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When olives aren't enough

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Balthazar’s up, trying to find the perfect chord to end his newest song. It’s almost all done, but he just can’t seem to get the ending right. He’s got a gig in less than two weeks, and he’d really like to have this song ready by then. A buzzing sound pulls him out of his head, and he pick up his phone from the nightstand.

Hey, man, you still up? Need to run something by you” Balthazar frowns slightly. Why’s Ben texting him? They had gotten closer over the past two months – a natural result from being the only male friends who had chosen Hero’s side in the conflict – but they haven’t really gotten into the habit of texting each other late at night. Balth’s stomach twists. Pedro used to text him late at night. In fact, Pedro used to text him all hours of the day, whenever he came up with something he wanted to share, a funny thought, potential lyrics to a song, plans for the weekend. They had tentatively began texting again these past two weeks, but it wasn’t like before. Balthazar sighs, and replies: “Yeah, man, what’s up?

Instead of texting him back, though, Ben calls.

“Hey, man, so… I need to, or rather, we need to, Bea’s here, we need to ask your permission for something…” Balth stays silent, waiting for Ben to continue. “See, the thing is, we just shot another video, Bea and I, and something came up in it that you might not want us to share for the entire internet. I mean, I understand completely if you want us to edit it out, it’s no problem man, but we thought we’d ask you first, especially since we’re trying a whole new communication strategy here!” Balthazar stifles a laugh. Bea and Ben trying out open communication? Either they will crash and burn after the first week, or they will manage to join forces to form the most dangerous team in all of Auckland!

“Hey man, I still don’t know what you’re trying to ask permission for, here” Balth manages to chime in during a pause in Ben’s monologue. He’s getting quite curious as to what Bean and Bea might want his blessing to say in a vlog.

“Yeah, sorry…” Ben sighs, and clears his throat awkwardly. “We’ve just watched all of the videos, and when we were filming, Bea said something about getting Pedro back for the whole “Team Love Gods” thing, so we joked about tricking him into falling in love with someone, and… yeah…” Ben breathes deeply on the other end of the line, and then blurts the rest out so quickly Balthazar barely understands him. “Yournamemight’vecomeupinconnectiontoreallylikingPedro”

For a second, Balth can barely breathe, when he deciphers Ben’s blurred words. Then, as he gets his breathing under control, he asks “As a joke?” without being able to completely hide the hurt in his voice.

“No, no, man!” Ben almost shouts back. “No, fuck, Balth, not like that at all! Quite the opposite, really! I mean, it’s followed up with something about not making up something that’s true. Shit, man, we’d never make fun of your feelings, or make you feel bad for having them! We just thought… we shouldn’t have outed Hero’s and Claud’s crushes in the videos at the beginning, so it would be really shitty of us to do so now with yours. We just thought we’d ask, you know, communication and all, but if you don’t feel ready to share, we’ll edit it out, no problem!”

Balthazar just sits still and listens to Ben’s ramblings. They’d watched the videos, and had quickly noticed that he was in love with Pedro. Pedro, who has been there for all of the videos – as well as several moments only the two of them know about (and maybe Ursula, but only because she is almost ridiculously perceptive) – still has no clue. Or maybe (Balth’s stomach churned), Pedro do knows about his feelings, and is trying to ignore them in the hopes that they will go away. Balthazar almost snorts at that. He’s been in love with Pedro for longer than Bea and Ben have known each other, and if their love hasn’t died out over fighting for four years (and living in different cities), he doubts his love for the guy he spends several hours a day with will just go away.

Maybe having his feelings explicitly stated will be a good thing. He’s tried almost everything else. The day they sang songs about love to tease Ben, Balthazar had been looking at Pedro most of the time, and had even grabbed hold of him while singing the words of his favourite love song. Pedro’s response? Telling him to put up videos of him singing because “chicks really dig that”. So he put up a song dedicated to Pedro, and Pedro thought it was a joke. At least with his feelings openly acknowledged, Pedro will be forced to talk to him about them. He is too much of an ‘all around great guy’ to ignore them.

“Seriously, man, don’t worry, we’ll edit it out. It really wasn’t our place to talk about it anyway.”

“No, don’t!” Balth breaks in, interrupting Ben.

“’Don’t‘?” Ben asks disbelievingly. Balthazar almost laughs when imagining Ben’s face, Bea probably badgering him in the background to tell him what he’s saying.

“Yeah, man, don’t edit it out. Keep it in the video. I dunno, perhaps it’s for the best to have it out there, in the open, you know. Like you said, communication and all. I mean,” he laughs, “for you guys, it was enough with a song, but it seems like Pedro might need a bit more than that.” Ben’s quite for a while, and when he talks, his voice is a lot more subdued than usual.

“Hey man, we really don’t need to have it in the video, we shouldn’t even have asked, so don’t feel pressured or anything—“ A rustling sound interrupts him, and then Bea is on the line.

“Balthazar? We’re really sorry we brought it up, and I shouldn’t even have said it in the first place! Please, don’t feel obligated to share something you’re not 100% comfortable with, just because Ben and I can’t keep our mouths shut.”

Balthazar smiles, though he knows she won’t be able to see it. “I know, Bea, but I’m not doing it for you. I’m… I’m doing it for me. I… I think I need to do this, you know? I need to know if we have a chance of working out, and this is one way of being open while still protecting myself, yeah?” He knows Bea will understand. Bea who, in spite of being sure of Ben’s love for her, still has trouble admitting it in front of others. He won’t be surprised if the vlog they just filmed shows them being more intimate than usual, simply because there is no spectator there in that moment. He just hopes it will work out for him and Pedro as well.

“Yeah, Balth” Bea replies softly. “If you change your mind, though, we’ll pull it down, no questions asked. And even though Pedro’s not my favourite person right now, I really hope it works out between the two of you.”

“So do I, Bea. See you at school tomorrow, and say goodnight to Ben for me, yeah?”

“I will. Night, Balth.”

“Night, Bea”

 

Bea hangs up, and turns to face Ben, who’s sitting on the bed, laptop open.

“So we should just load this video up?” He asks. “Doesn’t feel right, no matter what he says. You think we should just edit it out anyway?” Bea shakes her head, and sits down next to him.

“No, he needs to do this. He needs it to be all out in the open. I think he’s reached a point where even losing all hope is better than not knowing. He wants us to put up this video, so we should do it, for him.” Ben sighs, and starts the process of uploading it to his YouTube account.

“What do you think Pedro will say?” Bea says, leaning her head on his shoulder.

“I honestly have no idea. I never got the idea that he’d like guys, I mean, he never said anything, but it might be because I’m a guy. You know him better than I do; he ever said anything to you?”

Bea shakes her head. “No, never said anything. Then again, the last time we discussed romantic couplings, he asked me out and I laughed at him.” Ben snorts.

“Yeah, really subtle there, love. Just glad you didn’t do the same to me.”

Bea lifts her head to punch him in the shoulder. “It’s not too late, yet,” she murmurs, before lying her head back down. “So we know he likes – how did you put it? – olives! We know he likes olives, but we’re still unsure if that’s all, or if he also likes…” She tilts her head up towards Ben. “What would the equivalent to boys or boyfriends be?”

Ben shrugs. “I don’t know. Anchovies?” Bea laughs out loud at that, before slapping her hand across her mouth, trying to smother her laugh before Ben’s parents (who may or may not be informed of this sleepover on a school night) can hear.

“Anchovies? Wow, really selling your gender short, there! But fine, I don’t know if Pedro likes… anchovies as well as olives."

“I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out.” Ben says, setting the laptop aside on his desk. He turns to face Bea, who feels warmth spreading through her stomach. “We’re down for more kissing later, right?” flashes through her mind. She crawls up to the head of the bed, and smiles at him, inviting him to join her. He sits down, and leans over her.

“Not a big fan of anchovies, huh?” He whispers, his lips ghosting over her own. She lifts her arms up and wraps them around his neck.

“I might be persuaded to get used to them, as long as you’re there with me!” And with that, she pulls his body down on hers, and closes out the distance between their lips. Later, Bea will recall thinking through a lust-filled haze that anchovies really weren’t that bad.