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The next day, Bea is unusually quiet for most of the morning. Though she kisses him goodbye with a smile when she drops him off for his Biology class (and they spend the entire Geography lesson playing tic-tac-toe), Ben can still tell that something’s up. His first instinct is to let her brood on it for a while and let her come to him when she’s ready, but considering how well that strategy worked for Claudio and Hero, he’s not really in the mood for waiting. Therefore, his solution is to wait until the lunch hour, and drag her to a relatively private part of the school grounds.

“Wait, Ben” Bea protests, as they reach a small grove of trees. “Why’re we here? Why aren’t we eating with the rest of the group today?” Ben smiles, and sits down He leans his back against one of the trees and motions to her to join him.

“Because, my dear lady love, judging by the way you glared at everyone who passed our table last week, I thought you could do with a break from all the stares.” Bea smiles, and sits down next to him. “Also,” he continues, in a slightly more uncertain tone of voice. “I thought there might be something you wanted to talk to me about.” The slight stiffening of Bea’s back tells him he hit his head on the nail. To reassure her, he takes her hand. “You’ve been unusually quiet all morning; I don’t think you’ve insulted me even once.” Instead of lightening the mood, as he had hoped, Bea draws a ragged breath that almost sounds like a sob and collapses against him, flinging her arms around his neck.

“Oh Ben!” She moans. “I’m so very sorry for what I said at Pedro’s party!” Ben’s eyes pops wide open. Out of all the things he thought she might say, an apology for something that happened over four months ago certainly wasn’t it. “I said all those really mean things, and you couldn’t defend yourself, and I’ve just been completely horrible towards you, and you never deserved any of it.” Another sob breaks out, somewhat muffled against his neck. “You were completely ready to be friends this year, and I just kept being really mean to you just because I couldn’t let go of some stupid thing from when we were fourteen, and—“

“Hey, hey,” Ben soothes, pulling her close, and runs his hand up and down her back. “Never mind that now, love. I wasn’t being particularly nice all the time either, as you saw yesterday in some of my videos. In fact, I was being a straight-up idiot in several of them!” Bea’s breathing starts to slow down, and Ben hopes this means she’s beginning to calm down. “We’re all past that now, right? We’ve already acknowledged that we’ve both been a bit stupid, and we’re trying to do better. You don’t ever have to apologise for what you said back then, alright? I didn’t react well to it, but that’s no reason why you should feel bad about it now.” Beatrice nods, and raises her head to wipe away her tears.

“You.. you’re right, Ben. I don’t even know why I reacted like this. I thought about it yesterday, but then Pedro’s stupid plan came up, and I got distracted…”  Ben tucks a strand of her hair behind her ear, but lets his hand remain, his thumb stroking her cheek.

“Reckon you just needed to get it off your chest. You’ve been under a lot of pressure lately, what with the fallout of Hero’s party, and then everything with us. You had to put up a strong front, to be the support Hero needed, and now when she’s okay, and we’re out in the open, you’re finally letting it fall.” Bea bites his lip, and looks down, which tells him he probably got it right, but that she’s reluctant to admit to a weakness. His hand, still caressing her cheek, tilts her head up to meet his eyes. “I know you said you’d dump you if I woke you up in the middle of the night to talk about birds, but you’re always welcome to call me if you need to talk. I’d prefer it actually, to us being able to talk about stuff instead of keeping it all inside.”

Bea nods. “Me too.” She reaches up and kisses him, letting her lips linger for a few moments before cuddling up close to him again.

“Ben” she says after a couple of minutes. “What happened when we were fourteen? If we’re being all open and honest and all…” A quick look at her face tells him this is something she’s been thinking about probably as long as he has – which is to say from the very first fight that summer so many years ago.

“I don’t know, Bea. My best guess? We fell in love and were too stupid to do anything about it.” Her snort cheers him up something ridiculous, because it means she’s cheering up, too. “At least I know I was. Before I knew it, all I wanted to do was sit next to you, and maybe hold your hand. One night, I dreamt about kissing you, and I was so freaked out; I thought you could read it on my face and would kick my ass for thinking of you that way.”

“I was thinking the same thing!” Bea exclaims. “I would come up with so many things to do, just the two of us, and I thought you realised what I was trying to do. I mean, come on, why else would I suggest us biking to the beach in the scorching sun instead of going over to Pedro’s and play Mario Kart? And then you started saying all that stuff about you living in the now, and how friendships shouldn’t develop—“

“I was just saying that because I had just accidentally brushed your hand when we were watching Harry Potter, and I didn’t want you to think I had as massive a crush on you as I had! I didn’t think you liked me like that, and I thought you were going to accuse me of trying to ruin our friendship by turning into a relationship.”

“And instead you managed to do precisely that any way!” Bea sniggers, and Ben starts chuckling as well, because even if he were annoyed by that comment – which he’s not – seeing her laugh again is worth a thousand annoying comments.

“That I did. “ He acquiesces, and presses a kiss to the top of her head. “But in a way, I’m happy we did mess things up then, because if we had begun dating then, we probably would have broken up before you returned the next summer.”

“Probably” Bea agrees, and squeezes his hand. “I just wish we didn’t have to go through all that fighting first.”

“I prefer to think of it as confused flirting, actually.” Ben says, smugly. “I mean, look back at Ursula’s second video, and swear that the idea of shutting me up with a kiss never crossed your mind.” His efforts to rile her up are rewarded with an elbow to the gut, followed by a kiss on the lips. The kiss lingers, and the rest of the lunch break is spent in a lot more pleasant way than it started.

 

When there’s only five minutes left, they reluctantly make their way towards their English class. Luckily, Mr Stuart doesn’t seem in the mood for teaching today, and the class is spent watching a film on Middle English. In spite of the incredibly boring film, Ben is pleased. Sitting in the back of the darkened classroom, he can put one arm around Bea, hold her hand with his other hand, and chat silently, without incurring the wrath of Mr Stuart.

“So, when are the aunts coming back home, anyway?” Ben murmurs, running a piece of Bea’s hair through his fingers.

“Next week.” Bea replies softly. “They’ve mentioned the possibility of having a dinner party with Pedro and John’s parents when they get back. You know, to catch up, since we’re all such good friends!” Bea grimaces, and Ben rubs her shoulder sympathetically.

“Yikes, that’s gotta be awkward…”

“Yeah, no shit. Hopefully, it’ll be all talk and no actual planning. I don’t think I could take a whole dinner of playing nice with Pedro and John right now. But enough about that; how’s the studying for your calculus test tomorrow going?” Ben groans and drops his head on her shoulder.

“Did you have to remind me? I’m sure Ms Parata designed this test to torment all of us, and me in particular! I’m going to be up until three a.m. studying this crap.” Bea’s hand squeezing his knee abruptly gets his mind onto more pleasant things than Ms Parata’s devil test, though.

“Well, do your best, and try to remember all the questions so you can repeat them to me. I have the same test on Friday, you know.” Bea’s voice drops even lower. “Perhaps you can be my private tutor?” Her hand moves up two inches, and Ben is willing to bet a $1000 that his neck and ears have turned a flaming red. His incentives for doing well on the test have rapidly shifted to a more tempting reason. Because honestly, who’s not willing to learn calculus if they’ve got that kind of enticement offered to them?