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They've been in Rose Creek for a matter of hours, are in fact sitting spread out around a table in the late Gavin's saloon stuffing their faces with the first home cooked meal they've seen in days, when Emma offers up her spare bedroom to Vasquez for the entirety of their stay.

"What?" She asks, frowning when all seven of her companions collectively pause. "I don't mean anything by it other than friendship," she adds with an exasperated roll of her eyes. "It's just that I've got the space, and from what parts of the story I've heard so far it seems like a better idea to recuperate there than in the boarding house."

Faraday's the first of the men to find his voice. "That's true, I suppose," he says slowly, the words coming out in direct contrast to the unhappy look he can't manage to keep off his face. "Peace and quiet, a no doubt much better bed, it sure sounds like it could be worth it." He turns to glance at Vasquez, his next sentence coming out as more of a question. "You'd probably be a fair bit more comfortable in there on your own, yeah?"

"No." Vasquez replies with a snort. "I don't need special treatment, or to be separated from the rest of you."

Emma stares at them, her confusion only growing as the rest of their crew all develop expressions lauding various degrees of exasperation - a minute twitch of his lips from Billy, a flat stare from Red that suggests he's just come down with a headache, and Sam going so far as to rub his own temples in frustration. "What in the world did I say?" She asks when no one sees fit to explain themselves.

There's some half-hearted muttering and considerable shrugging of shoulders as all seven of them shuffle awkwardly around the table. Finally, Goodnight throws his hands dramatically in the air and flops back in his seat with a tired huff.

"Lord sake's boys, it's not like she won't find out eventually," he says, the words drawled out of him in such a way that suggests he's at least partly amused by what's going on. "There hasn't been much in the way of subtly on display this past little while, I can say that much for certain."

Beginning to feel her own stirrings of exasperation rising, Emma moves to demand someone provide a better explanation than that when Goodnight gives her his best grin and tips an imaginary hat. "It's simple, Ms. Cullen. If you, being the kind and generous soul that you are, want to put Vasquez up someplace nicer than the guesthouse, you're going to have to take Faraday too."

Emma blinks, slightly startled and not immediately clear of his meaning. Then she takes in the blush tinting Faraday's cheeks even as he leans in to rub his shoulder against that of the man sitting next to him, the motion shouting 'this is mine' as obviously as if he'd said the words aloud, and realization hits her like a sack of bricks.

"Oh," she says then, unable to come up with anything better. She'd known the two were close, had seen evidence of it the last time they'd been in Rose Creek, but just how close hadn't ever occurred to her. 

Across from her, Vasquez has gone stiff in a way she knows has nothing to do with embarrassment. "If it's a problem," he starts haltingly, already starting to pull back out of Faraday's space, and Emma feels a hot burst of shame as it dawns that he's misinterpreted her silence.

"Of course it's not a problem," she rushes to say, grasping for something, anything that will lessen the blow of the faux pas she's just inadvertently committed. "I mean, other than your questionable taste in men that is.” She quips. “You could do better."

The joke seems to work where Faraday's concerned, at least if the way he relaxes and flashes her the grin of a man acknowledging a well-made hit is anything to go by, but it falls flat with Vasquez. Dark eyes bore into her, doing a fine job of making his displeasure known, and his voice is clipped when he speaks again. "No. I could not."

"Right," Emma agrees, more flustered than she's felt in a while, possibly since she and Teddy Q had first chased Sam Chisolm down in the streets of Amador City, desperate to get him to listen to their plight. Deciding her best bet now is to simply soldier on gamely, that's what she does. "My offer stands regardless. The room'll fit two as well as one if they don't mind sharing. Any more beyond that though, and it's out of my hands."

"What a shame," Goodnight says, "and here was me about to ask if I could tag along too."

Thoroughly done with the lot of them, Emma levels him with her best judging stare and says sweetly, "Three would be a hell of a squeeze, Mr. Robicheaux, and somebody would be bound to wind up on the floor when Billy followed you."

Goodnight sputters at her well placed barb, but Billy merely gives her an approving nod as the rest of the table erupts into laughter. Pleased, she leans back in her chair and once again starts in on her lunch.

*****

Her spare room isn't much to look at, is in fact small enough to be dominated by the double bed resting at its centre, but it's bright and clean and Emma can think of far worse places for a man who's spent months in a labour camp to recuperate. So too can Faraday and Vasquez if the appreciative noises they make upon seeing it are anything to go by.

"You can feel free to stable your horses in the barn too," she says while Vasquez sits down on the bed with a pleased sigh and Faraday set both their packs on the other side of the room. "There should be plenty of space unless that demon animal of Faraday's decides to make trouble."

Snorting, the man in question looks up from where he's rummaging around in a bag for something. "I'll have you know that Jack has been on his best behaviour as of late. Hasn't he, Vas?"

Shifting so he’s lying prone on the bed with an arm thrown over his face, Vasquez shrugs and says in a muffled voice, "He's a good horse."

"Thank you." Grinning, Faraday gives her a wink. "There, you see, Ms. Cullen. Jack's startin' to mellow in his old age."

Remembering the first time she'd laid eyes on Jack, mad as hell and doing his level best to kill a stable boy whose sole crime had been to try to get a bridle on him, Emma snorts. "I'll believe that when I see it."

Still grinning, Faraday steps away from the pack in front of him and ambles towards the bedroom doorway, pausing only briefly to give Vasquez's side a little pat as he passes. "Then you can come with me as I get him and Vas's lady settled. No, not you, muchacho," he adds when Vasquez moves to get up. "You need a nap."

Now propped up on his elbows, Vasquez shoots Faraday a glare. "I do not need a nap, guero. It's barely passed lunch time."

"Have one anyway," Faraday suggests. "You may not need one, but you sure as shit look like you want one."

Vasquez makes a face at him, but Emma can tell without his saying anything that Faraday has a point. She remembers Vasquez as she'd first met him - rangy, desperate, and halfway to feral - he looks sort of like that now, only with a series of fading cuts and bruises adorning most of his visible skin, more tired than wild.

He and Faraday engage in their staring contest for a little while longer, with Vasquez finally huffing out a sigh and sagging back into the bed covers. As Emma watches, he toes off first one boot then the other, wriggling around until he no longer has his legs hanging over the edge of the mattress. "I'm doing this because I want to, and not because of anything you've said, guero."

"Mhmm," Faraday says dubiously, giving Vasquez another one of those little pats. "Whatever helps you sleep at night, Vas."

"It's not night," Vasquez mumbles, but Emma notes his voice is already getting heavy, like all it took was him turning his mind towards the concept of sleep before it decided to claim him.

Faraday rolls his eyes fondly as he ambles out of the room, urging her on ahead of him with a look so he can gently close the door behind him, leaving Vasquez in peace. "You said somethin' about stablin' the horses here?"

She nods and gestures towards her front door. "Come on, I'll help you."

They make their way outside and over to where the horses in question are located. Faraday goes to his Jack without a second thought, taking only a moment to run a hand over the mane of the large, grey mare Vasquez had arrived on, a different animal than he'd last ridden at Rose Creek.

"What happened to his other horse?" She asks as she brings up a hand to rub it over the new one's nose. "He had a white gelding before."

Faraday's face darkens, his expression going drawn and tight as his fingers curl around Jack's lead. "Gone." He says shortly. "Convict's possessions are forfeit when they're arrested. He lost everythin' he had in the town where he was taken. Couldn't get none of it back."

Emma's stomach lurches unpleasantly at this, but all she says is, "He can probably replace anything he needs in town." She doesn't add how this explains why Vasquez had shown up in clothing that didn't just fit poorly because of the weight he'd dropped. She doubts Faraday would appreciate it.

Once the horses are taken care of, Jack notably submitting to being stabled with more grace than usual, they both turn to stare at each other in light of the mutual realization that an empty afternoon is stretching on before them. Faraday gives her a crooked grin. "So now what?"

*****

They wind up back in the house, with Emma puttering around in the kitchen, tiding up some of the usual clutter she's let overcome the space since it's only been her living here, and Faraday sitting at the table playing with his ever present deck of cards. He'd offered to help her clean, but she'd smacked him down with the insistence that he was a guest, feeling awkward at his getting such an intimate look at the way she lived.

"You'll have to forgive me," she says as she stacks newly cleaned plates one on top of the other. "I don't do much by way of entertaining. Usually if I want company I go find it in town."

"Strange of you to ask us up to stay with you then," he tells her, before adding in a rush, "Not that I'm not grateful for the offer, Vas too. A home beats a rented room any day of the week."

Emma has a sneaking suspicion Faraday hasn't spent much time in his life living in homes, but she keeps that thought to herself. Instead, she shrugs. "I've got the space, and I don't imagine there're too many other folks in town you'd feel comfortable bunking down with. Besides, maybe the company will be nice for a change. Though for all I know you might regret coming once you've tasted my cooking."

Now it's his turn to shrug. "Food's food. There's not much I can't handle, and Vas'll eat anything. Anyway," he adds with a sly grin, "if you're as bad as you say you are, we can always find grub up at the saloon."

Vasquez stumbles out of the bedroom about an hour later, sleepy eyed and rumpled. He makes a beeline for Faraday, clearly not entirely awake yet, and leans up against him without a thought.

Faraday's hand comes up to curl around his wrist, the touch indicating a casual intimacy she wouldn't have expected from them. Also unexpected is the little jolt of jealousy it sends through her. Matthew's been dead and buried for going on a year now, meaning it's been that long since anyone's touched her the same way. She shouldn't still long for it as much as she does.

However, she refuses to let that show when Vasquez turns to look at her. Dredging up a smile from somewhere, she nods at him. "I was just thinking of putting together a dish for supper. Faraday tells me you've got something of a cast iron stomach, which might help you if you're here long."

She's not sure if it's because he's still half asleep or if it's the language barrier, but all he does is blink at her in confusion and then turn to Faraday for clarification. "Que?"

Faraday grins, nudging the taller man with his shoulder until he gets the message and takes a seat of his own. "She's sayin' she's a terrible cook."

"Oh." Vasquez shrugs. "Food's food."

Snorting, Faraday leans back in his chair to get more comfortable. He slings one arm over Vasquez's shoulders - in hindsight Emma realizes he'd been doing the same thing back in the Elysium - and winks at her. "Told you he'd be fine."

Feeling her smile start to grow, Emma pulls a pan out of the cupboard. "We'll see about that."

*****

It takes her surprisingly little time to get used to having people in her space again, although maybe it helps that Vasquez and Faraday are nothing at all like Matthew. He’d been a quiet, methodical man, who had to be severely rattled in order to get a rise out of him. Faraday and Vasquez, however - despite their being slightly more subdued than she remembers from their first meeting - are still a pair of wild men at heart. Even the change in their relationship does little to alter that.

And as for their relationship, Emma can't help but be somewhat fascinated as she watches the whole thing unfold. It becomes obvious almost immediately that this thing between them is still new, but that for all that it's as sure and strong as any she's ever seen.

Faraday, shockingly, is the more expressive of the two. Vasquez makes his affections obvious enough with casual touches and murmured Spanish phrases which she now realizes are terms of endearment, but it's Faraday who will appear out of nowhere just to wrap his arms around his partner, Faraday who moves to do chores so certain parties don't have to, Faraday who wanders into town on more than one occasion and returns with treats and trinkets weighing down his pockets - cigarillos here, a borrowed book there, even a brand new carving knife to replace one that had been lost.

She almost says something about it once; during a night where they're all sitting out in the front of her house, their bellies comfortably full on a meal Emma had had no part in, watching the sun go down. 

Emma's sat in the chair that's been her own since arriving in Rose Creek, and Vasquez has been ordered to lay claim to the one that had belonged to Matthew at both her and Faraday's insistence. For once he takes their fussing with surprisingly good grace given how he mutters about chafing under such behaviour at other times, sinking into the seat with ease and lighting one of the smokes he'd been presented with earlier that evening, while Faraday, rather than drag a third chair out from inside the house, settles near the porch steps with his back pressed up against Vasquez's legs.

Vasquez waits for his smoke to catch, and then shakes the match out before letting it fall to the ground. Emma suspects normally he'd crush it under one of his boots for good measure, but his feet are currently bare so that's not going to happen. Luckily, the match is well and truly snuffed.

Rather than put his cigarillos away, Vasquez surprises her by offering them around. "You're welcome to one if you like, señora," he tells her, his voice slightly muffled because of the smoke he still has in his mouth.

"No thank you," she says easily, waving him away with a casual hand. She'll be the first to admit she has her own vices, but smoking's never been one of them.

Shrugging, Vasquez repeats the offer to Faraday who also waves him off. This time, though, Vasquez sighs. He tucks the pack away in his pocket, but shakes an admonishing finger at Faraday, gesturing pointedly with his lit smoke. "I am not sharing this one after you've said no."

Eyeing him levelly for a few moments, Faraday's hand darts out lightening quick and snatches the item away. Ignoring Vasquez's squawking protests, he sucks back a long drag before exhaling slowly, winking at Emma over the plume. "He's all talk and no action," he says, only to yelp sharply when Vasquez digs a knee into his back. "Ouch, darlin'!"

Vasquez sniffs and leans down to retrieve the cigarillo while Faraday pouts at him. "I told you no," he says loftily. 

Undeterred, Faraday rotates his body so that he's more beside Vasquez than in front of him. Hooking an arm around the other man's leg, he peers up at him through his lashes, eyes somehow big and guileless despite belonging to one of the worst tricksters Emma's ever laid eyes on. She thinks she knows now why he's such a danger at the card table.

"Vaasss," he whines pathetically, as if Vasquez hadn't offered him an untouched cigarillo mere moments before. "Don't be cruel."

Vasquez rolls his eyes, but much to Emma's amusement hands the cigarillo back down as soon as he's taken a drag of his own. Faraday sucks back on it eagerly, waggling his eyebrows at her as he grins, and she can't help but laugh at his antics. "Do they taste better after he's already had a go?"

"'Course," he replies glibly. "Everythin's sweeter when it's stolen." His grin morphs into a full blown smirk. "Didn't you know that?" 

His words make her picture stolen kisses, stolen touches, maybe stolen glances, and she wonders if he's thinking the same thing. They don't hide what they are to each other, at least not around her, not safe inside the walls of the home she's laid open for them, but more than once she's walked in to find them springing guiltily apart, as if there's some level of affection they're not yet willing to let her see.

Not that she minds, of course. They deserve their privacy as much as anyone, and if they want it she'll give it to them.

Slipping her attention back to the here and now, Emma chuckles. "I can't say that I did," she says finally, "but I'm not surprised to learn you feel that way."

"He is a man of simple means," Vasquez remarks, but if he's attempting an admonishment he should probably try not sounding so goddamned fond. Likewise, the hand he runs through Faraday's hair, long fingers trailing gently in thick auburn curls, does little to help his case. "Give him food, whiskey, a card game with decent odds, as well as a warm bed with a willing body, and he's happy."

"Only if it's the right willin' body," Faraday chides, and Emma laughs when Vasquez blushes.

"You two are better than a show," she says, laughing again when they give her matching affronted stares before devolving into yet another light hearted bickering match.

*****

Of course, it can't all be sunshine and roses.

Not long after the evening on the porch, she finds Faraday awake at the table at a godawful hour that's so late at night it's probably tipped on over to morning, sitting in the dark with his head in his hands, while the only source of light is that of a low lit lamp resting not far from his elbow. He looks up as she shuffles out of her room, his expression grim. "Sorry," he says, voice brittle, "I didn't wake you, did I?"

Shrugging into the robe she'd grabbed as she'd gotten out of bed, she belts it securely around her waist and moves to join him, hoping he won't mind the intrusion. "No," she says tiredly, "I don't always sleep that well these days."

He lets out a hollow laugh at this, with nothing even approaching humour located in the sound. "I know how that feels," he replies. He drags a hand through his hair, making it stand up more than being in bed already has, and sighs deeply. "I don't think I've gone a single night without dreamin' poorly since he was taken."

It's a rare show of honesty from a man who's spent much of his life hiding behind smoke and mirrors, and Emma feels oddly touched that'd he'd share it with her, like he knows he can trust her to keep his secret. Then again, unlike his travelling companions, she belatedly realizes she has a sense of what he's gone through. "You ever wake up not sure he's really there?"

"All the time," he admits, his hands clenching into fists where they're now resting atop the table. "Practically every damned night. Mind you, that's a hell of an improvement over when I thought he was dead. Then I'd wake up thinkin' he was nearby, and have to relearn all over again that he was gone."

Emma can't stop a pained noise from escaping, and he looks at her, his face stark with understanding. "I'm sorry," he says after she's taken a moment to compose herself. "That must drag up some awful memories for you."

"Most things do," she says, wanting to reward his honesty with her own. "I still see reminders of Matthew everywhere I go, even with it being almost a year since he passed. Still see him dead in front of me most nights when I close my eyes too," she adds, no doubt revealing what's driven her from her bed in the middle of the night.

He stares at her for a moment, green eyes bright from the candlelight and altogether unreadable. "For me I don't see him. Sometimes I hear his voice, callin' for me, askin' why I didn't come for him, but what I see is just a damned noose swaying back and forth. Every once in a while I see it when I'm not even asleep."

"Sounds awful," she murmurs, and he gives her pained grin.

"It is what it is. From where I'm sittin', though, I don't feel I've got much right to complain. At least I got mine back."

It takes her a moment to understand what he's saying, that he feels he's got no right to complain to her, and when she does she brushes him off with a wave of her hand. "That doesn't make what you went through any less real."

"No," he says slowly, "but it should put it in perspective. Only it don't. I'm still terrified I'm goin' to wake up one mornin' and find he really is gone."

She chews on her bottom lip for a moment, unsure if she should ask the question that's been percolating in the back of her mind since she'd found him out here. Eventually she decides they're already past the point of no return where personal space is concerned, and asks it anyway. "How come you're out here and not in bed with him? Seems to me you'd feel a lot better if you were in there."

Faraday shrugs. "Didn't want to wake him. He's still healin', needs the rest, and me dry heavin' and pawin' all over him isn't goin' to see that happen. I already woke him up I don't know how many times when we were out on the trail."

"Hmm," she drums her fingers absently on the table top, tilting her head and studying his profile as she considers how best to respond. "You seem fairly calm now," she says finally, "and what happens if he wakes up and you're not there?"

"He grumbles and comes lookin'," Faraday replies. There's a quick flash of his usual humour in his tone, but it vanishes between one blink and the next. "Like I said, this is a pretty common occurrence."

She looks at him then, perhaps seeing him for real for the first time ever, and stretches a hand across the table without thinking about it, resting it over one of his own. His skin is warm to the touch, and there's the faintest tremble happening beneath her fingertips. She squeezes his hand gently. "You're not doing yourself any favours out here. Go to bed. Curl up with him. Listen to him breathe. It'll help."

He flicks his gaze back and forth between her face and their joined hands a couple times, eventually huffing out a tired sigh. "Is this the part where you tell me to trust you because you know what I'm goin' through?"

She shakes her head and pats his hand again, feeling more insistent. "I don't know what you're going through. We're the opposite sides of the same coin. However, since no one else is even on the dollar, I'm still probably the best person to tell you what to do. Go be with Vasquez. I'm sure he prefers waking up with you there rather than not."

He eyes her warily for a few heartbeats, before nodding decisively. "You're right," he says, drawing his hand back out of her grasp and moving to stand. "Thanks, Ms. Emma."

Smiling at the closest he's ever come to using her name, she watches him get up and head for the spare room, not taking her eyes off him until he's securely behind the closed door. Leaning forward, she then blows out the lamp he'd left behind him in his wake and moves to return to her own bed. For once it seems to be calling to her, and she's not going to ignore its pull.

*****

She's the first to wake up the next morning, and when she does she slowly eases the other bedroom door open to check on her guests. Finding them both sound asleep and so wrapped up in each other it's hard to tell where one ends and the other begins, she closes the door again and putters off to see about brewing some coffee.

*****

After that she and Faraday come to an unspoken understanding that if Vasquez notices he doesn't comment on. She still occasionally finds him parked at the table in the middle of the night, but it happens less and less and it never takes much to shoo him back to bed. Even better, he starts looking more alert in the mornings, implying he's falling asleep faster when he goes down again for the second time.

Unfortunately, it seems that as soon as she gets one problem sorted out, another one decides to crop up in its place.

She catches Vasquez fiddling with the faulty hinge on the front door roughly a couple of weeks into her company's stay. It's early in the afternoon, but she's cut her time in the fields short because she has some chores in the main barn she wants to get taken care of and has decided to pop into the house for a moment to cool off.

Vasquez freezes when he sees her coming, slinking back from the spot he's occupying with a guilty expression. She sighs. "Do I even want to know?"

The guilty look stays in place for a few seconds, and then he sighs as well, his entire body sagging against the wall behind him. "I was only trying to see what was wrong with it," he mumbles, like he thinks he's done something wrong.

Emma remembers now that he'd showed a knack for carpentry and working with his hands prior to the fight against Bogue. She's learned to get by on her own since Matthew's been gone, not that he'd possessed much in line of that particular skill set as it happened, but she has no love for this kind of work. If he wants to do it it's no skin off her nose. "I don't suppose you figured it out?" She asks, frowning when he looks startled. "It sticks something awful at times. I'd be grateful if you could fix it."

He keeps looking at her, clearly confused, or if not confused then at least surprised. "You're not going to tell me I should be resting and not overexerting myself?"

She bites back another sigh. And therein lay the explanation for the aforementioned surprise. Joshua Faraday is not a man she would have seen fit to describe as a mother hen, but in the time he and his fellows have been back in Rose Creek, he's shown himself to be just that. Even worse, he's a mother hen with only one chick to mind. Thinking it over, she should probably be impressed Vasquez has managed to go this long before cracking under the weight of Faraday's agitated concern.

"You know your limits I'm sure," she says finally, deciding it's not for her to tell him what he can and cannot do. If he and Faraday want to fight over it, that's their problem.

Vasquez shuffles his feet, chewing absently on his lip in the way she's noticed he does when he feels embarrassed. "There are maybe one or two other things I noticed that could use touching up." He offers. "Not big things, but I could do them with the right tools."

This time she doesn't bother trying to contain the sigh. "You understand that you're a guest here, right? And that you don't have to help out around the house any more than Faraday has to help out in the fields?" 

Truth be told, Faraday isn't even that much use as a farmhand. The other boys keep gently shoving him into more menial tasks to get him out of the way.

"Sí, señora," Vasquez insists, "but I am not nearly in as poor shape as the others think I am and I am going out of my mind with nothing to do except sleep. Joshua can bring me all the trinkets he likes to try and distract me; it doesn't change how bored I am. A man can only read and carve so much before both lose their appeal."

Put like that she can understand where he's coming from. Especially after she thinks about how he has next to no company during the day when he's all the way out on her farm while anyone else who isn’t working is likely sitting around in town. She's a little surprised none of the remaining seven have wandered over to see him, but maybe they're trying to give him and Faraday some space.

Shaking free of that thought she focuses in on the man in front of her. "Do what you want around the house. If you need tools, there's a whole collection out in the barn. I imagine you'll find anything you're after, and if not, let me know what you need and we’ll see about scrounging them up in town."

The relieved smile he gives her sends a small spike of guilt through her. She wants him to recuperate and be well again, but there's no reason his convalescence should actually tie him to the bed. He hasn't been hurt seriously enough for that.

Giving him a curt nod, she offers up a weak excuse about having to get back to work, and makes her escape. She's reasonably certain she knows where Faraday is right now - it may just be they need to have a little chat.

*****

Of course because this is Faraday and Vasquez she's dealing with, the two idiots get into a fight instead of discussing the issue like normal people before she can do anything about it.

“You spent months in a prison compound bein’ beaten, starved, and worked almost to death! Why can’t you see you need time to recover from all that? Just sit down, will you!”

“Oye, guero, if you had your way, all I would do is sit and sleep for the rest of my life! I am not so delicate that I need to be cooped up in this house for always! It is more than a man can bear!”

“Would you stop whinging already? Quit makin’ it sound like I dragged you from one prison to another!”

“Why not? You may as well have!”

And that’s the point where Emma realizes she needs to step in. Initially when she’d stumbled across the fight, she’d ducked right back out of the house before they’d noticed her presence, hoping they’d be able to resolve things on their own. However, it seems said hope had been in vain, and now she’s going to have to get involved before one of them says something he can’t take back.

Stomping into the house, she finds them standing in opposite ends of the kitchen with the table between them. Vasquez has his hands clenched like he’s ready for the fight to come to blows, not seeming to clue in to the fact that he’s already landed one hell of a hit – at least judging by the way Faraday’s hunched in on himself and staring resolutely at the floor, his expression that of a man who’s just been sucker punched.

Emma sighs. Placing her hands on her hips, she glares at first one and then the other, making it clear how unimpressed she is with their antics. “Dare I ask what’s going on here?”

Faraday doesn’t say a word, his gaze fixed firmly away from the man across from him, but Vasquez, arguably as agitated as she’s ever seen him, gestures pointedly with one hand. “I told him what we talked about earlier. How you have some small tasks around the home that I can help with, but he says, no, I cannot do this because I’m still too injured. Never mind that I was hardly crippled to begin with, he thinks I am a child that must be minded at all costs!”

The swell of irritation Emma feels at his words surprises her at first, but then she thinks back to the nights she’s sent sitting up with Faraday since her guests’ arrival and it makes sense. It’s not that she doesn’t sympathize with Vasquez, she does. No one wants to feel like they’re being coddled without need, and Faraday’s attentions are no doubt a little oppressive, but he’s missing the full picture.

However, what comes out of her mouth isn’t necessarily phrased as well as it could be.

“He does not, you idiot,” she snaps, folding her arms over her chest and glaring at him when he rocks back in obvious surprise. On the other side of the room, Faraday flinches and makes like he’s going to try and cut her off, only he moves too late. “He’s goddamned terrified that you’re going to get hurt again, and he still blames himself for the first time. I don’t know why you can’t see that.”

“And you,” she adds because fair is fair and at least part of this mess could no doubt have been avoided if Faraday had just listened to what probably started out as a reasonable discussion on Vasquez’s end, “he’s not made of glass, and he can’t read your mind. Explain yourself when you get concerned, but listen to what he’s saying. Don’t just assume he’s pushing himself too hard and tell him he can’t do something.”

“I – yeah,” Faraday says, startling her with how readily he agrees. As Emma watches, he scrubs a hand tiredly over his face, his shoulders sagging as he looks back over at Vasquez. “Sorry, darlin’.”

Vasquez’s eyebrows go up in surprise and his expression turns – Emma’s not sure what to call it. Tentative, perhaps, or maybe guilty in a way. He clears his throat. “Me too,” he mumbles, shuffling awkwardly on the spot. “Sorry, I mean.”

“Well that’s a start,” Emma says, relieved, “but it’s also the last I’m willing to say on the matter. Talk to each other. Work this out. You’re both adults, and you don’t need my help.”

They both give her matching looks of consternation, and she has to fight a sudden urge to smile. “Alright, you needed my help a bit, but that’s all you’re getting. I’m not here to play agony aunt to the pair of you just because you don’t want to talk about feelings.”

Faraday’s complexion is such that it’s easy to tell when he’s blushing, but even Vasquez’s cheeks visibly colour at her words. They glance sheepishly at one another, and it’s suddenly a lot easier to see how they’d managed to ruin things almost before they’d even begun through a miscommunication so monumental it’d nearly gotten them both killed. What a pair. By all accounts they deserved each other.

“I’m going to the saloon,” she decides. “I’m hungry, and you two need to hash things out alone. Just don’t destroy my house in the process,” she adds, a sudden vision of destruction blooming before her eyes as she pictures what might happen if they start fighting again.

Vasquez and Faraday mumble similar promises to behave, and she leaves them to it.

*****

She finds the bulk of the remaining seven in the saloon upon her arrival. Only Horne is missing, and that could be for any number of reasons, most of which she’s not sure she wants to contemplate. Feeling like she’s earned herself a drink tonight, she makes her way over to the table they’re occupying, and holds her hand out for the bottle they’re passing around between them.

Sam casts his eyes heavenward while Goodnight dutifully pours her a glass. “Should I even risk asking?” He wonders as she accepts the glass. “Where are Faraday and Vasquez?”

“Hopefully not punching each other in the middle of my kitchen,” Emma replies. She takes a cautious sip, initially unsure of what she’s just been given, but knocks back a larger gulp when it turns out to be her preferred brand of whiskey. “They got into an argument earlier this evening, and I’ve left them to sort it all out.”

The four men clustered around the table eye her dubiously, with eventually Goodnight clearing his throat. “They probably won’t burn the place to the ground?” He ventures, like he thinks he’s being helpful.

Emma waves him off, suddenly feeling unconcerned. “They just need to hash out some boundaries,” she says. “It was due to happen sooner or later.”

Heads nod around the table. Clearly none of her companions are surprised to hear that something has occurred.

“We figured Faraday’s mother henning would come to a head at some point,” Goodnight admits when she quirks a questioning eyebrow. “Vasquez has been chafing under his care since before we even arrived here, as noble as the intent behind it all may be.”

Emma considers this. “That’s part of it,” she allows, “but Vasquez was no better. They need to learn how to talk to each other.”

“They will,” a quiet voice says, and as one they all turn to stare at Red. He shrugs. “Faraday talks when he thinks no one is listening. All he has to do is learn to do that when Vasquez is there.”

“Well then, with luck that’s what they’re doing right now,” Emma says. She takes another sip of her drink. “I’ll let you know what I find when I get home.”

*****

What she finds is Vasquez kicked back in his preferred chair on her front porch, idly smoking a cigarette while Faraday is nowhere in sight. Concerned, she quickens her pace towards house, moving up the path at a speed that isn’t quite a run, but isn’t far from it. She opens her mouth to call out, only to close it with an abrupt snap when the front door opens, and Faraday emerges holding two glasses in his hands.

There’s a brief shuffle as he has to fight to get the door closed behind him with his hands full before he crosses over to Vasquez and hands one of the drinks over. Vasquez takes it with a nod of thanks, and Faraday, pausing only for a moment to cup his now free hand around the back of the other man’s neck in a quick caress, proceeds to settle on the front porch in what’s become his preferred spot.

Letting out a breath she didn’t know she was holding, Emma slows her stride so she doesn’t appear to be dashing about like a mad woman, calling out a greeting when she gets close enough. Faraday returns it by saluting her with his raised glass, and she doesn’t bother trying to hide how this makes her roll her eyes. As fond as she’s become of the man, he’s still obnoxious.

“I see you haven’t killed each other,” she says as she climbs up the steps to commandeer her own chair.

“Nah,” Faraday drawls lazily. “Figured I’d let him live this time. So long as he learns his place, mind you.”

Vasquez gives him a very unsubtle kick that almost causes Faraday to spill his drink all over the ground. “Cabrón,” he mutters, but it’s said with the same fondness that he drops words like guero and amor.

Faraday must sense this because rather than look offended, he smiles. “Yeah,” he says agreeably, “but you like it, muchacho.”

“Sí, it’s true,” Vasquez admits. “Probably because I hit my head sometime in the past. Must have done significant damage.”

Faraday casts an imploring gaze in Emma’s direction. “D’you see what I put up with?” He asks, seemingly to the world at large. He pokes Vasquez in the thigh as if this will somehow help get his point across. “I deserve a medal.”

“From where I’m sitting you’ve both got what you deserve,” Emma says simply, and the two men in front of her share a look. It starts off scrutinizing, and then melts into something tender for both of them.

“Fair enough,” Faraday says after the moment has stretched out longer than necessary, and Vasquez nods in agreement.

Emma settles back in her chair, letting the sounds of the evening wash over her. It’s quiet for now, but sooner or later one of her friends will strike up a conversation, probably Faraday because he’s less fond of lengthy silences. They’ll talk for a while before eventually retiring for the night. One or two or all three of them might wind up having trouble sleeping, but that’s an issue to be dealt with as it arises. She doesn’t know how much longer she’ll have their company; they and the rest of their crew are born wanderers every one of them, but for now she’ll enjoy it and see what the next day brings.