Notes: Please take note that there’s food and sex in this next chapter. Not at quite the same time, but close enough that it might bother some people. If you dislike reading about food and bedroom fun in the same place, skip that section. We’re not talking M&Ms here, darlins. And with this part, we leave Boston and head back into the land of “My god, time to further the plot, why do I get so distracted?” And lastly, to everyone who read You Get Full Credit For Being Alive, thank you so much. Special love goes out to commentersJ
Title: Love Letters
Part Twenty-Two: Nantaimori
Ben and Ryan’s time together finally ended on Sunday morning. One full week, and Ben felt like he’d figured out a lot more than he’d bargained on in that amount of time. He learned that time with Ryan didn’t get old, but time with his roommates did. He learned that it bothered Ryan to realize that, and so he hid his discomfort as well as he could and tried to act like an adult (Michael’s admonishment, not Ben’s own words.) He’d learned that Jasmine was more than a best friend to Ryan: she provided structure and focus, and Ben appreciated that about her.
Ben also learned, very quickly, that he was wildly jealous of Jasmine, and he could tell from the look on her face at times that she wasn’t too crazy about him either. She liked that he made Ryan happy, she didn’t like that Ben didn’t care to socialize the same way the rest of them did. She poked and prodded both of them to “leave the bedroom already, get some air, eat something, drink something, for god’s sake!” Without every saying anything explicitly, Ben knew that Jasmine wasn’t going to let Ryan go without a fight. Vague, barely formed thoughts of persuading Ryan to come to Denver and live with him were snuffed out like candles in a hurricane.
Not that he’d thought too hard about that. He and Ryan still had a lot to learn about each other. Ryan occasionally made assumptions about Ben that were outdated or flat wrong, like telling Jasmine one night that Ben’s favorite food was spaghetti and meat sauce. She’d made it, and it had been okay, but Ben had been thirteen when he’d written that. He could have ignored it, or told Ryan he was wrong, but instead he wrote him a note:
Google nantaimori and then meet me in the bedroom.
Ben had already gone out and bought the sushi he needed. Jasmine raised an eyebrow at him when she saw the containers cluttering her fridge, but when Ben explained it was something special for Ryan her territorial tendencies receded, although her interest didn’t.
“Raw fish in bed,” she said, wrinkling her nose a little. “You couldn’t just be a traditionalist and go with whipped cream and chocolate syrup?”
“Nope,” Ben replied. “Will you give him the note if he comes back before I’m out of the shower?”
In the end, Ben had time to shower, get the sushi plated, the ginger and soy sauce and wasabi all ready before Ryan made it back from a run to the art store. Ben heard Jasmine greet him, ask about Ben and get a little laugh in reply. A few minutes later Ryan came into the bedroom, his phone in one hand, a bag of forgotten art supplies in the other. “Hi,” he said with a grin. “Wow.”
“Hi,” Ben said. He sat cross-legged on the bed in his briefs, his hair still damp from the shower, his skin pleasantly cool. “You hungry?”
“Oh my god, yes.” Ryan shut the door and set his things down, then came over to the bed. “Are you really going to let me eat sushi off you?”
“If you want to, yes. And if you shower first I’ll return the favor.” Ben liked the way Ryan tasted, but if he was going to be putting food on him he really wanted to know that Ryan’s skin was clean.
“I’ll be two minutes,” Ryan promised before pressing a kiss to Ben’s mouth. “One. One minute,” he said when they separated.
It was closer to three, but that gave Ben time to prepare. Honestly it wasn’t the act of eating sushi off another person that Ben was really into; he just loved sushi. But it was something he’d been intrigued by when he’d heard about it, and as a way of letting Ryan in on a new favorite of his, Ben figured the process had a lot to recommend it.
By the time Ryan came back out Ben was naked, lying on his back. He’d set some simple tuna rolls down the center of his chest, and left the condiments off to the side; sushi was one thing, getting wasabi on himself was completely another. He craned his neck to look at Ryan as he entered from the bathroom, smelling fresh and glistening with water.
Ryan settled down beside Ben on the bed and leaned over his chest, licking his lips. “It looks delicious.”
“Try some,” Ben said. He arched his back a little, not enough to disrupt anything, but the movement definitely caught Ryan’s eye. Ryan bent down and opened his mouth around the lowest piece, surrounding it completely and tightening the circle of his lips until the piece was gone. He chewed fast, swallowed a gulp of water from the bottle Ben had brought in, the moved on to the next piece, licking a trail up Ben’s skin as he did.
Ryan’s tongue was hot, a stark contrast to the chilled sushi on Ben’s chest, and he made the most of it, nibbling and caressing at the skin before grabbing the next piece. By the time the last bite was gone Ben was more than ready for his turn.
“Lie down,” he said, a little roughly. “I’m starving.”
Ryan didn’t argue, just switched positions with Ben and waited expectantly, a huge smile on his face. He wiggled a little bit at the feel of the first cold piece, but settled when it almost rolled off his stomach. Ben set two pieces of tekka-maki on Ryan’s nipples, dotted his stomach with bits of edamame, and slyly set a piece of unagi just above the swell of Ryan’s hipbones, low on his abdomen. Ryan’s cock was already swelling but Ben did his best to ignore it, crouching between Ryan’s spread legs and nuzzling up the length of his side before he slowly, delicately, slid over and ate one of the pieces off Ryan’s chest.
Where Ryan had gone fast, Ben was going slow, slow with everything. He chewed slowly, never more than a centimeter away from Ryan’s skin, dropping closed-mouth kisses onto it until he was ready to move on to the next piece. He scooped the edamame up with his tongue, chasing the few that rolled away across Ryan’s skin until his lover trembled with pent-up laughter beneath him. Ben ignored the condiments like Ryan had, far more interested in the quiver of Ryan’s skin, how far Ben could push him with the brush of his lips and the nuzzle of his nose before Ryan’s control started to break.
“Almost done,” Ben assured him. “You just have to be still a little longer.” Not that Ben planned on making that easy for him.
He teased Ryan with the last piece, kissing at Ryan’s hips, the tops of his thighs and delving his tongue into his bellybutton before sliding down and scooping the unagi off of Ben’s stomach. His lover was so hard by then that the swollen tip of his cock was less than an inch away from the piece of sushi, and Ben brushed it with his chin as he ate.
“Ben,” Ryan pleaded, soft because they’d just heard Lennie arrive home, clattering about in her room next door. “Oh, please, Ben…”
“Did I miss something?” Ben asked with a smile. He took a quick sip of water, then settled deeper between Ryan’s legs and stroked his cock, fingertips light and gentle against the hot skin. “This, maybe?”
“I think you’ve found it,” Ryan said breathlessly.
“I think I have too.” He sucked the head of Ryan’s cock into his mouth and when Ryan moaned, loudly this time, Ben didn’t spare a moment in doubt. Ryan was wet and warm and firm, and Ben licked the head over and over, little kitten licks, lapping up every drop of precome as it appeared. He jacked the base of Ryan’s cock for a bit, brushed his hand down over Ryan’s tightening balls, and finally dipped his finger down into the crevice of Ryan’s cheeks, rubbing the pad of his middle finger against the tight ring there.
“Oh, fuck,” Ryan said, his voice breaking a little. Ben couldn’t go as far as he wanted to, not without getting up to search for the lube, so he restricted himself to little pushes, barely entering with the tip of his finger before he drew back again. The rhythm of his finger mimicked his mouth, just tiny brushed, barely-there caresses that felt so good but put Ryan on edge at the same time.
“Please, fuck, please…” Ben wanted to, god did he want to, but he satisfied himself with making Ryan come instead, using his thumb to rub over his lover’s perineum as he took his cock as far down as he could go, done teasing. Ryan’s hands found Ben’s hair and squeezed tight as he came with a shout, and Ben loved every second of it.
Once Ryan was done Ben pulled back, just far enough that his head could rest on Ryan’s stomach. He buried his face against his lover’s skin and inhaled the lingering crisp scent of the edamame, luxuriated in Ryan’s tangled fingers stroking clumsily through his hair—
“Five minutes to a real dinner, guys, think you’ll be done by then?” Lennie asked with a laugh from the other side of the bedroom door. Ben sighed. This, right here, was why he couldn’t fuck Ryan in this apartment. Ben wasn’t an exhibitionist, he didn’t like being on display at the best of times, and the idea of someone listening in as he completely lost track of his mind and his mouth—because he knew he would with Ryan—just didn’t sit well with him. And the shower, nice as it was, was a little on the small side for two guys. Still…
“Shower with me first?” he asked. Because they were both a little fishy and Ben still really wanted to come, just not where Lennie would be listening.
“Absolutely,” Ryan murmured. “We’ll have to do this again.”
By Sunday Ben had managed to get most of the information he’d come to Boston for, and the rest Calanthe promised to scan and email to him within the next few weeks. His flight was set to leave that afternoon, and despite knowing that he’d miss Ryan terribly, he was more than ready for it. Ben felt like he hadn’t gotten a full night’s sleep the entire week he’d been here, and he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the next time he came to visit—and there would be a next time, as soon as possible according to Ryan—he would be staying in a hotel.
Ryan was slow to wake and even slower to detach himself from Ben on Sunday morning, holding onto him tightly. “Wish you could stay longer,” he said into Ben’s shoulder.
“I wish you could come back with me,” Ben told him, completely honest. “But I’ll see you again soon,” he added. “Maydays, right?”
“Right.” The “Maydays” celebration was a family specialty for the Kuzniars, who had a plethora of birthdays in May all around the same time, and made a tradition out of celebrating them together. Ryan would turn twenty-seven on the 30th, two days after his mother’s birthday. Speaking of whom…
“Are you sure your mom will be okay with me being there?”
“She’ll be fine with it,” Ryan said confidently. “She thinks you’re great. She always asks me how you are. You’re the success story in an otherwise cautionary tale when it comes to making a living as a writer or artist.”
“Then I’ll be there.”
The morning was spent on breakfast, packing, a quickie on the freshly-laundered comforter and finally, the unveiling of Ryan’s latest painting.
“It’s not done yet,” he cautioned Ben. “It’s really just a character sketch for the Phantom.”
It might be, but when Ben looked at the canvas he saw something that resonated with him. A man, naked, crouched on a smooth grey rock in the center of an ocean of mist. The man had Ben’s face, and wore the solemn expression that Ben knew so well from looking into the mirror. The mist beneath him was filled with lively scenes, glimpses into the world that the Phantom had so clearly been excised from. Beyond the rock and the mist there was nothing but blackness, like the walls of a cave, no light except what flowed out of the images of life beneath the Phantom’s fingertips. The man looked trapped, and Ben’s voice caught in his throat for a moment.
“It’s amazing,” he managed at last, and it truly was. The light, the colors, the anatomy of the Phantom as he bent and stared—it was beautiful. And sad. Ben wondered, just a little, if any of this reflected what Ryan really thought of him. Insular, closed off, alone…
“Thanks,” Ryan said quietly. He took Ben’s hand and squeezed it, and Ben squeezed back. They might have said more, if Lennie hadn’t suddenly called out, “Cab’s here, guys!”
“Coming!” Ryan called back. “I’ll go grab your bag out of the bedroom,” he said.
“Thanks.” Ben watched him go, then pulled a small piece of paper folded into a square out of his pocket and set it on the easel beneath the painting. He’d known he wanted to leave Ryan with a note, he just hadn’t been sure what to write. I loved everything would have been facetious, and it’ll go better next time would have been cruel. Finally he had settled on this:
You are the best thing about everything I see, or do, or feel, no matter if we’re together or apart. I’ll just have to make do with second best until we’re together again. May can’t come soon enough.
Then Ben left to say his goodbyes, took the shot glass from Cityside that he’d won on trivia night and forgotten about, and headed out to the cab with Ryan. Ryan had wanted to come with him, but he and Jasmine had a joint telephone conference with an acquiring agent at a larger publishing house that afternoon, and he couldn’t miss it.
“I hate this part so much,” Ryan muttered, his forehead pressed against Ben’s. “I fucking hate it.” He looked up at Ben with heavy eyes. “I swear it’s worse every time.”
Pointing out that this was only the third time wouldn’t have helped, because Ben pretty much felt the same way. “It won’t be for long,” he said instead.
“Maydays is almost two months away.”
“Phone calls,” Ben promised between kisses, “emails, texting, Skype—”
“Sure,” Ben grinned.
It was better than it had been at the airport, at least; the cabbie was the one who had dropped Ben off, and he waited patiently for them to finish their goodbyes before starting the meter.
“Good trip?” the cabbie asked as they pulled away from the curb. “You ever get to a Sox game?”
“I did, Eddie was a big help,” Ben said absently, staring down at his phone. It wouldn’t take Ryan long to get back inside, and maybe he would find the note before Ben had to board the plane, maybe he’d find it even faster.
Or maybe his roommates would whisk him away as soon as he was inside in order to distract him, and he wouldn’t get the note until tomorrow or later in the week. Ben sighed and put the phone away. He sat silent for most of the ride, and the cabbie didn’t press him for information this time, just let him be.
Ben’s phone remained stubbornly still through check-in, security and the boarding process. He was about to shut it off when it finally buzzed with an incoming message.
Your my best thing 2.
Ben felt a twist of tension relax inside his chest, and he stared at the brief message with a smile on his face until one of the flight attendants came by and asked him to shut off his phone.