ELIZABETH MARSHALL STORIES

CATALYST


The land grant college's campus sprawled inelegantly across the hills. It looked every bit the school for sons of farmers it had originally been. Its buildings were squared brick and cement, designed to be easy to heat during the bitter winters. It was a constant source of speculation why disparate departments came to be placed side by side.


The geology labs and the music studios were housed in the same building. Save for that odd confluence of office spaces, it was unlikely that Noah and Jim would have met. Noah was into rocks and Jim into rock; on the surface the two men had little in common.


Noah had grown up in the small mountain community. He'd roamed the hills as a boy, joined the Scouts, learned to swim and climb and tie good knots. He'd gone away to college, gotten his degree in geology, and come back to teach among the mountains he loved. He spent his weekends as a volunteer leader for the local hiking club.


Jim looked at the woods and saw bugs. Snakes. Dirt. His idea of a well spent weekend was getting a lead on a decent club, a new restaurant, anything that involved late nights and a good bar. What he was doing on a three day forced march through the woods with a group of enthusiasts who thought clearing and repairing hiking trails were worthwhile weekend activities was as much a mystery to Jim as the proximity of the geology and music departments' rooms.


There was no mystery, though, about his attraction to Noah. Noah was attractive even in his teaching outfit, conservative Dockers and neat button downs. Out in the woods, stripped to the waist, impervious to sunburn and mosquitoes and black flies, wrestling a huge fallen branch from the trail, he looked hotter than the sweltering summer day. Jim's entire body felt alive in his presence.


It wasn't only Noah's looks that drew Jim to him. It was Noah's sharp intelligence and his way of offering good advice without the slightest hint of condescension. It was the way that from their first time together, Noah's body spoke to Jim's in the dark. Jim had had other lovers, but he had never been touched the way Noah touched him, had never felt known the way Noah seemed to know him.


Which was why Jim was spending his three precious days off as slave labor with the local hiking club and sleeping, damn his aching back, in the dubious comfort of the club's rustic lodge. The nights of hot sex and the pleasure of waking with Noah's body curled around his own almost made up for the sheer boredom of the work.


They didn't, however, make up for the sheer boredom of evenings by the campfire, listening to tales of mountains scaled. Jim looked glumly at the small seated circle of his fellow workers and turned to Noah with a sigh.


"Maybe I'll just turn in, Noah," Jim said tentatively.


"Oh, sure, Jim, I understand if you're tired." Noah was surprised; he knew Jim was not one for early nights.


"It's not exactly that I'm tired, Noah--" Jim tried to keep the frustration he felt out of his voice, but Noah recognized it anyway.


"You want to go into town?" Noah watched Jim perk up at the thought of civilization.


"Oh thank God," Jim said. "Yes, Noah."


There was a local band playing on the small stage at the front of the small town bar. They were surprisingly good. The lithe, dark haired drummer looked over at Noah and gave a quick salute.


"You know each other?" Jim asked, though the answer was obvious. He studied the drummer carefully, registering the similarity in appearance between the drummer and himself.


"Mack," Noah said. "Old friend."


Mack came over at the end of the set. He turned up the edge of his tee shirt, revealing washboard abs, and wiped the faint sheen of sweat from his attractive face with the stretchy fabric.


"Hot under those lights. Damn, Noah, it's been too fucking long. Who's my twin here?"


So it's not just me flattering myself, Jim thought. What is it about drummers, anyway? Jim swallowed hard. Even he, a musician himself, wasn't impervious to Mack's heat.


Noah introduced Jim as a fellow musician and Jim and Mack quickly fell into the familiar musicians' "do you know---," "I used to play with---," patter. One beer led to another and a few more glasses into the evening, Mack grinned at them.


"You guys up for a threesome?" Mack asked.


Jim overturned his beer. Noah coughed and spit out the mouthful he'd been about to swallow.


"Shit, shit, shit, I'm sorry!" Jim said, slamming napkins into the spreading puddle.


"It's okay, Jim, you didn't get me," Noah said, helping dry the table. "Mack, you're incorrigible. Someone ought to tan your ass for that remark."


Jim's eyes widened at the magical words. He had wondered if Noah were open to this sort of thing, but he had never quite screwed up the courage to ask.


"Oh, I don't know, I'm not the one who spilled my drink." Mack winked at Jim. "You into a little ass whipping, Jim? I damn well know Noah is."


"Oh yeah, I'm up for it," Jim murmured, feeling himself harden at the thought of what it would be like to be bare and blushed red over Noah's lap.

 

Jim was oblivious to anything but the raw sexual energy Mack was bringing to this encounter. It'd be hot, it'd be fun, it'd be a one off. Who could it hurt?


Jim must have voiced his thoughts out loud, because Noah responded to his question.


"You," Noah said softly. "You're not as tough as you think, Jim. We're not doing this today."


"Why, what did I do?" Jim sounded dazed, his judgment clouded by the combination of alcohol and lust.


"You didn't do anything wrong," Noah soothed him. "I just think we need to talk before we take this any further." 


"It was your idea." Jim sounded both defensive and disappointed and at the same time, perhaps the slightest bit relieved.


"Yeah well, fuck you too, Noah," Mack said angrily, seeing his evening's hook up evaporating.


"You're drunk, Mackie," Noah said gently. "This isn't a good idea."


"I'm not drunk, Noah." Mack reeled, falling against Noah.


"Mack!" Noah hoisted Mack to his feet by one elbow. "Damn you, Mackie." Noah raked his fingers through his thick blond hair. Jim recognized the gesture as one of extreme frustration and all at once he realized that Noah was genuinely upset.


"What can I do to help, Noah?" Jim asked, suddenly sober.


"Thank you for asking. Could you help me get him home, Jim? Please."


Between Noah and Jim, they manhandled Mack out the door and into the quiet street.

Noah led the way to the back entrance of a ramshackle two story building, talking softly to Mack as they walked.


"Someone should tan your ass for real for this stunt," Noah said quietly.


"Come off it, Noah, you know that never worked for me," Mack said, his speech slurred. "I had enough of that growing up to last me a lifetime."


"I'm not talking the sort of beatings you got from your old man and you damn well know it," Noah said. "I'm talking about you taking a little responsibility for not fucking up the rest of your life. "


"Don't, Noah," Mack moaned.


"All right," Noah said, regretting having started in the first place. He should have known better. "Forget it, Mackie. Shh, easy now, let's get you inside." The door to the house's back entrance was unlocked. Shoving it open, Noah helped Mack over the threshold. Mack sagged and Jim caught his other arm before he fell and helped ease Mack down on the couch.


"What the fuck was that about?" Jim asked, the uncharacteristic profanity revealing just how stressed he felt. "Noah?"


"It's a long story," Noah sounded exhausted. "I'm sorry, Jim. Thanks for helping me get him home. We should go now."


"All right," Jim said doubtfully. He felt there was something here he needed to understand, but he recognized that Noah was not capable of talking yet. "You think he'll be okay? He probably just needs to sleep it off, right?"


"Yeah. Thank you, Jim. " Noah appreciated Jim's tact in not asking anything but the most practical of questions. "I'm sorry about this."


"It's okay, Noah," Jim said. He meant it. "There's no way you could have predicted this. Come on, let's go back up to the lodge."


The lodge was silent by the time Jim and Noah returned. They crept quietly to their room and undressed without talking. Jim lay back, mutely offering himself. Noah straddled Jim and leaning in, kissed him hard and deep, until Jim was writhing beneath him, panting for more. Reaching into the nightstand, Noah covered himself and slicked his heavy cock with lube. Jim rolled over, bracing his arms on the mattress, dropping his head, his back arched. Noah guided himself into Jim, waiting until Jim's faint exhalation told him it was all right to go further. He took Jim thoroughly, grasping his hips firmly, holding him still as he thrust into him. Jim's head came back and he pressed into the mattress, moaning, and came hard as Noah gave a final thrust and quivered inside him.


Noah withdrew carefully, tied off the condom and lay back. Jim flopped over next to him, panting. Their hands sought each others and their fingers interlaced.


"So how well do you know Mack?" Jim asked Noah as they lay side by side afterward, both still sweaty and panting, a faint breeze from the mountain pines scenting the room.


"He was my boyfriend for a while, actually," Noah began, his eyes faraway. "I was a damn sight more serious about him than he was about me. It was doomed from the start. I needed more control to consider a relationship than he would ever have been comfortable giving up to me."


"So you wanted to have one of those discipline things? I didn't know you were into that...stuff," Jim said honestly. "What, you wanted to spank him?"


"That's an interesting question," Noah said. "It's not just about spanking." Noah was almost as unnerved by this unanticipated conversation as Jim was. "Jim, I'll be glad to talk about this with you, but would you come here first?" Noah asked. "Please?"


Jim moved closer. He sighed with pleasure as Noah's pleasantly rough palm brushed his cheek and cupped his chin. His shallow breathing slowed and deepened as Noah kissed him carefully and he kissed Noah back, harder and more passionately.


After a few minutes it registered with Jim that Noah had broken off their kiss and was talking to him, coaxing him to listen.


"What? What did I do now?"Jim asked plaintively.


"You didn't do anything wrong." Noah soothed him. "I'd just like to talk seriously before we take this relationship any further. I've never wanted to be with anyone the way I want to be with you. But if we want to make it permanent, then I need more control. I need to be the once in charge."


"Oh." Jim sighed. "It's a lot to decide, Noah. I mean, if we had one of these discipline things, you could spank me, couldn't you?"


"That's an interesting question," Noah said. "Basically, yes, but if you were mine, I would take good care of you. Discipline's not just about spanking. I like you very much, Jim. I wouldn't be looking for occasions to punish you." Noah took a deep breath. "'I love you."


"Is that so?" Jim swallowed hard. He thought of the easy way Noah had of making him feel heard, of how easy it was to listen when Noah offered advice, he thought of the easy way their bodies fit together in the night and he made his choice. "Let's go for it, Noah. Let's go for the whole thing."


"I promise you won't be sorry," Noah said.


"I love you, too." Jim smiled with pleasure as Noah hugged him close. "Neither will you." 


*FIN*