When Ian finally manages to track down the last clue to the Lost Temple in Belize hinted at by the artifact he had found the year before, he is thrilled at the idea of organizing an expedition. He joins his partner on a trucking run during which they make plans for their extended visit to Belize happy that Mac insists on going with him no matter how long it might take. However, before they can jet off on their next adventure they must first face a man from Mac's past who is bent on revenge.
Ian leaned against the wall of the Tomcat Freight Line office building in Joliet, watching as Mac reversed his eighteen-wheeler into one of the loading bays. Mac was just returning from a five day run to Billings, Montana and Ian had missed him so much. In the last month they'd only managed to spend two weekends together at Mac's, and Mac had visited him mid-week in Chicago, staying for three days in Ian's apartment near the University. A total of seven days out of thirty. It wasn't enough.
Mac opened the truck door and jumped down, turning to enter the door that led to the offices on the first floor when Ian stepped out from the side of the building and smiled at him.
"Ian! What a surprise." He grinned, pulling the younger man into a tight embrace which Ian returned with fervor. "Thought you couldn't get here until tomorrow evening. This is great; you can stay with me until Monday, can't you?" Mac asked, obviously concerned that Ian had come to tell him he couldn't keep the date.
"Yeah, I managed to ditch today's meeting, nothing that couldn't wait. I had to see you," Ian said, pulling back to look into Mac's eyes, his heart beating a little faster at the passion he saw there.
"Why do I get the feeling this is more than just you wanting to see me," Mac frowned, his keen senses at odds with Ian's words. "Has something happened, anything wrong?"
Ian couldn't deny that things hadn't worked out exactly the way they hoped when he and Mac had become partners nine months earlier, following what could only be called a whirlwind romance. He smiled at the phrase, but it fitted what happened between them nonetheless. Just because they were two men didn't make it any less romantic in his eyes. They met and fell in love over a forty-eight hour period, during which time they also faced violence, kidnapping and the possibility of death because of the jealousy and greed of a couple of Ian's academic colleagues. Ian knew it had been quite an eye opener for Mac to understand the kind of intrigue that could go on behind the closed doors of academia.
When Ian finally presented the artifact that had caused all the trouble to his mentor and colleagues at the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago, it had stirred up quite a furor. A supposedly mythic temple with an even more mythic legend from the ancient Mayan civilization now had some basis in reality. The tablet Ian had discovered in Guatemala gave specific clues and an obscure reference to a key linked with this temple.
Ian had received much praise for his perseveranceâ€”he had also received a further grant to continue his studies, and the dean, Dr. Tyler, had requested that he take on another class.
Ian had been gratified at the recognition after years of fighting alone to prove his theories and had gratefully accepted both the grant and the acknowledgment of his peers. Before his success, Dr. Tyler had been one of the few to believe in him, supporting him as best he could, and Ian had been happy to accede to his request, knowing it was the dean's way of further increasing Ian's standing in the department.
It was only when he met Mac for a celebratory dinner later that evening that Ian realized he would have even less time to spend with the man who had suddenly come to mean so much in his life. His excitement had faded when he explained to Mac how much more work would be involved in preparing for another class while still carrying on with his research. It also meant that his plans to go to Belize and search for the temple would be even more of a possibility now, with the new grant and the support of the University.
Ian could still remember the conversation when he had confessed his concerns to Mac, ducking his head in a move that Mac knew only too well.
Mac had put a finger under his chin and lifted his head so their eyes met. "Ian Grayson," Mac had said, "you are not going to give up either the research or this teaching post just to spend more time with me. You have worked for years for this and it's far too easy for you to sacrifice something you want for others, well not this time. You deserve this and you are going to accept it, all of it. We'll manage just fine."
They had already discussed the idea of Mac cutting down on his driving. After all, it wasn't as if he needed to do it. He owned the freight line and never needed to do more than sit in his office and rake it in. He simply enjoyed being out on the road, but he could easily hire another driver and then he could spend more time with Ian. Time that the archaeologist would now no longer have available, but Mac told Ian not to worry about it.
"I just won't cut down my driving after all," Mac said. "Then we can see each other on the weekends when neither of us will be working." He smiled as he traced a finger over Ian's lips. "It will make our weekends something to really look forward to."
At first it had been good. Ian always went to Mac's house at Crystal Lake on Friday nights and didn't return to the university until Monday mornings. If Mac wasn't out on a run they would even meet mid-week in Chicago for the occasional dinner, and Mac would stay over at Ian's apartment.
However, as time passed Ian was usually too busy to meet during the week and even the weekends got shorter as he sometimes couldn't get to Mac's place until Saturday, and occasionally he would have to leave on Sunday evening because he had an early meeting Monday. A few times he'd had to go away to chase something up in his research.
Gradually, Mac started taking on longer trips, the ones he'd promised Ian he wouldn't do so they could spend time together on the weekends. He admitted he found his weekends lonelier than ever before if Ian couldn't come home.
Home: that had been the plan, that Mac's place would be their home and Ian's apartment would only be used when he had to stay in town. However, it now seemed that Mac's place was just somewhere Ian came when he could; his apartment was still his home. Mac had even taken to staying in the small apartment on the top floor of his office building in Joliet if he had two runs during the week.
Even though Mac never said anything, Ian knew how unhappy he was with the arrangement, especially as what had happened this last month had become the norm rather than the exception. Neither man blamed the other, but neither of them liked it either.
Meeting Mac's gaze now, Ian answered his query, "Not exactly wrong Mac, but...look I don't want to talk here. Can we go to your place?"
"Sure," Mac smiled though inside he was worried. Mac was ten years older than Ian and his fear was always that Ian might find someone else, someone younger. Ian got upset the one time that Mac mentioned the possibility, swearing that he loved Mac and couldn't imagine ever being with anyone else. Mac didn't doubt Ian's sincerity, and he never mentioned it again, but that didn't stop the worry nagging at him. It hurt Mac that Ian seemed to accept so easily that their lives mostly ran parallel now and they only crossed paths occasionally.
Mac hurried upstairs and handed the papers from this last trip over to Neil, asking the ex-Lt. Commander to handle everything until the following Monday.
Neil had seen Ian's car pull up earlier and didn't need any explanation. He grinned at his boss and said, "Sure, Mac, leave it with me."
Mac simply nodded and left. Neil frowned; Mac was usually pretty garrulous. If he didn't know better he would've thought the boss was worried, but with Ian waiting for him what on earth could he have to worry about? No, more likely he was just anxious to see his partner and get home. Neil watched from the window as Mac got into Ian's car and they drove off together.
* * * *
Driving up the long curving driveway to Mac's house, Ian thought again what a lovely place it was. He felt a quick tug in his chest that he didn't think of this as home yet.
The sudden offer of an excellent grant to continue his research and eventually organize an expedition to Central America had been a godsend. Ian had known that Mac would offer to help him with funding; Mac was a rich man. However, Ian didn't want to take money from Mac and the grant meant he didn't have to.
Ian was getting increasingly concerned, as Mac was going on longer and longer trucking runs and never seemed surprised anymore when Ian had to cut short or even cancel their weekends together. Ian was afraid he was unintentionally pushing Mac away; he was afraid of losing the man he loved and he couldn't bear that. He loved Mac with all his heart and believed Mac felt the same. Mac told him not to worry; as long as he kept busy he would take whatever Ian could give him, which only made Ian feel guiltier than ever. Why should Mac have to take the crumbs from his table? There had to be way around this.
Ian was sure he'd found it. Now all he had to do was get Mac to agree.
He smiled as he parked the car. One step at a time.
Mac got out of the passenger door and leaned on the roof as Ian exited and locked the car.
"Hi," Mac said softly.
Ian lifted his head and met Mac's gaze. "Ah, sorry, guess I was a little quiet on the drive here." He walked quickly around the front of the car and into Mac's embrace. "I had something on my mind." Ian felt Mac stiffen in his arms and he leaned back and looked at his partner. "Mac?"
Mac didn't look at him, instead looking over Ian's shoulder at his home. "If it's... something I won't enjoy hearing I'd rather you said it out here. Don't want that memory inside my home."
The silence in the car hadn't helped Mac's confidence. Ian always had something to say, it was sometimes hard to shut him up. The only time he was quiet was when he was worried and the fact that he wasn't sharing his concerns with Mac made him think Ian's problem was with him.
"God, Mac, what are you thinking? What is it you expect me to say?" Suddenly Ian realized. He knew what Mac feared though he never spoke of it anymore. "You think I want to end this, to break up with you? You think there is someone else?" Ian took hold of Mac's chin and turned him so the older man couldn't avoid his eyes. Ian stared at him and gently smiled. "Mackenzie Wallace, I love you more each day and I've been worried that I was pushing you away. All I want to do is find a way around this problem of not being able to spend enough time together." Ian felt Mac relax and saw the relief in his eyes. "I'm thinking about dropping the extra class."
"I'm sorry," Mac said. "I should have more faith in you, in us. But, Ian, you're not dropping the class. I do want to spend more time with you, but not at the cost of your career. You're still fairly young, Ian, and you have a long career in front of you. We'll find a way somehow. As long as we both want to, we'll find a way. Come on, let's go inside. I want a shower and a good meal."
"Is that an invitation? Could do with a shower myself, been a long day."