Bea opens the door and rushes into the room. “Oh, my god, are you okay?”
She first registers Pedro sitting on one of the chairs. Balthazar is standing in the corner, Hero is sitting closet to the hospital bed (with Claudio hovering behind her) and Benedick is lying in the hospital bed.
“Peachy,” Ben says. He- the bastard- is eating a pudding cup and grinning at her.
“What the hell?” Bea demands of the room in general. “I get a text saying that Benedick is ill and is in the hospital and no one bothers to text me that he’s okay?”
“You said my name without emphasizing my dick,” Ben says with another stupid smile.
“He’s slightly high right now,” Pedro says. “And he’s having surgery tomorrow morning.”
“For what?” Bea walks to the end of his bed and picks up the chart there.
“Appendicitis,” Hero answers.
“You can’t actually understand anything on that chart,” Pedro says, laughing at her.
“Yes I can!” Beatrice snaps. “Look, right here, Ben’s allergic to hazelnuts.”
“They make my mouth feel like it’s made of tingly moss,” Ben puts in helpfully.
Beatrice turns her stare on him. “If you weren’t already in the hospital I would beat you up for making me think that you were dying.”
She storms out of the room, ignoring Pedro laughing at her.
She starts to walk out of the hospital, but it seems wrong, to just leave like that when Ben is upstairs waiting for surgery. She lingers of a second, and then tells herself that she’s being ridiculous, and leaves.
* * *
Beatrice knocks on his door and then there’s a call of, “Come in!”
She opens the door and steps inside Benedick’s house. He’s laying on the couch, with a blanket over him. “Fair Beatrice,” he says, “Thank you for your pains.”
She rolls her eyes and puts the collection of Harry Potter movies on his coffee table. “Here, I have to get going or I’m going to be late.”
Ben looks up at her with a twinkle in his eye. “Or you could ditch school and have a Harry Potter marathon with me?” He waggles his eyebrows.
“I can’t ditch school,” she hedges, but it does sound tempting. More than tempting, even.
“Come on,” he cajoles. “I can’t eat solid foods just yet so the house is stocked with ice cream, and jello, and pudding....”
Beatrice wavers. She hasn’t seen the Harry Potter movies in a very long time, and she really really doesn’t want to go to school.
“Come on, I’ve spent the last few days alone and I’m so bored,” Ben pleads. “Just stay for Philosopher's stone.”
Her first period is gym. She can safely skip that. “Okay, fine,” she relents.
Of course, she doesn’t stay for just the first movie. She falls asleep during the chess match and wakes up to the Dueling Club.
“Ben,” she says. “Why didn’t you wake me up?”
He shrugs. “Here,” he hands her a pudding cup.
She takes it and opens it. There’s an extra spoon on the coffee table, which he’d apparently saved for her. She grabs it.
“I actually really like Chamber of Secrets,” Ben says. “I know a lot of people don’t, but how can you resist? Secret passageways, a giant snake and a phoenix.”
“Yeah, I’ve never understood why everyone hated Order of the Phoenix. It’s actually my favorite.”
Ben shoots her an appalled look. “Sirius dies in that one. Besides, Goblet of Fire is by far the best. Cedric Diggory is so under-appreciated.”
“Do not even get me started,” Bea says. “Cedric is so important.”
Ben grins at her.
“But Goblet of Fire is not the best one. Order of the Phoenix is the clear winner, it shows clearly what wartime really feels like and that our heros have definite flaws.”
“No! Goblet of Fire is by far superior,” Ben argues. “It’s a powerful statement on corrupt governments and media inaccuracy.”
“Ben, I’m sorry, but you are just so wrong,” Beatrice says with a sympathetic expression.
“Okay, hold on. Let’s table this discussion for a second and debate a much more pressing topic.” Ben uses his hands to emphasize his words. “The theory of time travel that J.K. Rowling displays in Prisoner of Azkaban. That events affected through time travel don’t change the future because they’ve already happened.”
“Oh, I have a lot of opinions on this,” Beatrice says with a grin.
Ben raises his hands and beckons her to continue.
* * *
Beatrice sets up her camera in Hero’s room and sits on the bed. “Well,” she says. “Hero is out on a date with Claudio, and I don’t have much time to film, because I’m going over to Ben’s in a couple of minutes. He just had his appendix out, and asked to borrow our Harry Potter movies. When I showed up with them at his doorstep yesterday morning he somehow convinced me to ditch school and have a marathon with him. It was great. We ate a bunch of ice cream and jello because he still wasn’t supposed to have a lot of solid food.”
She smiles and shrugs. “And now we have to finish the Harry Potter marathon, because we stopped after Goblet of Fire. And I know I hate Ben or whatever, but I guess there are some things you can’t share without kind of liking each other, and a Harry Potter marathon is one of them.”
She points at the camera. “Ha, good one Beatrice. Anyway, we decided that pretty much every good fantasy or sci fi book series should really get a television show, rather than movies. It does so much more justice to the plot, the world, and the characters.”
She smiles. “Okay, I’m off. Oh!” She reaches out of frame to the bedside table. “You’ll like this,” she tells the camera. “Now that he can eat solid foods again, I’m bringing him a mango. You know, eating the skin of a mango kept him so healthy last time. I figure he might end up in the hospital again after eating it and then I’ll get a picture of him in a hospital gown to post all around school.”
The video ends on her grin.
* * *
Ben comes back to school two days later. Beatrice puts her bag down and sits at the lunch table with a sigh. Ben is rambling about the superiority of British television.
“Ben, why are you still talking? No one cares.”
“Ah, Lady Disdain,” Ben says, “are you still living?”
She smirks at him. “How could I die with you around? You’re very existence gives Disdain life. Even the most courteous person would become Disdain with you around.”
“A turncoat!” he cries. “Everybody loves me, except you of course. And, unfortunately for them, I love no woman.” Everyone has turned to pay attention to their spat, Pedro is rolling his eyes in the background. Meg and Robbie are the only ones not listening, being engaged in other activities.
“Thank God! I wouldn’t wish you upon any woman.”
He shakes his head. “If I could run as fast as you talk, I’d be on the track team.” He raises his hands. “Let’s stop arguing and enjoy lunch.”
Beatrice rolls her eyes. “You’re such a pansy, it’s just cause I was on a roll.”
Pedro jumps in before anyone else can say anything. “Anyway, who’s up for going to do something tomorrow night?”
Beatrice leans back, looking away from Ben. “What are we going to do?”
Pedro shrugs. “I have something I want to do, but I don’t know if anyone else would be interested,” he hedges.
Ben makes a motion for him to continue.
“It’s geocaching, have you all heard of it before?” Pedro asks. “People hide containers of various sizes and then put the coordinates up on the internet and sometimes a clue and then we try to go find them.”
“That sounds awesome.” Ben says. “It’s treasure hunting. Let’s go treasure hunting!”
Hero and Claudio agree, and then Beatrice shrugs and says she’s in.
* * *
The geocaching is really fun, but it’s an awkward sized group to go with. There’s too many people and not enough area to search. Mostly it’s Claudio who finds them, and, despite his enthusiasm in the project, mostly Ben spends the outing near the car, sitting down.
“Are you okay?” Beatrice asks, sitting next to him on the trunk of her car.
“I’m tired,” Ben says, he taps his side. “I think I’m overdoing it.”
“Yeah, you did just have surgery,” Beatrice agrees. “Want me to take you home?”
He looks over to where the rest of the group is, searching in the bushes outside of gas station, and then he nods. “Yeah.”
He climbs into the passenger seat of the car while Beatrice goes and tells the rest of the group that they’re leaving.
Ben is silent on the ride back to his house.
Beatrice pulls into his driveway and looks over at him.
“Thanks,” Ben mutters. He looks pretty pale, well, paler than usual and Beatrice is suddenly concerned that she’s going to have to call 111.
“Are you okay?” she asks again.
“Yeah,” Ben waves a hand. “Um, but before I go in I just wanted to say that I’m sorry.”
“That summer, when we were fourteen.” Bea freezes. “I know I hurt your feelings, and I’m sorry that I was an idiot. And since we’re kind of being friends again, I just wanted to clear the air.”
Bea is silent, staring at his garage door.
“You’re supposed to say something,” Ben says.
“You’re apology is acknowledged.” Beatrice says through her teeth.
“The normal response is to accept the apology, not acknowledge it,” he says irritably. “Say it with me, ‘Apology accepted.’”
“I’m not a parrot you can teach how to talk,” Bea spits out.
“Now we’re fighting again,” Ben sighs. “I’m sorry,” he half shouts. “I’m sorry for screwing everything up all the time.”
He throws the door open and climbs out.
As soon as the door is closed Bea puts the car in reverse and pulls out of the driveway, fuming. She’s putting it in drive when catches sight of Ben pulling his keys out of his pocket.
She grits her teeth and pulls the car into the driveway again.
She turns the car off and stalks up to the front door.
“It pisses me off that you brought that up,” she says. “Because I was fine with just being your friend, and then you had to remind me of the reason that I was furious at you for years, Ben. You wrote me off without a second thought. So what the hell am I doing now? Why am I being friends with you, when I already know that it’s going to end badly?”
“Beatrice,” Ben says.
“No,” she holds up a hand. “I’m still mad at you, because I don’t know if I can trust you again.”
He leans against the door. “I am going to pass out,” he says slowly.
She glares at him and snatches his keys from his hand. She opens the door and Ben steps in.
She hovers around him until he lays down on the couch.
Of course he would pass out when they’re finally having this conversation, Bea thinks as she stalks towards the kitchen. She fills up a glass of water and also wets down a paper towel.
She comes back into the living room and puts the towel on his forehead, and gives him the glass of water.
He takes a sip.
“How do you feel?” she asks. She settles down on the floor in front of the couch.
Ben leans back. “Kind of like everything on the inside of me wants to be outside of me and it’s going to exit through my mouth.”
“Do not throw up,” Bea says. “I am not going to clean that up.”
“I know I was a dick when I was fourteen,” he says slowly. He is so pale that Beatrice is surprised that she can’t see through his skin. “But I’ve figured some stuff out now, I know what’s what. I like being your friend.”
She looks down at the carpet.
“I give you my word, as a gentleman-”
“-that I will not repeat the actions of my stupid fourteen year old self. If I should break this solemn oath, you may .... kick me in the balls. Repeatedly!”
Beatrice rolls her eyes.
“Whatever, Ben.” She turns away from him and towards the T.V. “I’m staying until your mum gets home, if I leave and you die I don’t want to carry the guilt of your passing for the rest of my life.” She grabs the remote and turns the T.V. on.
Ben smiles, and takes another sip of water.
* * *
Beatrice comes into Hero’s room without announcement.
“Can I talk to you about something?” Beatrice asks.
“Yeah, of course,” Hero turns away from her desk. Beatrice settles on her bed, cross-legged and pulls a blanket over her legs.
Beatrice opens her mouth and then closes it again, burying her face in her hands. “If I tell you this you have to swear to not tell anyone,” she says into her hands.
“Okay,” Hero says slowly.
Beatrice looks up and takes a deep breath. “I think I might like Ben. Like, not just as friends, but .... more.” She gestures aimlessly, as if that will somehow encompass her feelings.
Hero smiles. “I knew it,” she squeals. “You two have been spending more time together.” She grins, clapping her hand together.
“No! This is not happy news!” Beatrice falls sideways on the bed automatically. “I like Ben, the biggest dick in the universe. Last time I liked him he stopped being friends with me entirely.”
Hero rolls her eyes. “He was a stupid fourteen year old boy the last time you liked him. He’s grown up.”
Beatrice looks at her.
“Okay, he hasn’t grown up that much, but still,” Hero reasons.
“You’re supposed to be talking me out of this,” Beatrice mumbles.
Hero laughs. “If I tried to talk you out of it, you would just like him more out of stubbornness.”
Beatrice sits up. “Where is my stubbornness when I need it? I was never going to like anyone again! What’s the point of being stubborn when I can’t even use it to stop liking an insensitive, jerkface, boy.” She looked up at Hero, who had her lips pressed together tightly. “Stop laughing at me!”
“I’m sorry,” she says, giving into the laughter. She steadies herself and then says, “Should I try to find out if Ben likes you?” she starts to reach for her phone.
“NO!” Bea sits up straight so fast she almost falls over. “Do not, under any circumstances talk to anyone else about this.”
Hero rolls her eyes and puts her phone back. “When did this start?” she asks.
Beatrice sits back. “Well, he was in the hospital, you know. And I freaked out, Pedro sent that text that made it seem like he was dying. And then we had that Harry Potter marathon which made me realize that he was a decent person, and then it just kind of escalated from there.”
Hero is grinning.
“You are getting way too much enjoyment out of this.”
“I’m sorry, it’s just nice to know you have human emotions.”
“Ugh,” Beatrice practically falls out of the bed and throws the blanket back on the bed. “You are no help at all!” she says, and storms out of the room. “What was the point of telling you at all?” she yells over her shoulder.
She almost runs into Leo in the hallway.
“What’d you tell her?” he asks, frowning.
“Nothing,” Bea says quickly. She flees into her room.
* * *
She thinks about how it would go down if she was to tell Ben that she liked him. How would she say it? How would he react?
Her conclusion is that is a fucking terrible idea.
* * *
Beatrice answers the door to find Ben on her doorstep. “You’re early,” she says.
“Yeah, Hero texted me saying that she and Claud were going to be late, and wanted to know if I’d come help you bake the cookies.”
Beatrice presses her lips together and sighs through her nose. Telling Hero had been a terrible idea. She steps aside and waves him in.
He bounces in and throws his keys on the table that’s next to the door. He toes off his shoes and follows her to the kitchen.
It goes about as well as she expects- which is disastrously. Ben cannot bake at all.
“Have you ever even stepped into a kitchen before?” she asks, when he’s managed to put in too much flour into the mixture (that he’d dropped eggshells into earlier).
“Yes,” he says defensively.
She points to the other side of the counter where the bar stools are. “Sit,” she commands.
Ben hesitates. “Yeah, it’s probably for the best,” he surrenders.
So instead, Beatrice bakes, Ben sits and they continue their argument about time travel.
Hero and Claudio arrive to find them yelling over each other.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Hero says. “What are you guys talking about?”
Claudio steps around her and steals some dough from the bowl.
“Hey!” Beatrice slaps his hand away, and he steps back, grinning through the dough in his mouth.
“Time travel,” Ben tells Hero. “And Bea,” he turns back towards her. “What if, and this is just a crazy idea here, but what if we didn’t bake the cookies... and just ate the dough?”
Bea narrows her eyes at him. She pushes the bowl towards him. “If you want some dough, take some, but I’m still baking them off.”
“How come you just give it to him, but you slap my hand away?” Claudio asks.
“She likes me better,” Ben stage-whispers.
Beatrice turns away to hide her blush.
Then everyone starts arriving, and they put in the movie, and the popcorn is being passed and Ben is sitting next to her. He is sitting aggressively close to her.
Bea can’t concentrate on anything. Her skin is tingling, her stomach feels like on the high seas and why do boys have that boy smell? It’s distracting. Who ever said that liking someone was a good thing?
* * *
Ben starts writing her notes in school. He writes every single one on sticky notes, and then he sticks them everywhere. She finds some inside her textbooks, a couple stuck to her locker, and some stuck to her back (which Pedro plucks off with a confused expression and hands to her).
Every time she collects a new one she thinks about how she should just throw them away, but instead she places it with the others in the top drawer of her desk. They’re not even that funny or special, she just likes them. Literally like ten of them just say ‘Hi’. Some of them are just saying how boring physics is. And then the rest, which he has taken to writing recently, contain as many High School Musical song titles as possible.
‘You gotta get’cha head in the game, because right here, right now, I want it all. We gotta Bop to the Top.’
‘When there was me and you, we were breaking free.’
‘I just wanna be with you, you’re what I’ve been looking for. You can bet on it.’
And like, she knows that he’s just screwing with her, but also, she feels warm and jittery whenever one of his notes says something that makes it sounds like they’re together.
Which is why she acts annoyed every time she finds a new one. Because she doesn’t need a boyfriend, and more, she’s not sure she wants one.
She thinks about it again, the idea of telling him that she might like him and if he’s open to the idea maybe they should go out?
No. It’s still a fucking terrible idea.
* * *
Bea is laying on her bed reading when her phone rings. It’s Ben. She answers it with a curious, “Hello?”
“Fife and the Drums, this Saturday, surprise show, you in?”
She sits up. “Yes!”
“Okay ask Hero and call me back, I’ve got to call Pedro.”
And then the line goes dead.
Not twenty minutes later, Ben explodes into her room, jumping up and down. “We’re going to see the Fife and the Drums!” He does this weird dance where he looks like he’s punching and kicking an imaginary opponent, and then he collapses on her floor. (Narrowly avoiding a pile of school books, a pair of dirty socks and the bag of trash that has been sitting of her floor for almost a week. She should really clean.)
He is grinning in that obnoxiously happy way of his. She hates that smile. It makes her think about touching him.
“Who all is coming?”
“You and me, Hero and Claudio. Pedro said that he and Balth were already doing something? Ursula has a family vacation and Meg is going somewhere with Robbie.”
Beatrice wants to say something about how it sounds a lot like a double date, but she doesn’t. She also wants to say something about how his mouth should be on her mouth, but she doesn’t. She’s not saying a lot of things recently.
* * *
The concert is on a pretty small venue, standing room only. It’s dark, and only people who are allowed to drink are allowed on the balconies.
None of them are drinking, Hero because she’s too young, Claudio because Hero isn’t, Bea because she doesn’t want to do something stupid like confess undying love to a dick, and Ben because he wants to remember every single moment of the night.
The opening band isn’t bad, It’s called the Lying Knaves, and even though they don’t know any of the lyrics to their songs it’s still a good band to dance to. Ben dances like he’s trying to fight off group of ninjas, but he’s grinning so hard while doing it that Bea can’t help but find it endearing.
Which is just do damn irritating. She finds everything about him endearing lately. Why can’t she just hate him in peace?
She wants one thing from this life, and it’s to hate Benedick Hobbes in peace. But no, instead he follows her over to buy the Lying Knaves CD and makes her laugh. And then the Fife and the Drums comes on and he grabs her hand and drags her back to the middle of the dance floor.
When the concert is over they stumble out into the cool air, and Beatrice realizes exactly how disgusting she is. She danced too much, and she is drenched in sweat. Ben, she realizes, is in the same state. His hair is damp, and his shirt clings to him.
Beatrice looks around for Hero and Claudio, but they must have gotten lost in the crowd.
“That was fucking awesome,” he says too loudly.
She grins at him, and then his hands are on either side of her face and he is kissing her.
Ben is kissing her.
His mouth is on her mouth.
And she is intensely aware that she smells terrible, but then, so does Ben, and he is kissing her.
She unfreezes enough to kiss him back. She does not think about what this might mean. She does not think at all, really, except that she hasn’t been kissed in so long, and it feels so nice.
They break apart, and look at each other.
Bea catches a flash of Hero’s hair in the peripheral of her vision. She reaches up and removes Ben’s hands from her neck. She smiles at him.
“Hero,” Bea calls, waving her over.
“Was that not the best concert ever?” Ben asks, jumping up and down.
“It was so great,” Hero agrees.
Bea grins. “Let’s blast Fife and the Drums on the way home.”
“Hell yes!” Ben says, still too loudly.
They sing along with their already hoarse voices and Beatrice drives a little too fast. When she gets home, she sits on her bed and touches her lips with her fingers, remembering the pressure.
* * *
She wakes up the next morning already tense from concern. What if he’s going to be a really clingy boyfriend like Claudio? She would literally kill him.
She shudders. What if he tries to hold her hand?
Ugh. She grabs her phone. She has a text from Ben.
Hey, are you awake yet?
Her stomach constricts with the thought of seeing him again. She considers ignoring the text, seriously considers it, but wouldn’t it be better to get the whole thing over with now?
He doesn’t answer.
Beatrice gets up and throws on some clothes. She exits her room, checking her phone on the way. Still nothing.
He’s probably trying to figure out how to say that he doesn’t like her and they shouldn’t be friends again, she thinks. Well, at least that way she would be able to kick him in the balls repeatedly.
She pulls their chocolate milk out of the fridge and pours herself a glass.
There’s a knock on the front door.
Bea goes to answer it. Benedick is standing on her doorstep, looking hopeful.
“Got plans for the day?” he asks.
“Not really,” she answers hesitantly.
“Good,” he holds up the Lord of the Rings movies. “We watched Harry Potter together, I figure Lord of the Rings is the next logical step right?”
“Um.” Is he really not going to say anything about it? She waves him in.
Hero comes down the stairs then, her hair up in a ponytail and still in her pajamas. “Oh hi, Ben,” she greets him. “Do you want waffles?”
“That would be lovely,” he says, half bowing to her.
Bea rolls her eyes. He’s such a dork.
So they watch Fellowship, they eat waffles, and they order pizza in the middle of Two Towers.
“I don’t think I can watch another one,” Ben says, when the credits of Two Towers are rolling.
“Me neither,” Beatrice admits.
“Plus, I have physics homework that I haven’t done yet,” Ben says in a sing-song voice. “So I should probably go anyway. We’ll finish the trilogy later this week?”
Bea nods. She uses the remote to stop the DVD and open the player. Ben gets up to reclaim his disk.
“Are you seriously not going to say anything about it?” Beatrice says finally.
Ben snaps the DVD case shut. “About what?” he asks with a shit eating grin.
She glares at him.
He comes back to sit on the couch with her. “Okay, fine. We kissed last night,” he says with a flourish-y hand gesture.
“Yes, and?” she makes a rolling gesture with her hands for him to continue.
“And?” Ben repeats, confused.
“And what does that mean?” Beatrice is ready to slap him.
“Oh,” he grins his stupid grin again. “It means that I like you, want to go out?”
She stares at him. “I don’t know,” she says finally.
He nods, like he was expecting this answer- maybe he was. “Well, if it makes you feel any better, there’s no way in hell we’d ever do lovey dovey shit, like have nicknames for each other or hold hands or anything like that. We’d just do what we’ve been doing. Just add kissing! And not kissing anyone else, which isn’t that hard since neither of us were kissing anyone else. Right?” He looks pleased with himself.
And like, on one hand, Beatrice wants to kill him, wants to never see him again so she can forget she ever liked a boy as ridiculous as him. But on the other hand she wants to do dumb shit like argue about aliens and watching movies and then maybe kiss him.
“Okay, fine,” she sighs.
He places a hand over his heart. “Such an overwhelmingly positive response,” he says. He stands up. “I really do have physics homework to do though.”
He walks towards the front door.
He puts his movies next to his keys on the small table and leans down to tug his shoes on. He straightens up and grins at her.
Beatrice has her arms folded across her stomach, trying to figure out what the hell is going on in her life right now.
Ben grins at her and holds his arms out. She steps forward uncertainly.
His hands settle on her waist. She puts her hands on his shoulders. She leans forward and kisses him. As the kiss deepens his hands slide to her back, and gather her closer. She slips her arms around his neck, and one of her hands slides through his hair.
They break apart after a minute, breathing heavily.
“See?” Ben says. “Not so terrible dating me right?”
Bea rolls her eyes and steps away. “Worst idea I’ve ever had,” she responds.
Ben grabs his movies and his keys. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he says, and leans forward to give her a quick kiss.
Bea closes the door after him and leans against it, exhaling deeply.
She hurries up the stairs and pokes her head into Hero’s room.
“Hey, quick update in the life of Beatrice, I’m dating Ben now. Okay cool, have a good night.” And she starts to step out.
“Beatrice Duke!” Hero almost yells. “Come in here.”
Bea comes in and collapses on her bed.
“Tell me everything,” Hero demands.