Of Mice and Bears

North Glenn 
#1
A continuation of this thread


 If anyone had ever wondered if Esperanza was the kind to bring strays home, this was sure to serve as an affirmative answer. She was feeling blessed in the rat’s honor to have a King that would be so supportive of her Good Samaritan venture. She did wonder what kind of young man this stranger was - perhaps his personality reflected his looks and his beast. Hopefully he would not be a destructive force in her home.

 Parking in the driveway, she killed the engine and stepped out with her purse. The back door came open as Levka pulled up, and she would drag out her oversized medical bag to take inside. There was not much she could do for broken ribs except load him up with over the counter pain killers. Even those would not last the poor thing very long.

 Great trees served as a means of privacy from any neighbors who might be home, but Espy would still spare a glance around the yard before the polar bear extracted their new friend from his car. Confident in their seclusion, she would push the door open and stand out of the way so that they could come in, one hand instinctively hovering over the rat’s head as they passed over the threshold in case Levka suffered a spell of clumsiness.

 Closing the door behind them, she moved to the couch and patted the arm while plopping the big bag beside it. "Just lay him down here. I will get him some pajama pants." Not that they would fit him very well, but at least he would be a little more decent that way. "Make yourself at home, of course!"



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#2
It didn't take long to get there--the joys of work and home being so gathered together, eternally glad that Esperanza had seen fit to move up from Larkspur--and Levka didn't waste much time in anything else. He didn't much care for the scent of rat. It wasn't bad, but there was a certain musky quality to it that was unlike any other were he had ever met. Even raccoons and badgers smelled more to his preference than this.

Still, as much as a more idle thought half-entertained previous considerations of just leaving him in the forest to fend for himself, Levka ultimately brought the unfortunate beast inside, sniffing once in the warmer air of her home and for the moment finding it not worth the effort to take off his shoes. Hopefully Esperanza was not overly fussy about her carpet, though he was pretty sure his shoes were reasonably clean.

Either way, putting an unconscious were down on a couch was not anything new in his life, and he made sure that he at least wasn't going to roll off before he stepped back and looked at him again, shaking his head. Increasingly convinced the rodent had simply been hit by a car, Levka paused only long enough to settle that thought before he moved back to the door to take his shoes off and, as she said, make himself at home.

He was good at that, and the kitchen was his next destination.
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#3
 It should be no surprise that Levka went for the kitchen first - he would find it well stocked, and that would likely not be a surprise either. She could hear him as she rummaged through her drawers for a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt. Trotting back to the young man on the couch, the mother bear would make quick work of getting him dressed in clothes that definitely did not fit him, as she suspected. Nakedness hardly offended her, but maybe it would make him feel more comfortable when he eventually woke up.

 "I can cook something up, if you would like, Levka," she called to him across the room as she stooped over the stereo system to find some soft music. It would likely still be a while before their charge woke up, but maybe some easy listening would also help when he came to. Straightening up, she would make her way to the kitchen to join him while also shuffling the vest off her arms. "Our friend will probably be nice and hungry again when he wakes up, anyway."
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#4
It was good that it was frigid out so that the supplies in the trunk of his car would keep until he went home, because he was going to be here a while.

He rummaged through her fridge, shameless about it, and knowing her well enough to know she wouldn't be bothered. She fed him regularly, anyway, and he honestly wasn't about to expect her to do anything fancy for him--until the exact moment she offered.

This close to the full moon, that had his rapt attention. "Would you?" Of course she would, but it was a nice beg from a big bear. Besides, it was something to pass the handful of hours they would be stuck waiting for answers. They should also probably tend to his injury as well, but... eh, it wasn't going anywhere.
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#5
 What kind of bear would deny a hot meal, anyway. Esperanza grinned a little at her King, nodding her head and using a hand to wave him away from the fridge. "Claro que si," she assured him, moving to take his place in front of the fridge so that she could begin to pull things out. "How about hamburgers. Quick and easy and hearty, yes?" Even as she asked, she figured Levka would make no protest, and would set the ground beef on the counter before moving to the spice cabinet.
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#6
He had no idea what her assurance meant--and no amount of spending time around her seemed to be making him any more fluent than 'absolutely not at all' in Spanish--but he knew tone and he knew her! So after deftly stealing a string cheese--inevitably intended for her daughter, but hey--he backed off and let her have her space.

"Da," he agreed, though it was unlikely for him to have shirked anything she could have offered. He was not a particular person, even if he did know quality when he did have it.

He'd hover, and he'd even help if she wanted. But for the moment, it was very easy for him to forget their company on the couch.
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#7
 Esperanza worked in relative silence, moving with an experienced deftness as she seasoned the meat and separated it into patties. She would ask Levka to pull lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and pickles from the fridge so that he could cut them up as she hovered over the meat as it sizzled on the pan. The smell was immediately tantalizing, and even after having eaten a stack of pancakes less than an hour ago, she could have easily eaten every burger on this grill.

 Meat cooked, buns toasted, veggies sliced, and condiments set out, it was time to eat. Esperanza made two to start, piling them high with everything on the counter and shuffling out of the way so that Levka could finish his as well, in case she was blocking him. She wouldn't waste time going to the table, and instead set her plate on the edge of the island, lifting a burger to her mouth and sinking her teeth into it with a hum of satisfaction. Cooking and eating at least occupied her and passed the time until the man on the couch woke up.
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#8
It was easy enough to pass time like this, really. Though there were inevitably other things that could have used his attention--these days there always were--he was more content to be here and helping Esperanza out. He supposed he could have left her to it on her own, confident she could handle herself in her own home, but... Well, he'd claim it was the food that enticed him to stay, but in reality he couldn't actually fathom walking out that door right now with a "good luck and see you later."

So, mind wandering from short conversation here with his friend and back to the rat again, he finished up food and wondered out loud, "Think there is anything to do for him before he wakes?"

They had a little while yet, but it wasn't like there was a timer.
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#9
 It was easier to savor her meal when she wasn't actively babysitting an unpredictable (conscious) rat. There was no need to rush through these bites, but she did take rather large ones. Might as well get comfortable since they were gonna be here for a while.

 "Mm. I do not think so. Got him some clothes and turned on some music for him. I will put these leftover patties in the oven so they are warm when he comes to." This as she picked a fallen tomato off her plate and stuck it in her mouth, carrying her plate (and his) to the sink to rinse them off and put them in the washer. "We can watch television to pass some time if you would like to hang out a while!" What she did not tell him was that "television" likely meant he would have to suffer through several episodes of her favorite telenovela.
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#10
He stretched his arms out in front of him across the table, easing out some soreness that still lingered after his row with Peter the other day. Time like these he regretted somewhat being King himself--it had always been nice to go pouting to his old one for a little assistance. Shifting to speed things up was fine, he supposed, but that took planning.

Ah well, it'd be plenty better after the moon in a bit.

Her suggestion of television appealed to him, and he scooted his chair back to stand. "I would love to hang out a while," he agreed, happy to join her. If nothing else, this would be a learning experience.
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#11
 Esperanza grinned at his willingness, gesturing for him to follow her back to the living room. While the sleeping man took up the entirety of her couch, she did have two arm chairs in which they could sit through the next few hours and enjoy cheesy drama.

 She had almost begun to doze off some hours later when she noticed the uptick in one of the two other heartbeats in the room. Instantly her eyes were open, settling on the stranger in the room with the awareness that he was beginning to stir.
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#12
For what it was worth, Levka had been rather enjoying this weird hobby of Esperanza's. But television tended to put him to sleep when he was warm and comfortable and fed.

He was out.
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#13
Ben slept like a dead animal corpse.

This happened many times in Ben's life, but lately, lots more. Winter was a very bad time to be Ben, and there were safer spaces that an injured rat could fit inside. But it was important not to stay there until Ben fell asleep, or something very, very bad could happen.

Ben never woke slowly. This was not an exception. Panic blackened eyes opened and found the ceiling, and immediately, Ben's heart raced. There was pain and it was very painful, but not as much as before. Swallowing, Ben could smell food, and animals, and hear heartbeats, and television, and feel clothing that was not Ben's clothing but was now Ben's clothing.

Something brushed Ben's cheek, and this was concerning. There was a sense that Ben was being watched, but it was too frightening to look away from the ceiling to look. Still, the cheek itched, and Ben's muscles grew very tense in an effort not to scratch.

Slowly, one hand inched up, across Ben's chest and to Ben's chin and then to Ben's cheek.

There was something there, stiffer than hair, and Ben tried to paw it away. But that tugged at the skin beneath one nostril, and Ben gave a small gasp.

That was bad, and Ben would be caught, and slowly Ben tilted his head to look at the woman looking at him, too. Hand still clasped over his face, Ben stared in wide eyed silence, his heart thumping fast.
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#14
 Esperanza watched him carefully, and despite all her maternal instincts and her well-fed state, her beast still rose high at the realization of fear. She remained perfectly still, watching him slowly move his hand up across his body to reach for his face as his heart hammered furiously in his narrow chest. Was that - a whisker sticking out of his face? He lifted his head, looking up at her, hand clasped over his mouth. He was likely far more terrified than she was.

 "Hello, sweetheart," she greeted him, voice quiet, staying calm for his sake. "Are you hungry?"
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#15
Thump thump thump thump thump thump thump.

Ben's heart raced, eyes locked on the woman as she spoke with nice softness, the kind that Etta had used. Licking Ben's lips, he offered a low nod, and he could feel it again.

The bounce of the hair on his face. It was not nice. It was distracting. Slowly, carefully, Ben grasped the hair in a steadily clasping fist, then pulled with a sharp tug.

It hurt, and Ben yelped, holding the long whisker in a clenched hand that trembled as he looked next to the large man also nearby and waited for some angry awakening.
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#16
 He said nothing, but there was a nod, and that was confirmation enough. She opted to keep her movements slow, careful, but before she could even lift herself from the armchair, he was ripping that whisker out of his face. Consequently, he sort of shrieked - she didn't blame him, as she felt herself cringing, face grimacing in sympathy pain even as a growl seemed to reverberate in her head for the sound. She, too, would look to Levka, but as she stood. "Oh, goodness," she sighed. A rat whisker stuck in his face. How much time had he spent as a rat for that kind of thing to happen?

 "Just... stay there. I am going to make you a burger."
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#17
Soft voices didn't wake him. The thunder of a terrified heart barely dared to stir him. But that yelp.

He came around abruptly, the grunt sharp and without pleasure as his eyes came open orange and taken off guard. A momentary reveal of something a little less than controlled, but gone as soon as he got a good look at a relatively unperturbed Esperanza getting up to get food...?

Oh, right, damn, the rat. The rat was awake. Shaking his head to clear it, he roused rather quickly after and sat up in the arm chair a little more reasonably to get a look at the freshly aware rodent.

Who... was bleeding.

"The hell did you do?" he asked.
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#18
Ben was already overwhelmed.

There was a lingering pain in Ben's face, one that left that side crunched unhappily. The whisker was in his hand, but Ben barely understood how it got there, why it was leftover.

The woman who was nice said something about a burger, and Ben's mouth began to water at the thought.

Mouth full of spit, face bleeding, whisker clenching, face scrunching, Ben was not ready to face the large man making a demanding question at him.

Spit was swallowed and very, painstakingly slowly, Ben sat up on the couch, head low as if ducking some. The question was unclear, but he would do Ben's best.

"I said I was hungry and she was too and she wanted my blood so I ran so I wouldn't have to eat only blood forever and she grabbed me and threw- me- into- a- tree," he breathed, the last few words amounting to a strangled squeak as he smeared a hand beneath his nose and caught some blood with it.

Blood!
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#19
 Esperanza put the burger together quickly, listening to the exchange - Levka's question and the rat's response, which was less of an answer to the question but definitely an explanation of things. Someone had wanted his blood? And then thrown him into a tree? A vampire, surely - that was her first assumption.

 Moving quickly, she reappeared by the couch, frowning at the streak of blood on the young man's face. "Here. Eat." She held the plate out to him. "What is your name, sweetheart?" A quick look to Levka, her expression a little tense. "Sounds like you encountered a very strong person," she commented pointedly.
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#20
Levka was not entirely prepared for actual information upon his question, more curious as to what the yelp had been, combined with the tinge of blood. So it took him a moment to realize that this wasn't just nonsense he was being offered, and he only zeroed in on his own focus about halfway through. Enough, however, to realize that something was amiss.

Eat only blood, threw him into a tree...

Rather than a response, the bear made some low noise of confusion, then looked to Esperanza as she returned, wondering if she'd put together a few more clues than he had.

Seemed she had, maybe, but other than a slight squint and a tilt of his head, he didn't express his own confusion just yet.
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#21
At least now there was only one person talking to Ben, but it still felt like very much. The burger arrived and Bent took the plate in something of a desperate snatch before it even fully left her hands.

Instructed to eat, Ben would certainly do so, opening wide for a massive mouthful to gather in a cheek and chew and bite again. It was a hurried act, one he barely tasted, but Ben could feel that it was warm when gulped down his throat.

There were questions asked of Ben, but there would be no answers until food was clear of the plate and safely devoured or in fragments Ben tongued at in his teeth.

"Ben," Ben said, remembering finally to breathe and finding that painful. Blood welled in a fat sphere above Ben's lip. "She was- she was Pippa, and she was very strong."

Ben sniffled once, and that hurt, too.
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#22
 He snatched like a child, and while her bear might have protested to such a harsh gesture, Esperanza said nothing for the moment. She stood perfectly still as the young man ate, mostly for a worry of startling him into choking or more incessant shrieking. Instead, she would simply watch him, occasionally glancing to Levka. The rat didn't respond until he'd scarfed down the burger.

 "Pippa," she repeated softly. Not a familiar name. "Ben, I'm Esperanza, and this is Levka." She gestured to her King as she spoke. Gingerly, she bent down to open her medical bag, pulling out an antiseptic wipe. He really didn't need it, but it would make her feel better. She tore the little packet open and held it out to him as she moved to sit beside him. "Here. Wipe the blood with this. Do you have any place to go? A home?"
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#23
The kid ate like he was liable to choke himself, but watching him Levka had feeling that this was normal behavior, and like the only reason he didn't die eating like that was because he had plenty of practice. It was almost impressive, actually? And it gave Levka time to think about what had already been said, meeting Espy's eyes whenever she looked his way.

Practicing patience on a rat was less than fun, but it was easier to behave when this was Esperanza's home, her charity project, and her taking the lead. For the best, as Levka was just as inclined to interrogate the little beast for information and then send him packing.

Esperanza was infinitely more kindly about it. Levka studied them with together with questions of his own.

Opening his mouth to say something, he then let the breath out with a sigh and no words. Nope, letting the woman handle this. He liked her too much to bowl over her well-meaning questions with his more pointed ones. Instead he stood and went to move to the kitchen to wake himself up and find water, ears otherwise trained on the conversation.
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#24
Pippa was the name that Ben said and she said it back and his head nodded to confirm. Esperanza and Levka were not words that Ben knew as names but Ben did not now Pippa or Etta to be names either.

Esperanza bent down to get something, and Ben hoped it was more food, but a very strong sense of smell said it was not. It smelled like hospitals, but he took it gingerly, pawing at Ben's face with a childlike clumsiness, eyes traveling to Levka as he walked away.

"No," he answered, voice quiet. "Sometimes I stay in homes but a cheetah tried to eat me."
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#25
 Ben seemed very childlike. Esperanza watched him take the antiseptic wipe and privately hoped the bleeding would stop soon; it seemed a bright point of interest for her own beast. He was homeless, and apparently prone to trouble, and he didn't seem to emanate any signs of dishonesty. Her heart strings tightened sharply and she frowned.

 Carefully, she moved to sit beside him on the sofa, hands folded in her lap. There was a moment of thoughtful silence. She could take him to the Haven, but he seemed predisposed to danger. He needed someone to take care of him. Bringing an unpredictable Were stranger into a home with a young child seemed like a not great idea, but it still vibrated in her mind.

 "It sounds like trouble finds you a lot, Ben" she said gently, with a soft smile. "You have some broken ribs. Did Pippa do that?"
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#26
Levka coughed into his water glass, his attention freshly re-captured. Peering back into the living room from the kitchen, he waited first to see if Esperanza would ask the question that had immediately leapt to his own mind--but of course she didn't. They were allies with the cheetahs, but her investment wasn't quite the same as his. She didn't have the luxury of knowing who they all were to one degree or another.

So while yes, sorry, he was actually interested in the answer to the question that his friend had put forth, that didn't stop him from interjecting with his own. "Who was this cheetah?"

Who it was who would try and eat this rat would probably help inform him if this rodent had made some fashion of trespass on their allies before.
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#27
Ben did find trouble so much. It found him, truly, because Ben was unlucky and Ben had been born unlucky and always would be unlucky.

Nodding to the lady's question, Ben offered a few more words even if broken ribs were terrible for talking and breathing and moving.

"I was running away and- rat- and I- so she threw m-me against the tree."

A sniffle for Ben's suffering and how Ben almost had to eat only blood.

The Levka said something else and the question scared Ben.

Etta had tried to eat him but Etta also loved Ben and would give Ben more dinner if he came back. Levka was very large and tall and strong with yellow hair and what if Etta was forced to love him instead of Ben?

Head lowering some, Ben looked briefly to Levka and then away to the floor, lips tightly pressed together.
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#28
 A rat, even a very large one, was likely very easy to fling into a tree. Especially with supernatural strength. She nodded for his words, craning her neck slightly to look at Levka as he spoke his question. Oh - she hadn't even thought of the cheetah Queen! It could very well be her, for all they knew.

 Ben's trepidation was easy to pick on, particularly thanks to spidey bear senses, and Esperanza looked at him, puzzled. Maybe he didn't know her name. But the source of his fear was challenging to pick up on. "Hey, you are safe," she cooed gently, reaching slowly to put a hand on his arm, if he would allow it. "Can you at least tell us what she looked like? So we can... protect you from her?" It was a bit of a stretch, but maybe he would take the bait.
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#29
Being a rat sounded increasingly like the worst thing. Thrown into a tree? What a stupid way to end up in this sorry state...

The tree attack probably should have been a priority for information, especially if it happened to have happened here in the Glenn. But Levka's ability to focus on that waned sharply when the rat failed to provide an answer to his rather direct question. The silence irked him, and annoyance flourished in the silence.

It was a blessing that Esperanza was quick on the draw, as her King was not about to be nearly as nice as she proved to be. While she sought an angle, Levka bit down on his own surly words, set his glass down on the nearest stretch of counter, and approached the couch where Esperanza was playing kind with Ben, trying to find patience to marry with hers.

It was hard, though. He could very easily imagine himself trying to literally shake answers out of the injured party--for all it would be more cathartic for him than actually useful as tactics went.
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#30
Tension blossomed further. Esperanza touched Ben's arm and there was a shriek inside of Ben's brain, but it did not make a sound out loud.

Levka seemed to loom even from a distance. They didn't understand Ben's words and almost no one ever understood his words because Ben was unlucky and terrible.

"Sh- she was pretty and she loved me so- hn- so I- B-"

It felt like Ben's whole body wanted to fold in but that had happened so many times. Even his bones were tired.

"So I can't!"
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#31
 Esperanza certainly did not understand. Her beast rocked anxiously against its barriers, eager for a chance to lock down on the source of fear. She took a deep breath, steeling herself against such feelings, let alone Levka's palpable irritation. "Okay. You do not have to," she assured him quickly, both hands raising in a universal sign of surrender. She stood, putting some distance between herself and what her mind registered as prey, looking to Levka. "Surely Yana would have mentioned such a meeting to you, yes?" Asking as much seemed like she was stepping out of her place, but that seemed to be where his concern lied.
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#32
She loved him and she tried to eat him.

Yeah, sure, buddy.

Maybe it had been Isolde--because Esperanza made a good point... he likely would have heard anything of significance by now from the source if it was any concern. All the same, he felt rankled by the shiftiness of the rat, finding him borderline nonsensical and probably a lot more trouble than he was currently worth. A little hotspot of fear that was more tiring than amusing. Levka wasn't a betting man, but he'd have bet on the rat shifting if he hadn't just come out of a metaphysical coma.

So he shrugged at Esperanza, seeing her logic but not really feeling like it was sufficient answer. "If he wants to be welcome here he really should be more upfront."

Speaking to her rather than to Ben just felt safer--and easier. Mediator by default.
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#33
Her hands rose and Ben thought she was going to slap him. Ben's jaw clenched, eyes narrowing reactionarily. But then she walked away from Ben, and something happened that happened lots.

They talked like Ben was not here. Ben could hear, because Ben's ears were very sharp. It hurt every time that Ben became invisible, and so it hurt often.

Lips trembling, Ben sniffled once, then again, and after a moment a few whimpering noises broke from his chest as he buried his face in Ben's arms.
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#34
 Esperanza nearly argued that Ben was welcome here, in her home - but she knew better! It was more complicated than that. She looked to Ben, her expression one of terse thoughtfulness for a moment before it melted into sheer pity. Seeing a grown man cry was one thing - seeing a child cry was also hard to bear - seeing someone who was a mix of both things cry was, well. She still felt terribly sorry for him.

 "Ben. I know a place called the Haven - they are a safe place for Weres like us. I can get you set up there for a few days to get you back on your feet," she offered. It was a compromise between kindness and not having to be responsible for the poor thing. It was probably the wisest choice to make here.
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#35
It was official--he was pretty sure he hated the rat.

The crying for no good reason was what tipped him over from relative indifference and slight curiosity to just plain annoyance. The metaphysical bear bristled, and Levka had a feeling he'd best take his leave soon, lest he give Esperanza more trouble than she deserved. He was, however, against Ben staying here, and he would have said as much if Esperanza wasn't already making the bid to get rid of him.

He sank back again, taking a seat in the armchair he'd fallen asleep in earlier and watched Ben with a critical eye but a tongue lightly pressed between his teeth to keep himself from heavy-handing something that was already being handled.
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#36
Ben wasn't a where, Ben was a who, and Ben was Ben.

But Ben understood enough to follow what was being said. A safe place where Ben could be for a few days while he found his feet. With another sniffle, Ben rose, nodding and nodding.

"That- is- would be very nice," Ben said, nodding and looking to her with widened eyes.

The gnashing of teeth in Ben's head warned him of the man, but Ben felt certain Esperanza would protect him.
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#37
 There was an inkling of worry that being alone in a car with Ben was a bad idea, but it was better than just staying here like this. The young man sniffled and nodded as he spoke, and Levka would plop back into the armchair. She could not blame him for his frustration. "Okay," she said softly. "Levka. Thank you." She turned, reaching to put a hand on his upper arm and give him a gentle squeeze, and as such her bear would rub its head against the big while shoulder of his. "Make yourself at home. Stay as long as you like. Please lock up if you leave before I return." She should probably stop back by the restaurant to make sure everything was okay. Maternal instinct for a restaurant. Jeez.

 She would look to Ben as she moved to pick up her purse again. "They may have some better fitting clothes for you over there, as well," she thought aloud.
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#38
The Haven was a damnable long way away from here, and Levka did not love the idea of sending Esperanza off to drive this thing all the way there on her own. But he could already feel it, knew he was at his limits for patience with a wibbling stranger. The moment that rat started sobbing in the backseat would be the end of it, and then Ben would earn a few more broken ribs and a trip out of a moving car.

He didn't think Esperanza would like that, much. Still, he felt odd and like he wasn't managing enough just... staying here. Even if he waited for her return, it still felt too idle. Not enough problem solving. Where he couldn't manage to compassion to do what Espy was doing for Ben, he still felt like there was more in play here and it occurred to him--

"Is there anywhere I can pick Alejandra up from?"

He had no idea what time she was normally home at, but unless they were at the Diner, Alejandra was usually... around.

At least his eyes moved from Ben to Esperanza to ask this, effectively washing his hands of the rodent unless he did something rash on the way to the Haven.
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#39
 "Oh, yes! She is at the sitter’s house." Esperanza paused to pull out her phone, navigating through the contacts. "I will send you her address and let her know that you are coming." There should be no issue with it. "If she has not eaten, she will probably take a burger."

 She looked to Ben then, feeling a little more confident that she wouldn’t burst into a bear on the drive over. "Are you ready?" If all was well, she would lead him out to the Tahoe.
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#40
Good. A task--and more than that, a reason to stay around here until Esperanza came back home. He was briefly tempted to call Jackal to come help watch the young human--but the thought was just as quickly dismissed as needless. He could handle an hour or two with Esperanza's tolerant daughter. Besides, he liked feeling trusted with that.

He'd go as soon as he had the address, but for now he only turned his head to watch them leave. "Go safely," he insisted to the woman, then to the rat he couldn't help himself, "Behave yourself."

And that, he dared to hope, was that.
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#41
Ben listened, feeling spoken about but not to until Esperanza asked Ben if he was ready.

Ben wasn't ever really ready, but he nodded anyway.

The trying-Etta-taking Levka told Ben to behave. Ben's lips moved, meaning to ask how to behave, what way to behave, but Ben sensed that it would all be the same unlucky failure. So instead, Ben shuffled toward Esperanza and dreamed of a warm car.
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