“No… I mean, I…” Benjamin’s sucking wind again.

Damon looks at the far wall, to hide his amusement. Say ‘cock’ again, Benjamin. “I suppose it’s just that… well. I’ve read the stories that you’ve written.” Fantasy tripe, mostly. “They made me think that maybe you’d… maybe you’d believe me.”

The result does not surprise Damon in the least. Benjamin is no different than half a million boys of his age. Just the suggestion that he’s failed to understand something makes him hurry to try: “It’s not that,” Benjamin says, tentatively touching the knot of Damon’s hands on the tabletop, then drawing his fingers away. “I mean, I want to believe you. It’s just… well… you’re saying you have superpowers.” He gasps out that nervous little laugh again.

“Oh, God, no,” Damon says, honestly startled. “It’s just a knack. A parlor trick.” He coils and strikes: “Please just forget I said anything,” Damon says, covering Benjamin’s hand with his own. “I shouldn’t have brought it up. It’s ridiculous.”

“It’s okay,” Benjamin hurries to assure him. His hand jerks under Damon’s, then goes absolutely still.

Damon lifts that hand to cover his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I presumed too much. Went too far.”

“No, really, it’s okay. I’m just…” Benjamin shifts. “I’m just a little uncomfortable with this, that’s all.”

“Then forget it,” says Damon, letting his hand drop. He pins Benjamin to his seat with that cobra’s gaze. “I value your opinion. As a friend. And I shouldn’t have dumped this on you.”

Benjamin is left floundering even as he puffs up under the show of respect. Damon is only five or six years older than he is, but the gulf between a college boy and a man in his mid-twenties is a vast one; Benjamin has hung on every little show of friendship that Damon has made since Damon came up to him at the writer’s workshop and offered to be his critique partner. “Well,” he says, “I mean…”

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