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Truce

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There was an eerie silence hanging over the Duke household on the night of August 16th 2014. Finally the house had been cleared of nosy prying teenagers. The cake had been thrown away and the gifts lain aside, tarnished by Claudio’s accusations. Hero’s gasping sobs had turned into silent weeping, and as Beatrice had led her up the stairs to bed, they had faded altogether. 

The only light in the house came from a table lamp in the living room where two shadows could be seen walking from the stairs and towards the couch. 

“Is she asleep?”

“It took a while, but yeah,” Beatrice sighed. “Is Leo – everyone’s gone?” she said, too exhausted to meet his eyes.

“Yeah, Balth was the last one, and he left about 15 minutes ago.”

She gave a deep sigh and took a seat on the couch. 

“Do you want to talk about it?” he said awkwardly.

“No,” she said without any of her usual passion. “No, right now, I just want to forget it ever happened.”

“That’s fair,” he replied, taking a seat next to her.

“Ben, why are you still here?” she asked. It came out harsher than she meant it to.

He looked at her sadly for a second and replied, “Because contrary to popular belief, I do care about my friends.”

She looked up at him then, staring directly into his eyes with a sorrowful almost apologetic expression.

He considered his next words carefully. “And you don’t have to be alone.”

Despite herself, she smiled at him.

“Oh. Before I forget, Balthazar recorded something for Hero before he left.” Leave it to Balthazar to bring a musical instrument practically anywhere. But Beatrice couldn’t help but think that maybe it was a good thing. His music always calmed her. “I thought you’d like to hear it.”

“Yeah, sure,” she said, plopping her head back on the couch and tucking her feet underneath her.

Benedick pressed play and immediately Balthazar’s voice filled the room. “Hey, Hero. I know you’re hurting right now, and it seems like you’re all alone. I want you to know that you’re not. We love you and we’re always here for you. No matter what. Good night and sleep well, Hero.”

There was a pause as Balthazar adjusted his ukulele, and that’s when Beatrice began to notice the tears welling up in her eyes. Damn it. Not while Dickface is here. This can’t be happening. Get a grip, Beatrice. 

Then Balthazar began strumming, and the words flowed from his mouth, bringing a certain calmness over the house that hadn’t existed all night. 

“Now the night is coming to an end,
The sun will rise and we will try again.

Stay alive, stay alive for me.
You will die, but now your life is free,
Take pride in what is sure to die.

I will fear the night again,
I hope I'm not my only friend.

Stay alive, stay alive for me.
You will die, but now your life is free,
Take pride in what is sure to die.”

About halfway through, Ben looked over just as a tear spilled over onto her cheek, and he pulled a Kleenex from the nearby coffee table. 

“Thanks,” she said, taking it and wiping her eyes. I hope I’m not my only friend. Beatrice couldn’t help it. The tears began to flow freely, and now she was the one quietly weeping. Weeping for her cousin who had been so wrongly accused. Weeping for how people would treat her when she returned to school on Monday. Weeping for that fucking douchebag that they had all trusted, and for the lack of trust in Pedro’s eyes when he told her that for once she wasn’t right. She was weeping for the fact that the person she would have most expected to betray them was the one sitting right there and comforting her now. 

She was hunched over now, almost unable to breathe due to a tight knot forming in her abdomen. She allowed Ben to pull her into his embrace.

“I’m here, Beatrice,” he whispered. “I’m here, and I’m so sorry.”

He waited a few more minutes for Beatrice to regain her breath and her composure. She took a few slow and steady breaths and wiped the tears from her face with another tissue. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that. That was weird.” She lifted her head and looked at him, but he didn’t remove his arm from around her.

“Don’t apologize for that. It’s a totally normal reaction, even for you.” She smiled. “I meant it though. I’m here, and so are Balthazar and Ursula, if and when you or Hero need anything. I could pick up your homework if you need a few days off from school. I’ll go buy you some groceries or a pizza or whatever. Even if you need somewhere to stay, you can stay at my place. My mum won't mind,” he said looking around the empty house. “Anything.” 

“Just stay for a bit longer, will you?”

Her eyes were pleading with him; he couldn’t say no. “Of course.” 

She placed her head back on his shoulder, and as his arm tightened around her, he began to replay Balthazar’s song. After several listens, Beatrice had nearly fallen asleep.

“Bea?”

“Hmm…" 

“Why don’t you go up to your bed where you’ll be more comfortable.”

“Hmm… Okay.” He helped her up the stairs and into her bed before placing a soft kiss to her temple. 

“Wait,” she stopped him. “Don’t go yet. Play it one more time.”

He complied and made sure to send a copy to her phone. She could play it for Hero tomorrow.

“Of course, love.”