The storm passed on leaving the town shrouded in a layer of fine dust. Chris watched from the boardwalk as the store owners began the task of cleaning their windows and sweeping the wooden planks outside their premises. It brought to mind the first time he had seen Vin Tanner - a man looking out of place in an apron, wielding a broom. He'd been intrigued when the man shuck the apron and returned with a rifle, knowing from the moment their eyes met that he could trust this man to watch his back. Over the years that followed they had done some wild things together, from pretending to be cavalry so they could send outlaws running from the town, to hunting down the last of Eli Joe's men so they could clear Vin's name.
Last night they'd done the wildest thing of all, throwing aside all common sense and falling into bed together. They'd reveled in the touch of callused fingers until they'd both come undone.
He had no regrets, except for not taking that step years earlier, thinking of all the missed opportunities to find comfort with someone who cared more for him than for the money he'd leave on the bedside table of prostitutes before he pulled on his clothes and left. It was different with a man, more different still with Vin. The touches firmer and more reverent, the kisses deeper and filled with a passion that came from love not lust.
He felt someone coming up behind him but didn't move because Chris knew who it was without looking. Vin stilled at his side, close enough for Chris to feel excited by the scent of him but not so close they drew the suspicions of others. He leaned back a little so their bodies touched but kept his eyes on the street.
"Heading out to the shack later. See how much damage the storm made," Chris stated. "Could use the company," he added, knowing Vin would read between the lines and see it as an invitation for giving Chris a helping hand in more than the one sense.
"I'll hitch up the wagon just in case the shack ain't standing no longer," Vin replied, and Chris could hear the smile in his voice because it was a strong possibility.
Although Chris had never mentioned it any of the others, Vin knew he never slept comfortably on the hard ground. Too many years busting horses and hitting the ground hard on occasion had taken a toll on his bones.
When they reached the shack it was as bad as they both suspected especially as Chris was still repairing all the bullet damage caused by Ma Nichols and her sons. They slept in the back of Vin's wagon that night on the comfy mattress Vin had laid in there, renewing the pleasure of touching without fear of being caught.
When the new law finally reached the town a few years later, bringing with it too much civilization for either of them to handle, they retired to Chris's land together. It wasn't a glamorous horse ranch, like the one Ella Gaines had tried to tempt him with all those years back, but it was theirs and it was home. The townsfolk moved on with their lives, letting the story of the Seven become a legend, and so they became a relic from a less civilized time. Few of the townsfolk bothered them after a time, just the close friends they had made during those tumultuous years, with most seeing them as good friends in business together.
Only Chris and Vin knew they were a whole lot more.