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"Anna doesn't mind."

He whispers it in Jonny's ear when they leave the stage, bodies close together, no closer than they have been before, and could anyone blame him for wanting to be closer still?

They hadn't talked about it, but then, how could they? Men hug and kiss; it's the 21st fucking century, and even a good grope could be back-slapped away in the changing rooms, between pints that replenished the pounds of weight they left in sweat and tears on stage every night; in the deniability of a wink and a cheeky grin. Really, it was suprising what you could get away with. Anything but words, really.

Jonny grins and kisses his cheek; he hasn't heard, obviously. But they have a table together, and Ben settles in close, rubbing thigh against thigh, and just when did Jonny get so frighteningly skinny? There's none of the Creature in him now; he's all smiles and lean lines. Ben wants to run his tongue over them; wants to know what male tastes like. Whiskey, he imagines, for one reason or another. Bitter, like stout, with a pinch of table salt and iron. Jonny leans over, reaching
for his drink, and Ben tries again, suit brushing against stubble. "Anna doesn't mind."

Jonny's smile is 98% confusion. "Sorry?"

"I said," Ben lowers his voice, heartbeat thundering in his blood, shaking the chair, no doubt, "Anna doesn't mind."

Jonny swallows, looks around, grows serious. Says something Ben can't hear over the din, and points to the back of the room, where the wardrobes are. Ben nods.

Well, no, of course they hadn't talked about it. It was about the only thing they hadn't beaten half to death, conversationally, before things changed, and they didn't need words anymore. One time, Jonny had fallen asleep in the pub after a particularly trying night - double Creature performance; murder, Ben well knew - and Ben had taken him home in a taxi, digging his keys out of the pocket of his too-tight jeans and half-carrying him to bed. They could have talked then, if Jonny hadn't been snoring away, or Ben could have stayed. He didn't; he took the spare key off the hook in the hall, locked himself out and needled Jonny endlessly the morning after.

Then, there was the cast party.

A mess of drunken hugs and whispered nonsense, and Jonny slurring that he'd seen Ben's cock more often than he's seen his wife naked, and a look in his eyes; a hand on Benedict's arse that never went further, because Olivia did mind, and Ben respected that. God, why wouldn't he?

Two weeks later, there was no more Olivia, and that was enough for Ben to deal with then and there, even without the presence of Michelle at the afterparty, flown in from LA for the night, her eyes on him, all curious. He should have realized then, but he hadn't; not for months, until Jonny, oh so casually, over lunch of all things, mentioned how long it had been since he'd found someone both he and Michelle liked. How he missed men, and how different it was (and Ben thought of Martin, straight as a ruler, in New Zealand), only to trail off into unrestrained praise of picked onions.

Still, for whatever reason, Ben had done nothing. Martin came back, gorgeous and close and warm and utterly platonic, getting too intimate and touchy when tipsy; then, with his arm over Ben and lips grazing his ear, speaking only of Amanda, and how lucky he was to have her. Then Martin left, and there was Anna, and Anna... Anna didn't mind.

Now, standing in between racks of coats and designer jackets, Ben pulls Jonny in, because sod waiting! Not now, not after more than a year of this, and his tongue gets a wet, muffled welcome... not for long.

"Okay," Jonny breathes, pushing him away, "woah."

"What," Ben asks, already knowing, the quiet buzz of champagne in his head.

"Listen, mate... I think we got some wires crossed, OK?"

Benedict nods. A hint of whiskey, he thinks. But really, that could just be whiskey.

"It's not... I mean, you know about me and Michelle."

"She gets veto." And Ben respected that. God, why wouldn't he?

Jonny shakes his head. "No... I mean, yeah, she does, but she likes you. I like you too."

Ah. There it was.

"I'm really sorry. I don't... it's just some guys, you know? Some guys I feel it with, some I don't."

"No, no... that's... I shouldn't have assumed..." The words come naturally; it's not the first time he's had to say them. First time to a man, though.

Benedict slinks back to the party, fiddling with his cigarettes. In his mind's eye stands Martin, partnered, straight, home-watching-antiques-roadshow-conventional, returned from a backwards summer, bronzed and skinny like a teenager, telling him he looked amazing.

And Benedict wishes he really did.