Here I am writing for yet another fandom. If you haven't heard about the Nothing Much To Do, a vlog adaptation based on Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" you need to start watching it right now! In the meantime, here is my own take on the aftermath of Hero's 16th birthday party.......
Hero didn’t want to talk. She lay in her bed, sobbing and coughing in a way that chilled Beatrice. She shouldn’t have been old enough to remember when Hero was little and they had to look out for attacks and have anxious trips to the hospital. She had heard about that fearful time, but she shouldn’t have been able to remember it, but some strange old fear crept over her anyway.
Leo was sending everyone home. She heard voices outside the window and cars driving away. Then she heard Leo on the stairs and went out. Ben and Ursula were standing at the bottom of the stairs. Leo stood a little above them with an immovable stance. “No, I don’t think so -“ he was saying. When the other two looked past him he looked around as well. “Ursula wants to know if she can see Hero,” he said shortly.
Bea shook her head briefly. “Sorry Urs. I already asked her. She doesn’t want to see anyone. Leo I think she might be getting sick.”
Ben muttered a curse. “Do you need me to --“
“No Ben,” said Leo sharply. “I think you guys have done enough.”
She saw Ben’s face change at once. He looked pained. “Look, Leo, I --“
“Look Ben, I’m sorry, but we need to focus on what’s best for Hero right now.”
Ben nodded. “Of course.” His eyes stayed on Beatrice with a steady look. “If you guys need anything at all, call me.”
“Yeah whatever,” said Leo, turning away and heading up the stairs toward Beatrice. Ben still looked steadfastly at her for a moment longer, and she nodded at him. Ursula took his arm, and they walked away.
Leo looked at her apprehensively. “Come see her,” said Bea.
She stood back as Leo bent over Hero murmuring softly. Hero whispered back at him, and after several minutes he stood up. “I’ve seen her worse,” he told Beatrice, “but she’s feverish, and I don’t like that cough. I think we should take her to the hospital just in case.”
Bea nodded dumbly and hurried out of the room. She threw off her party clothes and kicked off her uncomfortable shoes, leaving them on the floor of her bedroom. They wrapped Hero in her warm cardigan and grabbed a blanket. Her hand as she touched Beatrice was hot, but she shivered, wordlessly following instructions as they lead her downstairs. She had stopped crying, and somehow that made it worse.
Beatrice climbed into the back of the car with her and Hero lay with her head in her lap as Leo drove toward the hospital nearby.
It was quiet in the hospital for a Saturday night, and they were able to get a doctor to see her fairly quickly. Bea curled herself into Hero’s cardigan as Leo calmly filled out forms and then sat beside her in the waiting room.
Neither of them said anything for several seconds, then suddenly Leo cursed violently under his breath. “What was Claudio going on about? What was that all about with him and Robbie and Hero?”
“I don’t know,” said Beatrice. “It was completely out of the blue. It’s like if he went insane.”
“Does Hero even like Robbie?”
“Of course not. How could you say that, and even if she did, you know she wouldn’t cheat on Claudio.”
“Of course not, but what was Claudio talking about? I was so shocked…..I should have punched him down. I just stood there….”
“I did too,” said Beatrice, feeling her throat tightening. “It was just so unbelievable. Forget you. I should have punched him myself.”
“And probably we’d have had the police in there too, upsetting her more,” said Leo with bitter humour. “Robbie has something to do with this. It’s always Robbie. I shouldn’t have let her start dating Claudio. Our parents trusted me with her.”
“That wasn’t your choice to make,” said Beatrice, feeling some welcome irritation flare up. ”Hero’s old enough to make her own decisions about that sort of thing. We’ve talked about you playing the big brother card.”
“Can you blame me? I brought those guys around her—Claudio , Pedro and Ben….”
She thought of Pedro screaming at her at the party. How could he side with Claudio? All round great guy? There would be more screaming when they met again. He wasn’t going to get away with this either. “ I’m not sure if Ben knew anything about this. He didn’t behave like it. Please stop making this about you. What were you going to do? Keep her locked up in an ivory tower?”
Leo folded his arms and sighed.
“Look Leo, don’t start to feel guilty about this alright? I know. I kinda know how you feel, but you didn’t do anything wrong. Hero is sensible and responsible. You can’t shield her from all the horrors of the world. “
“Wish I could,” muttered Leo. Bea reached her arm around his neck and hugged him to her. The doctor found them there a few minutes later and told them Hero would be ok. “We’ll keep her here for the rest of tonight for observation,” he said. “She’ll need to rest at home for a few days. She’s been through a shock which caused her old condition to flare up, but she’ll get through it.”
Beatrice felt the terrible tension inside her ease considerably. “I asked earlier about Dr. Blakely,” Leo was saying, “She’s an old family friend. They said she would be coming in for a shift in an hour or so.”
“Ah yes, Blakely, this condition is one of her specialties.”
“I’d like to see her before I go, and just get her take on this.”
“Can we see Hero?” asked Beatrice
“We’ve given her a sedative. She needs rest most of all right now. I’m afraid she won’t be awake and lucid for some hours. I suggest you go home and get some rest, and you can see her tomorrow.”
“I want you to go home Bea,” Leo said after he had left them. “Take the car. I’ll take a taxi home. I’ll wait for Dr. Blakely.”
“I’ll stay with you.”
“No arguments,” said Leo smiling tiredly at her. “Dr. Blakely will be here soon. I’ll go home after I talk with her.”
After a bit more talk, Beatrice finally agreed to go. “If you don’t come home, I’m coming back,” she warned him.
“I’ll come. I’ll text you when I’m heading home.”
He walked her to the car, and she drove away though she felt a wrench as she did, but she knew that Leo was right.
At home she spent a few minutes halfheartedly sticking all the food they had laid out into the refrigerator. It felt as if the party had happened a hundred years ago. She remembered posting pictures of Meg on Twitter and wondered how her friend was feeling. She felt too drained to try to reach out to her, but she knew Ursula would check in on her.
She trailed upstairs, changed into her pajamas and went into Hero’s room and switched on her fairy lights. She felt closer to Hero in her room, and she needed that right now. She lay down on the bed, quiet in the stillness. The house was very still, and she felt as if she had been through a storm and only now had found shelter. Her mind couldn’t entirely shake the scene of a few hours ago though, of Claudio’s terrible rage and Hero’s fear. She had been frozen to the spot, unable to understand. She knew how Leo felt. She wished she’d gotten to Claudio. She didn’t care what Robbie had to do with it. He didn’t claim to love Hero, so he was not important. Claudio though. What was he thinking? How could he think it?
They knew he was a bit jealous, but to the point of making things up. How could anyone even think such a thing of her? Of her Hero. She thought of her cousin’s stricken face again, and Bea’s throat tightened again. She didn’t know she had started gently crying until she tasted her tears on her lips.
When her phone rang, it jolted her awake. A glance at the clock on the table beside the bed showed that she had probably only been sleeping for ten minutes. She scooped it up quickly thinking it was Leo, frowned at the screen, hesitated then answered it.
“Hey Beatrice,” he said in a falsely cheerful voice. “How are you dear?”
“Perhaps you didn’t notice that we had a disaster of a party earlier…..”
“I kinda noticed….”
“Hero’s at the hospital.” She heard him whisper a curse under his breath.
“They say she’ll be ok though. They’re just keeping her there overnight for observation.”
“I’m so sorry Beatrice.” The false levity was gone. His voice was low and genuine, and for some reason she felt close to tears again.
“Were you sleeping?”
“I’m not now. I probably won’t be able to for a while.”
“Then I was hoping – wondering – if it’s ok if we could talk.”
“Now? On the phone?”
“Well I….is Leo there? I see the car in the drive way”
“No. He’s – how do you know where the car is?”
After a pause, he said, “Because I’m parked outside.”
“Let’s say I couldn’t sleep either. I was worried so….look, can I come in?”
“Leo will be home soon. He's not feeling any of you guys right now. He might be pissed if he saw you.”
“I’ll park out of sight a little way down the road. When he comes home, I’ll make a discrete exit. Can I come? Please.” He reminded her of the times when they hung out together all the time, and he would try to convince her to do something when he realized she was undecided.
He stood outside the front door in an old oversized Dr Who tee with sweats. It made him look very young, rather different than he had earlier at the party in his suit.
“Hello,” he said cheerfully, sliding past her into the house.
“Aren’t your parents going to wonder where you are?”
“They’re away for the night at a reunion out of town or….something.” When he turned and saw her face, his wide grin faded. “It’s really ok for me to be here right? You don’t want to be alone? I’ll walk right back out if you want me to.”
“You’re already here,” she said shutting and locking the door. “I’m going to stay awake until I get a message from Leo.”
She automatically started upstairs without thinking, got confused then kept walking and Ben followed. Ever since she had overheard Hero and the others talking about Ben being in love with her, she was forced to avoid him. There were no more arguments over lunch period or in class discussions. If she brought him up when talking with her friends, they teased her about liking him until she felt like screaming or throwing up. It was worse than when she had first dissolved their friendship. Now there was no interaction at all, and she missed it. She missed him, and she realized that over the old hurt feelings, others were stirring. But she couldn’t go back to that time, back to being taken for granted, and besides that she still couldn’t stand the thought of being in the conventional idea of a relationship. It wasn’t for her. She couldn’t afford to lose herself in that.
For a little while he seemed to be seeking her out – not to fight –but to have the most inane and confusing conversations about olives and other crazy things, and she found she had to escape from him or shut him down as quickly as she could. He seemed to get the hint then, and he started to avoid her too, and she couldn’t decide if that was better or worse.
At the party, she had studiously stayed away from him which was easy because she always had an inkling of where he was in relation to herself. The problem was that if she forgot for a moment, she would look up, and her eyes would go straight to him before they went to anyone else, and often he was looking back at her, or if he wasn’t, she knew somehow that he was aware of her – which was pleasing and annoying at the same time.
Now after weeks of staying away from each other, she was alone in the big house with Ben in his sweats, and she was in an old jersey of Leo’s and some Green Lantern sleep pants with the logo almost faded away, and she was leading him up to their bedrooms. Her heart pounded a little, and she gritted her teeth. It seemed like she was going crazy with the rest of the world.
“I left my phone up here,” she said as she walked into Hero’s room as if she was doing something quite normal.
“Sleeping in here too,” said Ben understandingly. “This will do. I wouldn’t be able to find a place to sit in your room.”
“Who says I want you to sit in here? I think you should stand until you say what you have to say, “ she said, picking up her phone to check for messages. There were none. And Ben very deliberately pulled up a chair and sat on it, sitting tailor fashion in his bare feet. He had left his flip flops by the door downstairs. Ben never wore shoes for very long if he could help it.
She sat cross legged on her bed and made herself look steadily at him. After a while he pressed his full lips together and leaned forward a little. “I wanted to tell you - to try and explain where Claudio was coming from with that outburst earlier.”
“Oh I’d love to hear it because nothing could make sense to me unless Claudio has a huge tumour pressing on his brain.”
“Well I can’t account for that. For all we know that’s the truth, but I think you need to know what the external triggers were.”
Her phone buzzed, and she glanced at it. “Leo’s coming in a few minutes,” she said. Ben looked at her then at the phone, and she gestured to him to speak.
She managed to listen to his brief account without completely interrupting him, though she couldn’t stop herself from spitting out curses. Her horror and rage from the party awoke inside her and rose like bile in her throat. By the end, she had to cover her mouth to keep from screaming. “I was wrong,” she growled. “Claudio’s not insane. He’s a freaking prick! He didn’t even talk
to Hero. The first she knew of all this was at her birthday party! They’ve known Hero for years. How could he and Pedro even think of believing this crap? Pedro of all people! And what does John have to do with this? What does he care?”
“He has a lot to do with it, I’m beginning to think. He held me back at the party, when I finally got my feet out of cement and was going to try and shut Claudio up. When I saw his face….all the creepy feelings I have around him made sense. He’s up to something as well.”
“But why would he do that to Hero? Hero! Who doesn’t have an enemy in the world. At least I thought she didn’t…..” To her alarm Beatrice felt the tears welling up again. She very rarely cried, but the few times she did, it could be hard to stop.
Ben moved suddenly, as if he were being jerked like a puppet on a string, and then he was next to her on the bed. His head bent down to try and catch her eye. His expression seemed to mirror her alarm. “I hate it when you cry,” he said in a choked voice.
“Well I’m sorry to inconvenience you!”
“I didn’t mean…..I’m sorry. It’s just that, you shouldn’t be unhappy. This should not have happened. I wish I could have done something.”
“It’s not your fault,” she said, wiping at both her cheeks. She took some deep breaths. “We need to step back from this for a while, talk about something else.”
“Yeah……” When she looked up, he was staring at her, his lips parted slightly. She looked to the side, her pulse drumming. She couldn’t look at him. In the right light and with the right emotions brimming within, it could be difficult to meet his gaze, especially these days.
A quick sideways glance showed her that he was looking away from her, his cheek flushed. The silence drew out, and Bea breathed quietly through her mouth, trying to calm herself.
“Talking about something else, “ he said after a long moment. “Do you know something weird?”
“Yeah….what’s weird is…… I’m in love with you.” He gave a nervous half laugh. “Weird right? Considering everything, I know you hate relationships, and I remember your argument about people our age not knowing how to love etc etc blah blah blah, but I can’t explain it any other way, so…..”
you don’t like relationships, and as you know, we have been in complete agreement on that from the get go, but just because a man hates olives in his youth, doesn’t mean that he can’t get a taste for them later on.”Olives again
It seemed to wake her up, to jolt her out of her shock and surprise. Benedick was still bumbling on, saying whatever apparently came to his head, and she found she was eager to interject as she often was when they both got excited and wanted to get their point out at once.
“Thanks a lot,” she interrupted him. “You got it in first. Seems kinda anticlimactic now for me to say I love you doesn’t it?”
She actually caught him with his mouth open, and it took him a few seconds to close it then his words tripped from his lips.“You – you, you’re serious? Beatrice Duke are you in love with me?”
“Yes, BeneDICK,” she said, trying to breathe to calm her heart, but he was leaning closer to her and that didn’t help. “Yes I am.” It would have been useful for future debating purposes to know who made the first move, but she had no clear notion. All she knew was that they were kissing, and his mouth was so eager and warm against her, and then they were both laughing a little, and he was tracing the tear stains on her cheek with his finger and giving her soft caressing kisses on her cheek and neck, and at the same time she heard the door open downstairs.
“It’s Leo,” she said and felt a stab of guilt that she had been distracted from Hero.
“Oh man!” wailed Ben. “Worst timing ever Leo!”
“Sorry,” said Bea giggling despite herself. “I’ll be back. I want to ask about Hero.”
“Oh god! Why, why Leo!” groaned Ben falling back onto the bed and throwing his arm dramatically over his eyes. Bea grinned and hurried out onto the stairs and felt a cold hand grip her stomach when she saw her cousin’s weary face.
“Is she alright?”
“Yes, she’s fine. Dr. Blakely says she has high hopes she’ll be able to come home tomorrow.” Beatrice sighed with relief and followed him toward his bedroom door. “I called the mums. I know they’d be distraught if they found out I hadn’t told them. It was a decent hour in Italy though, so I didn’t wake them up at least.”
“Did they freak out?”
“Yes. I didn’t tell them the whole thing. Just that Hero and Claud broke up, and she had an attack.” I think Mumma was about ready to jump on the next plane, but it’s a busy season, and it would be hard to get a flight. I let them talk to Dr. Blakely, and she helped a lot. I don’t know if they won’t still cut their trip short if they don’t hear Hero’s voice tomorrow.”
She nodded, thinking of her anxious aunts so far away. As Leo stopped at his door, she hugged him. “Try to get some sleep Leo.”
“I will. You do too. Stop staying up. You won’t do Hero any favours getting sick yourself.”
She hurried back to the bedroom, thinking of Hero and found her new love asleep on Hero’s bed. “Ben,” she whispered in astonishment, but he didn’t stir, lying quietly on his side, making the little bed look very small. She considered a moment then switched off the light, and the fairy lights glowed softly. She half thought Ben would wake up as she cautiously got into the bed and lay opposite him, but he didn’t.
In sleep his face looked very serious as if he kept his most somber thoughts for dreams. She wondered at how easily she had thrown aside all her objections and all her old hurt feelings when he had said what he had said. She settled down more comfortably on the pillow, and didn’t know anything else after that.
She woke up with the distinct impression that something had moved near her. She opened her eyes and looked immediately to Ben, but he was snuggled into the pillows and still asleep. For a second she thought Leo had come into the room, but no one else was there. She looked at Ben again, and without opening his eyes, he said, “Is this what I have to look forward to every morning now?”
“What?” she said startled. “You wish!”
He propped himself up on his elbows, clearly fully awake. “What? Do you mean we won’t be sharing a bed together in the future? I’ve never slept so well in my life.”
“What?” said Beatrice blushing. “Whatever. I’m going to call the hospital and see how Hero is doing. “
“How is she?” he asked when she got off the phone. She sat on the bed, and still lying down, he leaned his head against her side rather like a large, affectionate dog.
“Resting comfortably,” she said sighing a little. “All’s well.”
He looked up at her, leaned against her again, and they were both quiet for some time, then Ben said, “I’m sure Claudio would think twice about what he said and did after he hears about this.”
“What?” said Bea sharply. “Great, if Claudio realized he almost killed her, he’ll start to think he may
have overreacted a little.”
Ben sat up. “I didn’t mean –“
“Do you realize what he did? He hurt her. He humiliated her. He needs to understand that if he can get it through his thick skull.”
“Wow, you’re not going to tell him yourself are you?”
“No! I won’t. I can’t talk to him. I can’t talk to him.” She pressed her hands to her forehead, the tension and rage rising again. “If I see him, I’ll kill him. I’ll probably actually try to kill him. Pedro too, but Claudio first. But I want them to know and to realize what they’ve done.”
“Well then I’ll do it.”
“What? You’ll kill Claudio for me?”
“Well no, then I’d be imprisoned, and I’d spend my days writing poetry while you waste away with grief. No,” before she could interrupt,
"I’ll have a word with Claudio and the others, and I’ll make them see. I have some extra things to say to John as well. Let me look into it a bit, before you go charging in wielding death.”
“Just for now….”
“And for now, may I have a cup of tea? I’m dying. Literally dying.”
“I hate when people use the word literally when they don’t mean literally,” she said getting up. She led him downstairs and made him make his own tea after he made an idle remark about her tea always tasting like mud and piss.
“I’m hungry too,” he said plaintively as he dipped the tea bag. “I haven’t eaten for hours.”
“There’s plenty of food left over from the party,” she said. She looked at him thoughtfully. “Do you want to stay and eat? If you’re up to facing Leo, I’ll stand by you.”
He returned her look narrowly, and said, “I know you will, but I better head home. I had scheduled a mad scramble to do some chores mum ordered me to do before she got home. Besides, you have enough to deal with right now than having to explain why you have strange men in your bed.”
“Strange is right,” she said opening the fridge. She began packing up parcels of leftover food in plastic wrap and foil. Ben sipped his tea and directed her packing. “Here, put more of those cookies in. Hero made these didn’t she? If you had, they’d taste like dirt.”
“She cooks. I eat,” said Beatrice making a face at him. “How can you
eat at a time like this?”
“My dear, it would take the Apocalypse or the extinction of all the sloths in the universe for me to lose my appetite, and you have to admit these cookies are exquisite. Here.”
She packed everything into a paper bag with handles while Ben talked nonsense and fed her bits of cookies whenever she came near him.
When she walked him to the door, he stopped in the open doorway, turned back to her and caught her up into a hug that lifted her off her feet as he buried his head in her neck.
“It’ll be alright. You’ll see.”
“Of course it will,” she said, looking into his eyes. Part of her wanted to be alone for a while, to have some time to herself so she could reflect on everything that had happened since she had woken up alone the morning before or a million years ago. Another part of her really didn’t want him to leave.
She kissed him, entwining her fingers into his hair and making it even more delightfully messy than it had been when he’d woken up. He held her tightly, reluctant to let her go. She disentangled herself from him and found herself laughing as she pushed him gently out the door.
He stared wordlessly at her, his chest heaving a little as she leaned against the door watching him.
“We have so many things to talk about," he said.
"Yes. I'm not going to walk around holding your hand."
They gazed at each other.
Call me later,” Ben said at last. “Let me know how she is.”
"I’ll probably call you before that.”
“And message you a few hundred times before that,” he called as she closed the door.
“I’m sure,” she shouted through the door and covered her mouth to stop from giggling.
She stopped in the kitchen and took three of Hero’s cookies after all and then went slowly upstairs to lie in her cousin’s bed and process everything. She didn’t think she’d tell Hero about Ben when she woke up, but she’d mention the cookies and the crumbs in her sheets. It would be wonderful to hear Hero scolding her again.