CHASING SIGNALS

By Jackie

The Magnificent Seven -ATF / Rated PG-13

 

Part 4

 

Josiah startled himself awake with roof rattling snore, blinking tiredly he glanced around the room now bathed in the late morning sun.  Buck and J.D. were still sacked out on the two couches.  Listening to the quiet house for a few moments, he realized that it appeared that no one had begun stirring.  Pulling himself from the recliner Josiah stretched rather boisterously; resulting in loud groans from the room’s two other occupants.

 

“Do you have to be so loud when you get up?  Some of us are trying to get a little shut eye.”  Buck complained turning onto his side to face the back of the couch, effectively blocking out most of the sun’s rays.

 

Josiah laughed heartily, “Only when it’s quarter to twelve, we’ve slept most of the day away.  Get your lazybones up, there’s work to be done.  There are animals to tend to, cleaning to do, meals to fix, and the boss to look after.”

 

J.D. groaned and stretched as much as his 5’9” frame was able, before rolling off the couch and racing into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee.  “I’m making high test this morning, if you all want regular you’re gonna have to wait.”

 

“Dang it J.D., that stuff will peel paint, I want to leave some stomach lining.” Buck complained as he slowly pushed himself to a sitting position and scrubbed at tired eyes.  “Where’s everyone else?”

 

“Still sleeping would be my guess.” Josiah replied from where he was looking out the window, “Looks to be a cold one today, not looking forward to going outside.”

 

Buck stood up and scratched at his chest, yawning widely he sighed, “Guess it’s time to roust the dead.”

 

“Just don’t bug Chris; I can’t deal with that right now.  I need some coffee first.” Josiah called as he wandered into the kitchen.

 

Buck just waved him off and wandered down the hallway, his first stop; the guest room.  Smiling widely as he tested the door knob and found it unlocked, he slipped silently into the darkened room.  As he crept toward the bed he noticed that though Ezra had his head buried in the blankets, one lone foot was sticking out.  This is too good to pass up, Buck thought to himself as he used his index finger to lightly trace from Ezra’s toes up over his instep.  He almost giggled out loud as the foot jerked spasmodically, and then counting silently to five; Buck traced from the instep up to the ankle bone.  The foot disappeared beneath the blanket.  Buck clapped a hand over his mouth to keep the belly laugh in and moved in for the kill.  Using the tips of three fingers, he started at the toes and quickly, but very lightly walked his fingers up Ezra’s foot and to his ankle.

 

Ezra burst from the blankets with a blood curdling scream, “Spiders! There are spiders in the bed!”

 

Buck started laughing hysterically, tears streaming down his face, his stomach muscles clenching in pain. 

 

Josiah burst through the door, with J.D. hot on his heels.  Once he determined that no one was dead or dying he scowled at Buck, “You just scared ten years off of me, what were you thinking?”

 

Just as Buck was about to explain himself a body flew through the air tackling him to the ground.

 

“What the hell is your problem, Buck?  That is no way to wake someone from a sound sleep.” Ezra yelled at the top of his lungs as he knelt on the ladies man.  With a snarl he reached down and pinched Buck’s side, causing him to yelp in pain.  “I hope that hurt you reprobate, so much for a calm start to the morning!” Ezra stood up, glared at Josiah and J.D. before stomping down the hall to the bathroom.  Grabbing the bathroom door he slammed with a wall shaking “Bang!”  Behind the door, Ezra let a small smile creep across his face.  The slamming of the door had made him feel a tad better; the little devil sitting on his shoulder hoped Chris gave Buck what-for.

 

Shaking his head in consternation, “Well, I hope you are proud of yourself.” Josiah sighed from where he was staring down at a grimacing Buck Wilmington.  “If that didn’t wake Chris up, nothing will, and speaking of, I wonder why we haven’t heard from Vin and Chris?”

 

“I’ll check, you might want to go and check the bacon.” J.D. called as he ran down the hallway to Chris’s bedroom.  He knocked on the door, waited, and when he received no response he poked his head in, the room was empty.  “Where in the world are they?” he asked quietly.  Walking slowly through the room he checked the bathroom with no results, heading quickly for the kitchen he rehearsed what he was going to say in his head, Chris and Vin aren’t here and I don’t know where they are.  What he actually said when he burst into the kitchen was, “Chris and Vin are missing! Nate’s gonna kill us!”

 

“What do mean they’re missing?  Did you check the bathroom?” Josiah asked as he pulled the bacon from the frying pan.  Chris couldn’t have gone far, the man was sick and had a bum leg for goodness sake.

 

J.D. quirked an eyebrow at Josiah and huffed, “Of course I checked the bathroom.  The house isn’t that big.”

 

“He probably drug Vin out to the barn to take care of the animals, and Chris, ever the perfectionist probably followed along.”  Buck reasoned as he finished off his coffee, grabbed up his coat and stepped outside.

 

Ezra stepped into the kitchen looking fresh and put together, “Have you seen Mr. Tanner?    The house seems strangely quiet without his lively persona.  I was going to take him to pick up his vehicle today.”

 

As Josiah was cracking eggs into a bowl he quipped, “Apparently they are not in the house, Buck is checking the barn and out buildings.  I am sure they are around somewhere, I can not imagine Chris going anywhere with as poorly as he was feeling.”

 

Ezra sniffed at the coffee and frowned, moving over to the sink he dumped the coffee and began preparations for a new pot.  “What are you preparing for breakfast this morning, Mr. Sanchez?”

 

Josiah turned from the counter with a large mixing bowl in his hand, beating merrily away at the eggs, “Ah, this morning you shall be blessed with my special omelets, guaranteed to jumpstart your day.”

 

“Mr. Sanchez, if you would be so kind as to put a small portion of eggs to the side without your doctoring.  My stomach is rather touchy this morning and I don’t think it would fully appreciate the culinary splendor your omelets are sure to achieve.”

 

Laughing as he pulled down a small bowl, “Sure thing Ezra, you just make sure that you make some of your special coffee and I will spare your sensitive digestive system.”

 

Ezra sighed and pulled down two different coffee blends and set about measuring them out, “I am much obliged, Mr. Sanchez.  I will make sure you get the first cup.”

 

~o~

 

Buck shivered in his coat as he cut across the yard at a ground eating pace, looking toward the driveway he sighed in relief as he saw the black Ram parked there in all its pristine glory.  “They’re here somewhere, Nate’s gonna have a field day if he finds out Chris’s been overexerting himself.” He mumbled as he neared the barn.  Slipping through the sliding door, he listened for voices and hearing none; he ambled along the aisle, taking notice that many of the stalls were already empty.  Exiting the other end of the barn he found Vin in the ring with Peso and Chris sitting on a bench against the barn with his leg propped on a hay bale.  “Mornin’.” Buck grumbled as he took a seat next to the team leader.

 

“Is it?  I thought it was more like afternoon.” Chris rasped out as he focused red rimmed eyes on the ladies man.  He was freezing his butt off sitting out near the barn, but he was really enjoying the sunshine.

 

“Ha ha.  Everyone is worn out from yesterday’s fiasco; you should be lounging in bed instead of catching a chill out here.”  Buck leaned back against the barn and closed his eyes, yawning widely, “I’m still beat.”

 

“Was that Ezra I heard yelling earlier?” Chris asked as he readjusted his butt on the bench.  Reaching down, he grabbed his beer and took a long pull.

 

Buck chuckled as he snagged the beer from Chris’s grip, “Yes to your question.  Chris, you know you’re not supposed to be drinking alcohol while taking meds, and secondly, it’s not even twelve, you lush.”

 

Chris grabbed his beer back and pulled out his cell phone showing Buck the display, “Au contraire mon ami, it is 12:30 in the afternoon, lunch time.”

 

“Hey, Buck!” Vin called from where he was exercising Peso, “I wouldn’t mess with him right now.  To say he’s in a pissy mood would be an understatement.”

 

Chris shot Vin the finger and scowled at Buck, “Why don’t you and your cheery disposition go back inside.” Looking toward Vin he growled, “As I recall, I did not ask either of you two yahoo’s to join me.  I know how to take care of myself, been doing it for years.”

 

Buck stood up and pointed toward the team leader as he called out to Vin, “And this ladies and gentlemen, is exactly why you should take your pain meds as prescribed.”  Vin snickered from the safety of the ring as Buck turned back to Chris, “If you would just take your meds you’d feel a lot better.”

 

Grabbing his crutches Chris hauled himself up, “You all are going to drive me crazy, you know that?  I’m going inside to get some peace and quiet.”

 

Buck and Vin watched Chris slowly make his way to the house.  Buck grinned up at Vin, “Was it something I said?”  Vin just shrugged his shoulders and went back to exercising Peso.

 

~o~

 

As Chris entered the house through the back door, the smells of breakfast assaulted him.  His stomach somersaulted violently, breathing through his mouth; he grabbed a bottle of water from the pantry and his prescriptions off the counter.  He shoved everything into his pockets and began crutching himself back to his bedroom.

 

“Morning, Chris.  Would you like the Sanchez special?  It’s got eggs, cheddar, red and green peppers, onions, jalapeños, refried beans, fresh guacamole and sour cream.  Oh, and to top it all off we have bacon.”  Josiah recited for the team leader, frowning as he watched the color drain from Chris’s face, “Are you okay?”

 

Breathing deeply through his mouth, he closed his eyes for a moment, “I’m not hungry right now.  Maybe later, it sounds good, but I’m not feeling so hot.  Think I’m going to go lay down for a while.”

 

Josiah grinned, “I’ll save you some, go lay down.  We’ve got it covered out here.”

 

Halfway down the hallway Chris realized that he had not reminded Ezra to take Vin up the mountain to get his Jeep.  Stopping where he was he took a deep breath and yelled, “Ezra! When you finish eating take Vin to get his blasted Jeep.”  Not waiting for an answer he continued down to his bedroom, shutting the door behind him.  It was a slow trip to the bed; it’s warm blankets called to him.  He gingerly lowered himself to the bed he pulled the pills and bottle from his pocket.  Next he labored at divesting himself of his winter accoutrements, pulling the hat, coat, gloves, and scarf off he viciously threw them in the corner of the room.  They landed in an untidy heap.  Normally he would have hung every thing up, this wasn’t one of those times.  Dumping the prescribed medication into his hand, not caring what pills he was taking, he washed them down with the water.

 

Chris leaned his crutches against the wall so that they were within easy reach, and then he piled the pillows on the bed for his ankle.  Once those tasks were completed, he dropped back into his soft bed; pulling the blankets up to his chin.  He sincerely hoped the pain meds kicked in fast; he needed some good sleep, even if it was drug induced.

 

He was just drifting off, or thought he was, when he felt the air pressure in his room change and the door creak, “Yes? I was just going to sleep.” He sighed, pulling the blankets down from his face.

 

“Uh, sorry Chris but Vin wants to know where the extra fence rails are?” J.D. asked quietly.

 

Chris propped himself up on his elbows and looked at the young man suspiciously, “J.D. why does Vin want to know where the fence rails are?”

 

J.D. swallowed hard, “Don’t be mad at Vin.  We were helping with the chores, and you still had all that feed in the back of your truck.” J.D. stuttered when he saw Chris’s eyes narrow, “Well anyway, Vin was backing the truck down closer to the barn, and his foot slipped.”

 

“What!” Chris shouted as he struggled to get out of the bed, “Was anyone hurt?”

 

“No, well unless you count Buck chomping down on his tongue because he was laughing so hard.” J.D. moved further into the room, “You don’t have to get up, everything’s under control.  Vin even said he’d pay for the repairs at the garage.  Oops, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that last part.”

 

Chris reached down and grabbed a tennis shoe, putting it on his good foot.  Snatching up his crutches he hobbled out toward the barn.  As he made his way, J.D. was babbling like a Magpie behind him.

 

“Oh shit! Vin you’s in trouble, the debil’s here.” Buck slurred around his abused tongue.  “Hey, Chris.” Buck grinned and took a step away from the scene of the crime.

 

Scowling at Buck, Chris hissed, “Go inside and ice your tongue or something.  Vin and I need to have a little one on one.”

 

“Mr. Larabee, I can assure you that this was in fact an unavoidable accident.”  Ezra supplied as he stood blocking Chris’s access to the fence, truck, or Vin.  “I’m quite sure insurance will cover all the damage.”

 

“Ezra, I want you, Buck and J.D. to go into the house before I have beat you all with my crutch.” Chris growled as he began slowly making his way around to the other side of the truck, where Vin was draping a tarp over the rear half of the bed.

 

“Excuse me!” Ezra called as he slid around Chris to prevent him from getting too close, “Don’t take your anger out on Mr. Tanner, I distracted him from his task and that’s when the accident occurred.  It’s my fault.”

 

“Sorry, Cowboy, My foot slipped and my boot caught on the accelerator.” Vin explained as he leaned against the tarp, preventing Chris from getting the full view.  “Why in the world are you out here in your boxers and a t-shirt?  Where’s your coat?”

 

“Don’t change the subject, Vin.  Are you okay, anyone get hurt?” Chris asked after he took a deep breath.

 

Vin and Ezra shook their heads.  On the other side of the carnage Buck piped up, “I did, bout bit my tongue off.”  Chris shot him a glare.  Buck just huffed and grabbed J.D. by the arm, “Come on J.D. he don’t care.”

 

Chris scowled and pointed to the house, “I do care Buck, but you guys need to go inside, let me talk to Vin.”

 

J.D. leaned towards Buck as they were walking back to the house, “You know he’s treating us like little kids, right?”

 

“Yes.  Come on.” Buck moved J.D. in the direction of the house.  He could understand where Chris was coming from; hell the man was hurt and sick.  He had to feel like hammered shit, and they were here destroying his property.  Well Vin was anyway, the sharpshooter had certainly been having bad luck out here lately.

 

Chris turned and gave Ezra the stink eye, “May I have a private conversation with Vin?  Don’t worry; he’ll still be breathing when I’m done.”

 

Ezra just crossed his arms and held his ground, “I’ll be the mediator.”

 

Leaning against the truck Chris sighed, “You can’t be the mediator, you’re biased.”

 

“He’s right, I’ll be fine.” Vin slapped Ezra on the shoulder, “Go on in the house, maybe Josiah is starting on lunch.”

 

“I am not so sure I share your confidence in Mr. Larabee’s ability to restrain himself,” Ezra slid a sideways glance at the team leader, though he appeared frustrated he did not appear as angry as he was before.  Sighing dramatically, Ezra turned to Vin and saluted him, “Sir, should you need assistance I shall only be a short sprint away.”

 

Chris patiently waited for Ezra to get out of earshot before turning on Vin, “Please. Please explain to me, why whenever some disaster happens around my home or myself that you are always right there?”

 

“Aw, Cowboy, didn’t ya know?  I’m your guardian angel, I’m supposed to keep you out of trouble.” Vin laughed and clapped Chris on my shoulder.

 

Shaking his head in amazement, Chris looked at Vin, “Do you know how weird that sounds, besides how does wrecking my truck keep me out of trouble?”

 

Grinning widely as he peaked under the tarp, “Um, well.  Okay, we all know you got a stubborn streak and the doctor’s not gonna let you drive for, well probably, quite some time.  Your truck now needs to go to the shop, hence you will not be tempted to drive it.”

 

Chris let out a bark of laughter, “I think you hit your head, cause that’s a little far out, even for you.”

 

Scratching a design in the dirt with the toe of his boot, Vin shot a look at the tarp and then at Chris, “Okay, fine.  Would believe self preservation?”  Grimacing as he slid the tarp off the back of the truck, Vin waited for Chris’s reaction.

 

As the tarp slid off the truck the team leader moved closer, he could see a few scratches on the bed, not too bad.  As he moved to the rear he could see the busted out tail light and bent up bumper.  Chris rubbed his forehead in exasperation, “Ok.  Number one, I’m glad you’re not hurt.  Two, I’m not reporting this to my insurance company, they’ll raise my rates.”

 

“Chris, I just sunk a ton of money into the Jeep and bought a bunch of gifts for you guys and the kids at the church.  I don’t have the cash funds right now.”  Vin whispered with slumped shoulders.

 

“Oh don’t worry about that, I’ll pay to have the truck fixed.  You’re going to be paying me back in sweat.  I have some projects I need done, and with this bum foot I’m not going to be able to do them.”  Chris explained as he turned to go back in the house.  His foot was killing him and he just wanted to lay down.

 

“Uh, aren’t you going to curse and scream at me?  You shouldn’t keep it all bottled up inside, not healthy.” Vin remarked as he trotted to catch up with Chris.

 

“Don’t think it would do any good, besides depending on the estimate you could be doing my bidding for a very, very long time.” Chris snickered as he re-adjusted the crutches to a more comfortable position.

 

Vin smiled widely and clapped Chris on the back, “That’s exactly why I picked you as a friend.  A solid person to ride the river with.”

 

“Thanks, Vin.” Chris started across the yard once more, “It’s not getting you out of work.”

 

“It was worth a try.” Vin shrugged, “I’d still ride the river with you.  Hey, wait a minute.  I did get you off the mountain without the news media getting involved.  Think I should get extra points for that alone.”

 

“Apology accepted Vin convoluted as it was; now let’s go make sure Josiah’s not making something that’ll strip the wax off the floors.  I intend to keep my innards intact.”  Chris laughed as they neared the back door.

 

“Ha! Speak for yourself, I happen to enjoy the taste of copious antacids.  Oh and need I remind you to dig out the flame retardant tissue for the bathroom?”  Vin grinned as he pulled the door open and the laughter and hollering from inside greeted them.

 

Chris grinned back at him and clasped Vin’s forearm, “Just hold the door, Vin.” Chris crossed the threshold to join the rowdy bunch and shouted, “So what’s for lunch!”

 

The End.

 

 

 

PART 1 / PART 2 / PART 3

 

 

HOME / ARCHIVE

 

Authors Appreciate Feedback. Email Jackie here.