Animal Instincts
    By Rusty

Gavin rubbed the back of his neck, trying to work the tension out.  He and Jeff were sitting in his office, feet propped up on his desk, debating over who would be the main contact for each of their clients.  Business had been so slow the last few months. 'Nothing to worry about. A natural slump'. Or at least that was what everyone kept telling him. Things were starting to pick up now, but Gavin couldn't shake the doubts and worry that had chipped away at his self confidence during that slump.  He was convinced that if he relaxed his guard, slowed down even for one second,  things would start going downhill again. 

He didn’t mention those doubts to Jeff.  Together he and Jeff shared goals for their business, made plans,  discussed problems and together they tried to figure out solutions. But Gavin didn’t share his doubts...... with anyone but Jack. 

Of course, Jack Ryan was just as convinced that slowing down and relaxing his guard was just what Gavin needed to do.  And he was being a PILL about it too!

“I’ll handle the problems with Zeller’s.” Gavin rubbed his eyes. “It’s a small account, but we need to keep our base of small businesses happy.  They'll keep us going in the crunches.”

Jeff looked up at the ceiling and sighed.  Why didn’t that surprise him?   “I could handle that one Gavin.”

Gavin ignored that. “And I have a meeting with Network Industries tomorrow. He seems to be pleased so far.  I’ll need your help on some research, it’s a big account.  But I’ll be his contact on it.”

“He seems to like working with you better anyway.”  Jeff looked down at his planner.  “I could take the furniture account, Gav.”

“I can handle it.”

“I know you can handle it. But this *is*a partnership,” Jeff sighed, shaking his head.  He sat up, leaned his elbows on Gavin’s desk   “50/50, remember?  You don’t have to do it all.”

Gavin grinned, tilting his head to the side.  “You weren’t saying that a few months back, when I was...sidetracked on writing my....autobiography.”

“Yeah, when are you going to let me read that?”  Jeff teased - he missed the friendly banter, the easy working relationship that, until a few months ago, he and Gavin had always shared..  “Gavin, you’ve always done more than your share around here.  I just thought the autobiography thing was funny.”

A blush stained Gavin’s face as he looked over at the chair in the corner.  Jeff would think it down right hysterical if he had any idea what Jack had Done to him in that chair - when *he* had found out about that.....autobiography.  Jack hadn’t thought it was funny.   And Gavin STILL didn’t find ANY humor in it what so ever. 

Jeff didn’t notice the blush, he went right on talking. “It just wasn’t like you to be so unfocused around here. Lately you’ve been almost too focused.  We had a natural slump. Things seem to be picking up and ...if we work together, we won’t have to kill ourselves over it. You’re not worried about it, are you?”

“I know things are picking up.”  Gavin shrugged his shoulders, they felt tense.  “I’m  not worried.”

Jeff looked at his partner and friend, searching his face.  Gavin’s face could be so easy to read, and yet at the same time Jeff felt as though it was like reading a different language.  He was getting the feeling that Gavin didn’t trust him to do his share around here.  Gavin was holding every major account they had hostage and Jeff couldn’t think of any other reason for it. 

“Then slow down, why don’t you?”  Jeff pushed those thoughts aside, before the hurt could turn into anger.  He gathered his papers and pushed his chair back. “You’re making me feel guilty about not keeping up with you.”

“There’s nothing to feel guilty about.” 

“Helloooo!” Jeff stood up and stretched. “Then why am I here at 6:30?”

“I didn’t tell you.....6:30?”  Gavin looked at his watch. “Shit! It’s 6:30!” 

Jeff headed for the door.  “Be sure to put a dollar in the cuss jar before you leave.”
............................

“Why do I have to go to bed now?  It’s only 8:30.” Gavin complained, his bottom was throbbing and he was miserable.  “You already spanked me. It’s not fair!”

Jack stood in the doorway of the bathroom and pointed at the vanity.  “Clean up that mess and get into bed. Right now, Gavin. I’m not arguing with you anymore tonight.”

Gavin grabbed his junk off the vanity, shoved it in the drawer and slammed it shut.  “There! Happy now!”

Jack showed Gavin just how NOT happy he was by taking him by the arm and swatting him through the door and into their bedroom. By the time they reached the bed, Gavin’s backside, still throbbing from the spanking he’d received after walking in the door late, was reignited into flames. 

“Okay, okay!  I’m going to bed.”  Gavin yelped.  He covered his bottom and waited for Jack to pull the comforter back. And kept it covered until he could scramble into bed, flop down on his side and pull the comforter over him,

“You already spanked me. Why I should I have to go to bed too?”  Gavin complained again, now that his backside was safely hidden under the comforter.

Jack swatted it anyway.  “I don’t really think you need an answer, because you already know it.  But, just to hear myself talk, I’ll tell you.  You were spanked for walking in here at 7:00 after you were told to be home by 6:00.”

“I know *that*.  But I shouldn’t have to go to bed too, Jack.  That isn’t fair.”

“You’re going to bed because of the glass-breaking temper tantrum you threw, after I told you that you were eating dinner at the table, instead of Taco Bell at your computer.”

Gavin cringed at that reminder and decided he should be thankful he wasn’t spanked three times, instead of just twice.  Maybe going to bed at 8:30 wasn’t so bad after all.

He could be slow sometimes, but he was NOT stupid! 

Jack sat down on the edge of the bed. “You wouldn’t have thrown a tantrum like that unless you *were* tired.  You should be thankful you weren’t spanked twice.”

“You did spank me twice! Just now!”

“That wasn’t a spanking and you know it.”  Jack rubbed Gavin’s shoulders.  “I swatted you.”

“Jack, I don’t think you know the difference between a swat and a spanking,”  Gavin sniffled.  “Swatting someone more than once *is* a spanking.”

Jack cocked his head and raised a brow.  “Gavin, would you like for me to show you the difference?”

“No.” 

“I didn’t think so.”  Jack took a tissue from the nightstand and wiped Gavin’s face. Usually after a spanking Gavin just wanted to sleep or cuddle. He just wasn’t willing to give up tonight; which just proved to Jack how tired he was.  “You’re so tired. You need sleep.”

"I’m not tired.”  Gavin looked up at Jack with drooping, red eyes.  “I’m a failure.”

“Gavin, you are not a failure.  Turn over and I’ll tickle your back a while.”  Jack helped him turn over and he started drawing circles on Gavin’s back.  “Your business grew fast in the beginning and it’s only natural to have slumps. Things are picking up.  Just take your time, plod along at an even pace and don’t get yourself so tangled up.”

“It’s making me crazy.”  Gavin muttered in his pillow.  “I can’t seem to move fast enough.”

“You’ve been moving too fast lately. You need to talk to Jeff, see if you can divide things up a little more evenly.”  Jack combed his fingers through Gavin’s hair with one hand, while the other continued tickling his back.  “You haven’t been sleeping well and living on junk food.” 

“I like Taco Bell.”  Gavin’s shoulders relaxed. He loved having his back tickled.

“You want to eat at your computer instead of at the table with me. You need to slow down. If you can’t slow down on your own, I’ll make sure that you do.” 

“Why does knowing *that* always scare me?”  Gavin complained, and at the same time.... wondered why knowing *that* always made him feel good, too. He must have a split personality or something.  He needed to see a professional, for crying out loud!

“You are not working on Saturday. We’re going to hang out here and do nothing. And I want you home by 6:00 the until further notice. No extensions, no excuses.” 

Gavin lifted his head up and sent Jack a drooping-eyed glare.  “You are SO bossy.”

“It’s part of my charm.” Jack gave him a wink.

“Right.” Gavin sighed.  “Will you still love me if my business goes under?”

“Would you like another spanking?” Jack growled a little. He knew Gavin was just talking without thought. When felt out of control Gavin tended to doubt himself, but he'd stopped doubting Jack around... year one.  But every once in a while Jack could hear just a trace of those old doubts, and it could piss him off faster than anything.

“No!”  Gavin thought that was one of THE dumbest questions a person could ask. It was right up there with 'would you care to try a little arsenic in your tea?' He sighed, Jack’s fingers were magic. But he wasn’t quite ready to give in yet. He lifted his head again and grinned. It was a tired looking grin. “You know, you could come in here with me?”

Jack was tempted by that grin, even a tired one, he always was. He kept his eyes on the shadows under Gavin’s eyes and far away from that grin.  “I think you need to rest.  I won’t be late coming to bed and I’ll make sure that you’re in your favorite spot, perched on my chest so I can’t breathe, before I fall asleep.”

“S’kay.”  Gavin’s voice sounded sleepy.  “Even if you don’t make sure, I’ll find my way there.  I always do.”

“I know.” Jack smiled, he couldn’t sleep unless Gavin was there.  They both knew that it was much easier to sleep when Jack couldn’t breathe.

He waited until Gavin’s own breathing slowed, before pushing himself off the bed and headed down the stairs.
......................................................................
“You look a little better this morning.”  Jack smiled at Gavin as he entered the kitchen.  “I fixed you oatmeal.  Sit down and I’ll pour you some juice.”

“Thanks.” Gavin sat down on the bar stool and smiled as he watched Jack pour the juice. 

He felt bad about the way he’d acted the night before, he’d been a total jerk!  But here Jack was bright and early the next morning, treating him like a prince, making sure he had a good breakfast, probably worried that he wouldn’t eat anything else the rest of the day.

Looking down at his watch, Gavin set the alarm for noon.  He figured the alarm would go off about the same time as the phone on his desk would ring. It would be Jack wanting to know what he was going to do for lunch. He wanted to see how close he guessed the time of that call. 

Jack was SO predictable.

Jack passed Gavin his orange juice, watching as he set his alarm. He nodded his head at the watch. “Meeting?”

“Yeah, I have few of those today.”  Gavin grinned.  “But I’m expecting a special phone call and I don’t want to miss it.”

Jack sat down on his stool and took a bite of his oatmeal. “Eat up, before it gets cold. It’s just the way we like it.”

“I’m sorry about the way I acted last night.”  Gavin shook his head.  “I knew I was being a jerk, but I couldn’t seem to stop myself.”

“We took care of that. I know you’ve been stressed, Gav.” Jack gave him a wry smile. “I should’ve picked up on that a little sooner.”

“Yeah, it’s all *your* fault.” Gavin laughed, rolling his eyes.  “And you spanked me anyway.  You should feel really guilty about that.”

Jack smiled, cocking his brow. “I didn’t say I felt guilty about spanking you.”

“Didn’t figure you did.”  Gavin didn’t figure Jack had a reason to feel guilty either.  He was the one who had been a jerk. “I just feel like I’m swimming in mud right now.  Now that things are picking up, I feel like I need to keep moving so I don’t lose my rhythm.”

“Gavin, your business grew fast in the first year. It’s only natural that things taper off.” Jack put down his spoon and leaned his elbows on the counter.  “You’re going to have ups and downs in business. You know that in your head; you do this for a living.”

“Yeah, and I suck at it, so why would anyone want me to do it for them.” 

Jack gave him a look. “You’re letting natural business slumps affect your self-confidence.  It’s always good to plan for the future, but you can’t get so tangled up over it that it prevents you from seeing the present.  And you need to trust Jeff and let go of a few things.  Your business is a partnership, Gav.”

“I know you’re right. In my head.” Gavin said, knowing that Jack was right. But that devil on his shoulder kept whispering in his ear -  doing it all was the only way he could be sure nothing important fell through the cracks. “Sometimes I have a hard time letting go and I can’t seem to slow down long enough to *let* anything go.

“Don’t worry, Gav.”  Jack smiled.  “I’ll slow you down.  That’s my job, remember?”

“Yeah.”  Gavin wrinkled his nose.  “And if I forget, I’m sure you’ll remind me.”

Jack nodded his head.  “Yes. And I’m reminding you now.  Be home by 6:00.”

“Bossy!”

*******
“I’m happy with your work, Gavin.”  David Williams closed the folder and pushed it across the conference table.  “I was a little nervous at first, I’ll admit it. I know what starting a new company is like. In the beginning it can be rocky and I wasn’t sure if you’d be able to handle it.”

“Jeff and I’ve worked on big projects before.”  Gavin smiled, picking up the folder and stacking it on top of the rest of the files for Network Industries.  It was a big job, and he was nervous about it, but he wasn’t going to admit that to this guy.

“And you’re good at it.”  David praised.  “And I know it’s hard work.  I swear I spend more time at the office than I do at home.  That goes with the terriorty of owning your own business.”

“Yeah, long hours.”  Gavin stood up and went for the coffeepot on the buffet.  Owning your own business *did* require long hours.  Unless you lived with a walking, talking time clock! 

“Did you want some coffee?”

“Yes, please.  Black.”  David eyed Gavin from behind.  He liked working with Gavin, talking to him. Hell, he liked looking at Gavin. 

Gavin poured the coffee, handed David his, and sat back down, leaning his elbows on the table.  “Coffee is another thing that gets you through the day.”

David nodded his head. “Yes, that and fast food. I think I live on that.”

Gavin smiled, eyes sparkling as he thought of Jack, the walking, talking, time clock, who thought fast food was a prescription for death. He wondered what Jack was fixing for dinner tonight.  “Taco Bell.”

“My favorite.”  David smiled, noticing the sparkle in Gavin’s eyes, the way they lit up his face. It was time set the bait.  “I do like a nice meal in a nice restaurant on occasion.’

“Yeah, me too.”  Gavin thought about that, wondering if David would consider wings at Mulligan’s a 'nice' meal. That was his and Jack’s favorite place to eat. Well, next to Sunday’s at the Ryans’ or ....just eating at home alone with Jack. His eyes softened as he remembered the breakfast Jack had fixed for him this morning.   

David again noticed the look in Gavin’s eyes and decided it was time to toss the line. “We could make plans dinner one evening.....talk a little business.  If you’re interested.”

“I’d be interested in doing that.”  Gavin was really interested.  Network Industries was a big company and he wanted to please them. He figured he could learn a lot from David too. He had turned one successful business into several.  Besides, he liked working with David, enjoyed just talking to the guy.

David leaned back in his chair, watching Gavin’s eyes change from sparkling to almost dreamy, then to avid interest. Gavin’s face was so expressive. You could read a lot from body language, eye contact.  He was getting signals, it wasn’t his imagination. 

“Are you free tonight? I know it’s a little late to be asking, but.....” David asked, pushing a little further.

“Tonight?”  Gavin chewed on his lip, thinking of Jack and wondering what his reaction would be if he called saying he had a business dinner.

No excuses. No extensions. Period. He didn’t think it would go over well. 

At ALL!

“I’d really like to, it’s just.....my partner ....may have already made plans.  I’d have to check with him.”

“Your partner?”  David asked, casually. He was used to getting what he wanted.  But he didn’t mind working for it, he liked a challenge. Knowing Gavin had a partner almost made things more interesting.

Gavin shrugged his shoulders, holding his coffee mug between his hands.  “Well, yeah.  I don’t normally talk about my personal life to clients, but it’s not a secret that I’m.....”

“You’re gay?”  David asked, raising an eyebrow. “I wasn’t sure at first, Gavin.  It’s not something that one automatically thinks about when first meeting you.  But I have picked up on that.”

Gavin smiled, relieved at the acceptance he saw in David’s eyes. “Like I said, it’s not a secret. I just figure it’s not something you need to bring up in a business meeting.”

“Believe me, Gavin, I agree with you.”  David propped his elbows on the table and rested his chin on his hand.  “I’ve been in a few meetings where that knowledge has made a few people feel uncomfortable.”

Gavin’s eyes widened in surprise.  “You too?”

“Me too.”  David smiled at Gavin’s expression.  “I could have sworn you were getting those same vibes.”

Gavin laughed. “No.  It never crossed my mind, to tell you the truth.  But it is nice to know.”

David stood up and grabbed his jacket off the back of the chair.  “Let me know when you’re available for dinner.  I’d love to discuss business with you, I have several associates that might be interested in using your firm. And..... I enjoy your company.”

Gavin smiled, pleased that things were going so well.  “I’d love to have dinner with you, we’ll set something up.  You know my partner, Jack, would enjoy meeting you too. Maybe you’d like to join us for dinner one evening.”

David thought that was a great idea.  He’d like to get a look at this Jack, see the dynamics between the pair.  Check out the competition.  He did enjoy a good challenge.  “I’ll be in the area tomorrow. I’ll drop off that information you wanted. If you’re free, maybe you’d join me for lunch?”

“Lunch would be great.”  Gavin followed David out the door into down the hallway.   “It’s a date.

After chatting a few more minutes the two men shook hands and David left the office.  Gavin was so excited.  He couldn’t wait to tell Jack about this guy.  Maybe things were really starting to look up.

**********

“If you’d like for me to meet David, we could make plans for next Tuesday evening if he’s clear.”  Jack ran his fingers softly across Gavin’s back, feeling the  muscles relax.  “I’m excited for you, Gav.”

“Yeah, we had another meeting today that looks promising too.”  Gavin could feel his body relaxing; tickling felt so good. He knew that Jack was right, things were going to be okay. But he really felt that he needed to put in more hours in order to cinch it and that Jack just didn’t understand how important that was.  Owning your own business required that.  David understood it. 

“If I could put a few hours in on Saturday......?”

“No.  We already discussed that.”  Jack laid back on his pillow, pulling Gavin on his chest and continued tickling his back.  “Talk to Jeff, unload some of your accounts. You need to trust him to do his part. You’ve worked three weekends in a row and late every night for the past three weeks. You need some down time.”

“*We* didn’t discuss it.”  Gavin sighed. “*You* just decided.”

“Yeah, that’s my job.”  Jack kissed Gavin’s head. 

“Bossy!”

********

David stopped by the office the next day as planned.  They talked over lunch, mostly about business, but they talked of other things, personal things, too.  Gavin enjoyed talking to him and he admired his business sense. He loved asking questions, and no matter what Jack thought, it wasn’t because he was nosey or anything!  David hadn’t seemed to mind anwering his questions at all, and he acted a though he were just as nosey...er...as interested in the things Gavin had to say too.

So interested, that he dropped by the office again on Friday and treated Gavin to lunch again.  He had set up appointments with several of his business associates and a few of them seemed really interested in doing business with Mc2. Gavin thought David was amazing!

On Tuesday Jack and Gavin met David at Aaron’s.  It was one of those fancy, French places that Gavin hated, but he didn’t complain.  David had NO idea how hard THAT was.  He LIKED complaining. He would’ve much preferred Mulligan’s.  But the company was good and he was enjoying himself. 

Jack looked across the table at David, trying to size the guy up.  He wasn’t normally a jealous man and Gavin wasn’t one to flirt; it wasn’t a game they played or even understood.  But as he watched the two men talk, Jack was getting signals from David that made him feel like he was watching a fox in the hen house.  *His* hen house!  He smiled inwardly at the thought of how Gavin would squawk at that analogy.

Gavin chuckled at something David said before taking a drink of his wine.  “I’ve been telling Jack that working long hours goes with owning your own business.  He just doesn’t seem to understand that.”

“*I* understand it.”  David’s eyes met Jack’s, sending him a silent challenge. “Working long hours goes with the territory. Sometimes that can create real problems in a relationship. I’ve seen many marriages break up because one partner *didn’t* understand it.”

Jack didn’t change his expression as he caught the silent challenge in David’s eyes - but the message he sent back with own his eyes was easy to read. 

It said...He's *
MINE*....loud and clear!

Jack smiled, a confident smile. “I understand it.  I work long hours myself at times.  But working at the 'marriage' is even more important in the long run, don’t you think?”

“I’ve never been married, but I’m sure it requires work.  However, a new business requires a lot of time. Having someone understand that and support you would be important too, don’t you think?”  David read the message in Jack’s eyes, admired the confidence in them.  He sent a message back.  It said 'We’ll see'. 

“Oh, Jack’s always been supportive of my business.” Gavin defended Jack, even though he was completely oblivious to the tension between the two men, didn’t hear the threat behind the question. He just figured that David had never had anyone in his life that cared enough about him to worry over him.  That made Gavin feel kind of sad.  Maybe he and Jack could fix him up with one of their friends?

They continued talking, but the tension between Jack and David grew as the evening went on. Unspoken words were sent back and forth between the two men - via eye contact - unseen and unnoticed by Gavin. Jack was sure that if he stuck Gavin under a black light, the word *
MINE* would be stamped over every inch of his body.

Jack wondered where he could buy a stamp like that?

Jack was quiet on the ride home.  His body felt tense, like his skin was too tight. He figured this was what combat soldiers felt like. And even though he knew there wasn’t any question as to who had won the battle or who would win the war in the end, he still felt *Primal* in his need to mark his territory.

Gavin chatted on the ride home, talking about David, how interesting he was, how much fun he’d had..  He did notice the conversation was a bit one-sided and that Jack was being unusually quiet.  He could feel Jack’s eyes on him - they felt hot....steamy.  He pushed the button to the garage door opener, pulled his car in beside the SUV and followed Jack in the house.  Martha greeted them at the door and Jack let her outside.

“You didn’t say a word all the way home.” Gavin threw his keys on the counter, wishing Martha would hurry up so they could go to bed.

Martha was being such grump about them messing around on the couch and Gavin didn’t figure she’d be outside long enough for him to take advantage of Jack the way he wanted to. Gavin could always tell when Jack was horny. Well, Jack was ALWAYS horny, but he looked extremely horny tonight, like he was getting ready to pounce.

“Sit here a minute, Gav.”  Jack pointed at the stool.  He took a deep, calming breath, his eyes were smoky as he watched Gavin plop down on the barstool, still completely unaware that there was a predator in their midst. 

“What?”  Gavin asked, sitting on the barstool, a little surprised that Jack wanted to talk instead of going to bed.  Maybe he wasn’t horny?  Maybe he was mad about something?  He looked up at Jack again. 

Nope!  That was Jack’s REALLY Horny Look!

Jack didn’t answer for a few minutes. He just stood there, searching Gavin’s face, wondering how to explain his feelings without sounding like a jealous ass.  He WAS jealous, he’d admit that.  But he wasn’t an ass and he was positive that David was playing some kind of game.

Jack knew that he needed to tell Gavin how he felt. Sharing your feelings with the person you shared your life with was something that Jack felt was important.  Holding things back could cause miscommunications, resentments and hurt feelings.  And  in Gavin’s case.......boatloads of trouble!

Jack also knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Gavin would never be unfaithful.  Gavin was, well......he was 'Gavin'. A romantic soul, he loved hard and completely, with a wide-eyed innocence when it came to things of the heart. It was one of the many things that Jack loved about him. 

But sometimes outside forces could damage even the strongest relationship; things could happen, DID happen, so easily, to good people with the very best intentions.  Gavin needed to be aware that there was a predator lurking about.  As long as they were working together, protecting what was theirs, there wasn’t a chance in hell that anything or *anyone* could come between them. 

“What?”  Gavin asked again; his skin was burning from the look in Jack’s eyes.

Jack took another took a deep breath, trying to control the fire that was burning within him.  He didn’t want Gavin thinking that he had done something wrong, that he was in any way to blame at all.  

“I know that David is happy with your work. That’s a given, Gav.  But I also think he’s ...interested in other things too.”

And he's *
MINE*!  Jack stamped Gavin again with a look.

Gavin shook his head; he was SO confused! WHY were they were talking about David at a time like this?   

“I’m....sure he’s interested in a lot of things, Jack?   He’s ....an interesting man?”

Interesting?! Jack growled, he couldn’t help it. He had been in a pissing contest all evening, so his animal instincts were screaming and he wanted nothing more than to reclaim his territory, making sure the only piss on Gavin was - *
HIS*.

“Gavin, what I’m trying to say is that I think he’s interested in.... you.” 

“WHAT?”  Gavin laughed out loud, *he* couldn’t help it.

When he realized that Jack was perfectly serious, Gavin suddenly stopped laughing.  He slowly searched Jack’s face, finally understanding where that fire was coming from.  Jack’s nostrils did this flaring thing.  And it was NOT the same 'nostril flare thing' he did when he was angry with Gavin. But sort of like what an animal does when he’s getting ready to ......mark his territory? 

Uhmmm, this could be..... interesting.

“Jack, you’re jealous!”  Gavin grinned, his eyes narrowed, but there was that sparkle in them.  “I can’t *believe*  it!”

“What can’t you believe?  That this guy is interested in you?”  Jack moved to the counter, leaning his hip against it, arms still crossed. “Or that I don’t appreciate having some ........”

“......predator pissing on your territory?”  Gavin finished Jack’s thought, as he stood up and leaned against the counter, crossing his own arms.  “Jack, I think you are SO wrong, but even if it were true, you can’t believe that I would EVER.....”

“No, I know you’d never....” Jack shook his head.  “Gav, I trust *you*.  But ....I don’t trust *him*.”

Gavin walked over to Jack and wrapped his arms around his neck.  He could feel the muscles underneath Jack’s shirt, tight, tense, like he was getting ready to pounce.

“You only have to worry about me.”  Gavin grinned up at Jack.  “So...why don’t you ....mark your territory?”

Gavin heard Jack growl again, before his mouth crushed down on his own. 

Yep, this was going to be REALLY interesting!

.....fade to black.......
.............................................
Jack sat on his barstool at the counter, ignoring his breakfast, watching Gavin’s movements, searching his face - looking for any signs that showed he was in pain or hurt in any way.  He should have his own ass kicked for getting so out of control last night.  Sometimes holding on to that one last thread of control was hard, but he’d always managed to do it before.

“Will you STOP! I TOLD you that you didn’t hurt me!”  Gavin rolled his eyes, shaking his head.  “To tell you the truth, I’m ALL for doing it again.”

“Are you sure?”  Jack asked, for the tenth time.

“Yeah.  I’m ready...right now, if you’re up to it.” Gavin grinned.  He decided that ‘kitchen floor sex’ was his new favorite thing to do, wondered WHY they hadn’t tried it before.  “Jack, I’m fine.  GOD, you’re acting like an old woman.  It was great. Didn’t you think so?”

“Yeah, it *was* great.” Jack smiled, shaking his head. He WAS acting like an old woman. “I’m just glad Martha was outside.  We’d have to take her to counseling if she’d seen that.”

Gavin laughed, taking the last bite of eggs.  He picked up his dishes and carried them to the sink.  “Jack, you do know that you don’t have to worry about David, don’t you?”

Jack pushed his plate back and turned around on his barstool.   “I know I don’t have to worry about *you*.  David is another story.”

Gavin rolled his eyes. “Jack, you’re starting to sound just like me!  That is SO scary!   Remember when Brian was here at Christmas?  I got in all sorts of trouble for being jealous.”

“Gavin, you didn’t get into trouble for being jealous.” Jack remembered it a little differently. He might have FELT like decking David, but he hadn’t.  As far as he was concerned, he deserved a medal for that restraint.  “You were spanked for acting like a brat.”

“Well, that’s true.  But I didn’t have any reason to be jealous.  Brian wasn’t interested in you. It was all in *my* head. Maybe this 'David Thing' is just in *your* head?”

“I don’t think so.  But I do know that no one is *ever* going to come between us.”  Jack would make sure of that.  He hoped that after last night, he’d driven that point home... so far and so deep... that David would be able to SMELL it, every time he was anywhere near Gavin!

“In order for him to come between us, I’d have to be interested in *him*.”  Gavin motioned for Jack to pass him his plate. He rinsed it and stuck it in the dishwasher.

“I know that, Gav.  I trust you and I’m not blaming you in any way.”  Jack stood up, pushing the barstool under the counter.  “I just want you to be aware that David might have a different agenda than you do, that's all.”

“I still think you’re crazy.”  Gavin closed the dishwasher door and leaned against the counter, giving Jack a teasing look.   “And I know that you don’t believe that I’d ever be interested in him, but ......what would happen if I did fall for his *Evil*  plan?  Who’d make sure I ate right and came home on time, huh? Who’d boss me around and make sure I didn’t get in over my head?”

“ME!”  Jack growled, turning around and pinning Gavin with a look.  That look said *
MINE* loud and clear.  “But first I’d order the stiffest cane I could find.  And then you’d never be out of my sight again for one second.”

Gavin saw fire in Jack's eyes again, felt the heat from that look. Almost...dangerous.  But that heat didn’t scare him. He liked being Jack’s 'territory'. 

It was just too damned bad they had to go to work.  They could have ‘kitchen floor sex’ again.   

Well....they COULD be late for work, couldn’t they?  Jack had been after him for weeks to slow down.

“ I don’t think I’d like that. Well, at least not the cane part.”  Gavin grinned, knowing that was something that usually did Jack in. “But I have to admit that I do kind of like what being jealous....does to you.”

Jack growled again, his nostrils flared. 

Gavin didn’t even have time to blink before Jack pounced.

*********

The following week the battle over working late became even more of an issue. Gavin grumbled about having to be home at 6:00 and Jack didn’t allow any excuses or exceptions, which Gavin thought was ridiculous! 

Gavin knew that Jack was right about the fact that he was winding himself up. Deep down he knew that when he went too fast, focusing more on the future, he tended to lose sight of the “every day” of it. He Always ended up crashing and burning when he did that.

But...there really SHOULD be room for exceptions!   And he really wished Jack would listen to EXCUSES from time to time. 

Like NOW!

“Jack, I’m sorry!”  Gavin pouted, as Jack pulled him between his legs.  “I told you!  I have an excuse!”

“And I told you there wouldn’t be any excuses, Gav.”  Jack pulled Gavin’s pants to his knees and guided him over his lap.  “I know you.  You have an excuse for everything; why should this time be any different?”

Gavin sniffed when he felt his boxers being pulled down.   “I told you.  David has given me a few contacts and I needed to follow up on them.  I was important!”

Jack lifted his hand and made a few contacts of his own and then followed up on them, hard, right on Gavin’s backside.  “You can follow up with them between 8:00 and 5:30.  And if you do have an evening meeting, we’ll talk about it.  But you *don’t* leave me voicemail messages, telling me you’ll be home at ten o’clock at night, and then turn your phone OFF to *avoid* talking to me about it!”

“I KNEW you’d say NO!”  Gavin yelped, realizing too late that wasn’t the smartest thing to admit.  Jack’s hand cracked down on Gavin’s butt, over and over making it very clear that avoiding a discussion would NEVER be excused as an exception.

“And the next time you’re late, you might as well head down the stairs and get the paddle as soon as you walk in the door.” 

Jack’s hand continued making contact, and it was doing a fine job, thank you very much.  Gavin didn’t want to even THINK about what kind of job that paddle would do!

When Jack’s hand stopped connecting with his butt, Gavin figured it was because his hand was probably ready to ignite into flames.  He would’ve felt sorry for Jack if it weren’t for the fact that his own butt was already on fire.  He was way too busy feeling sorry for himself.

Jack lifted Gavin up, holding him on his lap, rubbing his back until the sobs turned into sniffles.   “No more voicemail messages.  Got it?”

“Yeah, I got it.” Gavin sniffed in Jack’s shoulder. He sniffed a few more minutes, and then lifted his head.  “But Jack, you know that if I would’ve called, you would’ve said... no.  Especially if I would’ve mentioned that it was a meeting with a contact set up by David.”

Jack’s whole body went tense, his eyes narrowed.  He lifted Gavin’s chin and looked him in the eye.  It wasn’t the heated look of a jealous lover or the look of an animal marking his territory.  The message that was being sent with this look was that the boundaries that had been crossed tonight had *nothing* to do with David.  The rules were the same as always, as were the consequences for breaking them. By bringing David into it, Gavin was letting David come between them.  Jack would never let ANYone come between THEM. That was Jack’s first responsibility.

But Gavin had to be just as responsible or no matter how hard Jack worked at it, there would always be a little crack, making room for someone to crawl between them.

Gavin saw the message and understood it.  He wrapped his arms around Jack’s neck and squeezed so hard.  “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it.  I didn’t mean it the way it sounded.”

“I know you didn’t.”  Jack returned the squeeze, not letting go. He’d NEVER let go.  Gavin was *HIS*.

Later, as they were getting ready for bed, Gavin thought about the David situation. Gavin didn’t believe that the spanking he’d received earlier had anything to do with David. He’d broken a rule and he’d known what the consequences would be when he did it. 

He really didn’t believe that David was interested in him, not in the way Jack did anyway. That was ridiculous!  Just because Jack thought he was irresistible, didn’t mean the whole human race did!

Gavin knew that Jack wouldn’t allow David or anyone else ever come between them, not for any reason.  Gavin wouldn’t let anything come between them either. He was just as responsible as Jack in seeing to it that never happened.

“Would it make you feel better if I told David to find another firm to handle his business?”  Gavin asked as he climbed into bed beside Jack.  “I just don’t want him coming between us.”

“He can’t come between us unless we let him.  And we won’t.” Jack pulled Gavin down until he was rested in his usual spot, his head resting on Jack’s chest.  “Everyone does business with people they find attractive at one time or another.  As long as it’s kept at a professional distance, it doesn’t have to be a problem.”

“GOD Jack!  Do you think everyone in the whole wide world finds me irresistible?  I’m talking about not doing business with one guy, that’s all.  If it would make you feel better, I won’t *do* business with him.”

Jack tickled Gavin’s back, drawing circles with his fingers. “Gav, I don’t control your business.  It’s not up to me who you do business with.”

Gavin snorted in Jack’s chest. “You’re always bossing me around when it comes to my business.”

Jack chuckled, the sound of it rumbled in Gavin’s ear.  “Your 'personal' business. But from 8:00 to 5:00 you make the decisions that affect your professional life.  I only interfere when the stress from it affects your personal life. Or....when your personal life affects how you handle your professional life.  Or when.....”

Gavin laughed.  “You *always* interfere!”

“Personally. I’m your partner.  That’s my job and I take that responsibility seriously. And I know that you trust me to do whatever it takes, wherever it’s needed.  Just as I trust you to do your part.”  Jack kissed Gavin’s head.  “And Jeff is your business partner.  You don’t have to do everything by yourself, Gavin, and you need to trust Jeff to do his part. I think somewhere along the way you’ve forgotten that.”
..............

“Gavin....." Missy called, popping her head inside Gavin's office door. "Jack just phoned. He said he was stopping by the market after work and he’d be home by 6:30. And you said you wanted to be home by 6:00. It’s almost twenty till now”

Gavin clicked off his computer.  “I’m ready.”

Missy sat down on the chair by Gavin’s desk and helped him stack the files he was working on. “Do you and Jack have plans tonight?”

“Nothing special. Why?” 

Missy shrugged. “Oh, you just acted as though being home by 6:00 was important.  I thought maybe you and Jack had special plans.”

If he didn’t get home by 6:00 Jack WOULD have special plans for him. Gavin figured being home by 6:00 WAS important. 

“Lately, I’ve been so caught up in getting new clients, I’ve forgotten how much I enjoy what I do. I’m just trying to balance things out a little.”  

“I’ve notice that. And I’m thankful, let me tell you.”  Missy leaned her elbow on Gavin’s desk and pointed her finger at him. “And if you divided the clients up ...evenly ...between you and Jeff, it would make things easier on everyone.”

“What do you mean....everyone?” 

“This place was always so much fun, I loved coming to work.  But there for a while you were ....well, you just weren’t yourself.  You really did used to enjoy what you do, Gav.”  Missy patted Gavin’s hand.  “I’ve noticed that you have been doing better the past couple of weeks, but you still need to talk to Jeff and divide the workload up between you.”

“Jack’s been telling me the same thing.” 

“You should listen to Jack more often.”  Missy frowned when she heard David enter the front door of the office, calling Gavin’s name. She muttered under her breath, “I should’ve locked that door. He hangs around here more than he does his own office. My woman’s intuition tells me *that* guy has an agenda.”

“Jack’s been telling me that same thing too,”  Gavin said, eyes widend in surprise.

Missy gave Gavin a knowing look and nodded her head.  “Like I said, you should listen to Jack more often. Maybe he has a woman’s intuition too.”

Gavin thought that Jack had more of an 'animal instinct'.  He didn’t figure that was quite the same things as a 'woman’s intuition'. Of course, maybe women DID pounce on their mates on the kitchen floor all the time and he just didn’t know about it.

What did he know about stuff like THAT?

“I’m leaving, I'll send David on back on my way out; although you’ll never get out of here now!”  Missy snarked, as she stood up and walked to the doorway of Gavin’s office.  “I’ll switch the phone to the answering service. You can lock up when you leave.”

“Gavin, I’m glad I caught you.” David appeared in Gavin’s office a moment later. “I have that information you needed.”

“Thanks David.”  Gavin took the folder from David’s hand. “I was just getting ready to leave.”

“I’ll only take a few minutes of your time.” 

Famous last words. Forty minutes later and already past his deadline to be home, Gavin looked at his watch - which created a real need to squirm in his char!  

“David, I’d love to stay and continue this, but I really need to head out.”  Gavin stood up and looked at his watch again.  He was seriously beginning to HATE this watch.

“I’m sorry, did you have plans?”  David didn’t make a move to stand; he leaned back in his chair. 

“Well, nothing special.  But ....”

“Good, good.”  David crossed his ankle on his knee and got a little more comfortable.  The bait had already been set, it was time to start reeling Gavin in.  “If you don’t have anything special planned, why don’t you let me treat you to dinner at my club?  There are a few people I’d like for you to meet.  Good contacts for your business. I’d enjoy doing that for you.”

Gavin was tempted.  David’s contacts had so far been good for business. But considering that he was already in trouble, he didn’t think it would be the smartest thing to do. 

“I...”  Gavin hesitated. He didn’t think telling David that he wouldn’t be “allowed” would sound very professional.  “Maybe we could make it another night. Jack may have already made plans, I don’t know if he’d be available.”

“I enjoyed having dinner with Jack the last time, Gavin,” David smiled, his eyes traveled down the length of Gavin. The appreciation at what he saw was unmistakable.   “But I was thinking.... maybe we could make it just the two of us this time?  I enjoy your company.  And I’ve gotten the feeling that.....you enjoy mine as well.”

Gavin blinked, his whole body went rigid. Warning signals went off and they were LOUD.  Missy was right.  He really needed to listen to Jack more often. 

“I.....enjoy doing business with you, David.  But Jack and I, ...we like to spend our evenings together.”

“Jack doesn’t understand that sometimes you need to work in the evenings?”  David shook his head.  “He really doesn’t understand you, does he, Gavin?

“Jack understands about business.  He’s a successful man himself, he knows there are times you have to work late.” Gavin’s forehead wrinkled.  “And Jack understands me better than anyone.”

“I understand you, Gavin.”  David smiled again. He had used his professional contacts as bait for Gavin, but he also knew that finding a chink in Jack’s armor would be would be the key to reeling Gavin in.   “Sometimes when a person has been with someone as long as you’ve been with Jack, they don’t see when someone is stifling them. You and I get along very well and I’d be very supportive of your business.”

Gavin’s eyes narrowed, sparks were shooting from them. STIFLING!  JACK?  Who in the hell did this guy think he was?   Just as Gavin opened his mouth, ready to give David an earful, he heard the front door of the office open and Jack calling his name. 

Gavin took a calming breath before calling out to Jack.  “In here, Jack!”

When Jack entered the office, Gavin saw his expression change from *miffed* to graciously polite after realizing David was in the room. Jack would never do or say anything to embarrass Gavin.  As far as David could see, Jack was only stopping by for a nice, pleasant little visit. 

Of course Gavin KNEW that Jack was only stopping by to.... drag him home by the ear!

“David, its good to see you again.”  Jack nodded towards him. “I was across the street at the strip mall and was surprised to see Gavin’s car still here.  So I thought I’d stop by and see if he was ready to head home.” 

Because he’s *
MINE*!  Jack silently added with a look.

“We were just finishing up.” David stood up and shook Jack’s hand.  He read the message and sent a silent message back.  'We’ll see'.  “I was just inviting him to dinner at my club.  There are some people there I’d love for him to meet.  It would be good for his business.”

Gavin read the unspoken words between the two men. He couldn’t believe he had been so clueless! GOD, he had to admire Jack’s restraint.  Gavin would’ve PUNCHED the guy!

“And I was just declining the invitation.”   Because I’m *
YOURS*, Gavin added, silently sending his own message to Jack - making damned sure that David saw it too.  He wanted that message read loud and clear!  He sent another message to Jack.  It said...'I’ll take it from here'.

Jack read the messages and smiled.  “I have groceries in the car.  I’ll meet you at home.” 

“Missy gave me the message that you were stopping by the market.”  Gavin followed Jack to the doorway to his office.  “What’s for dinner?”

Jack looked down at his watch, then looked at Gavin, cocking a brow.  “Rump roast.”

“Rump roast?”  Gavin choked, although not surprised at all.  “Well, that is your specialty.”

Jack said a polite goodbye to David and mouthed a silent “I love you” to Gavin before heading down the hall towards the front door of the office.

David leaned against Gavin’s desk and crossed his arms.  “Are you sure I can’t talk you into joining me for dinner at my club, Gavin?  I can guarantee it would be better than.... rump roast?”

“Anything would be better than Jack’s rump roast.”  Gavin shook his head at how clueless David really was.  “Jack’s rump roast sucks,*really* sucks!”

“Then maybe I could tempt you into joining me for dinner?”  David sent Gavin a flirty smile.

“David, as much as Jack’s rump roast sucks, and I can’t even begin to tell you just how much it sucks, *nothing* could *ever* tempt me.”  Gavin decided this guy needed setting straight, and it was his responsiblity to do it.  He might have been a bit slow in realizing there was a predator in their midst, but now that he did, well.....he could be just as fierce in protecting their territory as Jack was. 

"Sit down, David." Gavin pointed to the chair, motioning for David to have a seat. “I think you and I need to get a few things straight.”

...............................
Martha greeted Gavin at the door, prancing around his feet.  He patted her head, looking around the kitchen, wondering where Jack was.  He couldn’t wait to tell Jack about his conversation with David. He had been SO Toppish he almost scared himself.  Jack would’ve been so proud of him. 

Gavin figured it was a damned good excuse for being late in the first place. And he was ALWAYS looking for excuses!  Maybe Jack would make an exception just this ONE time and he could get out of the paddling he KNEW was coming. 

No excuses. No exceptions.

He squatted down and rubbed Martha’s ears, thinking about what he could have done differently.  He supposed he could have said.....well, okay,  he *knew* that he *should* have said.... that he was leaving when  David had first arrived at his office.   It really wasn’t David’s fault that he hadn’t done that. 

The rules were same as always and so were the consequences for breaking them. This was between Jack and him, just like it always had been. Always would be. There was no room for David here. He didn’t have anything to do with them. 

Gavin groaned when he heard Jack’s footsteps coming down the hall.  Trusting each other was just so easy for them. And he took his responsibly for their relationship just as seriously as Jack. He’d just have to wait to tell Jack about how Toppish he’d been.....after. 

But GOD, sometimes consequences just sucked!

“I was getting ready to go back to your office and drag you home.” Jack said, as came into the kitchen and leaned a hip against the counter.  “I didn’t hear you come in.” 

Gavin gave Martha one last pat and stood up. He scrunched up his nose. “Sorry I’m late.” 

“I’m sure you are.”  Jack cocked one brow.  “I’m sure you’re hungry too.” 

“Well, I’d rather take care of the...rump roast first, it that’s okay?” Gavin looked a little queasy. He wanted to get this over with before he started making excuses and begging for exceptions. 

Sometimes consequences just SUCKED!

“Okay.”  Jack answered, a little confused, as he watched Gavin head for the basement door.

He paused a second, wondering why Gavin wasn’t making excuses and begging for exceptions right about now? Not even one single complaint about the unfairness of it all?  This wasn’t like him at all.  

Jack shrugged and followed Gavin to the basement.  He figured that Gavin had his reasons and he'd let him know what they were, eventually. He always did. 

Jack also figured that this odd compliance wouldn’t last.  Gavin would be back to making excuses, begging for exceptions and complaining about....everything,  by this time tomorrow.  Jack was sure of it.

Everyone knew how much Gavin liked to complain.

**********
Jack had left the office a little early Friday afternoon. It had been a long week and he was anxious to begin the weekend.  He surprised to see Gavin’s car already parked inside the garage as he pulled his SUV in beside it.  When he opened the kitchen door he almost tripped over a cooler sitting on the floor and was nearly knocked over by Martha, who greeted him by dancing at his feet.  He was even more surprised to see two duffel bags sitting on the counter. 

Gavin entered the kitchen from the hallway and smiled when he spotted Jack.

“Great!  You’re home early!”

“What’s going on?”  Jack smiled in greeting, patting Martha on the head as he passed her. 

Gavin spread his arms out wide, a shaving kit dangled from his hand. “I called Mike and asked to borrow his cabin on Kelly’s Island for the weekend.  Everything is ready to go.”

“Sounds like a great plan to me!  Thank you.”  Jack pulled Gavin's chin up, kissed his lips, crystal blue eyes doing a quick survey of his face. He liked what he saw there.  “You look more relaxed than you have in weeks.”

“I *feel* more relaxed than I have in weeks.”  Gavin smiled at Jack, sending him a silent thank you.   “I had a long talk with Jeff today and I handed over a few of the accounts that I’ve been 'holding hostage'.  He said he was beginning to think I didn’t trust him.”

Jack leaned against the counter, crossing his arms.  His smile was a little wry.  “I wonder where he got *that*  idea?”

“Beats me.”  Gavin shrugged, eyes batting innnocently.  “Jeff’s taking over Network Industries, too.”

“David decided that staying with Mc2 was worth a little embarrassement? 

“He's okay with it.  He said that he likes our work, that’s why he came to us in the first place.”  Gavin’s nose wrinkled, his eyes were teasing.  “And even though I *know* that Jeff isn’t *nearly* as irresistible as *moi* - he can more than handle that account.”

“I’m sure he can too.”  Jack agreed, smiling at Gavin's teasing look. He didn’t think that there was *anyone* who could possibly be as irresistible as Gavin was. He really couldn’t blame David for thinking it too.

As long as it was from a distance!

“I think David will be more comfortable with this arrangement. He’d never admit to being embarrassed over the fact that he never had a chance with me.” Gavin shoved his shaving kit into his duffel bag, his eyes still teasing.  “And I feel more comfortable with it too, because being irresistible is just, well....it’s embarrassing Jack!”

Jack bit the inside of his cheek to keep from laughing.  “Embarrassing?”

“Well, except with you.   I’ve decided that I only like being irresistible to you.”  Gavin picked up the duffel bags off the counter and headed for the door. Martha chased after him. “Hurry up and change your clothes so we can get moving!”

“Do we have to hurry to catch the last ferry to the island?”  Jack asked, pulling on his tie, he pushed himself away from the counter..

“No, we have plenty of time before the last ferry.  But I want to get over to the cabin as soon as we can."  Gavin turned around, his green eyes flashing, he sent Jack a grin.  “I’m just kind of anxious to check out....... the kitchen floor there.”

Jack growled as he watched Gavin walk out the door.  He quickly shrugged off his jacket, picked up the cooler sitting on the floor and rushed out the door after him.  Hell, he didn’t HAVE to change his clothes before they left.

Jack was really anxious to check out....the kitchen floor there, too.