Carl had thought that all the boxes from their trip to San Francisco had been unpacked and their contents disposed of. So he was somewhat concerned when his lover approached carrying a wooden box in his hands that Carl didn’t recognize. He liked to think he was a decent reader of people, but Michael's expression was carefully crafted to be neutral. Michael handed him it with little ceremony but some reverence. "These belonged to Calvin," he said. "I think they should go to you."

Carl looked down at the box, turning it around in his hands. He glanced up at Michael, but got no hint from his expression what the contents were. “Do you want to open it together?”

Michael shook his head no. “It is best looked at in private.”

So Carl carried the box into his office, sat down at his desk, and placed the box on the surface in front of him. His fingers traced over the carved curlicues before lifting the lid. He wasn't sure what to expect, but several piles of neatly folded papers tied with ribbon wasn’t it. He picked up the topmost one that was yellowed with age and carefully unfolded it.

My dearest Calvin,

I know now that it was a mistake to leave--

Letters, he realized as he scanned the first few lines on the cedar scented paper. Turning to the end of the last page to confirm his suspicion, he understood why Michael thought he should have them. If Carl hadn't recognized the bold and precise script, he would have recognized the firm signature. These were letters from the Kindred he believed was and still considered to be his sire to Michael's.

Carl put down the letter and looked over the contents of the box. There were dozens of letters in the box. Some of the pages were worn yellow with ink blurred with age. Some were still bleached white. A quick rifling through the pages revealed gaps of decades, as if only the most important had been kept, or the writer had been infrequent in sending his missives. They radiated strong emotions at the lightest brush of the fingers - anger, shame, worry, panic, reassurance. But all of them had one strong emotion in common. Love.

That was almost enough for him to put the letters back in the box and the box in the darkest corner of the guest room’s closet, not to be looked at for another century. These were love letters not meant for his eyes. That fact made it tempting to continue perusing them. Clinton had always been a stern, protective, if overbearing presence in his life, right up to the end when he learned that his sire did indeed have feet of clay. Seeing another side of Clinton, the personal side that he never spoke of. And with Michael’s sire, no less.

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, smelling the cedar that impregnated the pages from their long storage. And when he opened his eyes, he began to read.

It took the better part of three nights to read all the letters. Several times he had been sorely tempted to tear the paper to shreds, set the scraps on fire, and scatter the ashes to the wind. But he didn’t. He continued reading. Michael seemed to sense his anger and upset as they lay together through the day, but waited for Carl to broach the subject. There were things in it that Carl had to come to terms with before he could share.

Eventually Carl read the final letter, dated before Michael came to Los Angeles. Once he finished, Carl sat back in his chair, and indulged in the human action of blowing out a breath. His eyes lingered those final words in a doomed relationship. He could still feel the desperation as the neatly penned words had turned to anguished scribblings. It was a side of his sire that he had never seen and had no idea existed. If someone else had merely told him this, he would have reacted with outright disbelief. But here was the truth in black and white in his sire’s hand.

Although he was angry about the actions that his sire had undertaken, he could not hate him. Clinton questioned his choices almost as much as Carl had. The stern facade had been just that - a mask that hid as much pain and uncertainty as Carl and Michael had experienced. Idly he wondered if Calvin experience any of the same regrets. He did recall seeing a box similar to this one also filled with letters, but Clinton had put it in his desk and locked the drawer the moment that he realized Carl had spotted it. So unless Victoria stumbled across a cache of his letters to Clinton and forwarded them, he would have no way of knowing. Most likely Victoria would not share such information, but use it to her advantage.

He would never know what Calvin had said to his sire. Just like one other member of the bloodline that would have know way of knowing anything about his lineage. That thought disturbed Carl. And the more he considered it, the stronger he became convinced that there was something he needed to do.

He neatly replaced the letters and closed the lid. He stood up and then walked out of his office and down the hall to where Michael was working. He waited in the door without saying anything, watching Michael engrossed in his work of bending wire to conform to his vision.

Michael did eventually sense he was being observed. He turned in his chair to look at Carl. “You read them, love?”

Carl nodded.

Michael rose from his seat and crossed the few feet to where Carl stood in the door. “Are you alright?” he asked, enfolding him in his arms.

“I will be,” Carl said as he held onto Michael. His voice sounded strained with the emotions he was sorting through. “But there is something I have to do. And you’re not going to like it.”

Michael pulled back to look his mate in the eye. “What is it.”

Carl told him.

Michael, to his credit, didn’t hiss. Although Carl could tell from the way the corners of his mouth tightened it was a very near thing. There was a moment of tense stillness between the two of them before Michael jerked his head into a single nod. “If that Is what you must do, I will support you.”

“Thank you, love,” Carl said. He desperately hoped he was making the right choice.