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Feel Just Fine

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Dear Joe,

I figured I legitimately ought to write a letter to you, even if it ends up being stilted or something. The last letter I remember writing was a thank-you to my grandmum after graduation. Years and years ago. We mostly call each other now, but. Blimey, how time flies…. Spreads its wings, eh? Sorry, bit of a reach in the game, that.

Anyhow, I'm chuffed that I got to see you, and that we are together. I dunno if I told you this before I left, but I'm so happy, Joe. And if writing that makes me sound like a sap, so be it. Not crossing it out because it's true. I am happy. Over the moon, actually. I just keep thinking about how your eyes crinkle when you smile. It makes me grin like a blooming idiot and I don't even care. Now that was most definitely sappy, I know. You're probably laughing your arse off reading this. I can hear it, your laugh. Sometimes when I'm out and see or think of something you'd find funny I hear you laughing in my head. I'm sure I'm going mad because of you, so thanks for that.

How's being back in New York? I'm sure your mum is glad to have you home again. Mine would...well, I dunno what her response would be if I moved back, so I'll be staying away for a good bit longer, haha. I hope you're doing alright with that prat of a housemate you've got. What would he say about us being together, I wonder? I mean I don't wonder too much because it's not worth any hate, but I know people can be cruel sometimes. I suppose it's different for us, being long-distance. I'm sure someone would have things to say if we were canoodling in a public place over here, or there. But no one likes to see anybody indulging in PDA so I don't see what the extra fuss is about. I just think about Freddie being proud of us for going for it, and that has been a help.

Still not loving the entirety of my job, but I'm getting through it alright. Keep thinking of stories from set that I can tell you and the lads, which helps me bear the drama better. Although my directors have asked me to settle down more than once, as I've been giggling to myself during scenes. Whoops.

Well I've got to run and post this before I head on back to the flat. Going to grab some takeout and watch a film, perhaps. I'm sure you'd have a thousand suggestions on what I ought to see and I'm going to be hearing all of them in my head as I decide. Cheers, love. Hope you'll write me back - Rami and Lucy might be on to something, sending these sorts of letters to each other. Otherwise I'm sure I'll hear from you soon with one of your awful jokes. Take care, yeah? Love you, mate. I miss you. xx

- Ben

++++++++

My dearest Benny,

I languish here in the slum that is New York City without the sound of your voice, and I have already been too long without the brightness of your smile. Also your hot bod, I need you to bring that back over here asap. Hah! That was my first attempt at a regency-esque love letter, how'd I do?

Dude I'm so happy that you're happy. And the fact that you actually wrote to me is so awesome, I about fell down when I got your letter out of my mailbox. Had to drag myself up the rest of my steps and everything. Nah, I'm kidding. I DID totally tell my downstairs neighbor that I got a letter from my boyfriend, though. She was out watering her window boxes. She told me that was nice, and it IS nice! Also saying you're my boyfriend, I like that. It feels all official and stuff. Not to mention helps me believe this is real because I'm still pinching myself, Benny. Hope you're cool with it, because I'm gonna be shouting it from the rooftops soon for sure.

Score on getting you to hear me laughing in your head, though. This is all part of my master plan to take over your brain and then figure out how to teleport myself, mwahahaha! Or be in two places at once! That would be so great, I could stroll around England with you (and we should totally make out in front of Buckingham palace one day, just to say we did it) and also go to agency meetings here. Ugh. That's one thing I don't miss when on an actual long-term job, being in meetings for new ones. I think they purposefully make them as boring as possible. Which could be great motivation to get another job, I guess, except I have to go through them to get it. I can just see you shaking your head and saying "Right, right, it's a vicious cycle, mate." See, I've got you on the brain too - only difference is I can imitate your voice! ...which probably makes me more crazy, ssshh don't tell anyone. People might not hire me if I'm too crazy. Though being a nutcase has worked for Jack Nicholson, so. What do I know? *Cue me getting hauled off for talking crap about Jack Nicholson, bye Ben!!*

Mom is glad I'm here, I think. She's still working on life insurance stuff, because of my dad. John's a bit closer to all that than me, as he's actually in town with her and not in the city. We've talked about it some; apparently the bank has been frustrating because there are caveats sometimes when people sign off on life insurance and then die from an aggressive, debilitating illness. Who knew? (Hint: the answer is not me.) I drive out to get dinner with them once a week at least. You'll have to come next time you visit. We can make a smorgasbord, it'll be great. Mom also wants to meet you, I told her how great you and the other guys are, and she got to meet Rami and Gwil once when we passed through for BoRhap stuff. But don't be jealous, I told her you are EXTRA special, Ben. John has also seen several pictures of you and he demanded to know how I pulled this because you're way out of my league, a bodybuilder with a face like a cherub. That is word-for-word what he said, so pressure's on! We're under pressure, eh? Eh? Yeah I know, that was a little on the nose.

Well I have the need for a new housemate or can just pay out the full lease on this place myself, so that's looking up, at least. Jeff left one day, just cleared out his stuff and wrote a note saying we were two very different guys with different morals. Dick. I had to call up the super myself and tell them I needed a new housemate. There was almost a stink about it, because he didn't fill out any paperwork or anything, just broke his half of the lease. Which makes more work for me, but I explained we had run into some personal issues that apparently affected his, uh, mental state enough that he left. Aren't you proud of me? I channeled you and Gwil and Brian for sure in all your politeness even though inside I was totally Roger, cussing him out. But it'll be all right, I'm sure I'll get a new housemate soon. I mean it's NYC, people snatch these places up, man.

Glad to hear the job's going all right, and that's hilarious that you got told to settle down for giggling about us. Oh, Benjamin...you naughty boy. I'll be waiting to hear all about this. And probably make the decision afterwards to never work on a series. OooOOOHhh what movie did you pick to watch?? You can't just not say what you were thinking about, or even what you were in the mood for! That is cruel. You bet your butt I'm going to be blowing up your phone with jokes in retaliation.

Also certainly this is going to be a thing now that I've actually written back, haha. And I saw how you slipped in that you missed me right at the end!! Smooth bastard, making sure ya didn't put it at the top so I'd stop reading, right? But I miss you too baby, in all seriousness. (Yes we're doing pet names via letter, clearly you started it and I'm joining in) I will count the days til I get your next letter. Again, no pressure. Gotta take this out to the box now. Love ya,

~ Joe

Chapter Text

Joe Mazzello loves writing, sending, and receiving letters.

After Ben begets their initial correspondence, Joe simply HAS to purchase a box of kitschy, touristy postcards with all of the New York City sights dominating them. Some highlights are the Chrysler building, the zoo, Central Park, and the Brooklyn Bridge. "This is how all of my letters to you are going to look now, and it'll be amazing, Benny," he enthuses, and begins drawing terrible stick figures representing him and Ben on the pictures. Scribbles above one of the figures, to represent, as he informs Ben: "That's you-- and that's your hair."

Joe draws one iteration where 'Ben' is falling off the Statue of Liberty and writes on the back: You got a little overexcited at the top. Don't worry, I saved your life. You're welcome. They decide to recreate the feasible pictures whenever Ben visits.

***

Ben cannot stop grinning like a fool when he gets all of Joe's letters. Even though they are utterly, profoundly ridiculous, he loves them nevertheless. When Joe says he's coming to visit for the first time since they've been together and that Ben had better be ready, they're gonna tear it up, Ben is ecstatic. All of the stupid postcards papering his bedroom walls are now worth something.

On the day of the visit itself--it has been months since New York, autumn in London now as Ben is working on the newest season of his TV show--Joe flies into his arms in the entrance of his flat as soon as Ben opens the door. Frankie barks, waggles around, and then disappears from the entryway as the door is closed again, Ben shuffling to shut it whilst remaining in Joe's strangling embrace. Nubile long fingers twine around Ben's back and into his hair as Joe says his name and that he'd missed him. "Did you miss me, my dearest Benny?"

At that question, Ben comes unglued. It is like a supernova or something explodes inside him; all of the muscles in his body loosen, though he hadn't realised they'd been tight. He clutches Joe with strength and abandon and need, catches hold of his shoulders and his lips move everywhere on Joe's face and neck and chest just above his collarbone. Ben's hands are fumbling at the other man's shirt and pushing him back against the wall beside his front door.

Joe gasps, head tipped back, eyes bright, mouth slightly open, his hands resting on Ben's shoulders as Ben's hands have moved from his own. Benny growls, oh god that's hotter than hell, and he wraps an arm around Joe's waist and draws him flush against his body, belt buckle clicking against the buttons of Joe's jeans. Ben's muscular leg slides between both of Joe's and he is gently rubbing himself upward as Joe gasps and pulls him closer.

Joe's whole body starts to throb in the most delightful way, and he buries his face against the side of Ben's neck, pressing his lips against Hardy's flushed skin. When he takes the soft flesh of Ben's earlobe between his teeth it is Ben's turn to gasp, and he clutches at Joe, murmuring "Oh, yes, Joe, that's--" as Joe sucks on the fleshy lobe, feeling the coolness of metal and stone that is Ben's earring against his tongue. Ben feels lit up under the ministering of those lovely wide lips and can't stop saying "That feels lovely, you're lovely, Joe-- oh please don't stop."

He rocks against Joe as Mazzello replies "Don't worry, wasn't planning on it," before kissing Ben's neck just behind his ear and below his hairline. Ben whimpers, shivers, and turns to bring more of his skin into contact with Joe's lips. They hold each other for a long while there, until one of them suggests moving either to the bed or at least a couch-- their knees are gonna give out if they just keep standing against the wall. All day long! --And at the realisation itself as well as the tone in which it is voiced, not to mention the reference-- both of them burst out laughing.

After they are sated, Ben says they ought to eat, and of course Joe is immediately up for getting food. "You're always hungry, mate. Where do you PUT all of it?" Hardy marvels.

Joe winks. "Oh I think you know exactly where the power goes, Ben."

Ben's eyes sparkle as he snorts with laughter. "...Yeah, I guess I do know now," he says. "Lucky me."

"Damn right, baby," Joe wiggles his eyebrows and flashes the other man a naughty grin.

***

After their meal Joe brings his bag into the bedroom, getting both it and himself sniffed by Frankie before she wanders back to her person, and calls "Ben, what is this?"

"What?" Ben jogs around the corner, Frankie following, and sees Joe pointing out the wall full of his idiotic postcards and smirking.

"Wow, Benny, you totally have a shrine to me."

Ben responds "Fuck off, my wall was just really boring. I needed to liven it up a bit, so I used your...art."

"Darn right I'm an artist, these should be in a museum one day!"

Ben puts an arm around Joe and holds him against his side. "Well I wouldn't go THAT far… besides, I thought they're just for me."

Joe gives him a kiss and says "Duh, of course, but I want everybody to know how happy I am, Ben."

Ben grins back at his boyfriend. Still has to metaphorically pinch himself whenever he thinks that word. "I'm happy that you're happy, mate," he murmurs, arm tightening around Joe's shoulders, low voice growling in a sultry purr: "Extremely, incredibly happy."

Chapter Text

Ben is positive he'll be terrible at mini golf when Joe suggests it.

"No Ben it's fine, mini golf is ridiculous. I think we're pretty much obligated to suck," Joe soothes.

Ben smacks his lips and responds "... you're just trying to make me feel better about how badly I played actual golf when I was with Gwil, aren't you?"

Joe grins. "Totally. Did it work?"

Ben pulls a face. "Not really, no."

"...Well I can stand behind ya and help you with your swing, if you want." Joe winks. "Just like Robert Redford in Tin Cup. And then we can go get some ice cream or something."

Ben smiles. Joe's so sweet. Besides, his naughty little notions, of course making a reference to some movie, are incredibly cute. "I'm sold."

***

After golf and ice cream, Ben takes Joe to walk around St James park to feed pigeons and ducks and Joe starts trying to make pigeon noises. Ben starts to drag him off, enticing him with going to a restaurant for supper. They need to go inside --have GOT to; it's a must to stop Joe from clucking at pigeons and making his neck bob the way theirs do.

“We can’t just leave now, Ben, they’ve accepted me as part of their flock,” Joe whines.

"Joe, I think the only thing they've accepted is that you're batshit bloody bonkers. Just as I have."

"Wow, nice alliteration there buddy."

"Thank you," Ben inclines his head graciously. "But can we go, please?"

"Anything for you," Joe grins, bouncing up beside Ben and taking his arm. "Though it's not my fault I'm the Alpha Pigeon. They might follow me."

"Joe, alpha pigeons aren't a thing." Joe cocks his eyebrows significantly as they start to walk away, and a couple of the birds actually begin following behind them, stepping slowly and blinking, tilting their heads. "Holy shit...," Ben breathes as he glances back before putting his hand over Joe's and tugging at him. "C'mon, Joe, walk faster."

They make it to the restaurant together without being dive-bombed by Joe's pigeon army and of course chat about Joe being a pigeon-whisperer (and the astounding fact that mini golf hadn't sucked). Joe eventually got Ben to relax and have fun playing the game; and he'd grabbed all the balls Ben whacked out of the putt-putt course without complaining even once, which makes Ben fall even more in love with him.

The establishment wherein they eat is a quiet one, due to the fact they've come behind the dinner rush, just before sunset. Supper rush over here, of course, since it's England. Their food is excellent and they are having a lovely time being together.

Ben leaves to use the restroom and Joe begins talking with their server, who hasn't got any other tables to wait on at the moment. She asks him where he's from, and when he says New York, her eyes grow big and she gets excited about the city, asking if anything in the movies is true about the Big Apple.

"Well, we did used to have a mobster presence, but that was years and years ago," he says breezily. "It is loud, and busy, and it definitely never sleeps--whoever named it got that right. There's always cars honking and people walking and stuff. It's an awesome, super lively place. I really love it, great to live there."

"What are you doing here then?" She asks, cocking her head with interest. "London is no New York, that's for certain."

Joe smiles. "No It's not, but it's a pretty great city in its own right. And I'm here visiting my boyfriend, so that makes it even better."

"Your boyfriend?" The server laughs out loud as she realises he is referring to Ben. "Ah, right. Cheers, that's a good one." She continues laughing long enough for Joe's chest to seize up. "Him looking like that…," she shakes her head, and Joe bows his as she leaves to refill drinks, taking their used platters with her.

As she walks away he thinks on those words. Looking like that. Yeah, Joe gets it now. It would seem like a joke, him being with Ben; come on, look at the guy. He comes out of the washroom now, strolling across the restaurant so Joe can see his own point and have his heart sink even farther into the floor. Ben's golden hair is perfectly parted, he has cherubic facial features and sparkling eyes, those perfectly full lips... and god, his musculature. He is a specimen in every sense of the word, and that isn't even including his clothes--clearly in fashion, tasteful. Quietly expensive. And yet he doesn't make a big deal out of himself or how amazing he really is. Modesty wafts off Ben as perfectly as the scent of his cologne does, and here he is with a pale loud-mouthed bulbous-nosed skinny obnoxious American guy…. What does Joe have to offer next to all that Ben has, really?

Ben asks for their ticket in his beautiful deep voice as he slides into the booth upon returning from the loo. He smiles at their server and then sweetly at Joe as he says "Just the one check, please."

The server does a double-take and blurts "...Oh. Really?"

Ben is befuddled by that reply, but Joe smacks his lips and speaks up rather sharply, particularly for him: "Yep. I wasn't kidding."

Mazzello stands up in an abrupt manner after Ben gets his card back, having not spoken during the interim at all, which is very unlike him as well; and Ben lifts his head, startled as well as confused by the little exchange. The server blushes. "...Joe?"

"Come on, let's go," Joe says tightly and starts walking fast towards the exit.

Ben nods, puts his wallet away and follows. He practically has to jog to catch up with Joe outside. "Okay, hang on. Whoah, Joe, slow down a bit, mate. What's going on?"

Joe heaves out a heavy breath and swallows, trying to smile as he continues to move quickly. He doesn't look directly at Ben. "I'll tell you. Can we just...get back to your place first? Please?"

Ben gazes at him wearing a soft expression, eyes huge and worried. God, he looks like an anxious puppy. Which isn't helping Joe right now. "Yeah, 'course."

***

They get to his flat and Ben unlocks the door, holding it open. Joe goes in, and after the door closes behind the two of them, he asks "--What are you doing with me, Ben? I mean, why would you want to be with me? You're incredibly attractive. And I'm-- not. We don't even balance out in pictures, except in tuxedos. Only then is when I have half a chance at looking good."

Ben is baffled. "...what? Joe, what are you going on about? You're great!"

"Not great looking, though," Joe scoffs. "I mean, come on, Ben. I'm average at the most, and you've legitimately modeled for high fashion so I don't even--"

"Stop," Ben waves his hands in the air and shuts his eyes. "Just stop right now. You're wonderful, you have the best smile that makes your eyes light up, alright, and you've got so many good qualities, mate. I want you to know that." He moves closer. "Did... something happen tonight, to make you think that way about yourself, about us?"

"No," Joe protests.

Ben crosses his arms over his chest and presses his lips together. "Joe."

"...Well, I mean our server laughed when I said that you were my boyfriend, but--"

"Oh my god," Ben breathes, eyes crinkling at the outer edges in understanding as he drops his arms back down. That's awful. He reaches out automatically in an attempt to comfort his boyfriend. "That's why you wanted to leave so fast. Joe…,"

Joe blinks and backs away a little, trying to smile. "No, it's fine. I've always known I'm not the prettiest girl on the cheerleading squad, but as the studly quarterback I appreciate you saying I've got good qualities, Benny."

"Of course," Ben replies fervently after cocking his head in some confusion over Joe's reference. His confusion is adorable and it is also breaking Joe right now. God, why does he have to be so damn CUTE?! Ben continues speaking, however, and Joe focuses back upon his words in time to hear: "--it's true. I mean, come on, you're smart, and hilarious. And you can get anyone to love you just by laughing with and talking to them for a few minutes. Server probably didn't know what hit her. Wanted to believe you weren't my boyfriend so she could getcha for herself." Ben sniffs hard and laughs now, trying to make light of his next words: "I can't do any of that stuff with, for people. Hell, people are dazzled by my looks but I can't hold a meaningful conversation for anything."

"Ben--" Joe's head snaps up and his eyes get big.

"No, I know, I look good, but it's like, a fantasy. It's all people see of me and it's flattering, really, but. Why d'you think I'm not with anyone, or why I haven't been? It's because I'm boring, I'm just, heh. Nothing special, just me." A pretty face, he thinks, and feels slightly sick at the thought. But it is how he feels, so he cannot shove it back or tamp it down. Not now, not after Joe had been honest with him subsequent to what happened tonight. How decent that is, and how brave. Ben isn't nearly so brave as is Joe. He cannot voice everything he wants to. His voice cracks. "Honestly, I've wondered why you'd want to be with me from the beginning. Soon as I realised how I felt about you, Joe. You've got so many options, I mean anyone would be lucky--"

"Ben," Joe's eyes are full as he shakes his head back and forth rapidly, swallowing hard, shifting his shoulders and blinking back emotions as he steps up close to Ben again, taking both of his hands. God, he didn't want something like this to happen when he spoke up, because he spoke up. Well done, Joe, you friggin moron. What have you done? "Benjamin, look at me."

Ben does, finally, lifting his eyes if not his entire face and trying to smile, but his expression looks as pained and desolate as it had during the scene in BoRhap when Freddie left the lads for four million dollars. Only this is real, this is how Ben feels right now about himself, because someone had hurt Joe. Joe feels a pain tighten his chest, squeezing his heart. He cannot believe Ben feels like this, like he's two-dimensional, a pretty face and nothing more. Joe thought he was being the nutty insecure one here! He knows he's got his own hang-up about physical attractiveness, but he knows a good personality when he's around one, and he appreciates Ben's personality more than anything.

"Benny," Joe speaks gently. "You've got such an awesome personality. Seriously, like, you're so thoughtful, and you nerd out about stuff and it's amazing. You're also pretty much the nicest person ever and it's obvious even when you don't talk. I never thought someone could be so quiet and nice --until I learned about John Deacon, haha-- and then I met you." He squeezes Ben's hands in his. "And trust me, I couldn't have chosen anyone better to be with. I mean it. You're awesome, Ben. You're the whole package, and I'm incredibly lucky."

Ben's eyes fill as well now and his throat bobs. He leans forward, pressing his lips to Joe's in a sweet, desperate, thankful kiss. Joe tastes salt from Ben's tears on his lips and he groans, clenching his eyes shut and letting go of Ben's hands to take hold of his face. Ben slides his own hands forward and around to catch Joe by the waist as they kiss, and all of the emotion passes between them, the need and gratitude and pleasure. The wish to prove to each other that they are truly loved.

Joe kisses Ben back with everything he's got, feeling heat and electricity travelling from his lips down his throat and throughout his entire body. He grips Ben tight with his fingers, clutching the other's full cheeks, stroking his warm soft skin as he kisses Ben again and again. Ben's mouth moves with his, slight gasps and noises leaving him as he holds Joe tight. Ben at last pulls away just far enough to lean his forehead against Joe's. His lips are trembling as he whispers "...I am too, Joe. God I'm so lucky to be with you."