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Hugh could lie to himself and say that he doesn’t know how it started, but he lies for a living, so that seems redundant. He could also say that he hadn’t invited the attention but, again, lies--Hugh had postured on purpose. It’s not exactly abnormal to do so when first meeting one’s fellow cast, to attract the eye in one way or another. Playing a role eases an actor into, well, playing a role, nevermind that Hugh doesn’t interview particularly well. Impressions are important.

God knows Mads had certainly made one on Hugh, whether intended or not.

Hugh had been lucky enough for the read-through to have been scheduled in the evening. It meant he was alert, quick on his feet, charming and friendly. His fellow castmates were all agreeable people--Hugh and Keira had even had a short albeit pleasant chat about their mutual love of Twinings English Breakfast--and it boded well for the rest of the filming.

The only other person he spoke to one-on-one was Mads, who had been quiet, but polite. They’d stepped outside with the others during a reading break and he had wandered off by himself. Hugh followed him; he felt somewhat like a stalker until his quarry stopped, turned to look at him, and offered a tiny wave.

“Hello,” Mads said, and smiled. And Hugh suddenly felt nervous, though he couldn’t pinpoint why. They wound up standing awkwardly next to each other--or, more accurately, Hugh stood awkwardly watching Mads pat the pockets of his track pants before pulling out a pack of cigarettes.

Hugh cleared his throat. “Hello.” He shook his head when Mads offered him one, but couldn’t help but notice the man’s hands. No one’s hands should be allowed to be that expressive when doing nothing more than holding a wrinkled box full of tobacco.

“At least Antoine didn’t make us do an icebreaker,” Hugh said, trying to fill the silence. Mads made a noncommittal hum of agreement, nodding his head slightly as he put a cigarette between his lips. He cupped one hand around the end to guard against the slight breeze and then lit it. Apparently, Mads’ fingers were also talented, managing to flick the lighter and hold the pack with the same hand.

Hugh watched him puff several times out of the corner of his eyes. When he saw the ring on Mads’ finger, he decided to stop watching. The act of peeling his eyes away was almost painful, but Hugh wasn’t that kind of man. He’d never acted on a curious attraction before--it wasn’t as if this was the first time a man had caught his eye; it’s impossible to be an actor and simply not notice other people--and he wasn’t going to start now.

The lighter went back into the pack, and then back into Mads’ pocket. “What would you have told us if he had?” asked Mads around his cigarette.

Hugh was jarred from his own thoughts. “What?”

“An icebreaker. What would you have shared?” Mads pinched the cigarette between thumb and forefinger before exhaling slowly. “Always embarrassing questions. Some unusual fact.”

“Sound bites.”

“Ja, bites.”

Hugh thought about it. “Is this truth or dare?”

“No,” said Mads, “just truth.”

“You go first.” Hugh grinned and added. “Since you brought it up.”

“I was a gymnast.”

Hugh looked at the man standing in front of him and the slight softness to his middle. Either he liked wearing tight shirts, or he had no idea what his size was, or he simply didn’t care. Mads didn’t seem particularly athletic, and he obviously didn’t consider his health, smoking as he was, and he wasn’t built like a gymnast, or at least not to Hugh’s mental conjuring of what a gymnast should look like. “Were you now?”

“Not too bad at it.” Mads took the cigarette out of his mouth and frowned at it before tossing it away. Muttering at himself in Danish, he dug out the pack and began the smoking process all over again. “You?”

“No, I was never--oh! My go, right.” He ran a hand through his mop of unruly curls--less “ran” and more “tangled in new and interesting ways” but regardless, it satisfied his nervous need. Another few breaths, and then, Oh, what the hell. “I know how to belly dance.”

Mads dropped his cigarette. He bent down to pick it back up as Hugh snickered, but then he looked back up at Hugh, rose with a mischievous glint in his eye, and Hugh forgot how to breathe, let alone laugh.

“Do you now?” asked Mads, playfully, pointedly, and that was the moment Hugh knew he was proper fucked.

Or rather, not fucked. Whichever, because it’s four in the goddamn morning, and it’s cold as a witch’s tit, and Hugh still thinks lying would be redundant. Hugh’s never been much of a morning person; he’s not a slave to the coffee pot, but it’s damn close, and it feels like craft services is several kilometers away from where everyone’s dropped off when he’s half asleep.

Mads, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to need sleep. He’s like a very excitable dog, Hugh’s discovered, always smiling, always energetic. It would be annoying if it wasn’t so adorable, though it does mean Mads likes to poke fun at Hugh and his zombie-esque trek toward the caffeine. When he ran out of material to tease him about, back when this whole morning rendezvous business started, Mads started peppering him with questions, instead.

“Why belly dance?” Mads asked him one morning. His smile tried for innocence and landed somewhere north of impure. Hugh was too tired to know if it was because Mads’ hair made him look like a barbarian or if maybe it was the vampire teeth or if it was due to Hugh liking both the hair and the crooked grin in spite of himself.

“Why not?” Hugh grumbled back.

“Isn’t the chosen sport of most Englishmen.”

Hugh shrugged. “I don’t know, it just...sort of...happened.”

Mads hummed thoughtfully. “That’s interesting,” and then he thumped Hugh on the back--Hugh must’ve made an amusing face, because Mads laughed entirely too loudly for how early it was--and left Hugh to his lonely march.

“Are you good at it?” asked Mads another time, bumping into Hugh’s arm as he walked.

“What?”

“Belly dance.”

“I...maybe?” Hugh sighed. “It’s not like I practice at it, you know.”

Mads ducked behind him and bumped into his other arm. “But I don’t know.” He grinned, and was generally stupidly charismatic, and Hugh wished he could hate him for it.

Morning after morning, it was nothing but belly dance questions, until Hugh finally confessed that he took an interest when he was five years old, and learning was just a spur-of-the-moment decision made on holiday, and that he doesn’t like to bring it up because, “It’s really very stupid, Mads, alright?”

Mads was quiet, enough so that Hugh looked over and saw him frowning. “I danced for many years. What is so stupid?”

“It’s not the dancing that’s stupid,” said Hugh, attempting to unwedge his foot from his mouth.

“The style is stupid?”

“No! It’s--” Hugh picked up his pace so as to step in front of Mads. “It’s me,” he said, quietly, more awake than he expected to be before coffee. “It was stupid of me. At five, it was just cute and childish, but at sixteen when you’re drunk and your friends laugh at you? Then it’s stupid.”

He didn’t expect the full body tackle that must constitute hugs in Denmark. Neither did he expect the barely-audible, “Åh, bitte mand,” warm against his ear. Hugh did eventually remember that both participants in a hug do, in fact, participate, and it was nice, being soothed over such a small thing.

The daily questions turned into statements after that. “You look less asleep.”

“You mean more awake?”

“I know what I said.”

Yet again, “Scruffy.” Mads poked at Hugh’s beard. “Scruffy and scrappy.”

Hugh blinked. “You don’t have much room to talk, barbarian.”

“Like Conan! I like that movie.”

“You would.”

They were all friendly exchanges like that, at first. And then this morning, Mads meets Hugh coming from the other direction, cup of coffee in hand. He smiles, physically puts it in Hugh’s hand, and bluntly says, “My Hanne says I should kiss you.”

Hugh’s coffee nearly winds up spilled on his feet.

“I’m...what?”

“Hanne.”

“Is your wife.” Hugh is plenty awake, but he takes a fortifying sip of coffee anyway. It burns the tip of his tongue.

“She is,” says Mads. They aren’t walking, so he takes the opportunity for a smoke.

“Are you not made of nicotine at this point?” Hugh asks, desperate not to have this conversation.

“She thinks,” Mads begins, “you’re very pretty. Du er smuk, bitte mand.”

“Is that what she said?”

“Ja, the first part. The second, I am saying now.”

Hugh drinks his coffee faster.

“Nice to talk to,” he continues, and Oh God, please don’t let him rattle off a list of my supposed qualities, Hugh thinks, but it’s not his morning. “Very pleasant. A good friend. Fun even when grumpy. A wonderful laugh.”

“I’m sorry,” says Hugh, wincing at his now thoroughly burnt tongue. “I’m still stuck back at the part where your wife thinks you should kiss me.”

Mads shrugs, his cigarette still between his fingers, unlit. “I think so, too.”

“You’re married.”

“I love her. She loves me.” Hugh’s never seen Mads look nervous before, but he’s scratching at his neck like he has a rash and staring at Hugh’s hands as though he’s never seen them before. “And we have friends.” Mads hesitates, blinking several times, and then says, “Hygge. Very close.”

“Some friends closer than others, I’m gathering.”

Mads nods. “For me, not many. I’m kind of shy. At first, quiet.”

“You could’ve fooled me,” says Hugh. He rubs his eyes with the heel of his free hand one a a time; by the time he’s done, Hugh’s seeing spots.

“Then I am a good actor,” and Hugh can’t help but laugh at him. Mads smiles again, small but real, and alright, maybe the shyness isn’t so unbelievable.

“What--what are you wanting here?” Hugh asks.

“What do you want?”

“Right now?” because Hugh doesn’t have the faculties to really, truly answer. Not this morning, maybe not today, maybe not ever. So he says, “I want something in my stomach besides coffee.”

Mads is beaming by the time they reach craft services. Hugh doesn’t remember much of what was discussed on the way, but Hugh apparently said something right. Or, at least, didn’t say something wrong.

The cigarette never gets lit, and Hugh gets a second cup of coffee instead of a pastry.

 


 

“How do I know?” Hugh asks Mads on the hike back from the wall.

“Know what?”

“About your wife.”

Mads glances at him sideways, looking amused. “What about my wife do you need to know?” Hugh gives him a playful shove, and Mads snorts. “You mean if she said what she said.”

“Yes,” confirms Hugh. “I have no reason not to trust you, but--Christ, Mads, you’ve got to look at it from my side of the table here.”

“So you are interested?”

“In knowing how to confirm your wife’s approval without making you think I suspect you of being a terrible spouse, yes.” Hugh thinks quickly if he wishes to tip his hand entirely, and decides against it.

“I don’t think that you think that,” Mads says. His cheeks are tinged pink from being outdoors all day, from physical exertion. They’re a little chubby, too, and for some reason it reminds Hugh of a very happy, especially fuzzy chipmunk, and Hugh giggles before he can stop himself. “What?”

“You.”

“Me?”

“Yes.”

Mads looks at him, puzzled, but doesn’t press. Instead, he says, “I have made you uncomfortable?”

“No,” says Hugh, “I’m just a coward. An interested coward, but a coward nonetheless.”

“You are scared?” Mads grins, all teeth. “I am not so scary.” He tentatively slips an arm around Hugh’s waist, and Hugh lets him. Hugh breathes in deeply, smells sweat and leather and dirt. It’s not entirely pleasant, but Hugh knows he doesn’t smell any better. “Very gentle,” says Mads softly, and Hugh believes it. “Hanne says like a toy bear.”

“I don’t want to ruin things,” confesses Hugh. Mads rubs his thumb up and down Hugh’s side and tightens his grip slightly, draws Hugh closer. Hugh puts his own arm around Mads, lets the contented little sigh Mads gives warm him. “I don’t like the idea of...home-wrecking. I’m not sure I could live with myself if I did.”

“Åh, bitte mand,” Mads says, and Hugh feels less ashamed, like with his belly dancing confession only a week or two ago. “Impossible,” he continues. “I am Hanne’s always, ja. Love is no contest. It’s a gift.”

Hugh doesn’t know what to make of that, but it eases his mind, as much as is possible. “I’m nervous about all of it, really.”

“How?” asks Mads. “Which?”

“Pick a part. Being with a castmate, being with a man, being with a married man, though we sort of went over that last part.”

Hugh can feel the vibration of Mads’ chuckle. “It is not an all-at-once thing. It’s slow, making hygge, becoming very close.” He noses into Hugh’s curls, close to his ear, and says, “I’m not asking you to jump into my bed tonight, bitte mand. Though I would not be opposed.”

Mads’ voice kindles the weeks-denied fire in Hugh’s gut. His breath catches, and Hugh pulls himself even closer to Mads’ side, ear practically pressed to his mouth. Hugh wonders for a moment what the rest of the cast will say, if whatever this is now or may become between them will pop up in interviews, but the thought is fleeting.

“It seems you are not opposed, either.”

“I do recall saying I was an interested coward,” Hugh reminds him. He’s surprised he has a voice right now to remind him with.

Mads hums, says, “You did,” and then keeps going. “Do you think of us, Hugh? I do. Very often. So many things I could show you, so much pleasure,” and Hugh has no idea how a voice alone could drip heat and sex, but Mads’ does, and Hugh has to catch his lip between his teeth to stay quiet. “You would like this, ja?”

“Ja,” says Hugh. “Very, very ja.”

“Come to my room tonight. We can be slow.”

“Dear God, I hope not.”

Mads huffs another laugh, then nips at Hugh’s ear; Hugh can feel his hair catch in Mads’ mouth as he pulls back. “Bitte mand.” There’s such affection and fondness there already that it makes Hugh’s heart ache.

“What does that mean?” he asks, looking over at Mads now that he’s backed away slightly.

“Wee man.”

Hugh scoffs. “I am not!”

“You are small,” Mads says, “Young. Soft and scratchy both. Wee man. Bitte mand. It is not a bad thing.”

“I must protest. I’m not ‘wee’.”

Mads pats Hugh’s side and releases him as they approach the cars. “You will have to show me then,” he says, and winks, and walks away.

What can Hugh do but follow? He doesn’t typically ride back to the hotel with Mads, but Hugh makes an exception today. No one else seems to mind the change-up, especially not Mads, whose smile is wide and maybe a smidge lewd. He stretches out a hand and Hugh takes it, gets into the car and closes the door behind him.

“Going my way?” asked Mads, and Hugh forgoes the safety belt, scoots over next to him on the bench seat as closely as he can. Mads takes a quick glance at the rear view mirror, then throws one arm over Hugh’s shoulder. The other hand is laid on Hugh’s knee; when the car starts moving, so does it, sliding slowly up his thigh, ending unbearably close to his groin.

“I believe I am,” Hugh replies, trying not to press up into the touch, to not shift his hips the small amount it would take to get his hardening cock under Mads’ hand.

“You tease me, you know,” and Mads is whispering now, harsh in Hugh’s ear. He squeezes Hugh’s thigh; his forefinger brushes the fly of Hugh’s old, worn jeans. “I have to see these every day and not touch.”

“My neck,” Hugh manages, and he bares it slightly to the hand over his shoulder.

“Sensitive?”

“Yes.” It turns into a hiss as Mads’ fingertips make contact with his skin, drag lightly up and down. “I thought you were shy.”

“Not in this.” When Hugh turns his face into Mads’ hoodie, buries his mouth there to muffle the sound, he says, “Så godt. Such fun we will have, you and I.”

“We could have fun--you have magic fingers, Mads, fuck.” He’s trying hard to keep his voice down. It’s like being a teenager all over again. “Could have fun now. ‘Aim for the middle.’”

Mads chest rumbles as he resolutely doesn’t laugh and looks at the rear view mirror again--Hugh can feel his head shift up, so he assumes that he’s checking. Then his hand moves from his thigh, creeps over Hugh’s groin, and Mads cups him in his palm. He squeezes rhythmically, Hugh doesn’t know how many times; fingertips gliding on his neck turn into lightly-scratching nails. Hugh bites into Mads’ hoodie and shudders, shivers, surprised that he’s come that easily.

“Very much fun,” and Mads sounds surprised, too. His voice is rougher still, arousal evident. “We skip dinner?” Hugh nods furiously, not letting go of the fabric between his teeth. “I can finally kiss you. Maybe we will kiss all night. Or maybe you will show me your belly dance?”

Hugh laughs, still breathless. “It won’t be any better than when I was sixteen, I promise.”

“I’ll help you,” Mads says. “We can dance together.”

“Mads?”

“Ja.”

“Tell me, please. What is ‘hygge’?”

Mads moves his hand into Hugh’s hair and strokes at his scalp. “It is like a warm home. Good friends and comfort. Simple pleasures. No one definition, bitte mand. It’s what is best in life.”

Hugh snuggles in closer. “I like that. It’s a good word.” Maybe this is where it starts, he thinks. With good friends.