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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

01 The One I Want - 4. Superman vs. Batman

From here, the mood darkens. You can make your own conclusions for now.
Chapter 4
Superman vs. Batman

Business card in hand, Ben stared at his phone.

The L.A. headquarters of Two Pair resided in a small, glass-plated office building near the corner of Hawthorne Blvd. and PCH. Their receptionist, Betty, gaily greeted clients from her desk in the waiting area. Decorated to be warm and friendly, a water-cooler rested in the corner by a potted plant in front of the large conference room. The blinds were open; no meetings currently in progress. A tiny kitchen and staff break-room was next to an individual bathroom, a storage room, and the server room.

Shelly had the corner office with the windows and the only safe. Doug's desk sat in the middle of a collection of low-walled cubicles for the on-line service staff and temps. Nearby was the alcove for printers, fax machine, and copier. Ben had the office in the back, nestled between the two, small meeting rooms, with their comfy couches and neutral atmosphere. There were no sessions scheduled for Monday afternoon.

Ben's desk had two pieces. The first, with the hutch, pressed into the wall with the door. His chair hugged the space between that and the other half, the same as the first but without the hutch. On the other side of that was another chair, two bookshelves, and, in the corner, a more comfortable lounge chair with ottoman. Ben didn't like having people between him and the door, arranging his office so that he could never be trapped if a consult went awry. There'd been a time or two he'd been grateful for the foresight.

With his back to the hutch, and the computers humming merrily at his feet, screens gone to gaily-swimming virtual fish, Ben laid the business card flat on the desk, drummed his fingers for a minute, and then reached for the phone. He dialed, but hung up before the call could connect.

"Dammit!" he swore. "This is not that complicated!" Still beating a mile a minute, his heart didn't want to listen to his head. "It's not like I've never called a man before!"

Mara paused by the door as she passed, hands full of freshly-printed mailers to stuff and label. She peeked inside. Normally, Doug and Shelly, VPs for Operations and Finance, respectively, took the morning shift, opening the agency at 8 a.m. every morning, six days a week. Ben closed, working the twelve to eight p.m. shift. The majority of the part-time and temporary help reported to him, Mara included. She considered herself lucky. Ben was sweet, if absent-minded at times, and he expected a lot, but he believed in giving a person enough room to either fail or succeed on their own.

"Keep it legal," he'd told her when she'd started as the new special events coordinator, "and make it look good. Beyond that, you're on your own." The freedom had been incredibly daunting and exhilarating all at the same time.

"Talking to yourself again, Doc?" she asked.

Having been there since opening, Ben didn't look his usual, impeccable self. He swivelled around, to reveal a loosened, dangling tie, unbuttoned collar, and worn-down, tired eyes. But he smiled sheepishly. "Yeah, don't worry about it. Do you need something?"

"No, just getting the last of this month's mailing done. Mind if I head out when I finish?"

"That's fine, just let Betty know." The secretary managed the hourly employees' timecards for approval by Shelly every week. With Shelly out, her assistant, Jack, and the new temp, Marshall, had been bickering all day about procedure.

"Right-O. When does Riley get back?"

Ben frowned at the reminder. John Riley was an older man who had been one of the new crew assigned to them with the take-over. In just that short amount of time, he'd already made himself indispensible by taking charge of the agency's online customer support network. He was their fourth VP, Customer Support to Ben's Customer Relations, and they worked very closely together. With him currently on vacation, and Shelly and Doug out with the new baby, Ben was running ragged holding down the fort. They'd had a plan, of course, which was why Riley had taken his trip now, rather than later, but everything had gone to hell with the sudden arrival of little Oliver Michael.

"Not until next week," Ben replied, massaging his temples. It was going to be a long week.

"Well, let me know if you need anything."

With a little wave, Ben turned back around, resting his chin in his hands and staring at the phone. He chanced a glance at his watch and winced. He'd been dithering around about calling for almost twenty minutes. Twenty minutes he really didn't have time to spare.

"Oh, fuck." Snapping upright, he grabbed the phone and hit re-dial.

In his little, crowded cubby off the dean's office, Rick pressed save and fumbled through paper scraps of his most recent draft, finally finding his cell under an analysis of Homer's Iliad. He flipped the phone open without looking.

"Hello?"

There was silence for a second or two, then the sound of a hastily-cleared throat. Rick's distracted frown eased and he leaned back, propping his feet up on a stack of boxes. He waited.

"... It's Ben."

"Um-huh."

"You, uh, you did that on purpose!"

It didn't take a lot of imagination to guess what he was talking about. "Did you feel better when you woke up?"

"That's beside the point!"

"And your point is ...?"

"You didn't -- I --" Although, waking up with another note on Sherbet had been kind of cute, in an obnoxious, uber-pretentious kind of way. "God, you're such an asshole."

Rick smirked.

"Well, I just ... thanks."

"You're welcome."

"Don't do it again."

"I make no promises."

Ben hung up and stared at his phone a minute in shock before flopping back in his seat and staring at the ceiling helplessly. He was being a total schmuck. Why?

"God only knows."

He was able to procrastinate calling back for almost two more days.

Rick answered on the second ring. "Eddy's Escorts, who can I fix you up with today?" He laughed as the line went dead.

Finger on the disconnect button, Ben stared, horrified, into the receiver. He grabbed the pink card and slowly input the numbers.

"At Louie's Limos, one size fits all."

Click.

Dean Howard Barrett knocked on Rick's open door. Face flushed with laughter, Rick grinned at him, but hastily righted himself. "Yes, sir?"

"How's it coming?"

"Good. I should -- hang on one sec." He answered his cell, "Desert Sex Toys, thank you for calling."

"Fucking asshole!"

Ben slammed the phone down and spun around, hitting a random key on his keyboard to dispel the screensaver. He had almost a hundred new emails. "Goddammit."

"Doc?"

"What?"

"The -- the network's crashed again."

"Shit. I'll be right there."

Turning once more, Ben stood and snatched up the business card. He scowled and ripped -- started to rip -- and then just crumpled the card up, tossing it into his wastebin on his way out the door. "Fuck you, you think I'm calling you again," he informed the trash can.

Later that afternoon Rick saw the same number on his caller ID. He smiled. "Hello?"

"You are the most damnably --"

"Is that a word?"

"-- frustrating man I have ever met!"

"Wow. Thank you."

"That is not a compliment. What are you, mental?"

"I thought you liked that kind."

There was a brief instant of silence. "Fuck you."

Not two minutes later, the phone range again.

"Anytime. Anywhere."

"Okay. Do I want to know what that was about?"

"Oh, sorry, Jazz. I was talking to Ben. What's up?"

"Coach wants you to bring proof of a drug test to practice, and he says it better be negative."

"What? That's ridiculous!"

"That's what I said, man, it's too early."

"Thanks for the vote of confidence." Rick tapped his pen on the edge of his desk. "I really don't have time for this. What's the damage if I don't?"

There was a long pause. "Just do it, Rick."

He swore, digging his pen into a scratch pad. "Fine! Fine, I'll think of something. Thanks for the heads-up."

"No problem, man. Be prepared, though, looks like it could be a frequent thing."

Rick exhaled in annoyance. "Whatever makes him happy. I am not, haven't, and won't ever use. Honest to God."

"Well, unfortunately, man, impressions and all."

"Yeah, yeah. See you tomorrow."

"Right."

Hanging up, Rick fumed for a minute. Then he pulled up the university's clinic to check their hours. If doing this would make the coach happy and keep him on the team, then he'd do it. And rub all their noses in the fact he was clean. And so was Ben. This was fucking ridiculous.

He was really in need of a good pick-me-up by the time he saw that unfamiliar number appear on his cell phone again.

"Paul's Porn Shop, you name it, we got it."

"What are you, like, twelve?"

"You know it's cute."

"Fuck you."

"Is that an offer?" Ben hung up again.

The next time Ben called, that phone number had been programmed into Rick's phone and he answered with a chipper, "Freddy's Fancy Furry Fish ...."

"... What?"

"Freddy's. Fine. Fancy. Furry. Fish. Say that three times fast."

"Uh, no, let's not and just say we did."

"That's no fun."

"Look, Rick, I, uh, I was wondering, um."

"Yes?"

Ben leaned his elbows against his desk. "It's been a long day, I --"

"Need someone to suck out some stress?"

"No!" Having bolted upright, Ben winced, peering over his shoulder. He just knew he was blushing bright red again. "You are such a fucking asshole," he hissed.

"I do believe you've mentioned that a time or two before."

"Then you should get yourself checked out, because I don't think it's sinking in!"

"Want to do the honors, then, Doc?"

"Oh, fuck you!"

Good humor restored, Rick smiled. He didn't have to wait as long this time before Ben called back.

"Cat's Cabaret, we're not currently accepting applications."

"Pizza," Ben ground out between his teeth. "My house. Eight-thirty. Be there."

"What about beer? Last I checked, you don't have any."

"We don't need beer."

"Yes, we do."

"No, we don't."

"Hmm, actually, I think there's still some of that scotch left. That'll do."

"For what?"

"If I tell, it won't be a secret anymore."

"I'd hardly say it was a secret to begin with."

"Good point. Well, I plan to get you drunk so I can have my way with you."

"What?" Shocked, Ben almost dropped the phone.

"See? Anticipation totally foiled."

"Now, you see here, you fucking --"

"Isn't that why you called? A booty call typically invol --"

"I don't need to be drunk to have you fuck me!" shouted Ben, slamming to his feet. "You fucking ass --" The phone dropped away from his ear. "Oh, fuck me," he whispered.

There, in the doorway, stood the worst mistake of Ben's life. Movie star handsome in that bad boy, rugged motif of Colin Farrell, he hadn't changed a bit.

Ben swallowed. "Will."

"Afternoon, beautiful. Am I interrupting something?"

Unconsciously, Ben grasped the receiver in both hands to his chest. The cord dragged the base across the surface of the desk with a rasping sound that made Ben wince. Will gave him a pointed glance. Before he could stop himself, old, deeply-ingrained habit had Ben hanging up.

If Toby had driven Shelly up the wall, or, as she liked to say, certifiably, stark-raving mad, Will had almost driven a wedge between them so deep it could never be bridged. Ben had wanted so badly to believe that everything was working out with and for Will that he'd duped himself into believing in a fairytale. Instead, he'd fallen so completely into the other man's rigid, unflinching control that Ben had almost lost everything. Thankfully, he'd come to his senses in time.

"What are you doing here?"

"Came to see you, baby."

"Bullshit!" he snapped, but when Will uncrossed his arms from his chest, Ben flinched, taking an involuntary half-step backwards, legs hitting his office chair.

Will smiled that slow, predatory grin that Ben had once thought so sexy. He came fully inside the office, moving deliberately and slowly into Ben's personal space. He lifted a hand. Ben licked his lips nervously. Will shoved at his chest, dumping Ben back into his chair. As always, Ben was surprised at how small Will actually was, when his persona was so much bigger. That, and how Will always seemed to find ways to loom above him.

Ben's fingers dug into the armrests. "What do you want?"

"Just you, baby. Just you."

Ben jerked away from the other's touch. "It's over!"

"It was," Will agreed. "But I'm back now."

"No."

"What do you mean, 'No?'" Will's eyes narrowed dangerously.

"I mean, 'No!' You can't just waltz in here like nothing's changed! I -- I'm seeing someone."

"You mean, you were."

"No, I am."

"Don't you contradict me!"

The force of his voice alone sent Ben's mind reeling. His heart beat so fast he thought it might come out of his chest. Even a year later, just the sight of Will turned Ben's insides to mush. Sweat dripped down his sides as Will leaned forward, hands on Ben's wrists, nose only inches away. He hated that he was shaking, that Will could feel it, and that it made the dark smile wider.

Will swooped in for a demanding kiss, grasping Ben's jaw to hold him in place. Then he backed off, staring into those nervous, blue eyes, seeing the fight in them, and loving it. "I'll see you tonight." Ben was a habitual creature and Will knew his schedule as surely as his own.

"No." It was shaky, but there. Ben shook his head. "No. I -- I don't live there anymore." No way in hell did he want Will around Doug and Shelly and the baby.

"I'll meet you there, then. Where?"

"With my boyfriend," whispered Ben, wrapping his arms around his chest in a reflexive, protective gesture. Anything. Anything to get Will out of there.

The pleased, smug look on Will's face faded. Anger flushed the tops of his ears pink. He had too much control to strike Ben in public, but he did take a step forward, hands clenching into fists. His voice lowered into a heated whisper. "You're my little slut boy. Mine, and you'll do what I say." He straightened up, adjusting the collar of his shirt as he walked to the door. "I'll pick you up. Be ready."

Ben fled to the bathroom after Will left, wetting a paper towel to lay on the back of his neck and splashing water on his face. In solitude, he shook hard enough he had to lean against the sink for support.

"Fucking shit," he murmured, biting on a knuckle. While his mind told him these feelings of entrapment and fear were natural, the rest of him objected strongly. Ben was an excellent judge of character; it was an essential element of his job. Until Will, he'd never had occassion to doubt himself, or his instincts. On the outside, Will was suave and charming and wickedly handsome. He wasn't an agency find. He'd stopped Ben on the beach one day and invited him and Doug for lunch and drinks.

Looking back on it, Ben knew that Will had played him, and, as much as it pissed him off, it scared him, too, to have been so naively vulnerable. Will was a dancer, a job just naughty enough to spark fantasies but tame enough to elude the danger flags. They'd broken up only because Will had been offered a job in Vegas. Ben had been a hairsbreadth from going with him, because by then all individual thought had been systematically squashed.

Ben had mostly been living with Will at that point, too embarassed to go home except on rare occassions. He'd been avoiding Doug and Shelly for weeks and finally, on the night he was supposed to leave, they'd cornered him in the office. A lot of tears and shouting and one horrible phone call later, Will had gone on his own.

Now he was back. Why had he returned to L.A.?

And just what was he going to do now?

When Ben returned to his office, he fished the card out of the trash and flattened it with hands that still trembled slightly. A light rap on his door made him jump.

"Oh! Sorry, Doc." Mara held out a handful of open envelopes. "I have the ones you wanted to -- is everything all right?"

"Fine. Fine." He held out his hand for the mailers. "Thank you."

"Are you sure? Because --"

"I'm fine!" He groaned and rubbed his head. "Sorry, I didn't mean to snap."

"Well, I'm going to go, then."

"Fine." He dropped into his chair, setting the envelopes on the desk by the phone. He looked at his watch. Only four o'clock.

"See you tomorrow?"

"Yeah." He dived back into his work, but the time crawled by.

The evening hours were their busiest. Background checks had to be done on new clients, there were others that needed taped and entered into the datatbase, or briefed on the rules and expectations, and trained in the network. There were current or past clients to update, billing to handle, and damn if the server wasn't on the fritz today. The customer support staff was half-driven to distraction. Finally, Ben logged on to post an announcement that the site was running slowly and for everyone to be patient, and spent the last forty-five minutes on the phone with the technical group of their parent company.

Peeking out the front windows that night, Ben didn't see Will or his car. Nerves made him antsy. He ushered everyone out early, closing and locking the doors right at eight. Pulling on gloves and helmet, he took one more look around the vacant back lot, and then took off. He zipped through traffic with none of his usual care, all too certain that he was being followed, despite the distinct lack of recognizeable vehicles in his rearview mirrors. Arriving back in his neighborhood in far less time than usual, Ben passed his complex without a second look, turning onto Rick's street with only the tiniest hesitation.

Rick's complex looked more like a motel than an apartment building. An ordinary sort of building sat on the corner, with the manager's sign out front. The rest was built in an L-shape, with the apartments over the parking. Ben easily found Rick's car. Turning off the bike, he glanced around and then pushed his motorcycle into one of the two visitor's parking spots.

He took the stairs two at a time, hauled open the screen at apartment twelve, and reached for the knob. The latch turned under his touch. Pushing hard, Ben darted inside and slammed the door behind him, throwing both locks and attaching the chain.

Lounging on the fuzzy, orange loveseat in little more than boxers, Rick watched the strange ritual. His cat, Tyler, sat up on his lap, ears and eyes riveted on the stranger. The tease died on Rick's lips when Ben turned around, to sag against the door, helmet dangling limply in one hand. From the carpeted shelf above the door, another set of eyes watched intently.

Rick pushed back the TV tray with his laptop and, stepping over the cords, dumped Tyler from his lap and took the helmet from Ben, to toss aside.

"I'm sorry." Ben shook his head mindlessly. "I didn't know what else to do, I --" He gave a weak chuckle. "I can't believe you don't lock your door. This is L.A.!"

Without a word, Rick pulled Ben into his arms. Soft country music played on the stereo, which suited Ben's mood entirely too well. He closed his eyes and dared to let himself relax, cheek pressed firmly to Rick's chest. Which, unfortunately, brought back the shakes.

Ben vibrated against Rick like an unbalanced washing machine. Resting his head against the the top of Ben's, Rick kept one arm about the shivering, leather-clad shoulders and soothingly ran fingers through the short fuzz on the sides of his head. Rick hadn't been sure he'd be seeing Ben that night, figured he'd walk over anyway, but to have Ben seek him out, as if the devil himself were on his tail, warmed Rick's heart ... and other places. He shifted a little, then felt Ben's hands on his waist, where before they'd hung limply at his sides. Ben stirred and looked up, and kissed him.

His instinctual reaction was to grab a firmer hold, so he did; but, just as quickly, he took Ben by the shoulders and pushed him back. He winced at the kicked puppy look Ben shot his way.

"No, Ben," Rick forced himself to say. "You don't want this."

"What the fuck do you know?" demanded Ben. "You want to, I want to, what's the problem?"

"Oh, Ben," sighed Rick, massaging little circles with his thumbs. "You're crying."

"I am not! I --" The fingers he'd used to dab at his face came back wet. Ben deflated like a leaky balloon. "Oh."

"Come on." Rick tugged on an arm, leading Ben across the small apartment to the bathroom. As they went, he threw a backwards glance at the demon cat, watching them from above the door. Snowball, as if to laugh at Rick's caution, yawned widely, exposing her chipped left fang. Tyler ignored them, curled up in the abandoned warm spot on the couch.

Into the bathroom they went. Rick pressed Ben to sit on the toilet, and started running bathwater.

"What's that?" asked Ben, sniffing.

Rick handed him the green bottle. "Bath gel, very relaxing. I use it after games."

"Oh. I thought it was aftershave." Cracking the top, Ben took another breath, then abruptly pushed it away. He leaned against the counter and put his head on his arm. "Fuck."

Rick slipped down from the edge of the tub, pushing aside the curtain, and pushed up the cuff of Ben's slate-gray slacks. He worked the laces loose. First one sock and then the other joined the boots to one side. Silently, Ben let himself be undressed, but kept his face averted. Rick folded the garments carefully and set them on the counter.

"Rick ...."

"Shh," he replied quietly. He tugged on the waistband of Ben's boxers. "Off with these now." He turned, checking the water. There was a pleasant amount of foam from the gel, giving off a light, crisp scent, like aloe or mouthwash. He stood and gave Ben a quick peck to the forehead before grabbing the discarded clothes and leaving.

Ben didn't mean to fall asleep. He sat on the edge of the bath, feet in the water, for a long time before deciding to get in. The water smelled like Rick, beckoning with warmth and comfort. Soft strains of cheerfully depressing music slipped under the door, and the fan had an ancient heater-light on it, which buzzed irritatingly, but the odd, red-orangy light gave the bathroom an otherworldly feel.

Propping his feet up on the faucet, Ben stretched out in the tub. What woke him was not, oddly enough, the sensation of being cold, but the rumbling patch of warmth on his chest.

"Aaugh! Fucking shit! Ow!"

Rick crossed the apartment in a few, bounding strides, crashing through the open bathroom door before the splashing had even finished.

Ben stood backed up in a corner of the bathtub. A wet and thoroughly disgruntled Tyler sat on the lip of the tub, licking at his fur. An unperturbed Snowball lay curled up on the toilet, blinking lazily at the racket. Rick covered his mouth and the smile there, trying to muffle his chuckles.

"Something wrong?" he asked.

Ben's mouth dropped open. He waved a hand at Tyler. "He scratched me!" He shook his head, a hand going to the raw, red marks on his chest.

"That's because you startled him."

"Startled him?"

Rick grabbed a towel and scooped up Tyler. "Yeah. Poor thing. Look, he's all wet."

"'Poor thing?' Poor thing?! He was fucking laying on me!"

"He must like you." Rick glanced at Snowball. "Guess they both do. Snowball never comes in here if I'm in here."

This all felt like some bizarre dream. "Snowball?"

"Yep. Tyler's mom. Otherwise known as the demon cat from hell. Found her in the carport. She was pretty banged up. Few days later, she gave birth to four mangy kittens. And Tyler." He rubbed said cat's neck with an edge of the towel. Tyler purred loudly in appreciation. "He was so little. Too weak to compete with his brothers for food. Carried him with me everywhere for weeks so I could keep him fed. Smart, too, knows lots of tricks."

"Like what?" asked Ben weakly.

"Like how to open the bathroom door," said Rick with a grin. "I didn't think they'd bother you, sorry about that." He glanced over at Ben, still pressed against the tile. "Do you like cats?"

"Never, uh, never really knew any. Gran had these awful, yappy little dogs for awhile, and Doug's allergic to just about everything, so ...."

"Never had a pet?"

Ben shook his head. "No. Unless you count Genny's gerbils."

"Well," said Rick, changing the subject, "why don't you come out of there, then? Pizza should be here any minute." Still carrying Tyler, he stepped from the bathroom. "Oh, and put the seat up on the toilet, would you?"

Ben looked at Snowball. She licked a paw. Ben decided that discretion was the better part of valor. He left both cat and toilet alone.

An old-fashioned, wood and whicker screen partially shielded the bed from the rest of the apartment. Yawning deeply, Ben pulled on a pair of Rick's sweats. Even yanking the drawstring as tight as it would go, the pants still listed low over his hips. He shrugged and pulled on the t-shirt left out for him just as the doorbell rang. Ben ducked out of sight.

Tyler meowed and ran to the door. Rick shooed him away with one foot and jiggled the door open. "Hey, J.R.," he greeted the man. "How's work?"

"Fine," he shrugged, handing the stack of boxes to Rick. "Got company?"

"Yeah -- back." Catching sight of Tyler trying to sneak out, Rick toed the cat back and handed the pizza delivery guy some cash. "A friend," he finished.

"Thanks. Have a good night." He grinned.

"You, too."

Tyler pawed his leg, whining, as Rick closed the door. "Greedy gut," he told the cat affectionately. A white blur raced past, dashed up the cat tree and up to the knick-knack shelf that ran along the circumference of the room. Rick jumped and scowled at her. She ignored him and jogged along the padded shelf to a vantage point above the table, to watch.

"It's like feeding time at the zoo," commented Ben, following Rick to the small table pushed against one wall. "Don't you ever feed them?"

"Oh, don't let them fool you," answered Rick, popping open a pizza box to distract himself. Ben looked like a little kid in his dad's clothes. Dark circles under his eyes made him seem even younger and more fragile. "They always act like they're starving. Tyler's a glutton for pepperoni. Oh, hey, watch this."

Rick peeled a piece of pepperoni off the pizza. As he held it out, the odd, half-mews doubled in volume. "Sit. Tyler, sit. Good boy." He tore off a piece and fet the cat. Then he held up the rest. "Beg."

Tyler sat back on his haunches and raised his upper body off the floor, waving his paws in front of him. Rick laughed and fed him the rest.

"You sure he's not a dog?" Ben fished out a piece and ate standing up.

Rick grinned. "Quite sure."

"I thought cats weren't supposed to be trainable."

"Naw, they're just stubborn, you just have to be patient. And persistent." He frowned up at Snowball. "And, just like dogs, and people, for that matter, each one's different."

Ben sighed and sank down on a chair. He licked his fingers. "Great."

Rick brushed his fingers through Ben's hair. "Why don't you come sit with me for awhile? Bring the pizza. You can turn on the tv, if you want."

As they sat down, Tyler jumped to the back of the couch, curling up on the cushions behind Rick's head, tail dangling to tickle his neck. Rick typed single-handedly while gulping down the hot pizza. Curled into the corner of the hideously ugly but surprisingly comfortable couch, Ben picked at his own. He was hungry, but he didn't want to eat. He plucked off a piece of sausage and offered it to Tyler.

"Don't give him too much," Rick warned. "Or we'll be hearing the toilet flush all night."

"What?"

Rick flashed him a grin. "Cats're trained to use the toilet."

"That's just creepy."

Rick shrugged. "Beats emptying a litter box."

"I guess." Ben settled back, snuggling into the plushy surface. Like the day before, Rick grabbed his feet, caressing the tops idly while he worked. "You're so weird," he murmured sleepily.

"Why's that?"

"Feet are ugly."

"I don't think so. I mean, I have strange-looking toes, but yours are very nice."

Ben yawned. "I knew you had to have a weird, secret fetish."

"What, feet?"

"You'd be surprised."

"Hmm."

They lapsed into silence again and the next time Rick glanced over, Tyler was trying to sneak bites of pizza off the abandoned plate on Ben's stomach. Rick shooed the cat away and set the plate in his own to the side. He gave Ben a concerned glance. He didn't eat enough; it wasn't healthy. Ben grunted as Tyler padded over to lay on his chest, but he raised a hand to pet the cat rather than push him away. Rick smiled. They made a cute picture.

As usual, the students in Rick's classes had left their forum discussions to the last minute. Class met for an hour three times a week, with a portion of classroom participation graded through use of the online medium. The students had questions to answer and were required to comment on a minimum of two threads posted by their classmates. By the time Rick finished reading them all and adding the marks to his gradebook, the hour was late. He shut down the laptop and set about cleaning up.

Ben stirred when Tyler leaped off his chest, paws digging into his stomach. Grunting, he sat up, grabbing the sweats to keep them from sliding off when he stood. Rick was in the corner with the kitchen, rearranging things to slide pizza boxes on the top shelf of the refridgerator. He looked up and smiled over the top of the door as Ben joined him.

"I'm almost done. Why don't you get ready for bed? I don't mind if you use my toothbrush."

Ben grimaced. "Ick." He looked around. The simple, easy domesticity felt awkward, surreal, almost. "Are you sure there's nothing I can do?"

"Well, there are some dishes, if you like. I'm going to take the trash out, or I'll have a couple of sick kitties on my hands in the morning."

"They dig in the trash?"

"One of Snowball's bad habits. She's not really quite tame. On the plus side, though, I haven't had any trouble with roaches. Or mice." Turning back, he dived in the fridge again.

Normally, Ben hated washing dishes. The only thing he hated more was scrubbing the toilet; but having physical objects to turn his hands over helped keep his mind from circling back to the cloud of panic nibbling on the edges of his consciousness. There wasn't a dishwasher, so everything had to be done by hand in the single, moderately-deep sink. He heard Rick leave, then come back, the door thudding into place and clicking as he turned the locks.

A light rattle from the direction of the bed set Tyler to mewing again. When Ben looked, Rick sat on the edge of his bed, a cylinder with cat treats in his hand. Tyler sat nearby, apparently running through a small repertoire of tricks.

Ben placed the last glass in the dishdrainer and joined them, pulling his knees up to his chest. He fingered the blue-and-white patterned quilt in silent amazement. Outside the state fair, he'd never even seen a real quilt before.

"My mom's mom made it," said Rick. "That's what Grandma does, she makes quilts and sells 'em. Other things, too, but mostly quilts."

"By hand?"

"Some, but there's not much she can't do with her sewing machine." He grinned. Sliding from the bed, he shucked off shirt and shorts and tossed them in the hamper. He grabbed the alarm clock. "What time do you need to be up?"

"Have to leave by seven. Rick? Would you give me a lift to work tomorrow?"

He set down the clock to meet Ben's wide, too-serious eyes. He bit his tongue and didn't ask. "Sure."

Ben let out a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. "Th-thanks."

Clock set, lights out, Rick climbed into the double bed. Shoulder brushed shoulder as two pairs of eyes stared up at the ceiling.

"Rick?"

"Mm-hmm?"

Tyler meeped softly in protest as Ben turned, dislodging the cat from his chosen spot sprawled over two pairs of ankles. On his side, Ben leaned on his hand, plucking at the sheet.

"I ..."

Rick turned on his side to face the other man. He reached out and drew fingertips along the jaw, pausing at the edge of the mouth, where Ben had sucked his bottom lip between his teeth. Rick grabbed him in both arms and Ben sank into the embrace, trembling from head to foot, face hidden in his hands. Rick just held him, loosely stroking down the neck and spine in a slow, repetitive caress. He lay awake long after Ben's body finally relaxed enough to sleep. Rick brushed at drying tear tracks and carefully extricated himself.

Ben's clothes were right where Rick had left them. He fished in the pocket of the slacks for Ben's cell phone. Flipping it open, he navigated to the address book, drawing in a deep breath before dialing Genny's number.

"Ben ...?" came a sleepy voice. "Do you know what time it is?"

"Um, its Rick, actually."

"Rick ...? Oh. Oh!" She suddenly sounded far more alert. "Is everything okay? What happened? Where's Ben?"

"Fine, he's fine, I think, I just needed to talk to you."

Genny sighed with relief, and yawned. "Good, because that's just what I need in the middle of the night, a heart-attack."

"My apologies, I just, it's just that, well, something rattled Ben pretty badly today and I was hoping you'd know what it was."

"Hasn't talked to me. You should call Shelly."

"No, I can't do that, not with the baby."

"Huh? What're you talking about?"

"Um, she had her baby?"

"No way!" squealed Genny. "How come nobody told me? That rat! He was supposed to call me! What is it, a boy or girl?"

"Boy."

"Wow, I'll have to tell Gran. She'll want to send over a care package. How exciting! What's he look like? What'd they decide to call him?"

"Not sure, but, Genny, that's not why I called."

"Right, right. Ben. What happened?"

"I don't know. He was really upset when he showed up at my apartment tonight. Wouldn't eat, hardly, and he, well, he just got to sleep. I'm really worried, Genny. He wants me to drive him to work in the morning. I need to know what I'm getting into."

"Hm. Anything else you can tell me?"

Rick shook his head, forgetting that she couldn't see. "No, I don't think so. We were talking this afternoon and he suddenly hung up on me, then nothing until tonight, so it had to be after that. He seemed really ... He seemed scared when he showed up here."

"Scared? Huh. Stay on the line, I'm calling Doug."

"No, Genny ..." But she was already dialing.

The phone picked up right before voicemail and Doug's sleep-roughened voice groaned, "Yeah?"

"It's Genny, and Rick. We need to talk."

"This isn't funny, Gen."

"No joke, it's about Ben."

"Ben?"

"Yeah, did he mention anything to you or Shelly today?"

"No, haven't heard a peep. Why?" Over the line came the sound of rustling, cloth against cloth. Doug yawned, jaw popping.

"Freaked out over something today. Tell him, Rick."

"What'd you do?"

"Me? I didn't do anything."

"Boys!" Genny interrupted. She sighed. "Something spooked Ben at work and he was still shook up when he arrived at Rick's. That about right?"

"Yes."

"We need to know if Ben said anything to you, or if you might know of anything funny that happened today."

"No, hang on, let me check my messages. Had the ringer turned off, there might be something." He stumbled his way into the kitchen and flipped on a lamp, squinting in the sudden light. He switched his cell to the other ear and called himself using the house phone, turning up the volume and skipping through random congratulatory messages. One message made him straighten up in shock. "Oh, fuck." He scrambled to his feet, racing towards the bedroom.

"Doug?" called Genny. "Doug, what's wrong?"

He skidded to a halt in the doorway, peering in at his sleeping wife and infant, breathing deeply in relief. The one-word response meant nothing to Rick, but Genny drew in an echoing sharp breath.

"Shit."

"What?" demanded Rick. "Will what?"

"Not a what," answered Doug, "a who."

"Whom," Rick corrected automatically.

"What the fuck does it matter?" hissed Doug.

"Stop it!" Genny snapped. "What about him, Doug?"

At a more sedate pace, Doug retraced his steps, moving to check that doors and windows were securely locked. "Betty said he came by the agency today."

"Who?"

"His name is William Hall," said Genny. "Dammit! Been bugging Ben for months to date again and he finally does and look what happens! God-fucking-damn." She took a deep breath. "This Will, he, well, he fucked up my brother pretty good. Rotten, no good ..." The words that rolled off her tongue next raised Rick's eyebrows.

"What did he do, exactly?"

"We're not ... really sure," Doug replied slowly. "They dated for almost two years. By the time we realized something was going on, well, you wouldn't have recognized Ben a year ago."

"It wasn't your fault, Doug."

"He's my best friend!" he protested. "I see him every day, and I didn't notice!"

"Notice what?" asked Rick.

Genny said, "He just started doing things differently. It wasn't a big deal, at first, just little things, but wouldn't give a reason except to sometimes say that Will liked it that way, or Will preferred this or that, and pretty soon he wouldn't do anything or make any decision without first asking Will."

"Oh, God," sighed Rick, eyes piercing the gloom to peer at the lump in his bed. Without Genny continuing to list the changes they'd seen, he knew, with a sharp pain in his chest, what must have happened. This Will had homed in on that inherent neediness of Ben's and manipulated him, exactly what Rick had wanted to do. He ran his fingers through his hair in guilty anger.

"What was the worst," Doug was saying, "was that Ben started spending all his time with this guy. He couldn't eat or sleep or, heck, even breathe without Will making him account for each and every minute they spent apart. Ben stopped even coming home. I finally got him out one day to surf because Will was hung over or something, and the next day at work, Ben was favoring his right side."

Rick froze. "He was abused?"

"We don't know," said Genny quietly.

"Suspected," Doug added, "but never could get Ben to say, one way or the other."

Rick sank into a chair, weak-kneed. "So what do we do?"

There was a pause.

"Legally," said Genny, "there's nothing we can do because Ben won't press charges."

"This guy knows where we live," said Doug. "He'll start something if he can't get to Ben. We can go after him then."

"But there's no knowing how long that will take, and Shelly needs you. She doesn't need to be worrying about this, too."

"Damn it, you're right."

"Well," suggested Rick, "what about hitting this thing face-on? Force a confrontation?"

"No!"

"You didn't see what this guy did to him," growled Doug.

"I can guess," Rick argued. "Is he the kind of guy to try something in public?"

"Oh, no," Genny answered quickly. "He's all sweet and charming to your face, like a snake-oil salesman. He could sell ice to the eskimos."

"Okay. Then we don't leave Ben alone. I have class in the morning, but if I take my laptop, I can work anywhere."

"I'll go in for the morning," Doug offered. "Ben normally closes, so I'd expect Will to show up around then."

"I'll call Uncle Charlie and see what he suggests."

"Wait," said Rick. "Close? When's that?"

"Eight."

"Eight? As in eight p.m.? That's a twelve-hour day!" He rubbed the back of his neck, mind scrambling to figure out how he was going to manage the following day.

"There's no one else to mind the store at the moment," Doug explained. "Our other partner is out in Arizona visiting his daughter. He'll be back on Saturday. Besides, Ben works from home even when he's not in the office. There's not much difference, really."

"Bull!" snapped Rick. "Who's taking advantage of whom, now?"

"God, you two! Just duke it out already!" Genny yawned. "If we've got tomorrow covered, I'll check with the boss and see about getting some time off later this week, but, really, I've got to get some sleep."

Both men muttered agreement and after a few more stilted words, they hung up. Rick returned to the bed to find a white cottonball with teeth stretched out along Ben's hip. Stunned, he reached out to pet her, but Snowball hissed at him and he retracted the hand. The demon cat's presence made squeezing into bed rather interesting, but Rick managed. Wiggling close, he tucked Ben's head under his chin and thought about the strange turn his life had taken in just a few days' time.

If he'd just seen Ben out and about, Rick doubted that he'd have ever hit on the man, they were so different, and Ben hid his geekiness well. Whatever Ben might think, Rick didn't consider him flamboyantly gay. Ben was the kind of guy who made men and women alike take a second look. He was both childishly naive and wise beyond his years, a juxtaposition that Rick found intriguing and not a little endearing. What with all that Doug had told him, Rick was rather amazed that Ben hadn't found himself in over his head before.

The overprotectiveness of the others now made sense. He'd been witness to a few relationships gone sour and couldn't say he'd have reacted any differently. Now that he was involved, however, he couldn't sit idly by and let the other man be hurt.

Ben woke ahead of the alarm, feeling even more tired than before, tense, and on-edge. He lay face-down, which he never did, nestled in the crook of Rick's arm. A hefty weight sat on the small of his back, another across his feet, and when he looked back over his shoulder, bright, beady eyes blinked disinterestedly at him. He wasn't sure if he should get the cat off, or even how to do that, but his bladder would not take no for an answer. He struggled up on his elbows and then to his side as Snowball let out a very miffed-sounding sigh and jumped down.

His eyes were gritty and sore. Ben frowned, blinking at himself in the bathroom mirror. His eyelids were red and swollen. The grit in the corners made them itch, but rubbing at them only made him feel worse. He opened the medicine cabinet to pull out the excedrin he found there, but slammed the door shut instead when his mind started calculating how much it would take to make everything just go away.

To distract himself from such unhealthy thoughts, he moved into the kitchen. Both cats followed, to sit on the edge of the faded linoleum. Tyler meowed pitifully, but Ben could only shake his head at them.

"Go away, I don't know what you eat," he scolded the cats. "Stop that." Their staring made him nervous, as if, behind those slitted eyes, they were silently plotting his eventual demise and disembowlment. He shivered lightly, knowing that house cats were far removed from the larger, wild cats, but still remembering a few years back all the stories of hikers being attacked by mountain lions.

"Not a good start to the day," he muttered.

He found milk in the refridgerator and, surprisingly enough, eggs, and fairly fresh ones at that. Snooping about, Ben got down flour, milk, and eggs, and even a partial bag of chocolate chips from the vegetable drawer (next to a rather decrepit head of lettuce). More digging got Ben a seemingly random collection of herbs and spices, baking soda, and cooking oil. Interestingly, there was a tiny, unopened bottle of extra virgin olive oil tucked away on a back shelf. In minutes, Ben turned out little scoops of dough to fry into pancakes.

A hand flopped over the smack quiet the offending, harsh blaring of the alarm clock, but the smell of oil and chocolate and ... yes, pancakes, brought Rick upright, blinking awake. The cats were meowing loudly now, covering the sounds of sizzling and Ben's humming. Rick threw the covers aside and staggered into the bathroom.

Ben scooped the last of the pancakes onto plates and transferred them to the table while Rick fed the increasingly obnoxious cats. He poured juice silently, buttered his pancakes, and picked up the sticky bottle of syrup he'd found.

"Coffee ..." Rick groaned, opening a cabinet and reaching for the mix. He'd forgotten to set up the machine the night before, so it was another couple of minutes before he joined Ben at the table. Shovelling pancakes in his mouth, Rick watched his guest pick at his own. For all that he'd slept as soundly as normal, Ben didn't look rested.

"Ben ...."

He stabbed a little harder at his pancakes. Rick reached over and pulled the plate out of reach. Ben sighed and set down the fork, still not meeting Rick's gaze. How could he? Stuff like this only happened on bad Lifetime dramas, of which he'd seen far too many. He wasn't helpless, but that's exactly how Will made him feel. If he looked at Rick, he'd see that, and Ben didn't know if he could stand to see the pity he'd get in return.

"Do you want the shower first?"

"What?"

Rick grinned at the startled look he received. "There's only so much hot water. Do you want to go first?"

"Um, sure."

There was more cold than hot water when Rick stepped in, but the sight of Ben puzzling over his razor made up for the minor inconvenience. Wrapped in a towel, Ben stood at the sink, razor in hand, poised as if unsure he'd be shaving or scraping off his face.

"I tend to break the electric ones," said Rick, pushing back the curtain to snag his towel. "My hair's too bristly. Or thick. Or something." He shrugged. "Like Superman."

Ben blinked, turning from the mirror to stare at Rick. "What?"

"Didn't you ever wonder how Clark Kent shaved?" He towelled his hair. "All powerful, with that super-strength and all. A single strand of hair held up that hundred pounds of weight, or whatever it was. Guess you never wondered, huh?"

"I'd say that would be a no."

"Got to have some practical use for kryptonite," Rick continued, walking nonchalantly out of the bathroom. "Just think what you could use a fingernail for!"

Bracing himself, Ben gingerly dragged the razor down his jaw. "Do you," he asked as he walked out, wiping his face with a small towel, "collect comic books?"

"Not anymore." Rick looked up from where he was bundling his laptop into its case. "I collect manga now."

Ben closed his eyes briefly. "Dare I even ask what that is?"

"I'll show you sometime." He grinned.

Ben groaned. "I've changed my mind, I don't want to know."

"Okay," Rick said with a shrug. "Then, going back to Superman, who do you think would win a straight fight, Batman or Superman?"

Ben paused pulling on his pants. "What?"

"You've got to have an opinion, right? So? Who would win?"

"Um ... Superman?"

"Why?"

"Because, um, it's real? Not reliant on technology, the super-strength and stuff."

"Ah, but he would get tired! With Batman's gadgets, he could --"

"Why are they fighting?"

"Doesn't matter, it's hypothetical."

"Right."

Rick checked over his bags: laptop, work satchel, gym bag. He needed socks. "But," he continued, "it does mean that, of the two, you like Superman better."

"I guess."

"Who's your favorite X-man?"

"I don't--"

"Everyone's got a favorite. I like Gambit."

Ben rolled his eyes. "You would."

"Ha!" Rick spun around. "I knew there was a little, internal geek just dying to break out!"

"Yeah, whatever."

"So, come on, who's your favorite?"

Ben lifted a foot to tie his shoe, hiding his blush. "Rogue," he muttered.

"Rogue?"

"What, is there an echo in here?"

Rick laughed. "I just think you have a thing for flyers."

Ben scowled. "Who wouldn't want to fly?"

Rick wrapped his arms around Ben from behind, nibbling the back of his neck. "Cute," he breathed in an ear. If a little sad .... He picked up his bags. "Ready?"

Shivering, Ben rubbed the back of his neck, checking his pockets. He nodded. "Yeah."

For all that they only lived twelve miles away, Rick pulled into the agency's parking lot only a few minutes before eight. He would have to hustle to make it to class by nine. Letting Ben out of the car only after a goodbye kiss, Rick waved cheerfully and took off.

Ben flipped him the bird, but he wasn't sure that Rick saw. Opening the offices, he went right into Shelly's and pulled out his 'emergency suit,' as she called it. He left the jacket, but changed clothes rapidly, rummaging through the little travel kit in the bureau for toothbrush and toothpaste. Boots were exchanged for his usual flip-flops, awaiting him under his desk, and by then, the majority of the staff had arrived.

Falling into work was easy and keeping his mind occupied kept his nagging worries at bay. Doug showed up at ten and was promptly and enthusastically showered with congratulations. He laughed, said he could only stay a short while, that he was out buying groceries, but sat down at his desk anyway.

"We need to think about investing in some blackberrys," he told Ben.

"Hell, no!" Ben replied. Sitting on the edge of his desk, foot propped on a drawer, he was on hold again with the tech group. "I don't want to be contacted all hours of the day."

"But it would make working from home easier."

"I thought I fixed the gateway so you could check your email from home?"

Doug rubbed his head. "You're right, I forgot. I must be more tired than I thought." He gave Ben a sheepish smile.

"Whatever. Go home before Shelly has a kitten or two."

"Can't. Still got to pick up yogurt."

"Why?"

He shrugged. "Something about yogurt being a good way to replenish calcium or something."

"Shelly hates yogurt."

"Never argue with a woman who only gets two hours of sleep at a stretch."

"Right, I'll keep that in mind. Yes, hello?" He directed his attention back to the phone. Doug waved and bowed out of the office. Ben nodded. "No, that didn't work, either ... What? For how long? No, I'm not trying to be difficult, just trying to do my fucking job!" He hung up. "Dammit!"

"Rough day?"

"Jesus, Doug, just go -- Rick! What're you doing here?"

He brandished a small, white paper bag. "Brought you lunch. Didn't think you'd eat with no one to mind you."

"I don't need --"

Satchel dropped to the chair, bag on the desk, and then Rick had his arms full of Ben. Holding him down by his waist, Rick proceeded to kiss him silly. Standing between spread legs, Rick ground unmercifully against his captured lover.

"Been thinking about you all day," he whispered.

Ben fussed. "Get ... get out of here, can't ... can't do this h-here -- ohh! Damn you!"

Rick nibbled an ear and Ben tossed his head back, so Rick turned his attention to the throat. He supported most of Ben's weight now, leaning over him, Ben's hands in his hair and clutching his shoulders.

"What the hell are you doing?"

Ben froze. Rick looked lazily over his shoulder. A man, five-five-ish, slender, in designer threads and flushed dark red in anger, stood in the doorway. Ben wriggled, face drained of all color. Rick slowly turned around, keeping Ben behind him.

"We're having a moment," he answered coldly.

"Will," Ben began, digging fingers into Rick in an effort to escape being pinned.

"Shut up!" snapped Will. "I'll deal with you later. You," he addressed Rick, "had better get your hands off my boyfriend."

"And what'll you do if I don't?" He held onto Ben's wrists with one hand and regarded his fingernails, unfazed. "Last I heard, Will, you're history. Ancient history."

Ben kicked him. "Rick!" he protested. He got no further, because Rick turned back and, completely ignoring their interruption, pressed their lips together again.

Rick felt the hand on his arm and shrugged it off. He watched Will out of the corners of his eyes, and was fully prepared for the punch that came his way. Turning, he caught the much-smaller man's hand and shoved him back so that he stumbled against the open door.

"That's your one warning," he spat. "Ben's not yours anymore, and I don't ever want to see you around here again."

Ben watched, eyes as wide as saucers.

Will's face darkened to a most un-becoming shade of purple. He steadied himself from where he'd almost fallen. "Who're you to threaten me?" he sneered.

Rick cracked his knuckles. "I'm the Eightman for the Landsharks. And Ben's boyfriend. Now get out."

They collided like two rutting moose. Ben winced, and the next thing he knew, Rick had will pressed face-first into the door, arm twisted behind him. The smaller man cried out. Beyond them, Ben could see curious, alarmed faces of the staff. Horrified, he could only stare.

"Now," growled Rick, "you going to leave peacefully, or am I going to have to break your arm?"

"Aaah! Let go of me!"

Rick slammed him against the door again. "Well?"

"Fine!" squealed Will. "I'll go! I'll go, but this isn't finished!" He shrieked louder as Rick yanked on his arm.

"I catch you even sniffing around here again, a broken arm will be the least of your problems! Capiche?"

"You crazy, son of a bitch! Ah!" Rick thumped him against the door again. "Augh! All right, all right! Don't break it! Just don't break my arm!"

Pulling, Rick caught the man by the back of his neck and, with one hand still on the arm, propelled him through the wide-eyed office staff, past the receptionist, and tossed him out the entranceway to the sidewalk.

"Don't let me catch you round here again."

"You'll pay for this!"

"I'd just like to see you try." He turned his back and went inside, to be greeted by raucous cheers and laughter with just an edge of hysteria. Doug stood by the secretary and he offered Rick his hand in a hearty hand-shake.

"Thank you," he said. Beside him, the secretary sobbed into a tissue.

Rick shrugged and blushed. Quietly, he said, "I think Ben and I really will need a moment."

Doug nodded. His eyes burned into Rick's back as the other man threaded his way back through the staff and cubicles.

Returning to Ben's office, Rick closed and locked the door. He went to Ben, still sitting on the edge of his desk, trembly, white-faced, and weak. With quick moves, Rick slipped off the tie, undid the top buttons, then tugged on the slim, black belt.

Ben pushed at him. "What are you doing?"

"You know what you need?" Rick whispered, fingers making quick work of buttons and fly. "A nap."

"... What? No!" He shook his head in denial, but that only made him more light-headed and he didn't have the strength to fight as Rick pushed him back, peeling him out of his shirt. The desk wasn't quite wide enough to allow for his entire torso and Ben scrambled, but Rick held him firmly.

"Not here," he whimpered quietly. "Rick ...."

Pants joined the shirt draped over the back of the chair. Rick kicked aside the abandoned flip-flops and pulled Ben against his chest. He kissed him slowly, hands travelling miles up and down Ben's back. Inch by tiny inch, Ben gradually relaxed. When Rick slipped his hands under the white undershirt, Ben gasped, shivering at the touch. He attacked Rick's mouth, quiet, lusty moans escaping between them.

This time when Rick pushed, Ben leaned back, head dropping as Rick pulled him free of his boxers.

"Ooh," he groaned. "I should ... be ... oh, god!"

"You should be quiet," teased Rick. "There's no doubt a half-dozen people with their ears to the door."

Ben moaned again. "B-bastard! This's all your ... aah! Stupid fault. Shouldn't -- mm-mmngh ...!"

Rick chuckled. "So it is," he murmured. "So it is."

~ TBC ~

2010 Dark; All Rights Reserved<br /><br />Characters, places, names and events are a product of my own muse and entirely fictional. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental. Any reproduction or reprinting without the express consent of the author is prohibited.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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Chapter Comments

Wish I could train my cats to use the loo, LOL! Or train them at all, for that matter. I'm just not consistent/persistent enough, *sigh. hehe.

 

And, yeah, don't mess with moms who only sleep in two hour increments. So freaking true.

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On 01/16/2011 09:20 AM, AnytaSunday said:
Wish I could train my cats to use the loo, LOL! Or train them at all, for that matter. I'm just not consistent/persistent enough, *sigh. hehe.

 

And, yeah, don't mess with moms who only sleep in two hour increments. So freaking true.

Training a cat is nothing like training a dog, that is for sure. The scene with the yogurt came almost word-for-word from a friend of mine when she was pregnant with her first. It wasn't yogurt but something else. My grandfather once said, "Insanity - you get it from your kids!" I think he's probably right. LOL
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Well that does answer a few questions - And my like of Rick just gets more and more.

 

Ben is growing on me too - but he still needs to be nicer to Rick, but then he does seem to be warming up. I just wonder if now that Rick was his Superman, Ben will stick around not because he wants to but because he really like Rick?

 

Still nice to see Ben finally being a tad nicer.

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On 06/30/2011 07:08 AM, Andrew_Q_Gordon said:
Well that does answer a few questions - And my like of Rick just gets more and more.

 

Ben is growing on me too - but he still needs to be nicer to Rick, but then he does seem to be warming up. I just wonder if now that Rick was his Superman, Ben will stick around not because he wants to but because he really like Rick?

 

Still nice to see Ben finally being a tad nicer.

yes it is, and you put your finger right on it. Ben has protected himself for a long time. Do you think that maybe he's starting to trust again?
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On 07/10/2012 12:09 PM, Grandma said:
This is such a great story, I can hardly wait to read more.

Great job!!

Thank you! You're at such a great spot in the story, too, with so much to come! :P
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Rick is very caring person and he really cares about Ben, I do like him. Will on the other hand, I hated him from the very beginning. Poor Ben, he´s been through a lot with Will. Hopefully they´ll find a way to get rid of him...suppose they could kill him, that´d be permanent solution :P

 

This is a really great story :worship:

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On 05/25/2014 06:55 PM, Suvitar said:
Rick is very caring person and he really cares about Ben, I do like him. Will on the other hand, I hated him from the very beginning. Poor Ben, he´s been through a lot with Will. Hopefully they´ll find a way to get rid of him...suppose they could kill him, that´d be permanent solution :P

 

This is a really great story :worship:

Well, you're not supposed to like Will... lol. I considered killing him off, but it didn't work out. ;)
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You show'im rick!!
I think I might, during this story, become a rugby fan... Sigh, and I don't even like sports. All this hormones

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On 08/09/2016 07:07 PM, Avangelion said:

You show'im rick!!

I think I might, during this story, become a rugby fan... Sigh, and I don't even like sports. All this hormones

Thanks for sending a smile my way this evening. I'm glad to know you're enjoying the story.

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