At Hyannis, Kirk turned off the highway onto a graded dirt road. They were just six miles now from Don's ranch. He was still deciding what to do with Virgil when they got there.
"Can you ride a horse?" he asked Virgil.
"Know anything about cattle?"
"If you want to stay out here, you're gonna have to earn your keep somehow."
Virgil shrugged. "I'm not afraid to learn."
That wouldn't be enough for Don. There were always good hands around willing to work for almost nothing.
But if Don took a look at Virgil and said he didn't need him, that would get Kirk off the hook. Virgil could hang around a couple days if he wanted--see what ranch work was really like--and then hit the road.
Kirk would drive him and his duffel bag to the highway to stick out his thumb and head back to Mike's place or back to college--which, face it, is where a college boy belongs anyway.
And for Kirk, everything could return to normal. Such as it was.
In the meantime, his intention was to finish the job he'd started that morning in Mike's barn. He wanted to bend this kid over a bale of hay or a barrel and feel his dick sliding into him.
It would be a long, dry spell before he got any action like that again. Turning up a queer cowboy in these parts on a Saturday night in town was like finding balls on a steer.
It would also settle for him again what he was--which is what he had been before he broke one of his rules with Virgil. Two rules, in fact, though there'd been no hard-and-fast rule about kissing another man. He hadn't needed one.
He shook his head again, wondering at the impulse that had come over him.
He'd finally used a wad of Copenhagen to get the taste of Virgil's cum out of his mouth. But even then, the memory of it lingered, and it came to him again now. Gamy and something almost like--what?--buttermilk.
"When are we gonna do that again?" Virgil had asked, stirring in his levi's and pulling at the denim between his legs, like the memory of it was giving him a hard-on.
Kirk had just looked over at him and finally said, "Keep your britches on."
There was this about Virgil. He was like a kid in a candy store. At eighteen, Kirk had already learned about the world, that you were on your own and you had to look out for yourself. The only times he got into trouble were when he forgot that.
And he hadn't been in trouble now for a long time. Not that kind of trouble anyway.
But Virgil seemed still young and untouched by any real experiences. Unscarred and unscared. He was a bad accident waiting to happen. He'd have to grow up and learn the hard way that you can't trust anyone--especially a man who might try to fuck you. And he had no business trusting Kirk.
"That's where we're going," he said, pointing ahead to a turn-off under an old-fashioned timber archway with the name of Don's ranch on a wind-tilted sign beside it:
Cavanaugh Cattle Company
In operation since 1966
Cavanaugh was Don's father-in-law.
A one-lane driveway led over a cattle grid and around a low hill to a cluster of ranch buildings with several good-size cottonwood trees. Don's big pickup was parked by the side of the house, and the windmill beside the barn turned sharply in the breeze.
Beyond the bunkhouse, Kirk could see the truck that belonged to Slim, one of Don's hired hands. It was an old hulk of a rattletrap that must have rolled off the assembly line before Pearl Harbor. Besides a herd of cows in a pasture behind the barn, there was no other sign of life.
The cows, Kirk knew, were the ones having calves. Don or Slim would be in the barn, looking after the new-borns, helping the cows with the hard deliveries and the problems. It wasn't always easy work.
Calves would try to come out the wrong way, or they'd get their legs tangled up inside. You'd have to reach in and straighten out what you could. Or you might have to use a contraption with chains that pulled on the calf while the mama cow pushed.
It was man's work, for damn sure, and though it was a bloody mess, with cowshit underfoot, Kirk liked it. He'd learned what he knew from Slim, who was an old fart cowboy, but an expert.
"Take a deep breath out here," he said to Virgil as they stepped from the truck. "Hard telling what it'll be like in the barn."
Virgil did like he said, and they walked inside, where they found Don and Slim leaning over a pen watching a cow with twin calves. Don was looking tired and grinning like he'd given birth to them himself.
Slim was gimping around like he'd gotten hurt, or old age had bit him again in the ass. Turns out he'd been in the hospital for an operation and was still recuperating. Meanwhile, the other hand, George, had taken off--just like a redskin--leaving Don to run the whole show by himself.
"Where the hell have you been?" Don said to Kirk, "You were supposed to be here days ago." But he was too glad to see him to be really pissed off.
"Got held up," Kirk told him, without going into details.
"Who's your friend?" Don said, seeing Virgil. "Is he looking for a job?"
"I sure am, sir," Virgil said, stepping forward to introduce himself.
And after a few questions, Don hired him. Kirk just stood there, trying not to look surprised.
Almost before they knew it, Don had put them to work. The herd in the calving pasture behind the barn had been waiting since morning to be fed, and then in what was left of the afternoon, Don wanted them to go out over the ridge on the far end of the ranch and bring in some cows that had slipped out of a gate left open too long by a couple hunters who were after a coyote they'd seen cross onto his land.
"Dammit," Don had said. "That's the last time I let those boys on this ranch. They're more trouble than the goddam coyotes."
"You want me to take along a rifle in case we see it?" Kirk had volunteered.
"Hell, no. Just bring in those cows," Don said. "The job don't require firearms."
When he looked at Virgil, bare headed, he told him he'd need a hat if he didn't have one and gave him a feed cap that was hanging there in the barn gathering dust. It was too big and came down to his ears, but it would do.
Out in the hay barn, Virgil climbed up onto the stack of bales and started handing them down to Kirk, who stood on a flat bed wagon, putting them in rows at one end.
Virgil showed he was strong enough. He tossed around bales like they weighed next to nothing. And as Kirk looked up, he could watch the back of Virgil's jeans, his butt emerging under his coat whenever he bent over.
No doubt about it. The kid had a nice ass. Kirk wished he had fifteen minutes to pull down Virgil's levi's and go to town on it right there in the hay barn, but they didn't have five minutes to spare. The cattle bawling out in the pasture wouldn't shut up until they'd been fed.
"We're done," he called up to Virgil when they had enough, and he waited at the bottom of the hay pile as Virgil slid down to him. He put out his hand to slip between Virgil's legs and for a moment held his crotch, warm and full, as their chests bumped together.
Then he put one finger between the buttons of Virgil's fly and wiggled it there against his soft underwear and the skin and hair he could feel under it.
"You know what comes next, right?" he said.
"Not what you're thinking," Kirk said and gave Virgil's balls a squeeze until he squirmed. "We're gonna feed this hay to the cows."
Before Virgil could grab him back, he'd dodged away and was walking to the cab of Don's truck, which the wagon was hitched to.
See, kid, you shouldn't trust me, he thought. He had the engine running and in gear as Virgil hopped in from the other side.
"There'll be time for makin' hay later," Kirk said, and they drove out of the barn.
* * *
A couple hours later, they were in Don's truck and pulling a horse trailer, driving out to the big pasture on the north end of the ranch, looking for Don's missing cows. They were yearling heifers, too young to be bred yet. There wouldn't be calves with them to worry about or to interest the coyotes so Don, who'd been too busy, had just let them be.
They'd be frisky, Kirk was thinking, and not ready to give up their freedom and come back to the ranch nicely. At the worst, they'd have found a weak spot in the far fence and wandered off onto the next ranch, where who knows what they might have got themselves into, maybe mixing up with another herd and need getting cut from it.
Kirk was driving and explaining the possibilities to Virgil, who was taking it all in, like the shake of Don's hand when he got hired had turned him into an actual cowboy.
Fact was, Virgil didn't know a goddam thing about it and without saying so Don had given Kirk the job of teaching him. Normally, Kirk liked knowing more than somebody else, and being the least experienced on the ranch, he didn't have much opportunity to do that. But having to work with someone dead ignorant was a pain in the ass, too.
Meanwhile, it was giving him a charge he could feel in his balls that as soon as they got out of sight of the ranch, he could get Virgil out of his jeans and have a go at him.
The only problem with that--and this was a problem--Virgil would still be around tonight, sitting at the table in the ranch house kitchen for supper and who knows how many days and nights longer. He wouldn't just disappear and become a forgotten memory when Kirk was done with him.
"What's that?" Virgil said, pointing to a white block on the ground as they passed.
"Salt," Kirk said. "For the cows to lick."
They were following a faint track worn in the grass, which lay mostly flat and frozen, where the winter winds had swept away the snow and left large stretches of it bare. The truck rattled and rumbled over old ruts in places, and they had to drive slow. The horse, a mild-tempered mare of Don's named Betsy, followed in the trailer, saddled up and ready to chase cows.
The track would disappear at times, then reappear as it led them through barb wire gates that Virgil jumped out to open. Kirk smiled as he pushed hard to flip the wire loop of each gate up and over the post. Slim kept up the fences on the ranch, and he made the gates so squeaky tight it was a test of your manhood to get hem open and closed again.
"You gotta use every muscle," he'd laughed watching Kirk strain with all the strength he had to budge them that first season working on Don's ranch.
Now it was his turn to get a laugh watching Virgil, but once Virgil figured it out, he was making it seem almost easy. The kid was stronger than he looked.
"Just leave 'em open," Kirk said as he drove through. "We'll bring the cows back this way."
Once in the last pasture, the biggest one, they'd drive up and over the ridge and, when they found the cows--no telling how long that would take--they'd herd them back to the ranch, Kirk riding the horse to round them up and keep them together, Virgil following behind in the truck, pushing along any stragglers and closing the gates after them.
Topping the ridge, Kirk stopped the truck and looked out his window, surveying the rise and fall of the miles of grass and patches of snow that lay on the other side. A windmill turned in a low, flat spot not far below them, and gathered around the stock tank were five of Don's heifers.
"Bingo," Kirk said. "There they be."
"Reckon that's all of 'em?" Virgil said, sounding like some cowboy in a western.
Kirk didn't turn to him but he could sense him just behind his shoulder, looking past him, his breath against the back of his ear.
"I reckon," he drawled, wondering if Virgil realized he was being kidded.
He put the truck in gear and eased it down the slope, heading in a wide circle around the cattle, who turned their heads to watch, suspicious. Now that he'd found them, he didn't want them getting spooked and high tailing off in the wrong direction.
He slipped behind the brow of a hill, staying out of sight, and when they'd gone a ways, Kirk stopped the truck and they both got out, walking up to where they could look down toward the windmill. The cows, they saw, were still there.
The sun shone warmly, but the hilltop caught a steady breeze from the north. He felt it through his back pockets and pulled up the collar on his jacket. He glanced at Virgil, who stood there with his grin--like the kid he was, playing hooky from school. The cap Don had given him was pulled down to his eyes and had the words "Purina Horse Feed" sewn across the front.
"You look like an idiot in that cap," Kirk said.
"Well, I'm sure as heck not thowing this one away," Virgil said and ducked when Kirk reached for it, taking a step back and losing his footing.
They tumbled down the slope toward the truck, the horse stepping around inside the trailer as she saw them falling together and rolling to a stop in the grass.
Kirk had been willing to wait until later, but something about being out under the open sky made him horny as hell. He wanted the feel of Virgil's body twisting and turning in his arms, and he wrestled him to the ground.
His chest and his nuts ached, and he kicked with his legs, boots scraping along the hard ground, his dick getting stiff in his jeans. And he was pressing down now, hips pushing into Virgil's butt, one arm pulled behind his back.
Virgil was laughing and had gone limp now. His voice was a high whisper, and Kirk couldn't make out what he was saying.
When he caught his breath, he got Virgil to stand up, one arm still pinned behind him and shoved him toward the door of the truck, which was still flung open.
Pushing him face down onto the seat, he crowded up behind him and then reached around with his free hand to undo Virgil's belt. Open, the buckle snagged, but his jeans were now loose enough--they were Danny's and a size or more too big-- and Kirk could jerk them down without unbuttoning them.
"Hey! Hey!" Virgil started saying, but between gasps for breath he was still laughing.
The jeans fell to his knees and Kirk pulled next on his underwear, stretching it down enough to stroke the smooth skin with his hand and press his fingers between his butt cheeks, searching for the knot of muscle in the curly hair there that would be the entry into him.
Virgil bucked now under Kirk's weight, knees bumping against the frame of the seat, struggling, but still laughing.
"You fucker," Virgil was saying. "You're breakin' my arm!"
"Relax, just relax," Kirk said, unzipping his fly.
He pulled out his dick, now hard as he held it in his hand, pushing it wet and slippery against the spot he'd found with his fingertips.
But pushing, he could feel nothing give, only his hard-on bending and springing away as he thrust with his hips.
"Relax," he kept saying.
"I'm trying," Virgil said. "I'm trying."
But Kirk couldn't get the end of his big dick to slide in. He needed something to grease them both up.
"There's gotta be some udder balm there somewhere--on the seat, on the floor," Kirk said and released Virgil's arm. "Look around."
"Udder balm, for crissake. It's in a square tin with a lid." He kept massaging Virgil now, with spit, but he was tight as ever.
"I can't find anything in all this shit," Virgil was saying, reaching under the seat and pulling out old rags, beer cans, a socket wrench handle.
Then he collapsed on the seat, sighing. "Is it in yet? Holy shit, it feels like you're in."
"That's my thumb," Kirk said. Judging from the feel of it, he'd got as far as the first knuckle.
"Whatever it is," Virgil said. "Don't stop."
Kirk's dick hung in his open fly, still hard but starting to lose interest. Virgil had clearly never done this before, and first timers were hard work.
After what seemed like ten minutes and almost no progress, Virgil twisted around under him, excited.
"I wanna do you know," he said.
"I'm not done yet."
"I don't care," Virgil said, apparently satisfied with a thumb fuck.
"No, I wanna try it," Virgil said, pushing himself up. His dick popped free from where it had been hooked under the edge of the seat. It was slick with precum and dribbling in streaks through the hair on his thigh and onto the vinyl.
"I got a rule about that," Kirk said flatly.
"What kind of rule?" Virgil's dick pushed up now against his coat, wet and throbbing.
"I just draw the line there. That's all."
"What kind of bullshit rule is that?" Virgil said, laughing, and grabbed for Kirk's belt buckle.
Kirk pushed his hands away. "I mean it," he said.
"Tell you what," Virgil said, sitting up on the seat now and reaching down to pull up his jeans. "I got a rule or two of my own."
And with that he sprang out of the truck, throwing his shoulder into Kirk's chest, like a football lineman, sending him flying backwards onto his ass and knocking the wind out of him. His hat went rolling away down the slope and the horse, startled, shifted her footing again in the trailer.
Virgil fell hard onto Kirk and lay spread eagled on top of him, his face shoved into Kirk's. Drops of spit flew on his breath as he said, still grinning, "You can be a sonofabitch, pal, but you're not gonna make a fool outta me twice."
Virgil had his arm now across Kirk's throat, and for a moment Kirk saw stars. It was hard for him to get his breath, and he could feel a knee digging into his groin.
Kirk had been in his share of bar fights, and though he'd lost a couple, he'd never been caught off guard like this before. He was still recovering from the surprise. The one good thing, he realized, was that Virgil wasn't drunk and trying to kill him. At least not on purpose.
While the shock in his lungs settled into a slow burn, he felt a sharp pain in his crotch, where Virgil's knee pressed his dick into the teeth of his zipper. Sucking up his gut and trying to twist free only made it worse.
"OK?" Virgil was shouting at him. "OK?"
Above, the afternoon sun shone bright into his eyes. The ground under him was hard and cold. He lay like someone bested in a schoolyard scuffle.
"OK?" Virgil said again.
"OK," Kirk croaked, closing his eyes, and feeling Virgil's weight lift off him.
He rolled over onto his stomach to get up on his feet, but as he did he felt Virgil grab him by the belt and the collar of his jacket, swinging him around and pushing him head first onto the truck seat, his face shoved into old work gloves, tools, paper coffee cups, a grease-stained shirt, boxes of antibiotics, fence staples, and the other junk Don collected and carried around with him.
"Now, show me how to do this," Virgil was saying, "I want to learn this right."
Kirk tried to get up, but Virgil, right behind him, pushed him back down again and kicked his feet apart like a cop making an arrest.
"Or are we gonna have to fight about this some more," Virgil said.
Kirk knew that he could beat the crap out of him if it came to a fight. There seemed to be no other way to deal with him. But--there's always a but--he knew without giving it any thought that if he did, one or both of them would end up black and blue, and Don would chew him out over it. He didn't keep men who liked to settle things with their fists.
There was nothing to settle with Virgil anyway. Kirk didn't hate him. He didn't even dislike him.
And part of him--if he had to be honest--was just plain tired of his rules.
"Huh?" Virgil said, trying again not to laugh. "I don't hear you saying anything."
Kirk's hand dropped to the floor, and against the back of his fingers he felt the cool, smooth surface of something familiar. He opened his hand around it and, lifting it up to where he could see, discovered that he'd found the udder balm.
"Here," he said handing it back to Virgil. "Try this."
He unbuckled his jeans and let Virgil pull them down, the air cool against his bare skin and creeping between his legs to the back of his balls. He felt Virgil's cold hands on his butt now, touching him with long, loving strokes.
"Kirk, ol' buddy," he said. "I'm gonna do something I been wanting to do for a long time."
"Better grease us up first. It'll be a whole lot easier."
"I'm getting to that," Virgil said. "This is what I mean."
And Kirk felt Virgil's face and his unshaven chin press hard against one butt cheek, giving him a loud kiss. Then he did it to the other cheek. And sighed happily.
"You are one fuckin' oddball, you know that?" Kirk said.
"What? Couldn't hear ya," Virgil said, and Kirk heard the lid being popped off the tin.
The touch of Virgil's fingers in his ass and the cold balm put a shiver through him, and then after a pause there was the soft pressure of Virgil's dick as it passed into the gap between his butt cheeks.
"Can you see what you're doing?" he said and reached behind him to pull them apart.
"Now I can, thanks," Virgil said, so polite it made Kirk want to laugh now himself.
And Kirk felt Virgil's cock nudging into him, hands gripping his hips, and the giving way as he let himself go, the firm, slow push filling him.
"Aw," Virgil sighed. "I think I died and went to heaven." And he just held himself for a long moment without moving.
Not heaven, Kirk thought, but not all that bad either. Yes, this didn't feel much like the Kirk he thought he was or had learned to be, the one always on top and to hell with the other guy. And the hands reaching under his shirt to tenderly stroke his back and his backside--this loving touch wasn't him either.
Then there were the thighs pressed between his own thighs, and his legs trapped inside his jeans that were down to his knees, keeping him pinned and unable to move even his feet. There was a time when this gave him a helpless feeling that scared him and haunted him for years after it first happened, running away from home and hitching a ride with the wrong truck driver, who seemed friendly at first, but when the time came was not polite or tender or loving.
That all seemed long enough ago now. And Virgil--goofy, trusting, still new to it all--he wouldn't hurt a fly. Hell, Kirk thought, he could keep his rules if he wanted. This time hardly even counted.
He pushed back with his hips, getting Virgil, who hadn't moved yet, to settle in a little deeper.
Virgil sucked in his breath, and his fingers suddenly dug in where he'd been softly stroking Kirk's butt.
"Aw, I can't hold it," he said. "Here it comes."
And Kirk felt his quivering, quick thrusts as Virgil came into him, his legs trembling against Kirk's, his voice raised in a high pitched moan that sounded something like singing.
On his elbows now and looking over his shoulder, he could see Kirk, his head tilted back, eyes closed, breathing hard, hands up and hanging onto the doorframe. He looked like he was about to faint.
After a minute of this, Kirk cleared his throat and said, "You done?"
Virgil's eyes blinked open and he saw Kirk looking back at him. A grin came across his face. "Yeah, I'm done."
Later, as they stood in the grass taking turns wiping up the balm and the cum with a bandana they'd found behind the truck seat, Virgil said, "How'd I do?" He was buttoning his fly now and buckling his belt.
"Fine. You did fine."
Virgil reached under the trailer and retrieved Kirk's hat. "No, I mean, you got any tips? Any advice for a beginner?" He held the hat waiting for Kirk to pull up his jeans.
"Naw," Kirk said. "You got the hang of it, all right." Though he was still horny as hell, he chose to postpone any comments about thumb fucking.
Virgil grinned as Kirk took his hat and put it on. "Well, when I learn something new, I like to get good at it."
Kirk took a last look at him before going to the trailer for the horse, to get on with rounding up the cows. He hoped they hadn't wandered off by now, and he wondered how his ass was going to feel in a saddle.
"I wouldn't worry about getting good," he said. "Practice makes perfect."