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Special Agent Dylan Rhodes ([personal profile] onebehind) wrote2013-11-05 04:21 pm

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Who: Dylan, Alma, Daniel, Merritt, Henley & Jack.
What: As promised, Dylan takes Alma up to the suite to meet the Horsemen off the clock. Directly following this.

As had also been the case every night they had spent together, it passed more quickly than it seemed it should, and morning came early.

The rest of the weekend, however, seemed to take its time. Both Alma and Dylan had other active cases to check in on, and there was no end to the phone calls and paperwork on those, as well as on reopening the case around the Horsemen. The press, for its part, was having an absolute field day with the fact that a group of magicians had again pulled one over on the FBI and Interpol, and Alma heard more theories than she would ever remember as to how they pulled it off, all of them more outlandish than the last.

Finally, though, it was Monday. As he had warned her he would, Dylan seemed to disappear for part of the day. Alma still had e-mails to return, though, and a bit more research to do for another case, and before she knew it, it was practically evening.

It was then and only then that Dylan returned. He came in quietly -- to the point where he caught the door to ease it closed rather than let it slam and more out of force of habit from a day spent sneaking around than anything else -- and moved for one of the couches, pushing down the hood of his sweatshirt as he did so. When he reached it, he took a moment, first patting himself down, though for what, who knew, and then, when he seemed satisfied that he still had whatever it was he'd been looking for, shrugging out of the hoodie entirely. He dropped it on the back of the couch and turned to scan the room for Alma.

Considering the suite's bedroom had the most space to spread out, Alma was there, and she stopped what she was doing when she thought she heard the door open. "Dylan?" she called, and a moment later, appeared in the bedroom doorway. She still had her hair up, though some of it had fallen out of her ponytail, and she was still half-dressed for work, though she had lost her jacket when she had returned to the suite. "I thought I heard you," she offered, smiling slightly.

"Yeah, hey, sorry," he answered, returning the smile. "I didn't wanna interrupt if you were still fielding phone calls."

She sighed, setting one hand on her hip, reaching up with the other to brush a piece of hair back out of her face. "I wish you had. I love the research, but sometimes, there are only so many titles and deeds I can go through before my eyes start to cross." She paused a beat to consider him before she went on. "Did you have a good day?"

"It was ... " Visiting the closest thing to his father's grave as he could manage couldn't exactly be considered a good day, but despite the fact that his smile had faded as he searched for his words, it had been worth it all the same. " ... comforting, I guess."

Not exactly the word he was looking for, but it'd do in a pinch.

Alma nodded, hands falling back to her sides, her own smile drifting toward something more sympathetic. "Good."

He hummed, narrowly resisting the urge to find something suddenly more interesting on the floor, and glanced past her instead. After a moment and presumably by way of explanation, he asked, "You feel like getting away from the desk for awhile?"

"You have to ask?" she returned. "Let me..." she trailed off, looking back over her shoulder. "I have papers everywhere."

"Take your time." He needed to unearth the bottle of champagne he'd smuggled up to the room and hidden earlier, after all.

Alma just nodded to that, turning back to the bedroom, to gather up the mess she'd made and return it to its folder and the folder to her bag. She pulled her ponytail back more neatly, too, and exchanged her dress shirt for a more comfortable blouse before she returned to the living room. "Okay," she offered, once she had.

In the time that she'd been gone, Dylan had found the champagne, unearthed the leaf he'd picked from his father's tree from the pocket of his sweatshirt -- it was still in a plastic bag, though, and he intended for it to stay that way until he could get to his sketchbook -- and gone through half of a miniature bag of chips, pulled from the stack of snacks he'd picked up at some point of the last two days. He abandoned the remains of it in the trash can when she returned, however, and tilted his head towards the door, wordlessly.

Without waiting for her to respond and without reclaiming his hoodie, he turned to head out into the hallway.

Alma followed immediately, pausing briefly to close the door to the suite behind her and make sure it locked before she caught up with him, falling into step beside him. "So are we..." she began, looking over at him, figuring the fact that she didn't finish the sentence meant he would know what she was meaning to ask - were they still going to see the Horsemen?

"Yeah," he answered, pushing the button to call the elevator as they reached it. Beyond that, though, he said nothing, waiting for it to come in silence, his arms folded over his chest. When it finally arrived, when they were safe behind its doors, he glanced over at her, something flickering across his expression. Finally, he asked, "You trust me, right?"

Alma blinked at him - and then frowned, arching an eyebrow, clearly unimpressed with that question, and it was a near thing that she didn't cross her arms, too.

He made a face at her -- he hadn't meant it as an expression of doubt. "Okay, fine. Next question. Do me a favor and turn around?"

The frown eased quickly enough, anyway, and she looked briefly confused before she nodded, already turning around as she answered, "Yeah."

"Good," he said, shifting to put his back to hers to block her view of his hand as he raised it, rubbing his index and middle fingers against his thumb. He'd considered making her wear a blindfold, but that seemed a bit much even for him, and he was trusting her not to pry, to look. "Just -- give me a minute."

That said, he touched his fingers to the emergency keyhole, a spark jumping from them to the metal with a hiss and the sharp tang of ozone. When both had faded, he jabbed a button at random and immediately the elevator started down. He took a half-step back and to the side, so he didn't back into her, and dropped his hand. "Okay, we're good."

Alma kept her eyes on the wall of the elevator, curious though she definitely was. She started to glance back as the elevator started to move, though she didn't actually turn around until he spoke. "I want to ask what you just did, but...." She couldn't quite keep herself from grinning; she wasn't actually sure she wanted to know, anyway.

"But that'd ruin the fun," he supplied, flashing her a grin in return. A beat and then he added, "You'll find out in a minute, anyway. Kind of." She'd see the result but not the means.

She clearly agreed with how he finished that, though she also couldn't quite keep all the nerves off her face, now, despite the fact that she was excited to be able to actually meet the Horsemen. Or, more likely, because of it.

He caught that, too, and reached for her hand, giving it a quick, reassuring squeeze. "You'll be fine."

Alma returned the squeeze, letting out a long breath through her nose. "I know. It's just... first time meeting the family." She offered him a sideways smile.

"Yeah," he said for lack of anything better to say, and returned the smile, fondly and ever-disarmingly.

A moment after that and only some half a dozen floors down, the elevator dinged, and the doors slid open, revealing what was very clearly neither the lobby of their hotel or any of its hallways. Dylan, judging by the look on his face, did not find this odd and tugged her gently out into the corridor and towards the door at the end of it. Without knocking, and somehow without a key, he pushed the door open and lead them inside, into the Horsemen's suite.

When the doors opened, Alma breathed out a quiet "oh" before she let him pull her out into the hall, falling into step with him after the initial surprise had waned.

Merritt was sprawled out on one of the living room's couches, and he looked up at them over the top of his book when they entered the suite, immediately grinning and reaching to set the book on the coffee table as he sat up. "Hey, company."

"Company bearing champagne," Dylan corrected, grinning back as he held up the bottle. He paused, glancing back to Alma as if he was seeking confirmation for what he said next, and then, "We figured you guys kinda deserved it after the show."

"Even better," Merritt returned immediately.

Alma couldn't help but smile, too. "It was great, really."

Merritt turned his grin to her. "Thanks. Don't tell Daniel that, though, we've already had to widen the doors in here for his ego."

She laughed at the response, some of the nerves finally fading.

"Yeah, again, you get the part where I can hear you, right?" Daniel called from somewhere upstairs. Dylan breathed out a sigh of a laugh, shook his head and moved to put the champagne on the counter in the kitchen.

Merritt rolled his eyes, making a can you believe this guy? sort of gesture in the direction of the stairs, for Alma's benefit. "Can you?" he called back. "I never would have guessed." He paused a beat before glancing briefly at Alma and then going on, "Round up the natives and get down here, we've got company."

"I'm getting that based on the fact that you actually felt the need to tell me we had company," Daniel shot back as he appeared at the railing that ran the length of upstairs. Rather than go round everyone else up immediately, however -- he'd get to that in a minute -- he looked down at them for a moment, before, "Agent Dray." A beat. "Or, uh, Miss Dray, I guess, since I'm pretty sure none of us are on the clock at the moment."

A brief glance was chanced at Merritt, then Dylan as he reappeared in the living room, his eyes narrowing slightly as if that were necessary to question them without words, to ask if Alma knew Dylan's real name, or if he should stick to his nom de guerre. In response, Dylan only nodded slightly.

Alma took a few steps farther into the suite so she could look up at Daniel without having to look straight up, smiling faintly. "Thankfully, no. Alma's fine." Or whatever he was comfortable with, really.

Merritt just rolled his eyes at Daniel's attempt. "Subtlety is really not your strong suit," he muttered, even though it was still loud enough for Daniel to hear.

"Assuming you were actually trying to keep me from hearing that? I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's not really yours, either." He paused again, this time to offer Alma a smile that was somewhere between wry and almost apologetic, and then, to her, continued, "Alma it is, then." A beat. "Let me go raise the rest of the village."

That said, he turned to go get Jack and Henley.

Merritt just shook his head again.

Alma obviously didn't mind, just laughing a little herself, even if she had a vague suspicion they might be trying to make her feel better. She couldn't say she minded, really.

Dylan held the same suspicion -- or at least believed that the reason Merritt had started with Daniel in the first place had something to do with disarming Alma -- but he didn't comment to that effect. Instead, he turned to face Merritt. "Remind me later that I owe you a bottle of -- of whatever besides the champagne for the help on the Hermann case, by the way."

"You owe me a bottle of whatever besides the champagne for my help on the Hermann case," Merritt returned, dutifully, but he went more serious a moment later. "So I was right, then?" Not that he really thought he was wrong, but he was still curious.

"Ha-ha, asshole," Dylan shot back, grinning despite the fact that he rolled his eyes. "But yeah. Fuller brought the guy you mentioned back in this morning."

Merritt just grinned back at him. "Great. If you need me to give you something more specific, I can take another look at things, too, but something wasn't adding up, there."

"Yeah, and I'm kinda embarrassed I missed it," he admitted, his expression turning a little sheepish. Then again, though, and as Merritt had said when he'd originally offered to lend him a hand, he had been staring at the case as a whole for a month, now. "But I'll let you know."

Merritt made a there you go gesture at him - or what Merritt himself had said before and what Dylan was thinking, now. A moment later, he glanced back over his shoulder as Jack jogged down the stairs. "And the rest of the family finally turns up."

"Sorry," he offered, not entirely sounding like he meant it.

Henley and Daniel followed a moment or two later, and Dylan offered each of them smiles. "Hey." He paused, shifting a little closer to Alma, though more to draw attention to her than anything else, and he gestured to each of the Horsemen in turn. "Not that you don't already know this, but ... Jack, Henley and Daniel."

He felt introductions were in order, since this was the first time they were meeting informally.

"Good to meet you," Alma offered in return. "Without having to arrest you first," she added a moment later, smiling.

Jack grinned, in response. "Ditto."

"I'd make some comment about handcuffs, but the boys would probably jump all over that," Henley said, smiling herself, even as she glanced over at Merritt.

"Well now I'm contractually obligated," Merritt returned immediately.

Henley glanced over at Alma and shrugged. Boys. "See what I mean?"

"I'm so sorry," Alma told her, actually managing to keep a straight face for a moment, though it wasn't much more than that before she was smiling again.

Dylan snorted, shaking his head, and nodded to the couches. To the group in general, he suggested, "Let's sit down."

"See now what you've done?" Merritt asked Dylan, shoving at Jack as he tried to climb over him to take a seat on the couch. "There's two of them, now. Or, three." Counting Miranda. "We'll be outnumbered soon."

"You're already outwitted," Jack offered as he flopped down next to him, and Merritt blindly reached out to shove him sideways. Jack just grinned and righted himself.

"And what's wrong with us?" Henley asked, affecting a mock-offended look as she moved to settle on the arm of the chair she and Daniel usually claimed. "This place could use a little less testosterone."

Dylan glanced between Alma, Merritt and Henley before holding up his hands. "I'm not getting in the middle of this."

"And that's probably why you have a girlfriend," Merritt admitted, self-deprecatingly, but he still looked amused.

"That or he's just more charming than you," Daniel shot back, sliding into his seat next to Henley.

"Either or," Dylan agreed. A moment of silence followed and he canted his head in the direction of the couch again, trying to silently suggest that neither the furniture nor the Horsemen would eat Alma if she decided to sit down, and then he glanced towards the stairs. Another beat and he headed in that direction, calling over his shoulder, "Gimme two seconds."

"One!" Merritt and Jack both called back at the same moment, and Alma couldn't help but laugh this time as she moved to take a seat.

"So the being insane. That's not an act," she offered, sounding like she was actually thinking about that.

"Nope," Merritt returned. "We're all mad here."

"Speak for yourself," Daniel put in. Somewhere behind and above them, from the top of the steps, Dylan snorted. He disappeared into his room a second after that.

"I was," Merritt returned, puzzled.

Beside him, Jack just shook his head, grinning.

Daniel rolled his eyes and looked away, hiding a grin of his own. When he raised his head, Dylan was coming back down the stairs, his sketchbook tucked under one arm, and Daniel watched idly as he took up his usual seat, left empty for him, thumbed the book open to its middle and reached into his pocket. He looked up, briefly, feeling eyes on him, then bowed his head again, his expression shifting towards something like embarrassment, albeit guardedly so, and Daniel looked away.

As such, he missed him taking the plastic bag from his pocket, then the leaf from that, and flattening it between the empty pages carefully. When he was finished, he closed the book and passed it to Alma.

Daniel might have missed it, but Merritt didn't, though he didn't comment, either.

Alma scooted over slightly to make sure he had room - and then smiled as she reached out to take the sketchbook from him, setting it on her lap as she began carefully paging through it.

For that, Dylan was grateful, even if he couldn't quite look at him to say as much. Instead, he watched Alma thumb through the book intently as an excuse to avoid eye contact. "There's champagne in the kitchen, by the way, if Daniel and Merritt didn't mention it."

"We should break into that, by the way, unless we were waiting for a different signal," Merritt returned, already starting to push himself up.

"No, I'm pretty sure he brought it so it would sit in the kitchen and collect dust, not for, you know, us to actually drink it," Daniel said.

Merritt lifted a hand to flip Daniel off over his shoulder without turning around as he headed into the kitchen to find glasses.

Still trying to keep himself from looking too amused, Daniel returned the gesture. When Merritt had disappeared into the kitchen, he refocused his attentions on Alma. "So, I'm guessing you enjoyed the show?"

Alma looked up from the sketchbook at the question, and the fact that she immediately smiled broadly was probably answer enough even without the nod. "All of it was fantastic."

Daniel returned the smile all at once and genuinely, quietly pleased. "Good. That's -- well, that was kind of the point, actually, so I'm glad we, you know, hit the mark or whatever."

Henley was silent for a moment, and then, casually, "That's what she said."

Dylan and Daniel both snorted.

Jack echoed their snort, and Alma couldn't help but laugh a moment later, though it could have been either at Henley's joke, the group's reaction, or some combination of the two. A moment later, she added, more seriously, though she was still smiling, "You make it hard to sit in the back and be grumpy."

Not that she had to as much as Dylan did - and not that she had managed all that well in New Orleans - but still.

"Well, that's what you have him for, right?" Daniel gestured to Dylan. "He's kind of the Abbott to your Costello."

"'Abbott and Costello'?" Merritt echoed as he came back in with four glasses of champagne. "How old are you again? Go with 'Mr. Grumpy Gills' or something."

Daniel seemed to consider that for a moment and then popped his eyebrows. A look of mock apology followed. "Right, sorry. I forgot the dated references thing is kind of your area."

"Exactly. Try to remember that next time," Merritt returned immediately and then handed him a glass, moving on to hand the others to Henley, Jack, and Alma.

Alma just shook her head, amused, offering a "Merci" as she took the glass. Merritt shot her a grin in return and then turned to head back to the kitchen. A moment later, he was back with the other two glasses and the rest of the bottle. He handed one of the other glasses to Dylan and reclaimed his spot on the couch with the other, setting the bottle on the coffee table.

Humming, amused, Daniel took the glass from him and settled it in his lap as he waited for Merritt to finish handing out the champagne. When he had and his smile had faded, he took a deep breath, almost nervous somehow, and after he'd let it out, said, "I feel like we should toast to something."

"Did you have something in mind?" Merritt asked after a moment, setting his glass on the couch's arm for the moment.

"I'd say 'to us' but that gets a little ... non-inclusive." He paused, glancing at Dylan, something like apology crossing his face, albeit briefly. "So, at the risk of ruining your whole perfect track record, I think I'm going to have to go with 'to family.'"

"Works for me," Merritt returned, seriously, picking up his glass again and scooting forward on the couch to hold his glass out to the others, Jack immediately following suit.

Daniel watched as Henley and Dylan raised their glasses, shot a meaningful glance at Alma, incling his head slightly towards the assembled lot of them, suggesting that she do the same, that she was included in this, and then raised his own glass. "To family," he repeated, this time to make it official. Dylan and Henley echoed him in hushed but nevertheless sincere tones.

Alma smiled back at the look, something grateful to it, and raised her glass, as well, echoing him along with the other Horsemen.

Dylan flashed Daniel a thankful look and took a sip of his champagne. When the others had had the chance to do the same, he wet his lips with his tongue, hesitated for a moment, and then offered, "It was a good show." And more than that, as before, he was proud of them, even if he couldn't quite find the words to say as much.

"It was a great show," Merritt corrected immediately, pointing at him with his glass before he grinned and took another drink.

"I'll drink to that, too," Jack put in.

Breathing out a sigh of a laugh, Dylan raised his glass again and then mirrored Merritt. "It was a great show."

Jack laughed softly, too, and Merritt just tilted his head again, acknowledging Dylan's correction.

"Speaking of," Dylan continued after a moment. "I'm gonna need another poster. The one you guys sent me got confiscated, and while I'm kinda expecting to get it back at some point ... " He glanced at Jack. He wanted one with all four of them on it.

"We've got a shoot tomorrow morning for Jack's individuals and the new group shots," Daniel said, glancing at the clock idly as if that would somehow help him confirm that. "But when the second printing comes, I'll get you one."

"Slave driver," Merritt muttered into his glass.

Jack rolled his eyes at Merritt but couldn't quite avoid looking amused.

"I'm sort of jealous I only got an e-mail," Alma put in, sounding more offended than she actually was.

"I figured the subtle approach wouldn't work for Agent Rhodes," Daniel explained, ignoring Merritt in favor of Alma. "But I can get you a poster, too, if you want one."

"Or a t-shirt," Henley put in. "Danny's got about twelve hundred crated up at the theatre for the merch table to sell and I'm pretty sure there's at least a dozen floating around here."

"That's probably true," Alma told Daniel, very carefully not looking at Dylan considering how hard she was having to try not to look even more amused. "And I would take either. Or both."

Daniel didn't bother trying to hide a grin; Dylan made a small sound of feigned irritation, no more than a growl. It only served to make Daniel's grin widen, albeit briefly, before, "Remind me before you go -- and not right now -- and I'll get you a shirt for the road. Jacob can pass the poster along, once we have them in."

Alma couldn't help but laugh lightly at Dylan's growl, nudging him lightly in the side with her elbow even as she nodded to Daniel. "I will, thank you."

Daniel nodded and lapsed into silence, taking another sip of his drink and watching as Dylan nudged her back, grumbling something that sounded suspiciously like Whose side are you on? Henley caught that and let out a laugh of her own. "What was it Merritt said about the ladies being on their own sides?"

Alma laughed again, softly, at Dylan's question, looking to Henley when she spoke up - and then laughed more loudly. "Well, he is right."

"I'd say he usually is, but then between his ego and Danny's -- " She nudged Daniel, herself. " -- we might have a problem."

"Yeah, I'm not sure if we can widen the doors anymore," Jack returned, and Merritt sighed heavily.

"I don't know why I keep putting up with you people," Merritt said, mournfully, and looked to Daniel. "Why do we keep putting up with them?"

"Isn't that usually my question?" Daniel asked in response.

"You usually get to it first," Merritt admitted.

"And then you usually feed me some line about me secretly loving it or ... something." For as often as he'd posed that question to the group, Daniel really should have been able to recall Merritt's stock response word for word, but at the moment, it was evading him.

"It's usually 'you know you love us'," Jack supplied, helpfully, and Merritt nodded.

"Pretty much."

"Are they always like this?" Alma asked Dylan, tilting her head toward him like she meant to only be talking to him, but her voice was loud enough for everyone to hear.

Dylan looked over the Horsemen, each in turn, as if he was giving it serious thought. A shrug followed. "More or less, yeah. You get used to it."

"Says the guy who keeps threatening to turn this suite around," Henley put in.

"I could, yes," Alma returned easily. For all that she had been nervous about meeting them, she was obviously already getting over that - and realizing she liked the Horsemen as much as she had thought she would. She looked to Henley as she replied and laughed. "But has anyone tried to invade someone else's side of it, yet?"

As in Dad, he's on my side of the car!.

"Not yet, thank God," Dylan answered, a hand shooting up to stop Daniel and Henley both before they started, both clearly on the verge of it. "And that wasn't an invitation."

"I'm guessing that means I can't complain about someone touching me, either," Merritt put in immediately.

Jack, for his part, immediately rolled his eyes and said, to Alma, "There is the part where I keep having to remind them I'm the youngest one."

Alma laughed again, shaking her head.

"And the part where I have to remind myself why I hang out with these assholes," Dylan said, grinning almost in spite of himself.

"Like the man said," Daniel answered, gesturing to Merritt, "you know you love us."

Merritt raised his glass briefly to Daniel, for that. "Apparently, since he's actually trusting us with decent company now."

Daniel raised his glass in turn. Dylan, on the other hand, snorted. "Remind me to tell Mira you said that, next time I talk to her."

Merritt literally waved that off. "She broke in; it's different."

Alma frowned, looking to Dylan. "'Mira'?"

"Uh oh," Merritt muttered around another drink.

Jack snorted, hitting Merritt on the arm. Alma barely paused, and only to make a quick face at Merritt before she went on. "Miranda, I assume?"

"Yeah," Dylan answered, shooting Merritt a quick, murderous look before he returned his attentions to Alma. "I've known her since I was six. It's kind of a thing." Him calling her Mira and her calling him Jake in return. Despite the fact that he didn't particularly think he was doing anything wrong in shortening her name, however, he didn't bother mentioning that she was one of the few people who could call him Jake. He didn't want to dig himself deeper.

Merritt shot him a completely unrepentant look in return but didn't comment further. He was going to give them crap somehow, that one was just too easy to pass up.

Alma just nodded, accepting that, looking back to Jack as he spoke up.

"And considering she scared two of the people in the room to death by showing up without knocking, I'm with Merritt," he admitted.

"Thirded, since, yeah, definitely could have done without the ... " Daniel stopped himself there, making a vague gesture in lieu of mentioning the tigers Miranda had sprung on him when they'd first met.

Dylan let out a breath that he hadn't been aware he'd been holding when it seemed the conversation was moving on and he wasn't going to catch hell for doing something he didn't feel was particularly wrong. "Have I mentioned I'm sorry for her?"

Alma raised an eyebrow at him at the exhale, curiosity and concern both on her face. She hadn't meant to make him uncomfortable with the question; she was just curious who they were talking about, considering she hadn't yet met Miranda.

"Maybe once or twice," Jack returned, but he was grinning.

"Try somewhere closer to, like, seventeen times," Daniel muttered into his drink.

"The mark of a real family is the need to apologize for them every ten minutes," Merritt put in.

"That was deep," Jack returned.

"Thanks. I think it came from a fortune cookie."

Again, Alma couldn't help but snort faintly.

"Yeah, well, fortune cookie or not ... " It was more or less true, and that in mind, Dylan offered Merritt a small, almost helpless smile before popping one shoulder in a shrug.

Merritt returned the smile, raising his glass to him slightly again before he finished off his champagne and then immediately leaned forward to reach for the bottle. "Okay, refills or I'm drinking it out of the bottle."

"Please don't," Daniel shot back. Not that he particularly needed more champagne -- it was more the principle of the thing.

Dylan, on the other hand, downed the rest of his and then held out his glass expectantly.

Merritt leaned forward to refill Dylan's glass, looking impressed when Alma held hers out, too. "Children?" he offered, glancing at the others while he poured more into his own glass.

"Maybe," Jack returned, eyeing what was still in his glass.

"I'm fine," Henley answered, shaking her head, "but I'm with Danny. Don't go all hobo with a bottle of vodka in a brown paper bag on us."

Daniel snorted, then shook his head, too.

"None of you are any fun," Merritt offered dryly, leaning forward to pointedly set the bottle back on the coffee table.

Henley flashed him a mock apologetic look. "Sorry, Merritt."

"No you're not," Merritt returned immediately and then paused a beat before adding, "And that's also not something I needed mentalism to know, just so we're clear."

Beside him, Jack snorted into his glass.

"He beat me to it," Daniel muttered. Henley rolled her eyes, amused, and nudged him with an elbow.

Merritt looked amused, too, and looked to Alma, looking very concerned. "Are you sure you want to hang out with us? The crazy might rub off."

"I think I'll be alright," she returned, smiling a little. "It's probably too late for me anyway."

Dylan offered her an openly and teasingly assessing look, then, fighting a grin, shrugged again and braced himself for the hit he felt was coming after what he said next. "No comment."

Alma immediately scowled at him, and Jack chuckled.

"You were probably supposed to disagree," he offered helpfully.

Dylan laughed, something briefly but genuinely apologetic crossing his face in the aftermath. "Yeah, probably."

"What was that about him having a girlfriend?" Daniel asked, glancing at Merritt.

Alma laughed, too, smacking Dylan gently on the leg.

"We have had that rare occurrence on our hands known as me being wrong." Merritt just grinned, though.

"Wait, I'm sorry," Daniel started, holding up a hand, "could you repeat that? I don't think everyone heard it."

"Oh, I'm sorry," Merritt returned immediately. "Here, I'll just show you instead." And he held up a middle finger in Daniel's direction.

Daniel breathed out a sigh of a laugh and bowed his head into his champagne glass. "Nice. Nice demonstration."

"I should really start keeping a running tally of that," Dylan said, gesturing between them.

"I tried," Jack returned. "I lost count after the first two weeks."

"Actual first two weeks -- " After he'd brought them together. " -- or after you guys moved in here?"

"The first first two weeks."

Merritt made a show of studying his drink. "And you were already behind anyway, if I remember right."

"Considering the fact that Jack missed the whole handshake flip off thing -- which, by the way, nice touch -- yeah, just a little." Where, at the time, that had irritated him, however, now Daniel sounded more than a little amused by the whole thing. It was a testament, one of many, to how far they'd come in a year and some change.

"Thanks," Merritt replied almost before Daniel had stopped talking.

"I was a little late. Or they were early, I don't remember." Jack leaned forward to set his glass on the table.

"Knowing Danny, we were probably early," Henley said, glancing back at him. He made a face at her.

"And I was there before either of you, so...." Merritt paused, then. "Though now I'm not sure I should be bragging about that."

Daniel's jaw worked for an instant, as if he thought to say something, then stopped a moment later as if he'd suddenly thought better of it. Dylan arched an eyebrow at him, said nothing himself as he studied him, and finally seemed to shrug it off. Another beat and then almost tentatively, he said, "If you guys didn't already figure it out, I kind of ... grew up in that apartment."

Merritt tilted his head, eyeing Daniel briefly, too, before he literally shrugged, settling back. "Yeah, Daniel clued us in."

"I might have had a couple of your father's old posters back at my place," Daniel explained, looking a touch embarrassed, "and I kind of recognized the apartment from one of them. It took me awhile, but ... " He shrugged.

Dylan glanced at him, then back at Merritt, then to Jack and Henley in turn. He said nothing, however; he simply hummed, nodding faintly.

Alma leaned forward slightly, smiling at whatever was on his face before she settled against him again. Merritt offered Dylan a smile that was faint but warm before he emptied his glass and leaned forward to set it next to Jack's on the coffee table.

Dylan return the smile, the expression no more obvious than Merritt's but equally as fond, but said nothing. Instead, he mirrored Merritt again, draining the last of his drink, and set the glass aside, leaning back against Alma.

Another few beats of silence followed and then finally, Henley spoke, if only to change the subject. "So ... how long are you two sticking around?"

Alma glanced back at Dylan briefly at Henley's question before looking back to her. "I'll be in New York at least a few more days while we 'investigate' you four." The quotes were actually audible, and she grinned briefly before it faded again. "Tonight, though ... " she began, looking to Dylan. She wasn't as sure about that one, and she wasn't sure which Henley meant anyway.

Henley had been asking how long the both of them would be in town, not how long they planned on staying as far as the night went, and while Dylan recognized that, he still made a face. "We probably shouldn't stay too much longer." The Horsemen had a photo shoot in the morning, after all, and they needed to be back in the suite before morning came on the off chance that someone from the FBI building in New York stopped by to update them and found them missing.

Jack and Merritt both mirrored Dylan's face. Alma just nodded to his answer, though it was clear somehow she wasn't all that happy about it either. She looked back to Henley. "We'll find something else to harass you about, I'm sure."

Dylan muttered an apology, his fingers tightening into a loose fist in his lap. If Henley noticed this or heard him, however, she ignored him in favor of flashing Alma a vague, amused smile. "Like Jack's jacket."

Alma did hear and shifted to rest a hand against his leg, trying for comforting, and returned Henley's smile. "Like Jack's jacket."

Jack sighed heavily. "I'm gonna have to order another one now, aren't I? It's my favorite," he said mournfully, and it was Merritt's turn to roll his eyes at him, now.

Letting out a breath of his own, Dylan forced himself to relax, uncurling his fingers so he could cover Alma's hand with his. It took him another moment to iron out his frustrations mentally to rejoin the conversation, and even then, there was the faintest of edges to his tone, though it was likely only Merritt would notice it. "Probably, yeah." A beat. "And speaking of, nice touch with the glass."

Jack's expression changed instantly as he dropped the pout and grinned broadly. Merritt spoke before he did, though. "He was very proud of that."

Jack elbowed him, though he was still grinning. "They should pick up gas on it, too."

"I would be, too," Dylan told Merritt. He paused, turning his attentions back to Jack, and shook his head. "That was ... " A stroke of genius. Even if he likely would have thought of it himself, were their positions reversed, he was genuinely impressed.

Jack's grin didn't change. "Thanks. I thought it'd give your guys something else to chew on for a while." Even if finding out Dylan was on their side took some of the joy out of it, giving the FBI a headache was still far too much fun.

"I'll send you a video of their reactions," Dylan "promised," finally allowing Jack a grin. As much as he probably would have liked to, getting the lab guys on camera would be a little harder than recording his own feigned reaction to the poster.

Jack laughed at that. "You're on."

Dylan just made a small, amused noise and leaned into Alma a little more.

Alma resettled against him some, too, and looked to Daniel. "So when's the next one?" That might have been said, but it was another line of conversation to touch on.

"What, the next show?" Daniel asked, as if it probably wasn't obvious. A shrug followed. "This weekend."

"One on Friday night and one on Saturday for the rest of, like, ever," Henley put in. "Danny has us all on a pretty tight leash."

That was what Alma meant, and she nodded.

"He's a real slave driver," Merritt agreed, looking for all the world like he was serious about that.

"And you love it," Daniel shot back. "Both of you."

Henley seemed to consider this for a moment and then popped one shoulder in a shrug, trying to hide a smirk.

"We haven't actually killed you," Merritt replied.

"Yet," Jack put in before he could, and Merritt gestured to him.

"Okay," Daniel started, affecting a nervous laugh. It probably wasn't all that hard to tell that it was anything but, however, even without being able to read people as well as Merritt could. "Definitely sleeping with the lights on tonight."

Merritt grinned evilly in his direction, though it faded after a moment. "Nah," he drawled. "The worst you probably have to worry about is someone shortsheeting you."

Jack immediately looked thoughtful. "Why didn't I think of that?"

Merritt immediately frowned at him. "I know where you sleep, too, kid."

Alma couldn't help but laugh. "That was your own doing, Merritt."

Jack laughed, too, and Merritt sighed, long-suffering. "Yeah, well."

"If any of you even think about touching my bed ... " Dylan started, waving a finger at them.

"We would never," Merritt told him, sounding affronted for all of that statement before the deviousness was back. "Your toothpaste on the other hand..."

Alma just shook her head again, leaning forward slightly so she could see Dylan's face.

He made it hard, if only because he chose that moment to scrub a hand over his face in frustration, real or feigned, it was hard to tell. When he dropped it, he shot Alma a strained look, equally as hard to read, and then flashed Merritt a scowl, though now his eyes were smiling. "You realize if you screw with my stuff, I'm gonna get you back, right? And that I have a lot more tricks up my sleeve?"

"That's kind of the point of prank wars," Jack offered.

"We should all probably remember not to start things we can't finish," Merritt put in, because it was likely that if one did start, it would get out of hand quickly, considering what he knew them all to be capable of.

"Or at least lay down some ground rules so we don't end up with, like, firecrackers in the toilet," Daniel said.

"Awwww," Jack immediately groaned, and Merritt made a sort of my point exactly face and gesture at them both.

Daniel glanced at Jack. "I'm not sure if I should be disturbed or impressed. But see also: nuclear warfare, I guess." Henley arched her eyebrows, as did Dylan -- neither of them had been there for that -- and Daniel shrugged. "You're better off not knowing, trust me."

"You pick up some things in group homes," he returned, off-hand - and then grinned at the latter part of that.

Merritt made a disgusted face, though he was far from serious about it, too. "Can I just take this time to be glad no one here has a mustache? Because I feel like there'd be some twirling going on about now."

Abruptly, Henley laughed. "Does Danny still have the one he wore when we were running from the FBI?"


"Because if so, we could probably make that happen," Henley continued, ignoring him.

"God, no."

Jack was happy to ignore him, too. "Dylan never saw that, either."

Dylan looked between Jack and Daniel, the look on his face curious and amused both. "And now I wanna."

"Okay, apparently I have no say in this conversation," Daniel muttered to himself.

"It was tragic," Merritt offered over Daniel's muttering.

Alma shot Daniel a look that was meant to be sympathetic but was really mostly just amused.

Daniel made a face at her. Henley, on the other hand, was still grinning. "We could probably find another one."

"Considering it just looked like something died on his face..." Merritt began. Apparently he was trying to see how long they could go before Daniel threw something at them, again.

"Let me run downstairs and see if I can't find some roadkill," Henley returned, starting to get to her feet. That was all Daniel needed to pull the pillow out from behind him and swat her with it, and squeaking, she sunk back down onto the arm of the chair. "Oh, come on, Danny."

Jack and Merritt couldn't help but laugh. "We mock endlessly because we love," Merritt promised him.

Daniel made another face as he dumped the pillow back in his lap, though a smile hid behind this one. "That makes me feel so much better."

"Again with it being from the heart," Merritt shot back.

"I'm touched," Daniel returned, unable to keep the grin off his face, now.

"In the head?" Alma proposed, and Merritt shot her a look of approval.

"That one's a keeper," he told Dylan.

Dylan and Henley both laughed, hard; Daniel, on the other hand, aimed his pillow at Alma and tossed it at her. When everyone had settled, Dylan glanced at Alma, still grinning. "Yeah, I'm getting that impression."

Alma caught the pillow before it could hit her and set it on her own lap, grinning. She returned the grin when Dylan looked at her, though she couldn't quite keep from blushing a little at the same time.

Smile softening, turning fond, Dylan made a small noise at the back of his throat and then looked away, himself. Judging by the look on Henley's face that followed, she was torn between thinking they were adorable and strongly considering breaking into a rousing chorus of Jacob and Alma sitting in a tree.

Merritt caught that and couldn't help but chuckle, amused - and awfully tempted himself.

Henley looked over at him and laughed again, popping one shoulder in a shrug. Meanwhile, while Dylan had missed the exchange, too busy considering the carpet almost shyly, he had a feeling he knew what, exactly, had been said -- or, more specifically, hadn't been -- and when he looked up, it was with a growl for the both of them. If anything, that only made Henley giggle harder.

Merritt laughed again, too. "Like I told him," he offered, nodding toward Daniel. They tease because they love.

"Doesn't mean I'm not seriously considering pitching a pillow at your ass, too," Dylan replied.

Alma offered him hers wordlessly even as Merritt immediately returned, nodding toward Henley this time, "She's got a nicer target."

"Hey!" Henley cried, pouting. Perhaps luckily for her, however, Dylan chose to throw the pillow at Merritt rather than Henley.

"I meant that as a..." Merritt began, only to be cut off when Dylan's pillow hit him.

Henley shrugged, looking satisfied, either way. "Guess it doesn't matter now."

Merritt made a face at both of them, tucking the pillow behind his head again.

Offering him a mock apologetic look, Dylan resettled on the couch and breathed out a sigh, thoughts of having to leave soon creeping up on him again in the silence that followed.

Merritt caught that, too, his own expression actually sobering. "I'm guessing the coach is about to turn back into a pumpkin."

"Something like that," Dylan agreed, faint tension mounting in his jaw as he bit back another sigh. He glanced at Alma. "We should get going."

Alma didn't look any happier about it than he did, even if it was partly for his sake, but she just nodded. "We should."

He shifted away, towards the edge of the couch in prelude to standing up, and gestured for his sketchbook. "Lemme run that back upstairs."

Alma sat up a little as he stood up, handing him the sketchbook once he was standing.

"Not going to risk it getting defaced again?" Jack teased, trying to keep things from getting too gloomy.

Dylan snorted, thumbing the book open briefly to the page where he'd pressed the leaf, as if checking to make sure it was still there, and when he found it was, closed it carefully. "Yeah, no. I really don't wanna come back to a whole book full of dicks next time."

Alma arched an eyebrow at both of them, and Jack couldn't help but laugh. "The first time Miranda showed up here, she..." He trailed off, gesturing at Dylan.

"Ah," Alma said, shooting Dylan an amused look.

"She thinks she's funny," Dylan grumbled, as before looking torn between amusement, himself, and actually annoyed. A shrug followed and he headed for his stairs.

Daniel moved to slide out of his own chair, too, seemingly following him. By way of explanation, he called over his shoulder. "Let me get you that shirt. What size do you wear?"

"She kind of is," Merritt called after him.

Alma shook herself a little. "Oh, right, um." She paused, thinking for a moment before she returned, "Give me a large? I can sleep in it." She wasn't likely to have many opportunities to actually wear it in public, after all, considering she wore suits to work and that it would look odd for her to be wearing it at all, given her part in the investigation.

"A large it is," Daniel agreed from the balcony before ducking into his room. A moment or two passed, and then Dylan returned, followed shortly by Daniel, who held out the shirt to her. "Here."

Alma pushed herself up off the couch as they returned, taking the shirt from him with a smile. "Thank you."

"You're welcome." Daniel flashed her a smile in response. "And it was nice meeting you."

Henley moved to get to her feet, too. "Or, well, meeting you again. Unofficially."

Jack and Merritt both followed their examples, getting to their feet.

"It was nice actually talking to all of you, too," Alma returned, smiling and draping the shirt over her arm.

Dylan hesitated for a moment, and then, "I'll be around -- I'll see you guys later."

"We'll be here," Merritt returned, and Jack nodded.

"'Night, guys."

"Night," Dylan replied. He glanced at Alma, inclined his head towards the door, and then turned to head out.

"Good night," Alma returned and then moved to follow him out of the suite.

In silence, Dylan moved back to the elevator, pushed the button to call for it, and stepped inside once it came. He moved to stand by the panel, leaning against the wall there, and tried his best not to look like someone had just told him they'd kicked his puppy as he waited for Alma to join him.

He wasn't doing particularly well with that, and Alma offered him a sympathetic smile as she joined him inside. She didn't comment on it beyond that, though, knowing it wouldn't do anything to help. "They are fun."

"Yeah, they are," he agreed, flashing her a brief, thin smile. "They're good kids."

"How did you find them?" She wasn't sure this line of questioning wouldn't just make it worse, but she was curious. He could shut it down if it was bothering him, though.

He motioned for her to turn around, as he had before, and shifted, putting his back to her to block her view of the panel and what he did to it. Once he'd very literally made the magic happen, he stepped back and leaned against the wall as the elevator started down.

"Someone passed me a list of names, when it started getting close to crunch time, and they happened to be on it." Along with maybe a dozen others, but that was beside the point. "I took the time to look into everyone on that list and they seemed ... " He paused, trying to find a good word for it. " ... the most deserving."

Alma turned around, waiting until the elevator had started down before she turned back. She leaned back against the wall, too, watching him through that, and nodded to show she understood - and that she didn't exactly disagree. She had seen Jack's and Merritt's files before Dylan had caught up with them at the FBI's office, after all.

"All of them had these ... horrible pasts," Dylan continued after a moment, at great lengths, and in spite of the fact that clearly she understood. "They deserved something better. I figured the Eye, the -- the family that comes with it might qualify."

"It looks like it did," she returned. "For you, too." She paused a beat before adding, "They love you." She thought he knew that, but she needed to make sure.

"It goes both ways," he said softly, as if that wasn't terribly obvious, too.

It was, and she smiled softly. "I think they know, too."

He hummed, offering her a smile in return, and tried his best not to think about how damning that was, how much it was going to break his heart, if and when they left, like everyone else in his life had. He couldn't help his thoughts from straying in that direction, unfortunately, but he at least managed to keep it off of his face. It helped that, a moment later, the elevator stopped, doors opened, and he could let his expression fall, if only for an instant.

Alma returned the smile, looking up at the elevator doors when they stopped. "That is incredible," she said again - and because her attention was on their change in location, she missed his change in expression.

Dylan glanced back at her, the smile returned to his face seamlessly. "I'd argue, but like I told Jack, it really doesn't get old."

She grinned at him, moving to step out of the elevator, turning back to wait for him once she had. "I don't see how it would."

He stepped up to meet her, popping one shoulder in a somewhat helpless shrug. Really, truly, he had no idea, either.

Alma moved to walk with him, letting herself drift sideways again to nudge his arm with hers, smiling at him. A beat after she returned her attention to where she was walking, she added, "Thank you for taking me to meet them."

"You're welcome," he answered, nudging her back. A pause followed, in which he offered her a sly smile, and then, "And I'm pretty sure I owe you a told you so or something." They hadn't had a problem with her being there, after all, and she'd fit right in.

She couldn't help but laugh at that, looking slightly embarrassed again. "If you know anyone who isn't nervous when they meet their... boyfriend's family, I would like to meet them, too." There was the slightest pause before "boyfriend", and she glanced at him, judging his reaction to her use of the word. She thought it was fairly obvious that was what he was, but they hadn't exactly said the words or anything.

If the fact that his expression shifted towards fond, as it had time and time again in the suite whenever someone had mentioned their relationship, however casually, was any indication, he had no problem with it. "Point taken."

Alma just smiled at both his expression and reply but didn't answer herself, falling back a step to let him get the door as they reached their suite.

Pushing inside once he'd unlocked it, Dylan held the door open long enough for her to follow him in, and then made a beeline for the side of the couch he'd draped his sweatshrit over earlier, flopping down on it. It had been a long day, full of emotional ups and down, and between that and the alcohol, still a depressant despite his tolerance, he was all at once exhausted. It probably would have made more sense to head for the bedroom, that in mind, but he couldn't be bothered to go that far just yet.

Alma followed him back into the suite, draping her gifted shirt over the back of a chair and then rounding the furniture to take a seat in it herself, sighing. "I really do need to come visit New York when I don't have a desk covered in paperwork to take care of." She tried to make a habit to get out of the office and get some air - hence her trips to the bridge - but she didn't exactly have much room to talk if the topic of infrequent vacations ever came up between them.

"Next time we both can get some time off, we should do like you said. Come out here, play tourist." Either he'd gotten over his earlier worry that it would look suspicious or he'd reached a point in his tiredness that he just didn't care. It was hard to tell.

She immediately nodded, raising a hand to cover a yawn. "We will." There had to be some way they could make it work. She'd have to think about it.

He'd think about it, too, another point for his to-do list, but later. Now, he stifled a yawn of his own and then made a small, vaguely irritated noise. "I shouldn't have sat down."

That got a tired-sounding chuckle out of her, and she dropped her hand back to the arm of her chair. "Me, neither." She tipped her head back against the back of the chair, pausing for a long moment before she sighed and muttered something to herself in French before she sat up again. There was another pause, and then she pushed herself up out of the chair, moving to stand in front of him and hold out a hand to help him up. "You'll regret it tomorrow if you sleep here."

"Probably, yeah." Not that that stopped him from eyeing the offered hand for a moment, dubiously, before he reached out to take it, to get back to his feet.

"Come on," she prompted, still amused, pulling him up once he took her hand, and then kept hold of his hand as she headed for the suite's bedroom.

He let her lead, pulling away only once they'd reached the bedroom to kick off his shoes and move for the bed. He might have regretted sleeping on the couch, as she said, but he was fairly certain skipping his nightly routine just this once and sleeping in his clothes wouldn't be as much of a problem.

Alma, too, kicked off her shoes, turning away to reach up into the back of her shirt, to unhook her bra and slide it out her sleeves, dropping it into her bag before she, too, moved to the bed. She might be just as willing to sleep in the clothes she was working in, but there was a line.

Dylan tried his best not to look amused at this, helped along by the fact that he reached up to scrub a hand over his face, and then took a moment to turn down the covers before climbing into bed. He waited for her to do the same, stretching, yawning, as he did so, and then as was becoming the norm, reached to slip an arm under her and pull her against him.

That didn't quite work for him, and she looked amused, too, for an instant before she climbed into bed and under the covers, moving immediately closer to him, to settle against him.

Without straying from her, he reached to click off the light at the bedside and then turned to press a kiss to her forehead. "I'm glad you had a good time," he said lowly, draping one arm over his eyes.

"I did," she agreed softly, resettling. "Good night, Jacob."

He made a small, pleased noise. "Night, Alma."