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A near miss is a hit....

This story is based on a very short snippet, Near Miss, that I posted to the "The Sentinel" slash list. Judi S. liked the idea; this is a massive rewrite in The Magnificent Seven world, just for her.

With thanks and apologies to Walter Mirisch, John Watson, Trilogy Productions, CBS, Maria Mogavero, and Neil Young, and proceeding under the assumption that forgiveness is easier to ask than permission...

In a strange game
I saw myself as you knew me
When the change came
And you had a chance to see through me
Though the other side is just the same
You can tell my dream is real
Because I love you
Can you see me now

ON THE WAY HOME ~ Neil Young


Things hadn't been right between them for a long time. Their lives had become a series of near misses, miscommunications, missteps, missed opportunities. And it had never been clearer than that Thursday afternoon, when the Carrigan brothers went down.

Chris was off his game and Vin knew it, and in keeping too close an eye on his friend, he'd blown his own obligation. Ezra had paid for it, in blood. A shallow wound that would heal quickly … but Vin had seen the question in those green eyes as Ezra lay on the pavement, shuddering in pain. And the surprise in JD's, and the anger in Buck's, and the quiet speculation in Nathan's and Josiah's.

Worst of all had been the guilt and the anger he'd seen when he looked to Chris. And Vin knew what his own face must look like, so he'd turned and walked away.

But the reports had been written and signed off with no recrimination, apart from Vin's profound and bitter indictment of himself, and two days later he and Chris were at Larabee's cabin for the weekend of fishing they'd planned before the bust.

Vin stood in the kitchen and sipped his coffee and looked out at the early morning drizzle dewing the long grass. He savored the hot burn in his throat and tried to figure out how he'd face Monday. The letter of resignation would be easy to write; not many words required there, and no explanation. The impossible necessity of walking away from the man he'd loved in silence for so long would take much more out of him. Maybe everything. His gut clenched and he groaned aloud and put the coffee cup down on the counter, hand palm down on the cool tile for the physical support he suddenly needed to remain standing.


The name echoed in his head and Vin knew that thinking was no good right now, not if he was going to hold himself together through the meals and the fishing and the shared time that he'd so looked forward to and now dreaded enduring.

He headed for the laundry room where he'd thrown the duffel with his dirty clothes on his arrival the night before. Chris had a washer and dryer at the cabin and Vin had used it often on the weekends that he spent there. He was sorting his laundry when Chris strolled in, hair tousled, chin stubbled, sheet wrinkles still traced in red across his chest and forearms. He held a cup of coffee in one hand and the other moved behind the elastic waist of his sweats as he scratched himself. Vin turned away from the beauty of him and focused resolutely on his task.

"Mornin'," he said quietly.

Chris yawned and blinked sleepily. "Mornin'."

With quiet efficiency Vin sorted the clothing into three piles; whites, colors, and dirty beyond belief. His eyes fell on one shirt and he hesitated, then tossed it aside, into the trash basket with the discarded fabric softener sheets and clumps of fuzz gleaned from the lint trap. Chris frowned, bent over and retrieved it, turned it in his hands.

"Leave it," said Vin. "I meant to pitch it before. Don't know how it got in here."


"Got a hole in it."

Chris wound the shirt again through his fingers, searching, and found the hole in the fabric. He stuck his index finger through and wiggled it, as if making certain that the perforation was really there.


"Raskin. He missed."

"Near miss." A ragged whisper. Vin didn't look up.

"Chris, a near miss is a hit. Raskin missed. But now I gotta throw away a good shirt. I hate that." As if unconcerned, Vin continued to sort through his laundry.

Chris remained frozen, contemplating his finger and all that the hole in the sleeve implied.


And Vin did look up then, and caught his breath at what he saw. He couldn't face it, not after having made up his mind, and so he focused on the duffel bag again. And swore to himself when the strangled voice said his name a second time.



And Vin got the answer he expected. From the corner of his eye he saw a blur of red tumble into the trash. He hung his head and continued to sort the whites from the colors as Chris left the room.


They were laughing later, walking back to the house in the cold cloudburst, soaked through with rainwater and creekwater and chilled and triumphant. Four gutted trout hung from Vin's string, three from the one Chris held. It had been a good day, but it was time for shelter and hot coffee and a fire.

Chris swung the door open, dropped his fish in the dry sink and began to shuck his soaking clothes. Vin did the same, and soon they stood clad only in their underwear on the damp wood floor of the mudroom. "You take the upstairs shower," Chris offered. "I'll use the downstairs, and meet you in the living room."

"Deal," nodded Vin. His feet left damp prints on the red-brown Spanish tiles of the kitchen floor as he headed for the stairway. Chris gathered up the wet clothing and took it to the laundry room where he dumped it carelessly on the floor. He shucked his boxers and added them to the pile, stood and stretched and froze.

Red denim.

His gut tightened and he bent down and pulled the shirt from the trash, shaking it slightly to free it of lint clumps. Without conscious thought he lifted it to his nose and held it there, inhaling deeply. It smelled of sweat, and gunpowder, and a faint hint of Old Spice and Arrid. A trace of adrenaline. A tang of fear.

But no blood.

A near miss is a hit.

His eyes burned and he choked on the suddenly tight muscles of his throat. One unsteady hand gripped the washing machine and the other froze, clawed in the red weave of Vin's discarded shirt.

A near miss is a hit.

Oh god.


Vin let the hot water run as long as he dared, letting the steam satiate his need for warmth, knowing that the warmth would only go skin deep. It wasn't enough. Ezra's eyes appeared behind his own, questioning, astonished, before they closed in pain.

There were some kinds of torture that followed you to the spirit place.

It had to stop. But Vin would have this day, and the next, to take with him when he gave up everything else.

He shut down the shower, stepped out and reached blindly for the towel rack. A cold draft chilled his body and his hand closed on denim instead of terrycloth.

What the hell?

And then the warmth of a towel fell across his shoulders, wrapped around him and closed at his neck in the clench of an unseen fist. Another hand tugged the cotton up against his back, beneath the dripping tails of his long hair, snugging it up to the nape of his neck and holding it there, fabric pressed warm between his shivering skin and a broad palm.

Vin opened his eyes.

The first thing he saw was a crumple of red denim in his fist; the second, Chris Larabee's blue eyes.


He couldn't articulate the question, not even in his mind. He tried again.

"What's … this?"

Stupid. He knew what it was. But Chris explained it to him anyway.

"It's your shirt."

Vin nodded, as if only with that clarification could he have understood. But he'd used up all his words, and depended upon his eyes to ask Chris the next question.

The answer didn't come right away. First, Chris shifted his grip and moved the towel over Vin's skin, drying it, warming it with gentle chafing. Then he opened his hands and let the towel fall and stepped away. Only then did Vin remember that he was naked, and saw that Chris was too.

"Put it on."

The shirt, realized Vin. Okay. Simple was all he could handle right now. He released the crush of material and slowly shook it out, then slipped one arm at a time into the sleeves and shrugged the shirt up over his slimly muscled shoulders. Remembering his nakedness, suddenly wary of what his body might betray, his fingers fumbled numbly at the buttons but couldn't manage the task; helplessly, he let his hands fall to his sides, palms out in a gesture of defenseless surrender, the shirt falling open around his hips.

Chris stepped forward and Vin stepped back and Chris froze in place with sudden apprehension. And then Vin watched with anxious hope as determination shocked through Chris and he closed the distance between them with a single abrupt stride. One hand came up and one callused finger slid up Vin's arm, tracing the muscles beneath the cotton as it probed for the bullet hole in the sleeve, found it, and slipped in. The finger curled and with a sudden savage motion ripped downward, rending the fabric into a long ragged slash.

"A near miss," Chris rasped, and pulled the rend open with his hand and bent his head to Vin's arm and fastened his mouth to the place exposed by the tear. Where a bullet hadn't torn Vin open, hadn't ravaged his flesh and hadn't spilled his blood. Vin felt Chris' lips murmur over his unmarred skin.

And understood.

He forced his own hand up into the blond hair that spilled over his arm, tangled his fingers there and with insistent tenderness drew Chris up to face him. He looked carefully into those eyes and saw the reflection of his own and, suddenly secure, leaned forward and claimed what he wished to give.

When the kiss was over, Chris looked away. Vin drew in a sharp, uncertain breath, following the gaze, and then had to smile as he saw Chris stretch his fingers toward a tube of hand lotion. The bluegreen eyes turned back, questioning, and Vin nodded his assent. Chris mirrored the nod, completed the reach, and slid his other hand up and over Vin's shoulders and gathered him tight against Chris' body for a moment before he turned and guided him toward the bedroom.

Vin went willingly, not looking back. They stopped at the bedside, Chris pressed hard against him and Vin leaning into the pressure, offering resistance as invitation, understanding that this first time they both wanted the artifice of domination and surrender in wordless partnership of equal desire. Chris nosed Vin's damp hair away from his neck and grazed the nape with his teeth; Vin gasped and felt his blood hit his cock like a flash flood tumbling into a tight canyon.

"Don't … miss …" he groaned, and took to the bed, stretching out on his belly, arms over his head but legs tight together.

The answer Chris gave was his own body covering Vin's, hard chest to taut back, the shirt caught between them. One knee pressed relentlessly between Vin's thighs, demanding access that Vin finally gave with resistance that was meant to inflame, and did. Hands ran over his ribs, one rising to tug his head back by his hair and lift his body to its elbows while the other searched beneath the denim for a nipple, taking it between thumb and forefinger and spiraling the skin into a tight nub. Vin groaned again, deep in his throat, and pressed down with his shoulders to capture the hand that tormented him; the only way he could hold on to Chris, spread-eagled as he was. It worked; the hand splayed against his chest, palm flat and hot over the sensitive skin it had twisted into agonized pleasure, and the other snaked beneath his hips, also pulling up and back until Vin's body bent like a bow beneath the man who meant to take him.


The name was dragged from him as Chris dragged his need from him too, and put it on reckless display; head down and hair tangled over his straining shoulders, arms stretched forward and hands fisted over the rungs of the headboard, legs spread wide, back arched and ass lifted in desperate supplication.


It was a plea, a prayer, and a promise.

Chris answered with another sound that meant all those things, a sound that Vin had only heard him make once before; kneeling over Vin's body at another time, with Vin's blood spilling over his hands.

A plea, a prayer, and a promise.

Another near miss.

Vin felt hard thighs settle on the backs of his own legs, felt hard and hot flesh jerking impatiently against the curve of his buttocks, and then the cool burn of the hand lotion fingered into the cleft of his ass and the small place there that hadn't been touched by another hand in years, and which for years had ached for this hand to touch it. Vin tensed, then opened himself and Chris moved in, gentle but insistent, once and twice and then a third time that made Vin grunt in real pain. The fingers withdrew immediately to a sigh of frustrated relief, then returned with more cool slickness to probe again. Too gently. Vin's mind conjured visions of that big hand, those scarred and callused fingers, wrapped around a gun, gentling a horse, curled into a fist, flat against Vin's chest and holding in his lifeblood. Fire torched into his gut and he bucked backward, driving himself down hard on those fingers, bearing down on that sweet stretching pain, and he gasped "Chris" again in a voice that begged for what they both wanted.

In the next moment he felt a different touch, smooth and unscarred and irresistible, probing and then sliding slowly but relentlessly into him. Vin spread his legs wider, trying to lift and open himself, helped by hands that raised his hips and held them steady against the force demanding to be received. And finally Chris was there, against him and inside him, where Vin had desired him to be almost since the day they'd met, but never hoped to have him; in a place where other men had been, but taking far more than the body those other men had taken. Chris claimed Vin as Vin's fierce independence had resisted claiming by any other, driving deep to forge the last link that made them more than friends, more than partners, more even than mere lovers.

That claim bound them both, and made them whole.

Too much lay between and behind them for it to last for long; passion put paid to all debts with a swiftness that took them both in simultaneous surprise. Vin gasped Chris' name at the same time his own rang in his ears, and then they lay panting together, Chris still holding Vin beneath him with the surety of his weight, and Vin glad to be held there. He could feel the movement of ribs against his back through the damp cotton of the sweat-soaked shirt he still wore, and smiled.

"Near miss?" he whispered.

The jaw that lay against his shoulder twitched.

"Hit," was the winded reply.

"You're a decent shot."

"Aim to please."

That was too much and they both began to laugh, foolish as boys caught in the rain, ignoring for the moment all the troubles that would lie ahead but never touch the euphoria of this moment. Chris slid off of Vin and rolled him onto his back, then moved close and lay one leg across Vin's thighs and one strong arm across his chest. Vin's smile died when he looked into the bluegreen eyes searching his face.

"You okay?" he asked.

"I had to." The answer seemed not to fit the question, and Vin's expression must have said that, because Chris tried again.

"No. Not okay, before this. Jesus, Vin ... that hole in your shirt …"

"S'okay, Chris." Vin raised his hand to the one that lay on his chest, gripped it hard, pulled it to the flesh over Vin's heart and pressed it there. "Near miss."

Chris opened his eyes, and his face, and Vin saw that he understood.

~ 30 ~

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Fanfiction Library ~
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Photo Albums

Trekkers Over
and Around 40

Floridaze ~
Buffett, Key West,
& Things Parrothead
The Key West
Foreign Legion
Half Aft
Bar Stage
Warren Zevon Other Ports