“Well this is a little awkward,” Merritt said, a light blush on his cheeks and bashfulness in his words.
It was The Eye’s annual fancy dress Christmas party and the first time the Horsemen had been invited to such an event. There was so much secrecy surrounding The Eye and its members that only the highest ranked were privy to anything greater than ‘need to know’ and not one single person had a complete knowledge of the workings of The Eye. But the Horsemen had been deemed trustworthy and important enough to get an invitation to the Christmas party. It was quite the honour.
“What’s awkward?” Daniel asked as he walked into the room, immediately noticing the outfits. “Oh, that is awkward.”
Ignoring Danny’s confirmation, Merritt took one look at Danny and burst out laughing.
“You’re a fucking elf,” he managed to get out, doubled over with laughter.
Jack giggled along too though he managed to retain some of his composure.
“Firstly, I’m not a ‘fucking elf’,” Danny protested. “Haven’t you ever seen The Santa Clause? I’m the head elf – Bernard.”
This just set Merritt off again.
“He’s given himself a fucking elf name,” Merritt gasped, slapping his thigh in mirth.
“It’s not an elf name, it’s a regular name that happens to belong to an elf,” Danny argued. “Besides, it’s nowhere near as embarrassing as wearing the same outfit as your boyfriend and not even wearing it better.”
It was true. Jack and Merritt were, completely coincidentally, dressed in the same costume. Well, they were the same costume in the sense that a Sphinx and a Siamese wore the same costume of being a cat but looked completely different. They’d gone for the classic: Santa Clause. As to who wore it better, well, that was a matter of opinion. Jack had gone for the sexy Santa Claus one might expect a stripper to wear. He was devoid of a shirt, wearing only the red and white shorts and the hat. Merritt, on the other hand, had gone for a more traditional outfit – the full pants, jacket, hat and beard ensemble. The difference between the outfits was striking.
“Oooh, that’s awkward,” Lula said to Merritt and Jack as she shuffled out to join them. Her shuffling was on account of her oversized costume.
“Says the one dressed as a giant gingerbread woman,” Jack teased.
Lula shrugged. “I love gingerbread.”
“Everyone loves gingerbread. It doesn’t mean you dress up as it,” Danny interjected.
“Ignore the little elf,” said Merritt, “I think you look fantastic. Very original.”
“Yeah, speaking of original, I really don’t get why you two are wearing matching outfits.”
“Great minds?” Merritt quoted with a shrug.
“If that were true, you’d all be dressed as Bernard for Dylan,” Danny replied cockily.
Merritt just raised his eyebrow.
“Careful now, Daniel, your man crush is showing.”
Danny blushed. Dylan wasn’t the sole reason he’d chosen that costume, but he was about 99% of it. Santa has just seemed like the most obvious choice for Dylan to go as and so naturally Danny wanted to make it clear he was Dylan’s right hand man. But of course Merritt and Jack had to go and ruin it with their silly costumes.
“I told you we should have coordinated costumes,” Jack sighed, as they walked into the room where the party was being held.
“I wanted you to be surprised,” Merritt explained, unwilling to admit that Jack had a point.
“Well I’m definitely surprised,” Jack muttered.
“If anyone notices we’ll just say you’re Santa and I’m Father Christmas,” said Merritt.
“Just throwing this out there, but I think someone might notice,” Lula chimed in.
The party was in full swing as they entered. Dozens of magicians in fancy dress mingled around the room, creating an atmosphere full of merriment.
Merritt immediately zeroed in on the drinks table, making a beeline for it and starting to sample its contents. He returned to the others a few minutes later with a cup in his hand and a report on the drink situation.
“The wine’s shit, but the punch is amazing."
"Almost as good as the pre-drinks, hey, Merritt?" Lula teased, knowing that he'd already gotten sufficiently buzzed before even leaving for the party.
Merritt shrugged and moved his hand as if to say 'maybe, maybe not'. The others just smiled at Merritt’s antics. He’d be doing a similar report on the food table soon, no doubt. It was clear where his priorities were.
Danny, on the other hand, was searching the room for important people he could acquaint himself with. It was all about the networking and furthering himself.
Jack was happy to be out with his favourite people; the details of the party were unimportant to him as long as he got to spend time with his Horsemen.
Lula, well, Lula was just glad to have the opportunity to go out in public dressed as a gingerbread woman.
“Oh my God, you guys!”
The quartet simultaneously turned to see Henley hurrying towards them. She’d clearly acquainted herself with the punch. It was a miracle that she managed to make it to them without tripping over her heels. Her angel wings bounced as she walked.
She immediately wrapped her arm around Jack, reaching up to place a sloppy yet enthusiastic kiss on his cheek.
“Hey, where’s mine?” Merritt asked in mock complaint.
Henley walked straight into his open arms, kissing him on the cheek too. He held onto her for a second longer, giving her a squeeze and letting her know she was missed.
As if on auto pilot, Henley went over to give Danny the same greeting she’d given the other two before moving to Lula.
“Hi, I’m Henley,” Henley said, a little breathless, before moving in to kiss Lula hello. But her aim was off and instead of pecking her cheek, she ended up kissing Lula full on the mouth. Given it was accidental, the appropriate response would have been to separate then and perhaps apologise for the error, but instead their lips remained joined long enough for Merritt to raise his eyebrows and turn towards Jack and for Danny to pout and deliberately look away. Eventually Lula broke the kiss and pulled back, a grin on her face.
“I like this one,” Lula announced. “Why couldn’t we have kept her and gotten rid of Danny?”
Henley ran her tongue over her top lip, a slight blush on her cheeks.
“Well that was…”
“Rude,” Danny supplied.
“Hot,” Merritt added.
“Unexpected, I was going to say,” Jack finished.
Lula just shrugged and put her arm around Henley’s shoulders.
“Come on,” she said to Henley, “let’s go get a drink and we can trade embarrassing stories about the boys.”
Henley agreed and the two walked off together, arms around each other, like they’d been the best of friends for a lifetime.
“Do women always bond that quickly?” Danny asked in wonder.
“I have no clue,” Jack breathed, similarly shocked by the turn of events.
The sound of the music rose above the chatter of the partygoers.
"I love this song!" Merritt announced like it was the greatest moment of his life. He turned to Jack, putting on a mock-serious façade.
"Would you care to dance with me, Mr Wilder?" he asked, holding out his hand as an invitation.
"I would, Mr McKinney," Jack replied, taking Merritt's hand and letting him lead them out onto the dance floor.
As they crossed the room, Merritt caught sight of a snowman bearing a very striking resemblance to Dylan.
“Frosty!” Merritt cheered loudly, raising his glass in greeting.
Dylan turned towards the noise and chuckled.
“Merritt, I see you’ve found the punch," he called back.
Merritt nodded enthusiastically. "It's good."
Dylan shook his head and laughed again as he made his way over to where Danny had been left alone.
“You’re not going to join in the fun?” Dylan asked, gesturing to the dancefloor where Merritt and Jack were trying to out dance each other and generally just making fools of themselves. They were smiling and laughing, clearly having the time of their lives. Over the other side of the room Henley and Lula had abandoned their drinks in favour of dancing. They took turns spinning each other around and seemed to be having as much fun as Merritt and Jack. Danny was the only one not partaking in the fun.
“Actually, I was looking for you,” Danny replied. “I wanted to go over the plans for the second act of the next show.”
Dylan let out a soft chuckle. Typical Danny.
“Take a night off,” he said, clapping Danny on the back, “have some fun!”
Danny looked reluctant, almost as if he didn’t know how one would do such a thing.
“Come on,” Dylan said, grabbing Danny’s hand and leading him towards the dance floor.
“No, no, no,” Danny started to protest before giving in. He couldn’t help but smile at Dylan’s persistence.
Danny took a step back before Dylan pulled him back in close, moving their bodies to the beat of the music.
“It’s a Christmas miracle!” Merritt called upon noticing them. “Atlas dances!”
“Is there a reason you’re wearing a poor imitation of your boyfriend’s costume?” Dylan joked back in defence of Danny. “Surely you’ve got to be feeling a little bit awkward?”
Merritt just shrugged.
“Someone had to show him how to wear it and I wear it quite well, if I do say so myself.”
This set Jack off laughing again. He leaned into Merritt’s chest, letting the older man support him weight as he clutched at him. Jack loved his boyfriend, no matter how embarrassing he could be. Merritt took the opportunity to hold Jack, letting his hands glide down his bare back. Sometimes he still couldn’t believe that out of all the people in the world Jack had chosen to be with him.
“Alright, ladies and gentleman,” a voice spoke into a microphone across the room, “we have the results of the costume competition. It was tough this year. There are a lot of great costumes out there.”
“Thank you,” Lula interrupted on behalf of her gingerbread costume.
“So this year we’ve decided the give out a joint prize,” the voice continued. “And the winners are… Santa and Santa, Merritt and Jack!”
Merritt and Jack leapt into each other’s arms, grinning like the victory actually meant something. The crowd chuckled and clapped as the two adult kids celebrated their win and received their prize.
“It’s still really awkward,” said Lula as she and Henley sidled up to Dylan and Danny.
“The most awkward,” Danny agreed, though, as he watched, all awkwardness seemed to have been quashed by their elation.
“Oh, let them enjoy their moment,” Henley shushed.
And enjoy it they did.