“Jealousy, that dragon which slays love under the pretence of keeping it alive.” – Havelock Ellis

“No, I don’t want to go to the party. I hate parties, if nothing else because they are stressful…and that is the last thing I need,” Matt rubbed his forehead with one hand while holding the phone in another. Veronica had called about Chad’s upcoming surprise birthday party. With recent events of his friends, and his ‘problem’ Matt couldn’t even think about being in a social atmosphere.

“Look Matt, we haven’t seen you in weeks. What the hell is your problem? If your mad about Jason and I just say so. This bullshit is inexcusable.”

“Look Veronica, its not B.S, I simply cant be around you guys right now.” Matt was beginning to sweat, he wondered if the air conditioner was broken.

“Why cant you be around us? Are you mad at us about something?” Boy, that was a can of worms thought Matt.

“Look Veronica, you and Jason, Lisa and Robert, Chad…its just a little much. I am trying to sort out just who is actually my friend and who is stringing me along. Friends don’t treat other friends like this.”

“Like what? We have been upfront with you, or at least I have. The Lisa situation isn’t something I would know anything about, but what is your issue with Chad?”

“He is a moron just like the rest of my so called friends. Telling me things for no reason except to probably just hurt me. Look at Chad alone…he said I had no chance with you, he told me he had a ‘feeling’ about you and Jason and the fact that he hated Lisa.” Matt felt something clawing at his mind, his anger building, seeping out his ‘friend’ inside.

“They are not morons, and they would never try and hurt you. They are your friends, you are the one being distant from them.”

“Your one to speak of hurt Veronica, your the one who has hurt me the most. Pretending to care about me but not really. You asked me if I would be ok with you and Jason…what the hell kinda question is that? I pour my heart out to you about practically loving you for two years of my life and you wonder if its ok to go out with my best FRIEND!” Matt felt his words, he knew he was talking but the words didn’t sound like him. His breathing was getting quick.

“Hurt? Your the one who told me that being a friend with me was a waste of time…that hurt. I always thought we connected a few times in the past. In fact you have been friends with me this long, and you could have let go a long time ago, but you said you cared about me…Bullshit!”

“I did care about you, its why I went along with giving this friendship another chance, but it seems you were dead set to make me regret that decision. You went out with two of my friends, criticized my relationship with Lisa and basically told me if I had an issue with you and Jason…well sorry but too bad. With a friend like you, I don’t need enemies.” Matt’s voice was cracking and feeling dry, his hands shook with nervousness.

“Look Matt, you opened up to me about being something your not. You say hurtful things to me just to be vicious, like now. You confided in me and then still held something against our friendship. All you wanted me for was as a girlfriend, never a friend.”

“Veronica, I tried to get over you, I spent months trying to do it but I couldn’t, I don’t know why I hung on for so long but I did. Now you are dating one of my best friends.

“Yet you still hold something against me and our friendship. What makes you so above all of us that you can judge me like that?”

“Judge? The instant I told you about how Lisa and I slept together you couldn’t wait to tell me how wrong I was. I am not judging you or friendship, I am wondering if any of you know what being a friend is!”

“Better then you, all you do is sit in your lab and ponder things, try living for a change. You could try confronting your problems, but no you are too chickenshit to do that!”

Matt felt his ears ring a somewhat disjointed stream of sound. His voice became cracked and his body began to ache. Oh God he thought not now.

“Veronica, please…don’t make me angry, you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.” Matt uttered through gritted teeth.

“Matt, go to hell. I am ending this friendship because you don’t have the guts to do it. I hope you one day get in control of your emotions. Have a nice life.” Veronica clicked the phone as Matt gripped the desk.

Quickly opening a drawer Matt drew a needle. Squirting the air out he injected himself with a tranquilizer. Slowly he began to calm down. Oddly he felt a sense of relief as his friendship had ended. Matt thought of an idea as he pulled up his Internet service. Quickly typing he emailed Chad and Jason as well as Lisa and Robert. Ending his friendships with them. He had too he thought to himself, for their own good. The beast within him might one day be out of control and hurt them, and Matt couldn’t let that happen. Not 10 minutes later, the friendships were done and gone.

Slowly getting up his heart felt a little heavier. Ending a friendship while relieved for their safety, weighed heavy on him. He remembered the good times they had and the laughs they had shared, and with Veronica he remembered their inside jokes and the day he knew he was in love with her. Gone in a flash.

Walking down the hall, Matt made his way to his car. Entering the parking structure he heard some yelling and turned. It was two people arguing, one of them turned and cried out help. It was Suzanne! Matt broke into a run as he saw her slapped down by a man, her boyfriend.

“What the hell are you doing?” Matt shouted putting his arm around the fallen Suzanne.

“Teaching my woman that she is just that…mine.” Jake walked over and pushed Matt aside.

“Look, Jake…Mr.Wilson…you need help. Cant you see that she is afraid of you? You scare her to the point of submission. That isn’t love, that domination. Let me help you, I’m a doctor.” Jake seemed to consider when he rushed Matt and pushed him to the ground.

“What I do with her is my business doctor.” Jake towered over him ready to attack. Suzanne leaped up to restrain him, Jake casually brushed her aside and she fell hitting the ground.

“Suzanne, RUN!” Matt said getting up and charging Jake. Jake grabbed him and through against the car. Matt turned around putting his hands and forearms up to block a punch. Jake through a punch to the face, it was blocked and he quickly threw a punch to the stomach. Matt grunted in pain.

Suzanne ran to security telling Enrique to call the police, then ran back to check on Matt. Matt dodged a punch but fell victim to a knee int he groin. Matt gasped for air as Jake took him by the clothes and threw him against a wall. Suzanne appeared out from the hall, and saw Matt’s cherry red eyes.

Matt’s body couldn’t move, as the buzzing in his ears and blurriness and burning sensation in his eyes continued. Jake threw Matt to the ground and went over to Suzanne.

“Some protector you have there Suzy.” Jake said his voice spitting with disdain. Matt’s shirt split open from the back, his shoes slowly breaking apart as his muscles and body expanded. A desperate roar reverberated throughout the chamber as Tony Stearns stood up in all his glory.

“Whoa…what the hell are you?” Jake stammered. Suzanne looked in shock at Matt transformed. Jake’s fear brought a smile to Tony.

“I’m the Tooth Fairy calling collect. You have some back payments and I am here to…knock them out.” Tony balled his fist and cracked his knuckles. Jake surged with anger charged forward and punched Tony in the stomach. Continually he socked at Tony’s stomach, Tony stood and absorbed the blows wondering if all idiots were this much fun.

“You, are you gonna quit.” Jake said standing aside. Tony cocked his eyebrow in an amused face.

“Jake, you must have taken great pains to be this moronic, I have to wonder if your parents threw rocks at the stork after your birth.” Jake stood and realized he had been insulted. With a cry he charged Tony again, though this time in a burst of speed Tony dodged. Again Jake charged and this time Tony caught him and threw him against his car.

Jake was dazed but not hurt. Tony cracked his knuckles and charged, tackling Jake and throwing him to the ground. Then he picked up his legs and held on and went in circles. Jake rose off the ground as Tony kept spinning and then Tony let go, and Jake smashed against the wall, unconscious.

Tony smiled at his handiwork and saw Suzanne horrified. “Yeah, if I was going out with that scum I would be horrified too, heres a hint…step away from the dirtbag and go with a man that cares for you.” Tony then started to run, speeding away from the scene as the police arrived with the security team.

Hours later Matt arrived at the office, his face having a worried expression. Rick and Suzanne were talking as they saw him. Suzanne rushed over with Rick right behind.

“You changed back, thank God.” Suzanne hugged Matt, as Rick simply smiled and gave a wink to Matt.

“Yeah, my…I…went to the local bar and then went home. Unfortunately it took awhile to change back, I think because I dint find the act as reprehensible. The guilt took longer to take hold. I think your right Rick, if I wouldn’t be against it and ‘Tony’ does it the longer it will take for me to be…me.” Matt slowly sat down. His hard work with his friends had ended his relationship with them, and now his caring about someone else had put more strain in his life.

“I wanted to thank you for helping me out. Even though you say your alter is evil, I see him more as you with a free spirit. Even when he could have attacked me, he didn’t. He even sort of paid me a compliment.” Suzanne smiled and kissed Matt on the cheek and then left.

“Well, bud, just you and me again. Look, I heard about you dumping your friends. I gotta tell you it was a smart move, you don’t need the stress. Besides you got me and Suzanne and if I didn’t know better, I think she wants to be MORE then friends.” Rick winked again at Matt, Matt smiled back as through the window they watched the sunset.

“The greatest foes, and whom we must chiefly combat, are within.” – Miguel De Cervantes

The Monster Within Us All – Chapter 9

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