Let Me Tell You Something
by lightning bird
Chapter One: Recreational Feline Drugs
"Here." Dexter set the Petri dish on the island in the kitchen before leaning over and picking up the Ragdoll cat that owned him body, mind, and soul. He set the cat in front of the dish and asked, "How's this one, Einstein?"
The blue-eyed feline shedding machine leaned over and sniffed at the plate before looking away, unimpressed. With a little huff, Dexter removed the Petri dish and put the next sample before his pet.
"Try that," he ordered, watching and waiting.
Einstein purred as he smelled the contents of the dish, but after a moment he lost interest and started licking his paw and dragging it over his face in an impromptu bath geared toward showing his disdain for his human's offering. Dexter made a face, whisking the sample away before pulling out his last selection for Einstein's consideration. Even before he could set the glass plate in front of the cat, Einstein had perked up and was paying strict attention, batting at Dexter's hand with his paws in an attempt to get to the dried greens being set out for him.
Dexter snatched his fingers away as Einstein pounced on the plate. He stuffed his nose into the pile of flakes, snuffling and sniffing and blowing the bits across the counter top. A moment later he flopped onto the mess he'd made, rolling around in feline ecstasy and coating his long hair in the stuff. Dexter watched with amusement, enjoying the show as his pet got smashed on catnip.
He stepped away reluctantly when the doorbell rang, and he hurried to the entrance of the family suite in DexLabs headquarters. A quick glance at the monitor showed Ben Tennyson waiting patiently in the hall, and Dexter unlocked the door and snatched it open.
"Hi, Dex," was the quick, happy greeting. "What's up?"
Dexter smiled to see him. It was Saturday and it was one of those rare occasions when he actually had a day off. His father and sisters were shopping and Dexter had the house to himself. "This is an unexpected pleasure. What brings you here?"
"A standing invitation and temporary lack of transportation. I just got done with Security. Someone made off with my hoverboard. Again."
"Again? Ben, that's the third time. Don't you lock it up?"
"Of course I do. Fangirls are really resourceful when they want souvenirs, kiddo. If you'd get out more you'd know what I mean."
"I'll take your word for it."
"You're lucky that everyone knows you've got bodyguards. Fangirls attack. You'd never make through the cafeteria line with all your clothes intact."
Dexter made a face. Such imaginings were the stuff of nightmares for him since he hated crowds, being touched, and the cafeteria's menu. "That's a disturbing image." He brightened, glad for any excuse to spend time with his best friend. He hadn't seen Ben in weeks. "Come in. Something to drink?"
"Sure. Got any sweet tea?" asked Ben, following him into the kitchen.
Einstein was still enjoying life and his sample of catnip. Some of the dried herb had been eaten, some had been snorted, some had been rolled upon, and the counter top was a complete mess. Ben laughed to see the cat in a state of near-drunkenness and covered with a veneer of dried leaves.
"What's up with your mouse hound?"
Dexter paused, a pitcher of tea in hand as he closed the refrigerator. He looked at his friend in delight, thoroughly impressed. "A well-said kenning, sir."
Ben blinked, having no idea of what the Boy Genius was going on about (not an uncommon state for most people, Ben Tennyson included), and just went with it, too versed in all things Dexter to bother asking for an explanation. "I try. What is this stuff?"
"Nepeta cataria," Dexter replied, pouring them some tea. He caught Ben's blank expression and quickly added, "Catnip. I was isolating the terpenoid nepetalactone in it and concentrating it so that –"
"So that Einstein gets more stop, drop, and roll per whiff?" asked Ben, reaching across the counter and the feline for his drink as he avoided the cat's random and rather feeble swats. "So this is like, super catnip?"
Dexter shrugged. "Basically."
"Your cat's a cheap date, Dex." As he spoke Ben lifted the half-full Petri dish out of batting range and held it up to his nose for a sniff. "Mmm. Smells like mint."
"It is. It's a variety of mint. Sometimes it's called . . . cat mint?" he finished uncertainly when Ben suddenly stiffened. His green eyes grew wide and then narrowed sharply as he stared at the dried leaves in the Petri dish. Dexter watched his friend with growing alarm as Ben sniffed the catnip hard enough to get some of it up his nose. He waited, expecting a sneeze, but to his astonishment Ben picked some of it up and put it on his tongue. It certainly wasn't harmful stuff and rather good for upset stomachs, but this behavior was rather . . . atypical. "Uh . . . Ben?"
"Got any more?" demanded Ben. "I want more."
Dexter watched speechlessly as the Wielder of the Omnitrix licked the plate clean before Einstein could protest. For a moment he could not answer, and finally he managed to stop gaping and say, "Um . . . yeeee-ah."
There was a slightly crazed look about his friend and he was wavering a bit as if he was dizzy. Dexter had never heard of catnip affecting humans, but then Ben was only mostly human and there were occasions when he was downright odd, at least by Dexter's standards. He wondered if this was a prelude to some new, bizarre smoothy flavor that only Ben Tennyson could love.
"Um . . . Do you think that's wise?"
"Yes. You have more, right?"
"Hold on," said Dexter uneasily. He edged toward the case he'd carried up from his lab. On the opposite side of the island, Ben mirrored his motions, watching his every move as if ready to pounce. Feeling as if he was being stalked, Dexter lifted the plastic box he'd used to store the newly dried samples of catnip. "This is-"
Ben grabbed the box out of his hands and yanked it open before Dexter could raise a protest.
"Lame," said Ben, opening the lid of the first plastic container and stuffing his nose into the catnip. He tossed it aside, dumping dried catnip across the kitchen floor. Dexter let out a squeak, mesmerized by the effects of gravity on plant material as he watched a mess being born.
"Eh," was the assessment of the next container. It was likewise tossed aside, where it bounced off one of the stools and rolled into the dining room, spewing catnip all the way.
Dexter yelped, "Ben! What's wrong with you?"
He pulled the last container out of the case. "Bingo!"
Grinning in triumph, the brunet yanked the lid off the third container and stuffed his face into the flakes of catnip. Dexter lunged to get it away from him, but Ben lifted his head and growled. Dexter snatched his hand away in shock. Instead of quieting down, Ben's growl deepened and became louder and there was a flash of green energy from the Omnitrix. Suddenly in place of Benjamin Kirby Tennyson there stood an eight-foot, humanoid tiger with a sharply angular head and, apparently, something to shout about.
His deep voice filled the kitchen and he backed up the claim by letting out a terrific roar. Dexter stumbled back against the refrigerator and stared, unable to find any words to describe the situation or his unbounding terror. Einstein, the traitorous whore, climbed onto his feet and purred, arching his back as he rubbed up against his fellow feline, completely undismayed by this change in one of his humans.
"Let me tell something, Dexter Boy Genius!" bellowed the tiger, ignoring Einstein as the much smaller cat rolled over for a belly rub. "Rath has got something to tell you, so you'd better listen up because I'm not going to say this again unless I have to."
There was no chance of Dexter closing his mouth, blinking, or making a sound.
"WHAT?" demanded Rath, having no idea of why this boy was gaping at him. "What? I got something on my face? Cat got your tongue? Well, I got your cat!" He rubbed his face with his free hand, surprised to come back with a handful of catnip. He promptly scooped up the Ragdoll that was busy making a complete fool of himself on the counter and held the limp form up over his head. "See! What are you gonna do about it?"
Einstein purred and nuzzled Rath's wrist. Dexter's mouth opened wider still as he stared up at his pet. Finally he managed to ask, "What can I do about it?"
"I dunno! You're supposed to be the smart one, right?"
Dexter couldn't formulate any more answer than "Uhhh," but fortunately Rath raged on without taking a breath.
"So listen up, Dexter Boy Genius! Rath's gotta tell you that's a really stupid last name you've got. What kind of last name is Boy Genius, Boy Genius?"
A growl cut him off. Dexter instantly altered course.
"Alright, I agree. It would be a stupid last name if . . . if it was my last name." He swallowed and then carefully asked, "Are you . . . one of Ben's aliens?"
"What? What do you think?" barked the tiger, still holding Dexter's cat close to the ceiling. "You see any other aliens running around here? Where else would Rath come from?"
"Ben didn't activate the Omnitrix."
"So . . . do you have a last name?"
"What? Rath is Rath. Hey, got any more of this stuff?" He poured most of the container of catnip into his mouth, chewing and swallowing the whole dry mess and then making a great show of licking the flakes off his sharp teeth. Dexter had visions of a certain cereal mascot on steroids and in need of anger management classes. He was never eating Frosted Flakes again.
"Uh, no," he said, rather glad that most of the super catnip he had with him was gone and suspicious that he knew what had caused this change in his friend's appearance and attitude. If Einstein was an indicator, Ben - or Rath - was smashed.
"Oh, well, too bad. I'll just finish this and - whoa!"
He tipped his head back to pour the last of the catnip into his maw and lost his balance. Still holding Einstein high, Rath pitched over backwards, landing on his tailless behind.
"Cool. It's cool. Rath meant to do that. That was totally on purpose."
"Of course. May I have my cat back, please, Mr. Israth?"
Rath looked up at the cat dangling from his hand. Einstein interrupted his non-stop purring and meowed a greeting. "Guess so. what is that stuff, anyway?"
"Catnip." Dexter shooed his pet off to safety and to sober up a bit before returning to find Rath drinking sweet tea right out of the pitcher, sloshing it down his front. The redhead stood before the alien, not exactly certain as to what he should do. Call security? His father? The Plumbers? Try to reason with him? As much as he could be reasoned with, of course.
"Mr. Israth, can you possibly turn back to Ben?"
He glanced at the tea pooling on the floor and mingling with the spilled catnip and bright orange and black hairs. What a mess. The cleaning robots were going to overheat. Rath was waiting for an answer, and Dexter realized that telling him he preferred his best friend in his normal, chipper state versus this loud, combative, belligerent, shedding, drunk-on-catnip state would be a full-scale disaster.
"Well . . . he was . . . um . . . going to help me in my laboratory."
He gave up. "My . . . workspace."
"What, and Rath can't help? Let me tell you something, Dexter Boy Genius with the really stupid last name! Rath can help! You can pay me in catnip."
Before Dexter could do more than let out yelp, Rath picked him by the belt of his lab coat and headed for the door, stepping in spilled tea and catnip and trailing both through the living room. He hung limp in the tiger's hold, suddenly sympathetic to Einstein and his tolerance of being carried around like a towel. The thought of this creature in his laboratory was enough to make him panic. Ben had been destructive enough on his own. Rath actually intended to help him.
"Please put me down, Mr. Israth."
"Naa. We'll get there faster if I carry you."
"There's no rush."
"Except Rath wants more catnip."
"Sir, this is Morton. We found Commander Tennyson's hoverboard. I told him we'd call."
A comm cube appeared in the air before Dexter, mostly upside down to match his field of vision since he was being dangled by his belt. He pushed his glasses back into place as Rath headed for the door.
"Good. I think. Maybe," he added uncertainly, straining a bit to speak clearly.
The holo-image of the blond security officer frowned. "Uh, excuse me, sir, but is your hair supposed to be sticking up like that?"
"Considering I'm being carried almost upside down, yes, this would be the expected and proper configuration of hair given the effects of gravity and barring the use of hair products to keep it in place, which I can't use in the laboratory, of course."
"Of course." Chip Morton stared. He was well enough versed in Dexspeak to pick through the superfluous information and get to the real issue. "Who's carrying you, sir?"
Dexter was pleased to hear the anxious concern in the man's voice. After all, his safety and security was Morton's primary job. "That would be Commander Tennyson in . . . excuse me, Mr. Israth, but what are you? What is your species?"
"Rath is an Appoplexian! I thought you were smart, Dexter Boy Genius with the really stupid last name!"
"You heard the tiger," said Dexter. "Ben is an Appoplexian due to an overdose of recreational feline drugs."
"Huh?" asked Morton, so confounded that he forgot himself for a moment. "Sir?"
"This is Ben on catnip, Mr. Morton."
By now Rath had noticed their conversation and he looked at the comm cube with great interest. Rather than setting Dexter upright, however, he saw fit to lean over and try to look at Morton.
"Hey, why is that guy upside-down? What, he standing on his head? Well, Rath can do that, too!"
"No, no! Mr Isra - oof!"
He was already unsteady on his big paws. The effort to see Chip threw the Appoplexian completely off balance and as the sergeant watched helplessly his boss and his boss' best friend in Tony the Tiger mode tumbled over and landed in an untidy heap at the front door of the Utoniums' suite.
"Sir? Sir? I'm sending help right now! Hold on-"
"Rath is already helping!" hissed the irate tiger, flat on his back and smushing Dexter.
"Why am I always on the bottom of these piles?" mumbled Dexter, his voice muffled.
"Dunno," said Rath, not moving. "You must be good at it or something." His head dropped onto the floor with a thud and instantly he was snoring.
With a groan the redhead crawled partially out from beneath Rath's legs. Someday an experiment would go right from beginning to end. Today, unfortunately, was not that day. "Or something. Sergeant, if you want to help, please - please!- contact the Plumbers and ask them what on earth can be done to get Ben back to himself."
"Right away, sir, but -"
"I'll handle this. I hope," he added under his breath. "In the meantime, Sergeant, where is the item in question?"