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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23. CHAPTER TWENTY ONE| Accidents

 

It turns out, decided Ben, that it is never a good idea to introduce your best friend to the most sarcastic douchebag you know, because there’s always a chance that they’ll like each other, and then that will be the epitome of no way in any circumstances ever fun for you. In Leanne and Julian’s case, they liked each other.

Way too much, actually.

Ben didn’t know how many more ‘we-should-flirt-by-pretending-we-dislike-each-other’ lines he could handle. His kind of humour was more terrible-puns based, or the silly kind of facial expressions you pull at babies to make them laugh. Maybe that said something about his maturity levels.

When they’d arrived on Julian’s doorstep, both still looking slightly carsick after Leanne’s terrible speed driving, Ben had at least expected the guy to be shocked. Or, you know, even mildly irritated would have been fine.

But no.

Julian had taken one, long drawn-out look at them both, and then laughed as if the sound might save the world. “I’m sorry,” he’d drawled around his smile, after his laughter had spluttered to a stop. “Seriously- you guys must have got the wrong address. The homeless shelter is two streets away.”

Ben had muttered something clever under his breath, like ‘shut your face, you meanie’. Leanne had rolled her eyes at him and raised her eyebrows at Julian. “We need to talk.”

Julian’s lip quirked upwards in amusement. “Are you breaking up with me? You sound like you’re breaking up with me.”

“Obviously not,” said Leanne, matter-of-factly. Ben wasn’t quite sure whether she’d detected Julian’s sarcasm or not, because her tone was entirely unruffled. “I don’t even know you.”

“Didn’t stop you from turning up on my doorstep and asking to talk. But, you’re right, I don’t know you.” Julian flicked his tongue across his top row of teeth, smirking. “How about pizza and a movie sometime? Best way to get to know someone.”

Probably, Julian had expected Leanne to do something similar to what Ben would have done in her position- you know, mutter some vague reply that didn’t quite make sense. Probably wish that he was somewhere else, or pray that aliens chose that exact moment to zap him up into their spaceship for probing.

Leanne, however, was nothing like her best friend.

She smiled at Julian, giving him her full-force mega-watt smile. “Your breath stinks. I don’t date guys whose breath smells .”

Julian winced. “My breath smells?”

Leanne shrugged and had the grace to look as if she was maybe considering being slightly embarrassed.  “No, not really. I just couldn’t think of a better comeback on the spot like that.” Tossing her hair, she pushed Ben forwards encouragingly. Ben was in no way encouraged, and did his best not to scowl at her. After all, she was only trying to help, in her own, extroverted way. “Seriously, though,” Leanne was telling Julian, “Ben and I need to talk to you.”

Slowly, a look of surprised respect settled itself across Julian’s features. “Oh. Right.” He paused. “It’s about Whisper, right?”

“How did you know?” blurted Ben, squinting suspiciously at Julian. He wondered whether Whisper had come here and tried to hide from him at his ex’s house.

Julian curled his lip, and his grin melted into scathing. “I mean, I know you just adore the gift of my company, Ben, but I figured Whisper’s the only real reason you’d ever turn up at my house at…” he checked the time on his Rolex, “six o’clock in the evening ,asking to talk.”

“Don’t make it sound like you’re a goddamn detective,” said Ben. “I was just asking.”

“You sound like Hercule Poirot,” interjected Leanne, helpfully.

Julian stared at her in mock disgust. “Come on- I’d be Sherlock Holmes at the least. Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, and then I’d get the swarms of fangirls I deserve.”

Ben wasn’t quite sure how anyone could say something this blatantly arrogant without wanting to die of embarrassment, but somehow, Julian seemed to manage it on a regular basis.

“Hmmm, I don’t know. Sherlock’s got way better hair than you,” Leanne teased, and then laughed.

She laughed. At Julian’s joke. Ben began to wonder whether she’d had a brain transplant.

“But I have better social skills,” Julian told her.

Ben glared at him. “Debateable.”

Leanne grinned, punching him way-too-hard on the arm. “What would you know about social skills though, Ben?” She turned to Julian. “He’d be incompetent without me.”

Ben realised that this was probably true, and also probably a joke, and yet still felt mildly offended by it. Julian nodded at Leanne. “You,” he said, “speak total sense. I like you more and more by the second.”

Leanne wiggled her eyebrows. “Movie and a pizza?”

Julian shrugged. “Sorry,” he told her, biting back his smile. “I don’t date girls whose breath smells.”

“My breath doesn’t- Hey! That’s not even original. I don’t date guys who copy everything I do.”

“Yeah? Well, I don’t date girls who -“

“You don’t date anyone,” said Ben firmly. “Or, at least, you shouldn’t. Because you’re a douche.” He’d had enough with Julian flirting with his best friend, who, unless Ben was very much mistaken, was definitely flirting back with full force. It was… The feeling Ben was feeling in his chest right now was the kind of unabashed repulsion that wormed its way into his expression and riddled its way into the downturn of his lip.

Benedict!” Julian placed a hand over his heart, pretending to swoon. “How your words wound me! I always fall for the bad boys.”

Ben rolled his eyes and pretended to gag. “Charming.” He shook his head, as if forcing aside the silly atmosphere beginning to creep in. This was- They had to stop this. They had to think. Whisper had lied to him, and Ben needed to know why. He turned to Julian. “Can you, you know, invite us in, or something? It’s kind of cold out here, and I need to ask you -”

Julian sneered. “If you want to ask me out for movie and a pizza, the answer is no.”

“Ask you about Whisper.” Ben frowned, his hands curling into fists to stop from shaking.. “ He’s- he’s… He’s lied to me, I think. A lot. He… He knew my brother and you knew my brother – Seb - and now people are trying to kill Seb and I think you and Whisper probably know a lot about it.”

A troubled look darkened Julian’s features, as fleetingly as death’s lips brush against his favourite souls. “Why can’t you just ask Whisper?”

Leanne shook her head. “We tried. He ran- wheeled himself away. We couldn’t catch up to him.”

Julian looked at Ben. Directly at him- his dark eyes burning with repressed hurt and pain; the sort that stitches its way into the heart of soldiers.

Julian, Ben would soon realise, was little more than a soldier.

He was a jerk about it, and he joked about everything and everyone- but when it came down to it, Julian did what he had to, and didn’t complain.

His voice was entirely flat now, as he addressed Ben. “I warned you, didn’t I? I warned you.”

Ben didn’t answer. Even Leanne stayed silent, unflinching.There was a feeling in the air of palpable tension, the kind that makes its home inside your heart and overstays its welcome. 

Julian’s shoulders sagged, suddenly, his frame limp inside his clothes like a broken hanger. “You’re right,” he told them, standing aside to let them into his house. “You should probably come in.”

Leading Ben and Leanne up two flights of stairs and into a wooden floored bedroom, Julian flopped into a swivel chair at his desk. Leanne and Ben remained standing.

“I suppose-” Julian broke off. “Jesus, how am I even meant to start with this? I suppose… Well, I suppose it’s best to start with what was an accident, and what wasn’t. Two things, at least, were never accidents, Ben.”

Julian smiled slightly, but it held more pity than anything. “First off, it was never an accident that you and Whisper met at your support group or wherever. And – more importantly-”

He coughed. “Your brother’s car crash wasn’t an accident either.”

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