Wordcount: 25,000
Disclaimer: Fanfiction.
Thanks: The most amazing team of betas worked on this story. I'm profoundly and utterly grateful to - in alphabetical order - andreth47, atimi, hpreader, q_i, naatz, unovis_lj, and wendy. This story is so very much better for their input.
Summary: J2 ponyplay. Kink. Seriously. This is an AU universe, and merrily ticks off maculategiraffe's slavefic tropes Don't nuzzle me unless you mean it and Damaged goods. There's an OC named Eric who has nothing to do with the RL SPN Eric. By request, there's a ponyplay vocabulary guide here, if anyone wants. There's also, thanks to twsadark, a .pdf fie - here.
The absolutely stunning illustration is by Ailine, who created it for her Russian traslation of this story - it's posted about here, if you would like to cmment.
It's been tunred into the cover above by menus_venator.

Warnings: To f-list I'd say there's nothing kinky about this fic but the fic itself. More seriously, dub-con. Should I warn that the thing is unrepentantly non-PC? There's not a whisper of abolition herein. That's not what this story's about. NC-17.

Tomorrow, when the apricots are ripe

Jay Tryfanstone

Part 1

When the ramp drops down, Jared is holding his breath.

He has no right to be here. But then, neither do half of the other people in the yard. With fifty head of horse, Eric has six grooms and more than a few volunteers like Jared, who help out for a couple of hours a day just because they like the horses. There must be around thirty people in the yard. He's news, is Eric's new stud.

Not that the stallion's a pedigree. Eric bid on an online ad from some yard closure sale in Arkansas, sight unseen, and got the stud for a bargain price that suggested something hinky even before the papers came through. He's been walking around with his frown lines getting deeper with every day it's taken to get the beast shipped. There'd been a delay in Oklahoma that had Eric yelling into the phone and kicking the hay bales, and something had happened in Nebraska that saw the ownership papers faxed over and Sheriff Nolen making soothing noises down the telephone line. Eric's been checking out the date of the next Tattersall's auction before the stud's set hoof on his spread.

So it's not just Jared watching the ramp go down, waiting to see just what kind of horse Eric's bought himself this time.

The afternoon sun is bright, but the trailer interior is shadowed. There is no clatter of hooves: Jared imagines the stud standing on braced legs, smelling the air. After three days traveling, the scent of fresh grass and water should have had him at least nosing out of the trailer, curious. There's nothing.

"Go on, George," Eric says to his head groom. "Get him out."

George throws him a look that says, 'you don't pay me enough for this,' sighs, and coils the lead rein tighter in his gloved hands. They have no idea if anyone's taught the stud any kind of loading etiquette. All his ownership papers say is that he was registered two years ago, and that he'd come wild off the range. Been taken, Jared guesses, reading between the lines, because the stud has no pedigree online and he's not listed in any of the breeding books or trainer's records. Intrigued, Jared's looked.

There'd been a photograph with the advert. Blurred, black and white, but clear enough to see the clean lines of the stud's solid bone structure and the breadth of muscle across his shoulders. A strong horse, steady, exactly what Eric was looking for both to stand at stud and to cross with his elegant lightweight fillies, to breed something pretty and tough for himself. But something in the photograph, something about the stance of the horse, had intrigued Jared. The way the image was a little blurred, as if the stud had been caught in motion, head turned away, muscles tight, the whole of him tense against the lead rein. Jared was willing to bet the horse had not trusted the photographer.

Doesn't look like he trusts George, either. The groom is walking slowly up the ramp, hands spread, every movement gentle and predictable, but Jared can see the trailer rock gently as the stud shifts uneasily inside. At the top of the ramp, he checks back with Eric, and frowns. Curious, Jared walks forward. He's six four and built with it: the stud wouldn't be the first horse he's held down, and George relies on experience, not strength. If the stud really is fresh off the range, Jared might be needed.

But when George vanishes into the shadowed trailer, although Jared half expects the stud to come crashing down the ramp with the groom pulled behind him, there's nothing. Only the faint, soothing, practiced hiss of George's breath and the click snap of the lead rein.

"C'mon," George says. "Hup. C'mon, sweetheart - fuck!"

The stud screams once, high and fierce, and Jared starts forward. He hears the horse first, metal-shod hooves on planking and then - Jesus fuck - is close enough to smell the fear sweating off the horse's skin as the stud stumbles out of the trailer. It stops Jared still, the sight of him. The stud's stunning. Breathtaking. And so fucking damaged Jared can hear the shock of the sight of him ripple through the watching grooms. Although the lines of his bones and muscles are beautiful, his cock and balls everything a stallion's should be, the stud's filthy. As dirty as if he's been rolling in mud for months. Sweat trickles in grey rivulets down his back and rings his neck in grime. He's booted and hooved, his hands encased in gloves that are cracked and worn, the leather dull, the lacings uneven. His mane is halfway down his back and his tail is tangled and knotted, both of them so dirty Jared can't hazard a guess at what color they should be.

There are welts on his back, under the dirt, and the piercings on his cock and nipples are red and inflamed. Worse, the corners of his mouth are torn and scabbed, fresh cuts on old scars. Someone's had a vicious curb bit on this horse and ridden him hard and often, and that should have been a crime: the stud has a mouth so finely made he could be pedigree, but it's so swollen and bruised it's impossible to see if the damage is permanent. Eric's going to be steaming with rage. Here, in his stables, no trainer who doesn't know exactly what they're doing lays a finger on a horse, but the stud shows evidence of cruelty so extreme Jared has never seen anything like it.

It's all of the stud's head Jared can see, that mouth. There's a sweatshirt wrapped around the horse's head, a makeshift blindfold that was probably meant to quieten, but by the way his head tosses, held high, and by the uneasy scuffle of his hooves on the ramp, the stallion knows he's watched and he's both angry and scared. Strange place, blind: Jared feels an unexpected, instant empathy. He's already walking forward when he sees George inch down the ramp and reach for the loose lead rein. There's a graze on the groom's cheekbone that's new, but his hands are steady and his voice still quiet.

"Gently then," he says. "Gently..." as his hand creeps up the rope to the faded halter. "Shh..."

George's fingers are inches from the snap link when the stud does explode into motion, and when he does, it's vicious. The laced gloves hobble his front hooves in the small of his back, but the stud's headbutt sends George crashing down to the ramp, stunned. The evil kick that follows is meant to disable, and George keeps his balls whole only by half scrambling, half falling from the ramp, teeth gritted. He's lost hold of the lead rein and the stud bolts, clattering down into the yard, his hooves sliding and sparking on the cobbles.

Maltreated, vicious, and not stupid, Jared thinks, as the stud stops still in the yard, stiff with tension, his head flicking from side to side as he tries to place where he is without sight.

If he thought it would work, Jared would reach for the sugar lumps in his pocket. But the stud's beyond candy, and there are kids around. Instead Jared takes a flying leap straight out of his high school football playbook and brings the horse down, hard. Jared's no lightweight, and he knows already he's bigger and stronger than the panicking stallion. But the stud won't give up. Kicking out, he catches Jared with both hooves, knocks his head back hard enough to break Jared's nose if the blow was not anticipated, bucks and struggles, but he's half-hobbled and Jared's determined. Pinned to the cobbles, the stud flails, but cannot bolt.

"Don't move," Jared says, conversational, although his hands must be bruising as he holds the stud's shoulders and hips down on the yard cobbles, and it's the weight of Jared's thighs that pin down those muscled legs and vicious hooves. "I've got you." He can smell fresh sweat and old dirt on the stud's skin, and the horse's mane stinks of dust and oil, but the feel of him is all firm muscle, his ass tightly curved.

Under Jared's weight, the stud is shaking. A full-body, bone-deep tremor that speaks of both fear and rage as clearly as if the stud was talking.

'Oh God,' Jared thinks, hit again by that unexpected sympathy. The stud has just tried to cripple him and George both, and would again if Jared is reading the bunch of his shoulder muscles and the shift of his knees correctly. But Jared says, "Keep still. Keep still and I'll take the blindfold off. Come on now." As if it matters, as if the stud can understand him, Jared murmurs the words into what should be the horse's ear, hidden under his tangled mane. "You're safe," Jared says and twists his fingers in the halter, just as the stud heaves under him and rubs his ass all the way up Jared's dick as he does.

Jared is hard in an instant. Faster than he's ever come on before, Jared's dick hardens, like he's an animal, as if he's got rights: as if he could take the stud right here in the yard, both of them filthy and sweaty, rolling on the cobblestones in front of Eric's staff. Public as a branding. As if, suddenly, Jared's dick has said, this one. This horse. Mine. And the stud knows - he can hardly help knowing: Jared's dick is as hard up against the stallion's ass as he can get without strapping the horse down in a breeding chute and reaching for lube. It terrifies the horse. He tries to flatten himself under Jared's weight, his hooves scrabbling, his breath whining in his throat: he's as scared as a virgin filly.

The stud is not Jared's. The stud's a stallion, and Jared's emphatically male. There is no acceptable way Jared should or could want this horse and Jared knows it, but he's so quickly, uncomfortably aroused he ruts down anyway. Once, just for the pure easing pleasure of it, and under him the stud struggles and tries to curl up and can't - "Not gonna," Jared says desperately to both of them, knowing he can't move, knowing every groom in the place can see the rock of his hips and that was twice, three times, four - "Not gonna - "

Then he smells fresh urine, acrid, and knows. The stud's so scared he's pissed himself, and Jared's half an inch and one pair of filthy jeans away from fucking Eric's new horse. He's really screwed up this time. There's only one thing he can do.

"Eric!" Jared says, and looks up. "Eric - "

And Eric, bless him, is already hurrying across the yard tight-lipped, and he's got the syringe ready in his hand. Jared holds the stud down and Eric swabs off his skin and slides the needle home in one sure movement. It takes seconds for the sedative to hit the stud's veins. It'll take a couple of minutes more to knock him out. Jared drops his forehead down into the nape of the stud's neck and holds him down, feeling the muscles loosen. "Relax," he says. "It's okay. It's okay. You're safe. We'll look after you."

He's lying. He could have fucked the stud right there in the yard, and they both know it.

"Easy now," Jared says gently as the stud, still struggling weakly, slides into drugged sleep, and doesn't know to which one of them he's talking.

Eric says, "Shit," and drops a hand on Jared's shoulder, holding him steady, looking down. Then he says heavily, "Bring him in?"

"Yeah," Jared says, and rolls off. He has to lie still for a moment to collect himself before he can stand up and gather the stallion into his arms. The stable has flatbed carts for moving the horses, but Jared doesn't even think, just bends down and picks up the stud. Although the stud's heavy, he's not as heavy as he should be. Not that much smaller than Jared, his muscles are tight under his skin and Jared could count his ribs. In Jared's arms, lax, with his legs hanging loose over Jared's hips and his head and mane rolling helplessly on Jared's shoulder, the stud feels almost fragile. Jared... there's no reason why he should suddenly remember the smell of his mother's cookies. He's never fed a horse a cookie in his life, and Jared was practically raised in his parents' stable yard.

By the time Jared tips the stud onto Eric's examining table the man is already on the phone to the vet, terse and demanding. Jared takes the time to run his hands over the horse's legs, check for splints and welts, admire the muscle of his thighs. He's cataloging the bruises. He knows already that Eric will need photographs of exactly what has been done to the horse.

He'd thought he was paying attention. But he's startled when Eric says abruptly, "Clean him up."

Jared's not exactly pristine himself. His knees are bruised, and there's blood on his shin where one of the stud's hooves caught him a glancing blow. His hands are grimed from the horse's hide.

"Sure. D'you want me - "

But Eric has already assumed Jared's going to be the one with the scrubbing brush. He's walking to the big open shower they use for the show ponies, turning it on and gathering towels and brushes and soap.

Thankful his erection's subsided - there's no space for modesty in the yard, but exhibitionism has never been Jared's kink - he strips, while Eric unstraps the stud's hooves. Under the gloves and boots, the stud's skin is not just pale but white, and his nails are yellow, hard and incurved, his joints stiff. No one's had his harness off in months, and when Jared rolls the stud over to take out his tail, it's obvious the horse has been looking after himself.

"Bastards," Eric says again, looking at the sores on the stud's ass. It's nothing to the mess someone's made of his mouth. Jared's been trying not to look. But he does, as he gently unties the sweatshirt and for the first time sees the stallion's face.

It's just as filthy as the rest of him. There's a fresh graze on his cheek that was probably Jared's fault, and a cut across his forehead that Jared doesn't need to feel guilty over but does anyway. But he's handsome under the dirt, the stud, fine-boned, strong-faced, although the dark thrust of his eyelashes is as rich and full as a mare's and his mouth - Jared drags his eyes away, equal parts horrified and wanting, and gathers the stud up again. Carries him into the shower and sets to work.

He's got good reason to be thankful for Eric's constant hot water. It takes an hour and two bars of soap to get the stud anywhere near clean. Under the dirt, the horse's hide is fine-grained, a reddish brown, freckled: he's been kept outside. But Jared finds scars as well as skin under the dirt, white lines that testify the stud has been whipped and whipped again. They make Jared angry, those marks. They're a litany of failure, not on the stud's part, but on his trainer's, yet it had been the stud that paid. Someone, somewhere, owes a debt for those scars, and they'll pay, Jared promises himself, but this isn't the moment. Jared saves his anger, banks it, and soothes soap over the stud's hide as if he can wash the scars away.

The stud's mane is unsalvageable. Jared tries, but the knots are too snarled and he's pulling out matted clumps of hair with every tug of the wet curry comb. In the end he gives up, heaves the stud out of the shower and onto the unfolded towels on the table, and dries himself off as Eric wields antiseptic cream and nail trimmers. The vet is already looking at the scars around the stud's mouth.

"Clippers in here?" Jared asks, dressed.

"In the box," Eric says absently, massaging the stud's feet as he works. Eric's hands are broad and capable, and he's trained more horses, better, than Jared will ever work with, but Jared's surprised by the rush of possessiveness he feels as Eric touches the stud's hide. Jared's not the one with the horse's paperwork. His tastes run to pretty, willing little fillies, not a broken down stallion with major issues.

But Jared knows his grin is rueful as he smiles his thanks, and settles down with the stud's head cupped in one hand and the clippers in the other. He shaves carefully, leaves as much as he can, careful, while clumps of shorn hair litter his thighs and the clinic floor.

Eric's vet is experienced and dispassionate, but the expression on his face as he checks the stallion over is nothing but disgusted. His hands are gentle, and he is more than thorough. As Jared sits cross-legged on the examining table with the stud's head in his lap, there are blood tests, photographs, creams for the stud's mouth and for his sores, and a long, intrusive internal examination that makes Jared wince and must leave not only the stallion's ass sore but his cock as well: Jared's never seen a sound used before.

"I'm assuming you want this notarized," the vet says to Eric, at last, when he's done.

"Yes," says Eric, and starts taking close-ups of the worst damage.

The stud has a diet sheet, an exercise sheet: he has four chipped teeth and he's never going to be completely sound again, but "He's fine for breeding," the vet says dismissively, and Jared bristles.

In his eyes the stud's perfect. Scarred, but perfect.

Eric must hear Jared snort. After the vet speaks, he glances up. Nods, as he turns away to hand over the fee while Jared cleans off his post-shower sweatpants and gets a dustpan and brush. He's just about tidied up when Eric hands over the box of ointments.

"You're here every day anyway," Eric says.

"You're sure?"

"I haven't got time," Eric says, and turns away. "Put him in the back pasture and speak to Sally," he says over his shoulder.

Jared looks down. Shaven, the stud looks smaller, vulnerable, but he feels warm and alive against Jared's hands. His stud. His bruises to tend, his scars to heal. His to give back pride.

Eric's not been too busy to clean up the harness. The stud's hooves are gleaming, and the leather of his boots and gloves is freshly waxed and smells of neatsfoot oil. Jared is so very gentle, strapping the stud back together, his hands smoothing and lingering. He leaves the stallion's tail until last: it's taken one of the students most of the hour to untangle and clean.

When Jared lubes up with the antiseptic gel, he discovers his stud's stable name. It's written in a child's hand on the plug of his tail - "Jensen." It's a solid name. Jared likes it. And for a moment, only a moment, he lets himself daydream that the horse is not Eric's Jensen but Jared's. Then he wraps the stud in the softest horse blanket he can find and takes him out to grass.

It is a small field, the back pasture, with a decent shelter and trees for shade. Jensen will be on his own, but he'll be able to see the other horses if he wants company.

It's also the only field with no clean running water. If Jensen wants to drink, he's going to have to come to Jared. Eric's been dealing with rogue horses for a very long time.

Jared hopes it won't come to that. For now, he makes sure that the straw in the shelter is fresh, and brings out a bucket of clean cool water. Then he spreads Jensen out on a comfortable spot in sunshine, and waits until the stud's eyelashes start to flicker and he begins to stir. He wants to stay. But Jared retreats to the fence, leaning against the wooden bars of the outer gate.

Waking, Jensen throws up. Jared holds his breath, and tries to keep himself still. He's already acquainted with the stud's temper: the horse won't thank him for interfering. But he finds it hard not to try and help as he watches Jensen, kneeling, his back arched, heave up nothing. The stud is hurting. But by the way Jensen looks around fearful and sharp between spasms, by the way his half-closed eyes roll to Jared and watch his every move, Jared knows his own instincts are right. He doesn't even try to take the stud the water, although the palms of his hands are itching.

Eventually, Jensen calms. Pushing himself to his feet he stands, swaying gently, upright. He looks around. Nods his head uneasily: Jared thinks Jensen has to be missing the weight of his mane. Watching, Jared can almost see the horse try and accustom himself to his own skin anew. Clean, he's going to feel different to himself, and he's going to smell strange. Of soap. Antiseptic. Ointment. Jared's hands, Eric's, the vet's - all of it new and unanticipated. Jared is close enough to see Jensen dip his head and shudder, once, sharp as a blow-fly's sting, before the horse turns his back and trudges, shoulders hunched, up the hill to the far end of the paddock. Under the trees the stud is half hidden by shade, almost invisible, but although Jensen doesn't move again Jared stays until Eric comes out to send him home.

In the morning, Jared comes out to the field before he drops by the office, eager to see if a night's rest has given the stud back at least some of the pride he should have. He'd have been happy to see the stud standing tall, but what he sees instead is Jensen in hobbles, miserably slumped against one of the trees.

The moment the office door slams, Eric says, "He tried to run away last night."

Jared lets out a breath he didn't know he was holding.

"He didn't get far," Eric says, and looks up. He's as worried as Jared is, and between them lies the knowledge of exactly what happens to a stray.

"Did you - "

"Johannes found him." Eric shrugged. "At least we got to put a blanket on him. More antiseptic." He sighs. "Better put the antibiotics in his feed. And Jared?"

"Yeah?" Jared says.

"Be gentle."

Jared smiles wryly at the papers on Eric's desk, and drags himself over to Sally's kitchen. There's bacon for breakfast, but he's thinking of Jensen alone in his field and it doesn't taste right. Instead he putters, under Sally's watchful eye, putting together porridge and fruit and maybe Jensen does like candy. Most horses like candy.

"You gonna eat those?" Sally says, and nods to the two slices left on a plate.

Absently, spoon in hand, Jared says, "Yeah." He picks up the dishes, grabs a bottle of water, and leaves.

It's a lonely walk up to the paddock. He's left the dogs behind again, not wanting to spook the stud, but they're going to have to get used to each other. Tomorrow. Today, he's going to concentrate on getting the horse to trust him.

It would have been kinder to set out the food and water and leave. From the emphatic, square shouldered shape of the stud's back, Jared knows the horse isn't anywhere near coming to hand. It's going to be a fight to lay his fingers on that freckled hide. The stud has no trust left in him, and why the hell should he? Jared's brought him down, practically shoved his dick up the stud's ass, drugged him... and that was before the hobbles. The stud has no idea Jared took a long hard look at his bank account last night and spent twenty minutes staring at his empty stable, and probably wouldn't thank him for the thought if he knew.

Even if the stud breeds true, he's Jared's. Eric had been hoping for two years before he sold the stallion on, but he'll be lucky to find a buyer at that point for the horse. Jensen's registered twenty-seven, but both of them saw his teeth. The stud is well over thirty, his seed's not going to be saleable for that much longer, and Jared can wait.

Even if it's going to take a miracle to keep the stud alive that long. He must be starving, but Jared, Jensen and breakfast have been staring at each other for the past twenty minutes and no one has moved. It's not even as if Jared was expecting the stud to come to hand. He's put the dishes out in the center of the field, on top of a blanket so that they're more than obvious, and sat himself down a good twenty yards away. But the stud won't move from the security of the trees. His eyes are wide, white at the edges, fixed on Jared, and his hooves stamp nervously at the ground.

Jared is not going to give in to the horse. He's brought the script for the comedy his agent keeps pushing, and a pen.

It takes two hours before Jensen gets up enough courage to come close enough to eat. Jared doesn't move. He won't. Nervous, Jensen kneels to feed, and snatches mouthfuls of fruit between glances. He's poised to run, even though he must know - as Jared does - he's not going to get far with all four limbs hobbled.

From where he sits, Jared tries surreptitiously to check the stud over. The bruise on his cheek is already healing, and his nipples and cock piercings - Jared squints - look as if the irritation is fading. The stud's dirty again, but it's clean dirt, the sort of dirt a horse out to pasture picks up naturally. Jared wants to run his fingers over the stud's head, his belly, make sure Jensen is taking his time over feeding. But it's too soon. He lets the stud eat and drink in peace, and only when Jensen finishes and moves back to the shelter of the trees does he pick up the dishes and leave. The candy in his pockets is untouched.

In the evening, he brings mash, rich with butter and gravy, and sits five yards closer. With a book. It takes longer, this time: the stud's so wary he circles the outside of the field three times, hooves delicately short-stepped in the hobbles, before hunger wins.

He gulps his food as if he's expecting it to be taken away, Jensen, but after he's drunk his fill the horse dunks his head in the bucket, tosses it back, and shakes the water off as if he likes being clean. Jared likes that. He almost laughs, but when he looks up, he's being watched. Scared, wary, the stud's eyes look back at him from under wet hair. Jared smiles back at him. Then, carefully, he looks back down at the book. It's about as demonstrably harmless as he can get.

"You're doing okay," Eric says, wearily, over dinner. "All I need is a halter rope on him and someone to hold it. You get him that far, you're doing good. Fillies will do the rest. It's not as if we need him for anything else."

Jared opens his mouth, looks at Eric's tired face, and closes it again. There are two canceled bookings for today alone in the studbook, and the stables run on a narrow edge of profit that's had Eric refusing more than one loan offer.

At breakfast, he's ten yards away. Close enough to see the white of Jensen's eyes when he feeds, so close the stud breaks away halfway through, shaking with fear. He comes back twenty minutes later high stepping and with his nostrils flared. Jared doesn't move, but he's going to have to that evening. He has a box of ointments that aren't going to apply themselves.

Reluctantly he brings the dogs. There's no way Jensen is going to stand for him, he knows it, and there's no way to explain. Jared just points Harley in the right direction, says "Fetch," and follows, Sadie at his heels. Predictably, Jensen makes for the shade. When Jared finds him, he's backed up against a tree with Harley watching his face and grinning. The dog is far too well-trained to leap up at a horse in harness, but the stud doesn't know that, and he's pale faced and panting. He does try to run again, Jensen, when he sees Jared coming, but he doesn't get far, tripped by the hobbles he's forgotten he's wearing.

It's almost worse when he doesn't try again, just turns his face away from Jared's boots.

"Sit," Jared says to the dogs. "Stay." Then he hunkers down at Jensen's shoulder. "That's Harley and Sadie," he says. "My dogs. They're both softies. And they're used to horses. They won't hurt you."

He wants to pat Jensen down in reassurance so badly his hands are shaking, but it's not going to help the stud relax. Jared is not the good guy here, not yet.

"I need you to stay still," Jared says, and pushes the box with its red cross so that Jensen can see it. "There's... stuff for your face," he says. "And antiseptic. Ointment. You're hurt, and this will help." The stud's still trembling: Jared is starting to feel like the big bad wolf. "I brought you more fruit for after," he says helplessly, "'cuz you seemed..." He's lost his words, looking at the nape of Jensen's neck. It's so finely shaped, vulnerable without the mane, beautiful.

Not his horse. Scared shitless. Jared pulls himself together and reaches slowly for the first tube. He uncaps it carefully, so that Jensen can see what he's doing.

"This is for your muscles," he says. "It'll tingle at first. Then it will feel warm. I'm gonna put a little on your back first, so you can feel."

He does, gently, his thumb pressing firmly into freckles and dusty skin.

"That's it," he says encouragingly, even as Jensen jerks under his touch. "Shh. Give it a minute." Jared can see Jensen's hide start to flush, just a little. He waits, but Jensen is not allergic.

"Where are you sore?" he asks. "Shoulders? Neck?" He doesn't expect the stud to move and the horse doesn't. "Okay," Jared says. "I'm gonna do your back first."

He does. Gently. For a while. Jared's hands have been appreciated before, and he knows he's good, but the stud under him will not relax and his muscles are knotted in fear. Jared has to really push, sweating, to iron out the kinks: and it's not easy with Jensen's gloved, bound arms in the way. He manages, both of them breathing hard, and at the end the stud, if unwilling, is lying easier on the grass.

"And there's stuff," Jared says wiping his hands off with the cleanser. "For your... sores." Ass or mouth first? He goes for ass.

"This is... for your back," he says tactfully. Then adds, "Look, don't... Jensen," he says, out loud for the first time, and he can feel the stud listen. "We're gonna get personal over this, and I don't want you to take it the wrong way. What happened in the yard... I'm not gonna..."

But Jensen doesn't shy away from Jared's fingers, lets Jared clean the sores and swipe on the antiseptic cream. It's only when Jared gets a precautionary knee in the small of Jensen's back and says, "And your mouth," that the stud tries to struggle again.

"Oh fuck," Jared says, and he's holding Jensen's head with one hand twisted in the halter and the other trying to daub on salve. "It's for your own good, horse, stay still - aargh!"

Jensen's bitten his thumb. Hard.

Disbelieving, Jared stares at the pinpricks of blood. Sadie never bit. Harley, only when he was a puppy.

"I'm taking it on account that you're two in horse years," Jared says, and reaches for the gag he had hoped not to use.

Stops. He's an idiot. Jensen's mouth is like it is because some idiot did their best to tear it to shreds, and Jared couldn't get why the stud was head-shy?

Jared's careful where he puts his fingers, and as gentle as he can be.

When he's done, he recaps the tubes and puts everything back in the box. Then he lets himself pat Jensen's mane, so very lightly, trying so hard to make himself less of a threat. The stud has turned his head, and is watching him with wide puzzled eyes. "We're gonna do this again tomorrow," Jared says to him, softly. "Nothing else. I'd take it kindly if you stood for me."

Under the sweep of his eyelashes, the stud's eyes are clear green. Jared has never seen a horse with eyes so pretty. And Jensen has been so good for him. Slowly, carefully, Jared reaches into his pocket and brings out a handful of candy. He holds it in his hand, palm flat, and tries to offer it up. His hands are six inches from Jensen's mouth when the stud cracks and jerks himself away, rolling upright so fast Jared's impressed. He takes two stumbling, shortened steps away before he stops, head bent, breathing hard, his tail twitching uneasily.

"It's okay," Jared says, and drops the candy back in his pocket. "We're done." He picks up the box of ointments, whistles up the dogs, and leaves the stud alone. Halfway across the field, he looks back. The stallion's still staring at him.

When he walks out to the field in the evening, dogs at his heels, Jensen is waiting for him near the gate. Jared's grin starts before he sets foot on the grass. He doesn't push, just sets the food down on the blanket while the stud watches. Then he settles down five yards away with his book, telling the dogs to stay, while Jensen eats. He's so proud of the horse's courage he could burst and he keeps sneaking little looks over the pages of the book - yeah, that's Jensen, so close Jared could almost touch him. He doesn't try, and when the stud's done he wanders away and settles back under the trees. The horse is walking easier, and the sores around his mouth are healing, but what Jared really likes is the way he stands. Upright and poised, as if Jensen is beginning to understand he's not going to be hurt again.

When he gets back to the stables in the half dark, Eric calls him into the office.

"I made some calls," the man says abruptly. "Turns out your stud was sold straight off the range. Spent two months at some fly-by-night breakers in Chicago and then went to this guy." Eric drops down a printed profile: businessman. "He had two teenage daughters who wanted a pony," Eric says, and the distaste in his voice is evident. "They'd never even had a guinea pig before."

"How long?" Jared asks, cold and sick at heart. It's the worst possible scenario for a new horse: inexperienced, demanding owners with no idea what they're doing or what damage they could do. Jensen's mouth... He can only be thankful they weren't that imaginative.

"Two years. They sold him on to the dealer. He'd been there a week when the bank foreclosed."

Jared looks up. "He's had it rough."

"Yeah," Eric says, and then, abrupt, "I always thought it would be a filly for you."

"So did I," Jared says. "But..." he shrugs. "First refusal, right?" He would be happier if Jensen's papers were already in his hands, even more so if the stud was in his own stable, but he trusts Eric's word.

"It's yours," Eric says, and then, "if you want sooner..."

"I'm saving my pennies," Jared says, wry.

In the morning Jensen is waiting at the gate. Jared's carrying the ointment box and he can see the stud watch it swing in his hands.

"You gonna stand for me?" Jared says gently to the stallion. "Keep still. Good boy. Good boy." He moves carefully, telegraphing each move, and while the stud shifts nervously from hoof to hoof he doesn't bolt. Shivering under Jared's hands, he lets himself be wiped down and allows Jared to spread liniment over the strong muscles of his shoulders, back and thighs. When Jared bends to check his boots, there's a six inch scuffle sideways as if no one has taught him to pick up his feet, but then he stands again, breathing hard. Jared croons to him as he works. "So good for me. Shh now. Good horse. Good boy." He can feel the stud's attention, wary and curious.

Done with the liniment, Jared reaches for the first tube of ointment and runs a gentle hand over Jensen's ass. "Bend over for me?" he asks, and is amazed when the stud does. It's the first indication he's had that Jensen's not so far gone he can't understand speech.

The sores are nearly healed. Good food, clean pasture, rest. A horse doesn't need much. Jared lets himself think, once and with disgust, of Jensen's last owner and taps the stud's ass. "Done," he says and the stud straightens. "I'm gonna do your mouth now," he says, warning, and cleans off his hands. He half expects the stud to run again but Jensen stands for him with his face tightly drawn and his eyes closed, shivering. "Oh, you good boy," Jared says, sweet and low, smoothing on a cream as gently as he can. "Beautiful boy." The stud's eyes snap open. Jared is six inches away and he can see every separate shade of green in the horse's irises, and the absolute stunned surprise behind the color. "No one ever tell you you're gorgeous before?" he says, as casual as he can, but his heart skips a beat. It matters, then, to both of them. "Love you like this. So good for me." The stud's tense, watching him. "Jensen," Jared says and the stallion tips his head in acknowledgement.

Done, Jared steps back, head on one side, and looks the stud up and down. It's not going to hurt: he says, "Pretty sure you're healed, but I'm just going to check those piercings. You can stand another two minutes, yeah?"

It's then that he discovers how sensitive the stud is. He stands still, but under Jared's fingers his nipples tighten and harden, lifting, so very pretty Jared cannot but think of what the stallion is going to look like led to stud, hard and wanting, proud. Despite himself, Jared's own dick twitches in his jeans: he hopes the stud can't see, and thinks grimly of mucking out the stables on a winter morning. He tries so hard to be casual as he shifts his hand to touch Jensen's loose cock.

The moment Jared's fingers touch that hot soft skin, the stud knees him in the balls.

The pain is sickening. Jared jackknifes, his hands pressed to the hurt of it, and as he gasps the stud turns to run, stumbles and falls, and rolls over and over. "Ah, fuck," Jared swears, "fuck - " and out of watering eyes he sees Jensen curl himself up on the grass. He's struggling to tuck his head down, shoulders protectively hunched, and he's shaking in fear again, Jared's stud.





Jared's not up to moving fast. He's hurting. Hand pressed to his aching balls, he shuffles across the grass. "Not gonna hit you," he says. "Ow. Ow fuck. Not gonna - " and his hand lands on Jensen's shoulder before he realizes he's going to reach out and touch. "It's okay," he says, mindlessly, hurting for both of them. God alone knows what those two kids did. "It's me - it's okay." He's petting the stud's back, his mane, fingers sliding on fresh sweat despite the way Jensen shivers under his touch. "It's okay."

For five minutes he sits there as the pain fades, saying nothing, nonsense words, reassuring, until finally Jensen uncurls himself and lies watching Jared out of dark eyes.

"We gonna try that again?" Jared says slowly. The stud's going to have to get used to being handled.

He doesn't expect it, catches his breath when it happens, but Jensen rolls over for him on the grass and lies on his back with his cock and balls exposed. Shuts his eyes.

The stud trusts him. Jared feels flushed with amazement, so very proud. He runs his hand carefully down Jensen's chest, toys with the stud's nipples until they harden again and then pets the trail of coarse, tough hair on his belly. Most stallions would be half erect by now, sensitive to any hint of sexual touch, but Jensen's cock doesn't even twitch as it lies sweetly curved and vulnerable over his balls. Jared takes a deep breath and cups it in his hands, so soft and hot. He rolls it in his palm, gently, authoritative, while Jensen breathes in little breathy gasps and tries to keep still.

He's beautifully made, Jensen, weighted and thick as a stallion should be. His foreskin is delicately veined and full. Jared admires it, his thumb rubbing up the fold of flesh below the piercing and pressing into the deep indentation below the plump plum-curved head of the stud's cock. It's a stallion's cock, Jensen's, and Jared likes it. He tells Jensen so, rolling it in his hands, feeling it thicken and heat, and then he drops his hand to cradle Jensen's warm, full balls. He's hung, Jared's stud, his genitals heavy, and if Jared was a different man - if he wasn't hard himself in his jeans - Jared might, could, milk the stud right here. But Jensen's seed is paid for and signed up. Reluctantly, Jared lets go, and under his hands the stud catches his breath once.

God knows when he last came. Jared can't imagine those two teenage girls letting him come, and they sure as hell weren't breeding him. It could have been years.

"We're done now," Jared says gently, and takes his hands off Jensen's hide. He's still got candy in his pocket, although he doesn't expect the stud to accept, but when he proffers it Jensen cranes forward and eats from the palm of Jared's hand. Against Jared's skin his lips are soft, but his eyes are still wary.

That evening, Jared starts training his horse. He's pretty sure he's going to have to go back to basics. Whatever the breakers did, the two girls compounded, and much as Jared wants to see them all in court for what they did to Jensen that's not going to help the stud now.

He starts simply, taking out only a lead rein. Waiting at the gate, Jensen watches it coming, the roll of it heavily curled in Jared's hand, but he stands still as Jared clips the rope onto his halter. Then Jared allows it to drop to the ground and rubs his hand over Jensen's mane and behind his ears.

"This is ground tying," he says. "If the lead's on, I expect you to stay. Anything happens and you need to move, you can." He gives Jensen a final pat and walks away to get the stud's feed, and when he comes back the stud is standing stock still exactly as Jared left him. He's not stupid, Jared's stud. A long way from stupid.

"Now you're free," Jared says, and unclips the lead. He rolls it back up and retreats to the gate to watch the stud eat. When the stud finishes, he doesn't leave but stands still by the dishes, watching Jared walk towards him. His head's on one side. He's thinking.

"Gonna try something else," Jared says. He was going to do this tomorrow, but Jensen seems more than cooperative and doesn't even toss his head when Jared clips the lead rein back on. This time Jared doesn't let it fall but grips it tightly six inches from the halter band. He can feel the heat of the stud's hide on his knuckles.

"Walk on," Jared says, clicks with his tongue, and pulls, gently.

Jensen walks with him. Still hobbled, his pace is slow, but his head dips gently by Jared's hand and there is no stiffness in his muscles. Jared meant to move no more than a few paces, but Jensen's so willing he finds himself - "Halt. Walk. Walk. Halt. Stay." - working with the horse for a good twenty minutes.

"You did so well," Jared tells him, when they're done, unclipping the lead rope. "So good." Jensen's eyes are steady on his, believing. "Such a good boy." Jared reaches down to his pocket, going for candy, and to his absolute astonishment as he does Jensen drops his head and steps forward, butting Jared gently in the shoulder. It is something a horse will do only when they trust their trainer, and Jared's holding his breath as he brings one hand up to pet the back of Jensen's neck while he feeds him candy with the other. Jensen's breath is warm on his fingers, and Jared's happy.

"If I take the hobbles off, you won't try and run?" he asks abruptly.

Jensen rocks against him, once.

"Don't," Jared says simply. "Really, don't. It'd be worse than the breakers, what they'd do to you." He feels cold even thinking about it, and Jensen shivers against him.

"You're safe here," Jared says. He bends down, and unbuckles the hobbles, lets them fall in the grass and sits back. From there he watches Jensen shake his feet out, feeling the weight of them, and then suddenly the stud is gone, running powerful and free. He does two circuits of the field while Jared watches grinning, and then he comes back to dip his head in thanks. That kind of manners Jared really hadn't expected: no one had taught the stud that, he's doing it all himself. Jared is flushed with pride, and he tells the stud so between little farewell pats.

It's getting harder and harder to turn and walk away.

That evening, Jared puts a fresh coat of paint on his stable walls and finishes up the upholstery on the bench he's been meaning to get to for months. When the stud is his, he wants everything to be ready.

Jensen doesn't just stand for Jared in the morning. He walks, trots, halts, and he does it with a singular, masculine grace Jared has never seen another horse own. When Jared gets out the lunge rein, he circles like a pro, fiercely concentrated on Jared's every move. Jared has never had such harmony with a horse before. It's as if he can read Jensen's mind and Jensen his, as if they have been working together for years. Jared is not daring to think the word dressage, but the thought is there. Jensen could do it. Jensen, Jared is beginning to think, could do anything.

Halfway through, Eric comes out, leans on the gate and watches as Jared puts the stud through his paces. Once he's rubbed the stud down and given him half an apple before letting him go, Jared walks to meet the yard owner. He's smiling.

"Like what you see?"

"Wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't been here," Eric says. And then, "Blood tests came back clean. I haven't canceled tomorrow. Got a pretty little filly, Peaches, out of Rochester - you know, the eventer? He gonna be up for it?"

Jared thinks of the heavy thickening weight of Jensen's cock in his hand. He's been watching, since: he's seen the stud half hard early in the morning.

"Yeah," he says, despite the flutter in his belly which is, must be, just nervousness.

When Jared goes out to the paddock that afternoon, Jensen is still under the trees. He likes it there, hidden in shadow, and Jared wonders if the sun's too hot for the stud. He's never seen Jensen in the shelter even at night. It's something he's going to have to think about, if he wants the stud to be comfortable. Uneasily, Jared wonders if Jensen's ever been stable-bound, if the reason he doesn't sleep inside is because he doesn't like being confined.

It's not as if he meant to sign up for a stallion with so many hang-ups, but as Jared watches the stud wander down from the hill to the gate where he stands with the lead rope, he knows it's worth it. He's never seen a horse that appeals to him so much. He finds the line of Jensen's bones beautiful, and the lift of his head - curiosity? welcome? - utterly intriguing.

"Stand up, sweetheart," Jared says, and clips the lead rein on as Jensen looks at him curiously out of big dark eyes. "We're going to the stables." Then he thinks of the blonde filly he's just seen unloaded, wonders if he should say something, and then thinks not. Jensen's going to be spooked enough already.

But the stud walks easily at Jared's side, the lead rein loose and only the flicker of his eyelashes betraying his curiosity as they walk into the stable yard. Curious heads pop over the stable doors to see the stud pass, and there are three or four grooms with no business doing make work where they are, but although his muscles tense the stud just ducks his head and follows Jared's lead into the clinic.

"We're gonna get you clean," he says. "You can stand for me when I take these off, yeah?"

The stud gives him a wide-eyed stare as Jared tugs on the glove lacings, then dips his head, craning over his shoulder as Jared works.

"Good boy," Jared says, and takes his time, gentle, smoothing the hooves from Jensen's hands. Free, the stud stirs uneasily, his arms still behind his back. Jared's guessing he hasn't been loose, to his knowledge (Jared remembers how small Jensen looked, unconscious and naked and filthy on the clinic table, and flinches) for months. Years maybe. It's not meant to happen, but it does. For now he doesn't push, just massages the stiff muscles of Jensen's shoulders and arms until the stud relaxes. Then he bends to unstrap Jensen's hooved boots.

The stud stumbles when he steps out of them on Jared's tap, as if he's forgotten how to walk without the bracing. Hooved, he's Jared's height, but loose he's four inches shorter and Jared finds himself staring down at the stud with a sudden fierce protectiveness.

Oh, he's gone for this horse.

"C'mon," he says roughly and nods to the student waiting to clean Jensen's harness. The stud needs a steadying hand as Jared leads him into the shower and gets him settled under the spray.

Jensen likes the shower. Screw that, Jensen loves the shower. It's the first time Jared ever sees him smile, head up, eyes closed while the warm water cascades over his skin and drips down the clean line of his back and his cock. Jared takes his time scrubbing the stud down, checking his ass, his piercings, his genitals and his mouth. Under the warm water he massages the stud's hands and feet and, as Jensen wriggles, he cleans out the stud's ears. He knows Jensen doesn't want the water to stop and feels regretful himself as he turns the shower down. It's as comfortably intimate as they've ever been, he and Jensen, and Jared likes it too.

But the stud has work to do. Jared dries him off carefully, checking him over again, and then straps him back into the clean harness. Some horses will balk, but Jensen drops his feet into the boots and stands for Jared: holds his hands behind his back for the gloves Jared laces up so very carefully. It's not even as if the stud is used to tacking up. Done, Jared drops a kiss on the back of Jensen's neck in gratitude without even thinking about it and feels the stud shiver. It's not fear. Jared doesn't know what it is, puzzles over the stud's mind as he untangles the new leather headstall.

Some trainers like to dress up their ponies, but Jared's an uncomplicated kind of guy and he likes the look of a pony natural. Jensen's new harness is simple brown leather and doesn't even have his name on the brow band. Jared eases it on, straps it in place, and then takes off the old faded halter. Then he brushes the wet out of Jensen's tail until it lies smooth and gleaming against his thighs.

For mating, some trainers have special equipment. Jared's seen bells, piercing weights, belts, full harnesses, plugs, cock rings with weights, cock rings with bells... If a stallion is likely to bite, a muzzle. Jared thinks Jensen's beautiful just as he is. Almost.

For this, Jared ties up the stud. It's their first time and he's not sure, given what happened in the field, if Jensen will stand for Jared's hand on his cock with intent. He lets the stud pull against the lead rope and learn that he's not going to be moving, and then goes for the gloves. Jared's hands are big and he has to tug the gloves on, the latex snapping over his wrists, and the stud watches him lube up curiously, trusting.

When Jared says, "Turn around," his voice is rougher than he meant it to be, but the stud shifts to stand with his back to Jared without balking.

It's then that Jared realizes he's hard.

He'd expected to be aroused. The filly's in heat and the artificial fertility drugs lend her a scent that has had every uncut horse in the stables and most of the grooms on edge all afternoon, but this isn't the easy edge of arousal Jared is used to at a mating. This is stronger, fiercer, nothing to do with the filly and everything to do with the stud in front of him.

He shouldn't feel this way. It's not as if he can breed the stallion. It's not even as if Jensen's his: he will be, but not yet. Jensen's Eric's, fuck or breed or both. Jared grits his teeth and steps up behind the horse, reaches around Jensen's chest and lets his hands drop to the stud's equipment. He's done this before, mare and stallion both, but it's never been harder to wrap his hands around a horse's cock. This, this time, it's very far from impersonal, what Jared's about to do. His hands are not as steady as he would have liked them to be, when he cups the stud's balls in one hand and swipes lube up his cock with other.

Surprised by Jared's grip, Jensen startles back, his head thrown high, but Jared is right behind him. Between Jared's body and the wall and the lead rein, the stud's trapped. Jared can hear the breath whine noisily in his throat as he tries to get his head back. Jensen's looking for Jared's eyes.

"We're good," Jared grunts. "Easy, now. Easy." His hands are slippery with lube, rubbing easily up and down the line of Jensen's cock, pulling gently at his foreskin. It's meant to be practical, but Jared can feel his grin tugging at his mouth as Jensen's cock starts to harden for him. Pressed against Jared's chest the stud shifts from hoof to hoof, unsure but willing to please. Jared likes that. He likes the way Jensen gasps when Jared rolls the head of his cock in the palm of his own hand, loves the way Jensen's hips buck when Jared tugs at his balls and squeezes. The stud's bollocks are heavy with come, hard with it, and it doesn't take as long as Jared thought it would to get Jensen fully erect. Rocking on his hooves with eyes half closed, the stud's head is bent as far as he can manage into Jared's shoulder and his ass rubs up against Jared's hipbone. By the sweat breaking out on his shoulders and gleaming across his back, he's ready.

It would be so easy to finish it. Jared can't. He keeps hold of the stud's cock with one hand, takes a glove off with his teeth, and snaps on the cock ring. Then he steps back.

Most horses wait. Jensen scrambles around, his eyes looking for Jared. He's flushed, his chest heaving and his cock red and hard, trapped by the cock ring, but it's the bulge in Jared's jeans the stud drops his eyes towards. When he looks up, there's a challenge in that stare Jared knows he can't answer.

"That's not for me," he says honestly, and snaps the other glove off. He could almost laugh when the stud stamps one hoof.

"Soon," he says. "Come on. Make me proud." And he unties the rein, takes hold of Jensen's head collar, and leads him out.

At the doorway, faced with an audience, the stud does try and break free. But Jared is not letting him go even if it means dragging Jensen across the yard, and that would be even worse for the stud.

"You think your cock's news?" Jared says, "Behave." But crossing the yard the stud is so close to Jared's shoulder that they touch with each stride, and his head is down, his cheeks pinked. If it wasn't for the filly's owner waiting impatiently at the breeding chute Jared would almost find it cute, but he's invested in the stud's performance. He wants Jensen to show at his best.

The stallion can't not. The Rochester filly is lovely, all tossing mane and long, elegant legs, and Jared can smell her from five feet away, hot and wet and wanting. She's already bent over the bench in the breeding chute, her upthrust cunt glistening with lube and her own slick secretions. If it were Jared, he'd want a reassuring hand on the horse's hide, but her owner is pacing in front of the railings looking at Jensen with an appraising eye. He'll have seen the stud's online portfolio, of course, but it's not the same and the man checks Jensen over with gloating thoroughness. It takes too long, and Jared wants to slap the man's hands from Jensen's hide when he pinches the stud's muscles and peers at the scars around his mouth. As it is Jensen is pressed against Jared's side, his head bent into his trainer's shoulder, and it's blatantly obvious that the stud's only putting up with the impromptu examination because that's what Jared wants. He's uneasy, on edge, and Jared knows the horse has a vicious kick to him, but Eric can't afford to keep a stallion with a reputation for violence.

"Keep still. Keep still. He'll be gone soon," Jared chants under his breath as he glares at the filly's owner over Jensen's bent neck. "Stand. Good boy."

Finally appeased, the other trainer steps back, and Jensen huffs openmouthed against Jared's skin. If there are payback teeth there too, Jared pretends not to notice. "Stand up," he says, and Jensen does, his eyes on Jared.

Any other stallion would be straining the lead rope by now, looking at the filly. Jensen knows she's there, but it's Jared he's looking towards. The stud is still hard, though. It'll be enough. It has to be.

But Jared feels as if he's betraying both of them when he lines Jensen up and snaps open the cock ring. He drops it, fumbling, feeling the stud's eyes on him, and he has to slap the horse's flank to get him move forward. He's beginning to think the stud will refuse when Jensen, with a sigh Jared can almost hear, jerks his cock across Jared's hand towards the waiting filly..

He's not even trying. His cock slips up the crack of the filly's ass with no force behind the thrust, like no stallion Jared has ever worked with before. By this stage the stud should be panting and eager. But - Jared glances up - Jensen's teeth are clenched and he's still, shit, still looking at Jared.

It won't do. Jared reaches down, spreads the filly's wet cunt open with one hand, and grips Jensen's cock with the other. Against his fingers, heavy and hot, he can feel Jensen pulse. It's Jared who pushes the head of Jensen's cock up into the filly when the stud thrusts again, the feel of it heavy and hard compressed between his fingers. He can hear Jensen hiss, and the stud tries to pull back.

"Oh come on," Jared says through his teeth, and looks up again.

It's then that Jared realizes just how angry the stud is. Jensen is furious, his face white except the patches of color on his cheekbones, his mouth tight. He's glaring at Jared as if this is the worst thing his trainer could have asked him to do, as if he hates both what's happening to him and Jared for making it happen.

No candy is going to fix this: the stud's going to have to man up. Jared firms his jaw, holds Jensen's eyes, and pushes the stud back with the back of his hand. Rocks him forward by his cock. The stallion is strong enough to resist, and for a moment he does. Then he closes his eyes, and does exactly what Jared has told him to do. Fucks the filly's cunt and Jared's hand equally, long deep strokes that run the whole length of his cock over the palm of Jared's hand and make him feel how stiff and wet the stud is. Strokes that pull out completely each time, and with each lazy thrusting slide the smooth metal of the stud's piercing runs over and through Jared's fingers, backwards and forwards, cool and wet and hard.

Jensen is not fucking the filly. Jensen's fucking Jared's hand.

The moment Jared realizes, he tries to pull his hand away - it's so wrong he can't even work out why the stud's doing it - but as soon as he moves, Jensen stops. His cock halfway into the filly's cunt, he stops, and although she's pulling back against the straps, rocking her hips, pleading for more, Jensen is not moving.

"Jesus," Jared says and, helpless, wraps his hand again around Jensen's cock. The stud thrusts again, faster. Jared won't look up. He can't. His dick's so hard and wet in his jeans it's got to be showing, and he wouldn't be surprised if the stud can smell how aroused he is. How much he wants to bend Jensen over and fuck him hard, right now. Make him scream, make him come, take the fucking arrogance of him and stuff it up his ass along with Jared's dick, his fingers, his whole fucking hand -

He's so unprepared for Jensen pulling out when he comes that Jared is left staring stupidly at his own empty hand while the stud, gasping, rocking on his feet, sprays the cobbles with useless spunk. Also, Jared's jeans. And his boots. And the filly's legs, jerking as she tries to twist in the chute. Jesus. What a fucking mess. What a -

"What do you call that?" screams the filly's owner, red-faced. "That's - that's the sorriest - do you know how much I paid - "

Slowly, Jared looks up. Jensen stares back at him set-faced.

"You're going to do this again, aren't you," Jared says to him, quietly. Evenly.

The stud nods, once.

"Can you - " Jared looks around. "George, please - "

And George, competent, there, picks up the stud's lead rope and takes him away.

Jared stumbles to the washrooms.

Where he licks Jensen's come from his hands. While jerking himself off. It takes thirty seconds, and Jared comes harder than he's ever done before and has to lean shakily against the stall wall for a good five minutes before he can, yeah, walk.

Change his jeans.

Sit in his car and listen to something mindless and loud.

Call Eric and explain what happened, leaving out various points relevant only to Jared, although Eric probably already knows.

Drive home. Not the back way, from which he can catch a glimpse of Jensen's pasture. Say hello to the dogs. Feed the dogs. Walk the dogs. Crawl into bed. Jerk off again.

Twice. Jared's hands still smell of the stud's come, and Jared's not even thinking about why he hasn't showered.

In the middle of the night he gets up and smashes two holes in his stable walls, one on each enclosed side. He's figured out why Jensen doesn't like the shelter, and he's calling his builder as soon as the man wakes up. Jensen's got to have reasons for wanting to know what's coming at him. At home, here, Jared can at least give him windows to go with his roof.

Waking up, Jared thinks, 'I need a groom.' Then, 'And a hackamore.' He calls his agent and accepts that romcom role he's been hesitating over, because it means a steady paycheck, and then he calls his builder. He has to wait for the man to arrive, sets out a delivery contract with the feed merchant, and packs his checkbook. Calls George, to make sure Jensen gets breakfast. "Fruit," Jared says. "Make sure - " realizes he's fussing and puts the phone down abruptly only to call back and say, "Tell him I'll be in later."

George doesn't even say yes, just clicks his tongue disapprovingly and hangs up, but he will.

By the time he makes it into the yard, Jared's three hours late and although he glances over the rise at Jensen's pasture it's Eric he has to see first, and his checkbook's in his back pocket.

The office is empty. The man is not in the covered yard, either, but one of the students looks up from raking the sawdust to say, "Clinic."

Jared is not expecting to find Jensen, legs spread, strapped down on the examining table.

Nor is he expecting Eric to have his hands on the stud's cock. He stops short, shocked, hit hard by a flare of possessiveness that isn't his to own. Unclenching his fists, Jared has to fight not to pick the stud up and take him home. Now.

When Eric looks up, unhurried, Jared's attempt to master his expression has clearly failed.

"Jared," he says, stepping back. It's the voice he uses that has trained half a hundred champions. Jared himself, years ago. Kept the stables going and carved himself a reputation second to none.

But he's stepped back. Jared walks forwards, drops one hand on Jensen's head, and says: "Eric?"

"Stud's not going to play ball with the fillies," Eric says, "but he sure as hell can give it up for you."

He's got gloves on, Eric, and that's a sample flask in his hands and that's lube on the table between Jensen's spread legs. But the stud's cock, sticky and gleaming, flops loose on his belly and Jensen, for all that his head pushes into Jared's hand, has his eyes screwed shut.

"You want to go for A.I.?" Jared asks evenly.

"Stud's got to pay his way somehow," Eric says. "I can't keep a useless mouth." He's not looking at Jared. He's frowning down at Jensen's limp cock as if it's a personal betrayal.

"How much?" Jared says, and has to soothe the shiver that runs over Jensen's hide. "Eric. You don't want him, I'll have him. How much?"

"Kid," Eric says. "You can't keep a stallion. What're you going to do, huh? Fuck him?"

"Yeah," Jared says.

Very carefully, Eric puts the flask down. Strips off the gloves, head bent. Jared is holding his breath. So is Jensen, but his eyes are open now and he's looking up: Jared cannot look down. Not yet.

"You'll never show another horse," Eric says.

"I know," Jared says. It's not exactly going to be ostracism. Jared - and Jared's parents - are too well known. But Jared has never heard of another male trainer/stallion pair, although he's willing to bet there are some. He had been going to look, before he took Jensen home.

"You'll have to resign from the T.A.," Eric says.

"I know," Jared says. His hand tightens on Jensen's shorn mane. It suits him. Jared's going to keep it that way. "I have."

Eric sits down, then. Taps his fingers on the desk and stares at Jensen. Hard. Then at Jared. Then at the rhythmic push of Jared's fingers, pressing against that spot behind Jensen's ear the stud likes to have scratched.

"I thought you were joking," Eric says. "But you're serious."

"Yeah," Jared says. "I am. Can we talk?"

It's not that Jensen's expensive. He's unproven as a sire, has no pedigree, and the scars that are never going to matter to Jared don't exactly add to his market value. But Jared has thought long and hard about what it means to own the stud. He doesn't just want Jensen's papers. He wants his debt.

It isn't something they talk about, the trainers. Before. Especially now, when half the horses on the market are bred for the trade.

Half of them aren't. Half of them, before they sold themselves, were people. People with families, jobs, lives. Debt.

Jensen owes over a million dollars in lawyer's fees. Jared doesn't ask why. It's not his business. But it explains exactly why the stud came so cheap, and why Eric's so set on the stud fees. Jensen's market value is paid up front: servicing his debt is a lifetime commitment for a man with Eric's turnover.

Even for Jared, with the new romcom contract under his belt and his parents' deep pockets to back him up - and that was an awkward conversation: Jensen's first trip with Jared is going to be to his parents' yard - it's going to be tough to buy the stud outright. He fights out the ownership contract with Eric on one side and the debt agency's lawyers on the other, and then, determined to be absolutely sure the thing is binding, passes it to Sitwell and Bart. who've looked after the family estate since before Jared was born.

In the end, he owns majority shares. The family fund owns the rest, in trust and with an option to buy which is in Jared's favor. Jared has plans. Eric owns nothing, but he puts up the last fifty thousand, Jensen's market price, and gets in return Jared's promise of two straws of semen a month for the next two years. Jared's got an option to buy out that contract too, but he owes Eric. Effectively, Eric's given him the horse. He could have been far more demanding.

It takes all morning and part of the afternoon, and by the time Jensen's interim papers are signed, notarized and buttoned into Jared's pocket, Jared has a blinding headache and an urgent desire to take Jensen home now. He can't. It's going to take three days for the registration to clear, and Eric has a studbook of appointments to call with apologies and offers, and a new stallion to find.

Mid morning, once it had become clear the negotiations would be lengthy, George had taken Jensen back to the pasture. In the evening, tired, Jared takes the stud dinner and leans on the gate while he eats. He doesn't say anything. It's too soon, too fragile, this thing between them.

He can feel Jensen watch him walk away.

In the morning, Jared knows what he's going to see, but his stomach still lurches when he walks into the clinic and sees the stud spread on the table, restraints at his chest and ankles.

"Hey," Jared says gently, but the stud won't look at him. Eric however does, glancing up from the laptop and nodding at the prepped gloves and lube. "You changed your mind?" he asks.

"No," Jared says, and grins as he snaps the gloves on. "You?"

Eric snorts in amusement. "Two hours yesterday and nothing but limp dick. You walk in the door and he's hard. Pretty sure I can't compete."

He's right. When Jared glances down, the stud might have his head turned away, but his cock's hardening against his belly untouched. Gorgeous cock, full and heavy. Jared runs a finger up the length of it, presses his thumbnail into the slit, and is both gratified and amused when it jerks in response.

"That's for him, not you," Eric says dryly as he passes over the flask and yeah, Jared's as hard as the stud in his jeans, but now is not the moment. He lubes his gloves instead, wraps his hand around Jensen's cock, and feels the stud shiver even as his cock oozes pre-come over Jared's fingers. Still no eye contact, and Jensen's muscles are tight. He's tugging at the restraints, his body pulling away from Jared's touch even as his cock pulses in his trainer's hand.

So Jensen's got a thing about sex. Well, that's fine, but he's Jared's now and he'll come on command if that's what Jared wants. And for all Jared's always (barring one man, and that was different) gone for the girls on the show jumping circuit and the kind of neat little fillies that make him feel both protective and powerful, he knows his own body. It takes seconds to lube his other hand and push two fingers into Jensen's ass, pressing hard into the tight heat of him. Jared swallows hard, thinking in explicit detail of exactly how Jensen is going to feel spread by Jared's dick, and lets his fingers search slow and careful despite the stud's desperate squirming. Somewhere - he crooks his fingers and presses deeper as Jensen's hips stutter on the table and the muscles of his shoulders bunch - somewhere - yes. He knows he's hit the right spot when the stud's head goes back, the line of his throat strong and elegant, and his cock jumps in Jared's hand. Jared goes for speed over pleasure, pushes down relentlessly, and strips the stud's cock even as he's cataloging Jensen's tells for future reference. The quivering muscles of his belly. The flush spreading from his throat to his breastbone. The way his balls tighten, heavy and warm on Jared's wrist.

The stud's so beautiful when he comes Jared almost forgets the flask, has to fumble it into place one handed and loses half Jensen's come splattered across the gloves and Jensen's chest.

He's got enough for Eric, though, and that's what matters. Carefully, still gloved, Jared passes the flask across to be sealed, bagged, and labeled.

Only then does he raise his hand and lick Jensen's come from his glove. He knows the taste of it now, fruit-sweet and sour at the same time. Jensen.

Finally, he looks at his horse.

The stud's face is still flushed, but his mouth is a straight line and there's a frown between his closed eyes. Jared's horse isn't happy. Jared's horse, the one he just paid a fortune for, the one whose cock Jared has just spent the last five minutes jerking off, the one he's pretty sure he's going to have for the rest of his life - Jared's stud won't look him in the eye.

"What is it?" Jared says, and as Eric's head turns he knows he's given away any pretense that this relationship's anywhere near usual. "What?"

When Jensen opens his eyes, he looks tired. Maybe the night's been as rough on him as it has on Jared. Maybe he didn't want to come for Jared for the first time in a clinic. Maybe he wants fucking flowers. Maybe -

Jensen cocks an eyebrow at Eric, who is dropping the flask down into the semen storage tank, and looks Jared in the eyes. Blinks once, slow and sad.

So Jensen's not happy with giving it up for breeding. So what? It's what stallions do: he chose, the day he chose to stay uncut, and must have known then that he was giving up not just his own body but his offspring.

Maybe he didn't.

Maybe no one had explained. Maybe they'd taken one look at Jensen, in court, and hustled him into signing the papers. Maybe they'd had him gagged and hobbled through the reneging deadline, maybe they'd burnt out his vocal cords before they'd checked consent, maybe -

Jared doesn't know any breaker who'd act so unscrupulously, but he's heard stories. He thinks of the foals at the stables, sweet little creatures with miniature, bright headstalls.

Then he thinks of the kids he has no intention of having, bitted and bridled. Fucking hell.

"Eric," he says, "Eric, wait up, man. Can we send that for testing? You didn't get his count tested, did you?"

"Point," Eric says.

Jared knows already what the results will say. He's got a friend at the clinic. Fertile or not, the report that reaches Eric will say Jensen's firing blanks, and Jared's going to have to find some other way to pay back the stable owner.

That's for later. Right now, Jared undoes the restraints, wipes his stud off and rolls him over. Rubs him down with liniment, checks his sores and smooths on antiseptic, and Jensen watches every move he makes. When he's done, he takes the stud out to pasture, just the two of them, the lead rope falling in a lazy curve between Jared's hand in his pocket and the tilt of Jensen's head in the new halter. Although Jared's said nothing, he knows Jensen knows. There's a new confidence in the way he treats the horse and a new possessiveness in his touch, and Jensen's not even turning his head to look at the other horses and has lost all curiosity in the stables. He must know he's going to be leaving.

Later, after he's sorted out tack and bedding and a new set of inoculations - Jensen's never going to sire anything after those, even if he ever does have another owner - he takes his book back up to the field. Eventually, the stud wanders over, curls up in sunshine, and blinks lazily as Jared reads out loud.

The next day, the builders are in. Jared calls the stables every two hours until Eric tells him to fuck off, the stud's going nowhere. He's stabled, Eric doesn't let strangers onto his land, and would Jared just chill out?

Jared arranges overnight freight for Jensen's new bridle and spends an hour on the phone to his mother. Then he takes the dogs for a walk, thinking about what it's going to be like, tomorrow. Next week. Next year. Jensen curled up in the stable. Jensen gleaming, shining, proud of himself and Jared. Jensen under him, begging -

When he wakes up in the morning, it's all he can do to make himself coffee before he drives out to the stables. Today's the day Jensen comes home.

He's half expecting the stud to be hitched waiting for him in the yard, but the place is suspiciously quiet. Oddly quiet. Half the stable doors are shut, and the gates to the covered yard are closed, although four of Eric's grooms are loitering near the office with an assortment of rakes and shovels and cell phones. There's a sports car Jared doesn't recognize in the lot, little and red, but as he pulls the SUV to a halt beside it George waves him down.

"Back up," he says tersely, and as the students open the yard gates Jared sees the trailer sitting ready.

"What is it?" he asks.

"You're gonna want him out of here," George says. "Now." He's already reaching for the linchpin on the trailer, the electric cable coiled in his hand, and two of the students are letting down the ramp.

"What the - "

"He's there," George says, and throws Jared a lead rope. "Corner stable."

When Jared unbolts the door, Jensen nearly falls over him. The stud must have been leaning against the door, waiting for it to open, and it's obvious there's been trouble. He's blindfolded and hobbled again, his hooves sparking on the cobbles as he struggles to keep himself upright. Under the hood his head's high, twisting as he tries to place where he is without sight.

"Shh," Jared says, as Jensen jerks back from the snap of the lead rein on his halter. "It's me. Shh."

But Jensen doesn't seem to hear. It's only the strength of Jared's hand on his headstall, dragging him down, that stops the stud from bolting. And the stud's strong. It takes all of Jared's strength to haul him bodily towards the trailer, and Jared doesn't have a hand free for the blindfold. George is urging him on and throwing nervous glances at the office, and the students are already waiting to put up the ramp, while Jensen fights Jared's hands as if they're strangers.

When his hooves hit the ramp, the stallion turns. He begins to fight as if he really means it, not pulling away but twisting, teeth bared, stamping his hooves down, fighting as hard as if he's just come off the range. Jared has to kick the stud's legs out from under him and only keeps those vicious teeth from his skin by slamming his elbow in the stud's stomach and then half-choking the horse. It's not kind, but George is desperately waving him on and three students are raising the ramp even as Jared reaches for the hobbling chains he hadn't expected to use.

Then someone shouts, someone female, "That's my horse!" and Jensen screams.

Broken, cracked, desperate, Jensen screams, and as Jared wrestles him down - stud's too far gone: Jared's only interested in getting him home at this point and safe is good, even if it does mean Jensen's getting there tied down - he screams again, so lost and afraid and angry Jared can do nothing but hold him down, his hands trying to soothe even as Jensen still struggles for freedom.

"That's him!" the woman says, triumphant. "That's my - "

That's Eric, looking really pissed off and wielding a cell phone and a sheaf of papers. That's George, with a pitchfork. That's a strange, nervous looking boy in a cheap suit with a datapad.

That's a woman looking at Jensen with a curb bridle in her hands. That's the woman who -

Jared unsnaps the hobbles and pulls his Swiss army knife out of his pocket, flicking it open and slicing straight down the lacings of Jensen's gloves. Jensen is already trying to stand when Jared whips off the blindfold, and by the time Jared's even thought about cutting the lead rope burning through his fingers the stud's already launched himself, still screaming, straight off the ramp.

The woman with the bridle takes one look, drops it, and runs.

Jared would have let Jensen catch her. But he's biased. It's Eric who trips up the stud, which gives the stud's last owner just enough time to slam the car door before Jensen smacks into it, but not enough to stop him from smashing the rear window as she fishtails from the lot. There's a moment when Jared thinks he's going to follow the car, but the stud hasn't lost all sense of where he is and stands instead, legs braced, arms already tucked at his back despite the loose gloves, watching her go.

"Fuck me," George says, and shares a very long look with Eric that says quite a lot about what both of them think about equine impropriety, and also, about cruelty. Eventually, Eric just shakes his head. "You know he's got cause," he says to Jared. "But don't let him do it again. In public."

"I get you," Jared says.

Then Eric grins. "You wanna bet we see her in court?"

"Damn well hope so," Jared says. She's on film, Jensen's last owner: the students are comparing cell phone videos. The smashed window means damages, but probably not assault charges, and in retrospect Jared is sincerely grateful for Eric's carefully placed boot. Jensen did good, even if it's pretty damn obvious that the stud would have preferred his hooves in the woman's teeth.

"Yeah," Eric says. Then, "I'll call you. Get him out of here, kid."

Jared slows to a walk, scuffing his feet on the blacktop of the lot in warning as he approaches the stud. Standing straight, head thrown back, the stallion looks as he should: powerful, almost free. As if he's never bent his head into Jared's shoulder or eaten candy from the palm of Jared's hand. Jensen's barely had his eyes off Jared since the stud arrived at the stables. Now, everything in him is concentrated on someone else.

He must have known. Must have heard her voice, or recognized the sound of the car as she pulled up, and Jared's guessing he must have nearly kicked the stable door down, trying to get to her, while Eric was doing his best to talk the woman out of the place. And without Jared... of course, George thought he was doing the best for the horse.

But he'd been wrong. Jensen had known what he was doing, and Jared hadn't listened any more than the groom. They're going to have to learn to trust each other, he and Jensen, and right now Jared is the one who'd been wrong and Jensen right.

Jared doesn't reach for the trailing lead rope. Instead, he stands by his horse, watching the sports car vanish towards the interstate. When the last cloud of dust is gone, he knocks Jensen's shoulder with his own. "Looks like we're going to court," he says mildly, and the stallion starts in surprise, as if he hadn't realized Jared was there.

When he turns his head, Jensen's still breathing hard, and sweat streaks his back and dampens the hair at the back of his neck. For a moment, Jared thinks, quite clearly, he's going to run. For a moment he thinks Jensen's thinking the same thing. Then, suddenly, the stud shudders and relaxes and drops both his eyelashes and his head, tilting the straps of his halter to Jared's hand.

"C'mon then," Jared says, and turns and walks towards the trailer. He doesn't look around. He doesn't dare look around. But, after the terrible, silent indecision of the first moment when he leaves Jensen free, and the stud can make up his own mind, he can hear hooves follow him through the yard.

Part 2

He's fine, until he pulls the SUV up in his own front yard. Then, as he drops his hands from the steering wheel, the whole scene replays itself over in his head, in vivid technicolor with sound effects, and Jared thinks of what could have happened and has to drop his head in his hands and breathe. He could have lost Jensen today. If Eric hadn't been so careful registering the horse's ownership papers, twice over. If Jensen had actually managed to reach the woman before the car door slammed. If the evidence wasn't recorded on the six carefully bagged and signed-for cell phones that Sheriff Nolen had taken into custody, along with fifteen assorted statements and one curb bridle, Jared could have been looking at a subpoena and an empty trailer.

He's not. Sitting up, Jared runs his hand through his hair and mans up. He's got responsibilities, now, and the stud in the trailer isn't going to feed or groom himself. But then... Jared's been thinking about that one. He knows he wants Jensen. He's wanted Jensen since the stud stumbled out of the trailer at the yard, blind and battered and so terribly beautiful. Now, the stud's papers in his pocket, he's pretty sure he needs more than just the horse.

Jensen's going to have to deal. It's not as if Jared wants him to play gymkhana games with pony club kids. He'll survive.

When Jared lowers the ramp, he's half expecting to see the stud as panicked as he had been in Eric's yard. But Jensen's standing easily by the support rails, his head raised and his eyes on Jared.

"Eh," Jared says. "We're here." He could have sworn that was almost a smirk he saw in the twitch of the stud's mouth, but it's gone in an instant as Jensen, carefully grave, watches him clip the lead rein on. As he leads the stallion out, Jared's hand is tight on the rope, six inches from the headstall. This is Jensen's third home in three weeks, and the horse has to be apprehensive.

It doesn't show. He comes easily to Jared's hand, Jared's horse, and although his eyes flick over the paved yard and the high walls and the trees, the whitewashed outbuildings and the low lines of Jared's house, his shoulders are relaxed and he walks easily with a long-legged stride that Jared does not have to curb his step to match.

The stable's at the side of the house, but Jared takes Jensen the long way round, through the yard to the shaded pasture with the creek that sold him on the house in the first place. Although the stud's the first horse Jared's owned, he's not, by a long way, the first he's trained, and the corners of the paddock are stacked with stands and poles and cavaletti. Behind the house, he has an open air menage where the sawdust is raked clean, and the neatly erect white-painted fence posts testify to a history of intensive schooling. Jared lets Jensen puzzle out the patterns, leaning against the gate while the horse frowns, thinking. Then he takes him to the stables.

He has four, plus Jensen's, and a loosebox, but it's the tack room Jared takes Jensen to first. Like many horsemen, Jared keeps his memories as well as his harnesses here. Pegged neatly on one wall, gleaming under their brass name plates, Jared has bridles and harnesses for most of the horses he's worked with in competition. Above the workbench, on the other side of the room, there are photographs of a lifetime spent with horses, from the black and white shot of Jared at three in his parents' yard, splayed bow-legged with his father's hunter nosing his hair, to the publicity shots of Jared at the '06 East Coast Eventing Championship a year ago. He's always liked three day eventers, admiring the combination of power and grace a horse will have when trained for both endurance and elegance, and these record his most successful horse so far. Guinness' Lady Liffey is retired now, and Jared saw her first foal over Thanksgiving, but in the photograph she's muddy, exhausted, and grinning all over her face as Jared hefts the championship trophy.

Most of the photographs are of Jared in competition, booted and hatted, or of him in the training yards with other people's horses, but there's a couple Jared keeps up that are different. Eight years ago, when he was eighteen, and in spite of his mother's protests, Jared had spent six months full time at Eric's stables. The photographs show him harnessed. It had been long enough to teach him what it felt like, those afternoons on the other side of the leading rein, long enough to know it wasn't what he wanted.

It's those photographs that Jensen's looking at, when he plants his hooves on the parquet floor and refuses to move. "Hey," Jared says, and the stud looks at him sideways, questioning. "Yeah, yeah," Jared says. He's kind of used to that reaction. There aren't many people prepared to cross boundaries in the fiercely competitive world of professional horse training, and Jared's been taking flack for that decision since the first time he stripped off and opened his mouth for the bit. He's never regretted those six months, though. It's given him an edge no other trainer he knows has, to know how it feels to push past every limit for love.

They'd been lovers at the time, he and Eric. It shows, in the tilt of Jared's head to his hand and the smile on Eric's face, fond and exasperated.

"So don't think there's anything you can think of that I haven't thought of first," Jared says, amused, and the stud drops his head, looking at Jared out of the corners of his eyes. "Don't," Jared says, but he's suddenly and absolutely sure the stud's going to pull more tricks than any other horse he's ever trained. It's going to be the kind of fun that comes once in a lifetime. "You done?"

The stallion snorts, and cocks his head on one side, looking at the shadowed lines of the stalls, but these are for boarders. Jared's always had other plans for his own horse, and Jensen's stable is part of the wing built on to the main house. There's an outside door that leads to the small tack room with its mirror and built in sinks, and beyond it the loosebox that smells, now, of fresh paint and leather and clean straw and builder's putty. Hitching the stud's lead rein over the hook by the shower stall, Jared tries to see the room through the horse's eyes: the room is lighter than most stables, with two windows that let Jensen see both yard and pasture, with the padded waist-high upholstered bench along one wall and the soft pile of blankets and the water spigot with its extended handle. There's fresh straw on the floor. The double door's open, and beyond it, down the corridor, is the door that leads into the main part of the house, propped open with a trophy Jared thinks might have come from some qualifier in Nebraska.

He hadn't thought about it, but Jared's suddenly aware that he designed the rooms for a filly, not a stallion. It's the mirror that probably gives it away, full length and backlit, but the soft pink of the bench upholstery doesn't help, although Jensen's tanned skin is going to look spectacular against the suede. He's staring at it, frowning, when the stud steps on his foot.

"What?" Jared says, and the horse nods his head to the hook where Jensen's new bridle hangs. It's the only piece of harness Jared has for the stallion so far, and it hangs limp and lonely on a wall that should be gleaming with harnesses and busy with rosettes and pictures. "Yeah," Jared says. "Yours," and the stud pulls against the lead rope, staring.

It's black leather, Jensen's new bridle, as simple as Jared requested, thin straps and no brass. Also, no bit. The stiffened shanks of the cheekpieces are designed to put pressure on the horse's face, not his mouth. Jared's never going to ask Jensen to take another bit unless the stud asks, and Jared can't see that happening.

It's obvious the stud's never seen a hackamore before. He's got his head on one side, figuring it out, frown between his eyes, and Jared can see the moment the pattern on the straps falls into place. The stud's head jerks back, shocked, and his hooves stumble sideways three inches. Then he turns to look at Jared. He's looking at Jared, serious, eyes sliding up under the line of his eyelashes, as he drops to his knees. And as he licks his lips, utterly deliberate, and as he rubs his cheek against the full line of Jared's dick in his jeans. He lets his mouth fall open, and his lower lip drags against the denim and Jared's dick under it, full and wet. It takes seven seconds, that slow seduction, and by the time the stud pulls back and blows gently at the bulge of Jared's balls, Jared's hard.

Jensen's not. Between his spread thighs his cock falls loose, and even as Jared stares down, stopping his hands from reaching for Jensen's head with an effort that leaves him shaking, color leaves the stud's face. But he's reaching for the button of Jared's jeans with his mouth, and Jared can already imagine the delicate downwards slide of the zip in Jensen's teeth and his dick swells, anticipating release.

Against the pallor of his skin, the scars around Jensen's mouth stand out deeply pink. They'll fade, but when Jared does reach down, not to cradle Jensen's head but to touch the corner of his mouth with gentle fingers, the stud flinches. Jared's right. The stud's still mouth-shy. He tries to hide it, presses his face against the bulge in Jared's jeans and pushes his chin, hard, against the sweet spot between Jared's dick and his balls, but Jared's not buying. "Stop," he says, although it's the last thing he wants to be saying and the words come out as more of a groan than the command Jared was aiming towards.

Jensen doesn't. He looks up, as he digs his teeth into the curled corner of Jared's fly and begins to tug against the button. Then he looks past Jared, quite deliberately, at the pink suede of the bench. And looks back.

"Ah, fuck," Jared says. "Yeah, I know. But you don't..."

He'd built that bench to breed a filly on, and Jensen knows it. The other stalls are set up for horses Jared's never going to touch without permission or with a lead rein or a brush in his hands. This one's for the horse he's always wanted. He just hadn't known it would be Jensen.

"Seriously," Jared says, and then Jensen pops the button and goes for the zip and Jared can't help the push of his hips against the stud's face. But the stud's eyes have closed again, and he's sweating, his arms twisting nervously in their gloves, and his cock doesn't even twitch. "Stop," Jared says, and this time he does step back.

Jensen on his knees. Something Jared hadn't even known he wanted, but he does. Badly, he does. But the stud's not ready, if he'll ever be, and Jared knows he's right by the way the stud's teeth bite into his lower lip when he looks up. "If you think I got you a hackamore just to go and shove my dick in your mouth you've got another think coming," Jared says, and does up the button on his jeans. The denim's warm and wet with Jensen's saliva.

Flicker of the stud's eyelashes says, 'You're hard for it.'

"Stand up," Jared says, and when the stud hesitates he twists his hand in the headstall and pulls Jensen up. "Look," he says. "You know exactly what you signed up for and so do I. But don't make me that man, Jensen, because I ain't. We'll do this if you're good and ready and not before. Is that clear?"

Their faces are six inches apart and Jared's not prepared to accept a lie. It must show, because Jensen's eyes widen, just a little, before he nods.

"Good," Jared says, and then he grins. "Doesn't mean I won't fuck you," he says deliberately, and then the stallion does blush. Pink color flushing up in his cheeks, pretty as a filly, but his eyes have darkened and Jared knows, if he looks down, the stud will be hardening for him now. For a moment, he's tempted, but he can wait. He's forced Jensen twice and has no qualms about either, but this is serious. This is Jensen for life, and Jared's pretty sure the stallion isn't on the same page. Not yet. Instead he unclips the lead rein and sends the stud into his stall with a swat on his ass.

"Stand for me," he says, as Jensen turns around twice and inspects the view from the windows. Then he gets the brushes and rubs Jensen down until the stud is so relaxed he's half asleep on his feet. Amy arrives just as Jared is sneaking the horse some candy, and she leans on the stable gate and laughs. "Jared Padalecki," she says. "If your mother could see you now."

"Yeah, yeah," Jared says fondly, as Jensen leans against him and looks past his shoulder at the groom.

"Jensen, Amy Nolen," Jared says. "Amy, Jensen. Amy's gonna look after you when I can't," he tells the stud. "Which means mornings and lunches and meetings."

He'd been worried that the horse wouldn't react well to a female groom, but Amy's experienced and kind. She's also tiny, and as Jensen huffs against his shoulder and turns to look, Jared wonders if he should be worrying about the girl. But Jensen doesn't tense, and when Amy slips into the stall, lets him sniff her hair and then runs an experienced hand down his flank, the horse doesn't shy away. When she asks for a hoof, Jensen peers down, and then moves so carefully for her as he balances his weight that Jared knows it'll be fine. Behind the stud's back, Amy grins up at him, nods at the stud's ass and gives a silent whistle, and right there Jared knows the hazing he's going to get for the stallion's going to be more than impressive. Amy's going to be on the phone the moment she's out of here.

For now, he lets Jensen go, backs off to lean himself over the half door, and watches Amy get acquainted and the stud relax under her hands. He's still not fond of someone else's hands on his horse, and Jensen keeps flicking him half-exasperated looks as he poses obediently, but Jared's not going to leave the stud on his own in the stables. Amy's not just experienced. She's got a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a hotline to the Sheriff that means as much protection as Jared can put in place without being obvious.

"Dad said he was good," Amy says eventually, and joins Jared at the half door. "But I hadn't expected..."

Jared shrugs. "Me neither," he says, and then, "Coffee?"

In the afternoon, he takes the stud out to the menage and works his way carefully through the basics of schooling. The horse's balance is excellent, but it's his unusual combination of strength and grace, working, that makes Jared catch his breath. And the way Jensen watches him. It's so clear that everything they do is new to the horse, but Jensen barely takes his eyes off his trainer. By the end, Jensen's responding to nothing more than the dip of Jared's shoulder or the tilt of his head: it's a heady feeling, as if together, they could do anything, and Jared already knows that if he's not careful, the stud's going to spoil him for any other horse. Unless he really does do something with this horse, his own horse, that he'd never consider doing with one belonging to someone else.

Not tonight. Tonight, he makes sure the stud showers, towels him off, feeds him and leaves him to the blankets. If he gets up twice in the night to pad downstairs in his pyjama bottoms and check Jensen's still there, that's his business.

In the morning, Eric calls, just as Jared's leaning over the stable door with a cup of coffee in his hand and Jensen's trying to knock his elbow with an expression on his face that means, Jared knows it, he's going to crack at some point in the near future and caffeinate his horse as well as himself. He's going to be a sucker for that glint in the stud's eyes.

Then his cell goes off. "She's suing," Eric says, and Jared can hear the triumph in his voice, because that means they are going to court. "Can you come over? I've got someone coming at ten."

"Sure," Jared says. Eric's contact is almost certainly someone Jensen's last owner is going to sincerely regret ever meeting in court. Then he calls Amy, and gives the stud one more regretful pat before going upstairs to change.

He'd given himself a week to settle the horse down, but preparation for the court case takes up almost every morning and by the end of the week Amy's already raiding the cookie barrel and Jensen's looking both sleeker and smugger. Jared gets home most afternoons and works both his horse and himself hard, trying to fit in as much teaching as he can before the romcom starts shooting. It tires both of them out in the evenings, but Jensen thrives, putting on muscle to go with the new cookie habit Jared's pretending he doesn't know about. His mane starts to gleam, his eyes gain a wicked glint, and he's taken to refusing to go in the shower unless Jared's there too. He's developed a habit, the stud, of rocking his hips up against Jared's dick when he's being groomed, and he knows exactly what he's doing. Jared doesn't think the stud knows how close he's come to being rolled over and fucked in the straw, and there are days when Jared wonders what the hell he's doing, but he's trying to build more than just something functional. And sometimes, when the stud thinks he's not being watched, there's a look in his eyes that's far more insecure than his physical poise will admit, and no amount of cookies will heal that one. Only time.

It doesn't help that Jared's friends, fueled by Amy's reports, are utterly convinced he's fucking the stallion. Although in a way it helps: the teasing's incessant, but Jared knows that when he actually is, none of them are going to blink an eye. Which is more than he can say for the Trainer's Association or some of the blogs. Too well known to be blackballed, Jared is nevertheless facing the kind of gossip that could break his career. If he cared. He'd like to see Jensen compete: in fact, he'd like to see Jensen smash his way through the East Coast events trophy by trophy. If he's as good cross country as he is in the ring, and they're working their way up to that one, Jared knows the horse could. But if Jared never enters another tournament in his life, he'll still have Jensen.

Not as much of Jensen as he wants, yet. On Sunday, the day before his new romcom starts shooting, Jared brings the stud in from the menage and leads him, not to the stable, but to the back porch. There, he unclips the lead rein and lets Jensen stand, sweating lightly, free on the planking.

"I won't have horses in the house," he says, and he's holding Jensen's eyes as he bends down to the straps of his boots. They're familiar with this now, unharnessing: the evening showers have meant that the stud's used to stripping down for his trainer, accustomed to the feel of his feet flat and his arms untied.

It takes a minute for Jensen to realize what he's said, and Jared's halfway down the buckles when the stud skitters backwards and nearly falls off the porch. Only the railing stops him backing straight onto the roses, and his head's up, his eyes wide. Automatically, Jared says, "Stand for me. Good boy. Keep still." Then he blinks and says, "Stand through this, and I'll make you coffee."

He doesn't know if it's the ingrained training or the promise, but Jensen does stand for him, and Jared strips off the harness; the boots; the gloves and the bridle, and leaves Jensen naked. It's when Jared says, "hands up," and drops a T-shirt over his head - one of Jared's, far too big for Jensen, it says "Kylie" in big sparkling letters - that Jensen finally shies. He starts to shake his head, plucking at the fabric, his shoulders hunched.

Jared's stripped them both of structure. He says, softly, "Hold up, man. You can do this." And when Jensen looks up at him he smiles, tentative, far more tentative than he would have been in the stables or the paddock. For the first time, then, he sees Jensen use his hands to express himself. Palms out, empty, the man offers up his confusion. "Just think of it... ah, fuck," Jared says. "Just put the shorts on, will you? I want someone to watch TV with."

In the end, he has to help Jensen pull on the boxers Jared had bought new that afternoon, and once he gets Jensen through the porch door, the man balks again at the feel of carpet under his feet. Jared has to push him through the kitchen into the TV room, and inside, Jensen stands lost, looking at the furniture as if he's never seen a furnished house before.

"Sit down," Jared says, and as Jensen folds carefully to the floor has to add, "Over here. Couch, okay?" It's not quite what he meant, but Jensen shuffles awkwardly across the carpet and curls himself down by Jared's knees.

Then Jared calls the dogs. The stud's comfortable now with both of them and he's learned that they won't jump up at a harnessed horse, that they know when he's working and when he's free to be curled up with or be sniffed, but the man's different. Jensen clothed is both familiar and far more fun. He likes dogs, Jensen, and although he had a rough introduction to Jared's, the way he's watched them, amused, in the stables, means that Jared's more than happy calling them in now. Harley and Sadie are determined on cuddles, lickings and possibly throwing of toys and Jensen hasn't a prayer. In two minutes he's rolling on the floor trying to fend off Sadie's enthusiastic paws while Harley stands on his T-shirt, and he's forgotten to keep his hands behind his back and his legs straight. Taking the opportunity, Jared goes for coffee and pizza, and when he comes back man and dogs are piled up against the couch while Jensen strokes Sadie's ears. He's watching his own hand move with an expression of sheer wonderment, and Jared has to stop in the doorway and watch.

He was right to do this. Absolutely right.

Then he drops the pizza on the table, passes down the coffee mug, and starts the DVD, just as if they've done this every night for the last year.

When the DVD is done, he tries to get Jensen to sleep in the spare bedroom, on a bed, with pillows, but Jensen backs away from the idea so emphatically he can't. Instead, Jared tacks his stud up under the porch nightlight. It's the first time he's ever felt regret as he watched a horse relax into harness.

He'd thought it might change the way the stud reacts, but he's wrong. In harness, when Jared comes home from set and can lead Jensen out to the menage for an hour or so in the evening, he's all horse. He's Jared's Jensen, as alert to his trainer's wishes as if they were talking. Out of harness, he's halfway between horse and man, uncertain, tentative, but gaining confidence by the day. He won't sit on the couch, and he won't sleep in a bed, but on Wednesday Jared sends him to shower by himself and Jensen comes back clean shaven and smelling of soap. On Thursday, when Jared's on the phone to Eric, he makes coffee.

On Friday, Jared comes into the TV room to find Jensen turning over a DVD game case in his hands. "Dude," he says, short, excited. "You play?"

And Jensen looks up and grins. Tentative, shy, but it's still a real grin. Then Jared kicks his ass. He's not going to coddle the man, and Jensen's fiercely competitive enough to work seriously on his hands if he thinks the extra flexibility will give him an edge.

On Saturday night, after Jared's had time for a morning visit to Eric's stables to hear in person what he's been reading in e-mails and couriered documents, and after a first run around the cross country course that left both of them muddy, tired and exhilarated, he sits Jensen down at the kitchen table and tells him about the court case. Eric will be in court on Monday, an unexpected but welcome early schedule. It's time Jensen knew. If everything goes as Eric and Jared and the team of lawyers have planned - and it's amazing how many people have been prepared to work pro bono for this case - Jensen's going to be more than heavily involved, even if he will never set foot in the courtroom. Then he passes over the papers, and lets Jensen read them, frowning, while Jared passes across the cups of strong black coffee he's learned to make. It takes two hours, and when Jensen's done he gets up from the table and goes outside.

Jared lets him go. When, two hours later, Jensen's not back in either house or stable, Jared considers and rejects sounding the alarm. Jensen's a grown man. If he chooses to run now, knowing what he knows, that's his choice and Jared won't stop him.

But in the morning Jensen's asleep in the spare bed with Sadie curled up over his feet.

The only thing that does change between them, that week, the week everything changes, is the way the stud reacts to Jared when they're not working. Jensen doesn't lean suggestively up against Jared's side when he's being groomed. He showers by himself without complaint. There are no sideways, flirting looks from under his eyelashes. He's all business now, Jensen, and Jared doesn't know if it's because he's changed the dynamic and Jensen's still working out where he stands, or if Jensen's decided he doesn't have to pay for his board with sex. That decision, he has to leave to Jensen.

But he finds himself making an effort as he's never done before, consciously aware of the way he looks and the way he looks at Jensen. Jared's... flirting with his horse, as subtly as he can, as if he and Jensen have changed places. He's flirting with Jensen too, casual little touches that are never inappropriate, his fingers ruffling Jensen's hair while watching films, his smile over breakfast coffee slow and intimate. Letting Jensen know the offer's on the table, but not pushing him to accept.

In the evenings, there's the court case. Eric warned Jared not to attend, and he's not. He'll be called as a witness late in the case, and he's not going to invalidate the proceedings by turning up early. But Eric also sends daily transcripts of the court proceedings and Jared reads them every evening, stoically enduring the unfolding story of a family who should never have owned a goldfish and a horse who should never have lived through what he did. She'd made a mistake, the older sister, suing Eric, and under probable cause he's providing witness after witness who leave the courtroom attendees reeling and the case in shreds. Jensen's last owner had sued Eric for damages. Eric's not arguing that he should pay: what he wanted to do and is doing is explain why those damages occurred. In court. It's not about a smashed car window on Eric's property, now. It's about Jensen, and has been since the first time Eric managed to get his name introduced into evidence.

She doesn't take it easily, Jensen's last owner, and she fights dirty. With her own treatment of the stud exposed and her personal reputation in tatters as a result, she tries to justify her actions as no more extreme than any other trainer. Eric's past gets dragged up in court: Jared's; the stables'; their financial records; their past relationship... most of it is a matter of public record. The case drags on from the first week to the next, witness after witness, statement after rebuttal, until half the professional horse trainers in the state have stood on the stand. Whatever the outcome, the case does Jared no harm at all. Gossip travels quickly, in the trade, and Jared finds that he and Jensen are becoming well known not for their unusual partnership, but for Jensen's courage and Jared's sympathetic actions. More than one trainer has contacted him to mention that they'd support Jared's reapplication to the Trainer's Association, and Eric has a raft of invitations and a new stallion half paid for by sympathetic donations.

At the last, when it's obvious she's going to lose and the case is making headlines, not only in the horse press but the popular gossip rags, Jensen's last owner pulls out her wild card. She gets the whole of Jensen's past declared as admissible evidence, not just the last two years of it already flayed open on the witness stand.

It's not something she should be able to make public. Legally, ever since he signed the papers, Jensen's a minor. His past is a closed book, and he's not responsible for his actions, which is why it's Eric in court, not the stud. But if Eric objects and a mistrial is declared, they'd be back where they were with no guarantee they'd ever get the woman in court again. When he sees the submission, Eric calls Jared from the courtroom washroom, and Jared calls Amy to ask how Jensen feels, and gets her to put Jensen on the phone. Then he has to ask her if the stud's nodding. When he calls Eric back, the relief in the man's voice at Jensen's choice is absolutely clear.

It was the right choice. Jensen's last owner wants to point out that Jensen's choice was utterly consensual, and that he signed up knowingly for what happened to him, but the images and film she submits have the opposite effect. The jury's reminded that Jensen's not just an object, he's a man. He could be their husband, their child.

It's then, though, two weeks into the trial, that Jared stops bringing the newspapers home. Jensen's past is his own business, and Jared has no intention of prying. He doesn't even watch the closing arguments two days later, although on the day of the verdict he's waiting in the lobby of the nearest hotel with his phone on the table when Eric calls.

They've won.

She gets eight years and five months in federal prison, Jensen's last owner, with no offer to commute the sentence, the offer Jensen signed that led him, eventually, to Jared. She's banned from owning another horse for life, and she'll never finish the degree she's half a year into completing.

After the press conference in the hotel, after he's turned off his phone, Jared goes out for a drink with Eric. They're both euphoric, trading bitten off comments and smiles, but halfway through the evening Jared has to leave. He's itching to let Jensen know. His fingers are tapping on the shot glass and his knees twitching under the table, and eventually Eric shoots him a stare across the table, raises an eyebrow and says, "Go home."

"I gotta..." Jared says, and Eric just shakes his head.

Jensen's probably been curled up next to the couch, but by the time Jared fumbles his front door open, he's standing in the hall doorway with his shoulders braced, breathing hard. His eyes are fixed on Jared, wide and black in the low light.

"Guilty," Jared says. "They, she..." and then Jensen slumps back against the door frame as if he's been pulling coal all day and someone's just cut the harness.

"Hey," Jared says softly, and Jensen looks up at him like Jared's just given him everything he's ever wanted. His eyes glisten. "Don't," Jared says helplessly, because he'd like to think he'd do the same for Eric, for any one of Eric's horses, but Jensen is crying. Soundlessly, great tears that roll out of his eyes, over the curve of his cheekbones, and drip off his chin. In his own hallway, Jared goes to his knees and pulls Jensen down with him. "It's okay," he says into Jensen's cropped hair. "It's okay." In his arms, the man is strong and warm and alive.

Eventually, Jensen stops. Jared wipes his nose, ruffles his hair, and wraps him up in a blanket, and they spend the evening watching mindless films while Jared tries to feed both of them candy and Jensen buries his nose in Jared's shoulder. Jared counts it a triumph that he can actually get the man on the couch, not the carpet, but he's not entirely sure Jensen knows where he's sitting.

Jared wants to get Jensen in his bed, too, but he balks at the stairs and ducks when Jared reaches for his shoulder. Taking a step back, he holds Jared's eyes for a moment. Then he turns and walks into the kitchen. Jared, following, half expects a late-night request for something healthy - Jensen likes his food macrobiotic and preferably organic, and Jared's physician thinks he's a godsend - but Jensen leans up against the back door instead. He wants to be let out.

"What?" Jared says. "No."

It's dark and cold out there. He wants Jensen in the house. With him.

Jensen kicks the door and huffs. Glares.

"No," Jared says. He folds his arms and leans against the counter, a little amused now. He doesn't want to let Jensen out tonight. Possibly not ever again.

In reply Jared gets a stamped foot, not acquiescence, and Jensen rolls his eyes. Jared's starting to smile, because, this, tonight? It's far enough outside their unspoken rules that Jared's beginning to think he really can allow himself to manhandle Jensen upstairs. Into the shower. Fuck it, into Jared's bed where he belongs.

Then Jensen snorts, shrugging. 'Fine,' his eyes say, challenging, but when he walks forward it's to the kitchen table. He doesn't put the pans on the side, or stack the opened post and the new edition of Trainer's Monthly behind the butter dish. What he does is sweep the table clear, pens and cutlery rolling, papers flying, pans and dishes crashing down to the floor in a cacophony of arrested violence.

" - what - " Jared says, starting forward, shocked, and then Jensen slams down the lube Jared's been hiding behind the cactus in the basement bathroom, strips off his T-shirt, racks down his shorts and bends, explicit bare-assed invitation, over the table.

It feels as if every single blood cell, every nerve Jared possesses and every molecule of oxygen in his body rush straight to his dick. He's hard so quickly his knees shake. He has to grab on to the counter edge to stay upright, and Jensen can see. He's starting to grin, Jensen, as he smears his own fingers with lube and reaches back, a tight grin that says nothing but sex, and Jared still can't move. He's absolutely paralyzed by lust. He can't think beyond the strong, muscled stretch of Jensen's back, the curve of his ass and the shape of his shoulders, the rucked shorts caught around one ankle, and his eyes looking up from under the tangle of his hair.

Then, Jensen cants his hips up just as a drugged-up filly would in the breeding chute. His thighs flex with the movement, light glimmering down the long, broad line of his muscles, and when he folds his arms against his back as if he was wearing gloves, Jared can do nothing but stumble forward. Jensen's laid himself out and said, 'Fuck me.' Jensen - and Jared runs a hand over his hips, under the warm, hard-muscled soft skin of his belly and onto his cock - Jensen's hard for Jared. As Jared's hand closes, he bucks, his hips jerking as if he can't help moving, as if Jensen wants Jared as Jared wants him.

"Jesus," Jared says devoutly, looks down and thinks, this is going to hurt, opens Jensen up with his thumb and shoves his dick home. The thrust of it rears Jensen up against the table and tightens his ass: Jared grunts, can't stop, palms Jensen's balls to stop the man trying to escape and although Jensen's whining in his throat, his hips working, fucks down hard and fast. That first thrust, Jensen takes barely half of Jared's dick, but he's jerking back, standing on his toes, shaking, and Jared opens him up with fierce, inelegant lunges. He's never been so focused on his own dick, on the overwhelming urge for friction, and on the hot, wet heat of Jensen's body so tight around his skin that it's better than every dirty fantasy Jared's ever had. The table's squeaking across the kitchen floor, Jared's boots are stumbling against pot lids and crockery, his hands are so sweaty he has to use the flat of his hand to slam Jensen down and keep him there, his hair's in his eyes, he can't see.

"Ah, fuck," Jared says helplessly, and the smell of lube and come and sweat catches at the back of his throat and threatens to choke him. He's going to come. He's coming to come too fast, far too fast, and he's no more chance of stopping it than he has of pulling down the sun. "Fuck, Jensen - " He's got maybe two seconds before he comes. Jared closes his hand, rictus tight, on Jensen's cock. It's the absolute triumph he feels when Jensen screams, when his cock swells and jerks in Jared's hand and Jared knows the man's spending for him, helpless, that sends him over the edge. It rolls through him in waves, this time, when he comes, rhythmic, dark surges of pleasure that send him rocking forward between Jensen's splayed thighs, force him in deeper and squeeze every last drop of come from his body in dizzying pulses.

He can't move, after. He's wrung out, hung up to dry, finished, panting against Jensen's back with the smell of their sweat and come rich and sour in his nose. He's so far gone he thinks he might be dribbling on Jensen's shoulder and he's damn sure he doesn't want to move for a week. Under Jared's weight Jensen's chest is heaving as he tries to breathe, but he's not even twitching, his legs so loose against Jared's the table's got to be carrying both of them.

Eventually Jared says, low and fond against the nape of Jensen's nape, "Warn a guy. Next time." He's smiling. He can't stop smiling, and he can see the tight rounding curve of Jensen's cheek against the table top and the crinkle of his eyes that mean the man's smiling with him. Belatedly, he realizes Jensen's got to be hurting, pressed flat against the woodwork, tries to shift and knows it's going to be messy, doesn't care. He levers himself half-upright and lets his dick slide out of Jensen's ass on a rush of half-sticky, warm lube and come - Jensen's going to be wet and sore tomorrow: he's going to know he's been fucked every time he moves - and rolls over onto his back. He's still grinning, and when he tugs Jensen's head around, the man's smiling back at him, eyes half closed, so self-satisfied Jared thumps him in the shoulder and says, "Bitch." He gets a lazy raised eyebrow so sardonic he has to laugh again, and his stomach hurts and his elbows are sore and he's not, really not, going to sleep on his kitchen table.

He's not going to sleep alone, either. Jensen's so fucked out he doesn't even pull away when Jared drags him off the table and pushes him shakily up the stairs, and Jared's not sure if the man goes to sleep the second before or the second after he hits the mattress, but frankly, Jared doesn't care. He's got one hand over Jensen's heart, holding him down, and the man's ass snug against his dick, and he's stupidly happy. They won. Jensen let him... they fucked. They're going to fuck again in the morning, before Jensen realizes he's in Jared's bed. It's been a good day.

Jared falls asleep thinking, next time, and six hours later he wakes Jensen up with two fingers in his ass, extravagantly lubed, and Jared's mouth on his balls. Starfished on the bed and still mostly asleep, Jensen looks down with dazed incredulity, as if his own half-hard cock and the slow roll of his hips are something entirely unexpected. He scrabbles at the sheets getting his elbows under him, tries to close his thighs against Jared's shoulders, and attempts a half-hearted wriggle up the bed Jared isn't going to let him finish. It doesn't take more than the slow swipe of Jared's tongue, lasciviously wet, to make the man arch his back into Jared's hands and drop his shoulders down against the pillows. Surprise leaves his mouth half open and his eyes half closed, but his cock's hardening against his belly, and Jared can feel the flush of heat rise in his skin.

"Open up for me," he says, and Jensen's thighs loll apart and he groans, and then he's pushing back on Jared's fingers, helpless, begging shifts of his ass. "Oh God, yes," Jared says, "C'mon." He tugs the man back, slides his hands up the back of Jensen's thighs and props his own shoulder under one knee. Jensen's spread wide for him, his asshole pinked, glistening with lube and the dried traces of Jared's come. He has to be sore, but when Jared slides his dick home, Jensen's head goes back and his balls tighten. His cock's smearing pre-come against his belly, translucent and sticky. Jared lets himself run his thumb through the wet heat of it, rocking Jensen's hips against his dick in slow, gentle thrusts. The man's sloppy with lube, wet and stretched, an easy early morning fuck just the way Jared wants it to be. He didn't know to have hoped for, though, the way Jensen's head twists on the pillows, eyes closed, or the way Jensen's hands splay out on Jared's sheets, each finger tightly curled. He hadn't known that Jensen's piercings shimmer as the man moves, his nipples tight and his cock so hard it quivers against his belly and sways with Jared's thrusts. Or that Jensen would - "Look at me," Jared says urgently, his hand tugging at Jensen's cock, "Open your eyes," - come for him so very easily. Shocked, disbelieving, ambushed into pleasure, Jensen comes with his eyes wide and fixed on Jared's face, and he's starting to smile even as Jared follows him over.

After that, there's no question of Jensen sleeping in the stable. He tries, the first couple of nights, but Jared's having none of it. Jensen made his choice when he spread his legs unharnessed, and if that means he gets fucked every night - and it has been every night, so far, as well as over the bench in the stable, harnessed, and in the shower with Jared's hand on his headstall holding him down, and on the couch, although that started with Jared going down on Jensen anyway which was the man's own fault, the way he was licking the spoon - so be it. Jared's happy, and he's pretty sure Jensen's not exactly complaining. It's as if knowing the court case is over and won has let Jensen relax. He's still grave and business-like, harnessed, and he works his ass off for Jared in training, but he's starting to become comfortable around the house. He'll never turn the coffee machine on in the morning - although the expression on his face when Jared brings him the first cup of the day in bed is worth the cold floorboards - but he cooks a mean chili and he's got wicked taste in movies.

Jared knows it's going to be all right when he takes Jensen, dressed, back to Eric's stables. He won't come in, but Eric comes out to say hello and shakes his hand as if they've never met before. Jensen nods in reply, restrained, only the flush over his cheekbones betraying his self-consciousness.

Eric says diffidently, "Wouldn't mind you taking at a look at the ring, if you've time? There's a youngster I'm bringing on over the poles, but it's not my field and Jared here says you know what you're doing." He nods at the training ring, where a teenage colt is pacing out jump lengths with his trainer beside him. "I said to Aline you might take a look," he says, and Jensen blinks at him long and slow before he turns to walk over to the gate.

Jared watches him go. He's besotted. He can't take his eyes off Jensen's broad shouldered back and his easy gait, thinking not only of what Jensen's like harnessed in the field but laughing over the kitchen table. And of how Jensen has changed.

Eric shakes his head, looking at Jensen's back. "Shortest stud career in history," he mourns.

Unrepentant, Jared shrugs. He's grinning.

Then Eric passes over the envelope. "I don't know if you want this," he says. "It's a DVD of the courtroom video tape. From the last days of the trial. All the stuff about Jensen, before."

Jared, startled, looks up, but Eric's looking at him steady and kind. He'd sent Jensen to look at the youngster, when Jared hadn't even considered if the man knew what he was doing on the other end of the lead rope.

"I'm sure he'll understand if you don't want to know," Eric says. "And I don't think you should have seen it in court. But I think you should watch."

"Yeah?" Jared says. He turns his head, looks at Jensen demonstrating stride lengths with outstretched hands.

"Your choice," Eric says. "You want to come and look at these e-mails for me? There's some invitations I think you should see. You and Jensen... you're not exactly unknown, now." He's smiling, which means the Trainer's Association has probably been on the phone.

"Sure," Jared says, and waves at Jensen to let him know where Jared will be working. Attuned to his trainer even though Jared's fifty yards away, Jensen nods in reply.

Much later, that evening, Jared tells Jensen what he has. "Look," he says. "If you don't want me to watch, I won't. It's not my business. And don't think I'll be hiding out in the office googling your name, 'cuz that's just stalking and it's not about us. But if... if you're okay with it, I'd like to see."

Thinking, Jensen doesn't turn away, but his eyelashes are down and Jared can't see his eyes. For a moment, he thinks he shouldn't have asked. But then Jensen looks up and nods, resolute, and Jared takes the DVD into the TV room with Jensen behind him. When Jared slots the DVD home, though, and sits on the couch, Jensen doesn't sit beside him. He curls up instead on the floor between Jared's knees, just as he had when he first came into the house.

Jensen's comfortable with boundaries and Jared's not going to demur. He just drops a hand to the man's shoulder as the DVD starts.

She'd done her research, Jensen's last owner. There are high school yearbook photographs, first, and a couple of family shots, and by the second Jensen's head is turned into Jared's thigh and he's not watching. "D'you want me to...?" Jared says, muting the sound, but Jensen shakes his head.

He must know what's coming next, but Jared doesn't, and when the first shot of Jensen in riding gear flashes up on the screen he sits bolt upright in surprise. He's always thought Jensen came into the scene blind, but he's utterly wrong. There are shots of Jensen at twelve, thirteen, fourteen, at pony club gymkhanas, concentrating fiercely and looking so very young. He was working with a brunette pony, then. There are shots of them both in and out of jacket and harness, laughing. Later, there's a blonde woman; again, the photographs show her both harnessed and in evening wear. She's in the scene for kink, then, and Jensen with her, and after the rosettes of his gymkhana years Jensen seems to have taken a break from competition. But the next shots are of Jensen, far more composed, in the show jumping ring, with another horse. This one's serious. There are shots of them in competition, in training, with trophies - there's a film of a flawless clear round Jared would be pleased to have run. He leans forward to watch that one, and Jensen stirs between his legs and looks over his shoulder, only to turn back and prop his chin on Jared's thigh.

Unthinking, Jared curves a hand around the back of his head, and carries on watching. He's fascinated by the contrast between Jensen on screen and Jensen now, trying to see how much of the preppy young rider became the man Jared met, and he's trying to get his head around the fact that Jensen knew. Jensen knew exactly what he was signing up for, when he agreed to the offer to commute his debt into service. Maybe even wanted it, although he could not have predicted the abuse he would suffer, later. Had it been better or worse, knowing he'd walked into the scene open-eyed?

He almost doesn't notice when Jensen turns his head into the palm of Jared's hand and noses at his fingers, but he does notice when Jensen, tentative, eyes closed, licks the tip of Jared's thumb. He's so careful, Jared, to avoid Jensen's mouth. They've never kissed. Jared's never going to ask the man to go down on his knees. But Jensen's curling his tongue over Jared's fingers as if he's thinking about Jared's dick, licking between and around each digit, sucking gently at the tips, his teeth pressed so very lightly against skin. He's got his eyes closed, and his cheekbones are flushed, but his shoulders are relaxed and Jared's not going to push him away. It's distracting, though, and Jared loses a local championship to the moment Jensen suckles his forefinger and a stable yard cameo when he rolls his tongue over Jared's ring finger, too. By the time Jensen's settling down to a rhythm, Jared's not watching the DVD, he's watching Jensen's mouth, and the man knows. The pout of his lower lip that sends a jolt of lust straight to Jared's dick has to be entirely deliberate, the way he lets Jared's fingers slide almost all the way out of his mouth and then lunges back after them, sucking so strongly Jared can feel the blood rise under his fingernails, that's just cruelty. There's no point pretending he's not aroused. Jensen's three inches away from the heated bulge of Jared's dick in his jeans.

He's a moment away from flipping Jensen over when the man runs his thumb down the line of the zip on Jared's jeans. Behind it, constricted, Jared's dick throbs in reply, and Jensen flicks a glance up that's pure amusement. Then he - oh God, Jared thinks, and moans - then, he drags the zip down. Lets Jared's fingers curl out of his mouth, and licks his lips. His right hand, steadying, is around the base of Jared's dick. He's holding his breath, Jared, he can't believe - but Jensen does. Carefully, slowly, he lowers his head and takes Jared's dick into his mouth, and Jared has to drive his fingernails into the palms of his hands not to thrust up. It's the worst blow job he's ever had, and the best, tortuously slow, agonizingly immobile, his dick aching for the friction Jensen gives him so very cautiously. He won't move, he can't move, it's pure, sadistic, drawn out pleasure as painful as it is good, as Jensen moves so very carefully, learning each vein and every nerve Jared has in turn. It takes so long Jared's almost caught unaware when he comes, and he thinks at first he's going to come long and slow and sweet, gentle, but Jensen bends his head and closes his mouth and sucks hard the moment Jared feels the first pulse. Then, then, it's all over. Jared's suddenly frantic, flung so high he can't think, knowing nothing but that it's Jensen's mouth, Jensen's shoulder under his hands, Jensen.

When he can think again, the DVD's over and Jensen's resting his head in Jared's lap, eyes closed. He looks content. Jared, hesitating, reaches out and runs his finger over the man's lower lip, and Jensen looks up and smiles so very sweetly Jared's heart misses a beat. "Hey," he says, careful and low, and sits there in silence until he has enough energy to take them both to bed.

He props Jensen up against the pillows, then. Kneels over him and reaches for the lube, and for the first time in eight years, Jared opens himself up for another man's cock. Watching him, Jensen doesn't move, holds himself so tight and still that it's Jared who takes hold of the other man's cock and thrusts down, a slow smooth slide, first time it's Jensen in Jared, easy as sliding into sleep. It's Jared who fastens Jensen's hands on his hips and moves, gently, carefully, watching the man's face, and Jared who takes Jensen with him when he comes. He knows he's never going to forget the awe in Jensen's eyes, slides into sleep knowing he's changed everything, again, and it's good.

When he wakes up, Jensen's propped on one elbow, watching his face. He's not smiling. He's thinking.

"Eh?" Jared asks, still half asleep, and Jensen pushes gently at his shoulder. Obediently, Jared rolls over, and spreads his legs to the soft urging of Jensen's hands. He half thinks Jensen's going to go down on him, and mutters encouragingly into the pillow, but then he hears the squeak of the pump on the lube bottle. That's fine with Jared. He spreads his legs a little further, and murmurs sleepy encouragement, happy for Jensen to take his pleasure, while he gets two fingers slippery with lube so very carefully slow Jared can barely feel them. Jensen's been generous, and when he kneels over Jared and lets his cock slide inside, it's on a coating of lubricant so thick Jared can hear the stuff squelch. It's barely needed. Jensen lets himself curl up on Jared's back, thrusts so slowly and gently Jared feels almost as if he could fall asleep to the tide of him. He doesn't push, Jensen. There's no demand to the nosing of his cock in Jared's body, just the rhythm of it, inevitable, endless, until Jared begins to feel the nerves all over his body attune to Jensen's pace. Unconsciously, he begins to rock his hips to the cadence of it, his heart beating along with Jensen's, the pulse of their blood the same. He's waking up. He can feel himself tighten around Jensen's cock, knows he's starting to sweat, curls his hands in the pillow, but Jensen isn't speeding up. Jensen's right there, not giving an inch, not getting faster, as if he could do this all day. Jared can't. He's starting to want to come and he spreads his thighs a little, moans into the pillow, hitches up his hips, but all he gets is an extra, hesitating half inch of cock and that sliding in so easily Jensen could be lying.

"C'mon," Jared mutters, and bucks a little under Jensen's weight, but he can feel the slow smile pressed into the nape of his neck. It's only then that he wonders, fuck, if Jensen could do this all day, just stretch Jared out and fuck him, never let him come, and it's both unease and anticipation that shiver down Jared's spine. He tilts his hips up a little more, pushes back against Jensen's cock and either he feels himself tighten again, or Jensen's bigger than he'd first thought, more powerful, because it feels to him now as if Jensen's reaching further inside him with every thrust. It's not easy anymore, the push of Jensen's cock. It's a powerful inevitability, the unceasing, heavy, hot crush of it owning Jared's ass, and still Jensen won't speed up, won't respond to the way Jared's begging with his mouth open and his hands clenched on the pillows and his hips jerking. His hands are tingling, his toes curling, every inch of his skin aching and alive and in need, he needs to come as he's never needed to come in his life before and he says so - "Oh God, Jensen, please," - on a gasped breath that he's not sure his body has space for anymore.

But Jensen - Jensen stops, then. Stops, smiling into Jared's skin, his cock deep inside Jared's ass, so deep Jared can feel every inch of it under the convulsive flutter of his muscles. Then Jensen grinds down, a tiny, circular movement that shifts his weight only millimetres but feels as if he's stroking every nerve in Jared's skin, his thighs heavy, his balls firm as they press down against Jared's, the base of his cock tugging and stretching at the mouth of Jared's ass. It's maddening, amazing, so intense Jared whimpers and then Jensen does it again, slower, and again. "Oh, please," Jared says. "Please." Pins and needles skitter over his hands and feet and he feels as if Jensen could just touch him once, just once, he'd come -

And then Jensen wrenches Jared's ass off the bed, shoves his knees under him, and slams in so hard Jared screams. It's like it's the first time and Jared's so tight, Jensen feels huge, Jensen's not stopping. Jensen's fucking Jared so hard the bed's shaking, or maybe that's Jared. So hard it's only the clench of Jensen's hands on Jared's hips, forcing him up and jerking his ass into the thrust and pull of each stroke, that keep him balanced. Jared's helpless, owned, desperate, he arches his back and spreads his thighs and knows it's not going to help because Jensen's not listening. Jensen's turning Jared inside out, stripping him of everything but want and giving nothing back. And when Jared manages - oh God, feels like he's moving in treacle, his hands don't seem to belong to him anymore - to reach wildly for his weeping, jerking dick, Jensen slams his wrist down onto the mattress and fucks him harder. Jared knows then that he's going to come, pinioned, untouched, helpless. He can feel his balls tighten and his ass clutch at Jensen's cock, and the convulsive, frenzied pleading of his hips is beyond his control. He's going to come harder than he's ever come before, so hard he's actually terrified. And then he is coming, and he can hear Jensen yell in triumph and that's his own voice, screaming, and his own dick shooting come over his belly, his thighs, the sheets, and oh God he can, he really can, see stars. Worse, that's Jensen heaving his ass up and pounding into him as he comes, as Jensen comes, until it feels as if Jared's coming all over again and he can't, he really can't, it's too much.

He lives through it, just. Only just, and for the next five minutes he and Jensen balance precariously on the bed, beyond moving, panting.

Then Jensen laughs. He lets Jared slide down into the wet sheets, laughing, breathless, lets his cock slide out of Jared's ass. It's a fond laugh, edged with pride, and Jared thinks muzzily, he'll let it stand. Then Jensen tugs him up on the bed - and thank God, Jensen's hands are shaking too - until Jared lies, utterly spent, cradled between Jensen's legs as Jensen leans against the headboard. He's pretty sure they both need the support. Fairly sure, because if that's Jensen only getting started Jared's not sure he wants to be there for the finish. Checking, Jared heaves his eyes open and looks up to see Jensen looking down. Exhausted. But Jensen's grin is sinfully smug.

"Yeah, yeah," Jared mutters, but he's smiling himself.

He makes it into the stables five hours late and only because Amy gives him a lift, his ass sore and the shape of Jensen's hands bruised into his hips. Concentrating isn't happening. Jared taps desultorily at the entry documents for the East Coast Championship for himself and Eric, unable to think of anything but the hard length of Jensen's cock sliding into his body. He's too hot, he can't keep still on the chair, and he's absolutely convinced everyone who comes into the office must know he got fucked through the mattress that morning and loved it. He's itching to do it again.

It's Eric who taps on the screen, and Jared looks up to discover he's been staring at the address registration so long the screensaver's up. "Shit," he says. "Sorry," and Eric nods at the doorway.

Leaning against the doorframe, Jensen's waiting. He's wearing jeans, and one of Jared's hoodies and a smile, and Jared's on his feet and smiling back before he has time to think. Jensen must have driven over, on his own.

"Hey," Jared says, and abandons the computer. Reaches for his jacket. He knows his grin's stupidly wide.

Behind him Eric mutters, "It's like that, is it?" knowing, fond, and Jared blushes for the first time since he was a teenager. But he doesn't look away from Jensen's eyes.

Yeah. It's like that.