New York, 1783
They meet again on accident, really. Ben's looking at a man walking past, silently judging the horrid fuschia-red color of his breeches - and then he's colliding with something (someone) and he startles, puts his hands out to regain his balance as he begins to mumble an apology, but he pauses when he's met with a hand at his waist and a flash of red out of the corner of his eye.
He rights himself and breathes out an "Alexander?" as he looks into those same, ocean blue eyes he recognizes from long nights spent burning the candle at both ends.
Alexander doesn't remove his hand as he scans Ben's face. His brows are furrowed until Ben watches his eyes drift to his lips, and then Alexander smiles. "Ben? Is this Benjamin Tallmadge?"
"In the flesh," Ben laughs. "Sorry for running into you-"
"No," Alexander cuts him off with a concerned look, "no, you're fine." He pauses. "I haven't seen you in forever."
"Yeah." Ben scrambles for something to say, but he fumbles over his words as he gets out a shaky "What are you doing here?"
"Oh, I’ve got a law practice in town. You, Benny?"
Ben blushes at the nickname. "Doing some work for Washington before the army disbands.”
A couple pushes past the two men and Alexander grabs Ben by the forearm and directs him down the street. "We should catch up some more. Come on, my apartment's just down here.
So, the two men spend the afternoon together in Alexander’s office. Reading, talking, reminiscing about the war even though it didn't end but around a year ago.
A couch is pushed up against some bookshelves on the right wall, a desk covered in numerous stacks of paper on the left. A window is in the middle of the farthest wall, and the curtains let in slanted beams of light that fall across the two men.
"What d'ya think happened to ol' Caleb Brewster?" Alexander muses, leaning back on the armrest of the couch with his feet across Ben's lap on the opposite end.
"Last he told me he was sailing the open seas," Ben says, smiling softly. "He was never one for living life ordinarily."
Alexander laughs. "No, he wasn't."
A comfortable silence falls between them. Ben lays his hands, folded together, on Alexander's crossed ankles and let his head fall back, closes his eyes and lets himself zone out for a moment.
His thoughts wander. Not an unusual occurrence, but a face appears in his mind. One so familiar and yet similarly so strange. Details stick out to him - a mole on the man’s neck; calloused, strong (yet thin) hands; a lopsided smile; blonde hair in a braid down his back - and soon he's looking in the eyes of-
"Hey," Alexander says, panic seeping into his voice as he shakes Ben, "hey, wake up. C'mon-"
Ben's eyes fly open and when he sees Alexander's worried face just a few inches from his own he jumps, pushes his hands firmly into Alexander's shoulders and sends the man crashing to the floor.
"Oh," Ben says, the moment Alexander hits the hardwood. "Wait, what?" Ben blinks almost comically as he looks down at his hands that just pushed Alexander down.
"Are you okay?" Alexander asks, standing up swiftly and immediately walking back towards Ben.
"Wait, why would I not be okay?" Ben looks up.
"You were asleep, I think, and you looked really upset and so I woke you up. But you pushed me off of you and... Yeah."
Ben tries to recall his thoughts and immediately closes his eyes in frustration. "Nathan,” he whispers, looking back down at his hands, now shaking, and clenching them into fists.
Alexander furrows his brows. "Who?"
Ben, regrettably, looks up again at Alexander’s concerned face. "Nathan Hale, a... friend of mine from Yale. He..." Ben has to stop himself before he lets something slip he shouldn't. "He was caught spying by the British in Long Island in September of 1776. Was hanged just a few days later."
The silence now is unbearable. Ben wishes he wasn't still so affected by his love- no, friend's death, but Alexander's eyes are wide and focused directly on a patch of couch close to Ben's thighs. He shakes his head and looks back at Ben. "I'm sorry," he says, eyes flitting around Ben's face. "I... had something similar happen to a friend of mine. You know John Laurens?"
Ben nods. "Worked on Washington's staff?"
Alexander smiles. "Yeah. It was August of last year. He was in South Carolina with his men and they were just meant to take care of some redcoats that hadn't quite cleared out yet, but-" Alexander's voice catches and Ben swears he sees a tear pearl at the corner of the man's eyes, but Alexander blinks and sits down on the opposite end of the couch, facing away from Ben and towards the desk. "He was sick, too, y'know, just a fever... and he always had this thing with serving his country, and of course every man dreams of dying for their country, too, but he- God, Ben, why did it have to be him?" Alexander's voice has raised by now and he turns to look at Ben, eyes dark and eyebrows gathered at the center of his forehead, lips trembling slightly where they're pressed together, but he softens when he sees Ben. His saddened eyes, downturned lips, head bowed almost like he was praying.
Ben feels himself leaning off of the couch but doesn't even flinch when his head hits something solid. Alexander makes a soft noise and Ben guesses that his head is now on Alexander’s chest, but they quickly adjust, bodies realigning as they did so many times during the war when tents were scarce and temperatures were low. Alexander sits up on the couch, and Ben curls himself up alongside the man, knees to his chest, their faces leaning together and hands entwined beside each other. The sunlight cascading through the window shines across them, dust hanging slowly in the air.
It's a few minutes before either of them dares to even breathe too heavily, much less speak and tear apart the tender air around them. Alexander barely adjusts his head where it’s propped against Ben’s and when Ben quietly rubs his face into Alexander's cheek they both instinctively face each other, lips just a hair’s width away.
Ben doesn't even register the predicament immediately but he feels Alexander tense. He flicks his eyes open and is met by a surprised, yet calm, Alexander. The red-haired man is barely opening his mouth before Ben's kissing him, and soon it's not Ben kissing Alexander, it's Alexander kissing Ben.
(Something familiar strikes in both of their hearts.
Of evenings spent by lakes, blankets spread out on the soft grass, sucking juice off of their fingers. Their lover’s fingers.
Of holding his hand behind enemy lines and seeming that if they were to die right now they’d die content.
Of sighs and moans and gasps and hair-pulling and soreness in the morning, but a honey-sweet satisfaction afterwards. Messy hair. Bruises hidden under collars and breeches. Sly smiles.
Of receiving the mail and reading the words no one wants to read.)
And they're sitting up out of their slouching positions, Alexander seamlessly easing himself into Ben's lap and straddling his crotch, Ben's hands planting themselves on Alexander's small, almost feminine hips. Alexander tangles a hand in the hair on the back of Ben's neck and soon he's got the whole braid undone, waves of brown falling around Ben's face. Alexander kisses him desperately - hungrily, even, and they break away with heavy breaths and flushed cheeks. Alexander’s going back in when Ben gently pushes him back with a hand to his chest. Alexander whines, childlike, but Ben makes a soft noise and Alexander leans back slightly to assess.
Ben's... not crying - not yet, anyway, and he's got a hand clenched and crumpling Alexander's cravat. His eyes are darting around the room, across Alexander, and he finally looks the smaller man in the eyes, vulnerable and sad.
"If you don't want to keep going," Alexander says after a moment, and Ben sags in gratefulness, "we don't have to."
"Thank you," Ben breathes, barely audible to himself above his pounding heart. "It... It reminds me of-"
"I know," Alexander says, and Ben looks up, taken aback by the raw understanding in Alexander’s voice.
Ben gently wraps his arms around the man on his lap and Alexander leans his head forward to rest on Ben’s chest, arms loosely around Ben’s neck. He idly plays with Ben’s hair and Ben laughs, a deep noise that vibrates against Alexander’s face.
It’s the first time he’s laughed in so long.
And Ben, looking down at the small, red-haired man in his lap, is thinking that for the first time in a long time he can see a light at the end of the tunnel.