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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15. CHAPTER THIRTEEN| Sacrifice

 

The outside air was cool, lapping at Ben’s face like the night time brushing over the moon. He shivered a little inside his favourite t-shirt. It was green- but the nice kind of green. It reminded him of rustic mountain forests and endless lush fields of Elysium, rather than, you know, mouldy cat-sick or something.

The t-shirt was also incredibly thin. Ben wished that he’d brought a coat.

The secretary that had escorted him outside looked at him in disdain. She was incredibly pretty, and also a suspected D cup. It made Ben nervous just looking at her. He sniffed a little, attempting to hide the fact that there was a large bogey hanging from his nose- the bogey was not the nice kind of green.

Rolling her large, heavily outlined eyes, the secretary slipped a pack of cigarettes from the pocket of her blouse. It was strange, thought Ben. He was of the mentality that cigarettes and hospitals were not the sort of things to ever be forced into associating with one another. Cigarettes killed you. Hospitals were meant to stop you from dying.

Therefore, Ben had always pictured cigarettes and hospitals as mortal enemies, stuck in an endless superhuman battle to reign superior. Ben liked the idea of superhuman battles a lot. If he were a superhero, he’d be able to save his brother, and find out who was trying to kill them both. He’d get to kiss Whisper, too. The good guys always kissed their love interests at the end of movies.

Ben liked to think of himself as a good, albeit flawed sort of guy.

“Want one?” drawled the secretary, waving the pack of cigarettes in Ben’s direction.

It wouldn’t have hurt for Ben to take one. If his life was like a precariously wobbling jenga tower, one cigarette wouldn’t have toppled it over, Ben was sure. And yet, Ben was a good guy. He’d been taught, all his life, that cigarettes were not made for good guys.

Ben shook his head, chewing on his lip. “No,” he said slowly, his voice raspy from crying. “Thanks, though.” He wished the secretary had offered him a handkerchief, or something more useful than a goddamn cigarette.

The secretary shrugged. She wore a badge that denoted that her name was Stacy-Ann. It was a very secretary-ish sort of name, Ben thought, even by secretary standards.

“You know,” said Stacy-Ann, conversationally. “I wasn’t supposed to be the one to escort you out here. I heard them calling for someone, right? Except I got there first, instead. You were bawling like a little kid, and I’ve never seen a guy your age cry before. And I wanted to know why, ‘cause I’m kind of nosy like that.” She shrugged, tossing her head. “So? What happened?”

Ben bit his lip. “My brother… Uh… My brother’s in a coma and I think my mum’s been cheating on my dad and I can’t blame her because my dad’s a useless twat but I came here to wait for my uh friend and found out that someone stuck glass down my brother’s throat,” said Ben, speaking very quickly without pause or breaking- as if spitting the words out would somehow make them any less the truth. “And he’s been lying on fucking glass and there’s going to be actual police involved but everyone says the police are useless and I-“ Ben stopped and paused for breath, shaking his head soundlessly.

“Hey, hey!” said the secretary, her eyes widening in slight worry. “Don’t start crying again. Jeez.”

“Sorry,” said Ben, his voice muffled behind his hands.

“It’s fine. I used to cry a lot as well. Especially when I was, like… How old are you? Fourteen? Fifteen?”

“I’m seventeen.”

“Yeah, yeah, seventeen. That’s what I said, right?”

“Uh…”

“Whatever,” said Stacy-Ann, sniffing. Although she looked very much like a secretary in every essence of the word, her sniff was more akin to that of a governess. It reminded Ben a little of Mary Poppins, which he’d been to see at the West End with his family when he was small. He couldn’t remember much of it – Seb was chronically ill afterwards, but that was hardly relevant – but the actress who played Mary had such a characteristic, thoroughly dignified sniff that it had stuck in Ben’s mind ever since.

He’d always admired that level of sniffing ability, and no he found in replicated in this secretary,

“Whatever,” said Stacy-Ann, again. She didn’t sniff this time. “When I was seventeen, I used to cry a lot as well. My family disowned me when they caught me having sexual intercourse on my parents’ bed.” She snickered a little, rolling her eyes as if she was tired of telling the story.

Ben wondered why she told it, then, if she didn’t really want to. Maybe she’d told it so many times to people who asked, that she felt lost without voicing it to the people who didn’t. Maybe however much she’d hated it, it had been forced to the forefront of her memory so frequently it had become ingrained there like a badly-drawn tattoo. Maybe.

“Oh,” said Ben. “Sexual intercourse.”

Because he was seventeen, and horny, and entirely unbeknownst to it, Ben thought about sexual intercourse more than he liked to admit. Whisper was always involved, more often than not.

“It wasn’t just that, though,” said Stacy-Ann, wagging her finger in Ben’s face mockingly. His tears had stopped falling now, though their wake had left his cheeks the unpleasant red of tarnished sunsets.

“Oh?” said Ben. He was more polite than intrigued, but at least this was taking his mind off Seb. Was the secretary distracting him on purpose? That would be a nice thing to do, decided Ben, and suddenly his heart seemed to shred itself in appreciative agony over how goddamn nice the most unlikely people could turn out to be.

You’ll never guess what, though,” drawled Stacy-Ann, blowing a ring of smoke from the side of her mouth. It looked cool, but smelled gross. If Ben’s lungs were sentient, they’d have home-made colourful anti-smoking banners, and peacefully protested Stacy-Ann well away from planet Earth. “It wasn’t the fact that my parents caught me on their bed that was the problem. Ha. Nah, it was just ‘cause it was with another girl.”

“Oh,” said Ben. He wondered what his parents would say if they knew about Whisper. They were preoccupied people who wouldn’t bother over something so futile as whether their son loved a boy or a girl, Ben decided. His dad would forget anything Ben told him just as quickly, anyway. And his mum…

Ben didn’t want to think about his mother right now.

“Yeah,” said Stacy-Ann. “That’s right. ‘Oh’. I had to live with my estranged Aunt and Uncle until I went to Uni. And they’re pretty cool people, right, except they’ve got an eight month old baby who’s destined to be an opera singer, with her lungs. Kept me up every night.”

Ben laughed a little, surprised at himself. How could he laugh, when Seb was dying as they spoke? The sound tailed off, swallowed by his own stilted command. Ben swallowed. “But…” he said, addressing the secretary. “Um. It was worth it, right? In the end, I mean.”

“Huh?”

“Was the girl worth more than your family? She was, right?”

Stacy-Ann gave one of her Mary Poppins sniffs. “Eh. My family were dicks, I guess, but it turned out that this girl was just as bad. Bitch. She left me after another two weeks, and I couldn’t help wishing I hadn’t sacrificed my life for her, you know?” Stacy-Ann twirled her cigarette between her fingers. “So, kid, the moral of the story is this: don’t get caught having sex on your parents’ bed. Bad things happen.”

Ben snorted.

Stacy-Ann held up a warning finger. “Hey, hey, I’m not done. Moral number two is this: if you’re going to sacrifice your life for someone, you sure as hell better make sure they’re worth it. And if they’re not worth it-“

“Bad things happen?”

“Bad things happen,” agreed Stacy-Ann, pursing her lips. She shot Ben a side-long glance, puffing once more on her cigarette. Its rim was stained a vibrant scarlet- the sort of colour that might have been lipstick but could just have easily been blood.

“So, kid,” said Stacy-Ann, stubbing the cigarette into the ground with the heel of her shoe. “You’ve stopped bawling now, right? If you come back inside, you can wait for your brother.”

“My parents always told me that once you’re escorted out from somewhere, that’s it. No going back inside the building.”

My parents told me,” parroted the secretary, mocking him. “Listen, I’m letting you back inside, so don’t godamn try and change my mind. Wouldn’t you rather wait in the waiting room? It’s freezing out here.”

Ben was struck, once more, with how remarkably nice people could be.

 

The woman with the crying baby was gone from the waiting room, thank God. Ben didn’t think he could take any more of the mother’s undisguised glaring. The secretary – Stacy-Ann – sat behind her desk, clicking away at the shiny black keyboard in front of her. She didn’t say anything to Ben, but it seemed to him that her entire aura had changed since the last time he sat in this waiting room.

Before, she had seemed haughty and terrifying- and she still was probably around 60% haughty and terrifying, but the other 40% of her presence was comforting. That 40% was all that mattered, really, and Ben was glad she was there.

He watched, now, as Whisper finally, finally wheeled through the door, his parents walking behind him. (Whisper’s mother had replaced the chopsticks that previously had held her hair in place with something that Ben could have sworn was an undersized purple carrot.)

Whisper’s lips curved as he saw Ben, and he visibly struggled to keep from grinning like an idiot. It made Ben happy, that- or as happy as he could be in a hospital waiting room with a maybe-dead twin brother being operated on upstairs. It was always a nice thing to make people grin like an idiot, because it meant that they cared.

“Hi,” said Ben softly. It felt like it had been a thousand years.

“Hi,” Whisper answered, and the harsh hospital lighting looked like stars in his eyes.

Ben stood up as if sun-dazed, walking slowly towards Whisper’s family. Smiling slightly, Whisper stopped him as he came closer, his hand cool against Ben’s bare forearm. “I’m so sorry for making you wait,” he apologised, gnawing on his bottom lip. “I didn’t realise it would take so long, but I had to take all these extra tests first just in case, and-” Whisper tailed off, tilting his head quizzically. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

Without speaking, Ben shook his head.

Because my brother is dying but all I want to think about is you.

Because my parents’ relationship is falling to pieces, but the only relationship I want to care about is ours.

Because with your hair messed up and in your face, your cheeks flushed from anxiety or embarrassment or God knows what, you’re so, so beautiful.

Whisper.

Leaning forwards, Ben curled his fingers through Whisper’s hair. Their kiss was soft, like a mother whispering velveteen nothings into the shell of her youngest child’s ear. Their kiss was sweet, like a last goodbye; cool, like the iced north winds that carried hope on phantom currents.

Behind them, Whisper’s father coughed. “Hello, Ben,” said Merridew, his jovial tone a shade forced.

Ben pulled away, his cheeks reddening as he fell back into his seat. “Um.”

Oliva, Whisper’s mother, laughed. “You forgot we were here, right?”

Ben hadn’t forgotten. He had forgotten Whisper’s parents, or Seb’s coma, or his mum and Dan x, whoever he was. He hadn’t forgotten any of it. The fact was, right then and there, Ben couldn’t have cared less about any of it.

The only thing Ben had wanted to think about, then, was Whisper. And he had to admit, that scared him a little.

“Well,” said Whisper, raising his eyebrows appreciatively. “I guess that means I’m forgiven for making you wait so long.”  He grinned sheepishly at his parents. “I’d say I’m sorry, but I’m actually just kind of happy.”

Merridew rolled his eyes good naturedly. “Yes, we’re awfully sorry to have kept you, Ben.” He paused. “What do you say to coming round our house for tea to apologise? Whisper would be thrilled to have you over.”

Whisper wiggled his eyebrows at Ben, who was still such a vivid shade of red that tomatoes would have welcomed him as one of their own.

Ben’s words lodged in his throat. What could he say? What was he supposed to say?

Sorry, can’t make it. I’m waiting here for the probable news that my brother is dead.

“Ben?” prompted Olivia gently, the carrot in her hair wobbling as she talked.

“I-” he started. “I- My brother… I’m waiting for someone to come tell me how my brother’s doing… He’s, he’s having an operation to get some glass out his throat.”

The way Olivia and Merridew’s eyes widened was mirrored in the look of horror that flitted across Whisper’s face. Merridew’s lips had downturned, his expression unusually grave. “That’s-” he started, but his son cut him off.

“Can I wait here?” asked Whisper, suddenly, his voice uncharacteristically high. “Mum, Dad? Can I wait with Ben? He waited for me. I want to wait with him.”

Olivia clicked her tongue against her teeth. “Your father and I would have to leave now. We couldn’t wait here with you. And you can’t get home without help, Whisper. You know that.”

A dark shadow of frustration crossed the planes of Whisper’s face. “I- I-”

“I’m probably going to have to stay the night, anyway. You don’t want to wait that long with me,” assured Ben, flatly.

Stubbornly, Whisper shook his head. “I’m being serious, you can’t wait here alone.” He turned to look at his father, pleading. “Dad? You could come pick me up in the morning.”

“I…” Merridew trailed off, blowing out the air from his cheeks. He glanced at Ben sympathetically, his eyebrows wriggling in a bushy grey dance of indecision. “Oh, what the heck, Whisper. Stay.” He addressed Ben in turn, smiling reassuringly. “It’ll… It’ll be fine, Ben. It always is.”

“Yeah,” said Ben, trying to straighten the monotone out of his voice.

In silence, he watched Olivia and Merridew leave.

Whisper touched Ben’s hand lightly. “Someone’s trying to kill Seb? For sure, now?”

“Uh-huh. They’re getting an inspector from the police force in. To try and stop the hospital’s reputation being ruined before all this gets out, I guess. But the police force doesn’t know about July.”

“We do though.”

“Yeah.”

Whisper paused. “We could get July to tell us everything she knows. And then we could go to the police, and we could tell them everything. And then the police would know, and they could save your brother.”

“Seb.”

“Huh?”

“My brother was – is – called Seb.”

“Oh. I know. I just never knew him, so I didn’t want to be, you know. Overly personal or anything.”

Ben shrugged resignedly. He stretched out his legs in front of him, reaching out to comb his fingers through Whisper’s tangle of hair. Ben smiled, slightly. It was as if just being close to Whisper was soothing. “You’re allowed to be overly personal. You’re my…”

Whisper couldn’t hold back a smirk. “Your what?”

“Hmm,” said Ben, quirking one shoulder up and down more playfully than he would have imagined he could, given the circumstances. “I mean, I kissed you in front of your parents. Does that make us official?”

“Yeah,” said Whisper lazily, drawing the word out. He said it so casually, anyone passing wouldn’t have sensed all the emotion and meaning behind it- but Ben saw the emotion and embraced it with arms spread eagled. “Though, you know…”

“What?”

“You’re, um, kind of a bad kisser,” said Whisper, looking at Ben without really looking at him, from beneath his eyelashes.

Ben blushed. “I- I am?”

Whisper shook out his hair, arching an eyebrow. “Hmm. Yeah. But, you know, it’s nothing that can’t be improved upon. All you need…” he grinned, shooting Ben a coy smile, “is just a little more practice.”

He surged forward in his chair, his body pressing against Ben’s as they moved closer together. Their kiss was fevered like an unslept dream; Whisper’s tongue flicking between Ben’s parted lips, his breath, to Ben, the most exquisite of wines. Softly, Ben moaned, Whisper’s hands entangling themselves in the long waves of his hair. Whisper’s lips were so soft – soft, like a girl’s – but they were also chapped and tasted like newly-formed dreams and peppermint.

Ben thought back to what the secretary, Stacy-Ann had told him. If you’re going to sacrifice your life for someone, you sure as hell better make sure they’re worth it.

He knew, then, that he wouldn’t just sacrifice his life for Whisper.

Ben would sacrifice the world. 

 

WHISPER

A ROMANCE BY MIRLOTTA

//cover by @bia\\

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