Chapter 3: Forgive
Well, I hope you guys like this one! Thanks so much for the gushing reviews; I can't thank all of you enough! Imaginary strawberry shortcake for the couple people that got the song right; more Wicked references in this chapter, see if you can get the one besides the song! Imaginary wolfdogs for whoever can get that!
Well, I hope this clears things up for you guys. The story is NOT OVER. There is a poll I set up for how you want the plotline to go! Please vote! I hope you like one of them; if not, please PM me with your own idea and I might stick it in there!
Hope you love this chapter as much I adored writing it. I don't own Virals unfortunately! But I love writing fanfictions about it!
I stared at Ben from my place in the center of the floor. I couldn't blink, couldn't speak, couldn't do anything but stand there while everyone's eyes found their way to my friend, leaning casually against the same banister where Jason had been a few hours earlier, his dark eyes holding only the faintest twinge of anger. Just… resignation. Like he'd known something all along and was only just being hit by the harshness of reality.
"Really, a great performance," he continued, voice cold and sarcastic. "Who wants an encore?" The crowd was silent. "Well?" he strode down the steps, slipping his phone from his pocket. He tilted it so we could see the screen; see the image of Jason and I, lips meeting in a kiss. The very sight made my heart contract with paralyzing guilt.
"Get away from her." Ben cocked an eyebrow at Jason's cool, calculated tone; at the genuine anger that contorted his handsome features. The tension might as well have a bomb, a land mine on a hair trigger, where one wrong step could detonate an explosion to devastate everybody – target and bystanders alike.
"Why should I?"
Whoa. Wrong thing to say; wrong time to say it.
"Because I said so, boat boy."
My breath snagged in my throat as Ben calmly flipped a pair of sunglasses down from where they perched on his forehead, obscuring his eyes. I tried to meet his gaze through the dark lenses; saw as he took a slightly deeper, sharper breath than necessary. Sensed the faintest of shudders that trailed down his body and the rawness of the power as his hands curled into fists. I could the flare as it roared through him like an inferno.
IDIOT! IDIOT! IDIOT! The word ran on an incessant loop in my mind and I fought to even out my breaths. Anxiety prickled over my skin, fear for Ben – not Jason. Every ounce of caring I had for Jason had gone flying out the window – sayonara – the second Benjamin Blue came through those doors. Kind of.
If Jason hurt him, it was all my fault.
Ben eyed Jason – or did as best as he could with sunglasses on – and cupped a hand to his ear, leaning toward us. "I'm sorry, my hearing's not the greatest. Could you repeat that, Prince Charming?"
My dancing partner sucked in a breath. "You heard me."
"Don't worry, I won't tattle on you." To his credit, Ben earned a few chuckles from the crowd. "Come on, just say it again. What did you call me?"
Jason lunged forward until his face was only inches from Ben's, snarling through clenched teeth. "What are you gonna do about it, boat boy?"
I winced at the sharp thud as Ben's fist connected with Jason's left eye, sending the lacrosse star reeling backward – but not before his foot lashed out at his attacker, grazing Ben's shin and swiping the sophomore's leg out from under him. They both went sprawling and stopped, panting for a moment, before they clambered to their feet. Jason went on the offensive – taking a vicious swing at Ben's jaw – but he leaped gracefully aside, aided by his flare, and Jason fought to keep his balance as the momentum of the punch pitched him forward. Ben landed a kick behind his knee and the blond athlete faceplanted on the floor.
I could only stare as he peeled himself away from the granite, a thin trickle of blood dribbling from his nose. He swabbed it away with his sleeve and glowered at Ben as he stood, straightening his jacket, a scowl twisting his features. Ben turned to gaze out the window and Jason tried to jump him; but I knew better. Without even casting a glance in his attacker's direction, Ben ducked out of the way, letting Jason tumble the floor. But the jock rebounded easily and caught Ben with a slap across the cheek. He doubled over and Jason stood triumphantly a few feet away. Ben didn't realize what was happening; he was dazed, blinking behind the sunglasses. He turned – and so did I- to see Jason honing in for the kill.
The flare burst in my chest and spread like a wildfire. All in a split second, I trembled from the mental impact, recovered, took a breath, and flicked my canine-worthy gaze to the scene unfolding before me, golden fire undoubtedly blazing in my eyes. I looked frantically around for my sunglasses; but they were crammed into my purse, somewhere over by the stairwell. Fifty feet away. There wasn't time.
I covered the distance between me and in the boys in two easy bounds. I saw Ben's eyes widen in shock; caught a glimpse of Jason's fearful expression, and didn't even hesitate as I threw my entire weight against the jock's shoulder, crashing him sideways and away from Ben. He staggered and tumbled to the floor. Having regained my balance with ease, I stood over him, panting, liquid fire coursing through my veins. He rolled over with a groan and looked up at me.
His bright blue eyes stretched open to their limits, their cobalt depths flooded with a mixture of fright and awe.
I looked up toward the doors, hoping to find relief in their smooth, reflective surface. Instead it brought horror.
My eyes flashed gold off the glass.
"Tory..." Ben moved behind me, slipping a pair of us glasses discreetly into my hand. I looked up into his face. His beautiful brown-black irises had softened, just a bit, and the coldness in them had warmed ever so slightly; sympathy glowed among the churning emotions. I'm sorry, I mouthed, hoping he saw the tears glistening in my eyes before I tucked the sunglasses onto my face. He looked pointedly away and I felt my heart shatter. Not forgiven.
Would I ever be?
I tried to steady my breathing as I turned from the girl I'd fallen so hard for. She looked beautiful there, you know - so strong, so proud, her hair rippling behind her and licking the air like a brand of flame, her once-emerald eyes golden and tear-filled, sweat plastering her bangs to her forehead, her smooth, pale cheeks flushed with rosy color. Every fiber of me wanted to forgive her. Then I thought of the image of the two of them - Jason and Tory - standing so close, the moment of their kiss frozen still in my photo library. I took a shaky breath. The one emotion I'd felt in that second - and the couple minutes before - was pure, utter betrayal. Like I'd been played. I knew it was unfair for me to think of it that way - technically Tory and I had never been together, and she could kiss whoever she wanted to - but couldn't help but feel resentment, feel disappointment that we would never have a chance.
Forgive her, a little voice in my subconscious whispered, and maybe you will.
That word again. Forgive. Part of me said that it should be her needing to forgive me. Barging into the ballroom like that, humiliating her in front of practically the entire class, showing everyone the picture that would rip what social reputation she had right down the middle… Unforgivable.
I walked toward the exit, needing some time alone and a breath of fresh air. I broke into the evening coolness with what was practically a gasp of relief; the latest of the night birds twittered in the shadowy silhouettes that were the trees, and I could hear the water licking softly against the shore. The faint outline of Sewee bobbed gently in the swelling tide. It was high tonight; I'd have to be careful the runabout. I leaned cautiously against the bow as it steadily rose and fell, like the flank of a sleeping puppy. I swiped my hand across my face, trying to clear it of sweat, grime and… blood. A faint crimson stain oozed over my fingers as I pulled them away. I blotted the angry red welt on my cheek, trying to sop up the wetness, and wiped my hands clean on my shorts. I'd wash them later. No big deal.
The sea breeze was refreshingly cool against my face. I gazed out over the ocean; the moon had replaced the sun, hovering at its midnight summit and washing the club, the water, and the docks with soft, pearly light that glinted off the waves and cast shadows on the sidewalks. Stars winked around it; my trained eyes separated the constellations from the aimless jumble, piecing together Ursa Major, the Big Dipper, and, surprisingly, the lone, blazing pinpoint of Polaris, the northern star. That one was Tory's second favorite, I knew. Her first was easy to guess – Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky and also known as the "dog star," the most prominent of the markers for Canicus Major, the "big dog." No surprise there.
I scanned the sky for the blue-tinted binary star and was rewarded for my efforts. Hidden in a cluster near the head of Ursa Major was a glowing cobalt orb, more dazzling than any other star the eye could see. I reminded myself to point it out to Tory and immediately wanted to slap myself; we'd yet to speak to one another, let alone become friends again.
I couldn't leave without Tory – I wasn't that cruel. So I sat on the edge of the dock, shoes kicked off, swishing my feet restlessly in the water and thinking, wondering, as I blinked beneath the steady gaze of Sirius's unwavering light.
I shuffled out of the club. I'd found my purse, half the contents scattered across the smooth, waxy floor, surprisingly still with my sunglasses among them – despite the fact that a pair was resting over my eyes right that second, even though my flare had withered away long before. Ben had offered me his own pair to shield me from discovery –though if Jason had a good memory, our valiant efforts would be foiled anyway.
The wind was beginning to pick up as I pushed past the glass doors, now smudged with fingerprints. And lipstick – weird, and not to mention gross. A sweet breeze – smelling of the ocean – wreathed me in its human-like embrace and I let out a breath; let it drain me of my worries, my problems.
"Oh, look, Ash! It's the boat girl!"
Ugh. Looks like it hadn't gotten rid of all my issues. I turned, slowly, pivoting on my heel to face Madison. She looked breathtaking; her blond hair was pinned back in a loose, messy bun, artificially-highlighted tendrils framing her flawless tan face; pale pink eyeshadow was dusted over her lids, and a light, shimmery gloss was swiped over her already perfect lips. Concealer dotted any nonexistent blemishes and she didn't need bronzer to flaunt her soaring supermodel cheekbones. Surprisingly, I recognized her gown – hot pink with glittering gold accents, the dress yours truly had sported at my first cotillion event, nicknamed as the notorious "cupcake dress." But she wore it better than I ever could, and I was surprised that Jason had even gotten within twenty feet of me with a girl like Maddy crushing on him. That is, until she opened her snarky little mouth.
"Surprised you're not running back to the store, sweetie," she chirped. "Though I'm not sure any store would accept it as a return after you've worn it. It might be a hazard to the next customer."
I bit back a mile-long string of less than pleasant insults and opted for the more civilized approach. "Who said it needed to be returned?" Whitney. Oh well – a little white lie never hurt anybody. Right?
"That Dubois woman," Courtney said, sounding exhausted and a little more than sluggish. "You know, the one whose friend's boutique you're borrowing the dresses from." That might've been the most clever thing she'd said in her entire life. I held my applause.
But however impressed her choice of words made me, I was still busted with a capital B. "Not right away," I answered lamely. "Maybe I wanted to enjoy the time in my finery."
Madison snorted. "What finery?" And she lashed out, quicker than lighting, and tried to tear the belt away from the waistline. Thank the manufacturer – the stitches held – but the yank still jolted me forward, skidding across the bricks like a skipping stone.
She tried again from the back. This time, the belt buckle – cheap thing – broke at the front, and she flung it aside, grinding it into the dirt with the three-inch heel of her glossy pink platform shoe. If the belt had actually been holding up the dress, I'd have been toast.
Ashley bent to tear away a row of sequins from a silver accent and dropped them into my air, scrubbing them in like shampoo and sitting back to cackle with the rest of the Tripod. I forced a growl back down into my throat. Madison had seen my eyes once already; I couldn't risk her seeing them again. One sighting could be played off. A double-up… not so easy.
I got slowly to my feet, brushing what I could of the dirt off my dress, hoping the popped stitches at the waist weren't as conspicuous as my imagination had conjured up. I reached for the tattered belt and was slapped across the hand by Madison's perfectly manicured claws. "Excuse me," I said curtly, trying again. This time I narrowly avoided a crushing by her shoe, which I imagined would be pretty much like being stepped on my a horse (A/N: Been there, done that. The horse part. PAINFUL!).
"Aw, is the poor boat girl having some difficulty? Why don't you go call your little boyfriend?"
Who did she mean? Jason or Ben? Ugh! Nothing was worse than being caught between two guys – but I wasn't. Or was I? I was in the process of trying to shove the thoughts away and focus when a very familiar voice said calmly, "She doesn't need to call anyone."
BEN's POV (Sorry for the constant POV switch. Ping-pong, anyone?)
I hadn't even decided to say the words before I heard them leaving my lips. I leaned casually against a tree with only the moonlight to illuminate my approach, alternating my steadily unnerving gaze between the three parts of the Tripod: Courtney, Ashley, and most of all, Madison, each one squirming visibly under my unwavering eyes. I smiled slightly and hoped Tory caught it. Forgive. I'd finally decided to give in and let loose with the new f-word.
"What are doing here, boat boy?" Madison's voice fell flat in its attempt at coolness.
"Depends on what you're doing." I looked at each of them in turn. "Because if you're harassing Tory, I'll be kicking your butt soon. But if you leave her alone, maybe we can skip that part."
"Your little threats don't scare us." Ashley, wavery and uncertain.
"No?" I took a menacing step forward, swinging one sandaled foot around the other and crossing my arms. I raised an eyebrow and felt the Tripod recede a little, their designer shoes skidding on the path.
"Nope." Madison again. She and Ashley were bouncing the responses between themselves; Courtney looked too freaked out to do much of anything.
"What if they became big threats?" I suggested. "Like, if you don't get your little snobby selves of here right now, I will make absolutely certain your dresses won't be in returnable condition?" I chuckled, tilting my head at the three girls, already starting to step back a little quicker. "I was thinking a roll in the sand to start off, then a nice long mud bath." I grinned. "I heard saltwater's fantastic for keeping the stains in."
"Come on, guys. Let's get away from his wacko." Madison turned tail and increased her pace, wobbling in her platform shoes. "Maybe you should be in that mental facility instead of Chance!" she tossed over her shoulder.
"You have a lovely night, too, ladies!" I waved cheerfully. "I hope your own beds in the mental facility are comfortable!"
They were out of sight too fast to throw back any sort of witty response. As soon as their silhouettes faded away into the shadows, I relaxed, letting out a long sigh of relief. "So glad that's over," I muttered.
"Me too." Tory was standing beside me now. She'd retrieved the belt and buckled it as best she could around her waist. Without thinking about it, I reached out and tugged it off, stuffing it into my pocket. She stared at me.
"I like it better that way," I joked. Awkward silence hung thick in the air; the air between us was practically buzzing with electricity, and we both just gazed into empty space, half-expecting sparks to fly at our closeness.
"When's your curfew?" I asked, breaking the quietness.
"It was about…" she whipped out her phone – the battery was almost dead, I noticed – and checked the time. "Forty five minutes ago."
"Well, you missed it by pretty far. No use rushing back."
"Well, what else do you suggest?" Her tone was mildly frustrated, but I could tell it wasn't directed at me.
I paused for a moment. "Let's go sit."
TORY's POV (Seriously, we should start a game.)
Ben led us over to the docks, where Sewee hung low in the water, rocking softly back and forth as the break waves poked and prodded at its sides. I nervously tucked a lock of hair behind my ear. Jason could get me with just a smile; but Ben was a different story. He was so unique – his mood could change in the blink of an eye, each one of his personalities more intriguing the last one – and more beautiful, more dazzling. When he was angry, if you were smart you weren't in his way. But when he was happy, he was perfect company – laughing, grinning, a fantastic listener, a guy who was like the other half of my split personality. He was handsome – even more so when he smiled. His skin was bronzed by summer days out on Sewee; his eyes, deep and rich like dark chocolate, were mysterious, and seemed to have no end – just like the ocean. He was strong; intelligent. And both our DNAs were mangled – manipulated, enhanced, improved, if you will – by the canine parvovirus that we caught together.
He sat beside me and dangled his feet in the water.
"Go on," he said, nodding at my flats. "Take 'em off and put 'em in. It feels great."
So I flung my shoes into the grass and let my toes plop into the water, wiggling them, savoring the coolness of the saltwater swirling over my skin. I carefully tucked my skirt so it didn't brush the water and braced myself against my arms, leaning back and letting out a long breath.
"Tired?" he asked, gentle.
"I guess. Just… fed up."
He opened his mouth, closed it, and reopened it. "With… me?"
I laughed, splashing up the water with my toes and managing to shower him with it, droplets dappling his shorts and dark shirt, hitting his skin and rolling off. "Of course not. Why would I be fed up with you?"
He stared at his bare feet, ashamed. "You know. Running into the club like that. Yelling at you." He blushed an even darker shade of scarlet. "Taking the picture."
I directed my own gaze at my toes. "How long were you standing there? Before you spoke up," I added.
"Five minutes, maybe." He smiled – a real, genuine smile, one that slowly spread across his face and lit up all his features, not just his mouth. It reached up to his eyes and they took on a new shine. "You're a great singer."
I swatted his shoulder. "Oh, stop it. I'm tone-deaf, for goodness sakes!"
"Not for those five minutes you weren't." He lifted his own voice and sang out a few notes over the waves, who didn't bother stopping to listen. "Dancing through life, skimming the surface, gliding where turf is smooth…" his voice was a low, smooth bass, and the easy tenors drifted out over the ocean.
"Wow," I said with a giggle. "And I thought I was the only one who'd seen that musical."
"Nope," he said, smiling again. "What's your favorite song from it?"
I blushed, looking down again. "Sorry. Top secret."
"Oh, come on!"
"Nope." I looked up again, surprised to see a dark rivulet making its way down his cheek. "Ben, you're bleeding. Didn't Jason slap you?"
He gazed into my eyes, and I reached out to brush the blood away. "Yeah. Or maybe he slapped me or something." And then he was reaching out himself, his own hand cupping my cheek as he leaned and he kissed me. It was different than it was with Jason's. My kiss with him had been so brief – thank goodness, I realized now – and I'd felt nothing except for his lips on mine. Nothing; no flutter in the pit of my stomach, no skipped beats in my heart. Now, with Ben, I felt everything I hadn't. His lips were warm on mine; my pulse skittered like the feet of a sandpiper across the beach, my stomach flip-flopped, my brain seemed to go all fuzzy and I couldn't see anything as I closed my eyes and just sat there.
When we finally broke apart, I was grinning stupidly at him and said something very intelligent like "It's Friday, right?"
He smiled at me and nodded, his hand never leaving my cheek, his other one finding mine. Then his grin took on a mischievous quality. "Actually, it's past midnight, so it's Saturday now I guess."
I laughed. "You really want to know my favorite song from Wicked?"
He nodded vigorously, so hard I worried his head would fall off. "Okay, okay," I said. "Don't give yourself whiplash." I began to sing softly, my tone-deafness forgotten for just five more minutes. "Kiss me too fiercely, hold me too tight…" Ben's face registered a brief moment of surprise before it softened into a smile, drawing me closer as I sang. "I need help believing… you're with me, tonight…" I paused for breath. "My wildest dreamings, could not foresee…" And I kept singing, kept going, until Elphaba's part was supposed to transition into Fiyero's. I stopped and felt a tear of joy slide down my cheek as Ben took up the song.
"Maybe I'm brainless, maybe I'm wise," he sang, his voice resonating sweetly in my ears. "But you've got me seeing, through different eyes…" I blinked, realizing how the words rang true. "Somehow I've fallen, under your spell…" he smiled as he sang. "And somehow I'm feeling, it's up that I fell…"
"And just for this moment," I sang, "As long as you're mine…"
"I've lost all resistance, and crossed some borderline!"
Our voices joined in a duet. "And if it turns out, it's over too fast… I'll make, every last moment, last! Say there's no future…" we paused, breathless, gazing at each other. "…for us as a pair…"
We broke forward, louder than ever before. "I know, I may know, I don't care!"
And in that moment, I knew exactly who I was – and knew exactly who I wanted to be with. Who I wanted to be by my side no matter what crazy adventures found us. And he was right there with me as we sang out the very last line of my favorite song.
"As long as you're mine!"