Chris Owen

Storm in the Heartland

A fourth anniversary story for my cowboys.

 

Jake never knew when it was going to hit him, nor why, and he frankly didn't care. When the breath rushed out of him and all he could do was watch, when his only thoughts and feelings were reduced to Wow, when he was left staring in wonder... he didn't question it. Ever.

 

He was on the porch of their house, just stepping down to the yard when he happened to look toward the corral. The sun was setting and there was a storm moving in, the sky high and roiling over the sun-streaked land around him. The storm had crept up and should only have brought relief that they'd put all the hay up before it landed. Instead, it came with weird light and an electric tingle in the air, and a moment of picture-perfect clarity.

 

There were images that clung to Jake's memory like unblemished sense ghosts. He could remember the ashy taste of the air the day he’d left home and could see flawlessly the look in Cath's eyes as she played and knew he wouldn't be back. He could see the stars that had glittered the night he'd told Tor about his time in prison, and smell the grass that they'd crushed with their urgent bodies.

 

He knew, even as he stopped moving on the steps and watched Tor come out of the barn, that he was adding another one. A memory to be savored for what it was, a feeling more than anything else. Sure, there was a vision to go along with it -- and maybe even to capture the emotion -- but it was the unrelenting pressure of feeling that he would remember.

 

Tor's t-shirt was streaked with grime and his jeans were dusty. His boots kicked up even more dust as he walked out into the corral and called to the horses, urging them into the barn before the rain hit. It was almost a typical scene, except for the way Tor's skin glowed in the sun, stark against the backdrop of thick, gray clouds. But Jake was captivated, consumed by watching him move and the way the light made shadows on Tor's contours and edges. Tor's voice rang out as Shelby played at being stubborn, a hint of laughter under the gruff impatience, and Jake's body responded, took him closer to the barn, closer to Tor like he was drawn on a lead.

 

There was a force working him, Jake knew. It might have been the oncoming storm, or the embarrassingly Pavlovian response he had to Tor's commands, but he knew it wasn't. It was irresistible, unstoppable, and Jake willingly followed Tor's pull into the barn. He wanted to be near him, needed it, and Jake had no intention of denying the captivation of the emotions in him.

 

Jake spent too much time downplaying or flat out ignoring his feelings; conversely, he occasionally went the other direction and worked himself up to the point where he got twitchy and unsettled. This was neither. This was a reveling, a sinking into the swirl of passion and letting it be exactly what it was.

 

Everything.

 

He said nothing, falling into his consummate position as Tor's partner as they worked. As a team they brought in the animals, put them safely to bed. There was no discussion about who was doing what, they merely worked. Worked their horses, their chores... and fit it all together like a dance. Instinct and years of doing this, knowing each other, came together in a hundred tiny ways. He could read Tor's intention by the way his arm moved, the way his hip turned or his head tilted.

 

He knew Tor could read him too, and that sent the internal storm he was living into a flurry of activity. There was a heaving, seething sensation in his gut, and as soon as Tor had made sure Cotton was secure in her stall, Jake moved.

 

Tor turned to face him, apparently having read that, too. "Hey, cowboy," he said softly, smiling as Jake walked into his arms. "Storm getting to you?"

 

Jake shook his head and buried his face in Tor's neck, tasted the salt and grit of his skin. "Nope. There's... dunno. A feeling."

 

"A good feeling?" Tor asked uncertainly, his hands sliding along Jake's waistband and finally resting at the small of his back.

 

Jake nodded and laughed, leaning in. "Powerful good. Huge. Pounding. Can feel you everywhere in me."

 

Tor laughed too. "Not yet," he said, hands dropping.

 

Jake lifted his head and looked into Tor's eyes. "Not what I meant. I just got this rush of something. Can't explain it. Not sure if words will ever fit it. It's too big."

 

Tor looked a little harder at him, his eyes roaming over Jake's face before he met his eyes. "I think I know what you mean."

 

"Do you?"

 

"Yeah. I love you, too, cowboy."

 

Jake smiled, and the storm broke around them, bringing rain and wind and yet another new beginning.

Sometimes love is complicated. 

Copyright 2016 Chris Owen