Title: Western Lovers: Cowboys and Biologists <19/33>
Beta the patient and talented charlieisagirl
Rating: NC-17 for the series, and for this chapter.
Summary: David is a hard, jaded warrior, Orlando is a biologist tracking Big Cats on the Double L.
Feedback: Feedback is my writers crack, which is not to be confused at all with plumbers crack.
Disclaimer: Not at all true in reality. These men whilst adorable and perfectly happy to slash themselves, their actual relationship is something that they only know. This story is adapted from a series of books that I adored when I was younger written by Elizabeth Lowell.
Word Count: 3615
Previous Story: Can be found here
Previous Ordaisy chapter: As suggested by mystery_ink can be found here
Previous Chapters: Chapter 1| Chapter 2 | Chapter 3| Chapter 4| Chapter 5| Chapter 6| Chapter 7| Chapter 8| Chapter 9| Chapter 10| Chapter 11| Chapter 12| Chapter 13| Chapter 14| Chapter 15| Chapter 16| Chapter 17| Chapter 18
Posted to: fellowshippers, monaboyd and ordaisy
Header Art: Courtesy of the incredibly talented loki_girl.
Author’s Notes: Special thanks to dylan_dufresne. Because you guys have put up with so much from me this week, I thought y'all might like a bonus chapter. And if I'm a little late in posting on Monday you might forgive me?
Lennox snuggled comfortably into his shoulder; one long-fingered hand stroked his son’s back gently as Dom walked into the guest room.
“Orli?” Dom called softly, as he touched the sleeping man.
“Whassup?” Orlando drawled, dragging one hand over his bleary eyes as he struggled to wake up. “Need help?”
“No.” Dom answered quickly, “Daisy’s back.”
Orlando sat up; even half asleep he recognized something was wrong. Dom should be happy that their lovers had returned. David and Billy had been gone for a week and thus far there had been no contact from either of them. Both he and Dom had realized that the brothers had been going somewhere dangerous and each day without contact was winding them both just that little bit tighter. But to have them suddenly arrive home without so much as a word in that week seemed strange. Orlando’s eyes, filled with concern, were fixed on Dom. “And?”
“He seems okay.”
“What did Billy say?” Orlando asked, tilting his head in question, oddly disturbed by Dom’s demeanor and watching him closely.
“Daisy came home alone.”
“Did…Did they….” Orlando couldn’t bring himself to say the words that he was thinking.
“Did they find Craig? Yes. Is Billy okay? Yes.” Dom replied, struggling to calm down, sighing as Lennox began to stir, Dom’s agitation disturbing the baby. “That’s about all that he has said. He won’t fucking talk to me.” Dom tried not to complain. At least he knew his Billy was unharmed, for now that would have to be enough. Even that limited information was more than he knew an hour ago.
Seeing the impatient anxiety Dom was struggling to hide, Orlando flipped back his bedclothes and slid off the bed. Standing beside his newest friend, Orlando let his hand trail over Lennox’s silky hair, then clasped Dom’s shoulder in a gesture of support. “I’ll talk to him. Where is he?” Orlando asked, the fingers of his other hand scratching through his sleep-tousled curls.
As Orlando moved to the neatly folded clothes that sat on the edge of the dresser, Dom resettled Lennox on his other shoulder then he spoke. “Don’t push him, Orli. He’s very…raw.”
“He’s your best friend, your brother-in-law; he of all people knows how much you need to know what’s happened.”
“It’s enough to know that Billy’s safe, the rest can wait,” Dom murmured calmed by Orlando’s gentle touch. “I’m worried about David, too.”
“Is he hurt?” Orlando’s eyes were suddenly wide and fixed on Dom as he spoke, his anger replaced by the fear that had haunted his every thought for the last week.
“Not physically.” Dom answered, watching as Orlando slipped a thick sweater over his head.
“Where is he?” Orlando asked quietly, as he bent to slip his feet into thick sheepskin moccasins. He hadn’t missed the subtle concern in Dom’s voice. “It’ll be okay Dom, he’ll talk to me.”
“He’s out on the porch.”
“Thanks.” Orlando smiled nervously as he walked towards the door.
“I was serious Orli,” Dom urged, as he followed him from the room. “Something’s happened; I don’t know what but he’s different. I’d tread very, very carefully.”
Moving quickly through the house, he stood for long minutes at the kitchen door, just watching his lover. Taking a deep breath, he stepped through the doorway and walked along the porch towards David. Shrugging deeper into his sweater, he shivered in the chill, pre-dawn air, and sat, wordlessly, on the porch swing beside David.
For long moments silence enshrouded them. David stared into the horizon, nothing in his bearing indicating the knowledge that he was no longer alone.
“He didn’t need to wake you.” David’s voice was flat and emotionless.
“He woke me because he’s worried about you, and he knows how much I miss you.” One hand stretched out to close over David’s as it gripped the edge of the seat.
“You shouldn’t.” David growled, pulling away from Orlando’s touch.
“Miss you?” Orlando probed gently, “How could I not? I love you.”
“Don’t. Orlando.” David’s voice was little more than a moan. “I don’t want you to fucking love me, alright?!”
“Fine.” Orlando soothed, placating him as he would the wild beasts he worked with. “Think about someone else for a minute. Don’t think about us, or me even.” He paused. “You know how much Dom loves Billy. Don’t you think he deserves to know what happened?”
“Not for me to tell,” David breathed. “He’s still in one piece; the rest is for him to tell Dom.”
“One piece?” Orlando frowned as he followed him along the long porch. “That’s a strange way to describe it.”
“What do you fucking want me to say?” David turned on his lover, his lips pressed into a thin angry line.
“Nothing.” Orlando soothed him gently, one hand reaching out to stroke David’s trembling arm. “But I think you should tell someone what is making you so angry.”
“I’m not fucking angry.” David spat, shrugging away from Orlando’s touch.
“Then what’s hurting you so badly that you can’t talk to anyone.” Orlando stepped closer, pressing one hand against David’s back.
“Please.” David pleaded with him as he shrugged away. “Stop. Touching. Me.”
“What happened to you over there?”
“Nothing.” David growled as he stalked along the verandah. Stopping suddenly, he leaned against the railing, his hands wrapping around in a white-knuckled grip.
Sudden realization dawned on Orlando, his heart breaking for his lover. “It’s not what happened to you, is it?” he asked softly, his mind filled with images of unspeakable atrocities he had been forced to commit. “What did you have to do over there?”
A miniscule shrug of David’s shoulders was his only response.
“David, he’s your brother.” Orlando whispered softly, as he stepped closer to David. “Nobody at all would blame you for anything you needed to do to bring him home.”
“Easy words for you to say.” David snarled harshly, moving farther out of Orlando’s reach.
“Because I mean it. They’re not just words, David.”
“Now you do. But when you find out that I helped my brother torture another human being will you still be so accepting? When you know that I killed men and didn’t feel a moment of remorse will you still think that you love me?” Eyes glassy with his shame, he searched Orlando’s face.
Orlando released his breath and let his eyes fall closed for the briefest of moments, before he looked into David’s eyes again. “Did it help you find Craig?”
David didn’t speak, just nodded, his icy eyes searching deeply into Orlando’s, before he looked away, turning towards the horizon again. “Go back to bed, Orli.”
“No. Look at me, David.”
David shook his head, his stance taut, his shoulders hunched tightly. The pain in his every movement tore at Orlando’s heart. No one deserved what he was inflicting on himself, but Orlando wasn’t sure how to make him see that. “Fuck off, Orli. Just. Leave. Me. Alone.”
Orlando put his hand on David’s shoulder, a silent entreaty for his lover to look at him. David spun, grabbing Orlando’s wrist and pushing him back against the unforgiving wall behind them. His shoulders hit the wood with a sharp crack, his head snapped back against the wood, the sudden pain sliding his eyes closed for an instant. One shaking hand squeezed Orlando’s wrist painfully, long hard fingers digging sharply into his skin, the other forearm pressed against his throat almost hard enough to constrict his breathing. Careful not to show any emotion, he looked up into David’s angry face.
“I asked you not to touch me. I don’t want you to touch me. I don’t want you to love me. I want you to leave me the fuck alone.”
“You think you’re going to scare me away?” Orlando asked calmly, his voice quiet. “You think that if maybe I think that you’re going to hurt me that I’ll just fade away and you won’t have to deal with emotion and feelings and all that shit that you’ve pushed away for so long?”
“You would if you had any sense at all.” David pressed his body against Orlando’s, his eyes skimming over the younger man’s face. “Loving me will hurt you. Hurt you. Badly. Don’t you fucking understand that?”
“Not a hope I would leave you. I’m here for the long haul. I love you whether you want me to or not. I know it frightens the hell out of you. But it’s true. I know that it’s absolutely terrifying for you that I might have made it in under that tough hide of yours, that you might let yourself love me, but none of that is important now. Stop letting whatever it is eat you up inside, you stubborn bastard. Tell me.”
“I. Can’t. Tell. You.” His grip on Orlando’s wrist released; he stepped back, looking at the ground.
“Why not? You can tell me anything, David; it won’t change anything between us.”
“For fuck’s sake, Orli, how can you say that?! You haven’t got the first clue what we did.” David slid down the wall, his legs almost giving out under him. Curling his legs up, his hands trembling as he looped them around his legs, he rested his head on his up drawn knees.
“Answer me one question, David: did you save your brother’s life?” Orlando sat beside him, their shoulders barely touching as they leaned back against the wall.
“I’m not even sure of that yet.” David hissed harshly, “But yes, he’s alive and we have him back.”
“Then whatever you did is worth it.”
“How can you say that?”
“Because you were protecting your family the only way you could or knew how. The people you love. Your family, they are the most important thing in the world. You should protect them whatever way you can, by whatever means you can. I would.”
“You would what?” David frowned, turning his head to search Orlando’s face.
“If it would save your life, I would take a life; to save your life I would take a dozen lives.” Orlando pressed one hand to David’s knee. “In a heartbeat. I’d worry about it later, but I wouldn’t regret it for a moment, not if it kept you with me.”
“You can’t mean that, Orlando. You haven’t known me long enough, you don’t know me, you have no fucking idea what I’m capable of.”
“On my own life, I’ve never meant anything more. I’ve lost one person I love, I won’t do it again. Do you want me to go and find someone for you to talk to?”
“Forgive me if I don’t believe you. So, you need to talk about it and you’re stuck with me…I’m a good listener.”
David took a deep breath, his chest heaving with the effort as he began to speak. “I don’t want you to hear the things we did, Orli. I don’t want to see you look at me differently. I don’t think I could stand seeing you look at me with disgust in your eyes.”
“That won’t happen, whatever it is that you’ve done. That’s not the real you, even if it is a part of the man that I love. And it’s all a very big part of why I love you.”
“Let me tell you about a very special man.” Orlando interrupted David as he began to argue. “You see, the man that I love is warm and kind, and caring and passionate.” Orlando kept talking, not even acknowledging David as he continued to interrupt. “He’s a man who protects his family with such noble savagery that he would deliberately sentence his soul to his own personal purgatory just to save them from the same hell.”
“You believe too much in fantasy, Fairytale Boy.” He leaned his head back against the wall, his eyes closed.
“In a way,” Orlando nodded thoughtfully, “I guess you’re right. I do. Except, my fantasy man stepped right out of the fairytale the day he stepped between me and a pack of wild men. The same way I know you did for your brother. The same way I know you wouldn’t blink an eye if you had to snap the neck of anyone who hurt your kin. The same way I know you saved a tiny malnourished orphan and claimed her as your own.” Orlando smiled as David’s head snapped up, his eyes narrowing as they searched Orlando’s face. “Did you think I wouldn’t find out what a good man you are?”
“Dom’s got a big mouth.”
“Dom loves you. You’re his best friend and you’re scaring the crap out of him.
“He can’t know.” David breathed, his head sinking back against the wall, his eyes squeezing shut again. “Unless Pip tells him, Dom can never know what we did.”
“You have to tell someone, David, before it eats you alive.”
David shook his head sharply. Leaning forward, he rested his head on his knees. Hand trembling, Orlando let it hover above David’s taut body before he pressed it against the shirt-covered flesh, stroking gently.
“I’ve killed men before. I couldn’t do what I do and not. But this was different. I’ve always felt remorse. Always. It’s always kill or be killed. I could make my peace with that. A reflexive thing almost.” David paused, his throat working convulsively as he struggled not to break down. “I held a man down while Billy tortured him relentlessly until he told us what we needed to know.” A shudder at his own revulsion rippled up David’s spine. “I can still hear his screams inside my head.”
“Did he tell you what you needed to know?”
“Then whatever you did…it was justified.”
“It was wrong, no matter what the outcome.” David sighed, “We should have found another way, and there must have been another way. Somehow, we should have found a way that didn’t make us one of them. Aside from getting Craig back, it didn’t matter in the end. We’re no better than they are.”
Orlando turned towards him and slid his hand across David’s chest, pressing his hand against his strongly beating heart. “In here, you know you’re wrong. You and Billy and those men that are like you are worlds apart from the men you fight against.”
“I think we’ve proved that wrong.”
Frustrated by David’s overwhelming guilt and his inability to see the good man that was within him, Orlando sat silently beside him, his hand remaining on David’s chest, absently stroking the muscular flesh under his fingers.
“Where did you find Craig?” Orlando breathed softly, trying to reach his lover from a different approach.
“He was in a couple of feet of muddy, fetid water in the bottom of a pit.” David closed his eyes, seeing the fragile shell of the vibrant young man they found. He struggled visibly with the images of his beautiful younger brother so badly beaten he was barely recognizable, even to his own kin.
“What had they done to him?”
“He was barely Craig when we found him. He didn’t know us.” Tears welled in David’s eyes as he spoke. “He was fighting to stay conscious, trying to hold his 2IC above the water. He thought we were them come back to hurt him some more.”
“You found someone with him?” Orlando asked, his hand still gently stroking David’s chest.
“His 2IC, Darren,” David murmured, tears starting to trickle down his cheeks. “We couldn’t save him, he was already gone.”
“Yeah,” David snorted derisively. “The only thing keeping my brother alive long enough for us to find him was his determination to keep his dead friend alive.”
“But you found him.” Orlando noted softly.
“I wonder if it wouldn’t have been better for him, for both of them, if we hadn’t.”
Orlando frowned, confused by David’s words. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, he moved closer to David. “Back up a bit? Both? Are you telling me you could have saved Darren?”
“No.” David uttered flatly. His mind transported him back to his brothers, the place he wanted to be most in the world, but the place that had been killing him with every minute he spent there. “Craig and Billy.”
“Wait, I thought you said Billy wasn’t hurt.”
“I said he was in one piece,” David clarified with a sigh. “I never said he was alright.”
“Dom will help him, he won’t be alone when he gets back, it’ll be okay.”
“You didn’t see him, Orli.” David tilted his head to look into Orlando’s face.
“Craig? I’m sure he’ll be fine, he won’t leave you two.”
“Not Craig, Billy. It was like I’d never seen him before. Nothing was going to come between him and finding Craig. Not even me.”
“That’s what love will do. He loves Craig. He did anything he felt he had to.”
“He beat the crap out of him.” David shuddered as he recounted his memories. “I had been securing the perimeter with the rest of the team, he wouldn’t wait for back up. When I got to him, they were trading blows. Rasoul was his name, he was taunting Pip. Telling him how he had tortured Craig, how he’d beaten him with a baseball bat, how he’d stubbed out cigarettes in his skin, how he’d started amusing himself by pulling out Craig’s fingernails and systematically breaking his fingers. Telling him how Craig screamed as he cut his fingers off.” David drew in a deep, shuddering breath before he continued. “Pip lost it. If I hadn’t pulled him off Rasoul, he would have killed him. I’ve never seen him so furious.”
“What did you do?” Orlando asked quietly, loathe to interrupt David but needing him to continue.
“Told you, I pulled Billy off of him. I couldn’t let him do that. We hadn’t found Craig and Rasoul was the only living person in the camp that would be able to tell us.”
“He wouldn’t tell you, would he?”
“Not even when Billy made me hold him down so we could do the same things to him that he did to Craig. We did it without question, without thinking, without reasoning. We tortured another human being to get what we needed. Every single thing he had taunted Billy with, became his punishment. Billy was…” David swallowed convulsively, struggling with his memories as his eyes fell closed. “Billy was cold. Nothing was going to stop him finding Craig. I thought I knew all of Billy. He frightened even me.” A bubble of ironic laughter burst from David’s cold lips. “Rasoul didn’t mind losing his fingers, but when Billy lit a cigarette, he was spilling his guts. Telling us anything we wanted to know.”
Orlando struggled to hide the shudder that rippled up his spine at the horrors that they had been forced to endure to save their beloved brother. “That’s when you found him?”
David nodded. “Rasoul was quite helpful while he led us to the pits that held their prisoners. Craig and Darren weren’t the only ones, the only western military, but there was six other men there.”
“What did you do with Rasoul?”
He swallowed, his mouth and throat dry. “Nobody has to worry about him anymore.”
Understanding the quiet finality of David’s answer, he nodded slowly. “You?”
“Billy.” David whispered, remembering the fury in his brother’s face when they had found the pits and his reaction.
“You said Craig didn’t remember you?”
“Billy dropped into the pit. Craig was in bad shape, his hands were mangled and swollen, his face was a bloody pulp. Thank God they many of the things Rasoul threatened weren’t true. Craig was so broken, but he was standing trying to hold Darren up and out of the water. When Billy touched him, Craig went crazy, screaming and begging for the pain to stop, begging him to leave them alone. Billy had to fight him to get them secured and out of the pit.”
“He knows you now?”
“Yeah.” David paused. “But I’ll never forget the look on Billy’s face. It broke him to think that Craig didn’t remember him. He’s been like a father to both of us. Sometimes I think we were the only thing that held Billy together. His heart broke in that pit.”
Orlando leaned back against the wall, sliding his arm around David’s shoulder, relaxing only when David slumped--exhausted--against him, wondering if Craig’s physical wounds would heal faster than the emotional torment the three brothers would endure.