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November 25th: Bring the Pieces Back

 
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Ben Sullivan
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 6:54 am    Post subject: November 25th: Bring the Pieces Back Reply with quote

November 25th, 2013 -- late afternoon

It had become her habit in this final stretch while waiting for Lily's arrival. She would get up early as always, whether she got sleep the night before or not, and she would put together breakfast and lunches for her boys before sending them off for work and school. She would run just a few light errands and when she got home she would take a much needed nap. Whoever would have thought that Jackie Lee Sullivan would need a nap after picking up milk and eggs? But that was the case today and it found her curled soundly on the couch with a throw blanket wrapped around her shoulders, her head cushioned on a pillow. For the life of her she couldn't get comfortable in her bed at night, or rather Lily couldn't, but a couch in the middle of the day had her in a deep sleep little could interrupt.

And it had become Ben's habit in these last few weeks leading up to his daughter's debut for Ben to stop home midday to check on Jackie. Not every day, and definitely not at any predictable time, but work had become less and less interesting (though more and more busy), and his wanting to be around his wife, to dote on her, and to bond with his daughter-to-be before he's even held her is much more appealing most days -- so if he can manage to escape the office or the streets, he does.

Today is one of those lucky days. He notes Jackie's truck out front, but doesn't hear her once he gets into the house. Instead of calling for her, he goes looking for her -- checks the sunroom first, the couch there, where Jackie's able to find rest sometimes, he knows, curled up like a cat in the late morning sun. His instincts are right, and she's there; seeing her dozing there gets a smile out of him, and he's about to turn away to go to the kitchen and make them both some lunch -- but instead, he hesitates, just watches her a moment longer. Really watches her -- the mother of his child. They're so close now, and he can see it in this quiet moment, Jackie holding their baby--

There's no reason for it that Ben knows of, but that thought, that scene, is cut off abruptly for him, and then he's gone. In his place is somebody else, someone that twists his hands shyly in front of him, and in uncertain steps, makes his way toward the couch. As hesitant as he seems, he's bold enough to climb up onto the couch next to Jackie, and after a light press of one hand against her thigh, like he's testing if she'll wake up, he just curls up with her, over her, hugging her with his cheek pressed to the side of her ribs.

Jackie goes on sleeping, and Ben -- or whoever is in his place -- stays that way with her, even after Adam comes home. Really, if anything, he just clings to Jackie a little tighter.

It's not uncommon for Ben and Jackie to be affectionate with each other in front of Adam. For a while, they'd tried not to be, but the two were like a pair of magnets, especially after they'd gotten married and Adam had, more or less, been happy about it. But to find the two of them curled up like this wasn't anything familiar, Ben clinging to Jackie instead of really holding her. The scene grows stranger when he opens his eyes, slightly wide, and lets go of Jackie to sit up, beckoning Adam over with one hand before putting a finger to his lips for quiet. "She's sleeping," helpfully, in a bad stage whisper.

Adam frowns a little. He can already tell this isn't his father, but he's not always good at dealing with the child personality of Ben's. "Yeah, I know," quiet. He steps a little closer. "C'mon, let's go play video games or something." The easy way to distract half of them -- kid fun. It wasn't that Jackie couldn't handle Ben's alters, but Adam liked to shield her from them if he could -- especially something like this, waking up to one being clingy.

Ben -- the child commandeering him -- shakes his head. "I wanna stay here with your mom." He twists his fingers lightly in the fabric of Jackie's skirt, childish.

That just makes Adam's frown deepen, causes a little furrow between his brows. He looks like Ben in that moment, like his father. "That's not my mom. You've met my mom." Something clicks for him, and his expression changes -- looks a little worried, suddenly. "What's your name?"

He goes shy, the way little children do when asked those direct questions sometimes; averting his gaze and tugging a little on the still sleeping Jackie's skirt before whispering his answer. "Benjamin."

Adam feels like he's been punched in the gut, but he doesn't let it show. "Okay. Benjamin. How old are you?"

Adam takes another step closer, but Benjamin doesn't notice, reaching out cautiously to put a hand on Jackie's belly. "Is there a baby there?"

"Yeah, there is. A girl. How old are you?" Ted was ten, eleven, but this was so different. Adam's hoping, praying he'd misunderstood the names somehow, or this was a trick of some kind, but then his father lifts his other hand, peeking over at Adam, holding up four fingers. "Four?" It's a stupid question, and even Benjamin knows it, laughing openly, but still quiet.

"Four. Can she be my sister? I want a brother or sister."

Adam's head was pounding. "Sure. Yes. She can be your sister. C'mon," he makes a grab for Benjamin's wrist, gives it a little tug. "She needs to rest."

Benjamin makes a little whining sound of protest, tries to pull his hand away from Adam, but he's unfocused about it, still watching Jackie. "Can she be my mom? This lady. She looks nice. My mom doesn't want any babies, and I want brothers and sisters and this mom."

"It doesn't work like that. It doesn't. You can't just--" Tears well in Adam's eyes, and he lets go of Benjamin's wrist to swipe them away with the back of his hands. He had to be stronger than this. His father would never get better if he lets a little kid upset him -- even a little kid that could be his father, that was his father in some way-- He had to be strong. "Let her sleep, and we'll go eat some ice cream, okay?" This time, instead of grabbing him by the wrist, Adam holds out his hand for Benjamin to take.

After looking at Adam's outstretched hand warily for a moment, and giving Jackie's swollen belly one last careful touch, he puts his hand in Adam's, gets up off the couch, and walks with him to the kitchen.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 6:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

They're sitting across from each other at the dining room table with bowls of chocolate ice cream when Ben comes back. Adam can tell, without his father even saying anything -- the look in his eyes, the way he holds his spoon, the way he settles into his body, how he's comfortable occupying the space his body actually takes up. With the Others, they always seem wrong somehow, like some subtly bad special effects, a voiceover dubbing in his father's speech, a puppet on strings, an actor interacting with a stand-in.

"You're going to spoil your appetite." His father's poor attempt at a joke. "Spoil my appetite." Even worse.

Adam shrugs, looking off to one side, and keeps eating his ice cream.

"Where's Jackie?" He doesn't ask where he's been, who Adam's been babysitting. It didn't matter, did it? "She okay?"

Adam shrugs again, but he looks in the direction of the sunroom at least. "She's fine. Taking a nap. I don't think we woke her up."

Ben watches Adam for a quiet moment, something measured in the silence, in his gaze, but then he shrugs too, looking away as well, rubbing the fingertips of one hand against his forehead, between his eyes. Headaches weren't uncommon after a switch, but this one felt different -- less icepick stabs, more dizzying. After a moment, he sighs, drops his hand. "Well, I think I'm gonna take a nap too. Unless you want me to make something for dinner?" He's already getting up to his feet to bring his bowl and the carton of ice cream back to the kitchen, but he pauses, lingering to wait for Adam's answer.

"Not really hungry. Spoiled my appetite." Adam's smile is a little wan, but Ben chalks it up to embarrassment of eating ice cream for dinner, or maybe being tired after having to watch one of his alters for a little while -- or, hell, maybe it was even mocking directed at Ben for his earlier bad joke -- but whatever it is, Ben lets it go, leaves Adam in the dining room to put things away in the kitchen, and then to go to bed.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 03, 2014 7:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There's little need for alarm clocks where naps were concerned. She figured either Ben or Adam would have woken her up at some point but she stirs on her accord, lashes fluttering and yawn coming forward. It's later than she imagined, she figures that much by how low the sun is set in the sky. With a groan she's hefting herself off the couch and moving through the house in search of some sign of life. She finds it at the dining room table, Adam sitting at the table alone with a bowl in front of him. "Adam honey, what're you doin'?" Glancing around, trying to piece together what has been happening while she's been asleep. "Y'could have given me a nudge to wake up if y'were hungry-" Head tilt. "Did you eat ice cream for dinner?"

Adam's not sure how long he's been sitting there. He doesn't look up from his empty bowl even when Jackie talks to him, not until he shrugs and gives her a noncommittal, "I guess so." It's sort of typical Adam these days, but it's followed up with him lifting his gaze finally, settling it on Jackie. "So you didn't wake up at all?" Under it all, the moodiness and the quiet, he seems a little frazzled, frayed.

There's a little sigh, her head rolling further to the side and she continues towards him. "You're gonna make yourself sick to your stomach." She doesn't sound mad. Her voice is still thick with sleep she hasn't managed to shake just yet, but gentle. When he lifts his gaze to her she returns it along with knit brows. "No, I've been out since earlier. I think not sleepin' caught up with me and no one woke me up-" Dark eyes searched out his features and she released his bowl, straightening instead. "Adam, what's the matter? What happened?" Another look around, trying to keep her voice calm and only failing a little. "Where's your Daddy?"

Normally, he'd shrug off the thought that he's going to make himself sick from eating too much ice cream, but tonight, he doesn't even do that. "Nothing's the matter. He went to bed. He's fine." He's not cold, exactly, and not annoyed, either -- frustrated, maybe. With his father -- with himself. And that quickly, he gives up the act. "How many has he told you about? In his head." There's worry edging into his voice, too; he fails as much at keeping calm as Jackie had.

He's saying nothing is the matter but she doesn't relax. Instantly her instincts are proven right when he questions Ben's boys and the tension in her shoulders radiates throughout her. She gently slides the chair out beside him and eases into it. "There are four, Adam." He's old enough to know these things, around too much for Ben and Jackie to even attempt hiding it from him like they used to. "Harry, Sam, Ivan, and Ted." Listing off the familiar names to him, hoping that names to personalities will make them less mysterious, nothing to fear. "Why do you ask?"

He stretches his arms out, pushing the bowl away, and drops his face into his outstretched arms while Jackie's speaking, and for a short moment after. Eventually, he picks up his head and looks at her again. Whatever unease he'd felt before, whatever distress, is gone from his face now. He's gotten good at hiding it. "Because there are five."

She lets him have his moment, propping her cheek on curled fingers with her elbow set against the table. The situation is worrisome but it's her usual pose for waiting out Adam and his bouts of silence or shrugging. When he looks up at her blank faced she doesn't even bother hiding her own disapproval. He's too much like Ben in this regard, far too good at hiding. "Five?" Her knot of worry relaxes some. "That's not even possible, Adam. There are four. Always have been. How could there be five?" She realizes it's a question he can't answer. Hard to remember sometimes with his know-it-all teenager act sometimes coming on too strong. "What happened while I was sleepin'?" A glance over to the stairs leading up to the master bedroom. "Did somethin' happen with your Daddy?"

He shrugs -- of course -- to answer her unanswerable question, maybe looking briefly annoyed then, just a flash of it, but then he drops his gaze again, to the empty bowl in front of him. "I came home and he was ... not himself," easy enough way to put it. "I thought it was Ted, because he was-- whatever, that doesn't matter. But it wasn't. He's a lot younger than Ted. Four, he said." Huffing out a little sigh -- and it's a way to try to disguise the deeper breath he takes to calm himself then, too. "I told him to quit bugging you and that we should go eat some ice cream. Then Dad came back, and he went to bed." He looks off in the direction of the bedroom too, but it's quiet, and no Ben appears, as much as Adam wishes he would.

She looks back to Adam to see him with his gaze pointed down at the bowl. Her frown deepens the more he explains and when he looks towards the bedroom she replies softly. "I'm sorry, Adam. I shouldn't have said it's not possible. We know anything is possible." Reaching out she places her hand on his forearm, offering just a quick squeeze of assurance. "I'm sorry I didn't wake up, but I'm thankful y'were around to handle that. It sounds like you did real good." Four. Ted is ten and he would have no reason to lie about something like that. "Did he tell you anything else about himself aside from his age?"

He glances at her hand on his arm, doesn't pull away. He's appreciative of it, really -- the contact, the comfort. "No, I'm glad you didn't wake up. It was fine." It wasn't, and he's not as good a liar as Ben, but he tries. "His name." He hesitates, but during the brief quiet he makes eye contact with Jackie again. The same blue eyes as Ben's. "Benjamin. How can-- that's so stupid. It doesn't even make sense." Annoyed now, obviously so, but after the little outburst he just folds his arms on the table and lays his head down on them.

It's a plus he doesn't pull away because really, the contact is just as comforting to her as it is for him. Lips thin at his brave act but she doesn't call him out on it, just nods along and lets him play the role of the protector. More and more like Ben with each passing day. "Benjamin." She repeats the name with a deep frown. "I've... I've never heard anything about a Benjamin. Or a four year old." When he sinks his head onto his arms she moves her hand to settle at his back in a gentle pat before resting there. "Sometimes things aren't gonna make sense, Adam, but when we figure them out we'll make sure it makes sense to everyone." She's thoughtful and quiet, silence dragging out between them until she speaks again. "What did your Daddy say about all this before he went up to bed? You tell him anything?" Because Ben wasn't really in the habit of asking anymore. Best to let lost time stay lost.

Adam's content to let the silence linger, trying to let the touch at the back of his neck soothe him a little. When she asks her questions, he doesn't lift his head at first, just shakes his head with his face still hidden, but eventually he sits up again, sighing. "He didn't say anything. Just told me I was spoiling his appetite and that he was going to bed. I didn't tell him anything." He shrugs again, but it's a little more rough this time around. "I don't know. Should I have? Are you going to?"

When he sits up she allows her hand to fall away, folding it over her round belly with its pair. His questions prompt a deep inhale, thoughtful, and she exhales her reply. "No, you did right tellin' me. We don't want to hide anything from you, but you don't have to figure this out, Adam. I'm goin' to work it out with your Daddy and when we know somethin' we'll tell you, okay? But I don't want you makin' yourself sick over it. This is somethin' we can all handle." Dark eyes flicker over to the empty bowl, the scarce bits of tell-tale melted ice cream lingering at the bottom. "Your stomach hurt from havin' sweets for dinner? I could at least make you half a sandwich if you got room, get a lil' somethin' else in your belly."

He's quiet for a moment, thinking all that over. "It's probably better if you tell him anyway." As much as Ben always tells Adam they'll figure all this out together, Adam knows it's more than he can handle -- and as much as he wants to be the protector, as much as he wants to shield Jackie from this, he knows he can't. He's just a kid. Sometimes he's okay with that. Right now, he isn't, not entirely, but he lets that go. "A little, but that's okay. I'm not really hungry right now. Maybe later, Jackie." He feels bad for turning her down, a little, but mostly, he just wants to be alone. "I'm gonna go to my room. If that's okay?" After meals, he had to ask to be excused, and he wasn't entirely sure if this counted.

"I'll tell him." Repeating and reconfirming. "You don't have to worry about this anymore, Adam. You did good and I'm real proud of you how you handled yourself and... Benjamin." The name feels awkward on her tongue. "But I got this, okay? When your Daddy and I know somethin' we'll have a lil' family meetin'." She nods lightly at his refusal of the food and she can't blame him. Any sort of appetite she had vanished with the weight of this news. "It's okay, Adam. I understand. You head on upstairs. Get your homework in order, please. I'll be up in a while to check in and help if you need it. Alright?" She offers a smile, just a little weak but there. "That's all you have to worry about tonight. Homework."

He sighs again, but it's like he's preparing himself for something. After that little pause to steel himself up, he nods. "Maybe bring me something to eat then. Maybe I'll be hungry by then." He gives her a smile, too, just as anemic -- and with that, he's pushing away from the table, getting to his feet, and heading upstairs without any more hesitation.

Her smile perks faintly. She had already been planning on bringing something to him, refusing to allow both boys of the house go to bed with ice cream alone in their stomachs. But you have to be smooth with teenagers, let them think it's all their idea. "You think so? I could manage to bring you somethin', sure." Turning her head to watch him go she waits until she hears him go into his room, the sound of him settling in. Her eyes turn to the hallway, pondering the bedroom around the corner and the slumbering Ben beyond their door. It's with a sigh that she pushes herself to her feet with some effort and picks up the discarded bowl to take it to the sink. Adam was handled for now, next would be figuring out how on Earth she's going to broach all of this with Ben. "Lord help us all." They were going to need it if this family kept expanding in more ways than one.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 11, 2014 11:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two bowls left over from an ice cream dinner and two plates from the sandwiches she and Adam shared over his homework. Those were the only dishes she had to worry about for the evening and she was surprisingly upset about that. She wanted to be distracted but the universe wasn't having it. Adam finished his homework with ease and got in some reading before going to bed. She had checked on Ben and he was sound asleep, she really didn't want to disturb him. Their plethora of animals weren't up to much horseplay and all of them found their respective spots to sleep. Even Lily seemed to be quiet tonight, an absolute miracle. All of that left Jackie wide awake and sitting on the couch, trying to read one of her many baby books but so unable to focus that she was positive she read the same page no less than fifteen times and she couldn't remember a single word from it. Babies lead to toddlers and toddlers reminded her of the possible four-year-old the Sullivans just acquired. How is that even possible? She's not sure and she doesn't want to think about it. With a huff and ruffle of her book she tries reading the same page for the sixteenth time.

Mixed blessing: Ben finally wakes up, notes the time and that Jackie isn't in bed, which means he's looking for her -- which means she'll have her distraction. Unfortunately, it's him -- or part of him, anyway -- that she wants distracting from. He's still a little groggy when he finds her in the living room, hair sleep mussed, tee a little rumpled. "Hey. Sleeping here tonight?" It's a joke, a mild one, and his lazy smile matches the delivery. He takes a seat next to her, leans in to press a kiss to her cheek. "How're you feeling?"

She had gotten two paragraphs in and didn't remember anything about them when Ben's voice draws her attention. While part of her is so uneasy, worried about what the events earlier in the day could have meant, it's hard to not smile when she sees Ben just a little disheveled from sleep. "I would have to be able to sleep first if I was going to pick somewhere to pass out for the night." Her cheek tips into the kiss and she gives up on the book, closing it in her lap. "I'm fine. How're you feelin'? You been sleepin' the evenin' away." Casting a sidelong look his way.

The expression on his face is a mix of amusement and slight concern when she explains that she can't sleep -- it wasn't really uncommon for Jackie to have trouble sleeping nights lately, though, so it's more amusement for her comment than real worry. "Good point." He reaches up to rub the back of his head when she asks how he's feeling; it turns into an idle pass of his fingers through his hair in an unconscious effort to fix it a little. "Better. Kinda had a headache earlier. Lost a little time." But the mention of it is casual, and he shrugs it off, folds his hands in his lap, stretches out his legs to rest his feet on the coffee table. "Everything okay? Just can't sleep because of Lily?" It's an easy question, just making conversation. He figures he already knows the answer.

"Adam told me about it, you losin' time. Said you came to with both of you eatin' ice cream for dinner then went to bed." She leans forward with a groan to set her book on the coffee table before easing back into the comfort of the couch. Her lips press together at his question, trying to work out how she wanted to approach this. "Adam said he came across a boy... a young boy..." Gesturing aside at Ben, dragging out her words as long as possible. "But... he said it wasn't Ted." Watching him, waiting to see if maybe this isn't surprising to him. Whoops. Sorry, Sweetheart. Forgot to tell you about one of my personalities. Is that possible?

"Mhm." Confirming what Adam had told her about the circumstances of Ben's return. Once Jackie leans back again, Ben turns toward her somewhat, catching a few locks of her golden hair in his fingers, curling it lazily around his index and middle fingers. He's a little distracted by this, by her, so her explanation catches him off guard, throwing him off more than it would have already. He freezes, slightly wide-eyed -- he can hear his heart thumpthumping in his ears for a few seconds -- and then he shakes his head, pulling away enough to sit up straight again. "He must be confused. Or somebody was messing with him. Harry, maybe." As if Harry had the wherewithal to pull off something like that, or the motivation to even try.

Ben playing in her hair might prove to be a distraction for him but she has been rolling this over so much in her head tonight that she has to stay focused, lay it all out. She gives him a hard look when he freezes, worried that alone was going to be enough to set him off to lose a little time. She waits for him to regain a little of his composure and scoffs gently. "You think Adam wouldn't know if Harry was tryin' to pull one over on him?"

"Well--" But he cuts off, sighing sharply. He knows she's right about that, anyway. "Then he was confused. It had to've been Ted; there isn't anyone else. Why does he think it wasn't?" Mostly, so far, he just seems annoyed. Frustrated. In fact, it's very, very similar to how Adam had been reacting when Jackie had talked with him earlier in the evening.

Oh, he's going to try to explain how Harry is smarter than Adam? This should be good. What? No. Exactly. She lifts her brows, told you so, and leaves it at that. Instead she reaches out to brush curled fingers through his hair at the temple, attempting to soothe him while she explains in a soft tone. "He says that whoever it was told him they were four... and their name is Benjamin." Brows knit together. "Does... does that sound familiar at all? I mean... there can't suddenly be another, right?"

As irritable as he was acting, he still leans his head into her touch, letting that calm him. It works, too, at least until she goes on to explain. At the first piece of information, the languid nuzzle of his temple against her fingers stops; he freezes entirely -- and when she gives him a name, his fingers curl into his hands, slow, then uncurl, again and again. It's the best grounding he has -- until he thinks to reach up and take Jackie's hand between both of his. "No. It's not familiar. There isn't another." But despite the words, everything else about him, his actions, the tightness in his voice, the way he avoids looking at her -- it all says otherwise.

When he stops nuzzling her hand she stills as well, worried. When he instead grasps at her hand she turns it to lace her fingers between his. "Then... what does that mean?" Usually she tries to have more to offer in their conversations but she's utterly at a loss. "I don't think Adam would have heard wrong. He... he was really positive 'bout what he heard." She was going to say he was upset by it but that isn't going to help the matter any. "Is it... possible to get new ones? I guess I always assumed they all come together at once."

"It means-- it-- No. I don't think it's possible to get new ones." That, at least, was something he could answer. He squeezes her hand, doesn't let go, but he brings his feet back down to the floor from where he'd put them up on the coffee table -- not so he can stand up, but so he can rest his forearms on his knees, lean over some, her trapped hand still between his. Jackie's first question echoes in his ears, and then his own voice, amid laughter only he could hear -- as real as you are. Roland's, too, the same words. And out of nowhere, he's remembering something he hasn't thought about since it had happened, a compulsion to write that very name, Benjamin, on a yellow ribbon, tie it to a tree for remembrance's sake. But he doesn't burden Jackie with any of those puzzle pieces. For Jackie, he just takes a couple of deep breaths in an effort to get himself together. "It means I-- I'm not--" He couldn't say it, and he cuts off, shakes his head quickly to try to get rid of some of the haze that had started settling in. "It means he probably ... probably was here first. Before me. Before anything happened to me-- to him. To anyone."


Last edited by Ben Sullivan on Tue Feb 11, 2014 11:07 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 11, 2014 11:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For a moment it sounds like he might actually give her a solid explanation but what he says only manages to leave her more confused. You can't get new ones but Ben obviously was aware of the four year old calling his head a safe haven so what does that mean? She stays in place through all of his shifting around, keeping her hand wrapped tightly around his. "You're not...?" Trying to urge him along, to finish whatever thoughts he might be brewing. But he does continue, a different train of thought or maybe the same she isn't sure, but it leaves her obviously confused nonetheless. "Before you? How is that possible? Little you was there..." Poking her finger into the air. "Things happened..." The easiest way to gloss over it. "Then the boys came. How would one of the boys come before you?"

"Jackie, no--" He turns toward her a little, reaches up with one hand to catch her free hand in his after she asks that last question. Holding both her hands in his now, his gaze falls there for a moment, watching the idle movement of one of his thumbs passing over the back of her hand, again and again. "I've read that ... that sometimes--" It's really 'generally,' but he has to leave himself this out right now, can't make it so definite. "--sometimes the host personality -- the main one --" He lifts his eyes then, settles his focus on her, somehow manages to make steady eye contact, somehow manages to seem outwardly calm. "--it isn't the original one. The original one, the real one, it goes into hiding. Stays innocent of everything." A pause, hesitation, then, "Little Benjamin was there, things happened. The boys came. He's not one of them." The implication that Ben was hung heavy in the air, but he left it unsaid. If she came to the conclusion he had on her own, that was fine -- but if not, that was better. Maybe there was some other way to explain it.

Her hand wriggles in protest when he catches it but it's not much of a fight at all. It turns and grasps at his just like the other, preferring to take comfort in his touch than fight it. He begins about something he's read and her brows knit in an attempt to take in and retain the information better than she had been with her book earlier. "The real one." Those are the words that stick out to her and make her instantly sputter when he's finished. "Are you tryin' to tell me..." She's obviously piecing it together with the more distraught her expression is getting by the moment. "If Benjamin is the real one... What is that supposed to make you?" She tugs her hand free from his even if it's only to poke gently at his chest, that somehow giving her more assurance than his hold on her. "You are here. You are real. You are Ben. You are the Ben I married."

After her first restatement of those few little words, he just swallows thickly and nods a little. She looks distraught, and his own play at calm cracks a little -- moreso when she pulls one hand away from his; something almost panicked bleeds into his eyes, then-- But even though she'd followed along and figured it out, it didn't matter. It didn't matter to her. Somehow, the poke to his chest diffuses some of the tension he felt, and he even manages a ghost of a smile. "And that's enough? Being here and being..." He waves his free hand in a vague gesture between them. "Being with you," he finally settles on. "That's all I need, right? That's real enough?" He's suppressed it so far, but a huff of laughter escapes him then -- overwhelmed more than actually amused at anything, and he sobers quick enough. "I just want to be here." There's already the unresolved issue lingering in the background from a fight they'd had months ago -- that he might go away someday, never come back. That's part in his thoughts, too, when he makes the declaration.

The way she speaks is so matter-of-fact, Jackie Lee Sullivan logic not to be questioned. "You walk, you talk, you work, you handle your family, you have a hot butt. What more does someone have to do to be considered real? I do less than you. I make people but I take lots of naps, but that doesn't make me any less real." The poking hand lowers to his knee to give it a squeeze. "I understand what you were sayin', I get it, but that's... that's such a slippery slope to go down, Ben. Questionin' real and not and all that. We can try to figure out more about Benjamin and what this means but you are real. You are a husband and a father... and a detective. This doesn't change any of that, right?" Squeezing his knee again. "You are here."

She actually manages to make him laugh there -- the real kind, not the overwhelmed kind, even if it is quiet. He puts his hand over hers once she settles it on his knee. "You're right. You're right. We don't need to go down this road." That slippery slope. He pauses, watching her face a moment, but then he leans in, pulling her into as good a hug he can with Lily making things a little difficult at this point. "It doesn't change a thing. I'm still here." One hand finds her hair, and he presses a kiss to her temple before shifting to settle cheek to cheek with her. "Thank you." He probably didn't need to, but habit -- he still did.

She can't get a laugh out but she smiles softly, relieved. "We could, if you want or you feel you ever need to, but..." The corners of her lips twitch, threatening a possible frown if she thinks about it too much. "I think it treads us out of textbooks and into questions we aren't ever gonna have the answers for. We got enough of those without makin' more for ourselves." She leans into the hug nuzzling at his neck before his cheek finds hers. "Thank you for gettin' so smart and finally listenin' to me. I knew you would eventually realize how wise I am." She still can't manage a laugh, not even at her own joke, and after some hesitation she realizes why. "We need to figure out a way to explain this to Adam. I told him we would. I don't know... how we're goin' to, or how much, but we have to tell him somethin'."

"That is true. I think we have plenty of questions to deal with." More than they'll ever be able to answer, likely. His hand starts a slow combing through her blonde waves, over and over. He's quiet while he listens to her, and while he considers her last worry. "We'll just tell him... what I told you. I guess." And even though he'd felt so reassured, his own suggestion makes him frown. "It's the part of me that never got hurt. That's enough, isn't it?" It was blunt, and sad, but at least it didn't bring up aspects of an identity crisis.

She nods lightly at his suggestion. "Honesty usually treats us right." Even if she doesn't sound entirely confident about it either at first. "I think that's a good way of explainin' it to him. I think he can understand that. That's nothin' to fret over, it's just another piece." With his petting and the ordeal of the day slowly getting solved it actually allows her a chance to find a little sleepiness that is always eluding her at night. A quiet yawn is muffled against his cheek before she's laying her head against his shoulder. "Maybe... we can ask him more about what Benjamin said. If he only gave his name and age or if there was anything else. I don't want to push him too hard on it. I don't want to make it too hard on you either, but... it's worth at least askin', right?"

Just another piece. No big deal. It's amazing, how so often Jackie does something or says something to make Ben love her even more. The path of his fingers through her hair slows somewhat when she gives that next suggestion, but it's temporary, and once it starts up again, he turns his head to drop a kiss to her hair. "We should. It would be good to know... anything." The prospect of it still comes with some anxiety, but Ben knows -- he needs to find pieces where he can. This might be the only way to find out parts of his past he's never known. "Tomorrow. We won't push him too hard, but... I'll ask him." Another kiss pressed to her hair, this one lingering a little longer. "Let's go to bed, yeah, sweetheart? Get a little sleep." He was exhausted suddenly, the temporary rush from the stress of this discovery leaving him all at once.

She has told Ben on many occasions she loves all his pieces, all the parts of him that she refuses to simply try to put together to make him whole. He's fine as is so what's another piece? "It would be good to know anything but I think it'll be good for him to get it off his chest and talk about it, too. I will say, you would have been proud of him, Ben. He handled himself really well, I think." Another muffled yawn and she's nodding. "I agree with both of those suggestions, askin' him tomorrow and goin' to bed." A kiss is ghosted to his cheek before she straightens, hands wiggling. "Help, I've gotten comfortable and I can't get up." Smiling sweetly, sleepy yet relaxed. It was nice when talking things out worked well like this. It wasn't always the case so she'll take a win when she can.

"I'm sure I'd be proud. I'm always proud of him." It was the truth, too. "And of you." And so was that. A slight tilt of his head into the kiss to his cheek, and then she's being a goof -- and he can't help it, he's laughing a little. "Alright, okay--" Getting to his feet, he takes her hands to help her up too. "Bed's even more comfortable than the couch, promise." Tackling the vague fear he's had (and been avoiding) for months about this, being able to talk it out so relatively calmly with Jackie -- and then getting to go to bed with her, to hold her close for the rest of the night for that extra reassurance that he really was here? He'll take that as a win too.
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