by Annie

Disclaimer: Wish I did, but I don't. Trilogy Entertainment, The Mirisch Group, MGM Worldwide, CBS and TNN all have that priviledge. Even if I could have one ot two to keep, by the looks of things, I'd be standing at the back of a verrry long line.

Comments:So, this is my second attempt. I'm still trying to figure out what I'm doing writing at all, much less writing this stuff, I really was perfectly happy just reading everyone else's.


"Where the hell is he?"

As one, the three men sitting at the round table lifted their eyes toward the quiet, deadly voice. The man who had spoken now stood in furious silence, jaw clenched tightly as he glared at his fellow peacekeepers.

"I'd say try the livery, but he's prob'ly long gone by now."

"Yep. That'd be 'bout right. Guessin' he took off after that little scene," Buck agreed.


Silence, then:


"He's fine Chris, bullet just grazed his arm. I stitched and wrapped it good so 'less he does somethin' stupid, he'll be alright."

Chris turned from the table, the ends of his black duster snapping sharply as he stormed out of the saloon. The seated men let out a collective exhale, all hands reaching simultaneously for the bottle of whiskey placed in the center of the table.

"Know whose boots I'd hate t'be standin' in right 'bout now," Josiah said, swirling the amber liquid slowly around the glass before drinking it down in one swallow.

"I don't believe I've ever seen Mr. Larabee seem quite so livid." Ezra joined the men seated. "I assume his little outburst a moment ago is related to this afternoon's events? He is still...upset, shall we say, at our Mr. Tanner?"

"Oh, yeah, Ezra, y'might say-" Buck stopped abruptly as the whirlwind that entered the bar made its way through the throng and plopped down beside him in an empty chair. He smacked the back of the young man now seated to his left. A wet spray flew in his face as his hand contacted the suit coat.

"Shit, JD, where the hell you been? You're soakin' wet." Buck dried his chin with his bandanna.

"Nah, just my coat 'n'hat. It's rainin' out," JD shrugged out of his wet jacket, shaking it lightly before draping it on the back of his chair. "Been workin' in it most o'the day at Nettie's, if you'd ever really listen t'me, Buck, you'd remember I told you that's where I was goin' t'help her mend fences. Vin said he'd come help too, but he never did show. Hey, what's with Chris? He 'bout ran me down outside, glarin' somethin' awful. I do somethin'?"

"Nah, JD, it ain't you he's mad at," Nathan assured the young man.

"JD, take a breath or two. Here, have a beer an' we'll tell ya all 'bout it."


The man in black strode purposefully to the livery, his eyes narrowing as he reached the entrance, already knowing Vin would be long gone. The liveryman quickly readied Chris' horse breathing a sigh of relief when Chris mounted and swiftly departed.

Chris rode out, tilting his hat forward to help shield himself from the rain driving into his face. 'Goddamn tracker,' he mumbled, thinking about the day's events.

He and Vin had never argued before, not to that degree, not with that viciousness. He thought of Vin, how quickly enraged the younger man had become, how uncharacteristic the anger.

It wasn't until well into the argument that he noticed the deep crimson trail dripping down Vin's fingers, trickling out from underneath the leather sleeve of his coat and splattering wet and dark on the dirt. He stopped yelling, then, and pointed to the other man's arm.

"Yer bleedin'. You got shot?"

Vin didn't answer, just turned and walked away. Away from the fight, away from him.

Nathan followed, running to catch the hastening figure and Chris watched as the healer placed a hand on the injured man's shoulder, stopping his rapid progress. They spoke, Vin nodded his head, turned and walked off with Nathan toward his clinic. Chris looked around for Buck, relieved at seeing the gathering crowd now dispersing.

"Buck, I need you to help get this mess cleaned up. Get Josiah an' Ezra, I'm gonna wire the judge."

"Chris, don't you think you-"

"Not now, Buck. Just take care o'this." And he'd stormed off, knowing Buck would quickly handle what needed to be done. Buck glanced at the dead body that lay at his feet. He lightly kicked it, then removed his hat as he wiped at his brow. "Be thankful yer dead, fella. Be thankful yer dead or I'd shoot ya m'self," he sighed, then went looking for Josiah and Ezra.


Chris reined in his horse, stopping abruptly in the mud, visibility reduced to virtually nil with the darkening sky and the increasing rain. He knew he wouldn't follow Vin's tracks even if he could see them, best to let the tracker have his cooling off time alone. Chris knew he, too, needed some time spent alone. If he ran across the tracker now, he wasn't sure he'd be able to hold back the anger that still engulfed him.

No, better that he and Vin speak later.

Chris turned his horse, directing it toward home, away from the direction of his friend.

By the time he reached the small cabin, the steady rain had turned into a torrential downpour. After seeing to his horse, the animal grateful to be out of the storm, he hurried to get inside the warmth of his own shelter. He started a fire, resting on his haunches for a few minutes with his hands spread toward the heat. He then undressed, peeling off boots, socks and the remainder of his sodden clothing, laying the articles flat to dry on the small hearth. Skipping underclothing and shirt, he pulled on dry pants as the fire quickly warmed the small room. He reached to the shelf over the fireplace, his hand finding the small flask of whiskey, and he drank deeply from its contents, enjoying the familiar burn as it traveled slowly down to warm his belly.

Again, his mind drifted back to the day's events. 'What the hell was Vin thinking?' he wondered. 'No, not thinking. That was the problem,' Chris's mind was reeling. He could feel the rage starting to boil again. 'Goddamn, Goddamn.'

About to down another swallow, his hand stopped mid-air and he looked up sharply toward the door. He slid his gun into his hand, retrieving it from where it hung in its holster draped on the back of his chair. He moved soundlessly to the wall next to the door, body and mind fully alert, gun at the ready. The driving rain beat noisily against his cabin but his mind ignored it, focusing instead on the small sounds of a man's boots sloshing through muddy ground.

He waited, one hand resting on the door's latch, his mind acutely aware and relying on instincts borne of years of solitary survival. The timing had to be perfect.


He threw open the door, his arm shooting straight out before him, steadily holding the gun now aimed directly between the intruder's eyes. He held his finger on the trigger, a breath away from pulling. Everything around him ceased to be as his body and mind focussed solely on the threat before him. His breath caught in his throat then, as his brain finally registered fully what his eyes were seeing. Blue eyes stared hard back into his green ones and it took a full beat before his hand lowered to his side.

Shit, he almost killed Vin.


"Geeze, Buck, I never heard no one take so long tellin' a story. I'll be an old man 'fore I get the rest o'what happened. Your gettin' t'be as long winded as Ezra, all y'need now is some o'those words I don't know."

"Hey," the two men cried out in unison, glaring at JD, then at one another. Buck shrugged.

"Jus' for that, Kid, I might not tell you the rest o'the story."

"Oh, c'mon Buck. What happened after Chris warned Vin about the bounty hunter bein' in town?"

"Well, he kept tellin' Vin to high-tail it on outta town fer a spell, but Vin kept sayin' he weren't leaving, he ain't hidin' from no one no more. Then Chris 'bout orders him t'go. An' that-"

"And that," Ezra finished, "is when the dam burst."


"Well, Vin's gettin' all growly-like, his voice so low y'can't hardly hear him. Askin' Chris somethin' 'bout who does he think he is givin' orders and it ain't his life nohow."

"And that's when Chris started yellin'?" JD couldn't believe Chris and Vin'd ever fight.


"Buck," JD rolled his eyes in exasperation.

"Okay, don't gotta poke me, JD. Then Chris says Vin'd better high-tail it outta town and yes, that is an order and just about when Vin starts gettin' mad 'nough t'scream, this other deep voice come yellin' out from down th' road, 'Mister, I know you is Vin Tanner, worth five hunnerd dollars, and I's takin' you in. Dead or 'live.' "


"Yep, brother. That's just what I said. Shit."

"You were there, too, Josiah?"

"We all were, Kid," Buck continued. "So then Chris says to the bounty hunter, 'You ain't takin' no one,' an' the feller says to Chris, 'Hell mister, I ain't got a quarrel with you, jus' wanna take m'money 'n'go.' an' Chris's got that grin plastered on his face, y'know the one, and he says, 'you might got a quarrel with me, you take one more step.' "


"Y'said that already, son."

"So, Vin's lookin' at the bounty hunter feller, Chris is lookin' at Vin, then Vin's lookin' at Chris, an' Chris is sizin' up the feller, 'n' I'm thinkin' all hell's 'bout t'break loose an' then it does. The bounty hunter's gun whips out, Chris's already got his out an' Vin's divin' for Chris t'knock him outta th'way 'n' at th'same time he's pullin' that sawed-off o'his out. Next thing, bullets 're flyin' an' all these folks're tryin' to get th'hell out the way an' all y'can hear is shots goin' off an' women screamin', and then..."

"And then?"

"And then, my dear boy, a pin drop could be heard."

"What's that s'posed t'mean?"

"It means," Buck explained, "That things got real quiet. Too quiet. Like the calm before the storm. So, I look around. The bounty hunter feller's lyin' on the ground, lookin' 'bout as dead as a body can when it's dead. Chris is standin' holding his gun that's still pointin' t'the dead feller. I'm starin' a line at Chris' face, which, I gotta tell you, looks as pinched as I ever seen. He turns real slow-like an stares at Vin, like Vin's grown 'nother head 'r somethin'. Then I actually took a step back when I see what's 'bout t'happen. Vin's still lookin' at the bounty hunter like he ain't never seen no dead body before so he ain't noticed like I did that Chris's head's 'bout to explode."

"Explode? He got shot?" JD thought Chris looked okay when he say him earlier.

"No, Kid, I mean explode, like he's 'bout to blow sky high. He's so angry with Vin that he can't hardly hold it back. An' he don't. What comes next is the ugliest bunch o'name callin' I ever did hear. Chris is yellin' 'You gotta death wish?' an' screamin' 'bout if Vin wants t'hang that bad, then, by God, Chris'll set up the gallows hisself."


"We really need to expand your vocabulary, Mr. Dunne."

"And Vin, I never seen him like that either. He's yellin' back, an' I do mean yellin', not that soft scary voice he's got. Yellin at Chris that he don't havta listen to him, Chris ain't his boss or his pa and who th'hell does he think he is orderin' him to do anything? He can damn well take care o'hisself and he don't need Chris pickin' his battles and shootin' bounty hunters for him. An' Chris is yellin' back 'bout that bein' th'dumbest fuckin' move he's seen and why th'hell's Vin pushin' him outta th'way, messin' up his shot. Then they's both yellin' at th'same time, pointin' at one 'nother and then ol' Jeff Hayar comes wanderin' over, says he seen the dead feller's picture last week on a wanted poster over in Eastville. Says he's wanted for armed robbery, worth two hunnerd dollars. Dead or 'live. Some bounty hunter." Buck paused, shaking his head, remembering the details.

"Then Chris starts lookin' at Vin funny. He's seein' the blood drippin' from the bullet what got Vin in the arm 'n'realizes that Vin's prob'ly just saved him from gettin' one in the chest. And Vin's lookin' kind o'pale, shuts-up, then walks away. Then Nathan here gets Vin t'his clinic, sews him up and next thing y'now Vin's gone. An' now Chris is gone. Them two's 'bout the stubbornest men I ever seen."


"You said it, Kid."


Green eyes glared at blue ones. Neither backing down, neither looking away. Just glaring at one another in the pouring rain.

Finally, "Stop it."

"Stop what, Vin?"

"Screamin' at me."

"I ain't screaming, Vin."

"Yer eyes are."

The two men stared each other down again, unrelenting.

"I ain't thrilled 'bout just standin' here gettin' soaked. You gonna come in out o'the rain, Vin? Or do I have t'order you inside." Chris meant to say it teasingly, a small offering of friendship, but instead he sounded harsh.

"Done told you. You ain't in no p'sition t'be orderin' me 'round. I go m'own way. You can't make me do nothing." Vin stood there, letting the rain pelt away at his body.

"Geeze Vin, just come in. Get dry, have a drink." There. That should do it.

Vin glared at him, blue eyes narrowed. He didn't move.

Chris tensed. He didn't want a command performance of that afternoon's scene. He didn't want to be standing in the freezing rain having this argument again.

"No, I'm leaving. Just wanted to tell you. So's you'd know."

"Vin, come inside," Chris didn't want the tracker to leave. Why was he being so stubborn? Chris could feel his anger bubbling again to the surface. He pushed it down, trying to keep an even keel.

"Y'now Larabee, you don't control me. Never have, never will."

That did it.

Chris grabbed the younger man by the coat, pushing him forward, off the front step. Vin stumbled backwards, the shove unexpected. He slipped, boots sliding in the wet mud, caught himself before falling, then thrust forward, slamming into the older man.

Chris slid back as the force of the younger man's hands pushed into his chest. Enraged, he reached out as he fell, grabbing and locking onto the wet sleeve of the tracker's coat. The two men tumbled together onto the wet ground, sliding in the thick mud. Chris rolled on top of Vin, the slighter body tensing beneath his.

Startled blue eyes glared at him, shining bright with anger. Chris peered into the face below him, leaning forward to whisper, making sure the other man had his attention.

"I can damn well control you, if I've a mind. Don't you forget it." He hissed into Vin's ear, a devilish grin forming. He shook his head, rain and mud flying everywhere, then leaned forward, his weight pressing Vin deeper into the mud. Vin was seething, Chris could see the anger boiling in him, ready to tumble out in explosive fury. With cat-like grace, Chris shifted forward and covered Vin's mouth with his own, his tongue forcibly parting the soft lips, thrusting hard into the warm mouth. Vin squirmed beneath him, mud coating his hair and clothing and Chris eased up slightly. Then, suddenly, he was tossed onto his own back staring up into flashing blues.

"Ha," Vin grinned back, white teeth shining brightly from the dirt-streaked face. He leaned over the man, hair hanging in wet waves, dripping icy rivers onto Chris's chest. Vin could feel the anger inside being replaced by something stronger, something hotter.

"Who's controlling who now, Larabee?"

Chris could feel himself harden immediately, swelling with desire.

For a moment neither man moved, both glaring at one another, passion building.

Then, suddenly, hands and mouths were everywhere, ripping and pulling at clothing, buttons flying free. Soft moans and growls mixed with the thunderous sound of the driving rain. Frantically groping the other's body, the two men thrashed wildly, tumbling over and over, completely covering themselves in the oozing mud. Neither noticed.


Chris sat in the chair in front of the jail, one leg bent at the knee, a book resting on the dark-clad thigh. He sipped steaming coffee from a mug, slowly scanning the near empty street. He didn't look up as footsteps approached from his side.

"Morning, Buck."


The two old friends sat gazing at the non-activity before them, both turning towards the sound of horse and rider. Vin rode past headed out to patrol, a finger salute to his hat and a slight grin his only greeting.

"That boy's got a temper bad as you, Chris. Glad to see you two're okay now. Gettin' it all under control?"

"Working on it, Buck. Working on it."


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