AN: Annnnnnddd I'm back! I've been working on this for literal months (I had the first half of the first part completed straight away and then hit block after block after block) BUT IT'S DONE NOW! It's a more serious one after the hilarity that ensued in the last chapter so hopefully I'll find a way to make Henley's chapter a little more upbeat :)) Enjoy!
None of the Horsemen had ever really pictured Daniel as someone who could be kind. His attitude, personality and general being were not, in the slightest, things that beckoned for you to tell him your darkest secrets, nor did they draw you to him when you needed comfort.
However, in time, it became apparent that perhaps Daniel could be more empathic than they first thought.
It was in one of their first rehearsals after they formed their group, preparing for a small show in New York that was essential, apparently, for getting their name out and increasing the impact of their eventual heists, that this became apparent. Henley was doing one of her escape acts ("Because, Danny, that's what I do now," she'd told Daniel scathingly when he'd questioned her choice of act, "I'm not your assistant anymore."), a new performance that she'd be planning before the Eye made its debut in their lives.
"Are you sure that's safe?" Daniel looked sceptically up at the spike-ridden wooden boards spread apart and attached to the ceiling.
"Yes, Danny, for the last time, I am a professional," Henley snapped, stretching her wrists out before adamantly climbing the ladder and fitting herself into the harness. She had to get one of the stagehands to lock the last padlocks into place around her wrists.
"Professional or not, this is literally a death-trap," Danny said, standing underneath her and looking up. Henley stubbornly ignored him.
"Could you start the timer please?" she called to the stagehand, who nods and quickly sets about starting the timer and, by extension, Henley's act.
Daniel wasn't sure what it was, but his instincts were telling him that the entire situation was a very bad idea. He watched nervously as Henley made her way through the padlocks attached at various points over the harness.
"How are you going to get down?" Daniel asked after one of her two allotted minutes were up, "They moved the ladder..."
"I flip," Henley said through gritted teeth, glaring at him, "Stop putting me off, Danny!" Daniel help his hands up in surrender, taking a step back.
The timer was getting dangerously close to zero and Daniel tapped his fingers anxiously on his crossed arms.
"Henley..." he said warningly, "You're running out of time..."
"That's kind of the entire point, Danny," Henley bit back, "Just shut up, would you?!" the timer turned to zero just as Henley unlocked the padlock holding her ankles together and she dropped, unceremoniously, if Daniel was asked, from the ceiling as the wooden boards were released at one side, swinging towards each other and crashing together as Henley collided with the stage floor.
"Henley!" Daniel wasn't often prompted into raising his voice but with the noise produced by the boards above and the fact that this was Henley, someone he cared about, and she was hurt, the situation had him shouting and racing towards where his ex-assistant was laying on the floor.
"Oh, crap," Henley muttered, struggling to sit up and holding her left shoulder, "I think I dislocated it." Daniel crouched down next to her, a hand coming to rest on her uninjured shoulder as he made sure that she wasn't hurt anywhere else.
"Are you okay?" he asked, slightly breathless with the shock of the situation. Henley rolled her eyes, shrugging his hand off.
"I'm fine," she said, "This isn't the first time I've dislocated my shoulder, Danny, I just need to pop it back in..."
"No, no, no," Daniel said firmly, "You're going to a hospital."
"I don't need to go to a-"
"It's a hospital or I let Jack try to figure out how to relocate a shoulder." Danny threatened. Henley paused for a moment before sighing, glaring at the man in front of her.
"Fine," she muttered, "But you're completely overreacting."
"No, I'm not," Daniel said, helping her up with surprising gentleness that Henley hadn't been entirely sure he possessed, "This is definitely hospital worthy."
"Are you sure we can fit it into your schedule?" Henley muttered through gritted teeth. Daniel paused in their walk towards the stage door.
"Of course I can," he said quietly, "Where your health is concerned, there's always time." Henley could hear in his tone that she'd hurt his feeling. She grimaced slightly.
"Sorry," she said, "I didn't mean it like that... I guess I'm just in pain." Daniel shrugged.
"Don't worry," he said. Henley was somewhat grateful for the arm he had wrapped around her; she wasn't at all used to being comforted but she'd forgotten how painful a dislocated shoulder was and was suddenly realising how bad she was at dealing with that pain.
"Are you okay?" she heard Daniel somewhere in the back of her mind but was too focused on trying to stop the tears in her eyes to properly pay attention, "Henley?" she shook her head.
"I'm fine," she replied. Daniel frowned.
"No, you're not," he muttered, "Come on, let's get you to the ER." Henley just nodded, letting him lead her out to the car and strap her in.
The drive to the hospital was practically silent, which neither of them minded all that much; they often participated in long periods of very loud conversation, so, sometimes, the quiet was appreciated.
Daniel parked the car as close to the entrance as possible and Henley simply remained where she was as Daniel set about getting out of the car. He moved around and opened the door for her, waiting for her to get out.
"Henley?" he said expectantly. Henley smiled almost sheepishly.
"Would now be a good time to mention that I'm not the, er... biggest fan of hospitals?" Daniel smirked slightly; he really should have guessed. Henley may have accused him at every possible opportunity of being a control freak but he had never known anyone to have more of a need of being in control of their own life as Henley Reeves.
"Come on," he said, holding a hand out to her, "I'll hold your hand." Henley rolled her eyes at him, taking a steadying breath as the pain in her arm won over her fear, undoing her seatbelt and taking Daniel's hand as she climbed out of the car.
Henley had to give it to him; Daniel didn't complain once about having to sit with her for four hours, waiting for a doctor, then an x-ray, then for the doctor to look at the x-ray, then for the doctor to decide what pain relief would be best, then for the doctor to actually fix her shoulder. He didn't complain when she gripped his hand tightly for no reason except that she needed to know that he was still there with her. He didn't complain when she squeezed his hand so hand she cracked a bone in his thumb and they had to wait for him to have an x-ray and then have his hand wrapped.
He didn't complain about the fact that they'd missed six hours of rehearsal, nor that Henley would have to miss a further six weeks, nor that Daniel himself had to wait at least four weeks until even attempting to get his dexterity with cards back to normal.
Daniel simply drove her home, had her sit on the couch with an icepack on her shoulder and a cup of coffee, telling her that she needed to rest.
"The sooner you heal, the sooner we can get back to rehearsing," he pointed out. Henley simply smiled and he left her be, going to his room to read.
"Danny?" Henley's voice made him stop in the doorway of the lounge, "Thank you." Daniel smiled slightly.
"Nothing to thank me for." He said simply before leaving her alone.
Jack already idolised Daniel; if someone was to tell him that, behind his control freak façade, J. Daniel Atlas was one of the most caring guys around, Jack would simply shrug, having expected as much.
It wasn't until a quarter of their year of craziness had passed that he actually realised this, however.
They had been together for three months; they were around each other for what felt like twenty four hours, seven days a week. It had got to the point where there was absolutely no point in keeping secrets because someone would find out sooner or later and they'd got to that point in friendship where telling the others things was better than holding them in, most of the time.
But Jack wasn't the most trusting person. He knew that, if you asked a psychologist, they'd say that he had trust issues from a damaged childhood and he'd probably agree (because, really, what did he know about psychology that was worthy of him arguing with an expert?). So he didn't tell the others his deepest, darkest secrets. That just wasn't the type of person he was.
He didn't even plan on telling them; not even when Henley had confessed in him that she'd lived on the streets once and that even Daniel didn't know (she knew that Merritt had deduced it and that Daniel suspected but she'd never outright told someone) and that strangely meant a lot of Jack because she'd trusted him with something huge.
The point was that Jack didn't do touchy-feely deep, meaningful conversations, ever; even when he was woken from a nightmare at half three in the morning and he was forced to stay awake for the rest of the nigh by his constantly active mind. It was that, or having to face the fact that, one day, their adventure into the strange and magical was going to end and he was going to lose everything he'd come to hold dear. He almost always chose the former over the latter which largely contributed to the fact that he could sleep absolutely anywhere during the day, a factthat Henley continually pointed out enviously.
Which found him in the kitchen at four in the morning, a cup of coffee in one hand and his phone in the other. He walked through to the lounge and almost dropped his drink when he found Daniel sitting in the armchair that faced the kitchen doorway.
"Dude, what the hell?!" Jack whispered, conscious of the fact that Henley and Merritt were still asleep (though it would take three earthquakes, an alien invasion and the sun exploding to wake Merritt up in the middle of the night).
"You get up at this time at least three times a week," Daniel replied, not whispering but his voice still quiet, "I figured I should find out why."
"I just fancied a drink," Jack said, trying to hide his unease, "No biggie."
"No one drinks coffee at four a.m.," Daniel said, his tone still neutral, "Not unless they're not planning on falling asleep again." Jack tried to smile and chuckled nervously.
"What can I say, I was really craving coffee..." he said, "I'm going to head back to my room... Night, Daniel." He quickly made his way towards the doorway, hoping Daniel wouldn't question him further, wanting to get away from him for the first time in his life.
"We all get them, you know," Daniel said quietly and Jack stopped as if he'd been shot, "The nightmares. We all get them." Jack turned around.
"No..." he said, "You don't."
"Of course we do," Daniel said, his tone now indicating that Jack was being ridiculous, "We're not oblivious to the situation we're in, Jack. We know how wrong this could go and the consequences if it does."
Jack slowly moved to sit on the couch opposite him, placing his phone and coffee on the table in between them, "Go on." he prompted after a moment, leaning back and just watching him.
"What do you have nightmares about?" Daniel asked quietly instead of doing as Jack said. Jack shrugged.
"Nothing," he said, "I never said I had nightmares." Daniel raised his eyebrows.
"Mine are about failing, mostly," he told the younger man, "Not even going to jail or whatever will inevitably happen if this goes wrong. I have nightmares about something in a show going wrong and people accusing us of being frauds..." he shrugged. "That's mine."
Jack stayed silent, lifting his coffee cup and sipping it to fill the moment with something other than silence. "Losing everything." He said eventually. Danny simply nodded.
"It's okay to be scared, you know," he said. Jack shook his head.
"It's not fear," he said, "It's... I don't know how to explain it."
"It's not something you have to explain, Jack," Daniel said, "God knows, I've tried."
"But it's stupid," Jack said almost angrily, "I don't want to lose you guys. I don't want to lose what we have. I don't... I don't want to stop doing any of this, ever. I don't want it to end."
"Why is that stupid?" Daniel asked.
"Because it's inevitable, isn't it?" Jack muttered harshly, "This isn't going to go on forever. One of us is going to bail, or we'll all get shoved in prison, or... or something will go wrong, or..." Jack stopped as his voice began to shake. "I'm having nightmares about the future," he said, "And if I'm struggling to cope with that before it's even happened then what am I going to be like when it does?"
Daniel didn't say anything for a moment. Jack drank some more of his coffee and Daniel waited for him to put the down before talking again, "It's not stupid to be scared of the future," he said, "It's stupid to think that the future isn't scary. And it's stupid to bottle this kind of stuff up." He said, looking at Jack with slight disapproval, "The world keeps turning, kid. The future will come and go and the things you're scared of might happen. Or, it'll come and go and they won't happen. Either way... the world still turns. As long as that happens, there's a way through it."
"I like what we have, though," Jack muttered, "Is that dumb? Should I just... not want to keep things how they are?" Daniel shook his head.
"I think," he said, "We have to live in the moment. We shouldn't always let the future shape what we do in the present. I mean, obviously some forward planning is required..." Jack smirked slightly.
"You and your planning," he said with a quiet laugh. Danny smiled.
"There, see?" he said, "It's not all bad." Jack smiled back, getting up and pouring the last of his coffee down the sink. He made his way back into the living room, "Live in the moment. But, for god's sake, don't give up practicing your tricks just because it might affect the future." Jack grinned.
"Thanks, Danny." He said quietly before moving to leave the room.
"Any time, kid," Daniel replied.
Even though the amount of coffee he'd had meant that Jack didn't sleep any more that night, he found that his nightmares became fewer with more time between them.
Daniel had never expected to have to give Merritt any kind of emotional support; Henley was an old friend and had a bond with Daniel that meant she could confide a lot of her thoughts and feelings in him. Jack was still a kid who knew his inexperience put him at a disadvantage and occasionally needed a shove back onto the right path.
Merritt was a grown man who evidently knew who he was and what he wanted. From what Daniel had seen, he wasn't the kind to need reassurance.
Alas, it turned out that Mr J. Daniel Atlas was in fact not always right.
It was well known ('well' in fact meaning 'not-well') that Merritt's brother had royally screwed him over during his first attempt at fame and fortune. Merritt, evidently the type to hold a grudge, never spoke about him, and the others agreed to never bring it up. There was plenty Merritt shared with them (the majority of which they could have gone their entire lives without knowing); it wasn't exactly essential for them to know anything about the mysterious Brother McKinney and that was where it was left.
And then, one day not long before their big show featuring their first heist, Merritt got a phone call and went AWOL for three days.
Henley and Jack were continually worried, both about Merritt and his safety and the effect his absence was having on Daniel, who had barely stopped pacing and muttering to himself since Merritt had left.
"I swear to god, if he isn't dead or mortally wounded then I am going to kill him," Daniel muttered for the eighteenth time on the third day, "Does he not know what's at stake here?!"
"I'm sure he'll be back any minute, Danny," Henley said, "And if you ask that question again, he won't be the only one missing from our next rehearsal."
Daniel simply glared at her, continuing with his pacing until the front door of their apartment swung open and closed with a slam. Daniel stormed from the room and into the hall, leaving Jack and Henley to remain seated in the living area, looking at each other worriedly.
"Where the hell have you been?!" Daniel raged, "You've been gone for three days, what were you thinking?!" Merritt groaned, running a hand over his head.
"Daniel, with all due respect, shut up." He growled, walking to his bedroom and slamming the door behind him.
"Well, someone's a bit slammy today," Henley muttered, standing up, "Danny, maybe we should just give him some time..."
"He's had three days," Daniel muttered, opening Merritt's door. "Where have you been, Merritt?!"
"Daniel, seriously," Merritt said, turning around with a murderous look as he slipped his jacket off, "Piss off."
"We deserve to know, Merritt," Henley said quietly from behind Daniel, "You've been gone for days."
"And I apologise for leaving without telling you," Merritt said, sounding weary, "But I'm back now. End of story."
"Leave him alone," Jack called from the living room, "He's not going to tell you anything if he doesn't want to."
"Jack's right, Danny," Henley murmured to Daniel after a moment, "He's back now and he's apologised-"
"He's also still in the room..." Merritt muttered from where he'd collapsed onto his bed.
"I want an explanation," Daniel said pointing at him before leaving the room, the heaviness of his feet not quite qualifying as 'stomping' but coming close.
*. . .*
It wasn't until later that evening that Daniel saw Merritt again. He'd expected to have to drag the information out of the mentalist over a series of days and yet the man came knocking at Daniel's bedroom door shortly after dinner (which both men had refused to attend).
Daniel answered his door, expecting to find Jack on the other side (the knock was too heavy to be Henley, after all, and he'd deduced that it wouldn't Merritt, so logically it had to be Jack). Daniel had been getting increasingly confident in his skills with mentalism until he actually opened the door to reveal Merritt on the other side.
"You wanted an explanation," he said after Daniel just stared at him for a moment.
"Yeah, I did." Daniel replied. He opened his door further to let the other man in, moving back to sit on his bed. He didn't offer Merritt a seat (not that there was one to offer him), letting the man lean against the wall opposite him, arms crossed and looking around Daniel's room interested.
"Nice, room," he said, "No, really, I love what you've done with the place..." Daniel rolled his eyes.
"An explanation, Merritt."
"Have I ever mentioned my brother?" Merritt asked.
"Once or twice," Daniel said, frowning slightly, "About how you hated him and stuff."
"Yeah," Merritt breathed a chuckle, looking down, "And I really do hate him. He ruined my career... well, I thought he ruined my career, before we got involved in this crazy Eye stuff."
"Your point?" Daniel asked, "We've all got family issues, Merritt."
"I got a call the other day," Merritt muttered after a moment, "From a number I was eighty seven percent sure had been cut off years ago."
"Your brother called you?" Daniel asked, still not quite sure where Merritt was going.
"Oh, no," Merritt said, "That would have been better. That... I would have preferred that. No, I got a call from the police." Daniel's eyes widened slightly. "At first I was like, 'well shit. Now we're never finding out about the Eye and we're all screwed'," Merritt said, laughing humourlessly again, "And then he kept talking."
"And?" Daniel asked. Merritt paused.
"He's dead, Daniel." He muttered, "Spent all my money then tried mentalism himself. Got on the wrong side of a guy who happened to be pretty damn talented with a knife. Stabbed to death behind a club in Miami."
Daniel was stuck for something to say; he figured 'I'm sorry' probably wouldn't cut it and Merritt probably didn't want his sympathy anyway.
"I was gone for three days because I was at his funeral," Merritt said, pushing himself off of the wall and making his way towards the door, "There's your explanation." He opened the door and Daniel let him leave, unsure of what else he could do.
*. . .*
Later that evening found Henley and Jack in bed (the tension in the apartment was ridiculous and neither of them really felt like being social) and Merritt sitting alone in the living room. He'd been staring at his hands clasped in his lap for who-knew-how-long when a hand appeared over them, passing him a drink.
Merritt looked up at Daniel with the smallest hint of surprise, accepting the drink with a nod.
"First drink I've had in three days..." he muttered. He tilted his glass in Daniel's general direction before downing it in one, "And that, right there, is the reason I am not teetotal." Daniel smiled slightly with his eyebrows raised as he sat opposite him.
"I can't believe you lasted three days," he admitted. Merritt shrugged.
"I had other things to think about."
"All the more reason to have a drink, isn't it?" Daniel questioned. Merritt shrugged.
"So maybe I ran out of cash," he said with a slight smirk, "Let's just go with me having other things to think about, hmm?"
Daniel nodded, sipping from his own drink as Merritt stood up to get himself another. "Do you want to talk about your brother?" he asked the older man after a moment. Merritt smirked again.
"My brother was an ass," he said, "An ass who was greedy and thought money was everything and didn't give a shit about anything or anyone that wouldn't directly benefit his funds."
"But you love him." Daniel said after a second of silence.
"Present tense?" Merritt said, making his way back to his seat, "Yes, I love him. But I didn't. Not for a long time."
"I know the feeling," Daniel muttered. Merritt raised his eyebrows, challenging the man's statement. "Not to the same extent, obviously," Daniel added quickly, "But... I kind of get it, at least."
"How so?" Merritt asked him.
"My little sister was the favourite," Daniel said, "I mean, she still is. I just don't care anymore."
"Mommy and daddy's little darling, is she?" Merritt asked.
"God no," Daniel said, snorting quietly, "She got into all kinds of trouble. Underage drinking, bunking off school, participating in a robbery..." he shook his head, looking towards the window, "You name it, she probably did it at some point. I get my mom's OCD and my dad's desperate need to be successful... she gets their love and attention, no matter what. Not exactly the fairest situation in the world."
"What happened?" Merritt asked. Daniel smirked.
"She became a doctor and I became a magician who's about to break every federal law in existence." He said.
"Now, don't exaggerate," Merritt said, pointing a finger at him, "We probably won't kill anybody. Chances are, they won't get us on a murder charge." Daniel smirked. The two fell silent for a moment.
"Life sucks, Merritt," Daniel concluded to break the silence, "There isn't a single one of us here who doesn't know that. You live, you do crappy things, and then you die."
"Oh, you little ray of sunshine," Merritt muttered.
"You can talk about crappy stuff though," Daniel said, ignoring his jibe, "And then it doesn't always seem so bad."
"And I will drink to that," Merritt sip, downing his second drink. "Hey, so, do you think you were drawn to Henley because she was a runaway who reminded you of your sister?" Daniel rolled his eyes, standing up and handing Merritt his glass.
"Just shut up and get yourself drunk as hell, McKinney," he said, clapping him on the shoulder before leaving him alone to drown what was left of his sorrows.
Tada! I hope that wasn't too... deep or serious or anything... I'm on Christmas holidays now so I'm hoping to get around to writing Henley's chapter at some point soon but with the amount of college work my teachers have given me it might now happen.
Leave a review if you fancy making my Christmas! I hope you enjoyed and thank you for reading! MERRY CHRISTMAS!