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Go Where I Go, Do What I Must

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           So maybe Pedro was sulking in a corner and maybe he was wearing only dark clothes and maybe he was being generally depressing and maybe he wanted his entire existence to match his mood, but so what if he did? So what if he was a total caricature of sadness and looked like a damn cartoon character or the emo kid in whatever high school television series? At this point, he could totally believe that he was living in a television drama or some trash sitcom. This was prime time soap opera worthy stuff here because here he was, Pedro Donaldson, most popular kid in school, taken down by his own rash actions that were all actually caused by the treachery of his evil villain brother. So now he was humiliated in front of everyone, proven to be a real asshole, and on top of that he had successfully gotten his two best friends together on accident while trying to play some kind of sick joke. And he also happened to find himself in love with both of those aforementioned friends.

            Okay that last part of it still didn’t make sense. If this was a tv show, it was probably the fourth season or something, the part where the writing goes to shit and nothing really makes sense, because why on earth would Pedro Donaldson be in love with both Beatrice Duke and Benedick Hobbes.

            Pedro slumped down onto the top step of the Duke’s staircase and dragged his hands down his face. Nope, this was not happening, no, absolutely not. He couldn’t just be bisexual, he had to be in love with multiple people simultaneously who were in a relationship with each other like he was some damn stereotype. Oh this was just great this was perfect, hilarious even. Maybe this season wouldn’t be such a mess if his terrible matchmaking antics and suffering were amusing to the audience. Pedro thought about Ben and Beatrice kissing in front of everyone at the Ursula’s picnic. Yeah, his conflicted and simultaneously horrified and delighted face was definitely going to be hit with the hypothetical audience.

            “Hey Pedro,” came a voice from behind him and Pedro almost willfully threw himself down the stairs. “Pedroooo it’s time to stop sulking and be social,” Ben continued, sitting down on the staircase next to Pedro and throwing a brotherly arm around him. “What do you say? At least just come hang out with me for a bit, pleeeaaaase?”

            Pedro sighed and weighed his options. Brush Ben off like a sulking child? Immature. Also Ben wasn’t going to let up any time soon. And though Pedro was loathe to admit it, he needed Ben’s presence. He sighed again, “Fine.”
            “All right!” Ben said bouncing up, grabbing Pedro’s arm and pulling him up with him, “Let’s go.”

            “Where are we going?”

            “Just to Hero’s room you know somewhere comfortable but also private for friends working things out.” Ben pulled Pedro into the room.

            “What? No, NO! There’s a camera in there I don’t want to-”

            “Just sit down okay.” Ben shoved Pedro onto the bed in a seated position.

            “No! Why? Come on. Not on camera!”

            “Look we just need to talk, okay?”

            “We’ve talked already, there’s only so much you can do. Plus, the camera really doesn’t have to be involved in my private life anymore.”

            “Come on Pedro we could just explain things again? For them?” he gestured at the audience, “Help them feel better about you? And maybe help you feel… better about yourself?”

            Because explaining to the camera that not only was he an imperfect and hateful human being but also probably in love with his two best friends who were also dating was sure to help others feel better about him and would definitely help him feel better about himself. Definitely going to work. Absolutely. Pedro glared at Ben and then frowned, rubbed his temples, and stared willfully at the floor.

            “Okay I was hoping I wouldn’t have to do this but you leave me no choice,” Ben said. “You know how I was saying that the camera takes all your feelings away and makes them go poof? Well I have recently discovered that people are even better. Seriously, they just take all your feelings and make them go poof!” Pedro thought about Ben and Beatrice cuddling in that bathtub talking about their feelings and smiling at each other with goofy faces and he cringes. “That’s why you, my friend, need to get a girlfriend.”

            Pedro sighed.

            “Or a boyfriend! Obviously. Or, you know, a friend of nonbinary gender also to date. Could be any of the above really, right?”

            Pedro shrugged. “I mean… well yes but…”

            “Great! Let’s get started oh man I am going to set you up with somebody buddy, somebody great how about-”

            “Look, Ben I- I just- I don’t know if I could really get a date if I wanted one.”

            “What? You, Pedro? But you’re an all-around gr-”

            “Don’t call me that.”

            “Fine, I won’t but you’re excellent, you really are. You’re funny and attractive and smart and caring and a good listener and usually an excellent mediator and one of the best friends I have ever had okay? Like if I wasn’t dating Bea right now, I’d date you goddamnit!”

            At that, Pedro couldn’t help but look up at Ben with dark eyes and a lump in his throat. He hoped Ben wouldn’t notice.

            “Shit I’m sorry man, I guess that was weird to say,” Ben said turning away, starting to fold his arms.

            “No!” Pedro reached out without meaning to, touching Ben’s arm before he could catch himself. Ben stopped folding his arms and came back to neutral position, looking surprisingly gently at Pedro, surprised but in a soft way. “No, I mean… no it was fine, thanks for the sentiment.”

            “Anytime man,” Ben said. “I’m here for you.”

            Pedro smiled at him but his eyes were still sad.

            “Okay but back to the topic at hand, it is high time you found someone to date.” Ben watched Pedro’s eyes shift back to the floor. Somehow, Ben couldn’t bring himself to continue with his list of potential candidates. It was something about the way Pedro had looked at him…

            “Look, it’s nice of you to try I guess but I’m… I’m in a bit of an awkward position right now umm emotionally or… whatever.” Pedro rubbed the back of his neck then brought his hands forward through his hair, messing it up then fixing it back into its neat state on his head.

            “Yeah?” Ben leaned back, propping himself up on his hands. “Do you wanna talk about it?”

            Pedro stared at the floor. “Well ummm… I may be struggling with umm… feelings for ummm some… well… for more than one person.” Pedro looked up at Ben briefly to gage his reaction but Ben just nodded. So Pedro continued, “And um… well, look it’s just not going to happen with either of them okay? Because they’re committed you know, to each other and I guess that’s my fault as well so honestly it doesn’t matter and I just need to get over myself and it’ll go away eventually but I really shouldn’t be dating anyone until it does.”

            Pedro hazarded a glance up at Ben again. He expected Ben to have an eyebrow raised or something, about to make a quip about a threesome maybe or some kind of “cheer up mate, we’ve all been there” statement in which he’d vehemently ignore the fact that Pedro had just confessed to having feelings for him and his girlfriend and try to make it go away with a joke. It was okay, Pedro expected it and he was used to it. This was Ben we were talking about.

           In fact, Pedro could have done with some kind of joke to diffuse the tension right about then because all Ben was doing was looking at him with his mouth slightly open and maybe Pedro glanced at his mouth a few too many times but he really needed Ben to say something now to make this all go away. But when he locked eyes with Ben again, the chance of this going away was entirely gone.

           In one movement, Ben leaned forward, put one hand on Pedro’s cheek, and kissed him soundly on the mouth. Pedro’s eyes stayed open in shock for a moment and he wasn’t moving but then his brain screamed “Reciprocate you dummy!” and he was grabbing Ben’s shirt, bringing his other arm around Ben’s back to pull him in closer and make sure this kiss never stopped because as soon as it stopped it would get complicated and he would have to think about how he was kissing his best friend and also his other best friend’s boyfriend. But right now Ben’s thumb was on his cheek and Pedro only wanted to hold him closer to his chest and pull Ben so far into his arms that they never had to separate.

           But they did have to separate eventually and when they did Pedro, still clutching the front of Ben’s shirt dropped his head to Ben’s chest to hide his face. “Oh god,” Pedro whispered.

           “What? What are you okay?” Ben asked, moving to see Pedro’s face.

           Pedro lifted his head slightly and said, “What on earth are we going to tell Beatrice?”

           “Well I had rather hoped you could tell her something along the same lines of what you told me. But maybe with a few more specifics involved like you know… people’s names would be helpful? A simple ‘Beatrice, I want to kiss you and your boyfriend’ would do better this time around.”

           “But Ben,” Pedro said, finally moving away from him, “She hates me.”

           Ben took Pedro’s hand that was resting on the bed in his. “She wouldn’t be so determined to stay angry with you if she didn’t still care about you. You matter to her. A lot. That’s why she’s still pissed.”

           “But that’s exactly the point! She is still pissed and now I kissed her boyfriend without her permission!”

           “Hey now, I think it was I who kissed you.”

           But Pedro was barely listening. “She’s going to be even more pissed off! God, I am so screwed. I used to manage my friendships with the both of you so well where did it all go wrong?”

           “Maybe some place along the line where you set us up with each other and then decided that actually you wanted us both to be getting with you?”

           “Ben, I’m serious.”

           “So am I! Look, you’re right she’s mad at you but have you been watching my videos at all? Communication, Pedro. We talk to her, you deliver that heartwarming declaration of love full of “umm”s and “well”s again and she won’t be able to help but fall into your arms and also mine. She’s very dedicated to falling into my arms.”

           “You make it sound so easy. It’s not going to be. I’m proposing that we all date two people at once that’s… that’s ridiculous.”

           “And yet not so ridiculous because I also want to do that. Although perhaps I’m not the best example of not ridiculous.”

           Pedro frowned at Ben. “You do know that she has rejected me before? Like actually rejected me. Romantically. She laughed, Ben. And that was before I was an ass to her cousin and before she got a boyfriend. Do you see what I’m getting at with this?”

           Ben sighed. “Okay in all seriousness, I don’t know if this will work out okay but I liked kissing you and I want to do it again and I would love for Beatrice to be okay with that happening and to… I don’t know join in or whatever . But I don’t know if she’ll want to and I don’t know if she’ll want us to have an open relationship or… something but I do know that we have to talk to her about this.”

           Pedro sighed and rubbed his temples. “Do we have to talk about it now?”

           “What do you propose as an alternative? Going out to join the rest of the party and pretending we didn’t just kiss in front of a camera?”

           “Fuck! Fuck I totally forgot about the camera fuck you are such an ass why do you have to film everything?” Pedro moved to the camera, grabbed it from its stand and turned it off immediately.

           “I’m a vlogger it’s my job it’s what I do!”

           “A job is something you get paid for. I’m deleting this.”

                      “No!” Ben snatched the camera away from Pedro and clutched it to his chest.

           “What the fuck man, I’m not comfortable with you posting a video of me making out with you!”

           “Look I won’t post it just… can we wait to delete it until we talk to Beatrice?”

           Pedro was about to answer angrily that it didn’t matter what Beatrice said, there were some things you just didn’t put on Youtube for christsakes when there was a knock on the door.

           “Ben?” It was Beatrice. “Pedro? Are you in there?” She opened the door slowly and found both Ben and Pedro kneeling on the bed after their altercation with the camera.

           “Shit,” Pedro muttered, turning away from her.

           “Yes, love! We were just about to go get you!”

           “Me? Why?”

           “First, I think Pedro has something to tell you.”

           Pedro wanted to strangle Ben. He wanted to strangle Ben right here, right now, or at least tape his mouth shut retroactively so he wouldn’t have just said that. His guts crawled.

           “Well, Pedro? Is this yet another apology?”

           “No. No it’s not an apology because your boyfriend is an ass and instead wants me to tell you that I still have romantic feelings for you but also for Ben at the same time and you know what I’m sorry, that is the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever said in my life I can leave now if you’re as ready as I think you are to slap me.”

           Pedro stood up and was going to try and brush past Beatrice when she said, “Don’t you dare leave after saying that. Sit back down.”

           Pedro did. Ben scooted over to sit on Pedro’s left. Beatrice followed, sitting on the other side of Ben so that now all three of them were lined up on the bed.

           “Okay,” Beatrice put her fingers on her temples and dragged them down the side of her face before putting her hands on her knees and saying, “Why are you telling me this?”

           “Now that is my fault I believe,” Ben chimed in. “I was trying to suggest Pedro get a significant other of some kind to help with how badly he’s been dealing with his feelings lately and that… didn’t work out for ummm obvious reasons.”

           “Obvious reasons?” Beatrice asked.

           “Well you can’t set someone up on a date if the date they’re actually interested in is with you.”

           “And your girlfriend,” Pedro mumbled.

           “Understood,” said Beatrice, still frowning. “So Pedro ended up explaining why the dating set up wasn’t going to go as you planned I take it?”

           “He may have dropped some contextual clues about what he was thinking about when I started talking about romance.”

           Pedro snorted at this. He was refusing to look in Beatrice’s direction but Ben’s presence next to him was actually somewhat comforting.

           “And um…” Ben said, “I may have kissed him… a little bit.”

           “Oh.”

           Pedro wanted to die. He wanted to disappear right then and there because anything would be better than this. Anything at all. Hell sounded like a picnic compared to this situation. Then Ben grabbed hold of Pedro’s hand and Pedro found that he could breathe again.

           “Thanks for telling me right away,” Bea said. “I appreciate it. So that was where you were at when I came in?”

           “I mean we weren’t kissing anymore, just debating on how to talk to you about it but… yeah,” Ben said.

           “Okay…” Bea looked away from both of them, furrowing her brows. You could see her thoughts flying past her eyes. “Okay. I guess I have to take back what I said about Pedro not being your type then,” she concluded.

           “Is that… it?” Pedro asked.

           “Yes. I mean… no… look… Relationships are weird right? The whole contract you’re entering into with another person like what does it even mean anyway? I don’t know and I know Ben likes me but also clearly he likes you for reasons I can’t imagine so if you want to kiss that’s fine by me as long as Ben is still coming over to my house tomorrow to watch Scott Pilgrim.”

           Ben grinned at her and then at Pedro, squeezing his hand.

           “You’re… you’re really okay with this?” Pedro asked, gesturing to himself and Ben. “You’re okay with… us?”

            “I’m still mad at you all right?” Beatrice said, “And I’m not going to be reciprocating your apparent affection for me any time soon but if Ben is and if he can support you while you’re still doing the whole emotional crisis thing that’s good I mean it’s helpful I guess you know? And I can trust Ben, I know that. You, however, I’m not entirely sure about but I trust Ben enough to keep your misogyny in check. So, can I angrily storm out of this room now?”

            “I want a kiss first,” Ben said, looking smug.

            “Wait, Ben, what about the video?” Pedro said.

            “Oh right…”

            “What video?” Beatrice asked, putting her hands on her hips.

            “Ben here, like the ass that he is, put the camera on while trying to get me out of my funk and then didn’t turn it off until after he’d put his lips on me.”

           “Ben, you idiot.”

           “I’m not posting it!” he said, raising his arms in mock surrender. “I’m not posting it, I swear! I need consent from all those involved and also you and I clearly don’t have it so that’s all!”

           “Fine, I trust you,” Bea said, “but I am going to need a copy of that video.”

           Ben raised an eyebrow at Pedro. Pedro shrugged and nodded. “Have it your way,
 Ben said. “Expect a movie file of one intimate conversation arriving in your inbox imminently.”

           “Thank you.” She kissed Ben briefly and then bounced onto her feet. “Please feel free to continue your disgusting mating patterns away from my presence.” And with that, she left the room.

           “That went… surprisingly well,” Pedro said.

           “I told you, bro. She doesn’t hate you. She’s just mad at you cause she cares.”

           “Enough to let me kiss her boyfriend…”

           “She is quite the open minded lady,” Ben said with pride.

           “Okay then… Does this make us umm… dating then?” Pedro asked.

           Ben shrugged. “If you want it to. I’m fine with that.”

           Pedro made a bit of a face. “I don’t think I’m really interested in trying to explain this set up to anyone just yet.”

           “That’s fine by me then. Dating but secretly? Like we’re spies or something, super undercover.” Ben made a spy pose, flailing his arms about like he was karate chopping the air.

           Pedro laughed, softening at Ben’s habitual shenanigans. “You’re ridiculous,” Pedro said.

           “You love it,” Ben replied.

           “God help me, I do,” Pedro said as he leaned in to kiss Ben for the second, but definitely not the last time.

Chapter Text

Bea flopped backwards onto her bed, landing on top of a pile of clothes and books, her legs dangling off the edge. She stared at the ceiling for a moment and then sighed.

It was two o’clock in the morning, the party was over, and everyone was gone. She had made the rest of the evening go on as if it was just as normal as every other party she’d ever hosted. She’d gone back downstairs from Hero’s room, cut more slices of cake, and listened to Meg talk about a couple people she had her eye on right now because good riddance to Robbie. Ten minutes later, Ben and Pedro had come downstairs. Bea tried not to notice how Pedro was trying desperately to flatten and fix some definitely messy hair and that Ben was still slightly flushed. Ben looked ridiculous as always but she did love his imbecilic grin which was particularly strong at this moment. He looked like a cat who’d just got the cream. “Smug bastard,” she thought to herself, looking down at the kitchen counter where she was stacking cups.

            In retrospect, she shouldn’t have been surprised when Ben came up behind her and put his arms around her waist as she cleaned the kitchen counter. After all that was part of the arrangement wasn’t it? He was dating both Beatrice and Pedro. Really it was a good idea. Objectively. Also because it had been her idea. But there was a part of her that was totally convinced that it wouldn’t work. Not that she would let anyone know about that. She was always right, wasn’t she? But still it might just completely fall apart and then well, she would still be right because relationships were terrible and she didn’t need one… or two.

            So, Pedro was still into her… Bea stretched and put her arms under her head, still staring at the ceiling. Upon further thought, she didn’t see why he wouldn’t be. It had been a while since he’d offered to be her “prince charming” and she had sort of assumed it would be over by now. Honestly, she hadn’t really thought about it. It wasn’t as if she didn’t like Pedro (although now after what he did at Hero’s birthday party she essentially hated him for life) but he just hadn’t occurred to her as a romantic interest. And even when he was staring dejectedly next to her at the floor she couldn’t help but think it was pretty ridiculous. They’d met by throwing water at each other on the beach for goodness sakes. They didn’t act like romantic soul mates ever so why on earth would they date?

            Although to be fair she didn’t really act like romantic soul mates with Ben either before they started dating and look what had happened there. So… maybe something could change? If she just thought about it differently maybe she might see what Ben saw in him but… It didn’t matter now anyway because he was all too likely to take a misogynist turn and be all too much of an asshole again. Beatrice really did love Ben but he had some terrible opinions and very bad ideas, including ones like kissing Pedro Donaldson. Though admittedly, she could see the aesthetic appeal. Pedro wasn’t exactly bad looking…

            Someone knocked on her door before she could get too far into that particular train of thought.

            “Bea? Can I come in?” Hero asked from outside.

            “Yeah yeah sure!” Bea said, sitting up on her bed. “It’s a total mess but please do join me in my cave.”

            Hero laughed as she cautiously opened the door and stepped over a couple books and a plastic dinosaur to get into Bea’s room.

            “What’s up?” Bea asked.

            “I just came to see how things were going and ask if you wanted to go out for pancakes tomorrow morning. Mum and Mumma have announced to me that they are sleeping in until noon so we could make food ourselves but since Balthazar’s gig is at 10 anyway I was thinking we could get up early and go get pancakes beforehand.”

            Bea grumbled, “Oh god that means getting up so early.”

            “We can always go afterwards! I texted Balth to ask them if they had any brunch plans and they’re up for anything really. I’m only waiting on you.” She smiled at Bea in the way only Hero could. It almost felt like a guilt trip but it totally wasn’t and Hero clearly didn’t mean it that way but Bea felt guilty all the same.

            “How about we munch on some cereal, head over to Balth’s gig and then get as many pancakes as humanly possible. Along with, I suppose, anyone else who’s going to the show and wants to tag along.”

            “Are you thinking about Ben?” Hero said, wiggling her eyebrows at Beatrice.

            “Oh stop it.” Come to think of it, Pedro would probably be going to the show as well, that is if he could drag himself out of bed quick enough. Bea guessed he might considering Ben was definitely going to be there and Balthazar and Pedro were friends. It would probably be fine, not too awkward or anything, they were all on good terms, Bea reasoned. The relationship situation was definitely figured out. She couldn’t help but feel fluttery nerves in her stomach nonetheless.

            “Bea?”

            “Hmm?”

            “Are you okay? You went all glassy eyed.”

            “Yeah! Yeah I’m fine I’m just tired. Long night, big party, lots of dishes. Makes my brain go all wibbly.”

            Hero laughed but looked at her a little sideways. “All right. See you bright and early then?”

            “Mmhmm,” Bea said, sweeping books off her bed and crawling under the covers, “Very bright and far too early.”

            Hero turned off the light as she left the room.

 

            It was an excellent concert. Balthazar was exceptional in all things, though it is useful to mention that they usually were. In the middle of the show, they got a little more serious and earnestly dedicated a song to someone who they said “deserved every ounce of respect a human being could muster” and “whose bravery and grace were the most beautiful virtues to have in a person”. “I only wish I could be so forgiving. You are loved and well loved. Such kindness as yours can never be disregarded. To Hero Duke.”

            Beatrice turned to Hero who was standing next to her. Her face was half astonishment and half that delicate smile that she had a habit of exhibiting which looked like flower petals opening in the morning. And then Balthazar proceeded to croon out the notes to “Sigh Not So” and Beatrice just wanted to keel over from the sweetness that was being transmitted in the room. Apparently the audience did too because that song was by far the most well received of the entire show.

            It was only after the performance was over that Bea had an opportunity to catch up with Benedick. He had arrived late with Pedro and stood in the back. After Balthazar came off stage, Hero hurried over presumably to congratulate them, to thank them for the song dedication, and to be generally flustered with delight. Bea didn’t want to jump to any conclusions and it had been so soon since Hero and Claudio had broken up that she didn’t think Hero should do anything rash but well… Bea could usually tell when Hero was on the verge of a crush and this was shaping up to look rather a lot like it.

            “Hey,” Ben said, sidling up next to Beatrice.

            “Hey,” she said quietly.

            “Are you doing all right?” Ben asked.

            “Yeah fine, why wouldn’t I be?”

            “Well ummm I don’t know…”

            Bea sighed. “I said I was fine with you and Pedro and I am all right?”

            “I know I know I just… it’s very new. I just want to keep checking.” Ben took her hand.

            Bea smiled a little bit at that. She was fine, really she was. But Ben checking up on her and looking at her with that same concern and constancy that she had by her when Hero was in such a hard place. It was comforting. And it was good to know that she still had her Ben no matter what his weird but kind of sweet new relationship with Pedro was. “Thanks,” she said, resting her forehead on his.

            “Yeah no problem,” Ben replied as softly as if he were scattering flower petals.

            Bea kissed him briefly, slipping her hand into his so that though they weren’t as close together as before they could now stand comfortably conjoined.

            Glancing around, Bea noticed Pedro standing a bit farther off, not amongst any particular group of people but floating between them. He glanced over in their direction but when he saw that Beatrice had noticed him, he looked quickly away.

            “You left your boyfriend to fend for himself,” Bea commented.

            “He can manage on his own for a while. He’s done it so far.” Ben shrugged, pleased with how easily this conversation was happening.

            “I don’t have to be kept apart from him you know. We can be civil. I don’t want you thinking you have to live two separate lives because you’re dating both of us.”

            “I know! I mean well I didn’t know but I mean, I feel like that’s how it should be in theory.”

            “And that’s how it is in practice,” Bea said, “you don’t have to hide him from me or put us in different rooms because you’ll think we’ll bite each other’s heads off.”

            Ben laughed. “I know. I did want to see you alone for a bit though.”

            “You’ll be with me alone this evening! At least if we’re still on for movie night.”

            “Right! I totally remembered that was happening absolutely, Scott Pilgrim, you and me, just the two of us and a bowl of chocolate salad am I right?”

            Bea laughed but despite the smile on Ben’s face she caught him glancing over at Pedro with a concerned look. “You didn’t forget did you?” Bea asked.

            “No! No of course not I totally remembered I swear.”

            “Did you make plans with Pedro for tonight?”

            “I mean not specifically as such because I totally didn’t forget movie night but that’s like an after dinner thing right? Like we go somewhere else for dinner and then I meet you at your house?”

            “You said you’d have dinner with him didn’t you?”

            “I can cancel! I can totally cancel. It’s not a problem at all we made the plan first our alone time is paramount.”

            Bea sighed and realized that she wasn’t actually as pissed off as she thought she would be. “Okay, you know what? Invite him over for dinner. We can eat some food and then say goodbye to Pedro and kick him out snuggle up to a movie just the two of us yeah?”

            “Yeah! Yeah we can totally do that. I mean you’re sure that’s okay with you?”

            “It’s fine by me. I don’t have to forgive him to eat dinner with him.”

            “Great,” Ben said, grinning at Bea and swinging the arm that was holding her hand like a doofus.

            “Dyou wanna call Pedro over then instead of letting him wallow in loneliness over there?”

            “He could probably do with wallowing for a bit more but honestly I think we’ll cut him some slack.”

            Bea waved at Pedro, who had been watching them out of the corner of his eye,, and beckoned him over. He looked confused like a startled puppy but wandered over to them anyway, hands stuffed in his pockets.

            “Hey,” he said.

            “Hey, would you be interested in joining me for dinner at the Duke’s this evening?” Ben asked him.

            “I… what? I mean we were having dinner before right but umm,” Pedro looked to Bea.

            “The terrible human being that is Ben forgot that he had promised me a movie night,” Bea said.

            “Oh god, he would wouldn’t he?” Pedro replied exasperatedly rolling his eyes in solidarity with Bea.

            “Hey don’t gang up on me,” Ben chimed in.

            “You deserve it,” Bea said.

            “Seconded,” Pedro added.

            Ben mock grumbled something about being bullied. Bea turned back to Pedro, “So I thought instead of ruining your evening plans that you could just come eat with us and then we’ll go separate ways for movie watching. I mean it won’t be just the two of you but…”

            “Oh no that’s fine! That’s totally fine no it’s cool by me,” Pedro said, stumbling into a confirmation and nervously folding his arms.

            Ben squeezed Bea’s hand and she glanced over at him. He was grinning, maybe a grin that was something along the lines of “but look how cute Pedro is” and Bea kind of wanted to punch him because he was not going to rope her into forgiving Pedro but also, Pedro’s nervous attitude when it came to relationships was reluctantly endearing.

            Pedro was practically blushing by now so Bea thought she’s give him a break. “So how bout that concert?”

            “It was so great, oh man. Like really really excellent. Balthazar’s going to get famous one day I’m sure of it,” Pedro said.

            “Their covers and original songs on the internet have been doing pretty well right?” Ben said.

            “They’ve been doing really well and I am going to take full credit for giving them the idea of putting stuff up on there,” Pedro said.

            “They should probably make their own channel now that Ursula is quitting the youtube world,” Ben said.

            “A good move I think,” Bea said, “in general there’s a little bit too much exposition of our lives up on Youtube.”

            “Hey, don’t be that way! Vlogging is great!” Ben said. Both Bea and Pedro turned to look at him with their eyebrows raised. “In… moderation of course no need to get umm too personal.”

            Pedro raised an eyebrow at him even further.

            “I can think of a few things that have been filmed that shouldn’t have,” Beatrice said.

            “Seconded,” Pedro said.

            “You’re bullying me again,” said Ben.

            “You deserve it,” said Bea, smirking at him and giving him a kiss on the cheek.

            Pedro smiled but then he realized his stomach was doing backflips watching Bea and Ben interact and internally slapped himself in the face because this was ridiculous Pedro was ridiculous how on earth was anyone allowing him to exist.

            Thankfully, Hero and Balthazar came over to save him from his crushing self.

            “Hey Balthazar, great job out there!” Ben said.

            “Yeah really excellent stuff dude,” Pedro said, “I mean, friend. Shoot sorry gendered terms.”

            Balthazar smiled, “No worries. I’m glad you guys liked it.”

            “Liked it? More like loved it!” Bea said. “Hero here was in raptures throughout the whole thing.” Bea shot a look at Hero who blushed. Balthazar was blushing at this point too. Pedro looked over at Bea and she looked unreasonably smug about something. Following her gaze to where Hero and Balthazar were squirming nervously next to each other, Pedro smiled and approved of Bea’s insinuations. That was a relationship that might definitely work out. Balthazar had written a song for Hero after all.

            “Balth, Beatrice, and I were going to go out for brunch after this. You two are welcome to join if you want,” Hero said to Ben and Pedro.

            “Ah that sounds lovely but I think I’ll have to pass,” Ben said. “My mother made me promise I’d be back for lunch since I won’t be home for dinner. Plus I have to freshen up for my big date with a certain someone.” With that he looked significantly at Beatrice but there was something in his voice that made Pedro squirm and bite his lip.

            Hero laughed. “How about you, Pedro?”

            “Oh well ummm Ben here is my ride and I’m actually still pretty tired from last night so I think I’ll just go home and take a nap or something. I wouldn’t be much fun at brunch in this state anyway being all tired and grumpy you know?” He looked apologetically and significantly at Beatrice throughout his entire apology for not going.

            Beatrice shrugged. “That’s all right. We’ll be doing fine just the three of us I think. Don’t you?”

            She turned to Hero and Balthazar with her eyebrows raised. Balthazar nodded and said “Yeah yeah sure thing.”

            “So we better get going then, eh crew?” Bea said.

            “It’s been great seeing you all,” Pedro said. “This really was an excellent concert.”

            “I heartily agree,” Ben said.

            Beatrice leaned in and kissed Ben on the lips, squeezing his hand one more time. “See you later. Don’t have too much fun without me,” she said and followed Hero and Balthazar away.

            As Beatrice and company walked away, Ben nudged Pedro’s shoulder gently and slipped his fingers into Pedro’s. Pedro looked down at their hands, slotting Ben’s fingers into his but also looking up and checking around him to see if anyone was watching. Ben frowned a bit. They weren’t ready to be out in the open and Ben was fine with that. But it made him a little sad that Pedro had to be so on edge.

            Ben nudged Pedro again playfully and Pedro looked up to see Ben’s somewhat concerned but still playful face. He smiled against his will, glanced down then back up, licking his lips and smiling softly at Ben. It was nervous and a little sad but unbelievably sweet. Ben swallowed. He may not have voiced affection for Pedro before Pedro had admitted it to him last night but well…Ben kissing him hadn’t come from nowhere.

            And to think that for the longest time Ben hadn’t known that Pedro was anything but straight. It was maddening. And now, looking at Pedro’s lips with their fingers interlaced, Ben was almost upset that he hadn’t figured that out sooner. So he couldn’t help himself when he leaned forward and gently placed his lips on Pedro’s in the parking lot. Pedro pulled away, looking mostly just nervous.

            “Sorry,” Ben said. “I know you don’t want anyone to know about-”

            “No! No it’s fine really it’s fine. I umm,” Pedro looked at the floor again before looking up at Ben through his eyelashes, “I’m glad you did that.”

            Ben grinned. Or rather he smirked. It was like a combination between a grin and a smirk and he looked so damn smug that Pedro rolled his eyes and grabbed his chin to pull him into another kiss.

            “You’re an ass,” Pedro said.

            “Your choice of pet names is terrible. I would have gone with ‘chicklet’ or ‘deerling’ or ‘sweetie pie’.” Pedro laughed at him with that hearty laugh that was so terribly Pedro, full of sound and unleashed like it was a blessing upon the general court and populace while simultaneously totally unconscious of itself at all. Ben loved it. “All right babe, let’s try that again. Instead of “you’re an ass” try, “you’re a gift” or “you’re a ray of sunshine”.”

            “How about ‘you’re a delicate strawberry eaglet’?”

            “Ooh birds, I like it. You sure know the way to a man’s heart don’t you?”

            “Shut up.” Pedro said, putting the hand that wasn’t holding Ben’s hand onto his waist and pulling him in for another kiss to wipe that shit eating grin off his face.

Chapter Text

At 6 pm on the dot, the doorbell at the Duke’s house rang.

            “I’ll get it!” Hero said from downstairs. Beatrice was in her room in the middle of changing into one of her higher ranked favorite shirts. She squirmed around in the shirt and tried to rush downstairs but Hero had already opened the door to Pedro.

            Beatrice caught the tail end of the conversation as she zipped down the stairs.

            “-movie night with Ben?”

            “Yeah I’m just coming for dinner and then leaving, I don’t want to interrupt too much private Ben and Beatrice time.”

            “I can understand why. They’re dating now but hanging out with just the two of them hasn’t actually gotten that much easier.”

            Pedro chuckled. “Yeah. It’s a hard life being friends with two loud mouthed hotheads.”

            “I resent being called a loud mouthed hothead,” Beatrice said, surprising Pedro out of his relaxed conversation with Hero.

He tensed visibly and said, “Oh Beatrice hi ummm sorry I’m early.”

“No you’re perfectly on time actually; the dickface is late.”

Pedro moved past Hero and out of the hallway while Hero mouthed, “What’s up with him?” at Beatrice.

Beatrice shrugged discretely at Hero before Pedro turned around and faced them, loitering around waiting for Beatrice to lead.

“Well, I’ll be in my room if anyone needs me,” Hero said, turning to walk up the stairs.

“Cool.” Then Beatrice turned to Pedro, “I’m still working on dinner actually so you can come hang out with me in the kitchen if you want.”

“Yeah sure,” Pedro said, putting his hands in his pockets and following her into the kitchen.

“I’m making pasta and marinara sauce out of a can I hope you don’t mind,” Beatrice said.

“No I don’t mind. You can never go wrong with pasta. As long as you’ve also got some cheese?”

“Yeah I have cheese,” Bea said, quickly opening the fridge to check.

“Good. Tomato plus wheat plus cheese is possibly the most important combination of foods ever.”

“Yeah I can see that,” Bea said as she turned to check the pasta pot, “cause like… pizza.”

“And grilled cheese and tomato soup.”

“You can put croutons with cheese and tomato in a salad.”

“And putting tomatoes in mac and cheese is delicious.”

“Ooh that does sound good,” Bea said, sprinkling salt into the pasta. “Actually, do you want to grate the cheese for me?”

“Yeah sure,” Pedro replied. “Where’s the grater?”

“Top drawer, far left,” Bea said.

Pedro grabbed a bowl and the cheese and started grating.

“So…” Bea started, “I watched the video you and Ben took Friday night.”

Bea glanced over at Pedro who wasn’t quite blushing but he seemed bizarrely intent on the cheese. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Umm… what’d you think?”

“Well I think Ben is an idiot mostly.” Pedro laughed.

“I have to agree with you,” he said.

“I mean even if sensitive information of that kind hadn’t come up, who takes out the camera to ask their best friend to talk about who they’d want to be set up with?”

“Right?” Pedro said, “I mean I get the communication thing but I really don’t think public exposure of sensitive conversations is part of that.”

“It’s not. I mean maybe sometimes but definitely not when it’s the first time talking about that.”

“Yeah like your video in the bath was okay. You had clearly already talked about stuff before and then Ben sharing feelings on camera was totally of his own free will and it wasn’t like the main point of the video. And you guys didn’t talk about anyone else or anything specifically so it was all good… consent-wise.”

“Right.” Bea said, smiling a little at the thought of the video then suddenly losing the smile when she remembered what might have been one or two of Pedro’s thoughts while watching it. “Right…”

Pedro’s thoughts had gone in a similar direction. “Hey at least we’re even on the voyeuristic kiss watching at this point.”

“That is true. Sorry I kind of put you in the position where you had to agree to me watching it on Friday.”

“No no it’s fine. I mean it was easier for you to watch the conversation then for Ben to recount it word for word. I definitely wasn’t forced into anything. And most of it was I guess relevant to you for understanding what’s up with us now.”

“And what is up with you now?” Bea asked, leaning her back against the counter and folding her arms.

“Well… we’re umm both dating Ben right?”

Bea laughed, “Yeah sorry obviously. I just meant that I wanted to kind of check up on if that was still working for you.”

“It’s been two days, I’m pretty sure it’s still working for me.”

“Right obviously. It’s just that you may have mentioned having feelings for more than just Ben.”

Pedro looked up at her quickly, eyes like a deer in headlines and clear panic written on his face. “I umm…” Beatrice kind of felt bad for putting him in that position but he had told her himself and maybe it was a little bit cruel but didn’t he deserve it just a little bit? “I… I think I’ve run out of cheese.”

Then the doorbell rang and Beatrice went off to open it saying “That must be Ben” leaving Pedro to slowly get his breath back. Beatrice was happy for the interruption too. Getting Pedro flustered was one thing but actually talking about her thoughts and feelings Pedro was not as appealing.

“Hello love,” Ben said as Bea opened the door. He greeted her by putting his hands on her hips and kissing her as she draped her arms around his neck.

“Hello dear,” Bea said. “Are you ready for some pasta and movies?”

“Oh you know it. I am always, always ready for pasta and also movies.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Ben saw Pedro peak around the corner into the hallway, catch sight of them, and then quickly duck back.

Bea kissed Ben again slowly, taking her time, totally unbothered by the fact that Ben was only half way in the house and the door was open.

“Ahem.” A half cough came from behind Beatrice. She turned to find Leo standing there. “If you two wouldn’t mind I need to get to the closet for my scarf.”

“Ah right, sorry man,” Ben said.

“Additionally,” Leo said, “don’t you think it’s rude to leave a guest waiting for you awkwardly in the kitchen?”

Bea laughed, “Pedro will get over it.”

“I can hear you from here you know,” Pedro said, coming around the corner.

“You seem to think I care,” Beatrice answered.

“Beatrice,” Leo said, “there’s no need to be rude to him. Not when you appear to be making some sort of… reconciliation dinner.”

“You’re assuming that it is a reconciliation dinner,” Beatrice snapped back.

“Well… what else would it be? You shouldn’t really invite someone to your house if you don’t plan on getting along with them.”

“Again, you’re assuming that I did the inviting,” Bea said with a significant look at Ben.

“Now now Beatrice,” Ben said in mock condescension, “you did promise to play nice. I’m sorry Leo, reconciliation is definitely in the plans but I’m not sure we’re a hundred percent on that yet.”

“You can say that again,” Leo said, putting his scarf around his throat. “I’m off, won’t be home until late. Let Mum and Mumma know if they ask.”

“Sure thing,” Bea said.

And with that, Leo walked out the door.

“So,” Ben said after he had closed the door, “it appears that you haven’t ripped each other completely to shreds in my absence. That seems like progress.”

“Don’t give us too much credit,” Bea said. “Pedro here was too busy grating cheese to do anything stupid.”

Pedro shrugged. “I like grating cheese.”

“And I like that you grate cheese,” Ben said, wandering over to the very full bowl of cheese and taking a pinch to put in his mouth. “I love a man who can satisfy my bite sized cheese snack cravings.”

Pedro snorted. Bea gently whacked Ben on the head.

“I’m assuming the cheese goes with the pasta?” Ben asked.

“And the tomato sauce,” said Pedro.

“Because tomato plus cheese plus wheat is an excellent combo,” Bea added.

“Precisely,” said Pedro, taking a handful of cheese himself and dumping it into his mouth.

“Hey,” Bea said, “We haven’t actually sat down to eat yet so stop snacking and set the table would you boys?”

“As my lady wishes,” Ben said, bowing. Bea rolled her eyes. Pedro picked up the stack of plates off the counter and brought them to the table.

 

Pedro had expected that there would be some awkward moments maybe, a silence or two, and a conversation he wasn’t really a part of that was just Bea and Ben arguing lovably at each other or maybe mooning over each other. He was surprised, however, that ten minutes after he sat down to dinner with them, he found himself with a forkful of pasta, arguing about flamingos (again) and enjoying it terribly.

“No you can’t just make the claim that flamingos are the best birds,” Bea said. “It’s too biased a statement. You have no physical proof that flamingos are any way superior to any other bird species in existence.”

“They’re pinker! And more capable of standing on one foot therefore: better.” Ben said with a mouthful of pasta.

“False, there are plenty of other birds that are capable of standing on one leg,” Pedro said.

“Thank you, Pedro,” Bea said. “Also pinker is not better in fact pink is awful so flamingos are awful end of argument.”

“I knew other birds can stand on one leg what do you think I am an idiot?” Ben asked.

“More like a bird nerd,” Pedro said.

“Or just wrong,” Bea added.

“Shut up! Pink is an excellent color and also what makes your hatred of pink so objective huh? Where’s your proof that flamingos are any worse than any other bird?”

            “Not having proof that they’re awful certainly doesn’t prove that they’re any better,” Pedro said.

            “That’s not what I said!” Ben said.

            “But it’s what you insinuated,” Bea added. “And you’re still wrong. If flamingos are so great, why do we only make plastic lawn ornaments out of them instead of great big statues? Look at the Americans with their stone eagles all over the place. They don’t have any statues of flamingos do they?”

            “I really don’t think you should be arguing greatness by using America as a frame of reference,” Pedro noted.

            “Fair point,” Beatrice said. “But the idea is still sound. I mean I think France has statues of eagles too? Anyway, when was the last time you saw an epic glory statue of a flamingo?”

            “Just because they don’t exist doesn’t mean someone doesn’t want to make them,” Ben said.

            “Do you want to make a flamingo statue?” Pedro asked.

            “Maybe I do, what’s it to you?”

            “Oh stop please. I’d like to see you try to carve a statue remotely flamingo shaped,” Bea said.

            “Well maybe I will!” Ben said.

            Pedro and Bea gave each other a look and then burst out laughing.

            “How dare you mock my heretofore untapped artistic talent!” Ben said, angrily dropping his fork in his empty plate. “Anyway, I’m done with my pasta and can’t be expected to properly support an argument without dessert.”

 

            After dessert, Pedro said that he should probably get going.

            “What already?” Ben protested, “but you’ve only had one bowl of chocolate salad!”

            “I’m pretty sure one bowl of chocolate salad is the normal amount of chocolate salad for the adult human to consume,” Pedro said, pushing his chair away from the table and moving to get up.

            “Normal is relative and you’re wrong,” Beatrice said, serving herself more chocolate. “Chocolate salad is a gift to the world you can eat as much as you want.”

            “Yeah what Bea said! Sit down, have another one. Come on,” Ben said.

            Pedro looked nervously at Beatrice. She hadn’t exactly asked him to stay. “No I really have to go. My mom said she wanted me home by 8 and it’s already 7:30.”

            “Oh my god, it’s only 7:30?” Ben said. “You’ve only been here for an hour and a half!”

            “I’ll see you tomorrow,” Pedro said to Ben. “There’s no need to panic about this. You and Bea were having time alone. I’m not going to intrude on that.”

            “Right okay. But it wouldn’t be intruding, would it Bea?” Ben asked her just as Bea shoved a large chunk of chocolate into her mouth and then shrugged in response.

Pedro was going to have to go before Beatrice started openly rejecting the idea of him staying.     “No it’s really okay. We could, I dunno, hang out the three of us together some other time maybe.” Ben agreed heartily but upon pronouncing those words, Pedro was certain that it was never going to happen.

            “I’ll walk you to the door?” Ben said.

            Pedro nodded and then thanked Beatrice for the food and the hospitality. Beatrice ate another piece of chocolate salad and waved goodbye.

            “Sorry for crashing your night with Beatrice,” Pedro said at the door.

            “You didn’t crash it; I invited you, you dope,” Ben said, putting a hand on Pedro’s upper arm. Pedro smiled a little bit. Then Ben brought his hand up to Pedro’s jaw and Pedro felt like he was about to shiver but didn’t. Then Ben kissed him lightly on the lips. Pedro pulled away rapidly.

            “Are you okay?” Ben said.

            “Yeah I’m fine,” Pedro said. “Like really fine, like excellent really it’s just… very new you know?”

            “Yeah I get it,” Ben said. “At least partially. We’ll talk about it a little more tomorrow yes?”

            Pedro nodded. There was a small silence and Pedro stared at the ground a little bit before taking a deep breath and saying, “I had a really good time tonight. Thank you for inviting me.”

            Ben grinned. “Any time.”

            There was another silence then Pedro started to lean in slowly and Ben joined him for another quiet kiss, Pedro’s hand resting tentatively on Ben’s neck. There was something about the evening that had made Pedro quiet and hesitant, like he was with most of his crushes (Ben had been around for most of them). Ben smiled into the kiss and wrapped his arms around Pedro’s neck. Pedro lightly touched Ben’s back. Ben giggled.

            “What?” Pedro asked.

            “Nothing,” Ben laughed. “I just remembered that you’re a gigantic nerd.”

            Pedro rolled his eyes and shoved Ben lightly. “Goodnight. See you tomorrow.”

            Ben kissed him quickly one more time. “Yeah, your house at 2 pm, I’ll be there.”

 

            When Ben got back to the living room, Bea had dumped the dishes in the sink, was cuddled up with a blanket, and had the Scott Pilgrim menu screen already up on the television.           She patted the spot next to her. Ben sat down.

            “Chocolate salad?” she said, offering the bowl to Ben.

            Ben smiled a little bit and took the bowl. Beatrice was about to start the movie when he said, “Wait.”

            Bea put down the remote.

            “What was up with you going all quiet when Pedro left?”

            Bea shrugged. “Nothing, I was just quiet.”

            “Beatrice,” Ben said, scooting around on the couch under the blanket to face her, “two things: one, you are never quiet and two, communication is key remember? Especially now that you’ve okayed if not initially proposed a polyamorous relationship. That’s the kind of thing that requires extra communication with a soda on the side.”

            “Oh soda hold on I need to go get a drink,” Beatrice said, slipping out from under the blanket and going back to the kitchen.

            “Beatrice!”

            “No okay you’re right,” she yelled from the kitchen. “You’re right! I just, I’m just gonna get this drink and then we’ll talk okay?”

            Ben nodded from his place on the couch.

            “Do you want one?” Beatrice asked with her face in the fridge.

            “Yes please.”

            Bea sat down with two soda cans and handed one to Ben, snuggling back up under the blankets again, her feet on top of Ben’s facing each other.

            She took a deep breath, “Okay, I had fun tonight, I really did. And like, the relationship is not a problem. I mean not yet. I guess we should keep talking about things and like what we’re comfortable with. Like I don’t know if you want to talk about your relationship with Pedro with me or not I mean that’s up to you I guess… Anyway. Umm what was I saying?”

            “The relationship isn’t a problem and you had fun tonight,” Ben answered.

            “Right. Well I’m still not romantically interested in Pedro, no matter how cute he is or how happy he makes you.”

            Ben nodded. “Understood.”

            “But also, I don’t know if it’s that I couldn’t be romantically interested in him or if there’s something stopping me from it. Like… sometimes I feel like I could be? Maybe? But also I still can’t believe that he sided with Claudio and that makes me distrust him tons I mean he literally ostracized all of his friends in one fell selfish swoop all because he liked me? He got mad at me first and like sided against me principally and everything because he was pissed that I rejected him or something. You saw that too right?”

            Ben nodded slowly. “Yeeaaah… yeah I think so.”

            “And that really doesn’t make me want to like him.”

            Ben made a face, “Yeah it doesn’t make me want to like him either.”

            Beatrice laughed. “But you do?”

            Ben sighed, “God help me I do. I have done for a while I think. Not in a pining way… well maybe a little bit in a pining way. But I have definitely liked him at different points, you know, kind of… leading up to this?”

            “Right.” Beatrice fiddled with the top of her soda can. “I think that’s all I wanted to say. It’s not like there’s a problem or anything.”

            “No but I’m glad I’m up to date on your feelings,” Ben said, crawling forward to cuddle up to Bea on her side of the couch. He kissed her on the cheek. “Your feelings are very important to me.” Beatrice smiled. “Especially the ones that are directed at me.”

            “Oh for god’s sake,” Bea said, rolling her eyes dramatically but allowing Ben to pull her close with his arm around her. “You’re ridiculous, you know that right?”

            Ben smiled and nuzzled into her neck. “You love it.”

            She kissed the top of his head. If Ben could still make her laugh even when she was nervous and angry and in love all at the same time, then this couldn’t be that bad of an idea.

            “Do you have any feelings to communicate?” Bea asked.

            “Tons,” Ben said. “But I think I’m going to start with all the good ones.” Beatrice raised an eyebrow at him as he looked up at her. He smiled and then pushed forward into a kiss. She wrapped her arms around his waist and reciprocated joyfully. For now, Scott Pilgrim could wait.

Chapter Text

Pedro woke up on Monday morning feeling mostly normal. Then, as he was fixing his hair in front of the mirror, his mom opened the door and let him know that she had made French toast for breakfast and his stomach churned unhappily. She closed the door and he groaned audibly to himself. He loved French toast. Why did he have to be this damn nervous today of all days?

            Pedro and Ben (and Beatrice through Ben via text) had all confirmed that they were going to keep the open relationship issue to themselves for the time being. That was extremely reassuring to Pedro. Sure, he was going to regret not being able to hold Ben’s hand in the halls or give him a kiss on the cheek before class but the resulting questions and criticism and gossiping at Bea and suggestions of cheating were not something he thought his reputation could withstand at this particular point in time. He was having enough of a hard time as it was.

            Though, the bisexual thing was kind of out in the open now. At least, Pedro was going to make sure it was. Subtly. One step at a time, right? He’d talked to Ben about it and Ben had agreed that it would be a really good thing to help Pedro feel better about himself. Pedro had actually come out to Claudio over text the night before and he had told John as well so he was going to keep bringing it up in conversations gradually. It was going to be worth it but honestly exhausting. Pedro almost wished that Ben could just post that video he’d taken the night of the party that way everyone would know all at once and he wouldn’t have to go through the process ten thousand times. But there were… other things in the video he wasn’t eager to publicize.

            But in essence, there was nothing to be nervous about. No one would know about him and Ben because they weren’t going to act any way out of the ordinary. Nonetheless, Pedro was running the thousand different ways he could give it away. Someone would be able to read his face and know, he was certain of it. Looking for reassurance, he texted Ben to say good morning.

            Ben replied: good morning to you too <3 :*

                                how are you feeling this lovely monday?

            Pedro: I’m doing okay.

            Ben: just okay?

            Pedro: Yeah I mean, it’s a Monday.

            Ben: true

                    did you get all your homework done?

            Pedro: Why must you remind me of my responsibilities so early in the morning?

            Ben: sorry sorry

                     i’ll think of something nicer to talk about

                    will i b able to see u before classes start for the day?

            Pedro: Yeah I think so. But if we see each other too often will that hint at people that we’re, you know, dating?

            Ben: i really don’t think that’s the first thing they’ll assume

            Pedro: Yeah but maybe just in case we shouldn’t see each other until like between classes or something.

            Ben: pedro, sweetheart, r u nervous?

            Pedro: …maybe

            Ben: you really shouldn’t be

                    no one is going to think anything at all and even if they did what does it matter?

            Pedro: But what if they think you’re cheating on Beatrice or they think that I’m making you cheat on her after everything I sided with Claudio on with Hero and everything. They’ll think I’m even more of an asshole and a hypocrite then before.

            Ben: but ur not an asshole and a hypocrite r u?

                    i know that beatrice knows that and after we explain our friends will know that too

                    i know ur nervous and i totally understand

                    itll be okay tho

                    we’re in this together

            Pedro took a deep breath and texted him “Okay. I’ll meet you in front of school” as he got into the car. Even with Ben’s reassurance, he hadn’t managed to eat any French toast. Unfortunate, but inevitable.

           

            Pedro saw Ben briefly before school started though he spent most the time they were together making sure not to touch Ben at all: no hugs, no handshakes, no fistbumps. Ben raised an eyebrow at him as Pedro dodged his high five.

            “You contagious or something?” Ben said.

            Pedro gave him a meaningful look.

            “Yeah yeah okay. I’ll see you at lunch.”

            Pedro didn’t actually get to see Bea until lunch time where they found themselves in the school yard in their normal hang out space that they had somewhat claimed as a group. Pedro hadn’t actually had lunch there for a few weeks but Ben accosted him in the hallway before lunch and insisted he come too.

            “It would be weirder if you weren’t there,” Ben said, gently touching the inside of Pedro’s wrist that was hanging at his side. Pedro pulled away but slowly and he nodded. Ben grinned and nudged him playfully on the shoulder.

            Outside, Ben and Beatrice sat next to each other on one table, Ben with his arm wrapped around Beatrice’s shoulder. Pedro sat on the table across from them. The rest of the crew filled in; Meg, Ursula, and Claudio on the same table as Pedro, Hero and Balthazar sitting next to each other on the table with Beatrice and Benedick.

            “You know, I’m pretty sure we could all fit on one table,” Ursula said as she sat down by Pedro.

            “Are you kidding me?” Meg said, dramatically laying herself out on top of the table. “I need my spaaace.”

            Beatrice giggled. Ben turned to watch her smile with a look of utter adoration. Pedro’s gut flip flopped. He ran his hand through his hair real quick, staring at the ground, scared that someone could hear how fast his heart was pounding and would figure out why. So really this was turning out to be just an average day. But when Pedro looked up Ben was smiling at him. It was definitely a smile directed just at him. Pedro’s gut squirmed again. Okay maybe not so average.

            “Hey, has anyone ever had English with Ms. Henson?” Claudio asked.

            “Yeah I have,” Hero said. “Why?”

            “Would you say that she’s a fair grader?”

            “Mostly. Did she give you a bad grade?” Hero asked.

            “Yeah… something about how my interpretation of the text was too outlandish,” Claudio said.

            “An English teacher told you that your interpretation was too much?” Pedro asked. “That seems hypocritical.”

            “Yeah, you should have heard her thoughts on Catcher in the Rye,” Claudio said.

            “Oh god, symbolism,” Pedro said.

            “Hey,” Beatrice rebuked, “sometimes that stuff is pretty legit.”

            “Yeah,” Hero said, “and like, anyone can have whatever interpretation they want you know? That’s one of the cool things about literature, it can mean different things to different people and be just as powerful from different points of view.”

            “Well yeah,” Claudio said. “Exactly why I don’t get why I deserved the grade she gave me.”

            Hero shrugged. “When I was in her class I kind of just rehashed what she said to us.”

            “Did she give you guys the speech about Holden and the ducks?” Claudio asked.

            “Oh no wait the whole ‘Where do the ducks go in the winter?’ thing?” Beatrice asked.

            “Yeah!”

            “Mr. Vandenbrook gave us that whole speech too and I mean I kind of get the stuff with the loss of innocence and the prostitute, which honestly is a dick move on the part of the author like stop making women your symbols instead of actual people but like okay why on earth does it matter if Holden asks about the ducks? Like I don’t get it. What if Holden just likes ducks?” Beatrice said.

            “Yeah!” Ben agreed, “What if Holden just likes ducks?”

            “I’m going to get that tattooed on my forehead,” Pedro said.

            “That’d be a really good look for you,” Ben said and winked at him from across the tables.

            “You could get a matching one that said ‘Where do ducks go in the winter?’” Bea suggested.

            “So when we walk around we form this like, really passive aggressive pair of phrases?” Ben nodded in agreement. “I like it. It’s really sentimental. Very romantic.”

            Pedro laughed then realized what exactly Ben had just said. Claudio laughed weirdly hard at that. “Oh yeah totally, you and Pedro, couples tattoos. Watch out Beatrice, Pedro’s gonna steal your man.”

            Beatrice opened her mouth to say something and then closed it, side eying Ben for some kind of cue about where they should try to steer the conversation next to avoid this.

            Thankfully they didn’t have to do anything drastic because Meg said, “If I got a couple’s tattoo I’d get one line of dialogue from Les Mis and they’d get the other one.”

            Pedro realized that he had been holding his breath and finally let himself exhale.

            “What like, Marius and Cosette?” Claudio asked.

            “No dummy,” Meg replied, “Enjolras and Grantaire.”

            Claudio shrugged. “Never heard of them.”

            “Come on, you at least know Enjolras, he’s the one with the red and gold jacket? And the flag? And the waving? And the leading the people at the barricade?” Meg said.

            “Oh yeah him. Who’s the other one?” Claudio asked.

            “He’s the drunk,” Meg replied.

            “I don’t remember a drunk,” Ben said.

            Meg sighed. “No, no one does. I mean it’s not like they’re major characters or anything.”

            “Wait so are they actually an item in the book?” Hero asked.

            “Not exactly but it explicitly says that Grantaire loved Enjolras which I guess you can interpret as admiration but it’s definitely romantic,” Meg said.

            “So how do they have romantic soulmate dialogue?” Ben asked.

            “It’s not exactly romantic but at one point Enjolras turns to Grantaire and says ‘Be serious’ and Grantaire says ‘I am wild’”, Meg replied.

            “Oh so you’d get the ‘be serious’ tattoo,” Beatrice said.

            Meg gave Beatrice a look of mock disbelief and said, “Oh please,” making Bea laugh again.

            “You know that’s oddly perfect,” Pedro said. “I could really see you with a tattoo that said ‘I am wild’, with or without the Les Mis context.”

            “I should really watch that musical again,” Balthazar said. “Especially if I managed to miss the gay background couple.”

            “Okay so they’re not really a couple and the musical doesn’t usually translate the way it is in the book, let me explain,” Meg said, turning to Balthazar and proceeding to go into extreme detail about Victor Hugo’s epic novel while everyone else got progressively more distracted and dissolved into other conversations.

            Pedro dearly hoped that no one had noticed anything weird about where the conversation went. He felt like he was in some kind of Jane Austen novel or something and Ben had slipped up on keeping their relationship secret at a picnic and now everything was liable to go very wrong.

            But looking around, no one seemed to be bothered. Ursula, Balthazar, and Hero were all listening to Meg, occasionally laughing or asking questions of disbelief or clarification when Meg said things like “Enjolras is literally a fifteen year old girl!” Hero began chiming in in agreement and becoming increasingly convinced that Meg was right and that Victor Hugo had written everyone originally as trans and queer. Balthazar agreed and Meg was starting to go into her rant on Enjolras and asexuality. At that, Ursula, who had been listening patiently, perked up significantly.

            Claudio was lingering on the edges of the conversation, without much to add really since his complaints about English class had been derailed. Ben and Beatrice were conversing into each other’s ears. Beatrice looked a little concerned and Ben looked a bit sheepish. Pedro assumed that it had something to do with Ben’s slip up earlier. Ben looked up and caught Pedro looking at them. He made an apologetic grimace. Pedro shrugged and tried to look like it didn’t matter.

            And in all honesty it didn’t. Especially because the only person who had noticed and said anything about it was Claudio and honestly, he was pretty dense about these things. Claudio hadn’t even noticed originally that Hero liked him back then he thought that Pedro was stealing Hero from him and in conclusion, he wasn’t the most perceptive of people. At least when it came to romantic relationships. The more ridiculous the idea that he and Ben could be an item the better, Pedro thought. And considering their current situation, that seemed like the likeliest result.

            Ben smiled when he realized that Pedro wasn’t bothered by the mistake and went back to talking to Beatrice. Pedro couldn’t hear what they were saying over Meg’s excited theorizing and the other’s chiming in after her, but they seemed to be figuring it out. He could always talk to Ben about it later.

 

            The lunch break ended uneventfully, the conversation staying mercifully away from “couple’s tattoos” or any other such phrase. There was a decent amount of teasing directed at Benedick and Beatrice, as mostly was regular now that they were openly an item. Pedro refrained from joining in for fear of saying something stupid but he particularly appreciated Balthazar’s comment that they should start a kind of swear jar where instead of swearing, they would put in money every time Ben lost an argument to Beatrice.

            “I’d rather give her a kiss every time I lose,” Ben said.

            “What makes you think I want to kiss a loser?” Beatrice replied.

            That had gotten Pedro’s favorite round of laughter of the day. Ben had mock pouted while Beatrice joyfully did not deign his false grumpy face with a response.

            Now they were slowly making their way to class, slinging on backpacks and dragging feet because no one in their right mind wants to go to class on a Monday. Ursula’s year nines zipped by on their way to class or maybe on their way to solve some other mystery, you could never really tell which, Verges giving Ursula a quick hello before Dogberry ushered them on. Pedro caught sight of John, who he nodded to and got a nod in response. He was glad to see John actually going to class instead of loitering somewhere on the side of the building.

            “Hey John!” Benedick caught sight of John and unlatched himself from Beatrice to go run over to him. “I wanted to ask you something.”

            Pedro turned to Beatrice and said, “What’s that about?” gesturing at John and Ben.

            “Ben mentioned something about wanting to make sure everyone was doing okay, maybe inviting John to a get together sometime. He seemed to really warm to everyone at the picnic you know? Ben thought it might be good for John to have a couple more friends,” Beatrice said.

            Pedro smiled. “That boy is too lovely for his own good. It surprises me every time.”

            “Yeah, that and he’s a great kisser, am I right?” Beatrice said, elbowing Pedro in the side.

            Pedro glanced around but no one seemed to have heard her. He relaxed and laughed. “More like excellent kisser.”

            Beatrice made a face of mock surprise at him. “Watch it, stud. I might have to come after you for my man.”

            “I’d like to see you stop me,” Pedro said, swaggering away as over dramatically as he could.

            Beatrice giggled and began to follow into the building when someone tapped her on the shoulder. When Pedro glanced quickly around, he hadn’t caught sight of Hero who was glancing at her work schedule and digging through her backpack behind a table while he and Beatrice had been joking around.

            “Beatrice?” Hero asked tentatively.

            “Yeah?”

            “What was that about?” Hero asked.

            “Umm… What was what about?”

            “Pedro? Kissing Ben?”

            “Ummm…”

            “Beatrice, is everything okay?”

            “Absolutely okay! Totally okay, better than okay.”

            “Did Pedro kiss Ben or something? At a party or like, while drunk? I mean cause I can totally see that Pedro’s had a thing for Ben for ages and if he like awkwardly kissed him one time… Maybe don’t bother him too much about it?”

            “Yeah no don’t worry I won’t bother him about it.”

            Hero furrowed her eyebrows. “Bea?”

            “Nothing’s going on, I swear.”

            “Is this a ‘nothing’s going on’ in the same way that you ‘don’t have any particular feelings for Ben’? Because I thought we went over the fact that you don’t lie very well.”

            Beatrice sighed. “Look, everything’s fine I promise. If something bad was happening I would tell you right?”

            “Right. Just don’t bother Pedro too much okay? Because I’m pretty sure he still has a thing for you and I mean if he had a thing for Ben at some point too, what’s going on between you two is kind of hard for him you know?”

            Bea smiled. “Yeah, I’ll be careful.”

            “You better. You’re more vicious than you think you are.”

            “Excuse me, I am a perfect angel.”

            “Well,” Hero said, “I wouldn’t say perfect but pretty damn near.”

            Beatrice rolled her eyes. “Couldn’t you be a little less sweet for once?”

            Hero grinned. “Never.”

Chapter Text

From her room, Hero heard the sound of the front door opening and closing. She glanced at the clock: 7 pm. Leo and Mumma were already home and Mum wasn’t coming home until at least 8. So it must be Beatrice.

This was the second evening in a row that she’d spent the afternoon with Benedick. Not that that was particularly strange. Hero could remember a time in recent memory when she had been the one coming in at 7 or later three nights a week and texting Claudio until late in the night.

But something was off. It wasn’t anything to do with how much time Beatrice spent hanging out with Ben or how Ben was acting towards Beatrice. Hero was even hesitant to call it a problem. Nothing was… wrong. It just seemed odd or rather, unexplainable. In any case, it was something that Hero had decided to talk to Beatrice about and she was not putting it off for another day.

Hero opened her door as Beatrice arrived at the top of the stairs. “Bea, can I talk to you?”

Beatrice slung her backpack off her shoulder, giving Hero a quizzical look. “Yeah sure thing, let me just drop this off.”

Hero waited as Beatrice dropped her bag off in her room.

“So what’s up?” Beatrice asked Hero who was still standing in the doorway.

Hero gestured for Bea to come in and let her sit down on the bed as Hero pulled up her desk chair to face her.

“Hero… is everything okay?”

“Oh no no everything’s fine! I mean I think it’s fine. It’s not that anything’s not fine but umm…”

“You’re not doing a really good job of convincing me here.”

“Okay, all right I’ll just ask. Is everything okay with you and Ben?”

“Yeah why wouldn’t it-”

“It’s just that since Monday he’s been a little… I mean I overheard a couple things… And then there’s you and…”

“Hero, you don’t have to worry about anything honestly. Me and Ben are fine. More than fine! I love him. He’s wonderful and kind and considerate and super attentive I mean he checks up on me multiple times a day but never in an overbearing way I mean he’s just really sweet you know? Everything’s great between us.”

“I can see that but what’s going on with Pedro?”

Beatrice swallowed. “What do you mean what’s going on with Pedro?”

“Well there was that thing you said to him about how Ben is a good kisser and Ben’s been meeting him in front of school in the morning most days and Ben seems to check on Pedro about as much as he checks on you. I mean they’ve always been really good friends and I’m really glad to see that you’re getting along with Pedro again but he seems really… He keeps making this face when he watches you and Ben and okay maybe he’s been doing that for a while but it seems like either Ben doesn’t notice which is totally believable or he’s encouraging it? And I just don’t get it because Pedro was interested in you right? So this is probably hard for him because he’s still getting over you but now I think that there might be something with Ben? Maybe it was about that and not about you or maybe it was that before and now it’s about you or the opposite way round or maybe it’s nothing at all but I just… I’m not making myself clear am I?”

Beatrice stared at her hands and picked at her nails and shrugged.

“I’m not making myself clear because I don’t think I have a clear idea what I noticed or what I think is up anyway. It doesn’t make sense to me. I think it’s just that there’s something you’re not telling me and obviously that’s fine if you want to keep it to myself but there’s really not much you don’t tell me so this is weird basically. I mean also you can just not tell me and that’s fine. I’m sorry if everything’s okay I really shouldn’t have brought this up.”

“No!” Beatrice bit her lip. “No, I mean nothing’s wrong but I’m really glad you wanted to bring it up with me and I feel bad that I haven’t talked to you about this stuff.”

“But you don’t have to talk to me about it! That’s your right I don’t have to know everything about you.”

“But I want you to know everything about me! But also… it’s not all mine to say you know?”

“So there is something up?”

“Yes. But not in a ‘something’s up’ like scary mystery kind of way. You’re right, nothing’s wrong or anything. It’s just… a little different.”

“You really don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to.”

“I just said I wanted to.” Beatrice frowned and looked back down at her hands. Hero got up from the chair and came to sit next to Beatrice. She wrapped an arm around Bea.

“Okay, I put you in a really awkward situation and I didn’t mean to. It’s Friday, we can relax and just hang out and do cousin things. Do you want to order pizza and watch The Princess Bride? And then if you want to talk about it we can and if you don’t then that’s fine.”

“Hero, that sounds so perfect. How are you so lovely?”

Hero shrugged and laughed.

“No seriously how do you do it? I mean you must be dying of curiosity because I just told you something was up and now you still don’t know what it is.”

“I am kind of dying of curiosity...”

Beatrice laughed. “Okay, you go ask Mumma if we can order pizza, I’ll put in The Princess Bride. And also I have to umm… text some people.”

Hero nodded and headed downstairs as Beatrice whipped out her phone.

 

“casual group chat, nothing to see here”

Beatrice: hello urgent situation Hero wants to know what’s going on I want to tell her can I tell her

Ben: well i say yes but i think pedro is the one you should be asking

Beatrice: I’m asking both of you because you are both involved so Pedro, think fast, can I tell Hero?

“Pedro is typing”

Beatrice: come on Peter spit it out

Pedro: What kind of name is ‘casual group chat’ anyway?

Beatrice: PEDRO

Pedro: Yeah yeah okay you can tell her

“Pedro has renamed the group chat to: Friend Chat”

Ben: friend chat is even worse than the first one

Pedro: You come up with something better then

Ben: oh i will

“Ben has renamed the group chat to: MEGA DEATH BATTLE CHALLENGE”

Pedro: I don’t even want to know how you came up with that

Ben: try and convince me that it isn’t accurate

Beatrice: okay so we’re all definitely okay with me telling Hero?

Ben: yup i love hero and trust her with my life

Pedro: Yeah… but can you maybe get her to not spread the information around or anything?

Beatrice: yes absolutely that sounds like a good idea

Ben: as i said i trust hero with my life

Beatrice: I really hope it doesn’t get as serious as all that

Ben: it won’t

“Ben has renamed the group chat to: the ben show”

Beatrice: of course it won’t

“Beatrice has renamed the group chat to: Beatrice and the Nerds”

Pedro: I am not a nerd

Beatrice: Don’t you dare change it I will block you from ever contacting me again

 

“What could possibly be on your phone that’s so amusing?” Hero asked.

“Oh uh nothing,” Beatrice said, tucking her phone in her back pocket and looking up just in time to see the credits start to roll on the television screen.

“I love that movie,” Beatrice said.

“I know.”

“I just thought I’d remind you because it’s a great movie and rewatching it was yet again proof of how amazing it is and always will be.”

Hero laughed. “I’m happy for the reminder.”

“Well I’m glad you’re happy about it. I would have had to disown you otherwise.”

“Can you disown a cousin?”

“Honestly, I don’t know. I mean probably? Yes, no, definitely. You can definitely disown a cousin.”

“I would have to be your inheritor somehow though and I don’t think that’s a thing.”

“It definitely is in this case though. If I die,” Beatrice said, putting a hand on Hero’s shoulder, “you are officially my heir and must continue to piss off Ben and be always right in my stead.”

“Wow I’m not sure I have the capability to take over for such greatness.”

“Fear not, fair Hero. You can do anything if you put your mind to it.”

Beatrice said that with such a straight and earnest face that Hero exploded into giggles. Beatrice grinned in success.

“All right so now that the movie’s over and the pizza’s gone, do you want tea and dessert? I have some left over cookies,” Hero said.

“This is a ploy to get me to talk,” Beatrice said, following Hero into the kitchen.

“It is absolutely not a ploy it is a suggestion. And also it’s really nice talking over tea and cookies.”

“Fair point. And you don’t have to do anything sneaky, I was going to talk anyway.”

Hero nodded. She had known that from the beginning but she wasn’t about to tell Beatrice.

“Okay,” Beatrice said after Hero had poured out the tea, “first of all, this information does not leave this room. Not that it will never leave this room but it just isn’t ready to be out in the world yet.”

Hero nodded.

“Second of all,” Beatrice put up two fingers, “that means that all the people involved are putting a lot of trust in you. Even aside from not telling anyone about it, it also means respecting the people involved as well as the situation. Not that you wouldn’t because you would respect everyone even if I didn’t specify because you are just that perfect, but I just want to make everything clear for everyone’s sake.”

Hero nodded again with a slight smile this time.

“And third of all,” Beatrice said, raising a third and final finger, “… be safe and have fun? I didn’t have a third point but ending with a second rule would just be anticlimactic.”

“Are you sure not having a real third point wasn’t also be anticlimactic?”

“Shh I’m always right.”

Hero laughed and grabbed a cookie. “The rules are understood, I am all ears.”

Beatrice took a deep breath. “All right so you noticed that Ben was acting a little… funny around Pedro.”

Hero nodded.

“Well that makes sense because Ben and Pedro are dating.”

Hero made her best confused face but said nothing.

“Ben and Pedro are dating but Ben and I are also still dating so Ben is dating both of us and it’s okay because we all know and it doesn’t mean he likes me any less but that he likes both of us, in different ways I guess but…yeah.”

“So like, an open relationship?”

“Yes but also not exactly open like it’s not like we’re going to be dating other people right and left but this one situation is important to Ben and it’s okay by me, I mean I trust him, and Pedro… I mean I’m still mad at Pedro but I like him you know? He’s a good friend and I think that dating Ben is good for him. Like, he likes Ben a lot and I get it.”

“Oh. Okay then.”

“That was actually a lot easier to explain then I thought it would be.”

“But you’re not telling anyone about this?” Hero said.

“No, not yet, mostly because Pedro is still nervous about how it might make people see him and it’s kind of unconventional anyway. Better not to shock too much of the general populace right off the bat while we’re still testing out the waters.”

“Right. And how did this come to be?”

“Well, at the party we had last Friday, Pedro kind of spilled to Ben that he had a thing for him and also me… still. And Ben… has also kind of had a thing for Pedro so that happened and then they told me and I suggested that Ben just date both of us.”

“But you’re not dating Pedro.”

“No… I mean I just don’t think about him in that way you know? And he has Ben and it’s not like we’re in the situation where he’s pining and struggling with no one to talk to so it’s all good.” At this Hero raised an eyebrow. “No really, it’s all good like we get along fine and Ben balances his time between us pretty well though I think he spends a little more time with me then with Pedro but honestly it’s about even. It’s not like a preference thing or anything, I mean it’s only been a week.”

“A week exactly today.”

“Yeah I guess so.”

“Happy one week poly anniversary!” Hero joked.

“Well it’s not my anniversary, I’ve been dating Ben for longer than a week.”

“Right, you’re not dating Pedro.”

“No.”

“And you don’t want to.”

“No.”

“You’re sure?”

“Hero!”

“Right right, just kidding no of course not. I’m glad you’ve forgiven him.”

Beatrice scowled and folded her arms. “I haven’t forgiven him.”

“No?”

“I’ve just… put it aside for a little while.”

Hero squinted at her and agreed skeptically.

“Honestly!” Beatrice protested.

“I believe you!”

“I mean, I think we still have to talk about it you know? Because it definitely hasn’t been addressed enough and just because we’re not talking about it doesn’t mean it’s gone.”

“Yeah, you should definitely find some time to talk to Pedro about it.”

“Maybe not immediately though.”

“If you insist. But I think talking about it is important and at least Ben should know how you feel about Pedro now.”

“Absolutely you’re right. I’ll talk to him about it. I mean he’s so good about checking up on us about how we’re feeling about the relationship. I don’t know if I could do an open relationship with just anyone but Ben is so thoughtful and eager to communicate and he just cares so much about how other people are feeling? It’s so sweet.”

“Are you making sure that you know how he’s feeling?”

“Yeah of course I am! At least… I think so?”

“You can always make sure.”

“I can. And I will. God, I’m so glad I talked to you about this,” Beatrice said, cradling her mug in her hands.

“Me too,” said Hero.

“I honestly can’t wait until Pedro is comfortable enough so we can just generally talk about this. I am not about secret relationships with people.”

“You’re not in a secret relationship with Pedro yet you know.”

“What do you mean ‘yet’?”

Hero smiled and grabbed a cookie. “Nothing. I don’t mean anything at all.”

Chapter Text

Since they had started dating, Pedro and Ben saw about as much of each other as they used to. Other than regular morning rendezvous before school for a quick kiss, they saw each other as much as they normally would have at school and then the same as they used to in the afternoons, at least three times a week. “Dates” with them were essentially just hanging out in Ben’s room as usual but with more nervous energy in case anyone walked into the room unannounced. And they didn’t tend to invite as many of their friends to join them anymore.

On this particular Thursday afternoon, Pedro dropped his backpack dramatically and then flopped onto Ben’s bed face first upon arriving in his room.

“Doin’ alright there buddy?” Ben asked, dropping his backpack too and bouncing down to sit on the bed beside him.

Pedro made a noise into the pillows that didn’t quite register as affirmative or negative.

“Okay, just let me know when you’re ready to make out because I just had a stick of gum and my mouth isn’t going to stay minty fresh forever,” Ben said.

Pedro sat up with incredible speed, still clutching the nearest pillow. Ben laughed. “I’m pleased to see that my seductive wiles are so potent. Remind me to use that power only for good,” he said, putting a hand onto Pedro’s cheek and leaning in.

Pedro blushed and mumbled, “You’re not all that hot, you know.”

“Your face right now tells a different tale,” Ben said.

Pedro rolled his eyes but before he could finish reacting, Ben was kissing him. Pedro let his exasperation go and leaned into it, releasing a muffled happy noise when Ben dragged his fingers over the fuzz at the back of his neck. Pedro gripped Ben’s back and tried to bring him closer, dragging him over until they were both lying down on the bed. Ben giggled and tugged Pedro to him by his shirt to start kissing him again when Ben’s phone made a buzzing noise.

Pedro dropped his head to Ben’s chest and giggled as Ben groaned and pulled his phone out of his back pocket.

Pedro watched Ben smile as he looked at the phone. “Text from Beatrice?” Pedro asked.

Ben nodded. “You should have one too actually, it’s on the group chat.”

“Oh okay,” Pedro leaned over the side of the bed and reached for his backpack, pulling his phone out of the front pocket.

 

bea: disgusting boys running away right after school like scared mice who are going to make out

 

pedro: I don’t think mice make out

 

ben: how woudl u know? have u ever tried to make out with a mouse?

 

Pedro looked over at Ben who was sitting up next to him now, both of them with their backs to the bed’s headboard with squinty angry eyes. Pedro stuck out his tongue.

“Should I be jealous of this mouse?” Ben asked.

“It didn’t work out between us,” Pedro said. “He was too sophisticated for me so I settled for someone a little less refined.”

Ben whacked him lightly on his side. Pedro mock flinched and giggled. Ben rolled his eyes, blushing and laughing. “Why are you so cute when you’re being an ass?”

“I could ask you the same,” Pedro replied, softening his eyelids and leaning in closer to Ben, his eyes on his lips.

Ben moved forward to reciprocate just as both of their phones buzzed again, vibrating irritatingly on the bedsheets.

Pedro started laughing again as Ben picked up his phone.

 

bea: I think if anyone was going to make out with a mouse it’d be you Ben

 

       although I have an easier time picturing you making out with those beloved flamingos of

yours

 

ben: okay i love flamingos but i dont think were at that level of intimacy

 

       i dont want to put my mouth on a beak

 

Pedro barked out a laugh.

“What? It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to say! I mean who would want to make out with a sharp keratin pincer?”

“No no it’s just that I imagined you trying to make out with a flamingo and it was a really satisfyingly absurd image.”

“What so you have a crush on me and my hypothetical flamingo partner now?”

“What? No! But hypothetically, is there a certain flamingo I should be informed about?”

“Yes, Floyd and I are going to elope.”

“You should slow down on these significant others. You’re good at this but I don’t think even you could handle a girlfriend, a boyfriend, and a bird all at once.”

“You don’t know that,” Ben said, shifting closer to Pedro and threading their fingers together, “I’m very dedicated to birds.” Ben looked up at Pedro through lidded eyes.

“Only someone in love with a weird nerd like you could find this conversation appropriate as a precursor for kissing,” Pedro said, before pressing his lips to Ben’s.

The phones buzzed again.

“Ignore it,” Pedro said, planting a kiss on Ben’s jaw.

“I really can’t, the curiosity is going to kill me.”

Pedro sighed and moved away as Ben pulled out his phone again.

“She must be really bored,” Pedro said.

“Either that or she really likes being annoying,” Ben replied.

“Probably the latter.”

 

bea: you surprise me ben, i mean after all you spend a good amount of time with pedro and we all know how prone his mouth is to shrieking awful nonsense in public

 

Ben grimaced at his phone. “That was a bit harsh.”

Pedro shrugged, “I deserve it.”

“No. No no no.” Ben sat up on his knees and put his hand on Pedro’s bicep. “You don’t. You did some awful things but you don’t deserve a constant stream of bile after you’ve delivered several apologies. And the apologies are starting to actually sound sincere!”

Pedro shrugged again, avoiding Ben’s eyes.

Ben grimaced at the intensely loud echo of his own joke falling flat. “No but honestly I’m serious. You’re really trying. Right? Pedro?”

“Look, I don’t know. I mean, I apologized for what I did you know, siding with Claudio, being rude to Bea, and I meant it but like… I don’t know, maybe it’s made me listen to Beatrice’s feminist rants a little bit more than I used to but... I mean... I think it’s actually sunk in this time like… Maybe I was missing something or maybe I was just nodding along to what she said to please her but… When I agreed with Claudio, when I said those things about Bea and Hero it’s not like I was doing that actively out of spite to be mean. I mean I was but it was because I really thought that... I really thought they deserved it. I really thought that if Hero had slept with someone else it was okay to tell people because it meant she was… it meant she was a terrible person. That she was just some cheating bitch you know? And sometimes I think that if I thought like that and because sometimes I still think like that… that it’s all right if Bea still hates me and reminds me of how I fucked up you know? Cause there’s always a chance that I could do it again…”

“Pedro, look at me.” He raised his eyes to Ben. “I get it. I get it and sometimes Beatrice has to slap me on the back of the head too because of the things I say, like assumptions about women and stuff. But it’s not your first instinct that dictates you as a person. It’s the part of you that’s thinking this that counts, that’s second guessing misogyny and all those other things you’ve learned to accept as true. You’re not perfect, but Beatrice knows that, and it’s not a reason for her to keep lashing out you know? It’s… like I get it but I also… I also don’t get it because look at you. I mean you’re clearly trying now right? And like maybe it’s not something you can change right away but… I don’t know… I think Beatrice is a bit much sometimes that’s all…”

Ben sat back down with his back to the headboard, hugging his knees.

Pedro fiddled with his sweater zipper.

“Um...”

“What?” Ben turned sharply to hear Pedro’s thought.

“... Nevermind.”

Ben went back to staring at the unanswered message on his phone from between the tops of his knees.

“...What was it like?” Pedro asked.

“Hmm?”

“What was it like to be on Beatrice side? I mean like… what was she like? After what I did?”

Ben shrugged and rested his chin on his knees again. “I don’t know… she was sad you know? I mean really angry but I think that was the easier part to deal with. Honestly she was angry kind of as an afterthought... I mean not like it wasn’t legitimate but she was angry because she was sad. That was the hardest part. Beatrice being sad and feeling unbelievably disappointed in just about everyone, herself included. Honestly… she was really hurt by you and… and I think that’s why she’s still angry you know? Not because she hates you or even because she hates what you did, which she does, but like, specifically because… because she doesn’t want to remember how much it hurt when you said things weren’t always about her.

“I mean… you were right… but in the wrong way. Things aren’t always about her and sometimes she forgets that. Hell, I forget that. I forget that things aren’t always about me. Not that things aren’t always about Beatrice. Although, come to think of it, I sometimes forget that too. She has a way of warping the universe to be around her you know?

“But yeah. She just… she just trusted you Pedro. She trusted you and then you betrayed it and like you’ve apologized for it and everything but the fact that she hasn’t forgiven you… that just goes to show how deep that trust goes… or went. But I think she’ll trust you again. I mean… she’s already trusting you enough to date me right? Not that I’m especially valuable or anything like… I can take care of myself but… you know what I mean.”

Pedro frowned at his zipper.

Ben looked at him sympathetically then sighed and rested his chin back on his knees again, staring at the opposite wall.

Pedro sighed. “Sorry to bring this stuff up. I didn’t mean to be such a downer.”

“No, oh my god don’t worry about it!” Ben said, uncurling himself and moving back towards Pedro. “This is… important.” Ben put his hand on Pedro’s hand that wasn’t fiddling with his zipper.

“I’m… glad you talked to me about this. Like I’m glad I have more of your side of what happened you know?” Pedro said as he finally looked up Ben, opened his hand and took hold of Ben’s.

Ben smiled. It was infectious and Pedro couldn’t stop himself from smiling too.

Ben let out a little giggle.

“What?” Pedro asked.

“No I was just thinking… The image of me making out with a flamingo is actually pretty funny.”

Pedro laughed, fully aware that Ben was changing the subject with a joke. This was yet another of those times where he couldn’t be happier that Ben was so good with this particular coping mechanism. “It’s honestly a beautiful image. I can see it particularly on a hill in front of a beautiful sunset, the flamingo dipping you into a dramatic smooch.”

“Oh man it’s heart wrenching, it brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it.”

“Honestly, I’m going to make this happen.”

“Nu uh you are not having me make out with a flamingo.”

“No, I mean, I’m gonna photoshop it into existence and then plaster it all over your locker.”

“That’s bullying!”

“Then you’ll have to report me to the proper authorities.”

“Nah,” Ben said, lifting a thumb to Pedro’s cheek, “I’ll just sic Beatrice on you.”

“Oh no!” Pedro said, placing his palm down on his own chest in shock, “Anything but Beatrice!”

Ben got a little quiet again, “I’ll… talk to her about the text shall I?”

“... Yeah… that’d be nice.”

“Okay. I will. But in the meantime, I’m going to have to break the bad news to you that the gum flavor has officially worn out and I am no longer minty fresh.”

“That’s too bad,” Pedro said, leaning in, “I’ll just have to deal with the gross way you normally taste.”

Ben giggled as Pedro kissed him, pressing him against the backboard, holding each other maybe a little too tight and thinking of nothing but each other’s lips, both phones lying silent and forgotten at last.

Chapter Text

The last two days of school came and went. Two weeks after what Bea thought of as The Party (the kind of weird beginning to something new one… not to be confused with the PARTY which was full of anger and pain or The Picnic which was nice but kind of sad or any of the other events that occurred in her oddly tumultuous life). It was the last day of school and aside for a couple tearful goodbyes in the hallways, it was kind of uneventful for the finality of it all. Bea’s last day of high school. Same for Pedro and Ben. And also for a bunch of Bea’s close friends.

“It’s weird isn’t it?” Pedro said on the steps of the school at the end of the day, walking out of the doors for what would be the last time for a long time.

“I guess,” Bea shrugged.

“We’ll be back,” Ben said.

“Not too soon I hope,” Meg chimed in.

Bea felt that the moment should have been colored by a tearful last sunset. Or at least some good final audio soundtrack. It would have made it really satisfying to be able to slow motion punch the air and end on a dramatic shot.

“So I guess this is it then,” Pedro said.

“Well we’ll all be seeing each other this summer right?” Ursula said.

The whole group of friends gave their full agreement, breaking off into separate conversations about hypothetical picnic plans and laserforce games. Both Pedro and Beatrice got kind of quiet.

Beatrice glanced at Pedro who was looking at the ground. She imagined that he might be thinking about a future in which the two of them would oddly never see each other. Or at least she assumed he was because that’s what she was thinking about. She didn’t particularly not want to see him again but aside from Ben, there wasn’t anything keeping them in the same place anymore. Other than, well, friendship but it wasn’t the same. It couldn’t really go back to what it was before she moved here. And then, their friendship wasn’t the kind of distant summer friends anymore but it wasn’t something new exactly and she didn’t know how much energy she would have to maintain it. And maybe Ben would make a difference but well… maybe one of their couples would break up. And then Bea sure as hell wouldn’t go running to Pedro for comfort and he’d stay far away from her too. So perhaps it was for the best.

Bea glanced over at Ben who was chatting amicably with Ursula and a couple other kids in the year under them. He would definitely help smooth things over between Bea and Pedro, no matter the result. He could smooth things over between anyone even if those people weren’t sickeningly in love with Ben which both Bea and Pedro were. So maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

Just then Ben turned to her through a gap in the conversation. “You ready to go?”

“Hell yeah I am,” Bea replied.

“Are you both leaving so soon?” Balthazar asked.

“Yeah, I’m going over to Ben’s.”

Balthazar raised their eyebrows. Meg chimed in with a chorus of “oOooOoOoo”. Pedro laughed.

“We are dating you know, it’s not unheard of for us to spend time together.”

“We know that, but if we didn’t tease you about it then what would be the point?” Hero asked.

“That’s true,” Beatrice agreed. “See you all soon then?”

“You can absolutely count on it,” Meg said, accompanied by a further chorus of joyful agreement and subsequent chatter as Ben and Beatrice waved and walked away from their small crowd.

 

“Hi Mrs. Dukes,” Ben said as he walked past their kitchen.

“We’ve told you Ben, you can just call us Isabella and Viola, we’re all friends here,” Isabella said, as she poured herself a coffee.

“Yeah, I know, but calling you by your first names means that I’m like a real adult or something and I’m trying to postpone that for as long as possible.

Viola laughed, “Understood. How was the last day of school?”

Beatrice shrugged. “Uneventful.”

“Well, you’ll still have all summer to do some fun end of school things with friends right?” Isabella said.

“Sure thing!” Ben said. “I think we should go play laserforce next weekend. Or tomorrow. Or tonight. Beatrice are you sure you don’t want to just go do that now?”

Beatrice and her aunts laughed. Ben really enjoyed getting them all to laugh at the same time. He couldn’t remember which of her aunts was related to Beatrice by blood but they all seemed to laugh kind of the same way.

“Did you leave Hero somewhere before heading home?” Viola asked.

“Nah, she stayed late, kind of hanging out with a bunch of people, with Balthazar maybe,” Ben said.

“Balthazar?” Isabella said.

Beatrice grinned. “I don’t want to make any assumptions but they’ve been spending a lot of time together.”

Viola smiled into her coffee, “That’s sweet.”

“They’re both so quiet, how do you suppose they find anything to talk about?” Isabella asked.

“You’re exaggerating, I think they have a lot in common. And sometimes you don’t need to say much to get a feeling across,” Viola said, peeking suggestively out of the corner of her eye at Isabella.

“Mm true,” Isabella said, leaning down and kissing Viola’s cheek.

“Okay, we’re gonna go and hang out in my room before you both get too mushy,” Beatrice said.

“That’s rich, coming from you two,” Viola said.

“I’m mushier than mashed potatoes,” Ben said, grabbing Beatrice’s hand.

Bea rolled her eyes but kept blushing as Ben dragged her away up the stairs.

Ben opened the door into Bea’s room, walked in backward, and tripped over a pile of books onto her bed. “Ow, crap,” he said staring up at the ceiling.

“That’s what you get for going into my room without looking both ways first. It’s a safety hazard,” Bea said, shoving all the stuff on her bed onto the floor so she could sit next to Ben.

Ben sat up. “I always forget that it can be this bad but it really is this bad and then I remember and regret it.”

Beatrice laughed and then leaned her head on Ben’s shoulder as she sighed.

“What’s wrong, beautiful?” Ben asked.

Beatrice let out a half hearted chuckle. “Nothing I guess. It’s just weird that everything’s changing you know. I mean everything was changing even before we you know, left high school. And now we’re going to university or taking a gap year and we still have the summer to see our friends and all and I’m going to keep seeing you right?” Ben nodded. “But it’s still feels like… the beginning of the end…”

“Wow, someone’s Miss Doom and Gloom.” Beatrice lifted her head up and glared at him. “Sorry sorry, I mean, no you’re absolutely right. It’s scary. And I have to be honest, I joke about it because I’m… well I’m not scared exactly… I’m… nervous maybe. Very very nervous in a… terrified sort of way.”

Beatrice giggled and kissed his cheek.

“Thanks,” Ben said.

“And I thought you were the one who was supposed to be comforting me.” Beatrice said.

“We comfort each other. That’s how this works right?”

Beatrice nodded and lay back on her bed. Ben shoved one of the books he’d landed on to the floor and lay down with her.

They both stared at the ceiling together in silence for a while before Beatrice said, “Anyway, at least you won’t have to deal with Pedro and me growling at each other anymore.”

“What?” Ben half sat up so he could stare at her from above, “Okay what on earth makes you say that? You don’t growl at each other. You never growl at each other why do you say that why?”

“Jeez sorry,” Beatrice said turning away from him, “I don’t know it’s just that maybe Pedro and I aren’t in the best place with each other right now and you’re kind of very much in the middle of it and I apologize.”

“Beatrice,” Ben said, putting a hand on her shoulder, coaxing her to look in his direction. “Do you ever think about why it is that you and Pedro aren’t on the best terms?”

“Well yeah, cause he was a misogynist dick bag and also scary and rude to me and my cousin.”

“Yeah. Like a month ago. Maybe more.”

“And it’ll be probably at least another month, maybe more before I can really forgive him for that.”

“Beatrice… I get it… I get it but-”

“Do you? Do you really get it Ben?” Beatrice sat up on her elbows and stared down at him. Ben became suddenly more subdued. “Because I don’t think you do. I think you try very hard to but you really can’t understand the kind of… the kind of betrayal and… and pain that the thought of that brings me. And we’re not even talking about how I felt right afterwards, how I felt for Hero or anything because that’s important but also how I felt! You do not know how it felt to learn that a boy I’d considered a friend and a close friend and a remarkably trustworthy and caring understanding friend was angry and jealous of me because I didn’t like him back?”

Ben stared at his shoes.

Beatrice sighed. “Look, he hasn’t done anything since then to upset me, not directly at least. That first apology was a little lackluster I’ll admit but he’s been very careful since then and hasn’t done anything rude or insulting or overtly misogynistic and mean to me. But still, Ben. That stuff is scary. It’s not something I can just bounce back from.”

“But-”

“No ‘but’. It just isn’t. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

Ben sighed. “Maybe I should just stop dating him then.”

“What?”

“I mean… if you two really don’t get along…”

“Ben, that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard you say. This has absolutely nothing to do with you dating him. For godsakes, he’s clearly not going to steal you from me for I don’t know, jealousy purposes and he’s not going to be a misogynist friendzone ashole to you because that’s literally impossible. The problems I have with him just don’t apply to that situation.”

“Oh…”

“Yeah…”

“You seem remarkably eager to defend him when it comes to dating me…” Ben said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“...I really don’t know.”

“Then let’s just drop this, okay?”

“No.”

“What?”

“No, not okay because I’m not going to spend the summer bouncing between you two carrying messages like some kind of peace keeper. If you don’t want to be around each other, that’s fine. But you do want to be around each other.”

“No we d-”

“Yes, you do. You do! I’ve seen you make private jokes to him, I’ve seen you casually chat in the corner of a room, I’ve seen you interact just fine when the pressure’s off and even look like you care about each other. And from Pedro that’s not surprising because even though you insist on insulting him to others and to his face almost daily, always reminding him of his mistakes, he still likes you, like really really likes you. But you: you care! I’ve seen you care and if you truly don’t you can say so immediately but I just dare you to try and live your life without at the very least the friendship of someone you have cared about for a long time and continue to care about even now.”

Beatrice went quiet.

“So?” Ben asked.

Bea kept looking at her hands. “I’m thinking.”

“Okay.” Ben pulled out his phone and fiddled with it for a while, opening his last few messages from Pedro, scrolling up for a bit, scrolling down.

“What do you mean at the ‘very least friendship’?” Beatrice said at last.

“Oh for God’s sake I just mean friendship. You don’t want to lose his friendship. Am I right?”

Beatrice sighed. “Yeah you’re right. At the very least it would make interactions with our families awkward forever and that would suck.”

Ben laughed. “No, but seriously, you don’t have to forgive him right away but you’ll think about what I said about the way you treat him?”

“Yeah…”

“And I’m guessing you and Pedro should talk about those feelings you have some time.”

“What feelings?” Beatrice snapped back, frowning.

“The ones where you feel uncomfortable and unsafe because of what he did?” Ben suggested hesitantly.

“Oh right yeah ...Those.”

“You’ll talk to him?”

“... I dunno.”

“You really should talk to him. I’m pretty sure he’s not aware that it goes that deep, just that you hold a grudge easily.”

“Ugh right,I forgot. I’m speaking to Mr. Communication here, aren’t I.”

“I take pride in that label,” Ben said, placing a hand to his chest to emphasize his regal adoption of the term.

“I’m glad.” Beatrice sighed looked at the ceiling and said, “Fine, yes, I will talk to him about it.”

“Good,” Ben said, taking a hold of Bea’s hand. Beatrice smiled effortlessly, as if holding Ben’s hand had flipped an automatic spring. The smile made Ben’s face feel warm and contented. This set up really wasn’t so bad if it ended with Beatrice and Pedro smiling at him like that, Ben thought to himself.

“What are you thinking about?” Beatrice said.

“What, why?”

“Your smile went all goofy out of nowhere.”

“Can’t I just be happy that you’re here with me?”

“That’s disgusting and romantic.”

“Yeah?” Ben said raising his eyebrows and scooting closer to Beatrice.

“Yeah,” Beatrice added, leaning in to Ben.

“Well then fight me about it,” Ben said, an inch from Beatrice’s lips.

“I will,” Bea giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling Ben into an unapologetically wet and happy kiss.

Chapter Text

group chat: beatrice and the nerds

ben: so…. LASERFORCE?
bea:HELL YES
im gonna crush you so hard
pedro: Haha when are you thinking of going?
ben: toMORROW?!!!?!?!
pedro: Well, I’m not busy.
bea: you’re never busy, it’s summer ya dingus
pedro: You never know
I could have really important private affairs you don’t know anything about.
ben: but u dont and tomorrow im going to crush you both at LASERFORCE
bea: i repeat that
a) i always know because i know everything and
b) I am the one whos going to be crushing YOU
pedro: I think I regret having signed myself up for this
bea: too bad sucker, you’re going DOWN

“Did you have to invite Pedro?” Beatrice asked, sitting in the front seat of Ben’s car on their way to pick up the third member of their party.

“I sent it to the group chat by accident and then it was too late to not ask him,” Ben said, shrugging.

“Liar.”

“I swear!” Ben said, taking one hand off the wheel to raise it as an oath. “And if you really don’t want him there we can always cancel last minute and duck out because someone felt sick maybe? We can reschedule and bring more people or something next time if you wanted.”

“No! No… it’s fine really. It’d be rude to chicken out now.”

“Come on, it won’t be so bad.” Ben punched Beatrice gently on the shoulder. “You can get all your frustrations out by laser shooting him full of holes.”

Beatrice laughed as they pulled into Pedro’s driveway.

“Hey friends,” Pedro said hopping into the back. “Thanks for picking me up.”

“It was my pleasure,” Ben said, turning around in the driver’s seat to look adoringly at Pedro.

“Ugh gross, don’t kiss in my presence you love sick dorks,” Bea said.

“Aww do public displays of affection bother you?” Ben said, leaning over towards her this time, getting close to her face as if for a kiss.

Beatrice side eyed him and crossed her arms, pouting.

Ben placed a single playful kiss on her cheek. “There. That’s not too much now is it?”

Pedro laughed. Ben turned to see that Pedro’s cheeks now had a reddish tinge. “Now now, don’t be jealous you get one too,” Ben said.

Pedro turned his cheek to Ben and looked down and away from him, glowing even redder in embarrassment as Ben kissed him.

“Thanks,” Pedro mumbled.

“Anytime,” Ben replied, still beaming.

Beatrice made a gagging noise.

“Now that that’s settled and I’ve properly announced my feelings towards the occupants of this car, I think we’re ready to go don’t you?” Ben said.

“Ugh yes please,” Beatrice said, her smile betraying her feelings behind her sarcastic tone of voice.

Pedro spent the ride to the laserforce place in relative silence. Ben and Beatrice were pleasantly chatting about the different kinds of annoying drivers there are and pointing them out to each other as they drove, inventing all kinds of “scientific names” like “the common canticus everbreakontimeia” and “the rare drivesedes waytooslowforus”. Pedro giggled along with them amicably or he thought he did but he may not have been laughing aloud, contented instead just to smile.

It was out of character for him and he knew it but he couldn’t bring himself to join the conversation. It almost felt like all the previous times when he had had to take a (then metaphorical) backseat to their arguing but without any of the previously vindicated eye rolling on his part. Back then he had been laughing at them but now he wished he could be laughing with them. Then again, he supposed they hadn’t really wanted him around back then either.

Just then Ben twisted his head back to look at Pedro as they reached a stop light, “You on to team up against Bea?” he asked.

“Eyes on the road dickface,” Bea said. “And what makes you think I’m going to let you two gang up on me?”

“It would not be ganging up. Rather, I’m proposing a much fairer fight because you, my love, have the strength and cunning of two men put together.”

“Nice try but even large strokes to my ego won’t save you from immediate defeat in an all or nothing fight to the death.”

“You’d actually just be setting us up for an even more epic defeat anyway,” Pedro said to Ben. “She could probably beat the two of us easily.”

“True,” Beatrice agreed. “But the same goes for you, sir. Complimenting me will get you no mercy. I am going to end you.”

Pedro gave a mock shudder of fear as Ben triumphantly turned into the parking lot of the arcade.

Fifteen minutes later, all three of them were equipped with a gun and a full suit of laser sensitive panels.

“I’ll go easy on you guys in the first round,” Bea said.

“You say that now but you’re going to regret it,” Ben said. “I’m not holding anything back.”

“I, for one, am going to start by immediately taking both of you down,” Pedro said. The couple turned around to look at him with raised eyebrows. Pedro laughed. “How much more synchronised can you two get honestly?”

Bea shrugged. “Not very much at all. We’re very different people.”

Pedro snorted. “Right, of course you’d say that. Unlike some of us here, you haven’t spent your life attempting to peacefully hang out with the both of you.”

“So you’ve become the ultimate authority on us, have you? ” Ben said.

“I think I know a thing or two when it comes to Team Blessed,” Pedro ceded.

“Bold claims, boyo,” Bea said. “Are you ready to get your ass handed to you now?”

“Any time,” Pedro said.

“Wait, wait, kiss for good luck?” Ben said.

“Which one of us are you asking?” Pedro said.

“It doesn’t matter because this is war, Benedick, and there is no time for affection,” Beatrice concluded and pressed the button to mark the beginning of the round.

3...2...1...Begin.

Pedro spent most of the first round lost in the new maze of walls only to be surprised by the sound of Ben behind him yelling “Haha! Got you!” and shooting him before Pedro had the time to do anything at all. He watched dejectedly as Beatrice rounded the corner and got shot by Ben right afterwards.

“FUCK!”

“Haha!” Ben exclaimed again.

“You watch your back, Hobbes,” Beatrice said as they made their way to the central control room. “This time I am taking you down.”

Beatrice did not in fact take him down. Instead she shot Pedro and then got shot in the back by Ben moments later. Something similar happened in the third round at which point Beatrice said, “Okay clearly sudden death is not working out for us. I suggest switching it up to first to three.”

“Sounds like someone is a sore loser,” Ben said.

“Never,” Beatrice snapped back.

Ben gave a meaningful look to Pedro behind Beatrice’s back and Pedro nodded back at him.

“Don’t think I didn’t see that,” Beatrice said, shouldering her gun. “This time I am well and truly going to beat you both.”

She didn’t. She did manage to get one shot on both Ben and Pedro before Ben took out Pedro and then her shortly afterwards. Two similar rounds later, Beatrice still hadn’t won a single round. She was particularly irritated because on the last round Pedro had managed to get the kill shot on Beatrice but then eventually gave up and let himself get shot by Ben in a stalemate.

As they walked back to the control room, Beatrice sighed and lingered with Pedro as Ben bounced forward, once again victorious.

“I’m sick of this,” Beatrice said.

“You and me both,” Pedro nodded.

“I’m going to destroy him if it’s the last thing I do.”

“I hope you only mean that in the context of the game.”

“If he keeps this up, I may not be so kind in the outerworld either.”

Pedro laughed.

“What do you say we team up?” Beatrice suggested.

“Really? Like we’re on the same side for a round in order to take him down?”

“Sure. I want to watch the fucker bleed.”

“But what about when it’s the two of us left?”

“We’ll shoot at each other simultaneously and let random incompetence in laser technology decide the winner.”

“Sounds good to me,” Pedro said.

“Shake on it?”

“Deal.” They locked hands in a firm handshake and the vicious grin that Pedro received from Beatrice in response was enough to send him bouncing and giddy into the control room again, riddled with nervous energy and adrenaline. In that moment, he couldn’t have been happier that his name wasn’t Benedick Hobbes.

All three of them exited out of different doors as usual. Pedro caught sight of Ben first and got a shot in before ducking behind a wall. Peeking over the corner to see if Ben was still there, he got a shot in the chest for his pains, groaned, and ducked back down. Then Pedro caught sight of Beatrice at the end of that corridor and signaled for her to go around the other way. Pedro turned quickly and shot at Ben, missing and getting tagged one more time in the process but forcing Ben to duck right into the alley where Beatrice was waiting. Pedro heard the sound of Ben being hit, an artificial electronic noise followed by the sound of “Crap” and Ben running after Beatrice. Pedro sprinted after him into the hall where they had him cornered and fired the final shot into Ben’s back.

“Yes! Fuckin finally!” Pedro yelped for joy, just as Beatrice fired the last shot at Pedro. The electronic victory announcement noises began to play just as Pedro’s own equipment made the descending slide notes of loss. “Wait what?”

“I win! I fucking win!” Beatrice shouted bouncing gleefully. “Never put your trust in anyone,” she said turning to look triumphantly at Pedro. “There are no friends in laserforce.”

Pedro groaned.

“I win, you lose, I think we’re done here,” Beatrice said, starting to shed her apparatus.

“You seem to be forgetting that I beat you both every single other round,” Ben said.

“Lalala I can’t hear you over the sound of me winning,” Beatrice said, skipping towards the final exit.

“Cheer up mate,” Ben said putting a hand on Pedro’s back, “You played well.”

Pedro shrugged and smiled up at Ben. “I can still beat you both at football.”

“Hah!” Beatrice said, swiftly turning back through the door to yell back at the two of them. “I’d like to see you try!”

“You’re on,” Pedro said, marching after her.

“Oh god please not right now,” Ben said, jogging behind them. “I need a snack or twelve and possibly a nap.”

“How does everyone feel about burgers?” Pedro suggested as he handed his gear in to the front desk.

“I feel strongly in favor of such things,” Beatrice said.

“Seconded,” Ben added. “Off to the noble steed on which we will ride towards an imminent and bountiful feast!”

“I call front this time though,” Pedro said.

“You’ll have to beat me to it!” Beatrice yelled as she ran.

Pedro followed quickly behind her laughing as he went.

“There’s no use running you goofballs!” Ben yelled behind them. “I’m the one who has the keys!”

Chapter Text

At the Jones Residence, the doorbell rang. Balthazar zipped out of their bedroom to get it but had already been intercepted by their father who was greeting the guest.

“Hey Hero,” Balth said.

Hero turned and smiled at them and it made Balthazar a little queasy but they tried not to show it on their face. “Hey Balth, how’s it going?” she said.

“It’s good, I’m good,” Balth said.

“I’ll just let you two alone then,” Balth’s father said. “If you want any snacks or anything you know where to find me.”

“Thanks Mr. Jones,” Hero said.

“Yeah thanks Dad,” Balth said, ushering Hero into their room.

“So I brought a bunch of stuff,” Hero said, putting her bag on Balthazar’s bed. The simple canvas bag seemed to overflow with boxes and cases of various shapes and colors.

“Wow. That’s a lot of stuff,” Balthazar said, sitting next to it on the bed. “You didn’t have to overdo yourself or anything, I’m not picky.”

“Oh my gosh, no,” Hero said. “This is an absolute pleasure. I love doing make up it’s my favorite thing.”

Balthazar blushed. “Thanks all the same.”

“Do you mind if I dump this on the bed? That way you can spread it out and look at it and pick what you like.”

“Yeah sure.”

Hero dumped the bag, all the cases making a soft clattering noise as they fell into a heap. A few handfuls of paper flowers followed them out onto the bed.

“What are those for?” Balthazar asked.

“Well, I thought, if you have some string or wire or something we could maybe make flower crowns too though now that I think of it, that’s rather a tall order.”

“I think my sister might have some pipe cleaners… would that work?”

“Yeah perfect! But also we don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

“No no that sounds really great.”

Hero smiled softly at Balthazar in a way that made them feel all warm on the inside. She had the kind of smile that people make when they see kids that remind them of themselves when they were little. But not in a condescending way. In a warm nostalgic kind of way.

“So… I don’t really know where to start,” Balthazar said.

“Do you want me to tell you how to do it or maybe do it for you for your first time around?”

“I’d like to know what makeup looks like on me before I try to do something I think,” Balth said.

“That sounds reasonable. You’re about the same skin tone as me I think,” Hero said as she shuffled through the make up pile. “My foundation will work okay for now at least but you should find some that really matches you. You want to go with something that looks more like the skin on your neck than your face, that way it will all blend in seamlessly.”

Balthazar nodded and settled with their legs crossed on the bed, facing Hero who was kneeling on the bed. Hero put some foundation on a clean white sponge and made a questioning gesture in the direction of Balth’s face. Balth nodded and Hero pressed the cool sponge to their cheek.

“Is this okay?” Hero asked as she continued to spread the foundation over Balth’s forehead and nose.

“Yeah, it’s fine.”

“Cool. Have you thought about what you want to do for the rest of your face? Like colors and stuff?”

“I really don’t know what would look good. But like… nothing too crazy right?”

“Sure. If you leave me to my own devices I’ll probably just do my own regular full face of make up.”

“That’s fine. You always look really good.”

Hero sat back on her heels and put down the sponge with the foundation, smiling in that sweet way she did that made her look like a perfect doll rather than a human teenage girl. “Thanks. I’m gonna do your eyeshadow now okay?”

Balthazar nodded.

“Close your eyes and try not to flinch.”

Balthazar complied. Their companionable silence spread as Hero brushed make up lightly onto one of Balth’s lids then the other.

“How did you get so good at make up?” Balth asked as Hero put down the eyeshadow to pick up the mascara.

“I taught myself mostly,” she said, leaning over. “Look up and hold still.” Balthazar tried not to blink as Hero brushed makeup onto their upper and lower lashes. “My mums said I wasn’t old enough to start wearing makeup when I transitioned and neither of them are really into makeup so when I was about thirteen or so I started going into Mumma’s old makeup bag and using her worn out stuff and watched makeup tutorials until I kind of knew what I was doing and could save up to buy my own.”

“Do you know places where you can get cheaper makeup?” Balth asked. “I’ve been looking at some of the high quality stuff online and realizing that I spend all my money on things like guitar strings and new instruments so I don’t have much for this.”

“Yeah sure, I can give you some sites. I could even give you some of the stuff I never use too.”

“Really?”

“Yeah! It’s not a problem at all. I mean if you like it, you should be able to wear it without paying exorbitant amounts of money and I can help provide.”

“Beatrice is right about calling you an angel.” Balth said as Hero put down the mascara back into the pile.

“You’re both exaggerating. Do you want me to do your eyebrows?”

“Like tweeze them? Because… I don’t think so.”

Hero laughed. “No just kind of draw the lines, make them even.”

“Sure. I don’t think I really have the patience to ever do that myself though.”

“That’s fine. For now you can just see what it looks like.”

Balth nodded as Hero picked up an eyebrow pencil and started to work on their eyebrows.

“It’s really cool that your parents are okay with you trying on makeup and stuff,” Hero said, gently pressing the pencil down to Balth’s skin, leaning over them as she traced the lines of their brow.

“I mean, I’m an adult or practically, I can do what I want to my face,” Balth said.

“You know what I mean,” Hero said. “I lucked out that my mums were open minded enough that they didn’t question it when I told them I was a girl. I can only imagine having to explain being something in between.”

Balth laughed, “Yeah it took a certain amount of explaining and then I caught them a couple times doing research on the internet about nonbinary identities but yeah. I think being friends with you helped? I mean we weren’t really friends at the time but my parents knew about you from like family circles. Which seems rude honestly to talk about you and your gender behind your back but…”

“No I totally know what you mean. There’s not much we can do about it anyway. And if it makes cis people understand… well I guess sometimes it’s worth a little bit of gossip. It’s not like I hide that I’m trans or anything.”

“Yeah but it’s not exactly the first thing people notice about you.”

“What is the first thing people notice about me?” Hero asked, finishing off an eyebrow and sitting back on her heels.

Balth blushed, “Well you’re kind and sweet and wear beautiful dresses and you have a nice laugh and best of all you see the good in everyone. At least… that’s what I noticed.”

Hero blushed back. “You sound like you’re quoting a love song.”

If it was possible for Balth to flush more, they did.

“You’re really good at writing songs you know,” Hero said as she started on the other brow. “I’m sure I’ve said it a million times but I love the ones you’ve posted on youtube. It was really nice of Ursula to film them.”

“Thanks. She was really sweet about it.”

“Oh and Pedro for suggesting you put them up. Did he ever help with filming them?”

“Nah, he wasn’t ever really free. And I bet he would have wanted to do something handheld and Ursula would have strangled him over the shaky camera.”

Hero laughed. “You’re right. You seem to get along well with Pedro though.”

“Well enough, we’ve never really been close. I think you know him better especially since he’s so close to Bea.”

“Yeah I guess I do know him better...” Hero said, trailing off at the phrase as she finished off the line of Balth’s second eyebrow. Balthazar noticed the strange tone in her voice and frowned.

“I mean… I don’t want to make wrong conclusions or anything. I just assumed because your families are friends…”

“No! No I do know him better you’re right I was just… thinking about… something.” Hero bit her lip as if she was trying not to say something.

“I really don’t mean to… pry or anything you don’t have to tell me what you were thinking about it’s fine.”

“I was just… I was just thinking about how Beatrice and Pedro are doing right now is all,” Hero said, putting the cap on the eyebrow pencil and returning it to the pile.

“Oh like… after um… after your birthday party?”

“Yeah.”

“You know if it makes you feel any better, I’ve seen them together surprisingly often.”

“Yeah so have I. What color lipstick do you want?” Hero said, holding out a handful of options.

“Um… I guess whatever looks best with the eyeshadow?”

“I was thinking this bright pinky red because I did your eyes like a soft pink. Everyone likes a bold lip.”

Balthazar laughed. “Yeah that’s fine by me.”

“Open your mouth please.” Hero set to to painting Balthazar’s lips and an obligatory silence fell over them, Balthazar’s mouth obviously occupied with something other than talking.

When Hero was done Balthazar said, “I’ve actually run into Ben, Beatrice, and Pedro hanging out together a whole bunch of times recently. I mean once it was at the pizza place near school and then the other day I saw all three of them in the park fighting over the swingsets.”

Hero laughed as she folded a spare tissue. “That sounds like something they’d do. Put this between your lips real quick.” Balthazar did, popping the excess off onto the tissue.

“Lipstick feels so…” Balthazar had to stop themself from licking their lips, “Heavy.”

“Yeah you get used to it after a while. But if you don’t like it you don’t have to wear it. I find that putting chapstick over it helps it stay moist and stick and there are lipsticks with more or less lightness and wearability.”

“This is such a detailed art form,” Balthazar said, looking a bit nervous.

“There’s a reason why it’s called painting your face.”

Hero reached for the blush, thinking that they’d moved on now from their previous conversation until Balthazar couldn’t help themselves and asked again, “So you’ve seen Ben, Pedro, and Bea together a lot lately too?”

Hero furrowed her brow, “Hollow out your cheekbones for me would you please?” Balthazar did, sucking in their cheeks while Hero brushed powder onto it. They pressed their eyebrows together at the way Hero avoided the question.

When she finished one cheek, Hero sighed. “I’m sorry to avoid that it’s just… I don’t know if it’s something I’m allowed to talk about.”

“Oh…”

“I’ve made you even more curious now haven’t I?”

“Well… yes,” Balthazar said. “And you’re sure you can’t talk about it? Is it bad?”

“No, not bad just… private.”

“Well whatever it is, honestly the three of them just need to work their stuff out and start all kissing each other because their weird pseudo-tension thing is getting unbearable,” Balthazar said bluntly.

Hero looked at them with wide eyes.

“I’m sorry I shouldn’t have said that, that sounds ridiculous.”

“No! Oh my God that’s exactly what I’ve been thinking!” Hero said, laughing as she picked up the blush again. Balthazar let her do the other cheek as she giggled to herself. “I couldn’t have put it better myself, Balthazar. You are so right.”

Balth grinned when Hero put down the blush. “Good to see you think so too.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that because for a minute I thought you had a crush on Pedro.”

Balthazar laughed. “Ah yes, the all around great guy. I did for a minute but then I saw that one video with Beatrice and his weird love declaration and just, well… I decided I wasn’t going to let myself get into that mess you know?”

“Yeah… Good thing you never wrote any love songs for him.”

“Actually… I started one but um…” Balth said rubbing the back of their neck.

“Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” Hero said, covering her mouth as if to try and put the words back.

“No it’s okay. I’m fine with it now,” Balth said smiling up at Hero in a way that made her flush and look down at her hands where she was fiddling with the blush. “Um… so what now?” Balth asked.

“What?” Hero said, looking up and flushing further down her neck.

Balthazar smiled sheepishly. Hero was, if it were possible, even cuter when she was nervous. “I mean, for the make up.”

“Oh! I’m sorry! You’re done now actually if you want to see?” Balthazar nodded. “I think I have a hand mirror somewhere…” Hero said, rummaging around in her purse.

“It’s okay I’ll just go up and use mine.” Balth uncrossed their legs and moved to the full length mirror on the back of their door. Looking in the mirror was like staring into the eyes of someone completely different. The person in the mirror had bright blue eyes and sharp corners on the edges of their lids. Their cheekbones were high and rosy and their defined eyebrows made them look like a movie star. “Oh jeez,” Balthazar said.

“I’m sorry is it okay?”

“No don’t apologize it’s amazing it’s…” Balthazar frowned at the mirror, turning their head this way and that. “It’s like looking at someone different that’s all.”

“I’m sorry if it’s a bit much or anything…”

“No no I like it! Maybe not for every day but…” Bathazar turned slightly, swinging their hands at their sides. “It needs a skirt I think.”

“Oh I agree. I could bring one next time if you want.”

Balthazar grinned. “I’d like there to be a next time.”

“You know,” Hero said, looking in the mirror and gesturing artfully, “I think we could experiment with some glitter maybe? Maybe some glitter eyeliner along the edges? Something gold maybe? Or like facial glitter on the sides of your eyes.”

“You’re gonna make me look like a fairy at this rate.”

“Is that such a bad thing?”

“Not at all! Speaking of which, do you want to start on those flower crowns?”

“Yes please!”

“I’ll go get the string and things!”

Hero laughed as Balthazar bounced out of the room. Relief and calm flooded Hero’s body in a way that it had not often done since her birthday party. In that moment she didn’t have to worry about Beatrice or Balthazar or Ben or Pedro or herself because her near future had flower crown in it.

Chapter Text

The wind whipped around Beatrice’s hair as she stood on the top of the mountain.

“I told you we should have stayed down in the valley where we were last time,” Pedro said. “It’s always windy up here.”

“But it’s still an amazing view,” Beatrice said. “And even if we don’t end up eating here, the climb was nice wasn’t it?”

“Speak for yourself,” Ben said, leaning over, his hands on his knees.

“You’re not tired are you?” Pedro said, elbowing him in the side.

“No I just… have to catch my breath… briefly… because I’m very strong and powerful.”

Beatrice laughed.

Pedro walked over to where she was on the edge overlooking one of the slopes downwards. He stood next to her with his hands in his pockets, his hair whipping into his eyes just as much as her’s was. “It is a good view,” he conceded.

“That’s because I’m always right,” Beatrice said.

Pedro smiled to himself and looked down at his shoes. Bea glanced over at him and found herself smiling in spite of herself. She hadn’t expected to be spending so much time with him this summer and, if someone asked her, she would have to admit that she was happy about it.

It was nice to have the old Pedro back. Well not all the old Pedro, maybe removing some of the misogynist bits had been an improvement. But the Pedro with enough confidence to laugh and own his presence in a room, who really did try to be all around great and laughed at her jokes and rolled his eyes amicably when she was getting into ridiculous arguments and occasionally helped to support her points, who liked a challenge and some friendly competition and wasn’t afraid to be ridiculous: that was the Pedro she was glad to see. And some of the softer sides of him that came out around Ben now were nice too. Beatrice had never thought that Pedro had it in him to be a lovesick puppy. Though come to think of it, maybe that’s what he’d been all along.

It was thoughts like that that reminded Beatrice that Pedro supposedly still liked her. Loved her even, maybe. She frowned at the queasy feeling in her chest, pushing it away and rolling it up in a ball internally as if she could punt it off the summit. She turned her head away from Pedro again to look out at the view.

Just then Ben half tackled both of them from behind, wrapping his arms around their necks. Beatrice and Pedro let out similar breaths of surprise and annoyance from the shock. “Man I love you guys,” Bem said, hanging from their shoulders. “You beautiful losers looking out at the sunset all scenic, being beautiful in front of picturesque landscapes, I love it!”

“Oh get off,” Bea said, pushing him to the side.

“Alas, I have been scorned by my lady,” Ben said, hanging on Pedro still and whispering in his ear, “Will you my lord be so benevolent as to fill the hole in my heart that she has left there?”

Pedro rolled his eyes but flushed pink nonetheless, pushing Ben off in turn. “You’re ridiculous.”

“Woe is me!” Ben said, feigning a swoon. “I have been forsaken! I am alone in his terrible world.”

Beatrice rolled her eyes. “Pedro, would you be so civil as to help me carry down the picnic basket?”

“Certainly,” Pedro replied, as Ben melted dramatically to the floor.

A moment later, Ben looked up to see that both his partners were chatting as they walked away from him and back down to a less windy spot. “Ugh hey! Wait for me!” He yelled, running after them, his long limbs flying.

 

Once arrived at a quieter spot, the three of them set out a cloth and Pedro started pulling out the various plastic boxes of food out of the cooler.

“So who’s up for a game of football to work up an appetite?” Ben said, trying to balance the ball on his head.

“Not me,” Beatrice said. “My stomach made a really loud noise two minutes ago that I’d rather not ignore. Plus I think I’ve got to build up my energy so I can thoroughly crush you.”

“I’m with Beatrice,” Pedro agreed.

“Aw, you two are always ganging up on me,” Ben said as he dejectedly flopped down beside them.

“That’s because you’re ridiculous and always wrong,” Bea said.

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far-” Pedro added.

“That’s because you are also ridiculous and also wrong,” Bea said.

“But sometimes I agree with you,” Pedro said.

“But that’s when I’m right so it is automatically annulled and you’re just following my ever correct lead.”

Ben rolled his eyes. “Please give her some food so she’ll shut up for half a second.”

“With pleasure,” Pedro said.

Pedro peeled back the lids on a box of sandwiches as Beatrice started to dive into the carton of strawberries. Ben reached immediately for the box of cupcakes and Bea swatted his hand away. “No. Bad. Dessert goes last.”

“You’re eating strawberries though.”

“Strawberries are a fruit; they are very healthy: it is an appetizer.”

Ben rolled his eyes as Pedro handed him a sandwich.

They settled into a relatively amicable quiet, the sound of chewing and birds the primary sounds peppered with the occasional opinion about the weather or Ben making random speculations about life that Bea took it upon herself to immediately shoot down.

At one point, Pedro took a break from munching on a sandwich to point and say “Bird.”

Ben turned to him with a glow in his cheeks. “Awww you noticed a bird for meeee.”

Pedro shrugged but smiled.

“Disgusting,” Beatrice said. “Disgusting bird nerds.”

“Birds are great don’t hate on birds,” Ben said. “Insult me if you must but never insult birds.”

“Ugh now it’s less fun to be mean to you because you’ll be thinking ‘well at least she’s not being mean to birds’,” Bea said. “That’s unfair.”

“Jokes on you,” Ben replied. “I’ve always been thinking that. Well, except for when you were in fact insulting birds… But other than that, it was my sole source of comfort and you never knew.”

“Oh well. Now I’ll just have to keep insulting Pedro.”

“Hey rude!” Ben said. “You said you’d stop that!”

“She did?” Pedro stopped peacefully munching to look surprised. “I never heard about this.”

“I didn’t. I said I’d… think about maybe… not doing it as much.”

“Pedro, has Bea been hurting you and have I neglected to tend to your wounded pride?”

“Um… no, actually. She’s been pretty chill lately… I hadn’t thought about that.”

“What do you mean!” Bea said looking indignant. “I’ve never stopped mocking you. I just called you ridiculous and always wrong two minutes ago!”

“Yeah but like… you haven’t really brought up the um… well you know.”

“Really, Beatrice?!” Ben said with joy, “Oh I’m so proud of you!” He reached over and tugged her into a hug.

“So you actually talked to her about that stuff?” Pedro said.

“Oh, did I forget to mention that to you?” Ben said.

“Yeah, actually,” Pedro said.

“Did it really need mentioning though?” Beatrice moaned over her cupcake.

“Maybe it’s because we’ve been spending a lot of time the three of us and I never got the chance to tell you privately I suppose,” Ben said.

“I guess you’re right...” Pedro said.

“Well isn’t this nice?” Ben said. “All three of us getting along splendidly.”

“I mean not perfectly, we still haven’t had that other conversation,” Beatrice snapped.

“What other conversation?” Pedro said.

“Oh right that conversation,” Ben said. Both Bea and Pedro turned to glare at Ben. “Look I can’t be a perfect messenger of feelings between the two of you all the time. Wasn’t that the point? You can have the conversation now, can’t you?”

“Well…” Bea hesitated.

“I still don’t know what conversation this is,” Pedro said.

“If you don’t want me here for it I can turn my back or close my ears or go talk to some birds or something,” Ben said, moving onto his knees to get up.

“I don’t know what we’re talking about here so you can stay all you want,” Pedro said.

“Yeah I think… I think I’d have an easier time with this if you were here,” Beatrice said.

“Right. Then I’m here,” Ben said.

Pedro shrugged. “I still don’t know what’s going on.”

“Hush,” Bea said, closing her eyes and taking a deep breath.

Pedro and Ben waited while Beatrice formulated what she was going to say.

“Okay so… what you did at Hero’s party hurt me,” Beatrice started.

“Bea, I know that and I’m so so sorry-” Pedro started to plead.

“No shush. I’m not done yet. Be quiet until I’m done.”

Pedro turned to Ben for support but Ben just looked at him with serious and sad eyes. Pedro turned back to Beatrice and obeyed.

“What you did at Hero’s party hurt me and not just because it was a terrible mistake, not just because it was a false accusation, not just because it was rude, but most importantly because it… because I care about you a lot.”

Pedro frowned and looked like a stick had just gotten stuck in his throat.

“I trusted you, is what I’m trying to say. I cared a lot about how good a friend you were, how loyal you had been to me and Hero up till then, and how honestly kind you were to me even after I was very rude to you about your feelings for me on camera. I didn’t even think when I posted that video and yet you continued to be a good friend, except for the weird you know… revenge getting people together thing? That was weird. Your motives there are still weird to me I just… anyway.”

Pedro grimaced at the mention of that particular incident.

“And… with this whole thing with Ben… I’ve kind of had to confront how I feel about you more head on than I think I would have wanted and… I guess… What I’m trying to say is I want you to know how deeply you hurt me, I want you to apologize for how deeply you hurt me, and then… then I want to continue to have you around.”

Pedro continued to stare at the ground ahead of him.

“Um… that’s it I guess,” Beatrice said looking to Ben for support. Ben nodded and reached out to squeeze her hand. Beatrice let out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding.

“I… um…” Pedro tried to say something productive but ended up fiddling with his hands and saying “I need a minute to give you a proper response.”

“Yeah okay,” Beatrice said.

Pedro looked with pleading eyes at Ben who tried to return his look with a similarly affectionate one that would also express his condolences for the situation but it just came out looking kind of worried.

Pedro bit his lip and looked at the ground again. “I’m… um… I’m so scared that I’m going to say something wrong,” Pedro said followed by a nervous laugh.

Bea’s eyes softened away from her expression of sincere hurt.

“I… I’m learning… I think… about just how much of the way I acted was wrong. I keep learning it. I keep looking back at myself and being more horrified, starting from the first day I found out that it was all John. And I still don’t know how to fix it,” Pedro said.

“You can’t fix it,” Beatrice said.

“Right… I can’t fix it,” Pedro said. “But I want to try, I think? Or I mean… if I could fix it I would do everything I could and now what I am going to keep doing is keep trying to fix what I can with the way that I am now… I think... At least I hope I have been and I’ll keep working on it too.” At that he paused and Beatrice worried for a moment that that was the end of what he had to say but Pedro continued to pick at the grass for a moment before taking another deep breath in.

“So… What I want to say is… What I think I still need to say is… I acknowledge and own that I hurt you by supporting Claudio’s decision to humiliate Hero, by criticizing you when you tried to defend her, by saying awful things about you and your cousin on camera, and by wholly betraying you. There are so many reasons why I did all of those things but honestly none of them matter because the result was I hurt you and you pushed me away and I never want that to happen again because you matter a lot to me and to those around you and I want to support you for… for the rest of your life or… or something. And… and I’m sorry… or whatever… I mean.. yeah…”

Pedro looked up to see Beatrice smiling hesitantly at him. “I’m sorry was that an awful apology?” Pedro asked.

“It was a bit lackluster towards the end but I think… I think the right sentiments were there,” Bea said. “And for what it’s worth, I’m sorry for being an asshole to you both before and after you were an asshole to me.”

“Look if you still hate me it’s okay like I get it-”

“Oh get over here you big doofus,” Bea said, getting up on her knees and reaching over to squeeze Pedro into an awkward hug. “Whether or not I’m still mad at you it doesn’t matter because right now I want to finish this cupcake and crush you at football,” she said so close to his ear that Pedro had to fight down a shiver.

Instead, he laughed and maneuvered the hug into something more comfortable, holding her around the waist and burrowing his head into her shoulder. Bea squeezed back tighter.
Somewhere to Beatrice’s left, Ben sighed loudly. Pedro and Bea broke apart to look at him.

“What?” Bea said, sharply, her cheeks a little red.

“You’re just both so cute and you like each other and I love it,” Ben said, his chin on his hands and his elbows on his knees.

Beatrice stuck her tongue out at him.

“So were you serious about that game of football?” Pedro said, getting up onto his feet and grabbing the ball.

“I one hundred percent was!” Beatrice said.

“I call goalie! You can play one on one and then against me as a goalie third party,” Ben said.

“Sounds good to me,” Pedro said.

“Yeah I’ve been looking for a good excuse to kick your ass,” Beatrice said as she took out a hair tie to put her hair up in a pony tail.

“Oh it’s on,” Pedro said.

“God I love you two,” Ben said.

“For the love of God, would you just shut up and set up a goal?” Beatrice said.

“Make sure your posts are far enough apart,” Pedro said.

“Yeesh, tough crowd,” Ben muttered with a smile and a giddy skip to his place in the goal.

Chapter Text

John passed by Pedro’s room to find that his door was open, the music was blasting, and Pedro was lying on the bed, throwing a tennis ball up and catching it over and over again. John smirked. Something was definitely bugging him.

“Hey Pedro,” John said, knocking at the doorway.

Pedro sat up to see who it was. “Oh hey bro, what’s up?”

“Nothing much… Can I come in?”

“Yeah yeah sure,” Pedro said, gesturing to John, switching off the speakers near his bed, and maneuvering is rolling chair out from under his desk with his feet so John could have a seat. “So… did you want to talk to me about something?”

“Nah… not exactly,” John said. “I thought you were going to the pool with Ben and Beatrice today?”

“Oh right…” Pedro said. “Yeah I wasn’t really feeling in the mood for swimming so… so I decided not to go.”

“That’s too bad,” John said. “You’ve been getting along so well with the two of them it could’ve been fun. Won’t you miss seeing them today?”

Pedro narrowed his eyes and John. “I mean I guess… But I’ll get over it. I’ll see them soon again probably so… Why are you asking me this?”

“No reason, no reason.”

“Look, John, if you’re insinuating anything-”

“What? No of course not, I’m not insinuating anything at all,” John said with a smile that nearly made Pedro jump out of his skin.

“Oh God. You know don’t you?”

“Now what on earth is it that I’m supposed to know?” John said.

“No, don’t you dare, I’m not saying it myself but, I swear to God, John, if you know you have to tell me.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” John said.

“You do, I know you do,” Pedro said, exasperatedly. “Look if you know anything you have to tell me, it’s important.”

John put down his mysterious air for a second and softened at that. He shrugged. “I know about you and Ben.”

Pedro knew that was coming but hearing it still put him shock for a second. “Wait, how? How do you know? Did Ben tell you?”

John raised his eyebrows at Pedro. “No one told me. I’m your brother. I noticed.”

Pedro groaned and put his head in his hands.

“You don’t have a thing with Beatrice now too, do you?” John asked.

“No! No, I don’t.”

“Not yet anyway,” John said.

“John!”

“Sorry, I shouldn’t tease you about it.”

“Thank you.”

John paused for a moment as Pedro looked dejectedly at the ground, mentally examining all the ways to get out of this situation. “Is that the reason for the Fall Out Boy and the avoiding everyone and looking all melancholy?”

“What?”

“Because you want to be with Beatrice too?”

“John, I’m not going to talk about this with you.”

“Why not?”

“It’s bad enough as it is that you know about me and Ben, I don’t need you know about my feelings for Beatrice too!”

“So there are feelings for Beatrice.”

“Ugh!” Pedro flailed two clenched fists then flopped down backwards onto the bed.

John laughed a little bit. “Sorry, I’ll stop pestering you about it. I can leave.” He got out of his chair. “And I won’t tell anyone about any of this, I promise.”

Pedro groaned from where he lay on the bed.

John smirked and was about to leave when Pedro said, “Wait.”

Turning, John saw that Pedro was leaning his forehead on one hand, sliding it down his face in pain. “You’re right about Beatrice,” Pedro said. “And don’t give me that smile you are not to tell a soul. About any of this.”

John nodded, setting his face to a neutral and sitting back down in the chair across from Pedro. “So…” he said.

“So…” Pedro said. He sighed. “The thing is that things are good between us right now. I mean everything with Ben is fine and now I’ve talked to Beatrice about some stuff that she hadn’t talked to me about before we’re getting along even better but…”

“But you still like her and she hasn’t reciprocated, am I right?”

Pedro rolled his eyes at John. “Yeah, you’re right though I wish you’d let me say it myself.”

John shrugged.

“I just… I really… I really really like her, you know? I mean I don’t know if you know the feeling but…” Pedro sighed again.

“I can’t exactly empathize but I see what you mean. I mean, I can tell just by how you’ve been flopping around the house all week.”

“Yeah fine I’ve been thinking about it but there’s honestly not much I can do right now and I should be happy. I mean everything’s going so well and Ben is… Ben’s been… Ben is just so wonderful about everything and now Bea doesn’t hate me anymore I don’t know why this is bothering me again.”

“Well, I hate to point out the obvious but… you could talk to her about it again?”

“Talk to Beatrice about how I still have feelings for her?” Pedro dropped his hands from where they had been hiding his face.

“Have you talked about it with her before?”

“I did kind of tell her once…”

“How long ago was that?” John asked.

“Maybe… a month ago? Possibly more…”

“I think another conversation is long overdue,” John said.

“But what if she just says no again? I mean, I’ve confessed my feelings to her twice now and she hasn’t reciprocated either of them. Don’t you think telling her again is a little annoying and harmful to my case?”

“So you’re making a case now?”

Pedro waved him away. “You know what I mean.”

“Yeah I do and you’ve honestly got more of a case to make now than you did either of the other times. I mean you’ve been steadily dating her boyfriend, you’ve made your intentions known previously so she’s really had time to think about it, and you’ve reconciled some of your issues. You’ve definitely proved that you care. It’s now or never honestly.”

“Why, because she’s gonna forget about it if I don’t move now?”

“No, because what she says now is probably the most educated answer she can give. So even if she says no, it will be no with all the details of the possibilities laid out in front of her.”

Pedro frowned and thought for a second. “But she could say no.”

“Pedro, she could always say no but it would be better than you sulking here for no reason. If she says no, she’ll still be your friend, you’ll still have Ben, and then you’ll have a complete reason to get over it you know?”

“I guess… How did you get so good at this advice thing?”

John shrugged.

“I mean that’s the most I’ve heard you say at one time in a whole week.”

John grinned. “Don’t get used to it.”

Pedro laughed and shook his head. “I don’t think I’ll ever understand you. It’s unfair that you know all this stuff about my life and I don’t know near enough about the way you think.”

John shrugged again as he got up off his chair. “You might understand more than you think,” he said as he walked out.

“Stop being so enigmatic, damn you!” Pedro said as John walked out but then he heard laughing out in the corridor and Pedro chuckled to himself as well. Then he thought about the fact that he had essentially agreed to talk to Beatrice again about his feelings for her and he sighed, flopped back onto his bed, flipped back on the Fall Out Boy, and began throwing and catching his tennis ball again. Why couldn’t things just be easy?

Chapter Text

On the next available Friday afternoon, the Dukes opened their house to a circus troupe of friends for what Hero called a Craft Party. She had set up the living room to be a set of stations where things like glitter, paint, yarn, fancy papers, and string were readily available. She had brought out example origami cranes, painted mugs, and a book of friendship bracelet designs so that the whole living room ended up looking like a pinterest board.

Ben was one of the first to arrive, getting to the door at the exact same time as Meg who bounced ahead of him into the house to greet Hero and give her a hug.

“Wow,” Ben said upon walking into the living room.

“Do you like it?” Hero asked .

“I didn’t think I’d ever attend a party like this again after I left elementary school,” Meg said.

“I don’t think I’ve ever attended a party like this,” Ben said.

“That’s because you were raised in a world artificially separated by gender where boys aren’t allowed to have fun making things like tissue paper flowers with glitter,” Beatrice said as she walked into the room.

“Hello Beatrice,” Ben said, reaching out to wrap his hand around her waist and give her a kiss on the cheek. “It’s nice to see you, too.”

Beatrice blushed and smiled back at him.

“Oh gross,” Meg said. “Hero help me find something less disgusting to do like covering my hands in glue and slowly peeling it off.”

“Hypocrite!” Beatrice called after her. Meg turned her head back to them to stick out her tongue and walk away.

Beatrice laughed then turned to Ben. “Do you know when Pedro is getting here?” she asked.

“He said he’d try to be here on time but I think he had a dentist’s appointment to get his teeth cleaned or something. Why?” Ben asked.

“I just wondered,” Beatrice said, then the doorbell rang again and Beatrice left Ben to go answer it. Ben watched her go then wandered over to the snack table, lost in thought.

She’d mentioned Pedro first. And it wasn’t even the first time. Ben’s stomach flipped and gurgled. He hadn’t know that he could get this excited about two people falling for each other when he wasn’t involved but dear lord it appeared he could. He’d been keeping himself awake at night thinking about it: about Bea and Pedro smiling at each other when the other wasn’t looking, about the way they argued over the right way to headbutt a ball, about their competition to see who could get higher on a swingset. And then he would start to fantasize about them holding hands, about them cuddling together on a couch, about Bea’s hands on Pedro’s hips, about them kissing- It was getting to the point where Ben had to shake himself out of those daydreams at least once a day. Just like now.

Ben jumped when Hero tapped him on the shoulder.

“Hey! Oh hey, Hero,” Ben said trying to regain his composure.

Hero laughed. “I think the cookies are good if you’re trying to choose,” she said pointing at the snack table and looking at Ben’s empty paper plate.

“Oh… yeah I was just… thinking of getting some chips but those cookies look good too.” Ben reached for the bag of chips and started loading his plate.

“Are you feeling a bit tired maybe?” Hero asked.

“Nah, just distracted is all,” Ben said.

“Okay well, Pedro and Balthazar are here now if you wanted to say hi to them,” Hero said.

Ben turned and glanced at the living room where it was starting to really look like a party. Meg had immediately started on the glitter table and was creating a set of massive cardboard hoop earrings that she would then cover in glitter after she finished painting them with black and purple stripes.

Balthazar was looking with interest at the tissue paper and sample twisted flowers. It seemed they had brought a flower crown for reference which they were fiddling with and considering various tissue colors.

Beatrice was talking to Pedro over by the jewelry making table. She’d picked up a variety of beads in one hand and was hanging the gaudiest and most obnoxious beads up to Pedro’s ears. Pedro was smiling deeply, creases next to his eyes as she raised two purple, pink, and blue hearts. Ben couldn’t hear what they were saying from where he stood but he saw Pedro light up at something Bea said and take the beads himself, lifting them to his ear and striking several poses in the hand mirror that was placed on that table. Beatrice giggled effortlessly at whatever Pedro was doing. Pedro turned and handed the beads back to Beatrice then caught sight of Ben looking at them. Pedro waved. Ben blushed and waved back. Then Pedro returned to looking at the beads with Beatrice.

Hero was still standing next to Ben. She saw Ben flush and giggled. “How’s it going, then?” she asked.

“I’m fine,” Ben said.

“No, I mean with Pedro?” she said in a low voice.

Ben blushed further. “It’s… it’s good. It’s really good.”

“And Bea’s not being a pain about it?”

“Amazingly, not even a little bit. I mean maybe a little bit earlier on but… we’ve um… talked some things over. And it’s gotten a lot better.”

“Yeah, I noticed. Haven’t all three of you seen each other every day for the past two weeks?”

“Not… every day… I think I didn’t see Pedro on… Tuesday?”

Hero laughed. “I’m glad it’s going well,” she said.

Ben sighed. “Yeah me too.”

Hero heard his sigh and smiled. “Although, I imagine getting Bea and Pedro to admit their feelings for each other is a bit of a struggle,” she said, barely over a whisper.

Ben jerked to awareness and looked wide eyed at Hero before saying “Right! It’s just awful. They’re so close to it; I’m going to strangle them if they keep shying away from the topic.”

“Maybe don’t go straight to physical violence I think,” Hero said. “That might be counterproductive.”

“I mean you’re right but at this point I have no idea what to do. Like, it would be weird for me to bring it up, right?” Ben said. “This isn’t about me, this is between them. I just… want it to happen so bad.”

Hero laughed again. “You and everybody else,” she said.

Ben looked nervous. “Other people know?”

“They’re starting to guess. The three of you aren’t exactly subtle,” she said.

“I suppose you’re right,” Ben chuckled to himself and Hero assumed that they would end the conversation there but Ben glanced over at Bea and Pedro who were now measuring each other for bracelets and his fervor was renewed. “And the two of them aren’t exactly subtle on their own either. I mean I know Pedro likes Bea and Bea knows Pedro likes her and so does probably everyone else but I can tell that he doesn’t know she likes him back and she definitely does I mean look at her! She’s practically glowing. I wish she would just admit it to herself.”

Hero nodded and was about to respond with some comfort but Ben kept going.

“And I can’t exactly tell them that they need to get their shit together because it’s their shit but also they’re my partners, it does in fact concern me that they have feelings they’re denying or whatever I mean if I tell them to talk about it will it seem like I’m too pushy?” Hero opened her mouth to answer but Ben just kept on going.

“Yeah it will seem like I’m too pushy. I mean I think I should talk to them at some point you know but like not in an ‘oh my God please just make out’ kind of way more in a ‘so I noticed these things and I think we need to talk about them’ kind of way. Yeah, that’ll work. But maybe I won’t bring it up immediately and I might talk to Bea about it first or I’ll have to wait for the right time. I mean I should trust them to figure it out first without my help. They only truly reconciled recently, it’s only right that it might take them a bit to get used to it. They can take their time and when it seems unreasonably long then I’ll butt in gently in a ‘maybe you should talk about this’ kind of way right? Do you think that’s good?”

Hero waited for a moment to make sure that Ben was actually going to let her answer this time then she said, “Yeah. I think that’s a really good idea.”

“Yeah… Thanks Hero, for listening to my weird relationship issues,” Ben said.

Hero smiled. “Any time.”

“And umm… how about you? I know it’s only been a little while since… but do you have any prospects on the horizon? You know, relationship wise?”
Hero smiled and shrugged, shaking her head slightly but she glanced past Ben at Balthazar as she did.

Ben turned to see who she was looking at and when he turned back, Hero was blushing. “So...no?” Ben said.

“Well, not really. No romantic relationships on the horizon exactly if that’s what you mean but well… I think I’ve found some kinship you know?” Hero said.

Ben looked slightly puzzled but smiled and nodded. “I won’t pry any more than that then,” he said.

“Thank you,” Hero said. “Now I’m going to help Beatrice and Pedro before they spill beads all over the table.”

“It’s like taking care of five year olds,” Ben called after her as she walked away.

Hero turned her head to laugh and reply, “You can say that again!”

Ben grabbed a cookie and walked over to the pillar between the living room and the kitchen so he could lean on something and continue to watch the company simultaneously. He rested up against the wall as Hero sauntered over to Bea and Pedro’s table, delicately re-placed the box of beads so it wasn’t so perilously close to the edge, and showed them both how to knot the rope first so the beads wouldn’t fall off while they were making them.

“I’m not five, I can tie a bracelet myself,” he heard Bea say.

“I was just offering to tie it around your wrist,” Pedro replied. “Can you tie a bracelet with a single hand?”

“Yeah, sure I can!”

Hero giggled and said, “Okay since you two are clearly set, I’m going to go make flower crowns with Balth.”

“Have fun,” Pedro said.

“Yeah. Have fun,” Bea echoed, raising her eyebrows suggestively at which Hero lightly rolled her eyes and walked away.

Bea returned to trying to tie a bracelet with one hand, her tongue sticking out slightly as she squirmed with the string. Pedro just watched her, smiling smugly and when she looked to find him just staring at her, Beatrice responded with a frown.

“Stop it,” she said.

“I’m not doing anything,” Pedro replied, raising his hands in surrender.

“You are, you’re smugly enjoying my struggle.”

“All right, I’ll just leave you to it then,” Pedro said to Beatrice but he was looking over at Ben. He stood up and left Bea with her string as he moved to where Ben was. “Hey,” he said softly.

“Hey,” Ben replied.

“You look like you’re about to go hide in a bathtub again,” Pedro said.

“That was at one party and I haven’t had nearly as much to drink,” Ben said.

“Yeah, it seems the Dukes aren’t offering refreshment at this particular get together,” Pedro said.

“Would you trust drunk people with a hot glue gun?” Ben asked.

Pedro laughed. “No, dear lord I can’t even imagine.”

“I can imagine it. Quite vividly,” Ben said and shivered which made Pedro laugh again.

At that sound, Bea came over to join them.

“What are we laughing about here?” she said, still holding the two ends of her bracelet together over her wrist.

“Drunk people covered in glitter and hot glue gun burns,” Pedro replied.

“Sounds amazing,” Bea said. “Ben, would you be so kind as to tie this bracelet for me?”

At this Pedro let out a single burst of laughter then slapped a hand over his mouth as Beaglared at him. “I’m sorry, I didn’t say a word I swear,” he said between small bouts of giggles.

Beatrice glared at him as Ben tied her bracelet then she stalked back off to the bead table to start something new.

“You know she loves you really,” Ben said to Pedro.

Pedro shrugged but he was smiling, his arms folded, leaning up against the pillar with Ben. It was then that Ben noticed the bracelet that Pedro had already asked Hero to help him tie to his wrist. “Ooh, that’s nice. Where did you find the bisexual beads?” Ben asked, already knowing full well the answer to that question.

“Bea found them actually. She made the bracelet in the first place,” Pedro said, looking at his wrist and smiling.

“She made you a bracelet? I thought she just found you the beads!” Ben said.

“I thought you didn’t know where the beads came from.”

“I may have been… supervising. Who knows what you two get up to when I’m not watching,” Ben said.

Pedro blushed. “Nothing, just, you know, hanging out mostly.”

It was then that Ben heard the apparent innuendo in his first words and blushed too. He knew Pedro’s blush wasn’t hiding anything along those lines because they would definitely tell him if they were… more than friends. Wouldn’t they?

“Plus,” Pedro said, trying to save the conversation from the place it was sinking into in both of their heads, “I can’t remember the last time I was alone with Beatrice. You’re always there, you know everything we get up to.”

“That’s true, that’s true. Well, will you help me make a bracelet for myself now?” Ben suggested, moving off the pillar and towards the bead table.

“Actually, I think Beatrice has already started one for you,” Pedro said, pointing to where Beatrice looked up and smiled, gesturing for Ben or perhaps the both of them to come over, brandishing a bracelet which then promptly fell apart, spilling beads all over the table and floor.

“Shit!” Beatrice yelled. There was a silence and then the entire room erupted into laughter as Beatrice said. “Hero, don’t you dare say I told you so!”

Chapter Text

group chat: beatrice and the nerds

ben: so… dinner and a movie on saturday?

becuz pedro missed out on the movie last time

bea: we’ve had movie nights since then

ben: yeah but pedro wasnt there

pedro: But I’ve had movie nights with you since then too

ben: but bea wasn’t there

it wasn’t the 3 of us

and dinner

like it almost was that one time

oh my god you know what i mean

so u guys down?

movie night?

bea: i call first dibs on picking the movie

pedro: One of these days I’m going to have enough energy to fight you on first dibs

bea: why, you chicken?

fight me

pedro: fine

we’re watching Kill Bill 1 & 2

bea: rude no we’re not

(bea is typing)

wait actually i kind of want to watch those too

pedro i can see you getting smug at me through the phone

pedro: I’m not

bea: you are so

that means you’ll be cooking dinner

ben: as long as its at my place you can come over early and help ;)

bea: gROSS

pedro: cool bro, meet u then

 

When Pedro got to Ben’s house on Saturday he found Ben staring forlornly at his fridge.

“I’m afraid my feast is not as bountiful as it should be,” Ben said.

“That’s okay,” Pedro said. “I was actually considering asking you if we could just order pizza.”

“You, my darling, are a genius,” Ben said, kissing Pedro on the cheek. “Maybe if we order it fast enough we can pretend we made it ourselves when Bea gets here.”

Pedro laughed, slipped his hand into Ben’s and squeezed. “I’m going to let you attempt that,” he said, patting Ben’s hand with his free palm.

Ben grinned and turned to give Pedro a kiss so soft it left him still chasing Ben’s lips as he pulled away. “There’s more where that came from after you phone for pizza,” Ben said.

“Cheeky bastard,” Pedro said, though he was still smiling as he pulled out his phone.

“My family’s out until later tonight,” Ben said sauntering over to sprawl on his couch. “So the faster you order, the better for you.”

Pedro had never dialed a phone so fast.

 

When Beatrice got there at 6, Pedro answered the door out of breath, his hair sticking up dramatically on one side.

“Damn, I thought you were the pizza,” Pedro said.

“Nice to see you too,” Bea said as she pushed past him into the house.

“Is that the pizza?” Ben said, slowly pulling himself off the couch. “Oh it’s you Beatrice.”

“It’s good to see I’m so eagerly awaited in this house,” Bea said, putting her backpack on the kitchen counter. “And that you two are so proactive in cooking dinner.”

“You have no right to complain because you weren’t gonna cook any of it anyway,” Ben said.

“Oh right because last time we did this I actually cooked dinner. Way to give the woman the menial labor because her place is in the kitchen,” Bea said as she perched backwards on one of Ben’s tall kitchen chairs.

“That is not what I was-”

“We were just thinking that we could have some more of that excellent cheese, wheat, and tomato combination,” Pedro said. “You know, like last time? And then we knew we couldn’t
compare at all to your cooking so we ordered from your favorite pizza place.”

Beatrice glowed with a smug lidded smile as she tapped Pedro’s chest with a figure. “See, he’s got it figured out,” she said to Ben.

“That’s just cause he was sucking up to you,” Ben said, but he was smiling.

“And yet it always works,” Beatrice said.

Pedro flashed a smug grin at Ben.

“If you two are going to be smug at me all evening I might as well just leave,” Ben said, turning as if to move away.

Beatrice grabbed his hand before he could move away completely, “Please don’t leave. We’d be bored without you.”

“Also this is your house and I don’t know where the plates are,” Pedro said.

Ben laughed and squeezed Bea’s hand before moving to open the cabinet with the dishes. As the three of them joyously set the table, the door rang and Pedro skidded around the
corner to open it and pay for the pizza.

“You didn’t have to pay for it,” Ben said, as Pedro set it out on the table.

“But I did so you should just get used to it,” Pedro said.

“I will concede getting over it but not used to it,” Beatrice said. “You paying for everything is such macho bullshit. Also there are three of us so that process is just unsustainable.”

Pedro looked at her with wide eyes, wondering at how she’d somehow confused the three of them with a classic couple relationship. He shared a look with Ben who was grinning but
equally surprised and then they both looked back at Beatrice.

“What?” she asked. “Did I say something wrong?”

“No! No not at all,” Ben said, smiling into his napkin.

“You’re right,” Pedro said as he opened the pizza box, his face red. “I won’t make this a habit.” In an effort, not to bring attention to what Beatrice had suggested, he asked her instead
what slice of pizza she wanted, from the olive half or the plain half.

“I’ll take plain,” Beatrice said.

“I’ll take olive, I love olives,” Ben said, looking over at Beatrice and winking.

“Thanks to me anyway,” Pedro said.

Ben looked over at him and winked again.

Pedro finished serving the pizza as Ben hurriedly whipped up a simple lettuce salad with the homemade dressing his family kept in one of their cabinets and then they sat down to the
meal.

Pedro couldn’t help thinking about how many similarities and differences there were between this meal and the last dinner and a movie he’d shared with the two of them. Where it had
been nervous and new this felt almost natural, familiar, and safe: between Beatrice and Benedick who were arguing over his head as always. He could hear the joy in Beatrice’s voice as she attempted yet again to take Ben’s argument apart and Ben’s delight even as she tore his point to pieces.

And here he was, in the silent middle of it again, mediating between two opposing forces that were more similar than they were different. And he hardly even noticed it anymore. He
wasn’t constantly trying to figure out if he fit exactly right between these two loud mouthed hot heads. He didn’t even think about it but he found it was easy as breathing to be right where he needed to be. Which was here.

Pedro laughed at himself inwardly for being such a massive sap and thought about how the two of them would react if he said that aloud. Ben would probably pull him into his arms in
mock surprise and general delight and Beatrice would call him a sap and tease him about it for hours with a look of snappish fondness.

And then of course, it would also be like telling Beatrice that where he felt the most at home was in the middle of her and Ben’s romantic relationship and well… he really did need to discuss that with her again. But maybe not at the dinner table. Pedro’s nerves returned and he laughed at himself internally. He should have known that feeling perfectly at home in the in between could never last for too long.

Ben had just brought out a box of cookies for dessert when the door opened and Ben’s parents came in, loudly greeting the group and beginning to pack their newly bought groceries into the kitchen. While Ben’s parents were talking amongst themselves for a moment, Ben turned to Bea and Pedro and whispered “I believe this space has been usurped. You guys down for the movie in my room?”

Bea and Pedro nodded their agreement.

“Cool, you all can go on, I just have to help my parents put away the groceries and satisfy their need to communicate with me and I’ll be with you two in a minute.”

Pedro gave him a thumbs up and then with a polite “Nice to see you Mr & Mrs Hobbes” the two of them slipped off into Ben’s room.

Bea flopped down backwards onto Ben’s bed first, leaving Pedro lingering by the door.

“Man, I love pizza,” Bea said, patting her stomach.

“Pizza is good. Though I think I should have thought to bring in the cookies for snacking on while we watch the movie,” Pedro said, still fiddling with his hands and shifting from foot to
foot by the door.

“Damn. That would have been a good idea. You can always go back out and get them.”

“And deal with someone else’s parents? Please, no. Ben’s parents are fine but…”

“Yeah I know what you mean. The danger of parental small talk.”

Pedro laughed and then a silence descended on the room that wasn’t exactly comfortable.

Bea frowned. “Pedro, come sit down. You’re making me feel like I’m being waited on.”

“Isn’t that a good thing?” Pedro said, taking her offer and sitting down on the bed next to her.

“To a certain extent. But I’d rather be actually close to someone then held on a pedestal.”

Pedro nodded without looking up at Bea. Instead, he was very much fixated on his hands again. The silence returned. Bea leaned back on her arms and watched Pedro, hunched over his
hands, as though threading his thoughts onto his fingers.

Then Pedro sat up and faced her to speak just as Bea opened her mouth to say something to him.

“I w-”

“You lo-”

Their simultaneous dialogue put an abrupt stop to the potential conversation.

“Sorry, go ahead,” Pedro said.

“No no it’s fine, I want to hear what you have to say,” Bea said.

“Oh umm… I mean… It’s fine, you can go first,” Pedro said.

“I was just going to say that you look like you’re psyching yourself up to say something,” Bea said.

Pedro blushed. “I kind of am.”

Bea had expected to feel nervous or maybe like she wanted to run away from a situation she’d been predicting in her head for a while now but that was the opposite of the case. Instead
she laughed.

“What’s so funny?” Pedro asked.

“So many things,” Beatrice said. “Like I can’t actually count the amount of things about my life right now that are hypocritical and hilarious but it’s probably gonna have to start with
this.”

“Look, Beatrice I-” Pedro’s attempt at finally explaining himself was stopped short by Beatrice reaching to his cheek, leaning in and kissing him.

Pedro had to remind himself to close his eyes and reciprocate because the surprise was almost enough to make him pull away. But instead he hurriedly wrapped his arms around Bea
and pulled her closer. Kissing her was surprisingly easy, a mixture of new softness and warmth coupled with the practice of a hundred hugs, a million friendly gestures tinted with chest crushing, heart swelling feeling that made Pedro feel like he was about to burst.

He broke away and pressed his forehead to Beatrice’s, both of them smiling so hard their cheeks hurt. “I didn’t think you would um…”

Beatrice giggled and brushed her thumb across Pedro’s cheek. “Look, I’ve been proven wrong about my own feeling so many times in the past year that I don’t even care about it any
more. I love you and I’d like to date you, if you can tear yourself off of my boyfriend to pay attention to me for a hot second every now and then.”

“Beatrice Duke, not caring about being proven wrong? What is this world coming to?” Pedro said.

“I just said that I love you and that’s all you can think about?” she said, pushing him away gently.

Pedro just laughed and kissed her again, shorter this time. “I love you too and I would love to date you. Forget that Ben guy,” he said waving away an imaginary Ben and leaning in again
as Beatrice giggled, kissing her forehead then her cheek and finally her lips.

Beatrice responded enthusiastically, pulling herself onto Pedro’s lap and straddling him, her hands in his hair, kissing him soundly. Pedro was just beginning to lose himself in their
embrace when Bea pulled away with a small frown. “You’re joking about Ben though right?”

“Yeah oh my God of course I am, I love that boy,” Pedro said.

“Good,” Bea concluded. “Because I do too.”

Pedro smiled wide, biting his lip as Bea leaned in to kiss him again.

It was at that moment that Ben opened the door.

“Sorry I took forever, I couldn’t find the DVDs… oh.” Ben uttered the last word like a breathy sigh.

Pedro and Bea pulled apart to turn to him. Pedro started to blush but his hands were still on Bea’s waist and Bea had on a superiorly smug air.

“Hey…” Pedro said. Bea just kept smiling.

“I was wondering when… I mean I was… I didn’t think…” Ben had been thinking of something to say for so many different scenarios but he was entirely unprepared for the one he
wanted most. He couldn’t think and he was smiling so hard he thought his face would fall off. The look he gave the both of them made Pedro blush harder and drop his face to hide behind Bea’s chest.

Beatrice giggled which made Pedro laugh and Ben just kept smiling ear to ear. When his brain started working well enough to form full sentences again, Ben said, “Look I have no
problem with what you two get up to when I’m away and I’d like to thank you for providing me with the amazing view of the both of you making out on my bed but it would sure be swell if you could invite me next time.”

“Get over here you doofus,” Bea said, reaching over to grab his shirt and kiss him right in front of Pedro’s nose. Pedro had seen them kiss before but this was different and it was good
and they loved each other and they loved him? Which he still couldn’t quite wrap his head around but Ben was sure as hell going to do his best to convince him because he turned to kiss Pedro too.

“Are we… actually going to watch a movie tonight?” Pedro asked between kisses.

Beatrice laughed and kissed Pedro on the cheek.

“Mmm probably not,” Ben said. “Though it would be tragic to lose the pretense. Who wants to get up off my bed long enough to put the DVD in?”

“Not me!” Pedro and Bea said simultaneously.

“I said it first,” Bea said from where she was still sitting on Pedro’s lap.

“You definitely did not,” Pedro said.

“I did so!” she said, joyfully tackling him down onto the bed.

Ben watched their mock struggle turn into more kisses and laughed again. “Maybe the pretense isn’t even worth it,” he said before taking hold of Pedro’s hand, then Beatrice’s, and
pulling himself closer to their embrace.