actually pull it off. Jack glanced around at the people in the room with him. Sure, he could do some pretty cool things with his telekinesis and all, could handle some of the parts of these tricks, but definitely not all of them.

He felt his heart sink at the idea of not being able to go through with this. Those plans were amazing, and he knew they could get some of it done, but it wasn’t enough. His powers couldn’t get a person from their stage to a bank vault, after all.

“So… this is, uh…” Merritt started.

“Uh huh,” Danny nodded slowly. Henley glanced over at him and they exchanged a meaningful look.

“What do we do?” she asked, finally pulling her eyes away and looking around at the other two. “Some of this stuff… there’s just no way.”

There was a certain tension in the room that Jack just couldn’t place. Or maybe, that was just him projecting. He was certainly feeling tense at the moment. Danny realized he was holding his breath in anticipation of what was to come. He let out a sigh, weighing his options in the situation at hand. He could expose himself (also inevitably outing Henley) with the hopes that maybe their powers and the others’ magician skills could combine to pull off some of the tricks in these plans. Or, he could turn around, walk away, and miss out on one of the greatest career opportunities of his lifetime.

Henley could see the wheels turning in Danny’s head, but Merritt could actually see them. His lips twitched upwards into the smallest semblance of a smirk, one that Danny noticed. It made him think twice about revealing his secrets to these strangers (of course, Merritt saw that, too).

Jack glanced around the room again and bit his lip. He could feel his heart rate accelerating. This was now or never, and he needed to make up his mind.

Merritt glanced sidelong at him and decided to help him along. “Well, as fun as this little excursion has been, I really don’t see how we can pull this off.”

In that moment, Danny decided, too, and ran his hand through his hair. “I agree. So I guess we just… go home now.”

Henley closed her eyes in resignation, sighing quietly, but at that moment—

“I-I can move things with my mind!”

Henley inhaled sharply and her eyes shot open again. Jack looked like a ball of nerves in that moment, picking frantically at the seams on his jacket and staring intently at the floor. She then glanced over at Danny, whose mouth hung open in shock. She could see a hundred different thoughts and emotions flickering across his face, no doubt the same ones reflected on her own. Merritt, however, just grinned.

Seconds of silence passed, but it felt like minutes. “Well, somebody say something,” Jack muttered, looking disheartened and a little afraid.

“I… you can what?” Henley said, blinking a few times to regain her composure.

“You know, like telekinesis? Actually it is telekinesis, but whatever. I have that,” he said quietly.

“You’re kidding…” Danny all but whispered. Suddenly, the vase with the rose started sliding slowly across the floor, making a loud grating noise until it stopped in front of Jack. He held out his hand and the rose floated upwards. He reached out and grasped it delicately between his fingers.

“I’m not kidding,” he replied, significantly more confident at the expressions of awe on all of their faces. He even smiled a little.

Silence filled the room for a few seconds and then Henley cleared her throat. She glanced over at Danny, who looked anxious, and she nodded slightly. Then, she was gone.

Jack’s eyes grew wide and the rose fell to the floor. A smirk spread across Danny’s face, and even Merritt, who knew fully what she was doing, still wore a look of appreciation.

“Where…” Jack started, but was cut off by Henley tapping on his shoulder from behind. He whipped around and they were suddenly face to face, only inches apart.

“I can teleport,” she said, smiling proudly at the look on his face. The shock slowly turned to delight, and a wide grin spread across his face. He became aware of how close they were, his eyes flickering down to her lips briefly. She laughed silently.

“That’s insane,” he mumbled. Jack took a step back and turned to face the other two, an eyebrow raised in question. A moment passed before Danny spoke up.

“I, uh, I can create illusions. Make people see whatever I want them to.”

Jack faltered, his breath catching in his throat. “Wait a minute… so, J. Daniel Atlas… the great illusionist…” Jack trailed off, eyes wide again.

“Is a fake?” Danny finished for him. “Sorry,” he looked down, not really sounding sorry in the slightest.

“I was gonna say ‘incredible,’” Jack breathed, and Danny’s eyes shot up to meet his again. A half-smile appeared on his face, Jack matching it with his own grin. Suddenly, a dozen roses appeared in the vase at Jack’s feet. He looked down at them, glancing back up at Danny, then down again, and suddenly the bulbs unfolded, each one presenting a card in their midst. Jack glanced around the room, laughing in disbelief.

“You guys see this too, right?”

Henley just grinned from next to Danny (when did she get back there? Jack couldn’t recall). “Nope.”

Jack looked back at the flowers, crouching down in front of them. He realized they were all Jacks and he smiled widely. “Can I touch ‘em? Or does it not work like that?” he asked.

Danny just shrugged. “You can if I want you to.” He nodded at them, encouraging him to try, and Jack reached out hesitantly. He ran his finger over the pedals of the closest rose, then the card it held. He exhaled sharply, then stood back up.

“That’s unbelievable,” Jack said, almost giddy.

Danny peeled his eyes away after a few seconds, next looking to Merritt. “So clearly there’s a pattern here—what’s your deal?”

Merritt just smirked. “I’m telepathic.” He waited a few seconds for the implications to sink in. Henley was the first one to get there, and Merritt knew it the moment she did.

“Wait a minute… so you knew? About all of us?” she said accusingly. He just smiled sheepishly.

“Sorry?” he shrugged.

Danny looked around in disbelief. “I was ready to walk out of here and you knew? Why didn’t you just say ‘hey, we’ve all got powers, we can do these shows’?”

Merritt crossed his arms. “When you live with a power like mine for so many years, you learn a lot of secrets about people. You don’t just go spilling them, even if it would seem easier. You have to let people get there on their own.”

Danny looked like he wanted to protest, but Jack spoke up before he could. “So you can read all of our minds? Like, everything we’re thinking?” he asked.

“Mhmm. And, not to freak you out or anything, but I can read your memories too. Though that takes conscious effort.” Jack couldn’t tell whether to be impressed or afraid, and of course Merritt felt it.

Don’t worry, I have no desire to go digging around through your heads any more than you want me to. But certain things I can’t help.

Danny blinked rapidly, and Henley inhaled sharply. Jack’s eyes fluttered around the room, finally landing on Merritt. Eventually, a smile spread across Jack’s face. Neat, he thought.

Thanks, Merritt thought back, and Jack’s smile just grew.

“So, what I’m hearing is we can actually do these shows?” Henley asked hopefully, her eyes gleaming.

“You know, I think we just might be able to,” Danny said, looking back to the instructions.

“It’s gonna take a lot of planning and practice,” Merritt threw out. “But we do have a whole year to work on it.”

Jack looked around at each one of them, excitement filling his mind. “Then, what are we waiting for?”

Chapter Text

Before they first started performing together, each of the horsemen had their own variations of pre-show rituals.

Danny would always pull out his deck of cards and shuffle through them, practicing all of the showy little tricks he had picked up over the years. Even if it was completely irrelevant to the performance, it helped loosen up his fingers, get him in the right frame of mind, calm him down, etc.

Jack would flip through his old game cards, thinking about his past and his family. Of course, his ‘shows’ tended to consist of background tricks while he pickpocketed someone, but he used the cards to muster up the courage to do what he had to. Sometimes, he would apologize for whoever he was about to steal from, and hope his mom could hear him, wherever she was. He hoped she would understand.

Henley liked to time how long it took her to get out of a pair of handcuffs before her shows. She always kept them handy (like any sane escape artist, she would say), and it helped her get in the zone. So far, her record was just over eight seconds.

Merritt had a string of tongue twisters he always recited before every show. He’d done it for so many years that it became second nature; he didn’t even think about it, just started mumbling through them. Most of his tricks involved directed tone, precise diction, and particular rhythm, so he was, in essence, warming up. The first time the others had seen him doing it, they’d thought he’d gone crazy.

When the Four Horsemen began doing shows together, they kept their rituals. It was a little different, having three other people around to share the stage with (and to watch them while they got ready), but eventually they adapted. It wasn’t until their third show together that Merritt decided they should make a new ritual. After he’d rattled off his usual lines, he walked over to where the other three were getting ready and extended his arm straight out, palm facing down. Jack frowned, and Danny quirked an eyebrow at him without halting his shuffling.

“Come on guys, hands in,” Merritt prodded.

Henley smirked at him. “Really?” she asked.

He nodded once. “Really.”

She just shrugged her shoulders and placed her hand on top of his. They both glanced over at Jack, who was staring at them contemplatively. “Come on kid, don’t leave us hangin’,” Merritt grinned. Eventually, Jack smiled and walked over, laying his hand over Henley’s.

“Danny?” Jack said hopefully, and he finally stopped with the cards.

“You guys are kidding, right?” he said, his voice full of amusement.

“Apparently not,” Henley laughed.

Danny shook his head, but shoved his cards in his jacket pocket and walked over anyways. “This is the single most clichéd thing we could be doing right now,” he muttered, placing his hand in the middle with everyone else’s. “What are we even gonna say? ‘Go Horsemen’?” he asked sarcastically.

Merritt pursed his lips. “Well, I hadn’t really thought that far yet, I was kind of just winging this,” he grinned.

“Great, now we just look like idiots,” Danny complained, a smirk on his face.

“Peanut butter,” Henley said plainly. Everyone looked to her questioningly.

“Peanut butter on three?” she tried again for clarity. Jack broke into a grin.

“I like that, let’s do it.”

Danny scoffed, but didn’t oppose, so Merritt counted them off. On “three,” they all threw their hands in the air and shouted “peanut butter.”

“Well that was ridiculous,” Danny said, turning away from them. Merritt just shook his head fondly.

A few seconds later, they walked out and began their show, a small smile lingering on all of their faces.

From that point on, it was just tradition.

Chapter Text

“Alright, just, explain it one more time?”

Jack rolled his eyes fondly and crossed his arms, leaning against the arm of the couch Dylan had procured for the Horsemen’s warehouse/meeting space.

“For the twentieth time, you just flick your wrist down at an angle really fast,” Jack smirked.

Merritt nodded along with false enthusiasm. “Uh huh, that’s lovely, thank you, but could you maybe explain it differently from the past nineteen times?”

“That’s it, there’s no other way to explain it,” Jack laughed. He saw Danny smirk as he crossed the empty space of the room to sit down at the old piano a few feet over. It was funny; no one really knew where it came from, it was just there when they first showed up. If anything, it owned the place more than they did. God knows it was ancient enough to.

Danny seemed to enjoy it though. Every time they would meet up, he would find himself drawn over to it at least once before the end of the day. The first time, the other four had been surprised to find out he played.

He’d given a generic ‘I’m full of surprises’ and that had been the end of that conversation.

Merritt gave the card throwing another try, and to the shock of everyone in the room, it soared far, lodging itself into the wall a few yards away. A look of glee spread across Merritt’s features, and Danny applauded lightly.

“Please tell me someone got that on video,” Henley joked as she joined Dylan at the table in the center of the room.

“That was great! But can you do it again?” Jack asked, leaning forward and handing Merritt another card. He just grinned cockily.

“Watch me.”

Dylan fumbled around in his pocket and pulled out his phone. “Wait wait wait,” he urged. Everyone turned to look at him expectantly as he pulled up the camera and held it up. “Okay, go.”

Jack smiled. “Pressure’s on, old man.” Merritt squinted his eyes, but ignored the comment and elected to focus on the wall in front of him.

After a five second pause and an exaggerated stretching routine, Merritt pulled back and flicked his wrist, the card slicing a path through the air in front of him and sticking in the wall immediately above the last one.

Merritt threw his hands in the air, and Henley let out a cheer in surprise. Dylan panned the video over to her face, and she looked away laughing.

Merritt turned to Jack with a smug grin.

“I… don’t know what to say,” Jack laughed breathlessly.

Merritt pursed his lips for a moment. “Anything you can do I can do better,” he half-taunted, half sang.

Danny laughed from behind him, so he went on.

“I can do anything better than you,” he sang, poking Jack in the chest.

He squinted at Merritt. “No you can’t,” he said slowly.

“Yes I can.”

“No you can’t.”

“Yes I can, yes I caaaaan,” Merritt finished, and Henley laughed in joy.

Suddenly, Danny started mirroring the notes they’d just sang on the piano in front of him. Dylan turned the camera towards him.

“Don’t stop,” he nodded towards Jack and Merritt. “My school did Annie Get Your Gun junior year.”

Merritt just shrugged and turned back to Jack, who looked amused. He plucked another card from his pocket and strode into the center. He spun around to face Dylan’s camera. “Anything you can be, I can be greater. Sooner or later I’m greater than you,” he sang as Danny played along, then spun back to face the new practice wall.

“No you’re not,” Merritt interrupted.

“Yes I am,” he sang back, not looking away from the wall.

“No you’re not.”

“Yes I am.”

“No you’re not.”

“Yes I am, yes I am,” Jack emphasized as he leaned his whole body into the throw. The card cut through the air and then both of the cards sticking out of the wall. Dylan whistled in appreciation, and Danny’s playing faltered for a moment.

Jack turned back to Merritt. “I can shoot a partridge with a single cartridge,” he half-sang, his eyebrows raised in challenge.

Merritt’s mouth opened, but he shut it in thought and just shrugged instead.

“I can get a sparrow with a bow and arrow,” Henley supplied, and Dylan spun the camera towards her. She just laughed and pushed his hands away.

“That’s it, that’s all I know,” Jack smiled.

“I can live on bread and cheese,” Danny mumbled, barely audible.

“And only on that?” Henley responded.

He smirked. “Yep.”

“So can a rat,” she deadpanned, sauntering over to him and leaning against the piano as he played on.

Jack and Merritt grinned as Dylan moved over next to them to get a better angle on the other two.

“Any note you can sing I can sing higher,” Danny sang, louder this time.

“I can sing any note higher than you,” Henley continued sweetly.

“No you can’t.”

“Yes I can.”

“No you can’t.”

“Yes I can,” Henley grinned.

“No you can’t.”

“Yes I can.”

“No you can’t,” Danny cringed slightly, the note just barely in his range.

“Yes I caaaaaaan,” Henley sang, her eyes shut in concentration as she held the high note perfectly. When she finished, she inhaled deeply and opened her eyes to fierce applause from the other four. Their faces were plastered with grins a mile wide each.

She blushed slightly and gave a small bow, as Jack shouted “encore!” from across the room. She and Danny laughed, and Henley waved him off.

“That’s as much as I know. Though I could probably do Defying Gravity for you sometime,” she joked.

Dylan tucked his phone away and smirked. “Looking forward to it.”

~~~

A few hours later, Henley was back home on the internet when she stumbled across a post about the new Four Horsemen video. Curios, she searched around until she realized it was on their own official channel, and it was entitled ‘Behind the Scenes.’ She clicked on it and watched for a few seconds before she realized it was the video Dylan had taken of the four of them earlier. She grinned and pulled out her phone.

You put us on youtube?

A few seconds later,

You bet .You should check out the comments, people loved it.

She grinned again and looked back to her computer. It had only been up for half an hour, but it already had over a thousand views. She scrolled down to comments and couldn’t help but laugh at some of them. They were overwhelmingly sweet, and there were at least ten begging them to video her actually singing Defying Gravity.

Henley went about the rest of her night humming show tunes with a small smile on her face.

Chapter Text

Jack loved the rain.

He loved the sound as it trickled down across rooftops, splashing rhythmically against the pavement. He loved watching it as it rolled down the window glass, obscuring the view of the city in a veil of mist. He loved strolling through it, feeling the light, cool drops kiss his skin as he wandered around aimlessly. He loved the smell, the taste, the ambience—everything. Jack was happy when it was raining.


Danny hated the rain.

Rain meant an unaccounted for setback, a wrench thrown into his plans that served no purpose other than to mess him up. He couldn't control when it rained, it just happened, and at the worst times. Rain made getting places take longer, made plans get postponed, made performances get cancelled. When it rained, Danny couldn't leave his apartment, which in itself caused a whole slew of new problems. And if he was already out, it meant he had to get wet to get home. Rain was just an inconvenience that Danny was certain the universe only threw at him for the sake of screwing him over. The very insinuation of rain made him tense up slightly. Even if it had no impact on him or his plans whatsoever, Danny was always a little upset when it was raining.


Henley was afraid of the rain.

Well, not really the rain so much, but more of what came with it. Rainfall meant roads were slick, slippery. Dangerous. Rainfall meant it was dark, the drops lightening-fast and hitting the windshield like little bullets. It meant losing control of a car, swerving in a desperate attempt to regain steadiness through the blinding torrents of rain pouring down all around. It was glass, shattered all over the road. It was two cars, spun out in a ditch, their occupants barely hanging on to the last shreds of consciousness. It was a phone call on an otherwise normal afternoon, a “you're brother’s been in an accident.” It had been years, and he’d long since recovered, but Henley still hadn't. Not fully. She was getting better about it each time, but Henley was still a bit nervous when it was raining.


Merritt missed the rain.

Not that they didn't get rain in New York, of course. But it was a different kind of rain. When it rained in New Orleans, it rained with a vengeance, and it felt like home. Every time it rained, it was as if a flood of memories came pouring down too, washing over him in a wave of nostalgia. He felt more pleasant than melancholic, though. It was almost, almost, like having a little piece of home there with him. It was comforting, at the very least. When the four of them made their way out to Vegas, Merritt really missed the rain. But until then, Merritt felt just a tad sentimental when it was raining.


Jack liked to curl up under his sheets with a cup of coffee and read, the rain serving as background noise. He was content.

Danny liked to sulk around grumpily for a while, but he would almost always find his way to Jack’s room eventually. On the outside, he couldn't possibly understand why Jack liked the rain so much. It just didn't make sense. He couldn't figure out why he would gravitate towards that, either. Maybe subconsciously, part of Danny wanted to soak up some of the joy and homeliness Jack radiated when it rained, wanted to envelope himself in it.

He would just huff lightly as he threw himself on the bed, muttering some complaint about the weather.

Jack would just smile and wrap his arm around Danny, pulling him closer and listening to the quiet sounds of the rain.


Merritt liked to stare out the window as people hurried by on the streets below, the rain drops leaving little trails in their wake as they rolled down out of view. He was thinking.

Henley liked to hang out in the kitchen. There weren't windows in the kitchen, and the sound was the quietest. Eventually, though, she would decide she was being ridiculous, that if she could survive high stakes and dangerous escape routines, she could survive a little rain.

Henley would walk out and find Merritt standing there, staring dreamily out the window, and ask him what was on his mind.

Merritt would sit and tell her stories about his home, his past, his childhood. She would smile a little, her hand cradled gently in his lap, and they would watch the rain fall together.