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Title: When the Lights Begin to Fade (9/10).
Author: [livejournal.com profile] cloudysky.
Fandom: Chronicles of Narnia.
Pairing: Ben Barnes/William Moseley.
Rating: R.
Warnings: Real person slash.
Word count: 2,843.
Summary: What happens when the bright lights of fame begin to fade? What are you really left with? One minute you’re living in the lap of luxury, and the next, you’re living out of a suitcase and sleeping on your parents couch because they were certain you were never coming back. It’s time for a reality check. Sometimes slotting back into the real world is even harder than you think it’s going to be. When fame no longer comes knocking, it’s time to figure out what really matters. And it’s never what you expect.
Previous Parts: Here.

When the Lights Begin to Fade

9.



‘I’m off to work.’

Ben’s eyes fluttered open as Will stepped away from the bed and picked up his keys, the jangle of key rings knocking together stirring him. It was one thing to be woken by the sound of the alarm clock going off, but to be woken by a kiss and then have the kisser leave immediately afterwards was just plain unfair.

Forcing himself to sit up and rubbing his eyes very briefly, he cleared his throat and said, ‘I thought today was your day off. Weren’t we planning on doing something ridiculously corny like skipping through a field of daisies or--?’

The sound of Will’s laughter cut him off midsentence and he bounded back over to the bed, enveloping Ben in a hug and whispering, ‘I love you, but money comes first right now and I couldn’t say no.’

Depressing, very depressing...

‘Fine,’ Ben murmured, accepting it, be it moodily. ‘When will you be home?’

‘Three-ish?’ Taking a step back, Will slipped on his jacket and grabbed a scarf. ‘Could be four. We have a couple of bookings for parties, so I’m not sure. But I’ll give you a ring when I’m on my way out.’

Nodding, Ben forced himself from bed just long enough to kiss Will goodbye, and then upon swinging the door closed again, crawled back beneath the covers to catch another forty winks or so. Forty winks though, somehow turned into several hours, and when he finally rolled over to check the time, it was nearing two thirty.

He started, jolted from his sleepy state by the realisation that he’d almost slept through another day. Once again he had left Will to solely play the role of breadwinner and go out to make the money. He was beginning to mess things up now, he knew it, Will knew it and he also knew that he couldn’t keep it up much longer without something snapping. The something would most likely be Will, too, even though he acted like he was OK with things the way they were.

If they were both serious about this living together thing, about making their relationship work, it was time Ben started making some sacrifices too and, unfortunately, that meant sleeping less and working more. Well, when he said working more, he obviously meant attending auditions and interviews and at least attempting to work anyway.

Ben had given up on the idea of working in a bar or anything similar. There was no way on earth he’d have been able to get away with it without being recognised every five minutes and no one wanted some z-lister working in their pub putting off the punters in favour of a bunch of women in their thirties coming in to gawp. Because that still happened sometimes (despite everything); women followed him around, down the street and onto the tube until they finally plucked up the courage to ask if he was really who they thought he was and snap a quick picture.

To compensate, he’d realised that a job behind the camera would be better than nothing, so he had a whole host of interviews set up spanning over the next few weeks. They were all for different things, an array of talents he wanted to try his hand at. If he couldn’t be in the movies anymore, at least he could still attempt to be involved, which was what he wanted more than anything else.

His first interview was tomorrow, yet another date with the BBC. He didn’t exactly have high hopes for how it would turn out. Following disappointment after disappointment, he’d finally learnt not to bank on anything.

He also had an audition in the evening, something he was a little more at ease about and something he’d hopefully be able to nail. The BBC were working on several new sitcoms for BBC3, so he figured it was as good a place as any to make a start with finding a niche for himself. It was back to the beginning all over again, think small, dream big, and eventually something would turn up... he hoped.

When Ben finally crawled out of bed, fed and showered, he eyed the jogging bottoms and jacket lurking in the bottom drawer for a moment. It wouldn’t hurt. He pulled them from the drawer with enthusiasm, slipped them on, grabbed a pair of trainers and his iPod, and then headed out of the flat.

Perhaps it really was time to make an effort again and in every way possible.

Forty minutes later he reached Hyde Park.

He spent several moments attempting (but failing) to warm up at the edge of the path, and then set off in the direction of the boating lake, keeping at a steady pace. He hadn’t been jogging for years so this was definitely going to test him. He needed it though; there was no denying that he needed it.

He managed a mile before he stumbled over his own feet and went careening into a young lady with a Yorkshire terrier.

All in all, she didn’t seem to mind when he fell into her. The dog, however, had other ideas and went straight for him, yapping and snapping. The young lady pulled the terrier back again apologetically, and then offered her hand to Ben. ‘Jennifer,’ she said, ‘and this is Brady. Sorry, he’s a little overprotective, doesn’t know when to call it quits.’ She shot Brady a look. ‘Silly boy, aren’t you?’

‘Right,’ Ben responded, trying his hardest to sound like he was interested in what she was saying. From the look on her face though, he suspected that he’d failed miserably at this.

‘And you are?’ Jennifer was still stood there with her arm awkwardly hanging in midair, clearly waiting for Ben to take it so that they could shake hands.

He obliged and told her his name, not wanting to be rude, and then crouched down briefly to pat Brady on the head. Thankfully Brady appeared to have calmed down a little now and welcomed the attention, rolling over onto his back in search of a belly rub. Deciding he would be better off not upsetting the dog, Ben gave him a good fuss before getting back to his feet once more.

‘Friend for life there,’ said Jennifer with a chuckle.

Offering a smile, Ben simply said, ‘Great.’

She perked an eyebrow then, laughing as she drew Brady in closer to her. ‘Wow, OK, tough nut to crack,’ she murmured. ‘So you’re either married or gay? And I really am hoping it’s the former.’

Ben stared for a moment, and then blinked. Had she actually been trying to flirt with him? He hadn’t even realised, simply thought she was a tad on the overfriendly side and wanted an excuse to talk to someone for a while.

‘Neither,’ he told her in the end, shrugging his shoulders. ‘But I’m not interested, so don’t waste your time.’ He gave Brady another pat on the head and added, ‘Nice dog by the way.’

It was strange, it was the first time he’d had to say no to someone in quite some time and he honestly didn’t mind doing it. He was happy in his relationship with Will and the thought of being with anyone else hadn’t even crossed his mind (until now at least). He liked that it was that way though and perhaps it was a sign he was finally growing up, finally settling down in an adult relationship. He hadn’t had one of those before, not a proper one at least, where both parties were completely happy with everything.

Moving in together had always been a scary prospect but, weirdly, things were working out just fine. Despite the size of the flat, neither of them had once felt as though they were living out of each others pockets and on days when they were both home, they were too consumed with each other to even care.

Finally, finally, Ben Barnes had begun to grow old gracefully.

*

By the time Will got home from work and had let himself into the flat, he found several messages on the answer machine waiting for him.

The first, from Ricky, a quick call to let them both know how his grandfather was doing. He was great apparently, really, really great and due to be discharged from hospital by the end of the week. Ricky was unsure as to whether either of them would return to the flat next-door to live though and his parents were furiously looking into nursing homes. It would be a shame if they did end up leaving the building, but life went on and people rarely stayed in the same place until their dying day. They’d have to learn to accept it.

Both the second and third messages were for Ben; one from his brother and one from a representative at the BBC. The latter proved more interesting. They had a proposition for him of some kind, a proposition that would eventually lead to a job. But there were conditions that they needed to discuss in person, so they’d left a number and Will knew no more than that.

Jack’s message was in regard to their mother and how he thought she deserved another chance. Will already knew that Ben wouldn’t give it. He never said it out loud, but he was hurting inside, hurting a lot. He felt betrayed by the people he thought he could trust and getting that trust back would prove more difficult than his family realised. You didn’t treat your eldest son like a fool and just get away with it.

Slipping his jacket off and tossing it onto the bed, Will sighed softly and rubbed his hands over his face. It had been a long day and he hadn’t expected to come home to an empty flat. But maybe he was allowing himself to get too used to Ben being there all the while.

He sank down onto the end of the bed, his gaze moving slowly around the room. It still looked as bad as it had done on the day he’d moved in. The wall to his right, the one with the big window, had been painted magnolia and there were curtains up – he’d made a start and got no further, abandoning his home improvements in favour of nights in front of the TV, takeaway dinners and lazy kisses.

It couldn’t carry on though; they were living in a pigsty.

But where was he even supposed to start?

*

‘How’s this?’

The question was asked, but it was unclear what it was actually about.

Ben raised an eyebrow and looked up from the papers he was currently perusing. ‘How’s what? I don’t know what I’m supposed to be looking at,’ he admitted with a soft chuckle.

Will’s hands went immediately to his hips and he shook his head. ‘Well, if it’s not obvious, forget it,’ he muttered. ‘I’ve only spent the entire day on it. But, you know, clearly you’re too absorbed in whatever it is you’re doing to notice anything I do.’

‘Anything that you--?’ Ben laughed as he spoke. ‘I notice everything that you do, you know that.’

‘So you say,’ came the response, although it was only playful.

Moving from the bed, Ben slung the stack of papers aside and walked over to where Will was standing, hoping to see whatever it was he was supposed to be looking at. He had to admit, it didn’t become apparent straight away but then, several moments later, it suddenly dawned on him.

‘You painted the bathroom,’ he said, resting his chin on Will’s shoulder and smiling.

‘I painted the bathroom,’ Will repeated, throwing his hands up in mock frustration. ‘Took you long enough, didn’t it?’

‘You have to admit, it isn’t exactly the most obvious thing in the world and the light is really bad in here...’ Ben said, countering the question with a laugh.

He could feel Will’s gaze on him before he even turned around, but when Will did, Ben realised that he was laughing, too. OK, he was fighting laughter, but laughing all the same and he didn’t care.

‘I’m an idiot,’ Ben murmured shortly afterwards. ‘You don’t need to say it.’

‘Well, if it saves me a job.’ Will chuckled, lifting an eyebrow in amusement before leaning in to kiss Ben softly. It was short, sweet, thankful, the type of kiss they shared several times a day now. ‘So, I was thinking I’d make a proper start on the rest of the flat now,’ he said, smiling. ‘Make it habitable.’

With a shrug and ignoring the question for now, Ben flipped the light off in the bathroom and took hold of Will’s hand, leading him back into the main room. ‘Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that,’ he said.

Taking a seat on the end of the bed, Will frowned thoughtfully. ‘You wanted to talk to me about painting the flat?’ he asked.

‘No. What?’ Ben laughed and sat down beside him. ‘Not about painting the flat, about our living arrangements I guess.’ He predicted Will’s reaction before it even happened and quickly continued before anything was presumed. ‘I finally got a job. That’s what I’ve been looking at all afternoon; contracts, conditions, stuff like that. The only problem is that it’s going to be at the BBC studios over in Cardiff, so it would involve moving. That’s why they wanted to meet with me.’

‘Did you take the job?’ Will asked, his voice tentative.

‘No, I haven’t said yes to them yet.’ Smiling, he looked over at Will and lifted a shoulder in a shrug. ‘I mean, either I move, or both of us, if you wanted to come that is. Think of it like a fresh start. You could easily find another job there and we could buy somewhere bigger, you know, like a house maybe. This is all just a suggestion, obviously.’

‘You haven’t said yes yet?’ Will repeated, tilting his head slightly, clearly confused by this confession. ‘Why on earth haven’t you said yes yet?’

‘Well...’ Gaze dropping to the floor, Ben cleared his throat and began to idly pick at his nails, anxious to finish. ‘Because of you,’ he said.

‘Because of me?’

‘Will you please stop repeating everything I say?’ Ben laughed. ‘Yes, because of you, because I love you and I don’t want to go anywhere without you and – well, I think you get the point, right?’

Smiling, Will held his hand out toward Ben, which he took without hesitation. ‘Yeah, I get it,’ he said.

‘So...’ continued Ben almost bashfully, ‘I wanted to talk to you first, work through our options and it’s up to you what happens next.’

‘Ah... OK.’

Will said nothing else; he simply gave Ben’s hand a squeeze, and then placed a soft kiss to the back of it. Eventually, he dropped Ben’s hand again and got back to his feet, wandering over to the kitchen to put the kettle on. He occupied himself with making tea for a while, pottering back and forth and even deciding to cut a couple of pieces of cake. Ben stared, watched as he went about his business and just left him sitting there.

‘Will,’ Ben couldn’t take it anymore and interrupted him in the middle of finding plates. ‘This is kind of important, you know.’

Turning back to face him, Will laughed and shook his head, placing the plates back down. ‘I know, I’m sorry,’ he murmured. ‘Thought I’d let you sweat a little first, see what you did.’ He grinned. ‘You already knew the answer would to be yes; you didn’t even need to ask. I’d go anywhere you ask me, be it France, America... even wet and windy Wales.’ He chuckled softly. ‘Seriously, Ben, I thought you knew me by now.’

‘I thought I did... I mean, I do.’ Shaking his head, Ben ran a hand through his hair, the relief most probably written all over his face. ‘You just threw me for a loop then. I think I know you, I think I can figure out how you’re going to react, but this involved moving and--’

‘And I’ve been back in the country for six months after living in the States for years,’ said Will, cutting him off. ‘I honestly don’t mind where I live now, so long as you’re around somewhere, at least. I’ve kind of got used to waking up to the sound of your snoring.’

Ben looked appalled. ‘I do not snore!’ he argued.

‘Oh, you so do,’ Will responded, laughing.

‘Fine then, I snore.’ Ben smiled and got to his feet, picking up the plates from the counter to serve up the cake Will had cut. ‘Are we moving then?’ he asked softly, passing a plate over.

Even though he was clearly trying not to react, Will couldn’t keep the grin off his face as he shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘I guess we are.’
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