Alan and Colby have had an on-again, off-again love affair thanks to the rodeo. Alan hasn’t been able to give it up. When a dear friend of both men has a bad break, literally, during a freak accident, the whole situation makes Alan rethink being on the road, and away from his lover Colby.
Story also appears in the RODE HARD ANTHOLOGY.
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"What do you mean broke?" The urge to pull the phone away from his ear and stare at it was strong. Huge, because Colby couldn't stare at Little Mike in person. "Like Shiloh Walker cracked that vertebra last year?"
"Like he cain't breathe on his own no more, Colb. Like he ain't never gonna be whole." Little Mike sounded lower than a worm. "Alan's been wantin' to come on home to you, so I told him to load up all the horses and head out. He had a two hour drive to fetch them back 'fore he could get started."
Jesus. The words hit him, each one a blow to the chest. "What do you need, Mikey? You know I'll help any way I can."
"There's no help now. He's got pneumonia. He can't breathe on his own and he's done give up. You know James -- he don't want to live like this."
"I know. I-- Christ, I'm sorry, Mikey. You let me know what you need with the stuff." He meant bills or funeral arrangements or anything. Mike knew that, too. He'd come to the service, but if Mike needed him before that...
"You got it. Tell Alan to give Elvis some oats for me."
"I will." He went ahead and hung up, knowing Mike didn't need his worry or sorrow. The man had enough of his own. James was the best of all of them, and this broken neck and severed spinal cord was no way for a cowboy to go.
He tried to call Alan again and got nothing. Someone let his minutes run out again, he'd bet. Damn it, where was the damned fool? Even with going back for the horses, Alan should have been here by now. He hoped Alan knew he was still welcome, even though Colby had gotten tired of being second to the rodeo, had maybe had a little snit and not answered the phone for a bit.
This was still Alan's home, right?
God, he hoped so. Hell, he didn't know anything right now, his head reeling from what Mike had told him. He gritted his teeth. He'd need to get some stalls ready for the horses.
He assumed there were three horses coming -- Little Mike's Elvis, Alan's Joanie, and whatever little mare James had been able to afford. Alan pulled a three horse trailer and no one had called for money to rent a bigger one. Hell, Alan's truck didn't have a gooseneck hitch anyway...
Colby pushed his phone into his pocket and headed down to the barn. He'd need to feed and water, check shoes and hooves, and make sure they all got a vet check-up this week.
Dust started billowing near the gate, the big metal thing sliding open. Huge black Ford shining. Alan.
Relief made Colby's knees weak for a moment. He grabbed the top rail of the corral fence, just standing there, watching Alan drive back into his life.
Those blue-sky eyes stared at him, the shock of blond hair sticking out from under the cap and scarred jaw familiar as breathing. When Alan pulled into the turnaround next to the barn and killed the engine, Colby walked over to the driver's side door, needing to see Alan up close. To touch.
"Tell me it's cool to come home, man. I cain't drive no more, and I need you like breathing."