Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Love Letters Post #10

Notes: Again, no accuracy with regards to MileHiCon, that happened in October, not February.  But here it is, a new part, in which our hero toys with the idea of a nervous breakdown and our other hero can’t make microwave popcorn to save his life.  Enjoy!


Title: Love Letters


Part Ten: It’s a Ben Complex, Not an Oedipal One




Halfway through February, Ben’s muse was still eluding him.  He looked through book after book for inspiration, and found himself gravitating toward personal letters between friends, between husbands and wives and from parents to their children.  Ben couldn’t do letters again, though.  His last book had cited almost fifty of them, and as Linda kept emphasizing, he had to choose a topic different enough to appeal to readers already familiar with his style, while being similar enough to bring in new readers who had heard about him and wanted to get in on a good thing.  This made very little sense to Ben, but then he had no real ability with marketing.  All he was good at was research and writing, and even that was questionable these days.

It was eight in the evening on a Friday night when Ben set down the book he was reading and sighed.  Not because Abigail Adams wasn’t a fascinating woman—in fact, her correspondence with her husband John was some of the most personally revealing and explicitly affectionate available from the time period—but because he was suddenly reminded of the fact that a woman who had lived and died over two centuries ago had had more of a life that he did now. 

Ben stared tiredly at the wall in front of him, where a print of the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware had been hung by his grandfather over fifty years ago, and remembered for the first time in months how little he actually liked the painting.  Not for its subject matter, but because it was one more artifact in a house full of artifacts that seemed designed to remind him of everything his future would be.  Ben’s future, all of his professional aspirations, rested on the past.  There was nothing contemporary about him; even his jackets were tweed with little patches at the elbows, and goddammit, he was only thirty-two! 

A strange mood crept over Ben as he glanced from the painting back down to the book, where Abigail Adams’ stiff gaze looked out at nothing.  The desire to pick up the heavy book and smash it into the painting, shattering the glass and ruining the print, came on hard, a violent and almost overpowering feeling.  Ben rolled his chair away from his desk and clenched his hands together, averting his eyes from the first president standing so nobly at the prow of a boat. 

It was no good, though.  There were paintings everywhere, almost all of them revolutionary in tone with a few daring pieces here and there deigning to reach into the nineteenth century.  His grandfather had everything from a portrait of Paul Revere to not one, not two, but three different depictions of the Declaration of Independence.

The prize of the art collection was an extremely valuable original portrait of Benjamin Franklin, painted by Gilbert Stuart, that rested in the environment-controlled, bulletproof display case in the library that also held some of their cache of Franklin’s letters.  It had been priced at half a million dollars, not that anyone in the family had ever been inclined to sell it.  When his great-grandparents had been penniless, their farming hopes wiped out during the dustbowl in Oklahoma, they had still kept that damn painting and carted it around with them to their new home in Denver.  They had been faithful custodians of the past, which had survived all these years to now end up in Ben’s ungrateful hands.  Ungrateful, because right now just thinking about that painting made Ben think that selling it would be the least of the evils that sprung to his mind.

Destroying everything, the rational part of Ben’s brain piped up, wasn’t a good option.  There had to be another way to purge his sudden, vicious animosity towards everything historical.  After a moment’s consideration, Ben got up, reached over his desk and almost threw his back out hauling the giant Washington print, in its unfathomably heavy oak frame, down from the wall.  He carried it back to the library and leaned it glass-down against the wall behind his grandfather’s leather easy chair.  Better.

Twelve more paintings and framed manuscripts joined it in the next fifteen minutes.  When Ben was done the walls were completely bare, but at least he wasn’t looking at them like he wanted to take a claw hammer to them anymore.  It was a little depressing though, to realize that without his grandfather’s collection up, there was literally nothing else to look at.  Ben hadn’t put anything of his own on the walls; he didn’t even have anything to hang on the empty, forlorn hooks anymore.  He had lived in this house for almost two years, and he’d never bothered to put any personal touches in beyond the contents of his closet and his computers.  Even the dishes had belonged to his grandfather or mother, one more part of his heavy inheritance.

A text alert on his phone jolted Ben out of his depressing reverie.  He picked it up and took a look.  What r u doing tonight? J

Ben stared at the message for a long moment before bursting into slightly hysterical laughter.  Ryan had to have some sort of sixth sense when it came to timing, because he was somehow always there lately when Ben was starting to feel like Jack Torrance from The Shining.  He typed out, Contemplating whether or not to burn my house down and start over and sent it before he could talk himself out of it. 

Ryan’s reply came back almost immediately.  Sounds kind of drastic.  Is it haunted?

Well, after a manner of speaking.  Just feeling a little claustrophobic tonight, maybe.  That was better than telling Ryan that he’d taken all the art off the walls and hidden them in a room he rarely went into.

U should go out.  Get drinks with suit porn guy!

“Oh, not going to happen,” Ben scoffed under his breath.  You just want him to send you pictures of me drunk.

Id settle for pics of u relaxed and happy.

Yeah, those would be nice.  It had been a while since Ben had felt really, honestly happy though.  Happy with life in general, not just when he was on the phone with Ryan.  God, he couldn’t even remember the last time…maybe…possibly not since before his book was published.  Publishing had been a lot less about happiness and a lot more about stress than he’d expected.

Then you should come and take some, he settled on at last.

I will soon.  2 weeks!!!

Ben smiled down at the phone.  Ryan was the only person he corresponded with who could get away with excessive punctuation.  Even Brody hadn’t been immune to Ben’s admonishments when he sent texts along like MY TEAM LOST N LAST FUCKING MINUTE OF THE FORTH QRTER JEZUS CHRIST!!!!  The caps lock Ben had overlooked—that was just Brody, loud and in your face.  The exclamation points had been a deliberate mockery, though.

Its going to be at the Hyatt, right?  That was where MileHiCon had been last year.

No, the Sheraton.  They only moved it a month ago, organizers have been busy as hell.

Oh, no.  Oh hell no.  Texting wasn’t fast enough for the kind of confirmation Ben suddenly needed.  He called Ryan and waited breathlessly for him to pick up.

“I knew you had to hear the dulcet sounds of my voice,” Ryan teased as soon as he answered, and the tension that was building into a headache just behind Ben’s eyes eased without him even realizing it had been there before.  All joking aside, it was really, really good to hear Ryan speak.

“Yes, it’s like listening to a choir of angels,” Ben replied.  “Listen, do you mean the Sheraton downtown or the one close to the airport?”

“Um, downtown, I think.”  There was a rusting of paper for a moment, then Ryan said, “Yeah, it’s the one downtown.  Why?”

                Ryan was going to love this.  So was Michael.  Shit.  “Because suit porn guy is the events coordinator there.”

                “Really?”  Ryan sounded excited.  “Cool, I’d love to meet one of your friends!”

                “I think you two will get along really well.”

                “Aww, don’t worry, we won’t leave you out, Ben,” Ryan cooed.  Ben rolled his eyes.  “Have you started thinking about your costume yet?”

                “What costume?”

                “Whatever costume you want to wear for the con.  You can’t just go to a science fiction and fantasy con and not dress up, Ben!  This is, like, the only type of event other than Halloween where adults can cosplay without people looking at you like you’re a freak.”  Ryan hummed thoughtfully.  “You could pull of a classic Sherlock, I bet.  Or maybe Dr. Who.  Or you could go all out and do something against the grain, like, I don’t know, Hawkeye.  You kind of look like that actor and I personally would love to see you in skintight black and purple holding a bow.  I could be a gender-bended Black Widow!  We’d look amazing together.”
Seriously, just picture her with less chest and less hips, I could make her Ryan:)

                “Hawkeye and Black Widow…are they from the Avengers?”

                There was silence for a moment.  “You haven’t seen The Avengers?  Really?”

                “I don’t get out a lot,” Ben admitted.

                “That’s because you’re working too hard,” Ryan said.  “That’s what makes you think wicked thoughts about burning down houses.  You need to relax.”

                “I’m on a deadline.”

                “I’m always on a deadline too, but that doesn’t mean I don’t go out when I can.”  Ryan sounded kind of serious now.  “You’ve got to take the time to relax and let go of your work.  I get some of my best ideas once I haven’t been staring at a drawing board for eight hours.  Do you have an Amazon account?”


                “Start downloading The Avengers.  Seriously, right now, it’s an awesome movie.  Once you’ve got it I’ll start it up over here and we can watch it at the same time.  Do you have any liquor?”

                Ben knew when he heard that sentence that this was going to be something he would regret.  He also found that he didn’t care at all.  “I’ve got some gin.”

                “Cool, I’ve got a bottle of tequila around here somewhere.  We’ll watch the movie together, and every time it makes you laugh, like for real, we do a shot.  This is going to be so good for you, Ben.”

                Ben opened up his computer and logged in to his account.  “I’ll call you back once it’s downloaded.”

                “Ooooor,” Ryan drawled, a little of the south coming back into his voice, “you can keep talking to me while I make popcorn.”

                “I’ll just distract you and it’ll get burnt like last time.”

                “Last time was a total fluke,” Ryan said.  “I can handle it this time, I can.”

                And really, Ben didn’t need to be talked out of spending more time with Ryan.  “Okay.”

                In the time it took the movie to download, Ryan burned not one but two bags of popcorn, at which point he gave up and switched to pretzels instead.  He found his tequila, Ben grabbed his gin and when they were ready, Ryan counted down and the started the movie simultaneously.

                “You see?” Ryan said a few minutes in.  “You see what I mean?  He totally looks like you.”

                “My arms aren’t that nice.”

                “Shut up, everything about you is nice.”  They kept watching, and when Ben laughed during Natasha Romanov’s botched interrogation, Ryan said, “Shot!”  They both did a shot.

                By the time the movie was over, Ben couldn’t really remember the first half of it but he totally agreed with Ryan as to its awesomeness.  And that guy had an awesome costume.  It was just… “Awesome,” Ben told Ryan.

                “I told you so,” Ryan replied, then giggled.  “God, I’m so drunk.”

                “So’m I.”  Ben checked the time.  “Wow, it’s midnight here.  So it’s…” How many hours ahead was Boston again?  Meh, didn’t matter.  “Even later where you are.  You should go to sleep.”

                “I don’t want to stop talking to you,” Ryan said matter-of-factly.

                “But you’re sleepy.”  Ben knew he was, he’d heard the man yawning.  “Sooo sleeeepy,” he sing-songed.  “Put down the booze and go to sleeeeep.  But drink a glass of water first.”

                “Yes, Mom,” Ryan snarked.  He immediately followed up with, “Oh, but no, I totally don’t think of you that way, that’s so gross, I so don’t want to sleep with my mother, just with you.  I’m not Oedip…Oedib…edible?  It’s not that but it sort of sounds like that, but anyway I’m not, so just don’t even listen to me.”

                “Okay,” Ben said agreeably.  He was tired…but he felt better than he had in days.  “I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay?  Sleep well.”

                “You too,” Ryan said, sounding reluctant but exhausted.  He hung up the phone, and Ben stared at his empty screen and thought hard for a moment.  Something Ryan had just said…it was kind of important, made him feel good, it was on the tip of his brain…ugh, he couldn’t process thoughts right now.  He needed sleep.

                Because Ben might not have been drunk for a while but he did have a long memory when it came to hangovers, he made himself drink a glass of water, left another beside his bed along with some Tylenol, and pulled the wastebasket within easy reaching distance.  Sleep came easily, for the first time in weeks, and was entirely dreamless.

                When Ben woke up the next morning his mouth was foul and his brain ached a little, but not nearly as bad as it could have.  He took the Tylenol anyway, forced himself to get up and shower, brush his teeth and make coffee and do his best to be a normally functioning human being.  Halfway into his first cup, he got a text from Ryan.

                It was Jasmines bottle of tequila. Shes so pissed. I owe her a new one soon as I can stand to go out in the sunshine.

                “Oh no,” Ben said in quiet commiseration.  Poor suffering creature of the night, he sent back to Ryan. 

                The next text read, Did I say anything embarrassing? :/

                Only when you assured me I wasn’t your Jocasta. 



***Oedipus: the focus of a famous Greek tragedy where the title character returned to the kingdom he'd been abandoned by as a baby, killed his father the king and married his mother Jocasta, the queen, all unawares.  Later he gouged his own eyes out as a result.  An Oedipal complex is where a boy subconsciously (or not so subconciously) wants to kill his father and marry his mother.  Thanks for that, Freud!

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Few Fun Things

This is just a quickie post because my serial got a new review this morning that's enough to make me squeal and clap my hands like a cliched caricature of a happy child!

Lisa T at Attention Is Arbitrary already reviewed the first episode and followed up today with a breakdown of the second, which was lovely and flattering and makes me breathe a sigh of relief.

4 Sexy Hot M/M PNR Stars
I’m totally hooked! Episode 2 clinched this serial for me. The slowly building relationship between Rio and Dev is wrapped with graphically gratifying, sexy treats and sweetness. So Hot! The great twisted, action-adventure/mystery going on is developing well too.
I love how the Cambion element erases all sense of “inappropriateness” for Devon…and me. Expecting him to refrain from sex would be like asking a dog to stop sniffing around. It’s just what he does, naturally. And he “does it”, naturally, very well.

If you've been riding the fence about checking out the serial, this might tip you over the edge.  You can find the rest of her review here: Cambion Episode 2: Black Magic Woman

Something else I have to plan for and look forward to this week: Joseph Dogbevi, a Togolese native and a friend of mine and my man's from our Peace Corps stint, is coming to visit us over Easter weekend.  He won the visa lottery a year ago and went from Togo to Madison, Wisconsin, and apart from freaking out over the weather (what the hell is all this SNOW!!!!)he's doing pretty well.  We haven't seen him since we left Togo, and are looking forward to the reunion.

He gets in on Wednesday, and will probably be a major distraction from writing (not a bad thing).  We're lucky I schedule the Love Letters posts for Tuesday, huh.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Old adages that might be true...

Get ready for a rambly nonsense post.  What can I say, they happen.

Here's a fortune cookie saying:  If you want to get something done fast, give it to an already-busy person to do. 

For a long time (primarily in college, because I was something of a lazy bugger) I thought that this saying was pure lie.  Now that I'm actually trying to be a writer, though, I'm kind of starting to see the merit of it.

I'm reading a book on the craft of writing at the moment that posits that the most important thing about writing is to keep doing it.  Not just to write, but to set goals and meet them, to write often, and most of all to write fast.  Not to be shoddy, but to be consistent and to keep going.  Go, go, go.  This is what you want to do?  Then you should damn well do it, because life is short, baby.

Why am I even thinking about this?  Because I'm writing four different things at the moment, which should be exhausting, but it's working.  I don't have kids, my work is flexible, I'm not in grad school like my man--what should I be doing with myself, then?  I grew up in a family that pushed me to accomplish, continually, and while I'll never be the doctor my parents always wanted (they have two of those already, one a PhD, one an MD and neither has a lifestyle that appeals) I might just become the author that I want to be.  I feel like I need to take advantage of the luxury of time I'm given right now by using it productively (see the above gif--I would so do that!).

Writing is happening, but I can do more.  My website will see the first improvements, because the poor baby is languishing in May of last year, but I feel like the blog needs an energy infusion.  I don't know--reviews, art, links to articles that are interesting...what appeals to you as a reader?  Apart from more Love Letters, which is coming!

Anyway, happy Saturday, darlins:)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Love Letters Post #9

Notes: Just one thing, here: I mention MileHiCon in the story, which is a real con in Denver, but the name is the only thing I use appropriately.  Not the timing, not the exact theme, I just couldn’t come up with a good con name on my own.  My brain is fried, I’m writing so much.  Anyway!  Enjoy more of our boys.  Big things are coming soonJ


Title: Love Letters


Part Nine:  It's Not As Hard As You Make It




Ben had probably never used his phone so much in his life.  Not for its primary function, at least.  He regularly used it for texting and email, and formerly used it to feed a vicious Angry Birds addiction that had taken dropping his last phone in the sink and losing all of his high scores to quit.  He had never quite forgiven himself, but he had gotten a lot better about meeting his chapter deadlines after that.  But now, he was actually using the phone for talking.  For a lot of talking.

Ben, being kind of meticulous, had counted, and he’d actually spent almost eight hours of the past five days talking on the phone.  Thirty minutes of that was with Linda, fifteen minutes was with Michael, and all the rest of it was spent on Ryan.  The efforts that had formerly gone to writing letters and texting Brody were now focused solely on Ryan, and Ryan was a talker.  He could talk about anything at almost any time of day, and usually called without any specific reason in mind.  It was a good thing that they both had nontraditional jobs, because otherwise Ben would be in real trouble.

The morning after the fundraiser, Ryan called Ben a few minutes after he got home.  He spent about a minute teasing Ben for his hangover, then said happily, “I got the letters!”

“What letters?” Ben asked muzzily, trying and failing to put a fresh filter into his coffee machine.  Two cups at the hotel had not cut it.

Your letters.  Mom finally packed them up and sent them to me.  I wanted to take them with me when I left, but Cheryl wouldn’t let anyone into Brody’s office.  I guess she thought there might be stuff in there that would embarrass her.  I know she wanted to just trash the letters, but Brody left them to me in his will, so she couldn’t.”

“He was that specific?” Ben asked, more than a little surprised.  He knew Brody had kept his letters, but… “I didn’t think they meant that much to him.”

“It looks like they did,” Ryan said calmly.  “And he knew how much they meant to me, so I’m happy he took the time to make sure I would get them.  I was wondering, though…do you mind if I reread them?”

“They’re your letters, and you’ve already read them once,” Ben pointed out.  “Why would I mind?”

“Well, because they’re your life,” Ryan replied, a little awkward but emphatic.  “They’re you as a child and as a teenager and all the way up to who you are now, and that’s an awful lot to offer someone who you barely know.  And when I last read them, I was just a kid myself.  I just don’t want to make things weird for us.”

That was surprisingly thoughtful, or maybe not so surprising considering that this was Ryan.  Ben took a moment to think about it.  It really didn’t bother him, Ben had nothing to hide, but on the other hand… “I don’t mind,” he said carefully, “but I think it might be better if you didn’t talk to me about them.  Or if you do, just bring up the lighter stuff.  They’re yours to read, but I don’t want who I was then to affect who we are right now.”  He recalled several letters which had been little more than angry rants, and winced at the thought of those coloring Ryan’s vision.  “Unless there’s something specific that you just have to get off your chest,” he amended. 


 “And I think you actually know me pretty well,” Ben said after a moment’s silence.

“Nope, wrong,” Ryan disagreed immediately.  “I know who you used to be, and I have an idea of who you were to my brother, but present-day you, no, you’re still a mystery to me.”

“Well, let’s fix that.  What do you want to know?” Was he flirting?  Ben wasn’t sure.  He wanted to be, but he was so damn bad at it.

“Oh, so much!” Ryan laughed.  “I have to narrow it down?  I want to know…something that I couldn’t learn in those letters.  Something you haven’t told anyone else yet.”

“That’s a tall order.”  Ben didn’t even remember most of what he’d written at this point.  “Here, let’s do it like this: you can ask me a question about myself every time we talk, in person, and as long as I feel that I can, I’ll answer it.  I think you have a better idea of what you could ever want to know about me.  The only catch is, you have to let me ask you a question too.”

“I suppooose I could do that,” Ryan teased.  “Fine.  You ask first.”

There was so much he wanted to know, it was hard to pare his curiosity down to a single question.  “What’s your middle name?” he finally settled on.  It wasn’t very flirtatious, but names had always been an important part of Ben’s life, and he wanted a full one for Ryan.

“Jonnet.  It’s my mother’s maiden name,” Ryan said.  “Technically it should have been Brody who got it, that’s more in line with southern tradition, but instead Brody was named after our great-grandfather.”  Ryan snorted lightly into the phone.  “He’s lucky he didn’t end up Joseph Alan Kuzniar the Third, since our dad was Joseph Junior.  I know he and mom fought about it.  Anything to add to that man’s legacy.”

“Ryan Jonnet Kuzniar.”  Ben repeated it to get the feel of it on his tongue. “I like it.”

“I never did, it always sounded kind of fussy to me,” Ryan said deprecatingly.  “For a while after I moved away I thought about legally changing it, but I decided not to in the end.  Mom would have killed me if she’d found out, anyway.”

“What would you have changed it to?” Ben asked, but Ryan immediately made a negative sound.

“Nope, no more searching questions for you today.  My turn!”  He hummed thoughtfully into the phone.  “How about…who you most admire?  Wait, stop, that’s a gimme, isn’t it?  Of course it’s going to be Benjamin Franklin.”

“It’s not, actually,” Ben confessed.  “People always expect that, though.  When I was a kid I had to write an essay on who my hero was, and my third grade teacher told me that she expected me to write something great on Benjamin Franklin, because who else would I write about?”

“Oh.”  Ryan sounded a little subdued.  “No pigeon-holing, got it.  So who did you pick?”

“Honestly, in the third grade I would probably have picked Batman if I was really writing for myself, but I ended up going with Benjamin Franklin anyway.  I could recite his date of birth, how long he lived and who his children were at the age of five; writing an essay on him was a piece of cake.”  Ben had been so anxious to please as a child, and meeting clearly laid out expectations was the surest path to making the adults in his life happy that he’d been able to follow.

“Huh.  Well now I feel dumb for asking,” Ryan said, but Ben cut him off.

“It’s a fine question.  I just don’t have much experience answering it honestly; you’ve got to give me a second.”

“You’re still allowed to pick Batman, as far as I’m concerned,” Ryan told him.  “Some of my favorite people are make-believe, and he’s always had a good story.”

“Let me take a rain check on this one,” Ben said.  “I don’t want to come off as facetious.”

“You just have to be yourself with me, I can handle facetious if that’s the flavor of the day.”

But no, that wasn’t right.  You had to put your best foot forward with others; Ben knew that for sure.  You couldn’t really relax and be yourself until you’d already disappointed them.  That was why Ben and Michael got along so much better now than when they’d dated; neither had any reason to try and impress the other at this point.  Ben changed the subject instead of answering, and they finished the conversation on an easy, light-hearted note.

Over the next three days Ben and Ryan exchanged answers like little gifts, one for the other: his favorite color (the exact shade of blue of Ryan’s eyes, but he didn’t quite put it that way) for Ryan’s first word (“banana,” after the requisite “mama” of course); the longest he’s gone without sleep (fifty-seven hours in college while on speed) for Ryan’s earliest memory (lying on the bottom of the bathtub when he was three, waiting for the water to cover his face so he could practice holding his breath); and his first crush (Debbie Clark in second grade, because she shared her gummi bears with him) for Ryan’s strangest dream (which was long and detailed and sounded a little like being dragged through Hell, but without the explicitly overt torture).   Ben had the feeling that Ryan was going easy on him with the questions, but he was okay with that.  Personal revelation had never been a strength of his.

They were flirting, they were definitely flirting, but it was so easy compared to every other time Ben had ever flirted with someone he almost couldn’t believe they were doing it.  It was better, it was safer, to think of this as friendship without the possibility of something more.  So Ben kept it mild, and if he jerked off a few more times (a dozen more times) than he normally would, well, he could keep that to himself.

The fifth day into their game, Ryan’s graphic novel came in the mail.  Ben opened the package and sat down in his chair, looking over the cover of the book.  Janie and the Phantom showcased a young girl in a simple black dress, her long dark hair pulled over her face, hiding all but a sliver of her pale skin from the light.  She was staring straight forward, one hand holding a compass, the other clutching a scroll to her chest.  In the darkness surrounding her creatures reached out, trying to grab her and pull her in—claws and tentacles and sharp-toothed smiles all nipped at her edges, but she didn’t even seem to feel them.  Even though Ben could see next to nothing of her face, she still seemed to look…resolute.

He took a sip of his coffee and started to read.  After an hour his coffee was stone cold, but Ben couldn’t put the book down.  Janie was a girl trapped in a life she didn’t belong to, a girl with powers that she didn’t understand.  She was guided by a voice that no one else could hear, a voice that left her messages written in the steam on a mirror after she took a shower, or in the condensation left behind by a cold glass.  The voice directed her to the scroll, hidden away in a secret room at the back of a library no one ever visited, which sent her on a quest.  What the quest was for Janie hadn’t figured out yet, but she knew she had to go or her heart would shrivel and die, and she would become like the pale, cold people who surrounded her; living, but not truly alive.  The novel ended with her leaving behind the Stygian sanctuary of the life she’d always known, and heading out into the dangerous world beyond its gates.

Ben called Ryan as soon as he was done with it.  “I love your book,” he said without preamble.  “The story is fascinating, and the artwork is perfect.”  It was atmospheric, it was dark, it was intricate.  It was beautiful.  “This must have taken forever to put together.”

“About a year,” Ryan said, but he sounded pleased.  “You really like it?”

“I think it’s brilliant.”

“Thank you.  That means a lot, coming from you.”

Ben wanted to protest, he wanted to say that there was no way to compare them because what they wrote was so vastly, incredibly different.  Ben could write insightfully, he could draw comparisons and make connections, but he’d hardly call himself brilliant, only inspired by brilliance.  Instead he said, “I mean it.”

“Did you see where I signed it for you?”

“In sparkly purple pen, yes, I saw that,” Ben said with a smile.

“I use that pen for all my signings, it’s my lucky pen.”  Ryan cleared his throat.  “Speaking of lucky…something’s kind of come up.”

“What kind of something?”

“The kind where…well...here, okay, this is my question for you today.”  He took a deep breath, then blurted out, “How would you feel about me coming to Denver?”

Are you coming to Denver?” Ben asked slowly, trying to tamp down on the sudden excitement that rose up in his chest.

“Probably.  I got invited to be a guest at MileHiCon, it’s a sci-fi and fantasy conference they have in Denver every year.  It was kind of a last minute invite since the con is happening next month but I thought it would be fun, and good exposure, and I’d get to see you.  If you wanted to come, I mean.  I get to invite a guest for free, you wouldn’t have to pay anything, and I know it’s not really your scene but—”

“I’d love to see you,” Ben said, interrupting Ryan’s nervous monologue.  Love it?  He felt like jumping into the air and running up and down the stairs a few times, he was so energized by the thought of seeing Ryan again.

“Good, that’s great,” Ryan breathed.  “Me too.  I’d love to see you too, I mean, not see myself.  I can see myself anytime.  I mean…wait, this is coming out all wrong.”  He laughed a little.  “I get so tongue-tied talking to you sometimes.  I’ll email you the information, okay?  I have to get to work on the new panels or Jasmine is going to flay me when she gets home.”

“We can’t have that,” Ben agreed.  “I’ll talk to you later.”

“Okay.  Talk to you later.”  Ryan hung up and Ben just stared at his phone for a moment, torn between grinning like an idiot and having a small, intimate freak out.  Ryan was coming to Denver.  Ryan was coming here.

Grinning won.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

OMG, so fun!

Hi there!

I have a few things for you in the way of updates today, darlins.  And all of them are awesome, so...well, okay, one isn't awesome, but I'll explain that.  Most of them are awesome, hence my happiness.

First things first, the 2nd episode of my serial novel is out.  Yay! 

You can buy it separately for $2.49, or get it included with the season pass.  Devon Harper, one of our heroes, has struggled his entire life to control his incubus powers. Now that control faces its ultimate test when a demon sets his sights on escaping Hell using Devon as the doorway.  Would you like to know more?  Read on:

Episode 2: Black Magic Woman

Tracking Porter Grey means making a deal with Lynlis Syfer, a witch with a gift for finding the unfindable. It takes something special to catch the eye of a woman like that, and so Devon and Rio split up in order to blacken the eyes of Lynlis' two main rivals. But that just gets them in the door. To secure her help requires a sacrifice that may be higher than the boys can afford.

You can find it here:  Cambion: Dark Around The Edges

Next up: Goodreads M/M Romance group has started their next massive writing event, titled Love Has No Boundaries!  And I'm all over this.  I even chose a picture and prompt that are contemporary--I blame you, readerwife, I blame you entirely.  This story promises to be a lot more violent than Love Letters, but it'll be free and it'll all come out at once, so there's that to tempt you guys into reading.  What's my picture?  Let me share.

Feast your eyes!  Its gorgeous, isn't it?  And the prompt promises plenty of h/c, violent retribution, boys being boys, all the good stuff.  I'm so freaking excited.  It's got to be done by the middle of May, so my foreseeable future is absolutely swamped between this, an anthology story due at the end of the month, 2.5 more episodes of Cambion and Love Letters.  And my mainstream stuff, but that's neither here nor there at the moment.
The other recent awesomeness is that my man and I have finagled our way into classes with one of the best knife fighting instructors in the states.  I got a shiny new tactical folding trainer knife today--so lovely, so close to the knife I actually carry!  Practicality is key here.  I'm really excited to be learning something new.
And the bit of not so awesome.  What happens when you get cover art that is, shall we say...inappropriate to your story?  In the case of an anthology, you just suck it up.  Last year I published my short story The Solstice Gift with Total E-Bound, part of the Oberon's Court anthology.  I loved the cover.
Some of you read it, some of you let me know if I ended the story there they would scream at me.  Some people did scream.  Well, happily, there's a part two coming out this June in the Titania's Court anthology.  And what will the cover look like?

Um, wait...are those...wings?  I get that we're writing about the fae here, but really, wings?  None of my characters have wings.  Nor are they petulant, well-muscled blondes in a wind storm.  Honestly, I'm not really complaining, I'm happy to be publishing with TEB and their art department generally rocks.  It's just a little jarring, and when people read my story and reflect on the fact that it doesn't match the cover, I end up getting flak.  Not a biggie, just...*sigh*

More Love Letters on Tuesday, darlins.  Have a beautiful weekend:)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Love Letters Post #8


Notes: So, as a gift for my readerwife and those others of you who thought the last post was too short, voila!  Have one that’s over twice as long and contains two pictures!  (Remember they're just suggestions, these two can look any way you want them to.) All because I love you, damn it.  This particular part flowed really fast, probably because so much of its dialogue, but regardless, writing it was a very fun time.  Enjoy, darlins.


Title: Love Letters


Part Eight:  Parties and Other Things You Can’t Refuse




Sometimes, Ben thought he should have gone with writing novels.  It had to be easier than this.  All you needed was an idea, a spark of inspiration that you could run with, and then you could do anything you wanted to it.  You could build entire worlds of your own making, you could take your characters to new times and places.  As the writer you could do all the research you wanted to, but anything you didn’t like, you could claim artistic interpretation and ignore.  Novels had to be easier than nonfiction.

The truth was, Ben had become a writer almost out of a sense of duty, of expectation.  It wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy the craft of it, and in truth the nice thing about nonfiction was that when you dealt in facts, there was a very low amount of uncertainty as far as where to take your story once you had one.  Ben’s grandfather had been a natural at it, both keenly insightful and an expert researcher, and he passed a lot of his method to Ben over the years.  Ben, an avid reader and for a long time easily led by the adults in his life, let his grandfather guide him toward a career in writing without a fuss.  He worked on his school newspapers, wrote essays and articles that gradually got better and better, and finally wrote his first book, Liberty Or Death.  It was a roaring success, and that was when Ben finally realized exactly what he’d gotten himself into.

People called him a natural.  The worthy and logical heir to his grandfather’s elevated standing in literature.  Someone to watch, someone set for a long and illustrious career in writing.  Only none of that was true.  Ben wasn’t a natural writer; he had worked for years and years to get to the point where he could do this.  His first book had come about almost by accident, a logical continuation of the dissertation he wrote for his PhD in American History.  It had taken Ben three years to write that dissertation, and another two to modify and expand it into a book worthy of the title.  And people had loved it, yes, but now Ben had to do it all over again, and this time, he didn’t have that fire within him, that ember of interest.  Whatever subjects he tried to stoke the flames for were shot down by Lydia, and it was getting to the point where Ben was seriously considering taking the battery out of his phone, because he was so sick of hearing the word No.

Of course, he wasn’t about to actually turn off his phone.  Then he wouldn’t be able to talk to Ryan.

It was a relief for both of them when Ryan finally left North Carolina.  Getting back to Boston decidedly relaxed the younger man, and as a result they were able to talk for longer periods of time, although Ryan didn’t have any more privacy at his apartment in Boston, with three roommates, than he’d had in Concord.

“Jasmine, Lenora and Grant,” Ryan explained while cooking something.  Ben could hear the sizzle of the pan on the stove.  “Lenora and Grant are together.  They’re artists, but he’s a metalworker and she’s a sculptor, so they have a separate studio for their work.  As for Jasmine, she’s my personal goddess.”  Ben made out a muffled damn straight in the background.  Ryan laughed.  “She runs Coelocanth Press, it’s the imprint that publishes my graphic novels.  She’s my editor, my publisher and my best friend all rolled into one.”

“That’s handy,” Ben said, lazily pressing the delete key as he watched his latest half-finished proposal slowly disappear from the screen in front of him.  It wasn’t a very good one anyway.

“It is, I adore her,” Ryan gushed, and Ben listened to him rhapsodize for a while about how he and Jasmine had met when Ryan first came to Boston after school, how her then-boyfriend had managed the coffee shop where he got his first job, how he’d watched her start up Coelocanth Press and then invite him to be one of her first titles.  “It’s only been a year and she’s already turning a profit,” Ryan continued.  “Pretty good, considering we’re not exactly on the New York Times bestseller list like you.”

“It’s better to be happy,” Ben told Ryan.  There was a brief silence.

“You’re not happy?” Ryan asked tentatively.  Ben sighed.

“I’m fine.”

“Fine doesn’t exactly mean happy.”

“I’m…”  Ben didn’t like to complain, but it couldn’t really hurt under the circumstances.  He was keenly feeling Brody’s loss, his touchstone whenever things got difficult.  Ben didn’t feel like mentioning that to Ryan, though; the last thing he wanted to do was remind the man of his own grief.  “I need to come up with another book proposal, and I’m having a hard time deciding what I want to focus on.  Nothing I like interests my agent, nothing my agent likes interests me.  I’ve got until April to figure something out, or my publisher will start frothing at the mouth.”

“That sounds ominous.”

Ben shrugged, not caring that Ryan couldn’t see him.  “I’ll figure something out.”  He had to believe that.  Failure wasn’t something that Ben dealt with well.

“I got your package,” Ryan said, smoothly changing the subject.  “The inscription was really sweet, thank you.”

Ben felt himself blush, and was grateful that Ryan couldn’t see him.  He’d sent Ryan a copy of his book, and on the title page he’d written:

For Ryan, whom I only wish I had met sooner.  Yours, Ben DeWitt.

He had worried a little bit after he signed it, wondering if that was too suggestive, or if the implication was on the negative side.  He didn’t blame either Ryan or Brody for never making that connection before, and he didn’t want it to come off that way.  Apparently all his worrying was a waste.  “You’re welcome.”

“I sent you a copy of Janie and the Phantom, but I didn’t overnight it or anything, so it could be a few more days.”

“I look forward to reading it,” Ben said.

“What are you doing tonight?”

What Ben wanted to say was, staying home and talking to you for as long as you’ll let me.  That would have been ideal.  He didn’t, because he actually had plans tonight.  “I’m actually going to a fundraiser at the Sheraton Hotel downtown.  The event planner there’s a friend of mine, and he needed to pad the guest list.”

Actually, the invitation had been a little more gracious than that.  Michael Clifton, Facilities Manager and Event Coordinator, thank you very bloody much, had called Ben up last night and proceeded to bitch for half an hour before getting to the point.  Michael was a transplanted Brit who had an American mother, but had never lived in the US before coming to work here half a decade ago.  He and Ben had had a fling, nothing serious but extremely fun while it lasted, and Michael was one of the few people Ben had slept with whom he’d managed to maintain a decent casual relationship with.

“You have to come,” Michael had demanded at last.  “Really, darling, if you don’t come my world will fall apart.  It’s supposed to be an evening of entrepreneurial, artistic and literary enjoyment, and I just got an email from Cussler bowing out, two bloody days before the event.”

“Clive Cussler and I don’t even write in the same genre,” Ben had protested.  “I don’t have time to get things together for a signing, and—”

“No no no!” Michael had interrupted quickly.  “No need to bring anything but yourself, darling!  You’re just there to give the whole thing a tinge of literary cachet!  I just want the benefitting organizations to be able to point you out!”

“And who are the benefitting organizations?”

“A coalition of our ailing local charter schools.  Lovely cause, a chance to see and be seen, and I’ll make sure you get a good meal.  It’s not healthy to live on nothing but coffee and toast, darling.  Surely your mother taught you that.”

“I don’t have time to rent a tux,” Ben warned, ignoring the mother comment. 

“Not a problem.  You have a lovely black three-piece suit that looks both astoundingly gorgeous on you and very educated.  Could you possibly get some spectacles, darling?  For me, just for the night?  You’d be so delightfully apropos in them.”

“Apropos of what?”

“Of yourself, Ben, of your image as a successful and very sexy scholar.  Please?  For me?”

Ben sighed.  “I’ll wear the suit, but no glasses.”

“Thank you, darling.  You’re a treasure.”  Michael’s intimate tone migrated back to professional.  “The soiree begins at eight; I’ll make sure you’re on the guest list.  Just head for the ballroom once you get here.”

“I’ll see you then.”

“Ta!”  And he’d hung up.

“That sounds important,” Ryan said, a little distant as he spooned whatever it was he’d been cooking onto plates.  “And fancy.”

“Fancy enough that I’ll have to wear a suit.”

“I love you in suits.”  There was a brief pause, and then Ryan continued, “I mean, the only suit I’ve ever seen you in I loved.  On you, I mean.  It looked really good on you.  And the one you wore for your book picture, but it’s not like I’m obsessing over it, those are the only two.  The only times I’ve seen you in a suit, I mean.”

“I don’t think you’ve ever seen me in anything but a suit,” Ben said, getting up to go look in his closet.  He had a lot of suits…maybe more suits than casual clothes, which was kind of a sad state of affairs.  There were a lot of things he’d had to be formal about over the years.  There were some regular slacks in there, a few pairs of jeans and t-shirts and the old college sweats that he absolutely would not admit to anyone he could happily wear for days on end.

“I’d like to though,” Ryan said cheekily.  “Why don’t you send me a picture of yourself?”

That would mean copping to the ratty sweats, which was not going to happen.  “I have to get ready to go, actually.”


“And you have to eat the dinner you just made,” Ben reminded him.

“There is that.”  Ben heard Jasmine say for fuck’s sake, tell him you’ll call back later or something, Jesus.  “Okay, yeah, I really do have to hang up now.”

“Good night, Ryan.”

“Bye, Ben.”  He hung up and Ben set his phone down,  and then, with entirely unfeigned reluctance, pulled his three piece suit out of the closet.  This had been one of those purchases that Linda had insisted upon, and for what he’d paid for it, Ben figured he might as well get his money’s worth.  He looked through his shirts, uninspired, and decided to look at ties instead.  Boring, boring, boring…paisley?  Where had that come from?  And—oh.  Ben pulled the slender black tie free from its hook and ran his fingers over the silk, lingering on the blue accents.  Ryan’s tie.  He’d wear that.  Ben grabbed a blue shirt to match it, laid them all out on his bed, then headed for the bathroom to begin the tedious process of making himself look presentable.




The ballroom was packed with hundreds of people, almost none of whom Ben knew.  He was let in, as promised, and grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing waiter as soon as he could.  God, Ben hated events like this.  It was one thing when he could be one-on-one, or even just host a small, intimate reading.  When he was able to make a personal connection, Ben could be witty, charming and a pretty decent speaker.  In situations like this though, even small talk sometimes escaped him.  Considering the last time he’d been in such close quarters with a crowd had been at Brody’s funeral, Ben wasn’t disposed to enjoy tonight.

“Ben!  There you are!”

Except for the part where he got to see Michael.  Michael Clifton was a slender black man, immaculately dressed, beautifully mannered and with one of the filthiest mouths Ben had ever heard once he got drunk.  Michael had an absolutely effortless way of being with people, of fitting in with any crowd.  He was confident, he was pretty and he was shameless, and he used all of those traits to great effect for himself.

“Michael.”  Ben extended a hand and Michael ignored it, pulling him into a hug instead.  He smelled like Hugo Boss.  “So,” Ben said when they separated.  “Here I am.  And this place is packed, I seriously doubt you actually need me to be here.”

“Nonsense, darling, your presence is absolutely requested and required,” Michael replied.  “Let me introduce you to some of our donors.”


“A mere fifteen minutes of mingling, darling, and then I’ll make sure you get a nice, private corner table and a lovely meal, all right?”  He patted Ben’s cheek, laughing when Ben rolled his eyes.  “Come on now, this way.”

Michael tugged Ben along behind him like a cat on a leash, flitting from well-dressed cluster to cluster and saying some variation on, “Oh, excuse me, Mayor/Congressman/Doctor/Mrs. Moneybags, have you met Benjamit DeWitt?  Oh, he’s a bestselling author, one of Denver’s very own making waves on the national stage.  But I’ll let him speak for himself.”  And then he would leave Ben with that particular cluster, for five to ten minutes, to stumble through the same conversation over and over again.  Sometimes it was okay; Mayor Hickenlooper had actually read his book, which gave them something to talk about.  But by the sixth cluster, an hour into the party and with Michael nowhere in sight, Ben was giving serious consideration to faking a headache and bailing.

“Ooh, so it’s a book of great American speeches?” the grey-haired lady on his left asked. 

“Not always speeches, but they were a part of it,” Ben replied.

“Like the Gettysburg Address?”

“No,” Ben said slowly, because hadn’t he already explained this?  “The book is specifically about the Revolutionary War period.  The Gettysburg Address happened during the Civil War.”

“But it’s one of the greatest of all American speeches, young man.”  She scowled darkly at him.  “I’m surprised at you for omitting it.”

“It was written about a hundred years too late for inclusion in this particular book, ma’am.”

“Well, I still think it remarkably shortsighted of you,” she sniffed.

“And what about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have A Dream’ speech?” the woman on his other side demanded.  “I suppose that one didn’t merit inclusion either!”

Just then Ben caught Michael’s eye from across the room.  Michael raised his eyebrows questioningly and Ben silently mouthed I will kill you at him.  A moment later Michael was there.

“Pardon me, ladies, I must steal our shining star away for the time being.”  He guided Ben through the crowd, out of the ballroom and down a side hall, not far from the kitchens.  He pushed Ben down into a folding chair.  “Sit.  I’ll get you some food.”

Ben shut his eyes and leaned his head back against the wall, letting the bustling noises and rich smells waft over him as he pressed on the throbbing space between his eyebrows.  So much for wishing for a get-out-of-jail-free headache, now he actually had one.

Michael tapped him on the shoulder.  “Here you are, darling.”  Ben sat up and took the plate from him.  Roast beef, baby potatoes and scallions, asparagus and a steaming cup of coffee.  Ben might have whimpered.  He would never admit to it, though.

Michael sat down across from him and watched him eat for a while.  “I know you don’t feel like it amounts to anything, but I do appreciate your being here,” he said at last.  “Even if it means you end up harboring wicked thoughts about me.”

“Not too wicked,” Ben allowed.  “You are feeding me, after all.”

“There’s looking on the bright side.  Were those lovely octogenarians giving you a hard time?”

“They just don’t understand the difference a century makes in a time period.”  Ben finished the roast beef and started in on the potatoes.  God, he was hungry.  “Can I please be done now?”

“Not quite,” Michael said with a sympathetic grimace that he absolutely didn’t mean.  “There are a few more people to get some face time with, plus, it would be nice of you to stay for the speeches.”


“Oh, didn’t I mention those?” Michael asked lightly.  “Yes, the speeches, darling.  This is a fundraiser, after all, certain people must be acknowledged.”

“God damn it, Michael.”

“Free alcohol for the rest of the night,” he promised.  “Not that cheap champagne either, I’ll dedicate a waiter to bringing you the good stuff.”

“If you get me drunk I won’t be able to drive home.”

“I’ll comp you a room.  Come on, darling, you’ve been doing so well,” Michael said encouragingly.  “See the night through, won’t you?”

Ben felt like banging his head against the wall.  He took a sip of his coffee instead.  “Throw in breakfast and it’s a deal.”

“Done!  Thank you, darling, you are better to me than I deserve.”

“Yes,” Ben agreed.  Just then, his phone beeped.  Surprised, Ben took it out.

I want to see u in your suit!  I’ll show you mine if u show me yours:)   Included with the text was a picture of Ryan, in the middle of some kind of people pile, not quite smiling but looking like he wanted to. 
Oh, those eyes! Just use your imagination for the piercings, people:)
Ben looked at the picture and felt his heart give a little lurch.

“New lover?” Michael asked with a grin.  Before Ben could stop him he reached out and grabbed the phone from his hand.  “And oh, isn’t he tasty?  And young!  Darling, are you stalking college campuses now?”

“No,” Ben said shortly.  He wanted to grab for the phone but his plate was balancing on his lap.  “And why do you think he’s a lover?”

“Darling, please, give me some credit.  You never answer your phone if there’s a chance of it being someone you don’t want to speak with, which is most people.  You certainly don’t look at their messages like they’re the head chef in the kitchen of your heart.”


“Sorry, I know it’s not a metaphor that works for everyone.  So…” He looked carefully at Ben.  “Not a lover.  Not yet, at any rate, but I’ve the feeling you might like him to be.”  He stood up.  “C’mon, up then!  We’ve got to send the lovely lad a picture, otherwise he’ll be devastated.”

“Shouldn’t you be working?” Ben demanded.

“Can’t leave you alone, darling, otherwise you'll slip away like a shadow in the night and I'll lose the pleasure of your company.”  Michael knew him too well.  “Come on, up you get.  One quick pic for your man and then back out into the madding crowd.”

Ben sighed but acquiesced, putting his food and coffee down on the floor and standing up.  He brushed his hands over his front nervously.  “What should I do?”

“Just look natural, darling,” Michael said.  “Maybe give us a bit of a smile.”

Ben gave it a try.

“Oh darling, no!  This is not a smile for your proctologist, however accurate he may be; this is a smile for your hopeful young man!  Try again.”

Ben tried again, but he’d never been good at forcing smiles.  Finally, just before he looked away in exasperation, the camera clicked.

“Perfect,” Michael told him.  “I was just waiting for that moment of giving up, you do it so gracelessly and yet it manages to make you more adorable than at almost any other time.  Now to just send this along.”  He typed a quick message and hit send before Ben could get the phone away from him.

“What did you write?”

“See for yourself, darling.”  Michael handed his phone back and Ben took a look. 
Just ignore the background, I can't Photoshop for shit.

The picture was actually pretty good, he had to admit, but the message: One good turn deserves another.  Some suit porn to tide you over, darling!  That he could have done without.

I didn’t write that, Ben added and sent.  His phone stayed suspiciously quiet.

“If you’ve traumatized Ryan I’ll still kill you, free booze or no,” he warned.

“Goodness, so homicidal tonight.  Allow the poor boy a moment to marvel at your beauty before you give in to the darkness.”

Sure enough, a moment later he got a new text.  U look amazing. Thank whoever took the picture for me.

“And he’s so welcome,” Michael said graciously.  “Now then, I’ve fed you, caffeinated you and promised you alcohol.  Once more into the fray, darling?”

“Let’s get it done,” Ben agreed with a sigh, and let Michael lead him back out into the ballroom.

Thankfully there weren’t many more meet and greets, and Michael, true to his word, kept Ben supplied with gin and tonics.  Those took the edge off of the nearly two hours’ worth of speeches he had to sit through, and by the time Michael led Ben to his room for the night, he was practically cheery.

“Four gin and tonics and two glasses of champagne, what a lush,” Michael complained jokingly as he pulled off Ben’s shoes and socks.  Ben sat on the edge of the firm hotel bed, staring down at his bare feet bemusedly as Michael deconstructed his suit.  “What would your young man think of you, Ben?”

“I don’t know,” Ben admitted.  “I’d like to know, but I don’t.”

“Well, why not?  Where is he, anyway?  You could have brought him tonight, you know.”

“He’s in Boston.”

Michael looked over from where he was hanging up Ben’s jacket and frowned.  “What’s he doing there?”

“He lives there.  I met him at a funeral.”

“Picking someone up at a funeral?  That doesn’t seem your style, darling.  Who died?”

Ben’s throat felt uncomfortably thick, like he’d tried to swallow something that just wouldn’t go down.  “It was Brody’s funeral.  Ryan is his little brother.”

“Oh no.”  Michael had stuck around long enough to figure out who Brody was, and over the years of their friendship he’d discerned the man’s importance.  “I’m so sorry, Ben.”

“And I didn’t pick him up,” Ben continued doggedly, ignoring the condolences.  If he thought about Brody while he was drunk he might start crying, and there was no way in hell he’d let himself do that in front of Michael.  “Nothing happened.  We went out for a meal, we talked, we stayed in touch.  That’s it.”

“But you’d like there to be more.”  Ben just shrugged.  “Well, he’d certainly like there to be more if his messages are anything to judge by, darling.”

“I don’t think that’s a really good idea,” Ben said, looking at Michael as he undid Ben’s careful Windsor knot.  “You know I’m not very good at ‘more.’”

“Oh darling.”  Michael leaned in and kissed his forehead.  “You just have to find the right man.  I’ve always been more of a Mr. Right Now type, anyway.”  He slipped away with the tie.

“Don’t lose that,” Ben warned him.  “It’s Ryan’s.”

“You stole his tie?  You’ll be pulling his pigtails next, you sly devil.”  Warm, fast hands helped Ben out of his pants and shirt and under the covers.  “There’s a bottle of water and two Tylenol on the bed stand to help with your inevitable hangover, and the bathroom has one of the toiletry bags, so there’s supplies to brush your teeth with in the morning.  I’m off tomorrow but I’ll have the kitchen send you something delicious and greasy around nine, sound good?”

“Sounds good,” Ben agreed.  He reached out and caught Michael’s hand.  “Thanks for taking care of me tonight.  I’m sorry I’m such a pain.”

“Darling,” Michael smiled, “I treasure every opportunity to take care of you.  It’s not something you normally allow, you know.”  He patted Ben’s shoulder, then stood up and headed to the door, pausing to turn the lights off.  “Sweet dreams, Ben.”

“You too.”  The room went dark as the door closed.  Ben lay on his side, alone in the huge bed, his head swimming with gin and doubts. Part of him wanted to text Ryan, to ask him what the hell they were doing, but he knew the other man was asleep.  Plus, he knew his waking, sober self would be horrified by such a thing, and so he did his best to let his exhaustion carry him off into sleep.  Eventually, it worked.