Disclaimer: I do not own the characters from Nothing Much to Do/Much Ado About Nothing.
A/N: This story is set in a universe where everything happens except Balthazar and Pedro getting together. The chapters will not take place in chronological order, so don't think you've missed anything if chapters don't match up with the ones before. Also, there'll be mention of a major character death, so yeah, there's that warning. Hope everyone enjoys this - I'll try to update as often as possible!
The end began on sunny day in December. Everyone was relaxing on a huge blanket Ursula brought, and the light breeze that danced over them gave Hero a sense of contentment. Bea and Ben were lying on their stomachs at the edge of the blanket, ripping up grass and dropping it in each other's hair. They laughed, and Hero felt a lightness in her heart at the knowledge that her cousin and best friend had someone she liked so much. She moved her hand further to the right, searching for the hand she knew would be there. Claudio entwined his fingers with hers and squeezed a bit.
They were still figuring out where they wanted their relationship to go. Sometimes Hero couldn't hear his voice without remembering him screaming obscenities at her, and Claudio was obviously walking on eggshells every time they were together. But Hero had forgiven him, so she still held his hand, even when she could feel those same hands gripping her wrists and jerking her around.
"You okay?" The question came as a whisper in her ear. She nodded and turned to smile at her boyfriend.
Wanting to alleviate the worry she saw in Claudio's eyes, Hero added, "I was just thinking how perfect Bea and Ben are for each other." Claudio just nodded and went back to his previous conversation with Pedro.
After a few more minutes, Balthazar, who had been gracing the group with some of his new songs, put his guitar down. "My fingers are sore." He pouted a bit at Pedro, and his best friend got an ice cube from the cooler next to him. Pedro picked up Balth's hand and rubbed the ice over the ends of his fingers. The two smiled at each other in a way that made everyone else in the group look away. Hero watched, though, and she saw a small amount of pain in Balthazar's eyes as Pedro let go of his hand as the last of the ice melted.
Ben cleared his throat, and the awkwardness dissipated as quickly as it began. After all, Pedro was oblivious to Balth's feelings, Balth was too shy to share his feelings, and the no one in the group wanted to push the musician, especially after "An Ode" had failed so miserably.
While the ice incident was unfolding, Ursula had pulled a small radio from her bag. As the mother of the group, she always had supplies with her.
Meg grabbed the radio and started pressing buttons. "Let's listen to some pop!" A collective groan rose from the group, but Meg ignored them happily. "There, now that's some good music!" This time, no one tried to correct her, but Hero could see Balthazar roll his eyes as what she recognized as "Blank Space" came through the impressively strong speakers. Despite all the amazing things about the musician, he was definitely a music snob, and he let his distaste for all things Top 40 show.
Bea, however, sat up, locked eyes with Hero, and started belting out, "Boys only want love if it's torture!" On the last word, she mimed stabbing Ben in the heart, and he keeled backwards in obvious agony. Groans and cries of "my heart" were heard from Ben while Bea continued to sing-scream the remaining lyrics. Everyone knew not to interrupt their theatrical moment. It would pass, hopefully.
As Bea ended with, "And I'll write your name," and an exaggerated wink at the final *click* sound, the entire group was laughing at her antics. Balthazar clapped and joked, "I think you actually just made that song palatable. Nice job." Even when he was being sarcastic, the boy always seemed to make it sound genuinely nice. Claudio had once told Hero that Balth was her male counterpart, but she was pretty sure he was a lot nicer than her.
"And now, some new music from Nick Jonas. I just can't get enough of this song!" The radio DJ seemed a bit too enthusiastic, even by Hero's standards. She listened to the first few bars of the song, realizing she had never heard it before. It had a nice groove, but she quickly got caught up in a conversation with Bea and Meg. However, the song still lingered in the periphery of Hero's attention. The group got quiet for a second, a lull that usually would be filled with laughter at how awkward it was. This time, though, the words from the radio could be heard clearly.
I mean no disrespect. It's my right to be hellish; I still get jealous.
Hero's breath caught in her throat for a second, then her hand pulled away from Claudio's without her even thinking. It had burned her; the hand she had held so many times before, through good and bad, had suddenly felt like red hot agony in hers. Memories from her sixteenth birthday flooded Hero's mind - memories of Claudo, face contorted in rage, looking like the devil himself. He had been hellish, in that moment. And she knew then that she would never be able to hold that hand again.
Balthazar saved the day by grabbing the radio and switching it off. No one said a word. Beside her, Hero could sense Claudio's whole body slump. He knew.
"Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I fucking hate Nick Jonas. Such a douchebag, am I right?" Thank God for Ben. Everyone else mumbled and nodded in agreement that Nick Jonas was, in fact, the worst. Ever. Still, no one looked at Hero or Claudio. They all somehow knew it was the end.
Hero closes the photo album that's resting on her lap. Despite the events that had followed that fateful picnic, Ursula, in her all-knowing way, gave Hero some of the better pictures from the day. The one that had caught her attention this time was an image of her, head thrown back in laughter, as Ben and Bea had a tickle fight in the grass.
God, she misses Bea.
Shaking her head to clear the grip her memories have on her mind, Hero puts the album back on the shelf behind her. Time to dress for dinner with her husband.