Old Friends and New

This is my answer to the "What did the look across the street really mean?" challenge.

"Then imagine I'm in."

As easy as that. Chris knew it would be, that Buck would take the job and all it meant without a second thought. It was almost enough to make Chris wonder why he and Buck ever parted ways, but only almost. He knew why. Ever since ... he wasn't even going to think it ... ever since then, he and Buck could only stand each other's company for so long. Tempers would flare, voices raise and sometimes fists fly, and one of them would pack his things and ride away. The trail was never hard to follow, when he was finally ready to find Buck again, he always knew where to look. And, damn if whenever he showed up, there was Buck, big grin on his face, happy to see him. Almost made him think he didn't deserve a friend like Buck. Almost.

Buck had pulled up his britches and put on his shirt, tucking it in and buckling his belt. "Give me a minute to put on my boots and I'll let you buy me a beer." Chris watched Buck pull on his boots and smooth his pant-legs down over them, then looked at Vin, who was still standing there, a small smile on his face as he watched the interaction of the two old friends.

Yeah, Chris thought, he sure hoped his plans would work out. The moment he looked across the street and saw Vin standing there with that rifle, look of hard determination on his face, Chris knew what he wanted to do. Well, as soon as they cleared up the problem of the drunken cowboys turned lynch mob.

And hadn't that just cemented his resolve, working with Vin, anticipating each other's moves as they cleared out the mob. A closer look at the man showed the hard edges, the quick mind and the handsome form he'd expected. The best thing he saw, though, was the barely hidden twinkle of irreverence in Vin's smile and eyes.


Now that they'd rousted Buck from bed, though, things didn't look quite so simple. Vin was still smiling, but behind that was a hint that he thought he was interfering in the reunion of old friends. Best they'd get moving to the saloon so they wouldn't lose Vin before they'd managed to corral him.

"You ready, Buck?"

"Readier than you, stud." Buck stood up and stamped his feet, settling into his boots, then made the move Chris had been hoping he would -- slinging one arm over Chris's shoulder and the other arm over Vin's, laughing as he steered them toward the saloon. Trust Buck to read the situation and know exactly what needed to be done.

The saloon was littered with upturned furniture and broken glass, the aftermath of the drunken cowboys, but the bartender was there, doing his best to salvage tables and glassware. Chris and Buck righted a table, while Vin gathered up chairs.

Taking a chance for a moment, Chris pulled Buck to the bar with him to get their drinks. He watched Vin while he spoke quietly to Buck. "Met him this afternoon."

"Uh huh."

"Pretty sure I'm right about him."

"You are. Right, that is."

Chris grinned at Buck. "Better get the drinks over there before we lose him, then."

"You won't lose him," Buck answered, "he wants you as much as you want him. Trust me on that."

And there it was, another reason to wonder why he deserved a friend like Buck. Buck had to know Chris had ridden into town looking for him, and here he was, planning a rendezvous with someone else, and using Buck as a sounding board. Maybe there was a way to make it right. Maybe he could have it all.

"Want you, too." Chris looked at Buck as he said it, meaning it.

"Yeah." Buck smiled, a soft, gentle smile that reached his eyes, and told Chris all that he needed to know.

Picking up the beer glasses, Chris led the way back to the table and Vin, pulling up a chair on one side of Vin while Buck took the chair on the other side.

Vin nodded at Chris as he picked up the beer and took a long draw on it. "So now we got four."

It took Chris a moment to realize what Vin meant. "Nathan says we should ride out and see his friend in the morning. That'd be five."

"What'd they say the odds was?" Buck asked.

"Twenty of the Ghosts."

"Twenty with plenty of ammo and hate."

"Still," Vin interjected, "if we go up there with a good six or seven men, we should be able to run 'em off. We won't be fighting alone, the tribe will do their part."

Buck caught Chris's eye and raised an eyebrow in question. Chris answered him with a shrug and minute head shake, and Buck nodded.

"You know this tribe?" Buck asked.

"Nah," Vin said, "just know of them. Heard about the Seminole getting run out and heading across to the west. Never seen any when I was hunting buffalo, though." Lifting his glass, he drained the last of his beer. "Heard some of the Texas and Oklahoma tribes talk about 'em, though." Standing up, he gestured at their glasses. "You boys want a refill?"

As Vin took the glasses to the bar, Buck grinned at Chris. "You sure know how to pick 'em."

"Shut up, Buck." Chris tempered his order with a smile, but all Buck did was laugh.

"I miss something?" Vin asked as he put the filled glasses on the table.

"Nah," Buck said, "Chris was just reminding me of a time in Kansas--"

"I said shut up, Buck."

Vin looked between the two and smiled, shaking his head. "Should know better than to butt into a reunion."

"What do you mean?" Chris was suddenly worried that Vin would head off on his own.

"Never know the old stories. Tends to leave me a bit behind the conversation."

"Well, hell," Buck said, "if that's all, I can fill you in on the parts you don't know."

"You will not," Chris said firmly.

"Maybe not, but if you don't want stories, you better buy me dinner. You know how beer loosens my tongue." Buck waggled his eyebrows as he finished the last sentence.

Chris smiled and shook his head. Yeah, leave it to Buck to keep things moving. But he did have a good idea with dinner. They were looking at some long days coming up, and no way to know how well they'd eat on the trail or at the village.

"You boys want dinner, we'd best get there soon," Vin said with a smile. "Only one place open, and if you want the tender steaks, you don't want to be late."

"That's enough to get me moving." Buck stood up and drained his beer.

Chris followed him, leaving what was left of his beer. He figured he could get another at the restaurant. Holding back, he let Vin go ahead, walking along with Buck. Buck started telling a story, and he heard Vin laugh. So far, so good.

The restaurant was dingy and smoke-filled, but the beer was cold, the steaks were tender and the bread was fresh baked. When they were done, they stepped outside, and Chris lit a cheroot.

Drawing the smoke deep into his lungs, he looked at Buck and Vin. Night and day, he thought. Buck was waving his hands as he started yet another of his stories. Vin leaned against a porch post, listening, a smile barely touching his mouth. A quick glance his direction, and Vin was including Chris in the joke. Chris smiled back, nodding once. Yeah, Buck could spin a yarn, and the odds were good most of it was made up, but that didn't stop it from being entertaining.

What he needed to do, though, was break up that little party before Buck's stories started having any truth in them. Some things he didn't need Vin knowing about him just yet, and Buck didn't always know when to quit.

Stepping up, Chris put himself between Vin and Buck, and looked from one to the other. "I've got a bottle of nice sipping whiskey up in my room."

Buck had stepped back when Chris moved in, but never lost his grin. "You bragging or offering?"

"Offering." He knew what Buck's answer would be, the question right now was what Vin would do.

A long moment of silence stretched between them as Vin looked at Buck, then at Chris, holding Chris's gaze long enough that Chris thought Vin was trying to read his mind. Whatever he saw must have satisfied him.

"All right." Vin nodded, as much to himself as to them.

Buck leaned in to whisper in Vin's ear. "Good thing you said that, he'd have hated to be turned down."

"Shut the hell up, Buck." Chris was still smiling, but he knew his voice held an edge of tension. The last thing he needed was Buck to ruin this for him. He looked away, taking a moment to calm down. Buck wasn't going to ruin anything. Buck was keeping things light and friendly. He knew that.

Turning back, he gave Buck a hard look which turned into a smile when Buck laughed at him. Yeah, he was worrying too much. Buck was only being Buck. And wasn't that why he'd come looking for him this time, because he missed that? Only now, here he was juggling Buck and Vin and all he could do was offer them whiskey. At least, that was all he could do standing here in the street.

"You going to take us to this mystery bottle, or do we have to track it down our own selves?" Buck asked, his head tilted slightly to one side, his smile so big it put crinkles at his eyes.

Chris looked from Buck to Vin, who was also looking at him expectantly, smiled and shook his head. "Should know better than to keep Buck from the good whiskey." Stepping down to the street, he looked back at them. "You coming?"

They caught up with him before he was half way across the street and went with him shoulder to shoulder through the front door of the boarding house. Halfway across the lobby, Buck took a quick detour into the dining room to borrow three glasses, using his charm to calm the housekeeper, assuring her she would get her glassware back in one piece.

"Figured you didn't have glasses up there," Buck said as he caught them on the stairs.

Chris's room was on the south-east corner of the building with windows looking out over the main street. The furniture was sparse: a bed with a brass bed frame, an upholstered chaise lounge, a small chest of drawers with a pitcher and washbasin and a single straight chair did their best to make it look homey, but even the coarse linen curtains couldn't succeed.

Opening the top drawer of the bureau, Chris drew out a full bottle of Kentucky sour mash whiskey, bought in Eagle Bend and carefully carried through to this dusty wide patch in the road where he knew he'd find Buck.

He twisted the cork out and poured two fingers into each of the glasses and handed them around. "To old friends and new," he toasted, sipping his drink to enjoy the full flavor.

Buck pushed the door closed, turned the key in the lock and took off his bandanna, tying it to the doorknob so it would drape over the keyhole. Holding up his glass, he nodded. "To good deeds with long odds."

They looked at Vin, who shook his head. "I got nothing." He sipped the whiskey, his eyes lighting up as it rolled over his tongue. "To the good stuff."

Buck laughed. "It is that." Filling his glass, Buck made himself comfortable, sprawling out on the chaise.

Now was the moment Chris knew he had to make his move or the evening could turn into nothing more than finishing the bottle and dropping off to sleep, and that was the last thing he wanted to have happen.

Vin had leaned a hip on the bureau, standing relaxed, sipping his whiskey. Chris moved in behind him, slipping his arm around Vin's waist. "If I'm wrong about this," he whispered in Vin's ear, "you say so now, we go back to having a friendly drink."

Vin leaned back against him. "You ain't wrong."

"Told you." Chris looked up to see Buck watching them intently, his hand ghosting over his crotch.

"He always watch?"

Chris took Vin's glass and put it down next to his own. "You mind?" With both hands free, he pulled Vin tight against his chest.

"Guess not." Vin slid his hands back to cup Chris's ass, holding on, keeping them in place.

It was as good as he'd wanted it to be. Under the soft clothing, Vin was all lean hard muscle. It just took a little digging to get to it. First the calico shirt, then the canvas pants, which ended up draped at Vin's boot tops, before he could get to the buttons on Vin's faded union suit. Soft, well worn cotton covering a smooth, hard won body. Chris ached with wanting it all at once, but held back, stroking down Vin's chest and belly before dipping into the crotch of Vin's union suit to find his dick, hot and hard.

"Fuck, yes." Not Vin talking. Buck.

Chris looked up, seeing that Buck had taken off his own clothes as Chris had taken off Vin's. Buck's hand was in his own union suit, matching Chris's grip on Vin, stroking slowly with that little twist of his hand when he got to the top, the brief hesitation before starting back down.

He matched Buck's stroke, listening to the sounds coming from deep in Vin's throat, feeling them in his own dick, each sound making him ache more.

"No." Vin choked out, and Chris stopped moving, feeling a moment of terror that this was ending too soon.

"Not like this." Vin pulled Chris's hand off his dick, then licked Chris's palm, and he almost came standing right there. "You gotta help me get out of these boots and britches before I fall over."

Buck's laughter brought him back down, and Chris grinned across the room at him. "Get him the chair, you asshole."

Buck jumped up, his dick still waving out of his union suit, and dragged the chair over. "Here you go, stud." He pushed Vin down and grabbed his feet, first pulling off his boots, then the canvas pants. "That should do the job for you."

Both of them. Chris wanted both of them. Two indescribably sexy men were posed in front of him, one in the chair, the other on his knees on the floor, both in faded union suits, both hard and ready. The only thing missing was him. And here he stood, still dressed, hell, still wearing his gun.

"Let me help you with that." Buck was standing in front of him, his eyes soft, his smile gentle, his hands working on Chris's buttons. It only took a minute to get him down to the same state of undress as the others, and Buck stepped back, pushing Vin toward him. "I'll be over here," Buck said, easing back onto the chaise.

Chris reached out, pushing Vin's union suit off his shoulders and down until it hung loosely off his hips. Such beautiful tan skin. When Vin gave the union suit the last push that dropped it to the floor, Chris swallowed hard. When Vin took hold of Chris's union suit and stripped it off him, Chris moved in, pulling Vin against him, squashing their hard dicks together, seeking Vin's mouth for a harder kiss.

"Beautiful." Buck's soft exhalation matched Chris's thoughts. Vin was perfect. Soft brown hair streaked by the sun, honey gold skin all over, eyes blue and clear. A mouth made for sin, and Chris was willing to go to hell along with it.

Vin pushed him back toward the bed, twisting just enough so they fell next to each other, bedsprings protesting with a squeal. Slow thrusts became more frenzied and Chris pushed on top of Vin, rutting hard, dicks almost painful as they rubbed between them, but neither of them stopped. Sweat slicked them, easing the friction, making it better, sweeter, and his focus narrowed, all he knew was this bed, the man beneath him and the furious ache in his dick.

The ache spread to his groin, his gut, his heart, and still he kept thrusting, wanting it not to end, but also wanting the blissful explosion he knew was coming. And finally, finally it was there and he clamped his mouth over Vin's, swallowing both their long moans as he came, long, hard, flooding the skin between them.

He trembled, collapsing on top of Vin, gasping as Vin kept thrusting against the tenderness of his spent dick, holding on as Vin's fingers dug into his back as more was added to the mess between them.

A strangled groan pulled his attention to Buck, and he turned enough to see him, his eyes dark, his mouth open enough for the tip of his tongue to be seen. Buck had one hand twisting a nipple, the other moving hard and fast on his dick. Chris felt the pull he always had to go be part of Buck's completion, but he was too late. Buck's head dropped back, he let out a long, low moan as he came, long white ropes painting themselves over Buck's chest. When it was over, Buck looked up at him, his eyes barely open, a wide, happy grin on his mouth.

Vin's shifting underneath him brought Chris back to the moment, and he shifted his attention quickly enough to catch the momentary doubt in Vin's eyes. That would never do. He rolled off, pulling Vin with him, wrapping his arms tight around Vin and taking his mouth in a long, gentle kiss. It was enough to make Vin relax against him, and that was all that mattered right now.

Wriggling around a little more, Chris found the quilt and pulled it over both of them, settling in, feeling more content than he had in a long time. He drifted into sleep to the sound of Buck's soft snores and the feel of Vin's warm breath on his chest.

Sunlight streamed in from both windows. Trust Chris to get a room with a damn eastern exposure. A moment to take in his surroundings: Chris's arms around him, Buck's soft snores from the chaise, the crusty stickiness on his belly, and Vin had to suppress the chuckle that rose in his belly.

Yeah, it had been a good night. Damn near perfect, in fact. Slowly, he extricated himself from Chris's arms, trying unsuccessfully not to wake the man. "Ain't nothing, Chris, go back to sleep. Gotta use the chamber pot is all." It was enough, and Chris settled back, his eyes closed.

Vin did use the chamber pot and then took advantage of the water in the pitcher to scrub some of the crust off his belly. Then, as quietly as he could, he dressed. As wonderful as the night had been, this wasn't his place.

"Buck," he whispered in the man's ear, clamping a hand over Buck's mouth when it seemed he would wake loudly. "Shhhh, it's me, Vin." Buck's eyes opened and focused on him, and he nodded. "Go on, tuck in with Chris. He needs you."

Buck was still for a moment, then stood and shucked out of his union suit, grabbed Vin and pulled him in for a kiss the like of which Vin didn't think he'd ever felt. It was enough for him to almost change his mind about leaving. But only almost.

"Thanks, pard," Buck whispered.

Buck locked the door behind him, and as Vin turned to head down the stairs and out, he could swear he heard a squeak of bedsprings, a quick sound of surprise, then a long soft moan.

Yeah, he thought, it never really did work all that well to get in the middle of a reunion of old friends, but sometimes it wasn't all that bad, either.