Safe at Home

by: TabulaRasa | Complete Story | Last updated Jun 17, 2007

Ben's cousin says he wishes they were brothers. But what if they were?

Chapter 1
Safe at Home

Benjamin Rockler awoke to sun streaming through the window, lighting up a room he didn’t recognize. It took him a moment to remember where he was, and why. It was the guest room in Aunt Susanne and Uncle Paul’s place, where he was staying for Spring break.

Not exactly Cancun, but then, Ben couldn’t exactly afford Cancun. And at least it wasn’t home. He dreaded the thought of another week like Christmas break, attempting to explain to his parents that, as a college student, 10:00 was no longer a reasonable curfew, even on weeknights. Plus, he’d be making some easy money. His aunt and uncle had decided they wanted a vacation, and that included a vacation from their twelve year old son. So they’d hired Ben to house sit and keep Kevin out of trouble, and generously overpaid him for it.

Ben stretched and got out of bed; he dug through his suitcase for jeans, which he pulled over his boxer shorts, and a t-shirt, then walked down the hallway. Looking in his bedroom, Kevin was still asleep, so Ben headed downstairs to the computer. The computer had separate log ins for everyone, probably so they could put some limits on Kevin’s access, but Uncle Paul had made an account for him--"Benjamin", the first one; he’d even gone and found a copy of his university’s logo and placed that as the icon next to his name. Ben logged on and checked his e-mail, but didn’t find anything important; a handful of messages from mailing lists and not much else.

After a little while, he heard Kevin walking around upstairs. "Morning, Kev. You want breakfast?" he called up the stairs.

"Fine," Kevin called down. The day before hadn’t gone well. Kevin felt he was old enough to stay home alone for a week, and had had a rather loud fight with his parents the day before, shortly before they left. He’d spent the rest of the evening sulking and avoiding Ben.

Ben made waffles and laid them out. A few minutes later, when Kevin still hadn’t come downstairs, Ben called up again: "Breakfast’s ready."


It was another few minutes before Kevin came down, still dressed in the t-shirt and gray checkered pajama pants he’d slept in.

Ben had decided that, as much as he’d like to enjoy the break, the first step had to be getting Kevin to cooperate with him. So he’d allocated the first day to making Kevin like him. "So, since we haven’t seen each other that much over the years, I thought we could do some stuff together today."

Kevin shrugged. "Like what?"

Ben tried to look innocent. "Well, I noticed you have a playstation, and I’m pretty sure I can whup your ass in any game you have."

Kevin looked up in surprise; as Ben had hoped, he wasn’t used to "babysitters" who knew anything about playstations, let alone ones willing to threaten to "whup his ass."

"You play playstation?"

"Yeah, we had one in my dorm room this year. And I’m really good." Ben kept pushing, trying to bring out Kevin’s competitive streak.

"I’m really good too. I bet I can beat you."

"I guess we’ll find out after breakfast, won’t we?"

"Yeah, we will!" Kevin had completely forgotten that he was supposed to be sulking.

Ben spent the rest of the day entertaining Kevin; after playing some video games, they went outside to play some basketball. Then some card games, and another round on the playstation. Finally, Ben drove the two of them to the nearest blockbuster and they rented some movies, then returned to the house and ordered pizza, which they ate while watching one of the movies. The change in Ben’s attitude was obvious, from the hostility of the day before, to a passing comment that Ben was "the best babysitter I’ve ever had," and by evening--after plenty of joking around and a short serious discussion where Ben passed on some almost brotherly advice--Kevin was treating Ben more like family than like a babysitter.

After the first movie, when Ben reluctantly agreed to watch a second before bed time, he found out just how close Kevin felt towards him. "Today was lots of fun Ben. It would be awesome if you were my brother."

And Ben, who had enjoyed the day more than he expected himself, and had been impressed by Kevin’s maturity, answered, "Yeah, that’d be cool."

Kevin nodded seriously, as if this were a statement of great significance. "Okay. I’m glad you agree."

The second movie was disappointingly boring; Kevin fell asleep during it, and Ben almost did as well. When it ended, Ben nudged Kevin awake, then cleaned up a bit and dropped off to sleep himself.


Ben awoke, again, to the light streaming through the window and lighting up an unfamiliar room. He could have sworn that he’d been living out of a suitcase, but the suitcase was gone, and there were dressers.

Looking in the dresser, his clothes were there, so he must have unpacked them and forgotten about it. He grabbed a pair of jeans, pulled them over his boxers, and then noticed on the clock next to his bed (had that been there the night before) that it was almost noon.

He walked over to Kevin’s room, and saw that the boy was still asleep. Ben decided that it was plenty late, and walked right in. "Hey, Kevin."

Kevin woke up and looked around. "Hey, you shouldn’t come in my room without knocking."

Ben shrugged. "Sure, I’ll remember that. But it’s almost noon. Time to get up. Cereal okay for breakfast?"

Kevin shrugged. "Sure."

Ben went downstairs and poured two bowls of cereal, and Kevin joined him a few minutes later. Ben had intended to discuss plans for the day, but Kevin beat him to it.

"Want to go to the waterpark today?"

"I was planning to see some friends today."

Kevin frowned. "I already called my friends, but half of them are away for break, and none of the rest are free today."

"We spent all day together yesterday. I don’t really want to spend my entire time here entertaining you."

As soon as he said it, Ben regretted it. "I’m sorry you had to waste all of yesterday entertaining me. I thought you liked it, but I guess I’m just a dumb kid you’re getting paid to babysit."

"Kevin, that’s not what I meant."

Kevin looked pointedly at his cereal, refusing to make eye contact. "You even said it would be cool if we were brothers."

Ben refrained from pointing out that he wouldn’t want to spend all his time with Kevin even if they were brothers. "I did mean that, Kevin. And I really did enjoy spending time with you yesterday. Really, truly, I promise."

Kevin looked up, skeptically, but with a touch of hope in his eyes. "If you go to the waterpark with me, you’ll enjoy that too. I promise you will," he added, with sudden assurance. "And my friend Kyle is free tomorrow, and I’ll go see him then, so you don’t have to spend all your time with me. I mean, I want to do other stuff too. Just not today."

Ever the softy, Ben relented. "Okay, fine. Let’s go out to the waterpark right after breakfast, so we get there ahead of the lines, and we’ll spend three hours there. And this afternoon, we’ll do things separately."

Kevin considered the matter. "Okay, after three hours, we can leave if you still want to. And then, if you want, you can be alone as much of today and tomorrow as you want, and I won’t bother you or anything."

Ben nodded. "It’s a deal."

Ben headed to the computer to figure out how to get to the waterpark; he noticed that the icon on his account had changed to a generic looking pattern. Not knowing much about computers, he didn’t think much of it. A quick check online revealed that parking at the waterpark was almost another half a ticket, and that a bus ran right near the place anyway.

So they gathered swim clothes for the two of them in a bag and headed to the bus. Half an hour later they made it to the waterpark and then to the changing room. Ben pulled off his shirt, then his pants and underwear and pulled on the board shorts he’d brought. When he turned around, he saw that Kevin, perhaps out of shyness, had kept his underwear on, so his red boxers peeked over the edge of his board shorts.

Then Ben noticed that Kevin seemed to be only a few inches shorter than he was. It was probably just a weird slope, but before Ben could try to find more even footing to compare, Kevin said, "Hey, Ben?"


"You’re too slow to catch me." And Kevin took off in a run. Ben chased, expecting that his longer legs would lead to a quick victory. But he had to maneuver around the crowd, and Kevin knew the layout while Ben didn’t.

He almost caught up to Kevin at the top of a ride, but Kevin slid down it, Ben following close behind.

When Ben finally caught up to Kevin, he noticed that they must still be standing on another slope, since Kevin seemed to be about the same height. Both of them panted for breath briefly before Kevin said, "Okay, you got me. Now it’s my turn!"

Spurred by the illusion that they were the same height, Ben decided it would be more fun to pretend that he was Kevin’s fellow twelve year old, and darted off. By the time Kevin caught him, several rides later, Ben had gotten deeply into his own little game, and the two of them spent the rest of the day at the park. When the park announced that it was closing soon, Ben realized that he’d gotten so invested in pretending to be the one who wanted to go to the park that he’d entirely forgotten about leaving after three hours.

"I guess we stayed more than three hours."

"Yeah...but didn’t you have fun?"

Ben nodded. "Yeah, that was tons of fun."

"See. I promised you’d have fun, bro."

Ben grinned. "You sure did." Then he noticed--Kevin had called him "bro." Before Ben could ask him about it, Kevin was already walking to the changing room. They pulled their bag out of a locker, and as Ben pulled his clothes out, he felt a sudden burst of shyness. He’d stripped naked here this morning without hesitating, but now it seemed embarrassing. If only, like Kevin, he’d had the sense to leave his underwear on. "Hey...let’s just not change here, and shower at home."

Kevin shrugged. "Sure."

So the boys pulled t-shirts on and kept their soaking wet board shorts on the bus ride home. Fortunately, it was fairly empty, so everyone else was able to steer clear of the wet boys.

At home, Kevin showered first, while Ben waited around. He’d stopped trying to pretend that he was the same height as Kevin when they left the water park, but Kevin hadn’t seemed any shorter on the bus ride back, either. Ben paced back and forth, trying to come up with some explanation for the persistent optical illusion.

When Kevin finished, Ben passed him going into the shower, watching closely, and if anything, he would have sworn Kevin was taller than he was.

And then, as Ben pulled off his board shorts, he became very glad he hadn’t changed back at the park. Looking down, it was clear that something wasn’t right. Ben looked up, taking a look at himself in a mirror for the first time since the morning. Examining his naked body in the mirror, there was no question that he hadn’t just been pretending--he really looked like a boy about Kevin’s age, from the softer facial features and hairless armpits to the more...dramatic...changes further down.

Opening the door a crack and peeking out, hiding his body behind the body of the door, he called for Kevin. "Hey, Kevin? Did I look a bit different to you, today?"

Kevin, to Ben’s surprise, started laughing hysterically. "I was wondering how long it would take you to notice."

Suddenly, Ben felt a bit scared. "Notice what?"

Still wearing a towel around his waist, Kevin stepped in front of the door crack, within Ben’s narrow field of vision. "I made you my brother this morning."

"Your brother?" Ben asked, stunned, and torn between skepticism and the attraction of having an explanation--any explanation.

"You know, with magic. But then I wasn’t sure if sixteen year olds have fun at waterparks,..."

Ben interrupted. "Eighteen. I’m eighteen."

"No, when you were my brother you were sixteen. But I promised you’d have fun, so I made you my twin when we got to the park. Because I know twelve year olds have fun at waterparks." Kevin grinned at his own cleverness.

Ben decided to ignore the impossibility of the whole thing, since his body was clear testimony that mere impossibility wasn’t a good enough objection.

"Okay...could you put me back, then."

Kevin looked slightly guilty. ""

"What do you mean, no?"

"I can’t undo it."

Ben tried not to panic. "So, what, we’re just, twins now, forever?"

Kevin looked even guiltier. "Not twins..." He stepped closer, and Ben saw that Kevin was now unambiguously several inches taller than him.

"Kevin, what did you do to me?"

"Well, I didn’t want to share everything, and I was thinking about how I never get to be in charge..." Kevin noticed that Ben wasn’t merely arguing with him any more, but had become genuinely scared.

Without regard for Ben’s privacy, Kevin pushed right into the bathroom, ignoring Ben’s annoyed, "Hey!"

Kevin hugged the now smaller boy gently. "Don’t worry, Benji. I’ll take good care of you."

His head pressed against Kevin’s shoulder, Ben knew he should object to Kevin’s intrusion into the bathroom, or to the sudden hug, or to the fact that Kevin had somehow made him a little kid, but when he opened his mouth to protest, the first thing that came to kind was the obnoxious nickname. "I’m not Benji!"

"Sorry, Ben. So don’t worry about it. It’ll all be okay." Ben resisted the hug about, but not that forcefully, and after a few seconds, Kevin’s reassurance made it fade to confusion. Before Ben could ask more questions, Kevin cut him off." Now, it’s time for your shower, and we’ll talk when you’re done." Kevin grabbed Ben’s shoulders and gently rotated them, and then, to Ben’s surprise, slapped him lightly on the butt. "Shower time!" Ben took a few steps towards the shower, mostly on momentum from the slap, and before he could object, Kevin had left and shut the door behind him, giving Ben back his privacy.

Without really thinking about it, Ben began showering as he considered his situation. He knew he should be angrier than he was, and he remembered feeling an unexpected safety from Kevin’s embrace. There was no question that Kevin had not only made him look like a younger brother, but feel like it as well.

He decided that there wasn’t anything he could do like this. After his shower, he could try to sort things out and get back to normal. He finished and wrapped a towel around his waist. Even though it was something he’d done every day back in the dorm, he noticed that his thought about it was that he was wrapping the towel like Kevin did. He resolved to watch that kind of thinking before it got to be a habit.

Kevin was waiting for him. "I grabbed your clothes. Pirates of the Caribbean is playing at the movie theater, and if we hurry, we can make it!"

Ben took the pile of clothes from Kevin and went back into the bathroom to put them on. When he went to put them on, he realized they weren’t quite what he would have picked out. Instead of the plain or striped boxer shorts he usually wore, these had a big spiderman on the front. Kevin had also handed him cargo shorts, like the ones Kevin so often wore, and a "South Park" t-shirt. But the matched his shrunken body, and Ben didn’t want to make them miss the movie, so he put them on. When he stepped out, he realized that he and Kevin practically matched--Kevin was wearing similar cargo shorts, and a striped t-shirt.

"Come on, we’ve got to hurry."

As the boys ran out the door, Ben wondered if all this was to stop him from finding time to press Kevin about the situation. But they had to half run three blocks to the theater, and then Ben had to wait impatiently as Kevin bought movie tickets for both of them. When they went to get snacks, Ben found he was getting annoyed at how much Kevin was telling him what to do, and objected when Kevin tried to ask what he wanted.

"I can get it myself."

"Oh, okay. Sure you can, Ben. Did you bring money?" Ben realized that, in the rush, he’d forgotten his wallet. "Well, you’re getting a small popcorn and soda, right?"


"Okay, here’s enough money." Kevin handed Ben a few dollars, and Ben stood in the line next to the one Kevin was in, and placed his order separately, irked that the counter was so high that he had to reach to pick up his food and drink.

By the time they got into the movie, the previews had started, so Ben still didn’t have a chance to argue with Kevin about his size. And by the time the movie was over, the topic had slipped his mind. The two boys left the theater talking about the movie, shouting quotes back and forth at each other.

When they got back, Kevin suggested that they order pizza, and that sounded excellent to Ben. It was during the wait for the pizza that Ben finally had the chance to press Kevin about the situation.

"Kevin, you have to put me back."

"I told you. I can’t."

" have to!"

"Come on, you’re having lots of fun."


"So what’s wrong with being my little brother, Benji?"

"My name is Ben!"

Expecting a retort, or even better, an apology, Ben was unprepared for Kevin to start tickling him. The tickling rapidly turned into a wrestling match. For a while, Kevin had the unquestioned upper hand; not only did he have some size and weight on Ben, but Ben wasn’t quite prepared for the boy he thought of as his young cousin to the one with the size advantage. But once Ben let instinct take over, he had a bit more success, repeatedly wriggling out of Kevin’s grip. Still, in the end, size carried the day, and Ben found himself pinned by the now larger boy.

"Admit I won."

"Fine, you won."

"Admit you’re my little brother Benji!"

"No!" Ben wasn’t even sure if he was objecting to the name or to being the little brother.

Completely pinned, Ben was helpless to resist the round of tickling that followed. "Admit it! Admit it, Benji!"

Finally, Ben conceded. "Okay, okay, I’m Benji!"

Kevin got off and let him lie there for a moment, catching his breath. Now that he’d said it, it was beginning to feel genuine. Certainly, when Kevin had been holding him down, he’d felt a lot more like Kevin’s little brother than like his babysitting cousin. He knew he’d been bigger this morning, but the memory was getting vaguer and vaguer. This felt real, and the morning seemed like a particularly interesting game of pretend.

While Ben was still lying there, the doorbell rang, and further meditations on the subject were interrupted by pizza.

Over pizza, Ben asked Kevin another question that had been bothering him. " old am I now?"

Kevin thought for a moment. "Nine."

"Nine. Not even double digits." Ben sighed thoughtfully.

"Hey, it’s almost eleven."

Ben looked up in panic. "Eleven? That’s way past bedtime!"

Kevin smiled mischievously. "Yeah, but...since you’re not a grown up, there’s no one here to make us go to bed."

Ben returned the grin.

" want to be a grown up again. But then I guess we’d be in trouble for staying up late."

Ben shook his head. "No, let’s stay up late!" He cocked his head. Kevin’s argument didn’t seem quite right. Would he be in trouble with himself for staying up if he were a grown up?

"Hey! Let’s see what’s on TV this late!" His thoughts interrupted, Ben followed Kevin upstairs to the TV room. Kevin grabbed the remote and found a show neither of them had seen before. Ben didn’t quite follow it, but Kevin seemed to enjoy it, and objected to changing the channel.

The show was confusing and boring, and didn’t hold Ben’s attention for very long. After the long day, his attention drifted, and he began to get sleepy. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world to lean over and rest his head on Kevin’s shoulder, and Kevin extended an arm around him. Within minutes, he’d fallen asleep.

The next thing he was aware of, dimly, was being carried by someone, one arm under the shoulders, one under he knees. He groggily began to open his eyes to see what was going on, but heard Kevin "shh" at him. "I’m just taking you to bed. Don’t wake up, Benji." With that reassurance, Ben kept his eyes closed and stayed half-asleep, dimly aware as he was put down on a bed and Kevin slid his shirt off, lifting up the arms that Ben was letting hang limply at his sides to get it off, and then again, one at a time, to get another shirt on. Then Kevin gently pulled off Ben’s pants and slid new ones on, and then finally shifted Ben so his head was on a pillow, and finally pulled covers over him.


Ben awoke, yet again, to sun streaming through the window, lighting up a room he didn’t recognize. This was beginning to become a habit. He was lying under a bright green comforter with race cars on it, and sitting up, he could see that the sheets and pillow case matched. Propped next to him was a teddy bear that seemed huge. He realized that he had no idea how big it was, since he didn’t know how big he was, but it was almost as large as his torso.

He pulled off the covers and stood up. Looking at his unfamiliar pajamas, he tried to remember the night before, and dredged up vague memories of being carried to bed and changed. The blue pajamas had snug fitting elastic cuffs and were covered with dog footprints; Ben thought they seemed a bit childish. Come to think of it, the rest of the room was, too. Next to the bed was a bookshelf with thin books with brightly colored covers. On the far side of the room was a large toy box. It was definitely hard to believe that this was a bedroom meant for a nine year old.

Ben walked out into the hallway and across to the bathroom and opened the hamper. His clothes from the day before were right on top, and he pulled out the pants. Holding the waist to match his waist eliminated any question--the shorts hung much too low, indisputable evidence that he was shorter than he’d been the night before. Much shorter.

Ben wandered down the hallway, looking for Kevin. Peeking into Kevin’s bedroom, he could see Kevin sleeping. For a moment he considered waking Kevin, but even the thought brought a wave of fear and discomfort; he knew he wasn’t allowed in Kevin’s room without permission. Frustrated, Ben shifted his feet back and forth impatiently, trying to figure out how to deal with the situation, and accidentally let out a loud sigh in the process.

Kevin immediately shifted, then raised his head to look at the doorway. Ben felt a sudden panic, that Kevin would think Ben had woken him and be mad.

"I was just looking to see if you were up."

"Uh-huh. Sure you were." Ben felt a flood of relief that Kevin believed him.

"Um...I’m littler than yesterday."

Kevin nodded. "Yup."

" little are you going to make me?" Ben’s voice trailed off at the end as he swallowed back another bout of panic.

Kevin shrugged casually. "I dunno. Depends how I feel." Ben made a face and stepped back. Kevin finally noticed how scared Ben was and sat up, suddenly serious. Seeing what Kevin was wearing drove home the new gap between them--the older boy was shirtless, with checked pajama pants not quite covering his plaid boxer shorts; Ben took another step back, instinctively pulling his arms in front of in defense against some imagined attack.

"Are you scared, Benji? Hey, come over here." Kevin smiled reassuringly at Ben, and Ben shuffled over, a bit reluctantly. The name, which had seemed so condescending the day before, suddenly seemed affectionate. When he got close, Kevin suddenly grabbed him and pulled him up to sit in Kevin’s lap, then wrapped his arms around the boy, holding him; another indication of how much smaller Ben had gotten. Part of Ben recognized how manipulative this position was, and how helpless it made him, but a stronger instinct found it reassuring, like he was surrendering responsibility for the situation to Kevin. "I really like my little brother. You like being my little brother, right?"

Ben felt a surge of pleasure at the implied compliment, and nodded without thinking.

"You were too heavy to carry to bed, and then I thought that if you were a little smaller, you could do stuff like cuddle on my lap like this." Ben was finding it comforting to sit on Kevin’s lap, and he nodded a bit, agreeing that this was an advantage. "So don’t you worry. I’ll take good care of you." Kevin squeezed him gently, and Ben’s fears were swept away by the force of Kevin’s conviction. It didn’t matter that Kevin offered no justification or explanation; it wasn’t even the words themselves--it was just the affection in the tone that Ben found himself reacting to. Kevin kissed him on the ear, then suddenly tickled him, causing Ben to squeal in surprise. "You want to play a computer game with me?"


"C’mon." Kevin ran out of the room with Ben trailing right behind. The larger boy took the chair in front of the computer and logged in while Ben pulled himself onto the adjacent chair. Finding it an awkward fit, with his legs dangling and a huge gap between his back and the back of the chair, he curled his legs up on the chair and leaned over.

"Let’s play SimCity. That’s an awesome game." Ben wasn’t familiar with the game, but didn’t have a strong preference. Kevin loaded it up and began playing, narrating what he was doing to Ben as he went along. It took several minutes for Ben to realize that he was purely a spectator.

"Can I have a turn controlling?"

"Oh...well, I’m in the middle of building this. But maybe in a couple of minutes." Ben nodded.

A few more minutes passed. "Can I have a turn now?"

"Oh. Do you know how to play?"

"I watched you play."

"Yeah, but that’s not the same." Ben began to suspect that he wasn’t going to get a turn, and made an annoyed face. "It’s just that I don’t want you to accidentally hurt our city by making a mistake ’cause you don’t know the game." Ben was partially placated by the fact that Kevin considered the city to belong to both of them, but still wanted a turn to play. "How about this. You can be the mayor, and you decide what we do, and I’ll be your assistant, who goes and does the work to do what you want."

Ben nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah, I like that." It would be fun to be the one in charge, and have Kevin doing what he said. "I want to put a playground there." Ben pointed to the screen.

"A playground? Oh, you mean a park. You want a park there? But that’s where we’re putting the commercial district. You probably meant you want a park over here," Kevin gestured with the mouse. "Because if you put it there, all the kids who live here," Kevin gestured again, "will get to play there, and their mommies and daddies will go work here and make lots of money, and we’ll get lots of taxes from it. And that’s the really clever way to do it. So, where do you want the park to go?"

Ben hadn’t quite figured out the game, and wasn’t at all clear why it made a difference where the park went, but Kevin sounded pretty confident, and he wanted Kevin to think he was clever, so he pointed to where Kevin had gestured. "Yeah, there."

Kevin nodded. "Good call," and Ben felt another surge of warmth from Kevin’s approval.

The game lasted for a while, until Ben heard his stomach growling. Kevin heard it too. "Are you hungry?"

Ben nodded.

"Okay, I’ll make us breakfast."

Ben followed Kevin to the kitchen, where Kevin pulled out two bowls and started pouring cereal and milk for both of them. Ben watched the scene thoughtfully. "Yesterday, I got cereal for you."

Kevin looked at him with an odd smile. "Yeah, that’s right. That’s pretty silly, isn’t it." He walked over to Ben and, standing behind him, leaned over to pour milk into Ben’s bowl, dramatizing the way he towered over the smaller boy. "You being the one taking care of me, when I’m so much bigger than you."

"Yeah." Ben giggled as he looked up at Kevin. It was weird to remember that he used to be so much bigger. He couldn’t imagine what it was like any more; his present situation seemed overwhelmingly real: the way his emotions overran his thoughts constantly, the way he was so aware of his body, from the smooth softness of his pajamas to the slightly rough wooden floors on his bare feet.

As they began eating, Kevin started talking about plans for the day. Initially, Ben hoped they have another exciting day together like the one before, but Kevin soon put a stop to that idea. "Remember, I’m going to Kyle’s today, so you’ll be alone for a while."

"I don’t wanna be alone."

"Remember, yesterday you made me promise to let you be alone today." Ben knew it was true, but thinking back, it didn’t make much sense. He remembered having things he wanted to do alone, but couldn’t imagine what they might have been. "There’s lots of videos for you to watch, and I’ll leave food out for you. You’ll be fine."

"But, we could play together more. You could watch the videos with me!"

"I don’t want to watch your videos, Ben. They’re kids stuff."

The double rejection stung, and Ben made a sulky noise.

"If you really can’t be alone, I can call a babysitter. You know, like for a baby."

"I’m not a baby!" Ben snapped, increasingly unhappy with the whole conversation.

"So you can play by yourself for a few hours."

"I wanna play with you."

Kevin rolled his eyes. "Don’t be a pain, Ben. I don’t want to play with you all the time."

Ben sighed loudly, and shifted around in his chair, but couldn’t think of anything useful to say to express anger at Kevin suddenly rejecting him. The rest of the meal passed in silence. When they were both done, Kevin began executing his plans for the day. "I’m going to go get dressed. You want me to set up your shows first?"

Watching television still sounded better than nothing. "Okay."

While Ben sat in the living room, it occurred to him that while Kevin might consider Power Rangers to be "his" show, he’d never actually seen it before. But it wasn’t hard to figure out, and it wasn’t long before he was completely absorbed in it. He didn’t even notice that Kevin had left until the DVD ended, which meant he’d been watching for a good three hours. There was another DVD which Kevin had left out for him, but instead, Ben got up to look around.

Wandering through the kitchen, he saw that Kevin had left a sandwich out for him, and Ben took it and started eating while he continued wandering, leaving a trail of crumbs behind him. Wandering past Kevin’s room, he saw that Kevin had left his clothes from yesterday in a pile on the floor. He knew he wasn’t supposed to go into Kevin’s room, but it wasn’t the same when Kevin wasn’t around to catch him. He put the sandwich down on Kevin’s desk and pulled off his pajama pants, and then his shirt. He only stood naked for a moment, since he immediately pulled on Kevin’s clothes, absurdly oversized though they were.

Holding them up, he wandered to the bathroom to look at himself in the mirror. Unsurprisingly, he looked like what he was now--a little boy trying to wear his older brother’s clothes. He had to bunch up the waist just to hold up Kevin’s shorts, and the legs, which barely covered Kevin’s knees, covered his feet and rested lightly on the floor. Ben wondered how old he’d actually become. He’d meant to ask Kevin, but had gotten distracted. He wasn’t comfortable with what Kevin was doing to him, but whenever he raised the issue, Kevin managed to manipulate him. He need to get some control back.

He took the clothes off and carried them back to Kevin’s room. He didn’t want to put the pajamas back on, since sitting around watching cartoons in dog-paw print pajamas certainly wasn’t helping him feel like an adult.

He carried the pajamas into his bedroom and opened up his drawers, looking for something suitable. He immediately ran into a problem. Apparently, however old he was now, it wasn’t old enough for boxer shorts. His underwear drawer was full of brightly colored briefs, some with simple stripes, others with various figures and markings. After some thought, he decided that the ones with a basketball on the front and various related images were the most mature; after all, he knew that kids Kevin’s age liked basketball too.

He didn’t seem to have any more cargo shorts, but there were some cotton ones. Most of them had colorful patterns and matching t-shirts, which he found childish, but he found a checkered pair and a white t-shirt which just had a small bear in the corner, and decided that would have to do. He didn’t see a need for socks just to walk about the house, so didn’t bother with them.

Ben tried to remember what he would have done when he was older. It occurred to him that he probably would have checked his e-mail. His account had changed again; the name was "Benji" now, and the icon next to it had become a paw print. When he logged in, the options were completely changed--he only had a limited set of programs available at all. The web browser was still there, though, and the homepage was set to Disney. When he tried to enter his university’s webmail address, it just refused to go, and an error about "parental permission" kept popping up. Eventually, Ben gave up and tried exploring the Disney site. Initially he’d just planned to explore what the limits of these parental permissions were, but he quickly got sucked into a game on the site.

He didn’t get up until he heard the door open. Abandoning the game immediately, he charged for the door. "Kevin!"

"Hey, Benji. You have fun?"

"Yeah. But, want to play, now?"

Kevin rolled his eyes. "Give me one minute, okay?" As he walked to the fridge to get a drink, he asked, "What do you want to play?"

"Um...Star Wars monopoly?"

" game, that’s in, and then you don’t complain about the shows I want to watch."

Ben nodded eagerly. "Okay!"

They got the game out and set-up, and started playing. And then, half way through, Ben went to the bathroom, and when he came out, Kevin was waiting outside the door.

"Ben, did you go into my room while I was gone?"

"No!" Ben said immediately, before even remembering that it was a lie.

Kevin pulled the half eaten sandwich from behind his back. "Then how did this get on my desk?"

Ben struggled to think of an excuse. "Um..."

"You know, I spent all of yesterday playing with you, then I come back today and the first thing I do is play the game YOU wanted to play, and I find out you’ve been going in my room, where you know you’re not allowed to go."

Kevin stormed back to his bedroom, slamming the door behind him, as Ben stood, feeling a little guilty, but mostly frustrated and helpless. He hadn’t done anything...just gone into Kevin’s room...and just a little...and it was Kevin’s fault for leaving him alone...and making him a little kid...and everything...

Ben kicked the monopoly board, scattering pieces around the room, then ran to his own room and plowed head first into his bed, grabbing the teddy bear and clutching him, almost in tears.

After a few minutes, Ben heard Kevin’s door open, and he flinched, afraid Kevin was going to yell at him again. But Kevin walked right by his bedroom, and a minute later, Ben heard the television go on. After a few more minutes, Ben got together the courage to get up, and, still clutching the teddy bear, walk quietly to the television room and peek his head in.

"Kevin?" he asked softly.

Kevin turned to him. "Yeah?" he asked, neutrally.

"I’m sorry," Ben said, pleadingly, begging Kevin’s forgiveness.

Kevin nodded. "I know. You just missed me."

Ben nodded emphatically, relieved that Kevin wasn’t mad anymore.

"C’mere, Benji." Kevin held out his arms and Ben raced into them, accepting the hug. The two cuddled for a few minutes. "This is really nice, Ben."

Ben nodded. "Uh-huh." Suddenly, the position became less comfortable, and Ben had to shift position a bit. He noticed that his feet didn’t seem to reach as far anymore. "You made me littler!"

"Yeah, just a little."

"How old am I now?"


"Five," Ben repeated. He held out a hand wide and stared on it, contemplating the implications of being five. "How old did I used to be?"


"No, before. When I was much bigger."

Kevin shifted position and put Ben down, so they were lying next to each other, face to face, but with Kevin’s arm still extended comfortingly around Ben. "Much bigger?" Kevin said it like it was an absurd fantasy.

"Yeah, I was bigger than you! How big was I?" When Kevin didn’t answer immediately, Ben began counting softly. "One...two...three..." After a moment, he announced, "Thirteen? Thirteen is bigger than twelve? Was I thirteen before?"

"You were more than thirteen. But don’t worry about it, Benji." Suddenly, unexpectedly, Benji started crying. Kevin hugged him again, once again shifting so Benji was resting on top of him. "What’s the matter?" But Benji just kept sobbing. "Benji? Benji, I’m really sorry." For the first time, Kevin’s cool really slipped. "Benji, please, I’m sorry, what’s wrong, please tell me what’s wrong?"

Benji managed to slip a few words out between the sobs. "Please don’t make me a baby."

Kevin held him tight. "I won’t, I promise. I won’t make you any younger, okay? Please stop crying." Kevin sounded close to tears himself. "I’m sorry, I’m so sorry." He hugged the smaller boy tight.

Benji hugged his older brother back, not even sure why he was crying, but feeling scared and overwhelmed and unable to stop. Kevin just kept repeating that he was sorry and begging Benji to stop crying, and soon started crying as well.

The two boys lay there like that for a while, until Benji finally got control of himself. "Are you okay, Benji?"

Benji sniffled. "Uh-huh. You won’t make me a baby?"

"No, I won’t, I promise. And I’ll take extra good care of you and be a great older brother, okay?"

"Uh-huh." The two boys continued cuddling, and drifted off to sleep on the TV room floor.


Ben awoke with a start. The movie was just ending, and Kevin was asleep next to him in the TV room. He took a moment to reorient--he was an eighteen year old, babysitting his cousin Kevin. He’d dedicated the day to getting Kevin to like him, and they’d both fallen asleep during a boring movie. And a passing comment Kevin had made had given him a very, very strange dream.

He nudged Kevin awake. "Movie’s over, Kevin."

As Kevin left the room, Ben asked, " want to go to the waterpark tomorrow?"

Kevin grinned broadly. "Yeah!"



End Chapter 1

Safe at Home

by: TabulaRasa | Complete Story | Last updated Jun 17, 2007


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