Ben tapped his fingers absently on the arm of the sofa, half sitting up and half lying down as he watched Rita mix drinks. The television was on with the opening credits for some shitty, straight to DVD release playing, but Ben wasn't paying attention to that. He was just looking at her. "You done yet, woman? Christ, how long does it take to mix a drink?"
"Be careful, or I'll just drink yours too, Fenwick," Rita returned, oblivious to his stare as she picked up the two extra-large sized drinks and headed for the couch. The glasses were practically vase size as Rita thought small glasses were a waste of time, and each drink (made of a mix of cranberry and mango juice, plus various fruity and hard liquors) was about the equivalent of four drinks ordered at a bar. They may be girly drinks, but they certainly weren't mixed for any silly lightweight girls. "One Skeeter Slam for you, and one for me. Cheers, baby." Rita paused to take a gulp and then asked, "What's on?"
"Some shit, haven't a clue," Ben answered, taking a sip and then coughing with surprise. "Holy shit, Rita, what is this? Tropical furniture polish? Fuck." He hadn't been expecting that but figured he should've taken the name 'Skeeter Slam' with a little more caution.
Rita burst out laughing and nearly tipped her drink on herself in her distraction. "Tropical furniture polish? Honestly, you're such an idiot. No. I told you, it's the Skeeter Slam. Don't tell me you can't take it."
"I never said I couldn't, did I?" Ben asked. "It was just a surprise. You hand a bloke something that resembles a size multiplied cocktail and he's not going to expect it to have the same consistencies as paint thinner, Christ." He took another sip--prepared, this time--and it tasted much better. Burned like a bitch, but he wasn't about to tell Rita that.
"The poor little rock star can't quite handle his alcohol? Tsk, tsk," Rita giggled, settling in next to him and draping her legs over his lap to stick her feet under the pillow on the other side of him, not even bothering to look over at the television. "Are you going to chill with Bono when you get to America? Will you get me his phone number so I can call and harass him for an interview?"
"Dunno. Hope so, since he fucking invited us," Ben said. "Dude annoys the shit out of me but it's impossible to hate him. He just does so much shit. And I can try to, if you really want me to."
"He annoys you too? Fuck, I think he's such a prick," Rita laughed. "But like... he's so good that no matter how pretentious he is, you just feel like crap for shitting on him. And really, you would? You wouldn't care that you'd get in trouble from Bono?"
"Rita, the lead singer of my band got toasted into oblivion for selling himself to the most unethical fashion label in the world just so they could steal someone else's wife for him," Ben said, raising his eyebrows. "If Bono's still inviting us to fucking Live Aid after that, I'm really not worried about what he'll think of me if I give you his number."
"Okay, point," Rita said with a grin. She sipped her drink once more before stretching to put in on the coffee table and added, "Do it, then. If you can."
Ben took a couple of deep gulps of his drink. "So when's your book out again? And what pages, specifically, describe my God-like body and amazingness in the sack?"
"July 29th, but you can have a copy the week before if you want," Rita answered. "And there's nothing about your body or your sexual prowess in it. I wrote like, quite a bit about Stubby based off of that conversation we had. The one I recorded. So your quotes are sort of everywhere in the couple chapters that talk about Stubby."
The book had turned out huge--around 600 pages that her editor had made her pare down to just over 400--and after all the interviews were done, Rita was pretty sure she spent three weeks straight awake and writing. She'd crashed and slept for a few days straight, then, and had to re-write the whole last four chapters because she'd obviously been delirious at that point. She'd kept some stuff of course. Oddly enough, some of her best lines had been in those last four pages. She'd put a lot into that book, and she was really proud how it had turned out. She couldn't wait until the pre-release copies came out to send to critics, friends, and family alike.
Ben smiled. "Yeah, I'll take an early one. I'm looking forward to it. After that whole explosion I hope it put a lot to rest, you know?" he said. "Especially for Gideon and Fabian and that lot. I mean attempted murder? That's such shit. Glad that loony toon is locked away."
"Agreed," Rita said, and reached for her drink again. The TV rattled away in the background, and she glanced over, but it wasn't interesting enough to hold her attention. She turned back to Ben and asked, "So you won't be in Australia yet before I get back in September, will you?"
"No," Ben answered. "We weren't planning on leaving until the beginning of October."
"Will you be in London, or in Salcombe?" Rita pressed, trying to be casual but also too impatient to really beat around the bush. "Just in case I want to see you, that is."
Ben shrugged. "I dunno. Probably London. Might go home to visit Mum and Dad at the end of the month," he answered. "Nothing's really decided yet."
His lack of enthusiasm annoyed Rita, and she raised her eyebrows at him pointedly, as though waiting for him to continue.
Ben looked taken aback. "What? We haven't really talked about the details. Who knows if we'll even go, Christ. What do you want me to say?"
"Forget it," Rita replied. She shouldn't be encouraging thoughts of the future anyway. If she felt like seeing him when she got back, she'd get in touch. No point making plans in advance. That was where the dirty R word came into play. Relationship. "There's a fleece blanket behind you. Can you put it over my legs? The legwarmers aren't keeping me warm enough."
"Seeing as you're sitting there in your underwear, essentially, are you really surprised?" Ben asked. "And I can think of better things than blankets to keep you warm," he added, grinning and waggling his eyebrows.
Any lingering irritation evaporated as Ben's hands teased their way up her thighs and then started tickling her sides. She wriggled and tried to push his hands away, but when that didn't work, she sat up and straddled him, distracting him with a kiss. "What, you don't like me lounging around in my underwear? Maybe I should go upstairs and put some clothes on, hm? I think maybe I should." She kissed him again, then, before saying, "I will, you know. In just a minute. I'll go put some more clothes on. Maybe some nice, shapeless sweatpants. They you won't get to see my legs at all."
"If you have sweatpants, Rita, then I'm secretly a woman," Ben said, grinning playfully, rubbing at her naked thighs. "And I think you should always lounge around in your underwear. Or even in nothing. Nothing is good too."
"All right, so I don't own sweatpants," Rita replied. "I could still find something far less sexy than the cute, skimpy, lacy number I'm wearing now." To show off her underwear, Rita leaned back a little and pulled up the hem of her tank top. "Pink. Such a classic colour for lingerie. I have a matching top somewhere, I'm sure."
"Don't you dare," Ben said, nuzzling her neck. "I'll just take it all off again anyway."
Rita laughed and turned her head, catching his mouth in a kiss. After a moment, she pulled away and said softly, "Will you now. And what if I decided not to let you?"
"I would be a very sad, sad man," Ben replied. "And I'd go off and write an emo ballad about it. 'Rita Skeeter won't let me take her clothes off, woe woe woe is me!'"
"I'd tell you not to quit your day job, but that is your fucking day job," Rita teased, and began grinding her hips against his. "Now tell me the truth. Am I the best fuck of your life? I am, aren't I."
Ben groaned and kissed her again, biting her bottom lip as he pulled away. "And what if I said you were?"
"No what ifs necessary," Rita said smugly, sliding a hand between them and squeezing.
Their drinks and the movie were all apparently forgotten, though Rita had known that's what this week was going to be like. She wished he hadn't complicated it by admitting he liked her. Even if neither of them had the schedules to be seeing anyone, the fact that he would even consider it changed things. Just like Rita wasn't the type of girl to date, she also wasn't the type of girl who boys dated. They just didn't, and though she hadn't thought about it before, now Rita couldn't help but wonder why. So, she pulled her hand away from him and made eye contact, going the direct route as was the Rita Skeeter way.
"Is that why you like me? Because I'm the best you've ever had?"
Ben's hands hand found their way under Rita's shirt, and he stopped mid-massage and looked at her with surprise. "What? No. What would make you think that?"
"Well, it's not like we exactly spend our time talking. Enlighten me, then. I'm a reporter, I need to know things," Rita said bluntly, eyes not leaving his. "Why do you allegedly have a thing for me?"
Ben blinked at the absurdity of her sitting in his lap in her underwear and interviewing him, and wondered vaguely why this didn't happen more often with other reporters. Then again, Rita was far from conventional... In fact, that was probably worth saying. "You're unconventional. Opinionated. You hold your own ground. You have a brain. You're enigmatic. Beautiful. Sultry. Silly. A lot of reasons, I guess."
"I'm flattered. But it still doesn't change anything," Rita replied, starting to tug the hem of his shirt up. "I mean, we both know we'd be rubbish at a relationship. Why bother? Anyway, this is fun and easy and simple. There's absolutely no point messing with a good thing."
"If it doesn't change anything then why did you bother asking?"
"If you have to ask, then you don't know me at all, do you?" Rita said, mouth twitching into a humourless sort of smile. "Asking is what I do."
"I know that," Ben said, shaking his head. "But you can't refrain for the sake of not stirring shit up?"
Letting go of his shirt, Rita leaned back a bit and gave him a look. "I was curious," she said, voice a little edged. "And why shouldn't I ask? You're the one with the issue, not me. Now do you want to have sex or not?"
"Right. My 'issue'," Ben said, pushing Rita off of him and standing up. "No, thanks, I don't think I do."
"For fuck's sake," Rita said, looking up at him from the couch where he'd left her. "Fenwick, what? It is your issue. You're the one freaking out here, not me. You knew the score before and it's the same now as then. Why are you getting so worked up over one question?"
Ben laughed and gave her an incredulous sort of look. He took a deep breath. "Have you never had it bad for someone for a list of reasons as long as your arm, none of which had anything to do with shagging, or how they looked starkers? Tell you what, if you ever get to that point--and I sincerely doubt you will--you get back to me and we'll talk about what sort of fucking difference one question can make, all right?"
"You think you're better than me because you can't control your fucking emotions, is that it?" Rita asked, sounding both amazed and disgusted, colour rising to her cheeks as she got to her feet. "Oh, look at you the passionate musician. You're just miles above the lowly uninvested journalist." She smacked him on the shoulder then, and glared furiously. "I can't believe you think I'm less than you just because I'm emotionally unattached. I'm not one of your stupid groupies, Fenwick, and I have no intention of ever worshipping you."
"Oh, fuck you!" Ben snapped back. "I don't think I'm better than you! I don't think I'm anywhere close to you! But honest to fucking God... I thought I could do it, fuck around and not worry about falling for you and having to deal with it because you're right, we're not in a good place for a relationship, and a conversation between us is either trivial, and argument or shagging, and we probably couldn't make it work. But I can't just fuck around. I can't. I'm sorry I can't detach you and sex with you. You're all I want, and since I can't have you entirely, fuck it. That's it. I'm done."
"You're leaving? God, and people say I'm a drama queen," Rita snapped nastily, and picked up his half empty cup. "Here, I made this for you, fucker!"
The cup collided with Ben's face, the remainder of the cocktail dripping down his chin and over his shirt as the cup crumpled to the floor. Ben didn't say anything, just looked at her incredulously, his face burning red and hands clenched in fists. They seemed to stare one another down for a moment before Ben was ready to just scream, instead turning on his heels and doing exactly what he'd promised to do: leave. He shoved on his shoes, grabbed his jacket, and slammed the door behind him.
"Fucking idiot boy," Rita snapped, hoping vindictively that there was a picture of him leaving covered in drink in the tabloids tomorrow. Maybe she'd even call the papers and make some snide remark to help the story along.
Ben was obviously an idiot, but at least she could maybe get some publicity out of it for her book tour.
Rita had emptied her mini-bar. It was an expensive way to get drunk, but it had been a bad day. She'd done a question and answer session at the Roger's Communication Centre in Toronto and a bunch of uppity, pretentious Ryerson journalism freaks had torn her to shreds. Apparently Canada didn't like her book. They thought she was exploiting people's lives for money, never mind that she had everyone's permission. Never mind that once she'd gotten started, a lot of those involved had really encouraged the idea and even donated photos and shit. Never mind that they were her friends, and she just wanted to tell their story. These hopped up university pricks didn't approve of her more whimsical take on journalism.
Just because she'd laughed in their faces at the time didn't mean it hadn't been a miserable fucking day. Once Rita got into those moods, it was awfully hard to get out of them. Besides, she was lonely. She'd never been this far from home. The North American leg of her book tour had been spur of the moment, and it was taking too long. She no longer cared if the book did well in Canada and the United States. It was doing well enough in Europe to let her sail through life on a cloud of fame and fortune if she wanted to, and it just wasn't worth it to be here.
She was just really homesick. She told herself it was just for her friends and her father, but yet she couldn't help but pull out the postcard Ben had sent her months ago. He'd sent it from Live Aid in Toronto, only a few weeks after their big fight. All it said was, 'Still thinking of you. B.' Nothing special. But he'd left a number, too, though she hadn't dared call him.
He probably didn't even have the cell phone with him. He was in Australia now, on vacation. He was probably dating some attractive Aussie girl who wasn't afraid to give him what he wanted, and before Rita even realized what she was doing, she was curled up pathetically in her blankets with a ringing phone pressed against her ear.
Ben was sitting on the back steps of the house he and the others were renting in Sydney, smoking a fag and staring blankly ahead at nothing. He'd been a miserable sop for the entire vacation, and unusually introverted, not allowing anyone else to drag him out of his misery no matter how hard they tried. Going to the outback? Pass. Surfing? Pass. Sightseeing? Pass. He just smoked cigarettes, drank too much, and had already written an albums worth of melancholy sonnets about Rita the goddess, Rita the siren, Rita the lover and Rita the bitch. Rita, Rita, Rita. Fuck Rita.
He took another shaky draw, and his handy started to vibrate.
The name came up as 'Unknown' and the number as 'Long Distance', and Ben coughed and gave the screen a confused look for a moment as he wondered who on Earth was calling him and from where, because the only person who seemed to bother these days was his mother. Flipping the thing open he answered with a gruff, tired, "Hello?" before inhaling deeply again.
Rita heard the voice and sighed, rolling onto her stomach and burying her face into her pillow. It was stupid how much just that one word felt like coming home. And if she was being that sentimental, then...
"I'm really fucking drunk," Rita murmured, voice muffled by the pillow. Then, more softly, "And I fucking miss you."
Ben blinked in surprise and his lip twitched as he snubbed his cigaratte on the veranda. "Baby? Where are you? Are you okay?"
"I'm okay," she replied, and then rolled over so her words weren't being eaten by the pillow. "I'm in bed in my hotel room in Toronto. Canada hates my book. I shouldn't have called you."
"Why does Canada hate your book?" Ben asked, standing up and heading into the empty house. The others had gone out to do... something or other, he couldn't remember. He bee-lined for the icebox, suddenly feeling hungry.
"I don't know. I don't want to talk about it," Rita said, words slurring. He hadn't said he missed her too, and she supposed that probably meant he didn't. She probably deserved it. She knew their last fight had been mostly her. She'd been pushy and abrasive and completely herself, and that was probably the reason more than anything she'd never been in a relationship. Beyond not doing relationships, no one could stand her for long periods of time. No point thinking about that now. It would just make her an even more maudlin drunk. Closing her eyes, she requested, "Sing to me, Ben."
Ben, phone resting between his shoulder and his ear, had a piece of cold chicken in his mouth, and paused to swallow before replying softly, "What do you want me to sing, baby?"
"Whatever makes you think of me," Rita said, sliding her hand down over her stomach and inside the drawstring of her pyjama shorts. "I just want to hear your voice. Sing how you feel about me."
Ben took a deep breath and set his half-eaten chicken on the counter as he propped himself up on a barstool. There were any number of songs he could pick that could tell Rita how he felt about her, but they were one's she'd heard already. He had all these new ones though, that he'd gone over so many times he couldn't help but have memorized them, and one in particular among them stood out. It was slow, but it was sweet. It was the third he'd written after he'd stormed out of her place that day, a few weeks later when he'd finally accepted that they were probably more dysfunctional than any other couple on the planet and once he'd accepted that no matter what she said about 'not doing relationships', he wasn't going to stop feeling the way he felt. It was called "Some Moments".
He cleared his throat one more time before he started, voice light. "Sometimes I catch you, when you don't think I'll notice, looking at me in a way that tells me everything I need to know about what you really think of me. Sometimes your reflections betray you... I can't help but think you must get tired of being so made up everyday. But there are some moments when I know you love me, even though you think I ought to keep lying to myself about the way you hold me, and the way you kiss me, but I just can't seem to think about anything else."
Rita blamed the alcohol for the dampness in her eyes, and her hand stilled between her legs. As good as it felt to hear his voice, the song wasn't one that inspired lust in her. Instead, shockingly, it made her miss him even more.
"Ben," she said softly, his name a question on her lips, and she couldn't finish the thought. She didn't trust her voice not to betray her emotion.
The way she said his name, like she was desperate and looking for answers, made a lump rise in his throat. Christ he missed her. It was ridiculous how much he did. "Sometimes you pretend I'm just a toy, no more important than any other boy, mesmerizing me with your come hither eyes and smiling lips. Most times I hope you're in denial, desperate to make some distance while you really want to lay claim on my lap. Cause there are some moments when I know you love me, even though you think I ought to keep on lying to myself about the way you hold me, and the way you kiss me, but I just can't seem to think about anything else."
Rita pressed her hand against her mouth, biting her palm as she tried not to cry too loudly. She had to let go after a moment because her nose got stuffed and she needed to breath. "Fuck you. I miss you."
Ben stopped singing and swallowed hard. "Baby, are you crying? Don't cry. I miss you too. I could come see you. Australia is boring without you."
"Come see me," Rita said immediately. "I'm cancelling the rest of my North American tour. Let's go somewhere."
"Where do you want to go?" Ben asked, ignoring the nagging voice in the back of his head that was warning him that things would not be this simple in the morning when Rita was sober.
"Paris. Amsterdam. Madrid. The fucking pyramids of Egypt. I don't care. I'm sick of North America. It's a dirty, horrible place and you aren't in it. Besides, I've already seen New York and Los Angeles. I don't care about stupid Canada," Rita slurred, sniffling as she composed herself. "Take me to some beautiful, sunny beach on the Mediterranean Sea?"
"We could go tomorrow. I could get The Ministry to book us both flights. I could meet you there," Ben answered, rubbing his hands over his eyes in an attempt to deter the appearance of tears. The hold she had on him was nothing short of ridiculous.
"I'm too drunk to pack tonight," Rita mumbled, smiling happily at the prospect of seeing Ben in a day or two. "Book me the red eye. I'll see you at the airport in a day and a half."
"Are you serious, Rita?" Ben asked, not that losing the ticket would matter to him one way or another if she didn't show up, but just wanting to know that she'd actually be there if he arranged this.
"Yes," she said without hesitation. "I'm drunk. That doesn't mean I don't know what I want."
"Okay. Okay," Ben said, unable to hide the excitement in his voice. "You sleep, baby. You sleep, and I'll arrange our flights and you'll just have to go to the airport tomorrow. Then we'll see one another."
"Okay. Night, Fenwick," Rita mumbled. "Thanks. And email me the information so I have it on my blackberry. Who knows what I'll remember tomorrow."
"Good night, Rita," Ben replied, smiling to himself as he glanced out the window at the mid-afternoon Australian sky.
Rita hung up smiling, and wondered if she could manage to leave the country without once talking to her agent.
Despite being hungover, when Rita had remembered what had happened the night before, she'd gotten up, packed, dressed to the nines, and then called her publisher from the cab on the way to the airport. Her book hadn't been doing well in Canada, and since they'd already finished the American leg of the North American tour, Rita was in a lot less trouble for taking off than she thought she would be. The PR people agreed that her dramatic and sudden vacation with Benjy Fenwick would probably get hype going for her book better than a book tour Canada did not seem to be interested in.
Though, quite frankly, Rita didn't give two shits what her publishers or PR people or manager thought. She would've gone on the damn trip even if they'd all expressly forbidden her to.
The airline had been somewhat shocked when Rita had shown up to collect her first class ticket and not even had a clue what her destination was. Greece, it turned out. The flight was long, extended by a still lingering hangover as well as a good dose of nerves, but when she stepped off the plane into the heat of Athens, not a hair was out of place.
Looking good always made Rita feel better, and today she wore some open-toed, lime green, six inch stilettos with a short silk dress in a vibrant floral pattern with plenty of greens and blues and yellows. The skirt to it was flowy, but the halter style top of it was form-fitted and cleavage-revealing. The outfit was finished with enormous, conspicuous blue sunglasses, a dramatic updo, a giant yellow purse, a green sash in her hair that matched her shoes, and shiny coral lip gloss. (She refused to pull her own luggage because it was purple and didn't match at all.)
She stepped out through security, a gentleman pushing her luggage cart for her following behind, and looked around eagerly for Benjy. She was sure he'd arrange to be there before her. He wouldn't dream of leaving her on her own in the Athens air port. Would he?
Ben was definitely waiting.
He'd arranged the trip the second after he'd gotten off the phone with Rita, giving his Ministry agent a new ulcer with his sporadic decision to vacate the Sydney beach house for "somewhere Mediterranean, I don't care where". The Greece suggestion had been for the sake of not getting mauled every where he and Rita went, which he supposed would be a nice change of pace. Not that they wouldn't get found by someone eventually.
He was excited, bouncing on the balls of his feet and holding a cardboard sign that read "The Sexiest Woman on Earth!!!!" in his lopsided scrawl. He hadn't showered since before he left Australia, or shaved, so he'd embellished with the cologne and was stubbly and tired. The bags under his eyes were blocked by sunglasses, his hair was greasy and underneath a baseball hat, and he'd topped off that image with an old Hobbled Gordons t-shirt, a pair of big pocketed khaki shorts that had a massive ketchup stain on one leg, and a pair of ratty sandals he'd had since high school.
Where he looked like a hobo rather than like he was worth a few million dollars, Rita was easily spottable from a distance, and when he saw her coming he grinned like a madman.
Rita spotted Ben with his stupid sign and his horrible clothes and she shrieked loudly, dropping her purse a few feet from Ben and jumping on him, wrapping her legs around his waist, losing her hands in his stringy, greasy hair, and kissing him hard. She didn't care that she was making a scene. She didn't care if the whole airport was watching them and figuring out who he was. He was wearing a Hobbled Gordons shirt, and even if it was years and years old, probably from before the band even had the particular line-up it got famous with, he was just asking to be recognized.
Rita broke the kiss with a playful bite of Ben's bottom lip, and then breathed, "Hi Fenwick."
"Hi, baby," Ben replied, hands firmly on her arse as he shifted her weight slightly. "You look hot. Good flight?"
"Yeah, it was fine," Rita said, not even caring that probably half of the airport could see her ass, and the way Benjy was grabbing it. She could see some cameras and camera phones in her peripheral vision, but all of her attention was on Benjamin. She shifted against him and smirked at how sparkly his lips were after their kiss. "You look like ass, you grubby piece of shit. Fucking rockstar. I hope you booked us a hotel already. You need a shower."
"Already taken care of," Ben answered, still smiling broadly, thinking he might actually burst with how happy he was to have her in his arms again. He wasn't aware that there was anyone else on the planet but him and her, never mind surrounding them in the airport. "I'm ready to go when you are."
"I am. Oh! My luggage," Rita said, laughing, kissing Benjy once more and then sliding off of him. She turned around and smiled brightly at the gentleman standing next to her luggage cart. "Thank you. You were very helpful. You can go now, my man's got it from here."
Ben couldn't help but be overly pleased at Rita referring to him as her 'man', and it seemed like he was grinning impossibly wider than before. He grabbed the cart, slipped the guy a handful of cash, and started pushing with one hand, reaching for Rita's with the other.
Rita took his hand and helped to push the cart properly with the other.
"I'm glad I came, Benjy," she said softly, smiling over at him and hoping she didn't look too sappy.
"I'm glad you did too, baby," he replied, leaning in to kiss her gently on the cheek. Moments like these made it easy to ignore what had happened the last time they were together, when they could look at one another the way they were and he could feel a choir singing Hallelujah in the back of his head while his heart was beating so hard he felt like it was going to explode out of his chest. "And you're going to keep coming if I've got anything to say about it," he whispered in her ear before biting the lobe gently.
Rita shivered, and then giggled as she slid in between Ben and the cart. She pressed herself against him and slid her leg between his. "I guess you better get me back to your hotel then, rockstar."
Ben wasn't in the mood to do an interview, especially not to talk about playing for charity for Women's Abuse Centres and what it meant to be an upstanding contributor to society. Not when he and Rita had gotten into a roaring argument in the lobby because he'd signed a fan's boob outside when she'd been standing there. Apparently there were no limits when it was just the two of them, but when it came to someone else it was "boob and pen in check, Fenwick!" or whatever the fuck she'd prattled on about. Sometimes Rita could be so damn... commandeering.
Slouching in his chair and looking his usual bum self, Ben was giving stage answers to the questions the BBC guy was asking with a drone voice and a whole lot of indifference. He wanted the bloke to finish the hell up so he could go home and he and Rita could have angry sex and get it out of their systems and just move on.
But then the interviewer opened the floodgates. "Your relationship with author Rita Skeeter has been public fodder for the last few months, Benjy. Is she supportive of your latest endeavour?"
Ben rolled his eyes. "Oh yeah, she's a real trooper, Rita. Knows how to light a fire under my ass, I'll tell you that much."
The interviewer looked puzzled. "How do you mean?"
"How do I mean? Well if you're looking for bloody inspiration, look no further! She's on and off like a God damn light switch half the time. One minute she's all over me, next it's I can't sign a simple autograph because it pisses her off. You know?"
"Oh no. Sounds like there's trouble in paradise," the interviewer quipped, seemingly trying to lighten the situation.
Ben actually laughed, a cynical, unhappy sound. "Paradise? Yeah right. Paradise is days when I get to wear my own pants outdoors, or smoke more than half of a pack of cigarettes because she's too drunk to notice how my fingers taste."
The interviewer looked shocked for a moment, and then he put on his thoughtful face. This could be gold. It could be history in the making. "Half of that sounds like the normal sort of lover's spats, and half of that sounds serious. Does she drink a lot then?"
"Drinks enough for both of us, half the time," Benjy said without really considering the repercussions, or the fact that he was on live, national television. He just felt like smack talking to get his anger out of his system and it was all coming out like uncontrollable word vomit. "She knows how to straddle the line between casual drunk and alcoholic, Rita."
There was a commotion off to the side, and a chair crashed into one of the camera stands as Rita stormed her way onto set around three different PAs who were trying to hold her back. She wasn't having any of it, though, and one ended up on the floor, another doubled over from an elbow to the stomach, and a third was wimpy enough to just get brushed off.
"You fucker! You're such a prick, Fenwick!" she shouted. "We get in one fucking fight and you trash me on fucking television..."
"You can't be in here. This is live! Go to commercial. Now, hello, go now!" someone Rita didn't give two shits about shouted.
She just continued towards Benjy and slapped him square across the face, not even noticing how the interviewer just stepped back out of their way to let them get on with it. "What the fuck is your problem? I'm not a fucking alcoholic, you... you fucking shit eating dirt covered excuse for a human being!"
Ben just glared, getting to his feet and rubbing the side of his face. "My problem? My problem! Oh fuck me, Rita, because I'm not all worship and lust when you're giving me shit for indulging someone! Get over yourself!"
Rita's eyes filled with tears. As angry as she was, she didn't think she could recall ever being this hurt. She blinked back the tears and spat, "I like myself. I have nothing to get over. You, however, do. Consider yourself fucking dumped, asshole."
"Fucking fine by me!" Ben shouted back, though his voice was little shakier this time around. "Thank God for small miracles!"
Rita glared silently for a moment, and then sucked in a deep breath and said, "I hate you." After a moment, she turned to the camera and hissed, "I fucking hate him."
"Happy to be hated, baby!" Ben called after her angrily as she stormed off set, leaving another trail of dislodged floor people in her wake. Once she had disappeared Ben took a shaky breath as reality seemed to hit him like a ton of bricks. He wasn't sure it was possible to have fucked things up between them more than he just had, and if he could've kicked his own ass at that very second, he would've. Wow. Idiocy knew no bounds, he supposed. Ben ran a hand through his hair awkwardly, second-guessed running after her, and then sulked off in the other direction to wear his Ministry agent would be waiting.
Carl Barât, Rita thought, was famous enough. Maybe he didn't get as much press as Pete Doherty, but he was quieter and more coherent, despite the mumbling. A lot of people thought he was more talented than Pete Doherty, and pretty much everyone agreed he was more balanced. He was better looking, too. Rita looked good on his arm, and he was so nice to her. She tried not to look around for Ben. There was no point searching for him. They were broken up now, after all.
"This is a great party," Rita said, smiling up at Carl. "It'll give me plenty to write about."
"You just keep your acid pen in check," Carl said, returning the smile and sliding a hand around her waist to hold her close to his side. "I didn't bring you so you could play journalist."
"Didn't you? Why'd you bring me then?" Rita asked laughingly.
Carl shrugged. "Because you're my girl."
"Oh, if that's all," Rita quipped. "I'll be good, I promise."
Rita had gone on tirades about Elle Muir more times than Ben could remember. She was stick thin and looked like a strong breath of wind would knock her over, and tonight (like in every photo or show he'd seen of hers) she was barely wearing clothes. That had been the premise of much of Rita's ranting about her, that she looked practically anorexic, was always barely dressed, and was as dumb as dirt (which Ben agreed with, especially at the moment when he was tuning out 90% of what she was saying for the sake of his sanity). When Ben had found out that Carl Barât was taking Rita to the party, the vindictive side of Ben wanted to really rub their break-up in, so he'd gone off in search of a bint who was sure to piss Rita off.
"D'you want some shrimp or something?" Ben asked her distractedly as he glanced around the room, trying to spot Rita and whatever wonderfully insane get-up she was sporting.
"No, I already had my sodium for today," Elle answered, smiling and patting her tummy happily. "My manager says I shouldn't distress my digestion!"
Rita was wearing a long blue shirt, the kind that was both loose and clingy, with a giant gold belt and gold leggings underneath. She also had shiny gold ankle boots to match, clunky gold and blue earrings, red lipstick, and her hair was pulled back tight in a plain ponytail. She thought it was a very rockstar sort of look. She definitely stood out among all of the grungy musicians and preppy, frilly models and pushover groupie girls who were just generically hard rock. Rita was like... classic glam rock. She was different.
Especially from that bimbo.
"You already had your sodium today?" Rita snorted, and then froze as she noticed who was at his side. "Fenwick."
Carl curled his arm around her shoulder reassuringly and nodded at Benjy. He knew the story there, and he'd be stupid to think Rita was over him. "Hey. I'm Carl."
"Benjy," Ben replied with a curt nod, having know what to expect before he even got there. He and Rita would have inevitably crossed at some point. They always would be inevitably crossing. "Fenwick. This is Elle Muir, you've probably heard of her?"
"I was on the cover of Vogue yesterday!" Elle exclaimed excitedly, with a wide smile.
"How are you, baby?" Ben asked, ignoring Elle and quirking a challenging eyebrow at Rita.
Rita slid her hand up under the back of Carl's shirt and glared. "Yeah, I know who Elle Muir is. You are unbelievable, Fenwick," Rita snapped. "And don't call me baby."
"If I can play nice with Pete, you can play nice with Benjy," Carl whispered into her ear, shooting a worried look between the two of them. He began to pull Rita away, figuring diffusing the situation was not going to happen, and he said softly, "Come on. Let's go mingle."
Benjy shrugged and grabbed a glass of champagne off of a tray as a waiter passed by, downing the contents of the glass in one gulp. "Think I can call you anything I like, really."
Rita shrugged off Carl's hand as he tried to pull her away and ignored him in favour of facing Ben. "Fuck you, Ben. You have no right to call me anything."
"Here we go," Carl muttered, and looked around. They were already getting a little attention. Cameras were out and clicking. Ben and Rita always got that reaction. They were like Pete and Kate in that respect. Carl should've known better than to bring her here, but she'd insisted she'd be fine.
"Says you, baby," Ben replied calmly, trying not to smile at the reaction he was getting out of her.
"But... she did, didn't she?" Elle interjected confusedly. "Just then? Didn't she say that?"
Rita turned on Elle, eyes flashing. "Are you actually mentally retarded? You know what, you should just leave. He doesn't like you. He only brought you here to piss me off. He thinks you're an idiot too. Everyone think you're an idiot. Because you are, just in case that wasn't clear. Now shoo. Go... smell the food. That's about all you do anyway, isn't it, you anorexic whore?"
"What sense of self entitlement do you have to think you can talk to people that way?" Ben asked as Elle started to tear up.
Carl shook his head. These two obviously still had a lot of issues to work out. "Maybe you two should go talk somewhere you won't maim innocent bystanders."
"It's none of your fucking business," Ben snapped. "You don't get to make commentary."
Carl straightened up and slid his shoulder in front of Rita. "Actually, I think I do, man. It's my girl you're upsetting, and I think you should take a step back and go take care of your girl. She's crying, if you didn't notice."
"Your girl? Your girl?" Ben laughed incredulously. "What reality are you living in?"
"The reality where we broke up because you talked shit about me on fucking national television, that's what," Rita said, jumping back into the conversation and curling an arm around Carl's waist. "I'm with Carl now."
"Hello, I'm crying!" Elle said finally, reaching over to tug on Ben's arm, getting tired of the lack of attention.
Ben shook her off, his jaw clenching while his eyes were focussed on Rita and Carl.
Rita smiled nastily at him and smoothed her other hand up the front of Carl's chest as Elle ran off, presumably in the direction of the bathroom. "Seems like you're the one with date problems. I like mine just fine."
Carl draped his arm around Rita's shoulder and pressed a kiss to the crown of head. He knew she still had feelings for Ben, and this couldn't be easy for her, but he had a feeling this was going to end badly. Cameras were already going off and people weren't even bothering to keep their voices down as they chatted about the scene on their cell phones.
Ben's face burned red and he spat, "You know what?" before drawing off and punching Carl in the face.
The impact of it threw Carl back, and he tried not to take Rita with him. They both stumbled as Carl disentangled himself from her and then threw himself at Ben, fists clenched and arms swinging. He was not by nature a violent person, but he had no problem retaliating. His fist connected soundly with Ben's face, feeling a cruch under his knuckles.
"Fuck!" Ben swore loudly as his nose began to bleed. He didn't pause before diving right back in and punching whatever he could reach.
The two men ended up brawling on the floor with Rita screaming for them to stop, but no one was jumping in to break it up.
"Get off! Carl! Get off of him! Both of you just stop it!"
Her shrieking was having no effect however, and so she drew back and kicked Carl hard in the ribs with her pointy boot. Carl swore loudly and rolled off of Ben, holding his side where she'd connected. Without even thinking, Rita dropped down and knelt next to Ben, staring into his blood covered face with an expression that was half worried and half irate.
"What the fuck is wrong with you, huh?" she asked, but her voice lacked malice
"What do you think is wrong with me?" Ben asked, tentatively touching his nose and wiping the blood on his shirt. "I fucked up, but you know I can't get over you."
Rita's face softened slightly, and she let her hand come to rest on Ben's chest, over his heart. She just looked down at him for a moment and then looked over at Carl apologetically. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Carl grunted, easing himself into a sitting position. "You've got some legs on you, babe. And I think it's pretty obvious to everyone you came here with the wrong guy. My pride will recover, don't worry about me."
Rita smiled at him, and then looked back down at Ben. "You want to get out of here?"
"If you don't mind spending a couple hours in the hospital," Ben said and couldn't help but grin.
Rita laughed and leaned down to press a kiss to the corner of his lips, heedless of the blood. "I don't mind much, Fenwick."
Ben hadn't really meant to sleep with her, but he didn't think that would matter to Rita.
Mouth agape, Benjy couldn't do much but stare at the headline and panic. FENWICK'S ILLICIT LOVE AFFAIR TELLS ALL, it read. The most overwhelming feeling was that somewhere, right at that very moment, Rita was probably reading the exact same thing.
"We need to decide what to do. You have a press conference in the morning and we need to figure out what to tell the fans," his manager said.
"No. No, fuck that. I... no," Ben stuttered, trying to make what was happening make sense in his head. It had just been one stupid night when he'd been mad at her and had too many tequila shots. God, what had he done? "I'm a little more worried about my wife right now."
Rita had opted to stay in London for Ben's trip to Paris because they'd gotten in a huge row over a photograph that had come out of her sitting on Carl Barât's lap, whom she'd remained friends with even after she and Benjy had gotten back together. Ben had accused her of having an affair, and she had told him to go fuck himself. He'd then spent the night preceeding the trip at the Savoy Hotel. The following morning, and the next seven mornings consecutively, Rita had been on her knees in front of the toilet puking. It had taken a whole week before she'd broken down and had her father go buy her some home pregnancy tests.
Which left her in her current position. Alone in her and Ben's apartment with a piss covered stick that was telling her with a smiley face that she had a bun in the oven.
"Fuck," she swore softly.
She slammed her hand against the wall as she stepped out of the bathroom, then took a deep breath and screamed as loud and as long as she possibly could.
Outside of the door, key halfway in the slot, Hestia turned to Dorcas and said, "Do you think she already knows?"
"Fuck, it sure sounds like it," Dorcas said, hand clutched tightly around the offending tabloid. Hestia unlocked the door and they let themselves in, finding Rita sitting in her underwear at the top of the stairs with her head in her hands. "Hey Red, girl, you okay?"
"Oh shit, I guess you have seen it then," Hestia said.
"What the fuck are you guys doing here?" Rita said, looking up at them in confusion. "Of course I've seen it. I just did it. How do you guys know about it? Did Dad call you?"
"Are we talking about the same thing?" Hestia asked. "What did you just do?"
Rita shook her head and flung the pregnancy test down the stairs towards her friends.
Dorcas ducked as it narrowly missed hitting her, and then picked it up after it hit the wall behind them and fell to the floor. "Fuck," she said softly, and passed it over to Hestia.
Hestia rubbed her own swollen stomach. She was eight months and about to give birth to number four. She took a deep breath and sighed. "You are not going to want to see this."
"Red, I am so sorry we have to be the bearers of bad news," Dorcas said gently, climbing up the stairs and sitting one below Rita. She hesitated a moment and then held out the tabloid. "It might not be true. We just thought you should know before you went out and someone broke the news to you."
"Oh yeah, just what I need right now. More stupid tabloid shit," Rita said, taking the paper from her. As she read the giant, bold, black, damning headline, she just froze. She froze and stared at it, reading it over and over again. Rita was not a girl that cried easily or often, but now she just felt overwhelmed and she burst into tears, shoulders shaking with sobs as she threw the tabloid down the stairs after the stupid pregancy test. "Fuck, I am so fucked."
"It is a tabloid, Red," Hestia said, waddling up the stairs to sit beside Dorcas. "We don't know that it's true."
"Oh, yes it is. It's true, of course it's true," Rita snapped through her tears. She could just feel it in her bones that it was true. "I never want to see him again. He's not going to get within twenty feet of this kid. I'll tell him it's Carl's."
Hestia shook her head. "No you won't, Red." She reached up and took Rita's hand.
Rita slid a stair down and wedged herself between her friends, leaning back against Dorcas and lacing her fingers through with Hestia's. "No, I won't. In fact, I'm not going to tell him about it at all. He has no right to know, not after this."
"I guess that's your call, but speaking from the position of someone who made a horrible mistake like that once, it doesn't mean he doesn't love you. He's only human, Red. Aren't you going to at least hear him out?" Dorcas said softly, smoothing a hand through Rita's hair.
"He still loves you. He's always loved you. I don't think there's any doubt about that," Hestia said.
"I don't care," Rita said angrily. "I don't care if he does. Now are you going to help me pack or not? I want to be out of here before he gets back from France."
"Baby, it's me. Saw your picture in the paper today. I'm... a little shocked. I think we need to talk about this. It's my kid too. Just... stop ignoring me please."
"Rita, I'm going to just keep putting up shit about the divorce until you talk to me about this kid. Call me."
"I've had... too much. Of whatever I'm drinking. I miss you, baby. I love you. Can't we work it out? For the sake of the kid, at least? Just call me. Please. I'll do anything for you, baby. I'll do anything."
"Benjy Fenwick attempts suicide! Overdose cover-up, the housekeeper tells all!" called a man selling newspapers from a stand on the corner.
Rita halted suddenly and turned to stare, people parting to go around her as she made her way towards the man. "I'll take one of those."
She handed over the money and stared sadly down at the picture. The baby kicked then, and she winced and put a hand over her belly. "It's okay, baby. Daddy's not dead yet, but he hasn't got an inch as far as custody goes either."
Someone must've overheard and figured out who she was, because the next morning it was her who was in the tabloids, pictured holding the paper with the news of Benjy's overdose, one hand on her rounded stomach, looking down with a distraught expression and a title of Skeeter heartbroken over news of baby daddy Fenwick's depression. The follow up quote read, Is there hope for the couple yet? What tripe. Rita didn't buy one of those.
"Christ, it took you long enough to call me. It's only been seven months," Benjy answered his cell when he saw Rita's number.
"I hate you. Oh fuck, I hate you. It's too early. I'm supposed to have another month to get ready for this," Rita moaned into the phone, clutching it tightly in one sweaty hand as she braced herself against the doorframe. "You fucking idiot, I hate you. I need you. Get over here. Now."
Benjy blinked confusedly for a moment and then furrowed his eyebrows as he asked, "Rita, are you in labour?"
"Yes, you cunt, I'm in labour! Why the fuck else would I be calling you if I weren't scared shitless and about to push an enormous baby out five weeks before I'm supposed to? Now come fucking get me!" Rita shouted, actually holding the phone away from her ear so she could scream directly into the mouthpiece before hanging up and dropping it unceremoniosly as another contraction gripped her. "Shit."
The first thing Benjy did was panic. It was the middle of the night, he was a little bit drunk, and he hadn't really had seven months to adjust to the fact that he was about to become a father since the only time he'd seen Rita was when her picture appeared in the paper. Plus, needless to say, he'd been a little bit drunk for the better part of the last year. He hadn't actually gotten to the point of overdosing like the papers were claiming, but it wasn't too far off.
He ran back and forth across the kitchen a few times before he remembered what he was supposed to be doing and went outside to hail a taxi. It took him just over half an hour, screaming at the cabby the entire way to "go faster, go faster, go faster!" before he ended up at Rita's father's house.
Benjy threw a wad full of cash at the driver, who knew how much, before rushing through the unlocked door, calling out to Rita as he went, "Where are you, baby?"
"Upstairs! Upstairs bathroom!" Rita shouted, not even caring that she was sitting on the toilet with her knickers down. Ben had seen her in worse positions, it would be nothing new. She was just glad he was there because she felt all sweaty and shaky and terrified.
Ben tripped up the stairs about three times before he finally got to the top and found Rita in the bathroom. The size of her pregnant belly shocked him more than the position she was in. He stopped in the doorway and just stared momentarily, mumbling, "Holy shit."
"Benjy," Rita moaned, reaching out for him. "I don't feel good. Take me to a hospital."
Ben walked over to her and took her hand, bending to be level with her. He kissed the side of her face and murmured, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, baby, I'm so sorry. And shit, I sent the cab away."
Rita wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her face against his shoulder. He felt safe and familiar and fuck she had missed him. "I don't forgive you. You have no idea how much that hurt, and the same day I found out about this, and Ben, I had to do it all on my own. Just... just take care of me now, okay?"
"Okay, okay," Ben said soothingly, reaching into his pocket awkwardly to grab his handy so he could call a car from the Ministy to come get them in the middle of the night. "I'll take care of you, I promise. I've got you, baby."