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Regret: What You Wish To Forget

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Tonight had been a bit depressing honestly. It was supposed to be ‘A-Night-Out-With-The-Gang’ sort of a deal but one half of the crew was busy or otherwise predisposed, leaving Jim, Ben and Larry to a pub night by themselves. By no means was it unfun - nothing was ‘unfun’ with Jim - but it wasn’t the same. That seemed to be how things were anymore - time goes on; people get lives; people lose time. They rarely had the time for one another. Sorrowful things like that became less prevalent the more glasses of whiskey you got through so Ben tried his best to ignore the disheartened feeling without getting drunk. Jim helped - he never failed to make Ben break, on set or otherwise, no matter how down he felt. But Larry helped more, admittedly. Larry’s laughter, Larry’s smile, Larry’s silver-blue eyes - Larry’s everything - had this way of warming his soul. As the evening withered away, Ben had spent his time milking that warmth but now Larry was too far gone drunk, forehead pressed into the likely-cool wood of the table, not-quite asleep but certainly not all here. 

Jim had got up for an apparently important phone call - twenty minutes ago - leaving the pair in silence and if it weren’t for Twitter, God knows Ben would have died of boredom. He was scrolling through a comment section, somewhat disinterested, when Larry groaned something similar to words. 

“Hm?” Ben asked, looking up from his phone. Larry’s chin was now propped up on the table and he blinked as though he couldn’t really open his eyes. 

“Can I lay my head on your…” He motioned wildly in Ben’s general direction. “Arm. Thing. Upper. Shoulder? Shoulder.”

“Sure?” The older man answered, looking back to his mobile. 

The pleather squeaked as Larry scooted nearer in the booth, plopping his head down hard against Ben’s shoulder. He glances over to the head-full of shiny hairs which had already begun to tickle his neck, smiling fondly. Larry by no means smelled good. Actually he smelled like alcohol and sweat but there was an underlying scent that was purely him (Perhaps it was his cologne or shampoo or rather his aftershave. Perhaps it was an amalgamation of it all.) - if only barely masked by the smell of the booze. 

Grin still plastered to his face, Ben had only just exited Twitter when Jim’s slightly irritated voice turned his attention. “All right. Goodbye.” The small man rolled his eyes, going to bury his mobile in his pocket before pausing, smiling teasingly. 

“Everything okay with the ‘important call’?” Ben ignored Jim’s eyeing. 

“Rather shitty, actually.” He responded, brushing over it in favour of pointing out the obvious. “Someone’s sleeping on your shoulder.”

Ben shrugged his shoulder, Larry’s head bobbing with it though it didn’t phase the apparently asleep man. “Yeah, I noticed.”

“Martha’s gonna love that.” Before Ben could protest, Jim snuck a photo. The older man scoffed, glaring lightly. “But yeah. I’ve got to head out. You know… stuff .” He continued, more serious now.

Ben nodded. “ Stuff .”

“That’s all I’ve got to do anymore. Work and Stuff and Stuff and Work.” Ben could see where he was coming from. “Will he be all right?” Jim nodded to Larry again. 

“Yeah.” Ben watched as the head on his shoulder moved, sliding down his chest and landing on his thigh. “I’ve got ‘im.” Ben petted Larry’s head and he couldn’t help but smile while Jim looked knowingly between the two.

“Goodbye, Ben.”

“Bye Jim.”

After a moment of contemplation, Ben bounced his leg a bit, hoping to stur Larry from his drunk, tired stupor. “Hey, Laz.” He spoke softly. “Laz, we should go. I’ve got to get you home.”

“Stay.” He muttered. 

Ben chuckled to himself, “We can’t stay in the pub all night and you certainly can’t stay in my lap. Come on.” 

Larry groaned as Ben shoved him into the sitting position, meeting his eyes with some concern. “How do you feel?”

The younger man smiled, albeit crooked, “Brilliant. Ish.”

Ben huffed laughter, scooting out of the booth, the drunk man reluctantly following. He wrapped his arm around Larry’s waist, draping Larry's own arm over his shoulders as he lead him out. This certainly wasn’t his first time dragging Larry from a bar and he had a feeling it wouldn’t be the last.  

Two feet out the door Larry stumbled over him own feet, leaning his head against Ben’s shoulder as the older man held tighter to him. He groaned against the thin fabric of Ben’s shirt. 

“Are you going to throw up?” Ben asked, looking back and forth as they hurried across the street. 

“Me?” Larry responded rhetorically, trying to remember to walk, “No. I’m fine. Totally… great.” Ben couldn’t help but smile fondly at his friend’s slurred speech. 

“Almost there.”

Eventually they made it to Ben’s small, silver car. He attempted to have Larry stand while he moved some things from the passenger seat, however the second the younger man was let go of, he nearly fell over. 

“Geeze.” Ben commented, grabbing Larry by the elbow. “You’re really, truly, amazingly drunk, you know that right?” He leaned the younger man against the car door, patting him on the chest. 

Larry laughed, leaning his temple against the cool metal of the car. “Am I now?”

Ben began to ramble about how ‘this car is never messy’ and how ‘Charlotte just needs a lot for this stupid wedding’ as he tossed various items over the seat. Larry however wasn’t listening - even if he was sober enough to care - rather he was looking up, eyes shining with the twinkle of stars. If Ben wasn’t so mesmerised he would have taken a photo. 

The older man cleared his throat, resting his forearm on the door jamb, “What’s so interesting?”

“I’ve always liked… stars.” Larry gestured flamboyantly towards the night sky. “All, twinkly.” He made a vague blinking-light motion with his hand. Ben watched, amused when the younger man gasped like a child, pointing to a cluster of stars. “You. That’s you.”

“Larry, come on.” He tried his darndest to sound unamused. 

“No, no. Look - you.”

There were, in fact, a small huddle of glistening stars, dancing in the opaque sky but Ben couldn’t make out any conceivable visage in them. However he stared for a moment and pretended to understand by making some contemplantant noises followed by some agreeable ones. “I guess so, Laz. Now can we go?”

Larry made some scrunched face. “Mm. Yeah. One moment.” He held up a patronising finger, smiling drunkenly before turning and spilling his guts onto the car parked beside Ben’s, innocently watching for a moment as the bile dripped down the door. 

The older man blinked. “Great.” He reached over, grabbing Larry by the elbow again and shoved the bumbling man into the car.

Once he got himself in and helped Larry with his seat belt, he turned to the younger man, glaring at him like a scolding mother, “Don’t. Vomit in my car.” 

“Mm-kay.” He frowned, looking rather disgusted as he ran his tongue over his teeth. Ben questioned him with a huff of laughter. “What are you doing?”

“I taste vile.” Given any other context, Ben may have made a lewd joke or commented on Larry’s phrasing but frankly he wasn’t in the mood. 

“We’ll find a petrol station or chemist’s or something and you can buy a bottle of water.” He glanced over as the younger man continued making childish faces whilst sticking out his tongue, making Ben against smile fondly. “Or rather I buy you water.”

It’s not long since they pulled out of the car park and started down the road the heavy weight of Larry’s head was settled once more against Ben’s shoulder. Anytime Larry was drunk it was a wild card as to what kind of person you got. Usually he was flirty and sometimes he was emotional. Once, on an occasion no one likes to mention, he’d gotten so plastered at a party at Jim’s that he broke a window pane. But for the most part he was enjoyable and Ben thought more than ever that he wasn’t minding this time. 

He can hear the younger man’s rhythmic intake and release of breath and feel the soft brush of his hair against his chin. When Larry nuzzled himself closer to Ben’s neck, the older man felt the rush of complete, unadulterated adoration. He also felt how unsteadily it settled in his stomach. 

Light rain began to beat on the windscreen as they neared the petrol station. Ben pulled into the first open spot, leaning to try and see Larry’s face without jolting him awake. 

“Laz.” He started quietly, gently. The younger man’s eyes fluttered before closing again. “Hey, Larry, we’re here. You’ve got to get off my shoulder.” 

“Mm.” Larry groaned, pulling himself into the sitting position before blinking blearily. 

Ben popped his door open, starting to get out when the drunk man stopped him, attempting to formulate complete words. “You, here. Stay. ‘m good.”

The older man stared incredulously. “I’m not sending you in alone. Not more plastered than a political. Plus I don’t imagine you can walk in a straight line.” 

“ ‘s’okay.” Larry’s hand reached to pat his shoulder, missing and landing on his upper arm. “Trust me.” 

Rolling his eyes, Ben conceded, “Fine. You have five minutes and then I’m coming to get you.” His response was returned with a thumbs up and Ben watched as the younger man dragged himself from the vehicle and stumbled towards the entrance of the building. “God.” He muttered to himself as Larry managed into the building. 

It was silent alone, the light from the moon filtering softly through the windscreen. He began to look around, keeping a steady eye on the time. There was a muscular-looking man at one of the pumps, cigar poised between chapped lips. He wasn’t far away and appeared to be pissed at the card reader. The man turned, eyes meeting Ben’s in an intimidating glare. Ben quickly looked away, turning to watch out his own window. The view was less eventful out the other window as a mother attempted to manhandle her toddler into their minivan, mobile positioned between her shoulder and ear. 

Ben sighed, rubbing his eyes. He pulled out his phone, checking the time first. It had only been three minutes since Larry had gone in. This was going to be a much longer night than he would have preferred. There was a text from Jim. ‘Just wanted you to know I arrived intact. Hope Larry’s doing alright.’ He tried to make his response jovial, ‘He’s very drunk which should tell you enough.’ 

There was another text - three texts - from Charlotte, curious as to his whereabouts, which he ignored, groaning to himself as the low battery warning alerted him of how detrimental it was to forget to charge your mobile.  

Four minutes. Close enough to five he figured, shoving his mobile in his back pocket as he got out of the car. The woman had very nearly gotten her child in his seat and the bulky man’s fists were bruised. 

“Hey,” Ben attempted to get the prepubescent-looking cashier's attention. The young girl smiled falsely, pulling an Airpod out. “Have you seen a drunk nearly-middle-aged man?” 

“Sorry sir. We don’t sell mirrors.” She answered, accent thick, turning her attention back to the podcast she was listening to. 

Ben dropped his arms against his sides, furrowing his eyebrows, irritated. A red-faced scrawny boy peaked from behind a shelf full of crisps, startling the older man slightly. “I think he’s in the bathroom.” 

“Hello-” Ben smiled through his surprise, tight-lipped. 

“He didn’t pay. He just grabbed some things and went in ‘ere.” He nodded to the loo. 

“Thanks.”

The door wasn’t locked when Ben tried it, but he knocked anyway. “Laz?”

There was a faint answer and the sound of water running so he let himself in, switching the lock as he entered. Larry was leaned over the sink, running handfuls of water over his face. At first the younger man didn’t notice his entrance but he soon paused, meeting Ben’s eyes in the mirror. 

“Feel any better?” 

Larry isn’t smiling. He looks more sober than before. “Yeah. A bit.”

Ben breaks their eye contact, glancing to the empty bag of crisps and half-full water bottle before returning his gaze. It feels almost more silent in here than it did alone and Ben swallows thickly. Larry reaches for the water bottle, draining it before refilling it from the tap. 

“I’m not sure you’re supposed to do that before you pay.” The older man smiles though it doesn’t reach his eyes. 

“I… don’t have my wallet. I don’t think.” He pats at his pockets. 

The sober man shrugged, “I’ll pay for it later.” 

Larry smiled apologetically through the mirror. “Thanks, mate.”

Ben stepped forward, resting a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “We should go. I’ve got to get you home.” This time the younger man concedes, turning to face him, his movement swaying slightly, reminding Ben that Larry was, in fact, still drunk.

The drunk man steadied himself by grabbing hold of Ben’s upper arms. For another beat of silence Ben just watched, somewhat amused and somewhat concerned as Larry’s glass eyes flitted about. “I’m sorry.” The younger man choked out eventually. 

“What for? Everything’s fine.”

“Because I think I’m going to kiss you now.”

Ben hesitated because that's not - out of any possible reply - what he expected to hear. “Um… Alright.” 

There was one split moment - before Larry’s lips met his - and in that moment Ben thought of reality. He had fought against his heart’s behest so long. Inattanabe fate. He wants to remind himself he’s married; Larry’s married. God. How horrible is reality? It blissfully slipped away when met with the sure press of Larry’s lips. So, Ben told himself it was his training causing him to slip so seamlessly into the kiss. That he kept going, pulling Larry closer, because he’s an actor and that’s what you do - you play along. 

The younger man tastes like water and salt, and a still-damp hand runs through Ben’s hair. Somehow, it pulls Ben back to the filming of Yonderland all those years ago. Perhaps it’s because that was the first time he’d kissed Larry or perhaps it was just because he needed an excuse for why this felt so right; so perfect. And this isn’t his first time kissing a man when no one was looking so why did it have to be now, Ben wondered, if it could be ever, why now. Maybe it was those stars Larry loved; maybe they’d aligned. Damn them, he thought.

Here, where it matters, Ben is being pressed against the bathroom door, the doorknob pressing rather uncomfortably into his hip. Here, where Ben knows they’ll never be again, tongues colliding and breaths mixing. Here. Ben’s fingers hesitate at the buttons on Larry’s shirt. Here - they shouldn’t be here. 

Ben pushes Larry back carefully. Far enough that they’re only touching where the sober man’s shaking hands lay on his friend’s clothed chest. Larry’s hold is forced to slip from their placement at Ben’s waist, sliding down to his sides - now empty. The younger man is staring as though he’s not sure how to process what just happened; what he’d just done. 

“Um.” Ben breaks their eye contact, removing his hands from Larry’s chest. “I think I should get you home.” 

Larry’s eyes wash with something painful. Guilt maybe. Or heartbreak. Ben can’t tell. “Home.” He repeats. 

Ben smiles gently, sadly. “Mary will be wondering where you are.” The younger man doesn’t quite nod, and Ben fumbles with the lock, pushing it back open.

 The rest of the evening went by on autopilot. He helped Larry to the car, the drunk man watching his own feet as he tried to walk. He looked detached. Like a balloon floating away Larry knew he was going but he wasn’t sure why. Ben watched him - when not the road - the whole way home. His gaze was distant as he admired the stars, temple pressed into the passenger window. And when eventually they get to Larry’s house, Mary is waiting nervously out front, mobile in hand. 

Ben gave some calming speech he won’t remember when he leaves and helps Mary drag her husband inside. The two men shared one last glance before he left. Ben doesn’t quite recall that either. 

But in the morning Larry didn’t remember any of it. Or if he did he didn’t say anything. Ben doesn’t bring it up but when he does it’s alone and to himself and he’d flush with emotions he’d wish weren’t so complex. But that’s how things end - with the hopeless one and the one who should have known better. It will be okay - or something like that.