Tens Years - And Counting

by JIN

Disclaimer: The men from Mag7 belong to others. I just like to mess with them.

Warnings: There is no excuse for this. My angsty, smarmy, h/c-addicted evil twin took complete control of this fic. Death of minor characters, emphasis on the word ‘minor’ (including a horse or two, sorry). A little cursing, a little m/m sex (nothing graphic).

Note: This story was written foe the ten year anniversary challenge. All seven are here, but this is first and foremost a love story.

Pairing: C/V

“There’s nothing more I can do, Chris. I’m sorry.”

Nathan’s standing across from me, and I finally catch on that his mouth has quit moving so it must be my turn to speak. I haven’t been listening to him, though, so I’m not sure how to respond. A nod generally works, so that’s what I do.

Apparently that wasn’t what he was looking for, though, because he latches onto my arm and gets close – dangerously close – to my face.

“Chris, you’ve got to listen t’ me now. He ain’t gonna get better.”

Yeah, he is. But I don’t bother to say it. Nathan’s been arguing with me for going on a week now, so I reckon he’s not about to start listening.

“Go on home, Nathan. I’ll take care of him.”

He shakes his head. “I ain’t leavin’ you alone, not now.”

“Don’t recall askin’,” I say.

I’m getting irritated. Bad enough that I’ve had to watch Vin suffer like he has for the last six days, I don’t need Nathan bucking against me right now.

He dips his head, and when he lifts his chin and meets my eyes, I see tears there. And I sure don’t need his pity, so I take him by the arm and herd him towards the door. It’s probably not the wisest thing to do – Nathan’s pretty much a doctor now, and Vin can use all the help he can get. But we don’t need his sad sack thoughts any more than we need Josiah and his worthless prayers. I threw him out, too, not more than an hour ago.

But Nathan ain’t goin’ away easy. “Chris, listen to me. It won’t be long now, and I should-”

I finish his sentence. “- be on your way.”

“I understand how you feel, but -”

That’s always the wrong thing to say. You’d think everyone would know that by now.

“You don’t have a clue how I feel, so don’t even say it.”

“We’ve all lost people we care about, Chris.”

That’s true. Nathan still grieves for Dr. Miller, the man who moved to town five years back and took Nathan on as an apprentice. He was a fine man who didn’t care that Nathan was colored, and he taught him everything he knew. It was a good thing, too, because six months ago, the good doctor was killed in a freak accident – hit by lightening while riding back to town after delivering a baby at one of the local ranches. Nathan took it real hard, was still prone to bouts of depression over it.

I guess that’s why Nathan never did marry; he just couldn’t get over the idea that he was bound to lose everyone he loved. And it’s sad to say, but maybe that’s true – for him.

Before the doc died, I used to joke with Vin that maybe he and Nathan had something going on between the sheets. Maybe we weren’t the only ones that were fucked up. Vin thought that was real funny. He said Nathan would no sooner give himself over to another man than he would give himself to his horse.

But no matter how much Nathan loved that man or anyone else, he still doesn’t know. And it makes me angry, I guess, because I lash out at him. “Did you sleep with the Doc, Nathan? Did you feel his skin against yours every night? Did you wake up to his breath in your ear? Did his heart beat in time with yours?”

“No, Chris,” Nathan says very softly.

“Then don’t tell me how I feel. Don’t tell me what you think you know because you don’t know a damn thing.”

He turns away then, but I see him wipe a tear from his eye. It’s absurdly important all of the sudden to offer him something, some kind of comfort. It’s not his fault that he doesn’t understand.

“He’s not gonna die, Nathan. Don’t grieve for him. Or for me.”

There’s no answer, so I guess he’s given up on me. Five minutes later he’s gone, and I can finally move back to Vin’s side. One of the hardest things about this last week is that I haven’t been able to hold Vin’s hand. His fingers are too torn up. Damn barbed wire did its job. Fact is, there’s not much of him I can touch without hurting him.

I’ll never forget it – seeing him and that stubborn mule of his all twisted up together in that god-awful mess. He was late coming in, so I went out looking for him. Something told me he was in trouble. But trouble didn’t begin to describe it.

He probably tore up his hands trying to work that horse free, with no mind to how badly he was caught as well. Near as I can figure, the horse stumbled for some reason - maybe it was a snake or a stone in his shoe – hell, I don’t know. I just know somehow he went down smack on top of that razor-sharp barbed wire fence those railroad guys had recently put up.

Nothing panics an animal worse than getting caught in a fence. That horse must have bucked and rolled, and Vin with him, until they were both caught good. Vin was bleeding pretty bad by the time I found him, but his hands were the worst. Nathan figures that’s where it started, the infection that he’s so sure will take Vin’s life.

I had to put the horse down, though I haven’t told Vin that yet. It can wait until he’s better. Thank goodness he’s not as attached to this one as he was to Peso. Vin cried for hours when Peso died a few years back. Oh, he acted like he didn’t, but I knew what he was doing back behind the barn. Still, he’ll take it hard that I had to put this one down.

Buck accused me of doing it out anger; said JD told him the horse could have been saved. It’s not true. I mean, yeah, I was pissed. It took me an hour to get Vin free and another hour to get him back to the house, and by then, I was scared half out of my mind. But that’s not why I did it. The animal was cut up a hundred different ways and there was no way I could save him. Besides, Vin was a little more important at the time, and I’ll never apologize for that.

Nathan says he has blood poisoning. I know what that means. I understand why Nathan thinks what he does. But it’s not gonna happen. I won’t let the devil win this time.

But just in case he does, I’m ready. I got my gun loaded and I got no problem pulling the trigger. They can lay us in the ground together. That’s the way we want it. Although, I probably shouldn’t mention that to Vin, either. He might not have meant it quite that literally when he said we would ride into hell together.


His voice is so weak now that I’m not sure if he actually spoke my name or if I just heard it in my head. I get down as close to his face as I can without leaning on his bandaged chest. He’s cut just about everywhere, and that’s the worst of it, not being able to hold him.

I’ve gotten good at pretending. I’ve been with Vin so many times, that I know the feel of every bone, every muscle, every inch of his skin, so it’s not hard to imagine that I’m holding him close right now. It’s the same for him, I know. Because sometimes, when the fever is burning bright, he’ll smile at me and tell me how good it feels to be in my arms. It doesn’t matter that it’s not true, that he’s lying in bed torn apart and bandaged up. All that matters is that he thinks I’ve got him.

And I do, in a way. I’ve got his back, like always. I won’t let him go.

I tell him that all that with my eyes, and he understands. Funny how me and Vin can speak without talking, when no amount of words can get the message through to our stubborn friends.

“Remember?” he says, and his mouth tips up in a smile, “The first time?” His eyes are so bright, I swear they could light up the night sky.

It’s a good moment; he’s with me now. It won’t last long, but I’ll take what I can get.

I smile in return. “Yeah. I remember.”

He closes his eyes, but he’s still smiling, and I can tell that he’s remembering how it was almost a decade ago . . .


Vin was pretty certain that Chris Larabee had lost his damn fool mind, but he’d gone back for him anyway. That dirty, scheming, no-account woman was not going to get her hooks into his friend – he’d drag Larabee away by the hair if he had to. Of course, it didn’t come to that. Nope. Instead, he had to pick Larabee up off the ground after he’d gotten a bullet in his chest.

Vin couldn’t remember ever being so scared in his life. He’d missed Ella by a hair’s breath, only because his hands were shaking too bad to shoot straight. He’d gone after her, too, but he never did find her.

Two months had passed since that terrible gunfight; two months of endless patrols in case that witch doubled back, two months of long, sleepless nights . . . two months of avoiding Chris.

He was glad that Chris was healing up alright, that was the most important thing. But he couldn’t talk to him like he used to; he couldn’t even look him in the eye. The harsh words between them at the party sat heavy in his heart. He never expected that Chris would doubt him like that.

It was Buck who spurred him to set things right. He said Chris was grieving his family all over again, and he didn’t need any more hurt in his heart. Buck had looked straight at him when he said that, and Vin had felt his face flush with shame.

It wasn’t about him. It was never about him.

So he rode out to Chris’s place that afternoon, determined to clear the air between them.

Chris was out in front of his cabin, nailing down the floor boards on his porch. He had his shirt off, and Vin could easily see the scar from the bullet, but he could also see that Chris was healing up just fine. He looked good, in fact - damn good - and Vin had to remind himself that Larabee wasn’t the kind of man to take kindly to another man looking.

Chris smiled when he approached, though. “Vin? Everything alright in town?”

“Yeah. I just, uh . . . I just thought you could use some help out here.”

With a shrug, Chris replied. “I won’t turn y’ down if you’re offering.”

He was offering. He took his place on the porch and was soon surprised at how good it felt just being in Larabee’s presence again.

After an hour had passed, Chris sat back and wiped his hand across his forehead. “Shit, Vin, it’s hotter than hell out here. Why don’t you take your shirt off?”

With a grimace, Vin answered him. “Prefer not to.”

“Why not?”

It came out before he could stop himself. “Maybe I ain’t as pretty as you.”

Chris dropped his hammer, stunned. But then he looked at Vin and grinned, “Hell, you’re about as pretty as any cowboy I’ve ever seen, Tanner.”

Vin rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean.”

The smile vanished as Chris gently replied, “Actually, I don’t know, Vin. What are you afraid of? None of the others have any problem being seen. Hell, Buck and Ezra practically walked through town naked. But you – you layer up like you’re gettin’ set for a blizzard even in the dead of summer. What are you hiding, Pard?”

That was his undoing – Chris’s compassion. He hadn’t expected it and he didn’t quite know what to make of it. But it was hot – and getting hotter by the moment.

He took his shirt off.

They were sitting across from each other on the floor of the porch, Vin had one leg curled up beneath him and the other stretched out to the side. It took him a moment to realize that Chris was staring at him. He blushed.

“You got nothing to be ashamed of,” Chris said softly. And before Vin could even grasp what was happening, Chris was right there next to him, those long fingers ghosting over the scars on his chest. He whispered, “Don’t like it when we’re at odds, Vin. I need you.”

It was so unexpected that Vin gasped. “You need me?”

“Yeah. Spent the last two months thinking about how I nearly screwed things up between us.”

“You had some help with that,” Vin returned dryly.

“That’s no excuse,” Chris replied but his voice trailed off as his fingers finally made contact with skin.

Vin thought he should probably say something, but he was as mesmerized by the look on Chris’s face as Chris apparently was by the shiny, white marks on his chest.

“Who hurt you, Vin? Why?”

“Don’t matter now.”

Chris smiled and dropped his hand, but he didn’t move away. “You’re right. I don’t wanna live in the past anymore, either.”

“So what do you want, Larabee?” Vin asked. It had to be the heat, fooling with his head – and his mouth. But Chris was so close, and that look in his eyes . . . maybe, maybe they both wanted the same things after all.

Instead of answering, Chris turned up one corner of his mouth in a lopsided smile and asked, “You ever been with a man, Vin?”

Leave it to Larabee to trump his question with an even harder question, Vin thought. How the hell was he supposed to answer that? If he said ‘yes’, Chris would think he was less of a man. But if he said ‘no’, would Chris back away? And could he lie to him anyway?

As usual, Chris must have sensed his discomfort, because he quickly added, “It doesn’t matter to me. A man has to satisfy his needs somehow.”

“Some men apparently have more needs than others,” Vin huffed. To his chagrin, his tone expressed more hurt than reproach, and he wished he could snatch the words back the moment he said them.

“Ain’t denying that,” Chris said evenly. “From what I’ve observed, I need it more often than you do – and I sure ain’t as choosey where I get it from. But we weren’t talking about me, we were talking about you.”

“Aw hell,” Vin rasped, “when did we ever need t’ talk at all?”

And then it was him doing the touching. His hand slid up Larabee’s arm, skimmed along his shoulder, and floated across the tight muscles of his chest. Before he could change his mind, he forcefully pushed Chris down to his back and leaned in against him, although he wasn’t sure yet whether he was going to wrestle Larabee or kiss him senseless.

But as usual, Chris took control before he got a chance to make up his mind. “Should’ve known you’d like it fast and rough.” Chris laughed as he turned the tables on him by flipping him over onto his back. He leaned in close and added, “But it’s my house, so if you want it out here, than you’re the one getting splinters in your ass. Or your knees. Your choice.”

And then Chris put his mouth on him, and Vin decided the man could have him anywhere he wanted him, anyway he wanted him . . . for as long as he lived.


The porch is Vin’s favorite place to make love. I can’t say that I understand that, but hell, as long as he’s on the bottom and doesn’t mind getting splinters in his backside, who am I to argue? There’ve been a few times when we damn near got caught out there. I think Vin likes that element of danger - he never was one to shy away from a challenge.

That’s how I know he won’t die. Besides, we have an agreement that I get to die first. It’s unspoken, but he knows that it has to be that way because he’s stronger than I am. I don’t mind admitting it. Now I’m not saying he wouldn’t do the same thing I’m gonna do if he doesn’t make it through this. I imagine he would. And that’s just fine. He can blow his brains out the second I leave this earth, just as long as I’m not there to see it, to know it, to feel it.

I don’t know how we got to be this way – so tied up in each other that there’s no telling where one of us ends and the other begins. And I don’t why. I just know it all started eight years ago when Vin rode out to help me work on my cabin. We took each other that day, and pretty much every day since. Of course there’s more to it than that – more to us than that. But most folks wouldn’t see that, if they knew about us. They’d be so disgusted by what we do with our bodies that they wouldn’t care about the rest of it.

Our friends know. One by one, they figured it out, and one by one, they made a choice to stick by us. Took some longer than others, but they all came around eventually.

We built Vin a cabin on the other side of my property, just to keep it quiet. Told folks that we were starting a ranch together, which is what we did. But Vin has never slept there, in his place, not once. Even when we’re mad as hornets at each other, we share the same bed. I don’t know how to sleep alone anymore, and I got no intention of remembering how.

Vin stirs, so I make him drink more water. I figure that’s the best thing for him. I’m not a doctor, but I know that water is the best way to wash out sickness. He moans softly and tries to raise his hand to touch my face.

I gently place his bandaged fingers back on the bed and soothe him by brushing the hair off his face. The fever is rising again, but that’s alright. It always gets worse as the day wears on. He’ll be better in the morning.

A few minutes later, some of the water comes back up. I roll him onto his side and he whimpers a little, but it’s better than it was. When he first got sick, his stomach turned inside out with so much force that tears rolled down his face every time. About killed me to see him that way. But now, he hardly seems to notice. I’ll wait a bit, and we’ll try again.

I hear a sound outside, and I groan. They can’t seem to leave us alone, no matter how many times I ask them to. I go to the door, determined not to let anyone in, but Buck has already barged in, as usual.

Before I can say anything, Buck holds up his hand and says, “I know you don’t want company, but Vin’s been my friend for ten years and-”

“Seven,” I say. I’ll not credit Buck with the three years he ran out on us.

Months after me and Vin took up with each other, Buck found out and he didn’t like it. He ended up leaving town that same week. Three years later, he came back – with a wife. Somehow, he’d found Louisa Perkins and he really had married her. They have two little girls now.

“Don’t matter how long. He’s my friend, Chris. I got a right to see him when he’s,” he pauses and swallows, “when’s he’s sick.”

I ponder it a minute. “Alright. Just for a few minutes.”

I follow him in to the bedroom, and I hear him quietly gasp, “Damn, Vin.”

I don’t know why he’s acting so shocked. He just saw Vin a few days ago. And yeah, Vin’s face is probably a little thinner, maybe a little paler, but he’s not in so much pain now. He’s getting better.

I feel like I should say something. “He’ll gain the weight back, once he’s on his feet again. You know Vin.”

Buck sits down in the chair by the bed, and he looks up at me. “Yeah, I know Vin.”

I hate the look in his eyes; damn pity is contagious, it seems.

The fever’s pretty high now, and I don’t think Vin really knows what’s going on, but I guess he senses someone new is there. He turns his head real slow and looks at Buck.

“Bucklin?” he whispers.

Buck smiles. “Yeah, I’m right here, Pard.”

“Don’t leave,” Vin pleads.

“I’m not going anywhere, old son,” he replies. Buck looks up at me smugly, but I’m looking at Vin.

I know where he is, or rather, when he is. Vin’s not in this room, not now - he’s back a little more than seven years ago, when Buck rode out while Vin begged him to stay . . .


The sun was just coming up when Vin wrapped his arms tighter around Chris. He wished Larabee would wake up already and do something about the growing hardness between his legs. But even the hot air he blew in Chris’s ear failed to rouse him.

The sound of a rider approaching the cabin outside forced Vin to be more deliberate, however. “Chris!” he whispered. “Wake up!”

Chris rolled over and pulled him close for a tender kiss. “Damn, Tanner,” he mumbled. “You’re gonna make me old before my time.”

“Your time’s already here,” Vin teased. “But right now, we got company.”


“Rider. Outside.”

Minutes later, as he hurriedly dressed, Vin heard Chris tell Buck that he’d be on his way shortly. Obviously, something was going on in town. He moved closer to the bedroom door so he could hear the conversation better.

“I’ll ride over to Vin’s place and get him up,” Buck offered.

“No,” Chris quickly objected. “I’ll get him. You go on back.”

Ten minutes later, they were horsed and riding for town.

It was another group of rowdy trail hands, and it took most of the day to set them straight. Vin and Chris had a few drinks and a light supper at the saloon before heading home. When they arrived, Buck was sitting in a chair on their porch, his long legs stretched out to rest on the railing.

They dismounted, and Buck rose to his feet. “Need t’ speak with you, Chris. Alone,” he added.

Vin nodded and started off for the barn to take care of the horses, but Chris grabbed onto his arm. “Nothing you got to say that Vin can’t hear,” he said.

“Alright,” Buck replied, though he kept his eyes only on Chris. “Did some arithmetic this morning. Two men, one cabin, and one bed can only add up to one thing.”

“You spyin’ on us?” Chris growled. The lines tightened around his eyes and his hand instinctively curled towards his gun.

Vin put his hand on Chris’s shoulder. “Hold on, Cowboy. We don’t gotta fight about this.”

“There’s a fine woman just waitin’ for you in town, and a little boy who needs a father. But you choose to bed down with him?” Buck asked.

“None of your business who I bed down with, Buck.”

“Listen, boys,” Vin cut in, or tried to.

“Shut up, Vin,” Buck barked. “I’ve known Chris a hell of a lot longer than you, and I wanna know why he’s throwin’ his life away like this. Is it because of Sarah? And Ella? One woman as sweet an angel as ever walked the earth, and the other pure evil – hell, it’s no wonder you’re confused, Pard.”

“I’m not confused, Buck. I’ve never been more sure of anything in my life.”

Apparently Buck did know Chris well enough to realize that he wasn’t going to get anywhere with him, so he turned to Vin. “I told you he was mourning all over again – and this is how you help him? Turn him into some kind of freak? You’ll both hang for this when it gets around. That what you want, Vin? You couldn’t get yourself off, so you want Chris hanging along side you?”

“Get the hell out of here, Buck!” Chris spat. He was furious, and Vin couldn’t deny that he was angry, as well.

But he understood that Buck was only acting out of his concern for his old friend. And the last thing he’d ever want to do was come between the two men.

“Listen, Buck. We’re careful-” Vin tried to say.

But Buck exploded. “Careful! You didn’t even look when you both came waltzing out of that cabin this morning. Careful, my eye. You’re both gonna be dead if you don’t put a stop to this now. You hear me, Chris? You got to end it now.”

“I don’t have to do anything you say, Buck,” Chris countered.

“And I don’t have to stick around and watch you destroy your life again.”

“I reckon you don’t.”

“No, no!” Vin argued. “It doesn’t have to be like this. You don’t have to leave, Buck.”

“I’m afraid I do, Vin. I’m not picking up the pieces this time, and I ain’t stickin’ around long enough to watch you two kill yourselves.”

“Don’t leave, Buck. Please. We can work this out,” Vin pleaded.

But Buck was already mounted up and riding off.


“He forgave me a long time ago, Chris. Why can’t you?” Buck asks me as he dips the cloth into the cool pan of water at the bedside. I can’t take my eyes off the drops of moisture that cling to the soft cotton as Buck lays it against Vin’s hot forehead.

Vin moans and his breath quickens, but he quiets when Buck leans forward and whispers something in his ear.

I’m hoping Buck forgot the question, but he looks over at me expectantly, so I guess not.

“Nothing to forgive. You did what you needed to do at the time. Got yourself a nice wife and a family. Nothing to forgive,” I repeat.

It’s a lie, and Buck knows it. I don’t begrudge him going his own way, but the things he said to Vin stuck with me for a long time. Like this was all Vin’s idea and I was too fucked up in the head to catch on.

Shaking his head, Buck mutters, “I don’t know how Vin puts up with you.”

I’ve often wondered that myself. I should let it go, but now that he’s started the conversation, I feel the need to finish it. Might not get another chance. “You still think I’m with Vin because losing Sarah and all that shit with Ella made me crazy?”

“No, I don’t.” Buck’s voice is real soft now. “I know that you love Vin. You love him so much that you can’t see . . .”

“See what?”

He looks at me, but I turn away. I should have known better than to ask.

“He’s dying, Chris. He’s leaving you. Not by choice; Vin would do anything to stay with you. But he can’t. Not this time.”

I’m sick and tired of this conversation. And angry – so damn angry that tears fill my eyes. I bat them away and order Buck to get out. “It’s time for you to leave.”

“No. Not unless you give me your gun – and Vin’s, too.”

Furious now, I scream at him, “Like hell I’ll give you my gun!”

Vin visibly flinches, though he doesn’t open his eyes. I lower my voice, “Do you think I can’t find another way? Do you think I won’t find another way?”

“Chris, please,” he says, and now tears are in his eyes, as well.

“I know how lucky I am.,” I say. “A man rarely finds what I have once in this life – let alone twice. It’s enough for any man, and far more than I ever deserved. There’s nothing more without Vin.”

To my surprise, Buck only nods. I guess now that he has Louisa, he understands. Or maybe after all these years, he’s finally accepted that there’s no point in arguing with me. “I’m gonna sleep in Vin’s cabin tonight,” he says.

It’s unspoken that he’s there if I need him.

I won’t.

I’m relieved to be alone with Vin. All I want is to lie down on the bed beside him and think about all the glorious moments we’ve shared there. It never got old. It didn’t matter if I was inside him or he was inside me; slow and easy, or fast and rough, it was always so good, so right.

I shake myself as I realize that I’m thinking in the past tense – like it will never be again.

He’ll be better in the morning. I know he will.

Another rider approaches and I glance at the clock. It’s late, almost midnight, and it can only be Ezra. I think about bolting the door, but of all of them, Ezra most deserves to be here.

I open the door, and his red eyes immediately tell me all I need to know. “I spoke with Nathan,” he says, a little breathless.

“Nathan’s wrong.”

He winces, but he doesn’t argue with me. “May I come in? I won’t stay long.”

It’s a short walk to our bedroom, but it seems like it takes Ezra forever to get there. I’m reminded that Standish doesn’t deal well with illness or death. He lost Maude two years ago, and it was tough, real tough. She’d come to town for a visit and ended up coming down with pneumonia. Nathan and Doc Miller did all they could, but she didn’t make it.

I practically had to hog-tie Ezra to sit with her at the end; not because he didn’t care, but because he cared too much. Ezra has an excellent poker face, and he never lets on how much he hurts, but he couldn’t hide it then.

Josiah took it badly, too. I think he still harbored hopes that something good would happen between him and Maude. She was always kind to him when she was in town, but I don’t think she cared for him that way. Fortunately, Mrs. Potter does. After Maude died, I guess Josiah’s eyes were opened to the widow. She’s not real pretty, but she has a good heart, and she clearly worships the ground Josiah walks on. I suspect there will be a wedding soon.

Ezra hasn’t married, either, though he’s had plenty of opportunity in the last ten years. But he keeps busy with the hotel and saloon; Maude left him enough money to turn it into a real nice “establishment” as Ezra likes to call it.

To his credit, Ezra doesn’t gasp when he sees Vin, he just takes that same seat at the bedside. He lifts his hands for a moment, like he’s trying to decide if or where to touch Vin, then lays them awkwardly back in his lap.

After a deep breath, he finally turns his eyes to mine. “Is he - is he suffering?”

I think back to how it was at first. It took me hours to clean Vin up and stitch him together. I couldn’t leave him to get Nathan, of course, so it had to be me. Vin had bit his lip so hard it bled, but he never cried out. It wasn’t until a day or so later, when the infection set in, that he . . .

No use in thinking about that. I meet Ezra’s eyes. “Not so much now. He’s doing better.”

Ezra looks at me blankly. Putting on his poker face.

Neither of us say anything for long minutes, and in fact, it’s Vin who breaks the silence. “He won’t tell.” His voice is low and faint, but the insistence comes through loud and clear. “Stay calm, Chris.”

My eyes meet Ezra’s, and we both know what part of his past Vin is reliving now . . .


Even with his shirt on, a particularly sharp piece of straw was poking him in the back, but with Chris rubbing against him in the front, it was easy to ignore.

They were supposed to be working in the barn – it had started out that way, anyway. Vin didn’t know what exactly set Larabee off. All he did was a take a long, slow swallow from his canteen, and the next thing he knew, he was on his back with his pants around his ankles.

That worked just fine for him – it was always fun playing in the dirt with Chris. Going on two years together, and it was still exciting, still amazing, still the best thing that had ever happened to him.

Chris bit his neck lightly, then moved up to breathe in his ear, “God, Vin . . . I wish . . . I wish we could . . .”

There’d be none of that. They’d learned the hard way that the consequences of going in dry would be felt for days. Besides, Vin was pretty certain neither one of them would last much longer. He pulled Chris to him and plundered his mouth with his tongue.

Chris responded by groaning and grinding harder against him.

For a brief moment, Vin opened his eyes and caught a flash of red.

Ezra. Was there. Watching.

It was too late to put a stop to it. What comes natural, naturally came, and as Chris collapsed on top of him, Vin softly whispered in his ear, “Ezra’s here.”

“Shit!” Chris roared, and Vin almost laughed; would’ve laughed, if he didn’t know it would make Chris even madder.

They both quickly rose to their feet, pulling their pants up with them. Chris narrowed his eyes and scanned the barn, but he didn’t see the other man.

“You sure?”


It was then that they heard Ezra calling from outside the barn, “Chris? Vin? Are either of you gentlemen nearby?”

“Damn it,” Chris huffed.

“It’s alright. He won’t tell. Stay calm, Chris.”

“You’re damn right he won’t tell because I’ll kill him first.”

They had just moved outside the barn when Ezra made a show of coming towards them. Vin noticed their friend’s face was flushed, and it made him wonder how much Ezra had seen – if Ezra might have stayed and watched a little longer than he needed to. If he might have enjoyed the watching . . .

“I’m sorry for disturbing-” Ezra started.

But Chris was in a mood. “What the hell are you doing sneaking up on us?”

Ezra looked like he was tempted to lie, but instead he straightened his shoulders and replied, “You are fortunate it was I who witnessed your . . . encounter. Others might not be so understanding.”

“Answer the question.” Chris wasn’t letting it go.

“I came to warn you, although I truly thought it was unnecessary. Obviously I was wrong, however.”

“Warn us about what?” Vin quickly asked.

“Wrong about what?” Chris added.

“There’s talk in town about the two of you having an . . . unnatural relationship. I suspect others will attempt to validate the rumors, and violence may ensue. Until this afternoon, I thought they were mistaken.”

“And you just continue to think that,” Chris warned.

“Now hold on, Chris. What’s done is done. Ezra knows. Ain’t no use in pretendin’ otherwise,” Vin said.

“I have no intention of revealing your secret, I assure you. In truth, I admire your courage.”

Courage? Vin hadn’t looked at it like that. He just knew if couldn’t lie down with Chris come nightfall, there was no reason in living at all.

It turned out that Ezra did more than keep quiet – he took care of the problem. Twice a week, he paid a couple of his girls to take a trip out of town. He let it be known that they were satisfying a few “customers” who were too busy with their ranch to make a trip into town on a regular basis. That people naturally assumed the girls were servicing Chris and Vin was of no matter. He hadn’t outright lied, in any case.

In reality, the girls got a free night at a nice hotel with a hot bath in Eagle Bend. And all they had to do was keep quiet.

After a few months had passed, Ezra cut their travels down to once a week, then a few times a month. By then, the town had grown and there were new folks to gossip about.

Over the years, Ezra remained their eyes and ears in town. Whenever things appeared to heat up again, he found a way to dampen the flames. As a result, the bond between the three of them strengthened.

They were beholden to Ezra for that alone. But then Standish hired some hotshot attorney to clear Vin’s name, and they were forever in his debt.

Vin always felt like he should do more for Ezra – maybe let him watch another time.

But maybe that would just make it harder for their friend. After all, Vin was convinced that everything Ezra did, he did for Chris. He’d seen the way Ezra looked at Larabee, and he couldn’t blame him. Hell, he looked at Chris every day, and he still couldn’t get enough.

No, as grateful as he was to Ezra, Vin wasn’t giving Chris up – and he sure as hell wasn’t sharing him, either.


“How come you never married, Ezra?” I don’t know why the question popped in my head – guess I’m just feeling sentimental. Guess I’d like all our friends to be as happy as Vin and I are.

He smiles, though it is half-hearted at best. “I never fell in love with the right . . . type of person.”

I’m not sure what he means by that. I know he liked that Chinese girl once, but I never really noticed him pining for anyone else.

I thought I caught him staring at Vin a few times, but I figured it was my imagination. He’s staring at Vin now, though. “At least he’ll leave this earth a free man,” he says softly.

A sudden pulsing in my forehead signals an oncoming headache. Even after all these years, Standish has a way of saying exactly the wrong thing.

Vin says I’m jealous. He doesn’t mince words about it, either. He says it don’t matter who got his named cleared, just that it happened and to quit belly achin’ about it. Of course, he’s exaggerating - I don’t belly ache about anything – that’s just not the way I do things.

But I wanted it to be me. I wanted to be the one to find a way to give Vin what he wanted most. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful. All that really matters it that Vin is a free man, and the Tanner name once again stands for all the good and righteous things Vin has fought so hard for.

Still, it’s the finest gift Vin’s ever received, and it didn’t come from me.

“He’s not leaving this earth just yet,” I mutter crossly.

Ezra doesn’t reply, he just keeps staring at Vin. Finally he asks me if he can have a few moments alone with him.

Vin’s starting to get restless again, shifting against the bed and moaning real soft. I don’t want to leave him, but I reckon Ezra deserves a few minutes. I pace outside the door, wondering what the hell he’s saying to Vin. Maybe it wasn’t my imagination after all, maybe all those things Ezra did for us were really for Vin.

He avoids my eyes when he steps out of the room. And he doesn’t say a single word as he steps out the door and pulls it shut behind him. But when I glance out the window after him, I see that he is hunched down in the saddle and his shoulders are shaking.

Grieving for Vin - and he’s not even dead.

It makes me mad. And for a moment, I almost give in to my natural inclination to swallow an entire bottle of whiskey with one tip of the bottle. It’s always Vin who gets me through these moments; Vin who says, “Hell, Cowboy, it ain’t that bad. Ain’t no call t’ drown your troubles in a bottle. They’ll just be waitin’ for y’ the next mornin’.”

I can hear him say it so clearly, that I turn around and look behind me, sure that he’ll be standing there, sure that this is all one terrible dream.

But the bedroom door is open, and from inside, I can hear him panting for breath as the fever gains on him once again. Alright then. No time to feel sorry for myself. I’ve got work to do.

I’m tired, though, and I just want to be close to Vin for a few moments. So I carefully climb on the bed next to him and gently ease my arm across his stomach. He turns his head and opens his eyes, and he smiles a little when I kiss his cheek. It could be a trick of my mind, but I think he’s breathing easier now, so when he closes his eyes again, I close mine, as well.

And I pretend it’s just a normal night, that I’m sleeping next to Vin like always. He’s not sick. God knows he’s not dying. He’s just sleeping next to me. Like always.

I must have fallen asleep, because the next sound I hear is the front door opening. It startles me, and only the sensation of Vin’s hot body next to mine keeps me from jumping off the bed. I look at my partner. His cheeks are still flushed with fever, his breathing is still too fast, too shallow, but he’s alive and that’s all that matters.

It’s Josiah again. I can’t believe he came back – especially at this hour. “It’s 4am, Josiah,” I tell him, since he apparently can’t read a clock.

“The night is darkest before the dawn,” he replies.

I’m too tired to argue. “Suit yourself.”

He puts a hand on my back as we head towards the bedroom, and I stop to look at him. “What?”

“JD wanted to be here, but the baby is coming anytime . . .”

“He needs to be with Casey. Nothing he can do for Vin anyway. But maybe they can bring the baby by in a few weeks. That would do Vin a world of good.”

Josiah’s looking at me like I’m missing something, but I ignore him and head for Vin. I don’t really want to talk about JD and Casey, anyway. That just brings back feelings I can’t think about right now.

“Nathan’s sticking close to them, of course. After the last time, he’s not taking any chances,” Josiah goes on.

I’m wringing the cloth out again and placing it on Vin’s forehead, hoping Josiah will take the hint that I don’t want to talk about this.

“He wanted to be here, too,” Josiah adds as he pulls up the chair on the opposite side of the bed.

“No need.”

“I suspect you’re right,” he says with a deep sigh that grates on my last nerve. Josiah thinks we don’t need Nathan because Vin will die anyway. But he’s wrong.

I put a little water in a cup and pull Vin’s head up enough for him to drink it.

He manages a few swallows.

He throws it up.

I pour another glass and reach for him again, but Josiah stills my hand. “Let him be, Chris,” he whispers. “Let him be.”

Josiah has these clear blue eyes that can see right through a man. He turns those eyes on me now, and I see something there I don’t wanna see – that I don’t wanna know.

“He’s in pain, Chris. But he’s holding on for you.”

I block out his words and I turn away from his eyes. He’s trying to tell me I’m selfish to hold onto Vin; he wants me to give him up. But Josiah’s got it all wrong. It’s not like a few days ago when Vin’s back arched off the bed and he cried in misery. It’s not like that now. The hitch in his breath, the tightness around his eyes, the way his fingers claw at the sheet beneath him – that’s not pain. It’s not.

He’s getting better.

Vin hears my thoughts, like always. I’m sure of it when he turns his head towards me. But instead of reassuring me, he cries, “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it to happen.”

This is Josiah’s fault. I glare at him and make dead sure he knows it. Vin needs his strength, but now he’s gone back to a time that none of us need to relive. If only Josiah hadn’t mentioned JD and Casey . . .


Vin didn’t want Nettie to know. He wasn’t ashamed of his feelings for Chris, but he didn’t figure the older woman would understand. He didn’t figure any of them could really understand, but Nettie’s opinion mattered more than most.

Besides, she was getting on in years, and what possible benefit could there be in telling her the truth? Him and Chris had been living together for almost five years, and there had never been a reason for it to come up, even though Vin spent a good deal of time helping out the widow - especially since JD and Casey had gotten married. Vin didn’t like the idea that Nettie was out at her place all alone, but she was too stubborn to consider any other options.

He was there one spring day, fixing her chicken coop for what had to be the hundredth time, when JD and Casey pulled up in their wagon. Vin dropped his tools to the ground and straightened up to greet them with a broad smile.

“Hey there,” he said. “What brings you two love birds out this way?”

But JD ignored him and grabbed Casey’s arm as she climbed down from the wagon. “Casey, don’t. You’re not thinkin’ right.”

Turning a furious glare at her young husband, Casey yelled, “I’m telling her. She needs to know what . . . what he is!”

“Casey!” JD yelled again.

But Casey marched over to Vin. “Get out of here, Vin. You’re not welcome here anymore.”

Vin shook his head as if to clear it. “What? What are you talkin’ about, Casey?”

“Something going on out here I should know about?” Nettie’s firm voice took command from the front porch of the cabin.

“I’m sorry, Aunt Nettie, but I just found out something about Vin that I think you should know.”

Vin felt the color drain from his face, and he couldn’t meet JD’s eyes when the kid came over next to him.

“I’m sorry, Vin,” JD said. “I didn’t mean to tell her – it just sort of came out. I mean, she is my wife.”

Vin nodded numbly. He hadn’t thought about that. No man should have to keep a secret from his wife. But he hadn’t counted on Casey’s reaction.

“I know all I need t’ know about Vin Tanner,” Nettie replied. “Now you just settle yourself, Casey girl. Get in here and have some lemonade and prop those feet up.”

But Casey was unyielding. “You have to know this, Aunt Nettie – Vin’s a sinner.”

“Well, ain’t we all?” Nettie laughed.

Frustrated, Casey waddled up to the porch and put her hands on her hips. “He’s been doing things. With Chris Larabee. Unnatural things. Unholy things. They been living together for five years now. And all this time he’s been out here, helping you. Acting like he’s just . . . just normal.”

Vin felt Nettie turn her gaze towards him, but he wasn’t able to lift his head to meet it. He wasn’t ashamed, he told himself, he wasn’t. He just didn’t want her to find out like this. It should have come from him. Then she could have made the choice if she still wanted him in her life.

Once again, JD looked apologetically at Vin. “It’s the baby. She gets like this. She don’t mean nothin’, Vin.”

Vin finally took a deep breath and turned his face towards Nettie. He might have imagined it, might have only wished it was so, but he thought her expression was one of compassion and understanding.

The old woman opened her mouth as if to speak, but suddenly raised her hand to her chest instead. A soft “oh” came from her lips, and she collapsed.

Vin rode as fast as he could for Nathan and Doc Miller, but Nettie was already gone by the time they got there. Nathan said it was her heart and nothing could have been done anyway.

Casey sobbed that it was because of the news about Vin - that Nettie’s heart couldn’t take it.

JD did his best to comfort his distraught wife, and never once looked at Vin.

Vin rode home that day and went directly to Chris. He pressed himself in his lover’s comforting arms and mumbled that he was sorry, that he hadn’t meant for it to happen, and he should have told her sooner.

Apparently, Chris surmised what had happened. “It’s alright,” he soothed, “she’ll get used to the idea.”

Vin shook his head. “There’s no gettin’ used t’ anything. She’s dead.”

He cried then, but he knew it was more for himself than for Nettie. She’d lived a good, long life. But he’d disappointed her in the end, and there would be no making up for that.

The baby came the next week. He was two months early and too small to live past the hour. So for the second time in seven days, Casey and JD made that sad march to the cemetery. Doc Miller said it might have been the stress of the funeral the week before, or it might have happened anyway. But Casey wouldn’t even look at Vin or Chris, and JD never spoke a word to them.

It started something in Vin – a feeling that what him and Chris were doing was truly wrong. Two lives lost because of it, so how could it be right? No amount of arguing, begging, or rationalizing changed his mind.

He’d ride out. Alone.

He stayed away for two months. But he soon realized that he’d rather be dead than live without Chris. He might be a sinner, but that wasn’t anything new.

Chris welcomed him back with open arms, and they made love that night on the porch, under the stars.

And Vin vowed he’d never leave again – only death could separate him from Chris.


The two months when Vin was gone were the darkest of my life, comparable only to when I’d lost Sarah and Adam. A dozen times I started out after him, and a dozen times I came back. Vin had to figure it out for himself. But when he finally rode in that night, I knew I’d do whatever it took to keep him here, at my side, forever.

It was six months before JD spoke to us. I understood. He was torn between his wife and us. Casey was grieving for her child and her aunt, and it was easier to blame me and Vin than herself or even God.

She kept our secret, though, which is all I could really ask of her.

JD finally rode out to our place with Buck one afternoon. He looked uncomfortable, and I wasn’t sure if it was because of his wife’s feelings, or his own. But little by little, it got easier. Even Casey gradually offered us a nod when she saw us in town.

Josiah said it had to do with religion. After Casey got pregnant that first time, she apparently found God, and I guess she figured out that God doesn’t take kindly to two men doing what Vin and I do together.

Vin says God is in the sun and the moon and the stars - but I only believe it when those things are reflected in his eyes.

Josiah clears his throat, and I’m reminded that I’m not alone with Vin. “I’d like to pray for him, Chris.”

“Well, that depends, Josiah. This gonna be a prayer for the dying? Or the living?”

“How about if I just pray for peace for Vin?”

“Suit yourself,” I say again.

Josiah’s just getting started when I rudely interrupt him. “How did you find out about us, Josiah?” All of the sudden, for reasons I can’t begin to explain, it seems absurdly important that I know this.

He smiles. “I think I knew all along. Maybe even before you and Vin knew.”

I mull that over for a moment and decide that’s possible. I can’t remember a time when Josiah’s easy acceptance wasn’t a constant in our lives. “What did you think? When you first realized?”

“I thought it was as natural a blessing as I’d ever encountered.”

I have to smile. Only in Josiah’s rather unique mind could two men living with each other, loving each other, be considered natural. And a blessing? Casey’s not the only one who’s read the Bible, and I’m pretty sure “blessing” isn’t quite the word used to describe how Vin and I show our feelings for each other.

Still, I like how it sounds – the blessing part of it - and I put that thought away for a later time when I can talk it over with Vin.

“What about Nathan?” I ask.

Nathan’s never come out and talked with Vin or me about our relationship, yet I know that he accepts it without hesitation. Probably has something to do with that problem he has about losing people. I reckon he figures anyone brave enough to make a commitment to someone else should be left alone. Or maybe he just understands intolerance better than most.

“He figured it out that winter when you came down with pneumonia. He said he saw Vin sitting at your bedside, kissing your hands.”

Kissing my hands? Vin never told me he did that. It’s so sweetly innocent, something most would never imagine the wooly sharpshooter ever thinking of doing. But I know better.

I wish I could kiss Vin’s hands. Nathan washed them down good with carbolic and re-wrapped them just yesterday, but I can see that the wounds are draining again, the bandages turning a pink-tinged yellow.

“Do you think they’ll be alright?” I ask Josiah absently. “Vin’s hands? Do you think he’ll be able to shoot again?”

Josiah cocks his head and looks at me oddly. “You really believe he’ll get better, don’t you?”

I frown. Haven’t I been saying that for six days now? It occurs to me that maybe Vin and I have gotten so good at speaking without words, that we’ve forgotten how to talk to other people.

When I don’t immediately reply, Josiah adds, with something like wonder in his voice, “You have faith.”

“I have faith in Vin,” I clarify.

But Josiah shakes his head. “It’s more than that. You really believe.”

I do believe. But is it really faith? Or desperation? It’s a fine line, I realize, and for the first time in six days, my voice wavers, “I have to believe. I have to.”

Those clear blue eyes are warm and moist when Josiah replies, “Well, I reckon if love can move a mountain, it can heal our brother.”

I recognize the change immediately – hope where there was none, and I’m grateful.

Josiah stays until almost dawn, then I send him on his way. I need to be alone with Vin when the sun comes up.

Our bed faces the window, of course. The first thing Vin did when he moved in was to rearrange the furniture that way. I said I didn’t want to be awakened at the break of dawn every day, but he grinned and said he’d make it worth my while. And he did. There hasn’t been a single morning I haven’t relished waking up with Vin’s mouth against my face or my ear – or other parts of me, when he was in a mood.

I pull the curtains wide open and climb on the bed next to him once again. Carefully, I slip my arm under his shoulders and pull him close. Then I lightly kiss his eyelids and whisper against his cheek, “Vin, wake up.”

He moans a little, but his eyes are clear when he finally manages to peel his lids apart.

“It’s time,” I say quietly, my lips hovering over his.

“Today?” he rasps.

“Yeah. Ten years, Pard. Today.”

We’d planned this celebration for weeks, but it wasn’t supposed to be like this. Vin had wanted to go up to that mountain top where he first told me about the bounty on his head. We were going to spend the entire day and night there, reliving and rejoicing in our time together. That can’t happen, but at least we can see the sun come up together.

His eyes meet mine, and I suddenly see it then, what the others have seen all along, and I’m plagued with doubt. He is sick, he is suffering. Am I wrong to hold onto him?

There’s only one way to know, only he can tell me. “The sweetest ten years of my life,” I say. My eyes sting as I hold my breath and wait for his response. Will he tell me it’s only the beginning? Or the end?

“Next ten . . . will be even sweeter.” His eyes are shining as he lifts his chin and his mouth greets mine.

I thought nothing could match the intensity of our first kiss – but I’m wrong. For while that kiss was filled with heat and passion and longing, this one is about something more: devotion, commitment, and promise.

He’s getting better.


Buck pushes his way through the door a few hours later with Josiah and Ezra in tow. I think they all spent the night together at Vin’s cabin. Probably had to brush the cobwebs out of the way first.

We do go there now and then to make it look like someone lives there. We put some dishes in the sink, throw some towels on the line, muss up the bed . . .

The deception is probably unnecessary by now, but no use taking chances.

They all three look at me expectantly when I leave the bedroom. That bad element part of me wants to make them wait a little longer – or I could really surprise them by throwing out a Bible verse: “Oh ye of little faith!”

But instead, I just tell them what I know. “He’s getting better.”

I don’t know why they choose to believe me now when they haven’t all week, but it’s clear by the look of relief on their faces that they do. Buck mutters something about taking first watch, while Ezra leads me to the couch and Josiah disappears in the kitchen.

I guess it’s alright if I rest for a spell, but I choose the chair by the fireplace, instead. I sit here every night, while Vin sits on the floor by the fire. He says he’s always cold, but I suspect he’s just more comfortable on the ground. Some nights he blows on that mouthpiece, and I gotta say – he ain’t improved much in ten years. Most nights, I read while Vin sits at my feet. Invariably, my hand strays to his hair when he rests his head on my knee.

It takes us forever to finish a book. That’s because Vin has an inquisitive mind, and in spite of our reputations as men who rarely open our mouths, we do actually talk - out loud. I’ll read something that will trigger a thought in his head, and we’ll go off on some tangent for hours.

After that, we climb into bed together and sometimes we talk some more. Or sometimes we don’t talk at all. Sometime words really are more of a convenience than a necessity, after all.

It’s a good life, and I drift off to sleep with that in mind.

I don’t know how many hours have passed when someone comes to the door. I’ve hardly gotten to my feet when JD rushes in, followed by Nathan.

“Hey, everybody!” he shouts. “I’ve got a son!”

Congratulatory comments are drowned out by Buck’s loud whoops of joy. It’s a bittersweet moment, only because Vin would so love to be part of it.

After things calm down a bit, JD comes to me and he says, “Do you know what day it is, Chris?”

I smile at him. “Yeah, JD, I know.”

“It’s perfect, ain’t it?” he gushes. “My son bein’ born ten years to the day from when we all first met?”

“It is,” I agree. “But shouldn’t you be with Casey right now?”

Nathan finally speaks up. “Mary’s with her. She did real good, and the boy is strong and healthy. JD wanted to tell you all himself.” He’s grinning, but he sobers up quick when he casts a glance towards the bedroom. “Vin?”

“He’s getting better,” I say, hoping he’ll take me at my word like the others.

“He is?” JD asks excitedly.

I nod.

But Nathan’s not buying it. He goes into the bedroom himself to check on Vin. And when he comes back ten minutes later, he’s shaking his head. “Well, his fever is down. And most of his wounds seem t’ be healin’. Never seen the like,” he mumbles.

Josiah places his hand on Nathan’s shoulder. “It’s a day of miracles, wouldn’t you agree?”

I see the hesitation in Nathan’s eyes as he looks at me. I know it’s not over yet. Vin still has plenty of healing to do. But we’re gonna have another ten years, and that’s all that matters.

Finally, Nathan smiles broadly. “I reckon we were due. After all, we had us a day of miracle ten years ago, right Chris?”

“Yeah. We sure did.”

It’s true. Nathan should have hung that day, and me and Vin probably should have been killed trying to save him. There’s no accounting for JD’s stagecoach traveling through town at just the right moment, or for Buck ending up in the same town at the same time I did. Might not be miracles, exactly, but something sure set us up just right.

The boys take turns spending a few minutes with Vin, but I know he’s not up to visiting just yet, so within the hour, I send them on their way.

To my surprise, he’s awake when I head back into the bedroom, and he looks up at me and says, “JD and Casey – they’ll be alright now.”

“Yeah. They’ll be fine.”

He smiles, and my heart is a hundred times lighter.

I know he should sleep, but I’m not ready to let him go just yet. “Why don’t I read to you?” I offer.

He nods, so I go to my dresser and pull out Sarah’s Bible. I guess all this talk of miracles and faith has me thinking.

Vin raises his brow. “You really gonna read that?”

“Just the parts I like,” I reply.

He must be feeling better because he argues with me. “No. From the beginning. I want t’ hear it all.”

“Vin, I don’t want to read anything that says what you and I do is wrong.”

“What we do is love each other, Chris. Ain’t no harm in that.”

“I know that, Vin, but not everyone agrees. This book doesn’t agree – it says what we do is a sin, an abomination, to be exact. Ranks right up there with murder, according to some folks.”

Vin’s voice is growing weaker, but he’s not finished yet. “We’re all sinners. Don’t see no point in worryin’ about which sin is worse or weighs heavier. If there’s any payin’ up t’ be done at the end, I reckon someone a whole lot smarter than us will figure it out. All y’ can do is what y’ think is right while you’re here.”

“And you think lovin’ me is right?”

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure. But maybe I should study on it another ten years or so.”

“Or maybe a lifetime,” I suggest.

“Yeah,” he says softly. “That sounds ‘bout right.”

It occurs to me as I lean back in the chair and open to the book of Genesis that we’re already knee-deep in conversation about sin, and I haven’t even started reading yet. At this rate, we’ll be lucky if we manage a chapter a day. It could take us ten years to finish the Good Book.

Good thing we’ve got the time.

The End