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I Missed You More than I Thought I Would

Chapter Text

Georgian City

Two Months after the Battle of Rose Creek

Vasquez had just woken up, dressed, and splashed some water on his face from the basin that sat under the window. He braced himself against the table the basin sat upon and gazed out the window into the main street. From here he could see their horses as they paced inside one of the stables pens. He noticed his white mare Maria was acting particularly excitable and calling out to another horse tethered nearby that responded in kind. Looking closer he noticed why. Maria knew this other horse because they had been stabled side by side in Rose Creek. Vasquez whipped around with a string of cusses, grabbing his gun belt and raced out of the room forgetting his hat and vest.

He knew Sam and Red would already be up and downstairs in the Saloon, so as he descended the stairs at damn near a sprint, he called out, “Someone’s taken Jack from Teddy!” and then muttered under his breath in Spanish, “Asshole is going to pay with his kneecaps.” He had made it to the saloon door with a pistol drawn and cocked before he was stopped with an urgent call of his name by Chisholm. He turned to find Sam and Red at a table in the corner and standing in front of it was young Teddy Q. himself.

“How do ya’ do Mr. Vasquez,” Teddy offered apologetically. He knew how much Jack the horse meant to Vasquez and from what Mr. Chisolm had been telling him; in the past few weeks, Mr. Vasquez had not been handling losing Joshua Faraday well in fact. Vasquez re-holstered his gun and then smiled at the lad. He used long strides to approach the young man, shaking his hand before pulling him into a short hug.

“Teddy Q, es bueno verte! What are you doing here?” Teddy cast a cautionary glance at Sam that Vasquez did not miss before answering. “Just passing through to try and find investors and buyers for Rose Creek’s new horse breeding business.” This lead to Teddy joining them for breakfast and explaining how after the battle there were over a hundred battle-trained horses of varying pedigree left behind by the Blackstone army and that Rose Creek decided to begin breeding them and training them for various types of folk. The income from these horses would go to repairing the town.

Teddy had not lied about the horse business per se, but in reality, he had been looking for what remained of the Magnificent Seven for a much different reason. Following accounts of the three men from town to town until he finally found them. He had walked up to Sam Chisholm with a letter in hand from Mrs. Cullen and let it do all the talking. Sam read the letter aloud for Red, before tucking it into his breast pocket.

“We will not be telling Vasquez of this, at least not yet,” He addressed both young men, “He is in a rough state at the moment. Losing Faraday has taken more of a toll than we thought. He’s becoming increasingly reckless and I don’t think this will help. But Thank you, Teddy.” They had just begun to make general small talk when Vasquez had made his appearance.

Teddy turned his coffee mug in his hands a minute before saying, “If you three aren’t working a job might I proposition you to take one on? Ya see; these horses I’m selling, they’re mighty fine, an’ anyone with half a lick of horse sense can tell. Which means I got people's eyes on me an’ them horses all the time and I’m just lucky no one has made away with one or my coin yet. I was hoping you gentlemen would be willing to escort me to our dealers and then safely back home? With compensation of course,” the young man finished looking guiltily into his mug.

“Now I don’t think-,” Sam began but was quickly cut off by Vasquez’s, “Of course we will assist you amigo!”

Red and Chisholm shared a look before Sam added, “I guess that settles it then. I hope you won't mind sharing space with that one there on our travels then,” he gestures to Vasquez.

“He snores,” Red mutters. Vasquez throws a bread roll at his head.

Chapter Text

Greater Stone

The next day they head out with three other riders that had been sent to Rose Creek from the dealer to help herd the horses. Vasquez slips back into ranch work like a second skin and quickly discerns where each member of the crew should be placed along the herd to maintain control and speed. Red is riding Point while the rest are stationed to flank the herd. He places himself Drag with the inexperienced Teddy in the hopes that it’ll be easier for all involved if all the kid has to do is push the herd forward. He’s stuck back there with him because Maria; his mare, is adamant she needs to socialize with her old stable buddy.

It doesn’t pass his notice that Teddy seems to be watching him out of the corner of his eye almost constantly and it’s not to learn more about driving livestock. He develops a suspicion that the group isn’t telling him everything when they set up camp and Sam’s behaviour has changed. He’s terse with Teddy and almost overly cautious of Vasquez.

He makes it into the second week before he realizes that the town they’re coming upon is Greater Stone. A town that is a full week and a half from Rose Creek. Georgian City is a two-week hard ride, three or more with the herd with them. He realizes quickly that Teddy would have already passed over or gone through Greater Stone to get to the remaining Magnificent Seven.

Vasquez suspicions of the group grow the minute they cross into the town and they travel to a wealthy looking ranch. They are met by a short stocky man with a bit of meat on his bones. If it wasn’t for the fact that his height consisted mostly of his legs Vasquez would have thought the man would have no business being on a horse let alone running a horse ranch. The man introduces himself as Mr. Clyde Sullivan, the dealer Teddy had come to sell to. He’s exuberant in his greeting. Rapidly shaking Teddy’s hand. While they’re off signing papers and Chisholm ensures Teddy gets paid his due, Vasquez and Red do a final check of the herd to ensure they’re all still in good health.

“You gonna tell me what the hell is going on?” Vasquez throws at Red as they ride side by side around the pasture. Red gives him a look like he doesn’t know what Vasquez is talking about.

“Why Teddy watches me like I’m liable to bite his head off and Sam’s suddenly acting like I’m a lady or worse fine china?” In reply, Red spins his rucksack around to his front and digs through it before slapping something flat to Vasquez’s chest and riding away on is painted pony. Vasquez watches him in confusion before looking down at what he had instinctively grabbed.

His heart is suddenly in his throat and he tries to repeatedly swallow it down, but it feels like he’s choking. His hands began to shake and he pulls his mare off into a grove and dismounts before he falls right off her. In his hand are a black king of Spades and a red king of hearts. Both of which are stained with what Vasquez inexplicably knows could only be Faraday’s blood.

His knees hit the ground and before he knows it his vision becomes blurred and when he goes to rub his eyes they feel wet. Once he realizes he’s crying he can't stop the sobs and shouts that rip from him. He knew Faraday was gone, he knew that the second he and the Seven ushered Faraday out for that Gatling gun, but having the confirmation unexpectedly hurts just as much.

He remembers riding out right after the explosion desperately hoping that Faraday somehow survived, desperately searching for him, screaming and begging Faraday to just call out to him to be found. He knows Faraday has been found now, those cards never left the man's side other than when played on a table. He’ll be laid to rest under his cross in the Rose Creek graveyard and that thought makes him cry so hard he almost can’t breathe.

The sun begins to set and he begins to pull himself together. He tucks the cards into his breast pocket and grabs Maria’s reins to lead her out of the grove. They breach the tree line and he notices two riders a distance off on the ridge facing him. Vasquez can tell it’s Sam and Red. Teddy must be off with Sullivan still. Maybe getting a tour of the place.
He mounts back up and heads for the duo who simply turns and heads off towards the houses and barns without a word when he catches up. They don’t bother to check to see if Vasquez is following. He’s grateful for their silence.

His nightmares start up again on their way from Greater Stone to Rose Creek. Teddy looks like he can’t decide whether to comfort him or hightail it in the opposite direction, Red gives him a wide birth, and Sam simply gives him long-suffering glances when he’s being stubborn or snappy. So, he starts being overly helpful and kind to make up for it only to have Red sit down at the fire across from him and tell him to stop giving everyone whiplash. Vasquez throws a boot at him. Teddy squawks his indignation at having lost his boot.

Chapter Text

Rose Creek

When they finally ride into Rose Creek, Teddy is in the lead to announce their arrival. The townspeople stop their daily routine to look at the trio and some smile and wave. They haven’t reached the center of town before they hear a voice shout, “Teddy Q! Imm’a beat you bloody for takin’ my damn horse!.”
Rounding the corner of the doctor's clinic they see a fiery redhead speedily limping towards them on a crutch, the Doctor and Emma Cullen chasing after him. Faraday is rushing towards them.

Vasquez feels all the air in his lungs rush out of him. Faraday finally looks up from the ground he’d been concentrating on not tripping over and Vasquez feels like he’s been punched in the gut. Repeatedly. It’s those eyes. He’s Suddenly flooded with memories. A wiley grin across the fire after a ridiculous story, a teasing winking kissy face after beating him in a game of cards. That was the last time Vasquez ever played against Faraday. A back practically touching his own in their first Rose Creek shoot out. Faraday pushing the rest of his dinner down the table towards him when he took notice that Vasquez couldn’t seem to stop eating.

Then there were the more private moments. Walking into the stables one night to find Faraday already there gently grooming Wild Jack and quietly talking to him. Vasquez simply picked up a brush and began to groom Maria. They stood in silence for some time with simply the hushed noise of the animals swaying in their stalls before Faraday began to speak. It was the first real conversation they had ever shared.

After that, there were late nights drinking in the fields gazing up at the stars, sharing a cigar over the saloon balcony and making fun of the drunks below and sharing stories of their own drunken misadventures. They became more tactile. A pat on the back, a hand braced on an arm, shoulders bumping constantly turned into Faraday’s legs swung over his lap after a long day, gently tugging on a piece of Faraday’s curled hair to get his attention or to get him to stop talking. A hand cupping the back of a neck in reassurance.

There was joking and teasing and jostling each other around. A tossed cigar over crates of explosive. Then there were tugs on the edge of Vasquez’s shirt and a quick press of lips to his own behind buildings. The night before the battle a knock on his door, a for once shy Faraday standing on the other side. They shared hurried, demanding kisses before simply laying in bed with Faraday’s head pillowed on his chest. They didn’t speak, but Vasquez’s heart swelled with emotion at what he knew was there between them.
He’s grateful the next day that they didn’t say the words. It would have made it that much harder. He remembers the rage at seeing Faraday shot and he remembers the dread after the explosion. And the tears.

He lets a reverent, “Joshua,” past his lips and suddenly the Irishman is speeding back off in the opposite direction, the doctor still trailing after him trying to get him to stop. Guilt slams into Vasquez. He left him out in that field to die. He left him here hurt and alone to recover by himself. Dios mio, he’s surely hated now. Maybe they all are, but especially Vasquez.

Emma watches Faraday go before approaching the foursome, “Hello gentlemen. Thank you for looking out for our Teddy Q. I hope he wasn’t too much trouble.”

“No ma’am, no trouble at all. Though I do suggest he go about returning that horse,” Sam replied. They could all hear Teddy turn Jack towards the town stables with a groaned out, “I’m not a child.”

Emma gestures for the rest of them to follow. She leads them out to her land and her home and invites them in for dinner. It’s quiet and Sam and Emma are casually catching up, making small talk and Vasquez can no longer stand the avoidance of the very serious issue still rooming at the clinic back in town.

“So he’s alive,” It’s not what he intended to say, but it cuts them off and gets to the problem at hand.

“He is,” Emma replies calmly, “And not for lack of trying either. That man is a menace,” she adds with humour just as Teddy sneaks in to sit at the table with them, “I’m surprised the good Doc. hasn’t kicked him out already. Every other day Miss Emma and I are getting called into town to help find where he wandered off to this time.”

And that’s good, it means Faraday is still being his same old insufferable self. That he’s alive. But that’s not the only thing Vasquez wants to hear. Chisholm must see the look on his face and cuts through his thoughts with a, “Don’t do that to yourself, son.”

Emma follows it up by saying, “It’s not your fault Mr. Vasquez. He was found by chance. A damn miracle if you will.”

“How?” He croaks out.

“Tommy Akins was out the next day collecting the shells – the gun shells from the – from the Gatling. He was going to bring ‘em to the smithy and have them melted down. He fell into a – well a low spot. You see; this spot, you can’t see it. Disappears between the hills and the flat land it does, but that’s where our Mr. Faraday ended up. Nobody would have found him otherwise.”

Vasquez makes a wounded noise. He feels a hand on his shoulder and Emma continues, “We hauled him into the doctor's office so sure he was going to die on the way there or not long after. The doctor did what he could and then Faraday just slept. We didn’t want to send word until we were sure he would pull through.”

He turns to look at Red and Sam then, “Why keep this from me? You both knew as soon as Teddy showed up and you didn’t tell me. Hell Red, you let me think that they found his body and buried him! And you Teddy, for weeks I rode beside you and you said nothing!”

Poor Teddy looks like a kicked puppy and mutters out, “I didn’t think it my place. And I was truly selling horses.”

“Right selling horses, and you had to travel an extra week; if not more, further than your destination to do that did you?”

“We only got word from Greater Stone after we sold half the herd in and around Georgian City. It’s not the boy's fault. He was told to sell the horses and deliver my letter to Mr. Chisholm should he hear word of you three along the way and nothin’ more.” Emma scolds, and it works, the scolding that is.

“You get reckless and meaner than a wild hog after anything that reminds you of Faraday,” Sam adds. Between the two of them, they have Vasquez cowed. It’s silent for a moment.

Red chooses then to say, “Well now you know why we didn’t want to tell you.” Vasquez throws a spoon at him. There’s a, “Hey! I was usin' that!” from Teddy.

Chapter Text

Faraday is avoiding him. Vasquez supposes that it's warranted, but it still stings.
By some unspoken agreement he, Sam, and Red have decided to stay in Rose creek for the foreseeable future. Vasquez knows why. They all do, but they don’t talk about it. The residents of the town don’t seem to mind; save for one, and they go out of their way to make them feel welcome; except for that one.

It’s not that Vasquez hasn’t tried to speak to Faraday. He just hasn’t actively tried to corner the man. Quite frankly he’s a bit nervous that if he does he’ll get himself shot. Instead, he settles for waving at him across the street or calling out a good morning only to be ignored. But the longer it goes on the more looks he keeps getting from the other two during dinner.

He finally relents one night and heads to Emma’s home to...well he’s not quite sure. Maybe its for advice, maybe its to learn more about this new Faraday he doesn’t seem to know anymore.
He arrives at her ranch in the afternoon and helps her finish her chores before she invites him up to the house for some cold tea. They’re quietly sitting on the porch basking in a day's hard work when Emma’s voice startles him.

“He misses you, you know.”

“We miss him too,” He sighs.

“No, he misses you,” Emma corrects.

He side-eyes her. Replying with, “He has got a nice way of showing it,” completely deadpan.

Emma snorts. It would be unattractive if she weren’t so damned cute. She composes herself and continues, “He’s complete shit at expressing himself properly I’ll give you that. He’s not mad at you though.”

“Yeah, well he is sure as shit not happy either.” She outright laughs at that.

“You’re unbelievably dense. It’s not about you. It’s about him. He’s mad at himself.”

“Now that makes no sense,” Vasquez scoffs.

“He avoided Teddy and me in the beginning too.”

“¿Qué? That makes even less sense. He has no reason to be mad at you and Teddy Q.”

“Exactly!” She exclaims. “He was never mad at us. He’s mad at himself because he feels inadequate.”

Vasquez frowns at that, mouthing the word to himself. Emma motions him to wait a moment as she explains, “He limps,” He gives her a sarcastic look that screams, “oh yeah? I hadn’t noticed.”

“Don’t be an ass,” She points a finger at him, “He limps, and probably always will. He struggles to ride. In fact, he avoids that too. Teddy riding out on Wild Jack was probably the first time Jack was ridden since Mr. Faraday got shot.”

Vasquez nods to himself thinking, “No wonder Teddy did not get thrown off Jack.”

“It’s not just the physical. Yes, he's frustrated right now that he’s not as strong and able as he use to be. But that should come with time as he continues to heal. But mentally, the doctor isn’t as sure. Sometimes Faraday forgets things. Nothing important. Just little things and not all the time. It seems to happen more when he’s exhausted himself, but he’s noticed it himself and it embarrasses him. Doc also says he suffers from nightmares. Bad ones at that. The doctor has tried to give him things to help but he won't take them.”

“I can imagine he has nightmares. He had the occasional one before we ever made it to Rose Creek. But are not all of them bad?” Vasquez questions.

“Yes, but with these ones her forgets himself. Doesn’t know where he is, who he’s with, and just...screams.”

Vasquez rubs his face with both hands and thinks of what he’s just been told, “but that, none of that makes him inadequate. It proves so much, él es fuerte.”

“He doesn’t see it that way I’m afraid, but maybe you can help him with that.”

“Quiero, but he will not give me the time of day.”

“He has an appointment with the doctor tomorrow just before noon. Bring flowers.”

“Bring flow- I will not only get shot, but he will have his devil horse trample me!”

Emma takes his glass from his hand, pats him on the shoulder and says, “bring flowers,” before turning into her house and leaving him sitting on the porch by himself.

He spends three hours the next day hiking through the fields on foot. By the time he makes it to the doctor's office he’s sweating buckets and clutching the fist full of wildflowers he has in his hand like his life depends on it, “Miérda, it just might,” He mutters to himself as he pushes through the door.

He steps in and simply follows the sound of cursing to an open door where he finds Faraday braced on the examination table while the doctor prods at his thigh. Faraday hisses and Vasquez impulsively takes a step towards him to have the floor creak and give away his presence. Both the doctor and Faraday freeze and turn to look at him slightly startled. Vasquez’s cheeks fill with heat as they just stare at each other. The poor doctor is left glancing between them in confusion, so Vasquez makes an abortive move to show the flowers and then just decides to cut his losses and takes a step forward to place them next to Faraday’s feet on the bed. He tips his hat with an almost whispered, “Güero,” before turning on his heel and rushing back out the door.

At least he didn’t get shot.
Faraday still has the chance to run him down later with his horse though.

When nightfall comes and he’s still not dead, he makes a decision as he’s preparing for bed. Vasquez decides he’s going to prove to Faraday that the Irishman is not inadequate and that he’s still worth betting on even if it’s the last thing Vasquez does with his wretched life. So, the next day Vasquez makes his way to the general store, buys the only pack of cards he can find, and leaves them on the door of Wild Jack’s stall.

The rest of the week continues with him leaving Faraday gifts where he knows the man will find them. Little things like a tin of gun oil, a new bandana, a bottle of whisky with a four-leaf clover stuck to it, and at one point a small hand whittled wooden horseshoe.

It’s that last gift that must be the last straw because Faraday finds him just after lunch that day helping train some horses and demands he, ‘knock it off with the, whatever the hell he’s doing,’ and then proceeds to throw the horseshoe as hard as he can at Vasquez. He manages to just dodge the flying object aimed at his head. Teddy who’s standing behind him isn’t so lucky.

It’s getting close to dusk and Vasquez is strolling up the hill towards the graveyard, thumbing the wooden horseshoe in his pocket when he notices a figure silently standing above three graves in particular. It’s unmistakably Faraday’s figure. He approaches his side and they stare down at what's left of their lost friends in silence until Faraday breaks it.

“It’s not fair.” The shorter man says.

“Faraday...,” Vasquez lets out in a long-suffering sigh. He knows what the other man is thinking and as much as he wants to tell him he’s wrong; that he does deserve to be here with the living instead of buried in a hastily dug grave, he also knows that you can speak to a deaf man all you want, but that doesn’t mean he’ll hear you. And Faraday is deaf to the words that are true because his quilt and shame tell him to be.

“It’s true. I wasn’t worth much before Chisolm found me and now I’m worth even less. They were worth so much and would have been...,” Faraday trails off before muttering, “No one needs a gambling drunk with a limp around.”

“I seem to remember Horne having an uneven gait himself,” Vasquez says wryly.

Faraday chuckles, “crazy bastard seen some shit.”

“Said a lot of it too.” Faraday busts out into a full-on fit of laughter at that and Vasquez feels like he’s won something.

“Suppose that’s why he got along with Goodnight so well? Just holding conversations in riddles with each other? Probably drove Billy mad.” Their eyes shift to the other two graves placed directly side by side.
Faraday continues with, “Those two sure as hell followed their word. Don’t think they meant it like this though.” The ‘I go where he goes’ seems to echo in the air.

“Or maybe they did,” Vasquez adds, “come on, let's go get them some flowers,” he says as he pulls the horseshoe from his pocket handing it out to the redhead who snorts, takes the horseshoe, and says, “I can’t believe you did that. Poor Doc tried to offer one of his vials for that sad looking bunch too.”

After that it seems like they’ve started from the beginning again. They meet up in the stables and groom their horses together in the morning and Vasquez brings them coffee and they talk about nothing in particular. They go out into the fields and practice shooting or continue to help with repairs from the battle. More like Vasquez helps and Faraday either pouts that he can’t or tries to boss Vasquez around and tell him how to do it.

They’re friends again. Knocking shoulders like they never stopped. There’s the teasing and jokes. Faraday coming up from behind to knock his hat off his head and rushing away laughing. Flicking Faraday in the ear while he’s trying to explain to some folk about training specialty tricks to the horses so they’re worth more.

One day they’re taking a walk through the fields and Faraday decides to trip him with his crutch. He’s just in front of Vasquez leaning on said crutch trying to catch his breath from laughing and suddenly the crutch is kicked out from under him. He lets out a startled gasp and instead of catching himself he starts to go down. He gets a hand on Vasquez’s breast pocket and there’s the sound of tearing as Vasquez reaches for him with a startled look. Vasquez lands on his knees and elbows with Faraday’s head pillowed in his hands. The other man’s eyes are bright and he is laughing, but manages to gasp out, “Never took you as the type to knock down a cripple.”

Vasquez sighs in relief that Faraday isn’t hurt, bowing his head and muttering, “You are not a cripple, cabrón,” with a chuckle. He leans back onto his heels and allows the Irishman to sit up.

“I know that’s an insult, but I’m going to pretend -,” Faraday cuts himself off, eyes caught on Vasquez’s chest. He follows the smaller man's eyes down to the torn breast pocket where two cards poke out. Two bloody playing cards.

Faraday’s face hardens and Vasquez goes to explain, “Joshu-,”

“You pity me.” It’s not a question. Instead, it's said as if it was an epiphany.

“¿Qué? No, never!”

“Don’t lie to me! You feel guilty and you pity me and that’s all this is. I’m not your friend, I’m your charity case!” Faraday shoves him hard back onto his ass, grabs his crutch and gets up and starts to walk away.

Vasquez rushes after him. Grabbing his wrist and pulling hard, “estúpido, hermoso bastardo. Yes! Yes, I felt guilty for leaving you here hurt and with no one. That is not why I am here though.”

“Why keep those then! Why are you here?!”

“Because that is all I had left of you!” It seems to rip out of him and they both go unnaturally still. He takes a deep breath and continues, “It is all I had left of you and they remind me to never let you go again. I am here because it is where I want to be.”

Faraday finally looks at him and his eyes are moist and in turmoil. Vasquez smiles at the shorter man, his eyes softening and crinkling at the edges. He cups Faraday’s face with both hands and gently strokes under his eyes, “I want to be beside you, cariño.”

Faraday leans into his hands with a sigh, “Keep sweet talking me and I might just let you stay there.”

Vasquez chuckles and gives the other man a light shake before letting him go, “Come on Güero, let us go get some dinner.”

“Jesus Vas, is it always food with you?”

“Food solves all problems.”

Things continue to improve from there. Vasquez even starts going regularly to Faraday’s appointments, but there’s still one thing they can’t seem to agree on and it’s that Faraday can still ride horseback. Faraday still needs the help of the crutch for balance with his weaker leg, but his injuries have healed to the point where he’s not liable to tear himself open if he climbs back into the saddle. So, Vasquez devises a plan, with the doctor’s go ahead of course.

They’re supposed to meet the gang at Emma’s, so Vasquez tacks up Maria and Wild Jack and has them waiting for when Faraday arrives.

When he does, he takes one look at the scene and says, “Better untack them quick and harness them to a wagon or we’re goin’ to be late.”

“I figured we could have a nice ride up there. Besides neither one of them is cut out for wagon pulling and Wild Jack would have me stomped to death if I even tried.”

Faraday gives him a glare, “I ain’t riding up there.”

“Then you better start walking, I’ll catch up when I’m done here,” He says nodding to Jack. He waits for Faraday to get a ways out of town before riding up with Jack in tow. Instead of stopping, he slows down long enough to lean over and grab Faraday’s crutch and dropping Jacks' reins in front of the man and continues on.
He hears Faraday squawk as the crutch leaves his grasp followed by, “No, I know what you’re doing and no!.”

He turns in the saddle to look back at the man and chuckles, “Better remember how to ride Güero or you are not getting this back,” he waves the crutch, “or making it to Emma’s on time.” He nudges Maria into a trot and clears the ridgeline before Faraday gets his jaw off the ground.

Faraday pulls Jack into him mumbling curses and something along the lines of, “damn attractive Mexican thinks he’s funny,” and grabs the saddle horn to hold himself upright in place of the crutch. He tangles his the other hand in Jack’s mane and starts a gruelling stumbling walk forwards. He makes it a few hundred yards, but his arm is going numb from staying over his head and Jack is clearly getting frustrated at the pace they’re setting. Not to mention Faraday knows better than to keep Emma Cullen waiting unless you want an ear full and scraps for dinner. So he decides to put his stubbornness aside and pulls himself up onto Jack’s back. He has to lean over and lead his bad leg into the stirrup, but figures he’ll at least cover a considerable distance before he makes a fool of himself and either hurts himself or falls off.

Vasquez greets the group standing around the front of the Cullen house or lounging on the porch and dismounts.

“Where’s Faraday?” Chisolm asks.

“He will be here shortly,” He replies.

Teddy comes over to hold Maria’s reins for him, because he’s the only considerate one in their group of friends, while Red starts to rummage through Vasquez’s saddlebags looking for the items Vasquez promised he’d get for him from the general store. They all turn when they hear another set of hooves approaching.

“I see you finally got him back on his horse,” Emma says teasingly as Faraday comes to a stop a few feet away. He tries to glare at her, but he’s clearly trying to hide a proud smile as she tacks on a, “Congratulations Mr. Faraday,” and she chuckles when he throws her the finger. She invites Sam into the house to help her set the table since they’ve all arrived.

Vasquez already has untacked his mare by now and is still smiling to himself about his success while patting Maria on the neck. He’s unaware that Faraday has dismounted Wild Jack and is watching him with an unreadable look on his face until -

“I love you.”

Vasquez whips his head up so fast he’s sure his neck might have snapped, but he’s looking into bright blue eyes and he doesn’t care. He’s reminded of Joshua knocking on his door and finding the man shyly standing on the other side. It seems like forever ago and yet just like yesterday at the same time.

It takes him two strides and he’s cupping the other man’s face, tipping it up, and kissing him hard.

Joshua lets out a squeak that turns into a groan and twists his grip in the front of Vasquez’s shirt with one hand and into the taller man’s hair with the other and pulls him closer.

When they break for air Vasquez breaths, “mi amor,” against chapped lips and then dives in for another kiss.

One second they’re holding each other and in the next -
Red tells them to get a room and then takes off at a sprint, Vasquez starts reaching in Teddy’s direction, and Teddy takes a step away and starts yelling, “no no no no no!”