A Magnificent Seven slash novel by SueN, set in the Old West and with lots of hurt-comfort. NOTE! This story has appeared, or is currently available, on-line.

A man from Vin's past returns, revealing things about the tracker no one should hear, and forcing Chris to face his own confused feelings for the tracker. But those feelings might have come too late, because now Vin lies dying, and love might not be enough to save him.


He was stunned at how easily the words came from him, stunned at how right they sounded in his ears and felt in his heart. Jesus, why hadn't he ever said this before? What had he been so afraid of? The words were out and the world still stood intact around him.

Emboldened by that ease, he half-rose from the chair and moved to the edge of the bed, settling himself carefully at Vin's side, his hip brushing against the tracker's. That contact, too, felt right, natural, and he cursed himself silently for not having the courage to do this earlier. "God, I've been a fool!" he breathed in a low, bitter voice. "Been so caught up in my damn stubborn pride that I've denied us so much! And now it might be too late..."

Cradling Vin's hand to his heart with one hand, he reached down with the other and tenderly stroked the tracker's hair. "Never told you how much this mop suits you, did I?" he asked hoarsely, tears sliding down his face. "Never told you how much I like seein' it flyin' on the breeze when you're ridin' Peso . . . Hell," he whispered, again bowing his head, "I never told you anything!"

Cool fingers stirred faintly against his and his head snapped up, his gaze riveted to Tanner's face. Dry lips parted slightly and the thin, pallid skin of his eyelids flickered. "Vin?" he called softly, fearfully, holding himself absolutely still as he selfishly willed the man to wake. "God, Vin, please!"

The flickering of his eyelids grew stronger and dark lashes fluttered like wings against the ashen flesh beneath them. His fingers tightened against Chris's, his body tensed and a short, hitching gasp escaped him.

"It's all right, Vin," Chris soothed, still holding his hand, still stroking his hair. "It's all right. I'm here, partner, I'm right here."

Vin's head moved against the pillow, then bore down into it as he arched his back, pain chasing the peace from his face. His breathing quickened into sharp, shallow pants, his jaws clenched and his fingers closed steadily about Chris's. A hard tremor raced through him and a wrenching groan broke from him.

"God, Vin, I'm sorry!" Chris whispered as pain overtook the tracker. The soft cries escaping the normally stoic man tore at his heart and wrung tears from his eyes. Not knowing what else to do, he simply bent over Vin, slipped his free arm beneath him and held tightly to him, pressing his cheek to the wounded man's forehead. "I've got ya, pardner," he whispered harshly. "It's all right. I've got ya, and I ain't lettin' go!"

"Ch... Chris?" he hissed weakly, a world of agony in that small sound.

Chris closed his eyes tightly and fought back the sobs beating against his throat for release. He'd wanted Vin to wake, he reminded himself bitterly. Well, he'd gotten what he wanted.

"Chris... Oh!" he groaned thickly, arching against Larabee and clutching at the hand gripping his. "God... Chris... hurts!"

"I know," he rasped. "And I'm sorry. Jesus, Vin, I'm sorry!" Tanner gave another soft cry and Chris turned his face, pressing a gentle kiss between the tracker's deeply furrowed brows. "Please, go back!" he begged. "Please, go back to sleep!" He swept a series of kisses over the man's forehead, his tears falling onto Tanner's flesh. "I can't stand to see you hurtin' like this."

Vin stiffened and uttered a choked-off groan, but turned his face into Larabee's mouth, into those kisses. "Chris?"

"Shh." He pressed another kiss to Vin's forehead, then drew back slightly and smiled into open blue eyes clouded by pain and confusion. "I finally figured it out, Vin," he said softly. "I finally figured out that I love you."

Vin stared a moment more, then let his eyes close. Another shudder racked him and another groan fell from him, but the faintest of smiles ghosted about his pale mouth. "Damn... stubborn... cowboy," he whispered as he drifted away once more. "Took y'... long... enough."

158 pages. $10 for PDF version with color cover.

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