Chapter 5 - Guarded

Over the next few days, the weather slowly warmed, and it was above freezing during the day.  Nights were a different matter. They were well below freezing, clear and cold, and dipped down to 24F at one point.  This had the effect of melting most of the snow during the day, only to freeze it at night. During daytime hours the ground was a slick mess of water and ice.  So too were the roads.

Corbin only woke up once to a completely dead fire.  After that, he was motivated to leave his hearth well banked so that his home wasn't as cold as the outside when he started the day.  That same day he let the fire die he also noticed the taps were frozen when he first awoke. He knew that was bad news, as it could burst his pipes.  Luckily after the cabin warmed the water thawed, and flowed fine. He seemed to get away with it, this one time. Probably because it wasn't below freezing long enough to completely ice up.

He remembered that the taps were barely open when he first walked into the house.  Everything slowly dripped. Of course, the first thing he did was tighten them all down so they stopped.  But after a little research, he realized that was on purpose. It helped keep the taps and the shower from freezing.  He walked around his cabin and reopened all of them slightly, and was satisfied to see them barely dripping - just as they were before.

He put his chicken project on the back burner for now.  He wanted the weather to warm a bit first, and everything he saw said that May was the time things really shifted into Spring in Hailey.  Once that happened he'd build the chicken run and the coop. It'd be a lot easier to set posts in ground that wasn't frozen too.

It was now early Thursday morning, and he was out walking his property.  It was just barely above freezing now, but he didn't mind the cold since he was bundled up against it.  He owned about 30 acres of land that came along with the cabin, and he had yet to see most of it. It was brushy and treed.

Most trees were evergreens of some sort or another.  He noted the locations of the biggest downed trees on the land with his pad and pencil as he crisscrossed the parcel.  He intended to cut up as much of the wood as he could reasonably get to and haul out easily. He could use the wood himself of course, and then he also toyed with the idea of maybe selling any extra.  All of the stuff that was down was very dry. It burned well, and Paul liked it, so other people probably would as well.

His property was fenced with barbed wire and posts on three sides.  The only open side was to the south. His cabin sat in the very south-western corner, and he could see the corner post where the fence began on that side from his porch.  The more he discovered about the place the more he liked it. Yes, this whole thing was challenging for him, only because he had to learn as he went along. But he was a fast pupil, and smart.  He didn't forget lessons. And he had Paul to help him here and there.

Things between them seemed okay.  He went up to Paul's one more time to help set the heavy beams that went on top of his posts.  It was a little awkward for a while, but they warmed back up quickly to one another. 'Maybe this will be okay.'  He remembered thinking. Then Paul turned a certain way, and he caught Corbin checking out his package. The tall man laughed and shook his finger at him.  Okay, it was a challenge, but he was working on it.

He really wanted to do the scouting today and was glad he got it done.  The forecast was crazy. Even though it was now mid-April there was a big storm moving in.  By this evening they were supposed to have 6 inches of fresh snow. It would essentially stop all but the most required of his outdoor activity.  He also didn't know how long his power would hold, so he made sure his phone was charged while he had juice in his batteries. It had already started to come down, though it wasn't bad yet.  As long as he had good visibility he wasn't worried.

He had walked for over an hour and he ended up near the stream that just clipped the southwestern edge of the property, near the corner fence post.  He tread carefully near the water. He could hear it running under the thinning ice, and there were spots in the middle that flowed totally free now.

'Water looks really clear, and it has a good flow.'  He wondered about the viability of a hydropower system to supplement his solar array.  Solar was great, but he'd love a redundant system in the case of a string of heavy cloudy days (like today) when his power production would take a hit.  He needed to assess where the best spot would be for it, if it were even possible. Hence the main reason for the stop at the stream.

'Okay, looking for a narrow spot, somewhere the water is fastest.'  He glanced over the banks of the small stream and saw a point a few dozen feet to the south where the banks were closer together.  He made his way, picking along the edge, always careful to avoid the ice, and he hung onto the overhead branches of the leafless deciduous trees that draped like an umbrella over the water.

A sudden burst of motion startled him and he jumped. "Fuck!" He jumped, his balance lost.  And a big rabbit ran from its hiding spot in a whirl of fur and snow. He teetered, and his gloved hands flailed wildly at the whip like branches around him in an attempt to save himself from falling.

It happened in slow motion in his mind.  He fell, and as he did he twisted to his right and tried to get his legs under himself.  Instead of landing face first he hit the ice with his boots and crashed through it into that branch-choked section of stream.  He was up to his waist, and the water was SHOCKINGLY cold. It seemed to blast the air right out his chest. He inhaled in a gasp. "Fuck!"  His teeth instantly began to chatter, and his skin broke into chill bumps.

He looked down and could see that his legs were wedged between the many branches that were hidden under where the ice used to be, just before he fell through it.  The water ran swiftly past his legs below them. His breath came in rapid puffs as he reached down. He strained against the branches, but they very effectively trapped his legs.  "Shit. Shit!" He looked up and there were a couple of thin trees that draped over the stream within reach. He grabbed one of the small leafless trees in each hand and strained to pull himself up.  He strived to get his feet out, on top of the branches that constrained him.

He managed to shift himself a little, but he couldn't hold himself up forever, and the trees bent too much under his weight.  It simply wasn't enough for him to pull his legs free. He had no choice but let himself sink back into the icy water. He put his arms around the trunk of his body and his teeth continued to chatter uncontrollably.  "Fuuuck." His eyes were a little wild now. He had been in the water for a couple of minutes, and he was no closer to getting out. He noticed that his legs no longer really felt cold. Instead, there were painful spearing sensations in the muscles of his lower body.  He winced at the pain.

He needed to call for help.  His phone was in his pocket, which was underwater and blocked by the branches around his waist.  He pulled hard and tried to make enough room to get to it, but he couldn't both hold the limbs out of the way, and get to his pocket.

He had to get out.  He had to get OUT. "Ahhhh!"  He reached into the water and pulled hard on the submerged portion of the cluster of limbs.  It flexed and moved a bit, but not enough. It didn't work, and now he couldn't really feel his feet.  He pulled his now soaked arms and hands out of the water. He looked around and panted. He had to be missing something.  There had to be a way. Slowly the pain in his lower body subsided, and now it actually felt … warm?

"Thaaassss … weird."  He didn't notice as he drew the word into a long slur.

Corbin's teeth also slowed their chattering.  He looked around, still waist deep in the icy water, and his skin began to grow pale as blood was shifted from his skin and limbs to his internal organs - his body's last attempt to ration warmth. "I'm in trouble."  He whispered. He tried to think, but as his internal temp cooled it became harder.

"Harrissss."  He swallowed. Before, whenever he was in trouble Harris was always there.  But there was no Harris here now. All Corbin had was what Harris had taught him.  He pulled the .38 from the harness. That was difficult because his cold, numb fingers didn't want to obey him.

"Three timessss."  He clung to what Harris told him.  The logic behind it was forgotten. Only the ritual of the action itself remained.  But that was enough. He raised the gun to the sky, and he willed his nearly unresponsive hand to squeeze the trigger.

Three shots rang out in close succession.  They echoed through the valley and against the hillsides that framed his land.  He lowered his arm and dropped the gun. It landed in a clatter of metal on the ice beside him.

He slowly looked around.  He was incredibly tired. "I'll jus ressst.  Little bit." It seemed a good idea. His head bobbed, and his eyes rolled back.  His unfeeling legs gave out and he would have slumped completely into the water if the branches that trapped his legs didn't keep him mostly upright.

His next sensation was a spreading warmth through his body.  He was so comfortable, and he sighed as he slipped into unconsciousness.  The snow gently continued to fall, and slowly the world around him whitened with a cold blanket.


A strange sort of semi-awareness came to him.  He was cold, and his entire body shivered violently.  His eyes slid open. He was on his belly, and he lay against a very warm body.  It had to be Liam. He could hear a crackling, roaring fire and he blinked. His brain slowly became aware of more sensation and input.  He was in a soft, warm sleeping bag, and the person under him had their arms circled around his body. He could hear the wind howling outside, and little ice crystals as they impacted the windows.

"Liam?"  He rubbed his cold, shaking hand along the outside of the thigh of the man beneath him.  He registered that leg was hairier than he remembered.

The man under him shifted.  "Corbin?" The voice was saturated with hope.  A much warmer hand than his own rubbed his back briskly from his neck down to his butt.  "Hey. You're gonna be okay."

"Liam?"  He swallowed.  "What … what's happening?  Where's Stefano?" He stuttered through the words past his chattering teeth.

Paul pulled his head back so he could look at the still confused man.  "Corbin, it's Paul." He rolled and turned Corbin on his back then continued to rub his cold skin.  He had warmed some, enough for his body to know it was colder than it should be, and for his autonomic reactions - like shivering, to start up again.  "You fell into the stream. I'm trying to get you warmed up."

"Paul."  He stared up at Paul's face.  There was something … he couldn't quite remember, but it concerned Liam.  "Where's ... Liam?" The past and present collided into a jumbled mess in his mind.  His teeth chattered until Paul thought he would crack them.

"I don't know."  He wore a concerned expression as he looked down at Corbin.  He continued to rub the smaller man roughly and tried to get warmth back into his body and limbs.

Earlier in the day, Paul was just about to return home to get out of the approaching weather when he had heard the gunshots while out on his land.  He knew they came from the direction of Corbin's property, and he immediately hoofed it over. Luckily he was already at the far northern edge of his land, otherwise, he would have been too late.  As it was he had nearly killed himself running nearly a mile loaded with his typical gear, over the rough snow-covered ground.

It was blind luck Corbin had fallen into the stream at that corner.  On foot, it was the best path into Corbin's property and Paul ran right by where he had fallen in.  That combined with the fact that he wore a highly visible coat probably saved the smaller man's life.  Even then, at first Paul didn't know if he had made it in time. Corbin was unconscious and chilled to the touch.  Paul had to chop the limbs around his waist with his hatchet to haul him out of the water. Then it took everything in him to pull Corbin out, weighed down as he was with his wet clothes and water-filled boots.

Paul quickly carried him through the ever-increasing snow on the ground to Corbin's cabin.  It was by far the closest choice. At this point, he didn't know if he could make the drive to the hospital, which also meant the ambulance couldn't make it to them either.  The roads were treacherous, and the wind was picking up. Paul decided that he would have to do what he could for him in the cabin.

He lay Corbin in front of the fireplace, and there he stripped the completely unresponsive man out of his freezing cold, wet clothes.  Then he threw on all the spruce that the hearth would hold. He got down to his briefs, found a sleeping bag, and got them both in it, right next to the roaring fire.

Paul then wrapped himself around the still, chilled form of the blonde man and rolled onto his back still holding him, so Corbin lay on top of him, chest to chest.  He rubbed the smaller man's back and hoped it would be enough. 'God, he's so cold.' He couldn't help but think.

He didn't mean to, but after some time he must have fallen asleep.  He was awakened by Corbin an hour later as he warmed a bit and began to shiver.

Now that he was shaking Paul knew Corbin would recover.  He just had to keep him warm until his body reached the proper internal temperature.  His slowness and confusion would pass as he thawed out.

With that knowledge, he felt relief wash over him.  Corbin blinked and still lay on top of him. His face was against Paul's neck, and his expression was tired and still confused.  Paul's hand slid to a stop on his back, and he licked his lips as he held the smaller man in his arms. He tried to push aside his attraction for Corbin.  Now wasn't the time.

"Corbin … I …"

Corbin's eyes fluttered, and he dropped back to sleep.  He was shivering less, and Paul could feel him warming. His heart-rate had increased as well, another good sign.  The tall man put Corbin on his side and scooted up against his backside to spoon him. Paul took a deep breath and put his arm around his front.  He pulled him in close, and he could feel that there were only a couple of degrees of difference in their body temps. He would be fine soon.

Till then, he would lay there.  He couldn't help but feel an intense protective instinct, and a need for Corbin to be okay.  There was an undeniable attraction to the blonde man as well. Paul knew it. It was muted for now as concern outweighed his desire.  But it was still there.

After a few minutes, Paul joined Corbin as he slid off to sleep, and the two men dreamed in front of the fireplace.


Corbin woke.  He was warm, comfortable, and he immediately noticed that he was not alone.  He raised up a bit and turned. Paul lay sleeping and Corbin stared at his face.  His mind raced as he tried to dredge his memory.

His eyes widened.  The stream. He fell in.  Last thing he remembered he was trying to free his legs.  And … the gun. He had fired the gun.

He swallowed as he looked at the man in the sleeping bag.  Paul had undoubtedly saved his life. He turned all the way, so he faced Paul and lay back down.  The tall man shifted and woke as he did. His eyes opened and he blinked.

"Hey."  He smiled.  "You okay?" His expression was open and relieved.

Corbin locked his gaze on Paul.  "I am now." He could feel himself respond to their proximity.  Paul's scent was intoxicating - that same mix of musk, pine, and sweat.  This close to him, it was impossible to miss.

Paul's expression grew into a grin.  "Good." He swallowed. "I was really worried."  Paul reached and put his warm hand on his neck. He felt Corbin's temperature and frowned in thought as he mentally ran through his assessment.

Their faces were only a few inches apart.  His willpower wavered … then it shattered.

Corbin leaned in and kissed a surprised Paul.  The tall man closed his eyes, and let it happen for a moment, then he inhaled and pulled away.  "Wait …" he breathed. He looked into Corbin's blue eyes. "Are you really there? I don't want to do this if you're not."

Corbin stared at him, his gaze predatory and wild.  "Your name is Paul, you saved my life, and you're frustratingly competent at everything."  He was there. He wasn't in control, but he was there. He rolled Paul onto his back and went back to kissing him.

As the fire crackled in the background Paul's hands roamed up and down Corbin's naked body.  His beard rubbed against his neck and face, and the smaller man gasped when Paul gripped his ass, then ground his hips into Corbin's groin from below him.

"Get these off."  He nearly growled the words, and he pulled at Paul's briefs.  The man quickly complied, and he felt Paul's thick, hard cock as he lay back on top of him.

Corbin didn't even own condoms or lube but he was also not thinking very clearly.  He needed this. He had to have him. He sat up on his knees and pulled on Paul's legs so his ass was in position against his groin.

"Whoa, buddy."  Paul grinned at him.  He sat up with Corbin and firmly pushed until he had put the smaller man on his back on top of the sleeping bag.  Then the tall man climbed on top of him, cock to cock. He hadn't even looked yet, but Corbin could tell Paul was quite a bit bigger than him.

Paul lay down, then slowly ground his hips into Corbin, and the blonde man groaned.  At this point it didn't matter how it happened, he just needed it to happen. His hands rubbed up and down Paul's body, and he could smell and feel precome as they moved against one another.  His mouth found Paul's and they kissed, both insistent and needful.

Paul pulled back and watched his face.  He found it a wonder of physical expression.  It shifted from an intense desire to the inevitable look of a man about to get off.  Corbin's blue eyes locked onto his own, and his mouth dropped. His body stiffened and he released with a grunt, then Paul joined him only a moment after.  Both of them groaned and writhed against one another. Paul pulled him back in and kissed him as they finished with a euphoric shudder.

Paul lay there on top of him, and both men breathed hard.  Eventually, he put his hands on the floor and pushed himself up so he could look at Corbin.

The smaller man gazed up at him.  His expression was not what Paul expected.  Corbin looked almost … sad? Disappointed? Paul frowned.  "I … are you okay?"

He sighed.  This had done damage … but maybe it would be okay.  "I'm fine. I just … I shouldn't have done this."

"This again?"  His voice betrayed his frustration.  Paul looked at him, frowned and set his jaw.  "You have a boyfriend. This … 'Liam.'"

Corbin stopped breathing and stared at Paul.  His face fell and the color drained from him. "Wh … where did you hear that name?"  His voice sounded hollow and his eyes were haunted.

Paul was taken aback.  "From you. You were delirious."

It seemed as if a llong-suffering dam had broken, and the blonde man sobbed.  "I … I'm sorry." He shook his head. "I can't …I can't do it." He pushed at the bigger man, and tried to get up.  Paul stood quickly, and Corbin scrambled to his feet. He looked at Paul, and tears streaked down his face. He looked as if he were terrified.

"What?  What's wrong?"  Paul was completely lost.

"What else did I say?"  His eyes glittered with raw terror.

Paul was torn between trying to comfort and shaking him.  He was acting so strange. "You … you asked about someone named Stefano."  He barely registered the semen from their ardor that stuck to his furry groin.

Corbin's eyes closed, and he swayed.  Paul thought he was going to fall, and moved to catch him.  But he caught his balance and steadied himself. Then he moved unsteadily and sat on the couch.  Corbin pulled his legs up with his knees bent, and put his arms around them. What had he done? He looked up at the handsome, naked man that stood in his living room.  And he was acutely aware … he might have just cost Paul his life. 'This guy saved me. He saved my fucking life.'

"Fuck."  He helplessly searched his mind for a way to make it right.  Paul watched him, then quietly sat down on the couch close beside Corbin.  The tall man didn't say anything, he simply waited. Corbin struggled hard to find the right path.

His eyes widened in epiphany.  'Harris. He'll know. Call Harris.'

His eyes locked onto Paul's.  "I need to make a call."

The tall man shook his head.  "Your phone bit it when you fell into the stream."

Corbin shook his head.  "No. It's fine." He got up, went to the wet pile of clothes, and pulled his cell phone from his pants pocket.  Paul watched as water poured out of the phone with a skeptical look on his face.

The blonde man shook it a few times.  Then he pulled the phone apart. A very slim, strange looking phone was inside.  It looked totally protected and dry. Paul realized the "phone" was actually a case.  It looked like a phone, and it acted like one. But it only transmitted key-presses through to the real thing underneath, and seemed to waterproof it as well.

Corbin put the case beside the fireplace to dry.  Then he held his right thumb against the screen of the alien little phone.  It unlocked with a chirp, and he immediately began to punch in a number.

"What … what the hell?"  Paul stood and tried to get a look at the strange phone he held.  As he did, even in his distressed state Corbin noticed that Paul was impressively hung - uncut, thick, and long.

'Perving on him, even now.  Nice Corbin.'

The call picked up almost immediately.  "Hold a moment." The male voice on the other end said.  Corbin heard him speak to someone, and a door closed. "Go ahead."  His voice was held in the low, calm tones Corbin had come to associate with safety and competence.

"Harris."  Corbin stared at Paul who looked back at him, totally bewildered.  "Harris, I fucked up."

Author's Note: Please let me know your thoughts about the chapter at the following email address link.   Wayne Gray

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