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Drinking Buddies

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“You thinkin’ ‘bout whiskey again?” Vin settled with as he reached for the chair directly next to Chris’, expecting the man to shake his head at such close proximity.

Chris, however, grinned up at him appreciatively at his sudden appearance. “Not so much today. I could use some company.”

Vin tipped his hat before removing it and sliding it across the table. “Glad ta hear it.”

Even while relaxed at such an open invitation, Vin still figured Chris would scoot his chair back a bit, just to maintain some space between them as the chairs were practically on top of one another; however, he did no such thing other than slip a shot glass of whiskey into Vin’s hand.

Vin nodded his thanks and downed it in two swallows, allowing the warm liquid to coat his tongue and muddle his head some. Chris’ leg brushed his underneath the table in further greeting - it sure as hell wasn’t a mistake from the gleam in the man’s eye - and Vin surveyed the room, content that no one was watching them and reckoning he and Chris could enjoy each other’s company here as they were without being bothered. He slid further down in his chair somewhat and shifted closer until their legs were touching, sure he made the right move when Chris did the same and leaned back, stretching an arm out over the chair on his other side.

It amazed Vin just how well and how deep he could breathe again being so close to Chris like this.

He felt… safe with Chris around. Not that he needed the security or the hassle of depending on anyone other than himself, but the more he watched Chris and the more time he spent with the man, the more he realized just how well they seemed to get each other. Not only that, but every sense in Vin told him that he had known Chris for years, decades even, and not just a handful of weeks.

“How’re you doin’, Vin? Ain’t seen you around much lately.” Friendly, ordinary conversation, but there was a concern underlying Chris’ voice that told Vin it was more than that. Even without that hint, he felt he knew Chris well-enough already to not brush it off as meaningless conversation. 

Speaking of their recent time apart… it wasn’t odd for the two to go a day without seeing each other, but a week was more unheard of. With the lack of jobs lately, Chris had left the little, every day needs of the town to JD and spent most days and nights in the saloon, drinking whatever troubles he wouldn’t share with Vin away. Vin might have joined him a time or two, but he’d been keeping an extra low profile after he caught wind of his wanted posters popping up hardly four towns over.

He hated to think of himself as a man who cowered in his room, but truth be told he’d been staying out of the sun and alone in the shade too often lately.  A guy could get a mite claustrophobic like that, but Vin hadn’t any other options until his posters were scattered in the dust again. Drinking might have eased his soul some, but men were all too easily recognized in saloons, and Vin wouldn’t let his need for a drink lead him ultimately to the noose.

Chris poured another drink, stared down at it for no more than a moment before sliding it over to Vin again. It didn’t have far to go, their hands were nearly brushing on the table with how close they were, but Vin still somewhat resented the distance between them. As if reading his mind, Chris’ other arm lifted and made to wrap around Vin’s chair. Vin snorted at his jerk, the reminder of where exactly they were causing Chris to practically slam his arm back down on the table. He almost snorted again at his friend’s apparent frustration, but swallowed it down with a smile at Chris’ glare.

Thinking now was the time to have another drink, Vin slid it down eagerly. His tongue was definitely looser when he surfaced, and he picked up their conversation again easily. “Yeah, well, ya know how it goes. Keepin’ outta trouble, trying not ta have my name posted too many places.”

“I've been keepin’ an eye out,” Chris reminded, and Vin was surprised at how much it sounded like a reassurance. Hell, he wasn’t positive part of the reason why Chris had been in the bar so much lately wasn’t to discreetly keep track of news. “I’d tell you if it wasn’t safe to stick around anymore. Hell, I’d go right along with ya.”

It hadn’t been the first time Chris said it, and something told him it wouldn’t be the last either. “I sure do appreciate that, Chris.”

Chris’ hand squeezed his knee underneath the table, and Vin looked up into protective and warm blue eyes when it continued to rest there. “You mean a lot to me, Vin. I’d sooner have them take me than you.”

“And we both know it don’t work like that,” Vin reminded. It was amazing how he could be disheartened and comforted at the same time by Chris’ disregard for his own life. “I made my choices, made some mistakes too, just like everyone else, and we all gotta live with ‘em.” Chris nodded, hand sliding down Vin’s leg before retreating altogether. A sad look crossed his softened face, and Vin immediately wished he hadn’t soured their conversation. “But ya know I ain’t never gonna refuse your company, Chris.” He doubted he could speak truer words than those.

Chris looked over at him again and smiled, warmer than before and encompassing, as surely as if Vin had right this moment asked him to ride with him. That one look told Vin that everything was good between the two of them, and if Vin could have nothing else then he’d hold onto that good with the skin of his teeth until he was so beaten down he couldn’t get up anymore, until Chris had done everything he thought he could do - damn getting away with it or not - to save Vin from a fate no one could hope to escape from for long...

“Another drink then,” Chris offered, mercifully piercing through Vin’s thoughts.

And this time, they both drank.

FIN