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Don't Be Afraid

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Ben wasn’t so sure about touching Johnny. Not that he thought Johnny was fragile; Ben knew he wasn’t. But the cosmic incident had changed Ben’s form drastically, increasing his brawn radically while simultaneously reducing his tactile senses. He was always worried he might forget his own strength or lose control and accidentally hurt the kid.

“You’re not going to break me,” Johnny coaxed. “C’mon, Ben. You know I trust you.”

Ben shook his head. “I know you trust me. I just don’t trust myself.”

“Hmm.” Johnny leaned his forehead against Ben’s. “I guess I’ll just have to find a way to convince you.”

That’s when Johnny significantly increased the amount of physical contact he initiated. It caught Ben slightly off-guard—he had never thought Johnny to be particularly cuddly. Yet no matter where they were or what they were doing, Johnny wanted to be touching him. If there was a press interview, Johnny was holding his hand. If they were walking downtown, Johnny had himself tucked under Ben’s arm. If they had an infrequent moment of downtime at the Baxter Building, Johnny was either curled up next to him or lounging across his lap.

“Do you get it, now?” Johnny asked him, pulling himself close to Ben as they stopped beneath an overhang to rest for the night. They were temporarily stranded on an uninhabited planet, but Reed and Sue would retrieve them in the morning.

Ben glanced down at him quizzically. “Get what?”

Johnny rolled his eyes fondly. “That you don’t have to be so cautious around me. You don’t have to be afraid of wanting me. It’s okay for you to touch me.”

“Just want to be careful, that’s all,” Ben said with an uncomfortable shrug.

He constantly found himself contrasting Johnny’s appearance with own. Johnny was sleek and slim, with lean muscles, narrow hips, and long legs. His hair was golden and his skin was smooth. Meanwhile, Ben was a bulky golem-like creature, every surface of his body nothing but rough rock. Though their differences never seemed to bother Johnny, in Ben’s more insecure moments, he wondered if Johnny would one day realize just how much better he could do, and leave him for someone who was normal.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” Johnny told Ben when People magazine declared them the oddest celebrity couple. “I’m with you because I want to be with you, not to get anyone’s approval.”

“They have a point, though,” Ben felt obligated to tell him.

“They’re a Hollywood gossip rag,” Johnny said dismissively. “Nothing they say matters to me.” With that, he gave Ben a long, passionate kiss.

One evening, they found themselves relaxing together. All current threats were resolved for the moment, giving them a rare chance to breathe. Ben was sitting on the couch, browsing through the sports section of the paper. Johnny joined him, draping one arm over Ben’s neck and leaning against his shoulder.

Glancing obliquely at Johnny, Ben decided to take the risk he had been putting off for some time now. Ever so casually, Ben shifted his arm, drawing Johnny nearer to him, before wrapping his arm firmly around Johnny’s shoulders. All the while, he never took his eyes off the sports page.
Though Ben braced himself for the worst, Johnny didn’t leave or push him away. Instead, he planted a kiss on Ben’s cheek, and then snuggled closer to him, a victorious smile on his lips.