'Wake up slowly, there are blue skies
Cutting white lines in black matter
I see them shinin' through your drunken eyes
Carving silver in strange weather
She'll take you back, don't make believe
You wanna think it through
I've loved before, I'll love again
I know that yours was true' Song link
Benny awoke to an empty field. He heard the bird song faintly in the distance, his head was throbbing painfully in his temple.
He forced his lungs to work.
He drew one breath, then exhaled. Then another.
He staggered to his feet, looking at what surrounded him. He supposed it was rather nice of Townes to abandon him with a bag of his belongings instead of just at the side of the road. Benny checked his bag and sighed in relief upon seeing his book, touching it gently and closing his eyes.
“You fucked up now, boy.”
“I was wondering when you’d turn up,” he muttered to his grandmother, cracking his knuckles.
“Why do you keep running from who you truly are?”
“Because you told me too.”
“Character building, wasn’t it?” she answered. Benny saw the fog around him swirl, taking the shape of Granny Hume. She was straight backed as ever, her shoulders square.
“It’s time for you to be who you are, Benny.”
“What if I’m not ready?”
“You always think that. You always think you’re not ready. Why? What are you so afraid of?”
Myself. Benny thought, myself. And what I could do. He felt terrified of that. He swallowed, looking at his book and then the small pouch inside it. Benny leaned down and opened them, taking out a series of rings and necklaces.
“Stop being so afraid. I didn’t raise a coward.”
“I’m not a coward.”
“I know that, but do you?” she asked, he could see the outline of her walking stick. Granny Hume took a step closer to him to inspect him. Benny did know that. He did. He was not a coward, he was not weak.
And he loved Beth Harmon.
“Use your magic, do it. Show me. Show me how strong you are. Show me that you are my grandson.”
Benny rolled his shoulders, closing his eyes. He pressed one hand to the earth, his fingernails becoming dirty from the soil.
He listened. He listened to what the earth told him, how he had been left by the circus and where they went. He followed the earth's pull to a small village outside of Paris, not too far. Benny twitched his head. He could see Beth with her tear stained face, her eyes red from crying.
“Listen to the earth,” Granny Hume instructed. “Are they close?”
“Far. They’re far,” he murmured. He stood up and looked at the fog.
“Do it. Create chaos.”
Benny breathed out and felt the shadows around him curl to life. The energy from the darkness thrumming like electricity. The hairs on his arm raised up but he remained focused. The shadows shifted and bent to his command until he had complete command of the weather around him.
“Good,” Granny Hume said firmly. “Go find your star, boy.”
Benny walked for hours. His bones ached by the time he found a small village with the posters for a circus on the walls of the street. The air was always raw from the excitement of a circus arriving, the electricity of people's excitement was like a live wire.
Every movement, every buzz, Benny felt it. He felt it in the pit of his stomach, when a child let out a giggle or a person let out a soft ‘oooh’ at an attraction. He took that rawness and bottled it inside himself, keeping it ready for the storm.
“I hear she’s not performing.”
“She’s still ill.”
Benny listened closely, knowing they were referring to Beth. Was she alright? Townes wouldn’t hurt her, Benny knew that. But he could drug her, he could keep her in oblivion.
And it was exactly that reason Benny needed to find her.
There was an advantage to being a creature of the shadows, the shadows always reclaimed what was there. He closed his eyes and let himself melt into the darkness, disappearing from sight to walk more freely around the trailers until he found Beths one. He peered through the window and she was there, the dress he had made in her hands.
She was sober, she could tell that. He felt the pain, her energy was so weak. Benny slipped back into his physical body, sliding through the door.
“Beth,” he whispered. Beth spun round, covering her mouth and hurrying to him, throwing her arms around him. He caught her, burying his face in her hair.
“Beth,” he repeated. Benny said her name like a prayer, because perhaps if God couldn’t save him she could.
“I thought you were dead.”
“Many have tried, many have failed,” he grinned, pressing his forehead to hers and kissing her lips. She still felt like home. She still felt like his world.
“We need to go,” he breathed, grabbing a bag for her. “I’m going to get you home.”
“Benny we can’t.”
“Why? Why?” he looked at her clothes and then huffed. Why was he packing for her? She was a star. Stars don’t wear clothes.
“I can’t leave Townes.”
“Beth, you can. We can. I can get you home.”
“Why do you not believe me?” he snapped. “I can. And I will.”
Beth remained silent, looking at the floor and then out the window. Benny took a deep breath, walking over to her and touching her chin.
“Why would I lie to you?”
“I don’t blame you,” he smiled. “But you’re going to go home, Beth. No more crying.”
“No more crying,” she echoed.
Benny felt like there was pure electric in his veins. Like his heart was made of lightning and at any moment it was going to explode. He remembered this feeling, of holding raw chaos in his body and bending it to his will.
“What are you?” Beth whispered. “I have never met one like you before.”
“Because there are no others like me,” he breathed with a sad laugh. “And I’ve been doomed since the start, but it’s ok. It’s alright,” he pressed a kiss to her head.
“What are you?” she repeated.
“Granny Hume was a Summoner. Old magic, very old. People who could feed off the chaos the world creates and make it what they wish. Summon life, summon death. Whatever, they could control it,” Benny held out his palm and summoned the electric in his veins. Between his fingertips the lightning cracked and hissed. Beth watched, her eyes wide with amazement. “And I can get you home, Beth.”
“I don’t want to leave you.”
“Oh darlin,” he smiled. “You’d never leave. You’d be watching over me from the sky, won’t you?”
Benny nodded. He slipped his hand into hers and gave it a small squeeze to try and reassure her.
“Benny!” Townes shouted, banging on the door. Beth jerked back, her head whipping to Benny.
“You need to go.”
“It’s alright,” Benny whispered. He opened the door and sighed, adjusting the buttons on his sleeve as he looked at the other.
“Hello, Townes. I didn’t appreciate being left in a field.”
“What are you doing here?”
“I’m bringing Beth home,” Benny said through gritted teeth. “I’m bringing her home. She is not yours, she is not a slave. She is a star, she is not of this world. And the longer you keep her here, the more painful it is for her”
“She is not a star-”
“She’s dying!” Benny screeched. “Every day, she dies. Stop being selfish, Townes. Stop it.”
Townes rubbed his face, looking at Beth then at Benny and shaking his head.
“I had more faith in you, Benny.”
“Well that was your first mistake, wasn’t it?” he grinned. “I will be taking her home.”
“Alright,” Townes said, stepping back and lighting a cigarette. “Alright. Say, Benny. How fast can you run?”
“Faster than you.”
“Oh, good. And Beth? You?”
“Great. Ok, well. I suppose you both are on your way then,” Townes answered. The stillness of him was unnerving, Benny didn’t trust it. He looked at Beth, watching her carefully as she walked towards him. Benny reached his hand out to help her down the steps, averting his gaze when Beth pressed a kiss to Townes cheek.
Benny did not trust this.
It was too quick, Townes grabbed Beth's wrist, pulling her away and one of the men grabbed Benny.
Benny kicked out, throwing his head back like a cornered dog.
“Benny, did you truly think you were the only one with magic?” he asked. “Truly?”
“Townes,” Benny hissed.
“Ignorance is bliss I suppose,” Townes sighed. “I didn’t want to do this.”
“You don’t have too,” Beth whispered.
“See, I do. I’m sorry.”
“No, you’re not,” Benny muttered.
Townes gave him a dead smile, “You’re proven to be more of an inconvenience than a help, Benny.”
“You’re not the first to say that.”
“Always so cocky, does it not get tiring?”
Benny watched Beth carefully, tilting his head to try and make her understand. Beth locked her eyes on his and nodded slowly.
“I love chatting, Townes,” Benny sighed, slowly summoning all the chaos he had been bottling from the morning. His body shaking with anticipation of finally letting it go.
“I do love chatting,” he continued. “But, I really must be going.”
“Where would you be going?”
“I think I’d rather like to go home.”
The world erupted around Benny. He let it go, he let all the chaos bleed out of him. The shadows surged upwards like a sea crashing into a cliff. Benny threw the chaos towards Townes, the light and shadows clashing and rearing upwards. Twisting and snapping. The pull and tug of the light was like a current in the sea. Townes staggered backwards, throwing an arm to protect himself and in that split second Benny grabbed Beth.
He held onto her hand tight, his fingers lacing through hers. He dragged her along behind him until he found the horses.
“Go!” he shouted, grabbing a bridle for Zeus and for Apollo, he gave one to Beth who quickly threw it on the vaulting onto the horses back. Benny did the same, wrapping his hands around Zeus’s mane and digging his heels into the horses side. Zeus took off, ears pinned back as his stride ate the earth up. Apollo was by his side, Beth’s eyes furrowed as she focused. Their hooves were like war drums, calling a battle so great and so bloody that no person could be left the same.
Zeus veered to the left, leaping over a ditch and charging. Benny thought for the briefest of seconds this was not what a knight was meant to do, knights were meant to charge into the battle not away.
Benny had never really been one for playing by the rules.
There was shouting in the background, the noise of Townes. He could still feel the crackle of electricity. He pulled Zeus to a halt, looking at the crowd that Townes had gathered.
“Go,” he shouted to Beth. She nodded, steering Apollo away into the forest.
Benny took a deep breath, closing his eyes and focusing everything into his heart. He steadied himself.
The mist lingered, crawling through the grass and trees like smoke. Benny kept his eyes closed, one hand running up and down Zeus’s neck to keep the stallion calm.
He took a deep breath.
The mist danced around his finger tips. The air cold, sky bleeding red and orange and purple. Townes stood at the clearing, breathless and shaking his head.
“You can’t escape.”
“You’ll find I can.”
Benny rolled his head, urging the mist onwards. Townes sliced it away, storming forward but Benny had been expecting that. He swung his leg over Zeus’s neck and flung his hands open, the mist that surrounded them turned into figures. Into people until everyone looked like Beth. Townes stopped midstep, looking round. Benny twisted the mist, creating them to smile and laugh just as Beth had done.
He knew her like he knew his own heart. Without doubt and without shame. He summoned the shadows to join in, watching as the shadows crawled along the grass like snakes until it reached Townes ankles. The shadows didn’t react yet, not until Benny told them too.
“She was never yours to love,” Benny whispered. The shadows wrapped around Townes’s ankles, holding firm. Benny swung his other hand, the illusions becoming a heavy curtain to barricade the forest from Townes and Beth. Benny might not walk away from this, but at least she would.
“Such childish magic,” Townes hissed. Townes threw his hands to the sides and the shadows died, the mist clearing. Benny didn’t move, he kept perfectly still. Until the darkness rained on them.
Until Benny felt as though he had been swallowed by the night sky.
“I can make illusions too, Benny,” Townes said in a sing-song voice. “I can do that.”
Benny tried to summon the electric, he tried to create chaos. But his fingers didn’t listen. The light had died, swallowed by a sea of nothing. He felt, for the first time, terrified.
Benny felt scared.
He was on his knees, the stars no longer shone for him. His body was trying to fight but there was nothing coming when he tried.
This is how I die, he thought to himself.
Benny had never particularly feared death. He imagined death was a grand adventure, he imagined he would be able to sleep for once.
All those wasted years when he let his worries consume him. All those nights gone because he was scared.
And now here he was again. Scared and suffocating on nothing but darkness and shadows. He could feel his own magic screaming in his chest, so loudly it physically hurt. He tried to make a noise but there was nothing.
“I am sorry.”
Benny couldn’t even bring himself to answer Townes.
He felt the tears burning his skin. His last thoughts would be of Beth.
His last thoughts would be of their time together, of how tender she was. How the freckles lined her shoulders and made a constellation of his heart.
He wouldn’t go fearfully. He would not let his fear consume him.
He would welcome death, he would welcome the darkness.
Benny’s eyes remained closed, he took one last breath. He hoped Zeus would be found, and that he would be ok. He had come to rather love the horse.
Then, like a knife stabbing through it all. The world burst into light.
Benny opened his eyes and there she was, knelt before him with tears streaming down her own face.
“Beth,” he breathed.
“Stars do shine you know,” she teased. He couldn’t help but laugh, shaking his head.
“Oh, I know. I know,” he whispered.
Beth tilted her chin upwards, letting the star burn the shadows and mist until there was nothing surrounding them. Nothing but the pale light of his star.
“You’re safe,” Beth smiled.
“I never doubted you,” he answered.
Beth sniffed, dropping her head. He threaded his fingers through her hair, pressing a kiss to her skull.
“It's ok to be afraid.”
“No one told me how heavy a heart is. I do not want this pain. I do not want this hurt.”
“Love rarely comes without the other, does it?” he sighed. “It’s ok, I’ll be ok.”
“I think I love you, Benny Watts.”
“I think I love you too, Beth Harmon.”
Benny sniffed, looking at the area around them. Townes was on his knees, trying to straighten himself out. Benny saw the wild look in his eye, but he knew he was defeated. He raised a hand, one last attempt but Beth stopped him. Her light cut his shadows before they even had a chance to affect her.
"Don't you understand?" she cried. "I am not yours."
"I only wanted what was best for you."
"I know, but you were killing me. I am not a bird to be caged, wondering what it is like to fly. Because I have, and it is beautiful." Benny could hear the pain in her voice.
"You took me away," She breathed. "I only ever wanted to go home."
Townes dropped his head, remaining silent. Beth watched him but Benny took her hand, making her look at him.
“It’s time to go home then, Beth.”
“What do I need to do?”
“A babylon candle,” he smiled, reaching into his pocket and holding it to her. “Take it, light it and then think of where you want to go.”
“I didn’t… I never thought I would have someone to say goodbye too.”
“Don’t say goodbye,” Benny said quietly. “What's it like? The songs your sisters sing?"
"It's like, finding shelter from a storm."
"I must have loved you from another like, because you feel like that."
Beth had her eyes closed, but Benny saw her tears.
"I can't say goodbye."
"It's never goodbye. Only see you later.”
“You’ll see me anytime you want, darlin. I’ll always be here. Won’t be going anywhere, will I?” he tried to laugh, but he knew it was goodbye.
Goodbyes were such heavy things.
Benny couldn’t bring himself to look at Beth, blinking back his own tears.
“We had so much wasted time,” she choked out.
“Don’t think of it. Don’t think of what we could’ve done.”
“We could’ve had a life, a family.”
“Beth, we never were going to have that life. Go now, go on. I’ll see you soon.”
“I can stay-”
“Think of home, think of the night sky. Think of your sisters. You can still watch me, and I know you’ll always be there,” Benny rested his hands on top of Beths, smiling at her. “My lovely Beth.”
"My stupid cowboy."
Benny went to speak, but once he opened his mouth, she was gone. No grand light, no bang and flash; simply a whisper in the breeze. There one moment then gone the next.
He was alone. Benny felt the coldness Settle in his bones so deep it made him ache.
A tickle on the back of his neck made Benny look around. And there was Zeus, standing with head dipped to Benny.
Benny smiled, touching the horse's check then looking at the night sky. It seemed brighter tonight.
And Beth was home.