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the fool with champange problems

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Wrap parties were always extravagant. Usually they end wonderfully. The kind of wonderful that results in hangovers and body aches, yes, but still. Ben entered the night with the notion of getting plastered; there’s truly no better way to celebrate the end of the first season of a new series, is there. Charlotte was less keen and after a superfluous, degrading argument, decided not to attend as his plus-one. But all the more reason for alcohol, right?

The evening was certainly eventful: Jim and Mat showing up wasted and Simon and a crew member getting into enough of an altercation to get escorted out. However, Ben spent most of the night just watching the fun, finding a nice spot lent against the bar and setting up camp. 

“You all right?” Martha came over to ask at one point. Soda can in his hand, her boyfriend stood a few steps behind her. He was patiently waiting, picking crumbs off his button-up. 

“Hm? Oh, yea.” Ben nodded, smiling. “Why wouldn’t I.”

She shifted on her feet, “Well, I noticed you were alone. … And you and Charlotte haven’t exactly been aces.” Martha always knew everything. If not an actress, she’d’ve made a fine detective. 

“I’m fine.” He reassured and she smiled wearily. 

“Try to have some fun then, okay?” Ben nodded as she turned to leave, taking her boyfriend’s hand. 

Larry, on the other hand, had entered the night with the intentions of keeping appearances. He truly wished to miss the event; give some lame excuse for why he couldn’t attend and be done with it. Two nights ago Ben had called in a panic, sounding like a teenage girl, and complaining about not knowing what to wear. That evening ended with Larry kipping on the couch after spending three hours searching for the proper outfit for his friend, and Ben insisting he shouldn’t catch the tube home at such an early hour. Though he wouldn’t admit it to himself, that was the night he changed his mind. 

More or less he’d enjoyed his time talking to crew members and such, always sparing glances across the dance floor to when Ben stood at the bar. From what Larry could tell, however, he hadn’t ordered much alcohol. 

Mat’s wobbly, drunken figure stumbled into his view, dubious glass in hand, smiling like a mad man. Larry stepped aside, narrowly avoiding colliding with the twig-like fellow. Head cocked to the side, Mat followed the slightly-shorter man’s gaze across the room. He laughed cheekily. 

“You should go over there.”

“Hm?” Larry turned his head, scrutinising the younger man’s aloft eyebrows.

“You stare at him a lot.” Mat slurs. “Not just …now… but on set and… places.” He waggled his eyebrows at Larry’s unconvinced stare. “He stares too. If that helps.”

The writer laughs, “We’re mates.” 

“And if that’s all you want to be, then I’m the Queen.” Mat dramatically waved his hand muttering ‘Queen wave, queen wave, Queen wave.”

“Okay Your Majesty, go have some water.” He shoved Mat back towards a crowd of people, not quite sure of where one would get water here. The younger man shrugged, quickly disappearing into the mass. 

Larry’s eyes found themselves locked back on Ben as he took a swig of tonic water. Mat’s suggestion was a fine one - maybe. The older man looked rather lonely, to say the least. So after some contemplation, Larry weaved his way through the crowd of varying personalities, nodding to the bartender as he approached. It was a crew member who had volunteered to serve drinks; Devon, Larry thinks. Devon slid a gin and tonic in front of Ben, taking the empty glass. 

Ben blinked out of an apparent reverie, “Oh. No. This isn’t-”

“He ordered it for you.” 

At the realisation of who it was, Ben’s face split into a brillant grin. “Laz!” He pushed himself from where he’d been lent, wrapping firm arms around the younger man’s form. Larry noted how he smelled sweet - Charlotte’s perfume, he surmised. At least it wasn’t alcohol. “I hadn’t seen you all evening,” Ben continued once he’d pulled back. “Was wondering if you’d decided against coming.”

Laz shrugged, “I figured some music and socialising would relax my mind.” 

“Did it?”

“Not nearly.” 

Ben laughed, amusement and fondness settling in his shining eyes. “It really is nice to see you.”

“What’s an evening without a little Lazbatron?” He waggles his eyes suggestively. 

As their joviality slowly cools, Ben marvels in a sobering moment. He must be dreaming; Larry really is the best thing in his life. Ben’s mobile rings from his back pocket. The younger man steps back as if giving the call room. It was Charlotte and for a second Ben considers answering it.  Larry shifts on the balls of his feet and muting the ringer, Ben meets his eyes. 

“Sorry. It’s been one hell of an evening.” He receives a look of understanding agreement. The music seems to grow louder. “Do you mind if we head outside?” Ben indicates towards the French doors separating the hustle of the inside from the outside’s calm breath. The balcony on the other side looks awfully inviting through the all-glass display. 

“Not at all.” Ben’s chest warmed as a lithe hand slipped into his, dragging him through the bustling, drunken crowd. Various plastered puppeteers and cameramen attempted conversation but Ben was too focused on Larry’s destination. The door opened with a creak and a rush of fresh, untampered air. Ben felt like a teenager, sneaking out after hours. 

Music still hummed - or pulsed, rather - from inside but neither man minded. “So why have you been moping all alone this evening?” Larry asked as Ben took a sip of his gin and tonic. 

“Not moped per say.” The younger man looked disbelieving and Ben continued, “Well, Jim and Mat were preoccupied; Simon was… removed. I did speak with Martha and now I've spoken with you.” He couldn’t help laughing at Larry’s stare. 

“Why didn’t Charlotte come? She loves parties.” 

Ben didn’t see a reason to lie - Larry was his best mate. “She… uh.. didn’t want to come”. 

Larry didn’t make a face of pity or a comment in poor taste like Ben expected; rather he smiled softly. “Well, you should give her something to miss.” It was a valid suggestion but something about it sounded more like an offer. Or perhaps a dare. 

Ben's glass was newly empty and he sat it on the concrete railing beside himself. He dared to hesitate. Larry was a few steps away and it wouldn’t take much to… The beat dropped from inside, making the shorter man jump. 

Ben cleared his throat. “Why, then, have you been alone?” Larry’s shoulder sagged ever-so much. 

He laughed - shallowly. “I’ve just felt like being alone.”

“Then why me?” The older man asks it out of pure curiosity, though it stumps Larry for a moment. He had wanted to be alone. But he’d wanted to be alone with Ben - why? Luckily Ben soon realised what he had asked and rushed to elaborate. “But which I mean, why didn’t you come with someone else.”

Larry’s cheeks warmed subconsciously. “I had invited Mary.”

“Mary?” Ben teased, inching closer. “Is that the girl you’ve been seeing?”

Seeing ?” The younger man asks incredulously, eyebrows raised, “No, no, no - we are good friends. She is kind.” Ben gives him this knowing look and oddly enough he knows very little. “I’m not interested. Though I get the feeling she’s getting attached and I.. ‘m not so sure.” He trails off, sighing as he realises the tangent he was heading towards. “It’s a lot.”

Ben seems apologetic. “Well, in her defence, you are easy to fall in love with.” 

“Coming even from you that’s dubious.”

“Believe you me, I know a beautiful man when I see one.” Ben has outmatched Larry in banter so the younger man stares bashfully at his Converse. They are both flirting subconsciously now; they’ve fallen into step. 

Larry trails back to their prior conversation piece, talking about Mary-this and Mary-that, met each time with some comment from Ben consisting of ‘she has taste’ and ‘too bad for her’ though soon Ben dropped himself from the discussion, drowning in his own thoughts. 

“But she doesn’t seem to mind. I mean, I don’t either-” 

Ben cuts him off, “Don’t I owe you an apology.” Larry stares, affronted. 

“Do you?”  The younger man stills his pacing. “For?”

“For wholly squandering your chances at a lovely evening.” Ben explained, whipping out his Vile Victorian voice.

Larry scoffed, replying in a like posh accent. “You’ve done no such thing.”

“Oh but I have, and I know but one way to repent.” The shorter man’s brows rose with intrigue. Ben smirked, dropping the false accent and holding out a hand mock-graciously, “Shall we dance?”

Larry simply chuckles. By no means is the music coming from inside walting music and by no means does he know how to waltz, but the offer was alluring. “Sure.” He rested his hand in Ben’s only for the man to use it to pull him closer. Larry can’t help his amused laughter and Ben blushes lightly as their chests bump one another. It was a joke, Ben’s offer. But this was proving to be fruitful. 

Larry’s other hand rested on Ben’s shoulder and Ben held tight to his friend’s waist as they swayed and drifted across the balcony, flowing to some loud rock song. If he had to die in this moment, Ben thinks it would be absolutely perfect. 

The older man spun his friend around, getting increasingly more preformative. As he stared into Larry’s deep blue eyes, swimming with something too similar to affection, Ben’s mind began to wander. He thought back to Charlotte - their first date, their wedding, late evenings - they couldn’t compare to one moment with Larry, even if all compiled. Larry and Horrible Histories, Larry while writing Bill . All the evenings they’d ended up at one another’s houses, laughing and drinking and Star Wars

They’d stopped dancing. He felt sick. 

“You’re… something.” Larry comments, smiling softly if not patronistically. Ben held a steady facade. 

“Something? That’s the best you’ve got?” 

He laughs. “It was… relaxing. Perfect to get my mind off everything.”

“Glad I could help.”

“Really: Thank you.” Larry smiles, tight lipped as Ben nods. When he turns to go back inside; to be lost again in a dense crowd of people, Ben reaches out. The younger man stares at the fist wrapped tightly around his forearm. He looks hurt and suddenly everything feels wrong. 

“Laz.” Ben swallows, not knowing what it was he stopped his friend for. 

Though he tries to hide it, Larry can see the worry breaking through the crust of the older man’s facade. He knows what’s coming. “Ben.” It sounds like a warning.

A minute passes and when Ben doesn’t seem to find the words, he lets go. To his surprise, Larry doesn’t leave. He’s wanted Ben’s attention all evening; to be by him all evening - but now he’s dreading the outcome.

“That wasn’t just a dance, was it?” He prompts, stepping closer. 

“No.” Ben hesitates, eyes damp. “No it wasn’t just a dance - at least not to me.” Larry’s heart sinks and flutters at the same time, leaving him with the feeling of an upset stomach. “None of it was. It’s been a while since we’ve ‘just’, I think.” 

“What am I supposed to say to that?” The younger man asks, conflicted emotions swirling in his chest. He’s unexpectedly scared. 

When Ben’s hand comes to cup Larry’s jaw he shutters, if only for a moment. “If you want-” And he does. But…

“Ben.” Larry says, sounding defeated. “You can’t. We can’t. You have Charlotte-”

“I’m in love with you.” He cuts his friend off and God if those weren’t the perfect words… “Laurence Rickard, I’m in love with you. And couldn’t give a damn about anything else.” 

When Larry doesn’t answer, Ben closes the space between their lips, jumping as Larry’s hands grab tight to his lapels. Champagne dances through each other’s mouths, soft emotions caught in a passionate kiss and as their tongues battle for dominance, Larry’s knees go weak. 

Ben backs him into the railing, pulling back for breath but when he meets Larry’s eyes it’s not lust he finds, but fear. The taller man’s hands slip from his friend’s body; he steps back. 

“Larry?” This time he doesn’t wait, Larry leaves before Ben can stop him, striding back inside, weaving through the people as the beating music dissipates in his ears. He walks as fast as he can, feet carrying him before he knows when he wants to go and soon he finds himself standing in the car park, leaning against his car. 

His heart claws the inside of his chest, pleading, and he doesn’t refuse the tears that arrive at the pain. He wants to scream because he’s a fool. This is what he has wanted and when it comes down to it he… can’t. In his lips there’s still the echo of Ben’s, and he can still feel the other man's hands at his waist. 

Minutes pass before there is the faint noise of Ben calling his name and Larry’s heart leaves another bruise on his insides. Wasting no time, he gets into the car, turning it on without thought and pretending not to hear Ben as he begged for his best friend to come back. 

Once he gets home, the messages left on his phone aren’t from Ben but from Martha, and he curses himself as he listens to her voicemails because she too is begging him. So he locks the door and flops onto the couch because he’s a fool. A fool too weak to tell the man who loves that he loves him back.