A/N: So this is the sequel. And it promises lots of…Ben. As requested. So enjoy. Reviews would be great, if you can be bothered. I would really appreciate them.
"Ben. Seriously dude. You can't not have an 18th party."
Ben leaned back on the bench and shook his head, smirking at his friend. "Cody, be serious. Where would I have it?"
Mackenzie shrugged. "Your place?"
Ben shook his head again. "Not enough room."
"My place?" I suggested. Ben looked at me. "What?" I asked. "I'm serious. We've got heaps of room. And Cody's right for once. You have to have an 18th birthday party."
Ben groaned and rolled his eyes. My thoughts started to wander as the others continued arguing with Ben.
It was Sunday afternoon and we were all seated around a picnic table in the park beside the lovely Brisbane river. It was squashed with 10 of us seated on two benches. I was squashed between Jared and Ben, and Mac was sitting on Jared's lap. Dan sat on the other side, then the others were opposite us. Kate, being the littlest was seated on one corner of the table. We'd been arguing for a while now over Ben's 18th. It was in a few weeks, and he wasn't all that keen on having a party. In one of the rare moments he didn't have rehearsal with the band, I had dragged him out for a walk with me. Unfortunately, the others had tracked us down, and now here we all were.
Mac clapped her hands. "I got it! My place! Come on, it's perfect. We can have it out the back." Mac's house is huge. Out the back there was a massive pool area surrounded by palm trees. The whole area looked out over the river. "Yeah!" Dan chimed in. "that way your mum doesn't have to worry. Plus, more than likely Mac's parents won't even be home. There's heaps of space. It's perfect."
Ben sighed, apparently defeated. "I'll think about it." he stood up and grabbed my hand. "We're going for a walk before I have to go. So excuse us please." He climbed over the benches. "See you guys later."
I followed him away from the table. "I don't get you." I said, manoeuvring my way around the mud puddles. "Why don't you want an 18th? I can't wait for mine."
I had only turned 17 this year, while Ben was turning 18. He wrapped an arm around my waist and pulled me over the mud. We stood there together, inches apart. "Cause. I don't want to make a fuss." He said.
"You only turn 18 once." I said. Ben leaned forward until his forehead rested against mine. "Why are you pushing this?"
"Because. It's your 18th birthday, and I want to make it special for you." I said. A slow grin spread across his face. "I could think of another way you could make it special for me." he said.
"I'll get you a blow up doll then."
Ben laughed and kissed my forehead. "You're so funny!"
I looked up at him and grinned. "I know." I studied his face carefully. He had a good 5 inches on me, so he was looking down. His dark eyes were laughing again, as they always were. Reaching a hand up, I traced a finger down the faint scar above his left eyebrow. A little reminder of Nathan. Ben grinned again, showing perfect white teeth. "I can see a pattern in your freckles."
I rolled my eyes. My freckles had dimmed and almost disappeared as I got older. Now you could only see them if you were standing really close to me, which Ben was. He leaned down to kiss me. As I kissed him back, I thought about how far we had come since the first time he had kissed me. I hadn't spoken to him for a week after that. We'd been together almost 4 months now. In my mind that was quite an achievement. And I wasn't anywhere near finished with him yet. He was too perfect. We'd both grown up a lot over those 4 months. Me especially, I hoped. Eventually Ben sighed and pulled back. "I have to go."
I sighed and nodded. "Rehearsal."
"Yeah." He took my hand and I walked him to his car. Another thing that had really bloomed over those four months was the band. They were doing so well it was scary. Stricken had made the triple J net 50, and the band had gigs almost every night. I had hardly seen Ben of late. It was hard not to be jealous when they were groupies who saw more of him that I did. I understood though. Music meant everything to Ben, and I wanted them to do well. They were so good. "Come with me." Ben said, tugging on my hands. I regretfully shook my head. "Can't. I've got a lot of maths homework to do."
Ben pouted and kissed me again. "Come on. I've hardly seen you lately Hail."
"I know." Boy did I know. I was really starting to miss him. That seemed a really stupid thing to say, considering he was standing right next to me. I could go along and watch, but sitting on the smelly couch in the Leigh's garage while Liam yelled at everyone was hardly my favourite past time. I wouldn't get to see much of Ben anyway. The band might be doing well, but they still had to rehearse in a garage. "Well what time do you finish?" I asked.
He shrugged. "Whenever Liam says we can, the tyrant."
"Come over then."
"But it might be late."
I shrugged. "I don't care. You can come in the back way." I told him grinning. We had devised a way for Ben to get into my room by climbing up the pergola out the back. He grinned back and kissed me again. "You're such a bad influence on me." he muttered against my mouth. I laughed. "More like the other way around."
Ben sighed and checked his watch. "I have to go. Sure you won't come?" he asked hopefully.
I shook my head. "I'll see you later. Then you can concentrate more. Tell Liam I said hi."
"Ok." He gave me one last kiss and climbed into the car. "See you later."
"Bye." I watched as he pulled out of the car park, then wandered back over to the rest of my friends.
"So who was that anyway?" Chase asked, faking confusion. I rolled my eyes.
"Come on guys. You know how hard they're working. Give him a break."
Jared grinned. "You know, I think I almost like it better when you two were fighting all the time. At least you weren't sticking your tongues down each others throats then."
I gave him a dirty look and sat down next to Dan. "Chase does have a point though. That was the first time I've seen Ben since Thursday afternoon." Scott said.
"Yeah, but all their hard work is paying off." Kate said. "I heard Stricken again yesterday afternoon. So they're getting a lot of air play."
Jared nodded. "Yeah they are. And they're playing at The Arena on Saturday night. Guess who they're supporting?"
I frowned. Ben hadn't told me any of this. "Who?"
Dan's mouth fell open. "Seriously? Wow. That's awesome."
"Tell me about it. Those guys only pick the best bands to support them." Jared continued. "Ben didn't say anything about that." I said.
"Don't worry about it. He's been preoccupied. He's nervous about it as well. That's why Liam's been calling all the extra practices." Jared said. I felt a bit better. Ben had been preoccupied lately. It could have easily slipped his mind, although Spitfire were his idols. "Seriously Hail. He just forgot, that's all." Jared insisted, grabbing my arm. I nodded. Jared and I had forgotten our previous differences long ago. He'd apologised right after Ben and I had gotten together. Dan checked her watch. "We'd better go. Hailey and I have a heap of work to do for McCann. He'll murder us if we don't do it." she stood up. I nodded and followed her.
"We'll see you guys later. Tomorrow probably."
They all nodded. "Bye." Mac said.
"Oh Hailey, if you see Ben later, can you tell him I need a lift to school tomorrow?" Jared asked smirking at me. I blushed and nodded. They all knew about the way Ben climbed into my room in the middle of the night. But it was all completely innocent. So far. After all, Ben was healthy, red-blooded male. They didn't believe me when I said nothing had happened. We said our goodbyes and left.
Dan and I went back to my house where we slaved over our maths until it was done. Maths was neither of our strong points. When we were done Dan disappeared into Sean's bedroom with him. Yech. I vanished into the depths of mine and turned the music up loudly. Stricken was being played on triple J yet again. It was an awesome song. The band had developed quite a following. Even as I listened some chick from Alice Springs rang in and told of her desires to have Liam's children. I laughed. It wasn't surprising really. Liam was a great looking guy, plus he was cheeky and the lead singer of an up and coming band. I didn't care, as long as those girls, (and guys, as the case may be) kept their hands off Ben. Dan left around 7. I had a shower and settled down to watch the Simpson's with Simon. Dad came in and did his best Mr Burns impersonation, and Sean emerged as well. Emma spent her night downstairs on the computer. She's at the stage where anything to do with family is embarrassing.
I went to bed around ten. I slipped Splintered Tears' demo into the player and fell asleep listening to Ben's voice. 'Have a little faith' was the last song on the CD. I woke what seemed to be hours later, hearing someone utter a swear word right outside my window. I smiled and sat up. I opened the window just in time to see Ben's head appear from beneath the grape vines. He hauled himself in through the window and landed on my bed. "Damn possums." He slipped his shoes off and slid into the bed beside me. I rested my head on his chest, listening to his heartbeat. "How did the rehearsal go?"
Ben sighed and his chest heaved. "Liam's getting very tense. We spent most of the time arguing amongst ourselves. Dylan poured a whole bottle of coke over Braith's head after he kicked over the high hat and dinted it."
I laughed. Dylan was the only girl in the band, and the drummer. She was one of the feistiest people I knew. "You'll do fine. I heard Stricken on the radio again today."
Ben stretched and sighed, twirling a strand of my hair around his finger. "Yeah I know. We reached number 8 on the net 50 last night."
I wriggled around to face him. "Ben that's fantastic!"
Ben smiled. "It's pretty good." He looked a bit upset. I sat up.
"What makes you think there's something wrong?"
"Because you're not yourself. You're not making rude remarks, and you've been here 5 minutes and you haven't tried anything."
Ben gave me a wicked grin and pulled me down beside him. He flung the blanket over our heads and proceeded to cover my face and neck with kisses. "Better?"
I reluctantly stopped him. "What's really wrong?"
Ben sighed. "I don't know. I just don't know if this is what I want."
"What?" I asked, my heart beating faster.
"Oh god, not you Hail. I don't know what I'd do without you. I mean the band and everything. Everything's happening so fast. Liam reckons there's going to be representative's from the record label there on Saturday night. I don't want to be famous. I'm not even 18. I want to be able to spend time with my friends and my girlfriend. And Liam's been so tense, we've been fighting more than we ever have over the last week."
I reached up and kissed his cheek. "It'll be ok. You don't know what could happen in the future. Cross that bridge when you come to it. And as for me, I'm right here."
Ben grinned. "I know." His eyes darkened as they raked over my face and down my body. His mouth quickly descended to cover mine. "Stop talking now." He demanded. I complied.
It occurred to me the amount of trouble I would be in if my father or Sean just happened to walk in to check on me or something. Ben and I had a fairly unique relationship. We were pretty open about sex and the physical aspects of the relationship. Sex wasn't such a taboo subject with us, like it was with a lot of kids our age. All of them thought about it. Not many of them did it. Don't get me wrong, Ben and I hadn't. We knew our limits. But I think it made us closer, being so comfortable with our sexuality. Hey, we were kids. We were allowed to be. But for all of our exploits, we were yet to exchange those three small words. I like Ben, a lot. I love him, but I'm not sure if I'm in love with him. But I'm only 17, and still not sure if I really know what love is. Only time would tell.
Ben's hands found their way under my top. I winced. "Cold hands."
"Oh sorry." He muttered. After a few more minutes of fooling around Ben glanced at the clock. "argh. It's nearly midnight. I'd better go. What are you doing tomorrow?" he asked. I thought. "Nothing. Don't you have rehearsal?"
He shook his head, his dark hair flying everywhere. "No. Liam gave us the day off. Wasn't that nice of him?"
I laughed. "What do you want to do?"
Ben shrugged. "Want to go to the movies?" he asked. I nodded. "Sure."
"Cool." Ben rolled over on top of me and kissed me goodbye. "See you tomorrow."
I nodded again as he rolled off the bed and pulled his shoes on. "Bye." I said as he swung his legs out the window. As I watched him go I felt a familiar feeling well up inside of me. I think that I'm beginning to understand what love is.