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John flicked a page across and continued reading through the script, trying to ignore the way his hand was throbbing. Across the room, Graham was studying him, chewing on his pipe and making him feel rather uncomfortable.

“What is it, Graham?”

“Nothing,” Graham said. “Just thinking.”

“Do you have to look at me while you’re doing it? It’s creeping me out.”

“Yes, I do, John,” Gray said, his tone of voice making part of John begin to worry that Graham might have known what had happened. “Because I’m thinking about something that has to do with you.”

“What?”

Graham had to be lying. How could he know what had happened?

-----------

Somehow, John found himself in Tim’s dressing room, and he had no recollection of how he got there. Thanks to the massive amount of alcohol he had drank, he seemed to be missing massive parts of his memory.

Tim thumped down on the sofa next to him, sitting so close that their thighs were touching. It made John feel uncomfortable, but he didn’t have enough room to simply shuffle away.

“I r’lly like y-you, John,” he slurred, giving John a wonky grin. “D’you know th-that?”

John nodded awkwardly. “Yes, Tim.”

“Really l-like you,” He squeezed John’s hand, which he quickly prised from Tim’s grip.

They sat in awkward silence for a few minutes, and then Tim . . . pounced. Before John knew what was happening, Tim put his hands on the sides of his head and kissed him, hard.

Stiffening, John shoved him hard in the chest, sending Tim sprawling to the floor.

“Get the fuck off me!” He wiped his lips in disgust, and stared at his friend, horrified.

“What the fuck was that?” He yelled.

Tim scrabbled backwards, his eyes widening, trying to get away. “I, John, I—”

“Shut up!” John was fuming, his hands trembling and his heart pounding, and he didn’t know what to do. But then he saw the way Tim was looking at him, like he was the one at fault, and he saw red. “Shut the fuck up! Why would you even try to fucking kiss me, you fucking poof!?”

He crouched down and grabbed the front of Tim’s shirt, watching the other man begin to panic, and, before he could stop himself, drove his fist against the side of Tim’s face. Tim screamed, his voice cracking, and he tried to pull away from John, but his grip was too strong.

“John, s-stop, pl-please,” Tim started to cry, looking so pathetic that, if possible, it made John even angrier.

“Why would you even try to do that?” Anger seethed through him, and John punched him in the face again, even though it made pain shoot through his hand.

“I’m sorry,” Tim sobbed. “I d-didn’t th-think.”

“Damn right you didn’t think.” Tim’s face was going red, but John didn’t care.

He let go of him, and Tim overbalanced, banging the back of his head into the wall. He cried out again, but he got no sympathy from John.

John straightened up, clenching and unclenching his fists. “You bloody poof! If you tell anyone about this . . .”

He drove his foot into Tim’s chest and then stormed out of the room, leaving the other man curled up in a sobbing mess on the floor.

It was only when he had turned the corner that he seemed to realise quite what he had done. He had just beaten up his friend. He felt sick. But he didn’t have the courage or the will to go and apologise, so he didn’t go back.

----------

Graham stumbled down the corridor, dragging his feet and singing songs to himself under his breath, feeling pleasantly tipsy, not completely blotto like he sometimes got. He rounded the corner . . . and that was when he heard it. Noises that sounded like someone was crying. Concerned, Gray followed the noise, and found himself outside Tim’s dressing room. Taking a deep breath, he pushed the door open, and gasped.

Tim was curled up on the floor, clutching at his chest, sobbing loudly. His face was all swollen on one side, and there were tears streaming down his face. It looked like he’d been beaten up.

“Bloody hell, Tim,” he said, and Tim looked up at him. He saw fear in his friend’s eyes, and he knew for certain someone had hurt him. Trembling, Graham crouched down beside Tim and tried to reach for his shoulder, but Tim flinched away. “Sorry. What happened to you?”

But Tim seemed to be so hysterical that he couldn’t speak. Gray sighed. “Do you want a hug?”

Tim nodded, and Gray let him wrap his arms around him, and carefully patted Tim’s back as his friend howled, shaking violently. It seemed to go on forever, but Tim finally seemed to calm down. He scrubbed at his eyes and swallowed hard, and the bruising on his cheekbone was beginning to show, turning half of his face slightly blue. Graham put his arm around his heaving shoulders and rubbed his back, still not sure what to do.

“What happened, Tim?” He said softly.

But he didn’t get an answer; Tim wouldn’t tell him, no matter how many times he asked him.

------

But, now, he had an idea. And he was going to keep pressing John until he got the answer out of him one way or another.

“You know, John, someone beat Tim up last night.” He said, watching his friend closely.

John gave him an innocent look, and Gray didn’t know if it was genuine or not. Why did he have to be friends with a group of actors, for goodness’ sake?

“Really?”

“Yes. I found him in his dressing room on my way back from the bar. Someone had punched him several times in the face and kicked him in the chest.”

He saw John’s eyes widen slightly, but then he seemed very concerned, and Gray still didn’t know if it was an act or not. “Bloody hell. Why?”

“I don’t know,” he sighed. “Tim wouldn’t tell me.”

And John wouldn’t either. Gray just wished that his idea was false, because, if it was true, he wouldn’t know how he could keep on working with someone who would beat another person up for no reason. But then he looked at John’s bruised knuckles, and he just didn’t know what to do.

--------

Even though it was several days later, John dreaded seeing Tim again after what had happened. He dragged his feet in their stupid shoes and didn’t look at any of the others when he found them backstage, Tim dressed as a police officer, and Marty and Gray, like him, dressed as men doing a very bad job of pretending to be women. He knew he looked like a bloody idiot in his wig and dress, but he knew one had to make sacrifices when one was a comedian for a living. John tried to ignore the way Marty was chatting to Tim, looking like he was comforting him.

They were getting ready to perform a sketch that was likely to end in disaster, what with three of them being in drag, but John’s heart wasn’t in it. He thumped down into a chair and stared blankly at his hands. When he saw the swelling on his knuckles, he hid his hands under his legs, and sighed.

“You know, I can see right up your skirt,” Graham said, obviously trying to make a joke. John smiled weakly, wishing Graham wouldn’t keep staring at him like that.

He looked up when their makeup girl came into the room, carrying a big bag of stage makeup. “Right then, chaps,” she said, beaming. “I just need to do your makeup, and you should be ready to go.”

She sat down next to John and began to dab powder on his forehead and nose, obviously trying not to laugh at how he was dressed. Still, that meant his costume was funny, and that was the whole point of it.

“There you are, Mr Cleese,” she said when she was finished, and John thanked her, watching her get up and start on Graham next. “Mr Chapman, why do you need to have a moustache on if you’re dressed as a woman?” She asked, fixing Graham’s false moustache onto his top lip.

“It’s complicated.” Graham said.

When Gray was done, she moved to where Marty and Tim were both sat, and let out a loud gasp. “Jesus Christ, what happened to your poor face?”

John forced himself to keep a straight face, knowing Graham was staring at him, and looked over at Tim. For the first time since . . . it happened, he saw Tim’s face, and he felt sick again. Tim’s cheek had gone almost black with bruising, and John wanted to be throw up, knowing his hand had done that.

Tim sniffed and shrugged his shoulders. “It’s nothing. Just hit my face on something.”

He saw Graham staring at him, and he didn’t know what to do. In the end, he did nothing, staring at the floor and trying not to look over at the man he had beaten up.

---------

“What on E-earth’s happening in here?” Marty poked his head around the door, making Tim jump violently. Graham patted his shoulder and tried to calm him down. “Tim, are you cr-crying?”

“No,” Tim sobbed, trying to wipe his sore face dry.

“Here,” Marty held out a handkerchief and kneeled down beside them. Tim took it, smiling pathetically.

“He’s been b-beaten up,” Graham said, somewhat unnecessarily.

“Bloody hell, you poor thing,” Marty said, staring at Tim’s bruised face. “By whom?”

“I don’t know,” Gray sighed, squeezing Tim’s arm. Marty sighed and wrapped his arms around Tim too, so they were both hugging him, and Gray just wished he could do something to help his friend.

---------

The sketch went better than Graham had anticipated, and by that he meant it was a total cock up. He and Marty went off script and changed their characters’ names to try to make Tm laugh, and John copied them, and soon everyone was laughing and the sketch was almost derailed. Even though the makeup girl had done a brilliant job of covering up Tim’s bruises, his face was still visibly swollen, and it made Gray want to cry.

Still, their game of Make Tim Corpse seemed to have worked, because he was smiling a lot more now. John seemed to be a bit happier too, probably because Tim was in a better mood, and that only made Graham more concerned. It was looking more and more like John was the one who beat him up, and that, to be frank, scared Gray. He just hoped he was wrong.

But Tim still wasn’t right, and it wasn’t just about the fact his face was so badly bruised. It was the fact that he wouldn’t leave his side, and seemed to be constantly clinging to either him or Marty, like he was scared to be on his own. Yet he never once went near John, and flinched whenever John raised his voice at anyone.

“Tim, can I talk to you for a moment?” He asked, and Tim nodded, following him until he was sure no one else was in earshot. “Now, is it all right if we talk about what happened to you the other night?”

“No!” Tim looked panicky again, his eyes going wide.

Graham sighed, not wanting to snap but finding it hard not to. “But—”

“What’re you two talking about?” Marty said, appearing out of nowhere. Gray sighed again.

“Nothing,” Tim said, his voice going a bit too high pitched.

“No, we are talking about something,” Graham said, knowing he was going to have to be firm to help his friend, even though Tim looked like he was going to break down again. “We’re talking about why he got beaten up – and who did it.”

“Please, let’s not talk about it,” Tim said desperately, and Marty put his arm around him.

Graham sighed, realising that he wasn’t going to get an answer out of Tim. And even though he felt bad for pressing him when he was clearly in a state, he decided to just say it. “Was it John?”

“What?” Tim stumbled slightly, his horrified face telling all Graham needed to know.

“What do you mean, Gray?” Marty said, holding onto Tim in case he fell.

“Was John the one who hit you?”

“What?” Marty gasped. Tim just stood there, looking close to tears.

Graham swallowed hard and rubbed the back of his neck. “Bloody hell, I was right.”

“What? Are you trying to tell me John did that to Tim?” Marty asked, and Gray saw tears dribble down Tim’s face.

“Yes.”

“No, you can’t, I—” Tim stuttered.

“Yes, I can,” Gray insisted, giving Tim’s shoulder a squeeze. “He hurt you, Tim.”

“Fucking hell, I can’t believe it,” Marty said, stunned. “Why?”

Tim shrugged, but Gray thought he saw a look of panic cross his face. “Don’t know.”

“Well don’t you worry, Tim,” Gray said. “Just stay with Marty, and I’m going to have a word with John.”

“No! You can’t. Please.” Tim begged, grabbing hold of his arm.

“He can’t hurt you if you stay with Marty, Tim, you’ll be fine. I promise.” He smiled sadly at the smaller man and walked off, desperate to find John so he tell him exactly what he thought of him.

----------

He found John in the canteen, sat right in the corner, reading through the script for the sketches they were filming the next day. Gray clearly saw his bruised knuckles, grimacing when he thought of John punching Tim in the face, and wandered over to him, trying his hardest to pretend to be calm.

He pulled back the chair and sat down without saying anything, watching John look up and a look of panic cross his face.

“Hello, Gray,” he said, not sounding nearly as calm as he was obviously trying to be.

“Now, John, I’m not going to mince my words here, and I’m just going to bloody well say it. Why the bloody hell did you beat up Tim?”

“What?” John dropped his script, his jaw hanging open.

“You heard me.” He said, folding his arms across his chest.

“I don’t know what you’re tal—”

“Cut the crap, John, I know you’re lying.” Even though it sort of hurt him to be being so rude to his friend, he tried to have no sympathy for him. “And before you say anything, Tim didn’t tell me anything; I just worked it out.”

“What the hell?” John said, but he looked like he was panicking.

“I mean, it’s hard not to see your bruised knuckles,” Gray said, and John moved his hand out of his view. “And, coupled with the fact that Tim is now terrified of you, it wasn’t exactly difficult to work out. You’re an absolute wanker, mate.”

John swallowed and rubbed at his eyes, looking slightly dazed. “I don’t . . . I didn’t mean to, I . . .”

“Well it looked deliberate to me.”

“I, I’m sorry?”

Graham sighed. “Don’t apologise to me, John, apologise to Tim.”

But then John began to scowl, clenching his hands into fists. “But then he owes me an apology too.”

He stood up and stormed off, and, sighing, Graham trailed after him, determined to get him to accept what he had done. “John! Come back. Don’t be a bloody child.”

Despite being a bit hung-over, Graham went hurtling after him, trying to ignore the way people were staring at him, and eventually found John in his dressing room.

“Stop running away from me and grow up, John,” he said, trying to catch his breath. “We’re going to have this out – you need to apologise to Tim.”

It was then he realised that John was crying. John Cleese was crying, his shoulders shaking and his hands hiding his face. Yet Gray felt little sympathy after he remembered Tim’s hysterical crying the night before. Sighing, he closed the door and sat down beside him.

“Why are you crying?”

John sniffed heavily. “Leave me alone.”

“No.”

“Graham,” John said warningly, but the thickness to his voice didn’t make him sound remotely threatening. “Go away.”

“Or what? You’ll punch me in the face for no reason and then try to pretend you haven’t done anything?”

“You don’t understand,” John said.

“Damn right I don’t!” Gray said. “I thought I knew who you were after being your friend for all these years, but . . .”

“I didn’t just do it for no reason, Gray!” John snapped, scrubbing his face dry and turning to look at him. “And I feel like shit for it, can’t you tell? I feel so fucking bad that I want to be sick.”

“So what was the ‘reason’ then?” Graham said, not sure if there was actually a good enough reason for beating up Tim.

John sighed shakily, looking away from him and staring at his bruised knuckles. “He kissed me.”

“What?” Graham didn’t know what to say; he was just so confused, and amazed to know he wasn’t the only gay cast member, and scared to know he was friends with someone who might beat him up too if he were to come out.

“He kissed me. So I shoved him away. I was just so angry, and then I started hitting him, and . . .”

“Why did it make you angry?”

John looked at him like he was an idiot. “Because it’s wrong, Graham. You can’t just go around snogging other men.”

Graham sighed, thinking of David, his partner, and how they met last year in Ibiza. Their love didn’t seem wrong to him, yet he didn’t have the guts to tell John Tim wasn’t the only one who was gay. “I didn’t even know Tim was a homosexual.”

“Well, it’s not exactly something people like to shout from the rooftops, is it, Graham?”

Sighing, Graham said, “Look, none of this really matters. The fact of the matter is you’ve hurt Tim and you need to apologise to him. He’s terrified of you now, haven’t you noticed?”

“Of course I’ve noticed,” John said, his lip beginning to wobble. “And I’ve already said I feel like shit for it. I mean, you know what my temper’s like, not that that’s an excuse, of course.”

“Yes, I do.” Gray said, thinking of the many occasions where John had gotten so angry that he actually scared him. And it wasn’t easy to scare someone who drank so much that they didn’t always know what was going on.

------

John felt sick as he knocked on the door of Tim’s dressing room. He considered backing out, but he knew Graham would be lurking somewhere nearby, and he would definitely catch him.

“Hello, Tim, can I come in?”

A few seconds later, the door opened lightly, and Marty poked his head out. The way he looked at him made John want to cry. “What do you want, John?”

John ducked his head and rubbed the back of his neck. “I’ve . . . come to apologise.” He mumbled.

Marty smiled and opened the door wider. “That’s fine, then.” He turned back into the room and said, “John says he wants to apologise, Tim, can he come in?” John heard Tim mumble something, and Marty let him in.

Putting his hands inside his pockets, John followed Marty into the room, and stood just inside the door, not knowing where to sit. Tim was hunched up on the sofa, appearing to be in pain, which would make sense, considering how hard he had hit him.

“Hello, Tim.”

Tim looked up at him, his eyes shining with tears. Marty sat down beside him, putting a hand on his arm. “H-hello, John.”

John took a deep breath and leaned back against the wall, knowing this was going to be one of the hardest things he had ever done.

-------

The next day, Graham grabbed John’s arm as they were making their way into TV Centre, making him jump.

“So, how did it go?”

John sighed, but he seemed to be smiling a bit. “All right, I guess. I said I was really sorry, and Tim said he wasn’t ready to forgive me, but he was glad I said it.”

“That’s good,” Gray said, secretly glad that Tim hadn’t just lied to spare John’s feelings. “You know, John, even though I still don’t understand why you did it, I really respect the way you actually tried to apologise.”

John smiled weakly at him. “Yeah . . .”

A while later, they bumped into Marty and Tim, the latter tagging behind the former like he was stuck to him. Tim still looked scared to see John, but he seemed a lot more relaxed, and, anyway, Gray wasn’t expecting everything to be back to normal. And things never were the same again, but, gradually, they began to trust John again, but Gray still didn’t know how he was ever going to come out to him without him getting a similar reaction to poor Tim.