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Title: When the Lights Begin to Fade (10/10).
Author: [livejournal.com profile] cloudysky.
Fandom: Chronicles of Narnia.
Pairing: Ben Barnes/William Moseley.
Rating: R.
Warnings: Real person slash.
Word count: 2,996.
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

10.


For the third time in the past two minutes Ben strained to hear exactly what his brother was saying. He cowered in the corner, phone pressed hard to his ear, a finger in the other to try and block out the commotion going on around him.

‘It’s no good, Jack, I can’t hear a word you’re saying!’ he concluded.

As he announced this, the noise around him became suddenly worse and Daisy shrieked, ‘Oh Simon, no!’

Turning on the spot and snapping his mobile shut, Ben took in the sight before him. He’d only been on the phone for five minutes, but even that had been long enough for chaos to ensue. Daisy was stood at the end of the breakfast bar, the contents of the bowl that had been sat in front of Simon several minutes ago, now all over her instead. She had Rice Krispies in her hair and milk dripping down her arms. At her feet their dog, Sampson, was lapping up what had made it to the floor.

‘What happened?’ Ben questioned, placing his phone down on the counter and reaching for some kitchen roll.

Daisy glared at him. She didn’t need to answer.

Taking this as read, he handed the kitchen roll over and turned his attention to Sophie instead, lifting her from the highchair and leaving Daisy alone to deal with her son.

He had to admit that he now regretted his and Will’s decision to arrive before breakfast. There was absolutely no reason for them to be around and, if anything, they were only making the situation worse by exciting the kids.

This was the last day they were going to spend with Will’s niece and nephew before they moved to Wales; a daytrip to Legoland Windsor, followed by a pizza from the takeaway and a couple of Disney movies. It should have been great, it would have been great, but their presence had delayed breakfast and they were already running an hour and a half late.

Stepping into the living room, Sophie wriggling in his arms, Ben found Will sat in front of the TV twiddling his thumbs.

‘Hey, Uncle Will, would it kill you to help?’ he asked with a soft laugh. ‘Your poor sister’s about to have a breakdown in there.’

Will looked up and grinned. ‘She can cope,’ he said.

With a casual shrug, Ben lowered Sophie down to the floor, who then immediately made a break toward her Uncle and threw herself at him with great enthusiasm. ‘I’m not so sure, I think the sooner we’re out of here with the kids, the better.’ He took a seat beside Will, smiled, and then reached out to tap Sophie on the end of her nose. ‘Jack called me again,’ he said, dropping the fact casually into the conversation. ‘He claims that Mum is starting to worry she won’t see me before we leave.’

‘We should go and see your parents though, Ben,’ murmured Will, which Ben had been expecting. ‘You know it’s the right thing to do. Be the bigger person for once and all that.’

Dropping his gaze, Ben sighed. ‘I really hate having to be the bigger person,’ he muttered.

Will laughed. ‘Oh, I know.’

Deciding not to dignify that with a response, Ben cast a glance in the direction of the door just as Daisy appeared with Simon in tow. She still had Rice Krispies all over her, but at least she was smiling now.

As for Simon, he was bouncing around all over the place, a pair of Bob the Builder sunglasses perched on the end of his nose.

‘Ready to go?’ asked Daisy brightly.

Ben realised they didn’t exactly have any choice in the matter.

*

All in all, the day out with the kids went as well as it could have done. There were no temper tantrums, no one was sick after eating too much ice-cream and it didn’t rain. Around four though, Will decided to take the bull by the horns, stole Ben’s phone and called up Jack. They were due to drop the kids off at six (pizza and Disney were off thanks to the late start), so he arranged for them to stop in at Ben’s parents house at eight. Jack promised he’d be there to mediate.

It had taken Ben half an hour to realise his phone was missing. When he did and Will informed him of what was happening, he slipped into a sulk, moping around the theme park for the next hour, with Sophie tailing after him.

Between dropping the kids off and arriving at Ben’s parents’ house, they stopped at the flat briefly to change clothes and grab food. Ben was still in a strop and for five minutes actually refused point-blank to even leave again. Will talked him around with a soft smile and a promise to make it up once they got home that night.

It worked, rather well in fact, and at eight fifteen they were being shown into the hallway by Ben’s father.

‘We’re so glad you changed your mind about coming to see us,’ he said, every word sincere. But then, it never had been his father that Ben had the problem with and, sure enough, five seconds later they were embracing like long lost friends.

Will stood in the wings and allowed things to play out how they may, not wanting to get himself too involved.

Eventually they all settled down with a cup of tea in the living room, both Ben and his mother falling into a stony silence that left the other men with no choice but to keep the conversation flowing. Will already knew this wasn’t going to turn out how he had hoped and by the looks he was now receiving; he could pretty much guarantee it. He almost expected Ben’s mother to accuse him of turning her eldest son gay in a minute or two. As far as he was aware, this was the first time he’d ever been on the receiving end of such blatant dislike.

‘Can we stop all of this please?’

It was Jack who spoke, clearly having had enough now of the hostile atmosphere.

‘This is no way to carry on,’ he said, glancing around the room. ‘We’re meant to be a family. We’re meant to be there for one another.’

‘I didn’t start this,’ murmured Ben. ‘I’ll stop when she does.’

Will sighed softly and glanced over in Jack’s direction, who had elicited a similar reaction. Apparently his pleas for Ben to be the bigger person had fallen on deaf ears and if someone didn’t budge soon, they’d get absolutely nowhere before they left for Wales. Maybe Ben didn’t mind if he lost his family after all.

Reaching out a hand, Will gently placed it to Ben’s arm, hoping to urge him along. ‘Don’t do this,’ he whispered on a breath. ‘Please don’t do this.’

Ben turned to him, briefly, his expression unfathomable, and then said, ‘I can’t be here anymore...’

‘No!’ Ben’s father was the one to chime in this time, rising from his spot on the couch. ‘I’m not having this,’ he announced. ‘Tricia, say you’re sorry will you before this gets anymore out of hand? You can’t let him leave hating you.’

It was the first time within the short period that Will had known him, that he had witnessed the authoritative side to Mr. Barnes. Last time they’d met he’d been too drunk to even know what was going on, let alone tell anyone what to do or say. Not that his outburst worked or anything, his wife stayed silent and merely glared at him, clearly embarrassed for being shown up in front of everyone.

‘Right, that settles it then,’ said Ben hotly.

Before Will even realised what was happening, he was being pulled back to standing by the sleeve of his shirt, the entire conversation over before it had barely even begun.

‘What are you doing?’ he murmured.

‘Leaving, what does it look like I’m doing?’ came the response, quick and snappy. ‘If she won’t speak to me, it’s a waste of time us even being here. We have a flat to finish packing up, a life to be getting on with, and if she’s quite happy to let us carry on with that without her, so am I.’

Will closed his eyes a moment and rubbed a hand over his forehead. At least he’d tried he supposed, even if it had been a complete failure.

‘Only if you’re sure,’ he murmured, wanting to check.

‘Never been surer.’

And so they left, both Jack and Mr. Barnes looking disappointed.

Ben didn’t lead him back to the flat as Will had expected, instead made a beeline for the underground and the Victoria line. He sat off to the corner of a carriage, leaning his head against the wall as he murmured, ‘The sooner we’re away from here the better.’ He sighed; eyes falling closed and held out a hand for Will. ‘I know you and Jack meant well, but that is one thing that is never going to work out.’

‘Where are we going?’ Ben was talking, but Will wasn’t listening, more concerned with where he was being taken.

The answer he received was soft spoken, a mere whisper, ‘For a walk...’

It was getting dark by the time they reached the river, the city lights reflecting against the murky water, the hazy summer sun leaving the Embankment warm and pungent. Ben led the way in silence, threading his fingers through Will’s and casually swinging their hands.

‘Thank you for trying,’ Ben murmured eventually, coming to a stop and leaning against the wall.

Will joined him, looking down at the slow moving water below. ‘You’re welcome,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry that it didn’t go better...’

Ben laughed. ‘That was the best it was ever going to go,’ he explained. ‘I told you she was stubborn; stubborn as an old mule sometimes.’ With a shrug, he leant in closer and Will found himself straining to see the other man in the darkness. ‘Don’t get me wrong, I love them all, dearly, but families are a pain.’

‘Not always...’

‘Maybe not yours,’ countered Ben softly. ‘But you’re lucky, Will; you haven’t spent your entire life living under a microscope. Some days I used to feel as though she was waiting for me to have some sort of breakdown, or for me to go off the rails. She wanted something to happen to me that she could fix, so she could become my saviour.’

Looking down at his hands very briefly, Will kept quiet at first, not entirely sure what to say in response. He didn’t like being caught in the middle of this situation with Ben’s mother, or the fact that he was – dare he say it – responsible for it somehow, but what could he honestly do, other than stand beside his partner in whatever he decided?

‘I don’t know, maybe all of this is just payback for Rachael,’ Ben whispered then, kicking at the wall in front of him. ‘She’s punishing me for losing her perfect daughter-in-law.’

‘Well, I’m sorry, but she can’t have been that perfect if she walked out on you...’

Ben glanced to him, suddenly, and Will smiled, reaching a hand out to lay it gently to his cheek.

‘It’s true,’ he added quietly, ‘she should have realised how lucky she was to have you and, seeing as she didn’t, I can safely say that she’s an idiot. I, on the other hand, am not. I have no intention of ever letting you go again.’

‘Really?’ Ben was laughing now, his eyes dancing in the streetlights. ‘Never?’

With a grin, Will shot back, ‘Never ever.’

And it’s Never What You Expect

‘You’re up early...’

Ben glanced back over his shoulder, smiling at Will as he stepped out onto the patio. He was clearly still half asleep; his eyes barely open as he padded his way over and joined Ben at the wall. It was early though, Will wasn’t wrong, the sun was barely even visible on the horizon and the moon, pale white against the cloudy sky.

‘Couldn’t sleep,’ Ben whispered, his gaze returning the view in front of him.

The house they were currently renting looked out on several acres of farmland, green as far as the eye could see, dotted with white where sheep were grazing. In the field beside the house several horses were kept, all three of them slowly making their way over to investigate the two young men.

‘Again?’ Will touched Ben’s arm lightly, a tender gesture. ‘Maybe you should think about seeing the doctor, it’s been over a month now. I can’t remember the last time I woke up and found you in bed still.’

Sighing softly, Ben shrugged his shoulders as nonchalantly as he could manage. He didn’t want to see the doctor, sleeping tablets wouldn’t help him. He knew exactly why he wasn’t sleeping and the only solution was to put what was bothering him to rest, not try and stifle the situation with drugs and trying to forget it even existed. Will meant well of course, Ben suspected he was trying to do what he’d asked before they left London, but it was time to grow up.

Turning to face Will, Ben let his smile brighten and moved in closer. He laid his hands gently to his lover’s face and placed a soft kiss to his lips before murmuring, ‘I have to make a phone call.’

He headed back into the house, leaving Will stood outside, somewhat bewildered. Picking up his mobile phone as he passed through the living room, he settled down at the dining room table, and then moved carefully through the phonebook. He paused when he reached his mother’s work number, hesitating for a moment, but then pressed call and drew in a deep breath.

She answered on the third ring, professionally; her voice pure middleclass ridiculousness and Ben had to resist the urge to laugh.

‘It’s me,’ he said.

A pause followed.

‘I’m sorry, who?’

Dropping his head forward into his hand, he bit down hard on his lip and murmured, ‘Your son.’

‘Oh, Ben, I’m sorry.’ She wasn’t. ‘I’m working, what did you want?’

Ben felt like giving up then, just hanging up and getting on with his life, sleepless nights and all. But he didn’t. ‘I wanted to talk to you,’ he said. ‘You won’t answer the phone when you know it’s me, this was the only way I could get hold of you without dad forcing you to speak to me.’

On the other end of the line, he heard her sigh, quite heavily, too. ‘It’s not like that at all,’ she said softly.

‘No? Sure seems that way to me... and to Will,’ he argued. ‘You do realise he feels responsible for our fallout, don’t you?’

‘He shouldn’t. It was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.’ His mother fell silent very briefly and he could just make out the sound of her starting to click her pen – she’d done that when she was nervous for as long as he could remember. ‘I was worried about you, that’s all,’ she explained. ‘You went from one serious relationship, to complete breakdown, to another serious relationship, all in the space of three months. You can’t have expected us to simply accept that for what it was. I was trying to put you off, trying to get you to do the sensible thing for once in your life.’

Letting his eyes fall closed, Ben shook his head and stayed silent.

‘I admit now I was wrong in what I did and clearly you made the right decision,’ she added when he didn’t reply. ‘Explain to Will, won’t you?’

‘I’ll tell him...’ Ben murmured on a breath, not quite believing what he was hearing.

His mother was quiet a while and before long, Ben realised an awkward silence was about to fall, so cleared his throat, which unexpectedly prompted her to start talking again. ‘Perhaps we could come over and visit you in Wales,’ she suggested. ‘When you’re not too busy working that is. We wouldn’t want to impose.’

The thought of his mother not wanting to impose was laughable at that, but knowing that she actually meant it, only made things more ridiculous. ‘We were planning on having a barbeque next Saturday for my birthday,’ he said, knowing he wouldn’t be able to talk her out of the idea now she’d thought of it. ‘Will’s family are coming across, too, so you’re more than welcome. I’ll ask Jack and Kayla as well.’

‘We’ll be there,’ she said without hesitation. ‘You just let us know what time and if you want us to bring anything with us, not that I can guarantee my cheese and onion rolls or Caesar salad will survive the journey.’

Ben chuckled, the first laugh he’d had with his mother for months. ‘Probably not,’ he agreed lightly. ‘But I think we can manage a few burgers and a couple of pieces of steak.’

‘Oh no, Ben, if you’re having people over there you need to do it properly!’ she said, startling him somewhat. ‘We’ll be there after lunch; I’ll bring your father’s barbeque tools, the ones he got from your Uncle, you know the--’

‘I know,’ he cut her off before she got too far. ‘I’ll text you the address later in the week, yeah?’

When he finally ended the call a couple of minutes later, he looked up to find Will hovering in the doorway with two mugs. He said nothing, only smiled and got to his feet, taking one of the mugs from his partner.

‘Everything OK?’ Will asked softly, returning the smile.

‘You know,’ Ben paused, leaning in to press a tender kiss to Will’s lips, ‘I think everything’s going to be just fine.’

Fin.
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