Actions

Work Header

Letters To Home

Chapter Text

March 2045

 

“I don’t want you to go.”

Beck’s lost track of how many times those exactly words left his mouth in the last twenty-four hours. He keeps saying it over and over and over, hoping that maybe it’ll help. But it doesn’t. Nothing does. Mace is leaving, and there’s nothing he can do about it.

Sunlight creeps through the gaps in the curtains as the sun rises, casting bright beams across the bare skin of Mace’s back. Beck still hasn’t gone to sleep. He’s afraid that if he closes his eyes, Mace will be gone when he opens them. Instead, he’s spent his time committing every detail to memory, hoping it’ll keep him sane until his love comes home.

Hushed, even breaths from Mace’s plump, parted lips are his favorite lullaby. It’s a soothing sound that keeps him grounded and present, even if Mace tends to snort and grunt sometimes. He’s not sure if he’ll be able to sleep with the inevitable silence that’s coming.

The thing about working for NASA is that you learn very quickly to recognize things other people may not. Like the way the freckles spattered across Mace’s shoulders look like constellations, or how his eyes are the same color as Jupiter’s jovian clouds. The way they light up like a helix nebula when he’s happy, and how his smile is brighter than a solar flare. The awe of the Milky Way is nothing compared to the beauty encompassing this man.

It’s almost disgusting how in love he is.

As the sun continues its ascent, the branches outside the windows cast thin black shadows on the bed. Beck’s eyes track the lines as they migrate, a reminder of how short their time really is. In a few hours, Mace will be heading to the space center to prepare for the launch, and tomorrow morning, Beck will be watching from inside as his heart and soul exit the atmosphere.

Sixteen months is a long time to be without the person that means the most to you.

This will be the longest they’ve ever been apart. Beck was twenty-five and had just recently returned from the disastrous, albeit well-ending, Ares III mission when they met. Mace was nineteen at the time, fresh-faced, just over a year in the United States Army, and just out of NASA’s basic training program. It was purely chance and circumstance that led them to each other, and every day, Beck thanks whatever divine powers may have put them in each other’s path (literally) that day.

Beck is proud, really he is. He knows how hard Mace has worked for this. His entire life has been spent pushing himself to be better, learn faster, fight harder. No one ever got to tell him he couldn’t do something, and if they tried, he’d break his back proving them wrong. It paid off, too. He’s the youngest person to ever be brought in as an astronautical engineer and the youngest to ever make the rank First Lieutenant in the Army, something he finds satisfaction and validation in. Robert Mace is a force to be reckoned with; a hurricane of determination and willpower, and Beck wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s really a wonder how such a museum-worthy work of art ended up with Beck.

While he’s moody and stubborn and impulsive, a bit neurotic even, he’s also the most kind-hearted and generous person Beck has ever known. He’s loyal to a fault, and he fights for what he believes in. Between the two, Mace is (just barely) the more logical and level-headed, especially under pressure. And even though that dry sense of humor of his may get him into trouble sometimes, it never fails to keep Beck laughing.

The masterpiece isn’t solely internal; the packaging is pretty magnificent as well. Not even Michelangelo’s David compares to the wonder and elegance sleeping beside Beck. Truly, he does not understand how this miracle of a man came to be his, and he’s resigned himself to the fact that he probably never will.

Content, Beck sighs and rolls to his side. His muscles scream in protest, begging him to keep his position. He winces, but otherwise ignores it. The stiffness and soreness were no surprise, especially after last night. Coming home to that brand of madness after a long day of intense research had been unexpected, but not unwelcomed.

The stereo is on full-blast. Beck doesn’t notice it from outside, but once he opens the front door, it hits him like a brick wall. He can tell from the song that this is Mace’s doing. The voice singing along guides Beck to the kitchen, where he finds his boyfriend. He’s standing in front of the grease-splattered stovetop in his boxers and his coveted old-school Captain America apron. Unsure if he’s aware of Beck’s arrival, Beck just lingers in the doorway. He folds his arms and leans against the frame, watching Mace dance around with the spatula in his hand.

After a minute or two, Mace turns around, and when he spies Beck, he just beams. It’s this big ear-to-ear grin.

“You hungry?” he asks, still moving and waving the spatula around. “Dinner’s almost done. Go change.”

Beck laughs, dropping his messenger bag on the floor. He steps up behind Mace and wraps his arms around the man’s torso, stalling the sway of his hips.

“My, my, someone’s bossy today.” He rests his chin against Mace’s shoulder, catching the smirk playing on Mace’s lips in his peripheral.

“Just trying to save you a trip to the dry cleaners, babe.”

Mace turns and takes Beck’s narrow hips in his warm hands. Slowly, too slowly for Beck’s liking, he leans down. Their lips brush and it’s still electric. That ever-present spark has been there since day one, and Beck still feels it in his bones as Mace makes a move to slot their mouths together for only a few moments. When he pulls back, Beck chases, not ready to let it end. Mace huffs out a laugh.

“Go take that stupid monkey suit off so you can dance with me,” he mutters against Beck’s lips as he steals another peck.

“You’re such an ass.” With a quick nip at his chin, Beck turns to head towards their bedroom. He’s less than half a step away when Mace’s hand lands a stinging swat on his backside.

“I like your ass, too!” he shouts like he’s trying to speak over the music. Beck just rolls his eyes with a chuckle.

Dancing is what ultimately did him in. Sure, the post-dinner bent-over-the-table sex contributed to the discomfort, but it wasn’t the source. It’s worth every pang and pinch, though, because last night is a night he’ll never forget.

The clock on the side table demands that Beck minds the time, emphasizing just how little they have left. Half-heartedly, he considers waking Mace. It’s greedy of him, but he wants every ounce of Mace’s time before he goes. All the touches and kisses and talking may just be enough to tide him over until the Artemis I mission returned. Much to his dismay, though, he can’t bring himself to do it. It’s too peaceful to disturb him, and he needs the extra rest.

It’s a quarter after eight when Mace finally wakes up. He stretches his limbs with a groan and then gathers Beck in his arms. Without opening his eyes, he pulls Beck into his chest and shifts until Beck is lying directly on top of him. Then, he cracks one eye open.

“Good morning.” His voice is raspy and sleep-laden, just a little lower than usual.

“Good morning yourself.” Beck allows his head to rest against Mace’s chest. He listens to the steady thump of the engineer’s heart as Mace’s fingers run lines up and down his spine.

A comfortable silence falls between them. They just lay there, limbs tangled together, bodies stripped and compressed. There’s a silent exchange of body heat keeping them both warm. The only sounds to be heard are the birds outside and the couple’s equally soft breaths.

The problem with quiet, at least for Beck, is that the mind tends to wander. His brain is going a million miles an hour over all the things that could possibly go wrong. There’s that one little voice of doubt that’s telling him Mace won’t return. He’ll develop feelings for a crewmate (Beck will admit to being guilty of that) and leave him, or something awful will happen to the ship and he’ll never make it back. Panic is welling in his chest, and he feels like he’s losing his fucking mind. All he wants is for Mace to stay safe, like he is here and now.

“I don’t want you to go.” There are those words again, and Beck swears he hears Mace’s heart break a little. He feels Mace’s hands still at his back, fingertip touches becoming palms holding him still. Beck’s being held tight like Mace is afraid to let him go. It’s unwise for Beck to trust his voice after that, so he doesn’t say anything more. But Beck has never been able to hide his emotions, not from Mace. He knows Mace can feel the tension thrumming through his body.

“I know, baby. Believe me, I know. I’m going to miss you so much.” Mace takes a deep breath, and Beck feels the shudder he tries to hide. He can’t look up. It’ll kill him to see the tears he knows are in Mace’s eyes. He can’t handle that right now. “But I promise you, Christopher, I’m coming home. You won’t even notice I’m gone.”

 

*****

 

Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center is massive: over 100 buildings on 1,620 acres, roughly the size of a small city near Clear Lake. It’s so easy to get lost in the seemingly endless expanse of halls if you don’t know exactly where you’re going.

Through the door, turn left. Take the second hallway on the left. Right at the end. Take the stairs down two flights, hang a left at the bottom. Fifth door on the right leads to the conference room. Beck knows the route by heart. Even after ten years, he still very clearly remembers every trip he made down here. This was where he met the Ares III crew.

Inside the conference room, ten people are seated around a table with two chairs left open. At the head of the table is a podium with five occupied chairs set behind it. Beck recognizes the three of the five immediately, but he can’t put names to any of the ten. He assumes they’re Mace’s crew, mostly because they all seem too enthusiastic to be those who would be left at home. Significant others aren’t typically allowed to attend briefings anyways, but Beck’s history with NASA tends to come with its perks. Something that’s not so much a perk? Everyone in the room seems to recognize Beck.

“Lieutenant Mace, welcome. If you’ll please take your seat, we’ll get started.” The request comes from a small redheaded woman with a shrill voice and an expression like she just drank sour milk. “Mr. Beck, good to see you again.”

“It’s Doctor Beck, and the feeling is mutual.” He does nothing to hide the venom in his tone, and that’s rather obvious. Beck’s never been a fan of Francesca Curtis nor has he ever tried to hide that. She’d been amongst those who had very publically opposed the attempt to rescue Mark Watney, and given her position at the time, she was the first to initiate disciplinary actions against Melissa Lewis and the remainder of the Ares III crew. Somehow she’s weaseled her way into one of the assistant director positions, which means she’s got a far cry more responsibility on her shoulders than she did before.

Which means if anything happens to Mace on this mission, Beck will gladly wave her head on a pike.

The two sit. A man with dark, curly hair and a nice suit stands, files in hand. Beck recognizes him as Director Dylan Rhodes. He’s a good man and incredibly intelligent. Very much so the no-nonsense and straight to the point type.

Rhodes hands off the files to the two men at the end of the row, the ones Beck doesn’t recognize. The two start into their speech, discussing the details of the mission and the anticipated time frame. Task delegations are touched on, though those will be more thoroughly described once they’re up. Beck doesn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the specifics. He just mindlessly messes with Mace’s hand under the table until they announce that there’s a pre-launch press conference in about an hour and a half. Beyond that, they give the crew free reign of the incredibly large room, including the generous luncheon on the other side of the room.

Mace waits for everyone else to leave the table before his laces his fingers between Beck’s and gives his hand a squeeze.

“Assistant Director Curtis sure is mighty pleasant today, isn’t she?” Beck rolls his eyes so hard he fears they might just fall out of his head, agreeing with overwhelming sarcasm. Mace just snickers and starts pulling Beck towards the food.

While they eat, Mace points out who’s who amongst the others. The two men Beck didn’t recognize are the Artemis I mission directors, Michael Bryce and Justin Capshaw. He mentions he specifically requested that Capshaw keep Beck informed on the progress of the mission for its duration. Seeming as how Beck’s office isn’t far from the command center, he’ll likely pop in from time to time to chat.

It’s a rather impressive team, Beck must admit.

Their flight surgeon, Dr. Jack Benjamin, actually graduated from Beck’s alma mater, and he was top of his class, marks only second to Beck himself. Beck hadn’t ever met him, but has certainly heard lots about him. He probably would’ve outranked Beck had he not been double majoring. Medicine and psychology are both tough degrees, but the fact that Jack has a PhD in both is rather impressive. According to Mace, he’s also acting as the psychological officer on board. Knowing there’s physical and emotional support going up definitely puts Beck a bit more at ease.

William Collins and Leo Barnes, systems operation and communications, respectively, are both MIT graduates. Less than 8% of freshman applications are admitted, so that in and of itself is a feat. Both men belong to the Prometheus Society, which is only available to the IQs in the 99.997% percentile. If there’s anyone that will keep things running smooth and comms up and active, it’s these two. They could almost rival Beth Johanssen. Almost. (Beck’s not biased at all…)

“First Lieutenant Kristen McKay, Marine Corps,” Mace states, pointing out a long-legged brunette with bright blue eyes and a soft smile. “She’s a chemist.”

He pauses to take a bite of his pasta salad before gesturing to a man with a strict expression and a high-and-tight hair cut. “Lieutenant Commander J.T. Sanborn, Naval Biologist. Wicked funny, but kind of a dick sometimes.”

Beck watches as Mace flags the attention of an incredibly attractive woman. Her short, dark hair bounces in curls as she walks towards them. She’s got a wide, bright smile as she stops alongside them.

“And this is Remi Kruger, mission commander, physicist, and certified badass,” Mace laughs, clapping a hand on her shoulder. “Rem, this is my boyfriend – “

“Dr. Chris Beck, very nice to finally meet you,” she says, offering a hand. Beck shakes it, matching her smile and offering the same sentiment in return. She’s a rather pleasant woman. Very bubbly and friendly, but she still maintains that stern edge needed in a leader. Frankly, she reminds Beck greatly of Commander Lewis. Just hopefully with less disco music, for everyone’s sake.

Before long, everyone’s rounded up and escorted to the main hall for the press conference. The stage has far more chairs than the conference room did. Eleven chairs are lined to one side and filled with the crew. Of the fifteen chairs on the other side, five are filled with Director Rhodes, AD Satan Curtis, and the second AD, Nicholas Gant (he’s definitely not even half as horrible as his counterpart), and Bryce and Capshaw, the mission directors. Seven are filled with board members. Leta Lestrange, Hayes Morrison, Joshua Faraday, and Kevin W. Crumb were all present for Beck’s first conference ten years ago as board members, but all previously worked for NASA. Lestrange had actually been the flight surgeon Beck shadowed for his advanced training program. Callum Lynch and Bailey Tallet were both mission control officers until a few years after that when they joined the board. Little Miss Carly Jo Wheatley, the seventh and final board member, never had anything do with NASA, other than her father being Teddy Sanders, the now-retired NASA director that had presided over Ares III, and ultimately the one who agreed to AD Curtis’ recommended disciplinary actions. Yeah, Beck’s still harboring a considerable bit of anger over that incident, since, y’know, it almost cost him his career.

The last three chairs are filled by, once more, people Beck doesn’t recognize. Part way through the press conference, he finds out that they’re the mission control operators. The position they hold is a step below the mission directors, and Beck makes a mental note to introduce himself before launch. It eases him a bit more to have a thorough knowledge of everyone involved in this mission. Call it paranoia if you’d like, but he’s rightfully worrisome.

He listens more intently during the conference than he did during the briefing. It’s starting to sink in. All the camera flashes and chattering voices and official statements remind him that this is actually happening. In a few short hours, Mace will be in launch prep, and not long after that, he’ll be gone. Beck won’t be able to hold or kiss or touch his boyfriend for sixteen months. The only form of contact they’ll have comes in the form of recorded video messages sent home periodically by the crew. This is going to be hard. So much harder than he had anticipated. The realization weighs on him like a cinder block on his chest, and he just wants to go back to yesterday morning. Yeah, he was still high-strung and stressed out yesterday morning, but at least he had time.

All too soon, the conference is over. It’s over, and they’re out of time.

“I don’t want you to go.”

There are those fucking words again, this time whispered against Mace’s lips. He repeats between kisses that he knows; he doesn’t want to be so far away for so long. There’s no choice in the matter on either side, though. Mace has to go, and Beck has to stay, and they both have to deal with it. They both came into this relationship knowing what they signed up for, and they knew early on that this day would come. But that doesn’t make it any easier to watch Mace walk away. It doesn’t make watching him board the shuttle any easier. It doesn’t make watching the launch any easier. And it definitely doesn’t do anything to stop Beck’s heart from breaking...

 

*****

 

April 2045

 

It’s been twenty-nine days since the launch. Beck knows it’s unhealthy for him to be keeping track of the days, but he can’t help it. The house isn’t the same when he’s alone.

He never thought he’d admit it, but he misses the mess. He misses finding Mace’s socks on the bathroom floor because he forgot them after his shower. He misses Mace not putting his clothes in the hamper or him not rinsing his dishes before he puts them in the dishwasher. He misses books being left where they don’t belong and toe prints on the coffee table glass because Mace had his feet on it while Beck was gone. All the little things that used to irritate him are things that he now wishes he could have back.

Fifteen more months, he muses dryly. I can handle that, right?

Its day thirty-one when the envelope arrives. Beck finds it on the door mat when he returns from the gym. His name is written across it in what appears to be Mace’s handwriting, and he doesn’t even get completely in the front door before he’s tearing the flap off and peeking inside. The content inside of the envelope isn’t exactly what he expected. Well, he wasn’t sure what to expect, really, but this definitely wasn’t on his list.

A letter and a flash drive with a sticky note on it.

Watch the video file first.

Raking a hand though his hair, Beck plugs the flash drive into his tablet. Once it pulls up the drive contents, he double clicks the video.

At the start, it’s just a shot of the vacant couch. But after a few minutes, Mace appears in the frame, taking a seat. He flashes the camera a big smile and waves almost sheepishly before speaking.

“Hey, babe. You’re on your way home, and I don’t have much time, so I’m going to get straight to the point. I’m a sap when it comes to you. We both know that. So, of course, I decided to be ridiculously cheesy while I’m gone. Once a month until I come home, an anonymous friend of mine will deliver another envelope.” He grins and steeples his fingers like some kind of criminal mastermind. “The envelopes will come on the same day each month and will contain a letter and a flash drive. On each flash drive will be a song I chose specifically for you that reminds me of an important point in our relationship. Y’know, the things that shaped us into who we are now, both as a couple and as individuals. And yes, they’re all songs you’ve heard before. You know how much I love my ridiculous 2010s music… Well, since I’ve been gone for a month now, I guess we start today. Open the second file on this drive and read the letter. I gotta go, baby. You just pulled up. I love you, Chris. See you soon. Bye!”

Mace blows a kiss at the screen before the video cuts out. Beck feels his heart racing wildly, hammering against his ribs like it’s trying to escape. He hasn’t heard Mace’s voice since the day he left and being able to hear it now is a godsend. His chest is so full. Nothing could kill the high he’s on right now. So he sits down on the couch with the letter. A huge grin settles on his lips as he unfolds the paper and begins to read…

Chapter Text

April 2045

 

To my Christopher –

Believe me when I say that leaving you is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. There was nothing that could’ve prepared me for just how much it hurt to walk away from you. I already miss you more than you know, and I can’t wait to get home.

Being this far apart, I know it’s hard. And I’m so sorry for that. I hate knowing that I can’t be there with you for your birthday. Your mom and I can’t conspire to throw you an outrageous surprise party, I can’t bring a box of those ridiculously fancy cupcakes you love so much to your office, and I’m pretty sure the mission control team isn’t going to allow me to have a private video chat dinner with you (yes, I did ask about that. A few times, actually and they kept telling me no).

More than that, I hate knowing that I have to miss two of your birthdays. Just missing one is bad enough, but two? Fuck. Missing our traditions, the things we started together, that kills me. I promise I’m making it up to you when I get home. After we spend two or three days or weeks not leaving our bed, that is…

The hardest part of this for me is that I hate feeling like I abandoned you. I know I didn’t, and I know you don’t feel that way, but I can’t help feeling guilty. I know if I were home right now, you’d probably be talking some sense into me, huh? Telling me how we knew what we were getting into when we started dating and that we knew this day would come sooner or later. Telling me not to be so hard on myself, telling me to stop thinking so much. I can practically hear you now saying “For such a smart man, you’re sure acting stupid”. You’ve always been good at keeping me level-headed.

I hope you know just how much I love you. I love you with every fiber of my being. No matter where I go, no matter how far apart we are, that will never change. Every part of me is yours. My heart, my soul, my mind, my blood, my bones, it’s all yours. Those pieces are home with you, right where they belong.

Please know that I’m always thinking about you. Every minute of every day unless I’m thinking about food, and I miss you so much more than I can express on paper. You’ll hear from me again soon, I promise.

Only fifteen months to go, babe. We’ve got this.

Love you always,

- Mace

P.S. I’m full of surprises. You know that. So I did leave your birthday present at home for you. You’ll find it in my side of the closet, clear in the back against the wall. I know the wrap job sucks, but I hope you like it.

 

By the time he finishes the letter, Beck is in tears. The video gets him misty-eyed before it’s even over because how the fuck did he come up with this?, but it turns into a full-blown cry-fest when he finishes the letter. This is such an elaborate setup, but then again, Mace never has been one to skimp on the details…

“I don’t half-ass anything, sweetheart. Either I whole-ass it or it doesn’t happen.”

Beck wipes the tears off his cheeks with the back of his hand and heads to the bedroom. His shirt hits the floor as soon as he passes through the doorway, and he opens Mace’s side of the closet. The first thing he sees is an old Patriots t-shirt. It’s a size too big for Beck’s slender frame, but it smells like Mace, so Beck tugs it off the hanger and puts it on before shoving all the clothes towards the center.

In the furthest corner of the closet sits a box. Beck carefully drags it out and sits cross-legged on the carpet. His nerves flare because he knows Mace tends to be a bit grandiose when it comes to birthdays. It’s always a spectacle, and he always has to outdo himself the next year.

The tape comes off easily enough, allowing the flaps to unfold. Beck reaches into the box and finds two items inside, both pristinely wrapped.

I know the wrap job sucks, my ass,” he mutters mockingly, grabbing the first thing from the box. It’s a large, flat, square-shaped package, and Beck’s fairly certain he already knows what it is. His hunch is confirmed when he tears the corner of the paper off.

In their living room sits an antique record player, and beside it, an extensive collection of vinyl records. Some date back as far as the mid-1970s. The player had been a housewarming gift from Beck’s parents when he moved into his first apartment. His great-grandparents were the original owners, and it’s been passed down through the family for decades. The vinyl collection is something Beck has amassed himself in his lifetime.

Beck knows exactly which album is in his hands from that revealed corner. It was his father’s favorite. The two copies Beck owned prior had been played and played and played until the grooves were far too worn down to play anymore.

“Hey, babe, I’m – Oh, shit. Baby, are you okay? What’s wrong?” Mace plops down on the floor next to a teary-eyed Beck and his tablet. While he’s pulling Beck into his lap and wrapping him in his arms, Beck can’t help but think he shouldn’t be so emotional about this. Really, it shouldn’t be this big of a deal. But to him, it is.

He gestures to the record sleeve sitting on the floor. The rotation of the needle makes faint popping sounds as it skips between the grooves. Mace doesn’t even have to hear the words to know why Beck’s upset.

“Again?” It’s not exasperated or frustrated or annoyed like it would be with most people. Mace’s voice is so soft, just seeking confirmation.

So Beck just nods.

“It’s alright,” Mace sighs sympathetically, kissing his temple. “We’ll get another one, okay?”

“Remember last time? Remember how hard it was to find one? I’ve been combing the internet for hours, Mace. We’re never going to find another.”

“Stop it,” he counters immediately, using his thumb to wipe Beck’s flushed, wet cheek. “I found one last time, didn’t I?” Beck nods again. “Then I’ll find another, I promise.”

In Beck’s hands is a copy of The Cure’s Disintegration. Released in 1989, the year his father was born.

Beneath the paper is a sticky note on the sleeve that merely says 'I promised, didn’t I?’

Once again, Beck feels a fresh wave of tears creep up. He feels like such a wuss for his inability to stop crying today, but his emotions are going haywire. Mace is such a good guy. The best, in fact, and Beck can’t seem to understand what he did so right in his life to deserve him. Maybe he’ll never know, but he’ll always be grateful.

The second package is a much larger, rectangular in shape. Beck can feel a solid frame, but he opens it with caution just in case. As the shreds of paper and strips of tape fall to the floor, colors start to appear. The more he sees, the more excited he gets. He realizes the frames belong to a pair of canvas paintings. One is easily identifiable as the Orion Nebula, the other being the Crab Nebula.

His fingers trail over the dry paint, tracing the edges of the color blends. The images look like they were taken directly from the Hubble archive and printed on canvas, but the tips of his fingers promise Beck that these were both hand-painted. He should’ve known, considering the signature painted almost invisibly in the bottom right corner.

R. Mace

Chapter Text

May 2045

 

Precisely thirty days later, the second envelope arrives. Beck finds it upon his return from grocery shopping (which sucks without Mace, by the way; it’s so boring). Even with his arms loaded with bags, he still somehow manages to pick it up and kicks the door shut behind him. Hastily, he puts away the cold items. But once that’s done, he abandons all else until after he reads his letter.

 

Beck –

I was sitting at the kitchen table this morning drinking my coffee, and it kind of got me thinking about the day we met. Strange, isn’t it, how fate or destiny or pure coincidence put us on the same path? Literally on the same path. And let me tell you, babe, I’ve never been so grateful to have scalding hot tea dumped down my shirt.

He can’t help but snicker at that. It really was an accident.

Never in a million years would I have thought that one simple moment could change my entire life. Not until that day. Of the hundreds of people on center, it was you and I that ran into each other. We were both distracted by our phones, not paying attention. I was just listening to music (hence this month’s song choice), walking back to my car, and the next thing I knew, I was face-to-face with this gorgeous guy who happened to agree that his drink would look better sandwiched between us.

Beck’s tapping away at his phone screen, reassuring his mother that, yes, he’ll be there for dinner tonight. Honestly, this woman is so frustrating. She’ll make plans, then cancel, then uncancel (is that a thing?), then recancel, wait a few days and –

There’s tea everywhere. It’s all over the ground, all over Beck’s shoes, all over the brick wall he ran into.

Except it’s not a wall. Not even close. It’s a man.

Great fucking start to his day right there…

You wouldn’t even look at me at first. There was this look of absolute horror on your face, and you just started cursing and apologizing. Nothing timid or quiet about it, either. It took so much conscious effort not to laugh because honestly, you were the cutest god damn thing I’d ever seen. I couldn’t even justify being the slightest bit upset, even though I was sopping wet and would definitely have a massive stain on my shirt a few hours later.

“Shit – Fuck, I’m so sorry,” Beck stammers, hands scrubbing over his face. Way to go, doofus. “I-I didn’t even see you there. Oh my god.”

“No, it’s okay,” the man replied, pulling his shirt away from area where it stuck to his skin.”Really, it’s not a problem.”

“I swear, I’m not usually this big of a fucking airhead. Shit, man, I’m so sorry.” He pauses, eyes only making it as far as his torso. The soaked cotton was clinging to this guy, and holy shit, he’s jacked. Outwardly, Beck groans, “Of course you’re wearing a white shirt. Wow. I am such an asshole.”

Still, no matter how many times I told you it was okay, I wasn’t hurt, I was fine, you still just kept swearing like a sailor and telling me how sorry you were. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a sudden urge to kiss that apology right off your lips. But I figured that would be kinda weird rude awkward, so I decided against it. I didn’t want to be a total creep and outright ask you on a date right there (y’know, because you’re unbelievably attractive), so I did the only think I could think of. I offered to buy you another drink.

“Well, since I apparently decided to wear your drink today, let me buy you another one.” Beck’s eyes shoot up from the pavement to meet the stare of the man he just dumped his tea all over. His jaw just about hits the ground when he actually sees how attractive this guy is. If his mouth weren’t so dry, Beck would probably be drooling. All he could muster was a small smile in return while he searched for his words.

The second you looked up and gave me that shy little smile of yours, I knew I was a goner. I knew right then and there that I’d do anything to see that smile again. Even if that meant not arguing when you insisted on not only buying your own drink, but buying me one too. Trust me, I normally would’ve put up a fight, but there was something about your expression that told me not to even try.

When I was got into my car after all was said and done, after we sat there with our drinks and talked for almost an hour, I realized I’d made a huge mistake. I never asked for your name. I didn’t even give you mine.

I just had to cross my fingers and hope that I’d see those beautiful blue eyes again. Now, I’m lucky enough to get to come home to those eyes. Can’t wait to see them again when I get back.

Two months down, fourteen to go!

Love you always,

- Mace

 

It was a scene straight out of a movie when they met. Beck remembers the whole thing so vividly, and he remembers kicking himself for not getting that man’s name. He spent weeks combing through every NASA employee he knew to try and see if anyone knew who he was.

“Buzz cut, unbelievably blue eyes, built like a brick shithouse. Ringing any bells?”

“No, Beck, I’m sorry.”

How does no one know this guy? Beck’s gone through his entire office block, the neighboring block, and over half of the administration building, and no one even shows an inkling of recognition in regards to who he’s describing. Even Johanssen doesn’t know who he is. He’s a ghost.

The thought occurs for a brief moment that perhaps he was a tourist, but Beck quickly shakes that from his head. They met in a restricted section, meaning the general public has no access. Maybe he has an office near where Beck unintentionally decided to dump tea on this guy.

Turns out the Tech and Engineering building is the closest, and before Beck knows it, he’s standing outside of Beth Johanssen’s office on sublevel two. Beth’s the head of the tech department, so she probably knows most of the employees in her building, right?

“I’m sorry, Chris, but he doesn’t sound familiar. Are you sure he’s in tech?” Fuck.

Beck shakes his head. “No, but I met him pretty close to here. Grasping at straws, I guess.”

Beth’s brows furrow. She’s thinking. Her teeth worry the inside of her lip while her gears turn, and Beck knows better than to ask her what she’s thinking about. She is, after all, his best friend. He knows her better than anyone.

Finally, after a solid minute or so, she says, “Go over to Testing and Sims, and talk to Martinez. I bet he knows who your mystery man is.”

Beck’s face breaks out in a huge grin. He’s not sure how he forgot about Martinez. Martinez knows everything about everyone, and if he doesn’t know (which has happened maybe twice since Beck’s known him), he knows someone who does.

After giving Beth a big thank you and an even bigger hug, Beck hightails it to the other side of the center.

When he gets through the door and up the stairs, he finds Rick Martinez and about fifteen other people. They’re working on flight simulations, save for Martinez who’s supervising. The man’s a damn good pilot and supposedly legendary amongst both pilots and the U.S. Air Force (sounds like someone blowing smoke up his ass, but Beck doesn’t say a word against it).

“Buzz cut, unbelievably blue eyes, built like a brick shithouse. Ringing any bells?”

For the first time, the response isn’t denial and an apology.

“Yeah, I know your boy,” Martinez states with a secretive smirk, eyes not straying from the trainees. “Cool dude. He’s an engineer. Army boy. Just finished AC training. Name’s Robert Mace.”

Beck felt like a total creep for months after that. Normal people don’t go to the extent he did. But there was a little voice in the back of his mind that nagged at him to keep pulling that thread, and looking back, he’s so glad he did.

(He found out later that Mace had done the same thing, so he felt infinitely less gross.)

Chapter Text

June 2045

 

The following month, the letter isn’t left on the porch. It isn’t even left at home. Beck finds the envelope on the desk in his office. Why? He’s not sure. Not until he reads the letter.

 

Hey babe –

So, let me start off by saying you should probably read the rest of this letter when you get home. It gets pretty graphic, and I’d really hate for you to get caught rubbing one out at work.

I’ve got your attention now, don’t I? Let’s be real here, sugar, I know you’re not going to wait. You’re too impatient. Just try to keep the noise level down, will you? Save all those pretty sounds for when I get back.

Okay, yeah, Beck should probably close and lock his office door. This is about to get interesting.

A month after I finished my candidate training, I had to go to this ridiculous NASA party. Never understood the point of wearing a monkey suit just to eat dinner and schmooze with the higher-ups. But I went anyways, hoping that you’d be there. I mean, my dumb ass didn’t get your name beforehand, and I wanted to know who you were.

I was right. You were there. And the suit you were wearing just about made me come in my pants the second I saw you. You looked so fucking good, baby. Like, jaw on the ground, broken headboard, fuck me into the floor good. Hickies and bite marks and bruises good.

Oh fuck. Oh fuck.

That suit couldn’t have been any tighter if it’d been painted on, and I couldn’t stop thinking about getting you out of it. Never thought a man dressed in a black-on-black suit would be what did me in, but once that was paired with your fuck me messy hair, I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things I wanted to do to you.

I wanted to finally come introduce myself, but that would’ve been a bad idea. If I shook your hand, if I felt your skin, it’d be game over because I’d end up thinking about those hands on my body and how they’d look with your tie wrapped around them. But I ended up thinking about that anyways, and I have no idea how my zipper managed to stay together.

On instinct, Beck’s hand wanders downward. His pants are starting to get a bit uncomfortable now that he’s half-hard and hasn’t been touched in three fucking months. This definitely is not the time or place to do this. He probably should’ve taken Mace’s warning, but it’s too late now. Wouldn’t be the first time his problematic boyfriend made him come at work. Wouldn’t even be the fifth time, really. Come to think of it, this is likely going to be somewhere just under the twentieth.

I think my masochistic side wanted to stick around just to see that pretty face of yours. Shameless, I know and probably a little stalkerish. But the way your lips looked on the edge of that champagne flute, how you always licked your lips after taking a sip, how you’d bite that bottom lip while someone else was talking, it drove me up the fucking walls. I wanted so badly to know how that pretty little mouth would look around my dick.

How I kept my cool, I’ll probably never know. More than once I just about lost control. In a matter of minutes, you turned me into a ticking time bomb and you hadn’t even looked at me. If I’d known then what I know now, I would’ve come up and talked to you in a heartbeat. Maybe I could’ve spent my night coming on your body instead of my own.

Biting down on his lip, Beck swallows his own whimper. The friction of his palm rubbing against his cock through layers of fabric wasn’t enough. He wants more. He needs more. Somehow he manages to get work his pants open and push his briefs down just far enough to wrap his fingers around his length. The tip of his thumb swipes the precome from his head, and he uses that to slick himself up while he moves in unbearably slow strokes. Mace loves to watch him like this. Oh, he’s in so much trouble when he comes home. Beck’s going to make him suffer in the best possible way.

Admittedly, I probably should’ve stopped off at a church before I went home. You know, confess my sins and repent and all that shit. The things that were going through my head would’ve been enough to make Satan’s personal prostitute blush. But hey! I’m going to Hell anyways, right? Might as well enjoy the ride (pun intended).

I didn’t even manage to get all my clothes off before I started jerking off. My dick was so hard it hurt, baby. I kept thinking about how good we would look if we marked each other up. Your teeth impressions in my skin, you clawing up my back and chest until the skin breaks, those swollen, spit-slicked lips of yours all rosy red and raw. Maybe I’d leave a big, dark bruise high on your neck where you couldn’t hide it or a bright red mark in the shape of my hand on that perfect ass of yours.

He picks up his pace. There’s no finesse behind it, just desperation. His back arcs, hips canting off the chair, and he’s fucking into his fist recklessly. Motions are echoed by the sound of his precome wetting his skin. It’s a slick, filthy sound that only spurs him on. Reminds him of what it’s like to have Mace’s plump, pink lips wrapped around his cock.

It’s getting harder and harder for him to keep himself quiet. Muted moans and hushed gasps tear from his throat in time with every heave of his chest. At odd intervals, no rhythm, he squeezes, especially right beneath his tip. He didn’t realize just how god damn good that feels until Mace started doing it while sucking him off.

Oh god, honey, your ass. That’s what wrecked me. Thinking about getting my mouth on it and the sweet sounds you’d make for me once I fit a couple fingers inside it. I don’t think I’d ever come that hard in my life. Shot myself in the chin. I just wish I knew what name should’ve been on my tongue.

I went for hours, over and over and over, until my arms were numb and my throat was raw and I was too sore to touch. My whole body was sticky and sweaty. Taking a shower would’ve posed another problem because I definitely would’ve started thinking about fucking you in the shower. Good thing I waited until I woke up to think about that, huh?

Beck feels his balls draw tight, and he’s biting down on his lip so hard it may bleed. With a bitten off groan, he’s coming. His body curls forward of its own accord as he strokes himself through the high, milking himself dry just like Mace always does. Only when it’s borderline painful does he finally allow himself to stop.

Miss you, baby. Hope I didn’t cause you too much trouble.

Three months down, thirteen to go.

Love you always,

- Mace

 

It’s no trouble. No trouble at all. Not for Beck.

Mace, however? Oh, he’s in so much fucking trouble when he gets home.

Chapter Text

July 2045

 

Knock knock.

“Dr. Beck?”

Beck looks up from his pile of paperwork to find Justin Capshaw standing in the doorway. He feels his nerves catch fire, fueled by the gasoline in his lungs. This is the first time Justin’s come by his office since Mace left, and Beck can’t tell if he’s bringing good news, bad news, or just stopping in to say hello. It’s impossible to get a good read on him.

Capshaw’s a cute kid (or, as Mace describes him, “a twink if I’ve ever seen one”), though he looks far too young to be an intern let alone a mission director. His frame is narrow, supported by these stellar long legs that the admin ladies seem to love. The angular cut of his jaw gives way to round cheeks permanently stained pink and full, pillowy lips, both of which also seem to be a popular topic of conversation amongst the admin ladies. His messy mop of brown hair matches the color of his dark-framed glasses. They perch at the end of his nose, and he’s constantly pushing them back up.

Even with his broody nature, it’s a deceptively innocent look. That’s why it’s so hard for Beck to figure out why he’s here.

“Mr. Capshaw, what can I do for you?”

“We’ve received a batch of video journals from the crew. If you’d like to come down to 221B, we’ll show you Lieutenant Mace’s recording. Otherwise we can email you a copy once we’re done with the evaluation.”

Beck’s well aware that NASA regulations require all incoming data from the crews to be reviewed. The mission directors receive all their updates through these videos while a team of mental health specialists evaluate crew members from afar, keeping an eye out for any shifts in personality or mannerisms. Any sign of distress or disruption is immediately transmitted to the mission commander.

It’s protocol, he knows, but Beck can’t help but feel a bit cheated. He shouldn’t have to share moments like this with a room full of strangers.

Capshaw, still standing just across the threshold, fumbles with the hem of his sweater absentmindedly, chewing on the inside of his lip. It must be a nervous habit. He’s waiting for a response, you idiot.

“Yeah, I’ll… I’ll come down. Thank you.”

The kid nods with a sympathetic smile, turns on his heel, and promptly walks away. Beck takes a moment to steel his nerves before locking his office door and heading off.

 

*****

 

“So, day one-seventeen,” Mace begins, looking down at his hands. “It looks like we’re right on schedule. Everything seems to be going okay. I mean, Coughlin’s kinda annoying, but he’s starting to grow on me like a bad rash.”

Somewhere in the background, a voice, presumably Coughlin, shouts, “Hey, fuck you!” followed by a laugh. Mace chuckles, flashing his perfect smile at the camera.

A man with sandy blonde hair and a crooked grin enters the frame, lurking just behind Mace’s chair. He starts pulling ridiculous faces. Barking out a laugh, Mace gestures to the man with his thumb.

“Ladies and gentlemen, Captain James Coughlin.”

“Call me Jem.” His tone is flirtatious as his face takes up the entire screen. He winks into the camera before ruffling Mace’s hair and disappearing.

“I can’t believe you guys thought it was good idea to send me into space with that meatball,” he snorts, shaking his head. There’s a noise in the background that sounds like I heard that, and the way Mace rolls his eyes confirms that. He drops the subject and starts talking about slightly more personal things, like everything he misses about being home. His bed, his car, eating real food, and…

“But I miss my boyfriend more than anything else. Beck, if you’re watching this, I love you.”

Mace moves on to discussing the progress made, and Beck focus wavers in and out, especially once he starts prattling on about his interest in the rigging of the… thing. Beck doesn’t quite catch the term because he’s far too distracted by the mere sight of Mace. There’s an ache of longing in his chest. He misses him.

Good thing it’s letter day…

 

*****

 

Beck is so thankful to find the envelope on the welcome mat when he gets home. It’s been a rollercoaster day for him and knowing he’d have a letter waiting for him is the only thing that pushed him through the afternoon.

Once he changes clothes and mixes up a Crown and Coke, he sits down.

 

Hey sweetheart –

I should probably apologize for last month’s letter, key words being ‘should’ and ‘probably’ because I’m not sorry at all. But I assume you already knew that. I mean, I did have it delivered to you at work. Just remember that I love you, and it’s not fair to punish me for it when I get home.

Beck huffs out a laugh. He’s not going to let Mace off the hook that easily.

It’s only fair that I pick up where the last letter left off, except this one will definitely be PG. Okay, maybe PG-13 at some point. We’ll see what I come up with…

After we met, I needed to know who you were. Major Martinez in Testing and Sims was the one to give me your name. I mean, come on. Martinez knows everything about everyone. Logically, he was my best option. He pointed me in the right direction.

“If I sit here, are you going to ruin my shirt again?” Beck doesn’t even have to look to know who it is, but he looks anyways because he’s been thinking about this guy almost incessantly for over two weeks. He’s still just as stunning, especially with that fucking grin.

“Depends,” Beck replies, imitating his smirk. “Are you gonna tell me your name this time?”

The grin shifts into a full-blown smile as he sets his coffee on the tabletop and sits down.

“Robert Mace.” He reaches out to shake Beck’s hand, and Beck swears his heart stops the moment they make contact. They hands fit together perfectly. Mace’s hands are warm and welcoming, just like his personality, and Beck think he probably holds on to the man’s hand for way too long.

“Chris Beck.”

Call it divine intervention or whatever, but I forgot my coffee that day. Left it sitting on the counter at home like a total idiot and didn’t realize it until I was in the parking lot. But there’s that little coffee booth in the cafeteria, so I wasn’t totally screwed, right?

Being a total airhead came in handy that day, because it gave me the opportunity to actually introduce myself. Still not sure where I found the courage, though. I was so nervous and my hands were shaking so bad that I just about spilled my drink on my shirt. The best that I could do was sit down next to you and try to act like I’m not an awkward idiot.

(Off topic: I love how that table back in the corner kind of became our spot. Whenever we went there, that’s where we sat. To this day, we still sit there. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone other than us sit there. I swear Lewis and Searle try to convince the newbies that it’s cursed or something…)

Beck snorts. That sounds exactly like something Lewis and Searle would do.

We clicked right off the bat. I think we picked up right where we left off from our first conversation. Definitely beat our record, too. What was it, like, two and a half hours we sat there? I missed a Sim session and a meeting with Berkeley, but having that extra time with you was well worth staying late.

Pretty sure we had lunch together every day that week. Things were so effortless and easy between us that we just kind of fell into a routine. That was when I realized I was addicted to you.

It wasn’t one of those dangerous addictions that require treatment. It wasn’t some crazy obsessive addition. It was just craving being around you.

Any time we weren’t together, I felt like a junkie fiending for his next hit. I had this vacancy in my chest whenever I wasn’t with you. To this day, I still get that feeling when we’re not together. I’m feeling it right now because my heart isn’t here. Odds are, it’s somewhere in Houston. If you see it, keep it. It’s yours.

We’re four months in, baby. Just gotta hang in there for twelve more.

Sorry to cut this short, but you should have a video coming in soon!

Love you always,

- Mace

Chapter Text

August 2045

 

Heya baby!

Happy birthday to me!

Can’t believe I’m only a few days away from turning 25. You know what that means? Means our anniversary is next week. Four years together. It doesn’t feel like it’s been that long.

Do you remember my 21st birthday? I hope so, because I only remember bits and pieces of it. Mostly just the important parts, though.

Beck definitely remembers. He’s the one who took Mace out to celebrate. It didn’t matter if it was a Tuesday night, the plan was always to get absolutely shit-faced. Though he had no doubts that Mace had already experienced a drunken night or ten, it’s a rite of passage. Beck wanted to be with him for his first legal experience.

Karaoke happened. That much I remember. I remember you singing that really old Ed Sheeran song. I never really liked his music much, but I love that song because of you.

“What the fuck, Beck? Why didn’t you tell me you could sing?”

“Dunno, guess I didn’t find it relevant.”

I know we did way too many shots. I lost track after eleven, but there’s a faint memory of whipped cream in a cup and body shots. You probably already know this, but I haven’t drank Fireball or straight Tequila since then.

“C’mon, birthday boy,” Beck chuckles, pulling Mace towards the counter. “I’ve got six blow jobs lined up for you, and you gotta take ‘em all.”

“Jesus, Beck. My dick’s gonna be sore tomorrow.”

“No, Mace, that’s… not what I mean. Shots, man. Bailey’s, Kahlua, and whipped cream.” Though Beck would absolutely without question blow this kid if he asked. He’d do anything Mace asked, honestly. Beck doesn’t know that he’d ever say no to him, especially if it results in having that dick halfway down his throat.

There was definitely almost a fight, too. That sticks out because the whole thing was ridiculously stupid. I don’t know what was said or how it started, I’m just glad you didn’t take that idiot up on his offer to step outside. He would’ve gotten his ass kicked, yeah, but I probably would’ve had to post bail for you, and I’m pretty sure the big boss men would be pissed.

Oh, Beck remembers exactly how it started. That fucker’s lucky Beck didn’t kick his god damn teeth in.

Beck’s about to fucking lose it. If this guy opens his mouth one more time, he’s going to die.

Obviously this sleazeball doesn’t realize that Beck’s sitting right next to him. He’s talking to his buddy about the tall brunette playing pool across the bar that just happens to be Mace. It’s not a problem at first, but the comments take a rather lewd turn when he starts getting into detail. The things he’s saying beyond vulgar.

“I’d love to bend that boy over and show him a good time.” That earns an eye roll. Mace wouldn’t give this loser the time of day.

“Betcha I could have him calling me Daddy by the end of the night.” To be fair, the guy looks old enough to be Mace’s father.

“Just send a few drinks his way and he’ll probably be pretty agreeable for getting double-teamed.”

Red. All Beck sees is red. He wants to hurt this piece of shit, and he wants to hurt him badly.

“That’s enough,” he snaps, fists clenching on instinct.

“You his boyfriend or some shit?”

Beck snorts, “Doesn’t matter. He’s a person, and you’re not going to fucking talk about him that way.”

The words exchanged after that were heated and vicious, but they all run together in Beck’s memory. However, he very vividly recalls making a rather violent threat and Mace’s arms locking around him as a form of restraint.

I don’t remember leaving the bar or going to your apartment. But I remember sitting on your couch together in the dark, and you just grabbed my face with both hands and said, “I really really really like you, and it’s not because I’m drunk.”

And then you kissed me. We agreed that we wouldn’t consider that our first actual kiss because we were both borderline blackout drunk, but I memorized every detail of that moment. The sound of the cars outside, how your lips tasted, how you hesitated before you touched me anywhere other than my face, how warm your hands were when you finally did… I couldn’t forget it if I tried, baby. I’ve kissed you a billion times since then, but that one will always be my favorite.

Yeah, Beck remembers that, too. It always made him laugh a little. He still loves it because despite how sloppy and wet and uncoordinated it was, it was also raw and pure and honest. The emotions involved were what compelled him to kiss Mace, not the alcohol.

The next morning, I woke up with the worst god damn migraine ever and your arms wrapped around me. You had one leg between mine and the other thrown over my thigh. The sheets were all twisted and tangled. I didn’t know if we’d be able to get out. Not like I wanted to, though, even if you were snoring.

It felt right to me, being in that moment with you. So, I decided right then that I was done pining for someone I thought I couldn’t have. I wanted to be with you, and I knew I had to wear my heart on my sleeve that morning. I just had to cross my fingers and hope to high heaven that you meant what you said.

And you did.

Five months down, eleven to go, babe.

Love you always,

- Mace

 

Beck isn’t a forgetful drunk. He remembers with crystal clarity everything from walking into the bar with Mace to waking up beside him.

“Mornin’,” he mutters gruffly, squinting angrily at the sunlight peeking through the blinds. His head is pounding, and he kind of wants to die. Mace is in his bed, though, and they’re cuddled up together, so he supposes this is as good a place as any. At least he’d die happy, right?

“Mornin’, you,” Mace chuckles. Beck feels it before he hears it, and a sharp chill crawls up his spine. The hairs on the back of his neck stand on end, and he has to suppress a shudder. This is probably the most intimate moment they’ve shared, save for their kiss last night.

Oh yeah. They kissed.

“You know I meant what I said last night, right?” He’s not nervous, despite the timid tinge in his tone. Mace would’ve stopped him if he didn’t feel the same, even with as drunk as he’d been. It would’ve stopped as soon as Beck kissed him, and he sure as shit wouldn’t be in bed with him, let alone cuddled up. He just asks to clarify for them both.

Mace’s lips press against Beck’s forehead, and he just nonchalantly mutters, “Yeah, Beck. I know.”

Chapter Text

September 2045

 

Hey sugar –

Hopefully you don’t think this is cheating, but this letter kind of relates to last month’s. It’s not about drinking or birthdays or waking up together (even though I miss all of that more than I can say). Instead, I want to talk about our first kiss. Our real first kiss. Not the drunk one.

We were sitting at your kitchen table the morning after my birthday the first time the thought popped up. You looked so perfect just sitting there across from me. Even with your messy hair and your sleepy voice, you were (and are still) the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. I couldn’t stop staring at your mouth while you were drinking your coffee. All I could think was how badly I wanted to kiss you again.

“Is there a reason you’re staring at me?” Beck smirks, cocks an eyebrow, and takes another sip of his coffee. It’s just hot enough to burn a little when he swallows, but not enough to be painful. Strange, but it soothes the itch in the back of his throat.

Mace chuckles, eyes flickering down to the top of the tabletop as he says, “You’re cute, Beck. I think that’s reason enough, don’t you?”

Heat creeps across Beck’s cheeks. Normally shit like that doesn’t faze him, but fuck, it does when he comes from Robert Mace. He just wants to crawl across the table and kiss him senseless. The only thing stopping him is the fact that he’s not sure if he’s allowed to. He doesn’t want to make things uncomfortable, so he settles on a sheepish grin and another mouthful of coffee.

I could sit here and tell you about all the instances throughout the day that made me want to kiss you, but this letter would be 18 pages long at least by the time I got halfway done. It was everything. The entire day, everything you did brought up the urge. Eating breakfast, brushing your teeth, talking, smiling, laughing… Honest to god, I don’t know why it took me so long, and I don’t know why we both ignored the proverbial elephant in the room all day.

After spending hours just being lazy together, my breaking point came right before I left. We were standing outside your complex together, just talking like we always did. Between the way your eyes looked under the streetlamp and the way you chewed on the inside of your lip, I couldn’t stop myself. I needed to kiss you.

Mace’s large hands are cradling Beck’s jaw like he’s made of porcelain. Their foreheads are pressed together, and the gap between their mouths is closing all too slowly for Beck’s liking. He’s getting impatient, but he doesn’t want Mace to feel rushed.

Finally, after what feels like an eternity, their lips touch. It’s faint, just barely a brush before Mace draws back and repeats, teasingly hesitating every time Beck tries to chase the kiss. He huffs out a soft laugh that Mace swallows while he murmurs something about the younger man being a “god damn dirty tease”.

Suddenly their mouths are slotted together like they were made to fit the other. One of Mace’s hands trails down the planes of Beck’s chest, coming to rest against the protruding hip bone. He pulls Beck closer and closer until their bodies are flush. If they had any less space between them, they’d be fusing together. Beck anchors himself with a hand tangling in Mace’s hair and the other landing on his chest. His fingers curl into the fabric like that’ll keep Mace from pulling away any time soon. But he wouldn’t dare. He’s not making it any secret that he’s loving this just as much as Beck does.

It expands from there, a tangle of tongues and a touch of teeth. There’s nothing about it that screams lust, not even a whisper of it. The feel is purely adoration, and it’s mutual. They work in tandem, movements synchronizing on instinct.

He can feel Mace smiling. He knows that he’ll always remember this as the…

Best. Kiss. Ever.

Your mouth still tasted like the pizza we ate for dinner, and as weird as it may be to say this, every time we’ve ordered pizza since then, I’ve had this compulsion to kiss you after your first bite.

This is so cliché, and I’m sorry for saying it, but everything around us disappeared. Time stopped for a solid few minutes, and you were the only thing mattered. My focus was solely on you and your lips. They were exactly as soft as I thought they’d be and fit perfectly with mine. Nothing in my life up to that point had ever felt so good.

A sentiment Beck can agree with whole-heartedly from beginning to end. It was that moment that everyone dreams of having, when kissing someone feels like you’ve struck a match and lit the fuse on a grand-scale firework display in your chest. Never in a million years would Beck have guessed that he’d have that kiss. He didn’t ever believe it was something that could actually happen.

Logically, it didn’t make sense. Chemicals in the brain don’t tend to spike so high so quickly based purely on psychical stimulus. It’s neurologically impossible. His degree isn’t in psychology nor is he a brain surgeon, but he knows how chemical reactions work, and they’re not supposed to work like that.

But Mace proved him wrong. Mace proved science wrong.

I think that’s one thing that we all take for granted. We don’t appreciate the opportunities when we have them. We don’t take the opportunities. It’s wasted because we figure there will always be another time. I don’t want to waste those moments ever again, Chris. When I get home, I promise I’m going to make up for every single opportunity I’ve ever missed.

I miss kissing you.

Six months down, ten to go.

Love you always,

- Mace

 

If he weren’t so touched by this all, he’d fucking vomit. It’s so sickeningly sweet but still cheesy in the best possible way. Those two tastes aren’t exactly complimentary, but somehow, Mace makes them work.

Beck knows he’s one lucky man, and he’ll never take that for granted.

Chapter Text

October 2045

 

NASA does weird shit sometimes. Their weirdest endeavor happens to be this banquet-style dinner they’ve arranged for the families of the astronauts deployed on Artemis I. It wouldn’t be so awkward if any of them had met before, but clearly no one had. They all sat stiffly, trying their best to maintain a pleasant attitude. Maybe it was the sense of inept discomfort that hung low like a raincloud, but Beck’s money is on the horde of reporters corralled in the corner.

Joshua Brummel, NASA’s media relations director, is the one keeping the vultures at bay. Their pens lie in their hands like talons, ink smears like blood from a fresh pick. It’s disgusting how they prey on emotional vulnerability to write their stories. Beck has a sinking suspicion that Brummel’s the one who invited them all, so he’s already lost a bit of respect for the man. But he’ll hold his tongue for the time being… Unless one of those so-called journalists give him a reason to drop the pretense of professionalism. Beck will NOT tolerate the significant others of the Artemis crew being harassed or bullied by the media. They don’t deserve it. They didn’t intentionally choose to be in this position.

Beck’s not the only one to notice the press.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” comes from the man beside him. His English accent is almost as thick as his dark, borderline unruly curls. Beck glances over with a snort, and the man apologizes under his breath.

Shaking his head, Beck just says, “Don’t apologize. I’m not a fan either.”

He comes to learn that man’s name is Thomas Sharpe, and his sister, Lucille, is the research engineer. Thomas jokes that it’s only right the two of them are seated together since their counterparts counter each other. Beck remembers Mace speaking rather highly of Lucille, saying she’s easily the brains of the operation. She’s whip smart and doesn’t take any shit from the guys (“Like you with a vagina, babe.”).

The two continue to chat throughout dinner. Beck would be lying if he says he’s not actually having a good time. Thomas knows enough of the who’s who amongst the higher-ups that they can sit there and talk shit without pointing anyone out. At one point, he makes a snide comment about AD Curtis, and Beck damn near spits his drink across the table.

For what he assumed would be a shitty night, it’s not turning out too bad.

Or so he thought. Once the reporters are set loose, they mill around like moths to a porch light, avoiding other NASA employees in attendance (namely the board, the mission directors, and the agency directors) and going straight for the families.

One in particular, a traditionally attractive blonde with a slight upturn to her nose, makes a bee-line towards Beck.

“Charlotte Truex, Houston Herald. Mind if I ask you a couple questions?”

She stops just short of him and holds up her recorder with a questioning eyebrow. Beck nods for her to start recording and answers whatever questions she asks until she asks one that strikes a nerve…

“Doctor Beck, you were on the Ares III mission. Do you have any concerns about someone getting left behind again due to negligence?”

Christopher Beck is not a violent man, but he’s considering murder for the first time right now. Everyone knows the truth behind what happened on Mars and how the entire crew was jeopardized trying to retrieve Watney. Not only that, but his entire world is on that ship, and he’ll be damned if anything happens to anyone aboard.

His fists clench, and he’s grinding his teeth in an effort to calm himself before he does something he might regret.

A hand on Beck’s chest is the only thing stopping him from ripping this bitch a new one because Mark Watney was not “left behind due to negligence”, he was presumed dead during an emergency evacuation that could’ve potentially fucking killed all six crew members and destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment, you ignorant little fucking cu-

”Don’t answer that.”

The hand belongs to a man wearing Army greens. He’s facing the reporter, eyeing her with an icy stare. Beck doesn’t doubt that this guy is fully prepared to hold him back if it comes to it, but he’s also pretty sure this guy might just clock the reporter himself.

“On behalf of the entire United States Army, ma’am…” His expression is somehow simultaneously disinterested and irate. “You can go fuck yourself.”

Her face shifts into a look of absolute disgust.

“You can quote me on that, too,” he continues. “Lieutenant Ford Brody, spelled exactly like it sounds.”

Without missing a beat, Beck starts laughing. Like, full-on, head thrown back, hand on his stomach, mouth wide open laughing as she storms off, presumably to speak with someone of authority.

“Thank you for that,” Beck says with a grin. “You may or may not have just kept me from getting fired by NASA.”

Brody claps a hand on his shoulder with a half-smirk. “Don’t sweat it. My wife’s up there. You’re a part of the Space Husbands club, too. We’ll get your official t-shirt in the mail next week with our bake sale schedule.”

“Looking forward to it,” Beck snorts.

 

*****

 

When Beck gets home, he finds this month’s letter on the porch. He feels like an ass. The night has been so crazy, he almost forgot that it was the 8th. He grabs the envelope and heads inside.

Before opening it, he changes out of his suit into one of Mace’s t-shirts. Forgoing anything other than his boxer-briefs on his lower half, he can’t help but feel somewhat annoyed. He’s running out of Mace’s clean shirts, and if he washes the ones he’s already worn a few times, they won’t smell the same. It’s a dilemma, but he’ll figure it out later. This is more important right now.

Within the first ten seconds of the song, Beck already knows exactly what the letter is about. He hums along with the tune for a bit, taking every line to heart like he did the first time he heard it.

I wanna fall, and never once look back/I wanna know I make you feel like that/I wanna make this the start of something/I wanna feel like it's all or nothing

 

Hey, Pretty Baby!

I know you already know where this is going. If you don’t, you obviously didn’t listen to the song.

Let’s skip the foreplay and just get into it, shall we?

Our first date.

I was so fucking nervous, babe. Seriously, when I got to your apartment to pick you up, I was on the verge of hyperventilation. And I swore I was going to throw up the second I got out of my car. My hands were sweaty, my heart was racing, and I thought I might actually die.

Then you walked outside, and I thought my heart stopped. My head was full of static. You looked drop dead gorgeous, and I just about fucking dropped dead right there. It still blows my mind that I somehow convinced you to go on out on a date with me.

I felt so bad that you wanted to hold my hand on the drive to the restaurant. There’s no way I was going to tell you no, but I could’ve watered a football field with how sweaty my palms were. Being the sweetheart that you are, of course you didn’t say anything about it. You just grabbed my hand and held it in yours.

Our fingers fit together perfectly. The spaces between yours were just right for mine and vice versa. I didn’t want to let go for anything. If I could’ve, I would’ve held your hand all through dinner, too. Kinda hard when we’re on opposite sides of an awkward table, though.

That’s the same night I found out how cute you are when you pout. You got so mad that I wouldn’t let you pay and even madder when I wouldn’t split the check. I was the one who asked you on a date, sweetheart. If I initiate, I pay. End of story.

But you already know that by now.

Afterwards, I was definitely a lot less nervous. The heated half-hour make-out session in the parking lot (not unlike horny teenagers) was the best possible end to our date. That convinced me that we were on the same page, even though I was twitchy and anxious all night. It did not, however, convince me to go home. I didn’t want to.

Needless to say, the repeat mouth-to-mouth performance on the stoop definitely didn’t do much to convince me to go home either. If you didn’t have to work so early the next morning, I probably wouldn’t have.

I still don’t understand how I managed to get a second date…

Seven months in, sweetheart. I’ll see you in nine more!

Love you always.

- Mace

Chapter Text

November 2045

 

Hey, baby!

We’re officially halfway through! I’m sure time hasn’t exactly flown by, but we’ve gotten through the worst of it, right? Hopefully the second half will go by faster for the both of us.

Of all the things I miss, I think right now I miss your voice the most. All the things that come with it, too, like listening to your laugh or you telling me about your day. Even the arguments we’d get into over stupid shit. I miss that. There’s this ridiculously irrational fear in the back of my mind that, while I’m gone, I’ll forget what your voice sounds like. It’s dumb, I know. How could I ever forget the way you say you love me?

Beck doesn’t find that ridiculous. Not at all. He’d be lying if he said he hadn’t considered the possibility himself. There are so many variables to these long missions, and that nagging thought in the back of his mind is always there: what if things change? What if Mace falls in love with someone on his crew? What if he realizes that he doesn’t miss Beck as much as he thought he would? Would that be the end for them?

He knows he shouldn’t think about things like that, but he can’t help it. It’s happened before, except the one to move on was the person Beck had to leave behind. But he wasn’t as invested then as he is now. He didn’t love her the way he loves Mace. There was no comparison whatsoever. He knows he can’t handle losing Mace. Just the thought makes him feel sick to his stomach.

About three months after we made our relationship official, I found myself sitting at our table without you. It was your day off, but it didn’t feel right to sit anywhere else. Ten minutes or so after I sat down, Remi came in. She’s probably the only person that didn’t buy into Lewis and Searle’s bullshit curse story (yes, they actually did start telling people that), so she sat with me. We got to talking, shooting the shit like we always did, and while I was telling her about you, it just kind of clicked.

I literally dropped my fork and told her, “Rem, I’m in love with him”.

She just laughed and said, “’Bout fuckin’ time, Bobby. Now he’s the only person alive that doesn’t know.”

Bobby, huh? Beck’s definitely using that one later. He’s pretty much always called Mace by his last name, just as Mace usually does with him. It’s habit for them both, especially while at work.

Apparently I’d been bumbling around like a love-struck puppy for months weeks. No joke, half the BioMed facility and almost the entire engineering department had placed bets on how long it’d take before we figured it out.

(Cash bets, mind you. Winner takes all. Martinez won the pool, by the way. Go figure.)

Once I figured that out, I didn’t want to wait to tell you. I didn’t care if it was too early to say it or if you didn’t say it back. I don’t think I even considered the possibility that you wouldn’t feel the same. It was impulsive, I’ll admit, but I’ve never had any regrets about it.

I told Berkeley that I needed to take some personal time, and I’d need the rest of the day off. Once he gave me the okay to leave, I called you to make sure you were home, and then I hauled ass to your apartment.

“Hello?”

“Beck, hey. Are you at home right now?” Mace sounds like he’s running a marathon, all winded and out of breath. That immediately puts Beck on high alert.

“Yeah, babe. Why?”

“Good. I’m on my way. I need to see you.”

“Mace, what’s – “ The line goes dead, and yeah, this is definitely a huge concern. Beck’s mind races with possibilities, and most of them aren’t good.

Mace shows up less than ten minutes later. He’s banging on the door so hard, Beck’s afraid it might break before he gets it open. The doorknob is barely even turned before Mace barrels in. There’s a wild, frantic look in his eyes, and he doesn’t give Beck time to question it aloud before he’s crowding him up against the wall with the door still wide open. It all moves so fast. Beck can’t even take a breath before Mace catches him with a searing kiss that sucks any air left from his lungs.

No teeth. No tongues. Nothing aggressive or needy or desperate. It’s purely fueled by a feral sense of enthusiasm and adoration, and it holds steady until they both absolutely need to catch a break. Beck withdraws first, chest heaving in time with his boyfriend’s.

“What the fuck was that?” he whispers, pressing his forehead against Mace’s.

“I love you, Chris. I… I’m fucking in love with you.”

Pretty sure I broke about 30 different traffic laws trying to get to you. Even more sure that I was never doing less than 15 over the speed limit at any given time… Luck must’ve been on my side that day, because I did not see a single cop between the station and your street. Ironically, I did see one cruise by as I was parking. How’s that for timing?

Do you know how exhausting it is to run up five flights of stairs without stopping? My legs were so dead by the time I got up to your apartment. They were so wobbly and unstable that I had to use the wall to keep myself upright enough to kiss you.

The words just kind of came out after that. I wasn’t expecting you to say it back immediately, so you can probably imagine what kind of surprise that was for me when you did. I swear to god, I’ve never heard a more beautiful sound in my life.

There’s a video in my personal documents of you saying “I love you”. I watch it every single day because nothing sounds better from your lips than those words. I’m so ready to hear them in person again.

Eight down, eight to go. We’ve got this.

Love you always,

- Mace

 

“What did you just say?” Beck has a massive grin from ear-to-ear. He knows what he heard, but he wants to hear it again.

Indulgently, Mace replies, “I’m in love with you, Christopher Beck.”

“I love you, too. I always have.”

Chapter Text

December 2045

 

This month’s delivery isn’t like any of the others. It’s left in the same place, but the contents differ. The flash drive is inside per the usual, but there are two smaller envelopes inside the manila one. One has “read me first” written across the front, while the other has “not until you’ve read the other one”.

He tears the flap off of the first envelope after he curls up on Mace’s side of the bed and starts with the first.

 

Hey, my little ho ho ho –

Yeah, I know you’ll probably hit me for that when I get home, but it’ll be worth it. I laughed pretty hard when I thought about writing it, and I’m sure laughing as I’m writing it.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that there are two letters in this envelope, but only one song on the drive. Smooth transitions are not my forte, so I figured it’d be best for me to split my thoughts into two separate letters, even though both of these big moments for us happened on the same night.

It’s December, and you know what that means… Yup, we’re talking about Christmas. More specifically, our first Christmas together. I think that’s honestly the best holiday we’ve ever spent together. Definitely my favorite.

I know how excited you were about spending Christmas in Connecticut. You were supposed to be going home to see your parents. I knew how much you missed them, and I knew how you missed your hometown. That’s why I didn’t want to tell you that I would be spending Christmas by myself.

(I haven’t found out who told you yet, but they’re still on my shit list.)

When you showed up on my doorstep on Christmas Eve, I was completely dumbfounded. I asked what happened, and you just told me that your plans changed.

I didn’t want you to know I’d be alone because I knew you’d do exactly what you did do. You sacrificed a holiday with your family and a trip home to stay in shitty, humid Houston with me. Whether that’s the sweetest thing I’ve ever seen or the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard of, I still haven’t decided. But regardless, I’ll always be grateful for it.

“Christopher, this isn’t even a question,” his mother sighs on the other end of the line. “Your flight is booked completely full. You know I’d love to have you both here, but there are no empty seats, sweetheart. I don’t think there’s any way possible.”

“I know, Mom. But – “

“Then why are you acting like this is such a tough decision, honey? Stay in Houston. No one deserves to be alone on Christmas, especially not the man you love.”

If there is one thing Beck’s always been grateful for, it’s his mother’s incredibly kind heart. He swears she’s a god damn saint.

Every time I see our pictures from that year, I laugh. Do you have any idea how cute it is to find your 27 year old boyfriend dancing around the kitchen in a onesie on Christmas morning? Probably not, considering I’m not 27 yet, and that’s an oddly specific question to begin with. Are those pajamas still in the back of out closet?

Beck’s having a particularly festive morning. He’s got a playlist of his favorite holiday songs that he’s bopping along with, and breakfast is well underway. Per family tradition, Beck’s making white chocolate peppermint pancakes. A tradition which requires him to wear his Grinch onesie while he’s cooking. When his favorite Christmas song comes on, he can’t stop himself from singing it rather loudly and starting to dance a little bit. The rolling pin in his hands crushes the candy canes in time with the sway of his hips.

Behind him, he hears Mace chuckle, and then a pair of big, sturdy arms wrap around his waist. Mace rests his chin on Beck’s shoulder for a second before planting a kiss on his cheek.

“You’re so cute,” he murmurs, nuzzling into the side of Beck’s neck. “I love you so much.”

Next time we’re in Hartford, remind me to thank your parents for passing down such great traditions. Our holidays wouldn’t be the same without them.

After breakfast, we started baking. Never in my life have I seen so much cookie dough and brownie batter and cupcake mix. I wasn’t sure how we were going to manage to eat all of that stuff, but I was fully prepared to get fatter than Santa with you while trying… Then you told me it was actually for my neighbors.

That’s one of the things that makes me so proud to call you mine. You’re so kind-hearted and constantly thinking of others. You’d never even met the other tenants, and yet, you were willing to spend the entire morning baking for them. I know I say it all the time, but I’m so fucking lucky to have you.

Especially because you forgave me for burning our big batch of cookies.

The shriek of the fire alarm jars Beck. He abandons the plastic bags and baked goods to check on Mace, who is conspicuously silent.

Smoke is billowing out of the oven when he rounds the corner. There are three pans on the stovetop decorated with the charred remains of what once were cookies. Poor Mace is fanning the smoke away with his oven mitts, and he looks so distressed. Like he’s on the verge of tears. When he notices Beck in the doorway, he gives him a horribly apologetic look.

“I’m so sorry.” Mace’s voice is so low that Beck almost misses what he says. “I think I accidentally bumped the oven dial. I didn’t mean to, but – “

“I know, babe. It’s okay, I promise. Shit happens, alright?” Placatingly, he puts a hand on Mace’s arm. This is probably the most emotional Beck’s ever seen his boyfriend. He blames it on the fact that Mace’s parents are out of the country for the holidays.

That, and we were able to make the best awful dinner I’ve ever had.

Honestly, I was just going to make pizza. Well, that was the plan until I realized that I’d actually have company. I wanted to do something special for you, since it was the first major holiday we spent together. But grocery stores are typically closed on Christmas Day. There was no way we could go shopping for an actual dinner. We had to make do with whatever I happened to have in my apartment, and trying to figure that shit out with you was so much fun.

Rice, ground beef, potatoes, corn, milk, shredded cheese, and a fresh cleaned oven. Beck figures they can attempt an awkwardly amended Shepherd’s Pie recipe. There are seasonings in the cabinet, pans on the stovetop, and a big grin on Mace’s face, so yeah, they’re going to make this work. That’s what they do best, after all.

Beck opens the fridge to grab the butter for Mace, and he busts up laughing.

“What?” Mace doesn’t look up from the potatoes he’s peeling, so he misses the cute little grin Beck aims in his direction.

“Of course you have pie.”

“Well, yeah. Christmas isn’t Christmas without pie! Even when you think you’re spending Christmas alone.”

Not to mention it didn’t turn out too bad.

After dinner, by the time we got around to opening presents, it was already dark out. The only light in my living room was from the lights on my tree. You insisted that we sit on the floor instead of on the couch, and I wasn’t about to tell you no.

When you sat down in front of me, I was so glad I didn’t try to argue. It was a picture-perfect moment, and I’m glad I took that picture. Your face was lit up by the glow of the tree and the big smile on your face seemed to make everything brighter. I couldn’t stop smiling because you were smiling.

Of the (literal) hundreds of pictures we have, whether it’s both of us or just one of us; regardless of who took it and where or when it was taken, that picture of you is my absolute favorite.

I promise we’ll have a late Christmas soon!

Now on to the second letter, babe.

I love you!

- Mace

Chapter Text

December 2045

 

I apologize in advance. This is probably one of the sappiest letters I’ll write. It’s full of things I’ve never told you, and things I think you should know.

My mom always used to say, “Only once in your lifetime will you find someone that shares a part of your soul. They’ll be the one person in the existence that you’d be willing to bend the universe for, consequences be damned. When you find that person, Robert, you better hold on to them. They will be the thing that keeps your feet on the ground.”

I used to think she was full of shit. That was just some hokey speech passed around in her generation. People born in the 1990s believed some pretty weird things, so that wasn’t too far of a stretch, right? It was just something they’d say to convince themselves that they weren’t alone, or at least that they wouldn’t be alone forever.

But Christmas night, the first time that we ever made love, I knew she was right. It all clicked for me then. I’d never allowed myself to be so vulnerable with someone else, and the intimacy of those fleeting little moments gave me the clarity I was looking for. Christopher, it’s you. You’re the person that I’d bend the universe for. You’re the thing that keeps me grounded.

We’d been intimate before then, sure, but it never went much further than a little bump and grind. It’s not like we intentionally waited or anything. Things just kept getting in the way or coming up every time we tried. Everything happens for a reason, and maybe the reason for the wait was that we weren’t supposed to have any interruptions.

I mean, it makes sense. Think about it, babe.

We somehow ended up with the same scheduled time off, though I never requested extra time. Everyone we knew was busy or out of town, no one as going to bother us. All of our texts and phone calls and social media shit were squared away well before we even had dinner. We spent a few hours watching Christmas movies together, and nothing intruded on that either.

You know I don’t believe in coincidence, Chris…

Never thought for a second that I’d be grateful for the tradition of mistletoe until you kissed me. I have no idea when you found the time to hang it, since we were practically attached at the hip the whole day. Hanging above the window trim was pretty brilliant. Almost as brilliant as you luring me to that window to look at the city Christmas lights. I don’t think we looked at the lights for any more than four or five minutes before you pointed it out, and you didn’t even let me look up before you planted that pretty mouth on me.

I don’t know how long we stumbled around in the dark because we refused to let each other go. We both had bumps and bruises for days after that from all the things we ran into, but god, it was so worth it. I know I kissed all those bruises the next morning because I kissed all the ones I left too…

You stopped no less than three times to ask if I was certain that was what I wanted. There was absolutely no doubt in my mind, baby. None whatsoever at any point. But you still asked. You were completely ready to ignore your own wants for mine, even when we were already so far into it. You took your time to make sure I was ready, both physically and emotionally. You always asked before making any moves. Never in my life has anyone been so considerate towards me. Your kind heart is exactly why I fall more and more in love with you every day.

There were so many little things that stuck with me. Our close physical contact (a piece of paper wouldn’t have fit between us), those breathy little noises that you tried so hard to hold back, how we couldn’t seem to look away from each other, probably for fear of missing something. All those tender little touches and barely-there kisses. Sometimes I swear I can still feel it all, especially how full I felt and the slow drag of you inside me.

That was a first for me. Before then, I’d never bottomed. But I trusted you, Beck. I trusted that you would take care of me. And as always, you didn’t let me down. There’s no one else in this world that I’d rather have experienced that with.

I say it a lot, I know, but I believe whole-heartedly that you and I were made for each other. The way your hips fit between my thighs definitely convinced me of that. We’re like intricate puzzle pieces only meant to fit with each other.

God, I fucking hate being away from you.

Nine months down, baby. We’ve only got seven more.

I love you, Christopher. I love you more than I’ve ever loved anything in my life. Don’t you ever forget that, okay?

Always,

- Mace

 

Beck can see tears welling up in his boyfriend’s eyes. Immediately, his mind scampers off down a hundred different trails. Did he do something to hurt Mace? Does he regret it? Was Beck just really fucking awful at this shit?

When the first drop rolls down Mace’s cheek, Beck panics.

“Babe? Did… Did I do something wrong? Are you okay? You’re not hurt, are you? What – ?”

“You probably think I’m the biggest pussy alive,” Mace laughs humorlessly, wiping at his face with the back of his hand. “What kind of grown ass man cries after sex.”

“Why are you – ?”

“That was just… Really intense,” he says in a voice now barely above a whisper. It’s shaky at best. “Beck, I’ve never, uh… Never felt like that before. It sounds stupid, but…”

The way his voice trails off leaves a lot of unasked questions. Thankfully, Beck doesn’t need to hear it to know the answer. He asks anyways, though.

“But what?”

“Nothing. Nevermind.” Again, he’s swiping at his face furiously. Beck knows Mace hates feeling weak, and crying in front of someone, to him, is weakness.

Beck sighs heavily, muttering a hushed, “c’mere”. His arms curl around the engineer, pulling him tight to his chest. He knows rather well what Mace felt because he felt it himself. They’re firmly rooted in each other’s lives already, but this only burrowed the roots deeper into the ground. It establishes a kind of permanence. Regardless of what transpires after this, they’ll always have this moment together…

Tear stains discolor the paper. Spots of ink are smudged and runny. Yes, Beck’s in fucking tears again, but the ones on the letter don’t belong to him.

He has always know what an emotional experience that Christmas night had been for Mace, but now he understands on a level he hadn’t before. That man had literally given a huge part of himself to Beck. He handed it over with no reservations, no return request, and Beck is just fucking lucky that Mace chose him to share that with.

The soulmate speech has been around for decades. Beck’s heard it a few times, mostly from his batshit crazy aunts. And there’s never been a single doubt in his mind that he’d not only bend the universe, but he’d destroy it all and rebuild it altogether if Mace so desires. It’d be exactly as he requests and nothing less.

Chapter Text

January 2046

 

Hey, babe –

Time to break up the monotony. I can only write so many sappy letters in a row before I start thinking with my dick again. Pretty sure you already know exactly where this one is going, so I’m only going to ask one thing of you: do NOT touch yourself until you’re done reading this. That’ll definitely get your perfect ass in big trouble, baby, and not the kind that you like. I don’t mean the kind of trouble that earns you a nice pair of cherry-red cheeks. I mean the kind that means you don’t get to come for a fucking month. Remember that.

That definitely doesn’t mean your ass won’t be painted pretty pink anyways. I love the way it bounces when I smack it, and you love having my handprints on you. Works out for both of us, right?

Fuck, I can’t wait to be able to touch you again. Can’t wait to bend you over the kitchen table and eat that pretty little ass until you’re begging me to let you come. It’s so sweet, the way you beg. I miss listening to the way you say ‘please’ when you’re so close and I won’t let you finish. And I won’t stop there. It’s much more fun to work you up and bring you back down nice and slow.

You know what comes next? Making sure my cock will fit inside you. You’re always so tight already, but going a year and a half without getting fucked like you deserve? It’s going to take a little while to get you stretched back out for me. How many times do you think I can hit your prostate without you blowing your load? I’m willing to test that limit if you are.

I might make you wait hours to come, baby. Might just keep you on edge all night. We’ll start slow, though, because you know how cute I think it is when you get so hot and bothered that you start threatening me. Even better when you get so frustrated with me that you start crying. I’d feel bad about it if it weren’t for how much you curse at me when I spend hours teasing you.

Don’t you worry, though. When you’re so desperate and needy that you can barely form words, I’ll give you what you want. I’ll gladly fuck you however and wherever you want, be it on the kitchen table, in the shower, over the back of the couch, even in the back yard, if you so choose. Any position, day or night or in between. You won’t be able to sit for weeks without thinking about me. Bitemarks, bruises, blood from biting lips; you know, the usual for us. I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle seeing you that way for long. Might just come the second I get inside you.

Even then, I still might not let you come. Depends on if you’re gonna be a good boy for me.

We’ll see how much you can handle.

Ten months down, six more to go.

Love you always,

- Mace

 

P.S. Bottom drawer of our dresser, in the back, there’s another drive. Watch and enjoy, babe. ; )

 

Beck drops the letter on the couch and darts into their bedroom. He yanks the specified drawer open, fishing around until his fingers find a metal flash drive. After nudging the drawer shut with his foot, he goes back to the living room and plugs it into his tablet with no hesitation. He needs to know what’s on it and why he was asked to wait.

On the drive, Beck finds a video file not unlike the one he received with his first letter. Except this one has no thumbnail. He can’t see any frames of the video like he could last time. It instills far more curiosity, so Beck hits play.

The video starts inconspicuously enough. It’s Mace sitting in the same spot on the couch that Beck currently occupies. But he’s got a haughty little smirk on his face, and that definitely spells trouble. When he catches his lower lip between his teeth and winks, though, Beck knows he’s in for it.

With no more than a few seconds preamble, Mace stands up. His hands move to unbuckle his belt, then unbutton and unzip his jeans. All too slowly, he pushes them down, taking his boxers down with them. They drop out of the frame, but Beck doesn’t notice. He’s too busy staring at Mace’s perfect dick.

Mace sits back down and takes his length in his hand. Beck’s watched his boyfriend jerk off more times than he can count, but for some reason, this time is infinitely hotter.

Beck’s hand dips into his sweatpants. His long, dexterous fingers trace along his rock hard length the same way Mace does when he wants to be a dirty little cock-tease. The images both on screen and flashing through his head make him want to drink a gallon of holy water. Not like it’d clean him up any, not like he’d want it to, but it’s a far better option that going to confession. That would probably cause more problems that it’d solve.

He lifts his hips and shoves his sweats down to his knees, wrapping his fingers around his length. The rough brush of his calloused digits versus the smooth glide of his wide palm makes for an interesting mix, particularly when he adds that little twist just beneath the head. He’s taking it slow for now, wanting to drag this out. There’s no way he’s coming before Mace does. Not tonight.

Mace is anything but quiet. There’s no way Beck was home when this was filmed because he’d damn sure remember hearing such filthy noises when he wasn’t involved.

Each bitten off moan from Mace urges Beck to pick up the pace. He’s practically chewing a hole through the inside of his bottom lip, but that doesn’t stop the hushed groans in his throat. His furrowed brows cast shadows over his half-lidded eyes. Cheeks flushed, small beads of sweat starting for form on his forehead, he’s slowly but surely speeding up his strokes.

Undoubtedly, Beck’s a sight, particularly for Mace. He knows that. But Mace… Jesus Christ, he looks downright sinful. There’s a slight sheen of sweat across his forehead, eyes half-lidded, cheeks flushed. Those perfectly pouty lips are parted just enough that had he been present, Beck would’ve stuffed his dick right between them. Mace’s head is reclining against the back of the couch, and he’s pumping his cock so fast, his hand is just this side of blurry. Beck sees the shift; he knows exactly what’s about to happen.

Mace’s feet are propped up against the edge of the coffee table, and he slumps down a little further. He puts two fingers in his mouth and gets them nice and wet before dropping his hand down between his thighs. Together, he pushes them into his already semi-stretched hole. The sound that comes out of him is nothing short of pornographic, and Beck matches it. He knows exactly when this video was taken. It was the night he came home from work to find a very naked Mace masturbating in their bed. The teasing little grin on his face proved to Beck that he wanted to be caught. He fucked Mace so hard they broke the bed frame that night.

Beck can’t much more of this. He needs to come. He needs to. His cock is so hard it fucking hurts, and he can’t wait any longer. One hand, the free one, travels down between his thighs. He starts massaging his balls, rolling them between his fingers and dragging his index finger over the seam. The image in his mind is Mace’s tongue tracing it instead, and he fucks his fist a little harder, a little faster.

It’s almost unbearable how fucking tantalizing it is to watch Mace bury his fingers in that gorgeous ass of his. The way they just seem to disappear inside him is so beautiful, Beck could come completely untouched just watching that. He loves it almost as much as he loves watching Mace take his fingers instead.

Agonizingly slowly, Mace starts working a third finger in. It’s not until then that Beck recognizes the gleam of lube smeared across his thighs. This isn’t his first round. Beck should’ve figured that out the gate with how well worked open he was to begin with. Wait, wasn’t that the night Mace decided to show off his toy collection?

Adjusting his grip, Beck continues with an astonishingly renewed fervor. Either hand squeezes at oddly-timed intervals, almost on instinct rather than intent. Everything from his unbelievably tight ass (fuck, Mace needs to fix that part, too) to the tip of his angry, swollen, drooling cock is getting his absolutely undivided attention. It’s rough and quick and dirty, and he doesn’t know how much longer he can hold off.

He arches against the couch, hips still driving his cock into his hand. The inside of his lip is starting to bleed from how hard he’s biting down on it. It does no favors in keeping him quiet. A metallic tang touches on his tongue, and he should probably loosen his grip, but he gets off on a little pain. He knows Mace wouldn’t let up.

Mace’s breathing quickens, as does the slick sound of his fist fucking over his dick. He’s making these needy noises, and Beck knows what that sound means. His own speed triples, pushing him closer and closer to his release. He’s almost there, and all it takes is the telling shout that comes out of his beautiful boyfriend.

Just as Mace hit his climax in the video, Beck hit his. His muscles tense, and he drops his head against the back of the couch, moaning long and low. Streaks of come splatter across Beck’s t-shirt. A strangled cry emanates from deep in his chest. He works himself through the high, milking every drop of come that he can. There’s a painful twinge of overstimulation that knocks the air out of his chest. It hurts so fucking good, even though it shouldn’t. He can’t seem to force himself to stop.

In retrospect, it doesn’t matter if he stops. He’s hard again in less than twenty minutes, and he spends the rest of the night jerking off to the video repeatedly.

 

*****

 

A pair of soft, almost inaudible knock comes from Beck’s office door. He shouts “come in”, and the door opens just barely.

“Dr. Beck?”

“Yes?”

Beck looks up to find a mousy young woman standing in the doorway. She still has one hand on the knob and the other arm is loaded with folders and files. Her timidly tiny smile holds up rather well, considering just how anxious she looks. Those dark eyes of hers don’t stay trained on Beck for any more than a few moments before she looks over her shoulder at the labyrinth of cubicles across from his office.

Why does she look so familiar? Beck catches sight of the ID badge dangling from her lanyard. He makes out the first name, and then it hits him.

Nora Mills. She’s one of the three mission control officers for Artemis I.

“Justin asked me to stop by and let you know that we’ve received the newest group of video journals. Did you want to come watch it, or would you prefer to have it emailed to you?”

There’s a brief moment for Beck to weigh his options, but the deciding factor is the time. He’s got a couple recruit reports to write up, and less than two hours to send them up the line. As much as he’d love to go down to 221B again and watch Mace’s most recent recording, it’s just not feasible for the time being.

He gives her the politest smile he can manage and asks, “Will you have Mr. Capshaw email it, please?”

She nods and steps back, heels clicking against the tile flooring as she scurries back a bit to close the door.

No more than fifteen minutes later, Beck hears a ping! from his computer. He doesn’t need to wonder because he already knows what it is and who it’s from. With trepidation, Beck cautiously abandons his remaining reports for the time being. He really just wants to hear Mace’s voice again today.

To: c.beck@nasa.us.gov

From: j.capshaw@nasa.us.gov

Subject: Update from Robert Mace

Attachment(s): rmace010546-artemisi.mp4

Beck closes his office door before starting the video. He hopes knows Mace wouldn’t send back anything inappropriate. The tall brunette knows damn well Bryce and Capshaw (amongst many others) watch first, so he has to be careful what he says.

Mace’s gorgeous face pops up on the screen. His hair is considerably longer than it was when he left, and he’s got the beard growing in again. Beck’s brain goes haywire for a moment. It drifts back to what he watched and read last night. A growing compulsion arises to grab a fistful of that hair and pull it, use it to keep Mace’s head still while Beck’s cock slides in and out of his mouth. Couple that with the immense need to feel that beard burn between his cheeks and Beck’s so glad he closed the door. He’s rock hard and contemplating rubbing another one out. It’d be the fourth time since he got in today and probably close to the fourteenth time since last night. He's sore and sensitive, but once again, he can’t seem to stop himself.

Chapter Text

February 2046

 

Hey sweetheart –

All of these letters so far have been all about our highs, but I think it’s important that we remember the lows we had to overcome to get to where we are now. We’ve had to face a lot of hard times with our relationship. There have been things we never even dreamed we’d have to deal with. But there’s no one else in this world I’d rather face this with, and I’m so grateful for how much of my shit you put up with. You’re always encouraging me to talk things out, and you’re so patient with me, even if I’m acting like a complete and total asshole.

I think the worst was our first big fight. Sure, we bickered over stupid, petty shit, but never anything like that. If I could go back and change things, I would. There are so many things I wish I’d never said and so many things I wish I had. Like telling you that I’m sorry for raising my voice or apologizing for slamming the door. Seeing you cry because of me, that’s the worst thing I’ve ever felt. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive myself for it. I wish I could take it all back, baby.

“I was thinking… Maybe we should move in together.” Beck doesn’t lift his eyes from his fork while he’s speaking. He cringes when he hears Mace’s sharp inhale from the other side of the table. It’s like nails on a chalkboard to him because that’s not exactly the reaction he hoped for. That’s not even in the top five.

He doesn’t feel like it’s too soon to ask. They’ve been together for two years now, and Beck can’t remember the last time they spent a night apart. Their things are all over each other’s apartments. They already practically live together, so why not just make it official?

There was no reason for the fight in the first place, other than me being a being an insecure jackass. When you told me you wanted us to find a place together, I panicked. Things between us were so good, and the threat of any part of that changing was terrifying. What if we couldn’t decide whose things we’d keep? What if we started fighting over the bills? What if we disagreed on which place we wanted?

“…and all the sudden, this isn’t good enough for you anymore?” Dinner’s abandoned at the table as Beck follows a very angry Mace into the living room. His arms are tense at his sides, fists clenching as he paces in front of the wide window.

“That’s not fair. I never said that.”

“You didn’t have to. I may not be a doctor, but I’m not as fucking stupid as you think I am.” His tone is pure ice; low, cold, and solid. It’s startling. Beck’s never seen him act like this.

“Mace, I – “

“Why? Is it because you don’t trust me? You think I need a babysitter or something? I’m young, yeah, but I’m not a child.”

“Well, you’re sure fucking acting like one! Grow the fuck up!” Beck shouts, throwing his hands up. A look crosses Mace’s face like Beck’s just hit him, but it’s quickly replaced by an emotionless mask. Immediately, Beck regrets it. He wants to take it back.

“Fuck you, Christopher,” Mace states blankly. “I’ll be back to get my shit tomorrow.”

Even worse, what if you got sick of me? What if you decided you didn’t want to be with me anymore because I sometimes forget my socks on the bathroom floor or forget to put my dirty clothes in the hamper? Maybe you’d hate that I never remember to rinse my dishes before I put them in the dishwasher or that I have a bad habit of putting my feet on the coffee table. There were so many things that could go wrong. You could find all of these flaws in me that I never even knew I had, and you might realize that I don’t deserve you.

The more I thought, the more it scared me. When I get scared, I get angry. I didn’t want to make things worse, but my stupid mouth got in the way. There was only one thing I could think to do, and I did it.

“I’m sorry. I-I shouldn’t have said that. Please, just…” Beck’s voice cracks, and he has to pause for a moment. The lump in his throat makes it hard to swallow, but he does his best. “Please don’t leave.”

Mace doesn’t say anything. He snags his jacket off the back of the couch and grabs his keys from the coffee table. The door is halfway open by the time Beck finds his words and he can’t spit them out fast enough.

“Robert, please,” he pleads. His voice doesn’t just crack this time; it breaks completely. With watering eyes, Beck opens his mouth to say something else, but he falters. Nothing he can say will make this better. The damage is done, and he can’t take it back.

Mace hesitates for a second with his hand still on the doorknob. He swallows hard. When he looks Beck in the eye, he looks pained, but hollow. His voice is just as empty when he says, “I’ll let you know when I’m coming over tomorrow. I’d prefer you not be here while I’m packing.”

And he walks out. Just like that, he’s gone.

I left. I just got in my car and left.

It wasn’t until I was more than halfway to Dallas that I realized what I had done. I was on the interstate in the middle of the night driving to fuck only knows where when this song came on. Didn’t even realize the song was still on my playlist, but I’m glad it was. I think it was exactly what I needed to hear. It got me thinking about what I wanted my future to look like. Building my career, getting married, having a kid or two, growing old with the person I love… And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I didn’t want any of it if I couldn’t have it with you.

When I thought about my career, I thought about how it brought me to you. Every day, I have the opportunity to have lunch with my baby. Some days I can swing by your office just to kiss you. I’m lucky enough that I can bring you hot tea on the mornings you’re running late because I go by your office on my way to mine every day. I met the best thing that’s ever happened to me by chasing my dream job. It doesn’t get better than that.

When I think about marriage, I see you standing in front of me. The second I see you, I know I’ll start crying because you’re so god damn beautiful, and I get to spend the rest of my life with you. I think about putting that ring on your finger, where we’ll go on our honeymoon, getting bills for the Mace-Beck household (or Beck-Mace, if that’s what you want). When we get older and we look back on our wedding photos, I’ll probably still cry just because my feelings won’t change. No matter how much time passes, I will be just as awed by the fact that you love me.

When I think about starting a family, it’s always with you. I think about late nights trying to rock our daughter back to sleep or watching our son take his first steps. We’ll both cry way more than we should when our child says their first word. Their first day of school will be hard on both of us because they’re growing up way too fast, and their first day of college will be just the same. Those will be some of the proudest days of our lives as parents. And we’ll share those hard days, too. Like the first time they get their heart broken or the first time they get sick. You’ll be such a pain in the ass when they have to go to the hospital because that’s your little one and you’re a doctor and “this is just a formality because it’s frowned upon for me to do it myself”.

That was when it hit me. You are my future. And I just walked out on you.

When I realized that, I took the first exit I saw and turned around. I’d been so fucking stupid, and I needed to do my best to make things right. Wasn’t sure if you’d forgive me, but I wouldn’t know unless I tried. I don’t think my speedometer dropped below 120 the whole way back to Houston.

It’s almost three in the morning when someone starts banging on Beck’s front door.

They don’t wake him because he’s not asleep. Instead, he’s curled up on the couch. He’s been staring at the same spot on the carpet for the last two hours at least. He’s had this shitty feeling since his body decided it couldn’t physically produce any more tears. You know, the awful, horrible one when you feel like you’re going to cry, but you can’t?

It doesn’t matter to him if the knocking wakes his neighbors. Fuck the neighbors. He’s not getting up to answer the door. Beth has her own key, so she can let herself in.

Except the shouting from the other side doesn’t sound like Beth. It doesn’t even sound female. If it weren’t been for the fact that everything sounds like it’s under water, he probably would’ve recognized the voice straight off. It’s not until he hears someone yelling, “Chris, please!” that he finally scrambles off the cushions and yanks the door open.

It’s Mace.

He doesn’t hesitate to wrap his arms around Beck and pull him into his chest, muttering a slew of apologies against Beck’s skin. Over and over, he repeats himself, saying, “I’m so sorry… I’m so fucking sorry. I’ve been so stupid, baby. I’m sorry.”

At first, Beck is unsure how to react. His thoughts are still fuzzy and he’s still numb. The words are barely reaching his ears, and when they do, they’re distorted. So he just stands there with his arms at his sides, staring straight into the empty hallway behind Mace. It’s not until he feels Mace’s arms drop and a kiss pressing against his temple that he begins to process what’s happening.

“I don’t blame you if you can’t forgive me,” he hears Mace whisper shakily. “I just needed to tell you how sorry I am. For everything.”

Beck doesn’t respond. His eyes wander unconsciously to the other man’s face, and the sight nearly breaks his heart all over again. Mace’s eyes are waterlogged and bloodshot. The tip of his nose is a violent shade of pink, and every few seconds, he sniffles a little. Tears streak his cheeks and drip from his chin. They fall when they please, but Beck wishes they wouldn’t fall at all. He considers wiping them away, but he can’t seem to move.

“I love you, Chris.” Mace isn’t going to push him, and Beck knows that. He watches Mace take a few steps backwards with a horribly weak half smile before turning on his heel and heading towards the stairs.

“Wait,” Beck finally croaks. His throat is dry and scratchy, so he clears his throat and tries again. “Don’t leave again. Please. I wanna work this out.”

If I remember correctly, you and I found a house two weeks later. The house that we just started negotiating to buy before I left.

Eleven months down, five more to go.

Love you always,

- Mace

Chapter Text

March 2047

 

Ford was only mostly joking about the Space Husbands thing. It’s not a club, there are no t-shirts, and bake sales definitely aren’t a thing. They do, however, occasionally meet up for drinks. It’s usually only four or five of them and not all are spouses. Ford, Beck, and Thomas are often joined by Remi’s brother, Roman, and sometimes Tim, brother of co-pilot Kaylie Russell. Just so happens that tonight is one of the rare nights that all five are presents and rarer still that Dr. Benjamin’s fiancée makes an appearance.

That’s the trouble with dating someone who lives in the public eye. Jack’s soon-to-be husband spends a bit more time in the limelight than the rest of the guys, even though their faces have made frequent appearances on multiple media outlets. Beck’ll admit that he wonders how the two of them ended up together. A space doctor and a big Hollywood actor; who would’ve thought? Odd, but he’s happy for them. Mace has always said great things about Jack, and his fiancée isn’t nearly as big of a douche bag as the media portrays him to be. Actually, he’s a pretty cool guy once you get past the weird eyebrow thing.

Only when they go to this little hole-in-the-wall bar hidden in the heart of Houston will Lucas will join them. If they go anywhere bigger or more public, the paparazzi tend to follow, and it’s a bit nuisance to them all. It’s strange, really. Beck thought he’d escaped the media circus about a year after Ares III ended, but apparently getting roped back in was inevitable.

They’ve had a hell of a night thus far. No one’s any further than buzzed, but they’ve witnessed two major brawls in the last three hours, one of which required police involvement. Watching a man the size of a grown Grizzly get dropped by a taser is definitely amongst the highlights. There’s a guy across the bar that keeps getting shot down by everyone he tries to pick up, but he never changes his shitty one-liner for the night. One particularly intoxicated young lady has put probably around $20 in the jukebox (Beck can’t believe those are still a thing…), very loudly announcing that she feels nostalgic for the ‘20s. And that just barely scrapes the surface. It’s probably the most fun Beck’s had since Mace has been gone. God knows he needs this right now.

It’s been a rough year. Doesn’t feel like it’s been a year, but it also feels like it’s been much longer. The dichotomy keeps Beck rooted in a tailspin. It’s a rollercoaster that he can’t seem to get off of, and it’s making him sick. When he thinks about everything that has and could have changed, it makes his stomach turn like he swallowed a mouthful of curdled milk.

“To everyone coming home safe and sound,” Roman proposes, lifting his glass to the rest of the table. Beck smiles wide and follows the gesture.

“To surviving the last twelve months.” Tim’s addition prompts both him and Ford to raise theirs as well.

“And to you guys,” Lucas pipes up, joining the remainder of the group alongside Thomas. “If your loved ones are anything like you guys, Jack’s lucky to have them up there.”

Together, they down what should probably be their last shot of the evening. It’s getting late, and it’s a Thursday night.

Thursday.

Thursday, March 8th.

It’s letter day.

 

*****

 

It’s there, waiting on by the door as usual. No telling whether it’s endorphins, adrenaline, or the alcohol, but Beck’s practically buzzing out of his skin. Thanks to the enthusiasm, he doesn’t bother with any of his usual shit. He doesn’t change his clothes or take off his shoes. No drink, no sitting down. Hell, he barely even remembers to close the front door before he tears into it.

The remains of what used to be an envelope make a trail from the front door to the threshold separating the living room from the kitchen. Beck doesn’t look for his tablet or his laptop, but rather jams the drive into his docking station and waits for the song to start. As soon as he hears the opening note, he unfolds the letter.

 

Baby –

I’ve put this in probably every letter I’ve written, but I fucking miss you. We’ve been apart for way too long, and I hate it. When I finally get back, you better use some vacation time because we’re not leaving the house for a while. All I want to do is be lazy with my beautiful boyfriend in our beautiful home until we’ve made up for all our lost time. Who knows, maybe we won’t even get out of bed. But whatever we decide to do, we’ll decide together. It won’t be anything like that time I accidentally forced you to take a vacation with me by lying to you.

Let me start off by saying again that I’m sorry for lying. I’m not sorry for doing what I did, though. I know it was sneaky and underhanded to do what I did, but I honestly felt like you needed a break. For months on end, I watched you work your ass off. You were putting in twice as many hours as the other department heads, and you did so much more than was asked of you. Believe me when I say I’m proud. I brag constantly about how hard-working and driven my baby is, and everyone agrees.

But there’s a downside to being so ambitious. You weren’t taking care of yourself as well as you should’ve been. Skipping meals, losing sleep, isolating yourself… It scared the shit out of me. You weren’t acting like yourself. We hardly saw each other outside of work. I couldn’t just stand by and watch you self-destruct.

Every time I asked for you to take a weekend off to get out of town with me, you shot me down. Too busy at work, too much homework if you wanted to finish that fourth degree (coughcoughOVERACHIEVER), unnecessary spending… You had every excuse in the book. So I had to make you take a vacation, no matter what the cost.

It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was a lot more complicated than I thought it’d be. Somehow, I had to figure out how to get you out of Houston without you knowing we were leaving Houston. Then I had to be sneaky enough to pack bags for both of us without you catching on. And on top of all that, I had to find some way to convince you to take a few days off. How was I supposed to do that when I couldn’t even convince you to be home before 8 o’clock?

I knew that if I asked you to take time off, you’d say no (don’t try to deny it; you know it’s true). As much as I hated going behind your back, I didn’t feel like I had any other option. So I did the only thing I could think of: I called AD Gant. He helped me sort through what I needed to do to get your vacation time approved, and once he involved Director Rhodes, we figured out how to keep it a secret from you. They were both pretty worried about you, too, so they were happy to help.

They were also pretty helpful in figuring out how to get you out of the city. Nick was actually the one to suggest the white lie of a late-night take-out date. I actually did want to take you out for dinner, just not downtown and definitely not food in boxes from something nearby. You figured that out when I took the turn towards the interstate on ramp, though. The look you gave me was honest to god the cutest expression of annoyance I’ve ever seen.

But seeing the way your face lit up when you saw the resort? That alone was worth it all, even worth the time spent in the doghouse. Still can’t believe you made me sleep on the couch on the first night, though…

I don’t regret any of it. If it came to it, I’d do it all over again. Yes, even lie if I had to. Because in the end, it made you happy, and that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

Twelve months in, babe. See you in four more.

Love you always,

- Mace

Chapter Text

April 2046

 

To my birthday boy –

Here we are again. Another birthday I don’t get to spend with you. I still hate that I’m so far away. There are so many things I wish I could say and do in person, but I can’t right now. Hopefully this letter will suffice instead.

Can’t believe my big bad cougar is already turning 40! (He’s turning 32, you dick.) Crazy how time flies, huh? You were only 25 when we met, and now you’re practically a senior citizen. I probably won’t even recognize you in a few months because you’re so old. At least you’re still nailing those hot, young studs (ME), right? Yup, still got it. Hope your hip replacement holds up.

Yes, I’m aware that you’ll probably kick my ass up one side of the street and down the other for that, but it’s worth it because I know you laughed.

In all seriousness, I’m really bummed that we’ve been forced to put off our traditions for another year. Birthdays aren’t the same for either of us without them. I hate knowing that I don’t get to wake you up in the morning with a big stack of pancakes and give you one of your presents. There’s no way for me to hide the rest of your presents all over the house and in your office the night before. I can’t pick up your favorite cupcakes or have flowers delivered or embarrass the hell out of you by getting the entire cafeteria to sing Happy Birthday to you.

But I think the tradition I’m most upset about missing is the first tradition we started: the annual strip tease.

“Hey, babe?”

“Yeah?” Beck looks over the top of his book to see Mace staring at him from the other side of the couch.

“What do you want for your birthday?”

Slowly, Beck raises an eyebrow and tilts his head. He doesn’t really have an answer to that question. Everything he could ever possibly want is right in front of him. His career with NASA is solid. He could retire tomorrow and still be secure for the rest of his life. The family and friends backing him are amazing. They’ve been supporting him without hesitation since day one. And Mace… The fact that Mace decided eight months ago to take that leap of faith and jump into a relationship with him still absolutely floors him. There’s nothing else in this world, material or otherwise, that could make his life any better.

So he answers with a firm, “Nothing.”

“Nothing?” Mace echoes, mimicking Beck’s expression. Beck shakes his head.

“Nothing.”

“Yeah, that’s not gonna work for me.” Surprisingly, Mace is just as solid in his response. “Tell me what you want for your birthday, or I’m buying you one of everything I can get my hands on.”

“Mace – “

“What. Do. You. Want?”

Beck sighs hard before he gets a ridiculous idea. Without thinking, he just quips, “That ass.”

When I asked what you wanted for your birthday, your response was “that ass”. Definitely a bit more forward than I was expecting, but not an answer I was disappointed with. It gave me an opportunity to go through my music for the perfect song, and I got to do a little shopping for an outfit you’d be dying to peel off of me yourself.

I’ll be honest; I never would’ve guessed that you’d be so into thongs. My intention while shopping was to find the tiniest possible underwear to maximize the amount of ass you’d see. Whether you laughed or came in your pants, your reaction would be priceless.

I was right; it definitely was. Best reaction possible. I’ve never seen you get on your knees for me so fast. Come to think of it, I don’t think we’ve ever gone that many rounds in one night either. That’s exactly why I made the decision to have this become a tradition, and it may or may not have been responsible for my change in undergarments for the mission.

Since I’m not there right now, can I do a late dance for you when I get home? Pretty please?

We’re almost there, sweetheart. Thirteen down, three to go.

Love you always, baby. Happy birthday!

- Mace

P.S. Of course I still got you a present. It’ll be in your office the morning of your birthday.

 

He wasn’t kidding. The morning of the 13th, Beck got to his office earlier than usual. Like, an hour earlier. He jams the key into the door without hesitation and lets himself in only to find that even from space, Mace is still pulling out all the stops to surprise him.

On Beck’s desk sits a large vase of orange and purple tiger lilies and a box of those “ridiculously fancy cupcakes” Mace jokes about every year. But what takes the cake (no pun intended) is the other half of his present. Beck had hung Mace’s paintings from last year in his office with the first one he ever received, that of the Carina Nebula. Six more have joined the original three just in the time since he left the station last night. A cluster of nebulae paintings blanket the wall behind his desk, and every single one is signed ‘R. Mace’.

Beck recognizes them all. Barnard’s Loop, NGC 6326, Fox Fur, Pelican, Rosette… And his favorite, the Ant Nebula. Mace definitely pays attention to the things Beck says. He remembers having a long chat about planetary nebulae one night when neither of them could seem to sleep, and it spiraled into an even longer discussion about which nebulae in general were their favorites. Now, Beck has a wall covered in all the ones they talked about. This is by far the best birthday present he’s ever gotten, the most incredible thing he could’ve imagined. The fact that someone would take the time, go through all this trouble for him, it makes him so unbearably disgustingly happy.

And yes, if you’re wondering, he’s crying again.

Chapter Text

May 2046

 

It’s been a really bad week so far.

Okay, so ‘really bad’ doesn’t quite describe it, but it’s really bad. Everything has been going wrong, and it’s only Tuesday. First, the sprinklers kick on and soak Beck’s clothes right before he has to leave for work. Then, he accidentally locks his keys in the house. Then, he gets a speeding ticket for trying not to be late for work, which only makes him later. And that all just covers Monday morning…

There’s been burnt food and running out of sugar and a flat tire. He’s lost his cell phone, his wallet, his keys a few times, and probably has also lost whatever’s left of his mind. Francesca’s been jumping his ass about every little thing she can find to nitpick. By the time he’s about ready to leave for the night, he’s also about ready to put his fist through the drywall. When his computer crashes without warning and wipes out the project specs he was working on, he just about does. Instead, he steels his temper, throws his hands up with an exasperated sigh, and just walks right the fuck out.

What makes this all worse is the fact that Mace isn’t home. Beck won’t walk in and find his boyfriend on the couch. He can’t sit on the counter while Mace makes dinner and bitch about how shitty things have been. There’s no one waiting at home with open arms to comfort him or try to make him laugh. Beck’s going home to an empty house with a pained heart and no sense of hope.

Frankly, he’s terrified to ask what could go wrong next. He feels like he’s drowning, barely keeping his head above water while the waves crash into him.

If there’s ever been a day he needed a letter, this is certainly it. Luckily, it’s the 8th.

Leave it to Mace to still be the world’s best boyfriend from tens of millions of miles away. The letter Beck needs is sitting on the porch when he gets home like it’s been waiting patiently for him all day. He’s so relieved that he feels like he might just cry.

 

To my baby,

There are a lot of things in this world for me to be grateful for. I’ve got my dream job, a beautiful home, the best family and friends anyone could ever hope for, and an absolutely astonishing boyfriend that always stands by me, regardless of whether I’m right, wrong, or indifferent. I’m living the dream, and no one will ever convince me otherwise.

I don’t tell you nearly as often as I should just how grateful I am to have you in my life. You’re genuinely the best thing that’s ever happened to me, and I don’t know where I’d be right now if it weren’t for you. You’ve been the one person that’s never questioned or criticized me about the decisions I make and the things I want. It’s because of you that I push myself so hard. You’re the most incredible man I’ve ever met, and I think that’s why I’ve become a much better man since being with you. It amazes me every day that you’re so kind and humble. Your heart is so big, and I love how compassionate you are. Really, sweetheart, you’re perfect. I’m so unbelievably lucky to have you, and I’ll spend every day for the rest of my life showing you that.

When we first met, I’ll admit I was scared. It didn’t take long at all for me to fall in love with you once I started getting to know you. The feelings were so intense and so sudden, I panicked. I’d never felt that way before. That’s probably why I did my best to try to keep you at arm’s length for a while. Operative word there being ‘try’, because that’s definitely not what happened. You smiled at me, and that wall I built to keep people out just crumbled. The way you said my name for the first time was exactly what convinced me to let you in. I’ll never forget how light everything felt in that moment.

We think we know what it feels like to be in love until we actually are, and it feels entirely different. At 19, that realization was so terrifying for me. For the first time in my entire life, I had something I couldn’t imagine losing. I suddenly didn’t see my life without you in it, and I knew right then that I’d do anything for you. Anything under the sun if you just said the word. That’s one thing that’s never changed. If you want the moon, it’s as good as yours. If you wanted a temple, I’d build one for you with my bare hands. As long as it makes you happy, there’s no limit to the things I’d do for you.

Fear doesn’t factor into this anymore. It hasn’t for a few years now. The thought of the unknown doesn’t scare me anymore because I have you. Whatever happens, come what may, we’ll face it head on together. That’s what we do best, right?

I love you more than anything in this world, Christopher. You’re everything to me. I hope you know that.

Two months left, baby. That’s it. 60-ish days. We can do this.

Love you always,

- Mace

 

It’s a short letter, but it’s everything Beck needs to hear. There’s something about Mace’s unintentional reassurance that rights his mood immediately. All the anger and frustration in his body ebbs like the tide until it’s entirely gone, pulling the negativity out to sea and washing it away. Hope takes the form of tentacles, pulling it to the ocean floor. The grains of sand burying it are that of anticipation. Everything that appeared blue on the surface is actually very very clear now. The sharks are gone, and he’s no longer bleeding.

That’s when he realizes that he’s only a mere nine-ish weeks away from seeing his boyfriend again, and it’s suddenly a much better day.

Chapter Text

June 2046

 

Hey sweetheart,

Can you believe this is finally almost over? It won’t be long before I get to hold you again or feel your arms around me. Just a few more weeks and I’ll be right back where I’m meant to be.

“I don’t want you to go.”

Beck’s lost track of how many times those exactly words left his mouth in the last twenty-four hours. He keeps saying it over and over and over, hoping that maybe it’ll help. But it doesn’t. Nothing does. Mace is leaving, and there’s nothing he can do about it.

Sunlight creeps through the gaps in the curtains as the sun rises, casting bright beams across the bare skin of Mace’s back. Beck still hasn’t gone to sleep. He’s afraid that if he closes his eyes, Mace will be gone when he opens them. Instead, he’s spent his time committing every detail to memory, hoping it’ll keep him sane until his love comes home.

Hushed, even breaths from Mace’s plump, parted lips are his favorite lullaby. It’s a soothing sound that keeps him grounded and present, even if Mace tends to snort and grunt sometimes. He’s not sure if he’ll be able to sleep with the inevitable silence that’s coming.

God, I miss sleeping next to you, baby. I miss waking up with your arms around me and our legs all tangled together. I miss the way the sunlight plays on your face. I miss your rough sleepy voice and your messy hair and your terrible morning breath. Waking up alone is the worst feeling in the world, but knowing you’re waking up alone too is even worse. Knowing I’m not there to remind you how much I love you is killing me. I do, baby. I love you. More than anything in this life or the next.

As the sun continues its ascent, the branches outside the windows cast thin black shadows on the bed. Beck’s eyes track the lines as they migrate, a reminder of how short their time really is. In a few hours, Mace will be heading to the space center to prepare for the launch, and tomorrow morning, Beck will be watching from inside as his heart and soul exit the atmosphere.

Sixteen months is a long time to be without the person that means the most to you.

I don’t think you understand just how beautiful you are when you’re asleep. Maybe you’d believe me if you got to see it for yourself. You look so content and peaceful (which is pretty deceptive because if I’m honest, baby, you’re the absolute fucking devil when you wake up in the mornings). It’s easily come to be the greatest gift I’ve ever been given. I don’t really know how I ever survived a day without it. I don’t think I could survive another without it, nor do I want to try.

It’s really a wonder how such a museum-worthy work of art ended up with Beck.

While he’s moody and stubborn and impulsive, a bit neurotic even, he’s also the most kind-hearted and generous person Beck has ever known. He’s loyal to a fault, and he fights for what he believes in. Between the two, Mace is (just barely) the more logical and level-headed, especially under pressure. And even though that dry sense of humor of his may get him into trouble sometimes, it never fails to keep Beck laughing.

The masterpiece isn’t solely internal; the packaging is pretty magnificent as well. Not even Michelangelo’s David compares to the wonder and elegance sleeping beside Beck. Truly, he does not understand how this miracle of a man came to be his, and he’s resigned himself to the fact that he probably never will.

Content, Beck sighs and rolls to his side. His muscles scream in protest, begging him to keep his position. He winces, but otherwise ignores it. The stiffness and soreness were no surprise, especially after last night.

Every morning that I get to wake up beside you is another blessing I don’t take for granted. I wish I knew what I did to deserve a lifetime of perfect mornings.

The clock on the side table demands that Beck minds the time, emphasizing just how little they have left. Half-heartedly, he considers waking Mace. It’s greedy of him, but he wants every ounce of Mace’s time before he goes. All the touches and kisses and talking may just be enough to tide him over until the Artemis I mission returned. Much to his dismay, though, he can’t bring himself to do it. It’s too peaceful to disturb him, and he needs the extra rest.

It’s a quarter after eight when Mace finally wakes up. He stretches his limbs with a groan and then gathers Beck in his arms. Without opening his eyes, he pulls Beck into his chest and shifts until Beck is lying directly on top of him. Then, he cracks one eye open.

“Good morning.” His voice is raspy and sleep-laden, just a little lower than usual.

“Good morning yourself.” Beck allows his head to rest against Mace’s chest. He listens to the steady thump of the engineer’s heart as Mace’s fingers run lines up and down his spine.

A comfortable silence falls between them. They just lay there, limbs tangled together, bodies stripped and compressed. There’s a silent exchange of body heat keeping them both warm. The only sounds to be heard are the birds outside and the couple’s equally soft breaths.

Most of all, I miss our mornings together. I miss all the little things about it, like the little minty kisses after we brush our teeth or making breakfast together. I miss you sitting on the counter while you put cream cheese on the bagels and how you curse when the bacon grease pops and catches you by surprise. You complain about how I put my sugar and creamer in before my coffee or how I never clean the crumbs out of the toaster, and I miss that, too. I can’t wait to nag at you when you don’t put the milk away right after you’re done with it or watch you walk outside in your boxers to grab the paper off the porch. I miss sitting in your lap while we drink our coffee together. You never complain about how bony my ass is or how your leg sometimes falls asleep because I sit there too long. You just hold me with the biggest smile on your face and tell me how much you love me.

“I don’t want you to go.” There are those words again, and Beck swears he hears Mace’s heart break a little. He feels Mace’s hands still at his back, fingertip touches becoming palms holding him still. Beck’s being held tight like Mace is afraid to let him go. It’s unwise for Beck to trust his voice after that, so he doesn’t say anything more. But Beck has never been able to hide his emotions, not from Mace. He knows Mace can feel the tension thrumming through his body.

“I know, baby. Believe me, I know. I’m going to miss you so much.” Mace takes a deep breath, and Beck feels the shudder he tries to hide. He can’t look up. It’ll kill him to see the tears he knows are in Mace’s eyes. He can’t handle that right now. “But I promise you, Christopher, I’m coming home. You won’t even notice I’m gone.”

It won’t be much longer until I’m waking up beside you again. Six more weeks, and I’ll be home.

We’ve survived 15 months apart, babe, and we’ve only got one left.

Love you always,

- Mace

Chapter Text

July 2046

 

Lucas and Jack own a stunning waterfront home on the edge of Lake Buchanan. There’s no doubt it cost a small fortune, and it definitely seems like it was worth every penny. An open glass front gave it a welcoming feel, while the vaulted ceilings and sunken living room made it a little cozier, even with as spacious as it was. The flooring was all hardwood, a significantly lighter stain than that of the cupboards and cabinets. From the front patio, nearly the entire lake had been visible. Beck wishes Mace could’ve been there. He’d love the view.

The last couple days have been a blast. HR called just over a week ago to inform Beck that he had nine days of vacation time due to expire in the next month, meaning it would lapse just before Mace came home. Luckily, Roman called to extend the invite from Lucas a few hours later. Between the boating and the bonfires, the adventures and alcohol, the sunrises and the swimming, Beck almost isn’t ready to go home. He misses his bed and the electronics that were sworn off during the trip, but he’s around friends, not alone. His house is empty. There’s nothing waiting for him there. No pets, no kids, no Mace…

Not for another three weeks.

It’s just under a four hour drive back to Houston, and Beck spends the entire time reminding himself that it’s only three more weeks. He’s survived over fifteen months already, so why are these last nineteen days so much harder?

He supposes the letters have been keeping him from losing his sanity. If it weren’t for those, Beck’s sure his mind would’ve long-since abandoned him.

Speaking of which, there’s one on the porch when Beck gets home. A manila envelope is propped up against the front door with his name scribbled across it. The second he catches sight of it, he breaks into a sprint from the driveway to the waiting letter.

Beck snags the package off the porch and hastily unlocks the door. Without caution, he throws it shut behind him and runs to the kitchen. His fingers tear into the envelope. It slices as his skin, nicking him here and there as he rips it apart.

Once there’s a clear enough opening, he dumps the contents on the table. They’re no different than usual, except there’s a sticky note on the flash drive that just says ‘listen before reading’. Beck doesn’t hesitate to grab his tablet from the kitchen counter. He plugs the drive into the USB port and impatiently goes through the motions until the song begins to play.

From the moment he hears the first note, Beck’s fighting not to cry. As cheesy as it sounds, it’s their song. The one song that Beck hasn’t been able to listen to since the day Mace left. He remembers the first time Mace showed him the song in such vivid detail; like it had happened mere minutes ago instead of a few years ago.

Beck’s impatient. He can’t wait until the song is over to read the letter. This may be the only thing that gets him through the next couple weeks. He opens the smaller envelope and pulls out the letter. Quickly, he unfolds it. His anticipation turns to almost dismay when he sees a mere four short lines scribbled in a hurry on the page.

Christopher,

An early anniversary present is waiting for you. Go check it the back yard.

I’m sorry this is so short, but I’m running out of time to write.

I love you.

That’s oddly cryptic. No more so than any other allusion to a gift Mace has left, but strangely more blunt and less played up.

“Better be my damn boyfriend,” Beck grumbles only half-jokingly, setting the letter on the table. It’s no surprise to him that Mace has more surprises in store. Frankly, he hopes it’s another letter. A much longer one than he’d received thus far. But as he slips out the back door, he realizes that it’s definitely not another letter.

There’s a photograph pinned to the large oak tree outside. It’s an old picture, one from back when he and Mace celebrated their first anniversary. Beck’s got his lips planted on Mace’s cheek while Mace is taking the picture. He’s got one eye closed and a massive grin on his face.

Something in his mind implores Beck to flip the photo over. His instincts prove fruitful when he sees that there’s another note on the back.

“Oh, you little shit,” Beck mutters, shaking his head with a smile. Of course Mace would turn this into a game.

Remember where I hid your birthday presents?

The second photo Beck finds is in the bedroom closet, right where the note had implied. It’s from their second anniversary. One where Mace is behind him, chin tucked into the crook of Beck’s neck. He’s beaming from ear-to-ear. Beck’s sporting a matching expression.

Like the first, Beck flips it over. Also like the first, there’s yet another note.

Remember where we spent our last night together before I left?

The third photograph is on Mace’s designated chair at the kitchen table. Well, the chair he uses when he’s not in Beck’s lap in the mornings. It’s a shot from their third anniversary, just as predicted. Mace and Beck are both cuddled up on the couch, and Mace is sound asleep, head on his boyfriend’s chest. The same picture is framed and hanging in the hallway. It’s Beck’s favorite.

On the back, it says:

Remember how we spend our Sunday nights?

He and Mace always take long, hot baths together every weekend as a way to wind down from the week before and prepare for the one ahead. It’s been their weekly tradition since a couple months into their relationship.

As his hand grasps the door knob (he doesn’t remember closing the door??) Beck honestly has no idea what to expect on the other side. There’s no picture of their fourth anniversary, since Mace unfortunately left a few months before. But his curiosity is getting the best of him, so he twists the knob and pushes the door open.

He doesn’t know what he initially expected to find, but this is not it.

It’s something far, far better.

Awaiting him in the bathroom is something that stops him dead in his tracks. Candles light the entire room, casting flickering shadows across the walls. A vase of orchids sits on the edge of the bathtub, which is entirely full of water. It’s still and calm, but Beck can see the steam still rolling off the surface. His favorite bath bomb, a bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal Rosé, and a pair of glasses are perched on the edge of the tub, and – wait, why are there two? Who’s - ?

“Hey, sunshine.” An entirely too familiar figure emerges from the darkest corner of the room, and Beck feels as if all the air been punched from his chest. His heart begins to race while simultaneously seeming to stop altogether.

It’s Mace.

He’s here.

He’s home.

Beck has an entire dictionary dancing on the tip of his tongue and not a single coherent word will come out. He’s floundering, making nonsensical noises while his mouth opens and shuts like a fish out of water. Mace grins, clearly all too pleased that he’s pulled one over on Beck.

“I’m sure you have questions,” Mace chuckles, rubbing a hand across the back of his neck. “I promise I’ll answer all of them in a minute, but I’ve got something I want to say first. If I don’t do it now, I’m not sure that I’ll have the courage to again…”

Confused and mildly panicked, Beck nods.

“From the day we met, sugar, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you. I don’t have a ring yet, but Christopher Beck,” Mace pauses, dropping down on one knee. “Will you do me the honor of becoming my husband? Baby, will you marry me?”

The gap between the two closes almost in an instant as Beck launches himself across the space between. His arms find their rightful place around Mace, and his lips find their home. It’s been so long since they’ve kissed that Beck almost forgot how sweet he tastes. By the time he retreats for a breath, he’s starry-eyed and his heart’s racing.

“I’ll take that as a yes?” Mace laughs

“How is this real? How are you here?” Beck asks softly, tangling his fingers in his boyfriend’s hair. He unapologetically steals another quick kiss before Mace has a moment to answer.

Mace just grins, saying, “I’ll explain it all later. For now, I just want to have a nice, relaxing evening with my fiancé.”

With an emphatic nod, Beck takes all the care in the world while beginning to strip off Mace’s clothes, piece by piece...