Whisper

//He had a smile on his face like the climax of a novel, and his kisses were the chorus to a treasured favourite song.\\

Benedict has lived six months in a ragged half existence, torn apart after his twin brother's accident. Still, when he meets Whisper, the happy-go-lucky boy in the wheelchair who volunteers at his support group, Benedict starts to realise that maybe it isn't totally impossible for him to begin enjoying life again. It's only after the two uncover some incriminating evidence that Ben understands that his brother's car crash wasn't quite so accidental as he originally thought.

\\The amazing, beautiful, wonderful cover is by @violets//

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10. CHAPTER EIGHT| Tears

 

Ben sat on a bar stool in a club he couldn’t remember how he’d got into. When the boat had docked, he’d told Leanne that he felt ill and was going home, while she stayed on for the after party. Apparently she’d seen some guy she liked or something. It wasn’t until Ben was at least fifteen minutes from the boat that he’d found a voicemail from his mum telling him that she was going to be out all night.

Which meant, he had realised, with a sinking feeling similar to the sort that the captain of the Titanic must have once felt, he had no one to drive him home. The fifteen quid in his pocket might have been more than enough to hail a taxi seventy years ago, but Ben had got the feeling it wouldn’t be enough to get him anywhere other than a sign post stationed a hundred metres away.

Fifteen pounds, however, would be more than enough to get alarmingly, deliriously drunk on cheap alcohol.

That was what people did, wasn’t it? When they were tired of their problems, that was. They drank and drank and drank, until they’d flooded themselves with a substance less painful than memory. Who was he, Ben had thought, to argue with a thousand years of satisfied customers?

That had led to Ben winding up here, in some swanky looking London club with his third pint of beer up in front of him. Really, though, thought Ben, I wouldn’t actually know the difference between a swanky club and a shitty one. He wasn’t in the habit of frequenting them often. Or ever, really.

He’d never had much drink before, being both underage and a fairly respectful of the law.  That, he decided, might explain why he was getting drunk so quickly.

“Hey!” he slurred, waving the bar tender over. The guy was tall and muscular, with a beard hiding half his face. He wore the kind of expression that told Ben he didn’t want to be here and definitely didn’t want to be talking to emotional teenage boys who could barely hold a pint.

“Hey!” Ben shouted again, waving at the guy more agitatedly.

“You want another pint?” the tender answered gruffly, his dark eyebrows reminding Ben of huge, fuzzy mushrooms growing out of his head.

“No,” said Ben, shaking his head roughly. “Ow. That hurt.”

The tender let out a short laugh. “You new to drinking, kid?”

“Not a kid. I’m… uh…” Ben searched his clouded, messed up brain for a suitable number. “I’m two hundred and… six. I’ve been legal drinking age for… years.” He took another gulp of his beer, not even wincing at the taste.

“’Course you are,” said the tender, rolling his eyes as he wiped a glass clean. “’Course you are.” He clicked his tongue against his teeth. “I’m Ben.”

“Really?” said Ben. “I had a dream that I was called Ben once. It was…”

“What? Don’t start describing some pervy dream you had to me, kid.”

“No, it wasn’t… It was just… Sad.”

“Uh-huh, and how come?” The bar tender turned to serve another customer, but looked over his shoulder to listen as Ben talked.

“I had this… Twin brother, right? And he was in a coma in the hospital, and then I found out from this… this really pretty girl that people were trying to kill my brother and also kill me as well but then…”

“Let me guess: you and the girl-“ He broke off, wiggling his eyebrows.

“What? No, it wasn’t like that, it wasn’t… But okay, so I get this death threat from this girl and she tells me that people are going to try to kill my brother, okay? And then… Then… Then…” Ben trailed off, trying to find the right words. “There was this guy, right? And he was kissing my… My best friend… And I really wanted to be pissed about the death threats and everything, but the only thing I actually was properly caring about was these guys kissing and wishing it was me kissing my friend rather than this stupid dude who turned out to be my friend’s ex-boyfriend… And then, and then…”

“And then?”

“And then I ended up here, drinking beer that tastes like piss,” said Ben, growing bolder as he grew drunker.

The bar tender let out another sharp guffaw. “Here,” he said, taking Ben’s glass and refilling it. “You can have another glass of piss on the house.”

Ben accepted the drink gladly, nodding his head. He coughed. “Listen,” he said, suddenly. “The music right now. That’s… That’s my ringtone.”

“Justin Bieber? And here I took you for a man with standards.”

“It was my twin brother’s ringtone first. Before his accident. And now it’s mine.”

The bar tender looked at Ben with an expression as clouded as the beer he served. Which was to say, extremely clouded. “In your dream?”

“Yeah,” slurred Ben, his eyes still closed. He liked it that way; the world was black, black, black, and he never had to see anything again. Never had to watch his brother’s limp body or Whisper kiss Julian or… Or… Or…

“Yeah,” he repeated, nodding in the general direction of the bar tender. “In my dream. In my dream. It was all just a dream, you see. Life. Everything in it. Just a dream.”

The bar tender snorted. “You wish, kid. But don’t worry- when you’re older, it’ll be even worse.”

“Worse?” asked Ben, stumbling over the word. “I don’t know if it can be worse.”

The way the bar tender laughed, it was like he knew the future.

 

 

Half an hour later, squatting in a puddle of his own sick, Ben could confirm that even the worst things could reach another level of terrible.  He pushed his hair out of his face, sitting down on the cool pavement without a thought for the mess he was going to make out of the back of his jeans. He looked up at the neon lights of the club he’d just spent the past hour or so in, and burped.

He’d spent all his money. No chance of getting a taxi even half way home now. Maybe he could try hitchhiking, but the centre of London wasn’t really the place for that.

In other words, he was stranded on the side of the pavement in a puddle of his own goddamned sick, and he was probably going to be here all night.

It was the kind of prospect that sent hardened warriors blubbering into their happy place.

Shivering, Ben stuffed his hands into his pockets. A thin, itchy material caressed his fingers, and he pulled it out to find the hair net he’d worn just hours ago, when volunteering at the food bank. He must have forgotten to hang it up with his apron.

Funny. It seemed, all of a sudden, like volunteering with Whisper – and later, meeting Julian and staring as they kissed – had been such a long, long time ago. Ben should have been able to look at everything that had happened at the foodbank and smile ruefully. He’d received death threats since then, after all.

Hah. That was one thing to cross off his bucket list. Receive a death threat from a beautiful girl. Check. Funny. He’d thought that only celebrities got death threats.

“But,” said Ben (out loud and unabashed, because he was too drunk to sort out his thoughts without saying them out loud anyway), “but I still care.”

And he did. Ben still cared about Julian and Whisper and their kiss. Even after the death threats and July and Darren and the party, Ben still cared about the stupid, stupid insignificant things that seemed to dwarf the important.

 “I still care,” he said, as if daring himself to deny it. “I still care.” He broke off, his words forcing themselves back down his throat.

They were going to try and kill Seb. Again. Ben didn’t know who, exactly, but he knew that they existed, and he knew that they’d tried to finish Seb off before. And all he seemed to be able to think about… Ben closed his eyes in disgust, hating himself.

All he seemed to be able to think about was Whisper’s hair and Whisper’s smile and Whisper’s eyes… And Whisper’s mouth, fusing together with Julian’s.

Crushing the hair net in his fist, Ben flung it as far away from him as possible. Being only a hair net, it floated to the ground a couple of centimetres from his feet. Ben gritted his teeth, bracing himself as he stamped down on it in his converse, crushing the hair net into the ground.

“Why do I still care?” he gasped, his voice choppy and unstructured as the tears began to well at the corners of his eyes. “Why do I even fucking care?”

The gloomy London street gave no answer, but Ben still heard voices carried on the wind, echoing his shout. Why do I even fucking care? Why do I even? Even? Even?

Ben’s body crumpled forwards, and he hid his face in his hands. Through his tears, slowly, he started to laugh. He was ridiculous. His priorities were ridiculous. His entire life was one giant, looping roller coaster down to unhelpful tears, and pining for a boy that he barely knew he wanted, and stupid, stupid fixation on someone else’s  stupid, stupid kiss.

Ben wiped his tears away with the back of his hand, jolting woozily to his feet. He had to pull himself together. Things were fine. Things were fine. Okay, so he may not have enough money for a taxi, and he’d probably screwed up everything with Whisper by leaving the foodbank without telling him, but things were still alright. They would be. They had to be.

He could walk the hour or so journey home. Sure he could.

With the feeling that his legs were heavier than carrying both Atlas and the skies and all the golden apples in the world upon his back, Ben staggered his first step away from the bench. One step. Then another. Another, and another, and then two more.

Ben told himself that he was on his way home, but inside, he knew that he was lying. He could always see through his own lies. It was an annoying habit of his.

His legs folded beneath him, and he threw up onto his jeans.

“Ew,” said a vaguely familiar voice conveying extreme distaste in every syllable. “Gross.”

Julian Hadley had really not been having the best evening. The day had started off well, with a kiss from the ex-boyfriend he still harboured a fair amount of affection for, but after that it had spiralled quickly down the drain. Almost literally; he, Whisper, and Whisper’s parents had been searching for Ben for so long that Julian wouldn’t have been surprised if Whisper had pulled up the metal bars from an actual, literal drain and expected Julian to jump down there in search of some guy he barely even knew.

And now he’d found said guy sitting in a pile of his own sick.

Ben looked up at the figure in front of him. He was unfortunately unaware of the drool hanging from the corner of his mouth. Frowning, Ben attempted to climb to his feet in order to get a better look at this person, and promptly fell back down in a heap.

He blinked, and looked back at the person in front of him. Or rather, people. The person, whoever it was, had morphed into two.

“Are you…?” Ben trailed off stupidly. “Are you an angel?” He shook his head; no, he’d seen this person before. Somewhere. Somewhere…

Julian’s mouth literally fell open in horror. “If you’re trying to flirt with me, I can tell you now that it’s never going to happen. Barf-Boy.”

 Fishing his phone out from his pocket he keyed in Whisper’s number. “Hello? Whisper? I’ve found him. Where are you now?” He raked his hands through his hair in a weird cocktail of exasperation and relief. “Yeah, he’s outside this club called Sundown and he’s sitting in his own sick. No, I’m not exaggerating. I’m-“ Julian broke off, sighing dramatically. “Look, just get here as soon as you can. He stinks. Bye.”

Shoving his whole hand under the candlelight cast by recognition, Ben nodded sleepily, remembering where he’d heard this person’s voice before. “Mother?” he asked Julian, holding up a hand coated in a slick mix of sweat and saliva.

Julian jolted back, repulsed. “I am not your mother, you piece of-” He shook his head, forcing himself to take a deep breath like they’d trained him to do in Pilates classes. “Look, I know that you’re drunk, but this is just…” He leant down to squat beside Ben, as close as he dared. “Hello? Ben? It’s me. Julian. Julian. You met me this morning.”

“J… Julian?”

“Yeah. And you’re Barf-Boy.”

Ben growled, a low guttural sound from the pit of his stomach. Summoning his strength, he swiped at Julian’s head, aiming to crush his jaw. His aim was so off that he ended up attacking the air next to Julian’s elbow, but Ben figured that it didn’t matter. He’d made his point. “You… Kissed Whisper.”

“You crazy son of a-“ Julian glared at Ben, backing away till he was well out of punching range. “Yeah, I kissed Whisper. So? Why do you care? I just spent about five hours searching all of London for you, you little shit, so you better put on a stupid drunken smile and be grateful to me.”

A sudden, graceless smirk crossed onto Julian’s face. “Oh,” he said, his eyes lighting up in realisation. “Oh. So you like him, right? Our very own Barf-Boy’s got a crush on Whisper?”

Ben stared at the floor. “So what?”

“So, it’s never going to happen, you-“ Julian broke off, looking over his shoulder. “Well. Speak of the devil, I guess.”

From his position on the ground, Ben craned his head to see Whisper coming towards them, his mum and dad walking behind his chair.

“I’m warning you now,” Julian called to the advancing group, “he’s completely pissed.”

“No need to warn us,” said Merridew, far too cheerfully for the situation at hand, “I can smell it all the way over here.” His voice was so loud that Ben winced, clutching at his ears and squeezing his eyes shut.

A cool, gentle hand prised his fingers from his head. “Ben,” said Whisper’s voice. “Ben.”

Ben let Whisper hold his hands still, gingerly allowing his eyes to flutter open. Whisper’s face stared into his own, so close that if Ben just leaned forwards a little, they’d be kissing. Whisper’s eyes were grey, Ben realised, as he stared into them. Soft, serene, and entirely void of any colour. And… They were crying.

Whisper was crying as he held Ben’s hands, salty tears carving their name into his cheeks. It’s not right, Ben thought to himself, looking at his reflection in the glistening mirror the tears made, I should be the one crying, not Whisper. Whisper doesn’t get death threats or a brother in a coma. Whisper kisses Julian. He’s silly to cry, he’s stupid, he’s stupid, he’s…

Ben wished he could kiss the stupid tears from Whisper’s face. He leant forwards, towards Whisper and his grey, grey eyes- and then, suddenly, his head lurched and his tiredness came rushing to the forefront of his mind. His eyes slid closed. Ben couldn’t see grey, not anymore.

All he could see was black. Black like coal and hate and the kind of envy that once was green but has moulded dark with age and nurture. Black like… Black like… What was black like?

Ben couldn’t remember, and so dreamless sleep took remembering’s place. 

The stars wept.

 

-

WHISPER

A ROMANCE BY MIRLOTTA

 

//cover by @anna mv.\\

-

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