Ian needs a vacation and what better way than joining Mac for a week on one of his trucking runs. Mac has a surprise planned for his lover but it seems that Mac is the one in for a surprise when Ian finds a Native American Kiva in an ancient pueblo. But then Mac begins to act out of character and Ian finds each day becoming harder as Mac's behavior becomes stranger and more threatening. Ian has to discover more about the Anasazi as he comes to suspect there was something dark hidden in the ancient Kiva.
Ian roused from his doze and squirmed in his seat, trying to get his slightly numb ass comfortable, sighing with pleasure as his glance fell on the handsome man driving the big eighteen wheeler along the busy highway ahead.
As if he knew he was being watched, Mac spared a quick glance in his passenger's direction.
"You finally decided to join me again." Mac grinned even as he turned his attention back to the road.
"Hmm," murmured Ian, very content to just soak up the atmosphere. He rarely got the opportunity to just spend time driving across the country with Mac, and he really wanted to savor each day. Sitting up in the high cab next to his lover always seemed like the perfect adventure to Ian, and he had some experience of the adventures of life.
"What are you thinking about?" asked Mac.
"Oh, just that I like being here with you. I don't get enough time to just be, you know? Not to have to worry about lectures and presentations, students and faculty. People are always expecting me to have something else up my sleeve, no matter how often I tell them it's empty."
"You never push me to be anyone but Ian; I don't have to be Doctor Grayson with you. And while I love spending time at our house in Crystal Lake, I've had to stay in my apartment near the University for three weekends in the last two months. It's just..."
"What?" Ian frowned at being interrupted mid flow.
"I love spending time with you too. And just now that means leaving Doctor Grayson's problems back in Chicago. Besides," Mac added with a grin, "you only have yourself to blame. You wouldn't be in demand if you weren't so successful."
Ian harrumphed in disgust and commented, "Well, at least out here there are no Mayan myths to plague this archaeologist." He glanced around and asked with a puzzled frown, "Where are we anyway?"
"Still on the I-40, but we've been in Arizona for a while. It's not too far to your surprise now."
"I wish you'd tell me something about it," Ian grumbled.
"Now, Ian, have some patience, it'll be worth it."
"What on earth can there be out here that interests you? It certainly can't be the Native American Indian sites," Ian said, sounding wary.
Mac laughed. "No, let's just say you look down to search out the Earth's past while I'm more interested in looking up."
Puzzled, Ian said, "Astronomy, you're talking about your interest in the stars. What has that got to do with the desert? Or me?"
"You're being very mysterious."
Ian was frustrated. Oddly, for an archaeologist who was used to slowly discovering items layer by very thin layer, he didn't really like surprises. Maybe because he hadn't had many good ones until he met Mac. Who would have thought snagging a ride from a trucker would have had such an impact on his life? He watched as the miles slipped by, trying to equate his surroundings with Mac's vague explanation of his treat. His lover had made it quite clear that whatever it was had something to do with an interest of Mac's, but that Ian would get a kick out of it too. He really was curious now.
It was then that Ian noticed the light was changing, indicating it was later than he realized; evening was approaching.
"Better find a truck stop soon, Mac. I'm hungry and then we can be sure of a good spot for the night."
"Oh, I've already picked out the perfect spot for us to spend the night and it won't be anywhere near a truck stop."
Ian glanced at Mac. There was that certain tone in his voice, the one that told Ian his partner was planning something specialâ€”or something devious. He never knew with Mac.
Mac's promised surprise had only been mentioned for the first time over breakfast that morning, and Ian had been wondering all day what on earth it could be. Mac had found him searching for his surprise in the cab and told him it wasn't something that could be packed.
"Hang on, not far now."
"What the hell are you up to?" Ian growled, purposefully using a tone that he knew sent shivers down Mac's spine when they were somewhat closer than being in the cab of a truck would allow.
"Something you'll enjoy, believe me."
Knowing he wasn't going to get an answer, Ian leaned back in his seat appearing disgruntled, but secretly he was intrigued. Mac didn't often spring things like this on him, but he'd never yet been disappointed.
About fifteen minutes later, Mac pulled the truck off the highway and turned down a minor road. Ian looked at him over the rim of his glasses, his eyes asking an unspoken question.
"Patience, grasshopper," Mac said in a bad oriental accent.
After giving Mac an irritated sideways glance, Ian turned away to look at the desert instead. No matter how often he saw it, he never ceased to be surprised that the desert was so teaming with life, both flora and fauna. There were wild flowers of every size and hue carpeting the rough ground between cacti, and the variety of flowering cacti was amazing. Some of them had a covering of tiny flowers and some had one huge flower, while others even had fruit. Off in the distance he spotted a wonderful example of the Palo Verde tree, heavy with brilliant yellow flowers.
Slithering and sliding between this myriad of plant life were hundreds of types of snakes. Mac had already told him that though the Diamondback was the most famous, the Green Mojave was just as poisonous. Personally Ian was less keen on seeing scorpions. He'd had experience of those on a trip to Egypt once and it wasn't something he wanted to repeat, and he was well aware there were poisonous species in the Mojave Desert. Mac had told him a tale of "killer" bees at which at first Ian had scoffed, but Mac just tossed him a copy of National Geographic and Ian realized it was true. The Africanized honey bee was indeed prevalent in Arizona and people had died. Luckily only in small numbers, usually because they had gotten too close, but it was a salutary warning nonetheless.
While the countryside may have taken his mind off things for a while, his curiosity won out and he turned back to stare at Mac.
Ian sighed excessively and Mac grinned. "Okay, okay. I know a nice place to watch the sun go down," he explained. "I have the refrigerator packed with good stuff for supper and I wanted to make love with you under the stars and out here it's like you can see the whole universe."
"That's my surprise?" Ian asked smiling. "So romantic," he added in a soft voice, his hand rubbing circles on Mac's thigh.
"Whoa, Ian my love, not until I park," Mac said, reacting predictably to Ian's caressing. Ian sighed and removed his hand. "And that's only half of it," Mac continued, "there's sunrise and that's even better from the vantage point I'm taking you to."
Smiling, Ian reveled in the feeling of warmth that spread through him at the thought of the evening that Mac had planned for them.
"Look," Mac said softly, and Ian lifted his head and, seeing what Mac was pointing out, suddenly understood. He was a little put out that he had forgotten that besides the National Parks and Native Indian sites, Arizona was also home to the world's largest meteor crater. "It's still five miles away and look at it," Mac said awe in his voice.
The land was so flat that the rim of the crater rose appreciably above the desert floor, covering most of the horizon ahead. The slowly dying sun coated the desert with shimmering light in varying shades of pinks and reds.
"It's breathtaking," Ian murmured.
"Wait till we get closer. I couldn't have timed this better," Mac said cheerfully even though he had obviously seen this sight before and knew exactly the best time to get there.
"Hey look!" Mac declared, pointing.
Following his direction Ian saw a coyote tearing across the desert floor. Suddenly Mac laughed and slapped his thigh. "You go, Wile E.!" he yelled.
"What?" Ian frowned, looking from one to the other as the coyote darted from left to right and back again.
Mac gulped with laughter and said, "Wile E. Coyote, you know like the cartoon character? He's chasing a roadrunner!"
Ian quickly looked back and sure enough there was the bird zipping over the desert as if it hadn't a care in the world. The coyote might be fast but the roadrunner was faster. Ian smiled at Mac's antics as he waved an arm, egging the coyote on, telling it to get the lead out. Mac, his indisputable "man with a child in his eyes."
"Oh, God, Mac don't ever change," he murmured softly, yet Mac still heard and turned to him with a puzzled look. "I love you just as you are."
Mac grinned. "Good, â€˜cause I love you just the way you are. We're quite the pair, eh?"
"Yeah, and always together."
"Come on before we get too sappy!"
Very soon they'd climbed down from the cab and stood on the side of the narrow road watching the sun go down over Meteor Crater. Ian was leaning against Mac feeling utterly content, wondering how it was that Mac always seemed to know just what he needed. He hadn't even known himself just how much he missed the freedom of open spaces after doing two multiple city tours during the last eighteen months. It had been Mac's suggestion that maybe he would like to join him on one of his cross-country runs, and Ian had jumped at the opportunity. Ian knew, of course, that he had an open invitation to travel with Mac, but it wasn't until Mac actually asked him to come along that he realized how long it had been since he was last on the road with his partner.
That was one of the prices of success; he was in demand. Ian was still teaching at the Chicago Institute and he had been on a couple of lecturing tours, but they had been so rigidly organized he felt controlled, and naturally he had missed Mac. Mac had originally wanted to come along but Ian talked him out of it, not wanting to take Mac away from his trucking line for a lecture tour. He would never have gone on an expedition without his partner. Mac was more the action type and taking part in an expedition was his kind of thing, but a lecture tour, not so much. Of course, if Mac had thought there was any sort of risk involved in the tour he'd have muscled his way in like a flash.
Besides the lecture tours, Ian had signed a book deal to write about his adventures as an archaeologist, after a lot of negotiation to try and tone down the adventure side of the books. He wanted it to be more textbook in style, but at the same time he wanted to make sure that the contribution of Mackenzie Wallace to his finds was clearly acknowledged. The publisher wanted less of the textbook, more of the true-life adventure story. Not surprisingly, Mac was all in favor of the Indiana Jones version of the adventures of Doctor Ian Grayson.
In the end though they had settled somewhere in the middle and he'd been working flat out for most of the previous twelve months, writing whenever he could spare the time. The reason he hadn't been able to go home to Crystal Lake for three weekends was because he was working with his editor, making the final revisions to the book. It was going to be published soon and Ian was both excited and nervous. Mac was just proud.
So standing virtually in the middle of nowhere, with Mac's arm around his shoulders as they enjoyed one of the wonders of nature, was a perfect moment in time for Ian. He turned his face into Mac's neck, kissing as he moved up to his ear, where he blew on it before nibbling the lobe.
"A lovely surprise," he murmured, "thank you."
Shivering as the warm breath teased him, Mac replied, "Oh this is only the beginning. Wait. Look," Mac said quickly and Ian turned back to see the last rays of the sun painting more colors across the sky as it slipped below the far side of the crater's rim.
"Beautiful," Ian sighed.
"Yeah," agreed Mac, staring at his lover. "Come on, just a little further then we can camp for the night. We have a good dinner, nice wine..."
"Wine?" Ian queried.
"Don't worry, I'm not driving tomorrow. We're going to have a little break here. Lots for me to show you," he lowered his voice, "Lots of privacy for us to make out."
"Privacy? At Meteor Crater? Isn't it a great tourist site or something?"
Mac grinned. "Sure is, but I'm going to turn off just ahead. I know this cave not far from here. We can camp there and get a great view of the sun rising over the crater in the morning."
"A cave?" Ian frowned.
"Don't worry, it's perfectly safe. I've been there before."
Ian smiled at the comment, but he couldn't help the surge of jealousy he felt at the thought that his Mac might have been here with someone else. He knew it was pointless; neither of them had been exactly innocent when they met, but now they were both totally committed to each other. However, he was only human and these inner demons rose to bother him every now and then.
Mac reached out to caress his cheek. "No, I've never brought anyone else here."
Ian stared into Mac's warm brown eyes, and asked softly, "How do you do that? Know what I'm thinking?"
Mac shrugged. "I know you. I don't always understand you, I don't know why these moments of insecurity arise, but I know that they do." He held Ian's chin firmly and looked deep into his lover's eyes. "Never doubt me, Ian. I swear I will never let you down."
"I know, Mac, I know. Deep in here..." Ian put his hand over his own heart. "I know. I guess I sometimes think too much and not always too clearly. But I trust you with my life so why would I doubt you with my heart?"
Mac pulled him close and took his mouth in a passionate kiss which left both men panting.
"Get inside," Mac gasped, quickly climbing back into his cab. As soon as Ian was in his seat he started up the engine again and drove towards the cave.
* * * *
The cave was everything Mac said it would be, but he neglected to mention that it was much larger than he had given Ian cause to expect. Mac pointed out a flat slab of rock in the lip that was a perfect camping platform. It had the advantage of being out of the elements yet still giving a perfect view of the night sky.
Ian found a second surprise in the cave. What Mac had failed to mention was that at the rear of the cave was the ruin of an Indian pueblo, which Ian surmised was hundreds of years old.