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The inn is quiet at this time of night; although not closed, it is rare for a customer to walk in. This fact makes the dining hall the best place for their little game.

“Same stakes as the last time?“ asks Townsend. He’s sprawled leisurely in his chair, looking absolutely indifferent as to whether Abe agrees or not. “I win, you leave and never bother me again.“

He’s such a smug Quaker bastard shite, Abe thinks, with his quirky little smile and those big, grey eyes and the casual elegance. Probably thinks the sarcasm makes him attractive, too. Abe’ll just have to show him exactly where he can put his sharp tongue. His libido helpfully suggests several different places as options. The mental images are surprisingly difficult to banish, but Abe persists and eventually succeeds. He will not be ruled by his basic urges; he has self-control.

Well. He has learnt some since Anna.

“I suggest a small addendum. That is, if I win, I get the rest of the night to convince you.“ He is confident that not even Robert Townsend can hide behind his sarcasm when listening to Abe’s speech on why he should join the patriotic cause. He spent a lot of time working on it, and it currently has 37 points. He should present the best of them at the wee hours of the morning, when Townsend will be worn down both by his complete defeat in checkers and the tiredness from discussing politics for hours. And if that fails, well… there is always the secret weapon.

“Do your worst, Mr Woodhull,“ Townsend smiles, completely unruffled and oblivious to the effect this has on Abe’s self control. Abe clears his throat and shifts a bit in his seat.

They lay out the playing board. Abe’s been playing since his father taught him, and sure, he may be a little bit rusty now, but he hasn’t forgotten the tricks. Even so, after a few moves, he has to admit Townsend has a talent for game strategy. This might very well turn out to be a game Abe doesn’t win.

Unacceptable.

He makes Townsend work for it, makes sure every piece costs him dearly, but it is clear he needs to do more. Distract Townsend somehow. Well, it‘s as good a time to test Abe’s secret theory as any.

Abe leans back in his chairs and absent-mindedly loosens his neck cloth. “Is it always so hot in here?“ he asks, aiming for a bit deeper voice than usual. He’s not sure if he succeeded, so he rans his tongue over his bottom lip suggestively, just to make sure.

Townsend raises an eyebrow. “On the contrary, I thought it was rather cool.“ He takes another one of Abe’s pieces.

Say something witty, Abraham, quickly – “Well if you’re cool, it must be just me who’s feeling a bit hot-headed.“ He carefully studies the board before making his move, feeling a bit of a blush starting as a result of his forwardness, not daring to glance up at Townsend’s face to see how his words have been received. He keeps his hands still, not allowing them the restless movements they want to make, and keeps his attention on the board as the words hang in the air between them.

“I do hope it won’t affect your game; I’d hate it if I trounced you too quickly,“ Townsend says, smirking a little. “You might accuse me of cheating.“

He sounds light-hearted, playful. The change in his voice is only minimally different from his usual dry tone, indiscernable if one‘s not looking for it, but he’s definitely egging Abe on. This news lifts Abe’s spirits, and he grows bolder both in his game moves and with his words.

“Why, Mr Townsend, if you’re anything like your relative – our shared acquaintance- I dare say you’d be quite the law keeping man, preferring to keep the peace and status quo even if there’s injustice at hand…unless there was a way you could profit from it.“

Townsend takes advantage of Abe’s unprotected pawn. “Do you really think me so greedy?“ he asks, narrowing his eyes. He clearly doesn’t like the assumption.

Abe smirks as he crowns the piece Townsend overlooked in his haste to take the previous one out of the game.

“Oh, not all profits are the result of greed. Some are the reward for a bold move…it makes them feel more personal.“ He looks straight at Townsend. “Intimate.“

Townsend breathes in sharply, not looking away. He stays like that for a long minute, then, never breaking eye contact, he reaches down to the board to move a piece at random. “Truly.“

“Truly.“ Abe copies him, also making his move without looking at the game board, trying to show Townsend he’s willing to meet him in the middle.

They watch each other for a glorious, anticipation filled moment. The light illuminates both of their faces, making Townsend’s grey eyes glitter with the flame‘s reflection. Or perhaps it is something else glittering in them, more than just firelight, something new but intoxicating, adventurous, heady, threatening to reach out any time and whisk both of them far, far away, until the rest of the universe is consumed, leaving them the only people in the universe that matter.

Abe can’t look away.

It’s Townsend who breaks their eye contact, lowering his eyes to check the progress of the game. In a few moves Abe will have another kinged pawn, unless Townsend moves fast enough to prevent it. It is doable, but it requires a lot of concentration and he has to time his moves exceptionally well. If he doesn’t manage to prevent it in time, Abe will most likely win the game.

The corners of Townsend’s mouth turn up. “Looks like you won,“ he states.

“Oh?“ Puzzled, Abe looks at the board more closely. “But you can still turn the game around-“

“Abraham,“ Townsend interrupts him, emphasizing the address by using Abe’s given name, voice deep with a strange undertone to it, one Abe hasn’t heard him use yet. “You won. You have your rest of the night to convince me.“

“Oh.“ Abe blinks a few times, feeling a bit off his game. He‘s not quite sure what is happening, but since it leads to him getting what he wanted, he has no complaints.

“In private, of course. It’s a very sensitive topic, after all.“

“Of course.“ Abe repeats slowly.

“My room?“ Townsend offers.

Abe’s mouth drops open. Oh. “Yes! That is, ehm, it would be..appropriate.“ No complaints indeed.

“Follow me,“ says Townsend, clearly amused. “And please, call me by my given name as well. Robert.“