Fandom: Chronicles of Narnia.
Pairing: Ben Barnes/Georgie Henley.
Rating: PG (R overall).
Warnings: Real person fic.
Word count: 3,146.
Summary: Ben hasn’t seen Georgie for a few years, so it’s a pleasant surprise when he bumps into her at a party. What he didn’t expect, however, was to end up giving a helping hand with her love life. He takes it in his stride though and does what he can, something he soon comes to regret when he begins to see her in a different light himself.
A/N: Title is taken from Flowerbed by Take That. Georgie’s boyfriend in this is played by Harry from One Direction (I don’t know, don’t ask me to explain!). Unbeta’d, so all mistakes are mine.
The truth is hard to find when it’s playing tricks on your mind.
He never expected to see her there. He never expected to see anyone there, not really, but she made such a grand entrance that it was impossible to ignore. Her smile was as dazzling as he remembered. Sweeping down the staircase, her gown a river of silk behind her, she made a beeline for a group of young up and coming actors who were milling around by the bar. She didn’t notice him. Not yet at least.
Lingering over by the buffet table, alone, Ben found the awkwardness he had felt in even being there beginning to grow. It had been a last minute decision to come tonight yet, when he’d set foot in the ballroom the party was being held, he’d hoped to be embraced by everyone, expected to be the life and soul. So far though, not one solitary person had approached him.
No, no one was interested anymore – no one but her, at least.
From across the room, she was looking now. Deep in conversation with someone else, laughing and gesturing emphatically over something or other, but still looking at him and not at them.
He felt a slight shiver run through him and let his gaze drop down to the glass in his hand. He shouldn’t have been looking back, shouldn’t be allowing himself to indulge in the fact she was a grown woman now with all the curves in the right places and a smile that did things to him he couldn’t possibly share (at least, not while he was sober). In his head she would always be thirteen – innocent, over excitable with a childlike wonder and much too young for such thoughts to even be legal.
Sipping from his glass, the champagne bubbles tickling his nose, Ben risked one final glance in her direction, telling himself this would be the last until he went over to her and said hello. She caught him though, caught him red handed, the beginnings of a mischievous smirk curving onto her lips.
She was straight over, bounding across the dance floor with the widest smile he’d ever seen and enveloping him in a rib crushing hug that knocked the air straight from his lungs.
It was unexpected. Very. He’d expected her to say hi, maybe, but not this.
‘It’s so good to see you, Ben,’ she murmured, her breath hot against his ear.
All grown up or not, Georgie was very much the same person she’d always been, full of the joys of life and enjoying every second. Still not tall enough though. She was up on her tiptoes to reach, despite her high heels giving her an advantage, her body pressed so close to his that he could feel her heart beating through the thin fabric of his shirt. He melted against her, the attention just what he needed, and pulled her in closer still, his hands sliding easily over her back and the bare skin there.
‘I missed you,’ she said, nuzzling his neck now as her fingers curled into his hair. ‘Don’t you ever go that long without ringing me again, you hear?’
This time, Ben laughed and took her face into his hands, forcing her to take a step away from him. ‘I didn’t realise I was in such demand,’ he responded, his mouth curling up into a smile that could rival her own and then some. ‘You look...’ He stopped, faltered, unsure what to say now the moment had come. ‘You look nice.’
‘Nice? I look nice?’ cried Georgie, her eyes wide with amusement. She quickly extracted herself from his hold, ducking under his arm and twirling on the spot, hair and dress flying as she showed off her outfit. ‘Now, how do I really look?’
OK, so, she looked more than nice, but what did she honestly expect him to say?
‘Great,’ he said finally, regretting it almost instantaneously as she pulled a face at him. ‘No, not great, that was rubbish. Really nice maybe?’
Georgie laughed and shook her head, sending her hair flying again, the frenzy of dark curls quite mesmerising. ‘You’re such a dork,’ she chuckled, reaching out to hook her arm through his. A moment later, she leant in and rested her head on his shoulder, looking up at him from under her eyelashes. ‘Have you always been this bad with women? I can’t remember. But, you know, if you need any tips, I’m always available to help out.’
She was baiting him now and he hated her for it.
‘I can manage, but thank you for the offer.’ Ben nudged her, a gentle jab in the ribs with his elbow as she guided him across the room and toward a small group of people he didn’t know. ‘Where are we going?’ he asked, perking an eyebrow.
‘I want you to meet someone,’ she said.
The moment they reached the group, it became clear exactly who Georgie wanted Ben to meet. A young man, around Georgie’s age or maybe a little older, stepped away from everyone else and literally dragged Georgie from Ben’s grasp. She cuddled up to him in much the same way she’d been cuddling Ben only moments before, an action that only aided in Ben’s sudden want to wring the scrawny little runt's neck for even touching her. He didn’t know where it came from, but he knew deep down that he didn’t like the thought of boys being all over her, whether she was eighteen or not.
‘This is Harry,’ Georgie was saying, her voice and high and ridiculously giggly, ‘My boyfriend.’
Ben stared, tilting his head slightly. He didn’t say anything. There was nothing he could say.
It took no longer than two seconds for both Georgie and Harry to pick up on the sudden awkwardness and Harry, clearly wanting to seem like the bigger man (or something equally ridiculous), held out his hand and smiled broadly. ‘Nice to meet you,’ he said.
Ben continued to stare for as long as he could get away with and then, relenting, took hold of the teenager’s hand, shaking once, twice and ending it there. He didn’t let it last long, didn’t want it to, so slipped his hands into his pockets instead and asked, ‘And how long have you been together?’ as if this were the most important question in the world. It wasn’t of course, it was completely unimportant and the very last thing he wanted to know if he were honest.
‘Couple of months, something like that,’ Harry answered, his tone nonchalant.
Ben resisted the urge to punch him in the nose for his blasé attitude and forced a feeble, ‘Great.’
Obviously catching onto something, although he hoped she didn’t guess exactly what, Georgie decided to try and play the mediator and interrupted. ‘It’s not serious...’ she said softly, reaching a hand out and laying it against Ben’s arm. She sounded sad, which he noticed straight away, but wouldn’t dare mention until he got her alone again (whenever that may be).
‘We’re keeping it casual for now, right, G?’ Harry flashed her a lopsided grin.
This, unfortunately, only succeeded in riling Ben up that little bit more and as he watched the young man in front of him, his eyes narrowed and his hands balled into fists in his pockets. Harry was too carefree about it all, serious or not. Georgie was Georgie and she deserved nothing but the best. Ben didn’t know exactly what it was, but he got the feeling Harry wasn’t particularly right for her. There was something in the way he held himself, something in the way he was trying to play the big man and--
No, wait, Ben recognised him now. They’d met before, be it briefly, at one of the premieres. Georgie had spent the entire after party gushing about him and how incredibly sweet he was – right up until Skandar had plied her with champagne anyway and she’d spent the rest of the night pirouetting in the middle of the dance floor (or trying to, at least).
Ben remembered it clearly, mostly because he’d been the one to catch her when she’d fallen over, and then helped her back to the hotel.
He guessed they must have stayed in touch since then and recently decided to give it a go – a move they probably could have done without. But they all had more time on their hands these days, so it wasn’t exactly surprising he supposed, that Georgie had gone out and got herself a boyfriend (even of the non serious variety).
Following their brief chat, Ben headed off to get more drink, feeling very much like he needed it. He stayed there, downing shots until he felt the haze beginning to set in.
From across the other side of the room, he could see the couple clinging onto each other, happily chatting away to people he didn’t know. Occasionally Harry would lean in and press a kiss to Georgie’s temple, a sign of affection that Ben had been quite fond of up until today. It was OK when he used to do it, there had been nothing behind it, but now it suddenly held so much more meaning and he wasn’t entirely sure how he felt about that.
The rest of the party passed by slowly and Ben found himself becoming more and more paranoid (not that the drink helped him much). Eventually he had to force himself to leave, the only way he could put a stop to the ridiculous thoughts invading his mind, and so hopped a taxi home.
He collapsed straight onto his bed upon arriving, gaze fixed to the ceiling as he attempted to vanquish all thoughts of Georgie and her boyfriend. But he couldn’t get her out of his mind, couldn’t forget how she’d looked when she’d descended the staircase or how her warm body had felt when it was pressed up against his. She seemed to fit so perfectly against him now, like she’d grown into him and become exactly who he’d wanted her to become all along. He shouldn’t have even wanted that to happen, but he had done, for a couple of years, too.
It was around the same time she met Harry that Ben had begun to notice how his little Georgie was growing up. She could get away with high heels and long floaty dresses and she didn’t look like a young girl playing dress up in her mother’s wardrobe anymore. The lip-gloss and headbands were replaced with lipstick and mussed up curls and she looked beautiful, stunning even. She was fifteen though and despite her want for his attention, anyone’s attention, he’d had to tell himself no and continue to treat her like the little sister that he’d never had.
And now here she was, out there and dating, and Ben couldn’t stand the way that made him feel. It was wrong, immoral, but he wanted it – wanted her – so badly.
He dozed off with those thoughts in mind, thoughts that made for interesting dreams, dreams that were shattered when his mobile phone began to ring and jolted him awake again.
Rolling over sleepily, he reached blindly for his phone, snatching it up and answering without bothering to see who was on the other end of the line. He was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by Georgie’s dulcet tones and wondered for a moment whether he’d simply fallen back to sleep. He hadn’t, in his dreams he wouldn’t have been woken up at 3:42 a.m. That was all Georgie; typical couldn’t-care-less about the time and ring anyway Georgie.
‘The number you gave me, I wanted to check if it worked,’ she said.
He laughed, softly, weakly, closing his eyes again and murmuring, ‘It works...’
‘Good.’ A brief silence and he could hear her moving about, the rustling of fabric. ‘What are you up to?’ she asked a second later, a serious question.
Ben held back another laugh and told himself to respond truthfully. ‘Sleeping,’ he said. ‘Well, I was sleeping until you woke me up with this phone call at least.’
‘Oh... sorry, I guess I hoped you’d be awake still,’ she replied, the tone of her voice suddenly wavering. ‘Can I – can I come over there? Would you mind?’
This was very much out of the blue, but he didn’t have the heart to say no to her. Tonight was the first time they’d seen each other in two years and yet, somehow, it felt as though they hadn’t even been apart and Georgie was obviously feeling that way, too. Her wanting to come over to his flat though, was new. She’d never asked before because she’d always known in days gone by he would have said no to her, and she was right, he would have. He couldn’t have had her there; the temptation would have been too much for him.
Tonight, however, was different. Very different.
Letting his head loll over to the left, Ben checked the time once more (3:49 a.m. now), and then told her quietly, ‘I’d be happy to have you,’ before reeling off his address.
In the background, he heard her repeat every word he said. She was clearly already in a taxi and on her way there, which made him begin to wonder. Not three hours ago she’d been in the middle of a dance floor, spinning, twirling, laughing, and her smile so wide and happy it seemed it would be impossible to make it falter. Something must have happened for her sudden need to be with him.
Fifteen minutes later, Ben was padding his way down the stairs to let her inside. He hadn’t made any effort to dress, simply slipped on a pair of pyjama bottoms and left the welcome warmth of his flat as fast as his feet would carry him. Georgie was stood on the doorstep, dressed much the same in winter boots, pyjamas and a duffle coat buttoned right up to her chin. Her cheeks were rosy red beneath the biting chill of the wind, her eyes sparkling in the darkness.
‘Hi,’ she said, raising a hand in a half-hearted (and not to mention awkward) wave.
Ben didn’t move at first, but then realised he probably should, so reached out and pulled her into the hallway, closing the door behind her with a soft thud. They were silent at first, the only sound that of Georgie’s hard breathing and the traffic passing by outside.
‘Thank you... so much...’
The whisper was so soft that he barely heard it, but when it registered he let an easy smile cross his face and held out his hand to lead Georgie upstairs. She followed without hesitation and not ten minutes later they were both sat cross-legged in the middle of his bed nursing mugs of steaming hot chocolate.
Ben gave Georgie time to get comfortable before he asked the inevitable question, his voice gentle. ‘So, are you going to tell me what’s wrong?’
Unsurprisingly, she didn’t answer straight away and kept her gaze low, sipping nonchalantly from her mug. He wished he knew what was going on in her head, wished she’d let him in, if just for a moment. So, in absence of a reply, he put his drink down and reached out to hold her face in his hands instead, forcing her to look up at him.
‘Georgie,’ he said, ‘you know you can tell me anything.’
The young woman in front of him sighed, anxious beneath his stare, but she held firm. ‘Is there something wrong with me?’ she asked him.
‘Something wrong--?’ Ben didn’t understand the question, his eyebrows knitting together in confusion as he attempted to get his head around it. ‘What do you mean is something wrong with you?’
Georgie sighed again; frustrated that he didn’t understand her.
The second time around, his eyes asked the question and she answered it by turning her head suddenly, pressing a kiss to his palm when he didn’t move quickly enough. He hesitated, drew a breath in shakily and she took the opportunity to take hold of his hand instead, lacing her fingers through his. When she moved their hands down to her lap, her gaze following, he began to clock on.
‘Did Harry do something?’
She shook her head, very nearly laughed. ‘No,’ she said. ‘That’s the problem.’
Oh, now it really did make sense. Not that he liked the idea all that much.
‘There’s nothing wrong with you, Georgie,’ said Ben, keeping his tone light. He brushed the pad of his thumb against her jaw and she looked up, catching his gaze as her mouth curled up into a small, impish smile. ‘You know you’ve always been perfect to us--’ He hitched in a breath, adding softly, ‘To me.’
She took this in, nodded, and gave his hand a squeeze. ‘Thanks, but apparently I’m not perfect enough for some people...’
Raking his teeth over his lower lip, he watched her for a moment in silence, not quite believing these words were coming from Georgie Henley’s mouth. She’d always been so sure of herself when she was younger. If anything, she’d been the most outgoing of all of them, using her confidence to her advantage. But not now, this wasn’t the Georgie he used to know, this was someone else sat before him. Anxious and unsure, with teary eyes, he barely recognised her.
‘Well,’ he started, hand cupping her chin and drawing her gaze back to his once more. ‘You know what? Sod them. Sod all of them.’
She laughed at that, eyes lighting up, if only briefly.
‘I mean it,’ Ben added.
And he did.
‘OK.’ Smiling, Georgie let go of his hand and reached out, her fingers playing through his hair instead. ‘He is my boyfriend though, so I can’t exactly do that. I really like him, Ben, I really do.’
Ben nodded thoughtfully, calmly, as much as he couldn’t stand hearing what she was telling him. He picked his hot chocolate back up and stayed quiet. She was right, as usual. If she really did like this guy and he was (amazingly) being honourable, there would be no reason to cast him aside over something so trivial.
It took a while and several ideas were batted around, but discarded, until he came up with one that might solve the problem. Naturally he would need the Georgie seal of approval, although he felt pretty confident it was the only way – probably a bad way – but the only way all the same.
‘All right,’ Ben began, ready for the hard sell as he fixed her with a stare and a playful grin. ‘If he’s going to be that way, let’s show him what he’s missing, shall we?’
Georgie smiled, an almost wicked gleam in her eyes.
Yeah, this was definitely going to backfire.