This is a one-shot written for the Ridiculously Happy Oneshots Contest. See annoyance's page if you're interested and want to vote for mine! (Which would be ever so flattering and lovely. But only if you think it deserves it, of course. Thanks!)

The Rules:
-- Has to be a One Shot
-- Has to be more than 2500 words
-- The main pairing must be het (boy/girl)
-- The story must be Ridiculously Happy ( Yes, all entries will be entered into my C2). That means no Angst, Hurt/Comfort. Lets all be happy! Romance, Humor and General are the preferred genres.
-- Add the phrase 'for the Ridiculously Happy OneShots contest' in your summary.
-- All ratings are accepted, but please keep lemons to a minimum.
-- The story must be in the category Fiction -- Romance
-- The story can be in POV of either the boy or the girl"
-- Deadline for story submission is MAY 11
-- PM me the url of your finished story so that I don't have to hunt around for it.
--The story must use irony. (For example, the one thing the boy hates about the girl could be what finally causes him to realize his feelings for her. Be creative!!)
--The girl must be significantly shorter than the guy, and he should make at least 3 comments about this. (Ideally around 1 foot of difference in height.)

Now for the story:

You know that feeling like you're going to completely explode? And you're totally hopeless to stop it? Because it's moving so fast and so stealthily that you don't see it coming for you, killing you, until the last moment. That's how I feel about right now. Because the man sitting next to me has no idea that I'm completely in love with him. I would tell him, but that might be awkward. Because he thinks we're just friends. And we have been since forever.

"Are you going to ever finish, Candace? I need to get back to the office soon."

"Oh, stop. You work for your mother. You could call in every other day and your job would be there. Besides, it's your fault we're late in the first place. Someone just had to check their e-mail one more time."

"Fair enough," he answered with his breathtaking smile.

"Are we still meeting up tonight to go to that concert?"

"Yeah. I'll pick you up around eight?"

"If by picking me up, you mean walking across the hall, then yes." Oh, I didn't mention that? We live across the hall from one another in our apartment building. So now I get a firsthand view of the trash he brings home every once in awhile. It's awesome.

"Don't be a smart-ass."

"Sorry," I said in a not-so-apologetic tone. "Do you want to grab food first?"

"Maybe," he replied. I really hated when he answered with a maybe. Either you know or you don't. I didn't ask him if he could solve world hunger or the AIDS pandemic, just if he wanted to pick up a cheeseburger.

"O-kay. I guess you can get back to me on that one." He laughed.

"No, I mean I want to. I just don't know what I want."

"You are so indecisive. It really drives me nuts, sometimes."

"Sorry," he said, copying my sarcastic tone from earlier. It was my turn to laugh. He continued with the teasing with, "For someone so short, you sure eat a lot of bread."

I ignored his comment and responded with, "I'll let you get back to your precious job. See you at eight."

"You know, sometimes I wonder why my mother hates you. You're just so damn irresistible," he responded to my dig at him as I shoved another breadstick into my mouth.

"I know. I don't understand why she dislikes my undoubtedly sunny disposition so," I said as he laughed, excusing himself from our regular table at the Italian restaurant that we ate at about three times a week.

There was no doubt in my mind that he was oblivious to my feelings. We had been friends since we were teenagers. His mother had always hated me, invariably because I encouraged Ben to think independently. I had always loved him, but I only was beginning to see that the feelings were much more than friendship, or even small crush really. It hit me full force a few months ago when he began dating Charlotte. Granted, she was pretty and very smart. I liked her, which made it even worse when I realized that I was jealous that she was holding his hand and getting to whisper in his ear. I wanted to do those things. But I couldn't, because those weren't "friend" gestures. Those belonged solely in the "lover" spectrum. To say that I was happy when I got a phone call from Ben at three a.m. a few weeks ago saying they didn't work out, was an understatement.

Tonight we would be going to a local concert together. We had been doing this since we were about eighteen and could get into the venues. It was becoming hard lately to spend long amounts of time because of my feelings. I would find myself gazing at him, just thinking about how great he looked in his shirt or how much I loved the sound of his laughter. If every word I said could make him laugh, I would never stop talking. Literally. Tonight would be no different. We would go out, have a great time, and then I would come home alone and feel awful about my life for a few hours. Why would I put myself through hell and back, you ask? Because the hours before the black hole period are one hundred percent worth the following turmoil. I could only pray that tonight I would learn my lesson, and finally snap into reality, without him by my side.

"I went ahead and ordered the food. Thai," he said, marching into my apartment at 7:55.

"You better have ordered the sauce on the side, or I'm going to have to beat you." He laughed.

"Of course I ordered the sauce on the side. I even checked it before I left to avoid being massacred."

"Good boy," I said, patting his head and taking the bag out of his hands. He followed me into the kitchen and pulled the wine out of the fridge, while I began to divvy up the noodles.

"Arugula? You hate arugula. Why'd you ordered that one the side salad?"

"Because it's your favorite. And I know you only out up with the romaine for me." It was true. I wasn't a huge romaine fan, but I dealt for him. But I had never told him that.

"Oh, okay. I really wouldn't have minded, you know."

"I know. That's why I keep you around," he said with a smirk in my direction.

"And arugula with the sauce on the side is why I keep you around."

"Well, now that we both know the true intentions of the other, I say we eat," he replied with a laugh, grabbing his noodles and salad. That laugh again. Damn.

"How did you know that arugula was my favorite?"

"Just an observation. I know you, remember?" he asked sarcastically.

"I know; I just wouldn't have expected you to have noticed something like that. It's a very particular observation."

"I know a lot about you. Like you hate cream cheese with a passion, but you still like bagels. You are deathly afraid of seagulls, even though nothing bad has happened to you involving a seagull, so it's really an abnormal fear. Your favorite thing to do on a Sunday is play your guitar and lay in bed all day with nothing to do. You like Dane Cook, but you think Carlos Mencia is suspect. You like politics, but hate to debate. You say your favorite color is pink or green, but you always favor oranges. You love to dance, just not in public. When you're really tired, you talk like you are from southern Tennessee. You love to mock the commentators on the news channels. And you are incredibly short, but hate when people point it out. So I think I know a little bit about you."

I stared at him in confusion. I hadn't really thought about any of the things that he brought up, which made the monologue even more peculiar. It would be different if I knew these things, but many of the characteristics he named off I didn't even know about me.

"Ok. One, that was a little creepy, Buffalo Bill. Two, my favorite colors are pink and green. And three, I am NOT that short." He looked at me for another moment, before he busted into hysterics. "What? What is so funny?"

"You. Just you," he eventually squirted out between giggles. At least he was laughing. I couldn't help but smile myself, although I was confused about what exactly was so funny.

We ate, joking around and tossing arugula at one another until we decided it was time to head out. The band was hitting the stage in an hour, and we wanted to be sure to catch part of the opening acts.

The bar was so loud it was almost deafening. Ben and I had to shout directly in one another's ears to be able to hear each other think clearly. The music had a great beat, and Ben and I immediately began dancing together wildly. Ben spun me around in circles repeatedly at one point, which I am sure convinced the crowd around us that we were ridiculously drunk. Since I was about a foot shorter than him, I easily twirled underneath his arm. But that was the best part of Ben and I. I never felt like I was being foolish or silly in his presence. I never felt self-conscious or regretful. I only ever felt like I could completely let loose the exterior I spent the day building.

"They are kind of like a cross between Relient K and Spill Canvas, no?" Ben asked.

"Yeah, but almost with an eighties vibe, too."

"Totally!" I turned to shout another comment into Ben's ear, but he turned at the last minute as well. The result was Ben and I's lips being centimeters apart. I hesitated for a moment in shear astonishment before I turned away from him and blushed. He didn't say anything, but simply looked back toward the stage and remained quiet. Great. Now everything was just awkward.

We watched the rest of the show without a word; exchanging smiles every once and awhile. He followed me out to the parking lot before helping me into his car as we headed home. If I thought the silence in the bar was bad, this was deafening.

"So, do you like them overall?" I asked, trying to ease the tension.

"Yeah." So much for that tactic.

"I think I might buy their CD."

"Good call. Tell me if you do so I can burn it."

"Will do." More silence. It had been five minutes, and we still had another twenty before we would be home. I quickly tried to think of other safe topics.

"So how was work after lunch?"

"It was okay. You know my mother."

"I certainly do. Does she know we went out tonight, or did you tell her you went with someone else?" Ben usually lied to his mom about going places with me. I should probably be offended in some way, but truly, I'm not. If I had Mildred as a mother, I wouldn't want to tell her anything that would give her even more of a reason to bitch, either.

"Um, no. She doesn't even know I went out at all. She hates that I still go to see bands because she finds it 'juvenile,'" he said in a tone that mimicked her. I laughed with him. "So I just told her I was going home and catching up on some reading."

I sensed that things were starting not to be as uncomfortable, and spoke a bit more freely. Ben responded well and the rest of the car ride home was not near as awkward as the first half had been. When we pulled up to the apartments, I felt like everything was in order again.

We said our typical goodnights and jumped in my apartment before I had a chance to embarrass myself anymore than I already had during the course of the evening. I slid down my front door and thought back on the evening, beginning my black hole period. The strangest part was that I didn't really regret the breach of personal space. It almost felt right. I felt content and safe in that moment. I only backed away in fear that he didn't feel the same. Which is completely understandable. Why would someone as gorgeous and awesome as Ben want anything to do with me? I was just his sidekick teenage friend that he sometimes caught live music and Thai food with.

But the problem was that we were more than that. It was not uncommon for us to call or visit one another at all hours of the night. Something would be bothering one of us, and we would just invite ourselves over and talk it over. Ben and I had spent countless nights in one another's beds with no strings attached. Not that I minded being able to sleep next to him. You'd think that I'd stress out the whole time I was lying next to him, wondering what he was thinking. The truth of the matter was that he was like a valium to me. I never slept better than when he was next to me.

There was a knock at the door followed by, "Candace? Are you still up?"

I stood quickly and opened to door to Ben. He had this look of concern on his face and pushed past me to my couch. I was taken aback by how distraught he looked when he had been perfectly fine twenty minutes ago. I simply followed him and sat next to him on the couch, waiting for him to initiate the conversation.

He didn't say anything for what seemed like years. Literally. I sat there and stared at my shoes for at least ten minutes, unsure of what to say or what he wanted me to say. He took a large breath before he finally said something.

"Candace?"

"Yeah?" That was all I got out before his lips were on mine. I instantly froze in disbelief. It only took a split second before I instantly began to respond, moving my lips against his. At my response, he gained confidence and grabbed my waist, pulling me closer to him. My hands drifted to his back, tugging at his shirt. He pulled back to breathe and we stared at one another for what felt like another decade.

"That was totally out of line, Candace. I'm so sorry," he rushed out after a moment. He must have taken my silence as a bad sign.

"Don't be. Really, Ben. You don't know how long I've wanted to do that." He looked at me with curiosity painted all over his face.

"You have feelings for me? Like, more than just friendship feelings?" Hm. How do I phrase this? Do I shout it from the mountaintops? Do I feign ambivalence in case he doesn't feel the same way about me? Do I just throw a one-word "yes" out there? I went with the first thing that came to mind.

"To say that I have more than friendship feelings for you is probably an understatement, Ben." He seemed rather bemused by my response and pecked my cheek.

"Good, because I didn't think that I was going to be able to hold back much longer." Wait, what?

"So, wait. You've had feelings for me too, and never told me?" Seriously? We could have been making out for months now!

"Maybe."

"You know I hate that answer."

"I know, that's why I used it," he laughed. "But yes, I think I've known that this is more for about a year now."

"Well that's ironic."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because I've known for about that long too, and I was just too afraid to say anything. I was convinced that you didn't feel the same way, and I didn't want to lose you as a friend. So I pretended like nothing was different."

"Well, that certainly changed tonight when we were literally five centimeters apart from kissing."

I laughed. "True."

We just sat and smiled at one another for another few minutes, basking in our new relationship. Wait. What was this new relationship?

"Ben? What does this mean?"

"It means what you want it to." Again with the vagueness. He might as well have answered 'maybe' again.

"Well, I hope this means that we can be a couple. But I understand if you don't want to be exclusive or anything. I mean we did just randomly get together and…" He cut me off before I could embarrass myself.

"I don't want to see anyone else, Candace. I've waited too long for you to just treat you like a side salad." I beamed.

"I don't want to see anyone else, either."

"Good," he said before he started kissing me once again. I was a much longer time this round before we finally came up for air. I found my mind to be completely clouded whenever he touched me, so I also needed this time for coherent thought. And that's when it hit me.

"Oh my God. Your mother!" Ben just laughed.

"Let me take care of my mother. She can't hate you forever."

"You say that now, but then we have a repeat of the Christmas 2003 debacle and we're back to square one." He laughed freely, and I relished in it.

"True. I don't think I've ever seen her so angry before. Especially over some shrimp," he choked through his laughter.

"Glad I amuse you." He just smiled.

"So, I was thinking that we could paint my living room. Any ideas?"

"I think it would be cool to do a burnt orange. It's so warm and inviting." He started laughing again.

"What's so funny?"

"Once again. You say pink or green, but still go for the oranges. Just admit that orange is your favorite color, already." I glared playfully at him.

"Fine, you win." I didn't have the strength to fight with him anymore, for the urge to kiss him was so much stronger. And he didn't seem to complain.

"So you think you can handle my mother?" he laughed.

"Maybe," I answered with a coy smile.

"Stealing my phrase, are we?"

"It only seemed fit," I giggled before he grabbed me, and we picked up where we left off. Who knew using the one word I abhorred hearing from him would land me here? Not that I was complaining….