by Gray

Disclaimer: not mine. I did not invent the characters, the movie, or the show. They bring me no financial profit and I'm not seeking any.

Notes: This assumes you are already familiar with the show and its characters. This is also just a small scene instead of a story. I'm working on some longer ones but needed to take a brake and decided to post it.

Comments very welcome. I am not a professional writer I'm just trying to improve on what I do write. Thank you for all the comments that have been given from many talented people. I am grateful.

p.s. I received a very encouraging comment from "Randall W. Dear" and though I tried to respond for some reason I couldn't. So if you read this...thank you very much!

It was already raining hard when Vin road into town and though it wasn't quite midnight most of the lights had been put out as most of the town had gone to sleep. He'd been away tracking a pack of coyotes that were killing the local cattle far too often then appreciated and had only after several days been able to make a trek home. Home? It was a curious word in Vin's vocabulary and he wasn't quite sure what it meant. He had used it before, casually, but now it seemed to stick in his throat.

Vin cast his eyes about the street, as though someone or something would stand out and announce "Yes this is home." He noticed as he did that the saloon of course was still brightly lit along with a few other flickering lanterns but the majority of the street was cloaked in darkness. Shadows were not unknown to Vin Tanner. He kept close to them as a rule, not fearing them for knowing them as a haven. Riding up to the town in darkness however made him peer into the shadows with suspicion to see if danger was lurking. It was something he did out of habit, even before he had a price on his head or a town to watch over.

Automatically he sought out the locations of the other peacekeepers. He knew Ezra would be in the Saloon and as he passed the jail he nodded an exchange with Buck who was keeping watch over the town from the dryness of the covered porch. The others he knew would be asleep already or near to it.

He was somewhat surprised when he saw Nathan leaning back in a chair on the covered porch below the stairs to the clinic. Tanner could see from the flickering lamplight at his elbow that his face was watching the livery doors. Tanner had studied men and beasts for many years. Nathan was waiting for someone. When they acknowledged each other as Vin rode into the livery he knew that the person being waited for was him.

Nathan's demeanor was calm despite the edge of vigilance he wore on his shoulders. Vin didn't think anyone could be hurt though that and every other possibility filtered through his mind as he took careful care of Peso. He was awed at how entangled his life had become with the others. It was not something he allowed himself to dwell on often but occasionally the ease at which they could communicate and read each other and for that matter watch over each other gave him pause. Before now the nervousness he had picked up in their faces, though fleeting, would have sent him riding straight back out but he trusted that they were there to watch his back. He was startled that he so easily allowed it.

By the time he had finished Nathan had put out his lamp and was standing, waiting to accompany him down the boardwalk. The tracker noticed, even in the dark, with unease how Nathan had wanted to take him by the elbow and had consciously restrained himself from the gesture, backing out of it when his hand was already half-way there.

Vin started to walk with him, he wasn't sure where they were going. Toward the saloon, toward his wagon? He cast a questioning look towards his companion and Nathan complied, being straight to the point, "Couple a bounty hunters rode in earlier tonight. We ain't sure they're after ya but we didn't want to put out no advertisements either." Nathan smiled when he finished. A smile of genuine respect and concern.

Vin was oddly grateful for the concern and the feeling that rose in his gut was a mixture of the emotion his gratefulness brought and the tightened fear he felt whenever he was in the arena of the hunters. His steps slowed until he stopped completely on the boardwalk. Nathan had matched his stride until he too was motionless.

"Everyone's okay?" Vin had to ask.

"We're all good Vin." Nathan nodded securely, "I imagine we're all just being cautious."

The healer watched the sudden indecision on his friend's face as his gaze flicked between the boarding-house and his wagon and let out a truly amused chuckle. "There is no way you are sleeping in your wagon tonight pard. Its wet, you're wet, and Chris can't see you from there."

Vin had the grace to return his own rueful grin. "Don't worry Doc. I'll go check in. He in his room or Buck's?"

"His. I'll bring you something dry," the healer replied.

They parted ways but the tracker felt both Nathan and Buck's astute gazes all the way to the boarding house. When he got there he stood motionless outside of Chris's doorway while he took in the patterns and sounds ruling the location. Once he'd fixed the patterns in his head as best he could he unlocked the door and slipped in without knocking.

Chris was stretched out on his bed fully dressed, including gunbelt. Though his hat was pulled over his eyes to shade them from the very low light flickering from the oil-lamp on the bed-side table. He didn't jerk when Vin entered. He very simply and calmly slid his hat off his face to study the tracker as he slipped out of his soaked jacket and hat. He registered the weary slope of the young man's movements and the small shudders from the coldness of the night.

"You're wet," he muttered, almost to himself.

"It's raining," Vin returned, grinning again, peeling out of his shirt as well.

"I got an extra pair of pants in the bottom drawer." Chris was propped on his elbow now. He indicated the appropriate drawer with a shift of his chin.

"I hate those pants. Besides they're Buck's not yours. He just gave 'em to ya 'cause they shrunk and you don't ever wear 'em cause they're brown. Besides Nate said he'd bring me somethin' dry."

"He won't bring it 'till morning pard." The way Chris said it indicated that they had discussed it previously. Sneaky devils.

During Vin's discourse the man in black had stood to unfold the bedroll in the corner with a kick, after which he'd started gathering Vin's wet things and laying them out near the non-existent fire he planned to start.

In the meantime the tracker had turned up the wick on the lamp, granting more visibility. He fished the pants out of the bottom drawer and pulled them on while Chris blew kindling into flame. Though they had shrunk too small for Buck they were still too big for Vin. He rolled them at the bottom and tried to ignore the fact that they hung low on his hips over his hollow stomach.

"You worried about these guy's Chris?" he asked. Somewhere in the back of his mind he was afraid that he sounded like a little brother in need of reassurance. He didn't like how that made him feel.

If Chris had jumped to the same conclusion he didn't show it. He merely threw him some dry socks, blowing out the lamp now that the fire lit the room. "If I was I'd be over at the Saloon with Ezra watching their every move. Just don't wanna take any chances is all."

Vin sat down on the bed to pull on the dry socks. Chris approached him with an extra black shirt and a worried face. Vin didn't lean a way as the seven's leader lifted his large hand to check him for fever. Chris didn't think he was sick, just cold and tired. Even so, he couldn't refrain from commenting. "You look terrible," he observed.

"Rode hard. Was trying to beat the rain," Vin informed.

"That obviously worked." Chris had now shed his gunbelt. "You look like you could use a lot of sleep. The boy's have the bad guy's covered."

"I know Chris."

"Good, then lay down." The older man tossed an extra blanket toward Vin and waited while the younger man settled into the bedroll and quilts. Once he was still and Larabee could no longer think of anything he needed he shifted a chair in front of the locked door and checked the lock on the window, just in case.

"Lay down yourself Larabee if you think we have nothing to worry about."

Chris smirked in response and let himself relax back onto his bed. He considered the man in the corner momentarily. Their friendship had come so easily. They had never had to work at their familiarity. To have Vin sleeping in the corner of his room seemed as natural as it had once seemed having "dam between him and Sarah after a bad dream. If he let himself think about it more he would admit that it was nice to have a family to worry after again. Because that is what it came down to. Chris was at his best when he was caring for his family. Buck had told him that. It didn't matter if it was brother, sister, son, or daughter. It was simply nice to have someone there, someone's expectation to look up to. Somehow the two had become brothers and sucked in the rest of the regulators in their wake.


"Yeah Chris?"

"You sure you're okay pard?"

"I'm safe cowboy. Just tired is all." Vin answered, pleased that Chris worried, pleased that he'd found people he could call his own. Growing up not knowing anything about his family other than the scattered memories of his mother he'd wondered if each group of people he'd come across might be in some way 'his'. Where and with who he'd ended up had been very unexpected. The young tracker paused to think about that, letting himself think about it this time. He realized as he thought he wasn't worried at all about the bounty hunters in town. He wasn't afraid to go to sleep, he didn't feel stupid sleeping on Chris's floor and he didn't feel worried that he'd be caught by surprise. He'd spoke the truth to Chris. He was safe. He was home.

"Sleep good Cowboy."

The End

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