Notes: It’s DONE! *screams into a pillow so as not to alarm the cat* DOOOONE!
Actually, that’s a lie. I still have an epilogue to write, and a Ryan POV, but the main body of the story is now done. And this chapter is a doozy, guys, there’s sex and revelations and more sex and plot development and it ends, not with everything quite wrapped up in a bow, but with hope. And the epilogue will be amazing, I promise.
So, not quite the end, but still a nice bit of resolution. I hope you enjoy it, darlins.
Title: Love Letters
Part Thirty-Nine: Presenting: You, Me, Us
They didn’t even remember to get around to presents until New Year’s Eve.
There were the basics, of course, the things that Ben sent along with all the little presents for Ryan’s family. Warm clothes, a lift ticket for the nearest mountain, the cost of renting skis. Skiing wasn’t something that Ryan had a natural ability or affinity for, and his first day working on it was mostly spent in a snowplow position or on his back, but he seemed to enjoy it, laughing and reaching out to try to kiss Ben whenever they passed each other, which made for a lot more falling down than was strictly necessary. Ben was pretty good on skis, but instead of going off and finding something challenging he spent all day on the bunny slope with Ryan, dodging packs of small children taking group lessons and keeping Ryan in his sights.
The tickets to the Museum of Contemporary Art didn’t count either, not really, that was just something to do that Ben was pretty sure Ryan would enjoy, and he did. They spent an entire morning there, got lunch at a nearby wine bar and then came back for most of the afternoon. There were nuances to modern art that Ben was pretty much oblivious to, but with Ryan along to appreciate it and to describe his appreciation to Ben, it was easier to enjoy.
“The Pattern exhibition is brilliant,” Ryan insisted. “It’s a way of exploring visual dynamics within a set system of rules, and I think the objects that some of the artists came up with are fascinating.”
“But repetitive,” Ben said as they walked out, hand in hand, into the cold.
“But that’s the point, to discover ways of being creative and interesting despite the repetition,” Ryan argued. “Look at it in a wider context and you can see parallels between the artistic rules and the rules of larger society and see it as a metaphor for making a unique place for yourself while obeying…oh, you jackass!” Because he finally saw the grin on Ben’s face. “You’re just winding me up, you fuck, why are you so mean?”
“It’s mean that I like listening to you?” Ben asked as they crossed the street to where his car was parked. “I enjoy hearing you explain things, and you tend to get self-conscious about it if I straight-up ask, so maybe I…coaxed you, a little.”
“You said the entire exhibit made no sense!”
“But I didn’t say it was nonsense,” Ben pointed out as they got into the car. “I just said I didn’t get it and you took over from there. And I appreciated the discourse, so thanks.”
Ryan smiled a little. “You’re just about the only person I know who can use ‘discourse’ in a sentence and make it sound normal.”
“I’ll take that as a compliment,” Ben said, pulling out into traffic. “Do you want to eat out tonight?”
“There’s still pizza in the fridge, right?” Heather had been over last night with double the usual amount of pizza and beer, and they’d had a surprisingly good time together. They had ended up watching episodes of Dr. Who, which both Heather and Ryan had a history with, and eventually getting drunk on Ben’s vodka when the beer was gone. She’d spent the night on the couch, made a huge amount of coffee in the morning with the Starbucks blend she’d given Ben as a Christmas gift, eaten half a loaf of bread in the form of toast and promised to see them at least once more before Ryan had to leave.
Which, Ben didn’t want to think about. “Yeah, there’s plenty of pizza.”
“Then how about we just go home and eat pizza and find something better to do with our time?” There was heat in those words that made Ben want to pull his shirt collar away from his skin, like it was keeping him from breathing right somehow.
“Sounds good,” he said, with just a little bit of roughness to his voice and Ryan smirked, and oh, he was going to pay for that later.
Sex. Sex with Ryan. It was amazing. Everything they’d done before had been good, very good, so very good, and maybe it was more the result of anticipation that had done it to him, but Ben was convinced there was nothing quite so amazing as being inside of Ryan.
It helped that Ryan seemed to agree. The day after he arrived, once they were back from skiing and more than a little bruised, they’d taken a shower together. Kissing, stroking, and Ben had been ready to go down on his knees before Ryan stopped him.
“I thought,” he said, a little breathless and completely hard, “that maybe we could do something different. Because I love your blow jobs but I would really, really like you to fuck me tonight.”
Ben was a little surprised and a lot turned on. “You spent half the day falling over, you’ve got to be sore,” he pointed out.
“It just got me in the mood to be on my back,” Ryan joked, kissing a line down the damp skin of Ben’s neck. “Do you wanna?”
“Yes,” Ben said immediately. “Holy shit, yes, just…” He pushed Ryan’s hand away from his cock. “If you keep touching me you’ll end up having to wait a lot longer than you want to.”
“Yes, having you spend your refractory period opening me up will be absolutely terrible,” Ryan said as he rolled his eyes. “But you love touching me like that, you love taking your time.”
“Yeah,” Ben said, a little helpless as Ryan touched him again. “But I can do that without getting off first.”
“You’ll be desperate by the end.”
“You like me desperate.”
Ben knew Ryan did. He liked seeing the evidence of what he did to Ben, liked seeing Ben lose control for him. He liked to see that he affected him, deeply, unreservedly. Ryan loved to make Ben shout and yell and moan, and Ryan repaid the attention devotedly. But they’d never gone this far before, and now that it was on the table Ben knew the wait was likely to be torturous. So of course, Ryan immediately agreed to it.
They’d spread out on the bed, lube and condoms at the ready because Ben didn’t like to fumble for them during the act. Ryan was on his stomach, head pillowed on his arms and one leg hitched up to make space. Ben knelt between his feet, feeling antsy and spoiled for choice, and he loved it. “My choice?” he confirmed as he bent down.
“Yeah, whatever you—Ben!” Because Ryan hadn’t quite been expecting his tongue, it seemed, not if the way his breath caught and his hips rose up a few inches was any indication. “Fuck, really?”
“Really,” Ben said, absolutely sure. He hadn’t done this for anyone in a long time—he hadn’t wanted to—but he did for Ryan. He’d wanted to in Boston but hadn’t had the privacy, he’d wanted to in Concord but hadn’t had the time. Now he had both of those, and Ben was determined to enjoy them. “If you want it.”
“Good.” Ben spread Ryan’s cheeks with his thumbs, leaned in and flicked his tongue over Ryan’s hole. He tasted clean, still a little damp from their very thorough shower. Ben licked, not penetrating, just smooth, firm brushes of his tongue over and over until Ryan was completely relaxed and panting against his arm, on the verge of begging for more but not quite able to articulate it.
Once Ben thought Ryan was ready he pulled back and lubed up his fingers. He opened Ryan slowly, taking in every nuance, every thrust that got him a moan, the way Ryan pushed back eagerly whenever he added another finger. This part they’d done before, but not with the same intent. Ben wanted to be inside Ryan so bad his hands were shaking.
“Now,” Ryan finally broke down and begged. “Now now now, Ben, c’mon.”
He didn’t have to ask twice. Ben pulled his fingers free and wiped them on the towel he’d also brought to bed with them, then grabbed the condom. It took way too long to get it on, long enough that Ryan seemed close to turning around and doing it himself, but when it finally worked Ben lay his hands on Ryan’s waist, and his lover eagerly pressed back onto his knees and it only took a moment, just a moment and then…
Holy fuck. Holy fucking fuck. And…words, they just weren’t happening. The act defied Ben’s ability to describe it, which was terrible and wonderful, because Ben wanted to remember how it felt, he wanted to put adjectives to the perfection that was being inside of Ryan because that was how he treasured things, but he couldn’t. Not now. Not with Ryan’s sighs filling his ears, his muttered, “Yes, Ben, oh my god, please move,” and Ben’s own helpless obedience. They moved together, long, slow pushes that somehow never became the frantic thing Ben had envisioned, and it was so good that when Ben came, too soon despite their care, the relentless wash of pleasure that overloaded every nerve in his body left him next to useless. Thankfully Ryan was close too, close enough that a quick touch of his own hand was enough to set him off, and when they crumpled back down to the bed in a slow collapse no one was left waiting.
Ben hadn’t known what to say about it. Ryan hadn’t asked, either, which was kind, and they’d spent the rest of the night curled up together, sated and a little fragile. The next morning had been normal enough, and the next time they made love had been a more coherent experience for Ben, so that was good. That was perfect.
So yes, sex with Ryan was good, better than ever, and when he brought it up in the car Ben forgot he’d ever had an appetite for anything else and drove them home as fast as he could manage. His house wasn’t that far from downtown Denver, and they were already clutching each other once they got in through the front door.
“What about the other way?” Ryan asked as he shed his coat, hanging it up—Ben appreciated that—and leaving his shoes on the mat.
“Hmm?” Ben replied, not quite getting it.
“The other way. Do you like it?”
His brain cells finally connected. “You mean do I like bottoming?”
Ryan nodded, blushing.
“I’ve only done it a few times, and it’s been years. I honestly don’t remember much about it,” Ben said, and that was true. He’d mostly been high at the time, because he’d been a lucky idiot in college, lucky he hadn’t ended up doing something or someone he’d regretted and an idiot because he really couldn’t take credit for that. “We could try it, though.”
“Tonight?” Ryan pressed, coming back into his arms and kissing the point of his chin.
“Sure.” Because why not, if Ryan wanted it.
Ben wasn’t like Ryan in a lot of things. They both liked foreplay, but Ben didn’t like to be on the receiving end of a lot of close attention, which meant him doing things to Ryan and Ryan letting him and that being good for both of them. With more time together they’d probably work something out, but right now there was too much need, too much heat and anxiety to spend a lot of time negotiating. Ben knew Ryan wanted to touch him, to spend time on him, but if Ben was going to be letting Ryan in then he needed to be in control, and Ryan got that.
Ben prepped himself, fast but thorough. Ryan watched but didn’t touch, not until Ben was ready. Ben asked if he could ride Ryan, not wanting to be on his back or looking away, and Ryan grinned.
“C’mere, cowboy,” he teased, laying back against the comforter and slapping his own hip. “Let’s see if you can stay on.”
“Buck me off and you’ll regret it,” Ben warned, but he smiled as he shuffled forward and straddled Ryan’s hips. His dick was hard and hot against the crease of Ben’s ass and Ben rocked back against it, his breath stuttering a little, ready to take it but not quite, not quite—
“Ben.” Ryan stroked his hands down Ben’s sides, looking him straight in the eye. “I love you. We can do anything, it doesn’t have to be this. Anything you want.”
Ben sighed and relaxed almost unconsciously. Love, oh. Right. That was what made this different, something worth remembering, not just a new thing to experience for the hell of it. “I want this,” Ben said, reassuringly, letting Ryan pet him until it was easy to lean forward and get in the right position, and he let Ryan into his body with a hint of pain, but far more of a sense of satisfaction. It felt…okay, not fabulous, but good because it was Ryan. And Ryan’s eyes were wide and dark and he looked at Ben like Ben had hung the moon, and when he moved a little it felt better, and then better still.
They didn’t stay slow and gentle, not like before, but it was never rushed. Ben’s body sparked with pleasure as Ryan moved inside of him and Ryan, well, he looked like he was just hanging on for as long as he could. He came first, breathless, Ben’s name on his lips and Ben loved seeing him like that. He rocked slowly against the fullness inside of him as Ryan came down from the pleasure, then slid forward until he was off of Ryan’s dick and above his face. Ryan sucked Ben’s cock into his mouth without hesitating, letting Ben fuck him until he came a few minutes later with a groan.
Needless to say, presents were the farthest things from both their minds for most of Ryan’s trip.
They were going out for New Year’s Eve. Michael had a party at the hotel that he insisted both of them attend, and in typical Michael fashion he got his way. New Year’s was inevitably going to be a rough night for Ryan, since Brody had died on New Year’s Day, and Ben thought the distraction might help. They got dressed up and ready to go, but before they could leave Ben stopped him.
“So, I have something for you,” he said. “It’s not all of your present but it’s part of it, enough to kind of get the idea.”
“I thought you visiting me was my present,” Ben said, completely honest. Ryan shook his head.
“No, that’s my present for me. This is my present for you.” He dashed upstairs to where he’d left his things and came back down holding something behind his back. “I didn’t wrap them because that would be strange, considering, and I know this isn’t everything but I didn’t want to bring a suitcase with me on the plane so I’ll mail the rest of them to you, so…here.” He pulled his hand around and held out—
Letters. Maybe ten of them, all still in their original envelopes, all written out in Ben’s handwriting. Ben took them gently, listening to Ryan’s explanation as he touched the yellowed paper. God, this one had to be one of the first, it was so worn now.
“I thought about it and I realized that you’re really the person who should have these. They were meant to be something between you and Brody and while I loved reading them, I don’t think I was ever supposed to keep them. They meant a lot to me when I was young, and they meant a lot to Brody and they were a way for us to, to connect, you know? But they’re not what I need now, and they never really were mine to need in the first place. I love them, but I…I love you more, so much, it’s overwhelming almost and it’s not because of these letters, these aren’t you and for a while I didn’t get that, but I do now. So I want you to take them, because I’d much rather have the real thing. So. Yeah.” Ryan bounced a little on the balls of his feet, too nervous to be still, and Ben drew himself out of looking at the letters—his history, his own personal artifacts—to pull Ryan close and kiss him.
“Thank you,” Ben whispered against Ryan’s lips. “It’s perfect.” He smiled. “I’ll need something to put in the cases once the Franklin papers are gone, so good timing on this.”
“Glad you think so,” Ryan replied, relieved. He’d taken Ben’s revelations about getting rid of his famous hoard with equanimity. “Okay, now we can go.”
“Well, not yet.” Ben put the letters down on the foyer table and grabbed his key ring. “There’s something I want to give you too.” It had been on his mind for the past week, and he’d had the spare made just in case the moment arose when it felt right. And now it did. “Here.” He handed Ryan a house key. “It’s for this place,” he explained when Ryan looked dumbstruck. “I’m not asking you to move to Denver, I’m not asking you to move in, but I want you to have a key to my house. You’re always welcome, and I mean that. I love you.”
“Oh wow.” Ryan looked at Ben and grinned brightly. “Is this the right time to tell you that I’m sick of doing this long-distance and actually do want to move to Denver? Not to move in with you!” he added hastily. “In fact, Jasmine told me to look at apartments while I was here and I meant to tell you but you’ve been completely distracting this whole time and I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.”
Now it was Ben’s turn to be dumbfounded. “You want to move here?” Ryan nodded. “You and Jasmine want to move here?”
“We’re business partners. And honestly, do you think I tell Jasmine what to do? Like, ever? She knew I was thinking about it and decided she likes the sound of Denver and kind of took the angst out of the decision for me by agreeing with me. We might get a place together, but think! Just one roommate instead of three! And you’d still have your house and your privacy but we’d be close anyway, and you and I could be together but not rush it too much, and honestly,” Ryan drew in a deep breath, “I can’t think of a downside.” He looked at Ben expectantly, waiting to hear the reasons against it.
Ben didn’t have any. All he could focus on was the idea of Ryan living in the same city as him, not just a voice on the phone or a face on a screen interspersed with brief periods of togetherness. He was ready for this, he realized. Ready for something normal, ready for an actual relationship and not a connection he’d never quite known how to react to. He’d already cleared away so much of the detritus of his past, the heavy weight of centuries of familial expectation. Ben was ready for something new to help fill in the gaps.
Plus, Ryan was right. Arguing with Jasmine was a lost cause.
“I can’t think of a downside either,” he said, and Ryan brightened cautiously.
“Yes,” Ben agreed. “Absolutely yes.”
Ryan launched forward into his arms. “Omigod, this is so awesome,” he said against Ben’s shoulder, and Ben had to agree.
It was a pretty perfect way to kick off the New Year.