Canton rubbed his eyes as he carefully climbed out of bed—6:29 AM, according to the clock. The alarm wasn’t set, but his body was still used to rising at the crack of dawn. He glanced at James’ still-sleeping form and decided he’d wait to shower until he was awake. No need to disturb him.
Heading into the kitchen, he figured he’d make breakfast. It was either that or sit around feeling angry and bitter, and while it sounded appealing, he’d done plenty of that yesterday.
James meandered into the kitchen at around seven, just as he was finishing up. “Good timing,” he told him, smiling slightly.
“The bacon did it,” he said with a grin, leaning in for a kiss.
Canton kissed him and something clenched inside of him. He hated the government.
No, that wasn’t true. He’d lived for them.
James pulled back and gave him a knowing look. “How are you?”
“Still angry,” he said, not even bothering to protest otherwise. James would see through it. He always did. “Still frustrated.”
“Yeah, I kind of figured,” James said, kissing him again. “You’ll find something else.”
“I have to, don’t I?” That was the thing, though. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to. The FBI had been such a huge part of him, and now it was gone. “All because I couldn’t leave well enough alone.”
James smirked at him. “Of course you couldn’t. If you could, you wouldn’t be the reckless, brave, incredibly bull-headed man I fell in love with, now would you?”
He allowed himself a small, wry smile. “No, I guess not,” he said. “Come on. Let’s eat before everything gets cold.”
They ate in companionable silence. After, Canton retrieved the paper, and they moved into the living room, spending the morning together.
He finished with the world news section shortly before James finished with the local news. He watched him for a moment, smiling faintly to himself, and realized not for the first time that if he ever had the option to do it all again, even knowing what would happen, he would. In a heartbeat.
“You’re staring,” James said dryly, folding his section of the newspaper. Canton smirked back at him and they traded sections.
When the mail came, James stood, heading for the door to collect it. “You know someone in Boston?” he asked curiously, once he returned to the living room. “Specifically, a C. E. Winchester the third?”
Canton raised an eyebrow in surprise. “Charles sent me a letter?”
“Charles is…?” James asked, handing him the envelope.
“My cousin. Third cousin, I think. Once removed. I see him twice a year, if that. Whenever the extended family gathers.”
“So what’s he like?”
“He’s a pompous ass,” Canton said, then amended that with, “or he was.”
“I couldn’t stand him as a kid,” he replied. “He was drafted, though, as a doctor, got stationed in Korea at a M*A*S*H unit. When he came back…it was obvious the experience changed him.”
“And now he’s sent you a letter.”
“Is it going to be like the ones from the rest of your family?”
“One way to find out.” Canton opened the envelope, pulling out two pages of thick, probably expensive stationery. That was Charles. He unfolded the letter, reading:
I am certain you are asking yourself why it is I have sent you this letter. That is undoubtedly an understandable question; our relation is distant, our contact is minimal, we have never been what one might consider ‘close,’ and it would be foolish to pretend any of this is otherwise. Nevertheless, the news I recently heard through several familial sources has necessitated the writing of this letter.
I am equally certain that you have received no end of angry, confused, anxious correspondence, from family member after family member, professing self-serving ‘concern’ over your recent so-called ‘departure’ from the FBI, pleading with you, desperate to avoid a major scandal—they do have reputations to uphold, you understand. I imagine this would become tiring. I therefore do not blame you for perhaps wondering if this might be yet more of the same.
I confess that, once upon a time, it might have been. Fortunately, with age comes experience, and with experience comes perspective—and perspective often allows one to avoid making foolhardy and time-consuming blunders.
Our family members, well-meaning as they might have been, were wrong. There is neither shame nor scandal in standing up for oneself. Delaware may be your surname, but you have Winchester blood in you, and Winchesters do not stand idly by and simply passively accept what has been given to them. They demand no less than everything they deserve and take action when it is not delivered. You, my young cousin, have done nothing but exemplify this quality. Know this. Be proud.
You are a remarkable young man. You have accomplished a great deal. I have no doubt that you will continue to do so in the future. I look forward to it.
Finally, knowing the nature of our family, I feel the need to make another matter perfectly clear. Should you ever wish to visit, you—and your paramour—will always be welcome guests in my home. I should note that Boston is particularly beautiful in the autumn.
Remember: never settle for anything other than a truly excellent life. It is no less than you deserve.
Sincerely, your cousin,
“I can’t say I expected that,” Canton said slowly, handing James the letter. He watched him read it, his eyebrows rising, and smiled briefly. When James finished, he glanced back up, looking surprised and awed.
“He invited us to Boston,” he said. “Both of us. Explicitly.”
“What the hell happened to him in Korea?”
Canton laughed. “Something, that’s for sure.”
“I’ll say.” James smiled. “It’s nice, though.” He gave him a knowing look. “How are you?”
“Still angry. Still frustrated. I don’t think that’s going to change much.” He smiled slightly. “But also better.”
“Sounds about right,” James said, grinning.
“It does, doesn’t it?” Canton grinned back and leaned in, kissing him.
No less than he deserved, indeed.