Holding On

by Tonny

Part 8 of the Stupid collection

Don’t worry, Chris. I’ll hold on to ya, I won’t let ya slip away.

Vin was holding Chris Larabee in his arms and breathed in concert with the gunslinger, trying to bring his own rhythm of deep, healthy breaths over on the man he was cradling against his chest.

Yeah, that’s it! Keep breathing, Chris. Keep breathing!

It was the most important thing he’d ever done in his life.

“Come on, Cowboy, ya gotta keep breathing,” he whispered softly in the ear under the lank, blond tresses. “Ya gotta, fer all them hardheads that call themselves lawmen or Larabee’s gang. JD sure likes that name! Ya gotta stay and lead them, ‘cause frankly I think things wouldn’t go real smooth if those idiots didn’t have you ta keep them in line. Oh, I know they got their hearts in the right place, it’s their thinking I’m worried about!”

Did he see a small smile on that hot, sweaty face?

“Ya gotta hold on fer the town as well,” he continued with a first sliver of hope. “I know they don’t appreciate enough what yer doing, but they sure need ya. And don’t ferget Mary, I still think she got the hots for ya. Or Billy, ya gotta keep breathing fer Billy as well!”

And for me!

Who was he kidding here? He wanted Chris to stay alive for him. He didn’t want to be alone again!

Time passed and Vin held on to his friend. He shook his head when Buck offered to take over, he shook his head again when Nathan suggested that pillows would do just as well. No, they wouldn’t! And frankly, Vin could do without those distractions. He had a job to do, he had to keep Chris with him.

Afternoon gave way to evening and slowly the body in his arms became calmer, more relaxed. Slowly the sound of the gunslinger’s breathing became less harsh and less erratic. Chris’ face had lost that flushed feverish look and Nathan had stopped applying cool damp clothes on the gunslinger’s body.

Vin knew that things were finally looking up. Chris’ fever had broken.

He didn’t dare hope yet though. Too many times in his life things had gone wrong for him. So he shook his head when Nathan suggested he get some rest and kept holding on.

He kept holding on until those brilliant green eyes opened and looked into his. He kept holding on even then, when Chris whispered his name and tried to raise a hand to his face. He cradled the lean body even more snug against his chest and whispered soothing words when Chris’ face contorted in pain after that small movement.

Nathan came over and held a cup of water against the parched lips. Chris drank greedily and had to be stopped. Too late, the water already came back. Vin held the gunslinger while Nathan carefully wiped Chris’ body dry and whispered reassuringly when afterwards the water was given in small amounts at a time.

Nathan cautiously prodded the wounds and the lean body started to tremble. “H... hurts!” Chris whispered.

His voice was so soft, so weak. It tore at Vin’s heart to see this strong man so weak. He was instantly afraid again and looked up at Nathan.

“His fever broke, Vin. That means he’s finally got a good chance ta survive.”

Not ‘he’s going to survive’, but ‘he’s got a chance’.

So Vin decided he wasn’t going to let go just yet, he didn’t care what Nate and Buck had to say on the matter. He definitely didn’t care!

When Nathan checked the wounds more thoroughly, Chris was leaning against the tracker. When Buck fed him willowbark tea, Vin’s arms were holding him up. And when the gunslinger fell asleep, Vin still wouldn’t let go.

He couldn’t, he just couldn’t.

He did sort of drift off into sleep himself.

The next morning a beam of sunlight woke him. Instantly he looked at the man he was still holding in his arms. Chris’ breathing was wonderfully normal, his chest going up and down regularly. Carefully Vin moved one hand upwards and felt the gunslinger’s brow.

He sighed in relief. No heat, there was no heat anymore. Chris’ fever really had broken.

Eyelids fluttered on the still face beneath him. Vin found he was holding his breath, not wanting to disturb the man. It didn’t help, the eyes opened anyway. Green orbs, no longer bright with fever locked onto him. Vin saw the pain in them and winced in sympathy.

Then the face beneath him smiled. “Vin,” the soft voice whispered. “You look like sh... shit!”

Vin couldn’t help it, he had to grin back.

“So do you, Cowboy, so do you!”

9. Clouds