One More Time For Me Pt. 5
Notes: A massive massive fic that took me over a year to write. I've divided it into parts to make it easier to read.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12
Monday 14th March:
When Brian awoke, he felt a strangely familiar feeling slowly encroaching his mind. It was loneliness. He rolled over in an effort to banish it, but instead of finding a warm body he found cold sheets. He opened his eyes with a start to discover that he was alone in the bed. Brian tried to steady his breathing and calm himself down, but his mind kept jumping to awful conclusions. A glance at the clock beside him informed him that it was only 9 in the morning. A little early for someone to abandon him. He mentally slapped himself for being so insecure, and got out of bed, throwing on some boxers and a shirt. He stumbled through the hallway and tried to remember his way downstairs, praying at each step that he would hear Ben somewhere in the house. Brian finally reached the kitchen, but instead of finding Ben eating toast or drinking coffee as he wanted to see, there was only a note on the table. He nearly shredded the paper in his desperation as he snatched it up and read the text quickly. So quickly in fact that he didn’t take in half of what it had said, so he had to go back and read it slower.
Sorry but I had to leave early to go to work. Feel free to have something to eat, and I finish at 2 if you want to hang around until then. Sorry that I didn’t wake you up, but you looked so peaceful that I couldn’t bring myself to disturb you.
P.S Last night was fantastic. Hope to repeat it again sometime soon
Brian smiled at the note, and cursed his mind for panicking so rapidly. But he still couldn’t ignore the unsettling feeling lying in wait at the back of his thoughts. He decided to make the most of Ben's hospitality, and made himself some coffee and went for a wander around the house. Brian smiled to himself as he entered the bedroom and spotted his own clothes still strewn around the room from the previous night. He gathered them up, and then set about finding the bathroom so he could have a quick shower. He was washed and dressed by about 11, and was just gathering his items and putting them back in his bag when he noticed something. It was one of the silver necklaces he had bought in the market two days previously. Brian held it in his hand to admire it, and decided to take it to Ben at work in case he forgot again. Plus he really couldn’t wait until the afternoon to see him again.
Brian left the house quickly, making sure the front door was definitely shut, and set about finding his way back to the guest house. Which admittedly wasn’t that difficult as it was only down the road. He walked inside when he finally reached it, and as he turned to look at the front desk he nearly dropped his bag in shock. Marguerite and Claude were locked in a passionate embrace on top of the table, and seemed to be oblivious to Brian’s presence. He stood in shock for a few moments, before clearing his throat and looking away in embarrassment. Marguerite jumped off the table in fright, and tried to smooth her skirt down hastily. Claude sat up, his face redder than ever, but with a slightly pleased look about himself.
“Err.. err.. It’s not what it looks like” Marguerite stammered loudly, waving her hands about. Brian just stared at them, and started to back away slowly.
“Don’t.. don’t tell Clémantine” she said.
“I won’t mention this if you are nice to Ben” Brian reasoned, still moving carefully towards the staircase. Marguerite looked strained as she tried to accept the offer.
“Ok ok, I’ll be nice to him. But you never saw this right?” she replied, giving in.
“Saw what?” Brian said, winking and quickly climbing up the staircase.
Brian threw his bag onto his bed and smiled. He intended to use Marguerite’s newfound appreciation for Ben to his advantage, and was already planning to have him stay that night. He emptied the contents of his bag out, and remembered his plan to give the necklace to Ben, and so set off back downstairs and outside.
He walked happily along in the cool breeze, humming a wordless tune to himself and letting his mind wander to the lyrics he was writing. Brian finally came to a stop at the café and walked inside, looking around for Ben. He was no-where to be seen so he walked towards the back counter.
“Excuse me, is Ben there?” he asked a man with a large scary looking moustache.
“No. He left about an hour ago with a woman. Apparently there were some urgent family problems he had to attend to.” The man replied helpfully, and turned back to cleaning the counter surface.
Brian walked back out of the café feeling confused. If the matter was urgent, surely Ben would have contacted him? He decided to go and find Clémantine, as she obviously knew a lot about Ben’s family.
Brian walked down the road a little quicker than usual in his haste to find out what was going on. He stepped inside the bakery door and was greeted by Clémantine’s smiling, friendly face. She waved her welcome and he quickly approached the counter. Her features fell though as she saw Brian’s concerned expression.
“Hey Bri, what’s the matter? Didn’t last night go very well?” she asked, ushering Brian to sit down.
“Yeh yeh it went fine” Brian said, waving his arms as though to dispose of the question.
“So what’s wrong?” Clémantine asked, starting to sound worried.
“Well, it’s just.. I went to see Ben this morning at work. But he wasn’t there..” Brian replied, unsure of how to continue without sounding like a paranoid freak. Clémantine’s piercing eyes wordlessly begged him to carry on.
“The man in the café said there had been some family problems, and he had left with a woman..” Brian finally said quietly, not quite knowing what to make of it all. Clémantine nodded and sat in silent contemplation, until realisation seemed to dawn on her.
“Oh… oh shit” she said, quickly getting up off her chair and practically running out the back to get her coat and bag. Brian felt a horrible sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He hurriedly stood up and watched as Clémantine rushed around the shop, gathering her items.
“Not again…. Not fucking again…” she muttered to herself as she pried her mobile phone out of the bottom of her bag.
“What? Clémantine please, tell me what’s wrong?” Brian asked, clutching her arm and searching her face for any clues.
“I can’t Bri.. I have to go and find Ben. Please, just go back to the guesthouse and don’t worry. I’ll contact you later.” She said, heading for the door and holding it open, waiting for Brian to follow. Brian stepped outside and watched as she locked the door, a thousand questions reeling through his mind. He grabbed her hand and she turned to face him.
“I’m worried Clém, don’t let anything happen to him..” he said quietly, watching her blank expression.
“Don’t worry, it will be ok. Really it will. I wish I could explain but I don’t have time.” Clémantine replied, recognising Brian’s anguish and trying to calm him as much as possible. She leant forward and kissed him on the cheek, before turning quickly and briskly walking down the street. Brian stood in the alone in the cold for what seemed like forever; time blurring away from reality as his imagination depicted horrible scenarios. He hugged his arms around his small frame, the wind seeming fiercer and the harsh morning light stinging his eyes. He eventually moved, slowly and without thinking where he was going. His mind was still somewhere else. Brian found himself back at the guesthouse after a while and crept inside, thankful of the warmth. He managed to get to his room and fell onto the bed. The lost feeling from before had now been replaced by a gnawing sensation of helplessness, which was growing in the pit of his stomach.
In an effort to not think about what was happening, Brian reached over for his notepad and started to write. Not that it really helped. All the words seemed to lead towards despair and worthlessness. He was just sitting in silence, pen poised above the paper when a shrill ringing blasted through the room. Brian jumped and grabbed his bag, hurriedly pulling out his mobile phone. He answered it hastily without bothering to check the called ID displayed.
“Hello?” came Stef’s confused voice, and Brian couldn’t stop his hope from sinking back down.
“Oh, hey Stef” he replied, the disappointment obviously showing through in his voice.
“Bri? Are you ok?” Stef asked, recognising when something was wrong with his friend. Brian considered lying for a moment and trying to pretend everything was all right, but he couldn’t. He needed comfort and Stef was the best option.
“No… I’m not” he replied quietly.
“What’s the matter?” Stef said, his concern morphing into alarm, “Are you hurt? Ill?”
“No, it’s not me.” Brian interrupted him, “It’s just.. I’ve met someone. And he’s lovely and everything was going well, but there’s something wrong with him and I don’t know what.”
“What do you mean, something wrong?” Stef asked.
“Well I went to see him at work this morning, but he wasn’t there. So I went to ask Clémantine..” Brian started to explain.
“Clémantine?” Stef queried.
“She’s Ben’s best friend. So I told her and she went mad, grabbed her phone and ran out of the shop, telling me not to worry. Which of course I am.” Brian finished quietly.
“Oh.. do you have any idea what’s wrong?” Stef asked.
“No. I feel so helpless..” Brian confessed.
“Shh it will be ok. I don’t suppose there’s much you can do to help anyway?” Stef’s soothing voice tried to comfort him.
“No I suppose not. God I hope he’s ok.” Brian said, dropping the pen onto the bed.
“Wow it sounds like you really like this guy..” Stefan said as his tone changed slightly.
“I do Stef. In the short time I’ve known him, we have got so close.” Brian replied, trying not to think about Ben but hopelessly failing.
“Do you really think it’s a good idea to get that close? I mean what happens when you come home?” Stef said warily.
“I’ve been trying to not think about that..” Brian said.
“Well you will have to in the end. I mean you will come home eventually, and we have all found out the hard way that long distance relationships don’t work.” Stef replied, but Brian stayed quiet.
“Brian? You are coming home?” Stef asked, his voice getting more insistent.
“I.. don’t know..” Brian whispered finally breaking the silence.
“No, don’t even fucking think about it. We need you here, you’re part of the band. You’re really going to throw that all away for some pretty fuck? For fucks sake don’t be so selfish Brian.” Stef said angrily as his temper started to flare.
“I’m not Stef. Things have changed, and I don’t want to fuck them up..” Brian tried to reason with him.
“No Brian. It seems you have changed, and you need to get your fucking priorities right. I think dumping this Ben will be for the best.” Stef said loudly. Brian stared at the phone in his hand. He thought that Stef of all people would understand, but it seemed not. He wordlessly pressed the off button and laid the phone on his bed, gazing at it.
Minutes, maybe hours passed as Brian lay there wordlessly, the room now infused with a melancholic feel. He stared at the phone willing it to ring, but it didn’t. He was still brooding over what Stef had said to him. What would happen when he had to go home? He couldn’t very well take Ben with him, as he didn’t know the truth about Brian’s real occupation. And he didn’t think that Ben would be very pleased if Brian confessed he had been lying for all this time. Which left two possibilities, staying in Laitue Bécote or leaving Ben behind and the latter he didn’t even want to think about. So the option of staying in France was left. What worried Brian the most is that he was seriously considering it, leaving the people he loved back in England and abandoning the career he adored. He stared at the ceiling; his mind aching from too much thinking and just hoping a solution would fall out of thin air. But no divine inspiration came to him. Instead his phone rang. Brian grabbed it quickly and answered it.
“Hello?” He said quickly.
“Brian, it’s Clémantine. I’m back now.” She answered, her voice not revealing anything.
“Is he ok?” Brian blurted out in his desperation.
“Yes he’s fine now” Clémantine replied shortly, and Brian could just make out Ben’s voice in the background.
“Can I speak to him?” Brian asked. There was a lengthy pause.
“Um.. Ben doesn’t really want to talk to anyone right now” she replied quietly.
“But why? What was wrong with him?” Brian said, with a mixture of confusion and dread.
“It… it’s not really my place to tell you..” Clémantine said. Brian chewed on his bottom lip, things didn’t sound good.
“You’re at home right?” he asked finally.
“Yes, why?” Clémantine queried, but Brian had already hung up the phone. He quickly grabbed his bag and was out of the guesthouse and walking up the road in no time. It wasn’t as difficult to find Clémantine’s house this time, as he vaguely remembered the way from before. Before long he was standing in front of the red door again, and knocked quite forcefully on it. Clémantine opened the door, looking as though she had been expecting him.
“I want to see Ben.” Brian stated simply, his eyes pleading with Clémantine.
“He doesn’t want you to see him like this..” she replied, not looking at Brian.
“Please Clémantine. I’m not leaving until I see him.” He said defiantly. She shook her head sadly.
“I…” but her words were cut short by Ben appearing behind her.
“It’s ok Clém, I’ll speak to him. He has to see sooner or later” he said quietly to her. Brian tried to see him, but his view was obscured by Clémantine.
“Are you sure?” She asked, holding his arm comfortingly.
“Yeh I’ll be fine” Ben replied and smiled at her as she walked back into the living room. He stepped forwards onto the doorstep, and Brian gasped in shock at the sight in front of him.
There was a large cut across one of Ben’s cheeks, and his nose was swollen and possibly broken. A large purplish bruise was beginning to form around his eye and there were more bruises trailing down his neck and below his collar. Brian stared for a second, before launching forward and wrapping his arms around Ben, burying his face in his chest. Ben barely hugged him back.
“What happened? Who did this? Are you ok?” he asked, his voice muffled slightly. Brian stepped back feeling shocked and confused, as Ben didn’t answer.
“I think maybe you should come inside..” Ben said quietly, looking at the floor.
Brian followed Ben anxiously inside the door, and settled on the edge of the sofa. Clémantine was hovering nervously with fresh coffee to hand. She set them down on the table and went to wait in the kitchen, giving the two men some privacy. Ben folded his hands across his lap and looked at the table, the floor, the wall, anything to avoid Brian's eye.
"We.. need to talk Bri" he said quietly.
"Of course we do. You disappear from work and then turn up looking like this. What happened?" Brian replied, the words tumbling out of his mouth. Ben stopped and looked up at him.
"No. We don't need to worry about me... it's us. I don't think it's a good idea for us to see each other.." he said, his eyes blank and unrevealing.
"What?" Brian said, sounding shocked. "I thought things were going well?"
"I.. can't. Not now" Ben replied.
"But why?" Brian said as he felt his resolve waver.
"I don't want you to get hurt." Ben replied simply. He started to play with the spoon in his coffee mug.
"This is about whoever did this to you? Who was it Ben? Please?" Brian said, slightly regaining his determination. He shifted a bit closer to Ben.
"I can't Bri.. you won't understand.." he said as his voice started to tremble.
"You won't know if you never tell me.." Brian tried to reason, sliding his arm around Ben's shoulder.
"But I can't tell you... you would think I'm weak, pitiful.." Ben replied, his voice barely a whisper.
"I could never think that of you. If anyone is weak it's me, for not helping Clémantine when I thought you were in trouble.. for not standing up to my friends.." Brian said as he tightened his grip. Ben didn't answer. Instead he just continued to stare at the floor between his feet.
"I'm worried about you Ben. I have been all afternoon." Brian said, moving his head to rest on Ben's shoulder. The brown hair slightly brushing his cheek.
"You have?" the quiet reply sounded surprised.
"Of course. And I'm not going until I find out what happened. Who was it?" Brian pleaded again. Ben was silent for a moment, and then drew a breath.
"It was him.." he said quietly. "And her. They always do this, and I never stop them. Because I am too weak. I just sit back and let it happen"
Brian brushed some hair out of Ben's face, and was shocked to find silent tears rolling down his face.
"They did it when they found out. Thought they could stamp the evil out of me. I felt so rejected and abnormal, but I put up with it because I believed it when they told me I was evil. That I was a sin." Ben continued muttering.
"Imagine the look on my mothers face, when she found out her only son was never going to give her a grandchild. That when he loved people it was a crime against god. And my father was quite happy to carry out her punishment. Satisfied in his drunken state that he was doing the world some good." Ben finished, still staring at the ground. Brian was silent for a while, shocked at the confession he had just heard.
"See? You think I'm weak. You don't want to talk to me anymore. I understand" Ben said softly, trying to shrug off Brian's embrace.
"I don't think you're weak. Not at all. I.. I can't see how anyone could do that to you.." Brian replied as he attempted to voice his emotions. He held on tighter to Ben, trying to reassure him.
"Because they are right. I am evil. I am dirty" Ben said as fresh tears dampened the existing trails down his cheeks.
"No you're not." Brian replied quickly, moving his head so he was facing Ben. "You are beautiful, and who you choose to love is not wrong. They are the ones who are wrong for trying to punish you."
Ben hesitated for a moment and then leaned forward into Brian's chest, allowing himself to be wrapped in his arms.
"I won't let them touch you again. Me or Clémantine." Brian said, gently stroking Ben's back.
"Thank you for sticking with me" Ben said, as he sat up slightly. He moved towards Brian and kissed him softly on the lips. Clémantine coughed quietly from the kitchen doorway, and came and sat down the other side of Ben.
"It's true you know. We won't let anything happen to you" she said, taking Ben's hand and smiling. Ben nodded. He didn't need to speak, none of them did. They just sat in silent contentment, realising they had become a whole lot closer in the space of an hour.
Ben looked up from the warmth of Brian's lap, which is where he had been nestled for a good hour, content to let his lover stroke his hair. Clémantine had decided she was hungry and had gone in search of food in her kitchen. She re-appeared with a sullen face, pouting slightly.
"Nothing. I have nothing good to eat" she exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air.
“Well I have food at my place.. but….” Ben trailed off nervously.
“But what?” Brian asked.
“I don’t want to go home. They can find me there..” Ben replied quietly, as Brian gently stroked his face.
“Don’t worry. We can go to the guesthouse. They can’t get you there, and Marguerite has loads of food.” Brian said comfortingly.
“But Marguerite hates me?” Ben said, looking thoroughly confused.
“No she doesn’t. We have an understanding now” Brian replied as he smiled slightly.
“How did you manage that one?” Clémantine interrupted curiously.
“Ahh.. well lets just say there was an incident between her and Claude that I’m not meant to mention to you..” Brian replied, his eyes twinkling mischievously. Clémantine looked furious, as the words seemed to click in her head.
“I’m going to kill her! Letting that scumbag back again!” she roared menacingly to the wall.
“Are you sure it will be ok with Marguerite?” Ben asked quietly, staring at Brian.
“I’m sure. We just need to keep Clém away from poor Claude” Brian replied, nodding towards Clémantine who was now pacing the room madly. Ben giggled slightly and they set about the task of finding various items and getting ready to leave.
As they walked back to the guesthouse, Brian clasped Ben’s hand tightly, smiling as he listened to Clémantine’s muttering.
“I don’t see why you are so against Claude and Marguerite. After today I thought we all proved that people should be able to love who they want?” Brian asked.
“Because he’s a liar and a cheat and he can’t be trusted.” Clémantine stated angrily.
“Well he seems like an all right bloke to me” Brian replied, remembering Claude’s views on Ben. “And I’m sure Marguerite would be able to make a decent man of him. She could make a decent man out of anyone!”
Clémantine just snorted in reply.
“Won’t you at least give him one more chance?” Brian asked, not really wanting to have a major conflict occurring in his living quarters that night.
“Ok, ok. Just for tonight. I’ll be civil.” Clémantine said eventually, more to stop Brian from pestering her than anything else. Brian made a mental note that he intended to hold her to that promise.
They arrived back at the guesthouse and stepped quickly inside, glad of the warmth. Marguerite came walking in and smiled at the sight of Brian, but then froze as she saw Ben behind him. She studied him carefully and her initial expression of annoyance soon melted into concern.
“Oh dear lord, what happened to your face?” she asked, holding Ben’s arm and fussing like a mother.
“Well there are some very homophobic twats in this village” Brian stated carefully. Marguerite clucked disapprovingly and carried on her inspection of Ben’s wounds.
“Have you eaten? We had better get some food down you. If you don’t eat after a shock it can cause fainting and all sorts of problems..” Marguerite stated as she led Ben out of the reception and into the dining room. Brian and Clémantine exchanged curious glances, and then followed the pair wordlessly. Marguerite had seated Ben at a table by the fireplace and had hurried off into the kitchen to cook something for them. Brian and Clémantine joined him and stared in the direction of Marguerite.
“Wow.. guess she’s taken pity on you” Brian said finally.
“Yeah. She told me anytime I’m in trouble to just stay here” Ben replied, smiling shyly.
“Well I’m glad she’s finally realised what a nice guy you are.” Clémantine said. “Seriously Brian, how do you do it? I’ve been trying nearly my whole life!”
“Ahh. Talent” Brian replied grinning.
They sat in silence, enjoying their meal of hot thick soup with freshly baked rolls. No-one stopping to say a word until all the plates were clean.
“Wow, Marguerite. That was delicious” Ben said as she came to clean the dishes away.
“Thank you Ben. Are you feeling better now?” she replied, beaming at him.
“Much, thank you” Ben said as she walked away. He turned as he heard Clémantine making a gagging noise.
“Oh come on, stop sucking up to my aunt! Just because she likes you now it doesn’t mean you have to over do it!” Clémantine joked as Brian started laughing. Ben pouted slightly and crossed him arms.
“I’m not sucking up. That was really good soup” he replied stubbornly, but with a grin on his face.
“And do you know what would finish the soup off perfectly?” Brian asked, “Booze!”
He jumped to his feet and went to hunt in the kitchen, soon returning with a few bottles of wine. The other two smiled broadly and declared that it was an excellent plan.
The trio inevitably found themselves idly chatting in front of the fireplace, sitting on the same two armchairs as the night Brian had met Clémantine. Brian was lounging on Ben’s lap, leaving Clémantine with a chair to herself.
“And then Steve fell on his arse in the snow, still convinced he was a panda!” Brian laughed, finishing off another drunken story about his friends back home. Clémantine giggled into her wine and declared to the other two that she was pissed.
“Tell us something we don’t know dear” Ben said, winking at her. Brian gave a small yawn and cuddled closer to Ben’s chest, his hand still clutching his wine glass. Ben watched him huddled there peacefully for a moment, before leaning down to place a light kiss on his hair.
“Aww. Does someone want to go to bed now?” Ben asked softly.
“mmhmm” came the quiet reply from Brian’s mouth somewhere below him.
“Awwww you two are so fucking cute! Honestly!” Clémantine beamed from her armchair as she swung her hands around, spilling wine everywhere. Ben carefully got to his feet and managed to stand Brian up, wrapping his arms around his waist and shoulder. He turned to look at Clémantine questioningly.
“I’ll be off to bed in a minute. Just finishing this off” Clémantine said quietly as she indicated towards her glass. Ben nodded and set off towards the door with a half asleep Brian hanging from his waist. He turned just before he got there.
“And Clémantine. Thank you. Without you I wouldn’t be here now” he said softly.
“Don’t mention it. I’m sure you will save my life sometime in the future” Clémantine replied. Ben shuffled out of the door with some difficulty, smiling as he appreciated his life for the first time in ages.
By the time they had arrived at their room, Brian seemed to have woken up slightly and had stumbled into the bathroom mumbling something about taking his makeup off. Ben smiled and set about the arduous task of removing his clothes. This was slightly more than difficult, as they had all managed to consume a great deal of wine. He eventually managed and left his clothes in a small pile by the side of the bed. Ben crept under the bed covers, glad of their warmth, and settled his head on the pillow. He closed his eyes for a few seconds, but was interrupted by Brian knocking something off the bedside table. He opened them again grudgingly and saw Brian already shirtless, with his jeans undone and a sweet smile plastered on his face.
“Knocked the alarm clock over by mistake.” he explained, as he carefully stepped out of his jeans and boxers. Ben smiled back and patted the bed next to him invitingly. Brian gratefully slid under the covers beside him and within seconds had wrapped his body around Bens. He slowly twisted his arms around Ben’s neck, pulling him close. Their lips met briefly for a languid kiss, with their tongues gently caressing each other. A small sigh escaped Brian’s mouth as one hand came to rest on Ben’s chest. He fidgeted slightly whilst trying to find a comfortable position, before laying his head on Ben’s shoulder.
“Night” he whispered, his warm breath dancing across the other’s skin.
“Night” the sentiment was returned as they both fell into a comfortable hazy sleep.