Vin struggled to maneuver another thick, heavy log onto the fire, breathing heavily from the exertion and unable to smother the coughs the effort tore from him. But the spasm passed quickly and he resumed his work, finally wrestling the log into place. Wiping the sweat from his forehead with a sleeve, he sat back and viewed his handiwork with satisfaction. With any luck, the fire would burn a good long while before it needed tending again.

He moved off the raised brick hearth and settled himself on the pile of comforters he'd spread before it, smiling in anticipation. Chris was still out bedding down the horses for the night, having made perfectly, evenly sternly, clear that he'd do it himself. That had been fine by Vin, who'd decided to prepare for another sort of bedding.

He'd been at the ranch for two weeks now, getting over his illness, letting Chris take care of him while they'd made their first tentative explorations of their new relationship. So far, they'd shared little more than passionate kisses and intimate fondling, getting familiar with each other's bodies, getting comfortable with giving physical expression to their love. Even though he'd been deemed well enough to return to work, Chris had been reluctant to tax his still-returning strength in other "activities."

But tonight that was going to change. Vin didn't think he could wait any longer. His desire for Chris had grown unbearable, was made even stronger by the knowledge that Chris wanted him every bit as much. So, though he still tired easily and was yet plagued by a really annoying cough, Vin had decided the wait was over. It was Friday night; he could rest all damn day tomorrow. Tonight, he was going to have what he wanted, or die trying.

The door from the porch burst open and Chris stalked in with a furious snarl. "Goddamn it all ta hell, it's rainin' again! Where the hell was all this fuckin' rain when the whole goddamn state was goin' up in flames--" He stopped in mid-tirade, his wet black duster half off, his startled gaze falling on Vin. "What--"

The younger man sat cross-legged on a thick pallet of comforters, his blue gaze wide and filled with reflected firelight, his long brown hair framing his face and falling to his shoulders in a shining wealth. His dark blue and gray flannel shirt was untucked and unbuttoned, and hung open to reveal the gray thermal shirt beneath. He'd removed his boots, but still wore the olive drab wool socks left from his Army days. He'd taken off his belt, and the worn, faded jeans that had once hugged his body so snugly still gaped a bit at the waist, showing how much of the weight lost during his illness he had to regain.

But, God, he was still the most beautiful sight Chris Larabee could ever recall having seen...

To one side of Vin, off the comforters, several longnecks were chilling in a bucket of ice, while, to his other, a huge fire blazed in the hearth. Chris let the duster fall from his body to the floor in a soggy heap, his green gaze riveted to Tanner.

"Somebody's been busy." His voice caught in his throat as he watched the firelight picking out the red and honey-gold highlights in Vin's hair and bring a rosy glow to that beautiful face.

Vin stared up at Chris and slowly licked his lips, his heart swelling in his chest as he read the love, and the naked hunger, in those brilliant green eyes. "Heard the rain," he drawled in his soft, gravelly voice. "Thought ya might git chilled. Figgered I c'd warm ya up, if'n ya needed it."

As if drawn to a lodestone, Chris crossed the den to that pallet, and to the young man who waited upon it, his blood rushing through his veins. He knew he should make certain Vin was strong enough for this, but couldn't make himself ask. He, too, was painfully aware of what they'd denied themselves, and now could think of nothing except his overpowering need for Vin.

He stopped only long enough to shed his wet, muddy boots, then all but threw himself onto the comforters, at Vin. Immediately, Tanner's arms reached for and closed about him, and he shuddered and gasped harshly as that warm, sinewy body was pressed close against his.

"'M tired'a waitin', cowboy," Vin whispered, pulling the wet golden head close to his and burying his mouth in Larabee's.

Chris shuddered again and groaned thickly as Vin's hot, eager mouth claimed his, as those firm, full lips took his with an impatient hunger and moved ravenously against them. Swept by a rush of white heat, he clutched at Tanner and opened his mouth to the sharpshooter's, craving the man to the very depths of his soul. Vin's tongue slipped past his lips and through his teeth, and Chris's tongue rose at once to meet it, the two twining, stroking, dancing in intricate, intimate union. Groans and growls tore from the two men as their mouths locked in a series of deep, demanding kisses, as their hands explored and bodies surged, as weeks of pent-up and frustrated passion finally burst free.

Vin pushed Chris off his knees and onto his ass, and settled himself on his lap, wrapping his arms and legs about the hard, powerful body. He swept his tongue over Larabee's wet, swollen mouth, and sucked hungrily on his lower lip. All the while, his long, nimble fingers worked to unbutton the dark shirt that he might get to the man beneath.

"You're mine," he declared in a low, soft growl, nibbling at one corner of Chris's mouth and finally stripping him of the shirt and T-shirt beneath. "Ain't ever gonna letcha go!"

Chris didn't want to be let go, couldn't imagine ever wanting that. Vin's hot, greedy mouth was moving slowly over his chin and along his jawline, biting, kissing, licking, sucking, igniting a thousand fires beneath Larabee's flesh. Meanwhile, the hands that so skillfully handled a rifle were just as skillfully handling him, sweeping over his shoulders and down his chest and back, stroking, kneading, pinching, raking, sending showers of sparks and shards of heat shooting through him, electrifying every nerve and turning his blood to liquid fire. He was intensely, painfully aware of the lean, lithe body moving so slowly against his, of the firm, tight ass grinding into his crotch and bringing his long-deprived cock to aching fullness in his too-tight jeans.

"Jesus, Vin--"

"Ssh," Tanner whispered, "hush now." He trailed his mouth to Chris's throat, finding the racing pulse and pressing a series of feather-soft kisses to it. "Gonna take real good care'a ya, cowboy," he promised, kissing and sucking his way down that throat and over to one powerful shoulder. "Gonna make all yer hurt go away, like ya done fer me."

Chris groaned and shuddered, content to let Tanner work his magic upon him. In truth, he'd been more than a little worried about this first time, was not at all certain what he should do. He loved Vin deeply and wanted him desperately, was all but drowning in that need, but had no experience with men and, for once in his life, was completely at a loss.

Not surprisingly, though, Vin had long sensed Chris's unease, and understood it. "Jist leave it all up ta me, cowboy," he said softly, lifting his head and gazing into those deep, smoldering emerald eyes. He raised a hand and ran it slowly through Larabee's thick, damp hair, then ran his long fingers lightly over that strong, flushed face, tracing the bold and beautiful features he already knew by heart. "Gonna show ya how much I love ya." He smiled slightly, his own eyes shimmering blue pools of love and desire. "Ya trust me, don'tcha?"

Chris gently cradled the face of the man he loved in a shaking hand and stared helplessly into Vin's eyes, losing himself in them. "With everything I got, cowboy," he breathed. "My life, my heart, my soul. Hell, I reckon they've been yours from the very first."

Vin leaned forward and pressed tender kisses to Chris's eyebrows and eyelids, his nose and cheekbones, his wide mouth, slightly cleft chin and firm jawline. "I'll always take real good care of 'em," he whispered, worshiping that face with his mouth. "Won't never let no harm come to 'em." He pulled back again and took Chris's hands in his, holding tightly to them and gazing deeply into the shimmering green eyes. "Bin thinkin' about that makin' love thing you was tellin' me about," he drawled softly. "Reckon I'd like ta try it, if'n you're willin'."

Chris smiled and leaned forward, tenderly kissing Vin. "More than willin', pard," he whispered. "Can't think of anything I'd rather do. Or anybody I'd rather do it with." His smile faded, and his eyes grew serious as that uncertainty again twinged within him. "But I gotta tell ya, Vin, I've never done this with a man before. And I'm not sure--"

"'S all right," Vin assured him softly, blue eyes alight with love. "Like I said, I'll take care of ya. I want to." A soft blush crept into his cheeks. "I wanta make this good for ya, Chris," he said shyly. "I want it ta be good fer both of us. All them other times... wasn't no love in it. 'N I only ever felt dirty 'n used after. But now..." He looked down at Chris's hands, still joined with his, then lifted his gaze back to Larabee's. "I want us both ta know it kin be good... hell, better'n good. I wanta know what it's like ta be with somebody I love, 'n who loves me."

"I do love you, Vin," Chris said quietly, firmly. "Not like others have said they did, not just to get what I can from you, not just until I can get back to my 'real' life or whatever the hell else those others decided." His green eyes burned into Tanner's. "I love you. It's you and me, cowboy, for as long and as far as I can see. We're gonna have a whole long life together, Vin, and a whole lifetime of this 'makin' love thing,' as you call it."

A slow smile spread over Vin's face, giving a brilliant light to his blue eyes. "I like that picture, Chris," he rasped softly. "Me 'n you, always together... Like it better'n anything I ever seen b'fore." He leaned forward and pressed his mouth to Larabee's. "Like you better'n anything I ever seen b'fore."

Again Chris shivered and groaned as Vin began his seduction in earnest. That mouth again claimed his with a deep, demanding urgency, the firm lips moving hungrily against his, the nimble tongue sweeping against his and freely exploring the cavern of his mouth. Chris hadn't had a drop of liquor all day, but he was rapidly growing drunk upon the taste, scent and feel of the exquisite young man in his arms.

Vin lifted his mouth from Chris's and trailed it along that firm jawline to one tempting ear, slipping his tongue inside and then sweeping it lightly over the delicate shell, pausing now and again to blow teasingly against it. He licked and blew over the entire ear, drawing shudders and gasps from Chris, then took the lobe into his mouth and sucked upon it.

His hands were every bit as busy as his mouth, sliding slowly along the broad shoulders and then down the long and powerful chest, stroking the warm, smooth flesh, kneading the hard muscles, tracing the curve of ribs. Long fingers danced and teased, fingernails scraped, palms massaged, until Chris was shuddering, gasping and moaning in helpless arousal. While his mouth bit and sucked at the junction of Larabee's neck and shoulder, his callused thumbs found the man's dark nipples and stroked them to taut erection. Without a word, he bore Chris back against the pallet of comforters, his hands going to the broad shoulders, his mouth now working its way slowly, agonizingly, over and down that beautifully sculpted chest.

Chris cried out thickly and drove his hands into Vin's hair, pressing his head down to keep that mouth from leaving him. His own head was thrashing back and forth, his eyes closed, his breath escaping in harsh, ragged gasps. He was in torment, on fire, his flesh burning, his cock throbbing. Vin's mouth abruptly closed hard about one nipple and sucked ravenously at it, and Chris arched his back and cried out sharply as lightning shot through him.

"Oh, Jesus!"

Vin laughed softly and darted the tip of his tongue snake-like over that thick, hard nipple. "Nope," he whispered, his breath fanning over the dark bud, "'s jist li'l ol' me." He raked his fingernails down Chris's sides, drawing another hard hasp and shudder from the man. "Hope I'm enough."

"E... nough?" Chris panted through clenched teeth. Vin was licking a path between his pectorals, the man's lips, teeth and tongue doing unholy things to his body and senses, those incredible fingers playing like spiders over his abdomen, that crotch rubbing teasingly against his own. "God... damn it... Tanner... you may be... too... much!"

Vin laughed again, spurred to wickedness by Chris's words. Lifting his head enough to see that the man's eyes were still closed, he reached for the bucket nearby and drew out a piece of ice, his blue eyes gleaming mischievously. Closing his fingers about the ice to melt it, he let the resulting water pool in his hand, then smiled and held that hand just above Larabee's chest.

"Reckon we'll see," he breathed as the first drop fell.

"JESUS!" Chris howled as the cold water hit his nipple. Immediately, though, warm breath blew over him, then another drop fell, followed again by the puff of air, all combining to send his senses into overload. "God... Vin... GOD!"

"Make up yer mind, cowboy," Vin drawled softly, now trailing the melting ice down the center of Chris's chest and following it with his breath. "Me or God, which one ya want?"

Chris couldn't talk, was beyond words, beyond thought. Nothing existed now except the barrage of sensations launched against him by the miraculous mouth and imaginative hands that tortured him without mercy.

Vin shifted himself off the lower half of Larabee's body and continued to lick, kiss, bite and blow paths over the man's taut stomach while his fingers nimbly unfastened the black leather belt. When that was done, a hand strayed downward to play against the hard swelling at Larabee's crotch, stroking and squeezing wickedly.

"See ya got somethin' fer me here, pard," he whispered. "Mebbe we should unwrap it, see what it is."

Chris nearly screamed as Vin began unbuttoning his jeans, as those long, strong fingers moved excruciatingly against his tortured, throbbing cock. Hoarse croaks and wordless cries escaped him as Vin slowly -- much too slowly -- removed his jeans and briefs.

"Well, lookee here," Vin rasped as Larabee's erection finally sprang free. Licking his lips in hungry anticipation, feeling the heat surging through his own hard cock, he tossed aside Chris's clothes and knelt between the man's legs, his glittering gaze riveted to that thick, beckoning shaft. Breathing hard and trembling from the need building in him, he raised a forefinger to his mouth, licked its tip and lowered the wet digit to the swollen, purple head of Chris's thick, rigid staff. "'N it ain't even my birthday."

Chris hissed and arched his hips wildly as that wet finger traced slow, lazy circles over the head of his burning cock, as it wandered just as slowly down his throbbing length, swept slowly around the base and meandered back up, seeming to drive slivers of hot glass through his flesh. Sweat poured from his body and his breath tore from him in ragged gasps as fire followed that tormenting, talented finger. He groaned thickly and reached for his cock, only to have his hands pushed firmly away.

"Sorry, cowboy," Vin purred, "ain't ever learnt ta share my toys. 'S a failure in my upbringin', I reckon." He laced his fingers through Chris's and bent low, sliding his warm, wet tongue over the weeping slit and licking away the pearly drops forming there.

"SHIT!" Chris shrieked, bucking violently and clinging tightly to Vin's hands as that mouth found new ways to torment and delight him. Vin licked and kissed the head of his shaft, lapped at it like a cat at a saucer of milk, then licked slowly down his length to the base, only to lick his way back up. Now and again he paused to blow across or kiss the head, intensifying his actions until he'd reduced Chris to a writhing, panting, moaning wreck. And while his mouth wandered attentively over that hot, delicious cock, he freed one hand from Chris's and claimed his inviting balls with it, cupping, caressing, stroking, squeezing, delighting in the wordless cries and anguished thrashing of the man beneath him.

But he was still not through. When he had tasted and memorized every inch of Chris's cock, he moved his mouth to the heavy balls, licking and kissing the full sacs, taking each into his mouth and sucking at it as if it were sweet candy. When he finished with one, he moved to the other, repeating his actions several times, learning the taste and scent of this man by heart. Chris arched wildly, nearly throwing him off, and Vin moved his hands to Larabee's hips to hold him down. Then, feeling the hot knife's edge of hunger pressing ever more deeply through him, he slipped his tongue between Chris's balls and found the dark, puckered opening behind them. He laved his tongue over that hole, rimmed it, and blew across it, tearing another ragged cry from Larabee.

"Easy, cowboy," he murmured hoarsely at that cry, hearing the pain and desperation in it. He tenderly kissed the hole, then each of Chris's balls, before returning to the rigid staff. "Gonna take care'a ya now," he breathed, his voice unsteady, his blue eyes glittering with fire and need. "Gonna make all the pain go away." He licked his way up Chris's cock, kissed the weeping head, then took the thick flesh whole into his mouth.

Chris howled and arched off the floor as that mouth claimed him, as the wet cavern closed about him and drew him ever deeper. He gasped and moaned and thrashed wildly about, grabbing the sharpshooter's head and pulling him still further down upon him.

Vin took Chris as deep as he could, sucking ravenously, desperately at his cock while his fingers played with Larabee's heavy balls. He hungered for this man as he never had for any other, craved him with every part of his being, wanted nothing more than to nourish his body and soul upon him. Chris was the culmination of every dream he'd ever had, every longing he'd ever felt, and Vin could not imagine anything more perfect than being with him now.

For once in his life, he'd actually had a dream come true.

For Chris, this was beyond anything he'd ever dreamed. Vin's mouth and hands were unleashing torrents of pleasure more intense than anything he'd ever imagined. A firestorm of sensations engulfed him, buffeted him about and knocked him reeling, sent lighting searing through him and exploding about him, turning his entire existence into one of light and heat. That heat was building, churning, boiling through him in a molten tide, charring him to his very soul. He could not stop it as it rose, could do nothing except give himself to it and scream aloud as it erupted from him.


Tanner caught and swallowed the potent stream of Chris's release, needing every drop of this man, letting not a morsel go to waste. He drank Chris in like a man dying of thirst and milked him for still more, desperate to satisfy the craving that had consumed him for so long. Only when the powerful tide had stemmed, only when Chris was empty and spent, did he allow the softened flesh to slip from his mouth. With a soft, shuddering sigh, he moved up along Chris and leaned over, tenderly claiming the man's lips with his.

"Love ya, cowboy," he whispered against that mouth.

Larabee reached up with rubbery arms and brought Vin close to him, tasting himself in the other's mouth and marveling at what they had just shared. He cradled Tanner tightly against him and buried his mouth in his, startled to feel the sharp sting of tears in his eyes. But he let them fall, knowing he never had to hide a thing from this young man.

But Chris's silence worried Vin, and when the kiss ended he sat up, staring anxiously down at the older man, unnerved by his tears. "That all right?" he asked softly, fearfully, lacing his fingers tightly together and hiding them in his lap.

Chris opened his eyes and gazed up, easily reading the uncertainty in the face above him. "C'mere, you," he said quietly, reaching once more for Vin and drawing the younger man into his arms. "That was not 'all right,' cowboy," he murmured, settling Vin's head on his shoulder and holding the slim body close against his. "That was as far beyond 'all right' as anything could possibly be."

Vin smiled and relaxed, his fears put to rest. "Jist wanted ta make ya feel good," he said, gazing intently into the deep green eyes that went straight to his soul. "Wanted ta make ya feel loved. Like you're doin' fer me."

Chris frowned and ran gentle fingers through Tanner's hair. "But I haven't done anything--"

"Yeah, you have," Vin sat up, propping his head on a hand and resting his elbow on the comforters. "Mebbe not nothin' like I jist done fer you, not yet, but..." He frowned thoughtfully and traced a slender forefinger lightly over Chris's face. "It's the way ya make me feel, the way ya treat me. I matter to ya." He shrugged. "I know that don't sound like much, 'specially ta somebody like you, who's mattered all yer life, but when y'ain't ever mattered b'fore... Well, it jist means more'n I got the words ta say. 'N I wanted ta show ya how much ya matter to me." Chris smiled slightly, a light of teasing in his eyes. "I gotta say, pard, for somebody who ain't got any words, you got a helluva way of gettin' your point across." He took Vin's hand and enfolded it between his two. "You got anything else you ain't got words for?"

A broad, bright grin spread over Vin's face, and his blue eyes darkened with pleasure. "Ya mean it? Ya really want me ta love you some more?"

Chris gave an answering grin. "Well, let's see. I'm layin' here wearin' nothin' but my charm, got a bucket of beer within reach, a huge fire goin', a nice comfy bed, and the goddamnedest-lookin' ATF sharpshooter in the history of the world starin' at me with the bluest eyes and the dopiest grin I've ever seen. Shit, pard, if those aren't the perfect conditions, then I don't know what would be. Except," the smile faded, and the green eyes narrowed, "aw, shit, now there's a fly in the ointment."

Vin froze and his eyes widened as a wave of dread sank through him. "What?" he whispered strickenly. Goddamn it, Chris was havin' second thoughts... "I do somethin' wrong?"

Chris sighed heavily and sat up. "'Fraid so," he said somberly. He reached out and tugged at Vin's shirt. "One of us here is wearin' way too many clothes. Major faux pas, cowboy." He poked a forefinger into Vin's chest and frowned. "Damn, Tanner, how many layers are you wearin', anyway?"

Vin bristled immediately and pulled away, crossing his arms against his chest and glaring defiantly at Larabee. "So I'm wearin' a few extra clothes," he growled. "I git cold easy, you know that. 'N Nathan told me ta keep warm."

Chris gave a leering grin. "He also told you to avoid any strenuous activity, as I recall." He stared at Vin until the younger man blushed a deep red. "Seems strange which advice you choose ta take, and which you just ignore."

"Fuck you, Larabee."

The leer widened and the green eyes gleamed. "Not unless you shuck some of them clothes first, pard." To his delight, Vin's blush deepened, and he laughed aloud. "Goddamn, you are somethin' else!"

Vin scowled and bowed his head. "Now you're laughin' at me," he muttered self-consciously.

Chris's laughter faded and he reached out, slipping a hand under Tanner's chin and lifting his head until their eyes met. "Never, Vin," he said softly, seriously. "I'll tease ya, but I'll never make fun of you. I'd never hurt you like that. But I will tell ya this." He gently cupped Tanner's chin. "You do amaze the hell outta me. You've got a heart and a soul that shines right through your eyes and lights up my whole world. You got every right and reason not ta want this, to be afraid of this, but all you're worried about is makin' it good for me. Jesus God, Tanner," he said in wonder, "you're just a goddamn marvel!"

Vin gave a crooked, boyish grin. "Y'ain't so bad yourself, cowboy," he breathed. He glanced down at himself, then looked back up at Chris and laughed lightly. "Reckon I am a mite overdressed, huh?"

"Yeah," Chris answered, gripping Tanner's arms and pulling him closer, "but I'm bettin' we can change that real quick." As if to prove his words, he stripped Vin of his flannel shirt, then tugged the thermal shirt out of his jeans and up over his chest, only to find the T-shirt beneath. "Like peelin' a goddamn onion!" he muttered, impatiently pulling off the shirts until he found the bare skin beneath. "Ha! I knew ya had ta be under there somewhere!"

"Funny bastard, ain'tcha?" Vin grumbled. "Think jist 'cause you're the boss 'n all, you kin... Hey!" he yelped, jerking back as Chris's fingers hit the ticklish spot along his ribs. "Now, look--"

"A-ha!" Chris gave a wolfish grin, wagged his eyebrows, and brushed his fingers again over Tanner's ribs, eliciting another yelp and a vile curse. "Gotcha, pard!" he growled, pouncing on the lean Texan and knocking him backward, attacking his ribs with merciless fingers.

"Aw, shit... Chris... no!" Vin squeaked between bouts of laughter as Chris seemed to find every ticklish spot on his upper body. Then the laughter gave way to breathless coughs, and Chris relented at once, sitting upright and pulling Vin against him, merely holding him and stroking his back as Tanner struggled to regain his breath and stop coughing.

"God, Vin, I'm sorry," he murmured, wincing as another ragged cough escaped the younger man. "Guess I got carried away--"

"'S all right," Vin gasped, closing his eyes and nestling his head against Chris's shoulder. A smile crossed his face as the coughs at last subsided. "I like it when ya hold me like this," he murmured.

Chris tightened his arms about the younger man and bowed his head, finding a spot on that long, slender neck and brushing his lips against it. "I aim ta please," he whispered. He discovered a particularly sensitive spot just beneath Vin's ear and focused all his attention upon it, drawing a deep moan and a heavy shudder. "So, how'm I doin'?" he breathed against that prized spot.

"Oh... Chri...isss!" Vin hissed as that firm mouth sucked hungrily at him. He clutched at Larabee and dug his fingers into the powerful back, gasping and groaning as the man explored every inch of his neck with a wondrous thoroughness.

"Jesus, Vin, you taste so good!" he murmured. He pushed Tanner back against the comforters, never lifting his mouth from that enticing throat. He swept lips, teeth and tongue over the younger man's warm flesh, nibbling at his throbbing pulse, kissing his Adam's apple, licking the hollow at the base of his throat, sucking at the corner of his collarbone. His hands, meanwhile, paid equally close and loving attention to Tanner's body, stroking smooth flesh, kneading taut muscles, caressing scars, memorizing every line, plane and curve. Each time Vin gasped, groaned, stiffened or shuddered, Chris lingered in and concentrated on that spot, intensifying his caresses until he had the young man moaning and writhing in helpless, mindless pleasure.

It was time he showed Vin what it was to be well and truly loved.


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