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o that i were a man

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Not long after their abrupt, albeit, joyful marriage, they're seated in the garden of their surprisingly humble home. 

Benedick is refilling their glasses of wine when Beatrice lays an uncharacteristically gentle hand on his thigh. He sets the wine bottle on the table as he looks to her with concern.

"Benedick, there's something I cannot keep from you anymore."

"What is it, my sweet?" 

Beatrice drops her gaze, quickly reaching for her glass to examine the wine within. 

“Do you ever find yourself in situations where you don’t exactly fit?”

“Quite often, as it would happen.” He chuckles and, when she remains sullen, places a reassuring hand over hers on his thigh. 

“Well, good, sweet husband of mine,”

(Benedick, as he had long since learned to do, lets the sense of unease the label brings him drip down his back and onto the grass below.) 

“I fear myself to live in a fleshly situation that I can never quite retire from.”

As she speaks she withdraws her hand to cradle the glass to her chest, as if it could serve as a shield for the scorn she anticipates. 

“I’m sorry?”

Cold with fear, she takes a sip from her glass. Still refusing to meet the gaze she feels on her pallid face, Beatrice hastens through her confession.

“Sir Benedick, I believe myself to be a man.” 

The silence that follows does nothing for the pounding of his chest. Beatrice nervously traces his thumb against the side of his glass, braced for impact.

And yet it does not come. 

He gathers his courage and glances to his husband. He finds an odd conglomeration of bemusement, shock, and understanding painted across his lover’s face. Another wave of icy dread consumes him and he squares his shoulder with a harsh,

“Mock not, fine sir!”

Absolute remorse colors every shadow of Benedick’s being as he sits forward and places a hand on his thigh, shaking his head before his mouth can catch up to him. After a moment of stumbling on his own tongue, Benedick pushes forward.

“I’m sorry, Sir Beatrice, if I caused you even the briefest turmoil,”

(And the label causes Beatrice’s heart to stir in his chest, the breath knocked out of him with a single syllable.)

“I seem to be overcome by this sudden revelation that our paths are more closely intertwined than even the stars could predict.”

Despite the safety of Beatrice’s warm hand settling on his, or maybe because of it, he drops his gaze to the back of his husband’s hand.

“I find myself in similar constraints, you see. Womanhood has never been meant for me , and yet, I’ve always found myself longing for it.”

Gripping her hand, Beatrice squeaks out a sharp, astonished laugh. Had it been any earlier in their romance, Benedick would have shied away and spewed her resent. But Benedick has heard that laugh before. She can hear relief in the breathlessness of his laugh. 

Despite knowing this, despite knowing she’s safe with the one she calls beloved, she hesitates to lift her gaze. Gentle fingers tuck under her chin and in the breadth of a sigh, she finds Beatrice’s shining eyes. There’s an understanding she never thought she’d achieve with someone. And yet, there sits Beatrice, stroking his thumb across her cheek.

“Is it so? Do I look upon the face of my wife ? My sweet, fair Benedick?”

Benedick denies any recounts of this exchange that describe her as rosy-cheeked or flushed , but there is, undeniably, color staining her ears as she forces a blanch of disgust. 

“Come now, my sweet, fair Beatrice,” she starts in a mocking tone. “When have you been one to litter a lover with such endearments?”

“When I found out I have a wife!” He exclaims as he draws her in for a warm, tender kiss. 

When he pulls away, Benedick’s flush has spread down her neck and Beatrice delights in it. He grins at her with a joy that will certainly bring cause for a sweet agony later. But for now, they lace their fingers together, take their glasses and toast to each other- to the person they've always known and loved.