Ben had been awake for over an hour, his mind racing with incoherent thoughts, but he couldn’t force himself to open his eyes. His bed felt too comfortable, warmer than usual. He could stay here forever, forego tea and Doctor Who and everything he loved, and he knew it was because of her. Bea. The girl lying there asleep in his bed. The girl he was in love with. The girl that maybe quite possibly loved him back.
Well she certainly made it seem like she loved him back. All the involuntary gestures and stolen looks she had given him recently, the amount of times they had fallen asleep together, the way she had laughed at all of his terrible jokes. She had even held his hand when the doctor finally let them in to see Hero for the first time. That had to mean something, right? He tried to convince himself that he wasn’t just there as a support system for her. He needed to believe that she actually cared for him as much as he cared for her.
Everything was confusing. In the chaos and disorder that had overrun their lives recently, it didn’t feel right to tell her how he felt. At least not while she was conscious. Lately, he’d gotten really good at spilling his guts to her after she had fallen asleep. It was good to get in practice. It made it much easier during waking hours to just let it sit there, almost but not quite on the surface. He had convinced himself that when things got easier, then he would tell her. He could wait that long, couldn’t he?
How had they gotten here? For years they had been spouting off insults and rude comments to each other, and now they were sharing a bed like none of it ever happened. But insults had turned into soft words of comfort and friendship, and they had spent the past couple weeks growing closer and closer. Not that he was complaining. It was just so unlike her. It was so unlike them.
When he had invited her to stay with him, she had taken it surprisingly well. “Honestly, Ben, I don’t think I could handle going back home,” she had said. “It’s just empty except for that douchebag I call my cousin, and all I think about when I’m there is Hero. And it just makes me sad.”
“I’m sorry, Bea. You could—you could come stay at my house. You know, if you want.”
She looked at him like he had sprouted three heads right then and there. But after a moment, her face had softened, and she had almost smiled. “That’s actually really nice of you, Ben,” she had said. “Thank you, but I don’t want to intrude. What would your mum say?”
“Honestly, I don’t think she’d notice. The only thing she ever bothers me about is doing my laundry.” He thought he saw a glint of sympathy in her eyes.
“Well, if you’re sure it’s okay, then yes, I’ll come stay with you.” That night, without any prior discussion at all, they had fallen asleep together in Ben’s bed. He would’ve been lying to himself if he said he hadn’t thought about Bea staying over at his house before, in his bed, but he never imagined it would be like this.
Ben groaned and pulled a hand over his face. Stop thinking so much, Ben. In the time since he woke, the light seeping through his eyelids had grown stronger, and he figured it was time to get up. Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes and adjusted them to the sunlight beaming through the window. And there she was, still breathing heavily, sound asleep. The sunlight was shining so perfectly on her, it made her look almost angelic.
As if she sensed his consciousness, Beatrice shifted a little in her sleep, nestling her head on his shoulder. A small smile formed on his face, and he wrapped an arm around her. She’s here. Beatrice. Right here, in my bed, sharing my blankets, and drooling on my shoulder.
The makeup on her eyes had smudged a bit overnight, and her hair was all disheveled, covering most of her face. What he could see of it looked peaceful; her brow was relaxed, and her lips were slightly parted so that each time she released a breath, the hair covering her mouth flew up. He brought a hand up to brush her hair behind her shoulder. God, she’s beautiful, he thought, planting a light kiss on her temple. He had always thought she was gorgeous, but up until recently, he had only known one side of her — the animated, feisty Beatrice. This Beatrice was different. Not new, just a deeper layer he had never been allowed to see before. There was a certain vulnerability to her, something only a select few got to see, and he felt privileged to be one of them.
Suddenly, Beatrice’s whole body gave a jerk and her eyes bolted open. Ben heard her breath hitch in her throat, and she sat up on her elbows. “Are you alright?” he asked, mimicking her position. She didn’t respond, but plopped her head down onto the pillow, releasing a heavy sigh.
“Where’s my phone?” she asked groggily, rubbing the heels of her palms over her eyes.
Ben reached over and retrieved it from his bedside table. “Bea, are you alright?” he asked again, placing the phone in her hand.
“Bad dream,” she said, sitting up. “I just need to call and make sure Hero’s okay.”
“I’m sure the hospital would have called if something was wrong. Plus, she’s been getting a lot better over the past few days, hasn’t she?”
Beatrice didn’t answer, but dialed the number for the hospital and brought the phone up to her ear. In the silence, Ben could hear the ringing. One, two, three, four, five, six rings. Finally, there was an answer and Beatrice inhaled sharply. “Hello. Are there any updates on Hero Duke, room 449? This is her cousin, Beatrice.” He noticed her hand clenched in the sheets, shaking. Without a thought, he grasped it and squeezed it tightly. To his surprise, she didn’t try to shove it off. Instead, she looked at him with tearful eyes and squeezed his in return.
As he sat there, stroking her thumb with his, he realized that she was wearing his oversized Doctor Who t-shirt. No, Ben, stop. Now is not the time to think of how wonderful it is that the girl you love is sitting in your bed, holding your hand, and wearing your Doctor Who merchandise. He pushed the thought from his mind and brought up his other hand, gently running it up and down her arm.
“Alright,” Bea said, her back slumping over, “when she wakes up, will you tell her I’ll be in later this afternoon to see her?—Thank you.—Bye.”
“How is she?” he asked once she had hung up the phone.
“No changes, she’s fine. She’s still asleep.”
“And how are you?”
She responded with a lazy shrug of her shoulders.
“What happened in your dream? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Oh, you know, normal stuff,” she said, avoiding his gaze. “Hero suddenly died, and I wasn’t there. She was just gone, and when I finally got there, I saw her face, and it was so pale and empty, and her eyes were glassy, and the doctors were lifting a sheet over her body, and it was too late.” She stopped, trying to catch her breath. “But it’s fine. She’s fine, and I’m fine,” she added shakily.
He squeezed the hand he still held in his, and she leaned her head onto his shoulder.
“Bea, there’s no way anyone could be fine after a dream like that.”
“Let me just catch my breath for a moment. I promise I’ll be okay after that,” she said, plopping back down onto the mattress. Ben followed suit, bringing their joined hands up to his chest. He turned his head to look at her, blue eyes meeting blue, and caught sight of a single tear escaping and running back towards her hairline. She immediately wiped it away. "It just felt so real, you know?" He didn't know what else to say, so he brought her hand up to his lips and pressed a light kiss to the back of it. Two weeks ago, Beatrice would have hated it; no doubt she would have mocked him for it. But now she said nothing, and she even gave a small smile. That was all it took.
“I love you, Bea.” Fuck. “Like a lot.” Damn it, Ben, you swore you wouldn’t say anything. “Isn’t that weird?” he said turning on his side to face her.
“Yes, it’s very weird,” she said, mirroring his position. “Almost as weird as me saying that I love you back.”
“W-which I’m not saying,” she said, her eyes growing increasingly wider. “I admit nothing. And – and yet, I wasn’t lying. Don’t listen to me, I don’t know what I’m saying.”
“Beatrice,” he laughed. “You love me.”
“No, I don’t, dickface,” she groaned, hiding her face in the pillow. She would never admit to the amount of butterflies she felt in her stomach right now, the pulling sensation in her gut that seemed to be stretching towards him. She did love him; she loved everything about him. His awkward lankiness, his admittedly funny jokes, his weird obsession with birds, their banter, his sincerity, the fact that his presence alone could calm her down so much. He made her feel like she was his world, and she was beginning to accept the notion that maybe he was hers.
“Look, Bea,” he said more somberly, and she turned to look at him again. “I know now isn’t a great time with, you know, everything, and I wasn’t gonna tell you until later when things had smoothed over a bit, but I couldn’t help it. It just slipped. You don’t have to say it back. Not now. Not ever if you don’t want to. I just - I wanted to say it because I think you’re wonderful. You’re wonderful and beautiful and brilliant and amazing, and you’re wearing my Doctor Who shirt, which that’s also brilliant by the way, you should do that more often –“
“Ben,” she interrupted.
“Shut up.” She brought her hand up to his cheek and placed little kisses along his jawline. When she pulled back, she couldn’t help but laugh at how awestruck he looked. His eyes were wide and unblinking, his mouth agape. “I love you too, dickface.”
His face remained frozen for a few more moments, and then the widest grin he could muster overtook his face. She smiled and pulled him closer to her.
“And, really, Ben? Me wearing your Doctor Who shirt is attractive to you? I just put it on because I forgot to pack a shirt.”
“Yes, well you should keep it. It looks much better on you.”
“You’re ridiculous,” she laughed.
“Yes, but you love me."
“Hey, do you want to go downstairs? I could make some tea, and I think there’s still some chocolate salad left over from the other day.”
“Ah, yiss. That sounds wonderful.”
"I'll race you," he said, wiggling his eyebrows.
"You're on," she replied. And with that, she shoved a pillow in his face and crawled over him to the door.