a/n: If the odds of winning the lottery were as good as that of a USA Network original show being cancelled before its time, poverty would be unheard of. Shucks. I was really hoping USA Network's dragging of feet meant that Season 3 would be a go. Oh, well. It's up to us, now. Here's to a lifetime of great fics! Fairly Legal…Not mine. Mistakes…Yeah, baby, that's all me.
A Little Strategy, A Lot of Foreplay, And Absolutely No negotiation
"And, that was the last time Charles bothered me," Kate said with a triumphant smile. Ben squirmed in his place next to her on the sofa.
"Wow," he muttered with clear discomfort. "Remind me not to piss you off." Kate tilted her head and playfully narrowed her eyes. "Any more," he amended. "And, I truly, truly apologize for ever doing so in the past."
"Yeah, you don't." Kate smiled and finished the last sip of her wine.
"You need more," Ben said, pointing to her glass. He set his tumbler on the coffee table and swiped the glass as he stood.
"I think I'm good, Ben. No more." She turned and rested her arms and chin along the back of the couch, watching him as he moved into the kitchen. "I don't want to go to work tomorrow all, you know, hung over and stuff."
"Trust me, Katie," he said as he poured the wine. "You will not be going to work all 'hung over and stuff'." He returned to the sofa, handing the glass to her. She eyed him skeptically before accepting it.
"If you're lying to me…" Ben held up his hands.
"I am not lying. Promise." He grabbed his glass and settled back into the cushions of the sofa as Kate took a drink. Ben studied her as she absently drew her finger around the rim of the wine glass. He thought back to the middle of their morning when he had kissed her. He knew he was making a bet Kate would never win. From the moment he had her cup of coffee secured, he'd been plotting a way to obtain proof of her cheating. He hadn't planned on anything more than a short, soft kiss. But, Kate's yielding reaction prompted a persistence he could not deny. Stepping into her fulfilled his need to feel her body against his. His arm around her waist kept their hips pressed together, his hand behind her head, their mouths. Yet, all so gentle, his power over her. He claimed her in that moment and she allowed it.
When Ben's name left Kate's lips with a quiet, pouty whine, he backed off, purposely stranding her with the startling realization that she was to be his for an entire night. Of course, he hadn't meant his prize the way he allowed her to take it, letting her believe his intentions were incredibly less than honorable. Flustering Kate was simply a guilty indulgence. Though he wouldn't be opposed to "spending the night" with Kate, Ben was intent on being ninety-seven percent a perfect gentleman. There was no rule to keep him from messing with her head just a little while they were enjoying their evening together.
Kate took another drink and Ben remembered how much he enjoyed the faint taste of coffee on her warm lips. As he watched her, he wondered how exquisite she would taste coupled with a mixture of scotch and wine.
"Oh," Kate started as she caught the time displayed brightly on the DVR. "I should go," she said, setting her glass on the coffee table. "It's so late." Kate stood, stretching her arms above her head.
"Katie, you are too drunk to drive home," Ben quipped, finishing the last of his scotch.
"Right," she laughed. "I should call a cab."
"Kate." He set his glass on the table next to hers and stood. "You know you don't have to go home," he said.
"Ben, it's almost one in the morning and we both have to work tomorrow." He nodded.
"I know, but, that's not what I meant." He took a step towards her. "You don't have to leave if you don't want to be alone." He ran the tips of his fingers down her bare arms and took her hands, resting her fingers over his as he lifted her arms away from her sides. "You're already dressed for a sleepover," he pointed out.
"Ben," Kate sighed, shaking her head as she dropped her eyes.
"Come on, let's go," he said, guiding her into the hallway.
"Go where?" she asked.
"To bed, Katie." Kate pushed her shoulders back against Ben's hands, stopping their movement, and turned to face him.
"To bed?" she asked with a small squeak.
"No, no. No, Ben, no." She placed her hands on his chest and started to move him backwards. "I have a perfectly good place next door to sleep, thank you."
"No, no. No, Kate, no," Ben mocked. He took her wrists, removing her hands from his body, and reversed their directions again. "You're going to lie down and get some sleep."
"And, where are you going to sleep?"
"I can sleep on the couch. Unless you don't mind sharing the bed." Kate gave a small laugh, unable to mask the apprehension behind it. Her lips parted to argue but closed immediately as her back met the bedroom door. "Relax," Ben said quietly, reaching for the knob, purposely crowding her against the door before opening it. "I won't do anything you won't like."
"Benedict, sometimes I wish I could wipe that smart-ass smirk off your face."
"Maybe a different time, Katherine." As they entered the room, Ben flipped up the light switch. "As you pointed out, it is late and we have to work in what will very quickly be the morning." With Kate in tow, Ben moved to the bed, folding down the grey comforter and white sheet. He put slight pressure on her shoulders until she was sitting on the mattress and then hooked his arm under her knees to bring her legs up onto the bed.
"Look, Katie," Ben interrupted, sitting next to her. He placed his hands on the mattress to either side of her hips, his lips just inches from hers. He immediately saw Kate tense, but that did not stop him from continuing. "I am not above tying you to the bed to make sure you stay here and sleep." Kate slowly nodded her understanding and dropped her eyes.
"All right, Counselor. I rest," she laughed quietly.
"Oh, so with the funny." Ben pushed Kate backwards onto the pillows and pulled the blankets over her body and up to her shoulders. "Sleep," he said, standing. He moved to the dresser and removed a t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants from the second drawer. "I'll have coffee ready in the morning."
"Ben." He stopped in the doorway and looked at Kate, propped up on her elbows. "Thank you." He nodded and smiled before turning off the light and closing the door behind him. He changed in the living room, draping his shirt and trousers over the arm of the sofa. He cleaned up the glasses and empty pizza box and set the alarm on his cell phone before turning out the lights. As Ben lay on his back on the couch, hands laced behind his head, ankles crossed, he stared through the darkness towards the ceiling. The night had not been the drunken state he'd hoped for, but the two glasses of scotch he'd consumed helped to calm his nerves, aided by the knowledge that Kate was not angry with him. He smiled slightly. Come morning, there was no guarantee that statement would hold true. Ben heard a quiet cry coming from the direction of his bedroom. He rose from the couch, grabbing his cell phone, and moved through the hallway, knocking softly when he neared the bedroom door.
"Kate?" he called gently. She didn't answer. He heard the shuffle of the blankets, knowing she was turning her back to him. He stepped into the room, closed the door and moved to the bed, leaving his phone on the nightstand. Pulling back the blankets, he slipped into the bed. Kate tried to move to the other side of the mattress but Ben stopped her with a gentle arm around her waist. He felt a shutter race through her body as she tried to silence her sobs. "Katie," he whispered, rolling her onto her back. "Come here." Doing as told, Kate turned towards Ben, allowing him to lay an arm under her head and keep the other around her waist. Not long after, they fell asleep, Kate's head on Ben's chest, his hand rubbing soothing circles across her back.
Ben rubbed a hand over his eyes, blinking tightly as he tried to focus on Mr. Defler's land proposal. Twice he had started to read the document before his mind wandered to Kate and he found himself thoroughly lost in thought. After waking to the alarm on his cell phone, Ben had remained quiet and still in the bed, studying Kate as she slept next to him. Her hair was a mess, the elastic band failing in its duty to hold the brown curly tendrils neatly in one place. He had lifted his hand, gently brushing his fingers across her cheek to remove the hair from her face. He had noticed the small smudge of eyeliner around the outside corners of her eyes, the only reminder that she'd started the evening in tears.
"Ben. Good morning." He turned his attention Lauren, standing in the doorway, fingers nervously laced in front of her.
"Have you seen Kate this morning?" Lauren asked, carefully entering his office.
"I have," he answered. Ben began lifting the papers off his desk as he searched for a pen.
"Where is she?"
"I got that much," Lauren said, dropping her hands to her side. "Is she meeting with a client? I wasn't aware that she working on anything besides Mr. Defler's files."
"No," Ben responded, now digging through his desk drawer. "She is not with a client."
"Ben," she said sternly. "Where is Kate?" He stopped his search and looked up at her.
"She took the day off, Lauren." The 'w' of her question formed on her lips and Ben raised his eyebrows, daring her to finish the inquiry.
"Okay," she conceded. "Look, Ben, about yesterday…"
"I don't need to hear anything about yesterday," he said, resuming his quest, "as it does not involve me." He pulled out a wayward pen and closed the drawer. Lauren sheepishly motioned towards Ben, indicating the large pink mark under his left temple, and then touched the side of her face.
"It…kind of…does. I'm sorry you ended up in the middle of all of this."
"Well, it's certainly not the first time I've been punched for being in a situation that involves Kate." He smiled sarcastically. "And, I'm sure it won't be the last." Ben's eyes dropped, attempting a third focus on the papers in his hand. Lauren remained silent, but, only briefly.
"A-about…you and Kate and a…a situation," Lauren started. "Ben, the two of you work together."
"Lauren," he sighed as he stood. "You are the last person who should be giving the 'business and pleasure' speech," he continued, his fingers tracing invisible quotation marks in the air. "We are all adults and capable of making our own decisions."
"I just…I just don't want it to go wrong and be a problem at work."
"Don't want what to go wrong? It was just a kiss, Lauren. Kate made it very clear she wasn't interested and I am respecting her wishes."
"Yeah. All right." Lauren dropped her head, embarrassed. "What about the Defler files?"
"We're almost through them. I can finish what's left," he assured her.
"You'll be ready to meet with Mr. Defler on Monday?"
"Of course." Lauren nodded with a tight smile and left the office. Ben sat down and started to read the proposal, again, from the beginning. "I can feel you lurking," he said, looking up to see Leo leaning against the doorframe, arms folded. "What?" he asked to Leo's ridiculous smile.
"You are such a liar," Leo answered, dropping his arms and sitting in a chair in front of Ben's desk.
"A liar," Leo nodded. "'I am respecting her wishes,'" he repeated.
"I am," Ben defended. "I'm not pushing Kate."
"Oh, right. The marathon."
"Why are you here?"
"Just calling you out," he smiled. "How's Kate?" Leo asked seriously.
"Yeah." Leo raised an eyebrow, waiting for the rest of the story. Ben sighed with frustration. "I'm kind of sick of playing 'Twenty Questions' with everyone. Kate came over last night. We had dinner, I got her drunk and, then, I put her to bed. When I left to come to this wonderful place she was still sleeping."
"And, by 'got her drunk' you mean…"
"Enough to need a nice, long nap this morning, not enough to be hung over." He frowned. "At least, I hope not enough to be hung over," he shrugged.
"Ah, so you tricked her into taking the day off." Ben nodded. "Nice touch," Leo approved.
"Yes. And, no matter how many times she calls or texts you, she is not to come in today."
"Yes, Sir," Leo agreed.
"Now, can I get back to work?"
"Absolutely." Leo stood and stopped in the doorway before exiting. "When you left, she was sleeping?"
"Yes," Ben said, half-assly suppressing a growl.
"So, she spent the night…"
"In my bed. I spent the night on the couch," he lied. "Out." With a scowl, he tossed his pen at Leo. As he left, Ben leaned back in his chair, frown still etched across his face. His action of getting into bed with Kate was simply one of support, one scorned heart to another. Though having his arms wrapped around her all night was a long-standing curiosity happily satisfied, that was not his intention.
But, if it didn't feed those thoughts, his name was not Benedict Yancy Grogan.
"Fifth time's the charm," he muttered, turning back to the proposal. As his eyes scanned the words, his hand reached to the right side of the blotter for a pen. He dropped his hand on the desk and swore, remembering his pen was on the floor in the doorway.
"Oh, my phone." Kate stepped forward, turning to look at Ben as she exited the elevator. "You know what…" Ben stepped quickly to the front of the car, both lifting their hands, grabbing the doors to prevent closure. "Thank you for everything." Kate smiled sweetly. Ben matched her sentiment with a small smile and a slight nod. "I'll see you tomorrow." She turned towards the glass doors marked 'Reed and Reed', barely registering the fingers around her wrist before realizing she was against Ben's body.
The elevator doors closed behind Kate as Ben's lips closed over her mouth. He kissed her gently as his hands wrapped around her sides, guiding her into the corner of the elevator. Kate clutched the collar of his suit coat, the tension building around them as he leaned fully into her.
Kate woke with a start, eyes wondering around the room as she made her way from a slightly hung-over fog to consciousness.
"That's new," she muttered, her fingers absently running over her lips as the feeling of Ben's mouth against hers faded. Kate closed her eyes and took a deep breath, greeted by the soft scent of masculine soap mixed with a lingering touch of cologne. Slowly, she opened her eyes and looked around the room a second time, recalling that she was sleeping in Ben's bed, not on the floor in her living room. Kate looked at the empty pillow to her left. She had not been the only one sleeping in the bed; Ben had spent the night with her. She wrapped her arms around herself, remembering how safe she felt when his had been the arms around her body.
Safe and loved, Kate dared to think.
Lying back on the pillow, Kate sighed. She had been severely heartbroken when Justin confessed to having an affair while they were married. She still loved him and wanted to get past the ill event in their relationship. Kate believed that she and Justin could pick up the broken pieces, believed moving in together, again, was a step in the right direction. But, Kate's willingness to move forward shattered bit by bit with every apartment they saw. Justin no longer held her heart as he had in the beginning and she could no longer justify trying. Then, the secret was divulged: Justin's affair had been with Lauren. Kate, though crushed, realized her ache was caused more by the lie than by the action. She was no more upset with Justin now that she knew the identity of the other woman. They were two relationships that needed to be redefined, simply nothing more.
Kate took another breath, again enjoying the smell of Ben's cologne. She opened her eyes, wondering why she was hearing no movement in Ben's apartment. She turned to look at the alarm clock on the nightstand, frowning when she caught sight of a folded piece of paper covering the clock. The orange lights seeped through the paper, highlighting words written within the folds. Rolling onto her stomach and ignoring the light pounding that was starting in her head, she reached for the paper.
"Nine thirty?" she moaned. "Damn it." Carefully she sat up and dangled her legs off the edge of the mattress, as she unfolded the paper.
Katie, the coffee maker is set to brew at ten-thirty. So, put this piece of paper down and go back to bed.
Kate frowned and rubbed her forehead, remembering Ben's words from the night before. "You will not be going to work all 'hung over and stuff'." Ben was surely a disrupting force in her life, but, the more time she spent with him, the more she realized her initial impressions were incorrect. He was not the jerk she believed him to be. Kate lightly touched the bandage still in place over her heart, a clear sign that his sincerity was genuine. She spotted her keys and her phone next to the alarm clock, figuring Ben must have retrieved them from her apartment. She grabbed her phone and sent a text.
"You ditched me," it read.
"Get used to it." His response was quick. "Go back to sleep, Katie. I hear it does a body good." Kate smiled, picturing the smirk on Ben's face. She returned the phone to the nightstand and slipped her body into the bed sheets. They were soft, a testament to the nice things he liked. Kate ventured to think the sheets alone probably cost more than any complete bedding set she'd ever owned. She pulled over the pillow Ben had slept on, tucking it under her head as she closed her eyes.
Kate set the roller into the empty tray and moved to stand in the middle of the hard wood floor. She liked the yellow walls that surrounded the living room and the kitchen, but she wanted a shade a bit brighter than the one present. She hadn't planned on painting for a while, or doing the job herself, but, finding herself with a Friday off, she decided to give it a try. Kate set her hands on her hips and smiled, satisfied with the job accomplished throughout her afternoon. Kate closed the paint can and moved the supplies to the kitchen sink. As she washed a few stray streaks of paint from her hands, she hummed happily, stopping to dry her hands when she heard a soft knock from the door. Kate opened the door, revealing Ben leaning against the frame. He let his eyes wander down her body, taking in the white t-shirt and worn blue-jean overalls with an appreciative smirk.
"I brought dinner," he announced, holding up a plastic take-out bag.
"Oh, I am so starving. How did you know?"
"My Spidey Senses were tingling," he answered.
"Wait," Kate started, slightly confused. "Don't Spidey Senses sense…danger?" Ben pushed off the frame.
"Yeah, well, a 'hungry Kate' doesn't exactly scream 'safe environment.'"
"You know all the right things to say to the ladies, don't you?" Kate asked with a tilt of her head.
"Are you going to eat with me or not?"
"Yes, thank you." Ben stepped over the threshold, reaching to touch Kate's forehead as he frowned feigning great concern.
"You need to wash up, first." He pulled her hand from her, examining his fingers. "There seems to be this strange yellow substance on your face."
"It's 'Canary Yellow'," Kate supplied, motioning him further into her apartment.
"It's bright." He set the bag on the kitchen counter and turned in a slow circle as he took in the new pallet.
"It's supposed to be." She turned to Ben.
"What?" he asked at her silence.
"You didn't wake me up this morning."
"It wasn't part of my plan."
"Yeah. I wasn't going to let you go to work and this way, I didn't have to argue with you." Kate moved to stand in front of him, her fingers softly brushing his cheek just below his bruise. "Kate, it's not your fault that Justin punched me," he said to the guilt he saw in her eyes.
"I should never have…I should have just left and not talked to Justin," she said, voice almost a whisper. "I'm so sorry." Ben lifted a hand, fingers resting just under her jaw as his thumb brushed across her chin.
"Why don't you wash the canary off your face and come over," he said quietly. "As much as I would love to admire your pretty new walls, I'm thinking you shouldn't be exposed to any more paint fumes." Kate took a slow breath, taken by Ben's gentleness and their proximity.
"Yeah," she smiled lightly. "A little fresh air might be a good idea."