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Sometimes a drink after work is just that. A drink. Not a prelude to a good fuck, not a dick-measuring contest, and not someone's prelude to asking for a favor. This is Daragh, nobody else, and it's damn good to see him.

Sean carries the first round back to their table and takes a seat. "Feels a bit like we never left, doesn't it?" he asks.

"Like we left, came back, and got a fucking nice hotel and better food." Daragh takes a drink and winces, shaking his head. "But the beer isn't right at all."

"What? It's Guinness, isn't it?" Or at least it's a dark stout; Sean can never tell the difference. For one thing, he prefers lager, and for another, he's not drinking much these days.

"That's what's on the tap, but it isn't built right. No," Daragh sighs, taking another drink -- the fact that it's not built right apparently not being enough to keep him from indulging in it -- "it isn't home, but it's fine getting to see you, Seanie. I have wondered, on-and-off, what you've been up to."

"You haven't read it in the papers?" Sean jokes. Half-jokes. "Got married, got divorced, got married, got divorced. I've got a stamp book for it. One more and I get a free toaster."

Both Daragh's eyebrows shoot up at that, and Sean covers the awkwardness by drinking about half his club soda.

"Sorry," he says, just as Daragh's saying the same thing. "Sorry--"

"You first," and that's Sean, nodding. "What've you got to be sorry for?"

"Oh--" Daragh drinks, too, obviously struggling for tact. "Only I did read about it in the papers, and Christ, Sean, you could have said something before. Hell of a thing to find out a man you've called a friend for so long..."

"...bats for the other team?" Sean fills in, when the silence stretches out long enough to feel brittle. "Is it--"

"From the papers," Daragh interrupts. "Jaysus, Sean, but I've seen a hell of a lot of friends going in and out of each other's trailers and telling dirty jokes like it's a boys' academy, but you--" He shifts, shakes his head. "You didn't think I'd like it."

"You don't like it." Sean points that out without malice, without making it heated or pointed. "I've seen you, mate, and you flinch when you see lads fooling about like that. Like the -- Christ, whatever his name was who ran the steadicam and the lad from craft services, when they were going on. Thought you were going to flinch yourself all the way back to makeup."

"Fuck." Daragh blows out a breath. "This isn't like Guinness, but it's better than having this conversation on an empty stomach, I'm thinking. Be back in a moment, going to get the second round." He points at Sean's glass. "You wanting something stronger or do I get you another one of those fizzy things?"

"The fizzy things are fine," Sean says. He polishes off the rest of it so Daragh can take the glass back, and Daragh ambles off.

Sean's patting down his pockets before he realizes what he's doing. It's been a while since he's smoked -- again, owing to sharing a house with a health-conscious lover -- but the conversation's making him nervous, and part of him wishes he had a pack of cigarettes on him. He fidgets as Daragh makes his way back, wishing he had something he could worry at. He ends up picking at his fingernails until he's got a glass of club soda to sip at again.

"I'm not used to--"

"It's not as if you're the only--"

They both grin. Talking over each other isn't that unusual for them, and it's nice to see that some patterns don't change. "You first this time," Daragh says.

"Right." Sean clears his throat. "I'm not used to running into friends who have a problem with -- ah, gay relationships." It shouldn't be hard to say that. For Christ's sake, you came out of the closet in the first place so you could say that. "Maybe it's got to do with the fact that so many friends aren't in traditional relationships at all." To put it mildly. If he twitches when he thinks of you with other men, what do you think he'd do if he knew you like having a collar that locks on and you like sleeping at the foot of Bill's bed?

"It's not a problem," Daragh insists. "I was going to say, it's not as if you're the only friend I've ever had who turned out to be..." It still takes him a split-second to say it. "Gay. But you have girls at home -- two marriages to women -- it's only that it took me by surprise, do you know what I'm meaning? You go from Mel and all the flirting you were doing with whatever-her-name-was, and then suddenly it's a trip to the Rings premiere and my God, but you didn't leave much to the imagination, did you?"

Sean goes red and looks down at the table. You have no idea, he thinks, mind burning with thoughts of Viggo and white silk scarves. "How much do we leave to the imagination when it's our wives on our arms and we're affectionate with them?" he asks softly.

Daragh doesn't answer for a while. "There's nothing wrong with it, and God knows if it makes you happy then it's that I'm wanting for you," he murmurs. "I'm sorry, Christ, Sean."

"Does it change things?" Sean asks. "How you see me. What you're thinking when you act with me." Does it worry you? is what he's really wondering, but that's a question that'll have them both skittering for safer ground and coming to awkward pauses, and he doesn't want to ask a question like that just yet.

"When we're working? No. God, no. When we're acting you're Dick and I'm Pat and there's nothing more to it than that. When we're not..." Daragh shrugs. "Makes me wonder how I missed it, is all, really."

"I used to be more subtle." Sean gives Daragh half a grin. "I don't know, mate -- I'm nearly fifty, I'm getting too fucking old to care about whether people approve of my lovers. I got sick of telling people I have roommates, and tired of saying people are just costars. I'm not on a grand campaign for gay rights, but damn if I don't want to just be able to live my life without second-guessing how people are going to see me."

"Yeah." Daragh nods, drums his fingers lightly on the tabletop. "Yeah, of course, well, anybody can understand that." He glances up. "This Bill of yours, he isn't just that bloke you were in that godawful science fiction poetry thing with, is he?"

"No." Sean can't help grinning a little. "And it wasn't that bad."

"It was like The Matrix put together by the editing equivalent of monkeys with typewriters. Good premise, shitty execution." Daragh gives Sean a shit-eating grin and toasts him. "How was the pay on it?"

"Pretty damn good for two days' work, and I got to go to Berlin." Sean grins right back. "Bill and I've been together since April or so. At least this time I'm not married yet."

Daragh spits beer -- not much of it, but some. He wipes off his mouth with the back of his hand. "Warn a bloke," he sputters. "You planning on it at some point, then?"

The reaction's so strong Sean can't cover it; he winces hard, and for a few seconds he almost can't breathe.

"That'd be a no, then."

"Oh, keen observer to go with the keen wit," Sean says. "No, four's enough. Not planning on getting married again at all."

Daragh opens and closes his mouth a couple of times, then shakes his head. "There's not a bloody goddamned thing I can say here that won't get me punched in the mouth," he says. "You're happy, though, aren't you?"

"Damn happy." There's an awkward pause where normally he'd be saying something about why he's so happy, but as it is, he can't say and Daragh won't ask. "You've run into him a time or two -- you like him?"

"Seems like a good guy. Like he gives a damn whether you're enjoying yourself or getting enough rest." Daragh shrugs again. "Back when you were flirting with the ladies I could say something nice and chauvenistic like 'great arse' or 'nice tits', but it doesn't really apply in this case..."

"Sure it does," Sean points out, before realizing that Daragh might not have wanted to hear that. Oh, fuck it! You don't have to go into detail, but for Christ's sake, he walked into that one. "You just don't have your wires crossed that direction."

"Tell you what, I'll take your word for it." Oddly enough, Daragh seems to relax a little at that. "It is a rough walk, you know that? The world's changing a little every day, but I still grew up in a Catholic family and I still go to Mass every Sunday with my wife and kids when I'm home. You figure out the world's not as black and white as that and there's one hell of a fucking lot to be said for live and let live, but it takes some getting used to."

"That's close enough for me," Sean says, leaning back in his chair. "All right, enough about that shite; you want to tell me how your footie club is doing?"

"Oh, I do," Daragh says, grinning broadly, "but the next round's on you, and I've got stories that can't be told without at least four pints down."

"That bad?" Sean asks, grabbing the glasses and heading for the bar. "You're going to get my hopes up and have me thinking you finally started following the Blades."

"Keep dreaming, laddie," Daragh calls after him, and Sean's smile isn't one Daragh can see now, but it's the easiest one he's had on his face all night. It's a bit like they never left, and a bit like everything's changed, but it's still a drink with Daragh, and for all the change of the past two years, Daragh's still his friend.

A friend with a loud voice, when he wants it to be. "You keep right on dreaming that," Daragh's yelling from their table, and it makes Sean grin even more.

-end-