Vin sat next to the bed watching the steady rise and fall of Chris's chest. Bandages covered his chest where a bullet had ripped through, nearly killing the older man. How close had it been this time? Too close. Vin didn't want to think about how close he came to losing Chris. But he couldn't stop thinking about it.
Just like he couldn't stop thinking about the emotions that were running through him. The fear and anger he'd felt when he saw Chris fall, those he could understand. Chris was his best friend and he'd seen him shot down right in front of his eyes. Those emotions were expected. But the others weren't.
When had his feelings for his best friend changed? When had the feelings he had gone from friendship to love? Holding Chris in his arms, he had never felt more afraid in his life. But he wasn't afraid of losing his best friend. He was afraid of losing the man he loved. Where had that come from? And what was he supposed to do about it.
Vin looked again at the older man. He couldn't remember a time when Chris hadn't been there for him and he didn't want that to change. Chris was the one person in his life he trusted to watch his back. And telling him what he was feeling was one sure way of pushing Chris away. He didn't want to see the disgust in Chris' eyes. He didn't want to lose the one person who mattered to him.
Being with a man wasn't new to Vin, but loving a man was. A part of him wanted to crawl into the bed with Chris and hold him close, but he didn't move. He didn't know how Chris felt about men who laid with other men, but he'd seen no indication that Chris would welcome his attentions. Hell, the man had been happily married, a family man. Vin couldn't see him involved in something that most of society saw as sinful.
And though he knew that keeping his love for Chris a secret was the right thing to do, it didn't stop the knowledge from tearing at his heart. He would have to find a way to hide the feelings. No one could find out that he felt anymore then friendship for the older man. And he would have to learn to sit back and smile when he saw Chris with Mary.
Vin's attention was drawn to the bed and he leaned forward. "How ya doing, partner?"
Chris winced as he shifted into a more comfortable position. "Feels like I got shot."
"That's about right then. You want me to get Nathan?"
"Nah, I'm fine. Everyone else okay?"
Vin nodded. "They're good."
"What about you?"
Chris looked at him curiously. "You looked so sad when I woke up. You okay?"
Vin mentally swore. He'd have to be more careful. "Fine, just tired."
"You been here the whole time?"
"Yeah. Mary was here for a bit while I got changed and ate then she went home for some rest. I'll be here till Nathan comes back in the morning."
"I don't need a babysitter, Vin."
Vin smirked. "This coming from the guy who forgot to get out of the way of a bullet? And you do need someone to watch ya. Nathan is afraid of infection so you need to be watched for a couple days. Good thing you got so many willing to take turns watching your ornery ass."
Chris glared at him for a second then smiled. "Yeah, I'm pretty lucky."
"Get some more sleep, Chris. It was too damn close this time, cowboy."
Chris nodded. "I don't like the feeling much myself. Thanks."
Chris held out his hand and after a slight hesitation, Vin took the man's hand. "For watching my back. You took down the shooter."
"Not quick enough."
Chris squeezed his hand. "I'm alive, so I say it was quick enough. I owe you, Vin."
Vin shook his head as he memorized the feel of Chris' hand in his own. "Friends look out for each other, Larabee. You watch my back and I watch yours."
Chris nodded as his eyes started getting heavy. "Glad you're watching my back, Vin. Couldn't do this without ya."
Vin nodded as he watched Chris drift back to sleep. He looked down at their hands, still clutched to each other. His first impulse was to break the hold and sit back but he didn't. If this was all he was going to have, he was going to make the most of it.
Shifting the chair, he sat back still holding Chris' hand. His thumb caressed the other man's hand as he closed his eyes. He could never tell Chris the truth about his feelings, but this was still where he belonged. His place in this world was by Chris Larabee's side, even if it was just as friends. He could live with that... He'd have too.