Pairing: Rick/Andrew
Implement: Paddle
Warning: None
Author: Jenny

Priorities

Andrew sat on the top rail of the heavy steel fence, idly admiring
the glossy coats of the two young bulls inside the pen. So similar
in appearance, the striking animals could have been twins. At three
years old, the purebred Black Angus bulls were nearing maturity.
Rick had moved them to the corral by the barn earlier that day,
concerned they weren't gaining enough weight. This time of year
the grass in the pasture wasn't ready and they depended on the
bales of hay that were put out for them daily. But the full-grown
bulls that shared the large field with them had been chasing them
away from the plentiful feed in a display of dominance. Until they
could stand their ground against the older bulls, they would need to
be kept separate.

"Hey, Andy," said David, walking up to join him at the fence.
"Rick told me to get you for supper."

Andrew turned and smiled down at Rick's youngest brother,
"What did he make?"

"Steak, potatoes," shrugged David indifferently. "I
don't know what else."

"You're staying?" asked Andrew, teasing him gently. "Your
Mom's a lot better cook than Rick."

"Yeah, I know," he agreed. "But he promised we'd
start breaking my horse tonight."

Andrew nodded in understanding, David's horse was finally old
enough to begin breaking it to ride and he'd brought him over in
the horse trailer that day for Rick to begin training. He and
Andrew would take turns riding the gelding over the next few weeks
until it had gentled enough that the younger man could safely finish
training him. Andrew couldn't blame David for wanting to watch,
it was a great chance to see his older brother get dumped on his ass
because regardless of the rider's skill, the first few times they
invariably ended up being bucked off.

An angry snort from the pen caught the two young men's attention.
One of the bulls was shaking his head from side to side, spraying an
arc of saliva through the air and eyeing the other bull
menacingly. Before either of the men could react, the irate bull
charged across the short distance towards the other. The two of
them landed with a sickening thud against the side of the metal shed
that made up one side of the pen. The combined weight of the heavy
animals hitting the building left an enormous dent when the bulls
staggered away.

"Shit, they're wrecking the shed," Andrew exclaimed in
alarm.

The two bulls were fighting in earnest now, crashing from one side
of the pen to the other. Both Andrew and David flinched when the
animals landed against the fence, bending the metal bars and leaving
them misshapen.

Andrew swore angrily and before David could react, he jumped from
his perch down into the bull's enclosure.

"Andy!" shouted David, climbing up on the fence. "What
are you doing? Get out of there!"

Andy yelled, waving his arms uselessly at the two bulls that were
still pushing each other around the corral. They careened
perilously close to where he was standing.

"Andy, get out. You're going to get killed," David
begged but Andrew ignored him, continuing to try to distract the
bulls and keep them from further damaging the enclosure. Realizing
the other man wasn't going to listen to him, David ran towards
the house, shouting for his brother.

Rick met him at the door, asking impatiently, "What is it, David?
You're going to spook the horses yelling like that."

"Andy," gasped out David. "He's in the pen with the
bulls."

"So?" demanded Rick. It wasn't unusual that the either of
the men went into the pens with the bulls.

"They're going to kill him," he insisted desperately,
pulling on Rick's arm to get him moving towards the corrals.

Breaking into run as he crossed the yard, Rick whistled for the
dogs. He swore vehemently when he saw Andy slip and fall in the
deep mud on the far side of the pen. The bulls were still fighting
hard, their angry bellows filling the air and Rick prayed that they
wouldn't step on the fallen man.

Without slowing down he shouted a command to the dogs, setting them
on the bulls and the four large dogs raced ahead of him, diving
under the fence to charge towards the animals. Barking furiously,
they surrounded the bulls, snapping at their heels. One of the dogs
leapt to latch onto a bull's ear, hanging on until the bull
tossed his head to send it flying across the pen. It yelped once
when it landed but was up immediately to launch itself again at the
bull's ear.

Rick ducked between the metal bars of the fence into the pen.
Andrew had regained his footing and the dogs had positioned
themselves between him and the bulls, still barking relentlessly.
Distracted by the dogs, the bulls had stopped fighting and stood
quietly now, miraculously transformed back into their previous
docile state. Rick grabbed Andrew's arm and hauled him to the
gate. The second they were safely out, he whistled to the dogs
again and called them off. They came to collapse at his feet,
panting with exertion. Rick praised them and bent to check the dog
that had been thrown. He was uninjured and Rick sighed with relief.

"Holy shit, Andy," David drawled in awe. "You're
crazy." He stared wide-eyed in amazement at his brother's partner.

"Be quiet, David," said Rick mildly. He turned his attention
to his lover now, fully intending to demand an explanation. But he
saw how Andrew's hands trembled as he gently petted the dog's
heads; clearly he was fighting hard for control. Knowing Andrew
wouldn't want to lose face in front of the younger man, Rick
said, "Why don't you head on home, David? Mom will have
supper ready."

"I thought I was having supper here?" protested his brother.
He'd been looking forward to watching the impromptu rodeo
he'd been promised. "You're supposed to start my horse
tonight."

"Tomorrow," Rick assured him, taking him by the arm.

Suddenly David's eyes lit up, he'd be the center of attention
at supper with this story to tell. Seeing that spark, Rick said
suspiciously, "You don't have to be spreading this all
over."

"You're kidding, right?" chortled his little brother.

Rick sighed with resignation; he'd be expecting a call from one
of his parents tonight, checking to see if Andrew was all
right. "Drive careful; remember to slow down on the gravel
roads."

"Yes, Mom," said David with exaggerated patience.

"Good-bye," said Rick pointedly, steering him towards his
truck.

"Bye," replied David, his usual good nature restored now that
Andrew was safe. "See you, Andy."

Andrew managed a wave in his general direction as the teenager,
under Rick's watchful eye, carefully maneuvered the truck out of
the yard and onto the road leading from the farm. As soon as he was
on his way Rick turned to Andrew again, ready to comfort his partner
but was amazed to find that he was shaking with rage, rather than
the expected fear.

"Why did you send the dogs in?" demanded Andrew angrily.
"They could have been killed."

Stunned by the other man's anger, Rick shook his head, "Do
you think I wanted to do that?" he asked, fighting for control of
his own temper. "But God forbid, better them than you," he
said bluntly.

Andrew dropped his eyes at that statement, knowing how much Rick
cared for his dogs. That he would have sacrificed them for his sake
without a moment's hesitation made him feel even worse.

"What the hell did you think you were doing, Andy?"

Gesturing towards the partially destroyed pen, Andrew asked in
disbelief, "Don't you see what they did? They wrecked it.
Just look at it."

Rick stood behind his lover, placing his hands on Andrew's
shoulders and turned him to face the corral. "Exactly," he
said grimly, giving Andrew a small shake. "Just look at it. If
you'd got caught between those bulls and the fence, what do you
think would be left of you?"

Twisting away from Rick's grip, Andrew said defiantly, "I
knew what I was doing. You didn't have to worry."

"Okay," said Rick. "You're obviously not ready to
discuss this." He looked over his partner carefully, Andrew was
covered in dirt and manure from falling in the pen and Rick asked
with concern, "You're sure you're not hurt?"

"I'm sure," Andrew said curtly.

"Go in and shower then. I'm going to move those bulls to
another field before they do any more damage."

"I'll help you," insisted Andrew.

"No," answered Rick firmly. "I'll do it on
horseback. It'll be safer."

"You'll still need my help."

"I said no." When Andrew opened his mouth to keep arguing,
Rick turned him towards the house and swatted him hard across the
seat of his muddy jeans. "Shower, Andy. We're done talking
for now."

The sharp physical reminder was enough to make him reconsider any
further argument; Andrew swallowed down his angry retort and started
walking slowly to the house.

Rick saddled his horse to move the steers from their field to the
spring pasture before herding the unruly bulls to their new
quarters. He hoped Andrew had used the time to calm down and would
be able to discuss the situation now. Andrew had no excuse for
having behaved so recklessly, being well aware of how dangerous
bulls could be from his time on the rodeo circuit.

Rick scrubbed his dirty hands at the sink in the mud room before
going into the kitchen. The supper he had previously prepared was
sitting on the stove, dried out and inedible. Suddenly the
frustration he felt with Andrew's cavalier attitude today, hit
him full force and he went to the desk to retrieve the paddle,
intending to send a serious message. Andrew had scared him badly
and he felt the resultant anger surge through him. Shaken by the
intensity of that feeling, he sat down on the couch, turning over
the thin piece of wood in his hands. It looked innocuous enough but
Rick knew what a sting it could produce. He sat for a few minutes
longer, gradually letting go of his exasperation. Andrew had spent
years unconcerned about his own safety, coupled with his impulsive
nature it would take more than one or two paddling to change that
behavior. Slowly his annoyance abated and he went upstairs to find
his partner.

Andrew was sitting on the side of their bed, dressed in tee-shirt
and boxers, his hair still damp from his shower. He looked up
uneasily for a moment as Rick entered the room before hanging his
head once again. Clearing his throat nervously he stammered,
"I'm sorry…sorry for yelling at you about the dogs. I
was just so scared they were going to get hurt."

The rest of Rick's irritation evaporated as he crossed the room
to sit beside his obviously upset lover. He slid his arm around
Andrew's waist and placed the paddle on the bed next to him.
"I know, Andy. But think how scared I was seeing you in that
pen."

Andrew nodded reluctantly and Rick felt his shoulders shaking but
not with anger this time. Andrew glanced apprehensively at the
paddle, knowing it wouldn't be long before he felt it across his
backside. He remembered the promise Rick had made after he nearly
lost his hand in the auger and his stomach tightened, well aware
that his partner would think going into the bull's pen would
qualify as carelessness.

"I want to know what you thinking, going in that pen with those
bulls fighting like that. You're not some city boy; you know how
dangerous that was."

Andrew took a deep breath and tried to explain, "I just saw they
were damaging the pen. I wanted to stop them. I didn't think
about getting hurt."

"It's just a fence and fences can be fixed, Andy. It's a
lot harder to fix people."

"I know," choked out Andrew. "It was stupid."

"It was `dangerous'," Rick emphasized.

"Yeah, it was," admitted Andrew, rocking slightly in his
misery.

Rick said gravely, "I'm going to paddle you, Andrew. One of
these days your luck is going to run out and you're going to be
hurt bad."

Andrew clasped his hands together to hide their trembling, his
courage faltering and he said plaintively, "You know we
didn't have a rule about the bulls. I broke a rule when I
wasn't careful with the auger."

Rick asked him gently, "Are you seriously telling me we need a
rule about this?"

"No," whispered Andrew, his face flaming with embarrassment
at the thought that he would need a rule to tell him it was a bad
idea to try to single-handedly break up a fight between two bulls.

"You need to work on thinking first, Andy. It'll save your
backside a lot of grief."

"I know. I'll try harder," promised Andrew when Rick
held out his hand for him to take. "We really don't need to
do this," he protested as he was guided him over Rick's lap.
"I won't do it again."

Rick knew, however sincere Andrew was in his vow right now, he was a
lot more likely to follow through on it after a spanking. Rick had
noticed a marked improvement in his attitude towards the farm
machinery after being paddled for his lack of care around the
auger.

When his boxers were pulled down, Andrew pleaded, "I'm
sorry."

"I love you Andy. You need to remember that. When you're not
careful you hurt me too," said Rick softly, placing his calloused
hand on Andrew's vulnerable bottom.

Andrew grabbed fistfuls of the comforter and steeled himself to
endure the impending spanking. Held tight against Rick's hard
stomach, there was no where to go and he struggled hard with the
impulse to try to break free from his partner's grip. He took
several deep breaths to calm himself, searching for the acceptance
he needed.

It was impossible to adequately prepare for that first stinging swat
and Andrew gasped at the sudden pain. Rick spanked hard and fast,
covering the exposed bottom across his lap with solid swats that
quickly turned Andrew's skin hot and red. Sure that the end of
the spanking was imminent, Andrew tried to hold on and keep from
crying out. When Rick's hand finally stopped falling, Andrew was
on the edge of breaking down.

Remembering Rick had promised him a paddling; Andrew panicked and
threw back a hand to cover his bottom. "No!" he wailed.
"We're done."

Rick waited patiently for Andrew to move his hand but his partner
just lay breathing hard with his eyes squeezed shut, hoping that
Rick would take pity on him. When the hand remained in place, Rick
grasped and moved it to hold at Andrew's side. "We're
done when I say we're done," said Rick implacably.

Andrew began to cry, letting go of his control, it was no use
holding back the tears any longer. Rick finished the punishment
with a solid set of twenty from the paddle which left Andrew gasping
with sobs.

Crying hard and shaking with left-over adrenaline, Andrew reached
blindly for his partner and comfort. Rick lay back on the bed,
bringing Andy with him. Gradually Andy quieted as he lay in
Rick's arms but he continued to tremble. "Sorry,"
apologized Andrew, embarrassed by his inability to stop shivering.
"I don't know what's wrong with me."

"Just worn out," said Rick easily, stroking his shaking back.
"Are you hungry?"

"No."

"Okay," said Rick. "I'm putting you to bed for a
while then. You can eat later."

Wiping the last of his tears from his face, Andrew said shakily,
"For Christ's sake, Rick it's not even seven o'clock.
I'm not going to bed."

"I said I was `putting' you to bed," clarified Rick.
"It's not up for debate."

"Oh," said Andrew, not sure if Rick was teasing him but with
his bottom so sore he wasn't about to take any chances. He
allowed Rick to settle him under the covers without a murmur of
protest. Wanting Rick's company but not able to ask, he sighed
contentedly when Rick stripped to his own underwear and joined him
in bed. Done in, he closed his eyes and nestled into Rick's
arms, the familiar smell of horses that always clung faintly to his
lover, reassuring him.

Unable to stop thinking about what had happened; Andrew began to cry
again a few moments later. Embarrassed and frustrated with himself,
he tried to choke the sobs down but Rick said gently, "It's
okay, Andy. There's no shame in crying."

Finally, Andrew slipped into an exhausted sleep. When he woke, Rick
was gone from the bed and he sat up, disoriented from his nap. His
bottom was sore enough that he rolled immediately onto his side.
Still a bit embarrassed about how foolish he'd been, he dressed
in jeans and padded bare-foot to the kitchen in search of Rick. His
partner was at the stove, stirring something in a pot. He smiled
when he saw Andrew and held out an arm in invitation. Andrew gladly
let himself be engulfed in a warm embrace.

"Hungry?"

Andrew paused for a minute, considering, "Yeah, I am."

While the two men were eating their late supper, the phone rang.
Rick scooped it up and found himself briefly explaining the
afternoon's events to his father, casually glossing over the real
danger Andrew had been in and reassuring him that everyone was
fine. He sat back down at the table after the short conversation
and resumed eating. Andrew though, had laid down his spoon and was
gazing miserably down at his bowl.

"They're going to think I'm the biggest idiot,"
Andrew said sadly.

"Ha!" laughed Rick, his eyes crinkling in amusement.
"That honor goes to Don. Did I ever tell you about the time he
went skinny dipping in the irrigation ditch?" By the time Rick
had finished the story, both men were laughing. But Andrew's
anxiety
resurfaced quickly, showing clearly in his unhappy eyes. Rick
reached out to take his partner's hand, his voice sobering,
"Andy, God knows everyone's done things that are foolish, at
least in retrospect. The only shame there is, is not learning from
your mistakes."

"I'm trying," Andrew said earnestly, his eyes begging
Rick to believe him.

"I know you are, sweetheart," Rick assured him, squeezing his
hand.

Finally at ease, Andrew said playfully, "So, what about you?
Should I be asking your brothers for any good stories?"

"Oh God," groaned Rick in mock despair. "They'd be
only too thrilled to tell you every embarrassing moment I ever
had."

"I can't wait," chuckled Andrew.

The End