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Four: Under the Host

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You know what they say about vodka...
One’s alright
Two’s the most
Three: under the table
Four: under the host

- Mr Humphries, Are You Being Served


 “Jack’s pretty,” Merritt sighed drunkenly before taking a gulp of his beer. It had been preceded by several other beers and that wasn’t even taking the shots into account.

Danny sighed and rested his head on Merritt’s shoulder like a lovesick teenage girl. He was similarly drunk.

“He is,” Danny agreed, slurring his words. “But like a manly pretty, you know? Like the type that could push you up against a wall and pin your hands above your head and–“

There was a cough from across the other side of the room.

Merritt sighed again, letting his head drop on top of Danny’s.

“He’s so manly-pretty.”

It had been Merritt’s idea to open up the liquor cupboard that night. After complaining that he missed his all you can eat buffet and the phenomenal bar that accompanied it, Merritt had encouraged the others to join him in a drink. Danny had initially been difficult to convince, but after some goading from Merritt he had relented. The two had spent the good part of a few hours challenging each other to drinking games, arguing over the results when they lost and slipping deeper and deeper into a drunken state. Although Jack and Henley had also joined them in a drink, the pair had paced themselves and were nowhere near Merritt and Danny’s level of drunkenness and had left them to their own devices.

“He has pretty lips,” Danny continued to Merritt. Merritt nodded his head from atop its place on Danny’s head. “I wonder what they feel like.”

“Like two soft and delicate angels,” Merritt breathed in a daze. “They would taste like heaven itself.”

Danny snorted. “They would taste like fire – hot and intense and addictive to play with. Not that you’ll ever find out.”

Merritt sat up sharply, taking another gulp of his beer in indignation.

“And you think he’d kiss you, Atlas?”

Danny sat up straighter and puffed out his chest.

“Of course,” he boasted, “and let’s face it, if he had to choose between kissing you and kissing me, he would choose me every time.”

Merritt gasped. “That’s not true! You take that back.”

He drunkenly gave Danny’s chest a half-hearted shove.

Danny giggled. “Didn’t hurt.”

“Wasn’t supposed to,” Merritt retorted. “You got 45 percent power because you’re drunk and I like you and I feel bad for you that Jack would kiss me and not you.”

Danny laughed again. “You’re drunk.”

Merritt joined him in his laughter.

“I am,” Merritt laughed before quietening and holding a finger up to his lips. “Shhh, don’t tell anyone.”

Henley rolled her eyes from across the room. The whole state of New York probably knew the pair were drunk with the way they were carrying on.

Danny let out a deep breath and slumped down the wall again.

“Do you think Jack thinks I’m better looking than you?”

Merritt snorted. “And why would he think that?”

Danny lazily patted his hair, smirking all the while. Merritt copied the act on himself, a look horror coming over his face when his hand met bare skin. He turned to Danny, his face completely serious.

“But, Danny, I have a hat.”

“But Jack doesn’t like hats, he likes me,” Danny argued stubbornly.

“Nah uh,” Merritt shot back. “He likes me and he would kiss me because he knows that I am more attractive and have more sexual prowess than you could ever dream of having.”

Danny’s mouth fell open, unable to come up with a retort. In truth, his mind was busy conjuring up hundreds of situations in which Merritt was showing him the extent of his expertise.  Merritt grinned smugly, satisfied that he had won this round.

“I don’t believe you,” Danny said, coming to his senses. He looked across the room. “Henley, tell him that Jack would rather kiss me than kiss him.”

He jerked his hand roughly in Merritt’s direction, ignoring the older man’s mutterings of “tattle tale”.

“Hey, leave me out of this,” Henley responded as she sipped at what was only her second beer. She was glad that the heat was off her and on Danny, leaving her free to drink at her own leisure and not because of some testosterone induced need to compete. She did not need to get smashed and make a fool of herself like these two.

“She’s just too polite to say he would pick me, no question about it,” Merritt reasoned, his voice falling to what could only be described as the loudest whisper Henley had ever heard. “She cares about your feelings.”

Danny screwed up his nose in disgust. “I don’t have feelings. You have feelings.”

He paused for a moment before looking up at Merritt from where he was slumped against Merritt on the floor, his eyes wide with wonder.

“Merritt, what do you feel?”

“I feel.... I feel...” Merritt began, a grin spreading onto his face. “I feel Jack.”

He placed his hand on his heart, his eyes full of tenderness. Danny frowned.

“You don’t feel Jack, you feel me,” he retorted from his place cuddled up against Merritt’s side. “It’s my head on your stomach, Merritt, and that’s my hand. That’s my hand, Merritt!”

He slapped his hand against Merritt’s hip for emphasis. 

“You know who else has hands, Danny?” Merritt asked, his voice falling to a whisper.

Danny looked up with intense curiosity.

“Who?” he breathed like Merritt had the answer to life’s greatest mystery.

Merritt beckoned him closer.

“Jack,” he whispered, a smile spreading onto his face.

“They’re such beautiful manly hands,” Danny agreed. “But you’ll never get to feel them because he’s only going to kiss me.”

“That’s not true!” Merritt whined. “Heeeenleeeey.”

“I’m not part of this,” she reminded them with mirth in her voice. “I have no say in who Jack would or wouldn’t kiss. That’s not up to me.”

“Jack would kiss me,” Merritt said decisively with a sharp nod of his head.

“Jack would kiss me,” Danny argued back.

“Jack can hear you, you know,” Jack piped up from the corner. Like Henley, he had retained some degree of sobriety throughout the evening and had amused himself with watching the two Horsemen bicker amongst themselves.

“Jack!” Merritt exclaimed like all his childhood Christmases had come at once and he’d just met Santa Claus. “Danny, look, it’s Jack!”

“Jack, we were just talking about you,” Danny added, trying to sit up and look cool – failing dismally, of course. 

Merritt slapped his hand over Danny’s mouth. “Shhh, don’t tell him what we said.”

Danny pushed Merritt off and looked back over at Jack. “Jack, which one of us would you kiss if you had to kiss one of us?”

“Yeah, Jack, who would you kiss?” Merritt, leaning forwards eagerly and holding his face in the palms of his hands, elbows resting on his thighs.

Jack stood up and walked slowly across the room, a feat which neither Merritt nor Danny would have been able to achieve.

“Who would I kiss?” Jack pondered to himself, smirking as the two drunken men watched him from the floor. “Who would I pick?”

“Pick me! Pick me!” Merritt chanted, raising his hand up in the air like a school boy.

“No, pick me!” Danny said, reaching his hand up and trying to bat Merritt’s out of the way.

“I pick... Henley,” Jack said with a smirk, depositing himself down on the armrest of her chair.

Henley chuckled and held up her beer to clink it against Jack’s. Jack downed the last of his and put the empty bottle on the floor.

“But, Jack,” Merritt replied, sounding both parts confused and like a rejected puppy, “you don’t like girls.”

He immediately clamped his hand over his mouth, remembering that he’d learnt that fact through mentalism, not any sort of coming out party.

Danny laughed. “Merritt, I think everyone knows that.”

It hadn’t exactly been the most difficult deduction to make. Jack just smirked and tried to hold back a laugh. When you lived in close quarters with people for as long as the four of them had been together, there weren’t many secrets between you.

“So Jack wouldn’t kiss Henley,” Danny reasoned, straight back to business, “which means it’s back to being between you and me, Merritt.”

Jack made a point to look both men straight in the eye before he turned to Henley, took her chin in his hands and pressed his lips to hers for what could only be described as a fleeting moment.

Danny’s mouth fell open in shock. He actually did it. It could be said that the four of them had been edging around a casual flirtation that they’d had going – or not so casual in Merritt’s case – but no one had actually made a serious move so far. There seemed to be a line drawn and an unspoken agreement not to cross it. Well, there was until Merritt had broken out the vodka.

“Nup, doesn’t count,” Merritt argued stubbornly, “doesn’t count,‘s no tongue.”

After shooting him a look at mock indignation and glancing at Henley for a nod of approval, Jack pulled her in for a deep open mouthed kiss, making them see just how much it counted.

“Well, damn, Jack likes girls!” Merritt exclaimed, pride in his voice but jealous all the same.

“I like Henley,” Jack corrected, blushing a little.

“And I like you, Jack,” Henley added, bringing her arm around his waist.

“And I like Henley and I like Jack,” Merritt slurred, grinning up at them.

“Doesn’t anyone like me?” Danny asked, the hurt in his voice not entirely feigned.

“No!” came three identical responses. Danny pouted and folded his arms.

A grin slowly started to spread on Merritt’s face before he pounced on Danny, pinning him to the ground beneath him and latching onto his lips.

“Well that’s been waiting to happen for the last three hours,” Henley said dryly though with a hint of amusement written on her face.

Jack laughed. “Nah, that’s been building up for months. Hell, it’s probably been waiting to happen since they first met.”

“Do you think we should...” Henley trailed off, watching as Merritt ground his hips into Danny’s and Danny hooked a leg up over him.

“Nah, let them get it out of their systems,” Jack replied. “Can you imagine living with them if they don’t?”

“I was going to say should we leave them to it?” Henley clarified. Jack shrugged. He hadn’t taken his eyes off the pair since they’d started.

Danny had managed to flip them, straddling Merritt. He pulled away, breathless.

“You’re right,” he panted. “Jack would want to kiss you.”

“Damn right, he’d want to kiss me. I tried to tell you that,” Merritt retorted, using Danny’s moment of distraction to flip them again. This only led to the two of them rolling around on the ground, using every moment that their lips weren’t attached to argue over who Jack would or wouldn’t kiss.

“On second thoughts...” Henley countered, trailing off as she watched them wrestle.

Jack sighed and walked over to the pair of them, pulling them both apart by their collars like he was about to reprimand them. He crouched in front of the guilty pair.

“Alright,” Jack began, looking from one Horsemen to the other. “Danny, I would absolutely, definitely love to kiss you.”

With that, he leant in and gave Danny what he had been yearning for all this time. It was a soft and tender kiss, taking his time to make him feel appreciated. When he pulled away, Danny had a look of awe and disbelief in his eyes. Boy, if he could remember this the next day, he would be a happy man.

“And Merritt,” Jack continued, turning towards the man who was looking rather defeated and lonely. “If your kissing skills are half as good as I imagine, then I don’t think I’ll be able to keep my lips off you.”

A grin slowly spread on Merritt’s face at Jack’s words.

“Come here,” he growled pulling Jack to him by the scruff of his neck and showing him just why he thought himself the better choice for Jack to kiss. It wasn’t long before a stray, enthusiastic hand found its way to Jack’s ass, pulling him on top of him and sending the pair of them sprawling back to the ground.

Jack laughed and looked over to the chair. “Henley, get over here!”

Henley chuckled and rolled her eyes but obliged. She was just as much a part of this, whatever it was, as the boys.

Merritt looked up as she walked towards him, his drunken mind in a state of amazement like he’d never noticed her before. He nudged Jack, kicking at Danny to get his attention and nodded in her direction.  

“Henley’s pretty,” Merritt sighed.