"I'm sorry, repeat that slowly," Izzy said flatly, phone pressed tight to her ear, expressive dark eye wide.
"It's not hard, Iz," Alec huffed, the blush evident in his voice. "I want to know how you know when you're ready to... Go further."
"I'd assumed you two had been shagging like rabbits since day one," Isabelle chuckled, scrambling to align her thoughts. Alec was her beloved big brother and the fact that he had never... She could help him with this!
"No! Oh my God does everyone...?" Alec practically wailed.
"I'm only teasing, big brother, calm down. Where is Magnus now? Do you have some time alone?"
"He's writing and begged me not to disturb him for at least an hour."
"Okay, grab a notebook and pen, there will be a test at the end," Izzy cackled, kicking her office door shut.
Alec turned his newest horse out into the field, pleased with how quickly he'd brought the gelding around. From a skittish, bucking nightmare the moment the saddle touched his back, the grey now stood as placid as Arrow to be tacked up. Not a bad morning's work, if he did say so himself. Watching the way the horse trotted out to greet the others, Alec knew he would only need another day or two to work out any lingering problems and get his rider into the right habits too.
Turning towards the house, whistling happily, he decided it was time to go and kiss Magnus for a while. They always managed to find time to have a long, sensuous make out session before lunch, sometimes right through lunch too. Grinning and blushing slightly, the tall man swept his tan Stetson off as he ducked through the door, toeing his dusty boots off too. No need to track in extra dirt right now.
As he swung into the living room, a grin on his plush lips at the sight of the author pacing the living room, he froze as Magnus' voice reached him.
"Yes... Of course... Yes, I'll be there in a few hours. Brooklyn is quite a drive from where I am currently. Alright, thank you. Goodbye."
Alec heard the smaller man sigh as he jammed his phone into his jeans and turned, a startled gasp morphing his face from a scowl to a blank slate of surprise.
"Alexander! You startled me," Magnus started to smile then frowned as he noted the extreme paleness of the other's face. "Darling! What's wrong? You look like you're about to faint or be sick!"
Alec swallowed several times, each one feeling like glass was lodged in his throat, in his heart. There was a sour, lemon drop taste in his suddenly dry mouth, acid tears welling in his hazel eyes. Magnus rushed to him, hands gently leading him to the couch, stroking his face softly, soothing words rumbling from him as he checked the taller man's temperature.
"You're leaving?" Alec choked out, the words scorching his lips as he spoke them, ripping at his heart. Of course, Magnus was leaving! Did he really think the author was going to stay here with him forever? He had a life to get back to in Brooklyn, a life that Alec had no part of. How could he have been so stupid?! Breaking away from Magnus, not able to stand the tenderness if he was leaving Alec, the horse whisperer scrubbed his rough hands over his face, yanking harshly at his own dark hair.
The taller man became aware that Magnus was speaking to him and forced himself look up, to look at the man that had come into his life and made it so much better, made him so much better. If this was it, their last conversation, then he wanted to remember it.
"That was the pet spa," Magnus began, making sure Alec was looking at him, brows drawn together in panicked concern. "They have a rather long waiting list and they can't keep Chairman Meow any longer. They called asking me to go and collect him today."
Alec blinked slowly, brain struggling to make sense of the words.
"I was about to tell you that I was going to go and get him, pick up some things and come straight back. But now I think I should call Cat to get him. You're not well, darling, and I can't leave you..."
"You were going to come back?" Alec breathed, eyes huge as they searched for a lie in Magnus' face and found none.
"Of course!" Magnus exclaimed, confused. Then realisation hit him and he clutched at Alec, painted fingernails digging into his forearm with surprising strength. "My darling, did you think I wouldn't come back?"
"I... You have a life in the city," Alec stammered, tripping over his words in a way that he hadn't since they first met. "You would get bored of here eventually..."
The unspoken 'of me' hovered between them like an annoying gnat.
"Alexander..." Magnus cupped his face carefully, a small, soft smile on his coral pink lips. "The first time I kissed you, I called Cat and got her to start boxing my things up. The second time, I called her again and asked her to move my things to storage and rent out my apartment. My life in the city is gladly left behind if it means I get to have a life out here, with you."
Alec stared at Magnus, mouth hanging open, heart stuttering in his chest. This brilliant, vibrant, wonderful man had given up his ties to the city after only two kisses with a shy, awkward virgin?
"Yes, he did," Magnus laughed, brushing his thumb over Alec's lips. "I think you need a moment to remember how to keep some thoughts to yourself, dear boy."
"You're really not leaving for good?" Alec demanded, blushing hotly at the fact he'd blurted that out before.
"Not unless you want me to," the author assured, brushing his hands through Alec's messy, night black hair.
"No!" the rancher practically yelled, grabbing Magnus and pulling him closer. "I don't want you to leave."
"Well, that's alright then," Magnus smiled, leaning in to brush a kiss on Alec's lips. "I do have to go for a little bit and get the Chairman. But, I promise, I will be back before you know it."
Alec forced back a strange, pained noise and pressed his lips more firmly to Magnus'. If they had to be apart, he was damn well going to make sure the other man wanted to get home as quickly as possible.
Alec stood in the yard for a long time after the dust from Magnus' car settled, almost willing him to turn back around. He shook himself, huffing. When had he turned into such a lovesick idiot? Stamping towards the barn, he stopped to stroke River, a small smile curling the corners of his mouth as her foal rolled in the straw. Forcing his mind in the tasks of the day, he quickly calculated the trip. Magnus would be gonna for six hours. Alec could certainly keep himself busy during that time.
He started by mucking out all the stalls, scrubbing them down and leaving them to dry while he cleaned the tack room up. He rearranged everything, stopping to polish various pieces as he did. By the time he was done, everything was perfect and the stalls were dry. He filled them with fresh straw, water and hay. Then he focused on grooming the horses that were mostly stabled. By the time the last one was done, he was sweating like a sinner in church and bone tired. Magnus had been gone four hours.
A snort and a loud bang made Alec spin, hat pushed back as he looked for the source. Dusty's big, scarred nose poked over his stall door, ears pricked as they searched for Magnus. Alec smiled as he remembered how the author had explained to the horse where he was going, hands smoothing across the tattered flesh gently, asking Dusty to keep an eye on Alec while he was gone.
"He'll be back soon," Alec promised softly, easing closer to the horse. Dusty flicked an ear at him but didn't shy away or bare his teeth, a first for anyone but Magnus. Alec stopped just a few steps from the door, eyeing the big animal. He watched Alec with deep, wary eyes but made no move to lunge when the tall man came closer still.
"You know, even though he promised to come back, part of me still doesn't quite believe it," he murmured softly, voice hitching slightly as he spoke his deepest fear to the still barn. He lowered his head, blinking rapidly, not wanting the tears burning behind his eyes to fall. Dusty swung his scar wrinkled nose towards him, making Alec freeze, not wanting to antagonise the traumatised animal. But then he felt his hat being tugged from his head and flung across the barn. He turned to face Dusty fully, eyebrows raised in surprise, as the big horse whinnied softly, like he was laughing. Alec began to chuckle himself, shaking his head as he retrieved his hat, walking back to the horse and holding his hand out.
Dusty sniffed him, hot breath puffing over his palm, before pressing his nose into it. Alec could have cheered or cried, he wasn't sure which. After everything the poor horse had suffered, after all the pain and hopelessness, it had taken Magnus' big heart to show him that there was still kindness in the human race. He had done the same for Alec too.
"I think, handsome boy," Alec murmured, stroking the oddly textured skin. "That we both owe Magnus a lot."
Not wanting to overwhelm Dusty, Alec fed and watered him and returned to the house, a plan forming in his mind as he remembered his conversation with Izzy. Now was a perfect time.
"I'm not sure why I keep you, you know," Magnus huffed as he stopped the Jeep outside the ranch, cutting the lights and letting the stillness of the late evening fill the car. "Did you really have to scratch the woman as we left? That was very rude, especially as they'd taken such good care of you."
He lifted the pet carrier out, glaring at the cat curled inside, tail over his nose and completely ignoring his owner. He carried the cat inside, glad that Alec had left the living room lights on for him, setting the carrier down just inside the door and opening it. With practised speed, Magnus set up a litter tray and food and water bowls.
"As I'm sure you must explore, try not to break anything," Magnus instructed. "Alexander is a forgiving soul but we are trying to make a good impression on him."
He studied the cat for another long moment before looking around, wondering if Alec was in bed already. It was later than Magnus had wanted to be home but nowhere near the time they normally went to bed.
Taking his shoes off, Magnus padded into the bedroom and froze, mouth dropping open even as all the blood in his body rushed to his lower regions. Alec lay propped on the bed, wearing nothing but a pair of washed soft jeans that were unbuttoned and a smouldering smile. Magnus' honeyed chocolate eyes slid down the perfect form, the dark chest hair he loved to pet, the rippling, washboard abs, the delicious length of his powerful legs, the narrow, oddly endearing bare feet.
"Welcome home me," he breathed, licking his lips as he looked back at Alec's face. "You're looking exceptionally delicious this evening, darling," he said by way of greeting. Alec blushed hotly, lashes lowering for a moment to pin Magnus with an almost shy look.
"I'm glad you're home," he said softly, holding out a hand to encourage Magnus onto the bed. The author needed no second bidding, tangling his fingers with Alec's and climbing into his lap, bending to steal a kiss.
Alec let his arms curls around Magnus' waist, holding the smaller man close so he could deepen the kiss, turning it from a thrilling greeting to a deep, deliberate tease. Magnus broke away after a few minutes, gasping, eyes blown wide with lust.
"If this is how you welcome me home, perhaps I should leave more often," he grinned, fingers brushing over Alec's chest, tracing the defined ridges of his pectorals, the soft crinkle of dark chest hair. Alec's arms tightened, a frown appearing between his eyes as he caught Magnus' eyes again.
"I'll kiss you like that every minute of the day if you promise to never leave again," he murmured, heart thumping against his ribs painfully.
Magnus' gaze softened as he leaned down to press their foreheads together.
"Darling, I'm not going anywhere without you again," the author promised. "I felt all out of sorts and... Incomplete without you today. It was horrible."
Alec tilted his head to catch Magnus' soft lips in a tender kiss, accepting and binding him to that promise.
"You're definitely not going anywhere else tonight," Alec rumbled.