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Rose Petal Hands
I am an avid studier and researcher of history. The letters and essays I have read between the two shows a remarkable hint at a romantic inclination between the two considering for their time such acts were illegal. I chose to write these pieces for I am attempting to bring to life the LGBTQ+ community by authoring pieces that give representation to a group of people who were forced to hide themselves all of their lives. The relationship and sexuality of Nathan Hale and Benjamin Tallmadge being an example.
September 14th, 1776 || 6:48 p.m.
6 days, 16 hours, 2 minutes till Nathan Hale’s death
“Reviv’d a little by your letter,
With hopes of speeding better,
At length I venture forth once more
But fearing soon to run ashore.”
Two bodies lunged themselves together in the translucent twilight, filling the hollow emptiness between their chest and arms. Benjamin Tallmadge recognized straight blonde locks cascading down the back of Nathan Hale’s azure uniform and his heart skipped a beat mere seconds prior; he could recognize him from anywhere. The slightly taller man’s hand folded behind the shorter’s back and looped their fingers into a connection, tugging their stomachs together and breathing in every single bit of each other. There was comfort now, in the brief alteration witnessed by rows of tents stretching out across the valley’s sloping hills.
Ben buried his nose in Nathan’s collar, shutting his eyes briefly, leaning deeply into the interaction, “Pythias…”
Breath on the back of his neck and a cheek held against his ear, “Damon…”
Not wishing to cause a scene, they reluctantly tugged off one another, a shock attempting to displace them back together. They both hadn’t caught a truly extraordinary sight of one another’s faces quite yet and the tips of their noses brushed slightly as they extracted from one another, maintaining proximity, grasping hands on each other's forearms as if they were afraid each other would let go. Releasing and staring point blank at one another. Passion flashed in Nathan’s sky blue eyes and Ben swore he saw lightning flare across his pupils; the once boyish glare that his face owned was replaced with war like bags almost painted underneath his eyelids.
At the same time, Nathan wished to trace the imprint of his thumb across the two wrinkles that now were forming at the center of his lover’s brow, those weren’t there before. Those two little wrinkles most likely from the New Yorker’s uncanny ability to scrunch his face quizzically ever so often. Some stubble ran across the line of Nathan’s jaw, a craving to kiss that bone didn’t subside, I’ll have to wait till later. Subsequently, Nathan gazed down to trace over the curve of Ben’s lips and his mouth began to grow ravenous--here he was, after weeks and he couldn’t even kiss him, let alone brace him for longer than a few meager seconds. His chest began to grow cold and he ached with longing for an awaiting touch. Their glares met wildly, holding depths so familiar, Ben was already plunged.
The corner of Nathan’s thin, pale lips curled up, coiling his knuckles around that man’s bicep, “You’re here.”
Ben didn’t say anything to reply, nodding and tipping his chin slightly; yes, I am--and I never want to leave. His bouche parted, a moderately giddy smile replaced it, perhaps lost in of how surreal it felt to have his living, breathing form in front of him.
Their embrace slipped off each other’s shoulders and came to at their sides, keeping their shoulders connected. The evening sun was beginning to set on the valley, the background wash of laughter billowing in their ears from soldiers huddled in groups with a flask passing from man to man. A shuddering light breeze circulating against the backs of their necks, the tall daffodil grass skimmed their ankles in this closing summer ecstasy.
“You know I missed you, Pythias.”
Ben swallowed, feeling the weight of those words settle in the core of his throat tearing his glance off of him, looping their elbows together, “and I to you, Damon.” Turning towards one another and getting lost with the light scent of crushed flowers veining around their calves, a cool rush of the September draft colliding with their surface. “You need to shave.”
Nathan rolled his eyes, throwing a hand to cup his own jaw, kicking up the side of his face and running his fingertips across the surface, “You haven’t seen me in a week and that’s what you choose to say?” he put up an act of hurt modesty but the stray hairs brushing the shelter of his eyelashes and both sides of his mouth turned up in a most remarkable simper that the sun seemed jealous of as it dipped behind the shifting hills.
Clicking his tongue, and smirking, Ben nodded. You know I missed you so much that I have no words to formulate all my pulsations of the pain. Waking up at dawn to the line in the sky he’d see the vague and invisible form of him on the other side of the cot. They faced each other again and the shorter leaned over, hooking their arms together at the elbows, tugging him along to the backside of a tent, closer to the forest that cut across the edge of the meadow.
“Well, are you going to speak to me?”, Ben twitted, their fingers scraped as he rose on the edges of his toes, haltering to whisper a muse in the taller’s ear, “I think it’s rather marvelous the way you sparkle as you speak of things you love.”
Nathan wallowed, “Exactly what, may I question?”
“Myself of course.”
“What a lovely friend I have acquired.”
Ben squeezed Nathan hand in his palm, nearing the opening of the forest and beyond, “Nathan Hale, would you care as to join me for a walk?”, he smirked, a flattering resolve of pride striking the creases of his face and Nathan couldn’t help but laugh. Ben stopped walking, striding in front of him to block him leaning over, bowing his body forward, curving his feet. His hair floated forward so rather majestically that when he looked up, Nathan saw a flash of fervency flare across his abyssal pupils so passionately that an existence rearranged inside his gut. He gazed down at Ben’s beckoning lips as they seemed like fingers that wrapped around his collar and tugged them roughly close. There was a manner to this in all its elegant simplicity.
“Benjamin Tallmadge, there would be nothing which would give me more pleasure.”
Nathan Hale let Benjamin Tallmadge grab him by his arm, rushing un-watched into the trees with a grip on his wrist that gradually slid to lace his fingers the farther they ventured into these woods. If this connection could not bare witness to faces, it would be tragically seen by the sky, the clouds and the sun; with this there will forever be eyes on them. Only the greatest joy seemed to pour in him and every inch of his body glowed as they trampled over roots, dry bush and bronze leaves with the crunch of their boots against the earth underneath their footing. He was being plucked along, not realizing where he was going but being led.
Once, wandering in his own head and Ben stretched back a branch letting it go in the rush, it flew against Nathan’s nose; there was a moment of concerned sentimentality before laughter took the place of such serious actions. They continued on their way, Ben rushing so quickly it seemed his own aura was having trouble keeping up and Nathan waved to that wild, wandering soul beside him. The current was rustling through his tress and he didn’t ponder just how much longer they had to march. He was so tempted to rip him back and take those full, rouge lips as his own but patience tipped him over.
Ben paused, catching his breath, scratching his hair, c***ing his head to the side and staring rather questioningly at the man behind him.
“You can’t be serious, Pythias...”
Before he could finish his sentence, Nathan kept his grip on that hand, speeding ahead, slapping the tree branches back as he ducked low to the ground. Nathan peeled to a haul when light emerged at the verge of the clearing and he flickered several times, his eyes adjusting to luminous now streaming through the crimson and ginger leaves on the trees.
Ben took a step forward, laughing, breathing in and stepping over the fern ivy into the spanning, yellow weeds of the expanse, turning back and pausing.
Nathan didn’t argue, shoving him in the shoulder, rolling his optics, a tongue parting through the cracks in his teeth.
They both fell into the tall grainy grass, seemingly on top of one another. They both respited, Ben on top of Nathan’s stomach and his shadowy all-consuming eyelashes fluttering down with a sort of purity that caused Nathan to freeze, his lips parted ever so slightly mesmerizing in the wind that rustled through Ben’s curly hair as it covered his vision. Everything seemed to cease and there was desperation in between their glancing stares, the sunset seemed transfixed on burning their shades and amber fixed with stardust simplified their entire existence together on the hill top with the oncoming Autumn air and the craving they both held.
Their eyes met, finding each other at the threshold of the woods with the hues of the leaves raining down across the Earth, enchanting themselves into everything. The button at the top of Ben’s shirt was open, revealing the skin below to his collarbone; he saw everything he recollected and had memorized. He witnessed such the burning desire and the yearning that had manifested itself in his soul like an addiction, perhaps a disease. He bore the familiar gold flecks sprinkled across his chestnut eyes, Ben always said it was result of spending too long gazing at Nathan’s hair and the sunlight those strands held; he’d caught it. With reason, those wrinkles in between Tallmadge’s brows frightened him and he yearned to trace their imprint delicately like a scar with a history of pain.
Their heads came closer, slowly, until their noses smoothed and ravishing anticipation took over as they culminated in sync. Lips sliding back into place where they belonged and Nathan led his forearms to loop around Ben’s back, gathering him closer than he possibly ever could, sensing his shoulder blades tense, maneuvering underneath the jacket as thumbs came to the back of his neck, bridging to press against the bottom of his jaw and their mouths, hot and not coming apart with shut lids and their hips; finding some type of rhythm, condescending together into a crescendo, rising and falling with every heavy, thickening breath.
Ben broke off so suddenly that Nathan continued searched for those lips in the air, up until the back of his head came to fall against the soil in discontent and longing. There was a loss of touch on his neck and those same hands gliding up his jaw moments ago now were themselves deviating the buttons open on the front of his shirt as Ben slipped lower until he rose higher on his knees above Nathan, pinning back his arms and landing a kiss on the Adams apple in the column of his neck.
Ben released, tugging Nathan’s tan, faded breeches all the way off of him, about to proceed with his actions when Nathan stopped him, grabbing his jaw forcefully and straining him up to his meet his semblance, fingers pressing on his cheeks as their eyebrow raised in confusion. A line of communication built in the secret language they’d acquired from so many stares across a classroom. A surge of devotion so blinding, gushing it immersed him and his tongue to quiver intensely.
Nathan was holding his world in the stretch of his arms.
September 14th, 1776 || 8:02 p.m.
6 days, 14 hours, 48 minutes till Nathan Hale’s death
“My thoughts had once convey’d you home,
In safety to your wonted dome;
But gladly went a second time,
Attended by your muse and rhyme.”
Guilt waded over him violently. Nathan had to say it. If he waited any longer, who knows if he would ever conjure up enough courage to say it? He cannot keep it from him any longer. Down below in the grass, Nathan traced the Ben’s silhouette against the dramatic sky above him as he stood buckling back up the strap of his breeches, tugging on his boots again and buttoning up his shirt.
“There’s a wrinkle in your collar”.
Ben shifted, revolving around to raise a sarcastic brow, following the pointed digit to his neck and he smoothed the fabric with two fingers, flattening the crinkled area.
“Thanks”, he rolled his eyes and tucked the ends flaps of his waistcoat into his belt area.
Nathan seemed rather pleased, leaning back with his arms crossed behind his head, clothed again and the horned buttermilk grass tickled the sensitive spots of his nape and his bare wrists. Finished, Ben strided over, no longer blocking the sunset as Nathan cupped his face to the streaming light. The Setauket boy stood over him, catching in the blaze, glaring down with a smirk piercing his full lips in a rather menacing manner with the flare of peach that seemed to line the undercoat of his bones; flustered and gazing down in an amused presence of pride. Nathan swallowed, sitting up and brushing the fern off of his legs and the suspicious grass stains on his knees that he bemoaned silently over.
Nathan had to tell him.
Ben scratched his chin, clasping the other’s hand and gathering their fingers together, lacing them. The taller’s mouth went dry, gulping as his tongue turned to sand; he wanted to say so many things to him but he just couldn’t. He choked on the words caught like a searing lump in his throat, he struggled to set them free. It would ever be floating in space, the death of him from beginning and to the end.
“General Washington has assigned me to a mission”.
There, they were out and swimming in the breeze and he could never take them back for as long as he lived.
Ben didn’t stop, kicking a stone in his path with the toe of his boot, and it skipped away, raising the dirt into the air where it bounced. He kept his survey on the ground as if searching for better rocks, rocking his head back and forth and he kept towing Nathan’s hand along back through the trees where they'd come from. “Washington himself?”, he tuned to improvement, moving the corners of his mouth to a frown, nodding his head as they crossed the wall of ivy, “What sort of mission?”
Nathan brought a hand to rub the back of his neck tentatively, “I-in New York.”
At this finally something settled a seed in Ben’s cranium and it began to bloom. Palm growing sweaty as he trekked over a snarling, raspberry bush with dead jagged thorns that attempted to tear through his clothing. A thorn caught on the pad of his thumb and he winced, zipping it between his front teeth, a dot of blood rising above the surface. The meadow darkened with the setting evening sun across the plain and it slipped behind the sloping hills, glazing the heavens in amethyst, cerulean tinctures magnificently. They stepped back among the trunks, side by side with their palms still connected but both were too in thought to think of the danger were they to be spotted. The parting of trees fell less dry than before, and the crimson leaves danced around his ankles.
Ben was still blinking several times with a thumb in his mouth, “What type of mission?”, he inquired again, letters a little more stern on the syllables, muffled by the pressed thumb, flaunting to his lateral with set brows.
“So you’re a spy now.”, his tone changed and he discontinued his walk on the makeshift path, he peeled a fox-tail off of his thigh and tossed it to the brush, releasing Nathan’s hand; he still limply held it out as if he might rejoin him and take it back up once again. He didn’t and the blonde began to feel naked. Ben’s lips pursed firmly together, a tiny blade forming, jutting out a hip and shewing his braid over his shoulder, flaring the man--the boy--in the face, his arms crossed over his chest. The buckle on his sash gleamed, catching perfectly in the releasing glimmer.
Nathan’s glimpse declined to the turf and he rubbed his bicep, looking for some sort of reassurance in anything and found nothing. “Washington needs men in New York, men who can supply him troop numbers, boats, forces. Washington--”
“To hell with Washington!”, Ben shouted, throwing his hands above his head. At this, Nathan’s eyes flew up, seeing that rage that collapsed like a universe in his eyes. Everything seemed to glow in the obscurity and it was painful how beautiful Ben resembled; he just willed to rush forward, gather him in his arms and smooth those two wrinkles in between his brow until they ceased existence like a stain and he saw that childish face he’d once witnessed. It was complicated discovering how lovely he looked right now, with his usual cheeky half-smile and the way his delicate fingers touched his hair and those sooty, pooling eyes drawing him in as slowly let go. Ben’s cheeks flushed roseate, lips screwed tight, widened and venomous and he worried he’d become paralyzed. “Washington is sending you to the slaughter house.”
“You what ”
Nathan became flustered once again and shifted his footing, nails itching at the fraying threads on his sleeves, “I volunteered to go.”
Ben inhaled deeply, attempting to compose himself, “You are still ill, you were dangerously ill, you need your health.”
Nathan gripped his fist, setting his jaw, and his shoulders rose to his ears before he reposed, “I must do it, Ben. For the war, for Washington, for our futures, for us.”
Ben surged a lip, leering, a hint of disgust plastering the corners of his face, “That’s it?”
“I leave tomorrow”. Nathan endeavor to steal a step forward, gather his lover up, quench all of his fears that clearly fostered below the outrage, wrapping himself up in just their thoughts. Ben faltered, stepping backwards, heel sliding on loose brambles beneath his footing, racing a hand back to catch his fall. Their eye contact relinquished and Ben rose to his feet again, shaking the twigs from his wild curls and clenching his teeth. A subtle wind rushed it and rustled those strands until they fell in his eyes once again.
He angrily slapped them back, “I’m not going to stop you,” Ben declared.
“Then why do you care?”
There was no answer and Nathan printed away, turning his back on perhaps one of the longest things he’d ever loved. The chaos and the grace and everything that came with it and not a single thing that he’d ever regret; there was nothing to. That was how the light managed to escape through the broken cracks.
“You thought you’d just use me?”
Nathan understood everything he meant and his anger subsided, revolving back and shuffling through the brushes, getting closer, “No, Ben---”
“---You thought you’d get good ol’ Benjamin Tallmadge to get you off once last time.”, his eyes narrowed, like a predator.
Nathan snapped, gasping profoundly and jamming a finger into the very core of their chest and hovering over him as scarlet, blank vehemence shrouded the edges of his vision, rushing forward and his hand balled the anterior of Ben’s shirt, ripping him close. Their was a scuffle as the shorter man attempted to stifle himself away, shoving on the other’s shoulders. The fist released off the front of his shirt and a loud groan took the place and Ben tumbled, uprooting Nathan into the dirt, to where Nathan rolled on top of him and wrestling him into the soil, rising a fist and striking Ben right in the nose. He moaned and blood trickled down onto his lips like wine after the sickening crunch settled underneath his knuckles. He shoved Nathan’s chest, capitulates rapping against the base of his ribs and Nathan lost his breath, regaining it quickly, fumbling and pinning down Ben’s shoulder.
“You came onto me first!”
Ben awaited another strike to the face as Nathan rose a fist again.
“And you let me."
It was soft, a quiet voice with every sense of vulnerability.
Nathan faltered, blinking in surprise, and stopping his clutch mid air, pausing and lowering it back down to his side. He leaped off of Ben’s abdomen and tumbled into the ground, covered in dirt and a bruise scarping its way to the surface of his cheek, underneath his heavy, protruding eyelids. There was quietude between them as Ben sat up, wincing, filth caking his countenance and blemishing his elbows. Coughing, a seep of blood streamed from his nose, advancing the surface of his hand to wipe his upper lip, ruby lining the cracks of his white teeth. Nathan covered his forehead with his hand, shrouding his face as his heart drummed in his ears.
And you let me.
Those few words, hanging thick in the draft like sin, caping their letters around them, drawing each other closer together. Ben simpered, lightly tapping the bridge of his nose. Neither of them had noticed how shadowy it had grown and how they could barely see around the separate trees, for of the somber illusion that brimming the earth. A breeze blowed across his fair skin, eyes closing slowly, breathing in depth, filtering the air into the lungs. There was the scent of firewood, a little salt on those tides with ashy smoke and crisp, sun burnt leaves. He opened them again, the serene atmosphere flooding relief across his bones like sparks, rotating his cranium to his side expecting to find Ben glimpsing back.
Ben was balancing his elbows on his knees, his own hands interlocked at the wrists, hanging his head in between the space, following the ground, the arch of his spine shuddering up and down, crimson from his nostrils dripping to the soil below his feet and crossed ankles. Nathan made no advances, knowing he was a second and Ben seemed to intertwine himself around eternity. As if he was just a hand on the clock, and the other was swirling around the stars. In that moment, he did not deserve to place a hand on his shoulder and suggest they forget all of their fears until day breaks and dawn surges forth, toxic, golden and the spy miles away without a single word said. They just sat there in the eclipse of the woods, hung in shame away from the galaxy.
There was no need for Ben to declare everything thing he was frightened of because Nathan already knew. He pictured himself up on a gibbet with a noose around his life, scraping the mole on his neck and rumors it told. He would be hung. It was the pain of remorse, not for his own life but for the one seated across from him. What would he care? He would swing from the gallows to death without a recognition in place, but Benjamin Tallmadge and his five syllable name would carry the speck, the weight of this on his soul for the remained of his life. How does one go on believing they were responsible for the downfall of another they loved?
He was cut off immediately, “Nathan, please, don’t”, pain lingered in his voice, emotional, wavering unsteadily, sticking in chord in his spirit.
Nathan scooted forward on his knees, fetching himself nearer but Ben did not look up from where he had dangled his visage. “Ben--”
“No!”, he barked, his head flying up from where it was laid at the song of such innocence, facing Nathan in the eyes where they unlocked bolted doors to his rather secure soul. There was the contamination of tears scattering on the pitter-patter of his cheeks, streaking the dirt on his cheeks, a tear gathering down his jaw; fierce, desperate where his eyebrows arched and that dangerous little wrinkle impregnated his face so pregnantly. Rouge underlining his eyelids, he rubbed his nose, faltering away and leaning his chin on his hand. His sorrow seemed like rain; everyone adored the idea of the sun but he was always in love with the belief that the universe too, felt pain. Ben’s tired orbs bowed, pressing them shut, tears leaking from the edges with memories swinging trapped in their skulls.
Nathan’s stomach tied in knots, as if palms made of things he did not quite understand were twisting his gut underneath the layers of externity. His hand hesitated, rising and landing on Ben’s shoulder, “Please…”
Ben rolled his shoulder in the joint, brushing, throwing off interaction, rubbing the heel of his hand into his forehead, hair tumbling in his eyes rather messily as another sob rippled through his chest, lips parting, holding it back as it grew, climbing out his throat. His chest shook and Nathan couldn’t help but imagine the heart and everything wrapping around the lungs and ribs rattling together.
“Please, leave. I cannot have you here.”
It felt like a slap to the face, “No.”, it still stung, a pulsating hand print formed.
Ben seemed rather displaced, leaning up his head and following with dignity, grinding his teeth and the blood that soaked them, “Can’t you f***ing listen?”
Nathan tipped his head, buckling, “Only to the truth.” He had found such a place in between those arms, in between kisses and soft whispers. Between the warmth of embrace, the scent of him, that fierceness in his touch; he found a place lost wandering in another’s soul. Watching his lover shake, and tremble before his very eyes with tears flooding down his cheeks along with wounds he’d created. He could sense contractions in his stomach and the suppression of his beating and the emotions hidden his lung's in the empty rooms. He wish he just saw a person and not poetry, because he didn’t know if he would ever run out of rhymes.
Maybe it was the attraction to every way he’d pushed away his advances, and how he’d done the same at Yale years ago; turning away the best thing he'd ever seen. But he knew Ben better than anything, read him like an open book and he’d memorized all complex pages of text. He traced the outline of Ben’s lips, catching in the moonlight, a reflection. He could walk away now and only regret every moment after. Nathan ran his fingers through his scalp and curled a lock back behind his ear. Ben still didn’t look him in the eye, their thighs were now connected, hip to hip with leaves down the back of their shirts, still adjusting to the milky obscurity around them.
The firmament was glistening that night as he tipped his chin back, attending to the stars scattering in the sky, blinking down at him with reassurance. The stardust gleamed across his own eyes they night, soaking them in like desperate inspiration, scintillating and ushering back. “I’ll throw my voice in the stars, if you will not listen”, this caught Ben’s attention, perking his head up, clearly he was listening with the way that his ears twitched against the tips of his hair, “Perhaps, the echo of my words will be written for you in the clouds by sunrise.” Their fingers brushed, tinging Ben’s shadow and his aimless eyes that was defeated to the interaction,“A brief summary, Damon, is that I will cherish you through the darkness.”
Ben sighed, leaning his head back, opening his throat, bare and clear and Nathan fought the temptation to plant a kiss on the clear skin, trailing up to his jaw. He fell in the grip of those verses, “As always, your words are said as if they are only so, dear Pythias, while they have always been planets swirling around dim stars.”, his vocals were somewhat smothered by the currant blotch widening on the bridge of his nose
“But, there are so many more stars than planets.”
“Ah, but planets make homes among the stars and yours, do indeed live inside me.”
The corner of Nathan’s mouth moved, matching Ben’s growing smile and their eyes met when he twisted his neck to the side, sincerity there in the softness of his glance and the creases softened.
They began at the same time, Ben grasping the attention.
“Don’t worry, I forgive you,” Nathan flashed a ballsy grin, and Ben slugged him in the shoulder. Ben fell back, leaning into Nathan’s longing arms and soaking in the warmth of his neck. There was calm before the quivering began once again, and the blonde’s hands tugged him tighter, roaming over the curves his back and his vibrating shoulder blades. The wind had paused, and he inclined his jowl down to lay against the top of Ben’s head and where his warm hair frayed.
“I can’t lose you,” warm breath on the shell of his ear. That tepid exhalation seemed to remind him how delightfully chaotic he had remembered, with a passing glance and a handshake across the space at Yale the first time they ever met. The first time he witnessed beauty, grace and forests where they both could get venture in and never get lost because of such the memorization. A beautiful mess, loving him, his most splendid adventure. “I’ve heard you never fully feel another until you’ve lost them. I am worried it will take me a lifetime to truly know you.”, fingers declined to his knee, knowing the ghost of those fingertips will forever wander across his skin, “You’ve filled up so many pieces inside me, who will I be then?”
Nathan Hale bit his lip, gripping his embrace along the cross of Ben’s hips where he sat, coiling their legs together and ankles knocked together through boots with the most intimacy. In this time, the man he held in the circle of his arms was thunder, that smile rattled his bones, and his heart was the best piece, it would always calm the storm when he was afraid of a little rain. “You’ll be Benjamin Tallmadge; rugged soldier, talented scholar. You’ll be the man who graduated early, the one who tossed rocks through the windows at Yale and passed me notes in our lessons. You’ll be just the same because I’ll always be here, I am not going anywhere.”
Ben beamed, fluttering his eyelashes up, “Maybe one day we’ll find that place where you and I can simply be together.”
Nathan reached his touch to cup Ben’s jaw, leading those auburn optics up to meet his face, staring down at the bruise on his jaw and those wrinkles in the center of his forehead that seemed all consuming, his nails eased those growing wounds. “Believe that we shall meet again, until then, I am already missing you.”
Their worlds had color the moment the sky witnessed a pair of woods. Drowning and teaching each other to feel things above the trees. Nathan stood up, extended down a hand and carving out his own silhouette against the eventide with the moon in his hair and the faded stardust sprinkling off those strands whenever he shifted against the heavens. Ben took his awaiting hand, not bothering to brush off his clothing of dirt but picking a twig off of his forearm, tossing it away.
“We should head back to camp,” suggested and the shorter nodded in agreement, glowing in the tangled and perplexing darkness.
Nathan switched away slowly, tracking his way through the thorns on his calf, he started to walk when a pair of arms pulled him back, looping around his waist and a cheek digging in his spine. His arms stayed arisen, taken aback before he let them down, shifting around and grabbing Ben by the waist, connecting their lips when their bodies met, filling in the space and coves as made molds. Fingers circuiting across his scalp, kissing that boy underneath the looming luminescence and the ardent night that altered around them as if the whole atmosphere was peering through the gaps of the top tree branches, glancing their lips switch, revolving and moving over each others with closed eyes and only loving intent. Nathan felt tears on his cheeks and did not know whose they were, but that it did not matter.
They fell apart, still holding their arms together. Nathan swore that every time eyes flickered up to him, they were saying everything his lips failed moving to say.
September 14th, 1776 || 11:54 p.m.
6 days, 11 hours, 36 minutes till Nathan Hale’s death
“That you are there, the single proof,
You bring, to me, is quite enough.”
Nathan Hale and Benjamin Tallmadge snuck their way through the trees back to camp, guiding the way to Ben’s tent in the row of matching shapes. The sound of their boots shuffling over the cracking dirt and tan, burnt grass muted by the crackle of fires, the rising smoke and ash settling into the air. Pain wrapped itself around Ben’s neck as if he was the one with a noose coiled over him and Nathan couldn't help up notice how his eyes never left the ground. Look at me, please, Damon. They found his tent, leading himself into the opening, treading over the darkness to the wooden post and flicking on the whale oil lamp hanging from an extension. Light flooded the tent walls, the single cot and blanket knocking into their calves just below their knee cap.
Ben slid onto the corner of the cot, balancing his elbows on his knees and his chin in the cupped palm. He sat unblinking, focusing but not seeing, towards the entrance with glassy eyes, reflecting the wax and wane on the lamp across the amber. Feeling him through the open windows in his lonely sense, reminding him just what it felt to be. Nathan paused too, watching this scene and he swallowed, filling in the empty space at his side as he slipped onto the other side of the cot. Hair fell in front of Ben's eyes, blocking view of his perception.
There was no answer.
He saw another tear of many float its way down his cheek and the brunette didn’t bother to wipe it away.
“How about we take your boots off?” Nathan suggested, leaning closer, his knuckle brushing up against the tear, wiping it away. Ben nictated drowsily and shifted elbows, gaping his eyes again, a deep, shaky breath followed. Nathan slid to the floor, in between Ben’s knees, his fingers deviating to unravel the buckle at the top of the boot, sliding it off, repeating it, keeping his watch up and reluctantly their eyes latched for that small timelessness. Nathan took his place back on the blanket again, their shoulders brushing together at the cape.
“Now for the jacket.”, he declared, it seemed as a song, and his voice was like music. He maneuvered Ben’s hips until they were facing him and he worked his digits around his core, untucking the material from his waist. Up to his collar, nails unraveling the fabric, working his appendages farther declining from gleaming button to button until he’d gotten his waistcoat completely off of his shoulder and it landed on the ground, his bare shoulders against the night current. He felt something stirring inside of him, like a collection of dying stars trapped beneath suffocating waves. Waves that belonged to their ocean, and he’d fallen deeply without really knowing how far it’ll go. Ben seemed broken him, because he loved too deeply and too dearly. Blind perhaps to the fact that love is a broken thing.
Nathan leaned his head down, planting a gentle kiss on Ben’s shoulder, leading steadily up across his collarbone, the column of his throat, into the undercut of his jaw and around his jutting chin. Before he reached the man's lips, he strained off. “Now for the lower half”, and his fingers descended upon Ben’s midsection, fiddling with another buckle. Just as he about to tug the down, Ben extracted him off before he could get them down, shifting his cranium, softly slamming their lips together, fitting into the grooves where he’d cut himself off at the corner of his mouth; everything was reticent and there was only lulling breeze. Nathan’s fists preformed their way across Ben’s bare breast and the ribs he caressed underneath, over his shoulders and his core. The flame of the whale oil lamp shimmered fervently across that bare, revealed skin, truly catching into embers.
A rush of starling air flowed across his stomach and Nathan hadn’t realized the front of his shirt had been undone, laying patent, unraveling himself to the night. The fabric skidded from his collarbone, falling behind him as they sundered onto the top of the cot. Nathan cradled Ben’s hips with his hands, running him into the blanket, their bare chests collided. How soft and roaming their kisses were on each other’s lips and so desperately hungry on the revealed places. There was no definition for how their lungs were filled with only the sweetest air possible, yet they were so utterly breathless. Wrists navigating through hair, gripping the strands as the thinnest of ropes. That first night they truly kissed he left a poem on Ben’s tongue and now he was still hearing lines every time he breathed out.
Veering their thighs into each other, twisting over, Ben gathering his weight on top of Nathan’s chest where he could feel his frantic heartbeat on his fingertips where they brushed his pulse in the carve of his neck. Ben let off, eyelids shutting for a moment before he opened them again, concreting down, swiping callouses from his neck to the left side of his torso, perching it over the area and shutting them back once again as in an ecstasy. A beam transformed his face, flashing teeth.
Nathan raised a brow, “What is it?”
His eyes opened, keeping a hand over that space, “It’s you.”, those pulsations that keep you living in such a turbulent time, “The sweetest sound one could hear.” Ben rested against his chest, sighing stiflingly and wiping a bead of sweat off of his forehead, “I love too much; what a flaw.”
Nathan wrapped his forearms around the S figure of their back, tugging him closer. Ben led pads up to press over a spot of rouge flesh on Nathan’s forehead, above the slithering blonde brow where a powder burn scar etched itself into his skin. “You make a damn good soldier, Nathan Hale”, his voice sounded sleepy as if he was half asleep and his lover’s heartbeat was a pillow for his tired mind to rest upon. Wallowing in the scent of the passing summer fragrance, sweat and smoke, the flickering flames illuminating off of his back where he was laying.
“Your hands feel like soft flower petals”, as if he was attempting to discover that scent, he raised Nathan’s hand to his visage, resting his chin on the appendage. “I love you.”
Nathan glimmered. There were the words.
“You carry such deep things inside of you.”
There was an excruciating scent of rose petals.
“With every bit of everything, until the stars die out and the universe halts, Nathan Hale; you are the largest piece of me."
Nathan was holding his exhalations without realizing it. Say it, say it back. He kept his mouth shut. How was he supposed to fit years of thoughts into one sentence with three meaningless words? Tell his lover that he couldn’t seem to remember anything before him, that he was always something in the waft killing him silkily with a grip on his jugular; that he promises to find him in all the moments he experiences his breath was stolen from his own lungs? He gazed at Benjamin Tallmadge and he cannot remember what he is waiting for, forgetting who he is, who he was, he was so unaware of how lost in something that he loved. Benjamin Tallmadge came with tears of complete animosity and melancholy, yet he’s the same person who’s there wiping them away. Bringing rain to his weather, and a sunshine which formed after the storm.
He loved him and every rare inch of surface; loved him and every unspoken melody; love as indefinite as the seas. Drowning in the presence of his voice, the vibrancy from joy in his laughter that makes his vocal chords tingle in chorale; he’d fallen in an endless hole of love just for him. The most beautiful seconds being those with lips spilled across vulnerable skin, adoring the way that he embraced him in raw inches of soul, every thrust forward so full of intention. It was without desperation, needs or wants. At night he dreamt of their body dancing under the moon as the resplendent grew disgustingly and admiringly jealous of the way he moved. He was his. He was Ben’s as the stars belonged to the sky, as the waters belong to the seas, as tears belong in eyes; he was his, as lungs belonged to pattern in which he breathed.
Nathan Hale chose to say none of this,
“I love you.”
those three words described it all.
Ben smiled at those words and the reciprocation, “if we lose our way… I swear to find you in the moments where I brought soul to your song”. His body grew unmoving in sleep and his twitching eyelids held back his wandering eyes in his skull. They crawled within their outstretched arms, heaviness leaking away. Nathan closed his eyes, burying his nose in those wild, melting curls, holding the world against his heart in the reach of his rose petal hands.
September 15th, 1776 || 3:47 p.m.
6 days, 7 hours, 50 minutes till Nathan Hale’s death
“But here, I think you’re wrong, to blame,
your gen’rous muse and and call her lame.”
Nathan Hale could not sleep. His eyes floated back up to the roof of the tent, staring at the sheeting fabric sewn together at the corners in the flash of a simmering candle in the oil lamp. He lifted Ben’s head off of his bare breast, setting it on the single pillow he was lying on and sat up on the cot stiffly, his space filling. With goosebumps rising on the sleeping man’s surface, he tugged the blanket up to the undercut of their chin, slipping off feet onto the ground, grabbing his shirt from the corner of the bed, sliding it over his arms and shoulders but not bothering to button the front up.
He ran his fingers through the front of his hair, combing it back with his nails, sitting back down on the edge of the cot, narrowing his shoulders and his eyes once again dipped to the sleeping man on the bed. With his curly, unruly cinnamon locks, without a ribbon now, the strands tumbling messily against his lower back and his collar bone, barely sweeping the curve of his spine. Nathan sighed, his shoulders declining, fixing out his tense muscles. He wondered what time it was now, it was still dark, perhaps three in the morning? There was no ability to rest left in him, wide awake now. He gazed at Ben’s chest as it fluttered up and down, and his ears twitched in their state making him wonder just what kind of dreams played behind those eyelids this night.
Their brows arched, etching out further those two wrinkles at the center of his brow--he was only twenty-two, why were there already markings on his sheath?
Tenaciously, his own hand departed the cot and aligned upon those two nicks, tracing them with his cracked nail as one would gentle rub a stain from their clothing; they were anything but so. Riveting longingly at a portrait of the most perfect being in his perspective. Fingers stumbling across a dancefloor of flesh, with hands that had already memorized the contours of his spine, ears absorbing the music of those sleepy sighs escaping from his lips. He wanted to write down exactly how he felt as his vision scoped down, trailing the indigo veins until they culminated at his wrist, he knew the paper would remain empty. He could not of described it any better.
Of everything he’d ever seen in his twenty-one years, of anything he’d touched, he kept on touching him , wrapping his grip around that wrist where it lay limp, rising it to his lips, pressing a kiss into his lifelines. It was his bronze laughter, it spread across rooms as hues of the same shape transform the skies. The Connecticut boy felt like scarlet and the most consuming passion, with its vehement divulging shades ripping their pictures around his silhouette. Their lips would meet delicately enough to not crush the rose petals of his skin, no less the devotion as the colors erupted together in the atmosphere revealing the most dazzling display of light.
Dawn was breaking as their interaction stole form across the heavens. A fleeting juncture in a world that romanticized the universe. Nathan’s palm glided up to flicker down his abdomen his touch merely ghosting with fluttering wings like a butterfly, Ben’s gut tightened, coiling in on itself. His smoothing caress arrived to those hips that did not feel quite the same, protruding a little too much and a stomach that now revealed the bottom rib when he inhaled. Nathan frowned, just as exquisite as before in his most innocent form. But, Nathan Hale craved so much more than just form. He wallowed for depth, and for a soul. Something to burn him up with purpose and desire, wishing to be reduced to ashes by it but learn that he could rise from the embers just as fast. An attraction for things that would destroy him in the end.
Nathan lay his now tired skull back upon the pillow, his face falling allineate with the man he’d studied so earnestly. Their noses brushed, he shut his eyes slowly, edging closer and pressing a kiss against Ben’s lips. Maybe it was an aspiration for the taste of his lips that flashed him to the scent of everything after it had rained, but the sunshine comes out. The lapping sound against the slippery cobblestones and the shamrock moss in between each carving pebble. Tree bark, pine needles weaves with how calm lakes feel against his skin on steamy summer nights with beads of sweat shimmering down the back of his neck and Ben’s form slipping between the water, stunning in the reflection of the moon across the rippling water.
It was every marvelous memory swaddled at the corners of his mouth. He eased his burdens to share his joy and content in his sorrow. Every breath exchanged between urged jaws tasted limitless. Boundary lines pleading with ardent flesh with only that nods could utter. Out of his mortality, that hungers and his tongue that comes to know the semblance in seeking reason. The curvature of his lover’s waiting body fits into his wanting hand, breast warm as sunlight, pressures quick between his thighs. Ben was still asleep as he let go, sensing a stranger shift in his bones as if doing something for the very last time without knowing it. The last time he’d kiss, or the last time he’d kiss Ben?
He felt his heartbeat on his fingertips as he shifted phantom strokes over Ben’s eyelids, spiraling down his nose and around his cheek before sloping to his chin and he drew his pads off, stationing a hand on their chest above his frantic heart. Air plummeted all to quick out of his lungs and he failed to breath, something warmed his veins and his eyes widened. Underneath the layers of skin, and the ribs, the muscle and bone, he was closer to anybody that he had ever been in his entire life. His palm was becoming a prisoner to the rhythm of that pulse.
“You keep your soul in your eyes, Damon.”
“Is that so, Pythias?”
“You unlock it for selective few, but whenever it tis’ there, it guides its arms to the center of my chest.”
“Then you must keep your soul in your chest.”
“Silly question. My soul can always find you.”
Nathan blinked, as the absence of day ceased and darkness crawled back towards the Earth. Those ravenous tinctures of bronze and scarlet brimming up the heavens, shallowing across the tent. Still blind to the time, it must be four-thirty.
It was time to leave.
Reluctance with strings like a violin swarming about him and leaping him back, he shook them off loosely, tipping back up, throwing his feet to the floor and hovering off the cot. He buttoned up the front of his open shirt, plucking down the sleeves to where they washed the coat of his forearm. Pausing to pull the blanket back up to Ben’s chin before passing across the tent; gathering his coat, slipping it over his arms, straightening out the collar remembering Ben’s tormented eyebrows meeting at the center of his brow as he did the same, standing above him, his outline against the eventide and Nathan’s arms behind his head with the most innocence he could establish. For justice, perhaps a copy to keep with him so that he’d carry a movement with him, he mirrored Ben, rubbing two fingers over his collar to straighten the material.
He stood, tugged his boots on, rounding up all of his hair with two hands at the center of the base of his neck, re-doing the ribbon and looping it into his golden fibers once again. He circulated his eyelids, ripping at the corner of his eyes and not sensing the least bit of exhaustion. He tucked his waistcoat into his waist and slid the jacket completely over his torso, ceasing; he was done. Something plunged in his stomach, a cloudy pit of despair; there was nothing left. A moment of dread waded over him. He was done.
Nathan Hale glanced back over to the cot and the man with his face buried in the pillow and rouge coating his eyelids. He didn’t want the chaos to leave him, not ever. It kept him wild, in strange ways of unique attraction. Tonight everything seemed to of made sense, except for the way Ben made him feel. He would depart from his eyes and he wondered if he would remember when he was gone how beautiful it was to feel. How guilty he felt knowing Ben would be waking up in the morning with half shut eyes, reaching automatically for the spot in the bed and remember just about all of his depression.
Tears threatened to drowl from him, but he blinked them back sternly disciplining himself, composing, clenching a jaw in retaliation. He strided back towards gape of the tent, prepared to step out when he heard the cot’s joints creek. Incoherent murmurs flooded the room and he turned back, following the sound and landing on Ben. What began as a mere rustle revolved into kicking, rolling his neck back and forth whimpering. Nathan breathed, rejoining the foot of the cot when the screaming started. “No!”, a shout forced from the sleeping man’s throat, his chest racing up and down, sticky sweat clinging to the strands touching his forehead, “You can’t take him!”, a sob billowed in his chest.
Nathan gathered on his ankles, throwing himself onto the cot, “Ben! Wake up!”
Ben didn’t change, tears flooding onto his cheeks like oceans. His eyelids barely parted, and a sob emerged from his lungs, throwing himself into Nathan’s neck. “Nathan?”
“It’s me”, he pulled him close into his neck, whispering softly in his ear.
“You were gone,” he let out another whimper and covered his eyes with his hand, still half asleep, “You were gone.” He buried his face in the crook of Nathan’s neck, shaking, hands clinging to his shirt, balling his fists, his neck began to feel wet. “Please, Nathan…”
Nathan’s own chest began to ripple, holding back his own emotion by cupping a palm over his aperture, muting himself. “Benjamin, I am not going anywhere.”
“You were gone…”
Ben grew limp again, flirting with sleep it seemed. A few mutters passed the space in his lips before there were words, “...soft as rose petals…” mentioning the hands clinging to his back.
Nathan quivered, stamping the tears from his eyes, squeezing them shut, “I’m not going anywhere.” He breathed, setting Ben back down on the pillow once again and rising back again on unsteady feet. He held clamped knuckles between his teeth and his trembling chin where it landed in the palm of his hand, inclining, feeling bile rise in his throat that he swallowed down. He smoothed his shirt again with vibrating hands, zipping over the creases Ben’s fists had formed by those nightmarish portraits behind his dreams. He shook his cranium knowing just as well that he would never be back and in a violent or delicate acceptance, a battle shuffled in his chest; the place where Ben had once pointed to his soul.
He grasped the lapels of the tent, parting them patent and treading out into the shimmering dawn luminescence. Breathing in the meadow air, gratified that there was not breeze to mask the warmth. He deviated the opening, peering his eyes back to Ben where they navigated the curve of his body on the cot. Reluctance to blunder away. The parts of the New York boy pulsated inside of him, knotting fingers around his ribs, daisies danced across his spine, pushing between the vertebrae, a garden of dashing roses wilting away. The floating petals plucked off of the stem, gliding to his domestic layers. He witnessed them poking up through his skin and already felt homesick for the places that were never really his own.
Nathan knew Ben’s lips were moving to form syllables, Pythias .
Nathan Hale took his last look of Benjamin Tallmadge before shutting the opening, hesitant to step off into bigger things as he landed into their air. The very same bronze and scarlet coasting across the horizon, trailing up towards the sky where he said he might find his words written in the clouds. He smiled, fluttering lashes; the fusing intensities were searing his skin and he knew the familiarity of watery rain-slickened petals.
He started away, not looking back; his lover’s kisses singing to the flowers inside him.