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Possession Is Nine Tenths Of The Law

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They met in jail, because that's where Frank had spent the past...year? Two years? It was difficult for him to be sure. It had been a while since Frank tracked the passage of time in months and years rather than seasons and Nielson Rating reports.


All the shows popular with his fellow inmates were in reruns, though, so two years was probably more accurate.


Frank's former cellmate had gotten out early on good behavior (and, he suspected, a hefty bribe) the day before the new guy finished being processed. So when the new guy got there, he got to bunk with Frank.


The new guy looked kinda nerdy, and almost wholesome. Now, Frank had seen enough "wholesome" to know most of it was bullshit, but he was surprised that a jury of the man's peers had seen that lost puppy look and determined that he was capable of any crime.


Then he stuck out his hand and said, "Frank Stokes" and the man looked up.


The lost puppy disappeared in an instant and suddenly the man's stare was so intense that Frank had to force himself not to take a step back. If the guy pulled that kind of shit with a jury, Frank wouldn't be surprised if they added a few years for Aggravated Being Creepy.


"James Bennett," came a quiet, even voice from somewhere under the brown laser beams.


It took Frank a while to realize his new cellmate was responding to his introduction. It seemed so long ago now.


It wasn't until he felt a hand shaking his own that he also realized he'd left it extended toward the man.


Frank swallowed. "Yeah, nice to meet you."



James Bennett did not laugh. It wasn't just that Frank had never seen him do so, he just got the impression that James was far too busy being serious and taking in the world with his laser beam intensity to have any time for laughter.


He smiled, though. Mostly insincere things pretending to be sincere that Frank could spot from a mile away but seemed to fool everyone else. Maybe it was because he had seen his fair share of fake smiles and had more than a few of his own. He could hardly remember the last time he had smiled without some ulterior motive. Just smiled for the hell of it because he was happy, because a friend told a joke, maybe.


Of course, most of the people he might have been able to count as friends were, at best, co-workers and, at worst, people who had threatened his life.


Well now he really didn't feel like smiling.


But he had seen James smile a real, honest smile before. It was when he found James trying to get the hair on the side of his head to lay flat and looking more put-together than usual.


"My mother agreed to come visit," he said. The "finally" was unspoken, but loud in the nervous energy making him check and check and check his appearance to make sure not a hair was out of place.


Frank didn't know what to say to that so he just nodded in what he hoped was an encouraging manner.


And James smiled at him.


Maybe it was just his experience with the hyperbole of television, but for a moment it felt like the clouds parting to let a warm ray of sunlight shine directly on him.


Then James was gone in a whirl of bright-eyed nervous relief and Frank was left staring at the space he had just vacated, still seeing an afterimage of that smile.


When James returned, his face was like a thunderstorm, and Frank listened with curiosity as he hyperventilated his emotions into his pillow.


After a while, James fell silent and Frank assumed he had fallen asleep. The quiet, strained voice startled him when James suddenly spoke.


"I have to get out of here. She doesn't—She isn't taking care of herself." A pause. Then, "Frank?"


Frank thought it over. There were two dickheads who used to pick on him sometimes. Tweedle-Douche and Tweedle-Dick, he didn't know their real names. They had taken one look at James, nerdy and soft-spoken James, and decided he was another easy target. They roughed him up and Frank and James first bonded over Frank cleaning off the blood and warning James that the Tweedles were assholes, to be avoided.


James had soberly thanked him and Frank had thought that the end of it. Then the next he heard of the Tweedles, Douche had a fifty-fifty chance of regaining his eyesight and Dick's chances of ever breathing properly again were virtually nil.


Frank didn't know how James got ahold of the chemicals, or how he set up the Tweedles without it being linked back to him, but he was impressed. And so was everyone else. Everyone knew he did it, there just wasn't any proof. And no one cared enough to try to prove it.


After that, no one fucked with James. Or Frank, for that matter. Since Frank was more or less a permanent fixture in his life (and cell), James appeared to consider Frank, in a sense, to be his .


Not his bitch. Frank was quick to reassure himself that he was no one's bitch (not anymore). But James tended to be possessive toward anything within his immediate sphere of influence, and that happened to include Frank. He had even gotten pissy with Frank when the man borrowed his pillow one day. He just didn't like anyone messing with his stuff (Frank suspected James's mother had made him share his toys one too many times growing up).


So while Frank was not very physically intimidating (at all), things had gotten somewhat easier for him because everyone knew James could hold a grudge.


So Frank said, "What do you need me to do?"


James didn't say anything for a while, but somehow Frank could still hear his smile.


Then he began laying out his plan and Frank felt himself smiling too.