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DISCLAIMERS: Of course they're not mine. They belong to each other. ;-)

RATING: NC-17. There be sweaty nekkid men havin' sex with each other here!

NOTES: I wrote this for one of LadyViper's zines. But it's now reverted back to me, and before it goes up on my website, I figured I'd share it with y'all. I seem to recall that Annie and Kerry beta'ed this, and more than likely Miz RubyJ did, too. Since, y' know, I'd be lost without her. ;-)


The teeth of the saw's blade finally bit through the last few fibers of the wood, and the end of the plank fell to the ground with a dust-raising thunk. A softly gusting sigh escaped Chris Larabee and he set the saw down, propping it against one of the roughly fashioned sawhorses across which the plank was laid, then straightened and arched his back, stretching until the bones of his spine cracked. He'd been measuring and cutting since just after breakfast and finally had all that they'd need. Now they could start repairing the damage last week's storm had left in its wake.

He glanced at the pile of cut lumber, turned and stared at his ramshackle cabin, and sighed again. There wasn't a single outside wall that hadn't had boards ripped away, and at least half the shingles on the roof would have to be replaced, along with one of the support posts holding up - barely - the porch awning. He narrowed his eyes slightly against the glare of the midday sun and considered the magnitude of the job before him. Maybe they should take a break first. Eat something, relax over coffee and some whiskey, and then start working on the house.

That sounded like a much better plan.

He shook his hands to relieve the soreness left by long hours of sawing, then absently flexed his long, slender fingers. It felt good to have his hands engaged in something besides gunplay, to be using them to build rather than destroy. In the past three years, he'd forgotten the deep satisfaction that came from such simple work, had forgotten the pleasure of watching something of his own making taking shape. But it was all coming back to him now, and, though the work was hard, the fatigue with which it left him was much different, and much better, than the soul-numbing weariness that had dogged him through the bleak and bitter years following the deaths of his wife and son.

It was a helluva lot easier bein' tired when you were also at peace.

He gave a soft chuff of laughter and shook his head at that thought, green eyes gleaming with wry amusement. Peace. Never in a hundred years would he have imagined he'd ever find that in such a dusty, trouble-ridden corner of nowhere as this, but he had. Found peace, and so much more besides. Found a purpose in protecting people who needed and deserved it, found an old friend, his oldest friend, and five new ones as well. Found a band of brothers joined by some unseen bond and charged by some elemental energy that made them damn near unbeatable when they worked together.

And in finding one of those men, had found the other half of his soul.

That thought had him turning instinctively toward the corral, and a slow grin spread across his sun-bronzed face. Vin Tanner was working to reinforce the storm-weakened railings there, and the rigorous nature of his labors showed. He had long since shed his battered slouch-brimmed hat and now had one of his ever-present bandannas rolled and knotted around his head to keep his long hair out of his face. His familiar hide coat and bright blue shirt had gone the way of his hat, his leather suspenders dangled free about his legs, and his sweat-sodden undershirt clung to his body like a second skin, emphasizing the sinewy spareness of his build. Larabee watched the tracker in undisguised fascination, eyes drinking in the lithe grace of his every movement, soul rising and flesh stirring at his rugged beauty, and marveled yet again at the wondrous effect the younger man had upon him. If he lived to be a hundred, he'd never understand it.

And if he lived to be a thousand, he'd never get enough of it.

He still had no idea how it had happened. Not just because women had always been his first choice and Tanner was the farthest thing from a woman he could imagine, but because he once would have sworn he'd never love anyone again. Would have sworn that burying his heart with Sarah and Adam had made that impossible. Until two bottomless blue eyes and a cocky, maddening grin had shown him that the heart he'd thought dead was more alive than he knew. Tanner was nothing he'd expected and everything he needed - former buffalo hunter, former bounty hunter, former God knew what all, a born hunter who was now hunted himself, a dangerous and sometimes chillingly deadly man with a little-boy smile and the soul of a poet.

And the man who'd raised Chris Larabee's heart from the ashes and made it his own.

Abandoning all thought of work, Chris allowed himself the luxury of simply watching Vin and admiring the fluid, flowing ease with which the tracker's lean body moved. But he was not the only one intrigued. One of the two horses in the corral - Tanner's big, blaze-faced black gelding - had apparently kept his distance for as long as his considerable curiosity would allow and was now wandering over to investigate. Larabee's smile widened and turned wicked as he awaited the inevitable tussle between man and horse.

It didn't take long. Vin was determined to get the corral railing fixed and, as always when focused on a job, had little tolerance for distractions. And Peso was a born distraction, as well as a born troublemaker. Tanner had secured the rail to the support post with strips of rawhide and was now nailing it in place with strong, sure strokes of his hammer. But between one stroke and the next, a shapely head popped over the railing and a busy nose inserted itself between hammer and nail. Only the tracker's quick reflexes prevented a bloody mess.

"Goddamn it!" Tanner spat, almost dropping the hammer. He tried shoving Peso aside, but the animal wouldn't budge. "Now, look here," he growled, "I got work ta do 'n I don't need ya interferin'. Ya come damn close ta gittin' yer fool self hurt, 'n if ya don't git back I won't be responsible fer what happens. Ya see this?" He raised the hammer and shook it warningly in front of his horse. "This could do ya some serious damage."

Far from being frightened, or even impressed, Peso merely sniffed the hammer curiously, then licked it experimentally. A soft, disgusted snort showed what he thought of its taste. Certain there had to be something better somewhere, he nudged Vin's shoulder impatiently, demanding the treat the man always had for him.

"Yer gonna have ta wait," Vin told him, again trying to shove the persistent nose aside. "I ain't got nothin' fer ya right now. And the longer ya keep me from finishin' here, the longer yer gonna have ta wait fer what ya want. So go on," he tried pushing the gelding's head back over the fence, "git!"

Peso pulled free of the tracker's grasp and whipped his head over that interfering hand to butt it again into the man's shoulder. Tanner scowled and swore under his breath, then tried to push his horse away once more. Peso's temper snapped and so did his teeth. Tanner snatched his hand away at the last moment, only barely avoiding a nasty bite. But he quickly struck back with his other hand, dropping the hammer and rapping his hard knuckles sharply against the gelding's nose.

"Git away, ya ornery sonuvabitch!" he barked, his patience at an end. "Else I'm gonna have me a new horsehide blanket 'fore nightfall!"

Startled by the speed and force of the blow, Peso gave a sharp snort and backed up a step, regarding the tracker through affronted dark eyes. Tanner narrowed his own eyes and held the horse's stare for several moments, baring his teeth in a savage scowl.

Larabee shook his head and wandered over to the corral, chuckling softly at the familiar sight of man and horse locked in their perpetual battle of wills. They were mirror images of each other, two stubborn, prickly, half-wild creatures that were as dangerous as they were beautiful and would never be what anyone else considered proper. But that was fine with them, because they were perfectly suited to one another.

When they weren't trying to kill one another ...

"Problem, pard?" he asked with a grin, stopping at Tanner's side.

"Only problem here is that I'll likely have ta shoot this goddamn mule 'fore the day's out," Vin growled, still glaring murderously at his horse. "But I reckon we'll have plenty 'a jerky!"

Chris coughed politely and shook his head. "Horse meat ain't a favorite of mine. And I figure his'd be tougher than most."

Vin stiffened at those words, then turned and fixed a cold stare upon the older man. "You sayin' there's somethin' wrong with my horse?" he demanded in a low, hard voice.

"Thought you were gonna shoot him?"

"That ain't none 'a yer affair!"

"It is if I have ta eat what's left of him!" Chris countered, wondering yet again just how in the hell he got into these conversations with Tanner.

Vin narrowed his eyes, raised his chin and shifted his weight to his left hip, thrusting his thumbs into the high waistband of his pants. "Don't know as I want you eatin' my horse," he said defiantly. "Not if yer gonna insult him."

Chris opened his mouth, then closed it again, realizing that he had no idea how to answer that. He stared at tracker for long moments, trying to find a path through the bizarre Tanner logic, then simply threw up his hands in frustration and walked away, shaking his head.

"Goddamn uppity gunfighter," Vin muttered, bending down to retrieve his hammer and getting back to work on the corral. "Thinks he c'n git away with insultin' my horse." He steadied the long nail with his left hand and began hammering it through the rail and into the post with his right. Bracing his left side against the fence and again fixing his concentration on the nail, he never saw the black neck snaking out or the head streaking toward him until he felt long teeth snapping shut against his left shoulder. "Sonuvabitch SHIT!" he howled in pain and fury. Wrenching himself free, he dropped the hammer and swung around reflexively, slamming his right fist into Peso's jaw. "Goddamn you-"

"Vin!" Halfway across the yard, Chris heard the pained cry and whipped around in time to see Peso backing hurriedly away from Vin, who was clutching at his left shoulder and cussing the retreating horse in every language he knew. "Aw, shit!" Larabee groaned, hurrying back to the corral. "Vin, you all right?" he asked sharply when he reached the other man's side.

"Where's m' knife?" Vin snarled, turning away from Chris and stalking furiously to the clothes he'd discarded earlier. The holster holding his mare's leg was hanging on the fence within easy reach, but he'd taken off his long-bladed Bowie knife with his jacket and shirt.

"Now, Vin," Chris sighed, following the irate tracker, "you know you're not-"

"The hell I ain't!" he snapped. "I'm gonna gut him, skin him like a goddamn buff 'n make a robe outta his mis'rable hide! I done had all I'm gonna take-"

"Vin. Vin!" Chris reached out and grabbed Tanner's arm, stopping him in his tracks and pulling him around to face him. "Look at me," he ordered calmly, gazing steadily into the stormy face. "You're not gonna do any of that ta Peso, and you know it. More to the point, he knows it, so there's no sense in you pullin' out that knife. If you were really gonna kill him, you'da done it long before now. Face it, pard," he smiled slightly, slowly rubbing the younger man's arm with his thumb, "he knows ya too well ta be scared of ya."

Vin scowled at the blond gunman, but the movement of that thumb against his arm was draining the heat from his anger. He was acutely aware of Larabee's touch even through the fabric of his undershirt, and he licked his lower lip as the familiar tingles radiated outward from the slow, small circles Chris was tracing.

"Jist don't like bein' bit," he rasped at last, sounding more petulant than mad.

"Really?" Chris breathed. One golden brow lifted, his green eyes darkened, and a faint smile teased one corner of his mouth. "Now that is a shame."

Vin's blue eyes widened as that silken voice and sultry gaze sent tendrils of warmth curling through his belly. He swallowed hard and stared at Larabee, forgetting all about his plan to butcher his horse. "Wh ... why's that?" he stammered hoarsely.

Chris's smile spread slowly and he raised his left hand to cup Vin's face, his thumb skimming lightly over the younger man's parted lips. "Well," he mused in a low, husky voice, "a while ago I was thinkin' about takin' a break." He slid his fingers down to Tanner's neck, his thumb stroking the tracker's throat. "Felt kinda ... hungry." He tilted his head slightly to one side and pursed his lips thoughtfully. "Got ta thinkin' that I could use a bite of ... somethin'."

The deepening of the dip in Larabee's sensual lower lip sent a spear of heat straight to Tanner's groin and tore a strangled gasp from him. He shivered and absently clutched at Chris, knotting the fingers of his left hand in the man's undershirt.

Chris chuckled quietly at the naked hunger written across that usually stoic face. Vin Tanner was as reserved a man as he'd ever known, exercising an iron control over his thoughts and feelings and revealing precious little of himself. Larabee knew that control was merely one of the man's formidable defenses against the hurts he'd known too early and too often in his life, and he respected it. But even so, when they were alone he delighted in shattering that restraint and in releasing the wild creature of deep feeling and fierce passion that existed beneath that calm and carefully composed exterior.

And he loved knowing that Vin felt safe enough with him to let that restraint go without hesitation.

He continued stroking Vin, his strong, sure hands moving slowly over the younger man's face, throat, shoulders, arms and chest, long fingers delivering loving, lingering caresses with an unhurried skill. Tanner was moaning softly, eyes closed, arching into and rubbing against his touch like a cat being scratched in all the right places. This, too, was a side Vin showed only to his lover, and Chris had been startled early on to discover just how sensual a man Tanner was. Normally he shied away from any physical contact that was not absolutely necessary, and even among the other peacekeepers, men he trusted as he did no others, he'd only recently begun to accept their touches, brotherly pats and even Buck Wilmington's bear hugs without pulling away. But he'd welcomed Larabee's touch from the first, and the gunman had since devoted himself to showing the tracker just how much pleasure that touch could bring him.

And in this, as in everything else, Vin Tanner had proved a very fast learner.

As those miraculous hands continued to explore his body, Vin leaned further into Chris and dropped his head onto one broad shoulder, slipping an arm about the man's narrow waist and getting lost in the feel and scent of him. Chris closed his arms about Vin and pulled him close, nestling his face into Tanner's long hair. A quiet chuckle escaped him when he heard the tracker's breathless, contented moan.

"Like this, do ya?" he asked softly.

Vin nodded against Chris's shoulder. "Like it," he breathed. "Like you. Want you."

Chris found an ear beneath the hair and kissed it. "You got me," he promised. "And you're never gonna be rid of me."

Vin raised his head and gazed into Chris's eyes, his own gone almost black with desire. "Don't wanta be," he drawled hoarsely. "Lived too long without ya already. Don't ever wanta go back ta that. Don't know that I could take it."

Chris lifted his hands from Vin's waist and gently cradled the younger man's face between them, staring intently into those bottomless eyes. "Ain't either one of us goin' back," he vowed in a low, firm voice. "You got that?" When Vin nodded, he leaned forward and kissed him tenderly, then pulled away with a smile. "Good. Now that we got that settled, why don't we go up to the house and lemme take a look at that shoulder? Make sure that cougar you call a horse didn't do any real damage."

Vin's face fell as disappointment crashed through him. "But I thought ... I thought we's gonna ... Ya said ya'd been thinkin' ..."

Chris laughed quietly and leaned forward to kiss him again. "We are, and I was." He pulled back slightly and winked. "I'm always thinkin' that when you're around. Thought you knew that by now." He trailed a long forefinger slowly over Tanner's left shoulder to the hard jut of bone at its edge and lightly stroked. "But I also wanta make sure you're all right."

"I'm fine," Vin said as his disappointment evaporated.

Chris arched a brow at the familiar words. "Now why doesn't that reassure me?"

Vin scowled. "'Cause yer an uppity goddamn gunfighter who's gotta have ever'thing yer own way," he retorted.

A wolfish smile spread across Larabee's face and hunger gleamed in his eyes. "Just remember," he breathed, "I plan on havin' you. Unless," he added, sliding his finger back up Tanner's throat and frowning slightly, "you got a problem with that."

Vin gasped and shivered and swallowed hard as his hardened cock strained painfully against his pants. "I g ... I got no problem," he managed to whisper.

Chris dropped his gaze to the bulge at the tracker's crotch, let it linger there and slowly licked his lips, then raised his eyes once more to Tanner's. "That ain't what I'm seein'," he breathed.

Then he pursed his lips, deepening the dip in the lower one, and Vin damn near came on the spot.


The walk across the yard to the small house gave Vin time to regain his equilibrium, though he remained intensely aware of the man beside him. But that was nothing new. From the first moment they'd met he'd been aware of Larabee, had been so perfectly attuned to the man that his nerves damn near hummed when Chris was anywhere near. He never needed to see Larabee to know he was present. He could feel him just from the currents of power that ran from the man's body and charged the air around him in the way a lightning storm did.

But it never hurt to see him, either ...

As they reached the porch, he allowed Chris to get a step or two ahead just so he could get a better view of the man. The gunman hadn't been to the barber lately and his blond hair was longer than usual, still damp with sweat and tousled from hours spent working outside, framing his face and falling over his forehead in a disorderly golden wealth. Vin's fingers itched for the feel of the silken strands between them.

And for the feel of so much else ...

Like him, Larabee had long since removed his shirt and wore only his sweat-stained undershirt and the tight, high-waisted black pants that caressed his lean hips and firm ass and that made those long, slim legs seem to run on for days. Tanner stared fixedly at those legs now, imagined them unclad and wrapped around him like twin bands of steel while that beautiful body writhed and thrust against him in fierce and frantic arousal ...

And ran right into Larabee's back when the man stopped walking without his realizing it.

"You all right there, pard?" Chris asked, looking over his shoulder and smirking at the distracted tracker.

Vin took a hasty step back and scowled deeply at his lover. "Why the hell don'tcha give a feller some warnin'?" he growled as a bright blush stained his cheekbones.

Larabee turned and arched a golden brow, a wicked smile curving about his full mouth. "Whatta ya want me ta do, blow a whistle like a train at a crossin'?"

Vin's scowl faded and he absently licked his lips. Blowin' a whistle wasn't exactly what he had in mind ...

Chris laughed and shook his head as he guessed the direction Tanner's mind had taken. Not that it took much guessing; he'd discovered that Vin's mind rarely strayed from that path when they were together. The tracker was capable of a fearsome and tightly fixed focus.

"Shoulder first, then the rest," he said firmly, not missing the flare of frustration in the expressive blue eyes. "Take your shirt off." He turned away and crossed the cabin to the small cupboard for the liniment he suspected would be required.

Vin's scowl returned and he directed it to Larabee's back, his eyes snapping. "Awful damn bossy, ain'tcha?"

Chris found the liniment and retrieved it from a shelf. "You know some other way I can get to your shoulder?" he asked evenly. He removed the lid and raised the tin to his nose, sniffing the contents and relieved to find that the smell wasn't nearly as strong as he'd feared. "Besides," he turned back to Vin and raised two brows questioningly, "you don't usually mind shuckin' your clothes."

Vin settled his weight on one hip and stuck his thumbs into the waistband of his pants, lifting his chin and staring defiantly back at Chris. "Well, mebbe I jist ain't as easily had as ya think, cowboy. Ain't no law says I gotta git undressed jist 'cause yer in the mood!"

Larabee went to the table and set the liniment down upon it, sighing and shaking his head slowly. "Are you always this difficult, or is it just somethin' you share with me?"

Vin grinned crookedly and winked. "Thought ya liked it when I shared?" he asked in his soft, lazy drawl.

"You're just achin' ta be shot, aren't ya?" Chris growled.

Tanner swept his gaze slowly over the gunman's long, lean body, again imagining it out of those clothes, then raised his eyes back to Larabee's. "Nope," he breathed, "that ain't what I'm achin' fer at all."

Chris shuddered as that raspy voice seared through him like a shot of whiskey and burned a path straight to his cock. He remembered Tanner's words from another time - fine line 'tween hunter and hunted - and knew from personal experience just how quickly the tracker could cross that line.

But Larabee had no intention of being anyone's prey. This time.

"Well, then," he breathed in a low, throaty voice, fixing his gaze upon the tracker and moving slowly toward him, "you won't mind gettin' undressed, will ya? You know, just so I can see exactly where you ache."

Vin's eyes widened and his breath caught in his throat, and he unconsciously took a step back. Larabee was advancing on him like a big mountain cat, golden and sleek and hungry as hell, needing only to decide where to take the first bite. Those green eyes, deep and dark and shimmering with heat, snared him and held him fast, making escape impossible.

Not that he'd ever want to escape from this man ...

Chris smiled slowly and continued his advance, seeing the helplessness, and the longing, written plainly on his lover's dirty, unshaven face. The eyes that stared back at him were impossibly wide and inky black with desire, and the full, shapely mouth was slightly open, the pink tip of a tongue sliding slowly across that enticing lower lip. With the red bandanna encircling his head and his long hair drying into wild, disordered curls, Tanner was just about the most beautiful sight Larabee had ever seen.

And the tracker had absolutely no conception of his own appeal.

"Now," he breathed, stopping less than an arm's length from Tanner and reaching out to drag a feather-light forefinger down his lover's chest, "you gonna be good and undress so I can take care of you?"

Vin opened his mouth to speak, but couldn't pull the words from his heat-muddled brain. Larabee's finger was hooked into the waist of his pants, just over the top button, and the nearness of that hand had Tanner's cock straining mightily to get free. Right now, getting undressed was the best idea he'd ever heard.

Chris read the acquiescence in those glazed eyes and stepped closer still. Sliding the hand at Vin's waistband around and pressing it to the small of his back, he pulled the unresisting tracker to him and bowed his head. "You and your damn horse," he whispered as his mouth descended toward Vin's. "You're both too damn much work!"

Vin groaned and melted into Chris as the man's full, firm lips claimed his, whisper-soft at first but then with a deep, demanding hunger, the kiss shattering every level of conscious thought within him and reducing him to mere sensation. Seared to his soul by the heat that this man alone ignited in him, he groaned harshly and twined his arms tightly about Chris, pulling that hard body still closer to his own. Then Larabee's hand clamped hard against his ass, the thick bulge of the gunman's erection was grinding fiercely into his own, and Vin damn near wept aloud from the force of the hunger erupting through him.

Chris heard the choked and breathless cry that escaped him and immediately restrained himself, not wanting to push Vin too far too fast. This wasn't to be a display of dominance or just mindless, meaningless fucking. He never wanted that with Vin.

He softened the kiss, slowed and gentled his caresses, ceased driving himself into Tanner. Instead, he simply let himself savor the taste, scent and feel of the man in his arms, let his heart have as much say in what happened between them as did his body.

Vin felt the change in his lover immediately, and, as ever, was moved by it. He knew what it was to be wanted; hell, he knew what it was to be taken. But not until he'd found his way into this man's arms had he ever known what it was to be loved.

Chris pulled away just enough that he could look into Vin's face but kept his arms about him. Smiling slightly into the unfocused, midnight eyes, he breathed, "Maybe I should look at that shoulder now-"

"No," Vin groaned hoarsely. "Please?" He lifted a shaking hand to Larabee's face and ran unsteady fingers slowly over the strong, proud features that, to him, were the most beautiful on earth. "It c'n wait, I cain't." A slight, tremulous smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. "I wantcha, cowboy," he whispered. "I need ya. 'N if I don't have ya soon, this shoulder'll be the least 'a my problems."

Chris frowned thoughtfully and tenderly stroked the shoulder in question. "I know how Peso can be when he's pissed. I've seen what he can do-"

"But he don't never do that ta me," Vin insisted. "Y' ever known him ta really, truly hurt me? On purpose, I mean," he amended hastily, hoping Larabee wouldn't take into account the various times the gelding had accidentally thrown him into something.

Chris grudgingly had to admit that Vin was right. For all their spitting and sparring, neither horse nor tracker ever did serious harm to the other though both were fully capable of it. Peso would've killed any other rider by now, and Vin would never have tolerated such behavior from any other horse.

And each would surely tear apart anyone who hurt the other.

"All right," Larabee breathed, relenting. Then he smiled. "But you are gonna have ta get undressed."

Tanner arched a brow and smirked. "You, too, cowboy," he rasped. "I been undressin' ya all damn day. 'S about time ya gimme a little help."

Chris snorted and shook his head. "And here all this time I thought you were workin' and not exercisin' your imagination."

Vin's brow climbed higher and he dropped his gaze to Chris's crotch. "Gotta say, Larabee, with them pants 'a yers, a feller don't need much imagination at all. Hell, I can damn near count the change in yer pockets 'n tell ya which way the coins is facin'!"

"Get over to the bed and get your clothes off!" Chris snarled, shoving the younger man forward.

"Hey, be careful!" Vin yelped indignantly, turning and scowling at the gunman. He raised his right hand to his left shoulder and rubbed. "I'm hurt, y'know."

Larabee narrowed his eyes and glared at the tracker, then wondered why he bothered when that maddening smirk reappeared. "You're gonna be hurt if you don't get over there and start peelin' off those goddamn clothes!" he barked.

Vin gave a low snort of disgust and turned away. "Cain't be yer sweet 'n charmin' disposition that makes me love ya," he grumbled, going toward the bed in the far corner of the shack. "Ya got a nature only a mama rattler could love!"

Chris sighed heavily and ran a hand through his hair. "It's the company I keep," he muttered, following his lover to the bed. "You could drive a Quaker ta murder."

"Could be," Vin allowed, gazing over his shoulder and giving his broad, boyish smile to Larabee. "But there's other things I c'n do fer you that them Quakers wouldn't appreciate at all."

That smile hit Chris square in the heart, just as it had the first time he'd seen it. And, he knew without a doubt, just as it always would until the day he died. He stopped behind Vin, reached out, and turned the tracker to him, a soft smile curving about his own lips and lighting his deep green eyes.

"Then those Quakers just don't know what the hell they're missin'," he breathed, pulling Tanner to him and again claiming the man's lips with his own.

They kissed long and lovingly, mouths teasing, tasting, tongues duelling one moment, dancing the next, the two feasting ravenously upon each other. Their hands were just as busy, nimble fingers making quick work of buttons, each undressing the other with the ease of long practice and the eagerness that no amount of familiarity could take from them. They clung to each other as they toed off boots and kicked them away, then parted only long enough to strip off an undershirt or push down pants and underwear. But always, always, hungry mouths returned to each other, each seeking the nourishment only the other could give.

At last they fell onto the bed, naked bodies surging together, limbs entwined, the two seeking to meld into one. Hoarse, breathless cries and wrenching groans escaped them as mouths and hands explored and devoured whatever they could reach, as they stoked the fire burning between them into a blistering inferno. Fingers raked, kneaded and clawed at supple flesh as hips thrust in frantic unison, driving hard and leaking cocks together. Heat rose about them in shimmering waves and lightning flared along their every nerve.

The fierce summer storm that had swept through last week had been nothing compared to the one raging on the bed.

Chris tore himself from Vin with a wordless growl and rose to his knees, reaching across his moaning, writhing lover to the small table beside the bed. Yanking open the single drawer, he rifled through it for the tin of salve he'd learned to keep there, then found it and snatched it forth. He wrenched open the lid and thrust his fingers inside, scooping out a generous amount and then flinging the tin aside. Breathing in deep, heaving gusts, his body bathed in a glistening sheen of sweat, he applied the salve to his thick, rigid staff and stared down at his lover through glittering eyes.

"Jesus, Vin!" he gasped hoarsely.

Tanner was beyond hearing, beyond understanding, beyond anything except his desperate, driving need for the man looming above him. Every part of him cried out for Chris, but none so urgently as the aching void that only this man could fill. He drove his head back into the pillow and arched his back as that pain gnawed at his very soul.

"Please!" he begged, digging long fingers into the mattress.

His own pain as great as the tracker's, Chris wasted precious little time in giving them both what they needed. With more haste than gentleness, he lifted Vin's legs and slid beneath them, then sought the puckered hole behind Tanner's balls and slipped a salve-coated finger into it. As Tanner writhed and moaned and thrust down against that finger, Chris worked to loosen the tight ring of muscle and gave a harsh cry of anticipation when at last it relaxed. He pulled his finger free, positioned his thick cock at the softened hole and pushed himself into Tanner's body.

Vin cried out sharply and arched again, driving his hands into the bed. Within moments, though, the pain of penetration gave way to the incredible pleasure of cradling his lover's hard, hot flesh inside him. Another cry escaped him, a wordless plea, and then Chris was moving through him, at long last filling that aching void.

They loved with a complete and reckless abandon, withholding nothing of themselves, each giving all he had and all he was to their union. Chris drove into Vin's body and pumped his cock, fueling the younger man's fire and losing himself within it. Worked inside and out, caught up in a fierce barrage of shattering sensation, Vin could do little more than clutch at whatever part of Chris he could reach and writhe against the man in a mounting frenzy.

Their cries rose and mingled in the air, and the sounds of slapping flesh filled the cabin. Higher and higher they soared aloft on the stormwinds of their own making until, as one, they reached the pinnacle of their flight and burst together into release. Chris erupted into Vin, pouring himself into his lover's body, and Tanner's seed jetted over Larabee's hand and coated his own belly. They drained each other dry, yet each was there immediately to fill the other's emptiness.

Chris collapsed with a groan onto the bed at Vin's side, weak, spent and shaking, and perfectly at peace. When he could, he reached out and gathered Tanner into his arms, cradling the tracker's trembling body close against his own, craving the feel of the beautiful man who'd reminded him what it meant to be alive. And Vin rested easily, contentedly, in Chris's arms, knowing they were his surest shelter from the pain and fear that haunted so much of his life.

Nothing could haunt him while Chris held him.

When his heartbeat and breathing returned to normal, Chris gazed down at the man sprawled against his chest and smiled tenderly. Then he saw the bruise darkening the tracker's left shoulder, and the smile gave way to a frown.

"You and that damn horse," he breathed.

Vin lifted his head and turned, resting his chin on Larabee's chest. "What'd we do now?" he asked, blinking sleepily.

Chris folded one arm beneath his head and slid the other hand lightly over Tanner's discolored shoulder. "Got a bruise the size of Texas here, pard. Gonna have ta do somethin' about it."

"Reckon we jist did," Vin drawled with a lopsided smile. "'Cause I sure as hell ain't feelin' no pain." He laid his head back down on Larabee's chest, just above his strongly beating heart, and closed his eyes. "'Sides, I don't wanta move. I kinda like it here."

Chris chuckled quietly and combed long fingers through the tracker's tangled hair. "Kinda like havin' you here," he said softly, green eyes glowing beneath heavy lids. His fingers encountered the bandanna Tanner still wore and he tugged playfully at it. "You thinkin' of tradin' in your hat for this?"

"I don't know. Whatta you think?"

Chris let his eyes close but continued stroking his lover's hair. "Suits ya. Makes ya look like the savage you are."

Vin smiled sleepily. He'd been called a savage more times in his life than he could count, but, from Chris, the word had none of its usual sting. "Reckon I'll keep it then," he breathed, "seein' as how you like it. If you promise ta keep them pants 'a yers." He yawned and nestled closer to Chris. "I like countin' yer change."

Chris laughed again. "What am I gonna do with you, Tanner?"

"If ya gotta ask that, cowboy," Vin yawned again, "then I gotta come out here more often."

"Sounds good. Now go ta sleep."

"Corral ain't done-"

"It'll keep. Go ta sleep."

"'Kay," he murmured, already more than halfway there.

Chris felt the body in his arms grow heavier, heard the breathing even out, and smiled gently as he cradled his sleeping lover to him. There was still a lot of work to be done, storm damage to be repaired, but the work would always be there and this fleeting moment of peace wouldn't be. So they'd take a break, rest for a while and then start working on the house.

Yeah. That was definitely a much better plan.