ADVISORY: Some readers may object to the content of this story, even though it contains no strong language, graphic sex or violence. Please do not flame the author.

By Debbi K.

"Good mornin' Vin," both of you say, as if it could really be that.

"Mary, Chris," I nod, smile, tip my hat, as if nothing is wrong, but seeing you touch each other makes me ache inside, so deep I think my soul hurts.

Do you know what it does to me to see the two of you together? Laughing, happy? The most beautiful woman in town, and the best friend I've ever had. The one I want, and the one who has what I want.

I think I knew I loved you the first time I saw you, that day when they tried to drag Nathan to his death, and you were there, ready to stand up for him. But even then, I knew I couldn't have you. The kind of world we live in is not one where you would think twice about a drifter like me. No roots, no future, nothing to offer you. Except myself.

Sometimes, our eyes have met, but I've never known what it means. You have wonderful eyes. I could let them swallow me up like the sea. But I don't know what it means when you look at me. I'm afraid it means nothing, and when I see the two of you together, I'm sure it means nothing. The way you look at each other, both of you smiling and lost in each other's gaze. That look is never going to be for me, is it?

You're gonna go ridin' together, you tell me. I say, "I'll watch things here, no problem." But there is a problem. It's right there cracking my heart in two as I watch you climb onto your horse, your slender, supple body moving with the grace of a swan, your blond hair catching the light from the sun so that it glows like spun gold.

You leave together, and a little piece of my heart goes, too.

I don't know how much longer I can watch the sparks fly between the two of you before I have to say my peace, or leave town. Prob'ly not much choice there. Once I've said my peace, I reckon I'll like as not have to leave town, anyway. Having me come between the two of you will destroy anything that might have been between you and me, before it even has a chance to start.

I'll never be the one you choose, I know that. Why would I be, when everything you could possibly want, you already have? When there is already someone who is far more confident than I can ever be of winning your heart?

There ain't no room in that heart for a scruffy, no-account bounty hunter with no schoolin' and a price on his head. I can see that, even if I don't want to accept it.

I'll put it out of my head for now. Have to. Wanting you hurts too much, especially when I see how happy you are together.

Chris and Mary. The Perfect Couple.

Maybe I'll get drunk. At least until I sober up, I can pretend that one day the two of you might be the two of us.

Damn you, anyway, Chris Larabee. Why'd you have to go and make me love you?

The End

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