Ben watched John close the door and walk out of the room, presumably to go downstairs, say thank you and goodbye to Hero, and then go home. Maybe he’d run into Pedro on the way out. Ben grinned. Then he remembered the camera.
“Oh right, you all are still here,” He said to the invisible audience. “I certainly hope you enjoyed that because from my point of view it was incredibly entertaining. Who knew John could laugh like that right? Anyway, all’s well that ends well. Congratulations Pedro and Balthazar for figuring your stuff out, at least, I’m assuming you did. This Love Gods stuff is pretty great fun actually. But I will be honest with you, Pedro, I think I’m much better at it then you are. I didn’t even have to lie to anyone. No sorry. That’s rude, shouldn’t have brought that up again. I think that’s enough video for one day don’t you? Bye everyone! And Bi Pedro! Hah, get it? Cause… he’s… yeah okay bye.” Ben turned off the camera.
Then he heard a knock on the door. “Ben?”
“Yeah?” He answered.
Beatrice walked into the room.
“Hey there,” Ben said, grinning softly at his girlfriend.
“Hey,” she said though she looked a little confused and she came over to sit next to him. “Did something happen between Pedro and Balthazar?”
Ben smiled mischievously. “Why do you ask?”
“Because they’re currently sitting on the most secluded couch in the house just talking and holding hands. I tried to get Balthazar’s attention from across the room but he won’t take his eyes off of Pedro who is making similarly dreamy eyes.”
“Well, though I cannot say that I was the only one with a hand in this, I do believe you can say that the Love Gods have struck again.”
Bea laughed. “You didn’t.”
“Oh but I did. Not without help of course, John was remarkably resourceful. And you gave me the idea in the first place.”
“Oh my god, you really did it. I don’t know whether to be pleased or horrified.”
“Hey, like you said for us, if they didn’t like each other it wouldn’t have worked.”
Bea smiled. “You’re right. Actually I came upstairs to ask if you could drive Claudio back to his place? He needs a ride.”
“Oh yeah sure!”
“Great I’ll just let him kn-”
“Wait no, I just remembered that I need to put up this video! Also probably recruit Pedro into helping me because the contents are a little bit… personal.”
“You definitely have time to drive him there and come back if you want. I don’t think you’re getting Pedro to focus any time soon.”
“True… Off to Claudio’s house I go, valiantly braving the hills and the possible vengeful birds that may choose to attack me.”
Beatrice put her hand on top of Ben’s and laughed before kissing him gently. “Oh you foolish knight, please return unharmed.”
Benedick put his hands on Beatrice’s waist and pulled her in for a deeper and closer kiss. “It shall be as my lady commands,” he said and then rose and dramatically exited, one hand on his heart and the other gesturing towards the door.
When Ben got back to the Duke’s house Hero, Ursula, Bea, and Meg were in the kitchen, talking, giggling and every so often throwing looks at Pedro and Balthazar who were still sitting on the same couch. They were sitting even closer now, legs tangled together but still facing each other, Pedro’s right hand petting Balthazar’s hair, Balthazar smiling up at Pedro through his lashes. And Ben thought he and Beatrice were affectionate in public. The two of them looked as if they’d forgotten that there was anyone else in the world at all.
Ben swaggered up to the crew in the kitchen. “Have they been like that the whole time I was gone?” The four girls nodded. “Wow,” Ben said, with a look of slack jawed awe that made Hero giggle.
“It makes me a little sick,” Bea said, shuffling closer to Ben and putting her arm around his waist.
Hero raised her eyebrows. “And you don’t think that’s a little hypocritical?”
“What we’re not that bad,” Bea said then looked up at Ben for encouragement, “Are we?”
He leaned down and dropped a kiss on her lips. “I hate to break it to you, but we definitely are.”
Ursula, Meg, and Hero laughed as Bea made a few disappointed grimaces then went back to smiling at Ben.
Ben asked, “Where have the year nines got to?”
“They’ve gone home,” Ursula replied.
“I think it was past their bedtime,” Meg said.
“Wait, what time is it?” Ben asked.
“11:30 ish,” Bea said.
“That late already?” Ben said.
“That’s not late,” Meg said.
“It’s late if I’m planning on editing and posting a very large amount of video. I should really get to work then! See if I can wrangle up Pedro as well,” Ben said.
“Are you sure Pedro is going to want that footage up on the internet?” Ursula asked. “I’m not sure he seemed like the biggest fan of making videos recently.”
“I don’t know, this one really didn’t end on such a bad note. But that’s exactly why I’m going to ask him.”
“Hah, good luck getting his attention,” Bea laughed, and kissed Ben on the cheek before he unwrapped himself from her and went over to bother Balth and Pedro.
“Hey Pedro!” Ben called as he approached. No response. “Pedroooo. Pedro my bro. My bro Pedro. Yo bro. Pedbro. Ped. Broro. Bro. Bro bro bro.” Still no response. Ben was now standing two feet away from where Pedro and Balthazar were on the couch. He sighed loudly and when that didn’t get any response he yelled, “PEDRO.”
“Huh? What? No need to shout!” Pedro said, turning around and looking bewildered.
“I won’t shout if you pay attention,” Ben said.
“Okay okay I’m paying attention now.”
“Excellent. I was hoping I could enlist you in helping me to edit the video we just filmed?”
“…Video?” Pedro looked over at Balthazar who shrugged, “Oh right I forgot you were filming that.”
“So? Do you want to? I mean like I said, to let the people know, to clear things up for them and for you I guess?”
Pedro smiled a bit but then frowned. “I really don’t know if it’d be cool to post I mean it’s kind of personal…” He looked to Balthazar again, concerned and clearly asking for permission.
Balthazar shrugged and smiled, taking Pedro’s hand. “I don’t mind. If you’re comfortable with it I think it’s a good idea.”
“Yeah man, I mean if you’re not sure about posting it that’s totally chill,” Ben said, “And you can see all the footage so even the conversation I had with your brother and like I get it if you don’t want to make you know any of this stuff public I mean that’s totally cool.”
As Ben spoke, Pedro bit his lip, mulling it over but as Ben finished he smiled. “No actually,” Pedro said, “No I think I want to post it.” He turned to Balthazar. “I want people to know that I’m bisexual. And also that I have the most beautiful boyfriend in the world.”
Balthazar grinned. Ben groaned.
“You really don’t mind if we post any of it?” Pedro said, stroking Balthazar’s hand with his thumb.
Balthazar shook his head. “No, I don’t mind. I want people to know I’m dating you too.”
Pedro smiled wider and put his forehead on Balthazar’s both of them smiling so hard their cheeks hurt.
“All right all right love birds. I hate to break up the party but if we don’t start editing it now we’ll be up until daybreak.”
Pedro threw up his arms in mock exasperation. “Fine Ben, I will tear away myself from Balthazar to aid you.”
“You joke, but also that’s exactly the way it is,” Ben said.
“You’re one to talk,” Pedro snarked without looking in Ben’s direction, kissing Balthazar quickly then standing up, slowly letting go of Balthazar’s hand as he walked away. “I’ll be back soon, I promise.”
Balthazar laughed at Pedro’s drama and as Ben and Pedro left to go to Hero’s room and borrow her computer he moved over to where the girls were standing in the kitchen and continued to laugh with them over another piece of amazing cake.
“How do you manage to spend so much time saying so little?”
“Hey, hey do not criticize my vlog ramblings. I have excellent solo vlogging tactics thanks very much. I have a million zillion subscribers because of my witty and hilarious vlog tactics.”
“Hah. Witty and hilarious.”
“But I am!”
“Fine fine, cut the bit where you go on and on about parties and partying and dancing.”
“Bi all means I will do so immediately,” Ben winked in Pedro’s direction. Pedro groaned but kept smiling.
“Right, okay, there is so much footage here. We can probably just start with us eating the cake.”
“Noooo nononono. There is some excellent drama of you sulking and I do believe you have actually developed a fear of cameras it’s wildly entertaining.”
“I thought this was for informational purposes, not entertainment.”
“We can entertain and inform all at the same time!”
“Fine.” They sat there for a moment, watching the video of Ben pushing Pedro to sit down on the bed, trying to be encouraging, ending up a little forceful and-
“It’s not funny.”
“No no it’s totally not funny I get why you don’t want to be called an all around-” Pedro glared at Ben who stopped and then said, “No I wasn’t laughing at that I was just thinking that… well we could always call you an all around great bi.”
Pedro rolled his eyes and tried really hard to be angry. It didn’t work though he ended up letting out a small chuckle and Ben laughed his head off about his own joke.
“God no Ben that’s not funny,” he said, elbowing Ben in the side.
“Right no. Sorry,” Ben tried to cover his mouth but the laughter kept leaking out, “It’s not funny at all.”
“Moving on then. We have a lot of cake footage, how are you feeling about that?”
“Keep all the cake footage!”
“Yes, that cake is the most important part of this video. The most. The most important part.” Pedro raised an eyebrow at Ben. “Okay maybe it wasn’t the most important part for you but it was definitely the most important part for me. You could call that cake your wing man’s wing man, helping him to be a better wing man through the power of chocolatey deliciousness.”
“I really don’t know what you’re going for there.”
“Okay see here, I have succeeded in my role as Love God through the helping power of this cake! It gave me the strength and the enlightenment to see exactly what needed to be done to help you and Balthazar figure your stuff out.”
“I think we would have figured it out without you or the cake.”
“You say that now but-”
“No, no I’m sorry you’re right. We could have figured it out without you but probably not without the cake.”
“Thank you. Wait, hey don’t be rude, I was totally necessary.”
“Do you think there’s any of that cake left?”
“Why, are you looking for a bi-te to eat?”
Pedro dragged his hands down his face in mock exasperation as Ben continued to laugh.
“Aaaaahahaha sorry sorry. Moving on then.”
They continued watching until Video Ben suggested that Pedro’s Love Gods plan might have been for revenge. “We are definitely cutting out the ten more apologies you made after this.”
“No but I really am sorry.”
“Yeah and you’re also a lot like your brother, those facts have been demonstrated all ready.”
“I am really not that much like my brother.” Ben raised his eyebrows. “I’m seriously not! I mean I don’t spend my time sulking on my own and cutting myself off from other people because I feel bad about my- Oh god.” Pedro looked up at Ben with fear in his eyes, “I was doing that wasn’t I.”
“I hate to break it to you my friend but you really were.”
“Oh god I am so sorry.”
“Okay I will but I really am sorry!”
“You’re not sulking and self hating now are you?”
“…Well no… I mean I guess not…”
“So stop apologizing!”
“But what if I start sulking and being terrible again Ben? What then?”
“Oh for god sakes just talk to Balthazar about it. He will absolutely listen to you, you know that, we’ve just established that for godsakes. And I know I said you needed a significant other to listen to you but that doesn’t mean you don’t have friends who won’t listen to you too. You can totally come to me and talk about it, you know that right?”
Pedro frowned a bit and looked slightly puzzled but then smiled. “Yeah… yeah I know that.”
“Good. I mean at least if you start feeling that way again you can get Balthazar to smooch your terrible frown lines away.”
Pedro rolled his eyes. “Stoooop.”
“Oh but it’s just so romantic, I can’t help myself.”
Pedro elbowed him in the side.
“We’ll keep one of the sorrys okay?” Ben said, “Compromise.”
The video player moved forward. “There’s another 30 seconds of me sulking. We could cut that I suppose?”
“No no no no. We are keeping that in.”
“Really? Why on earth?”
“It adds to the atmosphere.”
“Yes really now ssshhh I am about to be brilliant.”
“If by brilliant you mean pushy and terrible at matchmaking.”
“Terrible? Clearly not terrible. Terrible at matchmaking doesn’t get you a boyfriend does it?”
“Oh come on, the first person you suggested was Olivia. In what world did you think that might work?”
“I knew it wouldn’t work, it was all part of my overarching plan.”
“Your overarching plan to set me up with Balthazar by suggesting literally anyone but Balthazar.”
“Shoosh shoosh I’m editing.” Ben continued playing the video saying “poof” along with himself the second time around and basking in his perceived genius. Then there was a knock at the door.
“Balthazar! Come in!” Pedro got up to usher him in but Balthazar stayed by the door. “You can help us edit the video! You’re still okay with us posting it right?”
“Yes absolutely but I’m afraid I can’t really stay. I was just coming up to say goodnight. It’s midnight and I need to at least get some sleep before tomorrow so I won’t be singing like a dead horse at my gig.”
“Right of course! That’s at 10 right?” Pedro replied.
“Yeah. You’ll be there?”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Pedro laid one hand gently on Balthazar’s upper arm and the other on his waist.
“I’ll definitely be coming as well!” Ben piped in from the sidelines. “And I know Bea is going and basically everyone I think that is if Pedro and I manage to get any sleep at all after we’re done with this video. We’re only three minutes in and I think there’s about fifteen more minutes of footage.”
Balthazar laughed but only glanced over at Ben before going right back to holding Pedro’s gaze. “I’ll see you soon then.” Balthazar said cautiously, as if putting the words out in the air made them vulnerable.
“Not soon enough,” Pedro said. He leaned in to Balthazar until their foreheads touched.
“Hey, hi guys,” Ben chimed in from the corner, “I’m still here you know.”
“Piss off,” said Pedro before kissing his boyfriend gently but lengthily.
“Goodnight. I’ll text you when I get home,” Balthazar said, quickly kissing Pedro one more time then pulling himself away, lingering at the doorway, his fingers gently interlaced with Pedro’s and slowly letting go as he left.
“Goodnight,” Pedro replied with a ridiculous grin plastered to his face.
“Eeeeeeeeeeeewwwww disgustiiiiiing,” Ben said from where he sat on Hero’s bed.
“You’re an absolute hypocrite,” Pedro said, returning to his previous seat and shoving Ben playfully.
“I’m not the one kissing my significant other like a love drunk fool in front of my friends.”
“No nothing like that at all just trying to feed your girlfriend strawberries with her lying on top of you at a group picnic. Also you have totally kissed Beatrice in front of literally everyone.”
“Well uh you’ve been dancing around it for ages and needlessly angsting so Hah!”
“Ben. Really. You do not want to start criticizing people for needless angsting and dancing around it for ages. There is nothing that I’ve just done that you haven’t done.”
“Well you haven’t written a song for Balthazar so you lose or… something.”
“I thought we were competing about who was more disgustingly romantic and in that case you lose.”
“You should totally write a song for him though.”
“God no, why? I can’t even sing.”
“Neither can I. But it’s only fair isn’t it? He did write a song for you.”
“Would he look good next to yooouuu would his hand fit in yooouuurs,” Ben sang, leaning into Pedro’s space in false romantic crooning.
“Quit it!” Pedro said, shoving him over back to his side again though his anger wasn’t convincing with a smile that big.
“Not until you admit that you are gross and romantic for Balthazar Jones.”
“You’re the worst.”
“Say iiiiiit,” Ben leaned over onto Pedro until he was practically on top of him with his shoulder, squashing Pedro onto the bed.
“All right all right I am gross and romantic for Balthazar Jones.”
“That’s all I needed to hear.”
“We can cut the part where I complain before you start talking about Olivia? I do a lot of complaining in this video.”
“Oh really must we? It adds to the atmo-”
“Don’t you dare say atmosphere again. I look like enough of an idiot in this video already.”
“Fine fine we’ll cut it.”
“Wait but this transition is genius.”
“The one where I said Balthazar and you make this face like you’ve seen the darkest shadows of death?”
Pedro laughed, “Yeah that one. Did you have any idea?”
“Of course! Well no I mean I knew Balthazar liked you but I didn’t know that you liked Balthazar or you know, were bi.”
“Yeah sorry I umm… forgot to mention that.”
“No worries man! I totally get it.”
They both smiled and nodded for a while before Ben said, “I did catch on pretty quickly though didn’t I?”
“It took Balthazar mentioning the boyfriend option but yes.”
“How did he know?”
“I told him.”
“You told him you were bi but not that you liked him?”
“Hey now, one thing at a time. I got there eventually didn’t I?”
“Cut the shuffling on the sitting down bit would you, Pedro?”
Pedro fiddled around with the cut tools for a moment and then started playing the video again. It ran for a few moments before Pedro started laughing.
“No it’s just still really amusing to watch you try to dig yourself out of the hole you got yourself into when Balth asked what we were doing.”
“I would have gotten out of there perfectly fine if you hadn’t just said what we were doing.”
“Thankfully I just told the truth because I’m pretty sure it would have gone downhill otherwise.”
“Of course it wouldn’t have, I am the perfect matchmaker.”
Pedro snorted derisively. “Right.”
“I am though! Look at how quickly I catch on to your weird brand of flirting.”
“I really dig the confused frowny face you make when I start seriously agreeing to the ideas about dating guys.”
“That’s the sign of all of the wheels in my head turning out excellent ideas. But also… sorry I assumed you were straight.”
“No worries,” Pedro shrugged, “I think I wanted people to assume that.”
“But not anymore?”
“I’m posting a video that basically documents how I got a boyfriend onto the internet. What do you think?”
“Did you plan that thing with John?”
“Not at all wow, that was just really convenient timing.”
“Aaand now you’re gesturing to Balth and me when you say Team Love Gods. You’re terrible.”
“Terribly good! It worked didn’t it? It totally totally worked.”
“Not because of you it didn’t.”
“Maybe… Can we just decide that matchmaking doesn’t work and that people who like each other will usually figure out themselves if they communicate?”
“Absolutely. Let’s promise each other no more Love Gods.”
“Definitely. Shake on it?” Ben presented his hand.
“You got it.”
“Hold on,” Ben paused the playback, “Did you actually talk to John about Balthazar?”
“Not as such no… it just kind of… slipped out at some point when I was trying to reconcile with him. I think it was good for him to know that I wasn’t the paragon of normality he thought I was.”
“It probably also did you good to tell someone.”
“Maybe it did. But I thought we were moving on from me and my pity party?”
“Oh we are, I’m just proving a point about COMMUNICATION.” At that word, Ben cupped his hands over his mouth like a megaphone.
“Ow Ben, not so loud but yes point taken.”
“Are you going to start playing the video again?”
They watched Pedro struggle with his inhibitions until finally the words “Balthazar, do you want to go outside with me?” came out of his mouth and they walked out the door.
“You know there’s not actually much to cut in that section.”
“I think you’re right Pedro my good friend.”
“Now I am really excited to see what you and John have to say about me behind my back.”
“Ooooh I don’t know about that I mean your actual interaction in the video is over right? I can totally take over from here.”
“Oh no you don’t. This is essentially a video entirely about me, I am not letting you off that easily. I am going to help you edit this start to finish.”
“Right… Oh we should probably ask John if he’s okay with us posting this.”
“Ooo definitely you’re right. This video is totally going to ruin his image. I’ll text him right now.”
“Just wait until you get to the part where he laughs. Wait it’s coming up like right now.”
They watched the video in silence for a moment then when John started laughing Pedro couldn’t help himself. He immediately burst into giggles and Ben soon followed.
“Oh god how long does this last!” Pedro said between breathless bouts of laughter.
“I have no idea we laughed that long. It was just one of those things where you start and can’t stop.”
“We have to cut some of this.”
“But Pedro! Atmosphere!”
This sent Pedro into a new fit of giggles and they had to pause the video.
“Oooh god it’s good to have you back, Pedro,” Ben was able to say at last as the laughter died down.
Pedro smiled. “It’s good to be back. Not that I was ever really gone or anything.”
“No but, you weren’t really here either were you?”
“You’re such a sap,” Pedro said, knocking into Ben gently with his shoulder.
“You’re one to talk, you hopeless Pedromantic.”
Pedro kicked his head back and rolled his eyes in yet another attempt at appearing exasperated but his smile gave him away yet again.
“All right let’s just finish watching this thing and we’ll decide where to cut it afterwards,” Ben said.
“Wait hold on, before we go on, that’s not actually the first time John’s ever laughed is it?”
“Unfortunately it is. He was born with a tiny baby frown on his face. I’ve seen photographic evidence. Not a single laugh has escaped his sullen lips since.”
“Obviously I’m joking. But no you’re right, it has been a long time. I’ve seen him laugh around Cora though. Briefly. From the corner of my eye. A couple months ago.”
“I’m glad to see him laughing again.”
“It’s not as if he was ever a really laughing sort but yeah. I’m glad to see him laughing too.”
“Okay press play again.” Pedro obliged.
The video went on for another three minutes or so then it ended.
“Balthazar’s liked me since year nine?”
“Pedro, really? Did you even pay attention to the rest of the video?”
“Of course I did but also really? Since year nine?”
“How does John even know these things?”
“I have no idea but it has always been like this. He knows everything and you don’t know how he knows but he knows it’s infuriating!”
“You can say that again. Do you think you’ll end up having the conversation with him later?”
“I hope so. I mean not just me and John. That’d be awkward but hopefully with… everyone directly involved at least.”
“That would be a good thing I think.”
“I thought you were done with talking.”
“I was. But I think this is a different kind of talking you know? It sounds like a talking that looks more like moving on.”
The two boys sat there for a minute, staring at the computer screen, thinking of their own process of moving on and what that might look like. Then Pedro said, “We are definitely cutting the bit at the end where you ramble for another three minutes.”
“It’s definitely not three minutes.”
“It is so three whole minutes.”
“There’s some real gems in there!”
“Like what? ‘Bi Pedro ahahha’?”
“That’s still funny and you know it.”
“No seriously it definitely is!”
The sound of their gleeful bickering and playful threats could be heard all the way down the stairs where Ursula was on the verge of leaving with Meg and Beatrice and Hero were starting to clean up.
“Do you think we should go check on those two at some point?” Hero said to Beatrice.
“We should… but I think we should give them a little bit more time don’t you?”
“I don’t know Bea, they are using my room.”
“That’s true. We can kick them out soon though, especially if you want to sleep.”
“I have to clean up first anyway. And it’s good to have Ben and Pedro back to being friends again. Don’t you think so Beatrice?”
Beatrice mumbled some kind of vague acknowledgement.
“You know you have to forgive Pedro some time,” Hero said.
“Fine, maybe I do. But I just want to let you know that today is not that day.”
Hero raised her hands in surrender. “All right. Just so long as you know that anger won’t solve everything forever.”
Beatrice sighed. “I suppose you’re right.”
Two hours later, at a quarter to three, Bea and Hero dared at last check on Ben and Pedro. They had been hearing bursts of maniacal laughter and excited talking for the past two hours. Every time Bea was ready to kick them out Hero had stopped her. She had to admit that it was nice to see them friends again.
They knocked on the door.
“Oh god, sorry, come in we’re almost finished,” Pedro said.
“It’s a work of pure genius!” Ben said.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Pedro said.
“GENIUS I SAY!”
“Ben calm down. What have you got left to do?” Bea said, sitting down next to them in front of the currently uploading youtube file.
“Title it,” Pedro said.
“I think we should call it ‘All Around Great Bi’”
“No, Ben, absolutely not we are absolutely not calling it that.”
“How about ‘BISEXUAL’, all caps.”
“Not on your life.”
Bea and Hero watched amusingly as the two boys half wrestled over the lap top.
“Okay okay you come up with a title then.”
“Uuummm how about ‘One Foot in Sea and One on Shore’?”
“A line from your boyfriend’s favorite song?” Bea asked.
“I told you you were gross and romantic for Balthazar!” Ben announced triumphantly.
“Oh go away,” Pedro said.
“No no it’s okay, I like it,” Ben said.
“Really?” Pedro replied.
“Yeah! I mean almost. We should title it ‘one foot in sea one on shore one in the boiling hot lava’”
“What,” Pedro looked madly confused.
“Ben are you for real?” Bea said.
In the confusion however, Ben had grabbed the laptop and titled it. “It’s official now too bad you snooze you lose its genius! It signifies the perils of life and love and pursuit of happiness I’m amazing I’m a genius I’m writing a description.”
Pedro rolled his eyes and smiled. Bea laughed and smiled too, mumbling something about how they should really get going this was her house not Ben’s. Hero just smiled and said that if they were done now she’d be turning of the light soon.
And with that, video posted, tired and giddy off of reunion with friends, Ben and Pedro stumbled out of the Duke’s house and made their way home.