Summary: Ben finally gets his second novel published.
Archive Date: 26 June 2006
Notes: Spoilers for Season 4. This story was inspired by the song, I Wanna Thank Everyone (Who Ever Told Me No) by Buddy Jewell, winner of the first season of "Nashville Star".
"It's not your fault that you're more Justice League than Ivy League."
Ben sat up in bed, heart pounding, as those words came slamming back into his mind. He looked over at Michael, who was still sleeping peacefully. Ben took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, grateful that he hadn't woken his husband.
These words had been haunting him the last few weeks. Apparently his sub-conscious had decided that it was time to finally atone for those words said in jealousy and frustration some five years ago.
Rather than fight his sub-conscious, Ben gave in. He dug the manuscript out from the file cabinet and put it in his briefcase to take with him to work. He usually had some time between classes when he could re-read it and see about making some revisions, maybe even re-submit it to one of the publishers that had passed the first time.
The next day in his office, Ben took the book out and started reading. As he did, the rest of the conversation with Michael that night came flooding back. Ben had pushed and pushed, forcing Michael to offer his opinion about the book, an opinion Ben realized that he didn't really want to hear. Michael had tried to be gentle, but the words still hurt. Then when the first rejection letter came, saying almost the same thing that Michael had, in somewhat blunter terms, he had taken his frustrations out on him.
Of course it didn't help that Brett Keller was fawning all over Michael and Justin, praising Rage and promising to make it into a blockbuster movie. To be failing miserably at something he loved to do, at the same time that his partner was experiencing wild success, was debilitating to Ben; none of his Buddhist beliefs were able to rescue him.
Enough time had passed since he wrote this story, so he was able to read it with a kind of detached, non-biased view, as if someone else had written it. It became quite clear that Michael and the publishers had been right -- it was too long, too confusing, and too vague.
He tried to read a couple of chapters each day, making notes to himself about how he could make it better. There were some sub-plots that really didn't add to the story that he cut out entirely, and he added some extra information about the main character that would bring him into focus.
The biggest change was to the overall concept of the story. He had set it in Paris, France, in the 1930's. A period piece in a foreign land? That was really too much to take on; it really needed it to be one or the other. He decided to keep the setting in Paris, the city for lovers, but set in present times. He told himself that it had nothing to do with Brett's remark about period pieces being hard to sell; it was just his affinity for the French people and their country.
Several weeks later he submitted his newly revised manuscript to Green Mountain Press; since they had been the most interested in the story in its original form, and kept his fingers crossed. He hadn't told Michael about re-working his book, hoping that he'd be able to keep it a surprise if he were successful. His patience was rewarded when he got a letter back from the publishers, saying that they loved the story, and wanted to publish it. They agreed on a release date, and worked with Liberty Books to host a release party and book signing event.
Ben continued to keep all of this a secret from Michael, but told all of their friends, as well as Deb and Carl. Justin was even able to schedule a trip from New York to come join the celebration.
On the day of the party, Ben went out to Red Cape Comics to pick up his husband for their "date". He'd told Michael that he was in the mood to go out to eat somewhere, other than the Diner, to which Michael quickly agreed. As Michael turned over the "Closed" sign and locked up, he asked, "So where did you park the car?"
Ben replied, "I didn't drive, we're actually walking there."
Michael's brows furrowed in confusion. "The only place to eat that's within walking distance is the Diner. I thought we were going somewhere else."
Ben just grinned, but said nothing. As they walked down the street, getting closer to Liberty Books, Michael could see that there was a good-sized crowd inside. His confusion grew as he realized that the crowd contained Brian, Ted, Emmett, his mom and Carl. "Ben, what's going on?"
As they reached the door, Michael saw the signs in the store windows, announcing the release of Benjamin Bruckner's second novel, Mon Amour, and that the writer would be on hand today to sign copies of the book. Michael just stared at Ben, realization finally coming over him. "You re-worked your book, didn't you?" he asked.
"Yep, I did," Ben answered. "I decided it was time to give it another go, and see if I could get it published. Green Mountain Press accepted it once I revised the story, using your suggestions, so I wanted to surprise you."
As they walked through the crowd, receiving hugs and congratulations from all of their friends, Michael felt an overwhelming sense of pride and admiration for his amazingly talented husband. The store had set up a small table and chairs where Ben could sit and sign the books. As they reached the table, Ben turned around to face the crowd, and held up his hands to get everyone's attention.
"First of all, I want to thank all of you for coming out to see me today, and to help with the release of my second book. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by such great friends and family. Secondly, I promise to stay as long as it takes to sign everyone's book."
"Lastly, I want to say a few words about the man standing beside me, my husband, Michael Novotny. When I initially wrote this book, I asked Michael to read it, and tell me what he thought. Unfortunately I didn't want to hear what he thought, and it caused quite a bit of friction in our relationship. Even when my publishers said essentially the same things he had, I didn't want to believe it. I said and did some very unkind things that I wish I could take back, but of course that's impossible. What I've tried to do since that time is show him how much I love him, to earn his forgiveness for that time in our lives."
"I like to think that he's forgiven me by now," Ben continued, looking over at Michael, who just beamed and nodded slightly, "but there's one last thing I want to do to show him how truly sorry I am about those events." Ben opened a copy of the book, and turned to the dedications page, then handed it to Michael so that he could see what he'd written. Michael looked down at the page, tears forming in his eyes as he read:
To Michael Novotny -- my husband, my lover, my best friend. The purity of your love humbles me, especially during the times when I feel I deserve it least. You truly are in a league of your own.
Ben watched Michael read the dedication, a big smile plastered on his face. When Michael looked up, Ben pulled him in for a warm embrace, and kissed away his tears. The crowd exploded in applause as they watched, cheering for the happy couple.
When Ben and Michael pulled apart, they just stood there, staring into each other's eyes. In the way that only people deeply in love can do, one apologized, the other accepted, and they both promised to show each other their love later that evening.
Buddy Jewell, I Wanna Thank Everyone (Who Ever Told Me No)
I wanna thank everyone who ever told me no,
(Pack it up and get back home.
(It kept me going knowin' I would prove them wrong,
(Yeah, I knew it all along.
(Without 'em I might have given up a long time ago, and so,
(I wanna thank everyone who ever told me no.
End of "Atonement" by Kirsten (email@example.com)
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