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(i think he knows) his footprints on the sidewalk lead to where i can't stop

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He goes to turn to walk her down her steps. And something in her heart clutches and she doesn’t know what it is that makes her this brave new person, whether it’s Benny or New York or something else, but she grabs his arm. “Wait,” she pants out. “Hey.”

He slowly turns back to her, his eyes meeting hers. “Yes?” he says.

She swallows. “I still like your hair.”

-

Beth’s world slows, her heart pounding, not really believing she just said that. That she just as good as admitted she still likes him, wants him.

He stares at her for a minute, his brown eyes intense. And for that minute, she is sure that he’s going to reject her, is going to smile and tell her that he’s not interested in that way anymore and she will have to take it, bear the loss. She will have to stand and smile and nod, and go back inside, and she will have to see him every day and go about like her heart didn’t just break inside because not seeing him would be worse than seeing him every day, even if he won’t feel the same way and—

“I’ve been waiting for you to say that,” Benny says, interrupting Beth’s thought train.

She looks up at him, seeing the warmth in his eyes now. “Really?” and she knows her voice is just slightly squeaky but she can’t bring herself to care.

“Yeah,” he says, rising to stand on the same step as her, that hat of his putting both of their faces in shadow.

Then, she realizes he still hasn’t said anything about how he feels. “And…do you feel the same way?”

He looks at her incredulously. “Of course, Beth, of course. I have for a while now,” he reveals. “Pretty much since you came to New York the first time.”

There are a million things she wants to ask him, a million things she wants to say. She wants to go back over the past nine months, wants to dissect it and analyze it like a grandmaster game, looking for pieces, for hints. But this isn’t a game. Or at least not that kind of game.

So she pushes forward, suddenly hyper-aware of their close distance. Beth has always been all attack, and this is no different as she moves to capture his lips. But Benny has always been able to anticipate Beth and so he meets her in the middle.

“About time,” Benny murmurs into her lips.

“Shut up,” Beth says, smiling into the kiss.

-

They stumble into Beth’s apartment. Benny’s hands only release her long enough for her to quickly lock the door behind her, and then she’s up against it.

He growls into her neck, “You have no idea how much I’ve thought about this in the past few months,” he says.

She thinks back to how much she’s thought about this in the past few months and thinks that, maybe, just maybe, she does know. After all, they’ve always thought similarly.

Still, she doesn’t think it needs to be said. Instead, she reaches to divest him of his stupid trench coat and quickly goes to the buttons on his shirt. Of course, it helps that it’s half unbuttoned already, in his custom fashion.

“Bedroom,” she whispers. Benny nods.

They lose Benny’s shirt before making it to Beth’s bedroom, with its floral bedspread and green velvet curtains. They both quickly kick of their shoes before they’re frantically reaching for each other again, months of longing and desire and waiting reaching a boiling point.

Beth breaks the kiss to start to pull her dress up over her body, which Benny quickly helps her with. Then, he’s kissing down her body. His kisses are languorous, slow.

“Benny,” Beth moans, squirming slightly underneath him. “Don’t tease.”

He looks up at her, messy hair falling in his eyes. “Who said anything about teasing?” he asks, his eyes full of mischief, as he hooks his thumbs into her panties, pulling them down. Beth parts her thighs, waiting, anticipating.

Benny does not disappoint, first giving a soft blow over her lips and then a long lick followed by a suck on her clit that has her arching into his face.

“Fuck,” she breathes out. She missed this. Missed him this way. Benny continues, licking and sucking, adding a finger to brush on the top of her clit, using the long fingers that move chess pieces so gracefully to hold her open just as artfully.

It’s like she’s on the precipice of a win, just a few moves before her opponent realizes she’s pinned them. But this feels so much better. There are no losers here, only winners.

Just when Beth think she’s about to reach her peak, Benny pulls back. Beth shudders at the loss of contact and then props herself up on elbows to look down at, the bastard. She takes him in, his moustache glittering with her desire, and he’s staring back at her, eyes dark with lust.

She’s about to ask him, curse at him, why did he stop when he slides a finger into her, keeping eye contact the whole time. Fuck.

He works the finger in and out of her a few times, before adding another. And another. And then he curls, and Beth’s eyes roll to the back of her eyes. She lets out a strangled noise.

“So beautiful,” Benny’s voice reaches her and she opens her eyes to look at him again. His voice is raspy, strangled in its own way. He’s looking at her like he’s just seen the Paulsen vs. Morphy game played out in front of his own eyes.

And Benny, as if sensing exactly what she needs and finally deciding to give it to her, leans back down to her sex, and sucks on her clit, just right and then she’s coming, shattering around her fingers.

He works her through her orgasm, as she rides the wave out, rides his fingers. She lays there boneless for a few seconds, or minutes, she’s not really sure. She can’t believe they spent months not doing this.

When she finally regains her senses, she realizes Benny’s still in the same position, like a waiting knight, on his knees in front of her bed, in between her legs. She crooks a finger up to him, wanting to show him just how much she meant that she still likes his hair. He comes up and she melds their lips together. Beth realizes he’s still far more clothed than she when the strained fabric of his jeans brushes against her. She quickly goes to release him, popping the button, covering his erection with her hand through the thin fabric of his boxers

Benny hisses at the friction and Beth delights in the sound, at the obvious signs of his desire, his want, for her. She continues, palming him, and then slipping her hand inside his boxers, her fingers brushing against the head, wet with pre-cum.

“Fuck,” he whispers, his eyes closed. Beth looks at him, taking in how his hair hangs in front of his face, the way his mouth is slightly parted, the evidence of her desire still on him. She feels heady, the tranquilizing high of her pills not able to compare to this.

And suddenly, she can’t take it anymore. She needs him now.

She quickly removes her hand and starts to push at his boxers and jeans. Benny opens his eyes and gets the hint, scrambling backward to remove them. Beth takes the time to lean over to her bedside drawer and grab a condom and toss it at Benny, who quickly slides it on. After the brief adjournment, they’re back together, face to face, chest to chest, heart to heart.

Benny lines himself up with her, but instead of pushing in, stills on top of her, looking into her eyes, almost as if asking are you sure? As if a little unsure himself, as if at any moment he’s about to wake up from a dream.

Beth feels the same way, but she decidedly does not want to find out if she’s dreaming. So she just arches her parted legs up to his as if to answer yes, get on with it, let’s play.

Benny doesn’t yet take the bait, though the flinch of his hips betray his self-control. Still, she can sense that he wants to be absolutely sure, surer than he is even in front of a crowd at a tournament. So she’s not surprised when he holds back and whispers across her lips. “Tell me,” his voice is hoarse, like he’s a man deprived of water except she’s the water. “Tell me what you want.”

She could not answer, she could simply grind her hips up to his, wrap her arms around him, and wait until neither of them could take it anymore, let him read between the lines of her non-answer. She could say something positively filthy to him like your cock inside me, and watch as his eyes darken even further, feel his hips thrust possessively into hers, watch his self-control slip.

But neither would be the truth, she realizes. Or, at least not the whole truth. As much as she wants him to fuck her, she realizes in that moment exactly why she wants it so much.

Because she needs him. She needs Benny Watts. She doesn’t need him like she once needed alcohol or drugs, but it’s just as intense of a need. She won’t die without him, won’t shrivel up and vomit, and wish she’d never been alive without him. But life without him, here in this big new city, wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t be really living, wouldn’t have the magnetic feeling New York gives her without him.

Benny doesn’t dull her senses, she doesn’t need him to not feel. When she’s with him, she enjoys the little moments, savors his smile while they walk to her apartment, the touch of their fingertips over the chess board, the comfortable silence of them each curled up with their pamphlets, midnight coffee at the diner, their shoulders brushing at the chess museum. He makes her feel alive. She needs him because he’s an integral part of the wonderful tapestry she’s made of her life, threaded with new and old strands. She needs him like a chess set needs a king piece, an integral part of the game.

Her trail of thoughts about Benny are interrupted by the man himself, who shifts above her, studying her face intently.

He makes a slight motion to move off of her, his face slightly falling. Beth’s heart seizes in her chest and, just like on the stairs earlier that night, she grabs his arm before he can really move.

“You,” she says. “I want you.” It’s not a grand confession of need or want or love, or even particularly sexy, but she hopes it’s enough, hopes it’s enough to convey at least a tiny fraction of what she’s thinking.

It must work because the next thing she knows, Benny is giving her what she thinks must be the kiss of her life as he slides into her, and it feels like he’s coming home to her.

For a few seconds, they stay like that, tender, suspended in this endless moment in a city that never seems to stop moving.

And then one of them moves and then they’re both moving together, a synchronous match, moves complimenting each other perfectly.

The slide of their bodies together is perfect, familiar and new at the same time. They move like they’ve been doing this for years, (and maybe, in a way, they have,) and like they’re teenagers just really learning about sex for the first time. It’s different from the first time, and all those times in Benny’s apartment before Paris. Then, sex had been frantic, rushed motions, rushed plays, like blitz, each fighting to check the other before they got checked themselves, always in the dark, feelings buried deep down.

Now, their movements are slower, but still satisfying, the future a wide expanse of time before them with no expiration date, an endless game with no time control. Beth revels at the way he moves inside her now, the stretch of her muscles around him delicious. She can’t believe they waited all these fucking months, all those times staying in separate rooms when they could have had this.

Benny thrusts a certain way and she keens into him, shifting her legs to rest around his hips. The position allows him to go deeper, hitting a new spot and fuck, why did they ever give this up?

She reaches her arms up to wrap them around his narrow shoulders, clutching them like they’re her last pawn pieces. Benny’s head drops to the crook near her neck, peppering her shoulder with light kisses. Beth closes her eyes, letting their bodies guide her strategy. Their movements are in perfect harmony, the beginning of a beautiful song.

Beth knows that she’s close, feels her body building up to the crescendo, feels it timer ticking down. She just needs a little more, an extra move.

She’s just about to tell him this, opens her eyes and mouth to do so. Instead, she finds an “Ah,” escaping from her lips instead, as Benny’s hand reaches between their bodies to where they’re joined, and he tweaks her clit. Beth arches her head back further, neck connecting with his insistent lips. He pulls and circles like a rook and knight about to corner a king, mate in two.

“Yes,” Beth says aloud. “Yes, yes, yes,” and she is so very close.

Benny lifts his head from the crook of her shoulder and looks at her, and there’s something in his eyes, the dark brown so full of light at the same time.

“Come with me,” he rasps, his voice guttural, unlike the smooth-talking cowboy the chess circuit is so familiar with.

Beth starts to think that she likes this version, her version of Benny better but she doesn’t get to finish the thought because he brushes his thumb on her clit and holy fuck. She climaxes and she swears she sees the familiar black and white pattern dance across her eyelids while her body shakes and convulses around him.

Benny follows soon after her, his movements stuttering like a rook piece blocked by a queen, and she knows, knows, that the same thing played out in his head.

-

They lay there, afterwards, both breathing heavily, side-by-side, neither moving much, except Benny to roll off the condom and discard it in the trashcan conveniently located next to Beth’s bed.

Strangely, it doesn’t feel strange to Beth. Her bed is located by the window and the warm glow of the sunset casts over them. She looks over to Benny out of the corner of her eye, who she notices is also looking at him out of the corner of his eye. The soft orange rays catch Benny’s hair through the curtain, making his blonde hair look golden. His breathing is still slightly ragged, but he has a smile playing on his lips.

This, she thinks, this is one of those moments. One of those moments that makes her feel alive. One of those moments where it feels as if everything and nothing has happened, has changed. It’s another one of the moments she’ll tuck away and remember.

Beth thinks back to his whispered tell me before their bodies joined. How she felt like her body was on fire, like she needed him. Now, settling into the afterglow, the heady rush of need and desire a settling ember in her stomach, she notices she still feels it. She still feels the aching need for him.

And she realizes, that the need only partly has to do with lust and wanton desire. She needs him, feels this ache she realizes, because she loves him.

She flips over onto her side to face Benny, unsure what she’s going to say, just knowing that she needs to see him, to face him, this man she loves.

He flips over to face her just as quickly. “Hello?” he says, his voice questioning.

She breathes, captivated by his face, his messy hair falling over it. She remembers what he’d said to her once You should always play your line, never his. What is her line? She realizes that they haven’t actually said anything about actual feelings to each other, besides her proxy line of telling him she likes his hair. What are they supposed to say to each other?

Maybe it’ll be easier to start with the obvious, in the face of all this unknown. “Don’t tell me to play the Sicilian,” Beth says, the words coming out all in a rush.

Benny smiles, just a little unsure and Beth feels something twist in her chest. “I wasn’t going to,” he whispers.

She smiles back at him, a small but genuine smile. He reaches to brush a loose strand of her hair out of her face, his lips parting to say something more.

For a moment, she’s afraid he’s going to say something like I love you and ruin the moment. She’s not exactly sure why it would ruin the moment, she’d literally just been thinking the same thought about him. But still, she freezes internally for a moment while fighting to keep her cool on the outside, her breathing slightly increasing.

Beth may have just told Benny she likes his hair (for the second time), just writhed under this cowboy-pirate she’s pined after since moving to the city, just realized she loves him. But she is still Beth, so she takes the white pawn, starts the clock. However, she is also the Beth who moved to New York City, who lives in an apartment in a somewhat not-great neighborhood by herself, who hasn’t had a drink in a year. So she asks, “What are you thinking about right now?” This is her line, what she’s most comfortable with.

Maybe Benny can sense her hesitation, maybe he can read it on her face, or maybe he just knows her that well. Any which way, he doesn’t say those three words. Instead, he says, “I lay my king down.”

Those are a loser’s words but Benny doesn’t look at all like he just lost. This is the moment someone says check.

But she doesn’t take the opening, doesn’t say the words. Instead, she offers a draw, her arm outstretched and closing the gap between them, moving to bring their bodies together once more, her head resting on his chest. “I see things the same way,” she says, looking up at him, the tentative smile now on her lips.

He understands and he grins and pulls her in for a long, lazy kiss that Beth is sure of, this one is the best there is.

Things like love and big declarations and other words can come later. They have all the time in the world, all the blocks of this endless city, for that. Right now, there’s just this play.