BHM Skeptical [BHM]

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Ghostboo

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They did another sweep of the attic while calling Rick’s name, just to make sure that he wasn’t hiding in a dark corner, before going to exit. Freddie made it to the opening first, and Daron almost protested before he realized that she had already trusted him to not look up her skirt before. He’d have to do the same, and trust she wouldn’t watch or, at least, not judge, his struggle.

After glancing down to make sure Freddie was on the floor of the closet and away from the chair, Daron started down carefully. This was definitely more awkward than coming up, as he wasn’t able to see - even a little bit - where his feet were going. At least grateful that Freddie wasn’t in a position to watch his face flush with embarrassment, Daron took a deep breath to suck in his soft, expansive belly. Rather than pulling out a cork, this move was needed to emulate putting the cork back in.

At first, though, Daron’s belly fat just spread over the the attic opening. Disgruntled, he realized there was slightly more of a lip on the topside than there was underneath, making it just a smidgeon tighter to go through this direction. Slowly swiveling his hips back and forth, still holding his breath tightly, Daron even utilized a finger to poke some of his chub into the hole. Combined, this all worked, though it felt like excruciatingly slow going. And at some point, he had to pause to breath. He could distinctly feel the roll of fat below in the room, as the larger portion above puffed out and over the lip with his momentary expansion.

Running a hand through his dark curls in frustration, Daron quickly tightened his core and went back to squirming. His foot dangled, searching for purchase on the next rung, before he felt Freddie’s small hands gently guide his ankle to where it was supposed to land.

“Thanks,” Daron called, ignoring the heat in his face as he kept moving. To his annoyance, it turned out to be impossible to squeeze down without the opening first grabbing and lifting his sweater so that that the lower portion of his belly was revealed to the room below. Try as he might, the attic door didn’t allow him enough room to keep himself completely covered as he worked. So he gave up that dream, instead pivoting to an attempt to squirm down as quickly as he could.

Soon, his belly was entirely free of the door’s grip and in the room below, then his chest, then his arms - quick, pull down the sweater! - then shoulders, and finally head. Still holding the ladder, Daron took a careful step down to the chair, then released and stepped to the ground.

There was a moment of silence as he and Freddie looked at each other. Even with the limited vision from their flashlights, he saw her eyes were lit up in a playful spark.

“I definitely owe you that drink,” she conceded, half-grinning. Daron resisted a groan, having wanted very much to pretend that she hadn't watched his struggle of a descent. Instead, to cover his embarrassment, he went straight for the most daring joke he could think of following their time at the Garden Lounge.

“Truly,” he said, loftily looking from his belly to the attic opening. “Who wouldn’t be into me?”

There was a brief, charged moment where Daron wondered if he had put his foot entirely in his mouth, but then Freddie started to laugh. Hard. She ended up holding onto Rebecca’s chair for support as she doubled over, wheezing.

“Ahhh…” she gasped, wiping at her eyes as she straightened up. “Yep. So glad you get it.”

After putting Rebecca’s room back in order, the pair concluded their search in the master with renewed vigor. They combed through every inch, calling for Rick, but still with no response or sign of him.

“Damn,” murmured Freddie as the pair made their way back downstairs. In the living room, they saw that Terry and Laura were back inside, and had joined their daughters on the couch. Xander and Julie stood nearby.

“Any luck?” Freddie called out. Xander shook his head.

“We were about to ask you the same thing. At least the noise has stopped.”

“Why didn’t you tell us that you have an attic?” Daron asked as they stepped off the stairs, directing his dark gaze at the parents. They exchanged a confused look.

“An…attic? We didn’t know there was one,” Laura said. “Where?”

“In Rebecca’s closet,” Freddie said.

“So you just…figured the highest southern-facing window was attached to…nothing?” Daron asked, his patience running low. Terry and Laura looked at each other again.

“I guess we haven’t had much time to think about it,” Terry said, his voice tinging on defensive.

“Well, that window was open, and the wind on the pipes was bringing that god-awful sound through the house. Is that what you’ve been hearing all these weeks?”

“It…was,” Laura said, her entire family exchanging glances. “Tonight was the worst, though.”

“Well, wind had picked up a little with the rainstorm. I closed the window and stopped it, but you’re going to want to get someone up to check the rest of the attic soon, or you’re going to have a significant mold problem.”

We could just come back and take scrapings to check,” Freddie said, her voice conversational but low enough that only Daron, Julie, and Xander would likely pick up on it. “After all, we had such a good time in there.”

Daron didn’t react to this except to nudge firmly at Freddie with his elbow, which elicited a sharp grin from her that she quickly hid behind her free hand.

“But Rick wasn’t in there?” Laura asked, sounding understandably devastated. The team exchanged concerned looks.

“No, he wasn’t,” Daron said. “And unless there are other random pockets into areas of the house we missed up there, he’s definitely not upstairs.”

“We’re not hiding anything from you,” wailed Rebecca from the couch, burying her face in her sister’s hair, who glared furiously at Daron.

“Okay, wait a sec,” Freddie said, holding up her hands like a referee. “Did anyone check the cameras?”

There was a brief moment of silence.

“Not yet,” Xander offered. “We thought...perhaps it was just the flash that went off.”

“Okay, well, can’t hurt just to make sure, right?”

The group split up, with Daron and Freddie heading back upstairs with Laura and Terry while Hannah and Rebecca stayed on the ground floor with Xander and Julie. Terry went with Freddie, since he had his own large flashlight, and Laura begrudgingly went with Daron. They entered Hannah’s room, and Daron tried to explain what they were doing step-by-step as he took down the camera from its tripod. And as it turned out, the cameras had taken photos.

“Were there multiple flashes before the power went dead?” Daron asked Laura, who nodded.

“Yes. I’m not sure how many, though.”

“Looks like about...4,” Daron murmured as he flicked through the photos. Hannah’s room’s camera showed nothing unusual, just an illuminated room looking much as it did right now, but with Hannah under her covers, just starting to sit upright in the final shot. Daron couldn’t help feeling disappointed that nothing else stood out.

“Daron!” Freddie called from next door, at the same time as Terry yelled: “Laura!”

Daron and Laura hurried over to Rick’s room, where they saw the two bent over the camera.

“Rick wasn’t in bed when the cameras went off,” Freddie said, holding out the camera to Daron to show him. Laura looked over his shoulder as Daron flicked through and saw that Freddie was right.

“You didn’t know that?” Daron clarified, looking over to Terry.

“We weren’t sure - it’s been pure chaos tonight,” Terry replied. “It took us a little while to round everyone up.”

They didn’t address it, but the group moved together to Rebecca’s room next, then the master. They were just concluding that there was nothing unusual in any of them when they heard a call from downstairs:

“Mom! DAD!”

With the speed Daron suspected only parents could muster, Terry and Laura shot out of the room. Daron and Freddie followed down the stairs, and found Xander, Julie, Rebecca, and Hannah all crowded around a camera.

“This is from that hallway,” Xander said, pointing off to where the kitchen and half-bath were located. He tilted the camera so the new members could see, though they had to crowd in. To avoid pressing his bulk into Laura, Daron had to move against Freddie, whose head was slightly in front of his shoulder as she looked towards the camera. His arm was behind her back, and his belly softly pressed into her side despite his desperate core tightening. Freddie didn’t look back, but he did see a heated blush creeping up her neck (one that likely matched his own). Forcing himself to table the feelings that threatened to rise up, Daron looked closer at the camera display Xander was offering towards them.

“See it?” Xander asked as he flicked through the photos. And it took a second, but Daron did. The last two featured a small blurry leg walking out of frame, and a hand swinging behind it.

“It’s Rick, Mom! Look! Those are his pajamas!” Hannah cried, reaching out to point at the striped clothing on the frame.

“Careful, Hannah,” Laura murmured as Xander gently moved the camera out of her frantic tapping range.

“So we know he came through here,” Julie said. “We need to split up and cover every inch of this place.”

So they did. The group paired off, with Daron and Freddie sticking together as they combed the ground floor with the intense thoroughness Freddie had been so good at exhibiting lately.

“Doing okay?” Daron asked as they checked under the kitchen sink, wondering if any of this was triggering Freddie’s anxiety. To his surprise, she turned to him with a smile.

“Actually, yeah. I mean, I’ll be better when we find Rick - but - I’m okay.”

After confirming the under-sink area was empty, the pair turned their attention to the kitchen cabinets. The pantry was empty, the cabinets within reach were empty, but there were the bizarre out-of-reach cabinets above the refrigerator. Daron looked around for a chair or stool, but before he could find one, Freddie had started to clamber up on the kitchen counter.

“Fred!”

“What?”

“...Careful.”

Freddie gave him a thumbs up and a cheesy grin before making her way up the next level towards the refrigerator. Once she was there, Freddie held her iPhone’s flashlight in one hand and carefully opened the right, then the left cabinet in front of her. Almost instantly, she jerked backwards, dropping her phone and clasping both hands to her mouth in a stifled scream.

The clatter from the phone sounded as loud as a gunshot to Daron, and he immediately moved closer to get into position to catch Freddie below the refrigerator. But she didn’t fall, and she was able to grab onto her phone before it got too far way from her.

“He’s here, Daron,” Freddie gasped, pointing her phone back into the cabinet shakily. Daron followed her light with his own, and saw a small form curled up into the corner. His heart stopped in fear.

“Rick?” Freddie said, leaning closer. Daron resisted the urge to shout at her to get away. “Okay, he’s breathing. I think he’s asleep. Can you get the others?”

Refusing to leave her in that position, Daron stepped as far as the room’s entrance and boomed:

“Hey! KITCHEN!”

The first to arrive were Terry and Hannah, followed by Xander and Julie, and last were Laura and Rebecca.

“He’s up there,” Daron said, gesturing up to where Freddie crouched with his flashlight. “He’s asleep?”

“Don’t wake him up!” Laura cried. “He’s a sleepwalker, and he’ll lash out.”

Daron turned from looking up at Freddie to slowly stare at Laura. The other members of the team did the same.

“Sorry, you didn’t think that was relevant information?” Daron asked.

“Well, he….hasn’t sleepwalked since we moved here!”

“That you know of. Jesus, I wonder where the 'mysterious footsteps at night' are coming from,” Daron growled, throwing his hands up in frustration.

“Okay, Daron,” Xander said, stepping in and between Laura and his employee. He gestured at the blue-haired girl above him and continued, “Freddie, you can come down now."

“I’ll get him and hand him to you,” Laura told Terry, and began to counter Freddie's descent.

“Good work, you two,” Xander said to the watchful Freddie and Daron as the sleeping boy was handed to his father from the high-reaching cabinet.

“I did not think he’d be in there,” Freddie said, shaking her head. “And I think I cracked my phone.”

“We can replace that for you,” Xander assured. “As there’s nothing we personally can do about their electricity for now, I think it’s a good time for us to go."

Assuring the family that he would be back for the equipment in the light of day, Xander wrapped up the evening with the Sundquists while the rest of his team waited on the porch. Freddie sighed heavily, seeming to shrink before Daron’s eyes.

“Adrenaline crash,” she said wearily when Julie and Daron turned their eyes to her. “What a night.”

“It certainly was,” Julie agreed, missing the lightning-quick silent exchange Freddie and Daron had when their eyes briefly met and both then looked away, half-smirking.

“Do you need help with the equipment tomorrow?” Freddie asked when Xander re-joined the group.

“Only if you’d like to, Freddie. I don’t mind packing up myself. Either way, we’re going to take off Monday before finishing up our report about the Sundquists.”

The relief in the group was palpable. After final murmured farewells, they split off into their pairs to make their ways home.

Once in the car, Freddie stayed quiet at first, but did plug in her phone to the aux cord.

“Just to see if it still works,” she assured Daron as he looked over with a raised brow. He half-rolled his eyes, but didn’t protest as Motion City Soundtrack filled the car. He knew it was a little whiny, but he admittedly found the band to be surprisingly pleasant when Freddie would play them.

A little less than half of an album later, Daron pulled up outside Freddie’s apartment building. She unplugged her phone, and the silence that filled the car was deafening. She didn’t make any immediate moves to get out, and Daron wasn’t sure whether or not he even wanted her to.

“Daron…” Freddie started, quietly, cautiously. She turned her body just slightly in order to face him. “I want you to know that...if you don’t feel the same way about me, it’s okay. I’m sorry if it was selfish to tell you and this ruins anything, because honestly, your friendship means the world to me. But I do feel...lighter, now that I've gotten it off my chest."

“Freddie, I meant what I said earlier,” Daron replied. “I have no idea what I’m feeling because I had never considered, for even a second, that this was a possibility.”

“Sure, that’s fair,” Freddie said, nodding and staring at her hands in her lap.

“So let’s...reconvene later? After I’ve had a little time to think on it?” Daron had no idea what the protocol was here, but he hoped it wasn’t too uncouth to request to take a step back for the moment. Either way, the last thing he wanted was to hurt her.

“Of course. I meant what I said too. Whatever you need,” Freddie said. “Sleep on it, and we’ll talk later. Whenever you’re ready.”

“Okay. You sleep on it, too.”

“I’ve done plenty of that, Daron,” Freddie said, smiling ruefully at him before she opened the passenger door. “See you later, Professor.”

“‘Bye, Thornberry,” Daron replied, his mouth suddenly dry as Freddie’s door shut behind her. With the strangest combination of jacked-up adrenaline and a swirl of other emotions clouding his heart, head, and stomach, Daron pointed his car directly home. In what might be a first, he didn’t think he could even choke down one late-night taco.
 
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Ghostboo

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Oct 23, 2019
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I was tired, it was how my internal monologue was expressing all of its emotional reactions from "She finally said it!" to "Missing child, oh no!" to "No, don't brush that off dude, how could you be quite that oblivious?" :D
Oh hooray, just what I hoped for! I appreciate it, Tad 😁
 

loopytheone

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Omg, Freddie finally told him! =D

Ahh, I was half asleep and forgot to put the rest of my thoughts down! Which is, ahhhh, another stuckage scene! <3 Ah, I'm blessed, hah! It's really rare to see these written about guys, and written by a woman. I don't know how to describe it, but women right things a bit differently and focus on subtly different things and it just hits altogether better with me. Not to say I don't love our male stuckage authors, I do! But it's rare to see it from a female perspective, you know?

Honestly, the stuckage scenes kind of read like the type of stuff I write, only you have the talent to actually write a cohesive and engaging story! Like, the mysteries keep me hooked as much as everything involving Daron!
 
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fiestyMad

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Jan 14, 2019
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Michigan
Gotta say, I’m relieved this time it was just the pipes… still creeped out from the hex bag and Jeremy ! Also AHHHH Freddie finally told him!!! I love this story omg
 

Ghostboo

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Oct 23, 2019
Messages
101
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United States
It's really rare to see these written about guys, and written by a woman. I don't know how to describe it, but women right things a bit differently and focus on subtly different things and it just hits altogether better with me. Not to say I don't love our male stuckage authors, I do! But it's rare to see it from a female perspective, you know?
Oh, I know EXACTLY what you mean and I'm so glad it's landing!

Thanks a ton for your feedback, guys. Next couple chapters should be up soon!
 
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