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Xander ducked under the blue and white Bud Light sign on the striped tent he’d been directed to and stepped inside, blinking to allow his eyes to adjust to the dimness.

He reached up and pushed his hat back, making out a long line of men and a few women standing before some folding tables. He made his way over to that side of the tent and got in line, turning his head to see a makeshift bar that was doing a brisk business. Cowboys lined the counter, legs cocked up, each resting one boot on the white CVC pipe running the length of the base of the bar. 

He smiled a little as his eyes ran the line of tight, denim wrapped asses pointed toward him and lifted a brow. “The sign-up’s in the beer tent?” he mumbled to himself.

“Welcome to Oklahoma hospitality,” a laughing voice said behind him.

Xander turned to see a short, barrel-chested man in a sweat-stained grey Stetson behind him, a beefy hand extended toward him. “Dumptruck,” the man said. 

Xander reached out and took the hand, feeling his fingers swallowed. “Um, Xander,” he answered, hoping that the man had been giving his name, and not making with some cowboy speak he wasn’t yet hip to. 

“First rodeo?” Dumptruck asked with a grin, watching Xander’s eyes dart around the tent. 

“Nah,” Xander said, shaking his head. “I’ve done some local stuff and I went to the LA Finals last year, just to watch. But this is my first big one to compete in. Well, first…um…” Xander paused hesitantly.

“Gay rodeo,” Dumptruck said easily. “It’s all right, son. Ain’t everybody here a gay cowboy.” He grinned as two women squeezed between them on their way to the bar. “Hell, ain’t everybody even a cowboy.” 

“Yeah,” Xander said, swallowing a little. “I mean, I’m a cowboy, well trying to be, and I’m, you know,” he cleared his throat harder, “gay…”

“It’s all right,” Dumptruck said, smiling and patting Xander on the back, “no one asks. And you know, it’s not like we make you wear a sign.” His grin widened as he watched Xander note the man in front of them receive his rainbow patterned competitor’s number. “Well, not really, anyway.”

Xander’s attention was diverted as he watched the man in front of him take his number and registration packet. His eyes followed the lines of a broad back stretching a starched black shirt with silvery pearl snaps showing at the cuffs as the man moved toward the bar. He stared as almost obscenely tight black jeans tightened to allow the cowboy to lift his leg to the pipe as he leaned against the bar and signaled a waitress. Xander’s eyes lifted reluctantly from the black denim curve of ass and thighs to follow the muscled lines of arm and shoulder to find dark hair, cut in a gelled, choppy style – how’s he fit that under a hat? – to a profile with a broad, stern brow and dark-red, unsmiling lips giving his drink order. 

Xander’s fingers tightened on his sign-up sheet as he stared, and then he felt Dumptruck nudge him from behind. “It’s your turn, son.”

Xander looked down to see a patiently smiling drag queen holding a pen out to him, a cascading blonde wig held in place by a lavender Stetson topped with a sparkling rainbow tiara. “Name?” the grinning pink lips asked him.

“Alexander Harris,” he answered automatically. “Xander.” 

“Well, I’m Lorna, darlin’, but they call me The Hostess. Where you from, sweet cheeks?” the gravelly, drawling voice asked him as two-inch long, bright green fingernails took his signed paperwork from him. 

“California. Sunnydale, California,” he said, turning his attention back to the tight black jeans at the bar.

“What’re ya gonna be riding, honey?” 

“Huh?” He swung his gaze back to the grin in front of him.

“Events, sugar,” the indulgently smiling pink lips enunciated slowly. “What events are you signing up for?”

“Oh. Uh, saddle bronc and pole bending.” He watched those green-tipped fingers flash as his name was added to the roster and then accepted his number patch, stepping aside to allow Dumptruck to register as he turned his gaze back to the man in black.

He stood there, blocking the aisle between registration and the bar, until he heard Dumptruck come up behind him. “Angel,” the older man said with laughter in his voice.

“What?” Xander said, turning abruptly, and then moving slightly to allow the other man to step up beside him.

Dumptruck nodded his head to the dark clad figure who was quietly nursing a beer at the bar. “Angel. Don’t feel bad, everybody stares the first time.”

“Angel? What, his name is Angel?” Xander laughed. “In town an hour and I’ve met Dumptruck and Angel. And I thought ‘Xander’ was weird.” He grinned at Dumptruck and then looked back toward Angel, noticing that the other man seemed oblivious to the appreciative stares he was receiving from either side of the bar. “Angel what?”

“Just Angel,” Dumptruck answered with a grin.

Xander laughed again, harder this time. “Just Angel, huh? Well, that’s just…dumb.” 

Dumptruck laughed back, slapping him on the shoulder. “Well, when you look like that and you’re as good as he is, you can call yourself Ass Hat if you want to, I reckon.” 

Dumptruck stuck his hand out for another knuckle grinding shake and said, “Well, I’m off to find the taco stand. You look me up if you have any trouble or you got any questions about being ‘out’ in the OKC.” He watched Xander nod, his attention automatically going back to Angel. “Have fun.”

Xander grinned as he watched Dumptruck stump away on his high heeled boots and then made his way to the bar. He eased up next to Angel, raising his boot and hooking the heel on the pole on the first try. He smiled at the bar guy who bee-lined to him, his smile widening as he took in the skin tight Bud Light t-shirt and the cut-off jean shorts the server was wearing.

“Bud Light, I guess,” Xander said in answer to the man’s questioning grin.

“You don’t want that.”

Xander turned his head to the dark man, Angel, standing next to him. “Oh? How come?”

Angel’s gaze remained on the beer bottle in his hands, long tanned fingers turning it slowly on the bar, “Domestic beer’s 3.2 in Oklahoma. That means it’s got the alcohol content of really strong Kool-Aid.”

Xander glanced down at the dark brown bottle in Angel’s hands. “What do you got?”

“Import. Dos Equis.”

Xander nodded to the blond haired server, whose smile was a shade less friendly now that he realized Xander had come to bar for something other than the brand he was offering. “Dos Equis, then.”

Xander accepted the beer, turning to lean back against the bar and immediately started peeling the label off. “Thanks,” he said, looking at Angel’s profile. “Xander,” he offered, tilting the bottle toward his new drinking buddy.

“Angel,” the man said quietly, his eyes remaining on the bottle in his hands, his body still turned away from Xander.

“Angel. So, did it hurt?”

“What’s that?” Angel said, lifting the bottle to his lips.

“When you fell from heaven?”

Angel choked on his beer, giving Xander a look of shocked irritation.

Xander flushed bright red. “Sorry,” he muttered, turning around to lean against the bar again and hunching over his beer. “That was supposed to come off a lot more funny ha-ha and a lot less desperately lame.”

Angel said nothing, just nodded at the server for another beer, and Xander dropped his eyes to the brightly colored packet in his hands. “Okay, the rodeo starts day after tomorrow and let’s see…what else,” he scanned the blurring words for something to fill what now felt like a very uncomfortable silence. “Hey, there’s a dance, and a royalty coronation, and, oh, wow, a silent auction. Fun.” 

He looked back at Angel, but the other man just concentrated on his beer, ignoring Xander’s attempts at conversation. “So, you, ah, planning on going to this dance? ‘Cause I haven’t ever really done anything like that, but maybe if I had somebody to show me the moves?” 

Angel unhooked his boot from the bar, pushing a few dollars toward the tip jar. He picked up his bottle and drained it, and Xander watched the strong column of Angel’s neck work as he swallowed. 

Angel set the bottle down with a clunk and turned toward Xander, looking at him with eyes that were as black as his clothes. 

“I’m here to win. That’s it. The rest of that is for people who want to dress up and play cowboy.” Angel let his eyes rake over Xander from his black hat to the bright red and blue snap-front shirt and starched crisp blue jeans to the deep red Tony Lama boots on his feet and quirked a brow. He turned and walked out of the tent, and Xander grimaced when he realized his eyes were only one of dozen or so following him.

Xander sighed and took his beer over to an empty table and dropped into a folding chair, staring at the bottle morosely. He was still there several hours and several beers later when Dumptruck ambled in. 

The older cowboy walked over to him, seeing the black look on Xander’s face, the empty bottles in front of him and the table littered with shredded Dos Equis labels. He raised a hand and slapped it over his chest. “Ow! Shot down by an Angel.” 

Dumptruck snickered as Xander flipped him off and grabbed a chair, spinning it around and straddling it. “Sorry about that, son. I guess I should have told you that nobody’s ever cruised Angel successful. Ever.”

“Yeah, that news would have been helpful hours ago,” Xander agreed. “So why didn’t you tell me?”

Dumptruck shrugged. “Well, you’re young and pretty enough,” he grinned at Xander’s blush. “Thought you might have a shot, being new.”

“So what’s his deal?” Xander asked. 

Dumptruck tipped back his chair, sighing. “He’s the best,” he said simply. “The only pro currently on this circuit. He’s won the saddle bronc and bull riding the past five years going. Probably gonna have to retire soon, though.”

“Why?” Xander asked. 

“’Cause he’s over 30 and that’s pretty damn old for a rodeo cowboy.”

“But you’re....” Xander stopped, embarrassed.

“Over 30 by a couple of decades?” Dumptruck asked, waving him off. “But I’m not the best, never was.” He thumped his chair back down. “And why the hell are you still sittin’ here in this hot ass beer tent? Angel ain’t the only pair of tight Wranglers…this is a big Fairground, you just need to get out and look around.”

Xander nodded, leaning closer, “I’ve never seen so many hot guys in my life.”

“So get out there!” Dumptruck grinned. “Welcome dance starts in an hour, and if western swing ain’t your thing,” he laughed at himself, “gay bars are only a couple of miles from here.”

“There are gay bars in Oklahoma City?” Xander goggled in mock horror.

Dumptruck laughed. “Hell, son, there’s gay bars on the fuckin’ moon. But not in Wyoming.” He nodded sagely and Xander decided he wouldn’t question that. 

He shook his head, sighing. “Nope, I’m just gonna go back to the hotel and get some sleep. Gotta ride tomorrow.”

“Shit,” Dumptruck said, tipping his head back as Xander stood. “When I was your age, we’d ride ‘til dark, drink til midnight and fuck ‘til sunrise, and still go out and ride hard again that night, going home with a new belt buckle.”

Xander shook his head, grinning. “I don’t think I can do all that and still win a buckle,” he said, squeezing Dumptruck on the shoulder as he stepped past him.

“I didn’t say it was a buckle we won,” Dumptruck called after him, laughing. 

***

Xander was up early the next morning, leaving the hotel just as some of the all-nighters were coming in. A group of glittery boys squeezed past him as he got off the elevator, one turning back and fake swooning. “Ooo, cowboys!” he giggled, waving at Xander.

Xander shook his head, grinning. Well, staying at the gay hotel had seemed like a good idea when he’d looked it up online. The Habana Inn: two gay bars, a rainbow everything gift shop and, Xander had learned last night, a lot of running, giggling and slamming doors up and down the hallway into the wee hours of the morning. 

He was still feeling a little groggy from waking up several times during the night to the sounds of a party he hadn’t been invited to. Not to mention the trips to the bathroom after all the beer he’d drunk trying to get a black-eyed cowboy off his mind. And the dreams of said black-eyed, black-hearted cowboy that hadn’t exactly been…restful.

Xander slid behind the wheel of his pick-up and headed toward the Fairgrounds. This trip really wasn’t turning out the way he had hoped. He’d been looking forward to hanging out with a bunch of rodeo riders. Leaning against a rail fence. Spitting. Saying ‘yep.’ Checking out each other’s packages that were framed in that special Wrangler cut way. Cowboy stuff. 

He’d kind of hoped to meet the cowboy of his dreams, or at least of his weekend. Instead, he’d ended being made to feel like one of the Village People, strutting around in his rootin’ tootin’ cowboy suit. Well, not today, he thought, taking the plain straw hat from his head and tossing it to land on the seat as he started the truck and peeled out, getting in touch with his inner redneck.

He turned the radio on, scanning past seven country music stations and deciding with a grin that Oklahoma might be God’s country, after all. He settled on one that indulged his music of pain needs and cranked it.

This ole highway’s gettin’ longer, it seems there ain’t no end in sight. To sleep would be best, but I just can’t afford to rest, I gotta ride in Denver tomorrow night…

Xander let Garth sing him into the Fairgrounds and pulled up just outside the holding stables. He jumped out of the truck, a grin starting in anticipation of seeing the one friendly face he could count on. He ducked into the cool, dark stable and looked around until he caught sight of the deep, dark eyes he’d been thinking of all morning.

“Hey, Falcon,” he said softly, walking up to stroke his hand down a shiny brown nose. “How’s my girl?” 

Falcon tossed her mane, nuzzling into Xander’s hand, “They treating you right?” he asked, checking to make sure that her water and feed were fresh. “Missed you.” He laughed as the horse tossed her head, nodding. “Wish I could have just bunked here with you last night. Probably slept better.”

Xander heard someone enter the stables behind him and ducked his head, embarrassed to be overheard having a one-sided conversation. Then he shrugged. So he was talking to his horse. It was a cowboy thing, right?

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a black t-shirt and dark jeans heading to a stall a few feet away. He closed his eyes, stifling a groan. Well, that’s just perfect.

He watched as Angel flipped through the checklist posted on the front of the stall. He noticed that the older man looked a lot more relaxed than he had the day before. Probably got a good night’s rest, Xander thought resentfully. He hadn’t been kept awake by Big Ball’s in Cowtown thumping through the walls with “Yee-haws!” ringing down the hallway.

Angel looked up and caught Xander staring. He let the pages drop and walked over to Xander, who swallowed hard, his fingers tightening in Falcon’s mane as he watched the slow, lazy glide of Angel’s hips. 

“That’s a Morgan,” Angel said, stopping in front of him, his eyes on Xander’s horse.

Xander nodded, his fingers relaxing in the coarse black hair of Falcon’s mane. “Yep, first horse I ever owned. I won her with the first local title I took back in California. And she better be immortal, because I can’t afford to ever replace her.” 

Xander smiled softly, looking at Falcon. “Couldn’t, anyway.” He realized how he must sound and closed his eyes in embarrassment. God, he was so gay, and not in the guy action sense. Next he’d be telling Angel about Rufus, the goat he’d shown in 4-H club and how he’d bawled when he’d had to have him put to sleep. 

Angel ignored Xander’s man/horse love and looked down at the registration slip on the stall. “Millennium Falcon?” he asked, “You named your horse Millennium Falcon?”

Xander flushed. “She’ll make point five past lightspeed,” he said defensively. 

Angel looked back at him blankly. 

Xander sighed. “And I’m not making it any less lame with the geeky quotes, am I?” He nodded over at the big black Quarterhorse Angel had left. “What’s yours called? Diablo? Devil Wind?” 

Angel’s eyes narrowed. “Drusilla,” he said darkly, as if daring Xander to comment. 

“Dru – Drusilla?” Xander laughed, aware of the danger in the tense set of Angel’s stance, but unable to resist this. He coughed, nodding. “That’s damn manly.”

“I named her after my sister,” Angel said quietly. “My dead sister.” 

Xander choked, feeling another Angel-related blush rising. “I…I’m sorry,” he managed.

Angel looked up, an evil grin quirking one side of his lips, “She’s not really dead. Just wanted to make you feel like shit.” 

Xander shook his head, his mouth falling open. “You’re sick.” 

Angel shrugged. “Don’t mock my horse.” He looked back at Falcon, raising a sun-browned hand to curve over the horse’s neck. 

“Morgans aren’t rodeo horses,” Angel said. “They’re fast,” his appraising look moved from the Morgan to Xander, dropping from Xander’s eyes to his mouth and then running hotly over his chest and down to his groin, “but they’re not built for agility.” 

Xander was suddenly glad that he’d worn his working clothes – his real cowboy clothes. The white t-shirt was old and worn almost transparent in places, clinging to his chest and shoulders. His jeans were his oldest Wranglers, faded blue, cut to fit and velvety soft. He shifted slightly, grateful for that softness as he felt himself start to strain the seams. 

“Look,” he said, wetting his lips, “I know I’ve probably come off like a complete dumbass to you, but…”

“I don’t fuck when I’m riding,” Angel said abruptly.

“I’m sorry…what?” Xander asked, not really listening, as his mind was in the place of Angel riding and riding Angel and any combination of those two words.

“…so I don’t,” Angel was saying, “I’m not here to pick up a trick, find a fuck buddy. Besides,” he said, looking at Xander, “you’ll find it’s easier to get laid after you win, than before.” 

His eyes dropped again to the registration slip on Falcon’s stall. “Bronc riding?” he asked.

Xander nodded. “It’s my best event,” he said and then winced, hoping he hadn’t said that with too much innuendo.

Angel smiled slightly. “Not anymore.”

Xander remembered what Dumptruck had told him about Angel. That he was the only pro riding this circuit. That he’d won the saddle bronc five years running.

Angel saw the understanding in Xander’s eyes. He smiled again and his voice dropped to a husky sigh, “Good luck.”

Angel started to turn away and then looked back, his eyes narrowing as he considered something. “Don’t make this more than it is.”

Xander frowned. “Don’t make more of what?”

“This,” Angel said, grabbing Xander by the upper arms and slamming him against the stall, causing Falcon to whinny sharply and shy away. 

A warm mouth, flavored with cinnamon, covered Xander’s and he groaned as Angel’s tongue slid between his lips. Xander’s hands moved of their own accord to clutch the back of Angel’s t-shirt, feeling skin, hot and hard, beneath it. 

Angel’s hands tightened painfully on Xander’s arms as he ground their mouths together, his lips demanding everything Xander eagerly offered. Xander moved closer, his hands sliding down Angel’s back to clutch at his tight, denim clad ass, and then Angel was pulling away.

Angel nodded, his tongue flicking out to brush his lower lip, as if trying to see if he could still taste Xander there. “So don’t make that more than it was,” he said, turning to go again.

“What was it?” Xander asked, still pressed against the stall, his heart throbbing in time with his erection. “Thought you didn’t want to be a trick or a fuck-buddy.”

“I don’t,” Angel said, moving out of the shadows and into the sunlight streaming through the open barn doors. 

“So, what are you?” Xander asked, raising a hand to his swollen lips.

Angel shrugged. “A friend,” he said, stepping outside. 

“What if I don’t want a friend?” Xander called after him.

Angel stopped and looked back briefly. “I didn’t say I was yours,” he said, before walking away. 

Xander watched him go, and then stepped into the stall, saddling Falcon with shaking hands. He was going to train hard today, so he could fall into bed and pass out and not think about making that more than it was, or trying to figure it out what it had been.

***

Xander got to the Fairgrounds early the next morning, feeling a charge in the air as the other riders brushed past him, leather chaps slapping against denim and rainbow colored competitor’s numbers flapping in the breeze. 

George Strait blared from overhead speakers, the line outside the beer tent wrapped around it, and the grandstand was a sea of Stetsons. 

A work-roughened hand slammed against his shoulder. “Big ball’s in cowtown, we’ll all go down, big ball’s in cowtown, we’ll dance around,” Dumptruck sang loudly into Xander’s ear.

Xander rolled his eyes, turning around. “If I never hear that song again,” he groaned. 

Dumptruck laughed, nodding. “We pick a theme, we beat it in the ground. C’mon, let’s get over to the grandstand.” 

Xander followed Dumptruck over to the chutes behind the grandstand, riders easing past them on horseback, so close their spurs brushed Xander’s sleeve. He eased up behind the line of cowboys at the rail fence surrounding the arena, watching the color guard’s mounts kick up dust as they raced around the edges, red white and blue and rainbow snapping behind them. 

The country soundtrack cut off abruptly and a soaring a capella rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner burst into the air above them. Xander looked up to see the green finger-nailed drag queen from registration, Lorna, standing in the announcer’s booth, belting out a note-perfect performance. 

“Boy’s got a mouth on him,” Dumptruck nodded at Xander’s wide-eyed stare. He shrugged. “Or so I’ve heard tell.”

The final notes faded into the morning sky and the rodeo began. Xander leaned against the fence with a broad grin, watching the opening events. Barrel racing led into break-away calf roping, followed by the most popular event: goat dressing. Teams of two caught a goat tethered to a stake in the center of the arena. One contestant raised the rear of the goat by its hind legs and the other had to fit a pair of jockey shorts over its legs and into the dressing position. 

Xander rolled his eyes at that being an actual competition, but it didn’t keep him from laughing along with everyone else. Suddenly, Dumptruck was nudging him and he realized his first event, pole bending, was up.

He slipped thick leather gloves over his hands and pulled himself up into the chute, mounting the loaner horse he’d use to keep Falcon fresh for the saddle bronc event. He tightened his knees as the gate was thrown, and then he was galloping through a pattern of six poles, twenty-one feet apart. His mount easily changed leads as they wove through the poles, and then he was riding out, not having touched a single pole and hearing his time called. 17.5 seconds – he’d beaten his own record.

He rode back across the arena, sweaty and grinning as he heard the crowd cheering and Dumptruck still able to yell above it as he hung on the rungs of the chute, waving at Xander. 

Xander jumped down from the horse and saw one of the rodeo clowns run up to lead it away, and then Dumptruck was hauling him up against the metal bars of the gate, almost cracking his ribs. 

“Goddamn!” Dumptruck hollered, pulling Xander free of the chute and hugging him hard. “Goddamn, boy! You just set an arena record!”

Xander grinned, and then shook his head, easing back from Dumptruck’s hold. “It’s a girl’s event,” he said, shrugging.

“Hey,” Dumptruck said, his laughter fading as he put a hand on Xander’s arm. “There ain’t no girl or boy nothin’ at this rodeo, awright? You just rode your goddamn ass off and I don’t want to hear you talkin’ shit about it.”

Xander grinned and nodded. I won, he thought, his eyes lighting up and then he grabbed Dumptruck in a hard hug again, dancing him around. “Big ball’s in cowtown, we’ll all go down,” he sang, laughing as Dumpruck joined in. 

He froze suddenly, hearing the call for the bronc riders to be ready after the next event and seeing Angel ride into the lead in area and look down at him. Xander swallowed, his mouth dry as his eyes followed black boots and silver spurs up black fringed chaps with a red dragon pattern until he met a pair of dark eyes shadowed by a black Stetson. 

Angel met his gaze for a moment and then said, “Not bad,” as he rode off. 

“Well, now,” Dumptruck drawled, leaning back from Xander and grinning.

Xander shrugged. “It’s nothing. Don’t make it more than it is,” he said quietly as he turned to get Falcon and mount up for the next event. 

When he rode up on Falcon a few minutes later, he realized he was slated to go right before Angel and groaned. Not only was he going to lose, but he was going to get shown up right after he lost. 

He moved into the chute and leaned down to whisper to Falcon, “C’mon, baby, you’re the champion out of the two us. Show that arrogant ass who the real cowboys are.” 

Xander burst out of the gate, feeling Falcon surging and bucking beneath him and doing all the work for him, leaving him free to just remember to keep his right hand locked on the handhold and his left up, away from his hat, the rigging and himself. It was over in seconds and he jumped down from Falcon, watching the crazed bronc of the last few seconds settle back into the docile saddle horse. Xander grinned. Big faker. 

He jumped the side of the arena, walking back over to Dumptruck to watch Angel’s ride. Angel came out of the gate, a fury of red and black as Drusilla, Xander snickered again, began bucking and twisting. The seconds seem to stretch out as Xander watched the tight play of muscles beneath Angel’s black shirt, his arm suspended above his head and his body arched to follow the lead of the horse. 

Xander’s breath caught in his throat as Drusilla suddenly leapt to the side, twisting sharply, and Angel’s arm jerked down, nearing the brim of his hat. He watched as Angel whipped his arm, bowing back in a move that almost touched his head to the horse’s flank and then snapping up again in a way that should have broken him in two.

Xander heard the crowd screaming around him and Angel leapt to the ground, throwing his arms up briefly and then walking slowly out of the arena. 

“Wow,” Xander finally managed when he caught his breath. 

Dumptruck shrugged. “Told you he was the best.” He sighed, rubbing his chin, “That had to fuckin’ hurt, though.” 

Xander laughed, nodding and then found himself, minutes later, standing on a platform in the arena next to Angel and the other event winners as they received their buckles and prize money. Xander glanced down at the gold and silver buckle in his hands, his thumb tracing over the engraving of a tiny horse and rider bending around a pole. 

Big Ball’s in Cowtown started up again, the entire arena singing along, and then warm lips were against his ear.

“Where are you staying?”

Xander’s fingers clenched on the buckle. “The Habana.”

Angel chuckled lightly. “Figures.” He nodded his head away from the crowd surging toward them. “C’mon. I’ve got a trailer.”

Xander looked back at him. “Okay, words I’d never thought I’d be happy to hear.” 

He followed Angel out of the crush and then stopped, grabbing the other man’s arm. “Wait – my horse…”

“They’ll take her back,” Angel said, taking his hand. “Come on.”

Angel led him past the grandstand to the park where trailers and campers were lined up, a sea of white against the green summer grass. Angel unlocked the door to a fairly new looking one, bypassing the step and leaping inside and turning to reach for Xander’s hand. 

Xander leapt up, realized he still had his gloves on and peeled them off slowly as he looked around. It was fairly empty; dark paneling framing a wall of buckles, trophies and plaques. A built-in loveseat took up one wall and tiny TV perched on a flimsy stand. 

Xander turned to look back at Angel, so bright and beautiful and so wrong in this sad, dark setting. 

Angel walked into a tiny kitchen, reaching into a cabinet and bringing out a bottle of tequila and a couple of glasses. “Why don’t you grab a shower while I fix us a couple of drinks?” he said quietly.

Xander nodded and then cocked his head, grinning, “Why don’t we forget the drinks and you join me?”

Angel laughed a little, jerking his head. “Check out the shower.” 

Xander turned and went into a room the size of a portable toilet. The shower was half that size, and he thought that if held his breath and stayed turned to the side, he might fit into it. He laughed and called back, “Gotcha.” 

He dropped down to sit on the closed toilet seat, unbuckling his spurs. He wrapped them carefully in a towel lying on the counter and then tugged off his boots, sighing in relief. He set his hat on the countertop and stood and reached for his belt, unbuckling it and realizing with a grin that he had a new buckle to put on it. 

His chaps fell to the floor and he quickly got his jeans, socks and thin, nylon bike shorts off, then the pearl snaps on his shirt were popping open and his t-shirt was following it to the floor. He showered quickly, hearing Angel moving around in the other room over the sounds of the water. He got out, wrapping a towel around his hips and walking out of the bathroom. 

Angel stood at the counter, two shot glasses of tequila, a salt shaker and a row of precisely sliced limes in front of him. 

Xander skirted the counter, water still dripping down his chest as he reached around Angel for the salt. He locked eyes with Angel, made a fist and salted it, and then slowly licked the vee of his closed fingers. He grabbed one of the glasses, slammed it and then sucked a lime wedge for far longer than he needed to. Angel’s eyes never left his and then he shoved away from Xander, heading toward the shower.

“Hang on,” Xander said hoarsely, walking over to him. His fingers reached for the silver snaps on Angel’s black leather vest, ripping it open and shoving it off his shoulders. He grasped the hem of Angel’s shirt, tugging it out of his jeans and jerking the other man against him. Xander leaned back then, slowly popping each snap open until all of Angel’s broad, tanned chest was bared to him. 

Xander closed his eyes, groaning. “Hurry,” he said, and pushed Angel toward the bathroom.

Xander wandered around the small room while the shower ran, pouring himself another shot and trying to keep his towel up over a still wet body and a raging hard-on. The water cut off, and he turned to see Angel standing at the doorway, a black towel slung low on his hips.

Xander swallowed, stepping back behind the counter to fix Angel a shot. “So,” he said, clearing his throat, “Angel, huh?”

Angel frowned at him, and then nodded slowly. “It’s short for Angelus. Angelus domini nuntiavit Mariae,” he murmured. 

Xander slammed the shot he’d made for Angel. “Wow. Long name. I’d go by Angel, too.”

Angel stared at him. “It’s the Angelus devotion in memory of the Annunciation.” 

Xander blinked back at him.

“The bell that rings three times a day to call for the Angelus to be…nevermind,” he sighed, seeing Xander’s shrug. “It’s a Catholic thing.” 

Xander grinned. “I think my mom named me Alexander because that’s as far as she got in the baby name book before she got bored.”

“Alexander,” Angel said softly, rolling the name on his tongue, “from the Greek: ‘helper of mankind.’” The towel dropped from Angel’s waist. “So, Alexander…you feeling helpful?” 

Xander’s hand jerked around the neck of the bottle, sloshing tequila across his fingers. He stumbled slightly, remembering that in all the excitement of the day he’d forgotten to make it to the food tent and three tequila shots was probably a bad idea and holy shit Angel was gorgeous. 

He let the tequila bottle thump to the counter and walked around it, meeting Angel in the center of the room. He looked at Angel’s mouth, the lips so dark red, and remembering the feel of it on his. His eyes dropped to the broad, muscled chest, nipples puckered from the water air-drying against them, the flat stomach, the dark hair below it and the cock, almost as blood dark as Angel’s lips, jutting out from between strong thighs. 

Xander groaned and fell back against the arm that wrapped suddenly around him as those lips brushed against his throat. 

Angel’s breath flared hotly against Xander’s neck as he spoke, “I’ve been hard for you for three fucking days.”

Xander dropped his hands to Angel’s hips, his callused fingers rubbing roughly against smoothness of the skin. “Hid it well,” he gritted out.

Angel twisted slightly against him, dragging his bare cock over the towel covering Xander’s. “Not hiding anything now.” He smiled into the curve of Xander’s neck, palming the boy’s erection through the damp cloth. “Well, I’m not, anyway.” 

Xander whipped the towel from his hips and pulled Angel back against him, both of them groaning and Angel whispering a quiet, “Fuck,” as skin, warm, wet, hard and soft, brushed together. 

Angel’s hands smoothed across Xander’s back and sides, and then ran over his chest and neck until they reached up, tangling in Xander’s hair and pulling him in for a kiss. Angel’s tongue thrust greedily, curving over lips and teeth and darting in again and again until Xander shuddered against him.

Xander reached up to tug those hands away from his face and then held them as he slid slowly down Angel’s body. Angel’s eyes followed him down and then he slipped his hands free of Xander’s, tangling one in the boy’s dark hair and closing his eyes as a warm wet mouth eased around the head of his cock.

Xander sucked slowly, teasingly, loving the feel of Angel’s fingers digging into his scalp, the hips jerking against his cheeks as Angel tried not to give into the need to thrust. 

Xander heard the other man moan and took pity on him, sliding his lips down to the root and then roughly grabbing Angel by the hips and jerking him closer. 

Angel wrapped his fist tightly in Xander’s hair and watched the dark head bobbing faster on him as a hot tongue dipped lower, flicking at the base of his cock, making his balls tighten and causing him to pull back with as hiss. 

Xander looked up, his eyes half-shut and his mouth open, the lips wet and shining. Angel pulled him to his feet and kissed him, his hand dropping to give a light squeeze to Xander’s cock before tugging him over to the sofa. 

Xander turned to lie across it on his stomach and Angel shook his head, pushing him away slightly to sit down and tug Xander to him. 

“I wanted you inside me,” Xander gasped as Angel’s hand began to fist his cock again. 

Angel shook his head again, licking his lips as he looked up at Xander. “I want you to ride me. I want to see you ride like you did in the arena, your body tight and arched, your legs gripping me hard and that look of total control on your face.” 

Xander jerked away from Angel’s grasping hand, shuddering as he tried to breathe. “Oh, God,” he groaned, closing at his eyes at the picture Angel’s words painted. He opened his eyes to see that Angel was slipping a small tube of lubricant and a condom from beneath one of the couch cushions.

Xander grinned, feeling the ‘don’t come, don’t come, don’t come’ shudders start to ease a bit. “Pretty sure of me, huh?” he asked.

Angel just grinned at him, squeezing a few drops of lube into the condom, filling Xander’s head with the scent of strawberries. He watched as Angel slowly slid the condom over his hard flesh and then a warm, wet hand was sliding around Xander’s hip, fingers easing into him and pressing deeper. Xander stared down into Angel’s eyes as those fingers moved in him, wetting him, stretching him, claiming him. 

Then Angel’s hands were reaching for his hips, pulling him closer, but Xander brushed them away, putting his own hands on Angel’s shoulders and easing himself down until he could feel the head of Angel’s cock nudging against him. 

Xander leaned in to him, brushing his lips against Angel’s ear. “I haven’t needed help mounting in a long time,” he breathed, and then he was thrusting down hard, his knees gripping Angel’s thighs as he felt his body sink down onto that hard cock. 

Xander threw his head back, his hands digging into Angel’s shoulders and then he was riding hard, not starting off slowly, but rising and slamming back in a harsh rhythm. He felt Angel buck beneath him and grinned. “Extra points if I’d left the hat on, huh?” he panted.

Angel reached around to clutch at Xander’s ass. “Extra points if you’ll shut up and…oh, God…” 

Xander laughed breathlessly as he twisted his hips again, lifting almost all the way off and tightening around the tip of Angel’s cock before thrusting back down again. 

Angel tried to control him by tightening his hands on Xander’s hips, but Xander arched away from him, slowing until he was just grinding leisurely, lifting and lowering in a lazy rhythm that made Angel shake against him.

“You’re going to kill me if you don’t start moving that ass,” Angel gritted out. 

Xander laughed. “I’m twenty-two,” he answered, dragging slowly up Angel’s cock and sliding teasingly back down again. “I can do this all night.” 

Strong arms suddenly tightened roughly around Xander’s waist, lifting him up and shoving him to the floor. “I’m thirty-three,” Angel growled into the back of his neck as he parted Xander’s thighs and slammed back into him. “I know what do with a cock-teasing bottom.” 

Xander’s fingers curled into the rough shag carpet, thrusting back hard against Angel and then groaning loudly as a hard hand gripped his cock and began to slide slickly up and down it. Angel pumped him roughly as he slammed harder and harder into him and then Angel’s lips were at his neck again, biting lightly and blowing soft breaths over the bites. “Ride it out, baby,” Angel said, grinding into him. “C’mon, let me feel you…”

Xander cried out, driving his hips back into Angel and feeling himself tighten around that demanding hardness, his cock jerking as he came in hot, shuddering pulses, covering Angel’s hand. Angel’s arm tightened around his waist, pulling Xander up against his chest as Angel’s hips writhed one last time and he came with moan, his lips buried in Xander’s hair. 

Angel pulled slowly away from Xander, standing on shaky legs to walk into the kitchen and pour himself a shot. Xander stayed where he was, his hands braced against his knees as he waited to hear, “Nice ride, cowboy, happy trails.” Not that Angel would say anything that cheesy, but the gist would be the same.

When he didn’t hear anything, he turned to look toward Angel, who was leaning against the bar, his body dark, beautiful and easy as he cupped a glass in one hand and rubbed a thumb over the buckle he’d won today with the other.

“You’re going to the Finals in Nebraska next month,” Angel said, his eyes still on the buckle Xander had almost won from him.

It wasn’t really a question, but Xander nodded. “Yeah,” he said, leaning back on his hands and stretching out, grinning as Angel’s gaze ran the length of his body before falling back to the buckle in his hand. “So are you.” 

Angel nodded absently.

Xander frowned. “What?”

Angel looked up at him, and then set his glass on the counter, dropping the buckle. He walked slowly over to Xander and dropped to a crouch, his hand reaching up to cup the back of Xander’s neck, their mouths inches apart. “I don’t know,” Angel said, his lips brushing Xander’s lightly, “thought you might could use a friend.”