Mountain Hideout Ch. 03byRenee_Stevens©
Two Days Later
Trace found himself sitting on the porch as he tried to decide what to do for the day. He would have loved to go for a swim in the pond, but his arm prevented that. He was trying to decide if he felt like taking Hercules and going for a hike when he saw Jackson walking towards his cabin. He loved to watch the way Jackson moved. He was wearing casual attire of shorts and a somewhat tight fitting t-shirt as he made his way towards Trace's cabin.
"Hey Trace," Jackson greeted as he reached the stairs.
"Hey Jackson," Trace answered, trying to figure out why the other man was there. He hadn't seen Jackson since he'd told him about what had happened back home. As much as he could have wished otherwise, many of his thoughts had centered around the former Marine.
"I was wondering if you had any plans," Jackson told him.
"Not really," Trace answered him. "Why do you ask?"
"I was just going to go for a hike. There are a few trails that I closed off to the rest of the vacationers and was wondering if you'd like to go with me."
"I don't know," Trace answered. He wouldn't mind going on the hike with Jackson, but he wasn't sure how he'd feel about Hercules going along with them.
"He can come too," Jackson told him. He had watched Trace's quick glance at his dog and realized why he was on the fence about going with him. Ever since his talk the other day with Trace, Jackson had found the other man on his mind constantly. He knew that he probably wasn't gay, but figured there was no reason why he couldn't get to know him better.
"I guess we could," Trace answered cautiously. "I had actually just been thinking about taking Hercules and going up the trails."
"Then it's settled," Jackson said with a smile.
"I guess so, just let me grab a bottle of water and put some different shoes on," Trace told him as he headed up the stairs to change shoes.
"The shoes would be a good idea, but don't worry about the water, I have a few bottles in my pack," Jackson told him, shrugging out of the backpack and setting it next to the stairs.
"I'll be right out," Trace told him before heading into the cabin only to come out a few minutes later in loosely tied tennis shoes. "I'm ready when you are."
"Let's go then," Jackson responded, once again shouldering the pack. Even though they were only going for a short hike, he had enough provisions in the pack to last a couple of days in case anything happened. He also figured maybe they could have a picnic lunch once they had reached his favorite spot.
They hiked in silence for a good couple of miles, both of them enjoying just having someone to hike along with. They watched as Hercules went a little ways into the trees to check out a new scent, but never strayed too far from where they walked on the trail.
"So what made you decide to leave the Marines?" Trace asked when the silence became too much for him.
"A few different things I guess," Jackson answered as he questioned how much he actually wanted to tell him. "I guess the biggest thing though was their beliefs on gays."
"Oh?" Trace asked. That single comment had really piqued his interest as he allowed his mind to roam over the possibilities.
"Yeah, I had quite a few friends who turned out to be gay. One of them actually got discharged when he was discovered in a rather compromising position."
"I never could understand the military's stand on gay personnel," Trace answered.
"Yeah, neither did I. I always kind of figured it was never any of their business. Hell, it probably would have ended up being cheaper for them if they didn't make such a big deal out of it. Since the government doesn't recognize partners of the same sex they wouldn't be able to be claimed as dependents. Just think of the benefits they wouldn't have to pay out. As it was, I knew a few as well who were gay but were married just to help keep anyone from suspecting."
"Very true. That whole "Don't ask, don't tell" policy is crap. So I guess since that's the reason that you left, you have no issues with a person's sexuality?" Trace asked quietly.
"If you don't ask, I won't tell," Jackson answered with a small smile.
"Seriously? You?" Trace knew he sounded like an idiot but despite having hoped that maybe Jackson swung his way, he hadn't really let himself think of it as a possibility.
"Is that really so hard to believe?" Jackson asked, hoping he hadn't read Trace wrong. The only good thing was, that with Trace's injured arm, there was no way he could physically hurt him.
"I guess not," Trace answered honestly. "Most people don't think it of me either, I just wasn't expecting it I guess."
"Guess that was some good beating around the bush," Jackson said on a laugh. "At least I think we both found out what we really wanted to know, whether or not we bat for the same team."
"True enough," Trace confirmed. Despite knowing that they both were gay, Trace was a bit nervous and decided to try and get the conversation onto a safer footing. "So where are we headed?"
"Just a spot that I like to go to a couple times a week. It's got an awesome view that I thought you would appreciate."
"Sounds good," Trace answered softly. They walked in a companionable silence as they each pondered what the revelations could mean. They had gone about another mile when the path started to widen before entering a clearing in the trees. Another hundred yards and they came to a bluff overlooking the cluster of cabins down below.
"You hungry?" Jackson asked as he moved towards a crude bench and table that had been fashioned out of a couple of trees.
"Maybe a little bit," Trace answered as he stood a couple feet back from the edge and studied the terrain below. He could see the road that led into the cabins below and could make out each individual cabin. "Bet you've brought a lot of guys up here," Trace said without thinking about how that would sound. When he didn't get an answer he turned and found Jackson watching him. "Shit man, I'm sorry," Trace told him as realization dawned, "that didn't come out right. I didn't mean to insinuate that you'd brought me up here for that reason."
"Well, to answer your question, no, I haven't brought a lot of guys up here. Actually, you're the first. Don't feel guilty, if I had known you were gay, I probably would have brought you up here for exactly the reasons you were thinking, but I didn't know until we were already on our way. I will admit to bringing you up here to give us a chance to get to know each other better though."
"Interesting to know," Trace answered noncommittally as he turned back to the view. He turned what Jackson had said around in his head as he studied the scenery and failed to notice that Jackson had walked up behind him. The first he became aware of the man behind him was when he felt hands settle on his shoulders and turn him away from the view.
"Does that bother you?" Jackson asked cautiously. He wasn't sure what was going on in Trace's head, but he had expected more of a response to his revelation.
"It probably should, but it really doesn't," Trace admitted. "I don't know what good it would do to get to know each other though, we live a couple of hours apart and probably couldn't hold a relationship together."
"Whoa! Who said anything about a relationship? I mean yeah, it could eventually lead to that, but I was just thinking about seeing where it went and if it did reach that point, a couple of hours really isn't all that far."
"Regardless, anything between us right now wouldn't be safe for you," Trace told him.
"I've already told you I can take care of myself, besides, right now I wouldn't be in any danger because they don't know where you are. Granted, if you were back in the city and we were seeing each other it could be dangerous, but that's at least a month away," Jackson told him, his hands still resting on Trace's shoulders. He knew he should have let go, but he felt some kind of connection and he wanted to convince Trace to explore it with him. He may not have come up to the bluff with the intention of starting a relationship, but now that Trace had planted the seed, he could feel the idea sprouting in his mind.
"I really don't know," Trace answered cautiously.
"Would you quit thinking it to death and just feel," Jackson scolded before lowering his head and capturing Trace's lips with his own. At first the kiss was tentative, a barely there brush of lips against lips, but became more insistent when Jackson felt Trace respond. "Fuck," Jackson swore as he pulled back a bit and looked down at Trace. "I don't think this is a good idea."
"You're the one who fucking kissed me," Trace shot back in defense.
"That's not what I mean," Jackson told him exasperated. "What I meant was, we probably shouldn't be doing it this close to the edge."
"Oh," was all Trace could manage to get out. Without stopping to think about it, Trace pushed Jackson further back from the edge before closing the distance between them and bringing his lips to the other man's. When they finally broke apart they were both breathing heavily and without a word, Trace led Jackson over to the crude table.
"So does this mean we're starting something?" Jackson asked him as he sat down and pulled Trace down next to him.
"We'll just see where it goes," Trace replied. "That's all I can promise right now."
Three Weeks Later
"What's going on in that head of yours?" Jackson asked from his position on the couch. Over the last few weeks he'd found that he loved lying with Trace and just watching the television or talking.
"Just wondering what's going on back home," Trace answered him honestly as he stroked his fingers through Jackson's hair. He found it quite enjoyable when Jackson would lay with his head in his lap.
"I can't believe that they still haven't found the rest of the scum that's after you," Jackson told him angrily. "You've been here for over a month."
"You trying to get rid of me?" Trace asked, only slightly kidding. He constantly found himself worrying about what would happen when he headed back home. He and Jackson had spent as much time together as they could in the three weeks since the day up on the bluff and he wasn't looking forward to going home.
"You know that's not what I mean," Jackson answered, sitting up so that he was facing Trace. "I just hate knowing that they're still out there. I'll keep you with me as long as I possibly can and you won't hear any complaints about it."
"I know, its nerve wracking not to know what I'm going to go home too. I keep wondering how long I'm going to have to look over my shoulder. Maybe I should go into town and check in with the chief, see what's going on," Trace told him. When he'd first come up here, he had decided that he'd go into town just in case those that were after him had tracing equipment. The town was only about forty five minutes away and if they did trace the call, it wouldn't lead them straight to the cabins. They'd have to do a little searching.
"If you want. I actually need to pick up a few things in town, so if you don't mind I'll go with you," Jackson told him. There really were things he could pick up in town, but the biggest part of it all was just spending time with Trace. He knew that their time together would be drawing to a close and he wanted to revel in Trace's companionship as long as possible.
"That's fine with me, but if we're going to go we should probably go soon, before it gets much later."
"If it gets too late, I'll drive back," Jackson promised as he stood up from the couch. He held out his hand to help Trace up off the couch and as soon as he had him on his feet he pulled the other man to him for a brief kiss.
Despite the drive into town being uneventful, Trace couldn't seem to shake off the feeling that something wasn't right. He glanced again into his rearview mirror, but just like the last time he had looked, there was nothing behind him.
"You okay?" Jackson asked as they approached the outskirts of the small town. "You seem kind of tense."
"I'll be fine, just have a bad feeling I can't shake," Trace answered with another glance in the mirror. Trace pulled his truck into the grocery store and started making his calls as Jackson went in to get the few things he had come into town for. Trace dialed the chief first the same way he did every other time he called in. He chatted for a minute with the chief only to find out they still didn't have any leads. When he hung up he dialed Mitch's cell phone with entirely different results. After he hung up he was surprised to find his hands shaking too bad to dial in the chief's number in a second time.
Trace flung open the door of the truck and ran into the grocery store. He wasn't sure what Jackson was there to get so he ran across the end of the aisles, glancing frantically up each one of them as he passed. He finally found Jackson and didn't even register what he was looking at as he yelled out.
"What's wrong babe?" Jackson asked worriedly as he dropped the items in his hand into the cart and caught Trace against his body as he ran up to him.
"Mitch," was all Trace could manage to get out. Usually he was able to keep his cool, but having just found out that the men who were after him had his partner and his partner's family scared the living daylights out of him.
"What about Mitch?" Jackson asked, gently moving Trace back until he could see into his face. He had heard a lot about Trace's partner and knew that they were just as close as brothers. "What happened to Mitch?" Jackson asked again, a little more forcefully when Trace didn't answer him.
"They've got him. Said when they couldn't find me they went after him to draw me out. Either I show up at Mitch's house or they're going to kill him and his family," Trace told him frantically. "I've got to get back there."
"Easy babe, you'll get there, and I'm going to go with you," Jackson told him calmly.
"You can't," Trace objected. "You can't go with me while they're still out there." Trace was past the point of being rational and just knew that they had to move quickly. He still had to take Jackson back to the cabins before he could head back home.
"Listen to me babe; you are in no condition to drive. Plus, if I don't go with you, that's an extra hour and a half by the time you take me back and get there." The cart was forgotten as Jackson led Trace out of the store and helped him into the passenger seat. "Listen to me Trace, you know I have to go with you, you'll waste too much time taking me home first."
"If you go, you stay as far out of it as you can," Trace told him. "I won't have you getting hurt because of me, do you understand me?"
"Yeah, I understand," Jackson told him.
Trace didn't even question the quickness of Jackson's answer and instead started thinking of ways to get his partner's family out of the mess they were in. He hated the handicap of only having one working arm because it would keep him from actually going in. He played each scenario he could think of over and over again in his head. He could send Hercules in, but he didn't know how many were in the house and he really didn't want the dog to get shot either. He could go in and give them what they wanted, but he knew there was no guarantee that the men wouldn't kill them all anyways.
"You doing okay?" Jackson asked. Trace hadn't said a word to him since they had left the grocery store and Jackson was getting more worried as the miles of the interstate flew by.
"I'm fine," Trace answered, a hint of steel back in his voice.
"So what's the plan?"
"I don't know yet, I'm trying to figure that out," Trace told him before falling silent again.