Things move quickly once Captain Tallmadge blesses the release of the prisoner. In minutes, Abe is on the water, holding tight to his silk and twelve pounds.
Business concluded, Ben circles back to the horse posts. He is about to set the saddle when he feels a familiar presence behind him.
"If I were you, I would tread lightly," Ben says. "Smuggling is illegal. Even when it does not benefit the enemy."
"Half my day is illegal, captain. Smuggling is the least of my worries." Caleb has crossed arms and a smirk on his face. "So, do I need to chase after Woody? Beat his arse for ratting me out?"
Ben smiles. "Lucky for you, Abraham Woodhull is a man of integrity. Refused to give the name of a good man just trying to get by."
"Well, look at that," Caleb says. He sounds impressed. "Might be the deal I gave him. Twelve pounds and silk for that small haul of cabbage? A rough season for the Woodhull estate, I'd say."
"Money can't buy a man's soul," Ben reasons. "If it were price alone, I would have cracked him."
"Yes." Caleb leans forward to whisper. "I hear Captain Tallmadge is one merciless bastard."
Ben chuckles. He turns to give the neck of his steed a pat. "I should be off. Long ride back to camp."
"Plenty of day left, I fail to see the rush," Caleb says.
Ben raises a brow. "You'd rather I waste hours with this lot?"
"I'm a part of this lot, right?" Caleb grins. "Or are you too fancy to hang out with the likes of me, now that you've got this get up?" He gives Ben's jacket a tug, laughing at the shove he gets in return. "That's a strong push for a man who barely escaped the grasp of Robert Rogers."
"Many pains can be masked by proper dressing," Ben says, smiling. But his gaze is wary.
"Pain, is that all you're hiding?" Caleb glances around before taking a bold step forward. He slides a hand beneath the edge of Ben's jacket.
"Caleb," Ben warns. But Caleb's hand is already at his shoulder. He gives it a gentle squeeze. Light as his grip is, Ben jerks away. Clothing and binding are not enough to hide the effects of a bullet wound.
"Scott let you ride out like this?" Caleb asks. His hand stays under Ben's jacket, but against his chest. Away from the pain left by Rogers' musket.
Ben rolls his eyes. "General Scott is assigning me a new company. He fully intends to resume our scouting missions as soon as possible. Had I met my end on the way here, it would not have concerned him."
"Maybe it won't come to that. Abe open to the idea?"
"Abe is scared," Ben replies honestly. "It angers me, but I can't fault him."
"Things have gone south in Setauket." Caleb sighs. "We asking too much?"
Ben steps from under Caleb's hand, to where his saddle is draped across the post. "Have we asked too much of ourselves, Caleb? At least Abe can go home."
Caleb pushes down on the saddle when Ben starts to lift it. Ben has the height leverage to fight, but he relents for the moment.
"We all know what we believe in," Ben adds. "If you believe in something, you can't be afraid. You have to fight for it."
"That's my Tall Boy," Caleb teases. "Giving sermons like his daddy."
Ben crosses his arms. "Fine. Since my words are not appreciated here, you can let me return to camp."
"Your words are a chore, but... I think we can find other ways to occupy our time."
Ben raises a brow. "There are too many people here, Brewster."
"What did you say just now? About not being afraid if you believe in something?"
Ben chuckles. "Are you equating private matters to a fight for freedom?"
"Private matters? Is that what we're calling it now?" Caleb glances around. Finding them alone, he leans closer. "I know a place with a few minutes to spare."
Ben watches him start off into the woods, skeptical. "A few minutes?" he echoes. "Is that supposed to entice me, Brewster?"
Caleb glances over his shoulder and grins. "Yes. Yes, it is." He keeps walking.
Ben, smiling, finds himself with no other choice but to follow.
Caleb's idea of privacy is an old shed, a few minutes walk from their post. The shed itself is not ideal: old, thin boarding, and a door with no lock. But the location is isolated, a maze away from their fellow soldiers.
"After you," Caleb says. He mock-bows as he opens the shed door for the captain. Ben eyes him, unimpressed, but he enters. Caleb follows close behind.
"You couldn't have waited a few days, Caleb?" Ben asks.
"If I remember right, captain, you owe me a favor."
Ben smiles. He knows where this is going. "And what favor might that be?"
"Something about a lesson I owe you." Caleb grins and takes a step closer. He tilts his head up, breaths on Ben's jaw.
Ben swallows, but his expression stays steady. "A lesson, from you?"
"Yes. You said there are talents I possess that you haven't mastered." Caleb smirks. "I'd like to see you try."
"Here?" Ben looks around. "Say what you will about my sleeping quarter, but it was better than this. What is this place? An outhouse?"
"I've got a touch more class than that, Benny Boy," Caleb replies, eyes twinkling. "But I can't guarantee. When a man sees something he wants...well." He lets his hands sink into Ben's jacket, hands full of the vest beneath. "His patience wears thin."
Ben does not retreat when Caleb's body pushes into his. Hands reach around to grab at his back through his shirt.
He lets his mouth open just enough for Caleb to feel his breaths against his cheek. "How is your patience now, Brewster?" he asks.
Caleb kisses him without warning. An appropriate response.
When they first began these trysts, it was the kissing that bothered Ben most. He could handle other physical shows of affection, and Caleb's constant teasing. But the kisses took what they did to a more personal level. Ben did not want to admit to this for a long time.
But Ben has grown more fond of this. A kiss can be as fast as it needs to be. A brief moment, easily concealed by the walls of a private shed in the woods.
The other things Caleb wants, well. Those take more time and create more risk.
Ben speaks against his lips. "It can wait until we get back to camp."
"Your order's no good here, captain." Caleb eyes him. "We're just two men, and one of them's got a promise to keep."
"To think, my honor is tied to your shaft."
Caleb nips at his mouth. "On your knees, sir."
Ben gives the ground a distasteful look. At least the place has floorboards. But they are dirty and molded. He observes the rotting wood and his own uniform slacks with concern. Stained knees may raise suspicions.
Caleb looks between him and the floor with an incredulous brow lift. "Are you a woman?"
"Get off it, arsehole," Ben mutters.
He folds his arms as Caleb removes his trench coat and lays it on the ground as protection. "This better, Your Majesty?"
"If you're trying to sway me, you're failing. Miserably, might I add."
Caleb's mouth twitches. "Ah, so it's motivation you need." Without warning, he snags a hand on Ben's jacket and yanks him close.
"Caleb, what-" Ben's question gets lost in Caleb's mouth. His hands wander down Caleb's chest. One slides across the front of his trousers.
"Now we're talking," Caleb says, voice lower. "Get to it. I'll make it worth your while."
Their time in this place is hardly unlimited, Ben fails to see how any of this will be worth his while.
But this will not be the first time he returns to camp, unsatisfied and uncomfortable.
And Caleb is right. Ben made a promise, and it's time to own up to it.
He gets on his knees and frees Caleb from his slacks.
"Easy now, Tall Boy," Caleb murmurs.
Ben shoots him an annoyed look, then returns his gaze to the shaft. Hard already. Big, deeply blushed.
He thinks back to the other night. How Caleb's head moved, throat tight around him. How is he supposed to...
"Never known you to back down from a challenge, Ben." Caleb sounds smug.
"No one's backing down, I'm just..." Ben hesitates, his hand wound around the base.
Starting the process is no problem. Ben shows this with a kiss to the tip of Caleb's cock. His tongue slips out against his slit.
The act itself no longer daunts Ben, but he has always allowed himself to take this in stages. To, perhaps, stay at the head while his hand does the rest. Or maybe go halfway, his fingers jerking the base.
Until now, Caleb has not complained. But as Caleb is capable of more, Ben believes he can - and should - be capable of more as well.
He sucks the head of Caleb's cock into his mouth and lets his tongue stroll along the shape of him. Caleb chuckles his low pleasure, his hand down the side of Ben's face. He touches Ben's shoulder - the injured shoulder. It throbs under Caleb's fingers.
Ben parts his lips enough to drag his tongue up his underside. This he can do, he is comfortable.
When Caleb rips Ben's hand from his cock, Ben becomes nervous. Good feelings won't be enough to get by this time. Caleb expects to teach him. And Ben can expect to learn.
Ben swallows him down halfway. This is the extent of his experience. His lips stroke Caleb's skin, tongue embracing as his head moves. He imagines his fingers in their normal place. Continuing the work that his mouth is unable to do.
But now, Caleb sets a hand on the back of Ben's head. He gives a gentle tap, urging Ben onward.
For a moment, Ben is afraid. What if someone walks in? What if word gets back to camp? He sees a flash of an unfortunate future. Ben, leading the way to the gallows. A shared look with is friend before being hanged for their transgressions.
Tentatively, Ben parts his lips wider and draws more of Caleb into his mouth.
At first, Ben is proud. But a feeling of panic hits without warning. He can no longer breathe.
Ben pulls back with a gasp. "S'all right, Tall Boy." Caleb drags a thumb down his temple. "Takes time. You'll get used to-"
"Shut up," Ben grits. He opens his mouth and takes Caleb in again.
Caleb laughs, but he does not argue. Instead, he strokes Ben's hair. "You've gotta relax," he says. "Stop thinking about what you're doing. Breathe."
Breathing is the problem Ben happened on last time. But Ben knows he will never live down failure. He closes his eyes and gathers more of Caleb in.
The panic returns, but Ben keeps his eyes shut. He concentrates on his breaths, calming them into steadiness. Tentative, Ben drags his tongue up Caleb's cock. Caleb rewards him with a groan.
More confident, Ben nods his head back before taking him in again. Caleb chuckles roughly and tucks a loose piece of hair behind Ben's ear. "Not bad, Benny Boy," he says.
'Not bad' means Ben still has work to do.
Ben's tongue has become more comfortable with the weight of Caleb's shaft. He fits to the slope of his head, teasing into the ridged edge. Ben is rewarded by a soft catch in Caleb's breath. On the right track, then.
Gratified, Ben swallows in more. This time, he tries in stages. Takes him part of the way and nods back up. This rhythm is successful, or so it seems. Caleb's thighs clench under his hands. He curls fingers against the back of Ben's head. The pressure is more insistent.
Ben opens his mouth just a bit wider, swallows just a bit more. It is a struggle, but he forces past his instinct to pull back.
But he stops when the urge to gag so strong that it is either retreat or retch. Ben sits back on his heels and scrubs an angry hand over his eyes.
"Damn it," Ben whispers, hoarse.
"It's the jaw, Tall Boy." Caleb sounds too soft to be himself. Ben's questioning eyes twitch upward. A flush has spread across Caleb's cheeks. He is taking more labored breaths. "You're...here."
He hooks two fingers just under Ben's jawbone. Ben swallows instinctively.
"Relax," Caleb says.
Ben does not know what he means. His frustration with himself is mounting, but what he's doing is obviously working. If he can just get it right, if he can just last a little longer...
When Ben gathers Caleb in his mouth again, he begins to understand. Right at the point of gagging, Caleb's fingers dig against his chin. Ben notices his own tension. His jaw trembles against the weight on his tongue.
Ben takes a deep breath. The pressure begins to ease around Caleb's shaft. He can feel his jaw slacking, letting his lips split further.
His nose bumps something. The sturdiness of Caleb's stomach. Is he... Oh. Oh. Ben hollows his cheeks, holding Caleb fully in.
"Ben." Not Tallmadge, not Tall Boy, not Captain - with a joking salute. Just Ben.
Encouraged, Ben grips Caleb's legs tighter. Slowly, heavily, he pulls his tongue under Caleb's cock. He sucks on the thickest part of Caleb's shaft.
Caleb hisses. "Ben...all right, you..."
Suddenly, Caleb is the one pulling back. Ben starts to release him.
But he stops. Caleb has taken him all the way to the end. Ben is supposed to learn. Isn't that the point of this exercise?
He pushes hands on Caleb's thighs and forces Caleb's weight against his mouth. Relaxed as Ben is, this much pressure brings back the panic. It tightens Ben's throat, trembling through his lips and right over Caleb's cock.
"Fuck," Caleb grits. Hot spurts hit the back of Ben's throat. Ben tries to swallow, but it surprises him. He pulls back, Caleb's cock jerking between his lips. "Ah...damn it, Ben."
Ben pops off him, turning to spit out what he can. He coughs and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. His thumb collects stray dribbles of cum on his chin.
So...more practice needed, then.
Ben glances upward. Caleb is glowing.
"All right?" Ben asks.
Caleb's grin is near-radiant. "A good start, Tall Boy." He manages to ruffle Ben's hair before Ben comes to his senses and smacks his fingers away. "God, the fun I'm going to have with you."
A good start? Ben shoots Caleb a sour look as he stands. He bends to pick up Caleb's coat as an afterthought.
Caleb laughs at the expression and reaches as if to pat Ben's cheek. When his friend pulls back, he takes his coat instead. "Chin up, Captain," he says. "Just think. Now, I owe you one."
Ben glares, but his expression betrays his interest. Caleb owes him?
He nods. "I'll see you soon, Brewster." Ben leaves the shed before he can be delayed any longer.
Caleb owes him. But what does he want to be owed?
It is a question that will hold Ben's thoughts on his ride back to camp.