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Dodger awoke to the most wonderful feeling of contentment. He was naked under the warm, comfy quilt and cuddled against Rafe's side.
The scent of Rafe filled him with a feeling of safety and security as well as an electric tingle of passion.
But, regretfully, Dodger had another pressing matter that was going to become urgent in a short time.
So he carefully got out of the bed and pulled on some clothes before hurrying out of the room and to the bathroom.
* * * * *
As Dodger walked into the kitchen, he found that Mavis was already up and cooking.
"Good morning, Mavis. Can I help you with anything?" Dodger asked as he walked to the refrigerator.
"Good morning, Dodger. Thanks for the offer, but the beans are already going. All I'm doing now is making up a plate for the boy." Mavis said pleasantly.
"Thanks for doing that." Dodger said as he picked up the silver pitcher, then asked, "Would you mind?"
She glanced at him, then shook her head as she said, "Go ahead. The boys will be bringing up some fresh to go with dinner."
Dodger poured himself a glass of blood, then on impulse, poured a second one.
"Justus said that the boy slept most of the day. So I'm figurin' that he'll probably be hungry once he get's good and awake." Mavis said casually.
"Yeah. That sounds about right." Dodger said thoughtfully, then absently added, "He's a really sweet kid."
"I never had much use for kids, myself." She said as she peeled a carrot. "Whining, crying little snot factories."
Dodger chuckled, then said, "Yeah. Some are that way. But I think Jimmy's parents must have been really good people, because even though he has all kinds of reasons to be raising a fuss, he's holding up really well."
Mavis nodded, then quietly admitted, "Probably better than I did."
"Maybe. But he doesn't remember what happened to him." Dodger said frankly, then quietly added, "And, in a way, I hope he never does."
Mavis absently nodded as she continued to clean vegetables.
"I'm going to take this in to Rafe. Are we going to have a few minutes before breakfast?" Dodger asked curiously.
"I figure 'bout a half hour or so." Mavis said thoughtfully.
Dodger smiled and said, "That sounds perfect."
Mavis glanced at him, then chuckled as she said, "Go give your doctor a 'good morning'."
Dodger paused in the doorway long enough to say, "I intend to."
* * * * *
Slowly, Dodger crept into the room, careful not to make a sound.
He placed the two glasses on the bedside stand, then skinned out of his clothes and climbed between the sheets.
"Good morning." Rafe said in a muffled voice into his pillow.
"I hope so." Dodger said as he spooned against Rafe's back and began to nuzzle his neck.
"Mmmm... what did you have in mind?" Rafe asked in a purring voice.
"Oh, I've got all kinds of things in mind." Dodger whispered, then began to worry Rafe's ear lobe with his teeth.
"You've got my attention." Rafe said in a breathy whisper that conveyed his rising passion.
Dodger slowly reached around and encountered some very hot, very firm flesh before saying, "It seems like I do."
"Why did I spend all those years alone when I could have been waking up like this every morning?" Rafe asked distantly.
"You were waiting for me." Dodger said playfully.
"Yes. I was." Rafe said dreamily, then turned so that he could face Dodger.
"What would you like, Rafe?" Dodger asked with a sultry tone in his voice.
"I want to, but we should probably go..." Rafe began to say.
"Jimmy's sleeping, Mavis said that breakfast won't be for at least half an hour and I brought you some blood." Dodger said seriously.
Rafe broke into a big smile, then said, "I get the feeling that you want me."
"I've got you, and if you don't hurry up and tell me what you want to do, I'm just going to have to go ahead and take what I want." Dodger said frankly.
Rafe considered for a moment, then broke into a wide smile as he whispered, "Do it."
* * * * *
"Good morning Justus, how are things going with our young friend?" Rafe asked in a contented voice as he walked into the living room where Jimmy was lying, asleep on the couch.
"No problems to speak of. He woke up a few times during the day and we talked. He's a nice kid." Justus said with a fond look at Jimmy.
"I'm glad he didn't have any problems." Rafe said with relief.
"Do you think it'd be alright to leave him in here alone while we have breakfast?" Justus asked carefully, "We should be able to hear him just fine from the kitchen if he wakes up and needs anything."
"I don't see any problem with that." Rafe said thoughtfully.
"Then I'll see you in there." Justus said with his ever present smile firmly in place.
Rafe nodded, then turned to Dodger and said, "I have some growth cultures that I need to check on downstairs. It could take a few minutes, so don't wait for me."
Dodger gently grabbed hold of his arm to stop him.
"I love you, Dr. Killian." Dodger said as he turned Rafe to face him.
"And I love you, Mr. Tribodeaux." Rafe said before moving in for a gentle kiss.
"I was wondering if you two were up, but..." Bruce trailed off, then shook his head as he walked past them.
Rafe chuckled at Bruce's reaction, then quietly said, "I'm going to check on my cultures."
"I'll see if there's anything I can do to help Mavis." Dodger said absently, then watched until Rafe was completely out of sight.
* * * * *
"Oh my! It looks like someone is having a very good morning!" Mavis said as Dodger walked into the room.
"The best." Dodger said happily, seeing no reason that he should deny it. "Is there anything I can do to help you with breakfast?"
"Just sit down and get ready to eat it." Mavis said frankly.
"I can do that." Dodger said as he took his seat, then looked at Bruce with question.
Bruce tried to hide his smile in his coffee cup.
"Do you want some coffee, Dodger?" Mavis asked curiously.
"You know, I've never really liked coffee, but for some reason, I think today I would like some." Dodger said as he got up to help himself.
* * * * *
Sam walked into the kitchen and directly to the coffee pot.
"Good morning." Mavis said cheerily.
"Ungh." Sam grunted.
Mavis hauled off and cuffed him on the side of the head.
Sam stared at her with surprise at the bold action.
"I said, 'Good Morning'." Mavis said to him firmly.
"Oh, um. Good morning, sweet thing." Sam said slowly, then leaned in cautiously to give her a quick kiss.
"That's much better." Mavis said lovingly.
Sam gave her a single nod, then took his coffee and walked to the table.
* * * * *
As the three men sipped on their cups of coffee, the others made their way into the kitchen.
Justus joined Dodger, Sam and Bruce at the table while the others seemed to be choosing to stand around the periphery of the room.
"Dodger, do you think I could borrow you for a while, right after we eat?" Bruce asked casually.
"Jimmy was asleep the last time I checked, so I'm sure Rafe doesn't need me for anything. What can I do to help?" Dodger asked curiously.
"Well, I was hoping you could work with Chet to get the horses ready while the rest of us get ready to move the cattle to the South pasture." Bruce said frankly. "If we keep after it, we should be able to get finished before we lose the light."
"Sure. As long as Chet's there to tell me who get's what, I'll be happy to help." Dodger agreed immediately.
"Laramie, did you check the horses out?" Bruce asked firmly as he looked at Laramie, who was standing by the door.
"There's a few that will need worked on, soon. But they'll do fine for today." Laramie said seriously.
"Justus, you up to a cattle drive?" Bruce asked hopefully.
"Like I'd miss it." Justus said with a chuckle.
"Dodger, you'd be welcome to come along with us, if you want. I doubt that there'll be much for you to do, but it's somethin' to see." Bruce said with a grin.
"Yeah. I'll make sure Rafe can spare me, but I should be able to ride along." Dodger said happily.
"Now, if y'all's done jawin'." Mavis said with an exaggerated accent, then smiled and announced, "Food's ready."
At that announcement, everyone made their way to the table.
* * * * *
"I know how to saddle a horse, but... I'm not sure how much help I'm going to be." Dodger said honestly as he followed Chet to the stable.
"Don't worry about it." Chet said casually. "Just stick with me and I'm sure we'll figure out how to work together."
Dodger smiled and nodded his agreement.
"Did you really change two days ago?" Chet asked curiously as he started gathering the tack they would need.
"Yeah. When Rafe found out about what was going on here, we talked. We decided that I could either stay in Ohio without him, or take the chance and change, so I could come with him." Dodger said distantly, then accepted an armful of tack from Chet.
"So you chose this life." Chet said with a shake of his head in wonder, then gestured toward the tack room door, indicating that they were going.
"Yeah. Well, actually, I chose to do whatever I had to so I could stay with Rafe." Dodger said shyly.
"I've never found a love like that." Chet said wistfully.
"I get the feeling that it's rare." Dodger said frankly.
Chet chuckled at the understatement, then nodded.
They worked silently for a few minutes. Mostly Dodger just handed things to Chet as he was ready for them.
Finally, when the silence was becoming uncomfortable, Dodger said, "I've heard that you're the oldest person here."
Chet stopped what he was doing for a moment, then glanced at Dodger with surprise.
"I kind of thought that the oldest would be... I don't know, running things, or something. I mean, since you have all that wisdom." Dodger rambled.
Chet actually laughed at the statement.
Dodger smiled with relief that Chet wasn't offended by his words.
"Well, first of all, I don't want to be in charge. If I'm wise at all, I guess I'm wise enough to know that I don't want to worry about all the little things." Chet said frankly. "Sam and Bruce are good at stuff like that. So I work out here with the horses and help out wherever Sam needs me."
Dodger nodded that he could really understand that.
"I'm happy. If I've learned anything in..." He chuckled, then shyly continued, "...seventeen centuries, it's this. Find what makes you happy, then find a way to make that a part of every day. If you can do that, you'll love your life as much as I love mine."
"I think I've already found it... well, him." Dodger said timidly.
Chet considered for a moment, then said, "Yeah. I think you might have."
* * * * *
The slowly darkening sky was clear and beautiful and the sight of everyone riding their horses, driving the cattle where they needed to be, was awe inspiring.
Dodger felt bad that he couldn't be more help to them, but at the same time, he felt a part of what they were doing, riding across miles upon miles of pasture to herd the cattle to their new grazing area.
As night firmly took hold, Dodger was filled with wonder at the expansive and infinite sky above them. It seemed to be too big to be real.
Once the last of the cattle had been driven to their new field, Bruce rode up to Dodger's side and fell into a casual pace as they made their way back to the ranch.
"You looked like you were having a good time out there." Bruce said quietly as he turned on a flashlight to lead their way.
Dodger chuckled, then said, "There were a few times that it was all I could do to keep up with you. I don't know what I would have done if you'd been counting on me to actually help in some way."
"I'm sure that after a few more times, you'll be used to it enough that you'll be able to help out. Just like anything else, it takes practice." Bruce said frankly.
"I guess you would know." Dodger said with a smile, then quietly asked, "How did you end up coming here, anyway?"
"I was working on a ranch down in Texas, a big spread South of Amarillo when one night I saw this guy out in one of our pastures. I couldn't think of what he might be doing out there." Bruce said distantly, "When I went to check on him, I saw that he was feeding on one of our steers. Of course, I didn't know anything about that at the time. Well, when he finally noticed me, he jumped on me, and was trying to drain me."
"And I'm guessing he got a bite of you." Dodger said quietly.
"Yeah. He got me good." Bruce said regretfully. "He must've been really weak because I was able to take him down. Somehow I was able to make it back to the bunkhouse, but I don't remember too much after that."
"I'm surprised that you didn't bleed to death." Dodger said quietly.
"I think I just about did. I really can't remember a whole lot." Bruce said distantly. "I figure one of the other fellas in the bunkhouse must've called the ranch owner, because the next thing I know, there he is, standing right by my bed. Well, looking back on it now, I figure that he had to have known about people like us. But back then, I just knew that he was worried about something and had a couple of the farm hands tie me up and put me in the back of a pickup under a tarp. The next thing I knew, they were driving like the hounds of hell were after us."
"I bet you were scared." Dodger whispered.
"You don't know the half of it. I didn't know if I was sick, going insane or turning into some kind of monster." Bruce chuckled weakly.
"So you went through your change in the back of a pickup truck under a tarp?" Dodger asked in wonder.
"Yeah. And I was about 90% sure that the guys were taking me out to the middle of nowhere to kill me and dump my body." Bruce said frankly.
"But they were bringing you here?" Dodger asked speculatively.
"That's right. And by the time we got here, I would probably have attacked any of them if I hadn't been tied up." Bruce said regretfully.
"I bet you were starving." Dodger said softly.
"I've never been so hungry in my life. I couldn't think of anything past satisfying my hunger." Bruce said frankly. "But when we got here, Sam was waiting for me with a big mug of blood."
"So your old boss must have called Sam and asked him what he could do for you." Dodger said speculatively.
"Yeah. I talked to Sam about it later on and he said that him and Justus and Chet ran into my boss a few years back. Saved his life." Bruce said with a lopsided grin, then added, "I guess they kept in touch."
Dodger slowly nodded as he thought about Little Joe and wondered how he was doing.
"I never could have imagined back then that less than a year later I'd be night foreman of this place." Bruce said distantly.
"It just proves that you know what you're doing." Dodger said with a smile.
"Yeah, I guess so. But Arturo knows at least as much as I do." Bruce said seriously.
"He does?" Dodger asked with surprise.
"Oh yeah. He's been ranching about twice as long as I have and knows all kinds of things." Bruce said frankly, then huffed a sigh and continued, "But there's no way he could do my job, because he's not a leader."
"Yeah. I guess knowing the job is only part of it. You've also got to be able to organize the work and get the others to do the things that they need to do." Dodger said speculatively.
"That's right. Arturo is one hell of a good worker, but I don't think he could handle being in charge." Bruce said distantly.
"I don't know about that." Dodger said as he glanced at the night sky again. "It's like you said before, 'Just like anything else, it takes practice'."
Bruce considered the words and finally nodded.
* * * * *
When they arrived back at the house, Dodger immediately went to the living room to see how Jimmy was doing.
The living room was empty, so he went downstairs and found Jimmy sitting up in bed and talking with Rafe.
"How are you guys doing?" Dodger asked with a smile.
"I think we're doing okay. I just finished checking out Jimmy's injuries and he seems to be healing nicely." Rafe said with a tender smile at the boy.
"Hey! That's great news!" Dodger said happily, then thought to ask, "Are you hungry yet, Jimmy?"
It seemed that Jimmy was surprised by the question. Dodger could tell by the expressions that flitted across Jimmy's face that, now that Dodger had brought it to his attention, he actually was hungry.
Dodger couldn't restrain a smile as Jimmy timidly nodded.
"I'll get you something good. I'll be right back." Dodger said as he walked toward the stairs.
"Thank you!" Jimmy called after him.
Dodger smiled at the boy's thoughtfulness and replied, "You're welcome."
* * * * *
After retrieving a plate of food that Mavis had left warming in the oven, Dodger returned to the basement and gave Jimmy his breakfast.
While Jimmy ate, Dodger told him, in great detail, about riding along with the others on the cattle drive.
When Dodger had finally run out of story to tell, Jimmy timidly asked, "Do you think I'd be allowed to go riding with you?"
Dodger smiled at the question and gently said, "You're not well enough to go riding, now. But, I promise that just as soon as Rafe says that you're well enough, you and I will go riding together."
Jimmy gave Dodger a beaming smile at the answer.
* * * * *
It turned out that Jimmy was able to stay awake longer after having eaten.
As they sat and watched Rafe working in the small lab area, Jimmy quietly asked, "Why is Dr. Rafe taking my blood so much and doing so many tests? Am I sick?"
Dodger glanced at Rafe and thought about asking him to come over and answer Jimmy's question, but instead, he steeled himself to do what might end up being impossible and skate on the very edge of the truth without telling Jimmy an outright lie.
"The men who attacked you and your family, they had a disease that, well I guess in a way it's something like rabies." Dodger said carefully.
"I have rabies?" Jimmy asked with sudden panic.
"No. No. You don't have rabies. In fact, you don't even have the disease that those men had. And that's why Dr. Rafe is taking so many blood samples." Dodger said carefully.
Jimmy looked at Dodger with confusion.
"For some reason, you're immune." Dodger said carefully. "If Dr. Rafe can figure out why you're immune, then maybe he can make a vaccine to help other people who get bit so they won't get sick either."
Jimmy sat quietly for a while, considering what he had been told. Finally he asked, "Did my mama and daddy get sick?"
"I don't know, Jimmy." Dodger said honestly.
Jimmy thought a while longer, then quietly said, "Dr. Rafe is gonna make it so if someone gets sick, that he can make them better."
"That's what we're hoping." Dodger said gently.
Jimmy sat quietly for a while, then Dodger noticed that his eyes seemed to be getting heavy.
"Why don't you lay down and get some rest?" Dodger asked gently.
Jimmy nodded his agreement.
As Dodger leaned over Jimmy to move the pile of pillows from behind him, he felt a small pair of cautious arms encircle him.
Dodger smiled and gently returned the hug as he whispered, "You're going to be fine, Jimmy. You're in a safe place, with lots of people to take care of you."
Jimmy didn't respond, he just held on a little longer, then finally released the hug.
Dodger helped Jimmy to lie back on the bed as he said, "Sleep now and we'll talk some more later."
Jimmy slightly nodded, and there was a trace of a smile on his face.
Dodger couldn't resist the sight and leaned down and gave the boy a quick, gentle kiss on the cheek before saying, "Sweet dreams."
Jimmy's smile was slightly bigger as he nodded that he would.
* * * * *
"Hola, Dodger. Is there something I can do to help you?" Arturo asked as he looked up from the discs of the tiller he was working on.
"Yeah. I was wondering if maybe you could teach me some Spanish." Dodger asked hesitantly.
"Sure. Just tell me what you want to say and I'll tell you how to say it." Arturo said happily.
"You see, I don't really know what I want to say. I just thought, maybe if I could learn a few phrases that it might make Jimmy feel a little bit more comfortable here." Dodger said quietly.
"Yeah. I really know how he feels." Arturo said somewhat distantly. "Being the only Mexican on the ranch, sometimes I feel different. No one treats me that way, but I still feel it, just the same."
"Bruce was saying some really nice things about you earlier. I think he really respects you." Dodger said quietly.
Arturo looked at Dodger with surprise, then hesitantly asked, "You was talking about me?"
"No." Dodger said quickly, then amended, "Well, yes. But we weren't talking just about you. We were talking about how Bruce came to the ranch and got his job here and you got mentioned along the way."
Arturo nodded that he understood, then absently said, "When Sam and Justus realized how much work it was going to be to take care of this place, Sam got in touch with me and I came up to work for him. I've known Sam since before all of this was part of the United States."
"Wow." Dodger said with surprise.
"Oh. That's right. You just changed a few days ago." Arturo said with a chuckle.
"Yeah. It's a lot to get used to." Dodger said shyly.
"You're doing fine." Arturo said with a smile, then added, "If you'll grab a wire brush and help me, I can teach you some Spanish while we work."
"Thanks." Dodger said happily.
* * * * *
When Dodger went back into the house, he hurried down to the basement so he could try out some of the new Spanish phrases he had learned, on Jimmy.
When he got to the bottom of the stairs, he found that Jimmy was still asleep and Mavis was standing over him, with a tender expression in her eyes.
"How's he doing?" Dodger asked as he approached.
"I just came down to see if he was hungry for anything else." Mavis said as her gaze held firmly to the boy. "He's so small."
"I know." Dodger whispered as he followed her gaze to watch Jimmy sleeping.
"I think I'm going to make something nice for him for dinner." Mavis said decisively, as she finally looked away from the boy.
"I think he'd really appreciate that." Dodger said gently.
Mavis gave him a quick smile before going back upstairs.
* * * * *
"So, how's it going, over here?" Dodger asked as he walked up to Rafe.
"It isn't." Rafe said frankly.
Dodger stopped with surprise at the statement.
Rafe turned to face him and said, "I've done about as much as I can with the equipment that I have here. So far, none of my tests have given any favorable results."
"Don't worry. I'm sure that when the stuff you ordered gets here that you'll have more luck." Dodger said gently.
"I hope so." Rafe said quietly. "It's just so disappointing. I didn't think I'd walk in here and find a cure right away, but I really expected to have at least a slow growth pattern, by now."
Dodger stepped forward and pulled Rafe into his arms as he said, "You'll find it, I know you will."
"Thanks, Dodger." Rafe whispered, "With your encouragement, I'm sure I'll figure it out."
* * * * *
"Hey Bruce, what have you got for me to do?" Dodger asked as he walked to the side of the barn.
After a moment of thought, Bruce walked over to a large crate that was serving as a makeshift toolbox and took out a pair of gloves and wire cutters.
"Scott and Eloy are out shoring up the fences in the North pasture. If you follow the fence out that way, you'll find them. I'm sure they'd appreciate another pair of hands." Bruce said, then handed him a roll of bailing wire.
"Thanks." Dodger said happily.
It was the first time that Bruce had given him a 'real' job to do.
"Do you want me to take a horse?" Dodger asked hesitantly, hoping it wasn't a stupid question.
"At this time of night, it's easier to go on foot. A horse will just hold you back." Bruce said frankly.
Dodger was all smiles as he walked past the barn to start following the fence.
* * * * *
The walk out to find Scott and Eloy was just what Dodger needed.
All alone, walking in the tranquil night, Dodger felt a sense of peace like he had never known before.
When he finally happened upon the pair, they were hard at work.
"Hey guys. Bruce sent me out to help, if there's anything I can do." Dodger said cautiously, not entirely sure of his welcome.
"Yeah. Oh good, you've got some more wire. Come on over here." Eloy said happily.
Dodger walked up beside them and offered them the wire.
"If you two will pull that one up, I'm going to get this bastard fastened down once and for all." Eloy said passionately.
At Dodger's look of surprise, Scott explained, "We've been struggling with this cursed thing for about half an hour."
"Shift it." Eloy said firmly.
Dodger got on one side as Scott got on the other and forced the fence wire into place where Eloy needed it.
"That's it. Just hold it there." Eloy said in concentration as he bound the wire in place.
Finally he said, "Good, you can let it go, now."
Dodger and Scott released the fence wire cautiously and were both relieved when it held its place.
* * * * *
They walked at a casual pace as they followed the fence, looking for other places where it needed to be reinforced.
"You guys have been together for a while, right?" Dodger asked curiously.
"Hundred years, give or take." Eloy said casually.
"More like a hundred and fifty." Scott said frankly.
Eloy looked at him with surprise, then got a considering look on his face.
"Yeah. I guess it has been. The time just flies when you're having fun." Eloy finally said as he gave Scott a big grin.
Dodger chuckled at the expression, then hesitantly said, "Rafe and I have only been together for two days, I mean, as husbands. And I was wondering, I mean, I've never been with anyone else and I thought maybe you'd know some different things..."
"Dodger, you've come to the right people." Eloy said happily.
"Yeah, as long as you ain't shy about hearin' it, we got a whole lot to teach you." Scott said seriously.
Dodger nodded quickly and paid them his full attention.
* * * * *
As Scott and Eloy began describing a few of their favorite things, Dodger became aroused. He tried, in vain, to hide it from them, but when Eloy noticed, he just gave Dodger an easy-going smile and said, "Dodger, we're all guys. There's no need to be shy about it because the same could happen to any of us."
Even though Dodger was embarrassed, he went ahead and reached into his pants to adjust himself which brought him great relief.
"I'm guessing that you wouldn't feel like doing anything about that without your doctor." Eloy said frankly.
Dodger looked at Eloy with surprise and a bit of fear.
"C'mon Eloy, Dodger's just changed. You know how the day people are. I'm betting that he's planning on it being just him and his doctor 'til death us do part'." Scott said with a sideways look at his husband.
"Oh, yeah." Eloy said quietly, then looked at Dodger and said, "Forget I asked."
"No, please. What do you mean 'how day people are'?" Dodger asked curiously.
Eloy looked around at where they were, then said, "We'd better be heading back. We can talk on the way."
Dodger nodded and fell into step along with the pair.
"Day people live sixty or so years. So I guess it kinda makes sense that if they find someone to love, they hang on tight and not take any chances." Eloy said thoughtfully.
"But shadesiders do it differently?" Dodger asked cautiously.
"Not all of us. Some, like Sam and Mavis, they do like that and it's just the two of them." Scott interjected.
"But others of us, we enjoy having a good time with more than two." Eloy added frankly.
"I thought you two were husbands." Dodger said slowly.
"We are. I love Scott first and most." Eloy said firmly. "But sometimes it's fun for us to have another person or another couple join us."
"Isn't that... I mean, what happens if you do that and one of you falls in love with someone else." Dodger asked with concern.
"I trust our love." Eloy said seriously.
"And if one of us were to fall in love with someone else, then was our love ever real to begin with?" Scott added quietly.
"So it's normal for a shadesider couple to have sex with other people?" Dodger asked cautiously.
"Not all the time, but now and then it's nice to do something different." Scott said gently.
Dodger nodded, then cautiously asked, "So before, were you asking if I wanted to have sex with you?"
"Well, yeah. I just thought that since you were in the mood..." Eloy drifted off with a shrug.
"I don't think I could do that." Dodger said thoughtfully.
"Maybe not now, but after fifty, sixty, a hundred years... you might feel a little different." Eloy said simply.
"You should probably talk to your husband about this. He might be old fashioned and not want to consider ever doing anything more." Scott added seriously.
"Yeah. I think I will. I mean, I'm really not interested in doing anything like that now, but I'd like to know how he feels about it." Dodger said thoughtfully.
"That sounds like a smart way to go." Scott said with an approving smile.
"So, if you two sometimes do it with other people, does that mean..." Dodger trailed off, not wanting to voice his question.
"Are you asking if we have sex with the other guys?" Eloy asked with a grin.
"I probably shouldn't ask." Dodger mumbled as he faced away.
"It's okay. I'm sure everyone on the ranch knows anyway." Eloy said casually. "Chet will bunk in with us about once every week or so. It isn't really even about sex with him, I think he enjoys being included and feeling loved."
"Do you love him?" Dodger asked curiously.
"Sure." Scott said immediately, then amended, "Not like a husband, but like a very close, very dear friend. I hope that someday he'll find someone to be his soul-mate, like Eloy is for me. But until that time, we'll be happy to hold him at night and share our love with him."
"It's different with Bruce. I mean, we enjoy it when he joins us, and he's really appreciative. But, I don't know, it's just different." Eloy said with difficulty.
"Bruce is more detached." Scott said thoughtfully. "He's funny and pleasant and all that, but there's not the same emotional connection that we have with Chet. It's like Bruce is there, but he's not really there. He's going through the motions, but he's not emotionally invested in it."
"So it's just fun." Dodger said slowly.
"Yeah." Scott said with a smile.
"We love Chet. We like Bruce." Eloy said with a nod.
After long, silent minutes of walking, Dodger finally said, "Thanks for sharing all that with me, guys. It sounded really weird to me at first, but now... well, maybe someday Rafe and I will find someone we love... or like."
"I hope so Dodger." Scott said honestly. "It can be like another expression of your love for each other."
* * * * *
"We've still got a few minutes before dinner. Would you like to see the bunkhouse?" Scott asked as he put his tools away in the barn.
"Sure. I'd like to see where you guys live." Dodger said with a smile.
"It's over this way." Eloy said as he led the way.
Dodger followed along and noticed the hum of an engine in the distance as they walked.
"What's that sound?" Dodger asked as he looked around.
"The generator." Scott said simply. "Sam started it up before you all arrived. He thought the doctor would need electricity to do his work."
"Do you usually live without electricity?" Dodger asked curiously.
"Sure. All we need is an oil lamp for reading or for when Eloy is working on one of his paintings." Scott said, then gestured toward the building they were approaching. "Home sweet home."
* * * * *
"It's just one big room?" Dodger asked as he looked around at the collection of beds and the large sturdy table surrounded by chairs.
"Well, there's a privy through the door over there, but yeah. This is all of it." Scott said with a smile at Dodger's reaction.
"So you don't have your own rooms?" Dodger asked in confirmation.
"What for?" Eloy asked as he led the way through the large room.
"Privacy?" Dodger said hesitantly.
Scott smiled as Eloy chuckled softly.
"I suppose that if you were raised with privacy, you might worry about it. But we weren't." Scott said warmly.
"Yeah. As long as we don't get too loud, the others don't care about what we're doing." Eloy said with a smile, then indicated a large bed with a heavy quilt on it.
"In fact, there's been quite a few times when we've been making love and I've noticed that Laramie and Arturo were in their own beds watching us and taking care of themselves." Scott said as he sat down on the edge of his bed.
"So Laramie and Arturo don't join you?" Dodger asked curiously.
"Arturo has, a few times, but I get the feeling that he wasn't really comfortable with it." Scott said thoughtfully. "I'm guessing that if Arturo found someone to fall in love with, that he's the type that wouldn't want to fool around with anyone else."
"What about Justus?" Dodger asked as he watched Scott take off his boots.
"He's never joined us." Eloy said immediately.
"Him and Sam are really close, so it's possible that they might do something. But I don't really know for sure." Scott said absently as he pulled on another pair of boots.
Dodger nodded, then noticed the picture that was above their bed.
"Hey! That's beautiful." Dodger said as he stepped closer to look at the shadowy landscape.
"Eloy did that. He's good, isn't he?" Scott asked with a look of pride at his husband.
"It's so different from anything I've seen before... I love it." Dodger said as he looked closely at the picture.
"If you wanted, I have some other paintings that I could show you when we have more time." Eloy said, a bit shyly.
"Yeah. That would be great!" Dodger said hopefully.
"But right now, we need to go." Scott said seriously, then asked Dodger, "Are you ready for dinner?"
"Sure." Dodger said with a smile as he followed the pair out of the bunkhouse.
* * * * *
As soon as they were back in the main house, Dodger went immediately downstairs to see how Rafe and Jimmy were doing.
He was surprised to find Jimmy awake and alert.
"Hola! Como estas?" Dodger asked Jimmy with a grin.
After a moment for the shock to wear off, Jimmy responded, "Bien! Y tu?"
"Muy bien." Dodger said with a smile, then added, "And that's about as much as I can remember from what Arturo was able to teach me today."
"Why do you want to learn Spanish?" Jimmy asked curiously.
"Well, mainly because I have a new friend who speaks Spanish and I want for him to feel at home and comfortable around me." Dodger said with a tender smile.
"Thank you, Dodger. That was nice." Jimmy said shyly.
"If you wanted to, maybe you could teach me some more?" Dodger asked hopefully.
"Yeah. I'd like that." Jimmy said with a tired smile.
"How about, right now, I read you some more of the book, so you can get to sleep?" Dodger asked gently. "Then tomorrow when we're both well rested, we can start on the language lessons."
Jimmy happily nodded and watched as Dodger picked up the book on the stand beside his bed.
As Dodger began to read, Jimmy snuggled down into the bed and closed his eyes.
* * * * *
After a delicious dinner of Johnny Cakes, scrambled eggs and fried potatoes, Dodger led Rafe to their bedroom.
"You were gone for quite a while tonight. What were you up to?" Rafe asked curiously as he walked into the room.
"Bruce asked me to go out and help Scott and Eloy on the fences." Dodger said as he pulled Rafe into his arms. "It was fun."
"Scott and Eloy... they're the couple, right?" Rafe asked thoughtfully.
"Yeah. They're husbands." Dodger said as he guided Rafe to sit on the bed, then gently brushed his hands away as he said, "Let me get that for you."
Rafe didn't resist as Dodger began to slowly unbutton his shirt.
"While I was working with Scott and Eloy, they told me some things that I wanted to ask you about." Dodger said quietly and Rafe noticed a certain timidity in Dodger's expression.
"Go ahead. You can ask me anything." Rafe said assuringly as he felt Dodger pulling his shirttails free.
"It's not that I'm saying I want to do it, but I'd really like to know how you feel before I think about it too much." Dodger said nervously as he guided Rafe's shirt off his shoulders and down his arms.
"I'll keep that in mind." Rafe said gently, then added, "What are we talking about?"
"Well, Scott and Eloy said that sometimes they have another person or another couple sleep with them." Dodger said frankly, then stopped all movement as he looked deeply into Rafe's eyes to await his reaction.
After a moment of consideration, Rafe seemed to come back to himself and looked into Dodger's eyes with a smile.
"In theory, I have no problem with that at all. If it's something that makes them happy, then I'm happy for them. But as far as it applies to us... I can't even imagine doing that." Rafe said honestly.
Dodger's smile was luminous as he said, "I couldn't put it into words, but that's exactly how I feel about it, too."
Rafe leaned forward and pulled Dodger down slightly to give him a slow, lingering kiss.
As the kiss broke, Dodger pulled back and had hold of Rafe's undershirt, pulling it up his sides.
Rafe automatically lifted his arms and allowed Dodger to skin the undershirt off over his head.
"Scott and Eloy told me some other things, too." Dodger said in a low, sultry voice.
"What kind of things?" Rafe asked in a leading tone, obviously playing along.
"Everything is just so new to me. Being a shadesider, being in love, being in love with a man, being part of a couple." Dodger said shyly. "I just asked them for a little bit of advice, you know, about the things I don't know or that we haven't tried yet, or haven't even thought about."
"Did they tell you anything that sounded good?" Rafe asked gently.
"Yeah." Dodger said timidly, then dropped to the floor beside the bed and started taking off Rafe's shoes.
"Is there anything you'd like to try?" Rafe asked carefully, sensing that Dodger needed a little prompting.
"Maybe. If you wanted to." Dodger said nervously, directing his answer to Rafe's feet.
"Please, just tell me." Rafe said gently.
After a moment of hesitation, Dodger looked up into Rafe's eyes and quietly said, "Well, they told me lots of things. But one of the things that they told me was that if, while we're making love, that we could bite each other just a little bit, and that it would be like... a whole other level."
"Yes. I've heard about that." Rafe said quietly as he held Dodger's gaze.
"So you've never done it?" Dodger asked with a little surprise.
"No. It's the sort of thing that can be very profound and you only do it with someone whom you love deeply. I never had that before I met you." Rafe said honestly.
"So... do you want to?" Dodger asked hopefully.
"Yes. I want to, very much." Rafe said as he looked lovingly into Dodger's eyes.
Dodger leaned forward and started to nervously unfasten Rafe's belt.
"Why don't you let me take care of this, while you get undressed." Rafe asked quietly as he put his hands over Dodger's to stop his fumbling.
"I want to take care of you. There's not very much I can do to show you how much I love you. Please, let me do this." Dodger asked hopefully.
"I understand." Rafe said gently as he withdrew his hands and rested back to allow Dodger to undress him.
Rafe marveled at how Dodger seemed so intent on making every movement, every moment, a significant act in their lovemaking.
It astounded him that, in six centuries of existence, he had never encountered a love like this before.
He had thought he had known, intellectually, what love would be like. He hadn't a clue. The reality was so far removed from that vague idea that it was laughable.
"Lift up." Dodger said gently as he began to tug on Rafe's pants.
Rafe lifted slightly and watched the delight fill Dodger's eyes as he examined the newly exposed flesh before him.
To be so cherished, so treasured... it was intoxicating.
* * * * *
As Dodger pulled down the underwear, Rafe lifted automatically to accommodate him.
When Rafe's erection came into full view, it was all Dodger could do not to claim it immediately.
But due to their circumstances, working at the ranch and having to spend so much time either apart, or in the company of others, their time together was far too valuable to indulge in fleeting, momentary pleasures.
Dodger was determined to make Rafe feel loved, not just his cock, but all of him. Brain and body, heart and soul. And at the culmination of their lovemaking, they would share this thing that was new to both of them. They would share their blood and, if Scott and Eloy were right, they would achieve a deeper, more fulfilling level in their relationship.
As Dodger pulled the underwear off over Rafe's feet, he couldn't help but pause a moment to appreciate the beauty of his husband.
He could tell by the look in Rafe's eyes, that he understood exactly what was going through Dodger's mind and was lying back and allowing him to drink in his fill of the sight.
Dodger began to undress, as he kept his gaze on Rafe's beautifully toned, perfectly sculpted, naked body.
"Do you want me to do..." Rafe asked in a whisper that trailed off as Dodger shook his head.
The act of undressing Rafe had been a part of his lovemaking, he didn't expect, or even want for it to be reciprocated. It was his expression of love for his husband, and he had no doubt that Rafe would find his own way to express himself that would be his and his alone.
Dodger stopped, standing over Rafe who was resting back on his elbows.
"I love you so much." Dodger whispered.
Rafe sat up and wordlessly pulled Dodger to him.
There was a long, perfect moment as Rafe rested his head against Dodger's belly and just held him.
There was nothing sexual in the action, no exact words or sentiments were being conveyed, but the moment represented an expression of pure love.
Dodger slowly and gently let his hands come to rest on the top of Rafe's head and held him, accepting what Rafe was freely giving.
* * * * *
Rafe looked up into Dodger's eyes and could see an echo of his own love reflected back at him.
Dodger slowly moved in and gave Rafe a slow, lingering kiss.
It was the kiss of a loved one, not a lover.
When Dodger finally backed out of the kiss, he put a hand on Rafe's shoulder and gently guided him to scoot further onto the bed, where they would be more comfortable.
Once Rafe was resting with his head on a pillow, Dodger slowly climbed on top of him.
The action caused Rafe to remember their first time together, when Dodger was a timid teenage boy, uncertain of what he should do.
Now, only a scant few days later, here was his husband in the same physical position. But this time Dodger knew what he wanted and was more confident in his actions.
Dodger's naivete and sweet innocence had held it's own attraction for Rafe, but having his husband here, wanting him, being the strong one and make him feel safe and loved... he couldn't have imagined that their relationship would turn out to be this perfect.
If Rafe had paused to speculate, he would have guessed that Dodger would expect him to always initiate things and direct their actions. But that very day, Dodger had awakened him in the most loving way and, basically, ravished him. Being with Dodger was better than his best dream.
"Hold me." Dodger whispered as he nuzzled Rafe's ear.
Immediately, Rafe put his arms around Dodger and held him gently as he felt the other side of the scales come into balance. Dodger not only loved him, but wanted to be loved by him. He wanted to be admired and cherished, and best of all, he wasn't afraid to ask for it.
Rafe turned his head slightly and started nibbling at Dodger's earlobe.
"Mmmm..." Dodger purred, deep in his chest.
"You're so beautiful." Rafe said in a dreamy whisper, his breath teasing Dodger's ear. "You're everything I ever wanted in a husband and everything I never knew that I wanted."
Before Rafe could say more, Dodger captured his mouth in a forceful kiss.
There was more that Rafe wanted to say, but he didn't know if he could find adequate words to convey his meaning. So he contented himself with expressing his feelings through his actions.
"Make love to me." Dodger whispered against Rafe's lips.
"Forever." Rafe responded, even as he was reaching blindly to the nightstand for the lubrication that they always kept handy.
"Let me." Dodger said as he gently took the lube from Rafe's hand.
"Just tell me where you want me." Rafe said as he looked up lazily at Dodger's lust filled eyes.
"I want you right where I've got you." Dodger said as he held Rafe's gaze.
After a moment, Dodger sat the tube of lube aside, then went up on his knees, straddling Rafe.
"Do you want me to stretch you?" Rafe asked with concern as he realized what Dodger was doing.
"No. Just relax and enjoy the ride." Dodger said as he carefully placed Rafe's erection right where he wanted it. "I'm in control, so you don't need to worry about hurting me."
Rafe was uncertain, but finally concluded that Dodger was right. In this position, Dodger could take all the time he needed.
* * * * *
"Yessss!" Rafe hissed when Dodger finally completed the slow process of adjusting to Rafe's girth and Rafe felt the heat engulf him.
"I'm glad you like that, because it only gets better from here." Dodger said with a wicked grin.
Rafe looked up at him with surprise.
"Put your hands on my hips and help me move in the right rhythm with you." Dodger said as he began slowly fucking himself on Rafe's hard cock.
Being an obedient husband, Rafe was happy to comply with Dodger's instructions and was soon guiding Dodger down to meet each of his upward thrusts.
"Yeah Rafe. That's so good." Dodger panted as he held onto Rafe's arms to brace himself.
The pace began to quicken and Rafe closed his eyes, lost in the sensation.
As he felt himself approaching the point of no return, he felt Dodger changing his grip and urging him to sit up.
When he opened his eyes, he saw that Dodger's fangs were bared and that Dodger was drawing him up, straining to reach his neck.
Somehow Rafe was able to lean toward Dodger without disrupting the rhythm of their lovemaking.
Just as Rafe reached his pinnacle, he felt Dodger's fangs pierce the skin of his neck.
As his orgasm took hold, his stabbing cock was jerking spasmodically deep inside Dodger.
Before it had completely registered that Dodger had bitten him, Rafe heard Dodger whispered, "I'm close. Do me."
Buried balls deep, and shooting his load, Rafe wondered what Dodger thought he was doing, then realized that Dodger had pulled back and was offering his own throat.
Just as his fangs pierced the skin, he felt Dodger's seed erupt in the space between them.
Suddenly, the taste of Dodger's blood registered. It was sweet and tangy, bringing with it the familiar satisfaction that always came with feeding. But on a deeper level, he felt something more.
He had heard the sensation described before as being like feeding on blood for the first time. Since he had no memory of that, he could only imagine that they were right.
The taste of Dodger's blood in his mouth was satisfying a need that he didn't know he had.
Suddenly, it was like their marriage was complete. They were truly and forever bonded. He now carried the essence of his mate with him, in his blood.
Dodger's lips covering his finally snapped him out of his amazement.
They held each other in silence for long minutes before Dodger finally said, "I didn't think it was even possible to love you more."
"Me, too." Rafe said quietly, still in awe of the incredible new sensation.
"You city folk sure are some smooth talkers." Dodger said with an exaggerated accent.
Rafe smiled, then said, "And you hoopies sure can fuck like bunnies."
Dodger laughed outright at that, then moved in to give Rafe a long, slow kiss.
"I love you, Rafe." Dodger said as he nuzzled against Rafe's neck.
"I love you, too, Dodger." Rafe said as a feeling of ultimate peace flooded through him.
Editor's Notes: Beautiful, Just beautiful!
I know there are a thousand things I could say, but honestly, anything else would be totally anticlimactic. so I'll just close and eagerly wait for the next chapter!
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher