Finding my idiot was easier said than done. I'd couldn't find him anywhere. For what had to the fourth time, I ducked back through the crowd, casting my gaze hurriedly over the swarms of meaningless faces. No sign of him. I sighed in frustration, doing a complete turn, lost in the mash of people who were all drifting towards the dance floor. The music was starting up and the lights were dimming. Everybody was wandering inside, ready to begin the disco. And still, he was nowhere to be found.
This was not good. Where were they? Surely they had to be back from the skateboarding thing by now? They had left at least half an hour ago. They needed to hurry up, I was running out of time. Even after a pep talk from my Nan, I wouldn't be able to hold onto my new-found resolve and determination forever. It was already trickling out of me, like sand through an hourglass. If I didn't tell him soon, I wouldn't be able to tell him at all.
I scanned the crowd again, in vain, just as movement from beyond a nearby window caught my eye. I glanced distractedly through it, and froze, feeling my heart skip a beat in delighted recognition. Ben. There he was. Finally.
I hesitated, watching him stroll across the grass towards the patio with Chloe and Harry. All three of them were having an animated conversation about something, probably about whatever it was they'd gone to see. I couldn't help but stare at Ben for a few seconds, feeling my stomach begin to flip with fear and nerves. Now that I could see him, it was much harder to convince myself to go out there and tell him already. Now that I could see him, the prospect of heartbreak seemed much more real, and much closer than it had been. I suddenly wished that I hadn't found him at all.
'No, stop it,' I told myself, firmly. 'I will not be swayed. I am doing this, and I am doing it now. Time for make or break.'
With that thought fresh and fixed firmly in my mind, I turned away from the window and started to push my way towards the doors that lead outside.
"Excuse me," I said politely, to the gaggles of people who were in my way. A few of them moved, and I ducked through, trying to keep out from under their feet. "Sorry. Ow. Excuse me. Sorry. Excuse me. Excuse me. Excuse me. Hey! Move!"
The woman who was standing in the doorway, right in my way, shot me a look and moved about an inch to the left. I scowled at her. "Look, lady. Sorry to disillusion you, but your arse is not that small. Move, please."
The look of gob-smacked indignation on her face was truly a sight to see, but as brutal a method as it was, it worked. She finally made the effort to stand aside, and I stumbled past her and into the open air. Right smack-bang into Harry's brick wall of a chest.
"Ow! Oh. Hi, Harry."
"Mia." He'd grabbed a hold of me to stop me tumbling to the ground, and he looked at me now with his eyebrows raised as he set me back on my feet. "Where's the fire?"
"What? Oh, right. No fire. Just need to talk to…" I trailed off as my gaze slid past Harry, to Ben, who was standing not five feet away. He was watching me with a slight smile on his face, no doubt put there by my own special brand of complete klutziness, and for a second, I was totally struck dumb. "Uh…"
I fell silent like a moron, unable to do anything but stand there at look at him, in all of his pretty-faced, long-legged, olive-skinned glory. He was right there. Right in front of me. Oh shit, I had never been so frightened and so ridiculously nervous in all my life.
"Angel, are you okay?" Ben asked me, sounding amused but ever-so-slightly concerned, as my brain continued to malfunction. The sound of his voice only made it worse, and I felt my mouth dry up and my palms begin to sweat, both in the same moment. Oh no, I really couldn't do this.
No, dammit, you can. Get a grip.
"I'm fine," I said, but I sounded weird even to my own ears. "But I need to talk to you, a minute."
"Me?" Ben's dark eyebrows raised slightly, and he blinked at me, his gaze frighteningly dark as it met my own. Then he shrugged. "Sure. What about?"
"Uh…" I trailed off again, and cast a glance at Harry and Chloe, who were both watching and looking extremely interested. I stared pointedly at them. Harry just continued to look interested, but Chloe twigged. Her entire face lit up with sudden, delighted understanding, and she beamed at me, as she took Harry by the arm.
"Lets go, Harry. Don't want to miss the first dance," she said brightly, and started to drag him inside. He frowned at her, confused by her sudden eagerness to leave, and didn't move.
"So? I want to know- Ow!"
Chloe smiled at him sweetly, as if she hadn't just kicked him harder-than-gently in the shin. "Move, Harry."
He went, still wincing and confused, and I turned back to Ben who was looking more than a little bit confused himself. He frowned at me, and I smiled back at him weakly.
"What was that about?" he asked, looking at me with fresh suspicion.
I shrugged. "Not a clue."
He didn't believe me, but he didn't say anything. Instead, he just watched me carefully as I stepped a little closer to him and took him by the hand. He squeezed my fingers gently in return. "Are you sure you're all right?"
"Fine," I said, with a wave of my hand. He didn't believe that either, but I couldn't blame him. My blasé act was hardly convincing.
I guess I must still have looked upset, because Ben simply tugged on my hand and pulled me forward, straight into his arms. I went without a fight, needing reassurance, and I sighed heavily as he wrapped me up in a hug. I felt safer at once, as soon as he was holding me. I took a handful of his shirt front, clinging onto him like a little child, but he just held me tighter and rested his chin on my head. He smelled absolutely incredible. Really. I don't know if you realise just how much more attractive a person is when they smell nice, but he was really taking the biscuit. His scent was nicer than mine, and I was wearing perfume that had cost a small fortune. I breathed it in, pressing my mouth to his shoulder and closing my eyes.
What to do, what to do, what to do. I had to tell him. I really had to. This had gone on for far too long already, and I couldn't take bottling it all up anymore. And if he felt the same way as I did, then great, right? More than great. Perfect. I would finally be happy and carefree, and I would definitely be looking forward to the best summer of my life.
But on the other hand, what if he didn't feel the same way? What if there was just too much in-between, and we couldn't work together? I'd lose everything I had with him. It would be too awkward, and we could never so much as look at each other ever again. No more Ben. No more beach together, no more playing guitar together when we had nothing else to do, no more movie night, when he would tease me about my addiction to rom-coms and steal all of my popcorn. No more friendly bickering over Britain versus America, no more singing along to our favourite songs in the car, no more conversations about nothing that lasted for hours and had me crying with laughter. No more hugs like these. Just no more him. I didn't know if I could take that.
But I couldn't take not knowing forever, either.
I sighed. "Benjamin. Can we go for a walk?"
Ben pulled back a little and looked down at me, and for a second, he didn't say anything. Then he kissed me on the nose, and let me go. "If that's what you wanna do, Angel."
I nodded and took his hand again, and pulled him back onto the grass. He went willingly enough, but I stopped almost at once, giggling quietly.
"What?" he asked, and I reached out, grabbing hold of his shoulder to steady myself as I lifted one foot carefully off the ground.
"My heels are sinking," I replied, glancing up to smile at him as I started to undo the thin straps. "And that is a sentence I never thought I'd have to say. I guess it's au naturel from here onwards."
He grinned and held me upright while I took of my shoes. Then I held them in one hand, looked down at my feet and wriggled my toes in the grass experimentally. "Hmm. Squishy."
He burst out laughing, then, apparently unable to help himself, he pulled me into another hug. "Promise me you'll always be this cute," he said, as his arm draped across my shoulder and he pressed me against his side.
"Sure thing, baby," I giggled into his chest, then he let me go and took my hand again, and we strolled off across the park.
For a while we just wandered, until we came across a nice-looking tree that looked down over a deserted playground. I let go of Ben's hand and went to sit against the trunk, resting my back against the smooth bark and throwing down my shoes beside me. Ben followed and sat down next to me, so close that I could feel his body heat radiating from him. It made resisting the temptation to turn around and hug him again that much harder to resist.
For a couple of minutes, we just sat there in silence, and I started to tear grass out of the ground for no apparent reason. Then I looked up, to find Ben watching me steadily.
"So are you going to tell me what's wrong, or are you going to let me wonder in my ignorance forever?" he asked, and I winced slightly, as all the nervousness came rushing back like a black-water flood. I thought about it for a while, still shredding pieces of grass, then shook my head. "No, I want to tell you. But it's kind of hard to find the right words." And the courage. And the reason. And the strength to not cry.
"So just blurt it out," Ben said easily, and he threw away a piece of grass that he'd been twirling in his fingers. "It's only me, Angel. I wont judge."
I paused, and looked at him, wondering if it might be at all possible to blurt it out, like he said. He met my gaze and I fidgeted, then screwed up all of my courage and started to talk. Quickly. "It's just that…I don't wanna lose you, but it's so hard 'cause I need to tell you, but I don't know how you're going to react. I mean, what if you freak out? You wont be able to look at me anymore and things will be awkward, like they always are. Well, like they have been, I mean, for the past few months. Not that they are now, things have recently got much better.
"But the thing is, I really don't want things to go back to the way they were before. I want them to change and I want things to be better for me. But I want you to be happy too, so don't lie about this to make me feel better or anything. If you don't feel the same way, just say it, admit it, be honest and we can go on with our lives. Probably not together though, because it'll be too hard for me and too awkward for both of us. Oh God, I can't believe I'm about to risk you. But I don't care, I need to know so badly. Anyway, just-" I stopped, as I looked at his face again, and then I frowned. "Are you listening?"
Ben's nonplussed expression didn't waver for an instant, and I blinked, feeling the pit of my stomach start to churn with fear again. For a second, Ben remained silent. Then, I could totally tell that he didn't want to, and that he was trying his hardest not to, but he went ahead and did it anyway. He started laughing.
Which I really didn't appreciate. I mean, after everything I'd gone through for him over the past god knows how long, and after all of the courage it took for me to say that, you would think he'd show a little bit of gratitude. Or just sweep me up into his arms and kiss me. Or, you know, do something other than sit there and laugh.
Finally, after he was through laughing- which didn't happen until after I'd threatened to hit him and make it hurt, something which only sent him into fresh peals, I got up and stalked off to the other side of the tree, and wouldn't speak to him any more. Or look at him. I know, it's not exactly the most mature response, but what do you expect? I was pissed off.
"Angel," Ben called, and his voice was a little bit hoarse from all the laughing he'd been doing. I felt like killing him, I really did. "Angel, I'm sorry. It's just I don't have a clue what you were saying."
"Go away," I said, and I could tell he almost started laughing again. Almost.
"No, I'm not going anywhere." He started to walk around the tree to my side, but I immediately started walking in the other direction, so he couldn't catch me up. "Angel, I'm sorry. But you talk faster than anyone I've heard in my life and I didn't understand a word that you said."
"I don't care," I said hotly, and I heard him stop on the other side of the tree, so I did too. "You shouldn't have laughed."
"I know, I'm sorry." I heard him start walking again, and we continued in our circle, only slowly this time. "But I couldn't help it. Come back, Angel."
"Come on, Angel," he coaxed, in his silkiest, most persuasive voice. "Come back round to my side. I'll listen this time, and I wont laugh."
I hesitated, considering it. I heard him stop walking again, just as I reached my shoes where they were lying, abandoned, on the ground. I sat back down beside them. "Promise?"
"Promise," Ben confirmed, and I sighed.
There was a few seconds pause, then he came wandering around the tree and into view, with one hand in his pockets and a smile barely concealed around the corners of his mouth. He stood beside me, until I reached out and pulled him down next to me, then pushed him over, so he was sprawled out on the floor. He didn't even bother to save himself or put up a fight, but he grinned up at me playfully from his position on the grass. He looked so utterly adorable for a minute that it was all I could do not to lean over and cuddle him obsessively, as if he were a puppy.
In that minute, I made up my mind.
"I can tell you anything, right? Even if you don't want to know?" I asked him, and his grin faded a little and he looked thoughtful as he considered it.
"That depends on how feminine it is," he answered, finally, and I giggled.
"Fair point." Then, unable to resist the temptation any longer, I lay down in the grass beside him and cuddled into the indent of his body. He put his arm around my shoulders and kissed me on the temple in response, and I started to play with the bracelet on his wrist. "But what I mean is, even if it would be better if you didn't know, would you want me to tell you anyway?"
There was silence for a minute, then, "Is me knowing… whatever it is… important to you?"
I nodded, still tracing my fingertip over his wrist. "Very much so."
"Then I want you to tell me."
I glanced over to him, and his velvety brown eyes met mine. They were much closer than they usually were, and in the late afternoon sunlight streaming through the branches of the tree, they were flecked with gold. I bit my lip, under the weight of his gaze. It would be so easy to just say it. But something was stopping it, like the bridge of a damn holding the floodwater back. And I knew what it was. The fear of him not feeling the same way, and the fear of losing him.
"Can you humour me? Just for a minute?" I asked, suddenly. I waited for a reply, and he nodded. I pushed myself up into a sitting position and looked down at him, tilting my head slightly. "What's your opinion of me?"
Ben looked surprised and a little apprehensive for a moment, but since I didn't let up, he said, carefully, "I think you're amazing. You know that."
"Honestly?" I asked, feeling the corners of my mouth twitch into a smile.
"Yep. You're my angel," Ben said, and then he grinned up at me playfully.
I reached over to ruffle his hair, because I knew he'd hate it, then I placed my arm on his stomach and rested my chin on my arm, looking over at his face."I owe you, don't I?"
"You don't owe me anything," Ben said, looking slightly surprised.
I nodded. "Yeah I do. You saved me, dude."
Swift understanding rearranged Ben's expression, then he closed his eyes and let his head fall back against the grass. "You forgave me. Even."
"I would have forgiven you anyway." I felt embarrassed to admit it, because I realise that I'm a complete pushover when it comes to him. But hey, so what? He'd made a mistake, paid for it, and learnt from it. Besides, I've never been the type of girl to hold a grudge. What would be the point? It would get me precisely nowhere. But even without all that, I'd prefer to be happy with him, rather than miserable without.
"And if I hadn't saved you, somebody else would have," Ben said, falling back on his old argument, because he was so sure it was true. I pushed myself up, onto my knees, so that I could see him properly. He looked straight up at me, completely seriously.
I nudged his ankle with my foot."You're impossible."
"And you have a leaf in your hair." He reached up and grasped it with two fingers, and pulled it away, letting it flutter to the ground. I watched it settle on the grass as he toyed with a curl of my hair, twirling it around his fingers. The sensation of that, and of the back of his hand grazing my cheek as he did it, sent a light shiver running through me. I wanted more than anything for him to gently press his hand to the back of my neck to pull me towards him, and kiss me. Instead he let go, and let his hand fall listlessly across his stomach.
The disappointment was incredible. But it was nothing that I wasn't used to. That thought stuck with me as the familiar old sinking feeling settled down again, until the next time Ben decided to stir it up, and I frowned to myself. That was probably going to be the rest of my life from now on. Hope, then disappointment, hope, disappointment, hope and disappointment again. Unless I did something about it, because it sure didn't look like Ben was planning on it any time soon.
I glanced over at Ben, thankful that his eyes were closed for a minute, so I could look at him without him knowing. More than anything, my gaze lingered on his mouth. How many times had I pictured those lips on mine? Maybe, if I did it now and got it over with…just maybe, my hope could end in something else. Something other than disappointment. If not happiness or joy, then at least closure. That would be nice. Closure. It would be better than nothing, at least.
It's a good thing Ben's eyes were closed right then. Otherwise, I never would have been able to do it. I would never have had the courage to, if I'd had to do it under the weight of that too-familiar gaze. But without him looking at me, with him completely unaware, it was almost easy to convince myself. So, right then, I did probably the bravest thing I've ever done. I pushed myself forward onto my hands and knees, leaned over and kissed him. On the lips.
I wont lie, it wasn't spectacular. Yeah, his eyes were closed but I was still nervous as hell and I had no idea how he would react. So the kiss I gave him was little more than a clumsy, terrified little peck. And he jumped, too, because he wasn't expecting it, so that didn't help much, as cute as it was. But then, the moment after his eyes flashed open and he realised what was going on…yeah, that moment was spectacular. Why? Because, in the few split seconds that my lips were against his…. Well. He kissed me back.
Then, feeling quite dizzy, as well as awkward and more than a little bit nervous, I straightened up and sat back beside him. I watched his face, though, as he touched his mouth in amazement, as if unsure of what had just happened. Then his gaze found mine, and for some reason, I found myself smiling.
"Oh, don't act like you didn't know."
He said nothing, but he pushed himself up so he was leaning on one hand, and my heart barely had time to speed up again before his other hand was on my neck, pushing into my hair, his fingers curling against my skin.
And I literally couldn't breathe for a moment or two. There was an impossible, overwhelming feeling flooding through me, that left no room for air. I have no idea what it was, or how to explain it. But it was there, along with a huge, heady rush of relief and joy, that may have had something to do with the beaming smile on my face, and the barely contained laughter that I had to bite my lip to hold back.
Ben's thumb rubbed against the skin of my neck, and I shivered as I placed my hands on his shoulders, sliding them up so that I could play with the hair that curled at the nape of his neck.
"I didn't know," Ben said quietly, and I couldn't help but giggle.
"Well then, you're an idiot. But you're my idiot, so it's okay."
He smiled, took his weight off his other hand and slipped it around my waist instead. He pulled me in until we were barely inches apart, and I was pretty sure that he could feel my heartbeat thundering in my chest, but I wasn't sure if I cared. I just wanted him to kiss me. Really, really badly.
Ben pushed a straying curl of my hair back into place and his dark gaze found mine for a split second. Then he held me tighter, leaned in and pushed his mouth to mine.
You know I'm not lying when I say that my heart has been through a lot over the past few months of my life. You know, heartbreak, betrayal, forgiveness, fear, being abused by a boat, all that kind of thing. And things weren't getting any easier for it. So I suppose that it's no small wonder that in the first few seconds that he kissed me, I could have sworn my poor heart had given up altogether. Then, slowly, his mouth opened a little and his lips started to move against mine with maddening softness, and I discovered that no, my heart was fine. In fact, it started to thunder along at about six times its normal rate.
I could hardly blame it. For over a year, it had made it perfectly clear to me that all it had wanted was Ben. And now he was everywhere, and I could taste him and I could feel his chest rise and fall with every breath, and his heart pounding as hard as mine was, and I was loving every second of it.
I kissed him back, harder. His hands slid down my back, over the satin rumples of my dress, and I was running my hands up and through his hair, gripping it in handfuls 'cause I wanted to hold him as tightly as I could and never let go. It was all happening so fast, but wow, it felt so good.
Ben, Ben, Ben, oh it's happening, I'm kissing Ben and it's the best. Feeling. Ever. I'm so ridiculously close to screaming with euphoria, but I can't help it, I'm in love with him.
That dizzy thought was still running through my mind when Ben pulled away slightly, then pressed his lips to mine in a final, gentle kiss. Then he broke away and hugged me instead, tightly, pressing his face into my neck. I guess I wasn't the only one who didn't want to let go.
Yay, yay, yay, yay, yay, yay, yay…
I held him onto him, breathing hard, revelling in it all, from his scent to the feel of him so close and so genuine. It was real. Not some wistful fantasy or longing daydream. It. Was. Real. Really happening. He was mine. Oh my god, Ben was mine.
We stayed like that, hugging each other tightly, for quite a long time. Then he let go and pulled me onto his lap instead, and I started laughing with complete and utter unabashed delight. But he didn't mind, because he was smiling too. I buried my face into his shoulder and hugged him until we started to sway. Finally, after a few minutes, he pulled back to look me in the eye.
"So," Ben said, snapping me out of the euphoric daze that I had sunken into. He grinned at me, as ran my fingertips through his fringe, brushing it back into place. Playing with his silky, dark locks was more than a little bit enjoyable, and something I had dreamed of doing since I was fifteen. "We're not friends?"
I giggled, shaking my head, eyes shining with happiness. "Hell no."
Ben's smile grew broader and he kissed me again, first on the lips, then on the side of my neck, which he did on purpose to make me go all squishy inside. "Works for me."
I smiled, letting my head fall back to rest against his shoulder, feeling as though my heart might burst with joy. Yep, it worked for me too.
A/N - Aaaaaaaaand FINISHED!
AH YAY XDDDDDDD It's done, it's fin, it's over it's ended, completed, concluded, terminated, whatever word you like, it's FINALLY FINISHED!
*Huge freaking happy dance through the streets of Britain*
I can't believe it. It took me the best part of a year, it's 18 chapters and over 50,000 words long, I stuck with it all this time, and that is all because of you! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING, REVIEWING, AND KEEPING ME WRITING! I never, not in a thousand million years, would have finished this story if you guys hadn't kept me going by reviewing, and adding to favourites (58 people? OMG THANK YOU AHH!) and alerts. I almost gave up half way through, but the sheer number of you who have this on alerts kept me going (67 of you? OMFG THANK YOU!) and the people who reviewed, I love each and every one of you so much that it's probably not healthy. All of you, you've given me so much of your time and that means so much to me that I can't even begin to describe it. Thank you so, so, so much, I really mean it, and I can't thank you enough either.
Okay, that over with, I've got a few particular people who I want to mention.
Mantramagazine - (Told you I would ;]) - Special thanks to you because you've been reading and reviewing my work for ages. Not only this fic but Hellfire too, and it always makes me smile extra big when I see you've reviewed me. Thanks so much for sticking through for all this time, through my erratic updates and everything else. You're amazing and even Leo said so, which means it's gotta be true :)
All Good Things - I mention you because a) you've given me lots of reviews which I am eternally grateful for and b) EVERYONE READ HER FIC! It's awesome. If you liked this one, you'll love hers, it's better written and funnier and better in every single way. (btw, sorry I haven't finished reviewing yet. Schoolwork. Grr) But yeah, go read that one, it's in my favourites and I strongly, strongly recommend it.
OTHER REVIEWERS PAY ATTENTION - I know I don't always review reply to thank you for your comments. Sorry ^^ I do try. But thanks you to every one who has dropped a comment by for every chapter. I'm gonna mention you all. Thanks to:-
You're kind words kept me going *hugs*
Huge thanks to everybody who reviewed, really, even if I didn't mention your pen name. Without you, I never would have got this far. You improved my confidence loads and I thank you. *bows* Also, the amount of review you gave me gave me more readers, so I'm doubly grateful for that ^^ THANK YOU.
And also, people who added me to author alert, omscj, the fact that you would submit yourself to more of my work, voluntarily, I assume… just, I love you, face it.
And lastly, but certainly not leastly, MY FP WIFEY! I FINISHED THIS MOSTLY BECAUSE OF YOU! Scripted, I am getting cheesy with it. Thank you so much XD You've been here from the very beginning and you stayed all the way though, giving me huge, funny reviews that had me in tears of laughter. I can't say how glad I am that I found this site, because through this site, I found you :) You motivated me, encouraged me, kept my confidence up and helped me so much ^^ I never, ever would have got this far without you. I love you :) And I can't sum up how grateful I am in just one paragraph, so go and watch my YouTube video again and know that I mean everything in it doubly much XD
SO, that's it! I'm about to leave this fic forever ! YAY YAY YAY! XD *runs off into sunset, giggling manically* NO YOU LEAVE ME ONE LAST REVIEW, YOU HEAR? ;)
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING! *waves* Bye! :)