Title: Love and Infatuation

Author: Jenn

Rating: K+

Author's Note: Trecebo, again, thanks for the kind feedback on this story and Lara. Glad you liked her POV of the guys. Hope you enjoy this last chapter.

FRIDAY

As Vin sat unmoving, staring at the sunset, his mind raced. He needed to talk to someone, but who? Any need for advise on women brought the Ladies Man to mind, but asking Buck didn't feel right. He knew who he wanted to talk to. Chris. But he knew what a painful subject it would be for the older man, and the last thing Vin wanted to do was cause him more pain. Asking Buck was now totally out, for the same reason. Though Buck had never said anything to him, he knew Buck still felt guilt and intense pain over the death of Sara Larabee.

"What's on your mind, Vin?"

The quiet question broke his reverie. He hid his surprised reaction as Chris sat in the next chair. He'd never even heard him walk up.

"Nothin'."

Chris was stunned into silence for a moment, not believing what had just happened. One of the strongest parts of their friendship was that they never lied to each other. "I think that may be the first time you've told me an outright lie. Make sure it's the last." If Buck had been there he'd have recognized the tone in Chris voice as one he'd used with Adam.

"What makes you so sure there's anything on my mind but the sunset?"

"One, I know you. Two, the fact that I got this close without you noticing. And you didn't even see the sunset. I answered your question, now answer mine."

"Not sure I can do that, Cowboy."

"I know I said I'd shoot ya next time you called me a cowboy, but not till after I get my answer."

"Then I guess I'd better not answer for a while." Vin smirked as he said this, trying to break the tension.

"Vin. Enough."

Vin decided that maybe if he explained a little Chris might, just might, let it go and not demand the details. "If I told you, it'd hurt you. Means I ain't gonna do it, so ya might as well shoot me."

"You not tellin' me, lyin' to me, hurts more than anything you could say." Chris let some of the hurt and worry he felt show in his eyes. It was enough to convince his "little brother" to talk.

"I was thinking about love. And how you know if it's the right person. How you knew it was Sara ya loved an' wanted ta spend your life with. I know thinkin' about her and Adam is painful for ya, so I didn't wanna ask you about it."

"I'm learning to remember the goods times, and leave it at that. Not there yet, but I'm learnin'. It'll always hurt, but that means I'm alive. And I've finally figured out that means a part of them is still alive too. You know that after I lost them, I wanted to die and go with 'em. Now I'm not sure I have that right. I need to stay alive so that some part of them lives, in me. The best way I can honor their memories is to share them. Even if it hurts."

"So how did you know that Sara was different, was the one?"

When Chris spoke again, his voice had a reflective quality. "We were friends for a few years. When I went to fight in the war, she was the only one I thought of, or missed. When things were bad I'd think of her and it would help. When I thought about coming home, it was to her. She was home for me. When Buck and I got back I did something stupid. She wouldn't talk ta me. Wouldn't see me. That's when I knew for sure. I couldn't stand it. I couldn't stand my life without her in it. I still can't, not really. Anyway, Buck sweet talked her into givin' me a chance to apologize, and we started courting, instead of just being friends."

"Think Buck can talk Lara into givin' me a chance to apologize?"

"So you're finally admitting you love her?" Asked the older man.

"You knew?"

"Just like everyone, but JD, knew JD was in love with Casey. Don't worry, you weren't as obvious about it. But having seen the signs with him. . . "

"Ya knew 'em when you saw them with me."

Chris nodded an agreement.

"I'm sorry."

The older man raised a questioning eyebrow.

"For lyin'."

"Forgiven and forgotten. You were trying not to hurt me, and I appreciate that, but like I said, you tellin' me a lie hurts worse than any honest answer ever could so make sure it's the last."

"First. Last. Only. I promise."

"That's all I need. Let's get a drink."

They turned and went to join the others in the Saloon. Vin was hoping Lara would be there.

SATURDAY

Since she wasn't needed at the Saloon Lara decided to go riding. She had no particular place in mind, just a desire to get out of town. After riding for a while she saw landmarks near a place Vin had shown her a couple weeks ago. He'd told her it was one of his favorite places to go when he needed to get away and be on his own.

It was a small, sheltered canyon with a stream and trees along the bank. He'd told her that in the spring there would be flowers. She decided it was as good a place to rest as any; the stream would let her water the horse, and the grass would be a comfortable place to rest. Almost an hour later the sound of horse hooves caused Lara to look up and see Vin on Peso. She stayed still until he approached. "I hope you don't mind me coming here."

"Wouldn't have shown it to you if I did. Do you want to be alone? I could go. . ."

"Please stay. This is your place. I was just keeping it warm for you." Lara blushed as she realized how her comment could sound.

"Why don't we both stay?" Vin suggested. At her quick nod he moved next to her and sat. It was a long time before either spoke. Both were occupied by thoughts of the person next to them. Neither was really sure what to say.

"Thank you."

"For what?" Asked Lara, confused.

"Defending me. Believing in me. Trusting me."

"What are you talking about, Vin?"

"I overheard you and Alexandra. I didn't mean to but. . ."

After considering for a minute she chuckled softly. "I don't guess either of us was being real quiet during that. . .talk."

Vin gave a slight nod acknowledging the truth of that statement. "Not really. Did you mean what you said?"

"Yes. I'm sorry I was so rude to her. I know you care about her. But I meant what I said."

"No. I mean what you said about me, and. . . her not deserving me."

"I meant it. If she was so willing to believe that about you, she didn't deserve you."

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you about it. I should have. I didn't like lying to you."

"I was thinking about that. You never actually lied to me. You just didn't tell me something. And you're innocent anyway."

Vin was again touched by her belief in him, but also curious. "How can you be so sure about that?"

"I just am. I know you. You aren't a murderer." Lara said this with complete confidence. There was no doubt of it in her mind.

"No. But I am wanted by the law."

"Will you tell me about it?"

Lara sat quietly listening as Vin told his story.

Vin found it surprisingly easy to open up to Lara about his past. He put it down to knowing she already believed in his innocence. They spent the afternoon talking and simply enjoying each others company.

Looking out at the canyon he decided that this was heaven and she was his angel. But seeing the sun getting low in the sky, he suggested it was time to get back to town. Lara reluctantly agreed.

At the stable Vin helped Lara off her horse. There was nothing unusual about that except that this time Vin made sure that Lara ended up standing very close to him and he left his hands at her waist. He slowly bent his head towards her, giving her time to pull away if she wanted to.

Lara had no desire to pull away and leaned in closer for Vin's kiss. It was gentle and sweet, but only lasted for a moment before they were interrupted by the sound of someone clearing their throat.

Pulling back from each other they saw a grinnling Buck standing at the stable doors.

"Sorry, but Inez was looking for you Lara. Things were starting to get busy earlier than normal and she could use some help. I can take care of putting your horse in for the night, if ya want."

She nodded in reply. "Thanks. I'd be grateful." She looked back at Vin and gave him a soft smile. "I'll se you later?"

"I'll be over to the Saloon once the horses are taken care of." He told her and reluctantly took his hands from her waist.

Lara winked at Buck as she past him and silently mouthed, "You were right."

Chuckling, Buck moved to take her horses reigns. "So, you two finally figured it out, huh?"

"Yeah. We did. You knew, too?"

"Hate to brake it to ya, but we all did. Who already spilled? Chris?"

"Yep. We talked. Now can we get these horses taken care of? I'm suddenly reeeaaal thirsty, and want to get ta the Saloon."

Buck laughed and started undoing the saddle as Vin removed Peso's.

Vin was finished and hurrying toward the Saloon in record time. Buck, smiling smugly, followed behind.

7 7 7 7 7 7 7

Buck exchanged an amused and knowing look with his oldest and best friend. They both worked not to laugh. For the third time in less than an hour Vin was sitting with his beer held halfway to his mouth for a drink. He'd been distracted from his drink by the sight of Lara leaning over a nearby table as she washed it. Feeling Vin's stare she looked up to meet his gaze.

Ezra walking between them as he came to take his seat at the table broke the moment. "I don't suppose I could interest you in a game of poker tonight Mr. Tanner? With how distracted you've been this evening even JD could beat you."

"HEY! Ez!" Came JD's slightly outraged response. He then turned to Vin. "He has a point. You have seemed distracted tonight. And what's up with Lara?"

Josiah answered the question before Vin could respond. "JD, think about how you and Casey acted around each other when you first realized you liked each other."

After thinking for a moment JD's eyes went wide. "OH!"

"Yep. The love bug bit 'em. And there ain't no cure for love sickness," commented Nathan.

"Who said I wanted to be cured?" Asked Vin as he finally set his beer back on the table. "'Sides, I know it ain't fatal or Buck would of been dead a few dozen times by now."

That drew laughter from all of the men, even Buck himself.

"Yeah, well. I don't think Lara would take kindly to you following my example."

"Don't worry, Buck. I''ve learned my lesson. I just wish me learnin' it the hard way hadn't been so hard on Lara."

"It's over now, Vin. That's all that matters. She's gone and can't hurt either of us again." Lara noted, having walked over to the table. Se looked over at Buck for an instant before continuing. "Besides, it's not like I'm some doll that's going to break."

"I know."

Hearing a customer call from another table Lara turned to leave, but couldn't resist looking back at Vin once more. This caused her to trip. Having been watching her Vin was able to stand and catch her before she fell. Thankfully she hadn't been carrying anything but a cleaning cloth so no damage was done. He continued to hold Lara even after she obviously had her balance back, but she was perfectly happy with that and did nothing to move away. The six men watched the scene with amused, but indulgent, expressions.

Inez had seen the near accident and walked up. "Why don't you take a break Lara. I'm sure Vin won't mind taking you out for some fresh air. Just don't be out all night." With a conspiratal wink at the young couple she went to take care of the customer who'd called to Lara moments before.

The others watched with indulgent grins as the couple disappeared into the night. Half an hour later Josiah went to patrol around the town to make sure things were quiet. He saw Vin and Lara walking along the other side of the street.

Vin's head was bent slightly down to listen to Lara and she was looking up at him. A moment later soft laughter reached his ears. He was almost across from the couple before Vin noticed him. Josiah saw it as a sign of just how focused on Lara Vin was. He normally paid much more attention to his surroundings. Josiah sent up a silent prayer that it would not become a problem. With the bounty on his head it was dangerous for Vin to be so distracted.

Vin looked up as Josiah called a greeting. Realizing that he'd been caught by surprise for the second time in two days he decided he'd have to be more careful. He didn't want to get caught or killed now he'd found Lara.

After seeing Lara to the Saloon, Vin left again to join Josiah in patrolling the town. In the dark he didn't see the mischievous look in the older man's eyes.

"You know, it would be real nice to perform a wedding again. And JD and Casey are taking their own sweet time."

"You ain't suggesting that . . . "

"Why not?"

The teasing tone of voice registered with the young man and he turned to look at his friend. "That ain't funny. I'm not saying it won't happen, but not right away."

"That's probably smart. I was teasing. Just so long as I get to perform the wedding when it does happen."

"Wouldn't have it any other way, and neither would Lara. Only thing would be if she wanted you to. . . give her away. Women are funny about these things."

"Yes, they are. Well, I'm sure Chris will be your best man, so one of the others could give her away. JD's to young. Maybe Buck, he acts like her big brother anyway."

"Yeah, I think Lara might like that. But no reason to worry 'bout it now. It's still a long time away."

"True enough. So, right now, let's go join the others."

"Sounds good to me. Think Lara will still be in the Saloon?"

Josiah shook his head slightly and chuckled. "Young love."

THE END