Notes: So, I don’t get as in-depth on the game as I wanted to, but I just ran out of time to write and I need to move past this particular day in the story. Don’t hate me, Bostonians! Plus, smexy chapter! Plus introspection, plus history, all equals what I hope is a good time. Thanks for the birthday wishes, guys, I had a lovely dayJ
Title: Love Letters
Part Twenty-One: Gestures, Letters and Brief Mentions of Baseball
On Wednesday morning Ben gratefully escaped to the library before most of the apartment was awake, only pausing to grab a cup of coffee and share a few words with Jasmine before he was on his way. He’d wanted to do more, had actually been planning on waking Ryan up and talking to him first, but the other man had looked tired. Plus, there was a suspicion at the back of Ben’s mind that there was nothing he could say right now that wouldn’t simply be a rehash of what he’d said last night, and that conversation had been decidedly unsatisfying.
Today would go better. Tonight was the game, so at least Ben had an excuse to get them out of the apartment for a while.
Passive-aggressive, Ben heard Michael sing-song in his mind. Ben rolled his eyes at himself as he got into a cab and headed back to the library. Even his mental versions of his friends were bugging him now. He laid his head back on the seat and focused on what he needed to go through today. Planning, getting a system in place in advance, that was what made him happy. What had he been thinking, springing a surprise visit on Ryan? Who wanted that kind of hassle?
Ryan does, Michael reminded him. Or do you not remember that first greeting?
“You can shut up now,” Ben groaned out loud. The cabbie looked back at him with a scowl. “Sorry, not you.” He gave the guy a bigger tip in apology for being a dumbass.
This morning the Arnold letters, some of the Adams letters and the Toth letters were pulled for Ben. He’d already read the Arnold letters in the online database, but it was interesting to see them in person. The paper was very high quality, folded precisely and written on with an elegant, almost fussy hand. Benedict Arnold had been a meticulous lover, courting his women with pretty words and grandiose promises. He had also been a determined lover, persisting in his courtship in one instance until the lady he was interested in married another man. His last wife had fallen more easily to his charms, and their marriage by all accounts had been a good one until Arnold’s downfall. He went on to be castigated in England, burned in effigy on Saint John and nearly beheaded by the French on Guadeloupe.
By contrast, the Adams letters were warm and cramped and occasionally sloppy, a mixture of affection and family information and advice to one another from afar. They spoke of a long and profound understand between the two of them, and a mutual admiration that wasn’t affected by time or distance. Not many men of the period could or would confess true friendship and admiration for their wives, but John Adams did both, continually, with almost every letter he wrote.
After this wandering Way of Life is passed I hope to return, to my best friend and pass the Remainder of our Days in Quiet.
I cannot learn that Great Britain is yet in Temper to listen to Propositions of Peace, and I dont expect before another Winter to have much to do in my present Capacity.
My tenderest affection to our dear Children, and believe me, ever yours,
They were pleasant letters to read, and Ben touched each one with careful reverence before moving on to the next. He got through about a quarter of the collection before the pain in his back reminded him that he needed a break, and he sat up and took a moment to check his phone. Three new messages from Linda, nothing from Ryan. Ben frowned and put the phone back on his bag. He could talk to Linda later.
The other letters that Ben was looking at today had been written by Avery Toth, a carpenter’s son who joined the 3rd Virginia Cavalry in 1779. In 1780, he and over a hundred of his fellow soldiers were massacred by British dragoons after the British commander’s horse was shot down, pinning the commander beneath it, as he rode forward to negotiate a surrender.
What made Avery Toth’s letters particularly special was the fact that their intended recipient was unknown. The letters were addressed to C, and sent through the intermediary of Avery’s sister Geraldine back home. Numerous historians had speculated over the years as to who C could be, some thinking it was Catherine Darrow, the sister of a friend of the Toth family, while a few radical ones had suggested it might even be Charles Lancaster, a young man who had attempted to join up with the same regiment but had been dismissed after his parents Loyalist sympathies were exposed.
Whoever had been the intended, the letters had ended up back in Geraldine’s care after her brother’s death, and she had passed them down to her own children. They were sweet, tentative letters, less full of grandiose words and more about the small things of everyday life, and how hard it was to miss the other person.
We are settled now in a meadow outside of Charleston, while our Commander has gone into town. The ground is churned to mud from the horses, and the rain is not pleasant. I have made my bed beneath a tree, that I must share with four other men.
That I can and should bear such things is the life of a Soldier, but I
would bear them better were you with me.
I feel yore absence like I would the loss of my own limb.
There were never any replies, as far as later readers could tell. If there had been any letters on Avery Toth’s body, then they had been buried with him in a mass grave in Waxhaws, South Carolina. It put Ben in a melancholy state of mind as he read, each letter a bit stumbling, the words occasionally misspelled or scratched out. These were the words of a hopeful young man to his love, and unlike so many of the other letters that Ben read, this one had no happy ending. Even Benedict Arnold had lived to die of gout at the age of 60. Avery Toth was dead before his eighteenth birthday.
Still, the letters must have been a comfort to C, whoever he or she was. They had been something special, something for C alone even if they’d gone through Geraldine’s hands first. That sort of connection was important.
After reading the last one Ben was seized with a mood. Moods happened every now and then, the kinds of moods where the bits and pieces of his psyche that held his impulses for grandiosity firmly in check suddenly stopped working. He glanced at his watch; a little after one. Plenty of time.
Ben was able to persuade Calanthe to help him find a florist and hook him up with a delivery service, while Ben called up Eddie, the Man with the Tickets, and got seats in Fenway Park up by the Green Monster.
In the end, after half an hour of indecision, Ben forced himself to just write it out on a torn piece of notebook paper. It wasn’t pretty, but that wasn’t the important part.
So it turns out that courting is hard, harder than I thought when we began. I don’t always think things through, and as a friend pointed out to me the other night, I can’t expect you to read my mind. You have decades of my letters, but those aren’t me. I have impressions of you, but they aren’t complete. This is okay. We have time to fill in the blank spaces, but I think you shouldn’t have to make do with secondhand letters anymore. This is the first that’s just for you: a slice of my time, the impressions of my hand and mind, and a piece of my heart. I’ll give you more; I want to give you everything. I want to know you best.
All true, all stuff that scared the hell out of Ben, and still not complete. But, Ben consoled himself, it was only the first letter of what would hopefully be many. He gave the letter, the sunflowers (roses were cliché, and not bright enough) and the tickets to a courier and had them delivered to the apartment, then got back to work.
Ben was halfway through the Toth letters when his phone began to buzz. He checked the number: Ryan. Before Ben could pick up, though, the call ended.
That seemed like a bad sign. Ben too off his cotton gloves and stood up, ready to head outside, but then the texts started to come through.
Sorry I totally forgot u r in the library.
This is amazing.
I love it.
U need to be here, like now.
I love the flowers.
Ive never gotten flowers before.
Srsly, be here 5 minutes ago.
It was still early, but Ben cut out anyway. Vaguely he was aware he hadn’t eaten lunch, or breakfast, and that he was going to suffer for that soon, but right now he was coasting on anticipation. He managed to get up to the apartment before Ryan jumped him this time, but there was still enough enthusiasm to slam his back into the door as Ryan kissed Ben, winding his arms around Ben’s neck and holding on for dear life.
Jesus Christ, the way Ryan could hitch his hips up was going to be the death of him. Ben’s libido came swarming back to life so fast he got light-headed, and had to pull away and look up for a moment just to catch his breath and remind himself that he couldn’t go down on Ryan in the living room.
“Ye-owch!” Ben looked over Ryan’s shoulder and saw Jasmine standing by the window, fanning herself. “Feel free to keep going, don’t stop on my account,” she said.
“Aww, that’s so sweet,” Ben heard Lenny say, probably from the couch but he couldn’t see because Ryan tugged his face back down and kissed him again. “Why don’t you ever get me flowers and write me love notes after we have a fight?”
Those were the first words Ben had heard Grant say, and he might have heard more but by then Ryan was pulling Ben down the hall and into his room, shutting the door and dropping to his knees so fast it must have hurt them. He didn’t seem to notice.
“Ryan,” Ben said, weakly tugging on his hair. “Wait, maybe we should—”
“All I’ve been thinking about all day is you coming down my throat,” Ryan said hoarsely, grappling with Ben’s belt and tugging his pants down. “We can talk later, okay? Please?”
“Well, since you said please,” Ben joked, then groaned when Ryan’s lips brushed the head of his cock, opening to barely wet him with his tongue and then sliding down, taking him in deeper and deeper until there was no further he could go. “Oh fuck,” Ben sighed. Fuck, that felt so good. Ryan licked around the base of his cock, then back up, humming happily. Ben relaxed his hold on Ryan’s hair and stroked him instead, scratching his nails across Ryan’s scalp and cupping his straining jaw and thrusting, just a little, with his hips.
Ryan pulled off for a moment. “Do that more,” he said, his voice wrecked, then sucked Ben in again, his tongue dancing across the hot, hard flesh. Ben didn’t need any more convincing to thrust harder, and Ryan took it, gagging a few times but holding onto Ben’s hips tight, urging him forward. Ben felt his orgasm coming on far too fast to be good for his dignity, and he tried to pull away but Ryan wouldn’t have it. He came, and Ryan swallowed with a moan, and if Ben was a slightly more selfish person he would have collapsed to the ground right then and gone happily dormant for a few minutes. Or hours.
Instead he rested just enough to catch his breath, then pulled Ryan to his feet and walked him back to the bed. Ryan’s mouth tasted bitter and sweet at the same time, and Ben licked into it as he urged Ryan out of his clothes. It was easy enough; he was just wearing boxers—electric blue this time—and a t-shirt, and the boxers weren’t doing much to keep his erection under wraps anyway. Ben slid down Ryan’s body and mouthed over the precome stain in the fabric, spreading it with his tongue as he traced the line of Ryan’s cock through the slick fabric.
“More,” Ryan begged. “More, please, I need you.” And Ben wasn’t a sadist, so he gave Ryan more, pulling the fabric away and brushing his lips over the silky skin of Ryan’s cock. This was the first time he’d gotten so close to it in the light of day, and it was gorgeous, just like everything else on Ryan. Ben fisted the base as he closed his mouth over the top, and in less than a minute Ryan was coming, shamelessly loud, his back arching with pleasure. Ben swallowed the first pulse, then let the rest flow over his fingers, thick and viscous and real. The air smelled like sex and heat, and Ryan was still moaning, soft but genuine, still lost in orgasm. This was good, this was worth it, uncertainty and anxiety and inevitable mistakes. Ryan was worth it.
“Mmm, was that make-up sex or just regular sex?” Ryan asked lazily.
“I’m not sure,” Ben said. He sat up to take off his jacket and shirt, and kick his socks off as well. “Did we have a fight?”
“I don’t think so. Just a weirdness.”
“Those are going to happen with me,” Ben warned.
“Me too,” Ryan said with a sigh. “Sorry about the party, I really didn’t think you’d mind. You used to party all the time, didn’t you?”
“Back when I smoked a lot of pot,” Ben agreed. “But it’s been a few years.”
“Got it. Parties in moderation.” He reached out and pulled Ben down on top of him. It was sticky and sweaty, but Ben didn’t care. “Except for two-person parties.”
“A natural exemption.”
“Excellent. Wanna go party in the shower?”
Ben tucked his face into the side of Ryan’s neck and laughed. God, he felt loopy now. “Okay, but then I need food.”
“We can eat at the stadium!”
“I need real food, not hot dogs and beer.”
“Aww, baby, don’t be a hater.”
In the end they were rather late to the game, but the Red Sox were winning and so the people they had to push past to get to their seats were inclined to be forgiving. They had beer and hot dogs, although Ben had eaten something back at the apartment first, they jeered the Yankees with the crowd (Ben felt a little guilty doing it, but his loyalty to New York was fleeting) and they sang Sweet Caroline during the 8th inning.
As a gesture, it was a good one. As a date it was even better, and even in the middle of the crowd, all of Ben’s world was Ryan. He could handle that.
***Avery Toth is a fiction invented by me. Sorry, letter lovers.