AN: No, seriously, there was no historical research that went into this. I know Ghirardelli would have been the only major American chocolate company, b/c Hershey did not yet exist, and that shipping chocolate from Europe would have been nearly impossible. But, other than that? As fictional as the rest.
Ryan stepped out of the street car and stopped, his hands still in Bob’s, but his gaze distant. Bob looked over his shoulder. Behind him, the bay stood fairly calm under the morning’s fog. It was then that Bob
realized: “You’ve never seen a body of water before, have you?”
Ryan shook his head. “It-- It looks big on the map, but it’s hard to imagine it being…”
“Yes,” Bob said, because he remembered his first time in front of the shore, a little terrified, because if Frank or Gee or Ray ran into the waves, how would they ever, ever get them back?
“What does it feel like?”
Bob smirked, then, and a couple walking by scurried out of their way. Ryan glared at them all the way down the street for it. Bob reached out and tucked one of Ryan’s errant hairs behind his ear. “You willing to get a little dirty?”
“These are my best boots,” Ryan said, his expression unsure.
“Oh, the boots will be just fine.” And if they weren’t, Bob would buy him another pair.
Ryan shrugged, but he felt eager, where Bob was still touching him. Bob tugged him a little, leading him to the water. “C’mon.”
When they got to edge of the paved wharf, Bob sat Ryan down on a nearby step, took off his shoes and socks, and rolled his pants-legs up to the knee. Ryan smiled in his private way, just a little bit wicked. “What would people say, back home?”
Bob laughed under his breath. “That you’re mine.”
“They already say that,” Ryan told him dryly.
“I suppose every idiot gets to be right sometimes.” He pulled Ryan to his feet in the sand.
Ryan stood for a moment, wiggling his toes, then looked at Bob and without warning, ran for the ocean. Bob took off after him, trying to warn him that it was cold in the water, but clearly the warning didn’t reach Ryan’s ears, because he ran right into the lapping waves and then shrieked, backing out again. Bob caught up to him, laughing.
Ryan was laughing, too. Bob said, “Tried to tell you.”
“I’ve never felt anything that cold before. Not even ice cream.”
Bob had never thought about it that way before, the two different kinds of cold. Ryan said softly, “It’s different,” and walked back into the ocean.
The stock boy at the Ghirardelli shop giggled as Bob and Ryan walked in, their pant legs both soaked to the knee. Ryan moved a little ways in to Bob, but he didn’t tense up. Bob put a hand to the small of his back and ushered him into the shop proper.
Once there, Ryan clearly forgot about laughing stock boys. He took a breath in and asked, “What-- Is that what chocolate smells like?”
Bob took a moment to appreciate it himself. He hadn’t had chocolate since he was last in San Francisco. “Wait until you taste it.”
Ryan looked up at the board, its offer of chocolate in a drink, and down, where the bars were displayed. He wanted to try everything, but the prices for almost everything were more than Ryan generally spent on milk and bread for a week. “What is good?”
Bob smiled and ordered the clerk behind the counter over with a wave of his hand. “One of each, please. And a drinking chocolate, one for both of us.”
The clerk looked as though Christmas had come early. Ryan turned to Bob, clearly trying his best to look unimpressed and utterly failing. Bob said, blithely, “What, you didn’t want to try them all?”
“You could buy a prize heifer with the money you spend on me. Or land, for the rail project.”
“If there’s money left over, you can help me decide which one.”
“Bob,” Ryan said softly, but with a solid undertone of heat to it. “I just wanted to try one.”
“Ryan,” Bob said back, mimicking the tone as best he could. “I don’t want just anything for you.”
The clerk came back with the drinking chocolates and Bob reached for the first one, putting it in Ryan’s hands. “That’ll warm you up.”
He noticed Ryan stood there for a long while, just holding it, smelling it, letting the heat sink in. Not that Bob didn’t love him for it, but he sort of wished Ryan had good moments where he wasn’t so certain all he was going to have was that moment.
When Ryan had thoroughly cleaned the sand from himself, he took the opportunity to walk around their hotel room, which was easily the most opulent thing he had ever seen. It was a whole five floors off the ground, and the carpeting was plush enough to sink straight through the space between his toes.
He was looking out the window, onto the crowds of people below—so many—when Bob returned to the room from having gone to check on Mikey and his mother. Remembering his manners, Ryan asked, “How are—“
“They’re good. They want to take us to dinner tomorrow evening.”
“I told them we were dining in tonight.”
Ryan bit his lip, glad he was still facing the window. He had wanted to try some of the fish eateries around the town. He’d never had fish before.
Bob came up behind him and settled his hands over Ryan’s hips. Ryan let his disappointment go. He was here, and he’d seen the water, and was staying five floors above the ground, and Bob wasn’t going to leave him here. Ryan repeated the last part of that to himself, just for good measure. Bob said, “I ordered us shrimp and crab from the hotel’s restaurant. They’ll bring it to us.”
Ryan twisted then, to look at Bob. Bob smiled, just a little. “You like new things.”
Ryan asked, “How much time-- How long before it is delivered?”
Bob grinned at that. “Long enough for me to show you something else new.”
After dinner, Bob brought out the chocolates, breaking them into pieces, offering them to Ryan, one at a time. Ryan, in turn, was slow with each one, wanting to experience the texture, the taste, each aspect differently. He wanted to remember, so he could tell Spencer when he got back.
Bob was watching him, intently, and it made Ryan ask, “What?”
Bob shrugged. “You’re my husband. I’m looking.”
Ryan wanted to ask, had wanted to ask for a long while, why exactly it was that he was Bob’s husband. He could remember that night; Bob could have gotten out of it so easily. And if it hadn’t been for revenge, hadn’t been to have someone to hurt, to play with, then what? Ryan didn’t ask. He wasn’t sure he wanted to remind Bob that there might have been a better choice, an easier path.
Ryan took another piece of the chocolate—he liked the darkest type, bitter and rich on his tongue, like coffee, except not. He tilted his head, letting the taste melt into his taste buds, slide down the back of his throat, as he watched Bob watching him. Bob asked, “What?”
Before the entirety of the chocolate had dissipated, Ryan leaned over the table between them, and kissed Bob, slow and sticky. Pulling back he said, “You’re my husband,” maybe a little more possessive than the statement called for. “I’m looking.”
The night before they left, Ryan woke from a nightmare. He could have kicked himself. They weren’t that common anymore, no more than a few a month, and he was having a perfect time, here, in this city, with art and theater and restaurants that served something other than beef.
Bob was already rubbing Ryan’s stomach by the time he came fully to, whispering, “It’s okay, you’re okay, Ry.”
Ryan looked up at him, focused, and knew, without a question, that the nightmare had been the one where Bob paid to rape him. That was the worst one, and the one he rarely remembered having, thankfully. But Ryan muttered and whimpered and did all sorts of things in his sleep.
“Do you want to walk?” Bob asked. At home, Bob would light every corner of the house and just let Ryan roam until he had enough space to breathe again.
Ryan couldn’t see Bob in the dark, and he said, “Just. Light. Light, please.”
Bob gave Ryan’s wrist a squeeze and then went to comply. When he came back, Ryan could see him, could run his fingers over all of his favorite spots without even having to search. He said, “Sorry.”
Bob shook his head, looking frustrated. Ryan didn’t blame him. Bob took a breath and said, “Even-- I mean, I know it scares you, that I do this stuff. But, it’s okay that I do it anyway?”
Ryan swallowed. “You can do anything.”
“Not what I was asking Ryan.”
Ryan knew. He just didn’t know how to answer. He tried, “I want you to do anything.”
Bob drew Ryan in closer and said, “I’m holding you to your word.”
Twenty-six months later
No Name’s railroad’s maiden voyage started in San Francisco, and would head all the way east, to the coast. The day it pulled into No Name, everyone, literally everyone showed up for the church picnic around the rails.
Ryan had gone out of his way to make the Bryar household’s picnic extra-special. Even if they never spoke about it, Ryan knew that Bob had done this for him—him, and Pete and Ryan’s hometown.
Once the picnic was unpacked, Bob whispered wryly, “I think I’ll save my actual appreciation for when we get home.”
“For the best,” Ryan agreed.
He was tempted to go back on his agreement when the train arrived and there were roughly a dozen packages, labeled for him. “Bob.”
“Wait, there’s one-- Right. Here.” Bob dragged something that looked fairly heavy toward Ryan. When he opened it, it was an ice chest, which explained the weight.
Inside, inside was-- Ryan blinked. “Bob.”
“You liked it,” Bob said, as though it was the easiest thing in the world to ship chocolate.
Ryan’s heart clenched, just a little, at the thought of the expense. It wasn’t just the chocolate, there were, among other things, clothes, and some furniture Ryan had been eyeing in a mail-order form, and a fucking thoroughbred horse, because Ryan was forever borrowing one of the brother’s. “Bob.”
“I built a railroad so I could bring the world to you,” Bob said, like a statement of fact, like that meant nothing.
Ryan already had the world. He just didn’t know how to get Bob to see that, to understand. Chocolate was just…dessert. He walked over and reached his hand up to touch the nose of his new horse. It was huge, and clearly nervous after all those hours of being in a train car. Ryan said, “Shh. Hush.”
Bob asked, “You have a name for him?”
“Golden Gate,” Ryan said, thinking of the morning he and Bob had stood on the shore, the water frigid over their toes at high tide, the sun rising in the East, lighting up the world, the bridge.
“Would you please take me and all my gifts home, now?”
Even standing next to him, Ryan could feel how Bob’s laugh came from his stomach, his chest. “Yeah, Ry. I can-- Anything for you.”