He needed another beer. He looked down at the case full of empties beside him, and its equally empty friends near the island in the kitchen. Scratch that, he needed another case. He got up with a grunt and moved toward the fridge, resisting the urge, for the most part to actually put his head through the metal door. He knew, on some level, that Reed had reinforced the metal, and he’d probably only put a good sized dent in it. He knew also that banging his head against the fridge wasn’t going to help him feel any better.
He opened the door, grabbing the last of the beer and moving back to the table. He should be beyond this. After all the shit that had been thrown at him over the years, by villains and friends alike, the things that squirmy little piece off trash said should have just rolled off him. But…
He shook his head for the thousandth time that night and swallowed the entire contents of the bottle he’d just opened. Reed had explained it… well, as well as Reed ever explained anything. Something about Logan’s kid having some kind of pheromone powers… sorta like that stuff Jessica Drew threw at people when she wasn’t paying attention. It messed with him, Reed told him. That was why he’d damn near put the little bastard through the floor.
He had agreed. It would fade; whatever Daken had put in his head would disappear soon enough. Unless… Reed hadn’t actually come out and said anything specific. He’d just said ‘Unless…’ and drifted off. Fuck. Ben had lost it a little then.
“Unless what?” Reed didn’t answer him. “Unless what, Reed?”
“Nothing, Ben. Nothing.” Reed had reached out and patted his shoulder. “It’ll all disappear by tomorrow.”
He’d gone back into the lab after Reed and Sue had gone to bed to see what this ‘Unless’ might actually be. He found what he figured could only be classified as an ‘unless’ scrawled in the margin of the fifth page of medical and technical data that he sifted through. The words on the page hit him harder than anything physical ever had.
If Daken’s manipulation stemmed from any legitimate emotions the intensified emotional state may be permanent.
That little bit of information had been the reason for the trip to the liquor store. Reed didn’t actually think that he wanted to… no. Of course not. He was just making notes… like he always did. Just theorizing and all that shit. Just covering every angle. That was what Reed did, after all.
Three more bottles were emptied in quick succession. Of course, Reed knew things that no one else would have thought of when it came to…. But no. One or two times when he was young and stupid didn’t mean he was attracted to men. And even if he was, it didn’t mean he’d want…. He shook his head again. He couldn’t bring himself to even actually think the words. If he did, they might stick and he’d have to do all that self exploration that Reed’s notes suggested might be necessary. And Ben Grimm was not a man to deal with therapists.
The last voice he wanted to hear pulled him out of his head. “Jesus, Ben. Its almost 4 in the morning. Go to bed!”
“Can’t sleep.” He heard the rattle of empties as Johnny kicked one of the cases in the kitchen on his way to the fridge.
“After all that, I’m surprised you aren’t in a coma.”
“Radiation does wonderful things to a man sometimes.” Ben snarled a little at the blonde.
“Why are you really up?” Johnny sat down, twisting the cap off a bottle of water. Ben didn’t look at him, as he drained another beer bottle. Ben was distinctly horrified by the fact that he wanted to look, having glimpsed Johnny’s lack of sleepwear when he came in. Those pajama pants were sitting obscenely low oh his hips, and why hadn’t he put a damned shirt on when he came out here? “Don’t let him get to you, Ben.”
“Huh?” He must be drunker than he thought.
“Daken messed with you. The guy’s a…”
“Drop it, Matchstick.”
“I’m just saying that I know he was just screwing with your head and you don’t really want…”
“I said, drop it.”
“I’m not going to be an asshole about it, is what I’m trying to…”
“Johnny, shut the fuck up.”
“I’m just trying…”
“I swear ta god, Burnout if you don’t shut yer yap, I’ll…” Ben’s hand hit the table so he didn’t have to keep talking. If he kept talking he’d say something he shouldn’t. He’d let something that wasn’t even real come out of his mouth.
Johnny raised his hands in surrender, leaning back in his chair. “Okay, sorry.”
Ben drained another beer, trying to swallow the completely irrational anger along with it. “Just go back to bed.” As Johnny leaned forward to put the now half empty water bottle on the table, Ben risked looking at him, and wished he hadn’t. The kid was in good shape, no denying that. Ben nearly shook his head. Kid… Johnny was pushing 30, so the kid excuse was long gone. He was good looking too… full lips, easy smile… Damn… maybe the beer hadn’t been the best idea after all. Ben gritted his teeth and grabbed another drink. “Just get atta here.”
“I was trying to help. It’s no big deal, Ben.”
“Go. The fuck. Away.” The words came out as a growl. If Johnny didn’t leave soon, Ben would say something… fuck, he might even do something they’d both regret and that would abso-fucking-lutely be a big deal.
Johnny got up, but he was moving way too slow for Ben’s comfort. When he got to the doorway he turned back. “Ben… seriously…”
He growled again. “Johnny, if ya don’t leave me the fuck alone, I swear ta god I’ll bend ya over this table and show ya how much that little shit messed with my head! Get OUT!” The sound of the beer bottle shattering over the door frame echoed for a moment before the shards of glass rained down on the empty space below. Good. He was gone.
Ben let his head hit the table harder than he meant to. Fuck. He stood slowly, moving toward the broom closet. As he swept up the glass he repeated his mantra for the day.
It’s the pheromones.
It’s not real.
It’ll all go away soon.
None of it however was ringing nearly as true as he wanted it to.