Disclaimer: This work of fan fiction is not intended to infringe on the copyright of Trilogy, MGM, CBS, or anyone else, for that matter. It's also not intended to make a profit. Please don't post elsewhere or sue without permission from the author.

Rating: PG; M/M (Chris/Buck)

Author's notes: This is the result of a late night and allergy meds. Be warned <G>. It's also my first "slash" fic (if you can even call it that). Constructive criticism is welcome.

The title comes from the song by Faith Hill. Anyone who can get "subliminal" and "centrifugal" into one song has my complete respect.

This Kiss
by Katie

Rumor had it Buck Wilmington would bed anything on two legs that was willing and old enough, regardless of whether the two legs were covered in a skirt or denims. Some, thinking they were wits, would say that he didn't even restrict himself to two legs. Buck himself just grinned when the subject of his prowess came up--grinned, and grabbed the nearest willing body and went out to prove the rumors right.

He'd always thought the secret of his success was his kiss. He could take a woman in his arms, touch his lips to hers, tease her with the tip of his tongue, then slide it in to touch that special place inside her mouth that made her know she was the only person in his world. He loved that feeling, the way she would go pliant in his arms, molding her body to his, the universe stopped for a moment as their passion exploded. Or, he could run his hand down the whiskered jaw of a cowboy, bending down to nibble at the corner of his mouth, then fiercely ravish it as the cowboy arched up to meet him, moaning in pleasure. It had never made a difference *who* he was kissing; each one was a little slice of heaven unto itself.

He could remember one in particular, a tall, dark-haired vaquero who'd trembled at his touch, afraid that letting another man touch him would make him less of a man himself. They were more than a hundred miles away from the nearest woman, though, and by morning, Buck had proven to him just how manly making love could be.

A familiar, urgent voice tugged at Buck's mind, pulling him from the pleasant reverie he'd fallen into. Chris, shouting that the outlaws were getting closer, they had to get ready. Damn. Right in the middle of one of his favorite daydreams. Now he'd have to start paying attention to the gun battle again . . . but the vaquero was so much more pleasant, the only shots fired ones that exploded into passion instead of agony . . . if only Chris wouldn't yell so loud . . .

Buck had wanted the vaquero from the moment he'd laid eyes on him, and Buck usually got anyone he wanted. It was a rare man or woman who didn't succumb to Buck's charms eventually, if Buck had any interest in pursuing them whatsoever. In fact, he couldn't think of more than one or two people that he'd admired and hadn't at least gotten a kiss out of . . .

"Damn it, Buck."

Chris's voice was hard, angry, and Buck winced guiltily. He should have been paying attention, but somehow his mind just wasn't on the fight today. The little dream world he'd created was much more appealing.

Come to think of it, Chris was one of the few he'd wanted to share a night with who'd never seemed to return his interest. Buck valued their friendship far too much to pursue it, especially since Chris hadn't ever shown any sign of widening his sights beyond the fairer sex. Even so, Buck couldn't help but wonder from time to time what it would feel like to hold his friend, to taste his skin and smooth Chris's usual smirk into that gentle smile he so rarely saw anymore.

"What the hell were you thinking?" Chris snapped as he grabbed Buck's shoulder.

Buck turned his head to look up at Chris, tightening his grip on his gun to show that he really wasn't ignoring the lead flying around them. Studying Chris's finely-drawn, almost beautiful face, it occurred to him suddenly that maybe Chris had never tried to kiss him, not because he didn't care for men, but because he didn't find Buck all that attractive.

The idea bugged the hell out of him. What was wrong with him, anyway? He might not have Chris's arresting eyes or that way of speaking that sent a shiver down a man's spine, but he'd rarely gotten any complaints. Why wouldn't Chris want to make love to him?

He'd just opened his mouth to ask when Chris's hand shifted from his shoulder to his face as the older man spoke in a softer tone. "Take it easy, all right? We'll get you out of here."

Without warning, the world shifted and exploded into waves of red agony. When the fire finally confined itself to his chest, Buck found himself lying against Chris, the older man's hand gently stroking away the water that insisted on leaking out of Buck's eyes. Breath Buck hadn't even noticed was growing difficult eased marginally, and he smiled. This was more like it. Now, if only he could make his head move, he'd turn and steal that kiss he'd always wanted.

"Just gotta be a hero, don't you, Buck?" Chris murmured, his breath caressing Buck's cheek. "When are you gonna learn not to jump out in front of people who're trying to kill you?"

It was a pity Chris didn't seem to be in the mood. This might be Buck's last chance to get this close to the man, and Chris had his mind on other things. Wasn't that just the luck?

Oh, well, Buck was beginning to feel a little too tired anyway . . . not that he'd ever let that stop him before, but there was a large group of outlaws shooting at them, and it was probably better that Chris pay attention to them right now.

"Damn it, Buck, you just hold on, all right? We'll get you out of this, but you gotta stay with me. *Stay with me*, hear?"

Sure, Chris. Whatever you say. Hey, you busy tonight? Maybe after I take a nap . . .

"Buck!"

The urgency in Chris's voice forced Buck's eyes back open. Where the outlaws getting closer? Where was his gun?

A sudden clatter of pebbles down near his feet made Chris raise his gun. A second later, Vin slid down the hill toward them, his mare's-leg clutched in one hand. Without a word, he went over to crouch behind the rocks that surrounded them and started firing methodically. Reassured, Buck relaxed. Vin would make sure Chris got out of this safely. He could rest now . . .

"God, Buck." JD was suddenly there. Didn't he know better than to get himself caught in the middle of a gunfight? He seemed to be handling himself well enough, though, going over to join Vin after a quick pat on Buck's leg. Good boy.

And then Nathan was there, bending over him, and Chris said something, but Buck couldn't hear him any more over the rushing in his ears, as if the darkness covering his eyes had a sound . . .


Chris walked wearily down the street toward Nathan's room, feeling the water slop out of the bucket he was carrying onto his denims. It had been a long night. Chris felt like they'd fought harder in that little room than they had against the outlaws. If only he could celebrate a victory in this battle like he could in the earlier one.

Passing the jail, Chris gave Vin a short nod in greeting, but didn't speak. The tracker merely returned the nod, somehow understanding that Chris didn't want company right then. Chris's friendship with Vin was as deep as it was sudden and surprising, but it almost seemed like a betrayal right now.

There was an empty spot at Chris's right shoulder, a spot that had been filled by a laughing, rakish gunslinger for so long that Chris half expected to turn and see him there even now. A distance had come between them the past few years, one of Chris's making, if he was honest with himself. The friendship had never completely disappeared, though, and that made Buck's absence even more obvious. Even talking to Vin right now would be too much like trying to fill that spot with something that didn't fit.

Chris reached the stairs that led to Nathan's room and started up them. Nathan was leaning against the rail outside his door, his face drawn from the long night. He gave Chris a tired smile that didn't come anywhere near his eyes, but he didn't say anything. They'd said all there was to say the night before, anyway.

Chris entered the dark room, setting the bucket by the door before moving toward the bed. The figure lying there was unnaturally still and pale. Chris swallowed heavily, the grief and terror he'd felt when he'd scrambled over the rocks toward Buck's bloody body hitting him again like a blow to the stomach. What would he do without Buck? Without someone to make him laugh with his wild stories, without someone to worry over him and make him grit his teeth in irritation and remind him of what life was like before his world had ended?

Buck was never so still. He never looked so fragile, so easy to shatter with just a touch. Chris sat down in the chair he'd left next to the bed, rubbing his eyes tiredly. He'd thought, when Sarah and Adam died, that he'd lost all ability to hurt for anyone but them.

"Just had to prove me wrong again, didn't you?" he whispered. The silence from the bed was deafening.

Buck had always been a beautiful man, Chris thought suddenly, not sure where the thought came from and too exhausted to really care. He'd hidden a baby face behind that bushy mustache that Chris had teased him about unmercifully when he'd first grown it, but even that couldn't hide his stomach-tightening smile. It sure as hell didn't change the way his eyes went wide and tender and intense when he was talking about something serious, or the way they twinkled when he laughed.

"Damn it, what am I supposed to do without you?"

Of course, there was no answer. Chris hadn't expected one. A little part of him seemed to die with the silence, though. He reached over and gently brushed a lock of black hair out of Buck's pale face, his hand lingering against the younger man's cool cheek with a tenderness he'd never have normally shown.

Then, not really knowing why he was doing it except that he needed some release for what he was feeling, Chris bent forward and kissed Buck softly on the lips.

Sleepy, confused blue eyes dragged open to meet his. Chris felt a wide grin curving his mouth, but his throat was so tight he couldn't have said anything to save his life. Buck's answering smile was almost too weak to see, but his eyes were filled with affection and what Chris would almost swear was satisfaction. Then the younger man's eyes drooped shut, and with a faint sigh, he settled back to sleep.

Chris swallowed against the lump in his throat and reached down to pull the covers up to Buck's chin, patting his shoulder. Then he sat back in the chair to wait.


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