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The Anniversary Party

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Somehow, even when three sheets to the wind, he looks as dapper as ever. It would take a knowing eye to see that anything was out of sorts with their beloved host. His hair, for instance, was slightly unkempt, his pocket square was missing, and his trademark bowtie had been loosened. In comparison to his usual on-air appearance, he was a wreck. He tells John as much.

“Mr. Cerf, your behavior both on the program and off it has become positively kittenish. Don’t think I haven’t noticed,” John says over the rim of his glass.

“Mr. Daly, I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about,” Bennett deflects.

“Oh, come now, Bennett.” John takes a drink. It’s a honey colored liquid filled with ice that clinks against the crystal glass he was holding in one of his large hands. “It’s been going on for years now.”

There was no point in pretending anymore.

“You’re not the picture of innocence either, you know.”

John looks away, face turning a tasteful shade of pink. John is lucky; he can always blame his comments on his drinks. And if anyone knew what he'd said, no one would blame him for drinking too much since their fearless leader rarely let loose. John was over six feet tall, but to Bennett, he somehow looked so small leaning against the wall like that, contemplating his drink (and their conversation) with a serious look on his face.

Bennett wishes he hadn’t said anything, and he sips his wine. It’s even redder than Arlene’s dress. He hopes the sound of the Frank Sinatra records did their job of drowning out their conversation for the other partygoers. Five years on air was something to be proud of, after all.

“So what is to be done about this?” John asks.

Bennett looks up from his glass and sees John looking at him with his big, brown doe eyes, full of emotion. Guilt gnaws at his stomach. He shouldn't have said anything.

“Nothing, John. Can’t a fellow like a fellow without being cornered at a party?”

“Not if that fellow makes reference to it on live television every week.”

John gives a loose smile. Perhaps if he weren’t just a little drunk, it would have been a full blown smile that showed off the apples of his cheeks and his pearly white teeth. Bennett notes how John’s celebratory whiskeys have left his immaculate moderator soft around the edges.

“I’m sorry, John.”

“Oh, Bennett, please. We’re closer than all that, aren’t we?”

Bennett lets out a sigh he didn’t know he was holding. He smiles in relief, adjusts his glasses.

“Yes, I suppose we are,” he says, sticking out a hand for John to shake.

John takes his hand and shakes it, but before he lets Bennett go, he pulls him forward for a quick kiss on the lips. Bennett blinks, and it’s over. He stares at John in disbelief.

“I didn’t want you to think your efforts were in vain or anything of that sort,” John explains. “Your deserved a token of recognition. You know.”

For once, Bennett was willing to admit that he didn’t know, but he bites his tongue and nods because it was probably best to forget this had ever happened.

After a moment of heavy silence between them, Bennett says, “I think I’m going to try some of Arlene’s Special Punch. I could use it right about now.”

“You do that, old boy. I think perhaps I’ll lie down for a bit. My head is starting to hurt tremendously.”

With that, John pats Bennett on the shoulder before slipping between guests to Arlene and Martin’s upper floor where their guest bedroom was located.

The following Sunday, Bennett introduces John as John “Casanova” Daly.

John laughs heartily.