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Bush League

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Cody arrived in front of his new apartment on a drizzly spring day, with rain that felt more like snow misting around through the air. 

It was fortunate, really, that he’d barely brought anything with him. All of his belongings had fit in the back of the old Jimmy that he’d inherited when he turned sixteen - two years ago, now - keeping the boxes safe from the weather.

He’d learned how to pack quickly and efficiently almost as soon as he’d learned how to walk. The family had moved frequently through the years, each time his father got a new assignment. He had no sentimental possessions, really.

Nothing but what he needed.

Mostly, it was his gear. 

He parked in the small lot that, apparently, belonged to his new apartment building. He’d never seen the building. He’d agreed to a lease sight unseen on the recommendation of the staff at the ball club.

They were used to helping new guys get set up in town, especially guys who hadn’t lived close by before. Cody’d lived on the other side of the country before the draft, before he’d gotten grabbed up in an early round and, summarily, ordered to attend spring training in March - which had gone well enough - and assigned to a farm team. 

It was what he’d expected. What he’d hoped for, all through the last three years of highschool. 

He could have tried to go to college. His mother had wanted that, when he’d started talking about his plans. But scholarships were hard to swing for baseball, especially for catchers, it had felt like, when Cody looked at his options.

And, besides, he knew the family didn’t exactly have the funds to send him and all his brothers to school. Money had always been tight. Rex had already turned eighteen - they’d been born within a year of each other - and the first set of twins - Waxer and Boil - weren’t far behind him….

So. 

He’d entered the draft, instead of applying for colleges, worked a deadend job through the fall and winter while keeping up with his practices, and now he was on the East Coast, opening his door in front of a square apartment building, looking up the side of it at little balconies holding empty flower pots, plastic furniture, and unused grills. 

He felt itchy behind the eyes. Flying across the country hadn’t been possible - not with all his stuff to haul along - and he’d made the trip before by car, though not all on his own. He’d made it in a few days, with large portions of the middle nothing but a blur. 

Cody scrubbed at his face, went around to grab some of his boxes, and made his way towards the building.

His apartment was on the third floor, allegedly. He knocked when he got to the right number, just in case his roommate - someone he’d never met - was in there already. The front office had paired him up with some other guy, an outfielder who’d played for the club last year, too. 

A woman he’d never met - she’d called herself Mon Mothma on the phone - had told him that the guy - named Kit Fisto, apparently - would show him around. “He knows what we expect,” she’d assured him. 

No one came to the door.

Cody shifted the boxes to one hip and used his new key to open it, stepping into the apartment. It smelled a little bit like old pizza and beer. The kitchen and living room were one connected sprawl, with a few couches  haphazardly arranged and no table. 

He looked around, kicked the door shut with his heel, and walked down the hall. There were a few rooms off the main hall, two of them with the doors open. He found the bathroom - small, smelling of mildew - and a bedroom.

It came furnished, as advertised. There was a bed, a nightstand, and a lamp. He put his boxes on the bed and looked out the window into a row of straggly trees. Beyond the trees, he could see a gas station. 

His stomach rumbled just looking at it. He sighed, went downstairs, trampled through the trees, and bought himself a sandwich. He brought it back to the apartment, found the door to the balcony, and sat outside in the drizzling rain to eat it. 

In all, he’d lived in shittier places, he decided.

#

Cody got his stuff inside.

It didn’t take long.

He had everything unpacked before noon and still hadn’t seen his roommate. He called home, sitting on one of the couches after brushing off some crumbs with a frown, and let his mother know he’d made it, finally.

He texted a few of his brothers, after, and then sat there, bouncing a leg up and down. He’d moved plenty of new places, but usually there were ten other people running around, making as much noise as physically possible. 

Sitting in an empty apartment, listening to a clock tick from somewhere, made him feel itchy. 

“Okay,” he said to no one, and pushed to his feet. Technically, he’d been supposed to learn his way around town with this Fisto guy, but Cody was an old hand at learning new cities. He grabbed a jacket - he’d unpacked it - pulled it on, and went back out.

Live in enough different cities and you realized that, really, they were all pretty much the same. Oh, there were surface differences. Sometimes lights were arranged in new ways or the older parts of the city threw around some distinctive architecture. 

But mostly it was all the same, because people were the same, and built things according to some ingrained instinct towards stop lights all jammed together and fast food restaurants. There was a dearth of strip clubs, at least as far as he could see, but he wasn’t living right next to a military base for the first time in his life.

Maybe that contributed to the rarity.

He cruised around for a bit until he ended up at his end goal: the ballpark. 

It was quiet and all shut up, nothing but tall walls and a locked gate with an empty parking lot.

He’d got to town a few days before they were supposed to start playing. He parked the Jimmy across a few spaces - no one else was using them - and stepped out, folding his arms over the top of the door and staring with a tightening in his gut.

It was bigger than anywhere he’d ever played. It was official, not the big leagues, or anything, but a place where people actually paid to come and watch him, and not just because their kids went to the same school, or because they were students with nothing else to do--

Cody blew out a breath and walked up to the gates, hooking his arms through the metal rods and staring at the space beyond. 

He startled - a little - at the sound of an engine breaking the quiet in the parking lot. He turned to watch a motorcycle turn in; an older model, faded red paint on the tank. It wasn’t a big machine, enough room for one person with maybe enough extra space for someone to perch on the back, if they didn’t mind getting real personal with the driver.

The driver pulled to a stop almost halfway across the parking lot from Cody’s vehicle, flipped the kickstand down, and swung off. Cody meant to glance away, but then the man lifted off his helmet and he just. Didn’t.

Cody’s first thought was that the guy didn’t look old enough to be driving the motorcycle. And he cut off any second thoughts before they had any chance to form, jerking his gaze away from the guy’s copper-y hair or--

Anything else.

He turned back to the gates to the park, the hair on his neck raising as he heard footsteps getting closer. He glanced to the side to find the guy approaching, blue eyes focused and hungry on the park, helmet held in one hand.

It took a moment of assessment for Cody to realize that the man had a familiar profile and another further beat before his lagging head put together why. 

By the time it did, Ben Kenobi - because this was Ben Kenobi, one of the highest draft picks of the season, right-handed pitcher with a ball-busting curve that Cody had read about since the draft and seen from a distance during spring training - had leaned a shoulder against the fence, turned to him, and said, “Hey, there, I’m Ben. Didn’t mean to interrupt you. I just wanted to get a look at this place.”

He had, of all things, a faint British accent. It was utterly out of place, and Cody knew a bit about out of place accents. But that was besides the point. He blinked, taking in the fall of Ben’s hair - around his shoulders - and the dimple on his chin, and-- “It’s fine,” he said. “I was doing the same thing. I’m Cody, by the way. Cody Fett. I’m going to play here this season.”

And so are you, he didn’t add. Unless they pull you up to the Majors in two seconds. 

Ben’s expression brightened a little. He stuck out a hand between them, and said, “Really? Me, too. What position do you play?”

“I catch,” Cody told him, taking his hand, strong and callused, like every pitcher he’d ever met. He watched Ben’s expression light up even further, like there was a miniature sun under his skin, a smile curving over his mouth.

And then Ben said, giving his hand a squeeze before releasing it, “That’s great. I pitch.” He looked to the side, chewed his lip, and asked, “You want to throw a few?”

#

Cody probably should have said ‘no.’ 

He knew that. And yet… And yet, they’d ended up scrambling over a fence - using a ledge on the ticket counter for a foothold - and hurrying deeper into the park. They’d both had gloves with them - some things you just took everywhere - and Ben had a few balls buried in one of the packs on his bike. 

Ben set off to the left, between the backside of the stands and the closed-up concession stands. He had a little bounce in his step, looking over at Cody, who - helplessly - ended up grinning back.

Apparently, the team owners didn’t expect excited new players to break-in. There was a bar area, far down the left field line, open-air so drinkers could watch the game. A relatively low fence separated the dining area from the field, and they jumped it without hesitation. And after that….

Well. 

The field was covered. But uncovering a strip along the third-base line barely took any effort. And then they were standing on the actual field, where they were actually going to play professional baseball, and--

Cody felt ebullient, chest full of some bursting, joyous emotion that surged through him as they separated by a few paces and just…tossed the ball back and forth. They didn’t push the distance, just lobbing throws, each impact against his glove a thwack that left him with an ache of satisfaction low in his gut.

“Can you believe this?” Ben asked him, catching one of Cody’s throws with an ease that said he’d been doing this just as long as Cody, tossing the ball back and forth just for the joy of doing it. He was grinning again, that wide, mad smile that lit him up like a second sun.

“Not really,” Cody told him, catching his return throw, and Ben laughed. The sound set off little shivers all down Cody’s shoulders, something that had happened before with some - some of the guys on his high school teams.

He ignored it, the same way he’d done with them.

“Hey,” he said, instead, because distracting himself usually worked well in this situation, “you want to throw a few real pitches?”

Which was how he ended up further away, crouching down without any of his gear, knowing it was not the best idea. His shorts made it a little uncomfortable to squat down - they pulled across his ass - but he could make it work.

And it was worth it, he decided, watching Ben shift sideways down the line, arms coming up all perfect. Cody’d seen him throw a pitch before. He’d taken his team very far in the highschool championships despite the fact that the rest of the team, frankly, sucked. It had been far enough for video to be available.

He threw just as fluidly in person as he had on grainy clips on YouTube, knee coming up as he shifted his weight, arm extending like poetry wrapped in a thin t-shirt. The ball smacked into Cody’s glove a breath later - not a stinging impact, Ben hadn’t whaled it at him - and he exhaled, rocking back a little, gripping the ball, tossing it back. 

“What about a curve?” he called, and Ben laughed, again, but nodded. 

They’d progressed to Cody signaling the pitches he wanted - and getting what he asked every time - when someone, pointedly, cleared their throat off to the right. Cody caught the pitch headed his way and then jerked, looking to the side to find a tall man leaning against the short fence, wearing a cap over a bald head.

He had dark eyes and the barest hint of an amused tilt to the corner of his mouth when he said, “Having fun, boys?”

“Uh,” Cody said, rising to his feet with prickles all down his back, wondering if he were about to get in serious trouble. 

“Sorry,” Ben said, jogging up from the side, “we didn’t wreck anything. We just wanted to get on the field a little. I’m Ben Kenobi.” He stuck out his hand, his glove shoved under his other arm, a wide - but different - smile on his face.

The man eyed his hand for a moment and then straightened, reaching out and shaking. “Mace Windu,” he said, and the prickles along Cody’s back turned to ice, because of all the people to get caught by it would be his new coach-- “And I suppose it’s good to see that my new players are excited to play.” He nodded in Cody’s direction and said, “Mr. Fett. You make it across from California without any problems?”

“Yes, sir,” he said, the appellation falling automatically off of his lips, years and years of experience making it easy. 

Windu - their head coach - waved a hand. “Good. Well, while I’m impressed by your enthusiasm, you’ve got the groundskeepers all in a tizzy. No one’s supposed to be on the field. Come on. If you’re so excited to get into the season, you should probably meet some of your teammates.”

#

Cody imagined maybe a meeting in some office at the park. 

He was wrong. Instead, Mace gave them directions to some house across town and told them that - as far as he knew - the cook-out would be going all day. “Go make friends,” he said, with a shake of his head, “and stay off the field until you get permission.”

In the end, he followed Ben across town, keeping an eye on the motorcycle. They ended up at a fairly large house in some kind of gated community, driving over rolling hills and pulling into a crowded driveway. The marketing manager’s house, apparently. 

They’d been on the field for a long time, long enough for the day to wax towards afternoon. There were sounds of people and music from the backyard, along with the smell of food cooking on a grill. 

Cody’s stomach grumbled, loudly, as he stepped out of his truck, and Ben snorted a laugh beside him. Cody felt his cheeks burn, but Ben only said, “I’m famished, too. Come on. Let’s go meet the guys.”

They didn’t have to go far to meet the first of them. A tall - shirtless - man stepped out of the open garage as they walked up the driveway. He had a mess of thin braids around his head, falling forward over his shoulders and spilling everywhere, and one of the widest smiles Cody had ever seen.

He also wasn’t wearing shoes, apparently content with a pair of tight shorts. “Hey,” he called, “you more of the new guys?”

Which was how Cody ended up introduced to his roommate. Kit Fisto had apparently been at this house all day. It belonged to the marketing manager, named Ima-Gun Di. 

Around a dozen guys were spread around the property, mostly in the backyard, where Kit deposited them. A tall, skinny guy was manning a huge grill - Kit introduced him as Ima-Gun himself - and there was a table loaded with food off to one side.

“I think you two are the only new recruits here right now,” Kit said, after introducing a bunch of other guys in a flurry Cody didn’t really catch. “Get some food,” he added, before wandering off to sit on a deck chair, grabbing a beer and popping it open on the way.

Cody glanced at Ben, who shrugged, and they both ended up getting a plate. Being around a bunch of unknown people was familiar territory for Cody. He nodded at people while he ate, and took a beer without comment when someone pressed it into his hands. 

And he stuck a little close to Ben as the afternoon rolled out before them. Ben was the only person he knew - even if that familiarity only extended a few hours - and it was pleasant having a tiny bit of something familiar in a mess of the strange. 

Apparently, Ima-Gun had a heated pool. He also had the largest radio Cody had ever seen, set up on his porch. Ben ended up wandering over to it, as the afternoon started dragging its feet towards evening.  

Cody followed him, after a moment. He felt loose and relaxed - that had started sometime after his third beer - and suddenly being closer to Ben seemed like a good idea. He found Ben touching different dials with an amused expression. “Looking for a specific channel?” Cody asked him, and Ben glanced towards him with a grin.

“Not quite,” he said. He was somehow contriving to look like he was leaning against something though there was nothing to lean against, a beer bottle dangling from his long fingers and a flush across his cheeks. “Do you know, I think this is a karaoke machine?”

“What?” Cody asked, watching his mouth move. The words had mostly slid right past him.

“We should sing,” Ben said, instead of answering. 

Cody blinked at him. Ben looked a little cold. There was a chill in the air. He wondered if he ought to…fix that, somehow, shook his head, and said, “I don’t think anyone wants to sing.”

“I want to sing,” Ben told him, voice suddenly prim as he turned back to the machine. A second later he pushed something and the radio stopped in the middle of a song, drawing a chorus of protests from the rest of the guys out in the yard.

“Hold on a second!” Ben called over to them, pressing more buttons. “We’re going to sing,” he declared, grabbing a microphone off a little hook. “To build team spirit!”

Someone laughed. A few more people groaned. Ben ignored them all, swaying a little - the first sign Cody had seen that he was even affected by the beers he’d drank - and started pressing buttons. “I don’t know--”

Ben ignored him, too, as the first notes of a song started to play. He took the microphone, instead, and climbed over the small brick wall setting the porch off from the rest of the yard. There was more laughter as - around the yard - the guys recognized the song. 

“Everyone knows this, right?” Ben asked, swaying a little as Cody followed him over the wall. There were generalized calls of agreement, along with more laughter. Kit even pulled himself out of the pool as the first line started. 

And Cody stood there, a few steps away, as…most of the guys proceeded to sing along with the opening stanza of “Put Me in, Coach.” 

Ben turned a little as he sang, and Cody spotted his grin behind the microphone. He made eye contact with Cody, and Cody felt a jolt go down his spine right into his gut - lower - when Ben’s eyebrow bounced as he got to, “It’s a brown-eyed, handsome man.”

He lost track of the song, because there’d been something about Ben’s eyes when he said the words, something that left Cody’s head full of white noise and a tingle in his fingers. He was - distantly - aware that most of the guys cheered drunkenly when the song ended. 

The only person who didn’t seem to be enjoying themselves was one of the team’s other pitchers. Kit had introduced the tall, broad man as Krell, earlier, and said something about him biting. Neither one of them had smiled when he said it. 

Krell frowned; he was sitting close to the radio and leaned forward on his deck chair. He sneered, when the last notes faded away, “Hope you pitch better than you sing, kid.”

Ben glanced towards him, head tilting to the side just a little, something in his posture making Cody’s back teeth grind. Ben said, tone even, as silence fell around them, “I do alright.”

“Sure,” Krell snorted, with a roll of his eyes. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Ben turned fully to face Krell, his tone still oddly even as he said, “We can throw right now, if that’s what you want.” Someone whistled, close by; another guy laughed. Krell just narrowed his eyes and stood up - he was easily six inches taller than Ben, perhaps more, and broader than him - and then reached down to grab the glove and ball he’d apparently had by his chair.

Which was how they ended up going around the pool to where the backyard stretched to a distant fence. There was a picnic table out in the yard. Some of the guys pulled it over towards the fence, and Cody watched, feeling itchy, as they set up a few bottles.

Krell and Ben both knocked them down, hardly difficult, moving to smaller items, until some lady - Ima-Gun’s wife, apparently - came out and made them stop. Krell turned on his heel and left with a sneer, and Ben watched him go for a moment, eyes sharp.

And then he shook himself, looked back at Cody, and said, “You know, I think ‘Take Me Out to the Ballgame’ was also on there. Let’s go see how everyone else feels about that.”

Apparently, everyone else felt very good about that. Somehow, they ended up singing songs with increasingly tenuous ties to baseball until the sun went down and guys started wandering off. Ben insisted on helping clean up some of the mess, nursing another beer, and Cody…lingered as well.

He wasn’t sure why. He just had a buzzing feeling in his bones that he didn’t want to go. Not yet. 

Which was why he was still around when Kit strolled up to him and said, after gripping Cody’s chin and assessing his eyes, “Well, you’re not driving back. I’ll give you a lift tonight. We’ll come back for your car tomorrow.”

Cody winced, but didn’t argue. He only said, gesturing to one side, “What about Ben?”

“Oh, I definitely shouldn’t drive,” Ben put in, as he sprawled out onto one of the deck chairs, legs sprawled wide and-- taking another swallow of beer as though to make his point. “Maybe I can sleep out here?”

Kit made a pained sound and said, “No. Get up. I’ll take you home, too.”

“I’m not entirely sure where that is, at this point,” Ben said, looking utterly serious, and Kit groaned again. 

“Fine,” he said. “You can stay at ours tonight. There’s a couch. Now finish that off. I’m taking you both running first thing in the morning.”

#

Kit drove a late-model Mustang. 

Ben whistled at the sight of it - cherry red and all sleek, sharp lines. It was beautiful, even Cody could admit that, but it was also very small. Technically, it had a backseat, but it was full of gear. So, instead, they ended up crammed into the front.

“Cozy,” Ben rasped, after they piled into the bench seat. Cody ended up wedged into the middle; he couldn’t even complain. He was shorter than both of them by inches. Besides, he didn’t really feel the discomfort that he knew had to exist. 

He was pressed all up against Ben’s long, lean body, hard muscle stretched out against him, jostling each time they hit a pothole. There was so little space, and he felt Ben’s breath on the side of his face, sometimes, felt his warmth radiating outwards, could smell sweat and beer and mustard on him and--

Cody shifted, a little, aware of a certain tightening in his pants. He drew a knee up, ignoring Kit’s protesting curse. He didn’t know what was wrong with him. Probably a mix of exhaustion and the alcohol in his blood.

That was all. 

He held onto that thought, glancing towards Ben to find Ben already watching him, head tilted to the side, curious, bottom lip caught between his teeth. His pants got a little tighter, and he blinked, rapidly, turning to focus out the windshield. 

They made it back to the apartment without too much trouble, the trip a blur of smeared lights and nausea slowly growing in Cody’s gut. 

The cold night air was a relief when they stopped and Ben opened the door, stepping out. He stayed close to the door, and they brushed against each other when Cody climbed out, Ben steadying him with one strong, broad hand. 

Cody felt a jolt up his back and into his gut and further --

“You two sort out where you’re going to sleep,” Kit said, when they got inside. Cody had only the vaguest memories of getting up the stairs. He kept getting distracted trying to help Ben, who’d turned giggly since they got out of the car.

By the time Kit disappeared down the hall, Cody had one of Ben’s arms over his shoulders, Ben pressed so warm all against his side, still laughing a little under his breath. “My room is this way,” Cody said, or mostly thought he said, and they swayed towards it.

“It’s nice,” Ben said, when Cody shouldered them through the door. The bed was a twin. Cody considered that they were going to be a snug fit, vaguely recalling something about the couch, but--

“Hey, Cody?” Ben rasped, his voice low and thick and close to Cody’s ear. 

Cody felt that warmth in his gut get hotter, his heart doing something strange inside his chest, trying to beat like he was going to sprint, instead of standing in front of his bed. And, Jesus, his pants had gotten so tight. “Yeah?” he asked, trying to ignore…all that. 

He didn’t know what was wrong with him. But--

“It seems like you need some help,” Ben said, dragging Cody back to the present moment. 

“What?” Cody asked, and then Ben shifted, pushing him firmly towards the mattress. He hit awkwardly and ended up sitting heavily, the mattress bouncing a little under him. “I don’t--”

The rest of the words strangled in his throat, because Ben had knelt in front of him, right there on the shitty, off-white carpet. Some of his hair fell forward into his face, sticking a bit to his cheeks, and his eyes were bright, upturned.

Cody stared down at him, distantly thinking about how he should close his mouth, and Ben put a hand on his inner thigh, pushing his leg further to the side, asking, “You going to open your pants, or what?”

Cody should have pushed him away. He knew it. He should have shoved Ben back, shoved to his feet. Maybe thrown a punch, because--what the fuck did Ben think he was doing, Cody wasn’t--

“Or, I can,” Ben said, hand sliding up Cody’s inner thigh, long fingers popping open the button on Cody’s shorts. The sound of his zipper coming down seemed very loud in the room, especially because Cody seemed to have forgotten how to breathe.

Ben made a sound. Thick. Pleased. He wasn’t looking at Cody’s face anymore. Instead, he was looking down around waist level. He was watching himself tug Cody’s shorts open, and--

God, he’d gotten hard. But that was--only natural. That was normal. Anyone would get hard if someone else knelt between their legs and opened their pants. It didn’t mean he was--gay. He wasn’t gay. 

“Nice,” Ben said, and Cody should have stopped him from gripping --he should have explained that Ben had misunderstood, but-- Ben was tugging on his underwear, getting the waistband awkwardly under Cody’s balls - he lifted his hips, for some reason, helping it happen - and licking his lips. 

“What are you doing?” Cody asked, breathing fast and shallow, his shirt pushed a little up his stomach, his shorts still around his hips, his cock just--sticking out, because he was so fucking hard--

“Uh,” Ben said, wrinkling his nose a little as he - for some reason - rocked back on his heels and pulled out his wallet. “Blowing you? That's okay, right?” 

His cock twitched but it would, wouldn’t it? No matter who was sitting between his thighs saying something like that, it would, because--

He swore, breathless, when Ben took his open-mouthed panting and grunt as agreement, gripped him again, his foreskin had already--slid away, and then held him steady to--to roll a condom down over him. Cody blinked rapidly, hands braced back on the bed, looking at a condom on his dick. 

He’d never used one before. He’d never needed one before.

He’d been so focused on baseball during high school. He’d had a girlfriend or two, sure, but there’d been no time for anything like this, and none of them had ever offered, so of course he hadn’t been a pushy jerk, of course he hadn’t asked or spent time thinking about it or--

Ben leaned forward, the top of his head eclipsing Cody’s view of his dick. He cried out - the loud noise just pulled out of him - as hot wetness closed over him. 

One of his arms moved automatically. His fingers curled into Ben’s hair while his hips came up off the bed. Ben choked, loud, pulling off and turning his head to the side to cough. “Sorry,” Cody told him, dazedly processing the hot pressure he’d briefly felt around the head of his cock.

“It’s fine,” Ben rasped, waving a hand, looking up at him with shining eyes and reddened cheeks. Red lips. “Just - uh - just relax. Been awhile?”

“Yeah,” Cody said, because he honestly hadn’t had the energy to jerk off on the drive across country. 

“Well, we can fix that,” Ben said, and licked his lips, showy, before moving forward again. This time, Cody managed not to thrust up into his mouth. He kept his hips still, and Ben glanced up at him again, right through his eyelashes, sucking and bobbing his head while every thought fled Cody’s head.

He came with a muffled cry, biting his bottom lip hard to try to keep some of it inside. It was faster than he could remember going off in ages but the wet heat of Ben’s mouth was so much better than his hand, it didn’t even really compare. 

He felt dizzy from the force of it, pleasure radiating up through his body as Ben pulled off of him. He slumped down onto one elbow, breathing hard, tingling and shivering when Ben peeled the condom off of him in a movement that seemed practiced - oh, God, Ben was gay - and said, “Hold on, I’m gonna, uh, throw this away.”

“Sure,” Cody said, and then, staring dazedly up at the ceiling, “Uh, thank you.”

Ben snorted a laugh, the door shutting behind him, because Cody didn’t have a trashcan in this room yet. 

He hadn’t known he’d need one so quickly. He hadn’t thought that his - his new gay friend would want to blow him. Which was what had happened. Ben had just--wanted to do that. For some reason. And--

Cody had let him, but, honestly, who’d turn down--a blow job? Having finally experienced one, he could admit they were incredibly awesome. And it had seemed to make Ben happy. He’d seemed to like it, there’d been pleasure in his expression. 

So, really, Cody had just been being a good friend. 

That was all. Friends helped each other out. It didn’t mean anything about him. 

He felt relief pushing back against the tightness that had tried to close around his lungs and throat, enough to struggle out of his shorts and drop them over the side of the bed. He wiped at his dick with a corner of the sheet and then tucked himself away in his underwear.

And then he flopped onto his back and, after a beat’s hesitation, rolled onto his side. He was tired. Very tired. Coming had made him more exhausted. 

He stayed still when the door opened again, and heard Ben sigh after a moment. His heart beat faster when Ben climbed onto the bed. For a moment, he thought Ben might shake him, might ask Cody to return the favor; he’d have to explain, then, that Ben had made a mistake.

Cody wasn’t--

Like that.

He liked girls. He dated girls. He wasn’t gay, and for a moment he heard, clear as though he were in the room, his father sneering--

Another sound interrupted the sour memory. Lying beside him in the dark, Ben was--moving. Just a little, his elbow brushing across Cody’s back as he--stroked himself. He was lying there, jerking off.

Cody stared at the far wall, unable to blink, listening when he should have said something to make Ben stop, but then they’d have to--discuss that Cody wasn’t gay and he was too tired for that. That was all.

He lay there and listened, until Ben made a soft, grunting sound and then relaxed against the bed. He heard Ben wipe his hand on something, felt him shift around on the bed, and then that--was it. Cody closed his eyes and real sleep didn’t take long to come for him.

Chapter Text

Cody woke up and became aware of someone breathing beside him in the bed.

Ben. Because they’d shared a room last night, after meeting the team and having a few drinks. They’d fallen asleep beside each other, after--Ben got on his knees and sucked Cody’s cock. And then sprawled out and touched himself.

Cody swallowed, hard. He shouldn’t have let any of that happen. He should have thrown Ben out. But…

But he’d been tired. And a little drunk; he felt no traces of that this morning, just a little headache. And he hadn’t done anything humiliating. Ben had been the one on his knees, putting someone else’s cock in his mouth, and Cody’s dick gave a throb, deep and demanding, at that thought.

He’d woken up hard, but, hell, that happened all the time. That didn’t mean anything. It--

He sat up. Ben was still asleep, sort of curled towards Cody, the blanket caught over his hips. Cody wondered if he was naked under the blanket. He hadn’t seen Ben’s dick, just laid there, listening to Ben touch himself--

Cody rolled out of the bed carefully and let himself out of the room, grabbing some pants to pull on. It sounded like Kit was doing something out in the kitchen. Cody ignored it, ducking into the bathroom, instead. He splashed water on his face, and very carefully did not think about Ben or what a mouth felt like around his dick or anything else.

By the time he stepped out, his bedroom door was open and he could hear conversation from the kitchen. He found Ben and Kit leaning against the counter; Ben smiled over at him and for a moment his mind went empty.

He shoved that away and asked, clearing his throat, “You want some coffee, or something?”

“No, that’s alright,” Ben said, waving a glass of water in Cody’s direction. “Never liked the stuff. I don’t suppose you have tea?”

“I don’t think Cody has anything here yet,” Kit said, sounding amused. “But, no, I don’t have tea. Drink some orange juice. I’ll fix eggs this time, and then we’ll go get your vehicles.”

Cody felt his shoulders tighten as Kit fixed up the eggs, scrambling them per Ben’s request and making toast, too. He made a plate for everyone, and Cody poked at his, thinking he could have done a better job, if he’d had a chance.

He kept the thought to himself. His headache faded away as they ate. By the time they were finished, he felt better, Kit grumbling someone about wishing he were eighteen again. 

Cody’d worried that he wouldn’t know what to say to Ben. That he’d be too…disappointed or grossed out, realizing that despite Ben’s obvious skill on the field and the way they’d clicked, that Ben was. Well. Gay. 

But Ben started talking about plans for training with a cautious sideways look midway through the meal and just like that it was easy. By the time they headed out the door - Ben in clothes he borrowed from Kit - Cody almost wasn’t thinking about what had happened the previous night at all.

They ended up going for a run, all the way to Ima-Gun’s house. It was only a handful of miles, much closer than Cody had realized, and they were all in good condition. He’d kept up running after his last season ended. 

Ben and Kit fell into rhythm, easy as anything. Kit even ran backwards for a while - he’d forgone a shirt again - grinning the whole time and gesturing around at landmarks that apparently they’d missed the night before. Cody’s Jimmy was right where he’d left it, waiting patiently when he arrived, sweating but not breathing hard.

He hesitated beside Ben’s bike, not sure what to say, and Ben stuck a hand out - so he must have known Cody wasn’t gay, he wasn’t trying to give Cody a hug or--kiss him - and said, with a grin, “Until practice?”

“Until practice,” Cody said, taking his hand, because they were teammates and Ben was a nice guy, he really was. And it wasn’t like he was the first gay guy Cody had known. Just the first one who had ever sucked his cock.

His parents wouldn’t have approved. He could almost hear his mother advising him to love the sinner but hate the sin, his father’s voice, flat and sneering about denigrate-- 

They didn’t have to know. It wasn’t like Ben was telling anyone he was gay. Or acting gay. He acted just like a normal guy. Except for sucking Cody’s cock, which--

“Anything else you need to do around town?” Kit asked, dragging Cody’s attention away from Ben’s disappearing back. He blinked and managed to grunt out an answer. It seemed only fair to give Kit a ride back to the apartment and then it felt good to get into the too-small shower.

The water pressure kind of sucked and there was a stain of unknown origin spreading out through one corner of the little cubicle. The shower curtain itself smelled of mildew and, also, alcohol. But, on the plus side, he only had to share it with one other person, instead of six. 

He decided, standing under the hot water, that probably meant he could take a little longer than his standard in-and-out scrub down. Growing up with a lot of brothers and a limited amount of space taught you to do all kinds of things quickly.

He considered another of them as his thoughts slid - completely without his control - back to the previous night, to Ben on his knees, with his hot, perfect mouth. Cody’s cock twitched and filled quickly, and, well.

Cody bit his bottom lip as he gripped himself. His hand didn’t feel as good as Ben’s mouth had felt. He tried to push that thought aside, turning his face against his shoulder and shutting his eyes. Ben’s eyes had looked so bright, looking up at him, and his mouth had been soft and hot. And the fucking suction when he’d--

“Fuck,” Cody panted out, coming all over his fingers. The water washed it all away in seconds. He stood there another moment, wondering if he should worry about how easy that had been. He decided, turning off the water, that it was normal. No one else had sucked his cock, that was all.

If one of his girlfriends had done it, he’d have thought about them.

He dried off, and, to keep from thinking about it too much, went into town to buy groceries and basic supplies. He had plenty of experience stocking a house, after all. 

#

Cody’s mom called in the afternoon, and he felt oddly unsettled, talking to her. He realized halfway through the conversation that he was expecting her to just--know what Ben had done the night before.

Like she’d be able to hear in his voice that he’d made friends with a gay guy.

But she seemed unconcerned or unaware, even when Ben came up in conversation as he talked about the other guys he’d met. He listened to his brothers yell and make noise in the background, worse when she put him on speaker, and missed them with a deep ache in his gut.

“Dad around?” he asked, after the boys mostly ran off, and heard her sigh.

“He’s off at work,” she said, and Cody hummed. He’d tried his dad’s cell, earlier, but there’d been no answer. There usually wasn’t, if his dad was on base, or busy with some of the guys, or…whatever. 

Cody’d got used to it. His father might not have been there for his graduation, but he had been there for Cody’s final highschool game and he had been there for the draft. He tried to be there when it mattered, mom said, and….

Well, Cody had made sure to be there for his younger brother’s stuff, so someone always was, and that was just how it was. 

Besides, maybe it was for the best that his father wasn’t there to talk at the moment. If his mom found out he’d let some guy give him a blow job, she’d have probably prayed for him. Told him to think about what he’d done - God, he wasn’t having any problems there - properly regret it, and never do it again.

She’d probably ask if he’d found a church to go to on Sunday, yet.

If dad found out….

He shook that thought away and felt guilty for feeling relieved when the call ended. No one else seemed to notice what he’d let Ben do the night before, either. No one but him, and the memories came back that night when he went to sleep, when he slid a hand down and stroked his cock while remembering the wet heat of Ben’s mouth until he came again.

#

They started actually preparing for the season - which started in mere days - the next day. 

Cody was grateful for Kit, who knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing and when they were supposed to be doing it. He followed Kit over to the park and spent a few hours getting led around by a very finely dressed woman who said to call her Ms. Ti. 

He spent a large portion of the tour beside Ben. They just sort of drifted together; they were in complementary positions, after all, and he knew Ben better than anyone else on the team. 

After the tour - which ended in their locker room, far larger than anything Cody’d seen in high school, with little stalls for the showers and a cubby for each guy, his name on one of them - they were even released briefly onto the field. 

He walked a slow lap around it - he’d started doing that to get a feel for a new park years ago - and glanced, every now and then, towards the middle of the diamond, Ben lingering around the pitcher’s mound with the rest of the bullpen. 

He was going to be playing on this field in two days - on Friday - for the opening game of the opening series and--

It felt good to realize it, breathing in the crisp spring air, dirt rich and dark under his feet, the sky so blue overhead, the outfield wall rising to his right and the entire world spread out to his left. He carried the buoyant feeling in his chest off the field.

He ended up inviting Ben back to his apartment, again, when they got to the parking lot, offering to discuss his pitches, and Kit gave him a look that Cody couldn’t identify and said they were both helping with dinner, then.

They did. Well, in the end, Cody ended up herding both Ben and Kit out of the kitchen.

He’d learned to cook early. Mom generally did the cooking, but she’d been sick for a long time after his youngest brothers’ birth. Someone had needed to make sure his younger brothers all had food, and he’d been the oldest. 

He’d swallowed a lot of teasing about it over years - his dad had called Cody the daughter he’d never wanted, once, and the memory still made him feel prickling shame, hot on his face and in his gut - but the alternative had been letting everyone eat canned ravioli or cereal every night. 

Cody ignored those memories, boiling some pasta, making a quick sauce for the spaghetti, and - at least - setting Ben to chopping up stuff for a salad. He waited, after they got everything plated up and all of them settled on the couches, for the teasing to start.

Instead, Ben made a delighted, happy noise after taking his first bite and said, “Oh, God, this is so good.”

“Mm,” Kit echoed from beside him, swirling his fork through more noodles. “Can’t believe I lucked out this year with a roomie who can cook.” 

Cody tapped his fork on the side of his plate, not sure what to say to that, and just focused on eating. And, when the food was done, Ben and Kit cleaned up, insisting that he rest since he’d cooked, and Kit disappeared, eventually, out the door, saying, “Don’t wait up. I’ve got plans for the night. You two be good, now, you hear me?”

Cody felt his hands get suddenly sweaty as soon as the door closed. Ben stepped out of the kitchen, still drying his hands, his sleeves rolled up and his hair just brushing his shoulders. It was strange, how all of a sudden Cody’s head felt empty of thoughts. 

“So,” Ben said, leaning his hip on the doorway and throwing the dish towel over one shoulder, “what do you want to get up to?”

“Uh,” Cody said, resolutely ignoring the way his cock twitched in his pants. “We said we were going to talk pitches.” He could still focus on that, at least. It was automatic. Even if he also couldn’t help thinking about what had happened last time they’d been together. And alone.

He wondered if Ben wanted to do that again.

Or, maybe, it had just been because Ben was drunk. 

He couldn’t ask any questions about it. Even the thought of trying made his throat feel tighter. Instead, he said, without even thinking, “You want to go to my room?”

Something shifted in Ben’s expression. His mouth curved up in one corner and his eyes darkened. He dipped his chin a little when he said, “Yeah, Cody. We can go to your room.”

There was a tone in his voice that made shivers race up Cody’s spine and his stomach turn oddly. Not in a bad way. Just… In a way that made him hyper aware of his skin as they walked down the hall and into his room. 

His bed set there - made with military corners - and only a few days ago, he’d been on that bed and Ben had been kneeling between his legs and--

Ben shut the door with a quiet click. Cody wondered if Ben--wanted to do what he’d done before. Not that Cody wanted him to, of course. But, if Ben did….

Cody had no real idea what had made it happen last time. He’d just sat down on his bed. With a prickling feeling up the back of his spine, he turned around and sat down, very aware of his cock in his pants. 

He glanced over at the door to find Ben watching him, head cocked to the side. “We could relax a little,” Ben said, stepping closer to the bed, “before we discuss how I handle balls?”

Cody snorted out a laugh, Ben grinning at him, and then he was sinking to his knees again - oh, God - and tossing his hair back with his hands warm on Cody’s thighs. “You don’t have to,” Cody blurted out, ignoring the way his cock was already straining against the zipper of his pants. 

“I want to,” Ben told him, and Cody heard himself make a low sound and - and he’d heard his dad say once that anyone who turned down a blowjob was a fucking idiot who’d probably forget to breathe, next. 

And so he said, “Okay,” and groaned when Ben pulled his pants open, drew his cock out and slid a condom down over him. 

He wasn’t drunk this time. He was stone-cold sober, sitting with the lights on in his new room, watching Ben lick over the head of his cock with a little smile on his mouth. Cody probably should have looked up at the ceiling or closed his eyes, imagined someone else doing this for him.

But he couldn’t look away, breath coming faster and harsher as Ben bobbed and sucked and--

He lasted longer, but in the end he spilled into the condom, and Ben pulled away, licking his mouth with such a pleased look on his face that Cody could barely process it.

It distracted him from figuring out exactly how he should handle the situation, now. It had been nice, of course, but he didn’t want Ben to think he was going to--well. He wasn’t getting on his knees for anyone, especially not a man, and--

Cody, in a burst of something adjacent to inspiration, peeled the condom off his own cock, and said, “I’ll--throw this away,” and lurched to his feet. He had a trash can in his room, after his shopping the day before, but ignored it and stumbled out into the hall. 

He ended up in the bathroom, tying the condom off and throwing it into the trash, staring down at the incriminating piece of used rubber with a weird feeling in his chest. The air felt cold on his dick, because, well, there was still come smeared on him.

He swallowed heavily and wiped himself off with a damp rag, sensitive still from orgasm, and then carefully peeked out of the door. He saw no sign that Kit had returned, but there were…familiar sounds coming from the bedroom, rapid breath and the movement of skin on skin. He shivered and grabbed a towel, wrapping it around his hips. 

He eased out of the bathroom, only glancing - just for a second! - into the bedroom, to find Ben still on the floor, leaned forward to rest his forehead on the bed where Cody had been sitting, his back a bow as his arm moved in familiar rises and falls.

Ben was jerking himself off. By Cody’s bed. After sucking him off.

It was--

Cody exhaled shakily, his head swimming, hands twitching at his sides, and walked down the hall. He got himself a glass of water and drank the whole thing standing at the sink, staring forward at nothing.

Then he got another cup, filled that up, too, and carried it back to the bedroom. Condoms couldn’t taste good, he figured. Rubber and lube weren’t known for their pleasing flavors. He walked slowly back, and by the time he reached the door, Ben was wiping his hands off on a towel Cody had left hanging out of the laundry basket the previous day, still on the floor, leaning against the side of the bed. 

“Uh, here,” Cody said, and offered out the water.

“Thanks,” Ben rasped out, oh, God, his voice sounded scratchy because he’d--

He took the water with a smile and a brush of his fingers across Cody’s. Cody nodded, heart fluttering in his chest as he watched Ben take a big swallow. He looked hastily to the side when his cock - for some reason - gave a little jerk under the towel.

Cody had to refocus. “Do you still want to talk pitches?” he asked, desperately, and Ben gave a single thick chuckle. 

“Yeah,” he said, downing the rest of the water, “let's do that.” 

#

He and Ben met up each day before the first game of the season. 

The first time, Ben got his mouth on Cody again. After, Cody ducked out of the room to clean up, and then called Ben out to the kitchen to eat some dinner. Ben looked at him oddly, head tilted to the side, when he came out of the room, before sitting down to eat. 

They moved over to the couch, after, Ben looking through Kit’s movies for a bit, before they ended up sprawled on the couch. They were halfway through some movie Cody wasn’t following when Ben asked, fingertips just barely brushing Cody’s cheek, “What happened here?”

“Oh,” Cody said, smothering a preemptive wince. Everyone asked about the scar around his eye sooner or later. In fact, he was shocked Ben had waited a few days to broach the subject. He knew how big it was, how noticeable. He shifted around, ignoring the shiver caused by Ben’s touch, and said, “I, uh. Fell out of a tree a few years ago.” He’d been twelve and it had been burning hot outside and--

“You fell out of a tree,” Ben said, tone disbelieving, and Cody turned to shrug weakly at him. 

“And directly onto the windshield of a rusted out car, yeah,” he said, and watched Ben wince. 

Rex, Boil, and Waxer had been up in the tree with him. Bly had been below them, too little and begging them to help him up. Cody’d been shifting down, planning to give him a hand up, when the branch supporting his weight gave.

They’d helped him back to the house, Rex supporting most of his weight, Bly sobbing.

Dad had been out back, drinking with some of the guys. He’d told them all to calm the fuck down, when they stumbled in, pulled away Rex’s shirt pressed to the side of Cody’s face, told him to stop acting like a little girl, what was he, gay, a little--

Cody blinked the memories away. Stitches probably would have closed the wound up more neatly. Made the scar less obvious. Mom had wanted to take him to the hospital, but dad had said it would toughen him up and teach him to be more careful.

“Hey,” Ben said, quietly, hand settling on Cody’s shoulder. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” he said, blinking again, shaking his head a little. “You want to go do something else?”

And Ben had, apparently, agreeing to go walk through town, see if they could find something interesting to do.

The second time they met up, they ended up pressed close together on the couch, watching soccer - which Ben primly called football - and eating pizza, pressed all close together. 

At some point, Ben put a hand on Cody’s leg, and Cody got hard just from that, spreading his thighs just a little because, hey, if Ben wanted to….

And that was how he got his first handjob, making himself keep watching the game while Ben’s warm fingers curled around him, stroking him from root to tip, Ben curled sideways against him, his breath so hot against Cody’s cheek and throat. 

Cody only broke and looked down at the end, when he came, watching his cock splurt, watching come run down all over Ben’s long, infinitely clever fingers. 

He heard himself make a little sound - not a whimper, of course - when Ben pulled his hand away, unable to look away as Ben lifted it. He stopped breathing when Ben brought his fingers to his mouth, tongue peeking out before he froze, nose wrinkling with a frown.

“What’s wrong?” Cody asked, wondering if he’d come too much or too little or if it were the wrong color or--

“Nothing,” Ben said, standing up and turning towards the kitchen. “Just thinking that if we both got tested, I wouldn’t have to just wash it off.”

Cody stared after him, pulse beating hard against his ears and banginng at his ribs. “Tested,” he said, stomach doing something strange as he pictured what Ben might do instead, it was terribly easy to picture him licking the mess off his fingers, which should have been….

Humiliating. For Ben. Licking up someone else’s come off his own skin. Who’d want to do something like that, certainly not--

“Yeah,” Ben said, the sink running in the kitchen. “You know. For STIs? Actually, it’d save us money on condoms, too. Unless you’re, you know, having sex with other people, too. Or planning to.”

He said the last after he knocked the water off, leaning against the counter and looking over at the couch, one eyebrow popping up. 

Cody felt the same way he had when his father had decided to teach him to swim in the community pool down the street when he was five, tossed into deep water with no clear idea what to do except try to strike out for a distant shore. 

He, suddenly, didn’t want to say that he doubted he needed a test, since he’d never had sex with anyone before. The handful of girlfriends he’d had in highschool had never offered and he’d certainly never asked and--

“I’m not,” he said, instead, because that seemed directly relevant to the present conversation. He added, thoughts still moving in unhelpful jerking lurches, “Having sex with anyone else.”

They weren’t actually having sex, either. Ben just wanted to do things sometime, and Cody was trying to be a good friend. 

“Cool,” Ben said, finished drying his hands and tossing the rag to the side. “Me, either. You want to get tested so I can swallow?”

Cody’s lungs tried to stop working again. He fought them and managed to say, his voice only cracking a little, “Sure. Yeah. That’s, sure.” He blinked, looking away from Ben’s expression and certainly not glancing down towards his waist. “Uh, the game is going to be back on in a second.”

“Alright,” Ben said, and sat down beside him again on the couch. Cody felt hot and tingly all over, very aware of Ben’s closeness, especially because he squirmed around at first. Cody nudged him, after a while, and he sighed, but settled.

They watched the rest of the game without further incident and, the next day, Cody set up an appointment at some health clinic in town and went in to get his blood drawn, hands cold and heart racing the whole time. 

#

Opening day came in a flustering rush. Rex - his next oldest sibling - called him around nine, no doubt just waking up on the West Coast. 

He was still in school, had another month and a half before graduation, applications in for all the colleges he was thinking about trying to get into. He’d be the first person in their family to go to school, to get a degree.

Cody felt weird about that if he left himself think about it too long, so he generally didn’t. “How’s it going, man?” Rex asked, when Cody answered his phone. They’d been texting, here and there, but it felt good to hear one of his brothers’ voices again. “You been busy?”

“Yeah,” Cody said, not a lie at all. “Always. How are things at home?”

Things at home seemed the same as ever. The oldest twins had gotten into another fight at school. Boba was intent on tormenting everyone else in the house and getting away with it, because their youngest brother - born only two minutes after Omen - always did. Dad didn’t like that Rex was thinking about going out of state for college, mom was worried about another son leaving home….

“She told me to ask why she hadn’t gotten any pictures of a new girlfriend yet,” Rex said, eventually, and Cody flinched.

“No time for anything like that,” Cody said, which was very true. He had no time for dating, for taking someone out and getting to know them, or bringing them back to the apartment for a quiet night. 

He felt grateful when Rex just let the subject drop. “Wish I could be there today, man,” Rex said, instead, and Cody hummed agreement. It would have been nice to have someone from his family there, but getting across country….

Well. It wasn’t practical. He got through the rest of the conversation on autopilot, hung up, and screwed around in the apartment for a while. They weren’t supposed to show up at the stadium until two. Cody got there around one, too flustered to sit at the little apartment any longer. 

He walked the field and did some stretches, listening to people move around in the back offices, watching venders slowly start streaming in to get their stands set up for the game. He felt a little spark of relief when Ben pushed through the doors to the locker room, where Cody had been lingering, feeling jumpy and on-edge, even though he wasn’t scheduled to play in the game.

The team had kept one catcher from the previous season, and he got to have the first game. Cody would catch tomorrow, for the second game in the series, getting his first try in front of professional crowd and--

“Hey,” Ben said, dropping his bag and nudging Cody’s shoulder, “you doing okay?”

Cody nodded, drawing in a breath to settle himself. He said, setting aside the nerves in his gut, “Yeah. You want to throw a few?”

Tossing a ball back and forth made him feel better, got him in the right frame of mind, and took his thoughts off of the steadily ticking clock. And then there was batting practice, and a speech from Mace that Cody barely heard, and putting on the last of his gear, just in case something went wrong with the other catcher and Cody needed to get into the game. 

Ben didn’t open; the team had six other pitchers. Some of the older pitchers had bumped up in the off-season. Some of them had washed out or quit, decided after a year or two kicking around the minors that it really wasn’t what they wanted or that they actually weren’t as good as they’d thought in high school. 

Mace pulled the starting pitcher - Krell - after three innings. He’d done an alright job, but the other team had still put up two runs. Mace put in another guy, who fell apart and racked up another four runs in two innings.

The only saving grace for the ache in Cody’s stomach was that they were getting just as many off the other team. And that he barely saw it, because Mace ordered Ben over to the bullpen to warm up at the beginning of the fourth, and Cody went with him to help.

No one stopped him and he wasn’t actively playing, so…

Ben looked good, fluid and smooth in a way that made something inside Cody’s chest ache. He looked ready, and it wasn’t much of a surprise when Mace put him in at the top of the seventh. 

Cody stood up in his position off to one side, leaning against a chain link fence and watching Ben walk out to the mound, resplendent in their white and gold uniform. The lights clicked on behind him as he came out to the mound, bathing him in a warm glow, casting his shadow in so many versions around the mound.

Ben scuffed a foot across the top of the mound and just stood there for a moment, Cody could see how wide his eyes were from a distance. And then he tipped his chin down a little, tugged on the end of his hat, and shifted into position.

He threw a fastball to start, smooth and easy as anything, the echoing sound of the ball hitting the catcher’s mitt such sweet music. Cody exhaled, relaxing against the fence as the ump called a strike.

Cody didn’t blink for the first batter, or the second, and Ben was grinning a little, by then, the curve of his mouth drenched in satisfaction. He closed out the inning with a curve and got a pat on his shoulder from Mace on his way back into the dug-out, eyes shining and a flush on his cheeks that made Cody--

Look to the side and swallow, uncomfortable about the warmth in his chest.

They wrapped up the game in the following innings, snagging one run for their team while Ben shut down the other batters. Mace called them all into the locker room, after, to talk about the game, congratulate them, encourage them to keep it up, but Cody barely heard the words. 

“See you again tomorrow,” Mace told them, when he finished, with a shake of his head that felt fond and then they were released.

Ben bumped into him, still grinning wildly, and Cody said, “You looked great out there.”

Ben laughed, all joy all at once, squeezed his shoulder, and said, beaming, “Let’s shower, come on, and then, I don’t know, celebrate?”

#

Celebrating turned out to be going back to Ben’s apartment. Cody’d never been there before. It was only a few minutes away from his place; probably faster to jog it with all the stoplights in the way, in an older brick building and up three flights of stairs.

“I’m staying with Quin,” Ben said, fumbling his keys out of a pocket as they reached the door. “He plays shortstop, I don’t know if you met him.”

“Not yet,” Cody said, feeling warm even after walking through the cold night air with his hair wet. He’d rushed getting dried off after his shower.

“Well, I doubt you will tonight, he’s usually out late.” Ben pulled the door open and waved him in and it was, really, both alike and different from Cody’s place. It was a little smaller, maybe, but with a nicer kitchen.

The building was older, with radiators along the wall for heating, and high ceilings with delicately carved wood trim around the edges and surrounding the doors. “Here,” Ben said, ducking into the kitchen while Cody stood there, breathing and wondering how they were going to celebrate, “cheers.”

And Ben offered him out a bottle of beer - cold - and he took it, twisting the cap off absently and taking a long swallow that he didn’t really taste. “What was it like?” he asked, and Ben laughed again, like the sound was just bubbling up out of him, filling him up until he had to let it escape into the world. 

Cody felt dazed looking at him, his hair darker from the shower, hanging all around his face as he said, “It was amazing. God, I can’t--” He shook his head, took a swallow of the beer and gazed towards the ceiling, expression shining. “You’ll see tomorrow.”

“Yeah,” Cody said, not thinking about tomorrow at all, not standing there by Ben’s kitchen, tingling with wondering how they were going to celebrate. He gulped down another swallow. “You looked really good out there.”

“Sweet talker,” Ben said, with another grin, throwing an arm across his shoulders, heat radiating out of him, not, apparently, to try to move Cody anywhere. They just kind of…leaned together. Close. Cody couldn’t decide what to do with his free hand, hovering near Ben’s hip. 

“Hello, there,” Ben said, quieter, and damn if his eyes weren’t dangerously blue this close. He’d slouched, putting them nearly of a height with one another, and something about it--made Cody’s breath hitch, made his gut warm and his cock twitch in his pants. 

Just because he was getting used to Ben getting him off.

That was all.

“I’m serious,” he said, his voice rougher than he’d thought it’d be, “that sinker of yours is real nice.”

Ben grinned, wild, and said, “My sinker, huh?” while leaning forward, and Cody blinked, something jolting all the way down his back. He looked to the side, hurriedly, feeling Ben’s breath puff over his cheek, and raised the beer bottle, taking a huge swallow.

He felt Ben tense for a moment and then relax, squeezing his arm around Cody’s shoulders for just a moment and tugging him a bit into the living room. “You want to play something?” he asked, moving them away from that strange, tense moment. “Or watch a movie?”

Cody exhaled, nerves fading as they ended up sinking down onto the couch, Ben grabbing a remote. “Uh,” he said, “we can play something?”

Which was how he ended up demolishing Ben on Bly’s favorite racing game, destroying him on track after track while Ben swore and shoved at him a little, laughing at the same time, until they were pressed all together. 

Ben warmed up some little pizza bite things in the oven at some point and they ate the entire pack with another beer, switching to some movie that happened to catch Ben’s attention while they were scrolling through options. 

And by the time Cody realized he was tired enough that he should have headed home, he was already halfway asleep.

Chapter Text

Cody woke up the next morning to the click of a phone camera. He blinked, disoriented, because he definitely wasn’t in his bed. He wasn’t even in a bed. 

He was, in fact, still on Ben’s couch, sprawled sideways, his head cocked oddly against the lumpy arm of the furniture. One of his legs hung off the side. The other felt pinned and squished. So did most of his body.

He frowned up at the ceiling, registering warm weight across his chest and hips and a tickle of hair by his jaw that smelled a lot like Ben’s shampoo. He also registered, only a little belatedly, soft - almost smothered - snickering laughter.

He turned his head to the side, towards the source of it, and a guy he’d seen on the field - it had to be Quin - said, “Morning, sunshine. You must be Cody.” He was tall and solidly built, with thick dreads and warm, dark eyes. And he was holding his phone. 

“What are you doing?” Cody asked, waking up more by the moment. They must have fallen asleep before the movie went off and gravity had done its work. 

“Capturing the moment,” Quin said, even as Ben started to stir against Cody, mumbling something and then coming awake all at once. He sat up smoothly, his shirt wrinkled and creased, pulled up a bit on one side, hair all tangled.

Something about him drew Cody’s attention, but a sharper alarm in Cody’s veins pressed that aside. “You took a picture of us?” Cody asked, all vestiges of sleep destroyed by an acid ache in his gut. 

“Yeah,” Quin said, looking down at his phone, doing something with both hands. “How else would anyone else believe me about you two conking out like little puppies--”

“Fuck you. Delete it,” the words were just out of Cody’s mouth before he thought them, sharp and hard-edged. He twisted out from under Ben’s legs and lurched to his feet, because--because, well. Friends fell asleep on each other. Obviously. He’d fallen asleep beside his brothers, even, too many times to count, but Ben had been lying on top of him and what if Quin put it on Twitter or something, what it his parents --

“Relax,” Quin said, angling his shoulders away from Cody, “It’ll be good for morale, you’ll--”

“Quin,” Ben said, quiet, on his feet, too. Cody looked back at him, unsure if he’d be getting help from that corner, and found Ben watching him with a sleepy, worried expression. It made him feel squirmy inside. “Just let it go, come on. Cody can take a picture of me sprawled on you if you want the likes.”

“Ugh,” Quin said, with a roll of his eyes in Cody’s direction. “You two are no fun. There, deleted, see?” And he tossed the phone to Ben before heading into the kitchen. 

Cody sagged, the adrenaline that had burned through him easing off and leaving him with a racing heart. He sat back down onto the couch - still warm from their bodies - and tilted his head against the back of it. He still felt warm from Ben’s body, still smelled his shampoo. 

“Hey,” Ben said, soft, sitting beside him, sideways, dropping his forehead onto Cody’s shoulder. “You okay?”

“Yeah,” Cody said, because he was fine. He’d overreacted, anyway. For a beat - a solid four words - he’d sounded just like--

But there was nothing wrong with sleeping beside a friend. Even one who had -- tried to kiss him last night. Who sometimes sucked his cock or jerked him off. 

No one would know those things just from looking at a photo. But what if they did, he wondered, with an ache in his gut. What if they could tell some of it, and instead didn’t know that it was just Ben, that Cody didn’t do those things, he wasn’t like that, wasn’t--

“I could make some eggs for breakfast?” Ben said, and Cody swallowed hard. It was fine, anyway. Quin had deleted the picture. “And a smoothie,” Ben added, and Cody nodded, and the morning moved on, though Quin gave him unimpressed looks until he left the apartment.

#

Cody got to play that day.

He tingled all over, pulling at his pads after they got to the field, after he did some warm-up stretches and a little batting practice. He slid his hand into his glove - it fit like a second skin - and grinned helplessly, heart so full when the announcer said his name over the loudspeaker.

His first professional game and he wished his family could have been there - at least some of them - but they’d talked earlier, gave him all their best wishes. And, anyway, he was used to playing games on his own.

Their absence could not undo the giddy joy in his chest when he settled behind the plate, especially because Mace had set Ben up as starting pitcher. Things worked a little differently in minor league ball than either in high school or the Majors.

Pitchers often rotated out automatically, playing a few innings and then giving someone else a chance to get in some reps, regardless of how well they were doing. It gave teams a chance to develop multiple pitchers at once, seeing who had it in them to go to the big show. 

Cody had already practiced with Ben out of games; they’d spent plenty of time discussing his pitches and signs and--all the little pieces that made a game run smoothly. None of that quite prepared Cody for watching him from behind the plate, giving Ben a signal and watching him nod.

God, he really did throw like a dream. 

Cody caught the first strike with a jolt that went from his palm, up his arm, and down his spine. Across the field, Ben’s mouth twitched, the way it did when he knew he’d thrown a good pitch, a little curl that Cody already knew opposing batters were going to hate.

Especially because none of them got a hit on Ben. Not in any of the three innings he pitched before they swapped him out for Krell, the big pitcher lumbering out to the plate with an unimpressed look in Ben’s direction.

Cody didn’t get the same synergistic hum catching Krell’s pitches - or the throws from the pitcher who closed the game, which ended up being a loss for them - but he did his job well, flowing with each pitch, each throw, each crack of the bat over his head. 

After the game, Ben insisted on dragging him to the 24-hour gas station behind Cody’s apartment to get celebratory milkshakes, despite the fact that they’d lost. “It was still your first game,” he said, pressing the freezing cup into Cody’s hands.

And they ended up eating them in the living room, with Kit and three of the other guys who’d come over to hang out after the game, all of them talking at once as they went over what had happened and teased and laughed.

It was almost - but not quite - exactly like being home.

After they all left - Ben slipping out last with a jaunty wave, whistling as he walked down the stairs - Cody curled up on his bed and finally pulled out his phone. He had messages from Rex, Boil, Waxer, and Bly. A handful from mom. One from his father, asking if they won or lost.

He exhaled, rolled onto his other side, and answered all of them.

#

They played their Sunday game early, the last one in the series with the Clankers.

Cody sat in pieces of his gear - just in case they needed to swap him in - and watched the game. He looked over the crowd - they had more people today than they had on Friday or Saturday - and the stands still weren’t full, but--people had paid money to come watch them play.

It still felt dream-like, sitting there listening to music blare out over the field, grinning a little when the billboard coaxed the crowd into little chants. Ben ended up pitching second, textbook perfect form and--

And they won, which was what mattered, really, far more than the way Ben followed through on a pitch. 

After the game, half the guys decided they wanted to go to some putt-putt golf place in town that had just opened up for the season. Cody wasn’t sure exactly how he ended up going along, but he didn’t know anyone else in town, and Ben went, too.

They made their way through the zoo-themed course, an entire mass of them drawing looks from families with young children or wandering packs of teenagers. Ben played like he pitched, with focused intensity and a little smile on his mouth when he did well. 

He liked to twirl his club around when they walked from one hole to the next, spinning it absently in a way that seemed like it should have knocked something but never did. He was…distracting. Especially the way he bent over when lining up a shot and--

Cody beat him, anyway, tracking their scores - along with Kit’s and Quin’s, who fit onto their scorecard - without comment throughout the course. Ben laughed when they got to the end, knocking their balls into the final tube that returned them to the front desk, and said, “You didn’t say you were a pro, Cody.”

“I’ve got lots of brothers,” he said, with a shrug. There’d been seven of them altogether, and the winner always got an ice-cream sandwich after a game, when they went out as a family, and, sometimes, a ‘good job’ if they scored low enough.

Kit whistled and said, “Unfair advantage, man, we have to go through again, but this time you get a handicap.”

He shrugged in agreement. He’d always had…something of a competitive streak. 

It was more of a challenge, beating them that second time, but, honestly, Rex was better than they were, and Cody still beat him at least half the time. Quin grumbled something about cheating when they finished their second game, and Ben shoved him, telling him to stop being a sore loser while they ambled inside.

The interior held a little arcade and - like nearly every putt-putt place Cody’d ever been to - a little cooler holding ice-cream sandwiches. He grabbed one for himself automatically and then - as he’d done since he was old enough to have a job of his own - one for everyone else who’d played. 

“Magnanimous in victory,” Ben said, grinning when he took the sandwich and unfolded the wrap. 

Cody shrugged, enjoying the cold sweetness of his own as they all lingered in the parking lot, eating their treats as the sun sank over the horizon. He ended up inviting Ben back to his apartment - Kit didn’t join them, apparently he had somewhere else to be - and it felt easy to tell Ben to make himself comfortable while he took a quick shower.

He considered, standing under the hot water, that it’d be easy to jerk off quickly. He’d been half-hard since he watched Ben lick some melted ice-cream off his fingers in the parking lot, which was natural, with how much Ben had sucked his cock and--

In the end, he decided not to. Ben might--want to do that, after all. And if he wanted to, Cody wanted to be--a good friend.

He wrapped a towel around his hips when he finished and found Ben in his room. Ben was sitting on the edge of the bed, legs stretched out, scrolling through his phone. He looked up and grinned when Cody stepped through the door, eyes darkening as his gaze dragged up and down Cody’s body.

It flooded a rush of heat into Cody’s stomach, and why--why shouldn’t it? Ben liked men and thought he was attractive, nothing wrong with being proud that he could turn a gay guy on even though he was straight--

“How about,” Ben said, rising off of the bed and crossing to him as Cody shut the door and--locked it. “We properly celebrate your putt-putt victories?”

“You did good, too,” Cody said, heart speeding up, cock filling and straining the knot he’d tied in his towel when Ben stopped in front of him, grinning and dragging his gaze down again, eyebrow bouncing up as he reached the towel. Cody’s voice came out hoarse when he added, inane, “Really well, I mean.”

“Let me show you something else I can do ‘really well’,” Ben said, voice a purr that went right through Cody, nudging him so he was leaning against the wall and going to his knees and--

And thank fuck Ben hadn’t tried for another kiss. He must have--realized how badly he’d misread that situation, realized Cody wasn’t--gay, which meant Cody didn’t have to embarrass Ben by telling him about it, he could just--

“My roommate,” Cody said, not as vigorous a complaint as it should have been as Ben tugged on the towel. It clung to his cock for a single heartbeat before puddling down onto the floor, leaving him naked. “Kit--”

“He won’t be back, remember?” Ben told him, glancing up with a grin, pulling out a condom. Then he sobered, a bit, and said, “But if you don’t want to…?”

“No,” Cody said, blinking rapidly, because if this was what Ben wanted to do… “That's-- Go ahead.”

Ben grinned at him, again, and Cody swore when Ben rolled the condom over him and gave over any remaining protests. And it really was very nice. Ben did some kind of impossible thing, swallowing around him, and Cody didn’t know how Ben was breathing but, God, it felt so good, so amazing. 

Good enough that he almost didn’t notice, right away, when Ben slid a hand off his hips, almost missed the sound of Ben’s zipper opening. He groaned, tipping his head up and closing his eyes, biting his bottom lip as Ben sucked him and - and stroked himself and--

Ben liked doing this so much, liked having a cock in his mouth - in his throat - liked letting someone else use him, liked it so much he was touching himself, getting off on it, and--and Cody felt it when Ben moaned around him, looking down again to watch Ben tremble because he’d come like that.

Cody’s hands twitched. He kept one pressed to the wall, raising his other to his mouth, teeth set against knuckles as he moaned and came. 

Ben pulled off of him after a moment, turning to the side and coughing, his cheeks hectic, his eyelashes clumped together and wet, his mouth so slick and red. His pants were open, and his messy hand rested against one of his thighs, come all over his fingers.

Cody felt his own cock give another twitch and he bit back a groan, reaching for the condom to get it off and distract himself, asking, “Are--are you okay?”

“Yeah,” Ben said, coughing a little again and looking up at him through shining eyes and wet eyelashes, a pleased smile on his mouth. “Congrats on your win.”

Cody shivered down his back. “I’ll get you a rag,” he said, feeling--wild under his skin. “And some water.”

#

They had barely forty-eight hours off before their next game, which happened to not even be in town. 

The office sent out emails about it, including a request form for sharing rooms; the team didn’t have the kind of money to give each of them their own space for two nights. Cody barely even hesitated before sending in a request to bunk with Ben.

He’d rather not get stuck with someone he barely knew, and, while he liked living with Kit, they could probably use some time without seeing each other’s faces. 

They loaded up into the team’s old bus and drove for nearly four hours on Tuesday to get to the opposing team’s field. They ended up winning, ended up back at an old motel; it was two stories tall, all the rooms outwards facing, with lines on the parking lot so faded they were barely visible.

He and Ben had a room close to both the stairs and an icemaker, two queen-sized beds inside with a creaking AC unit in the window and rust stains all over the sink in the bathroom. Ben dropped his gear onto the closest bed and stretched his arms high, his shirt riding up and showing an expanse of skin on his lower back that Cody didn’t mean to look at.

He was still looking when Ben turned, and Ben grinned at him, and that was how Cody got blown in the hotel room, standing in front of the dark television, glancing towards it every now and then because it reflected the way his cock slid into Ben’s mouth, the wet and shiny condom and the expression on Ben’s face, blissful and flushed and--

Ben didn’t manage to come before Cody did, though he was stroking himself while he worked. Cody simply couldn’t hold back his orgasm, and Ben moaned, after, when he let Cody’s cock slide out of his mouth. 

He didn’t rise or stop stroking himself, just shifted a little, so his forehead rested against Cody’s hip. 

Cody probably--should have stepped back. Left him to it. But that felt shitty, it wasn’t like Ben was expecting him to help, just keeping himself steady. Cody carefully removed the condom, tied it off, and tossed it into the trash can on the other side of the television, listening to the wet sound of Ben’s hand and his hitching, sharp breaths.

He was rubbing his forehead a little, back and forth, on Cody’s skin, almost agitated and… Cody put a hand on his hair without thinking, in a little daze after his orgasm, and Ben moaned. There was--nothing wrong with touching someone’s hair, not even another guy, Cody’d held back hair for more than one teammate who drank way too much, after all, and it was--was kind of the same thing when he stroked a touch over Ben’s hair, so silky under his fingers and palm. 

Ben groaned, nuzzling sideways, his breath panting out against Cody’s spent cock - an amazing feeling, especially without a condom - which gave a hopeful twitch. Cody’s fingers curled, automatic, in Ben’s hair, and Ben made a sweet, hitching sound and came. 

“Wish our test results had come back,” Ben panted out, after a moment, still leaning his weight against Cody. “I’d blow you again right now.”

“I’ve got another condom,” Cody said, words just bursting out, and Ben laughed, looking up at him with sparkling eyes.

“Give it here, then,” he said, and Cody fumbled for the little foil pack - he’d bought them himself for the first time, because--because maybe he’d meet a girl, there were always girls around - tearing it open, and it felt easier to leave his hand in Ben’s hair than to take it out. Ben seemed to like it, anyway, and Cody didn’t--didn’t pull on him or anything like that. 

By the time Ben finished, Cody felt ready to pass out, stumbling over to the far bed with a murmured, “Thank you,” that made Ben laugh again, getting up to go wash his hands in the bathroom, probably to brush his teeth, to get rid of the rubber and lube taste of a condom.

Cody was asleep before he came out.

#

They won their second game against the opposing team, too. But the third - and last - game in the series they lost. Cody caught the entire game - Ben didn’t pitch at all - and they got soundly trounced. 

Cody had always hated road losses; there was something especially disheartening about getting beat and then having to get back into a bus to drive home, unable to get away from the oppressive weight of the loss, just sitting there with twenty-some other guys who’d also lost.

He’d grabbed the seat beside Ben on the way up - he’d wanted to talk to Ben about something that felt distant after the game - and plopped down there after they showered off and grabbed their gear. 

Ben looked as tired as Cody felt, hair still wet in the chilly air inside the bus, but nodded when Cody sank down beside him. Around them, most of the other guys were quiet, too, either frowning at their phones or out the windows, earbuds tucked in, someone bouncing a leg hard enough that it vibrated through the floor.

Cody’d brought a bag of M&Ms with him after walking to a gas station the night before and tore them open as the driver closed the doors at the front of the bus, offering the bag out to Ben with a raised eyebrow. Ben hesitated only a moment before taking some, popping them into his mouth and chewing down on the nuts inside with a crunch.

“Well, that sucked,” Cody said, and Ben snorted. 

He hadn’t screwed up, but that was a small comfort in the face of the L. He’d also got stranded on base each time he came up to bat. The other team’s in-field had been very good. Startlingly so, really. 

“There’s always next time,” Ben said, surprisingly relaxed about it. So many of the pitchers Cody’d played with tended to take losses very hard. Ben just stretched his long legs out under the seat in front of him and tilted his head back as the engine kicked on.

Maybe he was just too tired to worry.

Ben fell asleep shortly into the drive, listing sideways when he did. Cody sat very still as he slumped to the side, until Ben’s face ended up kind of mushed against his shoulder, his strong hands open and loose in his lap, his breath warm and smelling of chocolate.

Cody’s stomach turned all warm and tight and he stared out the window at the near empty roads, the split yellow lines in the center racing by them through the night. He could see their reflections in the glass, his own face with the eyes set in shadow, some strange expression written on his face. 

Ben woke fast when they finally stopped in the parking lot of their field and clasped Cody’s shoulder outside the bus, nodding and yawning into his hand before pulling on his helmet. Cody went back to the cold apartment, crawled into bed, and dreamed of driving faceless through the night with Ben standing on the far side of the road, watching the bus go by and--

He woke up with a tight feeling in his throat, and texted Ben to see if he wanted to go run.

#

They ended up bunking together the following week for the next road series. They won the first game in that series, too, and Cody ended up propped up by the headboard of his bed when they got back to the room, Ben on the mattress with him, mouth sweet and good. 

Cody pulled his underwear back on, after, all warm and tingling, and turned the television on while Ben was in the bathroom to stop himself from thinking about how Ben’s hair felt around his fingers when Ben sucked on him. 

“Anything good on?” Ben asked, when he came back out, flopping down on the bed beside Cody on his stomach, wearing just his underwear and a smile. 

“Not really,” Cody said, though he’d promptly lost track of what exactly was on the television. “Here,” he added, tossing Ben the remote, “maybe you’ll find something.”

Ben hummed, focused on the television. Cody couldn’t help looking down the line of his back and over his shoulders. He’d seen Ben shirtless, but never just…resting in place. He had freckles, here and there, a constellation of them on his left shoulder.

He was all muscle, broad shoulders and a trim waist. No curves aside from the swell of his ass and even that…  

Ben made a satisfied sound, dragging Cody’s attention away from his assessment of--of a teammate’s overall physical condition. Cody jerked to look at the television and found them watching some kind of…science show. “What’s this?” he asked, and then cleared his throat.

Ben looked over his shoulder, mouth curving in a way that seemed knowing, and said, “They’re just going over weird sea creatures. You want something else?”

Cody shook his head. He doubted he’d be awake much longer, anyway. He asked, settling deeper against the pillows, “You like ocean stuff?”

“I like biology stuff,” Ben said, looking back at the television, sinking down to rest his chin on his folded arms. 

“Yeah?” Cody couldn’t help noticing that Ben’s legs were stretched out alongside his chest, covered in copperish hair and so very long. 

“I thought about studying it,” Ben said, his voice taking on a strange note.

Cody’s fingers itched. He folded his hands together over his stomach and asked, “In college?” He got an agreeable hum from Ben, and something inside him twisted, cold and unpleasant. If Ben had gone to college, they wouldn’t be here and-- “Why didn’t you?”

Ben shrugged a little on the bed, hooking his heels together and swinging them up. He had delicate ankles, Cody noted, slim and boney. “I can always do it later,” he said, “this is better. It’s steady work, and, you know, if it goes well, I’ll be making decent money soon….”

“Yeah,” Cody said, striving to focus on the conversation.

“What about you?” Ben asked, rolling onto his side, bracing his head up on one hand. “Did you think about college?”

Cody shifted. Ben had a dusting of hair over his chest and a trail of it down his stomach. It was impossible to look at him and not know he was a man - nothing feminine about him - and he had more freckles around his collarbone, too, and one big one by his bellybutton. 

“Not really,” he admitted, dragging his eyes back up to Ben’s face. “Mom kind of wanted me to, I guess. But all I’ve ever really wanted to do is play, so what’s the point of wasting tens of thousands of dollars just for a piece of paper? And I’ve got six brothers, you know? There’s no way all of them are going with just dad’s money. So….” He shrugged one shoulder and picked at the blanket.

“You’re the oldest?” Ben asked, and hummed when Cody nodded, before he said, “Well, tell me about them,” and the science show played in the background while Cody sat up and grabbed his phone, showing Ben pictures of his family and spilling words between them.

He felt an ache inside - missing them - as they spoke, Ben pressed warm against his leg, listening intently and smiling at Cody’s stories. It was late by the time the exhaustion got the better of them and Ben slipped back to the other bed, turning the lights out before he settled.

#

They lost the last game in the series - again - which felt like a sour note to end on, but it was what it was. Two out of three wasn’t bad, especially so early in the season. It made the bus ride home suck, anyway.

Cody ended up texting Rex when he got back to his apartment and then sighing when Rex immediately called him. It wasn’t so late on the west coast, he supposed. He laid on his bed with his arm thrown over his eyes, catching up on everything that had happened the past few days.

The conversation loosened the tight pressure of the loss on his chest, until the words came free and easy. He lost track of time and the conversation, only to jolt, suddenly, when Rex said, against his ear, “Man, I’m going to have to meet this Ben guy.”

“What?” Cody said, pulling his arm aside and staring up at the ceiling. He…had been talking about Ben, he realized. 

“He sounds great,” Rex went on, as Cody sat bolt upright on the bed, stomach doing something very unpleasant. “And it sounds like you two get on.”

“I mean, I guess,” Cody said, heart beating too-fast inside his ribs. “He’s just one of the guys. That’s all. There’s nothing like--he’s just a teammate.”

Rex went quiet on the other end for a moment, and then said, “Yeah, for sure, of course. Anyway, I’ll be done school in a few weeks. I thought I’d come visit, you know, over the summer. See your new place and stuff.”

Cody exhaled, dizzy relief sweeping through his head. He didn’t want Rex getting the wrong idea about--him. Him or Ben. Even if it was the right idea about Ben. Ben didn’t deserve anyone talking shit about him, and Cody wasn’t sure who else would….would still treat him okay, if they knew what he liked to do.

They fell into talking about what week Rex might want to visit, with Rex threatening to bring all their brothers along with him, and Cody finally hanging up on him there in the dark of his room, the silence closing in around him.

It all felt so much…more real, solid, with Rex talking about coming to visit. He really had his own apartment and he really had a roommate and he really had a job - his dream job, no less, and he had--

He rolled onto his side, swiping his thumb on and bringing up Ben’s message screen without thinking. Ben’d texted to say he’d made it back safe to his apartment. He was probably asleep, all curled up on his blankets.

Cody swore into the pillow, and, because he wanted to sleep, slid a hand down when his cock started to ache, and thought about Ben on the bed beside him, thought about his mouth, but only--only because he didn’t have anyone else’s to think about, that was all.

He wiped his hands off on his underwear after and tossed them over the side of the bed and resolved to focus himself up. He couldn’t be so--so indulgent with Ben. Not when Rex or any of the others came around. He had to keep that in mind.

He rolled onto his other side, staring out the window, and resolutely ignored the unpleasant burn in his gut.

Chapter Text

The next day, Cody got a letter from the lab that had done his bloodwork. It looked like it had gotten lost in the mail, based on how damaged the envelope appeared and the original postmark. He opened it pretty sure what he’d find; though, based on some of the stuff his father had said about his adventures while overseas, it was always possible Cody had picked up something from him. 

He looked over his blood work with a feeling of relief - though, really, he shouldn’t care so much - and then put it back in the envelope and left it on the little desk in his room. He had errands to run, anyway, and didn’t see Ben that day, only texted him a little.

The next day he invited Ben over for a movie after their game and only realized when Ben got there that he didn’t have a movie picked out. He ended up scrambling through the options Kit had in front of the television after cooking a fast post-game dinner; a nice shrimp scampi that smelled of lemon and parsley. 

Apparently, Kit really liked horror movies, they ended up with a screen full of screaming co-eds and blood splatter as Cody twirled noodles around his fork and said, to Ben, sitting right beside him on the small couch, “My bloodwork came back.”

“Oh?” Ben said, and Cody kept determinedly staring at the screen, though he didn’t care for horror much at all. “You got that done fast.”

He felt the tips of his ears prickle with heat, opening his mouth to try to explain that he just liked to finish tasks quickly, that was all, but Ben went on before he could, “Mine’s back, too. I’m certified clean. You?”

“Clean,” Cody said, echoing the word while some girl died bloody and awful on the screen. He took another bite, barely tasting the lemon, and wondered if he should offer out the paper as proof. 

“Nice,” Ben said, and they sat there, finishing their food, Cody ignoring the movie going on around them. When the last bites were gone, Cody paused the movie and they cleaned up their bowls, standing shoulder to shoulder at the little sink. 

“It tasted really great,” Ben told him, drying his hands off, and then, with a breathy note to his voice, “I’d like to see if you do.”

For a moment, Cody’s brain just went to--white noise. He’d already been half-hard, had been since they sat down beside one another on the couch. Those words were enough to take him the rest of the way there. 

It had to be obvious, he was wearing light shorts, something that would have been better for running, that showed off a lot of his thighs. He’d caught Ben looking a few times, but he’d only worn them because most of his other shorts were in the hamper. 

“So,” Ben said, his hand still warm from the hot water when he stroked the back of his knuckles against Cody’s erection and asked, “Well, can I have dessert?”

Cody thought that comment probably deserved a laugh. But he groaned out a yes, instead, because, hell, if Ben really wanted to--

Cody lost the thread when his hips got pushed against the counter, his shorts tugged down as Ben knelt on the kitchen floor and he really hoped Kit didn’t decide to randomly come home, but fuck if he did, Cody’d find some way to explain.

“Tell me if it feels different,” Ben said, curling his hand around the base of Cody’s cock, familiar, and his breath was a hot puff. He licked his lips, making them shiny wet, and then leaned forward.

“Oh, fuck,” Cody panted out, staring down, watching his cock slide bare between Ben’s lips. The slick of wet on his skin when Ben bobbed his head made his cock jerk in Ben’s mouth. It felt--so much hotter and infinitely wetter and soft--

Ben lifted his mouth away, and Cody reached out without thinking, putting fingers in his hair and gripping before he could go too far. Ben’s eyes got wider, but before Cody could blurt an apology - he hadn’t meant to grab - a slow smile curved Ben’s mouth and his cheeks flushed as he asked, “Different?” 

“Better,” Cody told him, because it was, sweet fuck, his--any mouth would feel amazing. 

Ben’s smile got wider, and he said, “Good, babe, I’m glad,” and the -- the nickname made something twist in Cody’s chest, almost tripped words over his tongue. But guys always had nicknames for each other, though he’d mostly escaped them through sheer luck. 

The thoughts all flew out of his head when Ben leaned forward again, mouth welcoming and so blindingly hot. He kept his fingers in Ben’s hair, keeping his hips still, biting his lip and looking to the side when he heard Ben start touching himself.

The sensations built fast and overwhelming, until he was panting, “Ben, I’m--I’m going to, ah, come, if--”

Ben hummed encouragement, shuffling closer, like he wanted that, and Cody flushed hot all over as that eagerness pushed him over the edge to orgasm. He came, viscerally aware of each pulse in a way he hadn’t been when he was wearing a condom, because it was just--going in Ben’s mouth.

He had to look, had to stare down, to find Ben looking up at him, mouth closed around Cody’s cock as he--swallowed. Cody groaned, another pulse of orgasm jolting through him, felt down his spine and into his balls.

And guys -- guys in the locker room -- they’d talked about their girlfriends swallowing, sometimes. Bragging, those who convinced them to do it, or laughing about girls who choked instead, turning to the side to spit it out, the term ‘slut’ thrown around in a way that blurred the line between derogatory and affectionate. 

Ben swallowed everything Cody had to give him, eyes fluttering as he did, as he moaned, as it made him come. Because, apparently, he liked it, liked being on his knees on hard tile, swallowing down someone else’s come without any sign of embarrassment, though he should have been humiliated, acting like a--

“Was it too much?” Cody blurted, when Ben slid his mouth off, pressing a kiss to the side of Cody’s hip.

Ben huffed a little laugh, shaking his head as Cody slid his fingers free. Ben stood, his shorts loose around his hips and his hand messy, and said, “Just enough,” as he turned on the sink again and washed the come off, right there.

“You’re sure?” Cody asked, because he felt like he’d come a lot.

“Very sure,” Ben told him, grinning at him, “and you taste much better than condoms.”

“Good,” Cody said, because it was--good that Ben was happy. It was good. He could let Ben do this, if it made him happy. “Uh. Some water, though?”

Ben’s smile got softer, fonder, and he said, “Maybe I don’t want to wash the taste away.”

It made Cody’s spine and gut go hot. Ben really was--so willing to say things like that, things that people could use against him, just trusting that Cody wouldn’t. He cleared his throat, and said, “Okay,” and Ben pulled his shorts back into position.

And then Ben said, “Should we finish the movie?”

#

Cody’s life fell into a rhythm as April melted into May. 

He spent game days mostly the same way - getting ready for the game, heading to the field, playing, hanging out with a few of the guys or just Ben afterwards - and the game on/game off rhythm started to feel natural. 

Most days, he did some running and training, usually hit the gym at the field to keep working. He didn’t want to stay in Low A ball for another season, he wanted to keep improving, bump up to Double A by the end of the season and then….

Well.

His end goal was always the Majors. He knew it was going to take hard work to get there and didn’t mind putting it in. Often, Ben ended up training at the same time. Often, he ended up at Ben’s place or Ben ended up at his apartment.

It all kept him busy, which was what he told his mother when she called him to ask about every aspect of his current living conditions, threading in, towards the middle of the conversation, “I haven’t gotten any pictures of a girl.”

Cody winced, and told her, “We don’t really have time to think about girls,” and heard a sigh on the other end of the line.

“I just don’t like the thought of you out there all alone,” she said, and he could hear her doing something in the background, probably cooking. 

“I’m not alone,” he told her, because that was very true. He’d gotten close with several of the guys on the team and the rest were, at the very least, friendly acquaintances. Except for Krell, who’d never warmed up to him, for whatever reason, only talking to grit out sharp little comments.

Cody couldn’t say he cared for the guy, either. 

“That’s not the same,” she told him, “you need someone to take care of you. A nice girl--”

Someone knocked at the door - Ben, probably, who’d planned to come over with Quin, all of them planning to play some video games through the afternoon - and he said, “Hey, mom, I’ll call you back later, okay? Some of the guys are here.” 

She made a little tetching sound but let him get off the phone, and he felt tight in his chest, almost choked, when Ben smiled at him, Quin following behind his shoulder with a sharper look in Cody’s direction. 

He pushed away the unease left in his gut by the phone call. Girls could--wait. Until he was in the Majors, maybe. Lots of guys waited until they got to the Majors to start dating seriously. 

“You okay?” Ben asked, when they all got settled in the living room, sitting beside Cody on the floor in front of the couch, bumping his shoulder a little. 

“Yeah,” Cody said, the point of contact warm and reassuring, settling something in his gut while making the tightness around his ribs sharper, for some reason. “I’m good.”

#

The team played alright, for the most part. They won more than they lost, solidly in the middle of the standings for their division. 

They didn’t get really hammered until the beginning of May, when they lost an entire home series and then got slammed on the following away games. The first away game they lost by four runs, the second by six, two of them knocked in while Ben had been pitching in the eighth. 

He’d gotten tense on the mound after the second run, with two outs and a batter on second behind him. It was the first time Cody called a break during a game while Ben was pitching, waving to the umpire as he rose and sprinted across the infield. 

Ben watched him come with a tight look on his face, and said, as soon as Cody reached the mound, “I know. I need to calm down.”

“It’s alright,” Cody told him, leaning in close, reaching out and squeezing his arm. Gentling down pitchers sometimes felt like half of his job during a game. Pitchers could get into their own heads, sometimes. Ben did it less than most, but….

Or maybe, Cody considered, really looking at him, Ben just hid it better. 

“Look,” he said, aware of the clock ticking down behind him, “you’ve got this guy. He’s tired. Two more pitches and the inning is over.”

“They’ve got my number tonight,” Ben gritted out, head ducked down so Cody couldn’t see his eyes behind his hat. 

Cody squeezed his arm again. “No, they don’t. They just got a little lucky. Look. We’ll surprise him a little, alright. Two pitches. That’s all.”

Ben made a little unhappy sound, glancing to the side, and Cody ducked into his field of view, caught his eyes and felt a jolt go down through him. He said, “You’re okay. I’ve got you.”

Ben blinked a few times, rapid, and then nodded, and Cody turned before the umpire could start fussing about how long he’d taken on the mound, lopping back across the field to crouch behind the plate. 

Ben nodded at the very first pitch he suggested, not arguing, like he’d just--given the decision over.

The ump called a strike a breath later, and Cody felt relief course through his veins, tossing the ball back. They still lost. Badly. But the other team didn’t get any more runs. 

Everyone was subdued in the lockers and in the bus back to the hotel, all sharing the knowledge that they had to play the other team again the following day before they could go home.

Ben barely said anything on the way back to their room, tossing his bag onto the dresser and flopping back onto the bed closest to the door to stare up at the ceiling and rasp out, misery dripping off his voice, “I’m sorry.”

Cody’s heart gave a throb. 

He put his own stuff down and then sat down beside Ben on the bed. He said, “They were already on a roll.”

“Maybe we’d have rallied,” Ben said, staring unblinkingly up, “if I hadn’t given away two more--”

“No one hit for shit today,” Cody told him, and--and since it was allowed when Ben blew him and when guys were sick and--he reached out and brushed a hand back over Ben’s hair. 

“I should have been better,” Ben told him, mouth thinning down, and Cody sighed. 

“We all should have been better,” he said, “this is a team sport, remember?”

Ben snorted and rolled onto his side, towards Cody, forehead pressed to Cody’s hip. He kept his hand on Ben’s hair, not sure how to remove it without it seeming awkward. He scritched his fingers a little, and Ben hummed, rubbing his face back and forth and the noise--made Cody’s cock twitch. 

He wasn’t going to say anything about that, though, until Ben murmured, “I could blow you?”

“If you want,” Cody said, wondering if maybe it’d make Ben feel better; he always seemed to really like it, and Ben hummed again, before shifting. 

“It’s too hot in here to do it with all your clothes on,” Ben said, shifting up and pulling his own shirt off, and Cody couldn’t argue with that. It felt more like July and the hotel’s little AC unit just wasn’t cutting through the heat. 

He ended up reclined on the pillows, naked, with Ben sprawled out beside him, and it was so good, fuck, it always was, so dizzyingly good that he swallowed back any questions when Ben finished and stretched out fully alongside him, his face pressed against Cody’s shoulder as he jerked his cock and--

Some of it - his come - splattered on Cody’s hip, when he came. It felt hot as a brand, and Cody should have corrected him so he didn’t think that was alright but-- 

Ben’d had a rough game. And it was obviously an accident. So Cody just rolled from the bed and cleaned it off without comment, bringing back a rag to give to Ben, who murmured a quiet thank you and then collapsed back onto the mattress. 

“Feel better?” Cody asked, lingering by the side of the bed. He should really go crawl into the other one, he considered, grabbing his underwear and pulling them back on.

Ben snorted a little laugh, and said, “Yeah, babe,” and then he shifted to the side a little and patted the side of the mattress. Cody felt tension down his back. He should go to the other bed. But Ben’d had a shitty game and….

And he ended up sitting on the bed, instead, while Ben turned something on the television, pressed against his side. And it just felt comfortable to kind of…drape an arm around him. Guys did that. Draped arms around each other.

Usually not while one of them was naked, but Ben’d pulled the blankets up over his hips, so, it was…fine. Normal. And something about it made him feel sleepy and warm, anyway. Cody tried to focus on the show that Ben eventually settled on, but his eyes got heavier and heavier, until he fell asleep. 

#

They hadn’t slept in the same bed since--that first drunken night. 

Cody woke up warm under the scratchy hotel sheets to find that their bodies had curled together in the night. Ben’s back - broad and strong - pressed to his chest. One of Cody’s arms rested over his narrow waist.

And Ben’s ass was. Well. It was pressed back against his hips, against his hard cock. He’d pulled his underwear back on the previous night, and that was the only barrier between them. He blinked in the faint light coming in around the edges of the curtains, aware of heat and warmth.

He became aware, as he woke up further, that he was - kind of - grinding his hips in slow rolls. He stopped, heart beating fast, noticing the smear of pre-come on the front of his underwear, and Ben rasped, voice soft and sleepy, “We can, you know.”

Cody made a sound, thick and incomprehensible, at least to him; he hadn’t realized Ben was awake. He’d--

Ben shifted, apparently taking the noise as an answer. He reached an arm over the side of the bed, while Cody rolled over onto his back, cock getting harder because he hadn’t meant to wake Ben, but if Ben wanted to blow him--

Instead, Ben rolled back onto the bed, clicking open the lube he’d taken to using when he jerked himself off. He settled onto his stomach, blankets only just draped over his thighs, and cocked an eyebrow towards Cody when he said, “I’m guessing you don’t want to help?”

And then he slid his fingers down, over his hip and between his legs. 

Cody watched, stunned, as Ben pressed a finger inside his own body. He ought to--yell, probably, or lurch from the bed. But he’d gotten used to not doing what he was supposed to do around Ben. And, besides, it was taking all his self control not to roll forward and grip Ben’s thigh, his cock giving a jerk in his underwear. 

“I’ve been thinking about this,” Ben said, voice rougher as he slid his finger - slick and shiny with lube - in and out, and Cody heard himself make another sound. “The nights I spend at my place. Been wondering if you’d like to do it with me when I, ah, do this.”

Cody felt his jaw lock, he felt dizzy.

It should have been gross, watching Ben work another finger into himself, but--

“You want me to--there?” he asked, trying to be sure, because Ben was a lot of things and obviously he liked sucking Cody’s cock, but that seemed an entirely different thing than being alright with someone fucking his ass, making him roll over and take it, like a--

“Yes,” Ben panted out, looking back over his shoulder, cheeks all flushed red, his fingers making wet, slick sounds. His gaze slid down Cody’s stomach, and he added, “If you’re gonna, you should take those off.”

Cody froze a beat. Was he going to? 

But, then again, why couldn’t he? Guys tried anal with their girlfriends. He’d heard all about it in highschool, other guys on the team bragging about how tight it was, how hot, how their girl friends tried to pretend they weren’t going to like it and then squealed and moaned while taking it, calling their girls slutty, smug and pleased, and the rest had always laughed and agreed--

Was Ben a slut, Cody wondered, even as his body got tired of his brain trying to process and decided to take charge. He shoved his underwear down, his cock hard and ready. He wondered, pulse racing, if Ben did this stuff with other guys on the team. Quin, maybe. They lived together.

But what did it matter if he was? It wasn’t like they were--dating. They couldn’t be dating, because Cody--was not gay. He was just Ben’s friend, and he’d be a fool to turn down blowjobs. Or--or this. In his position, anyone would do the same thing. 

“Fuck it,” Ben gasped, dragging Cody out of his head, “close enough.” He pulled his fingers free, leaving wet smears on his skin, and Cody couldn’t stop looking at him as he shifted up onto his hands and knees and asked, “Do you want a rubber?”

Cody groaned. He couldn’t help it. He blinked a few times, trying to gather himself, and said, “I -- do you?”

Ben dragged a hot look up and down his body, licked his lips, and said, “Only if you do, babe. I’d like to feel you bare.”

“Okay,” Cody said, and felt inane, but, by now, Ben had to be used to him barely making sense when Ben did stuff like this. 

“Come here, then,” Ben said, with a welcoming little tilt of his head, and Cody’s body couldn’t listen fast enough. He rolled up onto his knees, sliding closer, and he had to - kind of - put his hands on Ben’s hips because the bed dipped under their combined weight and--

“Okay,” he repeated, looking at Ben’s ass, the slick furl of his body. Ben’s fingers had been there. And he wanted Cody’s cock there and -- and really, it wasn’t a problem to do this. Normal guys did this all the time, just, usually, with a woman, but the anatomy was the same. 

As long as he wasn’t the one letting someone else shove their cock into him, he wasn’t really--

He had a pretty good idea what to do, at least. He’d watched some porn featuring anal. It wasn’t--he wasn’t much of a porn fan, but some of it was good. He gripped himself and Ben’s hip, and pressed forward, rubbing the head of his cock over Ben’s ass.

It felt better than he thought it would, hot and soft. “Ah,” Ben gasped, when he pressed in, just a little, watching the head of his cock slip past that ring of muscle and-- “Lube,” Ben added, a little strain in his voice, “lube on your dick, first.”

“Right,” Cody said, flinching. He pulled his cock out, and Ben muffled a little groan, head dropping down between his arms. “Sorry,” Cody added, squeezing his hip a little in comfort, “I should have thought about that.”

“It’s fine,” Ben said, his fingers relaxing a little in the sheets while Cody fumbled for the lube, squeezed a…healthy amount over his cock, and stroked himself to make sure he had it evenly distributed. 

“You sure about this?” Cody asked, feeling sweat already prickling over his shoulders, looking between his shiny cock and Ben’s ass. “I’m bigger than your fingers.”

Ben groaned, thick, and canted his hips differently. “Yeah, babe,” he said, voice almost a slur, “you sure are. I want it, come on.”

“Okay,” Cody exhaled out. The press in felt easier this time, but it still--he had to push past that initial tightness, making Ben give way for his cock--

“Oh, fuck,” Ben gasped, fingers tigthening in the blankets again, and then, “Knew you’d be good at this.”

Cody felt heat race down into his spine and gut, felt his cock twitch helplessly, only half-way inside Ben’s body. He hadn’t considered that Ben’s mouth would be free like this, that he’d be able to talk and make sounds.

He resisted the urge to snap his hips forward - it felt like something automatic, just like breathing - but Ben was so tight. And so hot inside, all heat enveloping Cody’s cock as he rocked in and in and in and--

Went still when he bottomed out, finally, his hips pressed flush to Ben’s ass. 

He wondered, fleeting, if he were dreaming. But dreaming had never felt this good.

“I’m going to move now,” he said, and Ben made a thick, wanting sound as Cody eased his hips back - God, it was so hot, looking at his cock spearing Ben--someone--open - and pressed forward again and--

Fuck. It was all so good. He shifted, fucking in a few times - testing, trying to figure out the best way to do it - and on the fourth stroke in, Ben jolted under his hands and moaned, clenching a little around him.

He’d learned to read Ben’s tells on the field. It wasn’t difficult to read them here, too. 

He slowed down a little and intentionally thrust in again at the same angle, getting the same jolt as a result and a moan. Still. He asked, to be sure, “That’s good?”

“That’s so good,” Ben panted out, voice getting breathy. “You’re so good.” 

Cody felt his mouth quirk up, pride and pleasure twinned warm glows inside of him. He fucked in carefully a few more times, letting himself get a feel for it, and then gave in to the urge in his spine to move a little harder, a little faster.

Ben moaned his name, which made Cody’s hips snap harder, and--

And he swore, when the force of it drove the headboard into the wall, hard. “Oh, shit,” Ben gasped. “Yeah, who’s in the next room?”

Cody couldn’t remember and didn’t care, but, at the same time, it’d be--bad, he thought, if any of the guys realized what Ben was doing. Shit, it was hard to think with his cock inside Ben; he certainly didn’t want to stop. 

“The floor,” he said, the solution presenting itself as a spinal urge.

“What?” Ben asked, and then muffled a cry when Cody eased out of him, and, oh, his ass looked--tender and puffy. Stretched from having a cock inside--

“Come here,” Cody said, almost falling off the bed, gesturing hurriedly. “Down here, so the bed doesn’t bang.”

“Oh, good idea,” Ben gasped out, rolling off the bed, unsteady on his feet. Cody grabbed his arm, steadying him, helping him down to the ground, where he - God - went onto his knees again, braced on his elbows and--

The carpet floor felt coarse and maybe a little sticky under Cody’s knees. He didn’t really care, putting his hands on Ben’s hips and lining himself up again. He pushed in with more confidence, Ben gasping, his shoulders flushing red as Cody shifted around until he found the angle that made Ben moan thicker and lower. 

“Fuck, yeah, Cody,” Ben gasped out, and shifted his weight onto one elbow, sliding his other hand back and--Cody listened to the slick sound of him stroking himself, stroking his cock while Cody fucked into him, and it made his hips snap harder. 

“You like that?” he asked, and Ben nodded. 

“It’s so good,” Ben panted, and Cody felt another wash of pleasure, “you can--harder,” Ben added, breathy and sweet and-- “If you want.”

Cody swallowed, hard, but it was alright to want to fuck Ben harder. Faster and rougher. It wasn’t like he wanted to be the one getting fucked. It wasn’t--

“Oh, God,” Ben moaned, the only sound besides their ragged breathing and the sound of flesh moving against flesh, the little smacks when Cody snapped his hips forward. Ben strangled out his name, a moment later, and clenched around him, hard, in waves, sagging at the same time and he’d come, he’d come on Cody’s cock, getting fucked deep and hard.

Cody groaned, curling forward over Ben’s back as he came, hips rocking a few more times as he emptied himself. He slumped there, breathing hard, and asked, as some sense came back into his head, “You alright?”

Ben laughed a little, reaching back and gripping Cody’s hip, squeezing a little as he said, “Oh, yeah, babe.”

“Good,” Cody said, because that was good. It was good that Ben was fine. He shook himself a little, straightening his back with a moan. “I’m gonna--ease out, now,” he warned, and Ben made a sound of acknowledgement. 

Cody had to stare, helplessly, for a moment when he slid his cock all the way out. Ben looked--so good. Reddened and puffy, and, as Cody watched, a little trail of come ran out of him and--

Cody swallowed and looked to the side. “Uh,” he said, patting Ben on the hip. “I guess--we should clean up. The bus’ll be leaving.”

“Mm,” Ben agreed, but flopped over sideways instead of getting up. Cody supposed that meant he had the shower first. He stood on legs that felt a little wobbly and managed to walk in a mostly straight line to the bathroom. 

He knocked on the shower, running on autopilot. After he rinsed off he decided he’d get a wet rag and take it out to Ben. Maybe a glass of water, too. Some snacks, if they had any in the room, and then he’d help Ben to the shower if--shit, would he be able to walk?

He stepped under the water, still cold, wondering how sore Ben would be, after having Cody’s cock inside him. The sense memory echoed in his head, the tightness around his cock, the heat, the sounds Ben had made--

He groaned when his cock twitched and started hardening again. It didn’t show any sign of going away.

Cody knocked the water off, stepping out dripping wet and forgoing the towel as he went back into the main room.

Ben had rolled onto his back, one knee drawn up, an arm thrown over his head as he gazed at the ceiling. There was come smeared on his stomach. His cock laid against one thigh--and Cody didn’t look at it.

Ben shifted a little when Cody came out the door, looking up, surprise flashing across his expression. Which was fair, Cody knew, since he was dripping wet and, well. Hard again. Ben’s gaze dragged down his body, an eyebrow going up as he said, “I think there’s time to try that again.”

And he drew his other knee up, too, spreading his legs a little and--

Cody had no clear memory of crossing the room or getting on his knees again. He didn’t waste time trying to get Ben to roll over, just hooked his arms under Ben’s knees and pressed him forward. Ben moaned, gripping at his shoulders, letting Cody bend him nearly in half, his cock twitching against his stomach at the manhandling. 

Cody fucked him again, there on the floor, water drying on his skin, Ben’s head tossed back and his eyes fluttering as Cody gave it to him, Ben touching himself again when he got close, until he spilled between them. 

And, after, Cody got him a rag first, and brought him a cup of water, and Ben laughed a little when Cody asked if he could walk. He made his way to the bathroom with only the smallest of hitches in his step, and Cody looked at the rug burn all over his back and felt--

He turned away and straightened the room while he listened to Ben shower, heart beating strangely in his chest.

They barely made it to the bus on time. 

#

But they won the game.

#

“Now we know how to break a losing streak,” Ben told him, as they jostled their way down the hall to the lockers after the game, a wide, delighted grin on his face, and Cody felt heat speed down through him, immediately thinking about Ben on his knees, panting out his name and--

“How’s that?” Krell interrupted, his voice unpleasant and close. He hadn’t been on the roster for the day. 

The heat in Cody’s veins froze over as quickly as it had come, but Ben seemed unbothered, shrugging as they stepped into the lockers, “A strategy Cody came up with,” he said, and added, “Not something that’d work for you.”

Krell sneered over towards Ben and said, voice harsh, “I bet I could guess what you got up to, you--”

Mace whistled sharply from the other side of the room, cutting Krell off, leaving Cody’s heart beating wrong in his chest. But Krell was just an asshole. He’d always been an asshole, and Cody let the comments go, focusing on the post-game speech and - with a brief flash of guilt - wondering if they’d have any more losing streaks in the season.

Chapter Text

The first half of May slipped by in the same rhythm, the days getting steadily longer, the temperatures reaching something that could legitimately be called hot by the middle of the month. 

They went back to Ima-Gun’s house for more time at the pool - it was far more fun when it wasn’t freezing outside - and Ben got sunburn all across his shoulders and down his back the first time he took his shirt off to swim with just some blue trunks on. 

“This is why they invented sunscreen,” Cody told him, that night, after they ended up back at Cody’s apartment for a while, Ben flopped across his bed. Ben hadn’t complained about the taste of chlorine on his dick, but grumbled something as Cody left the room.

He found some kind of aloe cream in the bathroom; it was, technically, Kit’s. Cody decided to buy him more to replace it and took it back to the room, and Ben sighed with relief and stretched under his hands when Cody smeared it over his skin. 

“Thanks, babe,” Ben murmured, as Cody slid his hands down over Ben’s shoulder blades, feeling the heat rising out of his skin and all the muscle underneath. “That’s nice.”

“How’s your shoulder holding up?” Cody asked, because that was--a normal question to ask a pitcher getting into the meat of a season. They still had five months until the end of regular play, and, granted, Ben was only playing a few innings a game, but….

“No complaints,” Ben said, and shivered a little as Cody reached his lower back. He could curl his fingers out over Ben’s sides, as he got closer to Ben’s narrow waist, easily spanning the distance with his hands. 

The heels of his hands brushed the dried edge of Ben’s trunks, and Ben asked, voice thicker, “You do have actual lube, too, right?”

And, after, Ben slipped off into the shower, and Cody decided to pull off the messy sheets, going to bed much later, after Ben left, in sheets that smelled like fabric softener, with a strange, tight feeling in his chest as he rolled restlessly on the mattress.

It never went fully away, but he fell asleep, eventually, anyway.

#

A week - and another pool party later - they ended up back at Ben’s apartment, because Ben said he had something he wanted to show Cody, leading him up the stairs with constant little excited looks over his shoulder. 

Cody had no idea what could have possibly gotten Ben so excited, but was looking forward to the distraction. He’d briefly spoken to his father, earlier in the day - his mom had called, and Jango had happened to be home - and the handful of words had left him feeling itchy under his skin. 

The way Krell had sneered their way at Ima-Gun’s house hadn’t helped the mood. Cody’d actually been relieved to leave. 

Ben looked over his shoulder again as they approached the top of the stairs, and said, “It’s not much, but--”

And then someone Cody didn’t know said, all full of relief, “Ben! You’re home!”

He watched the color go out of Ben’s face before Ben jerked forward, lurching up the last few steps. Ben blurted, “Anakin? What are you doing here? You should--”

Another person - Anakin, Cody supposed - scrambled to his feet. It looked like he’d been sitting to the side of the door to Ben’s apartment. He threw himself at Ben, long, gangly arms going around Ben and holding on tight.

A kid, Cody registered, ascending the rest of the stairs more slowly, watching them. Anakin looked…maybe in his early teens, with a head full of messy brown hair and a hectic flush all over his cheeks. There was a backpack - stuffed very full - sitting beside the wall. 

“I knew this was your place,” Anakin said, against Ben’s shoulder. “I knew it.”

“It is,” Ben said; he sounded stunned, the words slow and near affectless, the way Cody heard guys talk after getting hit in the head. “Anakin. What are you--”

“I just wanted to see you,” Anakin said, drawing back a little. He was only a few inches shorter than Ben. “And I wanted to surprise you, so I didn’t call. But--oh,” he said, because he’d finally looked over and noticed Cody standing there. “Uh. Hello?”

Ben blinked, glancing over at Cody as well, looking unusually pale, still. “Anakin,” he said, voice very calm, “this is Cody. I told you about him. Cody, this is--my brother.”

Cody processed that. Ben didn’t really talk about his family. Almost ever. He’d known Ben had a brother, but that was about the extent of it. He rallied, cleared his throat, and took a step forward to offer out his hand, saying, “Nice to meet you.”

#

They ended up inside Ben’s apartment, in the kitchen. Anakin dug into a bowl of cereal - the best food Ben could throw together in two minutes - after dropping his bag on the floor by the table. 

Cody thought he probably should have left, but Ben had gripped his wrist when they started inside, and so he’d followed, instead. As Anakin poured more cereal into the bowl, Ben asked, for the third time, “What are--what are you doing here, Anakin?”

Anakin shrugged the way only teenagers could, like the bones in his shoulders were more a suggestion than a physical fact, and said, “I just wanted to see you. I haven’t seen you in like two months.”

Ben made a little sound, leaning against the kitchen counter. He said, as Cody tried not to feel too much like an interloper, “Don’t you have school today?”

Anakin wrinkled up his nose. “I don’t learn anything there, anyway.”

“Anakin,” Ben said, reaching up to rub at his face. “I know it feels that way, but--”

“I couldn’t stay there anymore,” Anakin said, voice rising all at once. He stood up abruptly enough to shake the table. “You don’t know what it’s like since you left! And you’ve--got this place. I thought you could let me stay with you. I won’t be any bother! I can sleep on the couch, and I’ll--I’ll keep the place picked up and it’ll be like home, and--”

“Anakin,” Ben said, a wince audible in his voice, his expression agonized. “I--you know I’d agree if I could, but--”

“You don’t want me anymore, either!” Anakin shouted, face turning red as his mouth twisted and his eyes got wet. He looked exhausted, dark circles under his eyes and a crust around some of his eyelashes. “I should have known! You went away and now you don’t even love me anymore!” 

He turned as Ben lurched away from the counter, sweeping an arm across the table and knocking off the bowl of cereal. It shattered, glass and milk going everywhere, as Anakin turned and darted down the hall.

He slammed a door a beat later. Cody wasn’t sure which room he’d fled to. 

“Fuck,” Ben said, in the resulting silence; he was staring after Anakin. “Fuck. I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Cody said, crouched by the shattered bowl. He picked up the largest piece of glass and started putting the smaller shards inside it. He’d seen the same theatrics - and worse, honestly - when Boba got upset. 

“It’s not,” Ben said, getting the trashcan and pulling it over. He knelt too, reaching for more of the glass, his fingers trembling a little. “I should have let you go home, you don’t deserve to have to….” He waved a hand.

“It’s fine,” Cody said again, reaching out and brushing the back of his knuckles over Ben’s arm, since he might have glass shards on his fingers. He asked, after a beat, dumping the majority of the glass into the trash, “Has he run away before?”

“No,” Ben said, “I mean. Not that he told me about, anyway. He didn’t run away while I was at home.” Ben stood and grabbed the roll of paper towels off the table, mopping up the explosion of milk and cereal. “I don’t even know how he got here. They live in New Mexico.

“I hitchhiked, mostly,” Anakin said, and Cody looked over at him. He must have crept back down the hall. He looked much smaller, shoulders slumped in, picking at a flaw in the wallpaper as he slouched there. “I’m sorry I broke your bowl.”

“It’s okay,” Ben said, sighing, “I have more. But--hitchhiking? Anakin, do you know how dangerous that was?” 

“I made it, didn’t I?” Anakin said, an edge of sharpness to his words that immediately faded as he walked over and sat on the floor. “I had to. I couldn’t stay there.”

Ben sighed, and Cody rose, grabbing the trashcan and carrying it back into the kitchen, washing his hands and trying not to listen too closely as Ben said, “I don’t understand why you had to leave. I’d have figured you two would have been very happy--”

“It’s awful!” Anakin interrupted, voice cracking a little. He couldn’t have been over thirteen. “Qui-Gon spends, like, all his time in the greenhouses! He doesn’t pay attention to my practices, and he didn’t sign my permission slip for the last field trip, and we keep eating take-out and it was nice at first but he -- Ben, we got a letter from the landlord about the rent and I don’t know if we have any money or if he just forgot but--”

“Sh, sh,” Ben said, and wrapped his arms around his brother, and Cody slipped down the hall, trying to give them both some privacy when Anakin started crying, the big, heaving, sobs that Cody recognized from his own siblings, full of exhaustion and confusion and a child’s desire to have someone, anyone, make things right.

He pulled out his phone, sitting on Ben’s bed, and texted his own brothers, the rise and fall of the voices out in the kitchen ever prickling at the edges of his hearing.

#

Ben came back to the bedroom, eventually, slipping through the door like a ghost and murmuring, “He’s sleeping now. Sorry about that. I shouldn’t - you could have gone home.”

Cody shrugged, shifting from where he’d ended up stretched on his side across the bed. He started to sit, but then Ben sank down and just…folded against him. Ben drew his legs up, pointy knees against Cody’s hip, his head tucked down, and Cody…he’d have curled over and put an arm around anyone in that situation. 

“He’s having problems with your…dad?” Cody hazarded, keeping his voice quiet, and Ben sighed hard into the space between them.

“Yeah, I guess. Qui-Gon isn’t--my dad, exactly. He married my mom when I was little, and then she…we lost her. And he kept me, you know, so I didn’t have to go into the foster system. And then he met Anakin’s mom and she already had Anakin. She--she died a few years ago. In an accident. And it’s just been us since then. He doesn’t like to be called ‘dad’. Just--Qui-Gon.”

“Oh,” Cody said, rubbing a hand up and down Ben’s side. “And they don’t get along?”

Ben shrugged under his hand. “They always used to. I don’t know what changed. I called him. Qui-Gon. To tell him that Anakin was here. He said he thought Anakin ‘just needed some space’ and that he supported Anakin ‘listening to his feelings.’ He’s missed at least three days of school already. I….” He said the last with exhaustion all etched along his words.

“Shit.” Cody squeezed him, just a little. He asked, because it had been eating away at him, “And…the rent?”

Ben groaned a little. He sounded miserable, curling in a little tighter. “Qui-Gon grows like--organic food? Fruits and vegetables. He says it’s-- But there isn’t much money in it, so he…likes to--he gambles. Sometimes. He says it lets him ‘feel the flow of change in the world.’ And--he does win. A lot. Really, I don’t want you to-- But sometimes he loses, really big. It’s--he’s covered most of it. He’s only short a few hundred on rent, and I can--cover that. It’s fine. I’ve put a little aside. It’s fine.”

Cody felt his fingers squeeze at Ben’s side, something inside him throbbing, sharp, words without form caught in his throat. 

“I’m sorry,” he said, finally, because he couldn’t think of anything better. 

Ben barked out a laugh. “I can’t let Anakin stay here, Cody,” he said, almost whispering. “I’m gone three days every week. And I don’t--have the space, not with Quin, and Anakin’s still got two weeks of school. I don’t know what to do.”

“Let’s just sleep, now,” Cody suggested, because Ben sounded more exhausted by the moment. “And we’ll figure it out in the morning.”

“Yeah?” Ben whispered, and Cody hummed reassurance at him, and held him, until they both fell asleep. Ben seemed to have forgotten what it was he wanted to show Cody, but Cody figured that was more than understandable. It could wait. 

#

Cody woke up before Ben the next morning. He crawled carefully out of the bed and eased down the hall. Anakin was curled up on the couch, too long for it already. There was a puffiness to the skin around the kid’s eyes that suggested he’d been crying himself to sleep lately.

Cody sighed, glanced at the door, and then stepped into the kitchen. 

He was mixing pancake batter - by hand, Ben and Quin didn’t own a blender - when he heard stirring from the living room. A few moments later, Anakin shuffled over and leaned against the island in the kitchen, blinking at him owlishly with his hair standing up all around his head.

“You’re Cody,” Anakin said, frowning a little. “Ben talks about you a lot. You’re always doing stuff with him.”

Cody felt something prickle - hot - across his shoulders, but only nodded. “And you’re Anakin,” he said, with what he hoped was a reassuring expression. “His brother. You hungry?”

Anakin’s stomach rumbled at the question, and Cody smiled at him. “It’ll be ready soon,” he said. 

Anakin said nothing for a long moment, enough that Cody turned fully back to cooking. He startled a little when the boy said, “Qui-Gon makes pancakes, sometimes. He’ll make them for dinner. Big stacks of them, with syrup and butter. And fresh fruit from the greenhouses.”

“Sounds good,” Cody said, aiming for a neutral tone. Ben had cried last night, when he’d thought Cody was asleep. Cody had stayed very still, at first, not wanting to--embarrass him. He’d only stirred when Ben tried to ease out of the bed, rolling over and putting a hand on Ben’s back.

Ben had gasped out, “I shouldn’t have come here. I--they need me, they need someone looking after them and--”

And Cody’s heart had tried to turn itself inside out, because if Ben hadn’t come here, they’d have never met and--

“Sh, sh,” Cody had said, unsure what else to say, and eventually he’d managed to get Ben to fall back asleep. He was not feeling particularly neutral about this Qui-Gon guy. 

“Yeah,” Anakin said, and sniffed. Cody gave him the privacy of not looking. “Ben used to make me breakfast. Every morning. Nothing fancy, not pancakes. Just like. Cereal or English muffins or bagels. Before school and in the summer.”

“Qui-Gon doesn’t?” Cody asked, watching bubbles form in the pancake batter as they cooked on the stove, waiting for them to get big and round so he’d know when to flip them over, aiming for perfect golden-brown. 

“He’s not awake that early,” Anakin said, and then, a moment later, added, “Ben’s not going to let me stay here, is he?”

Cody felt a prickle down his back, again. The kid sounded so tired and lost. He flipped the pancakes and said, softly, “You know he would if he could.”

“Yeah.” He heard the boy slump and glanced over his shoulder to find Anakin facedown on the counter, his arms stretched out over the edge. “I know. This sucks. I should be able to live where I want to live.”

“Here,” Cody said, plating up some of the pancakes and putting them in front of Anakin, because he didn’t know what else to say, besides encouragement that, sooner or later, Anakin would turn eighteen and would be able to live where he wanted. “And there’s plenty of syrup and butter.”

“These are really good,” Anakin said, after a moment, his mouth stuffed full, and Cody smiled as he poured more batter into the pan. 

By the time he had the next batch done, Ben’s door creaked open and he came down the hall, looking exhausted, still. He said, “Anakin,” and Anakin shot to his feet, crossed to him and hugged him. 

Cody heard them murmuring and did his best to ignore it. He finished all the batter, leaving the pancakes in a stack, and then turned off the stove, thinking about grabbing his shoes and giving the brothers some private time.

He’d nearly made it to the door when Ben said his name.

He looked up in time for Ben to pull him into a hug. “Thanks for breakfast,” Ben said, face down against Cody’s shoulder, and Cody put an arm around him, just holding onto him for a moment, because-- Well, pushing Ben away would be rude and no one was there to see or misunderstand and-- 

“Anytime,” he said, fingers clenching in the back of Ben’s shirt. “Text me later, okay?”

Ben nodded, and released him, and said, before Cody could step back, “Here. This is--what I wanted to show you. Give you.” And he held out, between them, a little card.

Cody plucked it from his fingers, looking it over and then going still as he realized what it was. A little baseball card but--

He jerked his head up to find Ben watching him, chewing on one side of his lip. “Where’d you get this?” Cody asked, because it was him on the card, in all his gear, wearing their white and gold uniform. 

Ben chewed at his lip again and then said, “Uh. I found--this guy on Twitter who makes them. He does commissions and stuff. And I thought, you know, you might like it. Do you like it?”

Cody stared at him for another beat, his heart doing something strange and painful in his chest. He managed to rasp out, after a breath, “Yes. Fuck, yes, this is--you didn’t have to.”

Ben broke into a relieved grin as Cody looked back at the card, and it was--

“Someday, they’re going to make so many of these with you on,” Ben said, soft and quiet. “But I wanted to give you the first one.”

Cody made a sound, not a word. He couldn’t think of any words to say, and then Anakin called for Ben from back in the apartment. “Sorry,” Ben said, very quiet, “I have to…” He gestured out to the side, and Cody nodded, stepping back, but not before he reached up and tucked some of Ben’s hair back behind his ear. 

#

Ben did text later in the day. He said he and Anakin had a good talk and that he’d called the school; the administration was, apparently, just relieved to know where Anakin was. 

Cody came up with his own entertainment for the day and most of the next, though Ben asked if he could bring lunch over the following day. He ended up in front of the door with bags full of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans only moments later. 

Anakin gave him odd, measuring looks, as they plated the food up in the kitchen, Quin grabbing a plate, too, before heading back to the living room. Ben tugged Cody to the side after Anakin followed behind Quin, and said, “Thanks for this. I’ll pay you back.”

Cody shrugged; they were usually careful to pay for their own food when they went out together, but he’d paid for Ben’s a few times with a strange, sharp thrill each time. He was always surprised Ben allowed it; Cody certainly wouldn’t, he wasn’t anyone’s--

“You two doing alright?” he asked, fixing a plate of his own, and Ben sighed. 

“God, I hope so,” he said, scrubbing at his face and blowing out a breath. “Qui-Gon says he can’t drive out here and get him - he’s right, the car barely runs - and I can’t drive him back in the middle of the season, but I think I can afford a plane ticket for him, and a - a friend of mine can pick him up from the airport, take him home.”

He looked over, then, eyes tired and questioning, like he was gauging Cody’s reaction to the plan. Cody nodded. “You have a lot of friends back home?” Cody asked, leaning against the counter to eat, instead of going in with the others. 

Ben shrugged, still not eating anything of his own. “A few,” he said. “Qui-Gon moved, after--what happened with Anakin’s mom. He did the same thing after my mom, it’s how we ended up in this country. We kind of started over. It was hard to get to know people.”

Cody hummed. He could let the conversation go, they could both go join Quin and Anakin, but-- He found himself looking for ways to prolong it. “One of your old teammates going to get him?”

“Satine’s going to pick me up,” Anakin said, slipping back into the kitchen and grabbing another chicken wing. He looked between them both, frowning - God, but the kid had a mercurial temper - and added, “Does this mean you’re dating her again, Ben?”

A sharp wash of something down Cody’s back had him stiffening, feeling his fingers tighten around his fork. Ben sighed beside him, and said, “No, and you know that. She’s just--doing me a favor.”

“Too bad,” Anakin said, slapping some more mashed potatoes onto the plate. “I really like her.”

And then he headed off again, with another frown in Cody’s direction. Cody’d really thought they were alright with each other after the pancakes. But he found he didn’t have much room to consider it, looking back at Ben and hearing himself ask, tone odd, “Satine?”

Ben waved a hand and finally picked up a plate. “We dated for a while in high school,” he said, and Cody nodded, he could understand why Ben would date a girl, even though he was gay. It was a lot safer. “But we broke up because she’s got--well, she’s going to a school out there. Very exclusive. Studying political science. Wants to be, I don’t know, President one day. She probably will be.”

“Wow,” Cody said, because it seemed…vaguely appropriate.

“Mm,” Ben said, standing there with a plate full of food and a tense set to his shoulders. “She thought I should go, too. ‘Make something of myself.’ We just. Wanted different things, I guess.”

Something inside Cody warmed, just a little. Ben wanted to play ball. Like him. That was--

“I hope--I mean, it’s not an issue for you, right?” Ben asked, glancing sideways at him, and Cody blinked, because why would he care that Ben dated some girl in high school? It-- “That I’m bi, I mean. I know some guys don’t like it.”

Cody’s train of thought came to an ugly stop, derailing everywhere. He blinked. There’d been a few people back in school who’d said they were bi. All girls, as far as he’d ever known. One guy had been dating a bi girl and claimed they had sex with her best friend every other weekend, said it was so hot, and--

“It’s fine,” he said, because Ben was just…staring at him, apparently waiting. He added, the words feeling awkward, but it was important to be clear, “I’m not. At all.” 

Ben snorted a little and said, “Yeah, I got that.”

And as long as Ben knew where they both stood, it was all fine. If he hadn’t minded when he thought Ben was gay, he didn’t see why he should care if Ben were bi. In a way, it made him prickle with warmth.

Ben liked people besides guys and still wanted to suck Cody’s cock, wanted to get on his knees and let Cody fuck him. “Are you two coming or what?” Quin yelled from the other room, and Ben rolled his eyes, squeezed Cody’s arm, and slipped past him into the living room. 

#

Ben set up Anakin’s flight for two days’ time, on their only day off. He asked if Cody would mind giving them a ride to the airport - his motorcycle could hold Anakin, but it was supposed to rain - and Cody agreed without thinking. 

Ben ended up bringing Anakin along to the field the day before the flight, having a quick, intense conversation with Mace about it. Mace seemed…less than pleased to have a kid running around, but his expression softened in the face of Ben’s big eyes. 

Cody thought about his own brothers, watching Ben show Anakin around the lockers, introducing him to other guys on the team. Anakin ended up with a seat right above their dugout, so Ben could keep an eye on him through the game.

Cody thought he heard the kid cheering even from behind the plate, pretty much nonstop the entire time Ben was out on the pitcher’s mound. After the game, Anakin ended up glued to Ben’s side, again, chattering a mile a minute and smelling like cotton candy and hot dogs.

Cody left them to it, feeling a bit itchy as he went home.

It was, well. The longest Ben had gone without doing anything for him since the beginning of the season. He’d gotten used to Ben feeling like celebrating by blowing him over the past two months. His cock reminded him of it all the way back to his apartment.

He ended up in the shower, gripping himself absently, and wondered--wondered if--Ben probably did things for this Satine person, too. Cody’d heard about eating girls out. He’d -- his dad had said it was gross, something real men didn’t do--

But Ben did all kinds of things real men didn’t, so he probably had , and he’d probably liked it, and--

And Satine had probably--done the things for Ben that Ben did for Cody, now. She’d probably touched him. She’d probably seen his cock. Put it in her mouth, he considered, acid pressure in his gut, like the bile inside was trying to burn a hole through his organs. 

They’d dated. They’d probably--kissed. He had no idea what she looked like, but his head provided an image of Ben and some--some girl with dark hair and dark eyes, short, and Ben was probably a--thorough kisser. 

Cody’d never liked kissing much. Found it boring at best and kind of gross at worst, but some people seemed to like it, like it the way Ben liked sucking his cock or getting fucked, and some girl had probably - definitely - leaned into Ben’s space and kissed him, and Cody’s chest hurt, he was breathing all unsteady and didn’t know why. 

They’d probably gone out on dates. Held hands. They’d probably--

He turned, slapping a hand against the shower, the sting of it taking some portion of his thoughts off the hot, burning feeling in his spine and stomach. He stood there, panting, water beating down on him, erection completely gone, and eventually stepped out.

He dried off, texted Ben to make sure he was alright, and slept restlessly. In his dreams, he saw Ben standing on the other side of a crowd, kissing some girl, looking so fucking happy about it, as Cody tried to get to them because people were going to be angry if they saw Ben kissing some girl, he wasn’t clear on why in the dream, just knew it was true, and then Ben looked over and saw him and--

The dream skipped, the way dreams did, leaving them in bed - a hotel bed - pressed all close together, wearing their full kit for some reason, Ben murmuring, “Like this, babe,” and leaning up, brushing lips to Cody’s cheek, to his jaw, to his mouth--

Cody woke up breathing hard, warm and queasy at the same time. He set the dream aside roughly and ended up back at Ben’s apartment, jingling his keys all the way up the stairs, surprised when Anakin opened the door before he ever reached it, slipped out, closed it, and said, “Hey, Ben’ll be done in a minute. Can we, uh, talk?”

Cody shrugged and said, “Sure,” feeling another little pang at how much Anakin reminded him of his brothers, though none of them were quite his age. Boba and Omen had even run away a few times, always together, and--

“Sorry I was a little mean to you,” Anakin said, and Cody blinked at him, because he hadn’t expected an apology. 

“Don’t worry about it,” he said, and Anakin frowned. 

“Ben says you’re a really nice guy,” Anakin went on, as though Cody had not spoken. “He really likes you, I think.” Cody’s heart skipped in his chest; he worked to keep his expression from changing, not sure what it wanted to change into. 

“He’s a good friend,” Cody settled on, and Anakin gave him the kind of unimpressed look that only teenagers really managed. 

“He’s amazing,” Anakin said, drawing himself up a little, and he was already as tall as Cody, probably he’d end up taller than Ben. “And if you ever do anything--”

“There you are,” Ben said, pushing out through the door, shoving his hair back from his face as Anakin gave Cody a single dark look before turning away. “Come on, we’d better get going. I have no idea what traffic is going to be like.”

#

Traffic turned out to be a pain in the ass, especially close to the airport, but they made it. Ben stepped out of the car at the curb to hug Anakin, holding him for a long moment before the two broke apart and Anakin walked into the airport with a look over his shoulder.

Ben dropped back into the passenger seat and slumped, like all his strings were cut, while Cody pulled them away from the curb. “You okay?” he asked, already knowing what the answer really was. 

“Yeah,” Ben said, the little lie sitting between them. “God. I’m sorry about all this. Thanks again for…” he waved a hand. 

“You don’t have to thank me,” he said, merging with traffic and watching Ben slump sideways, forehead resting against the glass of the window. He wondered, if Satine were in the car, if she’d have reached out. Touched his hand. Threaded their fingers together, or--

He jerked his attention back to the road, shifting his shoulders to try to dislodge the itchy weight resting between them. Ben didn’t say much the rest of the way back home, didn’t comment when Cody took them to his apartment, instead of Ben’s. 

He just followed Cody up the stairs and let Cody herd him over to the couch - Kit was out with his girl - and Cody tossed Ben the remote before heading to the kitchen. He threw together some hamburgers - fast and easy - and Ben startled when Cody put one of the plates in his lap.

He wondered if Satine could cook. When he asked, Ben gave him an odd look, confusion settling into something almost gentle after a beat, and said, “Uh, no. Not really. Her family had like, you know, maids and a cooking staff and stuff. And we--we’re really broke up. Just so you--she’s pretty serious about some guy she met at school, even.”

“Okay,” Cody said, some of the burn down the insides of his arms fading, for some reason, as he frowned down at his plate, Ben shifting to sit a little closer to him on the couch. There was some nature documentary on the television. Cody left it play while they ate, taking Ben’s plate when he finished and wondering if Ben would want to--

Ben, apparently, wanted to slump against his side, his head dropping onto Cody’s shoulder as he curled up on the couch. Cody ignored the simmer of want in his gut and let his arm drape across Ben’s shoulders - it was just more comfortable - and let Ben’s hair tickle along the underside of his jaw. 

And, in the morning, when Cody woke up smashed against the cushions again, Ben shifted around, asked if Kit were going to really be gone until game time, and said, “I’m sorry I haven’t--taken care of you lately. I could blow you?”

A little jolt went down through Cody’s spine, all it took to get him hard, because it had been a while, but… He said, staring over at Ben, pulse racing inside his skin, “I--are you sure you don’t want to--be fucked?”

Ben blinked, twice, rapidly, and then a soft smile crossed his mouth. “We can do that, instead,” he said, shifting around. “Of course. Anything--like this?” He asked, gesturing at Cody, still sprawled on his back on the couch.

And like anything would be good, fuck, he’d missed--

“Sure,” Cody rasped out, not even thinking about the position as Ben grinned and ended up, after grabbing the lube, settling himself over Cody’s hips like that, his hands on the arm of the couch on either side of Cody’s head as he rose and fell, pinning Cody in and down to the couch. It should have been a compromising position, but--

But Cody was driving his cock up into Ben, not the other way around, and with a little wiggling he got his feet on the couch cushions. That left him actually thrust, let him give it to Ben until Ben was dropping his head forward and making shaky moaning sounds with each thrust. 

No one could say Ben was in the dominant position , not with the way Ben had to brace his arms on the couch to not be driven forward, not with the way he gasped Cody’s name and then came, without even touching his cock, all over Cody’s stomach.

The position made that unavoidable, Cody considered, feeling hot, wet come all over his abs. Some of it had splattered up to his chest, so hot, and the way Ben clenched around him felt so good. 

He tightened his grip on Ben’s hips and pulled him down, hard, while thrusting up once more, biting his tongue as he came. He saw fireworks behind his eyes, thinking - in a disorienting rush - that maybe this Satine person blew Ben, but she couldn’t do this, couldn’t take him, or--

“Goddamn,” Ben panted out, after, slumping down, curling over Cody, and for a brief moment Cody thought Ben might try for a kiss again, that Cody’d have to make it clear he wasn’t--like Satine , who probably kissed him after they-- fucked didn’t seem the right word for what Cody imagined they did, it was--

Ben slid to the side, instead, resting his head beside Cody’s on the arm of the couch, warm and solid as his chest heaved and he rasped out, “I missed that.”

“Yeah,” Cody said, because obviously he could tell, and it was--good that he was willing to help Ben out like this, even if his chest felt weird and tight amidst the bright glow of orgasm. 

By the time Ben rolled off of him, the come across his stomach had gone cool and started to dry a little. He watched Ben amble off down the hall - naked, with smears of lube down his thighs - and sat up slowly. 

By the time Ben came out of the bathroom, Cody’d moved to the kitchen and wiped himself up with some paper towels, and asked, staring into the fridge, “You want some breakfast?”

Chapter Text

The temperatures continued to climb as they played their way through June. 

They got into another brief losing streak around the beginning of the month, until Ben rolled over onto his stomach on Cody’s bed before a game and said, with a grin over his shoulder, “For the team?”

Cody’d heard of weirder superstitions, and, anyway, it worked , so who was he to argue with getting behind Ben and fucking him, knees sinking into the mattress, Ben mufflinng any sounds against his pillow because Kit was out in the living room.

And, afterwards, he didn’t move for a long moment, looking at the little trail of sweat down Ben’s spine, running towards his shoulders, and the way the skin at his hips had reddened just from the pressure of Cody’s grip. 

Cody stroked his thumbs, not thinking, back and forth over the little dimples on either side of Ben’s spine, and Ben shivered, clenching around him sweetly. “We did it twice, last time, to break the streak,” Cody said, thinking about the welfare of the team and their record, his cock giving an interested twitch, still sunk in Ben’s body.

Ben groaned against the pillow and then panted out, “Should I, ah, roll over, then?”

That would let -- make Cody see his face, get them pressed closer together, which--

Was what they needed to do if they wanted to break the losing streak. “Yeah,” Cody said, “hold on,” and slid out, slowly, he’d learned that going too fast made Ben whimper in a way that didn’t sound like pleasure.

And something about seeing Ben empty, seeing a bit of his come smeared around the reddened skin, had his cock hardening even faster. Ben clung to his shoulders and arms when Cody pressed back into him, folded up nearly in half, and Cody felt worn out enough, after, to drop his forehead down and rest it against Ben’s, just for a minute.

“Well, that has to work,” Ben panted, breath dancing over Cody’s cheeks, over his mouth, which--and Cody nodded, too full of buzzing pleasure to think of a better reply.

They did win the game, too.

And, after, his mom called and the entire family wanted to talk and she asked if he’d found a girlfriend yet and he--

Told her he had to go, because the guys were going to Waffle House to eat really quickly, they were all hungry, and he sat in a sticky booth beside Ben, listening to the old jukebox play Top 40 songs and smelling grease and salt. 

#

By the middle of June, Cody felt like they’d been going through the pattern of home and away games forever. It just felt like habit to get his gear packed up and head to the field to board the bus, driving around to the next team, coming back, doing it all over again. 

He set himself a training regime to keep in good condition - to improve his condition, he aimed to be in High A or Double A ball next year if at all possible - and stuck to it with the same fervor his mother brought to going to church every week. 

Kit and Ben generally joined him on his runs, with other guys sometimes tagging along, as well. Ben spent some portion of his training time doing different stretches and some kind of yoga thing that Cody didn’t entirely get, but that he claimed was good for his shoulder.

Still, it was interesting watching him bend himself into pretzels while Cody fixed some dinner or sprawled out on the couch to play a video game or texted Rex, a portion of his attention sometimes snagged by Ben’s deep, even breathing. 

Sometimes, they went out after games, and not just to Waffle House.

There were a few places around town that, apparently, didn’t care that pretty much everyone on the team was under 21. The bars would serve them beer and greasy food, which was, sometimes, exactly what Cody wanted after a game, still tasting the night air and feeling keyed up from the rush of a win.

Once, Cody stepped outside to take a call from home - Waxer and Boil were, apparently, fighting, and they both called him to get him to make a ruling about who was in the wrong, giving him wildly different versions of what happened, but he was used to that - and when he came back inside, Ben was leaning against the bar, right where Cody’d left him.

Someone else was in the space Cody’d left behind. 

The man was around Ben’s height, maybe a little shorter, and solidly built. Older than both of them by maybe ten years, it was hard to be sure in the dim lighting of the bar. The guy was leaning against the bar, facing Ben, a strange kind of smile on his mouth. 

Heat prickled fast all across Cody’s shoulders and down his back. He didn’t even really think before crossing the room, ignoring a comment from Kit. He reached the bar in time to hear the guy saying, “--buy you another of those?”

And none of the other guys were close enough to overhear, but--what if they were? What if they'd heard some guy trying to buy Ben a drink? What would they do, or say, if they knew how Ben was--

“Hey,” Cody said, stepping up behind Ben and putting a hand on his shoulder, squeezing a little, cutting a brief frown at the other guy leaning on the bar. “Some of the guys were talking about what we’re doing tomorrow, we should go figure it out.”

Ben gave him a measuring look over his shoulder, some faint hint of amusement caught around the edges of his smile before he said, “Sure, right.” He pushed back from the bar, and Cody’s hand just slid down his back, letting Cody sort of nudge him out and away from the other guy, hearing Ben say, “Nice to meet you, though, Dave.”

Cody put a little more pressure on Ben’s back, and Ben’s eyebrows both went up, his eyes sparkling as they reached the booth the others were holding down. Cody nudged him down into it, looking over his shoulder towards the bar. 

The guy - Dave - was looking their way, and Cody caught his eye, frowning. Dave rolled his eyes after a moment and looked away, and Cody sat, finally, feeling tension all over his shoulders. 

Ben needed to be more careful. Cody didn’t care that he liked fucking around with guys, but that didn’t mean everyone else on the team would feel the same way. He resolved to say something to Ben about it, suggesting that they leave before too much longer.

Ben downed the rest of his drink with a grin and followed Cody out, followed him all the way back to Cody’s apartment. Cody still felt weird in his skin, all the way up the stairs, his head staticy in a way that made it hard to concentrate.

He kept thinking about that guy at the bar, the way he’d been looking at Ben, curious and hungry. He wondered if the guy had wanted to--kiss Ben. Touch him. Have Ben do things for him. Or maybe he wanted to do things for Ben--

His jaw felt tight when he shut the door to his room. Ben made to step past him, and Cody caught his arm, heard Ben make a soft little sound. 

“I wasn’t going to take his drink,” Ben said, a little breathy, and Cody felt--he didn’t know what he felt, flexing his fingers against Ben’s arm, looking over, and something in his expression made Ben’s eyes get wider, made red stain over his cheeks.

He swallowed, hard, when Ben sank down, right there, reaching up to open Cody’s belt with one hand and if Ben wanted cock that bad, well. Cody’d give it to him, make him--

They stayed there, against the wall, Cody getting a hand on Ben’s hair, more to hold his head steady than anything else, getting Ben to take him deep, so hot and wet, hearing Ben’s throat click a little each time he worked his hips forward, Ben gripping at the fabric of his shorts, looking up at him the whole time--

Ben choked, far more than normal, on one deep stroke, and Cody felt a startled jolt down his back. He blinked, some of the buzzing in his head fading as Ben jerked against the hand in his hair, shoulders shaking but pinned against the wall. Cody pulled out, fast. He’d not--realized, really, how hard he’d been going, fucking Ben’s throat almost the way he fucked Ben’s ass and--

Ben turned his face to the side, coughing and sucking at the air, cheeks all flushed red and chin slick, mouth open, because he was choking--

Cody jerked a step back, feeling a frigid wash of ice down his spine, fingers catching a little at Ben’s hair as he blurted, “Oh, God, I’m sorry.”

Ben coughed again, waving a hand, and Cody--God, what had he been doing? He’d just-- Dave had looked at Ben, and it wasn’t right, it--he’d felt so--

Cody jerked away, out to the bathroom, nausea churning in his stomach. The hot, sharp feelings in his spine and gut had all gone, replaced by something empty and aching. Ben was still leaning against the wall when he came back with a rag.

Cody knelt down in front of him, and Ben watched him when Cody put a hand on his cheek and carefully cleaned up his face, the spit that had slid out over his jaw and chin, the--wetness on his cheeks. Cody said, words tumbling between his teeth, “I’m so sorry. I’m--are you alright? Are you okay?

“I’m fine,” Ben rasped, a moment later, looking over at him with shiny eyes, “I just mistimed a breath, I’m--Cody?”

Ben blinked, expression getting more serious all at once based on whatever it was he saw, sitting there with his cheeks red because Cody’d choked him, because he’d felt-- he’d--  

Ben asked, “Are you okay?”

“Of course,” Cody said, because he wasn’t the person who’d had a cock down their throat, he’d never -- 

“Mm,” Ben said, still looking at him, and then reaching out to squeeze Cody’s arm, slowly, “I’m fine. You didn’t--I’m fine. How about I get you a drink?” Ben frowned around the room, and then nodded. “Yeah, let’s both go…to the kitchen and I’ll get you something to drink.”

Cody should have been getting him something to drink, he’d--

But he ended up tucking his softened dick away and following Ben out to the kitchen and taking a glass of juice when Ben gave it to him. There were some leftovers in the fridge, and Ben warmed them up, too, and put them on the table, and, after Cody had taken a few bites, asked, “You feeling better?”

Cody hadn’t been the one feeling bad, he’s just--he’d gotten--angry. Because Ben took stupid risks; Ben was going to get caught if he didn’t shut down guys trying to buy him drinks, trying to pick him up to take him back to their apartments, where’d they’d probably pin him to the wall or the floor or a bed and touch him and--

“Yeah,” he said, clearing his throat, his gut tight and cramped. 

“Good,” Ben said, bouncing his leg a little and continuing, “Do you want to--um. Talk about it? Whatever it was that…happened? We can, if you want.”

Cody frowned down at his plate; he didn’t want to talk about--getting angry and just acting without thinking. Getting rougher than he should and-- He swallowed and said, “Why don’t we watch a movie?”

“Okay, sure,” Ben said, grabbing both their plates. “Whatever you want, babe,” and they ended up on the couch, Cody nudging Ben at the end of the movie and getting a sleepy sound in return. 

Cody should have suggested he go back to his own place, but….

They ended up in his bed, Ben’s bare back rising and falling as Cody curled up beside him and tried to process the continued tightness of his gut and back. 

#

Cody still felt a little weird about that evening by the time July got close and Rex sent him a text that said hey, i’ll be there for the 4th, are you guys doing fireworks or what.

Cody stared at the message for a beat before hitting the call button and pressing the phone against his ear. It only rang once before Rex picked up, already laughing. “What do you mean you’ll be there for the fourth?” Cody asked, over the laughter.

“Well, I’ve got to come see your place,” Rex told him. “And Boil and Waxer want to come with. Between the three of us, we should be able to make the trip without needing a hotel. We’ll take turns driving, get there fast.”

 “Just you and them?” Cody asked, not sure why, but he had an itchy feeling in the back of his head and--

“Yeah, mom says she’s done her penance driving across country and that she’ll see you when you fly your ass home after the season and that Bly, Boba, and Omen aren’t old enough to come along.” 

Cody didn’t ask about their father. He was working, probably. Or just busy. He usually was. 

Something of the tension in Cody’s back eased, anyway. He sagged back against his couch, and said, “Okay, well. There’s not much room here, just so you know.”

Rex snorted. “Like I don’t remember sleeping on the floor with you for two years because there wasn’t enough room for the bunk bed with the twin’s cribs in the room. I’ll text you again when we’re closer, okay?”

#

Cody cleaned up the apartment in a rush after he got off the phone with Rex and then realized he didn’t really need to. He’d been raised to keep his space neat and some habits didn’t go away, and Kit mostly kept his mess confined to his room. 

Rex and the twins all sent him updates over the following days; pictures taken of road signs each time they passed into a new state and of each gas station they stopped at, often with them crowded close to each other, making ridiculous faces. 

Rex called him and talked for almost three hours in the middle of the night, somewhere in the middle of Kansas and exhausted, Boil and Waxer asleep in the back of the car, leaning against each other, until Cody convinced him to pull off at a rest stop and sleep for a bit.

He told Ben they were coming, and Ben watched him for a moment, head cocked to the side, before asking, “Do you want me to come by while they’re here?”

“What?” Cody asked, fiddling with his phone and then frowning over. “Yeah, of course, why wouldn’t I?”

Ben exhaled, shoulders dropping a little, and grinned at him. “Just making sure,” he said, and slid over to press against Cody’s slide, sliding a hand over his thigh and gripping at his cock through his pants, after asking if he could. 

Cody missed a few texts, but caught up later on.

In the end, Ben wasn’t around when his brothers pulled into the parking lot at only a little after four in the morning on the third of July. Cody woke up to a text from Rex. He was dressed and down in the parking lot in minutes.

Cody’s entire chest throbbed as he stepped onto the blacktop, looking across at his brothers clustered around Rex’s beat up old Pontiac, red paint worn away to nothing across most of the right fender.

They were making an effort towards being quiet but not quite succeeding, pulling bags out of the trunk and grumbling at each other, and then Boil looked up and over, blinked, and a grin broke across his face.

The following five minutes blurred together a bit. Cody ended up swamped with brothers, all of them talking at once, trying to tell him three different stories all at the same time, before Waxer managed to say, above the din, “Damn, I’m starving, Codes, are you going to feed us, or what?”

#

Cody took them upstairs - so glad Kit was staying elsewhere and avoiding the ruckus - and fed them, listening to them talk about school and what they’d been up to and their younger brothers. Apparently, Boba had tried to smuggle himself into the trunk of Rex’s car, hoping that if they got far enough away from the house before finding him, they’d just bring him along.

Rex had decided to double-check that he’d packed his razor - he was bound and determined to keep his hair, which he’d also bleached blond since Cody left home, at a strictly uniform length - and found Boba curled around a bag of chips. 

Cody snorted a laugh around the eggs on his fork. They made it through breakfast and cleaned up, migrating to the living room to keep talking. Ben texted him around nine - when Ben usually woke up to go for a run - to ask if his brothers had made it safe.

Cody felt his mouth curl up in the corners, focused on the screen, and Rex said, “Is that Ben, are you talking to Ben?”

“What?” Cody asked, looking up to find Rex watching him, an intent expression on his face. “Yeah.” Cody shifted, suddenly uncomfortable. “He wanted to make sure you made it safe.”

“Is he coming over?” Rex asked; Waxer and Boil must have noticed something about his tone, because they stopped looking through Cody’s games and turned to stare, as well. 

Cody shrugged, feeling prickly hot all over all at once. “You’ll see him tonight at the game,” he said, which was true enough, and Rex narrowed his eyes, but didn’t say anything else about it. It lulled Cody into a false sense of security, shattered when he went into the kitchen to grab a drink and came back to find Rex holding his phone.

“What are you doing?” he asked, and Rex just grinned at him, turning his shoulders away and--

Squawking when Cody came over the back of the couch to grab him. Rex laughed, keeping his shoulders turned away, arms extended out in an attempt to keep Cody from the phone. Cody caught a flash of the screen, of his messages to Ben, of the words: come over and meet my brothers! They can’t wait to see you! 

“You--” he snapped, grabbing one of Rex’s arms and pulling, only for Boil to jump over his shoulders, Waxer hitting him around the hips. “You fuckers,” he wheezed, Rex still laughing, swiping his finger across the screen and sending something else. 

He managed to hold off Boil and Waxer long enough to pin Rex and strip his phone away, eventually. 

He found a string of messages, some of them spelled much better than others, that said things like: i’m so embarrsed their much better looking than me and smarter too. Don’t tell the other guys how cool they are and how jealous i am.

Cody made an indignant sound; Ben had replied with laughing faces, and--

He hit call on the phone, keeping Rex pinned to the ground under his weight, and felt something adjacent to relief when Ben answered after two rings. He felt less relief when he heard Ben’s voice in stereo, both against his ear and muffled by the front door when he said, “Hey, Cody.”

Rex laughed, under him, and Cody swore, pushing to his feet. 

Boil beat him to the front door, pulling it open in time for Cody to watch Ben turn off his phone, sliding it into his pocket. He looked…oddly dressed up, wearing a nice shirt with his hair combed back and he had slacks on, for some reason. 

“Morning,” he said, grinning, as Cody stood there, breathing hard, becoming aware that one of them had torn his shirt in the scuffle and that his hair was definitely a mess and he was going to kill all three of them. “I heard I was wanted?”

“Ben!” Boil said, all but tugging him into the house, “I’m Boil! This is Waxer and Rex.” He waved his hands around, tugging Ben along while Cody considered how exactly he was going to make their deaths look like an accident. 

“Having a rough morning?” Ben asked, quietly, a moment later, standing beside Cody. Cody shot him a look, feeling harried and wondering if he could smother them all at once or if he’d have to do it in birth order.

Ben huffed a little, a fond little smile on his mouth, and reached up to push Cody’s hair to something like order, before Rex stepped up beside them and said, “How’s Cody been doing, really? Has he been behaving himself, tell us the truth.”

#

His brothers settled down eventually, apparently tired of causing trouble just for the hell of it. Ben slipped out after lunch, murmuring about leaving Cody to spend some time with his family. Cody walked with him down to the parking lot, and muttered, as they reached Ben’s bike, “Sorry about them. I know they’re…” He waved a hand.

Ben shrugged. “I think they were more concerned with tormenting you than me,” he said, lightly, and Cody snorted. 

“Their favorite hobby,” he said, and Ben bumped their shoulders together. 

“They really love you, huh,” Ben said, and Cody felt his chest ache again. He nodded, blowing out a breath. 

“Wish they knew different ways to express it,” he said, and Ben snorted, and Cody had a strange urge to just…lean further into him there in the quiet of the parking lot. “I should get back up there,” he added, shaking himself. “Who knows what they’ll get into if I don’t.”

“Mm,” Ben said, and squeezed his wrist before stepping back. “I’ll see you at the game, alright?”

Cody nodded and watched him get on his bike, watched him back up and give a jaunty wave as he pulled out of the parking lot, his stomach tense and warm as he finally made himself turn and walk back into the apartment. 

Boil and Waxer were concerned with one of his fighting games, barely even looking up when he came through the door, but Rex was leaning against the back of the couch and straightened, looking over at Cody with an eyebrow raised. 

“What?” Cody said, shoulders tightening, a warning itch running down his spine, like--

“Nothing,” Rex said, head tilting to the side a little. “He seems nice, you know. Ben. Really nice.”

“Yeah, I guess,” Cody said, the prickling feeling getting worse. 

“I’m serious,” Rex said, and, with a look at the twins, stepped away from the couch, drawing Cody over to the kitchen area. “He didn’t run for the hills meeting the three of us and he seems like he--”

“You want his fucking number or something?” 

Cody flinched at his own voice. It didn’t--sound like his voice, not really. Or, it did, but it also sounded just like his father, and he knew they sounded a lot alike. Hell, they looked a lot alike. There’d been jokes about cloning before the accident that left Cody with the scar over his brow. 

Rex blinked at him, drawing up and back a little, hurt flashing across his expression in a wave. “Shit,” Cody said, reigning in his temper and the prickling over his skin. “Sorry, I didn’t mean--I know you’re not gay. Sorry.”

Rex stared at him for another moment, and then said, “It’s--that’s fine, Codes. I’m going to just--pick up from lunch, okay? Is your roommate going to be back home today?”

#

Cody felt tense and itchy all through the rest of the day. The sensation followed him to the field for the game. He managed to get Rex, Boil, and Waxer tickets - it wasn’t like they were ever sold out - and made sure they were behind the dugout. 

Rex had come to many of his games through highschool - only missing the away games and the ones that conflicted with his band schedule - and the twins had usually ended up dragged along, too. It felt almost like he was back home with them in the stands.

He still didn’t manage to shake his unease, not while pulling his uniform on, not while listening to Mace talk to them about the other team, not even when Ben nudged him and told him his family seemed very nice. 

But he set it aside for the game and by the end of the ninth inning, the discomfort felt far away, tucked aside safely. 

He went home and played some more games with his brothers and eventually found them all somewhere to sleep; mostly, it was on the floor. 

The next day, the team had a cookout at a local park around lunch time, and Cody piled his brothers into his car and drove them over. Lots of the other guys had brought family members or girlfriends - wives, in some cases - and they all hung around, eating hotdogs and fooling around. 

Someone even brought a basketball, which somehow led to a pickup game on one of the two courts alongside the picnic area. Ben ended up stripping off his shirt to play - it was very hot - and sometimes his laughter drew Cody’s attention over from where he was talking with Rex while Boil and Waxer fooled around on - of all things - the swings. 

They were talking about Rex’s choice of colleges; he’d locked in a few weeks ago, apparently, and planned to stay in-state for the tuition discount. The college was still a couple of hours away from the rest of the family, up the coast and closer to Oregon. 

“Dad really wanted me to enlist,” Rex was saying, looking out across the baseball diamond the entire team had decided - as one - to ignore. “But--”

Cody lost track of what he was saying at a burst of shouting from the basketball court. He looked back over to find Ben sprawled on his ass, the ball bouncing away, Krell standing over him looking smug. 

Cody took a step towards them before he really thought about it; Krell’s continued aggression especially towards Ben was a frustration, but he usually didn’t make it physical, keeping it to snide little comments. 

Ben started to roll back to his feet - ignoring a hand from Krell - as Cody reached the edge of the court, and Krell took a step forward, bumping into Ben’s shoulder with enough force to knock him back again.

“Hey,” Cody snapped, reaching out to steady Ben, who flashed him an almost comically surprised look, his skin hot and sweaty under Cody’s hand, the way it got, sometimes, when they were--

“No blood, no foul,” Krell said, with a sneer, but stepped back, muttering something under his breath that sounded ugly.

Cody ignored him pointedly, glancing back to Ben, who was still watching him. “You okay?” he asked, and Ben smiled at him, all at once, almost blinding in intensity.

“Yeah,” he said, and clapped a hand to Cody’s shoulder. “Just about done here, I think, if you want to, I don’t know, take your brothers for ice cream, or something? We could do that, before the game?”

“Sure,” Cody said, feeling an itch between his shoulders that he had a feeling meant that Krell was glaring over at him. Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to spend less time around that bastard. “I’ll get them ready.”

#

They ended up losing the game that night, which was a disappointment with his brothers in the stands, but most of the fans stuck around anyway, waiting for the fireworks. Cody showered fast, popping back out as the field crew was still in the process of getting the fireworks set up in the outfield. 

Rex gestured to him from the stands, and Mace rolled his eyes with a permissive wave, letting Cody bring all his brothers down and onto the field. They clustered around, talking excitedly, as the first of the fireworks went off. 

Cody glanced over, partway through the show, to find Ben watching the fireworks from the dugout, his hair wet from the shower and the lights reflecting in his eyes. He caught Ben’s eye, after a moment, and gestured him over without thinking.

And they stood there, all of them clustered together, while the media crew played a mix of 80s hits and the sky lit up with explosion after explosion.

Ben shifted a little beside him, and the back of Ben’s hand brushed against his, knuckles bumping with a strange little rush of warmth and a jolt that Cody felt in his stomach. His fingers stretched out, just--automatically, the index and middle slipping between Ben’s fingers there in the dark. 

Ben curled his fingers up, just a little, squeezing, and his hand was warm and very strong, and Cody’s heart was beating entirely too fast in his chest, but jerking his hand away would just draw attention to what had happened and--

He didn’t want that. Not with his brothers right there and the team all around them and people in the stands.

He’d have to--to talk to Ben about it, later. To make it clear that while Cody didn’t mind, really, helping Ben out, letting him do stuff while they were alone, it didn’t mean that he wanted--wanted Ben’s fingers threaded through his, or anything like that. 

His hand tingled even after the show ended, all the way back to his apartment and through brushing his teeth, climbing into bed with Rex sleeping in the room on an air mattress he’d picked up at the store.

And if he didn’t have a chance to mention Ben trying to hold his hand the next few days, it was just because he was busy with his brothers. And it didn’t make sense to bring it up after they left - almost two weeks later - because it wasn’t like Ben had tried to do that - hold his hand - again and--

Cody let it go. He stopped thinking about it. Besides, Ben seemed intent on making up for lost time when Cody invited him over after Rex and the twins left.

Chapter Text

The AC unit in Cody’s apartment broke halfway through July, just as the temperatures started breaking 90 on a regular basis. He spent a few hours sweltering, waiting for the landlord to do anything about it, and then Ben invited him over until the problem got fixed.

He packed a bag and it was perfectly normal, staying in Ben’s room for two weeks while the landlord tried and failed to get anyone in to fix the system. Teammates looked after each other that way.

Cody tried to do some of the cooking while he was over - he didn’t want to just take advantage of Ben’s generosity - and Quin even seemed to warm up to him, a little, after the first few days. 

He even felt…a strange tension in his gut when Kit called him to let him know that they had AC again; neither of them had noticed for a few days, because Kit had been staying with his girlfriend somewhere in town. 

Apparently, they were pretty serious; they’d dated all through the previous season, too. In actuality, Kit spent more time at her place than their apartment. But he kept paying his half of the rent, and Cody got to like having the space to himself.

He’d never had any space on his own. They’d always been low on bedrooms, growing up; mostly he’d shared with Rex, but the older twins had shoved in with them plenty of times over the years. 

And when he started to feel itchy in the quiet - growing up with six brothers, quiet had been a mythological concept - he could always text or call Ben or, of course, some of the other guys. 

A few days after he got back to his apartment - into August - Rex moved out, back on the other side of the country. He sent Cody texts and pictures of his things in boxes and then loaded up in the U-Haul trailer he’d rented to get up the coast. 

They all, at least, had plenty of experience handling DIY moves. For a while, when they were younger, they’d moved nearly every year from base to base to base. Dorm living, Rex sent, very late in the day Cody’s time, with a picture of a drab room with two beds and two desks and two dressers. 

Congrats, man, Cody sent back, and meant it, a feeling of pride spreading out all through his chest.

If he got to the Majors anytime soon, he’d be able to help pay for Rex’s tuition, for all the rest of them, too, if they wanted to go to school, and--

It was something to work towards, he considered, as Ben rolled over in bed and hooked his chin against Cody’s shoulder and asked, “Everything alright with Rex?”

“Yeah,” Cody said, and his arm had kind of curled up against Ben’s back, but that was just because it was the most comfortable position at the moment. “Can’t believe he’s in college already.”

“Your little brother,” Ben murmured, rubbing his cheek back and forth on Cody’s skin with a yawn and a teasing tone in his voice, “all grown up.”

“Mm,” Cody said, dropping the phone. He’d gotten distracted with it after Ben had blown him, and felt tired and heavy and warm, lying there with the fan circulating slowly overhead and the crickets wailing outside the window. 

He turned his face, just a little, cheek brushing Ben’s hair, and fell asleep just like that.

#

By August, everyone on the team had started thinking about the postseason.

They weren’t in the best position, they’d had a couple of bad runs through the season, but they were on track to get a playoff berth; almost everyone in the league was, in honesty. They held extra batting practices and some of the guys met up to run fielding drills. 

Cody went to one or two, but ended up skipping the rest when Ben came down with some kind of stomach bug that laid him out for nearly a week. He’d caught it from Quin, who’d caught it from…well, who knew, really.

Cody went to the games - which mostly they lost - and then went back to check on Ben, ignoring the sneering looks he got from Krell on his way out the door. 

Ben told him, after the fourth lost game, “I could probably help you break the streak,” while sitting slumped at the kitchen table, slowly making his way through a bowl of Jell-O. Cody had been trying to get him to keep down anything and frowned over at him.

“How about you just focus on successfully eating a cracker,” he said, and Ben groaned, pushing away the bowl, the cherry Jell-O wobbling around as he put his forehead down on the table. 

“I don’t want to let the team down,” he murmured, and Cody sighed, stepping closer and putting a hand on Ben’s forehead. He still had a temperature. Cody told himself it was a little lower than it had been the previous day. 

“You don’t need to roll over and think of the team in between puking,” Cody told him, brushing Ben’s hair back from his face. He didn’t try to argue that their…strategy for breaking losing streaks was ineffective.

So far, it had worked, and superstition was sort of baked in to playing the game. He’d known a guy in highschool who had refused to shower when they were on winning streaks, until they’d all ganged up on him and dragged him into the showers.

They’d lost the next game, and Cody thought the guy had never quite forgiven them for it, but sometimes winning really wasn’t worth it. 

“I don’t want to let you down,” Ben said, blinking up at him with fever-bright eyes, hectic color in his pale cheeks. “Or--disappoint you. I want to make you happy. You know that, right?” Ben asked, reaching out and getting his fingers curled in Cody’s shirt. 

Cody swallowed, chest doing something odd, and stroked his hair again. “You--”

“I’m going to be sick,” Ben cut in, and Cody swore, helping him get to his feet and down the hall, holding his hair back when he retched over the toilet. He helped Ben rinse his mouth, afterwards, and made him drink some water, and cleaned up the mess.

“Sorry,” Ben murmured, when Cody came in to check on him in bed, later, and Cody hushed him. 

“Go to sleep,” Cody told him, feeling him shiver under the blankets, “I’ll check on you again in a bit, alright?”

#

Their losing streak hadn’t broken by the time they got a bye week - their last one scheduled for the season - but Ben’s fever had. He looked wane when Cody went to check on him, but managed to keep down everything he ate for an entire day. 

“I’m glad you’re feeling better,” Cody told him, watching him sip on a cup full of broth from the chicken noodle soup Cody’d made, and meant it. 

“Me, too,” Ben said, flashing him a smile that still looked tired. “Especially since I managed to get tickets to a real game tomorrow.”

Cody blinked, the comment unexpected enough to throw him for a beat, and then said, cleverly, “What?”

“I figured since we’re not playing,” Ben said, twisting his mug in his hands, “that maybe you’d like to go watch it with me. Get a look at where we’ll be in a few years.” He looked over through his hair, something hesitant in his eyes, and added, “The tickets are pretty good. But if you don’t want to--”

“No,” Cody said, because--well, they played all the time, obviously, but he’d always enjoyed actually going to games, too, and he’d never made it to a Major league game in his life; his father had talked about taking him to one for his sixteenth birthday, but then he’d gotten busy and it just--

Cody’d had other stuff to do, then, anyway. And it would have been foolish to blow the money he carefully earned while serving hamburgers in a fast food joint on tickets to a big game, especially when the television was right there.

His mother always said they could see better from the living room, anyway, but--

“No, that sounds--we should go.” He frowned over at Ben, assessingly. “If you’re really feeling better.”

Ben grinned at him, relaxing all at once, and leaned into him. “I’m feeling much better. We should leave early? Give ourselves time to get up to the field and maybe get some food, first. I thought, since the game’ll be over so late, maybe we’d grab a hotel room?”

“Sure,” Cody said, because they shared hotel rooms so often. 

“Great,” Ben said, grin stretching even wider, bouncing a little before he snuggled in and handed Cody the remote, telling him to find something to watch, if he wanted.

#

Cody decided to stay over at Ben’s place, just in case he took another turn for the worse in the night. He woke up before Ben, went for a run, and came back to find Ben stirring around in the kitchen, making them both breakfast. 

Cody ate the eggs, toast, and smoothie with relish and then took a shower, vaguely considering that it was a little strange that Ben had gotten a bottle of the shampoo he preferred, sitting on the little shelf along the wall, and the soap brand he liked.

He usually used Ben’s shampoo - it smelled faintly of peaches - but his shampoo had appeared a few weeks ago. He looked at it, hesitated for a moment, and then selected it. Maybe Ben was tired of his shampoo running out too quickly.

He rinsed off under the water, ignored the odd feeling in his stomach, and got out. He pulled on his clothes, hearing Ben talking to Quin out in the living room and felt-- not disappointed, of course, that Quin was there. 

It wasn’t like he had anything against Quin. He was an okay guy. And had a right to live in his house. 

Just--

Cody shoved all that aside, brushed his hair back, and stepped out. They needed to get going before too long, in any case, if they were going to make it on time. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” Quin advised Ben on their way out the door, and Ben laughed while Cody wondered how to take the comment.

In the end, he let that go, too, and they climbed into his car. Riding on Ben’s motorcycle was always a good time, but hours spent both ways would have been less than comfortable, especially since it was calling for rain the next day. 

He tossed a backpack full of clothes for the next day in the backseat as Ben settled in the passenger seat and said, with a grin, “I’m really looking forward to this. Just you and me and a ballgame.”

Cody echoed his smile back, helplessly, and agreed, “Yes, it’s--a good idea.” 

Ben reached over and squeezed his arm, briefly, before leaning towards the radio.

#

In the end, they had plenty of time to eat -- at some restaurant that put French fries on their sandwiches -- before the game. Cody paid, since Ben had grabbed the tickets for them and that seemed only fair, and didn’t even have to ask for a single check, the waitress just brought it that way, and he felt a jolt down his spine - the one he always did - when Ben allowed him to pay-- 

Ben had scouted out the roads and parking before they rolled into town, thankfully. There were so many bridges and tunnels in the city that Cody wondered how anyone managed to live there on a day to day basis.

Maybe they all just stayed in their areas, sectioned off by rivers and mountains, to avoid the hassle of going over two bridges and through a tunnel just to get to the grocery store. 

“There’s some kind of incline south of here,” Ben told him, after they finished their food, walking across the city towards another bridge; they’d left Cody’s car in their hotel’s parking garage on this side of the river, and were far from the only people planning to walk across the bridge to the stadium. “We could go see it tomorrow, on the way back?”

“Sure,” Cody said, looking out across the city and wondering - the way he always did when he ended up in a city with a Major League team - if he’d end up living here, someday, crossing these bridges every day, walking over the water to the stadium on the banks…. 

Ben’s hand brushed his as they walked - it was crowded on the bridge - and Cody glanced over at him, watching the afternoon sun shine off his hair, making it look almost metallic. He wondered, a sudden ache in his gut, how long they’d get to play together.

Pitchers didn’t stay in Low A ball for long. Not if they were any good. He’d already heard Mace talking on the phone and he didn’t know for sure the conversation had been about Ben, but--

Odds were good they’d bump him up to High A in the offseason. Maybe even right to Double A, if they thought he’d done well enough. Their club was looking for pitchers, everyone knew the bullpen was thinner than it should have been, and they’d made some trades through the season but--

Trading cost the team other players. Bringing up a hotshot from the Minors….

“What’re you thinking about?” Ben asked, as they stepped off the bridge, joining the denser crowd slowly making their way into the field proper.

Cody blinked and looked away, realizing he’d sort of just been…gazing at Ben. “Nothing,” he said, and, when Ben raised an eyebrow at him, “The game. Do you want a program?”

#

Ben had got them pretty good seats, out along the left field line. They must have cost him, Cody considered, when they made their way down, loaded up with some drinks. 

He wondered if he should offer to pay for his, but Ben was already putting his stuff down and leaning forward, watching the guys warming up out on the field. 

“That’s going to be us, soon,” Ben said, eyes on the field. He’d got them seats right behind a line of metal railing, and was leaning against it, gaze intent and hungry. 

“Yeah,” Cody said, though--

Anything could happen, and he knew it. Either one of them could get stuck in the Minors or get hurt or--

Or Ben could go up to High A or Double A ball without him next year, and run into someone who wasn’t as understanding as Cody about how Ben liked sucking cocks and-- There was no rule, as such, about not sucking a teammate’s dick.

Not a spoken rule, anyway.

But no one else in the league did anything like that. If the wrong person found out….

He cleared his throat. He’d just have to do his best not to give Ben’s secrets away, that was all he could do. And maybe--at the end of the season, they’d have to talk about it, about how Ben needed to be more careful, or--

He said he didn’t just like guys, so, maybe… Cody frowned, shoulders tensing even as that thought tried to form. It made his gut tight and his knuckles itchy. “Want to walk around the field?” he asked, trying to shake off the feeling. “We’ve got a little time before the game.”

#

They walked the stadium, left to right and top to bottom, or, at least, as top to bottom as they were allowed to go. The ushers didn’t want them going into some of the box sections, not with their tickets. 

That was fine. 

By the time they made it back to their seats, the game was about to start and Cody had shaken the strange feeling in his gut, mostly. They stood for all the opening pomp and circumstance before settling into their chairs, surrounded on all sides by people mostly wearing black and gold. 

Ben ended up with his feet up on the railing in front of them a few innings in, sipping his drink and leaning over as they talked about the game, falling into the same conversations they often held in their dugout, just--about other players. 

A few innings in, the people with tickets to their right - beside Ben - finally showed up, a group of girls who looked a few years older than them; college age, probably. The one closest to Ben gave him a look while Ben was watching the field, and Cody frowned at her. 

He tried to focus on the game when she started trying to engage Ben in conversation; he should have been happy about it. It would be better for Ben to--smile over at her, with her blond hair falling forward and her brown eyes so wide. 

Cody stretched out a little, since Ben was barely using his seat, anyway, slouched down to get his feet up on the rungs of the railing. He draped his arm across the back of it, and his fingers just sort of - incidentally - ended up brushing against Ben’s shoulder. 

Ben glanced over at him, expression doing something that brightened his eyes, and leaned over towards him to ask how he liked the seats. 

The woman on his other side glanced over again, at Ben and then Cody, and heaved an audible sigh before turning back to her friends. Some of the itch in Cody’s back went away, letting him focus back on the field.

In the end, the home team lost; pretty badly, in fact. 

Ben was complaining about a frankly egregious error by the right fielder as the stands started to empty; they fell into step with the crowd, Cody a step behind Ben and looking at the way his shirt stuck to his back after sitting so long and--

Feeling his cheeks heat a little, for no real reason, when Ben glanced over his shoulder, caught Cody’s eye, and then grinned at him. 

“Come on,” Ben said, when they finally got out of the field, “race you back to the hotel.”

“What?”

The question came after Ben had already darted off, threading through the crowd moving over the bridge; apparently it was still shut down for vehicle traffic. Cody’s legs were already moving, some spinal reflex that had him bolting after Ben. 

He ended up catching up to him at a traffic light, Ben laughing when Cody grabbed him and asked, “What was that about?”

“Maybe I’m in a hurry,” Ben told him, with another cheeky little grin. 

Cody arched an eyebrow at him, wishing the Walk signal would flash on, and asked, “What for?”

“Well,” Ben said, glancing sideways, looking at the traffic signals. “We do have a losing streak to break.”

And then the light changed and he bolted again. Cody swore under his breath, following with a swoop in his stomach, heart racing far more than necessary just from a run, especially because Ben was apparently still worn out from being sick, not running fast enough to really get too far ahead, despite the fact that his long legs gave him an advantage. 

They ended up hurrying into the hotel’s lobby - such as it was, slightly nicer than the places they usually stayed on the road - together, and then into the elevator, where Ben gave him a simmering look, biting at his bottom lip, and Cody should have warned him to watch himself, anyone else could have stepped on the elevator, but--

He didn’t.

They’d already reached their floor, anyway, Ben darting out again. 

Cody caught up to him outside their room, as Ben was waving the keycard in front of the lock, and Ben laughed, pushing the door open and slipping inside. Cody followed him, a step behind, bumping into him as the door swung shut, plunging them into darkness before he flipped on the light. 

The room only had one bed, but--that was fine, it was probably cheaper.

“Hey, babe,” Ben said, hooking fingers into the waistband of Cody’s shorts and tugging, moving back towards the big bed. “We could--not on the floor,” he said, bumping into the bed and sitting, fingers working at Cody’s button and zipper. “Because the team isn’t here, so--”

“Yeah, let’s use the bed,” Cody agreed, because it was true, it didn’t matter if anyone on the other side of the wall heard, as long as they didn’t see Cody leaving the room in the morning and he could be careful about that. 

He pulled his shirt off and it had been--almost two weeks since Ben had done anything. Cody swore when Ben wrapped fingers around him, stroking his cock. He panted out, “Thought we were going to break the losing streak.”

“We are,” Ben said, looking up at him, cheeks all flushed and hair a mess from running around. 

“Not if you keep doing that, we’re not,” Cody warned him, with another groan, and Ben grinned at him wildly, gave him a final stroke, and let him go.

“Fine,” he said, shuffling up the bed on his back, wriggling out of his shorts on the way. “Maybe in the morning.”

Cody climbed onto the bed, looking over Ben’s body and--

“What’s…?” he asked, as Ben rolled towards the side of the bed, reaching a hand down to fish around through his bag, one leg sliding out to the side, because there was--something pressed against his skin, something dark and wide and inside of him--

“Oh,” Ben said, glancing over his shoulder and tossing a tube of lube onto the comforter. “Yeah, I--wanted to be ready, today.” He flushed all across the backs of his shoulders and his cheeks. “I missed you and knew I wouldn’t be feeling very patient.”

Cody blinked and put a hand on Ben’s thigh. “It’s a toy,” he said, feeling--struck dumb. His cock ached, twitching where it hung hard and heavy between his legs. 

“Yeah,” Ben said, breathy, reaching down, fingers brushing Cody’s as he--gripped the end of it, drawing it out a little. “Because I didn’t want to wait. I just want you to fuck me.”

Cody swore, the sound thick and guttural, and reached for the lube, pouring some over his fingers as Ben -- giggled, almost, pulling the toy out and then tossing it aside. He looked--stretched and shiny, because he’d had a toy inside him.

That woman at the game had been trying to flirt with him, but he’d had a toy in him because he wanted Cody’s cock, wanted Cody, and Ben was bi, could have gone for anyone in the world, but chose--

Ben made a surprised, thick sound when Cody shifted around, pulling Ben onto his stomach and then back, up onto his knees. It was easy to grip Ben’s hips, holding his weight for a moment as Ben got his elbows under him. He nudged the head of his cock against Ben’s body. 

“Yeah,” Ben panted out, and then he dropped his head down and groaned when Cody pushed in and in and in. 

He felt so tight. The toy hadn’t been very wide, really, only as thick as maybe two of Ben’s fingers and maybe Cody should have seen if he wanted to stretch more, but Ben just--scrambled at the sheets and groaned and didn’t ask him to stop, moaned his name instead.

“Oh, fuck, Cody,” Ben panted, once Cody got all the way into him, pausing there for a moment, because something about the--the night was hitting him hard, making him feel right on the edge of coming and he didn’t want to come yet because--

Because he wanted to enjoy how good it felt, that was all, and--

He bit his bottom lip and moved, hips snapping, for once not worried about someone else being on the other side of the wall, finding that there was something fiercely satisfying about the slam of the headboard into the drywall.

It made Ben writhe, panting out his name, voice getting more desperate when Cody changed the angle a little, driving into him harder and--

Cody swore, viciously, when Ben came, clenching around him, not even touching himself, still clawing at the sheets. Ben’s body clenched down tight and he’d done that, he’d --

He came with a shout of his own and then sagged, breathing hard. 

He ended up resting his head on Ben’s back, curled forward, and for a moment the future did not loom over them both, there was just the moment, the heat of Ben around him and under him, not flitting off to--

Cody eased out of him, and Ben moaned, sinking down to sprawl on his stomach as Cody sat on his own heels, just--looking. He blinked, dazedly, as his cock twitched again, wondering if Ben would be too tired, after everything, to try for a second just for the sake of superstition.

But Ben raised no complaints when Cody tugged him over onto his back, legs splayed to the sides and a wide, pleased grin on his mouth that stayed there as Cody shifted to get closer to him, to curl down over him, to fuck him full again, wondering, in a flash, how many times more he’d get--Ben would want him to do this, and--

He tasted words in the back of his throat as he buried himself, over and over again, and swallowed them back, because this wasn’t--the time to talk about next season, or what they’d do, or where Ben would go, or--

He felt strange and tense - orgasm evading him - even with Ben holding onto his arms and shoulders, even thrusting so hard, the way slicked with lube and his own come. “Cody,” Ben said, voice soft, and, when he glanced over, Ben was just watching him, eyes dark and clear and far too focused for the moment, like he was looking right into Cody’s head.

Ben slid a hand up onto his cheek, soft, and the touch was shocking, because Ben didn’t--touch his face. Something about it made Cody automatically lean into Ben’s palm, his hips stuttering as Ben’s thumb swept across his cheek, flooding him with strange warmth.

“I,” Ben gasped out, eyes fluttering, “Cody, I want to, ah, I--”

His hand slid towards the back of Cody’s neck, tugging just a little, something wild around his eyes, and Cody ached, and Ben’s mouth looked-- “Cody, listen, I--”

Cody grabbed Ben’s wrist, something twisting inside him hard, biting at his lungs and burning in his spine. He shifted further forward, partially up onto his knees, pinning Ben’s arm to the mattress for balance, cutting off whatever Ben was trying to say to him behind a ragged moan, because if Cody didn’t, something--something bad was going to happen, and he knew it.

Ben tightened his other hand around Cody’s arm, and Cody twisted in his grip until Ben let go, until he could grab that wrist, too, keeping Ben in place, right there, folded up, legs jerking in Cody’s peripheral vision as Cody fucked him.

He caught Ben’s eyes, again, Ben staring up at him, eyes all pupil, looking just at Cody, and-- Cody gasped, twisting his chin to the side, and came, just like that.

He sagged, only a little, aware of Ben’s erection between them. He braced his weight on his knees and right hand, and pulled Ben’s right arm down, got it between them, not thinking as he held on to Ben’s wrist as Ben stroked himself, twice, before coming with a groan.

He felt Ben’s pulse racing in his wrist, keeping his head turned to the side, eyes squeezed shut. After a moment, he remembered to release one of Ben’s arms - the one between them - too unsteady still to relax his grip on the other. 

Ben ran his free hand up Cody’s arm, after a moment, put his fingers in the short hair at the nape of Cody’s neck, and rasped out, “Oh, damn.”

Cody grunted an answer. It was the best he could do, and Ben laughed a little, which made his body squeeze around Cody’s cock. 

Eventually, Cody eased out of him - finally daring to open his eyes - and swayed off to the bathroom; he’d come hard enough that his legs felt coltish. He wiped up his dick and got a wet rag, bringing it back to Ben, who looked loose-limbed and exhausted.

And--Cody usually just gave him the rag. But he’d been sick, lately, and Cody’d fucked him pretty hard, twice, even, and--

He wiped up the come on Ben’s stomach, Ben shivering a little under the touch, and then attended to the mess between Ben’s thighs, nothing that different than cleaning up Ben’s vomit, when he’d been sick. 

“Was this…nice?” Ben asked, as Cody wiped the rag over skin, cleaning away his own come, and Cody blinked up at him, tensing suddenly, because-- “Today? The game and everything?”

“Yeah,” Cody said, relaxing a little. “It was. Thanks for inviting me.”

Ben laughed, then, and rolled over onto his side, so he could rest his cheek on Cody’s thigh. “Good,” he said, and, watching Cody the whole time, pressed a kiss to his leg. Sometimes he did that. Cody didn’t--know what Ben got from it, but it was fine.

“Gonna put that away and come to bed?” Ben asked, squeezing his leg a little, and Cody nodded. His heart was racing, but that was, no doubt, just from how vigorously they’d fucked. He stood and dropped the filthy rag in the tub.

By the time he came back out, Ben was under the blankets. Cody crawled in, the pillow too big and too soft under his head, and Ben snuggled back against him with a contented little sigh. “To many more games,” Ben murmured, there in the dark, a toast just for them.

“Yeah,” Cody said, putting an arm around him because that was the most comfortable way to sleep when Ben wanted to be close. “To you and me and a lot more games.”

Chapter Text

They did end up visiting the incline on their way out of town the next day, rising above the houses and looking out across the city. Then they made their way home, got some food on the way, and spent a few hours recovering.

They won their next game, and the one after, and then September arrived with a rush of thunderstorms - three games got canceled in a row, nothing to be done to salvage them - and more sickness moved around the team. Half the outfield caught the bug all at the same time. Beyond that, Rex started texting about all his classes, his life unfolding around him all in a rush. 

He’d still be in school by the time Cody’s season ended, Cody considered one afternoon, rain pouring down outside while he sat on Ben’s couch. Ben had fallen asleep, legs thrown across Cody’s lap, but Cody had nowhere to be….

He’d have nowhere to be after the season ended, too. Not until next March. They might go close to November if they got into the playoffs - and they still hadn’t locked in a spot - but they could be out by the beginning of October….

And, even if they went all the way in the playoffs, he’d have no immediate reason to stay in town by the end of November. 

He’d have at least three months before spring training the following year to…well, go back home, probably. See his brothers and family. His mother. His father.

He shifted, his stomach doing something unpleasant, and Ben murmured a complaint in his sleep. Cody looked at him, wondering where Ben would go. Probably back to his family, to Qui-Gon and Anakin.

Maybe he’d meet up with Satine again. Maybe she’d realize that they could make a long-distance thing work, that it was worth it for someone like Ben. Maybe they’d click together again, sharing kisses and more and--

That would be for the best. For everyone. Ben would be safer dating a girl, and Cody could spend some time in the off-season maybe looking for a girlfriend, too, someone who understood baseball, maybe.

Ben murmured again, stirring around, and Cody blinked down, realizing that he’d been kind of…squeezing Ben’s ankle. Hard. He relaxed his grip, his heart beating weird in his chest. He stroked a thumb over Ben’s ankle in apology, forcing his thoughts away from the off-season.

Next season - well - next season he’d bet most of his paycheck that Ben wouldn’t be playing Low A ball again. He’d heard enough muttering in the offices, about the need for player development versus using talent when they had it. 

Ben was good, good in a way that everyone saw when he stepped up onto the plate.

Cody had done his best to train hard and pull his weight during games, but….

There was a non-zero chance that he’d never really see Ben again after the end of the season. Which was--fine. Probably good. He couldn’t keep fucking Ben, no matter how much Ben wanted him to. His mom might lose it if he didn’t have a girlfriend by his second season. 

His throat felt tight and uncomfortable. He cleared it, looking back out the window at the rain. 

#

The games they didn’t get rained out felt strange and tense. It didn’t help that so many guys were sick with that stomach bug.

They played an especially ugly game one Wednesday; got trounced by almost six runs and he’d been behind the plate. The itch of it burned down his spine, twisting in his gut as he walked off the field. 

The locker room smelled like it always did; sweat and dust and the cleaning solution management used to disinfect the benches and floor after every game. Cody still carried the smell of dust and exertion on his skin; his hair plastered down from wearing his cap and mask for so long. 

It felt good to pull it off, hanging it neatly on the hook in his stall. He’d always been fastidious about the placement of his equipment both before and after a game. 

His palm still stung from each pitch he’d caught, the crack of each impact still ringing in his ears, so deeply satisfying even after a loss that he could not help glancing towards Ben - two stalls away - who already had his shirt unbuttoned and pushed down off his shoulders, hanging out of the waistband of his pants, muscles moving in his shoulders as he turned to the side. 

Cody shook himself, blinking, when Kit leaned into the room and called out for Ben, telling him Mace wanted to talk to him, and Cody’s gut got heavy, because maybe this was the conversation where they told Ben he’d be somewhere else next season, or maybe the High A team wanted him for their playoff run - they’d locked in already - maybe--

Cody shook himself and resumed peeling off his pads with a final, quick, look down Ben’s back as he walked away, thinking about time running out and--

“Jesus Christ,” Krell said, from Cody’s left. “It’s like watching a puppy when its owner leaves the room.” Cody didn’t even need to look to know that Krell was looking at him, an ugly smile on his face. 

Cody scowled, a hot flash of anger in his gut and the tightness spreading across his shoulders. “What the fuck did you say?” he asked, stiffly, as he turned to look at Krell.

“I just don’t see how you aren’t tired of it,” Krell said, some strange, slimy tone in his voice. Krell was always asking to get punched, though he usually picked at Ben, had done since the very first day they met. 

Krell’d given away four of the runs in the game, left the bases loaded at the end of his last inning, too, and yet there he was, talking shit to Cody, who’d had the displeasure of catching for him, wasting one of the last games he’d maybe ever get with Ben--

Cody felt the back of his shoulders itch. Some part of him said to ignore it, but his back teeth were already grinding together. “Tired of what, Krell?”

Krell smiled at him, that wide, hateful grin that showed too many of his teeth. He chewed the wad of gum in his mouth, once, noisy, and said, his dark eyes on Cody the whole time, “Catching for him all the time.”

The implication burned like fire in Cody’s gut, all the worse because there’d been a lull in conversation when Krell spoke, ensuring everyone heard. It was hardly the first time he’d heard the joke. Teenage boys thought it was hilarious. 

He felt his jaw clench again and forced himself to scoff, turning, pointedly, back to his cubby, because throwing a punch at a teammate was bad, very bad, and he wasn’t in highschool anymore, where the couch wouldn’t care so much if he defended himself--

Krell continued, leaning closer to him, “Or maybe you love being on your knees for him all the time, that it?”

“Fuck’s sake, Krell,” someone hissed, tugging on one of Krell’s arm, “shut the fuck up, man, let’s just--”

“I just want to finally hear him say it. Admit what we’ve all known all season,” Krell said, eyes on Cody the whole time. “Admit how much he loves catching everything Kenobi--”

Cody snarled, and, really, he shouldn’t have just gone for Krell. He knew it. But it had been a shitty day and shitty game, he wasn’t --

He landed the first punch before Krell even had time to get his guard up. The asshole talked a lot of shit, but Cody got the feeling he hadn’t grown up with a half-dozen brothers, half of them going through a stage where they were ready to throw a punch to resolve any disagreement at any given time. 

Someone yelled something, loud, but Cody wasn’t hearing much beyond the blood pounding in his ears. 

Krell was significantly taller than him, tall even for a pitcher, but it wasn’t like Cody hadn’t gotten into fights with taller guys before. He’d always been on the shorter side. Sometimes, attitudes about that had been what got the first punch thrown.

The other guys in the locker room jerked into motion, after the initial moment of shock. Cody’d already gotten in some good shots, Krell lashing out as someone grabbed one of Cody’s arms, trying to pull him back.

Krell’s fist hit across his jaw while he was half-restrained, a flare of hot pain that mostly made him angrier. Krell crowed, as the hit landed, “Guess I hit a nerve. I’d ask what’s gotten into you, but we all know; he’s about--”

Cody jerked free of the hands trying to hold him and launched forward, completely thoughtless, nothing but hot rage and something frigidly cold below that, because no one could--  

Cody put a shoulder into Krell’s chest, hands going to grab the back of both of Krell’s legs, lifting hard as Cody plowed into him.

Krell was heavy, too, but Cody spent hours at a time squatting and had been doing extra weight training and barely felt the strain of lifting his weight.

Krell went over backwards, landing on a bench with a wet, heavy sound and a crack of something. Cody followed him, bulling through the hands that grabbed at him, vaguely aware of his undershirt tearing.

He got in four more punches - hard and fast - before at least three people grabbed him and hauled him up and back, grappling at his shoulders while Krell lay there, groaning. “You’re a fucking idiot,” Cody snarled down at him, ignoring all the other shouting and a bit of movement in the corner of his eyes, something some part of him insisted he should pay attention to. “And you should keep your mouth shut.”

Krell groaned, rolling a bit, other guys helping him sit up. His lip was already swelling up huge, blood running down his chin as he said, “At least I’m not sucking cock every night--”

“I’m not fucking gay. You think I’d humiliate myself like that? You think I’d let anyone use me?” Cody barked out, on fire under his skin, hearing his father’s voice coming out of his mouth, “I’m not anyone’s bitch, you motherfucker. I’m not a fa--”

The guy holding one of his arms squeezed and twisted so hard that Cody stopped talking in shock, vaguely aware of the guy hissing something at him, feeling like he was settling back into his bones.

Krell’s smug little smile felt deeply out of place, enough to throw Cody, to pour something cold down his spine. He felt a premonition of dread even before Krell’s gaze cut to the side. He could not stop himself from looking that way, as well.

The ice in his spine turned to a yawning, depthless dread as he blinked over at Ben, standing in the doorway, expression--stricken.

The broken expression was only there for an instant, a beat, but it showed everywhere, in Ben’s eyes and the curve of his mouth, in the way the blood ran out of his cheeks. And then it was just…gone. Replaced with something blank and flat. 

“You know what,” Krell said, from far away, “I believe you, Fett. You convinced me. Care to weigh in, Kenobi?”

Ben glanced towards Krell, expression still curiously and completely blank. And then his bearing changed. He tossed his hair out of his face and tilted his chin up, challenging. And he said, his voice clear and steady, “Well, yeah. I suck cock. And I do it great. So much better than anyone unfortunate enough to ever get on their knees for you, Krell.” 

The locker went dead quiet in the aftermath of that. Krell looked like he’d won the lottery, joyous and shocked, all at once. Cody felt--he wasn’t sure. His head seemed full of hot and noisy static. From behind him, somewhere, someone laughed, nervously. 

And then Mace stepped around Ben and snapped, “What the hell happened here?”

#

In the aftermath, Cody got pulled down the hall and into Mace’s office. It wasn’t much of a surprise. Krell got hauled along, too, but didn’t run his mouth. He didn’t say anything at all, just radiated a deep sense of satisfaction.

Cody ended up sitting in one of the old chairs in the office, becoming vaguely aware of the ache in his knuckles and the throbbing in his jaw. It all felt so distant. He kept seeing Ben standing there, expression shattered, and then hearing Ben admit--

His heart wouldn’t slow down.

Mace wanted to know what had happened. Cody was pretty sure, from a distance, that he told his side of the story. Delight dripped off Krell’s voice as he spoke. He barely even lied, as far as Cody could tell. 

Mace looked at them both, afterwards, with disappointment written all over his expression. A ten-game suspension seemed…fair enough, Cody considered, standing when Mace dismissed them. Especially since Krell got the same time. 

Any other time of the year, he’d have just let it go. But--

“We don’t have our spot locked,” he said, standing there in front of Mace’s desk, feeling oddly numb aside from the pain in his jaw and knuckles. Mace frowned at him, saying nothing, and Cody went on, into the silence with Krell standing right there beside him, “And Ben’s going to open tomorrow, he--”

Krell barked out a sharp little laugh. Cody looked over at him, a fresh prickle across his shoulders, and Krell was smiling. He said, “Don’t worry, Fett, I don’t think he’s going to want you behind his plate, anyway. For any reason.”

“But--”

“The suspension stands,” Mace said, his voice very even. Calm, despite all of their bullshit. “You should have thought about the team’s playoff chances before getting into a fight. Now get out of here, both of you. Visit the doc.”

Cody stepped out of the office with static in his head. Krell took off, whistling through his busted lip, and for a second Cody just…stood there, trying to process everything that had happened in the last hour.

After a moment, moving on autopilot, he fished his phone free of his pocket and turned it on. He had no new messages. No calls. He opened up his messages with Ben and stared at the last few lines of text - nothing important, just discussing what he could bring over for dinner - and felt his throat get very tight, all at once.

Probably, he should send a text.

Or call.

Or…something.

He’d - he hadn’t meant for Ben to hear those things. He hadn’t meant to say those things, even though they were true; hearing them play back in his memory, he was shocked by how much he’d sounded like his father, the words just there.

His fingers felt numb as he slid the phone back into his pocket and turned towards the medical office. 

Ben still hadn’t texted Cody by the time the doctor looked him over, told him to put ice on his jaw, and sent him off. He hadn’t texted by the time Cody got back to his apartment. He hadn’t texted by the time Cody ate some food, or showered, or got ready to sleep, standing by his bed, his phone in both hands, head bent forward to stare at the screen.

He swiped in ‘hey’ and then deleted it, correcting to, in short order, ‘how are you doing,’ ‘sorry about the game,’ and, ‘is everything okay.’ 

He deleted each one. A yawning pit inside him insisted that he wasn’t going to like the replies to any of those messages. He could remember, too well, the pain on Ben’s face, and, more damning than that, he had so many memories of--

Of Ben, on his knees on the floor in front of Cody’s bed, broad shoulders curving between Cody’s thighs, looking up with bright eyes as he licked and sucked, not making too much noise, because Kit was in the living room and had to believe they were talking about the game, just the game, nothing else. 

He swallowed, hard, not wanting to remember how different it’d felt the first time Ben sucked him bare.

‘Can we talk,’ he swiped in and erased, because he didn’t know what to say, not even with memories of Ben on his stomach sleeting through his head, Ben’s hips canted up and his cries muffled against a pillow as Cody pushed into him and--

I’m not anyone’s bitch, he’d said, and Ben had been standing right there, looking shattered to pieces--

‘Hey,’ Cody put back into his phone, circling back to the start, and made himself send it, because he couldn’t bear standing by the bed anymore, goosebumps on his legs because he hadn’t put on anything but some boxers after his shower. 

A moment later the status under the message switched from Sent to Read. 

And that was it. Cody swallowed, hard, and turned, sitting on the mattress. Ben didn’t start typing. He didn’t call. He didn’t do anything . The message just sat there, small. Cody pulled up his keyboard again, index finger posed over letters he suddenly couldn’t recall how to use.

He hadn’t meant Ben to hear those things, even though they were true, even though he was straight, even though he wasn’t a -- 

But--

He set the phone on his nightstand, picked it up again, plugged it in, and checked one more time for a new message. There wasn’t anything. He put it down and rolled onto his back on the bed, staring up at the ceiling with a feeling that his stomach was slowly turning to rock.

#

Ben hadn’t texted by the time Cody woke up.

He grabbed his phone first thing, swiping it open while curled onto his side, holding hope in his chest for a beat because there were messages from…no one important. Just some of the guys, wondering how he was after the suspension.

Ben hadn’t texted by the time Cody finished his morning run - it made his face ache, each stride a reminded of the previous day - and breakfast. Cody felt like something was eating through the inside of him as he got dressed.

He’d normally be thinking about heading over to the field. Had no reason to at the moment. He pulled out his phone again, sitting in his chair, leg bouncing up and down, and sent, ‘hey, you getting ready for the game?’

Sent, the messenger app told him, mockingly. It sat there, unchanged. The message still said Sent five minutes later, as Cody sat there sweating through his shirt and not sure why, feeling sick to his stomach

#

Ben failed to reply to the handful of other texts Cody sent through the day. No reply to ‘hey, do you want to eat lunch,’ or ‘you want to come over and talk?’ or ‘so you doing anything after the game tonight?’

Cody could at least practice. Ten games put him out for all but the last game of the regular season. He’d be off suspension in time for the playoffs, if they made it, and God, they better make it. He didn’t know what he’d do if they lost their berth while he was sitting out.

There were some whispers that followed him around the lockers, but he ignored them, moving through some weight training and then stretches. He went out to the bullpen, after, and felt his stomach swoop at the sound of a ball smacking into a glove. 

Ben looked good, throwing pitches. He always did, had since the very first time Cody saw him, all smooth, beautiful form and the tiniest hint of a grin on the corner of his mouth when he knew he’d nailed it. 

He was throwing to someone else, and that was--so wrong. Cody took a step forward, automatic, and Mace stretched an arm out, hand flat on Cody’s chest. Cody hadn’t even seen him leaning against the little equipment shed.

“Hey,” Cody said, shifting, feeling very sure that he needed to just walk out there. “I know I can’t play, but I should be able to help him practice.”

“No team practices,” Mace said, with a shrug. “That includes practices with Ben.”

“But--”

“And I’m not sure it’s a good idea to put him in a position to throw anything at you at a hundred miles per hour right now. He’s shown remarkable self-restraint, but let’s not tempt fate,” Mace went on, expression set like a stone. The aching thing in Cody’s gut got bigger, somehow, heavier, twisting around with a wave of physical pain. 

Cody gaped at him, speechless from the pressure in his throat - Ben wouldn’t hurt him, Ben didn’t hurt anyone, not on purpose, he hadn’t hit a batter all season - and Mace said, “Go on, kid. Go think about things. That’s what a suspension is for.”

And he said it with such firm surety that Cody turned after a reeling moment and walked off. He ended up in the lockers, trying very hard not to look at Ben’s stall with the taste of vomit in the back of his mouth. 

“Hey, man,” Kit said, dropping down onto the bench beside Cody, straddling the seat. He’d left the tie off his braids, and they’d shifted forward to frame his face as he dropped his voice - even though they were alone in the lockers - and said, “So, did you like…break up?”

Cody blinked at him, the words taking a terribly long moment even to filter through into his head. “What?” he managed to ask, because what the fuck was Kit even talking about--

“You and Ben,” Kit said, still keeping his voice low, leaning forward a little.

Cody flinched, a reflexive wash of something that burned hot - anger - up the back of his neck. Before he could open his mouth, a handful of other guys walked in, talking loud, and Cody had no intention of having this conversation around anyone else. 

He grabbed his things, instead, and walked, stiff, from the lockers.

He walked quickly across the parking lot, eyes open but not really seeing the scenery, such as it was. And, no matter how fast he moved his legs, he couldn’t quite seem to escape the echoes of Kit’s question. 

Did you like…break up?

Which was--ridiculous. It didn’t make any sense, because--

He stared at the doorknob to his apartment for a solid minute, unable to remember how he’d gotten home - he must have driven - and what he was supposed to do next to get inside, and then, belatedly, recalled how to use his keys. He went inside, looked at the clock and wondered how long he’d just been driving around, because hours had passed. 

He went and sat down in the living room. Turned on the television and stared at it without seeing. His head throbbed, he couldn’t pin a single thought in place long enough to finish it. His stomach rumbled eventually and he got up, went to the kitchen and looked at the clock.

The game was probably over.

He pulled the fridge open, looking at the options without seeing any of them.

He’d felt, for the last twenty-four hours, like he was missing pieces to the situation in front of him, like he was trying to fix something broken without a clear idea of what it had looked like while whole.

Did you like…break up? 

He closed the fridge, aware of something that felt like a yawning, empty pit inside his chest. He turned to the sink, knocked it on, bent down, and splashed water across his face. They couldn’t have been dating. Because that would have meant Cody was dating a guy. And he couldn’t date a guy. 

But--

He wiped at his face with a paper towel and turned, fingers and face feeling oddly numb as he left the apartment again. His head felt full of static, all the way to Ben’s place, into the building, up the stairs, to the door.

He knocked, hearing the echo of sound from a distance, his stomach cramping inside his skin, his mouth full of some sour saliva that made the pain in his gut worse. He kept knocking until someone opened the door: Quin, who only opened it a fraction of the way and stood in the way, frowning.

“I need to talk to Ben,” Cody said, shifting his weight back and forth, his hands getting hot and itchy all at once.

“He’s not here,” Quin said, which was a lie, like Cody couldn’t hear someone moving around inside, doing things in the kitchen. 

“Stop fooling around,” Cody said, heart beating way too fast in his chest, “I need--”

Quin could move quick, when he wanted. He stepped out through the door, shutting it behind him, and Cody took an automatic step back to avoid getting run into. Quin frowned at him, there in the hall, and said, “Believe me when I tell you that I could not care less about what you need right now.”

Cody looked at him, blinking as he tried to reorient himself. Quin had never been super friendly with him, though they’d gotten along alright after the initial tension. But-- 

Cody said, scrambling to put things together, “Ben told you about what happened.” Because Quin hadn’t been in the locker room, he’d been down the hall, and--

Quin snorted with a shake of his head and an unpleasant twist of his mouth. “Ben didn’t tell me shit beyond that you’d gotten suspended and that he’d come out to the team. But everyone else told me exactly what you said.”

Cody’s heart did something that felt painful and sharp. His ribs were pressing too tight on his lungs. “It wasn’t - I need to talk to him about it--”

Quin snorted a sharp laugh and took another step closer to him. “You’ve said enough,” he said, “and he’s not here right now. He’s going to keep on not being here, indefinitely, so you don’t have a reason to come back, you understand me?”

“You can’t stop me from talking to him,” Cody snapped, the words just springing to his lips. Quin’s eyebrows bumped up and he straightened.

“You want me to prove that I can?” Quin asked, and Cody’s knuckles itched.

And if he got into another fight, Mace was probably going to extend his suspension, which would put it into the playoffs, and he couldn’t let that happen. He swallowed bile, rocking his jaw to the side, feeling his teeth grind together. 

“At least ask him if he’ll talk to me,” he said, when he’d regained some measure of control. 

“He’s not here,” Quin reiterated, pronouncing each word slowly and purposefully. 

Cody swallowed the burn of being lied to, blatantly, and said, through gritted teeth, “Well, when he ‘gets back’, tell him I was here. And that I need to talk to him.”

“Sure,” Quin said, absolutely no sincerity in his expression, but Cody had no other options, and so he nodded and took a step back with one more look at the door. Quin called, as Cody reached the end of the hall, “It might take a while to get around to it. Ben finally stopped wasting his time with this asshole straight guy who's been using him all season. I might need to offer my assistance helping him get over the motherfucker, you know how it goes.”

Cody turned back, head full all at once of hot, twisting anger, hands curling into fists. Quin just stood there, arms crossed, mouth curled up on one side. Cody’s pulse beat like a drum against his ears, and that was before Quin added, “He probably doesn’t even remember how good it is with someone willing to take care of him.” 

Cody’s head went all to static. He took a step forward, and Quin’s little grin got wider, Quin saying, “Yeah, I’m going to get him spread out on my bed, find out how to make him--”

“Shut up,” Cody heard the words come out of his mouth, a bark, without realizing he’d even spoke, and Quin smile was all sharp edges and--

And then the door to the apartment opened. Cody heard Ben’s voice, quiet and even, “Leave it alone, Quin. Come back in here.”

“Happy to, sweetheart,” Quin said, keeping eye contact with Cody as he stepped towards the door. He poked his tongue out against the inside of his cheek - three times in quick succession - as Cody stood there, frozen, his hands in fists and nausea pressing at the back of his throat, hard. 

They shut the door. He heard the lock click, a beat later. He stood there, feeling dizzy -- all jammed up inside, and, eventually, managed to lurch into motion. He turned and stumbled on his way down the stairs, walking out into the night with no destination in mind. 

Chapter Text

Cody wasn’t sure where he went. The world felt blurred, out of focus, his feet operating on some completely different system than his brain, everything that had happened in the last day and a half jumbled together.

He needed to make sense of it. 

The pieces fought him, everything from Ben admitting that - that he sucked cock and - and did it well, to Quin saying he was going to help, to calling him straight, which he was, of course he was, he wasn’t a fucking--

He’d ended up back at his apartment. He had no idea how, no memory of driving. He stood outside for a moment, breathing unevenly, and then let himself in. 

Kit didn’t appear to be in - but then, he’d been spending a lot of nights with his girlfriend across town - and Cody stood there in the dark, empty space for a long moment. He was straight. He was, he’d--dated girls. 

He was straight, everything with Ben had just been--they were friends, great friends, and if Ben wanted to do things like that for him, well, of course it felt good, it didn’t mean anything that Cody thought it felt good, a mouth was a mouth and an ass was an ass, and Quin was probably in Ben’s room, right then, kneeling like Cody never had and--

Cody registered that he’d slammed the side of his fist into the wall around the time the bang of it vibrated through the room. He stood there, breathing hard and shaky, and thought about Quin - Quin doing things, and it was--too easy to think about doing those things, too, or about lying beside Ben and curling a hand around the back of his neck and just--kissing his mouth--

He made a sound, agonized, and lurched into the kitchen. He couldn’t think about kissing Ben. He couldn’t--didn’t want to kiss Ben. He--

Wanting those things - any of those things - it was--wrong. Humiliating, to let someone else use you. But, God, Ben had looked--so hurt. Shattered open by that truth, like he hadn’t known that it was unacceptable to - to pretty much everyone, starting from God and working down from there--

God, he’d hurt Ben. He’d hurt Ben, he’d--

He found a largely empty bottle of--something. Rum, Kit’s rum that he preferred over beer, beside the refrigerator and twisted it open. The first drink hit his stomach like a punch. He wasn’t sure when he’d last eaten.

Earlier, sometime.

He coughed, after, and stood there, in the dark, quiet kitchen, willing his thoughts to slow down. He’d--he’d said things, and Kit had asked if they were broken up, and Quin was over there probably touching Ben and--

He’d told the truth, he’d--he couldn’t be gay because--but it had hurt Ben, and how could--Ben was a good guy, funny and kind and damn good at playing ball and he liked to suck cock and get fucked, and Cody’d hurt him--

He made a low sound, miserable, and took another drink. God, he wasn’t gay, he couldn’t be gay, but--but--

But he felt like he was dying from the inside out. He felt like someone had cracked his ribs and reached inside him, taking out all the important pieces. Were they broken up? Had they been dating?

Was he--

--were they - Ben and Quin - back in Ben’s bedroom, right at that moment? Were they sprawled on the sheets? Quin could be touching him, or done touching him, looking at Ben after, and Ben always looked so soft and sweet after he--he came, and--

Cody grabbed his keys, lying on the counter, a spinal reflex. Quin shouldn’t have been touching Ben like that, seeing him when he was vulnerable. Cody should be there, in his bed and--and he locked his knees into place, staring at his hand. He wanted to go - go over there. Wanted to get Quin away and - and why did he want those things?

“Oh, God,” he panted out, not sure if it was a plea for help or forgiveness. Either way, he found the strength to let go of the keys. Ben didn’t want to see him, anyway. Even if maybe he actually was--

He took a long drink and then abandoned the emptied bottle and swayed to the bathroom. Splashing his face didn’t help. He ended up bracing his hands on the sink, guts twisting, feeling cold and hot all over at the same time. He didn’t know what to do. His head felt--too full and he needed--an outside perspective, maybe. Someone to talk to, to explain this all to, maybe that would make it make sense.

He ended up in his room, sitting on his bed, where Ben had sat two mornings ago, and--

Cody’s phone felt very cold in his hands as he cradled it, looking through his contacts blindly, not sure who to call or if he should even call anyone. He ended up hitting Rex’s number almost without thought, vaguely aware that it was well after two in the morning.

Rex answered on the third ring and grumbled, “Codes? It’s like. Almost midnight. Is everything okay?”

Cody stared at the far wall and barked out a gutted laugh, because, no, everything was incredibly wrong. He heard the sounds of movement across the phone line, and Rex went on, “Shit, what’s wrong? Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

“No,” Cody managed to force out, and heard Rex exhale a curse on the other side of the line. 

“What’s going on?” Rex said, keeping his voice quiet. “Cody, what’s--”

“I think there’s something wrong with me,” Cody blurted, words spilling out like a wash of blood from a wound. For a moment, Rex went completely silent. “Like,” Cody went on, vision blurred as he stared at the far wall, “really wrong. Very wrong. With me.”

“No, there isn’t,” Rex told him, familiar voice a comfort that Cody probably didn’t deserve, and certainly wouldn’t still have, if he told Rex what was - maybe - wrong with him. “Have you been drinking?”

“A little,” Cody told him, which was not quite true, but he didn’t need to be telling his brother how much of a bottle he’d just killed. 

“Thought so,” Rex grumbled. “Listen, there’s nothing wrong with you, you’re just--”

“I think maybe, possibly, I’m--gay,” Cody blurted, tasting bile and fucking disgusting rum in the back of his throat, twin burns that felt all-encompassing. 

There was silence across the line for a beat, and Cody waited for--Rex to laugh, or tell him that was impossible, or yell at him, or just hang up the phone and never talk to him again, any of the most likely reactions to--

To-- that. He stared blindly forward, the admission ringing in his ears, shocking to hear in his own voice. Oh, God. Was he? He’d tried so hard, had he really failed, was--

“Okay,” Rex said, just--that, and Cody heard himself make a wounded sound. It seemed to come from so far away. 

“Did you hear me?” he asked, because maybe the line had cut out, that was possible, the signal around town often sucked so much.

“Yeah,” Rex said, tone still even and quiet. “I did. And--okay. That’s okay.”

Cody’s lungs seized his breath and refused to let go for a long, aching moment as he stared blankly forward. He was aware of streaks of hot warmth down his cheeks, the taste of salt on his lips. He said, voice croaking, “No, it isn’t.”

“Why?” Rex asked, and Cody could imagine him, hours and hours away, sitting up in his own bed, blankets a mess because Rex had never been able to stay in one place as he slept, being so calm about this, like he was about everything. 

“Because,” Cody started, a thousand words in his throat, too many of them tangled up to get one out. “I--I’m not--a--I’m not--it’s wrong, it’s--”

He strangled off, choked by a noose he couldn’t see, and Rex blew out a hard breath. “It isn’t, you know,” he said, very quiet. “Not everything Dad and Mom ever said was true, you know that.”

Cody covered his face, pressing hard against his skin, because Dad--oh, God, if Dad found out, if he knew, somehow, he’d know what a screw-up Cody was. Any pride or pleasure he’d taken from Cody’s efforts to stay on the team, to make it to the Majors, it would turn to ash, to dust, to ruination.

He couldn’t think about it. He shoved it all away and said, instead, “Why aren’t you - why aren’t you surprised?”

Rex blew out a breath. It sounded too loud against Cody’s ear. “Codes, man,” Rex said, after a beat, and sounded almost apologetic. “Man, I don’t think--you don’t know how miserable you looked, each time you tried to date a girl. And - and I did see you with Ben, you know. How you look at him. I know how you talk about him.” Rex paused for a beat, while Cody froze over inside, and then went on, “I kind of--I mean, Cody, I got the feeling that you’d--figured the whole gay thing out like, a few months ago. You know. When you started sleeping with him.”

Cody dropped his hand, struggling to breathe evenly, and Rex went on, “I wasn’t going to push you to come out to me. I know what the family’s like, and it seemed like you--weren’t ready. To tell me. But. I mean. You and Ben seem, ah, happy together. And I’m happy for the two of you, he seems like a nice guy, I’m glad he’s looking after you, it’s--”

“I didn’t know,” Cody blurted, because he couldn’t hear another word about how happy he and Ben were--had been. 

There was a beat of silence. “You didn’t know what?” Rex asked, eventually.

“I didn’t know that I was maybe gay,” Cody said, unable to stop…that small hedge. After all, maybe he wasn’t. Maybe he could still be--

“Wait,” Rex said, and Cody knew he was rubbing at his nose, could imagine his expression perfectly. “Were you--Codes, were you not sleeping with Ben, because I definitely had the feeling that you - uh - shared a little bit more than notes about his pitching, and--”

“Yeah,” Cody admitted and, oh, he was an idiot. The full weight of it hit him, all at once, the realizations he’d been trying so hard to avoid for the last thirty hours crushing down on him without remorse. “We were. Kind of.”

“Kind--Cody, what the fuck? Sleeping with a guy usually--”

“I told myself we were just friends,” he said, and laughed, a little, broken. “And that, you know, if he liked men, it was fine. No one’s perfect. And if he wanted to do--things. For me. That was fine, too. I wasn’t. Doing them, too. If he--that didn’t mean that I was, ah, gay. I was just--indulging a friend.”

Jesus, he thought, staring at the floor between his feet. He’d been a complete asshole.

Rex was quiet for a long time. Long enough for Cody to rasp into the phone, “Are you still there?”

“Yeah,” Rex said. “I just--wow.” Cody winced, squeezing his eyes shut. “I--okay. So, so, now you’ve--figured out that actually you are gay and--that’s probably good, if you’re dating Ben--”

“I don’t think I am,” Cody gasped out, each word dragging along the inside of his throat, lined with razors. He opened and shut his mouth, the words he was trying to say caught there, jammed up and knotted. 

“Why?” Rex asked, finally, and Cody slipped sideways, so he was curled on the bed, feeling very tired and very cold. 

“I said some--things.” He squeezed his eyes shut, trying to ignore the memories. “And now he won’t talk to me. At all. He won’t respond to texts and I tried to go see him and he wouldn’t even come out of his kitchen and Quin says he’s going to help Ben get over me and--” his throat closed, mercifully, stopping the flow of words. 

“Mother of fuck,” Rex said, and Cody could hear him moving around. “What did you say that was that bad?”

The words felt branded into Cody’s memory. He felt his cheeks burn, just thinking about them, but, well. Rex probably deserved to know. “I said,” he cleared his throat, “I said I’d never humiliate myself by, uh, by doing the things Ben’s done. For me. That I wasn’t. Anyone’s bitch.” God. God, he’d really just implied--

“Wow,” Rex said, “Yeah, that would, I can see how that would, uh, not go over well, Codes.”

“Yeah.” Cody rolled onto his back, staring up at the ceiling, resisting the urge to curl all his limbs in, like some kind of dying insect, despite how he felt inside. “I didn’t--realize. And now I -- he won’t talk to me. And I don’t know if--we’re broken up, or--I don’t know if we were ever dating, and if we were I think - I think I was a very bad - I think I was bad to him, Rex, and I don’t know what to do.”

“Shit.” Rex went quiet for a moment, just breathing over the line, and then finally went on, “Well. I think, man, I think you need to, like, think about what you want. I think you need to process the gay thing. And decide, uh, what you want. If you want to be a good, uh, boyfriend, I guess. Or -- I think that’s what you need to do, first.”

Cody inhaled and exhaled. His chest felt tight and clogged up, but he could acknowledge, through that, that Rex was almost certainly right. “Okay,” he said, and, swallowing, “I’m sorry I bothered you like this.”

“It’s okay,” Rex told him, with a tired little sound. “Are you - doing alright? Now? Do I need to--should I get on a flight? Come and see you?”

“No,” Cody said, already feeling shitty enough about bothering his little brother in the middle of the night. Fuck. He must have been sobering up, a little. He put his hand over his eyes again. “And don’t--don’t tell Dad, okay? Or Mom.”

“I’m not going to tell anyone,” Rex said, voice a steady reassurance. 

“He’s going to be so angry,” Cody whispered, the thought eating away at him, down into his gut, spreading out like acid with each beat of his heart. “If I’m really--he’s going to hate me. They’re both going to hate me.”

And God, too, he supposed. He knew it was wrong, wanting the things he - he - God, but he did want them. Oh, fuck.

“Well, they shouldn’t,” Rex said, not disagreeing. Not even trying to disagree. “And I don’t. And -- no one else is going to. No one worth caring about.”

“Sure,” Cody said, staring at the colors on the insides of his eyelids. “Thanks for--listening.”

“Of course,” Rex said, and then, quieter, after a beat, “You should try to get some sleep, okay? And like, it’s okay. All of this. You’re okay.”

“Right,” Cody said, and felt dazed through whatever goodbyes they managed to share. He hung up the phone and stared up at the ceiling. The world hadn’t managed to end with him admitting - even if only to his brother - that he might have been - possibly - gay.

It just kept spinning onward, leaving him with a crushing pressure on his chest and an acid burn in his gut. 

He blinked, rapidly, to clear his eyes and then squinted at his phone in the dark. It was too late to try to call Ben, probably. He pulled up the number, anyway, and hit dial.

It rang once and then went right to voicemail, which seemed…strange.

But it was…something. He cleared his throat and said, “Hey. It’s me. Cody. I really--I need to talk to you. If we can. I know you’re hurt.” He had to cover his mouth for a moment, worried about the sounds he felt in his throat growing audible. “But if you could, ah, call me back in the morning? I’d-- please. Ben, call me, okay?”

He hung up and kept a grip on his phone, just in case Ben called back right away. He tried not to think about how maybe Ben was distracted. Maybe Quin was with him, giving him things Cody’d refused to and--

He groaned, rolled onto his side, and curled his arm over his head. 

Ben didn’t call. Not when Cody had to lurch out of the bed about ten minutes later and across the hall into the bathroom to retch all the poison in his guts out, and not at any point over the next few hours as his stomach kept trying to crawl out of his throat.

Eventually, he felt thoroughly emptied. He dragged himself back to bed, curled up, and fell asleep holding the phone. 

#

The next day dawned too early.

Cody checked his phone before he even rolled out of bed and tried to call Ben again. He got the same thing: one ring and then voicemail. 

It was possible Ben had his phone turned off, Cody considered, dragging himself into the shower. He stood under the hot water until he felt something close to human again, brushed the smell of alcohol and vomit out of his mouth, and managed to choke down some breakfast.

Kit hadn’t returned. Things must have been going well for him, then. 

Cody shoved that thought away, got ready, and went for a run that turned into more of a jog due to his stomach. He went through his morning routine before coming back and getting dressed. It felt strange to pull on normal clothes on a game day, but, even though he couldn’t play he wanted to see how the team did. He fidgeted - he had time until the game - and ended up back on his phone.

He checked Ben’s twitter - or tried to - and had to sit down when he realized that - not only were they no longer friends - he couldn’t access Ben’s account at all. No posts. Nothing. Not that Ben had ever posted much, anyway, but--

He’d been blocked, he considered, curling his shoulders down and squeezing the back of his neck. And probably Ben had blocked his phone number, too, which would explain the way his calls just went to voicemail.

Each avenue to reach out to Ben felt barred shut. He considered, sitting there with bile in his mouth, that maybe it was the universe giving him a sign. Maybe he was - maybe he shouldn’t even consider being gay. Maybe it was better to just--

Find some girl. There had to be a girl, somewhere, who would make him feel the way Ben did. He could date her, and marry her, and Dad and Mom would both be happy, and--

Just the idea made his heart beat wrong and his chest hurt. He swallowed bile and stood up. He went to the game, moving with the crowd of people - they never had huge turn-out at their games, but it was decent - and made his way into the stands. 

He found a place along the first-base line, and settled in, feeling a burn along his arms and legs. The last time he’d actually gone to see a professional game it had been with Ben and his throat tightened with the memory of Ben pressed against his arm, Ben’s feet braced up on the railing in front of them, sun catching on his hair while they’d discussed the teams, the players, the future….

I figure, Ben had said, not even that long ago, a few years and then this’ll be us .

Cody blinked, willing away the burn in his eyes, and his heart gave a lurch when the teams came out to warm up. He could see, in the distance, Ben in the pen, starting his stretches. Cody should have been in there, with him, they should have been talking, going over their pre-game checks--

Someone else was there, instead, fiddling with gear, and Cody’s gut hurt. He watched, anyway, watched all through the warm-up, until they disappeared again and came back. He stood, numb, for the opening ceremonies and felt his heart racing when Ben walked out to the mound.

He’d never really had a chance to sit and watch Ben pitch before.

Not in a game.

It took all of one throw for him to realize something was wrong. Ben still threw well, but there was something off about the usual fluidity of his movements. He kept reaching up to fiddle with the brim of his cap, looking unsettled.

The current catcher apparently didn’t care. He made no effort to go out there and settle Ben, just fielding the pitches as the inning wobbled along. The other team didn’t get a run, but the bases were loaded by the time it ended with a pop-up fly, Ben shaking his head, once, sharp as he started off the field. 

And Cody wanted to call out to him, or stand up and go to the lockers, explain that he needed to play, or at least talk to Ben--

But that wouldn’t have helped midgame. And they wouldn’t have let him, anyway. So he sat there, watching the bottom of the inning, and got a decent look at Ben’s expression when he came up to bat.

There were dark bruises under his eyes and he wasn’t wearing that little half-smile he tended to adopt in the batter’s box. He struck out in three, and Cody’s hands clenched into fists in his lap. Only one person patted Ben’s shoulder on his way into the dugout. 

He watched, with a terrible ache, as Ben sat down a little away from everyone else, thinking about him--

Coming out. Really. Not just to his brother, but to the entire team, and not just--admitting that he liked other men, but that he liked--

Sucking cock.That he was good at sucking cock.

Cody felt his pulse against his face, sweating down his back though the day was fairly cool. In the middle of the second, he watched Quin lean over and nudge Ben in the dugout, watched Ben stiffen, and flinched when Quin gestured…directly towards him.

Ben jerked his head up, looked over, and, for an instant, they made eye-contact. 

Ben looked away almost immediately, and Cody couldn’t hear him, but he saw the snap on Ben’s face anyway. Ben very much avoided even looking towards Cody’s side of the field the next time he came to the mound, shoulders tense and turned always towards Cody.

Two runners came home before he ended the inning, and Cody felt helpless. He realized, watching Ben sit perfectly straight on the bench in the dugout, looking to the side with a wooden expression, that he was quite possibly making things worse. 

He got up at the end of the inning, ignoring the crushing pressure in his chest, and left the game. 

Ben - obviously - didn’t want to see him. And Cody didn’t want to cost him the game or upset him or--

He went on another run, instead, and threw himself into weight training. He heard, later, that the team barely won the game, scraping by with only a single run ahead of the competition.

Cody texted with Kit a bit, after, asking how things had gone. He got answers, until he asked how Ben was doing, and then Kit just…stopped replying to him. He covered his face, set the phone aside, and figured he deserved that.

#

Cody spent part of the following day seriously considering the possibility of scaling the side of Ben’s apartment building and knocking on his window until he agreed to talk. He restrained himself and avoided going to the field for the game. 

He felt a pang of relief, later, hearing that they’d won, barely. 

Rex called at one point to see how he was doing, and Cody had no idea what to say, stumbling through the call like he’d suddenly forgotten how to have a conversation with his brother. He spent the rest of his time doing…research.

There was a lot of information out there about coming out or realizing you were gay, or--dealing with parents who didn’t approve. He read professional articles about it and discovered the town even had a support group. 

He researched sort of--every definition he could find, hoping, vaguely, that he’d realize none of them could apply to them. Hoping, desperately, that maybe he was all wrong about what it meant that he - he’d pretty much dated Ben for six months and craved his touch and--

He only found confirmation, over and over, that he--well. Was gay. The label felt like a weight on him, pressing him down, everything he’d tried not to be for so long, for his whole life. Unavoidable. And if that meant he was--weak, or broken, or--

But Ben wasn’t weak. Or broken. Or--he wasn’t a degenerate or selfish or--

He was just a guy. A man. Normal and wonderful all at once. And Cody’d hurt him. The things he’d thought--the things his parents had thought - they’d shattered Ben’s expression, and Cody--couldn’t accept that.

He just couldn’t. He didn’t know what was right, anymore, but-- He felt, finally, like maybe he knew who he was.

It felt like a weight, acknowledging that he was probably gay. But, at the same time, he felt--better than he could remember feeling in a long time. At least he knew. At least it was something. Something he could try to understand and deal with. 

And, if sometimes he ended up curled up on his bed or in the shower, knuckles pressed hard to his mouth as he tried to be quiet -- well. No one else knew about it. 

Eventually, he moved on to reading posts from people around his age and spent hours staring at the screen, until his eyes refused to focus. It was…reassuring to find out he wasn’t completely alone, anyway, even if none of the people he read about had fucked up in quite the same way he had.

The process consumed most of his week - with breaks to see if Ben had unblocked his number - but it felt necessary. He stared at the wall when he knew the team would be boarding a bus to go to their away series, feeling itchy the entire time until they came back to town.

Apparently, more people had gotten sick, according to Kit. Most of the pitchers were ill, all at the same time, with three games left in the season. Cody tried not to think about that and ended up calling Rex again on Friday, when the second to last game of his suspension finally rolled around.

“So,” he said, after listening to Rex complain about his classes for a while, “I really, uh, I think I am, really, you know. Gay.”

“Cool,” Rex said, and Cody had to laugh against the phone, a little burst of sound that startled him. 

“I really should have figured that out sooner, huh?” he said, sitting against his bed and staring at the far wall, thinking about the team playing without him, right at that moment. 

“Probably around the time you started sleeping with another guy at the latest, yeah,” Rex said, and Cody groaned, that misery still so fresh and raw inside him. “Sorry,” Rex murmured, a moment later.

“No.” Cody sighed, scrubbing at his face. “You’re right. I don’t think he’s ever going to forgive me.”

“Still not talking to you?” Rex asked, and Cody wished, painfully, that he was there, in Rex’s room, watching Rex fiddle with something, or - or back at home and leaning over the top of the bunk, smelling dinner cooking down the hall and listening to the rest of their brothers either run around or argue over video games or--

He’d probably never have those things again, he considered, once - if - Dad and Mom found out. 

“Yeah,” Cody said, exhaling. “Maybe he just won’t. Ever again.”

“I think he will,” Rex said, and Cody heard him sigh. “Like…listen, Codes. He apparently kept, uh, spending time with you even though you weren’t--really being, you know. Fair. Like, for months. I think he--I think that means there’s feelings there. From him. You just have to explain what happened.”

“Do you really think it’ll matter?”

“That you were being a repressed idiot and not a malicious asshole?” Rex asked, all flat sarcasm, the same tone he always used when he was getting tired of Cody’s shit, and there was something comforting to know that stayed the same. “Yeah, man, I think that’ll matter.”

“Fuck you,” Cody grumbled, and Rex snorted at him. 

“I’m glad you’re admitting it. The gay thing, I mean,” Rex said, eventually, after a brief lull in the conversation. “And you’ll figure the rest of it out, man, I mean it. But you’re going to have to excuse me, because I’ve got to study for this test or I’m going to flunk this class.”

“Right. Of course. Good luck,” Cody said, and sat there after he hung up, missing his family, and the game, and Ben.

#

Cody tried to even himself out.

His head still felt all over the place, tension thrumming through his body. He could admit - to himself, at least - that he was almost definitely gay, and that resolution felt like a relief, somehow. 

He’d feared it so much. But he’d--the world hadn’t ended at the consideration that he was attracted to other men. It just kept going. He hadn’t changed. He’d just stayed who he was, who he’d always been. There was still so much he felt unsure about, all of it centered on Ben. He wasn’t sure if they’d…broken up, because he wasn’t sure if they’d ever been dating.

He wasn’t sure--

About so many things. He wasn’t sure how Ben felt about him, and he’d spent, perhaps, too many hours thinking about how he felt about Ben. 

Ben was--was kind and funny and a damn good ball player and he loved his little brother and he--he’d put up with a lot of Cody’s bullshit for months and he--

And Cody wished, desperately, that he’d - at any point - gotten his head out of his ass long enough to kiss Ben, even just once. He wanted to sit beside Ben and watch stupid movies. He wanted them to make dinner and eat together again. He wanted to play ball with him and go home together after the game and--

Kiss Ben. Just kiss him. Hold him and--

Cody’d never been in love before. But he was pretty sure… Well, he needed to talk to Ben about all of it, but Ben continued not to speak to him. 

It ate away at him, but he had no idea what else to do about it. 

It hurt that Ben didn’t want to talk to him, but he could too easily understand the why of that decision. If someone had done to him what he’d done to Ben - even--inadvertently, he’d…well. He wasn’t sure he’d have just gone with avoidance. 

And then it was after the game on Saturday and the end of his suspension.

He got a call from Mace about it, Sunday morning, standing there in his little shared kitchen and wanting to feel relief. “You think you can play today, properly?” Mace asked, after freeing him from the restrictions he’d - maybe - deserved, but not for the reasons Mace thought. “Or you still need more time to cool your heels?”

“No,” Cody said. “I’m good to play.” In truth, he hadn’t really thought much about Krell the past two weeks. 

“Good. Half the team’s sick so don’t expect much,” Mace said, and the phone clicked off. 

Cody felt immensely grateful for each pre-game ritual as he went through them. It kept his mind off--everything. He ended up at the field a little early and got some slaps on the back on his way through. It felt good to be included again, to no longer be set apart from everything. 

He fell to talking about the last games, half the team happy to catch him up, to chatter, all excitement about the upcoming playoffs. They were, he heard, now a lock either way. But no one wanted to go into the postseason with a loss. 

Bad luck.

He felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck when Ben came down the hall, glancing sideways to look at him. Ben didn’t glance his way, his expression very even, belied by the tension across his shoulders. 

Cody looked at him, words bubbling in the back of his throat, and Mace stepped into the room and said, “Alright, focus up, let’s go over what we’re going to be dealing with out there today.”

Chapter Text

Cody mostly went through his warmups for the game - set early in the afternoon - in a fog of distraction. It was fortunate, really, that every movement had been worked into muscle memory so many years ago. He buckled into his gear, he stretched his legs, he worked his glove back and forth in both hands a few times, his own private little preparatory ritual.

He got no comments about fighting Krell or what he’d said, but hadn’t really expected any. He’d seen - been involved in - enough locker room fights to know no one really liked thinking about them afterwards. 

And no one liked Krell much, anyway. As for what he’d said--

He had an aching, empty feeling most of the guys on the team would have agreed with every word of it. Especially with the way nearly everyone seemed to be keeping a barrier of space between themselves and Ben. 

Cody’s guts twisted around as he considered that, and then he went out onto the field with all the rest, standing there under the hot late-summer sun, watching everyone in the stands, that sweeping feeling in his chest of being where he was meant to be momentarily overtaking everything else.

He only felt it one other place and--

He shoved that thought aside, glancing towards Ben during the opening announcements. He and Krell were the only pitchers there - everyone else was still sick - and Krell looked a little green. 

Ben kept to himself in the dugout - or everyone else kept away from him - and Cody took a step in his direction, hoping-- Krell extended a leg into Cody’s path, and Cody frowned down to find him grinning. Krell asked, eyes narrowed, “Where ya going, Fett?”

“I don’t have anything to say to you.” 

“Maybe I’ve got things I want to say to you,” Krell said, leaning away from the bench and--

“Stow it,” Mace snapped from the end of the dug-out. “Both of you pay attention to the game or, so help me, I’ll suspend you both through the play-offs and into next season.”

Cody winced, glanced at Ben again - he’d stared forward through the whole thing - and, with a twist in his gut, moved a few paces down the bench and sat. 

It stung when the game finally started, when Ben got up to pitch and someone else accompanied him out, but Cody understood. He hadn’t played in ten games. And there was--whatever, between them. Last game of the season with only one other pitcher - who looked ill - at his disposal, he didn’t blame Mace for putting in a different catcher.

At least not until Ben fell apart on the mound.

Cody knew something was wrong the first time Ben scuffed a foot across the dirt. His posture was off, too tense, and it wasn’t a good omen, nearly hitting the batter on the first pitch. He saw Ben swear from across the field and heard, closer, a snort of laughter. 

Krell.

Cody was on his feet by the end of the top of the inning - which was ugly, the other team got two home - and burning down his arms with a need to do something. Mace blew out a hard breath as they finally got the last two outs - on a lucky double-play, thank fuck for Quin’s ability to be everywhere at shortstop - and took a step closer to Cody. Mace said, quiet, “He’s been off for two weeks.”

Cody swallowed, watching Ben stand on the mound for just a beat, frustration written all over his face, and said, not sure if it was a lie, “I’ll settle him down, if you let me play.”

Mace only regarded him for a long moment and then blew out another breath as the first of the guys slogged into the dugout. “Hell,” he said, “it’s worth a try.”

#

They got one run at the bottom of the inning - Cody knocked it in and got stranded on second, attempting to steal third when Kit struck out and ended things - and he got to watch Ben flinch when Mace told him about the change behind the plate. Cody barely heard the announcers inform the crowd about the substitution. 

And then he was back where he was supposed to be, scuffing his feet through the dirt to get the feel for it, adjusting his mask and, with a shiver of relief, sinking down onto his heels. It felt right, looking out through the slats on his mask at Ben, standing, bent and blank-faced, at the mound. 

The first pitch went wild, but Cody’d more than expected that. He moved without thought to snag it, ignoring the wash of sound from the crowd behind them. He tossed the ball back, Ben catching it and turning, and--

The next pitch went wide, too, and he heard Ben curse from behind the plate. 

He was on his feet without thought, really, gesturing to the ump, who waved at him dismissively. 

Cody’s heart sped up with each step he took towards the mound. Ben tensed, turning his face to the side as Cody got closer, as he stepped up, into that private space. It was the closest they’d been since everything, and Cody couldn’t help cataloging the dark shadows under Ben’s eyes, the way they were rimmed in red, the chewed-on look of his bottom lip, the sweat already gathering in his hair--

He shoved it all aside, head buzzing with noise, and said, “Listen, I know you don’t want to talk to me, but if you don’t - if we don’t, you’re going to hit someone in the head or throw a grandslam.”

Ben frowned over at him - just for a beat, before looking away again - and said, tone perfectly calm, “I don’t know what you’re--”

“I’m sorry,” Cody blurted, because he’d been waiting for the opportunity to say it for days and the words wouldn’t stay in his throat anymore, and because he could feel the clock ticking in his head, precious seconds running away.

“What?” Ben said, blinking at him, looking shocked, which--

“I know it’s--” He blew out a sharp breath and shifted a little closer, mitt up between them for the modicum of privacy it offered. “Ben. I didn’t--know I was gay. Okay? But I--definitely am. And I’m sorry and--”

The umpire called something from behind them. Thirty seconds went too fast. They always did. Ben was staring at him like he’d grown a second head or professed that what he really wanted to do with his life was go to the moon. “Say something,” Cody hissed, heart going at least several hundred miles an hour, but Ben only gaped at him, and he had to turn around and walk back, his shoulders burning the entire way.

He settled back into position with a pit in the bottom of his stomach, and signaled for something…easy. Basic. Something to gentle Ben back into the swing of things. 

Ben looked dazed, out on the mound, and for a moment Cody wasn’t sure if he’d made things worse or better. The next pitch wasn’t dazzling, but it didn’t come close to hitting anyone, and that was progress. 

Ben let two people on base - he was blowing his averages all to shit - but no one came home and that was something. Cody felt like he was buzzing inside, a half-finished conversation caught in his chest and nothing to do with it but hold it there.

He buzzed all the way through the bottom of the inning and out onto the field and through catching Ben’s first pitch. And then he was on his feet again, signaling to the umpire while the batter snapped, “Man, are you fucking serious?”

He jogged out to the mound as quickly as he could, feeling a pang of something when Ben took a few steps towards him, shortening the distance. Ben hissed, as he got close enough, “I don’t understand--”

“I know,” Cody blurted back, glove up, the clock weighing on him like gravity itself, “I know, I barely--Look. My family. How I grew up, I couldn’t--” He cut himself off. It would take too long to explain and he didn’t know what he was saying, the words felt like they were fighting to get out of his throat first. “That doesn’t matter right now. What matters is this: I’m sorry. And I--think I love you. And - and if you want me to get down on my knees, right here, to show you that I mean it--”

The idea burned in the back of his spine and down his throat, he didn’t want everyone in the stands - everyone on the team - anyone - seeing him kneeling, but, if that was what it took, he’d swallow his stupid pride. Who cared if it was humiliating, not if--

“What? No,” Ben snapped, lurching forward and grabbing his arm when Cody marshaled himself and started to kneel. His eyes were wide and his cheeks all flushed. “What the fuck are you thinking?”

“That I need to apologize,” Cody gasped back. He was starting to feel a little lightheaded. “And show you I’m serious. And I know you don’t have to--care. I know I fucked up big time. But I thought you should at least know--I didn’t mean those things. Any of those things.”

The umpire called behind him, and Ben just stood there, gaping, until Cody had to turn and walk away. Ben looked dazed, standing on the mound, and then shook himself and turned, taking his cap off to scrub at the back of his neck. 

Cody sank back down, ignoring the frustrated comment of the batter, and Ben shook back his hair, replaced his hat, and waited for a sign. He still looked a little shaky, but much of the tension had bled out of him. 

He closed the inning down quick, and Cody’s heart raced all the way back to the bench. He startled when Mace grabbed his arm and hissed, looking like he was teetering on the edge of snapping, “Whatever the hell you two have to whisper about, do it in the locker room before the ump throws you out of the game. And do it quick, do you hear me?”

And he jerked his head to the side, sharp. Cody swallowed, watching Mace turn to grab Ben, too, and with a feeling like he was about to step out over open air, he stepped through the door into the lockers. 

#

The lockers felt odd, empty. Cody stumbled to a stop, turning to look as Ben followed him into the room. Ben took his cap off again, dragging his fingers back through his hair before putting it back on, and said, with a shaky little wobble to his voice, “I don’t know what to say to you.”

“I’m really sorry,” Cody blurted, it seemed the best place to start and he wasn’t really thinking. “I really am. I didn’t realize--how fucked up I was, until after we…” He gestured to one side, and went on, feeling helpless, “Broke up. If we broke up. Did we break up? Ben, were we dating?”

Ben gaped at him and then barked out a laugh, wrapping his arms around his chest, shoulders curling down and in. “I don’t know,” he said, “I was--I was letting you set the pace.” He looked to the side, cheeks tinging pink, and added, “I’d have--dated you. If you’d wanted.”

“I do want to,” Cody said, the words torn out of his chest, and Ben jerked to look at him, dead on. “I know maybe it’s--maybe I screwed up too much. And that’s fine. If I did. I know I hurt you, God, I’m so sorry I hurt you, I didn’t--” He swallowed the bitterness that came with the words. “I’m sorry. And I didn’t mean it. And I want to date you. The right way. I want to do it right.”

Ben stared at him for a long, painful moment, and then said, quietly, “Because you’re maybe in love with me.”

“I am,” Cody panted out.

Ben swallowed, hard, and then took a step towards him. “Alright,” he said, and Cody felt something snap inside his chest. 

“Alright what--” he started, and then Ben pulled his own cap off and tossed it aside.

“Alright, prove it, then,” Ben said, cheeks flushed and eyes bright, mouth a twist. “Not--what you said out on the field. But--kiss me. If you mean it. If you don’t--if what you said before was a lie. If you mean- -this. Not that. Show me.”

He looked challenging, chin tilted just a little, like he still didn’t think Cody’d really do it, like maybe everything Cody said had been a lie. Cody’s heart swooped inside his chest, trying to find a brand new rhythm and his mouth felt dry. His cheeks burned as his gaze dropped to Ben’s mouth and--

A part of him, the part of him built over the years he’d spent growing up, almost froze, almost refused, even there. But he pushed those thoughts aside, the ones that snarled that he couldn’t, that he wasn’t allowed--

He stepped forward, instead, running on raw adrenaline and a desperation to fix this. He put both hands on Ben’s shoulders and leaned up to kiss him. It felt--tense, at first, Ben stiff against him, mouth shut and firm, Cody’s guts squirming around inside.

And then Ben made a soft, hurt sound against his mouth, and shifted to grab him, kissing him back. Cody groaned into it, relief breaking like a wave over his head, hauling Ben closer.

It was a hard kiss - the best kiss he’d ever had, the only one that had ever made him want to kiss someone more - and it left his mouth stinging when, a moment later, the door pulled open and Mace snapped, “Alright, get your asses out here and, for God’s sake, play ball.”

#

Cody walked on clouds out of the locker, settling into his place at the bench and barely registering it when Kit hissed that he’d grabbed the wrong hat. It didn’t matter. The other pitcher closed them down, no time to even get to Cody in the batting order.

And then he was back behind the batter, the next innings blurring away. The other team really was good, but Ben was pitching like he meant it, again, and Cody couldn’t keep his eyes off of him, head humming, thoughts moving too fast to pin one down and mouth tingling.

They had a one-run lead by the bottom of the seventh. The last innings sped by, with them holding onto that one-run lead all the way to the bottom of the ninth. Cody stood, shocked, when the cheering started in the dug-out. 

#

Cody experienced a moment of agony when he asked, after showers in the locker room and dumping water over Mace’s head and all the exuberant shoving - some of the guys even forgot their discomfort with Ben, grabbing him or slapping his shoulders and congratulating him on the game, it was the only game a single pitcher had handled all season - if Ben would come back to his apartment. 

Ben looked at him for a beat, and they’d technically discussed some things, but--

“Yeah,” Ben said, dragging Cody back from the precipice of a cliff, his gaze dipping towards Cody’s mouth, “Let’s do that.”

Getting across town was nothing but a blur. A part of him wanted to hold Ben’s hand on the way to the parking lot but he--wasn’t ready to be that out. It felt terrifying even to consider. They talked about the game - and it felt so good to just talk to Ben again - getting loud and laughing, so full of victory and all the sweet chemicals that came with it, and then--

They were pushing through the door to his apartment and he felt a wave of tremendous relief that Kit was, once more, not there. All at once, everything seemed to slow down as he turned and locked the front door.

He glanced back to find Ben standing a few feet away, looking around the room, a strange expression on his face and his hands tucked in his pockets. There was still a flush in his cheeks from all the excitement and the faint light coming from the kitchen - Cody’d forgot to turn off the light when he left - caught on his hair, and--

Cody’d never considered himself a very good liar, but he had to admit that he needed to readjust that assessment, because he’d somehow managed to lie to himself that looking at Ben wasn’t one of his favorite things to do.

“Hey,” Ben said, shifting his weight back into his heels, his voice quieter. Warmer. 

“Hi,” Cody rasped back, taking a step away from the door. A part of him wished Ben would step towards him first, but-- 

Well. “I really am sorry, I shouldn’t have said those things. You aren’t--it isn’t humiliating. What you--did for me. And I--I am gay and--I’m sorry,” he said, watching Ben take his hands out of his pockets. 

“I believe you,” Ben said, and his breath did a strange, hitching thing when Cody reached out and took one of his hands, so relieved it made him dizzy. He’d been prepared for Ben to tell him to fuck off, he’d have understood if Ben wanted nothing else to do with him--

But, God, he’d hoped for this, instead. Cody shivered, bringing his hand up, their fingers threaded together when he dared a cautious kiss to the back of Ben’s knuckles, on his right hand, the one he’d used to throw well over a hundred pitches just in that game and--

And then Ben swore, voice cracking, and his other hand curled around the back of Cody’s neck, tugging him closer as Ben swayed down and into him, Cody tilting his face up for a kiss. He groaned into it, into Ben’s hot, welcoming mouth. 

Maybe he was going to Hell for this like his Mom thought. God, if he was, it was worth it.

The last two weeks felt like a nightmare that he wanted to burn away with more kisses, with Ben’s hair around his fingers and the slow stumbling dance they performed down the hall, too concerned with kissing to just look where they were going. They broke apart long enough for Cody to yank his shirt off, to grab for Ben’s, who made a hungry sound and put hands on his bare skin.

Cody grunted when his shoulder hit a wall, and Ben laughed - shaky, pitchy - against his mouth, tugging him into a turn that left them near-falling through Cody’s door. Cody wondered if Ben felt like he was going to fly apart, too, if he was burning inside, head alternately quiet and so loud, full of a need to just--

Do something. 

Cody managed to grab the door as they tripped towards the bed, pulling it closed on the off chance Kit came home, and then--

God, his bed only felt right with Ben in it, now. The realization hit like a wild throw right to his sternum, as he blinked down at Ben sprawled on his blankets. “We should talk,” he said, the pang of it sliding through him in a brief moment of clarity. He felt almost drunk. Drunk adjacent, thrumming on the adrenaline of the win and the relief that Ben believed him and a desperate need to do something to prove it all--

He’d come up with--so many things to talk to Ben about over the last two weeks. 

Ben arched an eyebrow at him, bruises under his eyes, still rimmed in red, shifting one leg so his strong, thick thigh pressed against Cody’s cock, and asked, “Now?”

“Maybe not right now,” Cody conceded, and Ben laughed, was still laughing - shaky - when Cody ducked down and kissed his throat, where he’d--so long wanted to kiss and denied himself. God, he’d lied to himself so well. He wanted the taste of skin under his mouth, the thrum of Ben’s pulse, the slight rasp of stubble because Ben must have shaved early in the day.

Ben’s laugh turned into a low moan as his hips jerked up automatically, rubbing against Cody’s jeans and then catching himself and--

Cody winced. He’d caused that.

He slid a hand down, gripped Ben’s hip, and said, “That’s--please--” and tugged, encouraging him to rock up again. Ben swore, and Cody pulled his mouth away from skin, gathering his thoughts enough to pant out, “I’m not going to--I’m going to do this right, this time.”

“Yeah?” Ben asked, blinking at him, and Cody - staring down at him - had a sudden flash of inspiration.

“Yeah,” he confirmed, and, taking another kiss - fuck, he’d denied himself so many kissses - pushed up, settling onto his knees and looking down Ben’s body. Ben’s stomach jumped when Cody dragged knuckles over his abs, and then, before he could even consider hesitating, reached the button of Ben’s shorts. 

He’d wanted to pop open that button for so long. Wanted to drag down the zipper. He did and then stared, unblinking, breathing raggedly and so achingly hard himself he could barely think. 

It was a relief and terrifying to find Ben just as hard, his cock a thick curve inside his underwear, radiating heat out against Cody’s fingers. Cody stared - he’d never let himself before - with a wash of want that filled up his entire chest. 

He rubbed his fingers over the fabric straining to hold Ben’s erection, assessing the feel of it, and Ben moaned, hips twitching into the touch. Ben grabbed both sides of his shorts while Cody flattened a palm over his cock, reckoning with the size and shape and--

Ben got his shorts shoved down his hips and then asked, lying there looking undone, “Should I--do you want to--?”

“I want to do everything,” Cody told him, and Ben groaned. His cock twitched, and Cody could feel it, could see the tiny smear of liquid on his underwear by the head of dick, rubbing his thumb across it and swallowing hard at just the feeling.

“You sure?” Ben asked, and Cody wondered if it were consideration or a test or--

“Yeah,” he rasped out, and summoned the willpower to stop fondling Ben through his underwear, hooking his fingers into the waistband instead. He tugged.

Technically, he’d been around Ben’s naked dick before. A lot. Ben had--jerked off beside him often. But he’d never let himself look, never let himself just….

Ben’s cock curved up towards his stomach, flushed so red and full, the smallest shine of wet at the head. He was cut and beautiful and the trimmed hair around his cock was redder than the waves spread across Cody’s pillow. 

“Well?” Ben asked, after a moment, and he sounded breathless, “what’s the verdict?”

“I want to touch you,” Cody blurted, the admission tearing from his chest, as much to himself as Ben, who must have seen the desire written all over his expression. 

“Be my guest,” Ben groaned out, and Cody swore, vaguely aware that his hand was shaking as he reached out, carefully, and dragged his fingertips up the underside of Ben’s cock. He felt so hot and velvety soft, twitching under the touch. 

Ben shifted on the bed, muscles in his stomach tightening as he curled his shoulders up, watching Cody reach the head of his cock and brush the pad of his thumb right beneath, because he liked that and he hoped Ben would, maybe things were different if you were cut, he--

Ben groaned, his hands tightening in Cody’s blankets as he rasped out, “Yeah, babe, that’s so nice.”

Cody felt a prickling rush of pleasure and pride down his back. He swallowed and curled his fingers around Ben’s cock, holding him in a loose grip, feeling somewhere between giddy and -- afraid and relieved to finally just do it. 

He was holding someone else’s cock. Ben’s cock. And he felt nothing but--want. Desire and need.

He couldn’t decide where to look, gaze shifting restlessly from Ben’s cock in his hand, to Ben’s expression - he had his bottom lip caught between his teeth, chewing on it - to the flush spilling down Ben’s chest, to his hands clenched to fists, to the little jump of muscles in his stomach with each movement of Cody’s hand. 

And Cody thought he could just--do this. Forever. But the feeling that he had something to prove lingered in his head and his heart. He considered--being on his knees. Putting his mouth on Ben, and half-expected a sudden wave of--disgust. Or shame. 

There was a lingering burn of - of embarrassment, memories of his father and his friends and--

But past that, drowning it, was hunger and want and something deeper than those things. He’d told Ben he loved him, and he meant it. He seized onto that and shifted. The bed was small. It was easy to slide over the side and onto his knees - with a thrum of heat over his cheeks that he determinedly ignored - and the floor felt hard under him.

He ignored that, too, taking his hand off of Ben’s cock to grab both his hips, Ben giving a startled little cry when Cody just--pulled on him, dragging him over to the side of the bed. “You don’t have to,” Ben panted out, as Cody tugged at his shorts and underwear - now in the way - Ben making it easier when he sat up.

“I know that,” Cody told him, because, obviously, Ben had stayed with him for months without this, but that was because--

Well. Someday they were going to have to talk about what had brought Ben to a point he was willing to do that, stay with someone who treated him that way--but.

It wasn’t going to be an issue going forward, because Cody was going to treat him right. 

He shifted around there on the ground, heart beating like he was rounding third after a homer, Ben’s legs spread, his cock curving up towards his stomach, his hands closing in the blankets again as Cody took a breath and reached for his cock.

He curled his fingers around the shaft, feeling Ben’s cock twitch, hearing him make a muffled whimpering sound. And then he licked across his bottom lip and leaned forward. 

He wasn’t sure what to expect, brushing his lip across the head of Ben’s cock. His skin was so soft and very hot. A little wet with precome. Cody exhaled, putting his other hand on Ben’s thigh and squeezing, holding on, maybe, not sure how he was going to feel about--

Daring to open his mouth to lick at skin.

Ben made a broken sound, and Cody looked up without lifting his mouth away. Ben was just staring at him, wide-eyed, lips parted and stained red. He looked--wrecked, already. He looked like he was seeing the best thing in the world. 

Cody felt a sharp thrill that spilled out through his veins and made his cock twitch, still trapped in his jeans. He licked again, enjoying how soft the skin felt on his tongue, the faint taste of soap from the lockers and the salt-sour flavor of the precome….

“Oh, God,” Ben moaned, as Cody drew back a little, assessing the wetted skin; he’d done that. With his tongue. Him. He looked at his hand still fisted around Ben’s cock and considered his position and there was--an obvious next step, but everything before this could almost be wiped away, explained, justified, or--

He swallowed, seized his determination and shoved away the noise that still lingered, thoughts about what real men did and didn’t do and--and he leaned in again. He opened his mouth, shivering, and took Ben’s cock between his lips, wondering if he’d hate it, or--

It felt--nice. Very nice. He blinked, considering the shape of it, the warmth, and giving a curious suck that made Ben whimper. “That’s so good,” Ben gasped out, “oh, fuck, your mouth, Cody, you’re so good.”

Cody felt himself prickle with warmth, so hard he half expected the button on his jeans to pop open. He gave another suck, cautious, and licked along the underside of Ben’s cock, daring to bob his head after a moment.

His mouth was filled with saliva. He didn’t know what to do with it; Ben, somehow, swallowed without lifting his mouth away. Cody had no idea how that worked, and drew away, swallowing and looking up at Ben’s face again.

“Good?” he asked, feeling--unsure of his own skill in this area and with a lingering fear that at any moment it was going to change him. 

“So good,” Ben panted out, and some of the spit had escaped Cody’s mouth, running down to pool on his fingers. 

“I’m going to do it again,” Cody told him, and Ben’s eyes fluttered, emboldening Cody to add, with a flood of heat inside his skin, “I want to make you come.”

“Fuck me,” Ben gasped out, as Cody gave his cock one slow pump.

“I’ll do that, too,” Cody told him, not even thinking, “if you want me to, still. I’ll do anything. Everything.” And then, before he could delay any further, and because he wanted to have Ben’s cock in his mouth again, he slid forward. 

He dared to take more into his mouth this time, sucking and - after a moment - remembering to slide his mouth up and down, the way Ben did. Ben groaned, hips twitching, so it must have felt good.

Cody looked up through his eyelashes, trying to gauge Ben’s reactions, trying to see if Ben liked it and realizing, as he sucked, that he liked it. It wasn’t--humiliating, doing this, being on his knees and making Ben’s expression fall apart.

Far from it. He felt the way he felt when he swung and knew from the sound the ball made on the bat that it was going to go over the outfield fence, a home run already written into fate before he took his first step towards first base. 

He felt good, he liked the slide of Ben’s cock over his tongue and bottom lip, the wet noise, the taste of him and each sound he made, the way his eyes were so dark and how Ben’s mouth kept falling open, all composure stripped away. 

“Oh,” Ben panted out, eventually, some indeterminate amount of time later, “Cody, I’m gonna, babe, you’re gonna make me come.”

Heat burned down Cody’s spine. He sucked a little harder, Ben panting out, ragged, “You don’t have to--”

Cody took more of him, listening to the loud, wet sounds he was making, aware that he was making more of a mess than Ben ever did - his own spit coated his hand - and not caring, wanting to show that he would do this, and wanting to do it just for the sake of doing it, for the pleasure he’d discovered he found in the act.

Ben cried out, hips twitching again, and his cock--pulsed on Cody’s tongue an instant before come flooded into his mouth. He realized, only after, that he still hadn’t figured out how to swallow with Ben’s cock in his mouth. 

He pulled back, after Ben seemed done, mouth very full, and then swallowed it. It tasted--strange. But not bad, especially with the knowledge of what it meant. He panted, once he’d swallowed, and glanced up in time to watch Ben flop down onto his back, breathing hard.

He still held Ben’s softening cock. He let go, gently, and crawled up onto the bed, stretching out beside Ben, asking, “Was that…?”

“Ngh,” Ben slurred, reaching up an arm and curving a hand around the back of his neck, pulling him down and--

Kissing him, hot and open-mouthed, tongue sliding into Cody’s mouth, where he had to be able to taste himself. Cody melted into it, heart still beating too fast. After a moment, he slid his hand down, pulling open his jeans - finally - and, considering all the times he’d rested there while Ben jerked off, he felt a pang, guilt tinged with want and regret.

“I’ve got you,” Ben said, hand just there, knowing and sure, stroking a few times before he shoved on Cody’s shoulder. Cody went over willingly, sprawling onto his back as Ben shifted down his body, not even bothering to drag Cody’s pants off before he curved his shoulders over.

Cody groaned, putting one hand in Ben’s hair, the other on his shoulder, as Ben mouthed at him, once, before swallowing him down. It felt--so good. And a part of him still couldn’t believe Ben still wanted to after what Cody had done to him, but he went for it, eager and sweet and good. 

And after Cody spilled - fast, feeling it like a break in a fever, like waking up after too long in strange dreams - Cody pulled him up, wrestled him close, and kissed him again, just because he could.

“Hey,” Ben said, eventually, when they drew apart, both of them breathing hard, sharing the same pillow. He looked..soft and content, wearing a little smile on his mouth as Cody tucked hair behind his ear. 

“Hey,” Cody rasped back, with a brief pang at the thought that they could have had this for the last six months, instead of the pale shadow he’d allowed them. He pushed that thought to the side. “Hey, Ben?”

“Mm?” Ben snuggled a little closer, throwing a leg over one of Cody’s, though he was still wearing jeans. 

“Are we dating?” he asked, and Ben stiffened for a moment. 

“Hm,” he murmured, tracing a touch over Cody’s cheek. “Do you want to date me?”

“Yeah,” Cody said, through his suddenly tight throat. He leaned forward enough to press his forehead to Ben’s, clenching fingers into his hair. “That’s--I really do. Want that.”

“Okay,” Ben said, and exhaled against his mouth. “I want that, too. I’ve--wanted that since I met you.”

Cody swallowed, wincing, because the last six - almost seven - months had been--he knew, looking back, that he hadn’t been good to Ben. Not the way he should have been good to Ben. “I’m going to do better,” he murmured, and Ben kissed him and kept kissing him, slow and deep, until they were both panting again, moving against one another, and Cody had another chance to prove it.

#

They, unfortunately, could not stay in his bed all evening. It wasn’t even really that late. Cody groaned in complaint, anyway, when Ben’s phone started buzzing from one side of the bed, where his shorts had gotten thrown.

Ben rolled over him to get it after a second of hesitation, draping his body crosswise across Cody’s, his softened cock pressed to Cody’s thigh and his ass a perfect curve. Cody felt his own dick give a hopeful - but futile, after two rounds so close together - little twitch and could not resist gripping Ben’s thigh.

He slid his hand up, shivering when his fingers brushed through a little smear of lube, as Ben grabbed his phone and managed a ‘hello’ that sounded mostly normal. 

Cody ran his palm up onto the slight curve of Ben’s ass - marveling that he just could do that now, whenever he wanted - and squeezed a little, and Ben shot him a look - half unimpressed, half lustful - and canted his hips up slightly. 

And then he said, “Yeah, Quin, I’ll be home in a bit. Don’t worry. No, no, things are fine. Just celebrating a bit. Are you sure the other guys want me there, they might-- Sure, yes. You’re right. Sorry. See you soon.”

Cody swallowed with a wince, squeezing Ben’s ass once more and taking his hand away. “You have to go?” he asked, trying to pick through the sudden tangle of emotions in his chest.

“Well, it sounds like we’re missing a celebratory party,” Ben said, rolling off the bed. “But I figured you’d come with me, if you want.”

Cody picked at the sheets, other considerations suddenly moving through his mind, recalling his last unpleasant conversation with Quin. He said, “You and Quin--he, uh. He said he was going to help you get over me, and--”

Ben snorted, opening the door and stepping out into the hall, turning towards the bathroom. He called over his shoulder, “Not the way he implied. He’s actually got this thing of his own going on, you know? With some girl he met at an anarchist coffee shop in town? I don’t know, I think they might hate each other, but, I guess, the sex is killer?”

“Oh,” Cody said, exhaling a bit in relief. 

“Yeah.” Ben called, after a breath, as the shower turned on, “So, you coming with, or?”

In the end, Cody rolled from the bed. The idea of splitting up held little appeal at the moment. They got a bit distracted in the shower - it was hardly big enough for both of them - but managed to get cleaned off and over to Ben’s place without too much delay. 

Half the team seemed to be there already, along with some other people Cody didn’t know well. They were dragged inside, into music and the smell of pizza, to cheers and a few complaints about how late they were.

They got some odd looks, assessing gazes that swept from Ben and over to him, back to Ben again, but no one…said anything.

Cody ate some pizza when some girl pushed it into his hands and drank beer from a red cup when someone else provided it. He made to follow Ben when someone - Kit - called out to him from across the room, only for Quin to step out of the fucking shadows and grab his arm.

“Hey,” Quin said, no sign of a grin on his face, “come with me.” 

It was hardly an unexpected request. Cody squared his shoulders and nodded, letting Quin firmly tug him across the living room and out onto the little balcony, where Quin shut the door and then turned to frown at him.

The sun was still in the process of setting - God, Cody loved the summertime - and the insects were humming out in the undeveloped field beside the apartments. Inside, the thrum of music and laughter echoed. They’d gotten into the playoffs and he’d - hopefully - fixed things with Ben and so he put the pizza and beer on the little table out there on the patio and said, “Okay, what’ve you got to say?”

“Who says I brought you out here to talk?” Quin asked, frowning. “Maybe I just plan to toss you over the balcony.” Cody winced, and Quin went on, “But I guess I could give you a chance to explain what the fuck you’re doing here with Ben, first.”

Cody exhaled, and said, “I kind of thought maybe Ben told you.” In fact, he knew Ben had explained, partially. He’d caught a glance at the messages Ben sent, explaining that Cody was coming along, that they’d figured things out. 

“Yeah, Ben says things are alright now.” Quin looked as though the explanations were, perhaps, less than satisfying. “But….”

“Look, I apologized,” Cody said, shrugging with one shoulder. “And he--accepted it. I don’t know what else you want me to tell you.”

In truth, he didn’t see how it was any of Quin’s business. Admitting it all to Ben had been hard enough. He didn’t think he could do it with Quin; they’d never been close, even before the possibly-a-breakup. 

Quin blew out a hard breath. “How about that you’re not going to pull any of that shit again,” he said, frowning out across the parking lot. 

“I won’t,” Cody told him, and meant it. He wasn’t sure how he was going to handle--his family. Or if he was in any way ready to come out to anyone but--well, Ben and Quin, who had to know already, honestly. 

But he’d never meant to hurt Ben. God, if he could undo it all, he would. But all he could promise was to not do it again. “I definitely won’t.”

“Alright,” Quin said, rocking back on his heels. “Well, I mean. Fuck knows I can’t convince Ben not to take you back, he’s been mad about you from jump, so, fine. But I swear, man, if you do that shit again - if I ever have to listen to him trying to be quiet while he cries in his room again - I really will toss you right over this balcony.”

“Fair enough,” Cody told him, aching at the thought of Ben crying alone in his room, that quiet way he cried, and, at that moment, Ben pulled the door open, leaning out with an assessing frown.

“Everything alright out here?” he asked, gaze moving between Cody and Quin, eyes narrowed.

“Yeah,” Quin said, some tension dropping from his shoulders. “We’re good, Ben. Come on, you’ve missed all the celebratory shots so far. You’ve got, like, three to do right now just to catch up.”

#

The party itself largely ended up a blur. There were celebratory shots - thankfully not rum, Cody wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to stomach it again - and off-key singing, and, at one point, one of the outfielders even threw an arm around Ben’s shoulders - the first other guy on the team to get too close to him - and said, “You’re alright, Kenobi, even if you like to give head. And a damn good pitcher.”

Ben blinked at the guy and said, “Uh, thank you?” 

The guy stumbled away, after that. Most of the rest of the team continued to give Ben space, but…

At least no one tried to start a fight about it. Cody caught some muttering, some dark looks in Ben’s direction, but-- No one threw a punch or called him names and…that was something. 

Cody kept holding onto the fact that it was something even as he ended up sleeping in Ben’s room. 

By the end of the party - everyone else stumbling out, calling Lyfts and Ubers or deciding to walk it off - going back to his own place had seemed like a bad idea. He’d chugged some water, taken some ibuprofen, and curled up against Ben, who groaned, rolled onto his stomach, and muttered something about too much pizza.

Cody thought the pizza was probably not the root cause of the issue, but felt too tired to argue about it. He was asleep almost before he brushed his nose against the back of Ben’s neck and closed his eyes.

#

Cody ended up waking up first - though still later than he preferred - and for a moment he just laid there. Ben was warm and solid against him, his hair tangled on the pillow between them. 

He rested there, breathing slowly and steadily, considering that he could now do the things he’d been wanting to do for so fucking long.

After a moment, he slid from the bed. Ben didn’t even stir, snoring softly as Cody slipped from the room and into the kitchen.

It was a bit of a mess from the night before, but he had vague memories of some stern-looking bald woman with head tats showing up late in the evening and bullying everyone into mostly cleaning up before she climbed into Quin’s lap and bit him. 

Quin had seemed into it, so Cody wasn’t going to judge.

In any case, it made it easier for him to find the teapot, the loaf of bread, and some eggs. He got the stove turned on before downing another brimming glass of water - his head hurt, even with the precautions of the previous night, but it wasn’t too bad - and then he carefully went through the motions of fixing breakfast. 

Eggs and toast didn’t take long to make. He plated them up as he finished, grabbing the tea he’d left to steep along the way, and, with an ache he refused to consider in his chest and gut, made his way quietly down the hall again.

Ben was beginning to stir around by the time he eased through the door, rolled onto his back and blinking sleepily up at the ceiling. “Hey,” Cody murmured, and Ben jerked, turning to look at him and half-sitting.

“Oh,” Ben said, blinking a few times in rapid succession. “I thought--” He cut himself off, teeth clicking, and Cody winced a little.

“I didn’t leave,” he reassured, obviously, and crossed to the bed, sitting on the mattress and offering out the tea. “I just thought. You know. Maybe you’d be hungry. Or thirsty.”

Ben took the cup, braced on one elbow as he blew the steam away. He tried a sip after only a beat and looked at the plate of food in Cody’s hands. He said, sleep hoarse, tone somewhere between teasing and aching, “Still trying to apologize?”

“Ah,” Cody said, turning the plate a little in his hands, looking down at the pile of eggs and the toast and the apple he’d sliced up. “No, not--I mean. I’ve wanted to do this. For a while. I just.” He shrugged, feeling less eloquent by the moment.

“Oh.” Ben sat up fully, until they were pressed together, shoulder to shoulder. He murmured, “It looks really good.”

“Thanks.” Cody cleared his throat and offered the plate out, pulse racing again.

And Ben said, “But where’s yours?”

“I’ll make something later,” Cody said, waving a hand, and Ben pulled a face, took another sip of his tea, and then set it on the nightstand.

“Let’s share,” he said, taking the plate and the fork, scooping up a bite and popping it into his mouth before stabbing another fluffy bit of eggs and offering it out to Cody. His first instinct was to refuse but-- Well. He’d swallowed Ben’s come the night before.

Sharing a fork felt a bit small compared to that.

He opened his mouth, and Ben smiled at him. The eggs tasted good, he could admit, hot and a little buttery. He chewed and swallowed, while Ben took another bite and said, “This is very nice. I like this.”

“Me, too,” Cody murmured, shifting to stretch a leg out behind Ben on the bed, letting Ben lean a shoulder against his chest while they sat there and finished the plate. 

Cody shivered when Ben set the fork neatly across the plate and leaned over to put it by his empty cup. When Ben shifted back into place, he could not resist leaning forward, nuzzling against Ben’s throat, ending with a kiss against his prickly jaw. 

He felt Ben shiver as he tilted his head to the side, with a sharp little thrill at the evidence that Ben liked this, that he was doing things right as he fumbled his way into embracing all the things he’d wanted for so long.

Ben gasped, sweetly, as Cody nuzzled back towards his ear, and kept making delightful sounds as they slowly tumbled onto the mattress. 

#

Quin was awake by the time they made it out of the bedroom again. The woman - Cody vaguely recalled he’d called her Asajj - was nowhere to be found, though. Cody decided, in the interest of goodwill, to fix Quin breakfast too, and got a befuddled thanks for the effort. 

They had the day off from practice - well deserved - but went for a run anyway. And, when Ben disappeared into the shower after they got back, Cody finally pulled out his phone again. He’d spoken to Rex, joyous, and texted most of the younger boys off and on through the party. 

He had a few missed calls from both his father and his mother.

The thought of calling them back set like a stone inside his gut. He turned his phone over and over in his hands a few times and, on an exhale, made himself call his mother first. 

She answered on the second ring, and he buried the pang of dread he felt. He’d hoped - vaguely - that she just wouldn’t. “There, you are,” she said, when she answered, “I was beginning to think you forgot about us in your celebrations.”

“Nope,” he said, bouncing a leg up and down, looking out across the parking lot as his sweat dried on his skin. “Just--you know. A bit busy. How’re you?”

She tutted at him, and dragged the conversation back to discussing the game, to congratulating him and wishing him well in the playoffs, before she said, excited, “And your dad’s here, too, here, Jango, I’ve got him on the phone!”

His gut got hard and cold as she passed the phone off. He felt…distant as they talked, felt like an actor in a role that didn’t even suit him well. But he could not imagine spilling the words between them, could not imagine saying, I’m gay and I’m in love and he’s great, he throws a curve you couldn’t imagine and sometimes he looks so sad but I can make him smile and--

He hung up with thousands of words caught in his throat and sat there, phone clenched in his hand, while other people came and went from the apartments, going to work or school or whatever. Going on with their lives, unregarding of the way his heart beat all wrong or the acid burn in his throat. 

The door opened, eventually. Ben stepped out and put a hand on Cody’s shoulder. He reached up without thinking to cover it as Ben said, “Hey, everything okay?”

“I didn’t tell my parents,” he said, without looking, and Ben exhaled. 

“About us?” he asked, and Cody nodded. “Well. You don’t have to.” Cody looked up at him, and Ben shrugged. “It’s not their business, if you’re not ready to tell them about it. You don’t have to, like, officially come out to anyone, you know.”

Cody thinned his mouth. “But you’re--out.”

Ben hummed. “Yeah, the team knows about me. And that’s gone… Well. It could be better, honestly.”

“And it’s because of me,” Cody said, gut twisting, hard, and Ben squeezed his shoulder. Because of him, most of the guys on the team were treating Ben like he was contagious, or, at best, reassuring him that he was alright despite --

“Not because of you,” Ben said. “That was my decision.”

Cody frowned, still staring up at him, and said, “That you made because of what I said. It’s only fair if I--”

Ben barked a laugh, and it was startling enough to make Cody click his teeth shut. Ben drew away from him, walked to the railing on the balcony, and leaned against it, staring at nothing when he said, “It’s not about fair, Cody. This is about--your future. Your career. Your life.”

Cody’s gut twisted into knots, as Ben heaved a sigh and went on, “It’s not--I can’t take back what I said. And depending on how many people find out and how much they care, I might never make it to the Majors. Or -- even the playoffs. Mace doesn’t seem to care, but…” He shrugged again. 

He tilted his face skyward, the sun shining on his skin, and kept going while Cody stared, words caught in his throat, “I don’t want you putting yourself in a bad situation because you think you have to be fair. Just--don’t do that. I--love you. I don’t want you to hurt yourself to try to--make things up to me. Come out when you’re ready. Okay?”

Cody stood, automatic, took the step and a half necessary to reach Ben and put a hand on his shoulder. Ben gasped, ragged, when Cody tugged on him, turning, and Cody couldn’t kiss him, not outside--

He held Ben, instead, and panted out, “You’re too good for them to care,” because that part he could address, and Ben snorted. But he thought it was true. Things were changing, already, and the sport was going to have to eventually admit that queer people played, too, after so many decades of purposefully ignoring it. 

If they had to pick someone to admit it with, Ben was a good choice: charming and not anyone’s idea of threatening and good enough at what he did at a flashy position to sway at least some team owners who’d otherwise refuse out of hand.

Money made most of the rules in the sport. Cody knew that. And winning brought you more money. And a great opening pitcher…well.

Made winning much easier.

A catcher, though….

“I don’t think you should make any decisions about it right away,” Ben said. “Think about it for a while. And then, whatever you decide, I’ll be here.” 

Cody sighed, leaning into Ben, and nodded. He had no idea how long it would last, swallowing what he was each time he was around his parents, but he’d managed it for 19 years.

At least he had practice. 

“I should shower,” he said, and Ben hummed, squeezed him, and pulled away. 

#

They ended up going out with all the guys on the team, that afternoon, for a proper celebration. It started at Mace’s house; his family seemed very nice. Cody’d seen his daughter, Depa, around the park a few times, and his wife, Ekiya, smiled at each of them and shook their hands and told them how proud she was of their success.

Mace had a finely manicured backyard where they gathered after all the pleasantries, looking at a spread of catered food, guys already clustering into groups and--

He watched guys glance at Ben and away again, expressions some variant on wary, or cold, or, well. Angry, in a few cases.

And Ben could say what he wanted about being fine with it, about it being his own fault, but-- 

Cody knew the truth.

It ate into him as Ben reached to grab a plate when they got to the food table and the guy in front of him - a second baseman, Freddy - jerked his own hand away, though it hadn’t been like Ben was going to touch him, snapping, “Hey, watch it, f--”

“You watch it,” Cody cut in, that prickly heat over his shoulders that he recognized so well. Freddy turned to look at him, surprise on his face, and Cody narrowed his eyes. “You realize you’re all being dicks to the guy who won the last game of the season? Fucking cut it out.”

Freddy gaped at him, mouth opening and closing, and Cody felt pricklingly aware that all the other guys were, too. Looking at him, and why not? He’d been the one to open his mouth and invite those kinds of comments, hadn’t he?

Regardless of what Ben had done, afterwards, Cody’d got it started.

He ground his jaw to the side, burning down his spine and in his gut, and looked over at Ben, who was just--staring at him, looking shocked, and said, “Seriously, I’m sorry about--what happened in the locker room. What I said, it wasn’t about you, man, it was just about me.”

And he stuck out his hand, feeling silly about it, about shaking Ben’s hand, when they did so many more intimate things, but….

But a smile twitched up the corner of Ben’s mouth, and he took Cody’s hand, squeezing, and said, “No problem, I get it,” and Cody doubted that would be it, with regards to the current team or any others Ben happened to play with. But it was something.  

They ate a good meal at Mace’s, after that, and spread out from there to a bar and then another and another. 

Cody kept an eye on Krell, but half the bench seemed to have decided to just…keep them apart. He never got close, just glared impotently from a distance. 

He and Ben ended up leaving a little early. They ended up back at his apartment, back in his bed, Ben making a sweet, surprised sound when Cody kissed him, moving almost desperately until they finished.

In the aftermath they rested together, breathing hard and overheating. Cody didn’t mind, and Ben didn’t seem to, an arm slung over his shoulders, his long fingers tracing over Cody’s brow. 

Cody caught his hand after a moment, holding his wrist. He turned his face to brush a kiss to Ben’s palm, just because he could, and felt Ben shiver. He pressed another kiss to the web of skin between Ben’s thumb and the pad of his hand, and Ben rasped, “That tickles.”

“Mm.” Cody released his hand with another kiss to his palm, letting Ben drag him down into a proper kiss, instead. When he pulled back, eventually, Ben looked soft and dazed. Cody brushed some of his hair back, just…looking at him, and felt another stir of painful emotions in his chest..

“What’s wrong?” Ben asked, tilting his head and narrowing his eyes.

Cody winced. Part of the problem with reading another person so easily was that they often could read you just as well, in turn. Still….

He gathered his thoughts for a moment and then said, gaze straying down across Ben’s shoulder, towards the freckles clustered near his collarbone, “It’s not wrong, it’s just. I can’t really--why’d you stay with me, Ben? All those months?”

He watched the muscles tense in Ben’s chest, but only for a moment. Ben sighed and said, “I don’t know what you mean.”

“I mean,” Cody said, stroking his thumb across Ben’s ribs, low, almost by his stomach. “I mean--I wasn’t--ah, blowing you or--I didn’t even jerk you off. Or kiss you. Why didn’t you…?”

Ben shrugged on the sheets. He said, “You can’t make people do things they don’t want to do.”

Cody winced. Someday, he’d find a way to tell Ben how much he’d wanted. He’d just been so sure he shouldn’t. Couldn’t-- He blew out a breath. “Sure. But…” He trailed off, unsure how to say: but I treated you bad. You should have kicked me out of your bed. Maybe your life. 

Ben sighed, flopping an arm across his eyes. “I thought, at first, that you were just. Really new to this. You know? Kind of nervous. And then I thought--when you froze up when I tried to kiss you? I thought someone--I thought something had happened. To you. Something bad. I thought someone had hurt you.”

Cody stared down at him, a pit growing in his stomach. Ben waved a hand, vaguely. “And I didn’t want to, uh, push you? Make you do something that you weren’t ready to do? Ever. I never wanted to do that. And I really liked you,” he said, voice quiet. “I liked the way we could talk and how we played together. I liked the way you joked and the way you smiled at me. 

“I liked hearing you talk. And I liked sucking your cock. I liked you fucking me. Goddamn, Cody, I liked it so much. So. So, yeah. I didn’t want to lose all those things I liked. Just because. You know. You weren’t ready to touch me back or kiss me. Or because you didn’t want to really date.”

“But you deserved better than that,” Cody told him, and Ben just shrugged. Cody’s chest ached. “ You wanted to date,” he whispered.

“I was okay with handling it how you wanted to,” Ben said, and Cody tugged his arm away. 

“But you do want us to--date? Don’t you?”

Ben kept his eyes closed. He said, “If you don’t want--”

“Ben.” Cody shifted, found himself stradling Ben’s hips, leaning forward, hands pressed into the blankets on either side of Ben’s head. “Look at me.” Ben cracked his eyes open after a moment, but looked off to the side. Cody decided not to push it. “To be very clear: I’m in love with you and want to date you and-- You know you’re allowed to want it, too, right?”

“Sure, yes,” Ben said, hands resting flat on the bed. 

Cody didn’t like the way his stomach squirmed around, particularly, but had no idea what he could do about it. 

He’d just have to--tread carefully. That was all. And work on convincing Ben that his opinion of their relationship mattered as much as Cody’s. For the moment, he leaned further forward and brushed a kiss to Ben’s cheek and murmured, “So, about these things you liked.…”

Ben laughed, sudden and sweet, and pulled him into a kiss. Cody planned to give him exactly what he liked, to find out the rest of the things he wouldn’t ask for and give him those, too, and they’d date and--maybe--someday, there’d be a ring and a house and kids and--

He held the thoughts inside as Ben sucked on his bottom lip, warm and safe, and focused on the present.

Chapter Text

Sometimes, you ended up in perfect moments.

The awareness that they were in a perfect moment struck Cody in the bottom of the ninth, crouching behind the plate and watching the world through his mask. Big league stadiums felt like every place he’d ever played ball, just…intensified. Bigger and louder and brighter.

The lights over the stands turned the night to day, blazing outwards. The crowd in the stands was mostly just a blur, hidden by the lights and distance and adrenaline. He could hear them singing along to some song, though, trying to cause enough noise to distract Ben, on the mound.

They’d been trying it all game.

Hell, they’d been trying it all series.

Thus far, it hadn’t worked.

Cody shifted his position a little, signaled Ben for a pitch, and heard the batter curse when he swung and missed a second later, second man out for the inning. The ball smacked into Cody’s glove, so familiar now it felt like first nature. 

He tossed it back as the batter stepped away, and the tension in the air changed, sharpening into something so present he felt like he could taste it in the back of his throat. One more batter and that was the game. 

One more batter and that was the series.

One more batter and that was the title. 

The Minors felt far away - though, really, it had only been a few years - and so did all his worries from that time. In fact, every worry felt far away. There was just the smell of dust in the air and the sweat under his pads, and another batter, looking grim as he walked up to the plate.

Cody watched him settle into position and then, unable to resist, called a brief stop to play.

The batter made a frustrated sound, but Cody ignored him, already on his feet and moving across the infield. Ben watched him coming, stepping off the mound with a question in his expression. He’d grown a beard when he moved up to the Majors - he’d gotten there ahead of Cody, as was the nature of things - and cut his hair, a few years after that and--

Damn if he still wasn’t the handsomest man Cody’d ever seen. 

“Something wrong I haven’t noticed?” Ben asked, as Cody reached him, the two of them leaning close while the crowd tried to be as loud as possible. 

Cody shook his head, just a little, feeling the warmth of Ben’s body radiating against his. The coach had thought about pulling Ben, two innings ago. Usually they would. Put in a closer and let him put this game - this series - this season to bed.

But some things - like a shut-out in the last game of the World Series - you had to respect, even in an era of metrics. It didn’t really matter how tired Ben’s arm was going to be tomorrow. Their coach wasn’t going to deny him a chance at that statistic on his record. 

“Nothing wrong,” Cody said, feeling bubbly inside. “Thought maybe I’d unnerve the batter a little. And I needed to tell you that you’re looking really good out here.”

Ben snorted a laugh. “It’s nice to be appreciated,” he said, eyes bright when he took off his cap and leaned a little closer. 

“Finish this up,” Cody told him, “and I’ll appreciate you properly.” 

Ben flashed him a grin, dipped his chin in a nod, and Cody turned away. He pulled his mask back into place as he walked back to the plate, settling back into a crouch and hearing the umpire huff a bit dramatically behind him.

And it ended, only moments later, with a sinking fastball, a swing and a miss, and a long beat of stunned silence.

And then the dugout was yelling - screaming, really - and pouring into the field. Cody sprung to his feet, knees giving the barest protest as he went from a crouch to a run. He tossed his mask to the side as he went, Ben standing there on the mound, looking--frozen and dazed, as though he’d really expected this all to fall apart somehow. 

He flowed beautifully to life as Cody reached him, running into him on the mound while the rest of the team closed in from all around them. Some of their fans must have made it to the game, because he heard cheering over the sounds of music--some people were also throwing trash onto the field, but fuck them, because--

Cody put both arms around Ben, rocking him back and forth. Ben laughed, loud and delighted, one arm around his shoulders and the other around his chest. The infield had reached them, slapping at shoulders, jostling them, and Cody did not resist when someone grabbed Ben bodily from behind and lifted him up.

Ben laughed, loud and shocked, steadying himself with hands on shoulders and heads, as the dugout and outfield reached them, as they clustered together like some kind of many-legged organism, laughing and cheering, some of the men crying.

The moment seemed timeless, but even timeless things ended.

Ben was placed back on the ground, eventually, and Cody grabbed him, pulling him closer. And in the moment, he was too full of joy and adrenaline to think about the reasons he shouldn’t when he curled a hand around the back of Ben’s neck, pulled him over, and kissed his mouth briefly.

He watched Ben’s eyes widen.

They’d come a long way, the two of them. Cody’d been there while Ben weathered the storm of being out - they both should have known that Krell wouldn’t just let it go - and it had been--ugly. In many ways. For many years. Sometimes it still was, comments in the locker room or from reporters or just people that they happened to run into while going about their business….

If their Major League club owner’s favorite grandson hadn’t also come out - prompting some rearranged priorities - it was quite possible Ben would have never played another season. But all of a sudden the owner had wanted to be supportive and…well. That was history, now.

Cody’d kept his peace about his sexuality. There were always rumors about it, especially since they lived together when they played on the same level, but--

Guys roomed together all the time. 

And they’d been careful. And, in the end, rumors were just rumors. They weren’t the first teammates people thought were fucking each other. He doubted they were even the first pair that people had been right about.

He drew back, just a breath, opening his mouth to say…he didn’t know, and Ben got that determined, wild look on his face, the one that said he was going to do something to change the very shape of the world.

And then he slung an arm around Cody’s ribs, cupped one side of his face, and--

Cody gripped at his shoulder when Ben tipped him back and down, but Ben was strong enough to support his weight, easy, and, besides, Ben was kissing his breath away, deep and purposeful and stunning. 

Someone nearby cheered and laughed. He heard some catcalls, definitely caught someone yelling at Ben to go all the way home. His family was - probably - watching up in the stands, though he’d mostly cut contact with his parents years ago, when they wouldn’t stop insisting that he ask for a transfer to another team.

They hadn’t liked him being even close to Ben.

He found, abruptly, that he didn’t care. Perhaps it was the adrenaline. Perhaps it was the raw joy. Perhaps it was Ben’s familiar and perfect mouth. Cody kissed him back, shifting to grip the short strands of his hair, before Ben pulled him back up to his feet, beaming and flushed.

“Well,” Ben said, as someone approached with an entire container of Gatorade, no doubt intended for his head, “anything else you want to get out there, babe?”

Cody blinked, running too hot, brain racing at the speed of light, and blurted, “Marry me?”

Ben laughed, delighted, and then the crew from the dugout had reached them and upended the Gatorade as Cody had known they intended, drenching Ben from head to foot, and there were reporters, crowding in, and league officials bearing hats and shirts and the fucking trophy. 

“Yes,” Ben murmured against his ear, a timeless stretch later, when they were both wearing new shirts over their uniforms, new caps pressed over their hair, hands pressed to the trophy. Cody exhaled, looked past the bleachers - emptied rapidly - and up to the burning stars and back to Ben, who was watching him with warm, fond eyes.

“Yes,” he echoed, and kissed Ben again, briefly, as, around them, cameras clicked and whirred.