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The Truth Shall Set You Free

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In hindsight, when the crazy old woman had popped out of the woodwork, shaken a ring bedecked stick in their faces, and said they shouldn't go any further unless they were prepared for all their truths to come out, they maybe should have listened to her. Unfortunately, what had actually happened was Sam had turned around to look at the rest of them, a certain tilt of his chin indicating he was struggling to keep from rolling his eyes, and waited for each man to nod in turn.

Safely assured that the entirety of his crew was with him and prepared to follow him after their intended quarry - a bank robber who'd done considerable damage on his way out of town - he'd returned his gaze to the woman still shaking her stick under his horse's nose. "I think we'll take our chances, Ma'am," he'd said dryly, "but thank you for the concern."

The woman had pierced him with a particularly disconcerting stare, one that lasted far longer than was comfortable, before shrugging. "If that's the path you choose, I won't stop you," she'd said cryptically, "but remember that only the largest truth will free you all."

Sam had blinked, even his best implacable expression beginning to crack under the weight of her gaze. "Thank you," he'd said a second time. "We'll, uh, keep that in mind."

The woman had nodded, and stepped back to let them pass her by. She'd let her eyes roam freely over all of their faces as they'd each squirmed around her with more speed than was perhaps polite, piercing Faraday and Vasquez, bringing up the rear of the group, with the heaviest look yet.

"Remember, the largest truth," she'd said firmly, and Faraday isn't too proud to admit he'd shuffled his horse a little closer to that of his companion, seeking solace in not being alone with her.

"What in hell's name do you think that's supposed to mean?" He'd asked, twisting around in his saddle to make sure she wasn't following them. Thankfully she appeared to have faded back into the trees instead.

"I have not the faintest idea, guero," Vasquez had grunted. "Loco old women are not my problem. Right now I am far more worried about your demon horse taking a bite out of me for being too close. Get back."

Offended on Jack's behalf, Faraday had nevertheless reigned the horse in a little, and, strange women at least temporarily forgotten, had launched into the much more important task of defending the animal from mouthy vaqueros who would impinge his honour.

*****

Aside from that little escapade, this latest job hadn't been anything to write home about. The bank robber had virtually turned himself in as soon as he'd learned who was on his tail, and had been deposited in a jail cell back in town with little fuss, while the bag of money he'd made off with had been returned to a very grateful bank manager. They'd been paid well and on the spot, and had wandered over to the town saloon in search of a little relaxation.

It was when all seven of them were sitting clustered around the nearest available table that things began to get ... strange. A serving girl had made her way over to ask if she could bring them out some supper, and Red, of all people, had spoken up first.

"Yes," he'd said, the look on his face such that it was obvious he hadn't meant to open his mouth. "Whatever you have should be fine."

For some reason his attention had made the girl blush something awful, and she'd still been making eyes at the very uncomfortable looking Comanche when she'd taken the rest of their orders and then headed back to the bar, tittering all the way.

"Looks like she saw something she liked in you, boy," Jack had grinned, slapping his much younger friend on the back with a heavy hand. "Talk to her again when she comes back, and see where it leads."

Red had scowled at him, and pointedly shaken off his hand. "We've already run into one crazy woman today. I don't want to deal with a second one. Especially not when she's eyeing me like a piece of meat."

"Alright, alright," Goody had piped up, waving a calming hand. "There's no need to be making a huge fuss. Let's just settle down and wait for supper to get here."

"That's rich coming from a man who never stops running his mouth."

The entire table had turned as one to stare at where Billy was sitting ramrod straight in his seat, his posture basically screaming to leave him alone. "I don't know why I said that," he'd said almost worriedly. "I mean, I was thinking it, of course, but then it just slipped out." His eyes widened. "So did that!"

That had sent the tension around the table turning up a few notches, and Sam had raised his hands in a placating gesture as several concerned voices began speaking. "Okay, there's no need to be getting alarmed just yet. Let's assess the situation and think about this rationally."

"God damnit, Sam Chisolm, it's one of the most annoying things in the world when you talk at us like we're a bunch of children." Goody'd let out a gasp and proceeded to clamp both his hands over his own mouth, apparently unable to believe the words he'd just spoken. "Er," he'd mumbled sheepishly through his fingers. "Sorry?"

Their table had virtually exploded into a cacophony of men talking over each other, with the one saving grace being how, since they were all barking so insistently, none of them could hear what the others were saying. The noise had only cut out when the serving girl had returned and banged an empty tray on the table.

"Apologies," she'd said once she had everyone's attention. "Supper's on its way, but I couldn't help but notice you boys seem to be having a little trouble over here. You didn't happen to chase that man you brought in up past the northern part of the riverbank, did you?"

His shoulders tight and his face pinched, Vasquez had lashed out with one hand to grip her wrist. "What do you know?"

Her eyes narrowed, she'd glared first at his face and then down at the hand he had wrapped around her arm, not saying anything until he'd drawn it back with a mumbled apology. "Better," she'd said icily, and Vasquez had winced, melting even further under her glower.

"Lo siento, señora," he'd muttered again.

"That means sorry, ma'am," Faraday had added helpfully from Vasquez's other side, bumping his friend causally with his shoulder before glancing at the serving girl. "Do you know what's going on?"

She'd proceeded to turn her haughty glare on him, her face softening somewhat when he gave her his best 'aw shucks' grin and thumped Vasquez lightly on the back of the head in reprimand. "I might," she'd said slowly in answer to his question. "We see this every once in a while with folks who're new in town, folks who don't know to stay out of Old Amelia's territory."

"I take it by Old Amelia, you mean that irritating crone who blocked our way for a bit before we hit the thickest part of the forest." As one, they'd all turn to stare at Sam in mute horror, with Jack looking especially scandalized, but Goody not far behind.

"Sam," the sharpshooter hissed, "that is no way to speak of a lady. Even one who may or may not have cursed us into saying whatever comes to mind."

"Not like that's any great hardship for you," Billy had muttered, then groaned in exasperation as soon as the words escaped his mouth. "For the love of God!"

"Don't you be taking the lord's name in vain," Jack had snapped, shaking an admonishing finger at him. "We don't need to be adding blasphemy on top of whatever else we've already done wrong."

The serving girl had snorted while dragging an extra chair over to their table and dumping herself down on top of it. "It ain't the man upstairs you've pissed off," she'd said flatly. "Amelia's no god. She's, well, we don't rightly know what she is, but she can do things most people can't."

Silence had settled heavily over the table. "And you just let her roam free with that?" Sam had finally asked skeptically.

Their new friend had shrugged. "There's benefits to having her around," she'd said cryptically, "but one of the admitted downsides is the way she doesn't like folks stepping into her territory. She takes it poorly, and plays her favourite trick on 'em."

"That being?"

She'd raised her head and looked him square in the eye. "Try to lie to me."

Sam blinked and opened his mouth to say something before a funny look crossed his features. "Fuck." He'd said succinctly, which was a rare enough word to come out of his mouth that everyone knew the situation was serious.

"Quite," was the serving girls reply. Glancing around the table, she'd shrugged her shoulders at the varying pissed off expressions she'd encountered. "You can't lie, and not only that, other truths, truths you want to keep hidden and never speak about, they're going to try and come out. The urge is strong. Fact of the matter is, I can't think of any I've seen resist it."

As much as they'd all wanted to scoff and tell the girl she was full of it, not a man among them had. Their brief conversation during their time inside had apparently been enough to convince them all of the veracity of her story.

Finally, Sam had leaned forward with a pinched look on his face. "How do we break it?"

"You stop fighting it," she'd replied. "Eventually a particularly big truth will come out, and that should be enough to snap things back to normal. Until then you may as well just wait it out."

"Um," Goody had said, wringing his hands a bit as he'd flagged the girl's attention. "How big a truth are we talking about here? Could you be a bit more specific?"

"'Fraid not," he'd been told. "Unlike you folks, I know better than to tick Amelia off, so I've never been on the receiving end of this bit."

Goody had slumped back in his seat with a dejected look on his face. "Well, it was worth a try."

*****

Not long after Goodnight's declaration, the serving girl had gotten tired of answering their questions and begged off to get back to work. Concerned with what they might say out in the open, Sam had decided it was best if they finish their meal and then retire to a more private local to figure out what to do, which was why they were now holed up in Goodnight and Billy's room in the boarding house, each of them stressed but trying not to show it.

“We need to find that old woman,” Goody says decisively, somehow managing to speak above the rest of him. “I’m sure with the proper application of manners and charm she’ll see the error of her ways and lift this blasted curse.”

There’s a lengthy silence.

“Goody, that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard come out of your mouth, and that is saying something,” Sam replies finally, then freezing mere moments later. “Er.”

“It’s alright, Sam.” Waving away the opening strains of an apology, Goody sighs. “We’ll chalk it up to the situation, and leave it be. Though, for the record, I’ve heard you utter some pretty foolish statements in your own time.”

Rather than look offended, Sam nods as if accepting his due.

“Okay,” he says once several moments have passed in silence. “I think it’s best if we don’t stick around here long, lest someone say something they shouldn’t in front of the wrong person. My suggestion is that we all turn in for the night, and avoid any of the locals. Tomorrow we can pick up new supplies, and then hit the road, so it’s at least just ourselves we risk talking to.”

“And you think that is not a problem?” Vasquez blurts. He’s holed up in one of the far corners of the room, his posture putting Faraday in mind of a hunted animal as his gaze roams from person to person. “Cabron, there is plenty I have no desire to say to any of you, either.”

Because it’s Sam they’re talking about, the older man gives him a slightly judgmental look. “I can understand that,” he says coolly, “but you more than anybody need to get out of this town. What if you accidentally tell someone about the bounty on your head?”

“I am not that stupid,” Vasquez says snidely, bristling in a way he normally doesn’t.

“Nobody said you were,” Sam replies. If he finds Vasquez’s behaviour strange, he doesn’t say anything. “What I’m saying is we don’t know what this spell will make come out of your mouth, or any of our mouths. We need to get out of here, and get somewhere safe.”

Vasquez makes a disgruntled noise, but voices no further protests.

“Good,” Sam says, looking relieved when everyone quiets. “Alright, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to all head to our rooms for the night, and we’re going to stay there to minimize our interactions with anyone outside of our own circle. Then tomorrow, we head out early and try and track down the woman who did this. Amelia, I think they called her.”

“You think we can convince her to undo it?” Billy asks sceptically.

“I think it can’t hurt to try,” Sam informs him. He makes a show of glancing around the loose circle they’ve formed in the room. “Any objections? Good,” he says when none are forthcoming. “Let’s turn in boys. Tomorrow’s sure to be a better day.”

Vasquez snorts from where he’s already half out of the room. “What a load of shit,” he says, and Faraday, coming behind him, hustles him down the hallway towards the room they’d previously taken as their own.

“You need to calm down,” he says firmly, once it’s just the two of them behind a closed door. “All this pissy snapping at people isn’t helping matters. What’s with you?”

“No one’s going to say anything about your bounty,” he adds gently. Giving Vasquez a quick pat to the shoulder, he tries not to take it personally when the outlaw jerks away like he’s just been burned. “We’ll keep you safe.”

“It’s not the bounty I’m worried about,” Vasquez snaps. “I know you will all be careful where that is concerned. I trust that you wouldn’t turn me in or put me in danger. That is not the problem.”

“Then what is?” Faraday asks, honestly curious. “You know you can tell me.”

“No,” Vasquez says flatly. “I cannot.”

Stung, Faraday considers continuing to push the conversation, but then thinks better of it. Truth be told, there’s some things he wouldn’t be comfortable with any of the boys knowing, and Vasquez in particular. Things he’s kept close to the chest for months now, lest he risk the kind of emotional damage that’d nail him worse than any bullets ever had.

“Okay,” he says instead. “You don’t have to say anything if you don’t want to. Well, unless this curse makes you, I suppose. That girl in the saloon seemed to think we’d want to start spilling our secrets.”

“Faraday,” Vasquez says tightly. “Guero, I cannot even begin to describe how much I need you to stop talking. Please, just, for once in your life, shut up.”

His temper flaring at this, Faraday squares his shoulders, prepared to snap back with as good as he gets, but freezes when he gets a good look at Vasquez’s expression. The man doesn’t look angry, he looks scared, like he’s teetering on the edge of a cliff, and the wrong word will send him toppling over. Unable to push with someone he cares about looking at him like that, Faraday backs off.

“If that’s what you want,” he says quietly. “I’ll leave you be.”

“It’s not what I want, it’s what I need,” Vasquez replies, and if it weren’t for the way Faraday feels the words twist like a knife in his gut, his expression would be hilarious. The man looks absolutely betrayed by his own vocal chords.

“Joshua, I’m sorry,” he starts to say, but now it’s Faraday who needs the quiet.

“I think,” he says quickly, “that maybe you’re right, and we should both stop talking.” At Vasquez’s raised eyebrow, he clarifies. “We’re just going to keep hurting each other and going in circles like this. I don’t want that.”

He also doesn’t want to keep speaking because he’s getting dangerously close to things that are better left unsaid. Vasquez is upset enough with him right now as it is. The last thing Faraday wants is to work him up even more.

“Let’s just try and get some sleep,” he says tiredly. “Maybe we’ll get lucky and this’ll have passed in the morning.”

“You might have that kind of luck,” Vasquez replies, “but I don’t.”

It is, Faraday thinks to himself as he turns away to begin getting ready for bed, going to be a long night.

*****

Faraday wakes the next morning to find that Vasquez is already up and dressed. He hasn’t left the room yet, but he’s sitting in one of the two chairs it’s furnished with, looking the kind of antsy he only gets when they have reason to believe there might be bounty hunters nearby.

“I’m surprised you haven’t gone off to find some breakfast yet,” he says around a yawn. Sitting up in bed, he hooks his arms over his knees, and gives Vasquez a tired look. “Usually that stomach of yours doesn’t let you wait for me.”

Vasquez scowls. “I got up to leave, and found Sam outside waiting for me,” he says, sounding put out. “He wants me to stay where no one can see me until we leave. As if I am an idiot child who will tell anyone who listens about the price on my head.”

Faraday sighs, suddenly feeling tired for reasons other than the fact that he’s just woken up. “I see your mood hasn’t improved any,” he groans. “Is it just me you’re saving this for, or is everybody gonna get to deal with you?”

“Eso no es asunto tuyo,” Vasquez snaps, his eyes widening the moment the words escape his mouth. “Espere,” he says, his expression shifting to one of tentative hope. “No puedes entenderme, ¿verdad?”

“What?” Faraday blinks, something that feels an awful lot like dread beginning to pool in the pit of his belly. “The fuck are you saying, hombre?”

“Hah!” Clapping his hands triumphantly, Vasquez rocks back in his seat, pointing a finger wildly at Faraday. “¡No puedes! No tienes idea de lo que estoy diciendo. Gracias a Dios.”

Faraday feels something twist in his gut. “Vas,” he says tentatively. “I don’t have a clue what you’re saying, and you know it.”

“Exactamente,” Vasquez replies, grinning broadly. “Ahora puedo decir lo que necesito. Es perfecto.”

“No, it ain’t perfect,” Faraday says. He’d understood the very last word, and now the twisting feeling seems more like a knife. “Knock it the hell off, would you? Talk to me like normal.”

“No,” Vasquez says flatly. “No es seguro,” he adds, as if Faraday has any idea what that means.

“Vas,” Faraday tries again, but this time he’s interrupted by a knock on the door. He’s about to tell whoever it is to kindly fuck off for greener pastures, but Vasquez takes that option out of his hands when he stands and wrenches it open.

“Buenos días,” he tells a frazzled looking Goodnight. “¿Estamos comiendo ahora?”

“What?” Goodnight asks, turning to Faraday like he might be of any help. “What’s he on about?”

“Damned if I know,” Faraday says, hating the way his voice rings out higher than normal. “He just remembered I don’t speak Spanish, and now he won’t talk at me in English.”

“Huh,” Goodnight says. Much to Faraday’s dismay he looks more intrigued than alarmed. “That might prove to be a handy trick if this thing doesn’t wear off soon. Should probably point the option out to Billy and Red too. It could be a way to let at least some of us maintain our privacy.”

Vasquez’s sole response is an agreeable noise, and Faraday feels his heart sink even further.

*****

Several days pass by without any change in their luck when it comes to finding Amelia. No matter where they search they can’t pick up any hint of her trail. It’s almost as if she’s vanished into thin air, which Faraday supposed could be another one of her talents.

Eventually, Sam decides that they can’t keep going on like this, and makes the call to move them out. They hit the trail like they normally would, only this time all seven of them are visibly fraying at the edges, each man precariously balanced thanks to the situation.

It’s not natural, being forced to always tell the truth, but it’s almost worse being forced to always hear it. Folk tell each other little white lies as much for the recipient’s benefit as their own, and without that protective barrier, it’s not good.

Vasquez’s trick with reverting back to his native tongue has been picked up by both Red and Billy, although the latter still periodically uses English, while Goody’s been splitting his time between a mix of English and French depending on how badly he wants to keep a specific detail to himself.

Unfortunately, as time wears by it becomes obvious that this kind of evasion will only work for so long. It’s getting harder and harder for people to keep things to themselves, regardless of whether or not what comes out is related to the current conversation.

Faraday’s got an itch he can’t shake, where he wants to be saying all manner of things to a certain Mexican outlaw, and it’s getting harder and harder to reign them in.

Likewise, he suspects Vasquez is in the exact same boat. He more than anyone is refusing to speak more than he has to, he won’t say a damned thing in English - leaving the rest of them to flounder with their combined meagre Spanish - and he’s taken to avoiding Faraday altogether.

It’s that last fact that Faraday finds stings the most. At this point in their friendship he’s not used to having Vasquez quiet, let alone deliberately avoiding him. Plus, thanks to the curse, there’s no use in pretending that the other man’s actions don’t hurt.

All told he thinks things can't possibly get any worse. Then he wakes up the one morning, and discovers that Vasquez has taken off during the night. He glances around at his remaining companions, all of whom look equally concerned, and sighs. "Well, shit."

*****

Several hours later finds them with a rough idea of where Vasquez has headed off to - there's a town not far off, and his trails seems to be heading right for it - but no real plans for how to con him into returning.

"Alright, maybe if we all spit out some particularly damning truths we can break the spell and then go convince Vasquez to come back." Glancing around the circle, Sam catches the eye of each man in turn. "What do you say?"

Faraday grunts. "I say I'm willing to try anything at this point because this crew is the best thing that's ever happened to me, and this stupid spell is ruinin' it."

The other five stare at him until Goodnight clears his throat roughly. "Well that's Faraday embracing the notion of honesty sure enough. Who wants to go next?"

Beside him, Red folds his arms over his chest and stares balefully down at the ground. "Maybe I don't dislike you all as much as I pretend. Or at all for that matter."

Silence descends around the circle, until Goodnight once again breaks it. "And that's two done. Does anyone else have anything they'd like to add?"

Sam squares his shoulders, and looks directly at his oldest friend. "You were right when you said I took the Rose Creek job for the wrong reasons, and I regret how close my stubbornness came to getting you all killed."

Goodnight stares at him for several heartbeats, but no one else dares say a word to that, so it's up to him for the third time. “I understood where you were coming from. I certainly didn't like it, but I understood. Likewise, I don't think I'll ever stop being ashamed of leaving you lot during the fight. I know I came back," he says when Sam, Billy, and Jack all open their mouths to say something, "but that wasn't enough in my books, and I don't think it ever will be."

Damning truth revealed, he shudders slightly before plastering a brittle smile on his face and eyeballing the two men who've yet to speak up. "Jack? Billy? Would either of you like to add to this little honesty party of ours?"

Billy locks eyes with him, and gives him a very long stare. "Goody," he says seriously, "you snore, and I hate it. Sometimes I think about kicking you in the middle of the night to make you stop."

The others all gape at him, except for Goodnight who instead lets out a braying laugh, his earlier melancholy seemingly replaced with open amusement. "Cher, I knew that," he says in between chuckles. "Or did you think I never noticed the way you try and fall asleep before me. I recognize a self-defence mechanism when I see one."

"Fair enough." Billy nods once, and that's the end of it.

Rolling his eyes, Faraday let's his gaze zero in on Jack. As the last of them to say anything, he's the only one with a hope of fixing this thing before they head out. "Please tell me you've got somethin'," he says.

Unfortunately, he's just met with a blank stare. "I tell you my thoughts on things," Jack says calmly. "You know that."

"Yeah," Faraday says, sagging back in his seat at the admission that their last hope has up and vanished. "I was hopin' you'd prove me wrong, is all, and have some big secret you were hiding. Okay, what do we do now?"

"I think you already know the answer to that," Jack says firmly but not unkindly. "If six out of seven revealing their truths didn't break the curse, then it stands to reason we need the seventh."

This declaration elicits sighs from a number of the group. "What a pity he doesn't seem overly inclined to talk to us," Goodnight mutters. "But if that's the case, I suppose we best get a move on and go track the bastard down."

"He's not goin' to like that," Faraday points out. Of all of them, he's the most positive Vasquez wants to stay hidden.

"Tough," Goodnight replies. "And that's all I have to say on the matter."

Since Goodnight is rarely a man of few words, Faraday figures that's as good a sign as any that they should get moving.

*****

It takes less time than he expects to seek Vasquez out. The town boasts only one inn, and while their missing member hasn't been stupid enough to book a room in it yet, one well placed query is enough to reveal there's a visiting Mexican over at the saloon.

Faraday makes to offer to go after him, but, surprisingly, Jack cuts him off with a look. "I'll handle this," he says ominously, and Faraday doesn't think he's the only one who swallows at the expression on the old man's face. "You lot get settled in upstairs."

Unsure of what else to do, Faraday does as he's told, and it's not long before there's a commotion in the hallway. Poking his head out of the room he's claimed as his own, he finds Jack strongarming an irate Vasquez along in front of him.

"Joshua, good," Jack says upon noticing Faraday. He's seemingly indifferent to the struggling outlaw who's currently cursing up a blue streak. "Shift yourself, would you?"

Scrambling to get out of the way, Faraday comes all the way out of the room as Jack shoves Vasquez past him. "Why're you bringing him to me?" He asks. "Pretty sure I'm the last person he wants to see."

"Which likely means you're the one he should." Nodding once, Jack points a heavy finger through the open doorway. "Get in there, and don't you be coming out until you two have fixed this. Enough is enough."

Faraday wants to protest, he really does. However, there's a gleam in Jack's eye that suggests he won't be above going to fetch his hatchet if he's not listened to in short order. Groaning, Faraday does as instructed.

Vasquez is sitting on the bed when Faraday renters the room, glaring at everything around him and smoking a cigar like it's personally offended him. It's a pity that Faraday has next to no sympathy for him, what with how his being stuck in this room is his own fault for running away in the first place.

"We need to talk," he says when his presence is met with nothing but stubborn silence.

"No nosotros no," Vasquez replies, and Faraday basically sees red. He may not know the correct translation word for word, but he recognizes a denial when he hears one.

"Yeah, we fuckin' do," he snaps, beginning to pace back and forth across the room as the tension once again settles over his spine. Reminding himself that yelling like he wants probably won’t help matters, he considers what to say next. "Apparently this is a great big 'the truth shall set you free' situation, so you best be ready to listen to some goddamned truths."

That makes Vasquez look up, and he raises a single brow when Faraday glares down at him. "Qué?" He asks, and Faraday doesn't think he's imagining the note of wariness in his voice.

"You heard me," Faraday says flatly. "One of us needs to man up and try to fix this, and it looks like it's gonna have to be me. Unless you're ready to get over yourself and talk to me now?"

Vasquez matches Faraday's glare with one of his own, before furiously shaking his head.

"Yeah," Faraday grunts. "That's what I thought. Okay, here goes."

Squaring his shoulders, he takes a deep breath and reminds himself that at least if he comes clean the truth mess should be over. To hell with anything that follows after that.

"I hate this," he begins, and Vasquez rolls his eyes as if to say 'tell me something I don't know'. "I hate how won't even look at me most days, and how you won't talk to me at all. I want to know what you're so afraid of tellin' me, even though there's no way whatever it is could make me stop caring about you."

"I miss you," he says, feeling an odd sort of liberation wash over him as the words slip free. "I want you back in my life the way you're supposed to be because if I can't have you the way I want then at least I can have you as my friend."

"And I want you as more than a friend," he adds, that last truth slipping out with a sense of finality. "I want you like Goodnight and Billy have each other, like Jack had his lady when she was still alive. I want it all, but I've been too damned afraid to tell you because I know it's not what you want. That's what I've been trying to hide since this mess started, and I don't know what we're supposed to do now, or what you want from me."

"The same thing," Vasquez rasps, and Faraday stares at him in confusion.

"Sorry, what?" He asks, blinking when Vasquez takes the cigar out of his mouth and stubs the remains out in the ashtray resting atop the bedside table.

His cigar safely dealt with, Vasquez swings his legs over the side of the bed and gets to his feet, moving slowly as if he's afraid of spooking Faraday. "I want the same thing," he says softly, like if he speaks too loudly something bad will happen. His eyes are wide, and his hands appear to have picked up a faint tremor.

"No, you don't," Faraday replies, forgetting for a moment that they're both under a truth spell. "Otherwise we've wasted a hell of a lot of time walking on eggshells around each other."

"Sí. I mean, yes," Vasquez rushes to say when Faraday glares at him. Prior to this whole mess he'd always liked hearing the man speak in his mother tongue, but right now he has some very negative associations with the language. "I did not think you wanted the same thing, and I was afraid of what would happen if the spell made me tell you."

Faraday gapes at him. "Are you honestly tellin' me you spent a week yapping at me in a language I can't understand, and then took off like a bat out of hell because you didn't want to admit you had feelings for me?"

"No," Vasquez barks, obviously getting annoyed. "I did those things because I knew with the way things were going I'd admit I'm in love with you, and I was afraid of how you would handle that."

"..... oh," Faraday says weakly. "That's - uh. That's a big deal."

"Yes," Vasquez says flatly. "Maybe still too big, I am thinking based on the look on your face."

Now Faraday scowls at him. "Excuse me?" He demands, crossing his arms over his chest for added emphasis. "Have you listened to a word I've said since I got here? Obviously it's the same for me too, you fuckin' idiot."

Vasquez's eyes narrow, and the absurdity of the situation strikes Faraday while he's still trying to figure out a response. Here they are spitting mutual declarations of affection at each other, and instead of reacting like normal people, they're getting pissed off. It's ridiculous.

"This is ridiculous," he says figuring he may as well voice it aloud. “You want me, and I want you. What in god's name is there to fight about if that's the case?"

Vasquez makes a subtle little touché gesture with his hand as if to acknowledge Faraday's point. However, he also makes no attempt to move from where he's seemingly rooted to his spot on the other side of the room.

Deciding that means it's up to him, Faraday takes a couple of tentative steps forward, followed by a few more when Vasquez doesn't shy away from him. Once he's within touching distance, he raises a hand carefully, making sure to telegraph his actions so that Vasquez can see him the whole time. "Can I?"

His eyes wide, Vasquez nods jerkily, flinching almost imperceptibly when Faraday's fingers trace the curve of his cheek. He sucks in a heavy breath, one that's rife with nerves, and only begins to settle when Faraday keeps up his ministrations, stroking his fingers through the coarse hairs of Vasquez's beard, silently willing him to relax.

"You can touch too," Faraday assures him, and somewhat to his surprise, Vasquez's hands land on his hips immediately, not tugging him in, but certainly holding the promise that they could.

Faraday continues on with the gentle touches, deliberately taking things slow lest they wind up with another miscommunication. "You never needed to run," he says as he moves both his hands up Vasquez's arms, trailing them over his shoulders and enjoying the feel of sinewy muscle hidden by his linen shirt. "You never needed to hide."

Vasquez lets out a pleased noise, his eyes fluttering closed momentarily before snapping back open and boring into Faraday's own. "I was afraid," he says simply, "and when that happens, I run."

"Not always you don't," Faraday disagrees, "and there's no need of it this time."

Ducking his head, Vasquez tries to curl away from Faraday's gaze, but Faraday's not willing to let that happen. Grasping the man's chin between his thumb and forefinger, he tilts Vasquez's face up to look at him.

"Just so you know, I'm goin' to kiss you now."

He moves in slowly, worried that if he tries to do this too fast it's going to end poorly for both of them. Yet, it turns out he needn't have bothered. Vasquez doesn't try to shift away, and instead opens for Faraday like it's all he wants in life when their mouths meet, making a contented little humming noise as they kiss. Vasquez's hands then make good on that earlier promise to tug Faraday in, and they wind up with their bodies pressed flush together.

"Thought about this," Faraday murmurs when they break apart, groaning when Vasquez leaves a series of sharp, little nips along the line of his jaw. "Been doin' so ever since Rose Creek."

"Me too," Vasquez replies, quickly followed by, "You never said anything."

"Neither did you," Faraday points out, or tries to rather. He's a little distracted by the way Vasquez's hands are worming their way beneath his shirt, tugging the fabric aside to make it easier to touch. "You want a hand with that?"

"Don't need one," Vasquez says shortly, and given that his clever fingers have already got Faraday's vest undone, he supposes that's true. "Though, you are wearing too many clothes."

Rolling his eyes at the complaint, Faraday wonders just what the hell the man had been expecting. "I didn't exactly come to town thinkin' you'd be receptive to what I had to say, Vas. I figured the odds were good you'd tell me to take a hike.”

"Yes, but that is because you are un idiota," Vasquez supplies helpfully. "Your brain does not work as it should."

"How come you're pickin' on me all of a sudden?" Faraday complains. "I'm really not feelin' the love here."

Rather than take offence to this, Vasquez gives him one of those bright, beaming smiles. "Then let me show you," he says, and the words come out like a promise.

*****

Epilogue

"Wait, so we can lie again?" Faraday asks sometime later, much later, after they've spent considerable time communicating in ways that don't involve words.

"Hmm?" Vasquez raises his head from where it's resting on one of the pillows, blinking owlishly in the faint light of the stuttering candle. "What was that?"

"Can we lie again?" Faraday repeats. "That girl back in the first town said we'd break the curse if we told the truth. A big one. Do you think this was enough?"

"It had better have been," Vasquez mutters laying back down. "I have no more truths left to give."

Faraday scowls at him. "I'm bein' serious," he says, earning himself a pointed eyebrow for his trouble. "Lyin's kind of important to the various trades I ply," he adds, never mind that being a skilled liar isn't necessarily something most people would be proud of. "I'd like to know if I can still do it."

"Guero, just try to lie to me," Vasquez tells him, apparently unconcerned. "That will answer your question soon enough."

"I don't want to lie to you, specifically," Faraday mutters. "That's what got us into this mess, remember?"

"You're very kind," Vasquez assures him, "but do it now so you will stop complaining, and I can get some sleep."

"Ugh," Faraday grunts. "I hate you. Except for how I don't, hah!" Gesturing wildly, he very nearly stabs Vasquez in the eye with a pointing finger, making the man recoil. "It worked! We're cured!"

"Yes," Vasquez says dryly. "I can see that. Please stop trying to blind me with your enthusiasm."

There are a number of things Faraday could say to that, but he settles for showing Vasquez his good mood with actions instead of words.