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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12. CHAPTER TEN| Sticks and Stoners

 

When Ben got up in the morning, his head hurt. Wait. Let’s rephrase that. His head really, really, really hurt. The kind of hurt you feel at the final credits of the final episode of your favourite ever TV show. The kind of hurt you’d feel if, I don’t know, a ten storey car-park just happened to fall from the sky and land on your head.

That was the level of pain Ben felt when he woke up. Two hours later, if a fully grown goddess had popped out of his skull, it wouldn’t have surprised him. He was really starting to emphasise with that Zeus guy, womanising aside.

Ben pushed his hair out of his face, massaging his forehead. All the lights in his kitchen were off, but it still felt like paparazzi cameras were flashing everywhere he looked. He leaned back on the high wooden stool he perched on. Clinging onto the edge of the table, he wobbled backwards, struggling to keep his balance.

Damn. What he needed right now – what he really needed right now – was the biggest, comfiest sofa in the world. What he had was an uncomfortable stool with one leg shorter than the other. It had been standing guard over his kitchen for years, but Ben was only now realising how sick he was of the sight of it.

“Hangovers are that bad, huh?” asked Whisper, beside him. “You look kind of like a stoner- I mean, obviously you’re not, but it’s just the way your eyes are a little puffy and you’re staring into space with a weird look on your face like you’re high or something… Not that I have much experience with stoners, and I didn’t mean you looked like one in a bad way or anything… I mean… Oh…” Whisper grimaced at himself, tailing off and leaning forwards with both elbows on the table, his fringe falling into his eyes.

After Whisper’s parents had driven Ben back home, Whisper had decided to stay with him until Ben’s mother arrived. Sometimes, good natured people seemed totally incomprehensible to Ben. There was no way that he would ever want to stay any longer than necessary with some grouchy hungover guy who he’d seen throw up over himself.

Unless… Maybe if that guy was Whisper. And only maybe, even then.

“Hey,” said Whisper, waving his hand in front of Ben’s face. “I asked if you were okay.”

Ben groaned. “Do I look okay?”

“I’m not going to answer that.”

“Probably for the best.” Ben paused, licking his lips. There was a clunky sort of silence that could only be described as awkward; pointing it out would probably only have made it worse. Ben flicked his tongue over his lips again, for good measure. “You know, you can go any time you like. My mum is probably going to take forever to get back, so it’s not like I expect you to wait here with me or anything.”

“I know.”

“Okay. Just letting you know.”

“I know.”

Ben shifted awkwardly, eventually deciding on a vaguely dangerous looking position where two legs of the stool swayed in the air and his head rested on the kitchen table.

“That looks fun,” commented Whisper.

“Yeah.”

Yesterday, Ben had been completely, utterly drunk. Drunker than a Hollywood outcast locked in a basement lined with vodka cabinets on opening night. He had a horrifying, creeping sensation that he’d said more than one thing he shouldn’t have, but he couldn’t quite figure out what.

Waking up in the middle of the night. Warm air, soft light. Illuminating the darkness. Whisper’s voice. His own laugh.

They’d talked, sure. Ben could remember talking. What they’d actually talked about- that was something else entirely.

With a jolt, Ben felt himself falling backwards through the air. His stool skidded as it dropped from beneath him. He landed on the floor with a thud, grasping frantically at more air than table. Head pounding, he closed his eyes, wincing at the pain- his ankle felt like it had been twisted, and he cradled his knees to his chest.

Far away, someone coughed. “Ben?” Whisper’s voice, small and uncertain.

Ben? Ben? That was his name. He was Ben. His eyes snapped open, gradually focusing. It turned out that he’d managed to grab hold of something other than the air to try and stop his fall after all. His fingers were closed round Whisper’s, his grip so tight that his knuckles were white. Whisper’s hand lay softly beneath Ben’s own, cool though calloused. It was the sort of hand that seemed safe and reliable and familiar, all at once. The sort of hand that Ben wished he could hold forever.

Their eyes met.

Blushing, Ben snatched his hand away, like he could take back the moment. “I- ah-“ He shook his head, half hiding behind his mass of hair. “Sorry.”

Whisper bit his lip, then looked away. “S’okay.” The corner of his mouth pulled up. “But you look like such a dork when you blush, it’s unbelievable.”

Ben was about to laugh. About to blush some more, and mock-cower, and bask in the simple pleasure of talking to Whisper. Instead, he caught himself, and shrugged. “No.” His lip curled. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Whisper shrug back in dejected imitation.

A small part of Ben died internally.

He groaned. Get over it, he told himself. Goddamn get over it. He had more important stuff to think about than whether his reaction had hurt Whisper’s feelings.

 Namely, wondering what the hell he had said to Whisper last night? The more Ben thought about it, the more he needed to know. Oh god, oh god. Had he mentioned his third nipple? He hadn’t started talking about burping the alphabet, or anything else embarrassing from his primary school days, had he? Hopefully, Drunk-Ben hadn’t seen fit to bring up the time he’d mistaken his y6 teacher for an elderly Britney Spears.

He got to his feet, not bothering to brush his jeans down. They weren’t even his jeans; he’d borrowed them from Whisper’s wardrobe, and even the thought of that made his cheeks flame up. Tilting his head, Ben narrowed his eyes at Whisper quizzically. “Last night…”

“What?” asked Whisper, slightly too eagerly for Ben’s suspicions. He seemed to be pretending his dejected shrug never happened, which Ben was all too happy to comply with. He didn’t need any more tears in his life.

Ben swallowed nervously. “I didn’t… I didn’t say anything about, uh, nipples, right? Or… The number three? Or, um… Third… Um…”

“Ben,” said Whisper, obviously holding in laughter. “Ben. Are you-“ he broke off, giggling. Taking a deep breath he started again. “Are you seriously implying that you’ve got a third nipple?”

“What? No! Why would you even think that? I was just… Um… You know, wondering. About what I said. Last night.”

Whisper snorted. “Mostly a load of crap. You were drunk, remember?”

“Yeah, but… I mean, what kind of crap?”

Shrugging, Whisper seemed almost purposefully vague. “Oh, ah… Hmm. I don’t really know… Um…”

“What? What did I say? You must remember something!”

Inner-Ben frowned at his outer self. He shouldn’t be getting so flustered. Nothing he said could have been anything that regrettable, surely. He was over-analysing the situation. That’s what he always did; he over-analysed everything, and it only made it worse. Ben, he told himself, you need to cut the crap and stop over-analysing. Which, really, was easier said than done.

How come Whisper didn’t seem to remember anything? Even Ben remembered some stuff, and he’d been off his head.

Ben talking, talking, talking. Forgetting to shut up, forgetting to hide what he really felt. Whisper brushing it off; a light clicking, and the room flickering into darkness. Silence. Silence. Silence, and then Whisper’s voice- but what did he say, what had Ben said?

Nothing important. It was nothing important, or Whisper would have mentioned it already.

Ben cleared his throat. “Whatever.” He tucked in his stool behind him and crossed the room to the sink, getting out a glass. “You want a drink?” he called to Whisper, filling his own with water. That was the best stuff for hangovers, right? He didn’t know- but either way, he had to be some kind of presentable by the time his mother got back home.

“I’m fine. Thanks, though.” Whisper wheeled himself over to a tall cupboard. Ben couldn’t help but focus on his hands as he moved. They turned the chair’s wheels with a practiced deftness, their fingers long and something close to elegant.

“Where are you going?”

Whisper smirked. “I don’t want a drink, but I am starving. Is there food in this cupboard?”

“Oh- yeah.” Ben moved to open it, but Whisper had already swung the door open.

He waved a thin, brightly coloured box in Ben’s face. “What are these? Are they serious- green tea flavour? Seriously, that’s gross. Who even drinks green tea anyway except weird health freaks?” He stopped short, looking up at Ben sheepishly. “Wait, do you drink green tea? Oh my God, I’m so sorry- I didn’t mean it like that, I swear, I-“

“Whisper,” said Ben, trying not to smile and failing. “Whisper, you are seriously the worst person at apologising that I’ve ever heard.”

Whisper leaned back, leering at Ben. “I suppose you get a lot of apologies, right?” He sighed dramatically. “All those jilted lovers…”

Ben rolled his eyes, biting down on his grin. “Okay, shut up if you want to eat.”

Whisper stopped talking immediately.

“Nice.” Taking a breath, Ben snatched the box from Whisper’s hands and tried to ignore the jolt of electricity that ran through him as their hands grazed each other’s. Waving the box aloft, he underlined the large white writing with a finger. “Pocky. It says ‘pocky’, as in, pocky sticks.”

Whisper blinked. “Yeah, yeah, I can read.”

“Heard of them before?”

Whisper shook his head. “Nope. But for a food, they sound kind of…” He trailed off, raising an eyebrow suggestively.

Ben ignored it. “Right. Okay, so basically, they’re like biscuits in the shape of sticks-“

No way,” drawled Whisper, “pocky sticks are shaped like sticks?

“-except that the ends are chocolate coated. Or in this case, green tea coated.”

“Gross.”

Ben waved a hand. “The green tea doesn’t even taste like proper green tea, calm down. Anyway, my mum’s sister sent us them from Japan, and there’s this-“ He blushed, looking down at his feet. “Okay, so this sounds stupid and we obviously don’t have to do this or anything, but apparently there’s this game that people play with them where two people take a side of the stick each and then, like, see who can eat the most of it without, um, breaking a kiss, and-“

Whisper wrinkled his nose. “You know, you learn something new every day. Not only are you a horrible drunk, you’re also terrible at explaining stuff.” He looked up at Ben from beneath his lashes, raising his eyebrows quizzically. “Do you want to just demonstrate the game to me, or?”

“I never said we should actually play the game!”

Pulling Ben round to face him, Whisper smiled. “Oh, come on, of course we’re playing the game. Anything food related is a go ahead.” He paused. “Not that I’m entirely sure how to actually play the game, due to your infinitely abysmal explanations.”

Ben tried and failed to raise his eyebrow. He settled on a slightly constipated looking crumple of the forehead. “At least I don’t use phrases like ‘infinitely abysmal explanations’.”

“Please, don’t try and pretend you’re not dumbfounded by my vocabulary.” Whisper’s grin widened. “Or should I say, my stupefying yet remarkably sumptuous… er… resplendently… effulgent! vocabulary?”

 Ben closed his eyes. “I thought you never even read any books, so I have no idea how you can come out with that crap.”

“Ben, I never read any proper fiction. The dictionary, on the other hand…” Whisper pulled a face of vaguely disgruntled amusement. “Hey, stop distracting me! I thought we were going to play this game already.”

“Oh. Yeah, yeah, okay.” Ben pulled a green tea tipped stick from the packet. “Right, so you put one end in your mouth… and, uh… I put the other end in mine, okay?”

“You get the green tea end!” said Whisper immediately, moving his chair slightly so there was room for Ben to incline his head and them each to take an end of the pocky stick between their teeth.

They were so close. So close, Ben could lean forwards and his nose would rub against Whisper’s, and all Whisper’s freckles would fall off onto the floor and spell out wild professions of love, love, love.

Whisper smiled around the stick, a little awkwardly. “What now?”

‘What now?’ thought Ben. What now?

Last night. Ben’s mind a maze. His voice, tainted by drink. Abrupt declaration. “You’re beautiful, Whisper.” Later. Hesitant reply. “I love you.”

Ben sucked in his breath, and cleared his mind of everything in the present, in the here, in the now. Because Ben remembered. He remembered everything, or at least, everything that mattered.

Whisper loved him.

Whisper loved him.

Whisper loved-

“What now?” asked Whisper again, his voice soft.

Ben struggled to speak. Partly because there was a stick in his mouth, but more because how the hell could he speak when all he wanted to do was savour the newly found memory of Whisper’s words. “I…” His voice cracked. “We’ve got to eat the pocky stick. Until we’re kissing. And whoever breaks the kiss, loses the-“

The pocky stick got shorter, and shorter, and then Whisper’s lips found his.

The world exploded and crumbled to dust at their feet, but neither of them noticed. A thousand needles could have pricked Ben in the spine, but all he felt were Whisper’s lips against his, and Whisper’s hands twining through his hair and pulling their bodies closer. Their kiss wasn’t slow and sweet like Ben had always imagined his first kiss would be- their kiss was hot and hungry and tasted like green tea laced with lust.

Ben pulled back, gasping for breath. Whisper looked directly at him, panting just slightly. He had a biscuit crumb just above his top lip. Tenderly, tremulously, Ben reached out his hand and brushed it away, his fingers lingering on Whisper’s cheek. “Whisper…” murmured Ben, struggling to keep the emotion from his voice. “Whisper, what about Julian? I saw you kissing Julian. I saw you-“

Placing his finger gently over Ben’s lips, Whisper shook his head. “Screw Julian.”

“Literally? I’d rather-“

“What?” asked Whisper, almost mockingly. “Rather…?”

Ben smiled – properly smiled, his eyes closing, and his mouth stretching up in exaltation of the sun and the daytime, and whoever blessed the world by putting Whisper on the earth. He didn’t answer Whisper’s question; but then again, he didn’t need to.

They fell into each other for a second time, kissed like their kiss could save the world - and the way Ben kissed Whisper, the way he let Whisper kiss him back– that was answer enough, really.

If a kiss ever said it all, it was then.

 

-

WHISPER

A ROMANCE BY MIRLOTTA


//cover by @anna mv.\\

 

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