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Grasping in Vain

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Their first night in Rose Creek is both celebratory and awkward at the same time. On the one hand both their crew and the locals are pleased to have driven out Bogue's occupying Blackstones. On the other, everyone knows this was just the opening salvo, and that worse is yet to come. Much worse. 

"We are all fuckin' dead," Faraday grumbles. He's sitting out on the front porch of the saloon following supper, having ducked outside to try and avoid the stares of the townsfolk, as they'd been starting to get to him. If nothing else, he's hoping the dark will keep some of the nervous locals away.

There's a grunt off to the side, and a light flares briefly as Vasquez strikes a match for one of the strange cigars he seems to have a never ending supply of. Turning his head just slightly allows Faraday to watch as the man brings the smoke to his lips and takes a heavy drag, still not saying anything. 

"You don't agree?" Faraday asks, wondering if that's what the other man's silence means.

Vasquez shrugs, the movement difficult to make out in the faint light, but not impossible. "I have been dead for months now, almost a year, even if my body doesn't know it," he says gruffly. "It's only a matter of time before this bounty catches up to me. 

Faraday's gut stirs, made uncomfortable by the somber attitude of the normally jovial outlaw. "At least maybe this way you can go out on your own terms?" He offers weakly, and Vasquez snorts.

"Not my terms," he says cryptically. "Not exactly." 

"But I suppose it is not all bad," he continues on before Faraday can ask what that means, or decide if he even wants to. "Being in a town for once without having to hide is good, as are the comforts that come with it."

Recalling the way Vasquez had fallen on supper when it had been presented, hunching over it protectively while devouring whatever he could, Faraday again feels that strange sensation in the pit of his stomach. He's never spent this much time in close confines with a wanted man before, has never turned his mind to the sorts of effects it might have on a body. 

"Full belly must be nice after all that time in the brush," he says lamely. "Whiskey and smokes too. All you need now is a bed and maybe a person to fill it with, and you're all set." 

Vasquez barks out a laugh, seemingly startled out of whatever maudlin path his thoughts had been taking. "Sí," he agrees, "the food and drink are pleasant, and the bed will be too. Though I suspect it will only have me in it. These people fear us as much as they hope we will save them."

Thinking that over, Faraday suspects Vasquez might be right. His crack earlier about feeling like an animal in a zoo hadn't been purely a joke. Hence why he's tucked himself away out of sight for now.

Huffing, he slouches back in his chair and knocks back a gulp of the whiskey he's brought out with him. "Pity that," he mutters. "Wouldn't mind going for a romp or two in advance of my inevitable demise."

"Probably have to fuck each other if that's what you want," Vasquez snickers. "The only ones not frightened by us are the men we rode in with and the widow Cullen, who I would not advise you to try anything on." 

"You don't say?" Faraday drawls. He pictures Emma Cullen's likely reaction to his making such an advance, and has to fight a sudden urge to shudder. "I like my balls attached to my body, thanks. I'd sooner try and take you for a spin. 

Unexpectedly, Vasquez shrugs. "Say when, guero," he replies, and the words may be the same ones he'd spoken earlier in the town square, but his tone is decidedly different. It's husky. Weighted. Indicating the outlaw knows exactly what he's offering, and means it. 

Faraday freezes, but doesn't immediately dismiss the idea out of hand. Stalling for time by taking another drink of whiskey, he considers his options. He's never been overly picky when it comes to bed partners, generally content to require only the criteria of warm and willing, and Vasquez is certainly attractive enough in a rangy, almost feral sort of way. Rose Creek certainly boasts a number of less appealing prospects. 

"Your room or mine?" He asks finally, decision made, and Vasquez stiffens in a way that suggests this isn't the answer he was expecting. Amused in spite of himself, Faraday stuffs his flask into the pocket of his vest and stands. "Well?" 

Pushing away from where he's been leaning against the front of the building, Vasquez comes to a stop directly across from Faraday, eyeing him critically. Then he grins, his teeth startlingly white in the poor lighting, and tosses the last of his cigar over the railing. "Mine," he says simply, turning towards the boarding house they're rooming in, clearly expecting Faraday to follow him. 

Since he'd essentially agreed to do just that, Faraday goes, trailing after Vasquez in his wake as the outlaw saunters nonchalantly down the street. They make their way inside upon reaching the correct building, moving up the stairs in tandem while paying no mind to anyone else around.  

Starting to become a little jittery thanks to all the silence, Faraday doesn't wait once they're inside Vasquez's room. As soon as they have the door safely locked behind them, he pushes the other man up against the wall, kissing him greedily because the anticipation is beginning to rattle his nerves. 

Vasquez makes a startled noise in the back of his throat, obviously not having expected such a forceful opening move, but it takes him no time at all to get with the program.  

He's tactile, is Vasquez. That's the first thing Faraday notices. Responding with not only lips and teeth and tongue, but also his hands, which initially settle on Faraday's hips, but quickly shift to roam over whatever parts of him they can reach.  Even his legs get in on the action, kicking Faraday's own apart so he can slide a knee in between them, applying just the right amount of pressure to make Faraday groan. 

"What do you want?" Faraday asks when they break apart, and Vasquez's ragged "Want to touch you" is both no answer whatsoever and the most damning one of all at the same time. 

"Yeah?" Faraday breathes, reaching out to pull Vasquez's shirt free from his trousers, and undoing the buttons on the front of the sinfully tight pants. "Let's try this then. You can pull my hair a bit if you like, but do it too hard and I can't promise I won't bite." 

Grinning, Faraday drops to his knees, relishing the little gasp Vasquez lets out when he frees the man's cock and runs his tongue along the shaft. It's been a while since he's done this, but Vasquez turns out to make for a hell of an appreciative audience, which only serves to spur Faraday on. 

"Guero!" Vasquez pants raggedly, and Faraday pulls back sharply. 

"Joshua," he says, twisting his hand in a way that makes Vasquez groan. "I got my mouth on your dick then the least you can do is call me by my given name." 

Vasquez hisses something vicious sounding. "Fine. Joshua. Get up, I want to fuck you." 

Feeling a little thrill shoot up his spine at that idea, Faraday decides he doesn't have to be told twice. Standing, he moves to begin divesting himself of his clothing, surprised when Vasquez's hands appear to help him, talented fingers twisting the buttons of his shirt and pushing the whole mess back as soon as he's able. 

"Thought you wanted to fuck me?" Faraday asks curiously. Rather than going for his belt or pants, Vasquez's hands have stopped on his chest, roaming over his skin with a desperate intensity that suggests the outlaw can't help himself. "Touchy-feely thing, ain't you?" 

"Hmm? Que? Oh." Shaking himself out of his stupor, Vasquez shifts his grip and begins deftly untying the bandanna Faraday still has tied around his neck. "You talk too much," he says, even though Faraday's said very little since arriving in this room. "Get your pants off." 

"Same to you," Faraday grunts, but he pulls at his belt buckle as instructed, half watching Vasquez out of the corner of his eye. His companion tugs off his own shirt and vest, then kicks the rest of the way free of his pants as he crosses the room to root through his pack for something. 

Finding it, Vasquez makes a triumphant noise and holds up a small vile of oil for Faraday to see. "This should do nicely." 

"It better," Faraday grumbles, even as he makes himself comfortable on the bed. "I only like to mix pain and pleasure so much." 

Looking intrigued, Vasquez sets the slick down on the nightstand, and moves to climb into bed. Sliding into the space between Faraday's spread legs, he grins wolfishly before leaning in for a bruising kiss.  

"Fuck," Faraday groans, rutting shamelessly up against Vasquez as his cock fully hardens. "Come on, you bastard," he sighs as Vasquez yet again sets his hands to trailing everywhere but makes no move to do anything else. "Put your money where your mouth is and fuck me." 

That makes Vasquez move, and the next thing Faraday knows, the stopper's being pulled free from the bottle on the nightstand, and Vasquez is breaching him with an oil slick finger. One finger eventually becomes two, and then three, as Vasquez teases and stretches him open with expert touches. Then those same fingers find the spot guaranteed to have Faraday seeing stars, and he shouts as pleasure starts pulsing up and down his body, making his toes curl. 

"Yesss," he sighs, groaning into the touch. "C'mon, 'M ready, I swear. Just fucking do it." 

He almost expects Vasquez to continue teasing him, and is therefore pleasantly surprised when the other man obligingly draws his fingers free and lines himself up with Faraday's entrance.

"Oh fuck yes," Faraday shudders as Vasquez slides into him with one steady push. He's still a little unsure of how they got from chatting quietly out on the porch of the saloon to this, but damn is he not complaining.  

"Fuck fuck fuck," Faraday chants. Somewhat afraid his eyes might be watering, he takes a deep breath as he accommodates the stretch of Vasquez inside of him, curling his hands over the outlaw's shoulders, and likely pressing hard enough to bruise. "Damn, you feel good."

"You too," Vasquez pants as he bottoms out. Faraday can feel a faint tremor where he's still gripping the man's arms, and it makes him wonder if it's been a while since Vasquez has done this too. It'd make sense given the current state of his life. 

Faraday's already struggling to hold onto coherency, and when Vasquez starts moving in him in earnest, he gives it up as a lost cause. Settling in to enjoy the ride, he leans into Vasquez, letting the outlaw set the pace and drag spark after spark of pleasure out of him. 

In some ways it feels like the whole thing is over before it's begun. Faraday loses track of time, too caught up in the feelings Vasquez is wringing out of him, and suddenly he's spilling over both their stomachs, shuddering through the aftershocks as Vasquez thrusts inside of him a few more times, before groaning out his own release. 

"Hell almighty," Faraday chokes out as Vasquez crashes down on top of him. For a long moment the only sounds in the room are their intermingled pants, and Faraday's pretty sure his vision has gone wonky in the aftermath. Blinking rapidly, he rests a hand on the small of Vasquez's back, needing some time to come down from the high. 

"Damn," he says, once he's certain he can breath normally again. "And here was me thinking there wouldn't be anything fun to do in this town." 

Rather than answer verbally, Vasquez burrows more firmly against Faraday's body, making it so they're pressed skin to skin at essentially every possible point, and giving no indication that he plans to move anytime soon. 

Faraday lets him get away with this for a bit, but eventually he has to move. Lanky though he may be, Vasquez is a heavy son of a bitch, too heavy to have him stay where he is indefinitely. Not to mention the fact that the sweat is starting to cool on their bodies, and Faraday's beginning to get uncomfortably sticky in places he wishes he wasn't.  

"Up," he says finally, swatting at Vasquez's side. "C'mon, you overgrown terror. You're not lounging around like this all night. Shift yourself." 

Vasquez makes a displeased noise and shakes his head, somehow pressing in impossibly closer. Even in light of their brief acquaintance and the fact that he can't see his face, Faraday can tell the other man is pouting. He sternly tells himself not to be swayed. 

"Up," he says again, more forcefully, and this time the smack he lands on Vasquez's flank is sharp enough to echo throughout the room. "I ain't in a mood to be crushed to death after a perfectly good round in the sack. Move."

The room is currently lit by a single lamp that nevertheless gives off enough light for Faraday to see Vasquez's expression when he finally lifts his head. Dark eyes look over at him, narrowing in a way that suggests their owner is both annoyed and something else entirely that Faraday can't quantify. It's disconcerting, and makes Faraday momentarily feel exposed in a way he's not used to.

Deciding there's nothing else for it, he hooks an arm around Vasquez to physically shove him off. The outlaw lets out a startled yelp as he's unceremoniously dumped on his back, shooting Faraday a glare that sets him laughing. 

"You weren't moving," he insists in between chuckles. "It's your own fault, you left me no choice." 

He half expects Vasquez to retaliate, but instead the other man gives him a second unreadable look and sags down into the bedding. "You are spoiling the moment," he grunts. 

Faraday snorts as he climbs out of the bed and begins rooting through their scattered clothes for his pants. Finding them down near the bottom of the bed, he lets out a triumphant noise and tugs them on.

"We ain't having a moment," he says, turning back around with his pants unbuttoned since he's just going to kick them off again when he reaches his own room. "I'm not sure I ever have." 

Vasquez makes a sound Faraday can't parse the meaning of. "Not surprising," he says as he stretches languidly over the mattress. "I'm starting to think those words about being the world's greatest lover were entirely for show." 

Having retrieved the rest of his belongings, Faraday salutes him with his armful of clothes. "If you want a repeat performance, just let me know," he suggests. "For now though, I'm after some shuteye." 

Although he seems intrigued by this, Vasquez says nothing further, and doesn't get up as Faraday leaves. The last glimpse Faraday has of him, he's still sprawled out over the bed, looking thoroughly debauched.  

Grinning, Faraday walks down the hallway whistling to himself, figuring he might just file that mental image away for later use. At least that way he'll have it to fall back on if Vasquez doesn't take him up on his offer.

*****

Faraday doesn't know if he's surprised or not when Vasquez comes to find him the next night, but he's definitely interested. He watches as Vasquez makes his way over to him, wondering what the outlaw might have to say.

Unlike the previous evening when they'd inadvertently found themselves alone together, Faraday's parked dead centre in the middle of the saloon, playing cards with Rocks, Robicheaux, and the surprising addition of Teddy Q. It's a welcome reprieve after a long day spent trying to whip the townsfolk into something even remotely resembling a fighting force, though Faraday will be all to happy to abandon the game if it turns out Vasquez has a better idea. 

"Hola, muchacho," he drawls, deliberately stretching the words out even more than he normally wood. He grins when Vasquez shoots him a pained glare. "You want us to deal you in?" 

"Sí, if you like," Vasquez replies. Pulling out the empty chair next to Faraday, he drops into it with a heartfelt sigh. "Today has been very long," he adds, sliding into a seemingly boneless slouch with his long limbs taking up more space than Faraday feels is warranted. "I need a break." 

"Agreed," Goodnight says, while next to him Billy nods silently. "I haven't tried training someone to shoot since the war days, and much as it pains me to admit, I think I had a better set of recruits then."

"We'll get there, Mr. Robicheaux," Teddy says stoutly, thankfully missing the face Billy makes where he's safely out of the line of sight on Goodnight's other side. "Every man who stayed in this town is serious about defending it." 

Fully expecting Goodnight to spit out some pithy saying that most of them can't grasp the meaning of, Faraday busies himself with reclaiming the scattered cards and shuffling the deck into something resembling order. He knows when is an appropriate time to voice his opinion - even if he doesn't always heed the warning signs - and this isn't it. 

Caught up in making the cards dance between his fingers, Faraday almost misses the sudden pressure against his right leg when it first appears. When he does clue in, as well as realizing what it has to be, he casts Vasquez a surreptitious glance, and finds the man smirking back at him.

Faraday raises an eyebrow while the others remain engaged in their conversation, pressing back briefly before shifting his leg away. He doesn't say anything, but he lets his own mouth curve up in a grin when Vasquez's smirk grows. 

Later, when his back hits the door of Vasquez's room in a mirror image of the way the other man's had the previous night, he finds himself laughing. The sound makes Vasquez pause where he's concentrating on undoing Faraday's belt buckle, and he tilts his head to the side inquiringly. "Something funny, guero?" 

"Sure," Faraday quips, shrugging to try and encapsulate the absurdity of their situation. "Less than a week ago I was waffling around Amador City, taking the locals to task over dice games, and now I'm letting a wanted man into my pants after a day spent trying to prepare for a war that neither of us has any stake in. What isn't funny about that?" 

Rather than share in Faraday's amusement, Vasquez rolls his eyes and returns to what he'd been doing. "You are a very strange man, Joshua. Now be quiet and let me touch you." 

Seeing nothing wrong with this, Faraday nods for him to continue. 

It's as good as it was the night before, if not better now that each of them has a feel for what the other likes. Vasquez once again proves to be incredibly tactile, arching up into every touch Faraday gives him, and whining every time he pulls back. Enthusiasm has always been something Faraday's appreciated in his bed partners, and Vasquez has that in spades. 

All told it makes for a thoroughly enjoyable evening, but one that nevertheless has to end. Just as he had the night before, Faraday takes some time to get his breath back, and then begins the difficult task of freeing himself from Vasquez's limpet-like hold. 

"Are you always like this?" He asks as he pries Vasquez's hand away from where it's wrapped around his torso, holding him in place. Evading grasping fingers, he rolls over and swings his legs over the edge of the bed. "Not that I mind the interest, but my own bed is elsewhere, and we've got another early morning ahead of us." 

Part of him is expecting Vasquez to protest like he had the night before, but in actuality the outlaw does no such thing. Instead, he flops down with a disgruntled huff, not looking at Faraday as he drags the covers up over himself. 

"You might want to wash off a bit before you sleep," Faraday points out helpfully, earning himself a glare for his trouble. "Or not. Suit yourself." 

Shrugging on just enough clothing for decency's sake, he flashes Vasquez one of his best grins. "Same time tomorrow?" He asks. 

Vasquez makes a face, but his posture remains open. "Maybe," he says finally. "I suppose you are not the worst partner I've ever had." 

Knowing he's won, Faraday lets his grin broaden. "I'll take that as a yes. Night, Vas." 

If Vasquez replies, Faraday doesn't catch it, but he leaves the room safe in the knowledge that he'll have at least one thing to look forward to tomorrow. 

***** 

After that it basically becomes a foregone conclusion. Faraday wakes up each morning, and heads out to help Rose Creek prepare for the upcoming battle. Sometimes he's paired with Vasquez, while sometimes he's not, but each evening inevitably sees them crash together once the day's work is said and done.

By the time they get word that Bogue is due to arrive in the morning, he feels like he knows Vasquez's body as well as he knows his own. He's mapped virtually every inch of the man with lips and hands, having learned exactly how to press to coax those delightful, breathy moans out of him. It's more time than he's ever spent with the same partner, and feels a little disconcerting when he thinks about how easily he's now able to gauge the other man's behaviour. 

Case in point, he's fully expecting it when he's reclined in a post-coital daze, and Vasquez rolls over to flatten himself up against his side. "Every fuckin' time," he mumbles as Vasquez starts tracing callused fingers over his skin, but makes no move to shove the other man off. "You just can't keep your hands to yourself, can you?"

"You were not complaining about how I used my hands earlier," Vasquez snarks, and Faraday has to admit he has a point. Guns and carpentry tools are not the only things Vasquez is skilled at manipulating, a fact he's proved multiple times over in the last week. 

If he's being honest, it's no hardship to let Vasquez do as he pleases. The touches are always pleasant, and there's an added sense of contentedness that comes from being the centre of his attention. On the other hand, it's also taking some getting used to. Faraday himself isn't an overly clingy person, and he finds Vasquez's habits difficult to parse. 

Finally, though, he has to begin the process of extricating himself from Vasquez's hold. They've got a long day ahead of them, which means Faraday needs to be getting back to his own room so he can sleep. 

As usual, Vasquez makes a disgruntled noise when Faraday slides out from under him to try and sit up. Unlike usual, however, he refuses to let go when Faraday shifts, and instead moves with him. 

"What're you doing?" Faraday asks as Vasquez gets a hand around his neck, and drags him in for a kiss. "It's late. I need to go." 

The noise Vasquez emits is purely one of denial, and dissimilar to anything Faraday has ever heard from him before. Combined with the forcefulness behind the kiss, something almost akin to desperation, it leaves Faraday confused, if still intending to leave. 

"That's enough, Vas," he murmurs, although he immediately makes a liar out of himself by kissing back. He shudders as Vasquez curls a hand around his jaw, his thumb coming up to stroke through the scruff on Faraday's cheek.

"This is probably our last night on earth," Vasquez says, still kissing him. "Might be nice not to spend it alone, yes?"

"No," Faraday disagrees, and this time when he pulls back he means it to be for real. "Tomorrow, more than any other day, we're gonna want to be sharp. Being hung over or exhausted from too many rounds with you is just asking for trouble."

"That wasn't what I - never mind." Sighing, Vasquez leans back against the headboard, the sheets settling around his slim waist as he watches Faraday gather his clothes up off the floor. "Go on then."

"I'm going," Faraday promises, but a sudden sense of finality washes over him, leaving him unsettled. Realizing that it could well be his last ever chance, Faraday breaks his own word and ducks in for one more kiss. 

"Do me a favour and try not to get killed out there," he says, the closest he's going to get to 'I care about you, and don't want you to die'. "Maybe we'll get lucky and be able to celebrate together once all is said and done." 

Vasquez's hands come up to frame his face, fingers grasping in a way that's just this side of desperate, and he kisses back messily. "I will hold you to that, cariño," he promises. "See if I don't."

Grinning, Faraday curls a hand over the junction between Vasquez's neck and shoulder, pleased when the man sighs into the touch just like he always does. Squeezing once, he lifts away from the heated skin, and heads for the quiet sanctity of his own room. 

*****

Faraday's last thought as the dynamite hits is that, while he'd always wanted to blow something up, he'd never meant to include himself in the equation. His first thought when he wakes up again afterwards is that he's standing by his last thought. 

Everything hurts. He'd been told once, years ago when he was a boy, that pain was a way to know you're alive. If that's true, he's sure as shit alive now, but a strong part of him almost wishes he wasn't.

Against his better judgment, he shifts to try and figure out where he is. He regrets the action immediately when something pulls in his gut, making fiery waves of agony crash all over him. Try as he might, he can't hold back the resulting whimper.

"Easy, easy." Large, gentle, and above all else familiar hands appear to hold him in place. "Careful, guerito. You are pieced together by nothing but thread right now, and you don't want to tear anything." 

Faraday groans, trying to make his opinion on the matter plain, and even that minute action serves to send waves of pain lancing all along his body. Above him Vasquez's face swims into view, his dark eyes concerned and sympathetic at the same time. Faraday will never admit it, but he's a damn fine sight to wake up to, all things being considered. 

"Did we win?" He asks, his own voice sounding strange to his ears, like it's coming from a mile away or something. God as his witness he doesn't think he's ever felt so weak, or so sore.

Keeping my one hand resting on Faraday's shoulder to hold him in place, Vasquez brings a damp cloth up with the other, and mops softly at Faraday's brow with it. "I suppose that depends on what you consider winning," he says finally, still dabbing at the sweat beading Faraday's temples. "The town is still here, and the seven of us with it, if in some cases only barely."

Faraday blinks at this, genuinely surprised. "We all made it?" 

"Sí," Vasquez replies, dropping the cloth out of sight and bringing his hand to Faraday's hair instead. "You are the most badly off. Rocks, Robicheaux, and Horne all had close calls, but you have been unconscious for many days." 

"Honestly, with the way I feel, I think I'd've preferred to stay that way for a whole lot more," Faraday says. He flexes his fingers to see if it's worth even trying to push himself up, but the resulting wave of pain that shoots up both arms and also through his chest makes him stop. "I hurt everywhere."

Vasquez makes a sympathetic noise and ceases his stroking. Faraday has no idea how to tell him that was the one point of contact that wasn't bothering him, so he doesn't.  

"At least you're coherent this time," Vasquez says while Faraday's trying to figure out what's going on. "You sort of woke up once or twice before this, but all you ever did was stare at me like you couldn't see me. The doctor said it was probably due to the drugs." 

"Sorry," Faraday says. He has no idea why he's apologizing, but he feels like he should. 

Vasquez, however, merely waves a dismissive hand before resting both on the edge of the mattress not far from Faraday's elbow, fidgeting noticeably. It's almost as if he wants to reach out and touch again, but doesn't think that he should. 

"You look exhausted, cariño," he says now. "You need more rest." 

Normally a comment like that would set Faraday's entire body bristling, but today it just sounds like a good idea. For once in his life he's got no desire to push himself past his limits and go find new trouble to get into. He wants to sleep.

"Are you goin' to stay?" He slurs tiredly, already halfway there now that he's turned his mind to it. He doesn't know what makes him ask this question, just that there's a feeling somewhere in his gut telling him he'd like Vasquez to still be here the next time he wakes up. 

Vasquez makes a surprised face, but nevertheless nods. "Sí, if you like. I usually come and go - check in on you, check in on the others, help with the rebuild - but I can stay for now." 

"Good," Faraday says, or at least he thinks he does. His eyelids slip shut between one moment and the next, and he's pretty sure he feels a faint pressure on the inside of his wrist as Vasquez curls his fingers around it. 

***** 

Recovering from multiple gunshot wounds and an explosion is quite literally a pain in the ass. Faraday knows full well he's lucky to be alive, let alone in a state where all his limbs are mostly intact, but he hurts all over and he's getting tired of it. 

"Maybe so," Vasquez muses one day when he voices this thought aloud, "but if you don't stop taking your temper out on other people, the doctor is going to stop treating you. He says you are the worst patient he has by far." 

"Yeah?" Faraday snaps, his mood souring even further when the move pulls at the stitches in his gut and sets him hissing in pain for the thousandth time. "If I'm so fucking difficult then how come you're still here?" He demands between clenched teeth. 

"Because I don't believe your threats of throttling me once you can stand again," Vasquez responds calmly. "And because you asked me to be." 

Faraday has no such recollection of doing that, and is about to open his mouth and say as much, but all that comes out is a pained moan instead. "Damnit all," he says, "when is this going to stop hurting so bad?" 

"When you stop pushing yourself too much," Vasquez snaps. "Maldita, Joshua, lie still!"

It's the first time Vasquez has used his first name outside of the bedroom, and startles Faraday enough to make him pause. "I've been lying still for days," he says finally, wanting to combat the awkward silence that's descended on the room. "I should be able to move more now." 

"You were shot five times!" Vasquez exclaims incredulously. "And then you were blown up. You should be dead and in pieces, and it's only by some miracle that you are not. If I were you, I would not complain about being bedridden for the foreseeable future, not given the fact that you're lucky to even have one." 

A little thrown by Vasquez's ferocity, Faraday nevertheless sets his chin stubbornly at this statement. "Yes, you damn well would be complaining," he declares, following this up with a nod at the man's left shoulder. "Don't think I haven't heard you bitch and moan about being told not to use that busted arm of yours too much, you lying jackass." 

Vasquez shrugs the limb in question. "This is a far cry from what happened to you, guero. You need to listen to me, listen to the doctor, and let yourself heal. Eventually you'll be back to gambling and drinking and fighting just like you enjoy so much." 

"I better be," Faraday says darkly. He doesn't want to admit it, but part of what's got him so worked up is the fear he can't quite shake that he might not bounce back from this as well as he'd like. Vasquez's reassurance is oddly compelling, however, even if Faraday will never tell him that.

Instead, he shifts as much as his stitching will allow, beckoning Vasquez to him with one hand. "C'mere for a sec, would you?"

Looking concerned, Vasquez does as asked, crossing the room easily, and leaning down so he's within reach. "What is it? Do you need something?" 

"Yeah," Faraday says, reaching up with his less injured arm to drag Vasquez down by his shirtfront. "A distraction." 

It's only Vasquez's quick reflexes that save both of them from disaster. He plants his hands on the mattress as Faraday yanks him down, successfully avoiding a painful landing that would've done Faraday no favours, but grumbling the whole time. 

"This is a bad idea," he says, even though he leans eagerly into the kiss, going so far as to bite at Faraday's bottom lip in just the way he likes. "You are far too injured for this kind of activity." 

"The hell I am," Faraday shoots back, kissing him again. "I am absolutely - son of a bitch!" 

Wanting to get his hands in Vasquez's hair, Faraday twists too much and instantly regrets it. Fire lances all along his side as at least two healing bullet holes get viciously jolted, resulting in his pained yelp. 

"Fuck, you were right," Faraday pants as he clutches his side with one hand. "That was not a good idea. Shove off," he adds when Vasquez's hands stretch out like he just can't help himself, the clingy bastard. "No touching!" 

"You started it," Vasquez protests, scowling darkly. "Let me see what you've done to yourself, idiota!" 

"No," Faraday says as he sinks back into his pillows with a pained hiss. He knows he's being a petulant asshole, but he can't bring himself to stop. He's weak, tired, and in pain, none of which is his biggest problem. "I'm bored." 

If anything, Vasquez's scowl gets heavier. "And you want to use me to fix this?" 

Faraday shrugs as best as he's able. "You're here, ain't you?" 

"Maybe," Vasquez replies cryptically, "but right now you are making it very hard to remember why." 

He's pissed, Faraday realizes belatedly, probably because it's just been implied he's only useful for certain things. Having been about to try pushing himself up again, Faraday instead sags back down sheepishly. "Sorry," he says awkwardly. "Didn't mean to be rude."

Vasquez continues giving him an unimpressed glare for several seconds, but eventually relents. Heaving out a sigh, he sits down on the mattress next to Faraday, careful not to touch. "You are going to get better," he says firmly, "all of you are, and when you do we will leave to find other, interesting things to do."

"Though, hopefully not quite as interesting as Rose Creek," he adds thoughtfully. "Chances are good you would not survive another such encounter. Either it would kill you outright, or somebody else would after dealing with you for too long." 

Faraday suspects he should be offended by that, but given the way he'd previously put his foot in his mouth, he decides not to be. "You wouldn't let that happen," he decides, and this time doesn't protest when Vasquez trails an errant hand through his hair. 

*****

Amazingly, Faraday does manage to recover. He may not be quite as fit as he once was, what with the amount of wear and tear there is on him now, but he can keep up with the others just as well as always, and leaves with them when they depart Rose Creek together. 

Travelling as part of a permanent crew takes some getting used to, but not as much as he would have thought. He likes these lunatics, is the thing, and they seem to like him to varying degrees. It's not a perfect set up, but on the whole he can't complain, especially not on nights like tonight. 

They're stopped in a tiny mining town, having just finished up a job involving a gang of lowlifes who'd been looting small town banks. The quartet of thieves are cooling their heels behind bars, and Faraday has a full belly, a decent buzz, and Vasquez pressing him into a dark corner where no one else can see them. All told, he doesn't have much to complain about. 

Except. 

“Not here,” he says, exerting considerable willpower and using it to push Vasquez back, albeit not very far. “There’s rooms upstairs. Let’s grab one.” 

Vasquez pulls back, surprise evident in his features. “You saying you want to share?” He asks, something funny in his voice, something Faraday can't put a name on. 

“Nah,” Faraday says because they've never shared a room before, and he doesn't know why they'd start now. “I just figure a bed beats out a wall any day of the week.” 

“Ah. I see,” Vasquez says, for some reason pulling back. “So more of the same then. We continue on as we have been.” 

Confused, Faraday reaches for him, and for once fails to connect. His face unreadable, Vasquez takes several steps back, making it so Faraday can't touch him.

Faraday blinks. “The fuck’s the matter with you?” He asks. 

“Many things,” Vasquez says cryptically. “They are not your fault, I suppose, not really, but they make this difficult.” 

“Vas, what are you talking about?” Faraday demands. He doesn't know what’s just derailed his otherwise enjoyable evening, but he doesn't like it. “C’mere, would you?” 

“No,” Vasquez says quietly. “I don't want more of the same.” Then he turns on one heel, retreating back into the safety of the saloon as if he can already tell Faraday won't follow him.

And Faraday doesn't. Instead, he remains where he is; confused, annoyed, and concerned all at once. 

“What the hell?” 

***** 

They avoid each other after that, with Vasquez remaining stiff and aloof, keeping himself out of Faraday’s range whenever they're forced into close proximity with one another. It's getting old fast, setting Faraday’s teeth on edge, and making him want to grab Vasquez and shake him until he admits what's bothering him - what Faraday’s done wrong - but then it gets surpassed by a bigger problem. 

Vasquez gets sick. It starts off as a head cold developed during a job done at more northern temperatures, but it doesn't go away once they're back in a warmer climate. Instead, it gets worse, and turns into a full blown fever. 

"We need to find shelter," Horne says on the day Vasquez reaches a point where he won't move anymore. The old tracker nods at where Vasquez is curled up near the campfire they've just used for an early supper, huddled in a blanket and sitting as close as he can without setting himself alight. "He needs to be out of the elements, somewhere he can rest until he's better." 

"I know," Sam says from where he, Horne, Faraday and Billy are clustered together like a bunch of fussy old women as they watch Vasquez try to get some rest. "That's why I sent Red and Goodnight off ahead. Hopefully they find something we can use." 

Concerned but trying not to show it, Faraday edges away from the group and over to Vasquez. "Hey, muchacho," he says softly as he sits down next to him, hoping his presence won't be automatically dismissed as it generally has been of late. "How're you holding up?"

In answer, Vasquez coughs harshly and wraps his blanket even more tightly around himself. For a man so dangerous, he's doing a remarkable job of looking pitiful. "Everything aches," he says miserably, "and I can't get comfortable." 

Faraday's gut lurches unpleasantly at how rough Vasquez's voice is. "Red and Goodnight'll be back anytime now, and I'm sure they'll find us a better place to hole up."

"I don't think I can move," Vasquez replies. Another coughing fit hits, and this time when it passes he sways to the side, leaning listlessly with his head on Faraday's shoulder - the first time they've touched in over a week. "Don't feel well."

"We've noticed," Faraday grumbles, trying to cover up his worry with an annoyed facade. He pushes Vasquez back into a sitting position, doing his best to pretend like everything is normal. "Me, though, I figure you're faking it to get out of work."

Where normally he'd rise to the bait at a crack like that, Vasquez barely seems to hear him. He whines as he's forced to sit upright, and hunches back down immediately after Faraday removes his hands.

Alarmed, Faraday's about to call out to the others, when the sound of hoof beats occurs, and Red and Goodnight come into view. "Christ," he mutters, standing up as the newcomers approach. "Tell me you two found something."

"We did," Goodnight says, and beside him Red nods. "There's an abandoned cabin about an hour's ride ahead. It's not much, most of us will still be sleeping outdoors, but it's in decent shape with a bed and everything. Should be enough to let him get his head down under an actual roof." 

"You hear that, Vas?" Faraday asks, turning back to the outlaw. "How's a bed sound right about now?" 

Vasquez gives him a tired smile, but otherwise doesn't respond. That alone would normally be cause for alarm, but his eyes start slipping shut again, making Faraday's insides clench. 

"We need to get moving," he says seriously. "Otherwise he's not going to be able to ride, and he's going to have to wait this out right here." 

By some miracle Vasquez manages to get up on his horse and stay there for the duration of the trip. It's not a smooth ride by any means, both Red and Faraday wind up flanking him in case he slides fully into unconsciousness, and Horne's there to grab him as soon as they stop outside the cabin. 

"Easy does it," the old man says kindly as he slings Vasquez's arm around his shoulders to help steady him. "Let's get you inside now. Everyone else will take care of the horses and whatever other matters need seeing to." 

Vasquez mumbles something too low to be heard, and lets Horne basically drag him towards the cabin. The door closes behind them as they enter, and Faraday sets to busying himself with tending to both Jack and Vasquez's own mount. 

By the time he's done and the rest of the camp is mostly set up, Horne is emerging from the cabin looking concerned. "He's asleep," he says, effectively cutting the whole crew off before they can ask. "I managed to get a little water in him, and there's a fire going in the grate for warmth, but I'm worried." 

"Pretty sure that makes six of us," Goodnight says somberly from where he's parked by the fire pit, getting another one going. "He looks like hell and he's got barely any appetite. Since this is Vasquez we're talking about here, I'm hard pressed to come up with a more obvious clue that he's taken poorly." 

Murmurs of assent pass through the group, and Faraday's hit with a sudden inability to sit still. Rising up from the spot he's been sitting in, he makes to head for the cabin, trying not to see the knowing glances now gracing the faces of most of his companions. 

"Someone should stay up with him," he mutters in the face of raised eyebrows and unsurprised stares. "The only way to know he's not taking a turn for the worse is to keep watch." 

"True enough," Goodnight says, apparently having decided to act as spokesperson this evening. "I'm going to put a broth together now that we're settled in. I'll bring some in once it’s ready, and you can see if you can get any of it into him." 

Nodding his head in agreement, Faraday ducks inside the cabin, closing the door softly behind him so as to not disturb its occupant. 

There's not much to the place, what with it being one room only, and there's evidence of general wear and tear that suggests it's been abandoned for a while. Its previous owners must have taken most of their belongings with them as the few visible items seem to belong to either Vasquez or Horne, but there's a stove with a fire burning merrily in its depths and a sturdy enough looking bed with a real mattress.

The cabin also contains one lone chair that looks like it's seen better days. Faraday's initially hesitant to sit in it, but it's either that or the floor, which isn't an idea he much cares for. Dropping carefully into said chair, Faraday takes a moment to assure himself it's going to hold him, and then risks glancing over at Vasquez. 

Like Horne had said, he's basically out cold, but what the older man had failed to mention is the unnatural stillness to him. At first glance he looks more like a corpse than a living person, and Faraday unthinkingly rests a hand on his forehead, wincing at how warm and sweaty the skin is. 

"Damnit, Vas," he murmurs, trailing his hand down and resting it on the man's chest instead.  

That's a little better. The frightening stillness of Vasquez lying pale and silent is easier to combat when he's close enough to feel the heat radiating off the other man, or the way his chest moves under Faraday's palm as he breathes slowly in and out. It's not ideal, but it's far closer than before.  

Sighing, Faraday pulls his hand away to let it drop into his lap. Leaning back in his chair, he shifts to try and get comfortable, fully intending to settle in for the long haul. Vasquez had stayed with him throughout his own convalescence, it seems only fair that he return the favour. 

“You're going to pull through this,” he says firmly, “and after you do, you and I are going to have a little chat about what’s been bothering you lately.” 

Unsurprisingly, Vasquez says nothing, so Faraday leans back to wait. 

***** 

Vasquez continues his battle with the fever for another two days, at which point everyone breathes a sigh of relief when he finally takes a turn for the better. Horne shoos everybody else out so he can take a closer look, but soon comes back with the good news. 

Faraday will deny to his dying day that he goes a little weak in the knees when he hears the announcement. Luckily, the fact that he's already sitting down means he's able to hide it. He makes the same pleased comments that the others do, and no one is the wiser. 

Or so he thinks. Once everyone's moved off to return to the tasks they'd abandoned upon Horne's emergence from the cabin, the old tracker takes a seat next to Faraday, his expression unreadable. "You can go back in if you like," he says after several moments pass in silence. "He's asleep for real this time, but I don't imagine he'd mind you being there." 

Faraday shifts uncomfortably, unable to say he agrees with Horne. "He needs to rest." he says flatly. "If there's a chance he's finally gonna get some decent sleep, I should leave him alone." 

Horne gives him a long look. "Vasquez," he says flatly, "doesn't like being alone. I figured you of all people would know that by now." He adds knowingly. 

Squirming even more, Faraday refuses to rise to that bait. "You really think I won't be bothering him?" He asks instead. He knows he's been parked by Vasquez's bedside for days now, but that was when they didn't know what outcome they were facing. Now that he knows everything will be fine, he feels that sense of awkwardness he was always expecting to turn back up eventually. 

If he's expecting any sympathy from Horne, however, he's going to be waiting a hell of a long time. Jack gives him an unimpressed look and jerks his head pointedly towards the cabin entrance. "Go sit with him, Faraday." 

His tone is no nonsense, suggesting that if Faraday argues with him he's going to be in for a world of hurt. Not wanting to get on the wrong end of Horne's temper, or worse, his ax, Faraday nods. Once. "Okay, I'm going." 

Horne smiles, his expression clearing instantly. "I knew you'd do the right thing," he says, thumping Faraday on the back with one heavy hand. "Try not to wake him, but see if you can't get some water into him if he does." 

Faraday nods distractedly as he stands to head for the cabin. He thinks Horne might say something further, but if that's true he can't make it out; too busy concentrating on other things. 

Vasquez is right where he should be, stretched out under the blankets covering the bed. What's not where it's supposed to be is the chair Faraday's been occupying throughout his illness. He glances around the single room, confused when he doesn't see it anywhere. 

The only possible explanation is that Horne has moved it somewhere, but why he'd do that, Faraday can't even begin to fathom. And, more importantly, he now has to figure out what he wants to do about it. The cabin is sparsely furnished to say the least. Without the chair, Faraday's only options are to either sit on the floor or join Vasquez in the bed. 

He considers the first idea for a bit, but he knows it won't work. The damage done to his right leg in Rose Creek means he can only handle sitting in awkward positions for so long these days, and any amount of time spent splayed out on the floor is bound to do a number on him. As such, the bed is the only choice.

Vasquez shifts minutely when Faraday sits down beside him, letting out a confused sounding noise as the bed jostles under their combined weight.  

Faraday freezes, holding himself completely still because the last thing he wants to do is wake the other man up when he's finally getting some real sleep for the first time in days. He doesn't move for what feels like hours - though in reality is probably only a minute at most - his entire body tensing in an effort not to make things worse. 

Keeping still seems to work because Vasquez quiets as the seconds tick by. He does shift around a little, somehow winding up with his head pressed against Faraday's thigh, practically in his lap, but rather than shove him away, he leans into the contact. Making a sound that Faraday almost wants to qualify as pleased, he stops moving and drifts back into something like real sleep. 

Faraday watches him for several long moments, not daring to move. When the seconds continue to tick past with Vasquez remaining exactly where he is, Faraday tentatively brings his hand back up, trailing his fingers through dark curls that have turned into a riotous mess after so long in bed. 

"Don't you do this again," he says softly. He knows Vasquez can't hear him, but the words had needed to come out. Adjusting his position into something he hopes will be more comfortable for an extended period of time, he waits to see if Vasquez will react before resuming his stroking. "I'm the one who's supposed to get into the big messes, not you." 

Vasquez remains silent, and Faraday chooses to take this as agreement. 

***** 

After drifting off into a nap, Faraday wakes some time later to discover he's migrated a bit in his sleep, and nor is he the only one. Where he'd previously been sitting propped up against the headboard, he's slid downwards so that he's now lying prone on the mattress. Meanwhile, Vasquez is now sprawled across his chest, somehow managing to have gone so far as to drag one of Faraday's arms around his shoulders with no one being the wiser. 

"Huh," Faraday says as he comes to, feeling faintly groggy. Without thinking, he presses his free hand to Vasquez's forehead, relieved when the touch isn't nearly as warm as it has been over the course of the last few days. Vasquez's skin likewise remains a little clammy to the touch, but it's nothing in comparison to what it has been. 

Pleased, Faraday tightens the hold he's been unconsciously maintaining, and dips his head down to brush a kiss into Vasquez's hair. "Looks like you really are on the mend, you damned nuisance." 

"Que?" Days of disuse have left Vasquez's voice rough and scratchy, but when Faraday jerks around to meet his gaze, he finds the other man staring back at him, seemingly able to focus for the first time in who knows how long. 

"Hey there," Faraday says, wishing he could come up with a better opening line. "You back with us, muchacho?" Are you back with me?, he wants to ask, but stops himself at the last second. There's no need to be making things awkward when Vasquez has just woken up, though he supposes their current position is probably enough for that all on its own. 

"I don't - maybe?" Vasquez says, confusion evident in his tone. He blinks a few times, raising his head a fraction up off of Faraday's chest, as if he's trying to figure out where he is. "What happened?" 

"You picked up a hell of a bug from somewhere," Faraday explains. "Horne figures that cold you were fighting up north decided it really wanted to haunt you. You've been laid up for days, and for a while there we weren't sure which way it would turn." 

Unable to help himself, he once again flattens his hand over Vasquez's forehead, reassuring himself that he didn't imagine the earlier coolness. He rests it there for a few brief moments, and then hooks his fingers under the man's chin, tilting his head up to get a better look at his face. As he'd been hoping, Vasquez's eyes are clear, no longer glassy like they have been during the few times he's been awake of late. "Welcome back to the land of the living." 

Vasquez squirms, looking unsure. "I'm not so sure I feel like I'm living," he says slowly. "Or at least that I'm not dreaming. How long have you been here?" 

"Off and on since you got sick," Faraday replies. "More on than off if I'm being honest. I figured it was only fair after all that time you spent sitting up with me in Rose Creek." 

"Fair, I see." Vasquez makes a face Faraday can't parse out, his expression unreadable. "Gracias, you didn't have to do that."

Still caught up in the act of reassuring himself that the fever has well and truly broken, it takes Vasquez's words a few moments to register. When they do, Faraday pulls his hand back with a frown, feeling suddenly wrong-footed.  

"It wasn't any trouble," he says honestly. Admitting he'd been worried goes against his nature, but the words are on the tip of his tongue when whatever spell they're under is broken by Vasquez rolling over and presenting his back to him. "Vas?" He asks, concerned. "You alright?"

"Sí," is the muffled reply. "Just tired is all. I think I need to sleep more."

"If you're sure," Faraday says dubiously. He thinks about offering to stay, or maybe even flat out asking if he can, but Vasquez doesn't seem to be in a mood for company, so it looks as if they're back where they'd been before he'd gotten sick. Sighing, Faraday disentangles himself from the bedding instead, and stands.

"Feel free to holler if you need anything. Or want anything," he adds before he can stop himself. Stooping down, he pats Vasquez's shoulder briefly before turning to leave. "We're not heading out until you're back on your feet, and everyone's sticking close by."

Vasquez says nothing to this. Faraday hopes that's because he's fallen back to sleep, but he's not certain. Regardless, he exits the room without another word, closing the door behind him with a soft click and then going in search of the others to break the good news. 

***** 

Once Vasquez is back on his feet after the fever things start seem to reach a stalemate. Despite the fact that he's as around as much as ever, his demeanour remains distant somehow, and he stops even trying to touch Faraday the way he used to, as if he's deliberately holding himself back. 

Finally realizing how used to he'd got having the other man always within reaching distance, Faraday finds this absence off putting. Yes, Vasquez is technically still around, but everything is different now. Different and wrong. 

"You sure you're alright?" He asks one evening about a week or so after Vasquez had beat the fever back. The whole crew of them are staying in a small town that reminds Faraday of Rose Creek for the night, and he and Vasquez are squirreled away on the upper deck of the saloon, quietly sharing a smoke. It's the first time they've been alone together, not counting while Vasquez was sick, since the night Vasquez had pushed him away.

"Hmm?" Vasquez takes a long drag of the cigarette, one of Faraday's, before handing it back over. "What was that?" 

Faraday accepts the cigarette, but doesn't bother bringing it to his lips, too preoccupied with the thoughts currently pervading his head. "I asked if you were alright," he says, refusing to meet Vasquez's gaze. "You've been acting funny since you got sick, I just want to make sure you're not still feeling any effects is all." 

Vasquez's stare rests heavy on the side of his face, but Faraday still won't turn around. He's not positive he can control his expression at the moment, and he doesn't want Vasquez reading something into it he shouldn't.  

Finally, Vasquez speaks, but the words that come out of his mouth aren't anything helpful. "I don't know what you're talking about," he says shortly. "I'm fine." 

He's being evasive, Faraday can tell. They've spent enough time together both on the road and off for him to know what that looks like. The problem is, he's afraid of what will happen if he pushes. Vasquez has always had a temper lurking below his affable surface, and prying into his personal business strikes Faraday as a good way to stoke that fire. 

On the other hand, Faraday's never much played it safe in life, and he wants to know what's going on. In fact, he feels he deserves as much. "You've been quiet," he says then, finally turning around only to learn Vasquez is now no longer facing him, "which ain't normal for you. I was thinking maybe you were still a little worn down from being sick." That's a lie, of course, but he figures if he maybe plays it safe for now, he’ll be more likely to get the truth out of the stubborn asshole standing next to him. 

"Haven't been sick for days, guero," Vasquez replies gruffly. "You are imagining things." 

"Maybe so," Faraday agrees, although he knows he isn't. Something's going on with Vasquez, no matter what he says. Even worse, since whatever it is has nothing to do with his illness, that means there's a whole host of other options it could be, none of which Faraday has any idea how to handle. "You going to yell at me for worrying though?" 

"I - no," Vasquez says, or stutters rather. It's clear he's as surprised to hear Faraday express such a sentiment as Faraday himself is. "That would be ... unfair."

"Mmm." Suddenly in need of a distraction, Faraday remembers that half-smoked cigarette still resting between two of his fingers. He brings it to his lips and inhales deeply, letting smoke fill his lungs before exhaling. 

"I'm glad you're better," he now says apropos of nothing. "I was worried when you were sick. Didn't like seeing you that way at all." 

"It was just a fever," Vasquez says weakly, and a creaking sound echoes sharply into the night as he curls his hands tightly over the banister. "We've both dealt with much worse." 

"Wasn't the same," Faraday grunts, unable to articulate what watching Vasquez lying sick and sweating on that pallet had been like for him. It’d been even worse than when they were barely speaking to each other, at least then he knew Vasquez was healthy. He takes another drag from the cigarette even though it's not his turn. "Wasn't the same." 

"Ain't been the same since before you got sick either," he adds, wondering what the hell has gotten into him that's apparently set all his feelings free. "You are acting funny," he nevertheless soldiers on, "whether it's got anything to do with having been sick or not." 

Vasquez won't look at him now, and Faraday polishes off the already mostly-smoked cigarette as a way of buying himself some time, letting it fall to the floor so he can grind the faintly burning ember out beneath his boot. 

"I was worried, and not just because of the fever," he says now because it feels like Vasquez doesn't believe him. "Still am, really. Something's bothering you, whether you'll admit it or not, and I want to help." 

"Why?" Vasquez asks sharply, raggedly, like he doesn't understand the words coming out of Faraday's mouth. "You don't care about what I want."

"The hell's that supposed to mean?" Faraday demands. He has a sudden urge to spin Vasquez around and force the man to look him in the eye, but he's not sure doing so won't get him shot. Or at least heavily punched. "Where'd you get a stupid idea like that?" 

Still not looking at him, Vasquez hunches forward over the railing, his grip on the wood in his hands tightening noticeably despite the poor light. "It's not stupid," he grunts. "It's true." 

"It most certainly is not," Faraday disagrees vehemently. Part of him wishes he'd never started this conversation because he feels like he's entirely lost control of it. The rest of him, however, thinks they probably should have had it a lot sooner if this is where Vasquez's head is at. "The fuck makes you think I don't care about you?" 

That does make Vasquez turn around, but his expression is so incredulous Faraday wishes he hadn't. It makes him want to take an instinctive step back. 

"Because you don't," Vasquez says simply. "Not seriously anyway. We're friends, sí, and you think I'm a decent fuck, but don't act like you want anything more than that. Not when I know different." 

His piece said, Vasquez makes to move away, and Faraday, frankly in a state of shock, almost lets him. It's only when the voice in the back of his brain, the one shouting that if he lets Vasquez leave now he'll regret it, registers that Faraday lashes out one handed to grab the other man by the wrist. 

"Hold up, muchacho," he says hurriedly, "you're not going anywhere on a note like that. Get back here."

"Faraday, let go," Vasquez snaps. Struggling to tug his arm free, he shoves at Faraday with his free hand, and the whole mess devolves into a wrestling match as they each try and one-up the other. 

Possibly because he's got righteous indignation on his side, Faraday wins. Securing the upper edge, he backs Vasquez up until he hits the railing he'd previously been leaning against, pinning him down with a hand on either side of him.  

"You," Faraday says, panting heavily due to the strain, "are not going anywhere until we talk this out. A fact I suggest you get through that thick head of yours right fucking now." 

Vasquez hisses at him, and tries to bring his arms up to shove him away. Faraday's having none of it, however, and responds in kind by leaning in even further, effectively trapping Vasquez's hands down by his sides. 

"Talk to me, Vas," he insists, or maybe even pleads. "Tell me what's going on." 

Apparently not ready to give up yet, Vasquez keeps squirming. "Someone will see," he says as he twists in Faraday's grasp, clearly seeking a weakness he can exploit. "We won't be alone out here forever." 

"So?" Faraday asks, more concerned with what will happen if he lets Vasquez walk away right now than he is with being caught. "At the moment, I don't rightly give a damn. Got more important things to worry about if you follow me." 

"I don't follow you, not at all," Vasquez snaps. "You barely even tolerate touching me unless we're fucking. Why would I think a man like that seriously cares for me?" 

"Oh what is that supposed to mean?" Faraday asks, now thoroughly exasperated as well as thoroughly confused. "I touch you more than I do anybody else, probably more than I ever have another person." 

Vasquez startles, noticeably so, but can't seem to come up with a reply. Instead he just stares at Faraday as if he's a puzzle he's having difficulty figuring out.

Which, Faraday supposes, is fair enough since he feels like he's in a similar situation. Vasquez has always been his own particular brand of complicated, but this is off putting even for him.

"You push me away," Vasquez says finally, a tired, almost defeated note sounding in his voice. "You will let me stay for a little while, but never for good. It is exhausting, and yet I can't stop myself from staying for whatever you do offer. I don't want to live like that any longer.” 

Faraday has no idea what he's talking about, and he says as much. "When have I ever done that?" He asks when Vasquez just continues to eye him levelly. "Do you honestly think I'd still be here if I wasn't serious about this - whatever this is?" 

"Given that you can't even put a name to it, sí, I do." Vasquez takes a couple shuffling steps to the side, and then turns so that he can hunch over the railing while facing away from Faraday. "This doesn't mean to you what it does to me, and pretending otherwise is becoming too difficult."

Frustrated, Faraday moves to stand next to him, but is careful not to touch, not even letting their shoulders brush. "I think maybe you need to tell me what it means to you then, so we can figure out if we're on the same page." 

Vasquez shifts until his gaze rests heavy on the side of Faraday's face. "You push me away," he says again. "I touch, you let it last for so long, and then pull back. It happens every time." 

It occurs to Faraday that, rather than referring to some form of undefinable emotional lapse like he'd first thought, Vasquez might be talking about an issue a lot more physical. Suiting action to thought, he cautiously reaches out and curls a hand over one of Vasquez's, not really caring who could wander out and see.  

"Is this what you're getting at?" He asks tentatively. "Is this what you're trying to say you want?"

"Not if you have to force yourself to do it." Vasquez grunts, and tries to yank his hand away, making an additional annoyed noise when Faraday won't break his hold. "Let go." 

"Only if you tell me that's what you want," Faraday replies. Shifting so that they're once again face to face, he stares at Vasquez over their joined hands. "Tell the truth and shame the devil, Vas. What're you after here?" 

Vasquez's jaw works like he'd much prefer to lash out than answer, but Faraday continues to refuse to release his grip, and finally he heaves out a massive sigh. "Something real," he says curtly. "That's all." 

"This is real," Faraday says, the words spilling from his lips before he has a chance to stop and think about if he wants to let them out or not. "You think I'd still be here if it wasn't?" 

Vasquez shrugs, the tendons in his wrist shifting beneath Faraday's palm. "We spend most of our days on the trail with a group where no one else would give you what I do. I'm convenient." 

He sneers this last word like he wants to spit it right off his tongue, and Faraday knows he should take heed of the seriousness of the situation, but he can't help but laugh. 

"Nothing about you is convenient," he says, and when Vasquez tenses like he's getting ready to swing, he rushes to add, "I wouldn't be here right now if it were. If you were nothing but an occasionally willing body, don't you reckon I'd've had enough of this for one night and left you to find somebody else?"

"I had to almost die to wake up in a bed with you," Vasquez hisses, clearly not even remotely placated. "What does that say?" 

"It says I didn't know that was an option any other time, and I took advantage when you weren't in a state to stop me," Faraday replies. "If you want to call me a bad man, do it for that, not for the rest of this stuff." 

"But ..." it's obvious that Vasquez is thrown by this, that the conversation is unfolding in a way he hasn't expected, and now he's not sure what to do about it. "But you always leave, and when I touch you let it go for so long and then you are shrugging me off. Always. Every time." 

Faraday sighs. "I'm not the most tactile person in the world, Vas, and I can't read your damned mind. If you'd just told me it was an issue, I'd've tried to be better about it." 

If he was expecting this to appease Vasquez, he is sorely mistaken. Instead, the other man returns to trying to yank himself out of Faraday's grasp, every line in his body going tight with ire. "Now what's your problem?" Faraday asks, wondering if either of them is going to get any rest tonight. 

"What? You say something like that, and you can't tell why I might take issue with it?" Vasquez's heated glare is visible even in the poor lighting. "I don't want you to force yourself to give me what you think I'm after. That's just taints everything."

"For hell's sake," Faraday groans, unable to believe this is happening. "Trust me to fall for the one man on earth more stubborn and pigheaded than I am. C'mere, you contrary son of a bitch." 

Because he is indeed a contrary son of a bitch, Vasquez refuses to come easily. He struggles to free himself from Faraday's hold, and when that doesn't work lets out a series of heavy sighs that indicate he's suffering mightily in the face of the indignities Faraday's currently foisting upon his person. It might be funny if it weren't also so damn exasperating. 

"Guero, you are getting on my last nerve," he bites out, as if on the off chance Faraday might have somehow missed this. "Leave me alone." 

"No," Faraday says curtly, and then he kisses him, refusing to back down until Vasquez stops fighting him and gives in to what they both know he wants. 

"You're so difficult," Faraday says in between kisses. "So fucking stubborn," he adds as he mouths his way along Vasquez's jaw. "If you'd just told me you were feeling hard done by, we'd be in bed by now, not standing out here in the dark hollering at each other." 

"I don't want to be in bed with you right now," Vasquez snaps, muscles that had started to relax under Faraday's ministrations tensing right back up again. "Sex isn't going to fix this." 

"Who said anything about sex?" Faraday asks, unable to hold back a snicker when Vasquez shoots him an irritated stare. He quickly gets himself under control, however. "I'm serious, you fucking menace. If you want to go lie down like some boring old married couple then we can do that, just don't be surprised when I start beating you with a pillow because your damned snoring is keeping me awake." 

"I don't snore," Vasquez says quickly, but Faraday can tell it's a rote protest and he's more thrown by this turn of events than he'd care to let on. 

Knowing better than to push him, Faraday lets it go. "You do," he replies, choosing to address the question at face value. "I might not have ever shared a bed with you, but I've shared a campsite. The only one worse than you is Horne." 

"Now come on," he adds, wanting to move before Vasquez has too much time to think about this. He drops his hands from where they've migrated up to Vasquez's shoulders down to his wrists so he can tug him along. "Your room is closer, and I figure I can hear those pillows calling our names." 

"I don't hear anything," Vasquez informs him, again because he's a contrary bastard who lives to be difficult. "Also, pillows don't talk." 

"Good," Faraday shoots back. "I've got enough trouble dealing with mouthy Mexicans who get angry with me over stupid shit. Don't think I should have to deal with chatty bedding on top of all that." 

Vasquez goes quiet now, his expression turning unreadable as they make their way inside and then up the stairs to where their rooms are. It's only once they're safely behind a closed door that he speaks again.

"It's not stupid shit," he says seriously, the look on his face all but daring Faraday to disagree. 

For once, however, Faraday doesn't rise to the bait. "No, it isn't," he agrees, grinning fondly when Vasquez looks surprised, "but it also didn't have to get so complicated. I know I'm hardly the world's greatest listener, but just talk to me next time, alright?" 

"I didn't know I could," Vasquez admits, and Faraday doesn't think he's imagining the faint blush colouring his cheeks. "I thought, well. You know what I thought." 

He looks away, clearly embarrassed, but Faraday's having none of this, not after a night like tonight. Cupping his hand around Vasquez's jaw, he gently turns the man to face him.  

"I know what you thought," he agrees, "and I'm telling you you don't have to anymore." 

Brushing a quick kiss to Vasquez's mouth, Faraday quickly pulls back to begin undressing. As much as he might have been hoping for a tumble or two earlier in the evening, he really doesn't think that's a good idea at this point. Maybe tomorrow if they're still in town, but tonight requires a different track. 

Vasquez watches silently as he shrugs out of his vest and shirt, starting to follow suit when Faraday moves on to the rest of his clothes. "You're really going to just stay?" He asks as Faraday, now stripped down to nothing but his underclothes, makes for the bed. 

"Certainly seems that way, doesn't it?" Not waiting to ask for permission, Faraday draws the covers back and slides beneath them. The bed isn't the most comfortable he's ever slept in, but it beats the hard ground no question, and becomes all the more welcoming when Vasquez comes to sit on the other side. 

"Not a lot of space," Vasquez muses quietly, to which Faraday just shrugs. 

"There's more than we're going to need," he promises. Patting the spot next to him firmly, he motions for Vasquez to join him. "Come on." 

Vasquez remains hesitant, his movements stiff and unsure as he pushes the covers back far enough to let him crawl underneath them, and even with the limited space, he tries to keep himself holed up to the side, not touching anything but the mattress. 

Biting back a sigh, Faraday stretches out an arm to reel him in. "You're the one who kicked up all the fuss," he says, getting his hand over Vasquez's shoulder and pulling until the other man gives in and starts to move. "Come. Here." 

"I didn't kick up a fuss," Vasquez grumbles, even as he lets himself be shoved into place so that he's curled over Faraday with his head resting on his chest. "I was keeping quiet and not saying anything. You are the one who would not leave well enough alone." 

"Yeah because despite what everyone seems to believe, I'm not a complete idiot," Faraday shoots back. He wraps a hand around Vasquez to hold him in place, somehow not surprised that they're still getting into an argument while lying in such an intimate position. "I could tell you were upset about something, and, funny fucking thing, I know, I don't particularly like it when that happens." 

Vasquez stiffens, but only for a moment. The surprise at these words - and Faraday can tell it is surprise - passes quickly enough, and seems to take with it most of the stress that had already been present. "I didn't realize you felt that way."

"Yep, figured that part out too," Faraday says. A little unsure of what is and isn't allowed, he tentatively works his fingers up until they can tangle in Vasquez's hair. He scratches gently at the man's scalp, somewhat amused when this earns him a pleased hum, and Vasquez nudges his head against Faraday's hand in a clear indication that he should continue. "Christ, sometimes I think you're starved for attention."

"Well, yes," Vasquez says, as if this is a perfectly normal thing to agree to. "But it's not nearly so bad now that I'm not on the run by myself anymore. Why do you think I like being touched so much? There was no one around to do it when I was hiding." 

Faraday pauses as those words take some time to repeat themselves in his head. 

Oh.

Oh.

Restarting his movements and keeping them steady, Faraday tries to picture what living that way must have been like. He tries to imagine going days, weeks, even months on end without physical contact, not so much as a handshake or a shoulder nudged against his. The very idea makes his stomach clench as the full weight of what Vasquez is saying kicks in. 

"Fuck, Vas." Without thinking, he stills his hand and shifts to wrap both arms around Vasquez, holding him tightly. "Damnit all. I never even thought - why didn't you tell me?" 

Rather than make a point of trying to free himself like Faraday might have done if their positions were reversed, Vasquez huffs out a sigh that's practically a purr, and relaxes into the hold. "It's not like you did anything wrong," he says reasonably. "I've no right to demand things you don't want to give." 

"Maybe," Faraday says dubiously, but his heart isn't in it. All those times he'd climbed out of bed to go back to his own room simply because he'd assumed that's where Vasquez would expect him to go, or pulled away after he felt he'd been leaning in for long enough ... He hadn't thought anything of it because that was just how he'd always been, but he also hadn't once stopped and tried to take Vasquez's desires into consideration. 

"Saying what you want's different from flat out demanding it, though," he says after thinking things through. "You don't complain when I tell you I want to go find a game of cards or keep drinking after you're done." 

"That's not the same," Vasquez says simply, although Faraday can't see how, and Vasquez himself doesn't seem inclined to tell him, choosing instead to lapse into silence as he lets Faraday continue trailing his fingers over the skin of his back.

"I guess whether it's the same or not doesn't matter in the long run," Faraday says now. "Plain and simple, from now on you should tell me when you want something." 

“And then we discuss whether or not it is reasonable?” Vasquez sounds both amused and fond by turns. “How very domestic of you, Joshua.”

“Yeah, well,” Faraday’s quite pleased they're in a dark room. He can feel his face heating, and the last thing he wants to do is give Vasquez that kind of ammunition. “Shut up, you idiot.” 

“Who, me? I'm sleeping, guero. Can't you tell?” Vasquez cackles as Faraday smacks him in the side, but rather than pull away, he tucks himself in even closer, curling around Faraday’s body with a contented hum. “Sound asleep.” 

Obviously that's a lie, but Faraday suspects it won’t be for long. He can already hear a shift in Vasquez’s breathing as it slows to something more regular. Deciding he could get used to the sound, he eases back to let sleep claim him as well.