elgrey: Artwork by Suzan Lovett (Vin_Icon)
[personal profile] elgrey

TITLE:
Cat people
AUTHOR: ELG
EMAIL: lorigrey@aol.com
CHARACTERS: Chris Larabee, Vin Tanner
CATEGORY: Slash
UNIVERSE: Old West
SERIES: Prequel to ‘Not The First Time’
PAIRING: Chris/Vin
RATING: R

Please do NOT click on the LJ Cut to this fic unless you are 18 years old or over. 
 
Cat People
 
Chris had always been told by his mother that there were two kinds of people in the world: dog people and cat people. Dog people, she had told him, were people who happened to be loyal, and courageous and forgiving, who would love you even when you were in a bad mood or took out your bad temper on them, and who would plant themselves between you and a bear to keep you safe. That was the point in the story when she would look across at Chris’s father as she stirred the stew, giving him one of those half-mocking, half-admiring glances, that still got the blood in his veins all fired up, when, frankly, Chris at fifteen thought they were both old enough to have put that kind of thing behind them. His father, of course, had famously charged an enormous brown bear when it had come upon their vegetable patch. At the sound of his wife’s scream of fear, all other thoughts had emptied from his mind, he’d explained, and he’d run at the bear, unarmed, yelling and waving his arms in the air, saying, for a reason he’d never been able to adequately excuse: “You ought to be ashamed!”
 
The thinking behind it, he had endeavored to explain, was that a great big bear like that ought not to be terrorizing an itty bitty women armed with nothing more than a frog digger, but it still made Chris and his mother howl with laughter that the bear had been expected to conform to such a view. “Should it be ashamed of not attending church on a Sunday, as well, Pa?” Chris would enquire between guffaws. “And maybe cursing once in a while if the deer get away?”
 
“It worked, didn’t it?” And it was true that, whether out of shame at its bullying tactics – his father’s theory – or sheer bewilderment at a man doing something so plumb crazy – his mother’s theory – the bear had turned and lollopped majestically away, no doubt insisting to any watching ursine relatives, that it hadn’t seen enough meat on the bones of those humans to make them worth eating.
 
His father was an odd mixture of tempers, known by everyone outside his family as a morose sort of fellow, more inclined to grunt a greeting than give up a cheery ‘Hello’, but he was soft as butter with Chris’s mother and his children, seeming to quite enjoy being ruled over by them, even mocked by them if it would make them smile. People always thought, Chris’s mother would confide, that she had married that Larabee fellow, because he was just so foolishly handsome that it had turned her head, but the truth was, she said, that no one made her laugh like he did. Although, she would confess – she’d add with another of those sly looks across the room at her husband – the good looks hadn’t really hurt any. Which was when Chris’s father would start preening, and his mother would sidle over to him and if Chris didn’t do anything to stop it they would soon set to kissing and turning his stomach with behavior, as he told them firmly, they should have grown out of long since, especially as he was not looking to have any more brothers and sisters at his time of life. Not when it meant everyone he’d ever been to school with would know as how his parents were still doing what they shouldn’t be any more.
 
“You wait until you’re my age,” his pa had told him. “Then see as how grown out of that behavior you feel.”
 
As it was unthinkable that Chris would ever do anything as foolish as getting so very old as that, Chris hadn’t given the matter another thought. Least not until he had reached that age and realized how danged young his parents had been when he’d been telling them to make like old folk were meant to and think pure thoughts.
 
He was now older than his father had been then – his parents having married so ridiculously young and started breeding him about thirty seconds later as his grandmother had been wont to mention disapprovingly – and he certainly didn’t find himself inclined to pure thoughts.
 
Even if he had been, on rounding the corner of the creek he found that any thoughts even approximating to pure immediately took wing and flew away like a flock of crows. It was odd how close you could be to a man, share his thoughts and save his life and have your life saved by him in return, and yet suddenly, on coming up upon him unawares and finding him naked, it was like you were seeing him for the first time. For there in the creek – his clothes folded in a neat pile on the bank and his gunbelt hanging from the branch of a convenient maple, bathing naked in the rippling water – was Vin. For a moment as Chris looked at Vin, he felt as if he was looking at a stranger, a slender, naked stranger, whose skin was shimmering with the slick of cool water, a thousand tiny droplets just begging to be licked off.
 
He’d got so used to seeing Vin wrapped up in all those layers of clothing that it was a jolt to his system to see him so vulnerable. It wasn’t that he hadn’t been aware of Vin’s body, or thought about what he must be like without defenses. A few times, standing next to him, feeling his body heat against his as they leaned in close, he’d been nothing but aware of how utterly naked Vin was under those clothes. He’d even found himself wondering what the curve of his waist would be like, if those hips were as slender as they looked with a gun belt hanging off them. But seeing it was different. Seeing it was…
 
Chris knew he ought to call out to let Vin knew he was there, but he couldn’t seem to speak, just like he couldn’t seem to move. With the maple tree gazing at its own reflection and the cool water running past and Vin throwing the creek water over his wet tangle of hair to run down his body, and the sunlight gilding the barrel of Vin’s Winchester like it wanted to suck it dry, only one part of his anatomy was capable of moving, and that was already starting to rise up like a rattler about to strike.
 
And he got why a man washing in a creek who had a price on his head, would keep his gun handy – he liked to keep his gun handy himself – but he didn’t get why a man with a price on his head was washing in the creek in the first place when there was a bath house in town where he could wash in privacy and with a friend to watch the door for him. He figured there was probably a reason for it though, even though Vin might never tell him what it was, but it might be a reason why he wouldn’t be happy even for Chris to be caught watching him naked. Still, he found himself keeping silent for just another minute; feeling like this was a chance that might never come again, to see Vin without his guard up, to see Vin as he really was.
 
Vin was a handsome man, clothed, as Chris hadn’t been the only one to notice, but naked he was beautiful like a wild animal was beautiful: lean and scarred and strong and vulnerable at once. His back was narrow, the line of his spine a delicate ridging of bone under skin, smooth and tanned, and marked here and there with the pale scars of old injuries: some of them beatings that Chris knew Vin would never speak of, and a scar of an old bullet wound Vin had never mentioned either. Chris wanted to trace his scars with a gentle finger and then let his tongue lap over them, erasing old hurts, could mentally taste the salt of his skin as he thought of letting his tongue follow every ridge of his spine.
 
Vin’s waist was narrow as a girl without his pants and gun belt to disguise it, his shoulders just the right breadth for the lean muscles to move so enticingly under his skin as he splashed water over himself. Chris had never just watched a man’s back for the pleasure of it before, watching each muscle connecting to another with every movement. Vin’s ribs were too prominent, it was true, the muscles so close to the bones there was barely any flesh between them, but the delicacy of them made Chris want to caress them, to curve his hands around them and stroke them tenderly, feeling each bump of them, the bones beneath the skin. And then there was his ass – high-set and perfectly curved within those bony hips of his; a taut little poem of an ass that gave way to long slender legs faintly dusted with hairs so fine they were only visible when the sunlight caught them. When Vin turned a little, Chris could finally see his limp cock, which he wanted to stroke to hardness and then take into his mouth and taste, and the caressable sac of his balls.
 
He thought about sliding his cock along the soft skin of Vin’s thigh, to the friction-giving jut of his hipbone, thought of their cocks finding a rhythm together, slick and hard at once, thought of his seed spilled on the taut hollow of Vin’s abdomen, and licking it off him, tasting of them both, salt and sweet, but most of all he thought of tasting his mouth, his tongue welcomed into its warm depths, his kiss returned with equal passion, wanting to see Vin let his guard slip just for a moment when he was with Chris, and be open and vulnerable as he looked right now with the sunlight gilding the droplets on his skin.
 
But Vin did what he liked and didn’t do what he didn’t like, and it was difficult to see how to win someone who was so fiercely independent and who guarded himself like a secret, even from Chris, whom he had trusted, on the first day of their meeting, with his life. One wrong word and Vin would be off in that wagon of his, probably on his way to Tascosa and a hanging, and Chris knowing there was nothing he could do but accept it because Vin absolutely would not allow any trespasses into his life that he didn’t permit.
 
Because the second kind of people, Chris’s mother had said, were cat people. They were the self-reliant ones, reserved, and sometimes difficult to get to know. They wouldn’t stay just out of loyalty the way a dog person would; you had to make sure the hearth was warm for them, and let them have the best seat by the fire; otherwise they’d be off to find another place where they’d be treated with proper reverence. And she had tossed her hair back from her face as she said it, darting Chris’s father a sly look that made him smile – not caring that she and everyone else knew how besotted he was when it came to her. Cat people – she had gone on to say – were impossible to tame so there was no point in trying. They couldn’t be corralled or chained, they could only be coaxed with kindness, and if they didn’t like the way you treated them, they’d just stick their nose in the air and keep on going, because that was another thing about cat people – maddening though they occasionally were, there was something about them that meant there was always someone else along to offer them a place by a different fire and some fish and milk to keep them sweet.
 
Chris had liked to think there was a third kind of person – horse people, wild and free but capable of being tamed, as long as they were broken by the right person, just like Sara had tamed him. But Chris’s mother had said a lot of dog people didn’t like to acknowledge that was what they were, and so dressed it up a little, but the fact remained they were still dog people at heart. The other thing those dog people needed to remember, she said, was that dog didn’t always mean stray, and it didn’t mean coyote, sometimes it meant herder, ready to lay down its life for those it was protecting, and sometimes it meant timber wolf, fierce and wild and wanting to mate for life. Some dog people could find a degree of independence too – as long, of course, she added firmly, as they didn’t run into any cat people, because just like a cougar could always take out a coyote, so any cat person could have a dog person exactly where she wanted him with one twitch of her tail.
 
Chris was ready to acknowledge that Buck was a dog person. He was loyal and brave and decent and good. He’d stick by his friends even when his friends were perhaps in need of dunking in a water trough and holding down until the bubbles grew frantic. He’d always protect those who were weak from the abuse of the strong, and he knew how to bite when the situation merited it – although he tended to use a right hook rather than his teeth and Chris suspected there were a few hairline cracks to his jaw there yet to prove it – but he didn’t know how to play hard to get. That, Chris’s mother had said, was the sole province of cat people, although if the dog people just wised up a little, they could find it worked for them too. Chris was less willing to admit that he might be a dog person, still preferring the idea of himself as a wild mustang – more desirable, he thought, as a self-image, than some sheepdog with fleas.
 
He looked back at Vin, yearning for him foolishly and mocking his own wanting even as he wanted it, because Vin would or he wouldn’t and the only damned thing to do with him was ask and then wait and see if it earned him a punch on the jaw or not. Vin punched well above his weight so a right hook from an angry Vin Tanner would probably lay him out, if not break his back teeth, but he didn’t think it would make Vin angry to be asked, although it might make him lash his tail a little, pack up his things, and then leave. That was another thing about cat people, his mother had told him; they were unpredictable. It was just part of their charm.
 
Which was when the same Vin who had seemed so completely unaware of him and his scrutiny abruptly pulled his Mare’s Leg out of its holster and pointed it at him unwaveringly, turning a second after it to see who it was he had so effortlessly in his sights.
 
The only consolation was that Vin looked as shocked as Chris felt when he realized who it was who had been watching him. “Larabee, what the hell are you doing?” Vin demanded, jutting the sawn-off barrel up in the air where it was no danger to anything except passing birds. “You’ve been standing there so long I figured you were someone looking to rob me! I could have blown your damned head off! What were you thinking sneaking up on me like that?”
 
“Just admiring the view.” Chris hadn’t meant to say it out loud, but there was something about a spitting mad Vin, all wet and naked and riled up, that made him horny and reckless. His cock was hurting a little, just looking at those rivulets running down his body, and his heart was beating a fraction too fast.
 
Vin gaped at him for a moment in total disbelief, looking very young and very confused, and then blinked, considering this whole new way of looking at things. He put the Mare’s Leg back in the holster to gain a little time while Chris craned his neck to see his expression better, but Vin was wise to him and turned the other way, splashing himself to wash off the soap, not making eye contact that might have given away his thoughts, before saying casually: “Buck know you’re one of them funny cowboys?”
 
Chris felt like a fish with the bait being made to dance a little just above his head, knowing they were both testing things out now, looking to see if, once again, they were on the same page.
 
“Buck ain’t so innocent. He noticed you were handsome.”
 
Vin gave a little smile, and Chris was pretty sure he’d noticed the lack of a denial when it came to the ‘funniness’ of this particular gunslinger, and didn’t seem at all put out by it. Aloud he only said calmly: “Just shows he ain’t blind.”
 
Chris laughed, unable to stop himself, because Vin was so damned self-possessed sometimes it wouldn’t have been unseemly in a man twice his age. Vin was still turning this new thought around in his head, but he didn’t seem angry now, and he didn’t seem bothered, if anything he seemed…intrigued. He darted a glance at Chris and Chris felt himself looked at, not just as a friend or even as Chris, but as a man. He and Vin had spent so long, it sometimes seemed, gazing straight into the other’s thoughts, seeming to know each other on first meeting as if they were already friends, that he guessed they hadn’t really thought as much about the packaging they came in as they could have done. Now Vin was looking at him with new eyes, curious and assessing. Chris watched Vin’s tongue flicker across his lips, tantalizing and yet utterly unselfconscious, and guessed that as a man he was shaping up as well as he had done as a friend.
 
Vin cocked a glance at him, subtly inviting, just enough there to let Chris know he wasn’t offended and wasn’t averse either. “You in need of a wash as well?”
 
Chris’s first instinct was to rip off all of his clothes and dive straight into the creek then start kissing Vin all over, but he remembered in time what his mother had said about dog people also being capable of playing hard to get, if they would only put their minds to it. He put his mind to it so hard his cock nearly burst from disappointment, but he made himself take a step back. If he and Vin met up on Vin’s terms, the sex was going to be on Vin’s terms too, and Chris kind of thought it might be better for both of them if he was the one in charge of that. He didn’t want Vin calling all the shots then heading off afterwards and Chris not knowing if they were going to be seeing each other again. Much better if they were at his place with no worry about anyone walking by and seeing them and they could take their time.
 
He took another step back. “Got work to do – still have the corral to finish. I’ll be coming into town afterwards though – reckon after a day of that I’ll be in need of a whiskey or two in the saloon. Any chance I might see you there?”
 
Vin gazed at him, blue eyes a little confused but definitely intrigued. “Reckon you probably will.”
 
Chris touched his hat to him. “See you then.”
 
He still had to get Vin back into the ready and willing place and agreeable to spending the night in Chris’s rebuilt cabin as well, but he thought he could manage that with a few yearning looks and a couple of glasses of whiskey. Quite early on in their friendship he and Vin had started finding it difficult to disappoint one another and he wasn’t above using that to his advantage just this once.
 
He forced himself not to look back as he swung himself up onto his horse and headed off, but he could feel Vin’s gaze upon him, still confused and still intrigued, and he was willing to place a pretty big bet that Vin would be in that saloon this evening. Because that was the other thing about cat people, of course, that his mother had eventually been reluctantly forced to admit – that if fish and milk and coaxing didn’t work, you still had one thing left to try that almost never failed – you just gave them a mystery to solve and reeled them in that way, because whatever else they were, cat people could always be relied upon to be curious.
 
The End


 
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