Disclaimers: I own nothing and gain nothing from this little h/c fic.
Warnings: Cussing. Lots of it. Vin is upset and he doesn't talk nice when he's upset.
Comments: Special thanks to Laramee once again for her lovely artwork. This fic is for Winnie, who asked me to hurt Chris and I actually did it (can you believe it?). But of course, Vin is still front and center. It's not terribly original, but it was fun to write. This also fulfills a challenge from my daughter. I asked her to give me a title and told her I'd write a fic to go with it. Here it is . . .
"Think we should find shelter, Vin? Looks like rain movin' in," Chris said.
I didn't think he was right. Matter of fact, I knew he wasn't. Air wasn't heavy . . . clouds weren't full. But I peered up at the sky anyway - gave him the benefit of the doubt by at least checkin' it out. After a minute or two, I shook my head. "Nope. No rain."
I saw him look at me from the corner of his eye, like he was puzzlin' out what I'd told him. I figured he'd let it drop, but he didn't.
"Sure looks like rain to me," he said, itchin' for an argument.
I wasn't gonna give it to him, but I wasn't gonna play stupid, either. "Don't think so."
"Wind's picking up."
"Clouds are gatherin'."
I sighed. For a man who didn't talk much, Chris picked the silliest things to go on about. "Yep," I agreed again. "We got wind. We got clouds. What we don't got is rain."
"You sure about that? No rain?"
"How sure do I gotta be? You gonna melt or somethin' if I'm wrong?"
Chris snorted. "No. Just prefer not to get wet if I don't have to."
The man was worse than an old woman sometimes. "Fine," I said. "There's a decent place we can make camp about a mile ahead."
I'd have preferred to ride on for another couple of hours. Town was still a good day's ride away, and I knew it wasn't gonna storm that night, but the next day was a different story. Probably should've told Chris that, but I was already lookin' forward t' him cursin' and sputterin' the next afternoon when the rain came.
We made it to the place I was talkin' about; a nice, peaceful little spot with rock walls on two sides and tall pines all around. We could stretch a tarp t' keep the rain off our backs if we needed to - which we wouldn't. Chris was lookin' at me like he wondered if this was the best I could do, and I was just about t' tell him again that there wasn't any rain comin' - leastwise, not in the near future - when a shot sounded from out of nowhere.
I usually feel it comin', even if I don't see it, but not this time. Chris flew off his horse and hit the ground hard before I even had a chance to put a name t' the sound of gunfire. Goddamn . . .
Chris wasn't movin' or makin' a sound, but I didn't let myself think about that just yet. Just jumped off my horse and pulled him behind a boulder, then picked up my gun and took aim. It was far too easy. The damn fool pulled his head up from behind a rock t' see if he'd done the job, and I picked him off in one shot.
"Chris? You with me, Pard?" I asked, turnin' back to look at my friend.
He was bitin' his lip, and blood was turnin' his black shirt even darker, but he nodded at me.
"I'm just gonna check and make sure I got him, alright? I'll be right back."
He nodded again, and I took off like a shot. Probably should've been a bit more cautious; after all, there might have been more than one idiot out there aimin' bullets at us. But I was too mad t' care. I was sick and tired of life goin' to hell for no good reason and with no warning.
The shooter wasn't gonna cause any trouble to anyone else ever again, but I put an extra bullet in him anyway. Didn't know who he was or why he shot Larabee, and at that moment, it didn't matter. All I could think about was gettin' back t' Chris. Maybe it wasn't as bad as it looked . . . as bad as my gut was tellin' me it was.
Chris was lyin' on his side, so I gently pushed him over onto his back and pulled his shirt open. "Goddamn it," I hissed under my breath.
Those green eyes latched onto mine and I knew he'd heard me. "Not good, huh?" he whispered.
I swallowed . . . thought about lyin', but me and Chris didn't work that way.
The bullet was high up in his chest, burrowed down deep and bleedin' way too much. There was no way in hell he would make it back t' town. No way in hell I could leave him t' ride for help, either. That didn't leave much of a choice, but it was still Chris's call t' make.
"I need t' dig out the bullet, Chris. That alright with you?"
"How many bullets . . . you dug out?"
I frowned - had to think on it a minute. "You mean outta me? Or other folks?"
He laughed then, but it sort of turned into a groan at the end when he said, "There's something so wrong about that, Vin."
I couldn't figure what the devil he was talkin' about, so I told him, "I ain't Nathan, but I know enough t' do what has t' be done."
"Never doubted that, Pard," he breathed real quiet. He was getting weaker by the second, and I knew I had to act quick. Damn. Things sure went wrong in a hurry.
"Alright then," I said, hopin' I sounded a lot more confident than I felt. It wasn't a lie - I knew what t' do and how t' do it. But this was different, this was . . . this was Chris.
I had a fire goin' in minutes, and I took just long enough t' heat up my knife before gettin' to work. I kept my eye and my aim where it needed t' be, and tried not t' think about what I was doin' and who I was doin' it to.
I thought Chris would pass out with the first touch of my knife to his skin, and he did. But first he bucked up and groaned real soft, strong and mostly silent, like always. My hands slipped in his blood, and for a second I thought I might be sick, which was just stupid. Ain't never had a problem with the smell of blood before. Couldn't figure it, but there were other more important things to worry about right then.
The bullet came out a whole lot harder than it went in, and I had to put pressure on the wound for a long while before the bleeding slowed. Might not have been enough . . . might have been too late . . .
Didn't help t' think like that, so I shook that thought from my mind as I bound up the wound good and tight. Nathan could be a real pain in the neck, but I was grateful that he'd made us bring along a supply of bandages. Chris would likely need them all before this was over.
He shivered then and moaned real low, and I tried not to think about how bad he must be hurtin', how bad I hurt him. It was always a gamble, diggin' out a bullet. Could be you'd save a man's life - or it could be you just drew out his death, made it more painful in the end.
"Easy, Chris," I said, pullin' his blanket over him. He looked so pale and all that damn blood was just . . . everywhere.
Before I knew it, I was on my knees, pukin' in the dirt. That made no sense at all. My hands were shakin', too, and it was a good thing that no-account bastard who shot Chris was dead already because it was for damn sure that I couldn't aim straight at the moment.
It was dark when Chris came to. He was restin' under the canvas I'd stretched out between the trees t' keep the wind off him. He opened his eyes real slow, took in the tarp hanging above him, and he said, "Thought you said it wasn't . . . gonna rain."
I shook my head. Leave it to Larabee not t' let it go. Stubborn son of a bitch. He was lyin' there with a hole in his chest and half his blood coverin' both our shirts with the other half soakin' into the ground, and he still had t' be right.
I huffed. "Just takin' precautions," I said. "After all, you went and got yourself shot and that makes things a little more . . . complicated."
Damn fool smiled. Like any of this was funny. "Gonna rain, 'fore the night is over. And how the hell did . . . did he get the drop on us? Where was that . . . sixth sense of yours?"
My gut twisted up tight at that, and I thought I might start pukin' again.
I didn't say a word, but even though he was just this side of dead, he caught on. "Damn, Vin. I'm sorry. This ain't your fault."
"I know," I answered him, though I couldn't say I believed it.
"Got any idea who . . . he was?"
"No. Never saw him before."
"Bounty . . . hunter?"
Aw, shit. I just made it to the bushes before I was on my knees again. Must've been somethin' I ate. A few minutes later, I wiped my mouth off and went back t' Chris's side, hopin' he wouldn't notice that I couldn't seem t' keep my guts where they belonged.
He looked at me real serious this time. "This ain't your fault, Vin," he repeated. "No matter who he was . . . or what he wanted. No matter how this . . . comes out."
"Gonna come out just fine, Larabee."
He smiled again, and I reached out t' feel his head, thinkin' he might be delirious or somethin'. He was gettin' a mite warm already. Damn.
"Been a good ride, huh, Pard?" he said, his eyes all dreamy-like.
I nodded. "The best."
He closed his eyes and I thought he might be out again, but then he smiled one more time and mumbled, "Ezra sure looked funny in that dress. One of the best ideas . . . you ever had."
"I reckon I've had a few."
Could use a few more about now, I thought. How was I gonna get Chris home? I thought about making a travois, but with the rain comin', he'd be soaked in minutes. Of course, he'd get wet if we stayed put, too, and I already knew how Larabee felt about getting' wet.
But as the night went on, I started t' think the rain wasn't my problem. Gettin' Chris home, wasn't either - it was keeping him breathin'. I did everything I knew t' do, things I'd picked up a long the way and things I'd watched Nathan do. I got as much water as I could down him - a bit of whiskey, too, when the moanin' got t' be too much for both of us. Kept him warm . . . and cooled him off when the fever started burning hot. I propped his head up when it seemed like he couldn't catch his breath, and when that didn't seem t' be enough, I slid behind him and held him up tight against my chest.
Throughout it all, he didn't speak again. Leastwise, not until it was an hour or two shy of dawn. I sensed a change in him then, and I gently laid him back down on the blanket and got another swallow or two of water down him. Even with just the light of the campfire, I could see how pasty white his face was and how dark the circles were under his eyes . . . how hard he was workin' just t' pull in another breath.
He opened his eyes and looked straight at me, and I could see that he was clear, that he knew exactly where he was and how bad off he was. Saw something else in his eyes, too, and I didn't like it one bit. And even though I did my best to blink them away, tears filled my eyes at just the thought of what he was tryin' t' tell me.
Chris reached up then, and his hand was shaking as he wiped a tear off my face. "No rain, Vin," he said softly.
I put my hand over his and held on tight. "You givin' up on me, Cowboy?"
"Not you," he said, fighting for every word and every breath. "Me. Gave up . . . on myself . . . years ago."
Made me mad, how he said that - like he was the only one who counted in this. I felt the tears fallin' freely now, and slapped them away with the back of my hand. "You goddamn sorry son of a bitch!"
He looked up at me, kinda startled, I guess. Probably hoped for a more sentimental send-off. Well, he wasn't gonna get one.
"You ever think about anyone but yourself? You ever think people might need you?" I couldn't help goin' on like that. Damn tears kept fallin' and I couldn't help that, either.
And Chris, he opened his eyes real wide for the first time since he'd been shot, and he sighed deep and he said, "Alright, Vin." That was all, just "Alright, Vin." Then he closed his eyes and I knew he was out again.
I watched him for a minute, made sure he was still breathin'. Then I got up and stalked around the fire a few times . . . lost my temper . . . kicked the coffee pot. It bounced off a rock and rolled down the hill a piece. I'd have to hunt it up come daylight. I sat on a log then, mumbling about what a sorry, sorry, sorry son of a bitch Chris was.
My ribs started aching something fierce and I could hardly breathe, so I wrapped my arms around my chest and held on tight. It always worked. I'd learned when I was a kid how to hold it all in like that. Damn eyes teared up easy enough, but I knew how to keep from sobbin' like a baby.
Goddamn stubborn gunfighter. Shit. Who the hell did he think he was? I should never have gotten attached to him, that was sure. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
It was all fine that first day when we met. I knew Chris was likely walkin' to his grave, but I was walkin' right along side him, so it didn't matter much. I reckon that was what drew us to each other - that sure fire determination that there were things worse than dyin' - and one of them was watchin' an innocent man get hung by a lynch mob. Definitely too close t' home for me, and I'd rather take a bullet, anyway.
Got kind of fond of Chris after that . . . told him things . . . trusted him.
I took a deep breath and rubbed my burnin' eyes with both hands. Wouldn't do Chris much good if I fell apart. Wasn't my way, and hell, I'd been through worse, hadn't I?
Damn arrogant gunfighter. Everything would've been fine if I'd just rode off t' Tascosa like I planned. But then he offered t' come with me. Even when I gave him the chance t' back out - "Wouldn't blame ya if ya chose t' stay," - he didn't. Left me damn near speechless, which admittedly ain't that hard t' do, but still. I just couldn't believe it when he said he'd see me in the mornin'. Never had a friend who cared like that. Never had anyone who cared like that.
Damn sorry son of a bitch. "Thinks he can just up and die anytime he feels like it," I muttered t' myself.
Like Mary Travis wouldn't be heartbroken, and Buck, too. And what about JD? The kid thought Larabee walked on water. Nathan would blame himself for not bein' there t' help. Josiah would . . . well hell, I didn't know what Josiah would do, but I did know that nothin' good happened when whiskey and grief and that fiery temper of his joined up. Even Ezra was a better man with Chris in his life . . . as better as he could get, anyway.
There was just no two ways about it - Chris couldn't die. It was like I said - all them people needed him. I'd just have t' work a little harder. And if Chris couldn't fight anymore, well then I'd just have t' fight for him. Hell, I'd put a whole lot more effort in t' things that mattered a whole lot less in the past.
Alright. No more tears . . . no more kickin' coffee pots. Alright then.
I was wishin' I had that coffee pot, though, and I didn't waste any time lookin' for it once it got light enough t' see. I don't mind admitting that I was tired, but I didn't figure on sleepin' anytime soon.
Chris didn't wake up for a long time, even though I kept pouring water down his throat every fifteen minutes or so. Got to the point where I was about to run out and I knew I'd have to leave him and make a run to the creek. Don't often brag on myself, but I'm pretty quick on my feet, and I reckon I made it back to our campsite in well under an hour. But my heart damn near quit beatin' when I got there.
Chris wasn't breathin'. I stood stock still, about ten feet away from him, and rubbed my eyes. I was so tired . . . but no, I couldn't see his chest risin' . . . couldn't hear that raspy sound he'd been makin'.
Just like Larabee t' up and die while I went for water. Just like him t' leave me when . . .
I forgot all about the no tears and no temper bit, and I ran straight for him. "Goddamn you, Larabee," I cried, pickin' him up in my arms.
And God almighty if he didn't take a deep breath, open his eyes and say, "What's wrong, Vin?"
I nearly dropped him on the ground, I was so stunned. And then I figured out that he wasn't dead at all - probably just finally sleepin' a little more comfortable and then I went and woke him up. Well, that was stupid.
He was still lookin' at me, sort of puzzled, I guess. And then he said, "I've never seen you . . . afraid, Vin."
"I ain't afraid," I lied.
One corner of his mouth tipped up and he said, "Of course not."
He went back to sleep after that, and I was startin' t' think he might get out of this yet. But then the rain came. I was off by an hour, too, dammit. Not that it would have made much difference. Wet was wet.
I did my best, though. I tucked me and Chris up tight against the stone corner, and between the canvas and the trees and the three blankets I pulled over us, Chris was hopefully just a little damp.
We'd been that way for about an hour when he suddenly woke and said, "Kinda cozy, ain't we?"
I couldn't see his face, but I just knew he was wearin' that little sneer he favored. "Least you're dry," I said.
"Told you it was gonna rain."
"That was yesterday," I argued.
"It was? Really?"
"Oh." He grunted then as he tried to shift in my arms.
"You hurtin' bad?" I asked him.
"I ain't hurtin' good," he answered.
"Smart ass," I mumbled.
"How long . . . you figure?"
I knew what he was askin'; me and Chris have this way of talkin' without speakin' sometimes. "Through the night. Should clear up come mornin'. You gettin' too wet?"
"No. Might suffocate by then, though."
"Never happy, are y'?" But I had to admit, it was stuffy underneath all them blankets. I might have gone a bit overboard trying to keep Chris dry.
I peeled the blankets back and took stock of the situation. The fire was sputterin' but still burnin', with the canvas holdin' off most of the rain. I took off the top two blankets, but kept Chris bundled up good in the remaining one. All he needed was t' catch a chill on top of everything else.
"You gonna . . . hold me all night?" he said then.
I could tell he was teasin' me, but I wasn't gonna bite. "Reckon so."
"I ain't layin' y' on the damp ground, I ain't lettin' y' catch a chill, I ain't lettin' y' choke on every breath, and I ain't . . ."
"You ain't lettin' me die," he finished for me.
"That, too," I said with a huff.
"You're a stubborn son of a bitch, you know that Vin?"
"If that ain't the pot callin' the kettle black."
He laughed real soft. "I reckon we're two of a kind."
I felt him reach for my arm then, under the blanket. His grip was weak, but it was good enough for me. I pulled him a little closer and I whispered, "People need you, Chris. Don't you know that?"
He turned his face up towards me, and the light from the fire reflected off his eyes. "I know, Vin," he said. "People need me."
He went back to sleep after that. We stayed that way all night, wrapped up together. The rain pattered against the canvas canopy, and under other circumstances, it might have been peaceful. But I knew that Chris still had a long ways to go. He was still fightin' a fever, and another night on the cold, damp ground would only make things worse. I'd have to get him back t' town the next day.
I was workin' on making a travois the next morning when Chris finally woke up again. He watched me work for a few minutes, but then he shook his head and said, "Ground's too rough for that. And I ain't goin' back to town laid out like I'm dead."
"Well, you damn near are dead, and you ain't sittin' a horse."
"I feel stronger today."
I narrowed my eyes and looked him over. He did look a hair better - but not good enough to ride by any means. "Nope."
"Vin? What would you say if you were me? What would you want?"
I sighed. The man had a way of muddying the water, alright, because he knew there was no way in hell I'd be dragged into town on my back 'less I was passed out or completely out of my head.
"Goddamn stubborn . . ." I mumbled.
He chuckled. "Thought so."
"Alright. But you ride with me."
"Peso can't take both of us that far."
"Who said we're ridin' my horse? It's high time your spoiled pony did some of the work."
"We'll switch out halfway," Chris argued.
I acted like I was put out about him callin' the shots, but I was smilin' underneath. If Chris was bein' bossy, it meant he really was feelin' better.
I couldn't say the same for long, though. The ride was hard on him, and though he never once complained, I knew he was hurtin'. Halfway home, I pulled back on the reins and said, "Let's just stop here for tonight. Take a rest."
"Don't be stubborn, Chris."
"Stubborn ain't got nothing to do with it, Vin. I'm hurtin' and I don't want to spend another night on the ground." He added as an afterthought, "Not that I didn't enjoy snuggling with you last night."
I rolled my eyes, but I didn't argue with him. I did make him get off the horse and rest a spell, though. He was groanin' by the time I got him situated under a nice shade tree, so I gave him a few swallows of whiskey and soon he was asleep. It'd be well past nightfall by the time we made it back t' town, but Peso knew the way, and as long as Chris was alright, time didn't matter.
The hours have a way of slowin' down, though, when you're on the worry and too damn tired t' keep your eyes open. It seemed like we'd never see that dusty, backwater town. Chris passed out a few hours after we set out again. He was dead weight in my arms, but I tried not t' think about it. Just kept tellin' myself that I had t' get him home to a warm bed and Nathan.
It was dark by the time we made it, but someone must have seen us comin', because before I could even rein in my horse, Josiah was there.
"Let me have him, Vin," he said.
I must've been holdin' on tighter than I thought, because he said it again. "Vin? Let go now and let me take him."
I think I might have said, "Okay." I'm not sure. I was suddenly so tired, I could hardly think how t' get off my horse.
But then I heard Buck soundin' all panicked, hollerin' for Nathan, and it all came back t' me. By the time I made it up the clinic stairs, Buck, Josiah, and Nathan were all hoverin' over Chris.
I walked in the door, and they all three turned to look at me. "What the hell happened?" Buck yelled.
I flinched. Don't know why. It felt like maybe I'd done somethin' wrong. I know my voice was real quiet when I answered him. "Chris got shot."
"I can see that. By who?"
"Don't know. And I reckon we never will know. I killed him."
"Who took out the bullet?" Nathan asked, still bent over Chris while he studied the wound.
Who the hell did he think did it? "Me."
"You took it out?" Buck asked, gettin' in my face.
I stepped back. "I said I did."
"When did it happen?" Nathan asked.
I had t' think on that. "Day before yesterday."
Nathan nodded. "You did good, Vin. With the wound where it is, he'd never have made it if you hadn't taken out the bullet right away."
Buck put his hand on my arm then and said, "I didn't mean t' holler at y', Vin. I just get a little crazy sometimes."
"Yeah," I answered, not really caring all that much what Buck thought at the moment. I just needed t' know if Chris was gonna make it. "Nathan? Do you think he'll . . .?
"Fever's not too bad. I think you got him back here in time." He looked at me then and repeated, "You did fine, Vin."
Josiah came up to me and he asked, "Vin? Any of that blood yours?"
"Huh?" I looked down at my shirt - guess I'd forgotten t' change. I shook my head.
"Well, why don't you go get yourself a hot bath and something to eat. We'll take care of Chris now."
I wasn't one for bathin' in town, but I had to admit that sounded like a fine idea. But first I had to be sure Larabee wouldn't get any foolish ideas about dyin' while I was gone.
"Nathan? You sure about Chris? He ain't woke up in a while now."
"I'm sure, Vin. He's got a lot of healin' t' do, but he ain't gonna die while you take a bath. No go on. Get cleaned up, eat, and get some rest. I promise I'll come and get you if there's any change."
I pulled my hat off my head and ran my fingers through my hair, ponderin' matters. I was damn tired. And the smell of blood was still makin' my stomach turn. And Chris was finally in good hands. He'd held on this long, with just me takin' care of him, surely now that he was back in town with real help and all those people around who needed him . . . surely he wouldn't give up now.
"Alright," I said, takin' off for the bathhouse before I might be tempted t' change my mind.
The hot water felt so good on my achin' muscles, and for the first time in days, I didn't feel all tied up in knots. I leaned back and closed my eyes and tried t' forget for a spell about all that had happened.
I knew that voice. It was Buck. I opened my eyes, and there he stood, staring down at me.
"I'm takin' a bath, Buck. You mind?"
"Hell, no," he said, pulling up a stool. "Don't mind at all."
I shook my head and got all set t' ignore him, but all of a sudden I got real nervous. Why was Buck there? I sat straight up and blurted, "Is it Chris? Is he alright?"
Buck just nodded and looked at me kind of strange. "Yeah. Nathan says he restin' just fine. He says you did a good job, Vin, takin' out the bullet . . . makin' Chris drink . . . bringin' him home."
"Oh." I couldn't think what else t' say, and I was startin' t' squirm with Buck lookin' at me like that, so I slid down under the water until just my head was stickin' out.
But Buck apparently wasn't finished yet. "He said Chris really should've died out there . . . that you kept him alive. Why do you think that is, Vin?"
I groaned. I just knew a peaceful, hot bath was too much t' ask for. "I don't know, Buck," I mumbled, closin' my eyes - hopin' he'd take the hint.
"I don't know, either, Vin. Just can't figure it. I mean, t' me, Chris is like . . . well, he's like a thorn, I reckon. Sittin' just under my skin and drivin' me plum crazy most of the time . . . I'm always pickin' at it . . . worryin' over it. But I love that damn thorn. And if it wasn't there, I'd go crazier missin' it. Ya know what I mean?"
I opened my eyes and slanted them his direction. "Nope."
What the hell was he goin' on about anyway?
"But it ain't like that for you, is it? You and Chris are . . . well, you're different."
"I ain't slept in days, Buck, so if there's a point t' this, you're gonna have t' spell it out," I grumbled, keeping my eyes closed and sliding down further so my chin was just above the water.
"I'm just sayin' . . . hell, I don't know what I'm saying except . . . thanks, Vin, for saving Chris's life. That old dog means a lot t' me, and the truth is, I don't think he would've made it if it had been anyone else but you out there."
"Yeah well, that old thorny dog means a lot to lots of folks, Bucklin," I said.
He nodded, and put his hand on my head as he stood up. "Especially t' you, Vin. Ain't that right?"
I didn't know what t' say t' that . . . I wasn't about to admit that I'd kicked, cursed, and cried over that damn ornery gunslinger. So I didn't say anything at all.
Buck headed for the door, but he turned back t' me and he said one more thing before he left. "He feels the same about you, Vin. He held on for you. Guess I answered my question." He smiled and shook his head. "Guess I knew it all along."
I wasn't real clear on what his question was t' begin with, but I was pretty sure he was wrong about the answer. Chris hung on for me? Not likely.
More likely for Buck than me. Or Mrs. Travis. JD would weigh in heavy, too.
Aw hell, the water was cold by then and all that thinkin' was giving me a headache. My stomach was still halfway t' queasy, too, so I climbed out and got dressed and headed for the saloon. Maybe Inez had somethin' I could nibble on.
Never made it, though. I passed by Nathan's clinic, and before I could stop myself, I was back inside.
"What are you doing back here?" Nathan snapped at me.
I didn't take it personal - Nathan was always a mite grouchy when he was tendin' one of us.
"Just checkin'," I said.
He sighed. He does that a lot, too, and I can't say I blame him. We keep him awful busy. "I told you I'd get you if he took a turn for the worse, Vin. Now get yourself some food and rest, and don't come back here til morning."
"Ain't hungry and I can rest just fine right here," I said, takin' the chair by the bed. I propped my feet on the end of the bed - Chris wouldn't mind - and pulled my hat over my eyes.
I figured Nathan would fuss, but he didn't. Just threw a blanket on top of me and mumbled somethin' like, "Well, alright. Probably both rest better this way anyway."
If I hadn't been so tired, I might have pondered that a bit. Didn't know why the boys seemed t' think Chris gettin' better had anything at all t' do with me bein' around. Damn stubborn gunfighter had a mind all his own and nothin' I said or did could change it.
As for me, well I was just too damn tired t' make it all the way t' my wagon or my room. No other reason I needed t' spend the night at Larabee's side. None at all.
"Ain't like we need each other," I thought as I started driftin' off.
But I might have said it out loud, because the last thing I remembered hearin' was Nathan chucklin' and sayin', "Of course not."
Next thing I knew, bright sunlight was shinin' in my eyes. I squinted and groaned - my head was achin' and my damn back had tightened up.
"You hurtin' bad?" I heard a voice say, and I looked over to see Chris watchin' me. He had a twinkle in his eye, though, teasin' me again. Just waitin' t' see if I'd take the bait and say, "I ain't hurtin' good."
"Hmph . . ." I muttered instead, grimacing as I tried t' sit up straighter in the chair.
"Vin? You alright?" he asked, serious now, like maybe there really was somethin' t' be concerned about.
"I ain't the one lyin' there with a hole in my chest," I reminded him.
"I know, but-"
"I'm fine, Chris. As long as you're . . ."
I almost said it. I almost said that I'd be fine as long as he was - and what the hell would that mean?
"I know, Vin," he said again, real soft.
He looked me straight in the eye and all of the sudden I got it. What Buck was tryin' t' tell me . . . what Chris knew all along. It wasn't all those other people that needed Chris so bad - it was me. And he didn't hang on for Mary or Buck or JD - even though they mattered, too - he hung on for me.
Those damn tears started fillin' my eyes again, so I got up quick and went t' stand at the window. I heard Chris clear his throat behind me, and then he said, "No rain today, that's for sure."
I shook my head. "Later. About four o'clock, I reckon."
"There ain't a cloud in the sky, Vin. I can see that from here."
"What are you worried about?" I said, turning from the window t' face him. "There ain't any holes in this roof, near as I can tell. You ain't gonna get wet."
"I ain't gonna get wet because it ain't gonna rain."
I shook my head as I sat back down by his side. "Damn stubborn gunfighter."
"Damn stubborn tracker."
He grinned at me then, and I grinned back.
Two of a kind.