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Retribution Of The Heart

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Chapter 1

"Adam," Joe whispered. "Adam?" he repeated.

Joe struggled to move against the heavy blankets, pushing them aside as he searched for his brother.

"Adam, where are you?" he tried again, confused by the darkness and unfamiliar surroundings. He was beginning to sound frantic.

Joe was fighting to sit up when he sensed Adam's presence beside him before remembering he was there. Not wanting to waste more time, he rolled over, curling himself close to Adam's body.

"Here, Joe," Adam whispered, his arms gently encircling his brother. "I'm right here," he repeated, sleepy and bewildered by Joe's sudden bout of tossing and fussing with the covers.

Joe said nothing more as he snuggled closer, nuzzling his face into the crook of Adam's neck while clamping one leg over his brother's solid frame. The literal closeness was what he wanted most. As long as he could hold on to his brother, he knew no one else could hurt him.

"What's wrong?" Adam prodded gently, perplexed. "What's wrong, Joe, hum?" he tried again as he ran his fingertips beneath the soft, dark curls at the base of Joe's neck. "They can't hurt you anymore," he added, his voice husky with sleep. Without waiting for Joe to answer, Adam nuzzled him back. "I promise."

The sound of his confident, familiar voice made Joe want to hold on even more. Adam patiently allowed him to cling, although Joe's sudden desperation, coupled with his obvious need for reassurance since he had been found at the rustler's campsite earlier that day, was worrisome.

Said rustlers left their campsite quite unexpectedly, leaving Joe behind still bound, gagged, and tied up in their wake. A pursuit had ensued which resulted in two of the remaining bunch being gunned down in the melee that followed while the others were arrested before they reached Carson City. Once there, they were handed over to local deputies who had also been out looking for them in the surrounding rangelands. The sheriff in Carson City had assured Ben that he would be in touch with Sheriff Coffee as soon as the preliminary paperwork could be filed. The whole unsavory bunch would eventually be returned to Virginia City to face charges of cattle rustling. It was all going to take a little time.

Chasing down rustlers that day had been an impromptu decision. It had also landed the entire Cartwright family unexpectedly more than a day's ride from home. Once located, and after he was sure they were closing in, Joe had stubbornly broken away from the posse to strike out on his own. He had attempted to circle back from the north but surprised both himself and the renegade cowhands in the midst of illegal re-branding instead. The outcome of such a foolish decision had allowed him to ride alone straight into trouble resulting in a fight in which he was outnumbered and unceremoniously tied to a tree until the rustlers could decide what else to do with him.

Fortunately, the posse and the rest of the Cartwright family had been able to locate and surround the camp only a couple of hours later. They quickly overpowered the lot of them and set Joe free in the process. With the rustlers jailed, Joe safely back with his family, and everything else under control, the Cartwrights had gladly opted for a night in a hotel in Carson City before riding home the next day. Accommodations had turned out to be scarce this particular night at the local establishments. Ben and Hoss had managed to find one room at a hotel, while Adam and Joe found lodging at another. The four men readily split up for the sake of a good night's sleep knowing the horses could benefit from a long rest as well. The four exhausted animals had been left in the care of a livery a short walk from the hotels.

With the horses taken care of, Joe and Adam had taken the last available room at another hotel and were thankful for it - a one-bed availability had been neither unusual nor of particular concern to either of them. A hot bath wasn't an option at this particular hotel, but after a quick supper and a more than adequate 'spit' bath with basins of warm water in the room, they were both feeling better. The two men shared a drink to unwind from a couple of dusty days tracking rustlers through the Nevada scrub brush before turning in early. Wearing only their drawers, both men had gone to bed barely clothed. Neither had been prepared for traveling or any lengthy amount of time on the trail. After locking the door Adam and Joe climbed into bed, both of them falling asleep in minutes.

What only Joe knew was that his time with the rustlers had actually unnerved him to the core. As usual, he had swallowed his fear and had done what he needed to do to survive. He also understood he had done nothing to save himself this time - he owed his life to his family and the posse that hunted down the rustlers. Still shaking with the memories, and needing reassurance he could not find alone, he had unashamedly reached for his brother in the wake of a terrifying dream in which he relived most of his capture but wasn't so lucky the second time around.

As Adam held him, stripped of most of his defenses, and the worst of his fear behind him, Joe tried to swallow his worry, relocate his courage, and own the feelings he had nowhere else to assuage. He wasn't afraid of his brother, but the need for clarity and the other man's compassion had boiled over inside of him on this particular night. He needed Adam to understand as he wrestled with a bundle of burdens no matter the ultimate outcome.

Joe released a ragged breath but said nothing more immediately. Still, he tried to wiggle closer. Adam waited patiently as Joe attempted to comfort himself through simple touch. The older man was not unfamiliar with this sort of behavior from his youngest brother although it had been a long time since Joe had seemed so insecure. When no words were forthcoming, Adam gently pulled him closer. He quietly accepted the way Joe's hands moved across his chest and belly as though searching for more of him. The way Joe had always touched him was both endearing and unmistakably needful. His brother's hands were beginning to slow in their exploration, and Adam flushed with excitement at the way those touches made him feel.

Finding his strength, Joe began to relax. He answered Adam's question by tracing his lips slowly across his brother's neck - cautious, exploring, and deliberately tender. Adam sighed at the delicious distraction from the weariness of the last several days although he sensed something was deeply different between them.

Joe shifted to his elbows, bringing the two of them face to face, and hovering just above him in the dark hotel room. There was no one else there to see what they were doing - no one would know what happened tonight. The question hung heavily between them without being asked. Joe waited quietly for some kind of response, his lips brushing lightly over his brother's. No matter the actual outcome, he knew Adam would not hurt him, yet he was fearful of the potential for rejection that could follow such a risk. Regardless, he was unable to hold back, aching in both mind and body for the comfort and solace that only Adam could provide. Heart in hand, Joe kissed him tenderly on the lips, closed his eyes, and waited...

To Joe's delight, Adam kissed him back without hesitation. The corners of Adam's mouth were beginning to curl as Joe pulled away. The other man watched him intently, studying him quietly while virtually nose to nose. Adam accepted the implication that it was his turn to wait for Joe to offer any additional explanation.

"I just need you," Joe said eventually, his voice so low that Adam had to strain his ears to hear him. "Always have in some ways, but tonight's different - just need you more is all."

Adam didn't react outwardly initially. His eyes were heavy with sleep and the duress of the last couple of days. He had kissed his brother before many times, but not while holding him quite like this, and never while stretched out in bed together as they were now. He understood what Joe was asking of him. Adam found himself surprised by his own tranquility as though he had somehow known the two of them might one day face this decision together.

"What's this really about, Joe?" Adam asked, cupping Joe's face gently in his hands. "Do you understand what you're doing - what you're asking for?"

"Yes, I know what I'm doing," Joe answered.

Adam continued to peer harder at Joe, honesty heavy in his eyes, though his brother was truly incapable of being anything less than an open book. Adam could read the sincerity there - the love and admiration shining back at him in undeniable waves.

"I don't want to be responsible for corrupting you," Adam said, smiling slightly.

"Don't worry," Joe responded, smiling back. "You won't have to be."

Adam waited, his knowing eyes holding his brother's gaze in a way that expected additional information. He wasn't interested in making Joe uncomfortable - in fact, quite the opposite. It was, however, a fair question in the face of numerous important considerations.

"Yes, that's precisely what worries me, " Adam replied calmly. "But this is something you need to tell me more about."

Joe chewed on his lower lip as he considered how to properly explain himself. He had long suspected this exact scenario was a distinct possibility with Adam, yet now that he was faced with the decision he wasn't sure how to describe himself properly without sounding juvenile, impulsive, or simply reckless in his brother's eyes. Adam was none of those things. The responsibility of the moment weighed heavily on Joe.

Glancing at Adam, Joe saw no judgment clouding the other man's eyes though he was more than able to gauge the deep concern that was apparent there.

"No, you're right, Adam," Joe began. "This isn't an entirely new idea for me, but everything that happened today made me crave it more. It's like I need you more just in case something happens, ya know? Maybe I won't wake up someday. And maybe I would miss all of this."

Not knowing what else to offer, Joe swallowed, lowered his eyes, and waited for whatever was destined to happen. To his surprise, Adam calmly closed the distance between them with another kiss.

Finding him willing, Adam ran his lips slowly over Joe's. He allowed himself to taste the younger man differently this time, arousing the desire that was lurking just beneath the surface of his own mind. He had never allowed himself this transgression before although he was familiar enough with his own secrets and the extent to which they had more than once followed him into his nighttime dreams. He understood the specific current of emotion that had always existed between him and Joe - forbidden, smoldering, and undeniably present.

As though having made a decision, Adam pulled his brother close for another kiss. Joe was taken slightly off guard causing him to become coy and marginally overwhelmed. Adam chuckled when he noticed Joe's slight hesitation. Nonetheless, he rolled Joe smoothly beneath him, reversing their positions in the blink of an eye, and causing Joe's heart to beat a little faster from the sudden burst of aggression. Joe recognized his brother's intent and allowed himself to be maneuvered. It was true he wanted everything that Adam could give making his own submission effortless.

A tiny smile teased at the corners of Joe's lips, catching Adam's attention as well as his breath at the same time.

God, he's adorable - and he's my brother, Adam thought, feeling nearly helpless.

"Just tonight - if that's all you can give," Joe whispered, interrupting Adam's thoughts as though reading his mind. "I know there are all kinds of reasons that we shouldn't, but there are all kinds of reasons that we should. You feel this, too, Adam. I know you do."

Adam didn't resist Joe's next advance, his feelings conveyed by the renewed gentle stroking of his lips and the persistent, light touch of Joe's tongue against his mouth. Unable to deny him, Adam parted his lips just enough, and Joe opened him further, melding them together with the unmistakable exchange of emotions only lovers can share.

Joe was confident now. He recognized the solidity of his brother's acceptance, causing him to yearn for more.

"Thank you," Joe said softly, pulling away momentarily to whisper in Adam's ear. "Thank you," he repeated, stroking his brother's arm as he attempted to reassure him.

It was Adam's turn to sigh then - a deeply content sound while Joe aligned himself with his brother's body, his hands wandering across his back and ever lower.

"Whatever you want, Joe," Adam managed to say. "Whatever you need," he whispered before planting a trail of tiny kisses beneath Joe's jaw.

And just like that - Adam understood and accommodated him. Such unconditional, unshakable love from anyone some folks would never know in a lifetime. Joe knew the value and power of such devotion. To his surprise, he heard himself moan beneath his older brother's gentle touch. It was the touch of someone who could heal all wounds within him - the kind of touch that could never be found elsewhere. This night, this time - for this kind of soul-deep hurt - Joe needed and wanted only Adam. No one else could help him. His brother had willingly accepted all of him.

Adam's hands were gentle where he touched Joe, unhurried, and undemanding as he brushed one bare nipple with his thumb. Joe gasped in response, the sensation delightful, electrifying, and causing him to arch his back in response. He cried out as Adam pulled his other nipple gently into his mouth, taking his time, and laving the tender nub with his tongue before soothing the pointed tip with a soft kiss. Joe felt himself harden in response, causing him to rub his swollen length against his brother's body. Adam returned the gentle rotation, slowly and tentatively at first, though they quickly found an insistent, delicious rhythm between them.

What little clothing they wore had been quickly shed. Joe shivered beneath Adam's touch as his brother continued a slow and deliberate exploration of each new curve and contour of his body.

"God, Joe. It would be so damn easy to lose control," Adam whispered suddenly. "So easy," he repeated, as though trying to remind or restrain himself.

Joe looked back at him through heavily veiled eyes, his own breathing now thick with desire and poorly controlled emotion.

"Do whatever you want," Joe offered bluntly, his hands locating the rounded contours of Adam's ass and tugging them closer together. "If you're not sure what to do, just let me help,"...

"I know what to do!" Adam interrupted, sounding impatient. "I know exactly what to do," he growled back at him, "but I don't want to hurt you!" Adam added, nearly breathless.

"Well, what we're doing feels just fine then," Joe answered, surprised by his brother's apparent expertise though his eyes crinkled as he smiled at Adam's frustration.

Additional talk was swallowed by Adam's lips against his own, his arms gathering Joe close while beginning to rock solidly against him. The usual scent of Adam's skin was heady and strong in Joe's nostrils. The familiar, pleasant odor of his body was now layered with the distinctive scent of heavy masculine arousal and sexual tension. Joe found the combination dizzying. He succumbed to the strength of his brother's love as he felt his own release beginning to build low in his groin.

Adam could read Joe so well that he knew the noises escaping him were not caused by pain or discomfort. It was the sound of his sensuality instead. Joe had been demonstratively emotional all of his life. The small noises of surprise and delight he made now were not so profoundly different during sex than any other moment he was expressing pure happiness.

A definite advantage, Adam thought, unable to suppress an internal smile.

Joe was lean and tanned from the long hours of working on the ranch under the summer sun, yet everywhere Adam touched him was somehow as soft as any woman he had known. The comparison was both startling and keenly pleasurable. It left him wanting more.

"Come 'ere," Adam whispered suddenly, pulling Joe onto his side. "Like this"...

Adam pulled Joe closer before dragging one set of long fingers across his belly and chest. He buried his face in Joe's neck, nipping at a particularly sensitive spot behind one ear which caused Joe to shudder in response. Wandering lower, Adam wrapped one hand around his brother's firmness, finding it at once both surprising and intriguing. He knew intellectually that Joe was a grown man now. Just in case he had somehow forgotten, this one statistic could certainly verify and underscore the point.

Joe melted beneath his brother's insistent touch. He found himself tumbling backward emotionally, helpless in the arms that held him. Days of barely contained anxiety melted away with each perfectly placed caress. He sighed contentedly while allowing himself to be lost in the purity of Adam's loving attention. The passage of time became almost imperceptible as Adam held him through wave after wave of excitement, repeatedly taking him to the brink of release before pulling him back again. They were both slick with sweat and heaving for air when Joe heard himself begging for relief.

"Oh God, Adam," Joe managed. "Please - feels like I'm coming apart," he whispered. "Please let me..."

Straining and desperate for release, Joe wrapped both hands over Adam's and began pumping hard into his fist. His timing was apparently good as Adam tensed suddenly, regathered him in his powerful arms, and began grinding hard against him.

"Come on, Joe," Adam encouraged him, his voice barely controlled. "Come on then," Adam repeated, teasing his brother's earlobe. "I want to feel you let go, Joseph."

Joe whimpered at such blatant encouragement as he felt the early, luscious tension begin to gather in his groin. Unable to help himself, he groaned at the unmistakable tingling gathering in his balls and pushed on toward his release.

Adam's breath had become heavy and raw in Joe's ear as he drew one lobe between his teeth, teasing and unashamed, then probing gently before growing more insistent. The combination was explosive for Joe. He cried out as his cock erupted suddenly, causing him to shiver and spurt harder, coating both their hands in the warm, sticky fluid. Joe reached desperately behind him with one arm, clawing at Adam's body as the intensity continued to peak. He arched his back at the deep, delicious sensation, all the while pumping furiously into Adam's fist until he was spent.

Adam slowed his hand carefully, recognizing that he was also teetering on the edge of losing control. He was torn between wanting to simply hold Joe and wanting the same sensation to finish dragging him over the edge.

"Christ Almighty, Adam," Joe managed, his voice softened and weak. "You feel too damn good," he finished, landing a light kiss on the top of Adam's shoulder. "That was just - unbelievable."

Gasping and clinging to Joe, Adam was unable to hold back any longer. He heard himself moan as he emptied himself into the soft skin beneath Joe's scrotum, chasing each exquisite moment for as long as it would last.

"God Joe," Adam whispered. "I'm still coming," he added, his strong arms beginning to tremble, yet he struggled to hold on to Joe as the waves of release continued to roll over him. "I'm still coming," he whispered, amazement clear in his voice, his chest heaving from the effort.

Joe held himself motionless yet molded to Adam's body until he was sure he had finished. Only when his body grew quiet, and his muscles slackened, did he roll onto his back. Adam collapsed on top of him - both of them sweaty, sticky, and consumed by the aftermath of completely unleashed masculinity and sexual overdrive. Joe draped both arms around Adam's neck as they laid together, neither of them able to move. Long moments ticked by as each of them worked to breathe normally, attempting to recover.

Joe noticed the trembling in Adam's entire body, filling him with wonder as he ran one hand lightly up and down his brother's back. It startled him that Adam's desire could match his own yet their conjoining had been unmistakable. The aftermath hung heavily in the air between them as they waited for it to dissipate, neither knowing nor understanding how long that might be. Neither man cared. They would wait together. The stillness in the room covered them like a blanket, waiting patiently alongside them.

Adam knew they were each in charge of their own decisions. They had both made them, and he could accept that. Still, his heart remained encased in eternal care and concern for his youngest brother. Nothing could rock his mindset away from that most prominent responsibility.

"Ummmmm, my God," Adam growled, finding his voice. "Are you ok?" he managed to ask, his arm draped around Joe, his eyes barely open.

"I'm more than ok, Adam," Joe answered honestly.

On impulse Joe stretched hard, reaching high above his head with both arms, and extending both legs out in front of him before relaxing once again. An enormous yawn escaped him as he did so. His eyes became immediately heavy.

"Yeah, I'm much more than ok," Joe whispered, enjoying the feel of Adam's naval fuzz where it tickled and rubbed against his own.

"Good," Adam said simply, moving his head just enough to plant a kiss on Joe's damp temple before resettling on top of him.

"Sleep then, Joseph," Adam whispered, before squeezing him one last time. He closed his eyes before exhaustion could finish overtaking him.

"Remember, I've got you."

Published - September 18, 2015