By Jackie

The Magnificent Seven -OW / Rated PG-13


Part 6



Ezra peeked in the stove and grinned, a few more minutes and they would be ready.  Looking at the kitchen table he smiled to himself, call him lazy would they.  He’d like to see any of them attempt to prepare such a succulent repast.


Moving to the kitchen door he looked out into the parlor, Chris was still lying on the cot before the fire.  At some point, it appeared the man had turned onto his stomach and was sprawled out, one arm hanging toward the floor.  Ezra could have sworn he heard him mumble something in his sleep, but could not fathom what it could have been.  He had no intention of waking the gunslinger, how did the saying go? “Let sleeping dogs lie.”  Sniffing the air he remembered his biscuits, Ezra all but ran back into the kitchen, he grabbed a towel and pulled his now perfect biscuits from the oven.  Setting them on the sideboard he pulled each one from the pan and placed them gently on the plate, crooning over each perfect morsel.


Pulling his gaze from the biscuits he glanced out the kitchen window and scowled.  “They said they’d be right back.  They are ruining supper.”  Pulling off the apron he’d donned earlier, he pulled on his coat; he’d just have to see what was much more interesting than the meal he’d slaved over all afternoon.  Grumbling darkly he snatched a biscuit off the plate, took a vicious bite out of it and yanked open the door; stepping right into the business end of Dick Peter’s Remington pistol.  Slowly raising his hands in the air, “When did you arrive?” he mumbled around the biscuit currently occupying his mouth.


“Just never you mind.” Peters snapped, “Come on down here, real easy like.  Be sure you keep those hands in the air.”


Ezra cautiously stepped down out of the kitchen, trying to dry swallow the biscuit before he choked.  Glancing around, he assumed that Dick was alone, especially if they already had Buck and Vin.  Ezra prayed that Chris would awaken and realize something was wrong.  Feeling a muzzle press into the base of his skull Ezra stopped cold.


Peters laughed evilly, “I almost forgot.” Pulling Ezra back against him, he reached around and divested Ezra of his sidearm.  “Now be real careful and hand me that little pea shooter you got squirreled away up your right sleeve.”


Cursing to himself, Ezra released the derringer from its rig and handed it back.  Peters snatched it from his hand and shoved it into his pocket.


“Head toward the barn, I’m sure your friends will be happy to see you.”  Jamming the gun into the gambler’s back they trudged toward in that direction.





Chris wasn’t sure what had pulled him from sleep, but as he lay on the cot listening to the fire crackle he realized that it was quiet, too quiet.  Rubbing at gritty eyes he looked around the empty room, frowning in confusion he pushed his aching body up from where he lay.  Dropping his feet over the side of the cot he noticed his rig sitting nearby, grabbing it up he pulled his Colt Peacemaker free.  Looking it over carefully, he smiled, Good Ol’ Vin.  He was sure the tracker had been the one to clean the weapon for him. 


Once he had managed to extricate himself from all the blankets, he hobbled over to the fireplace where his clothing had been laid out to dry.  Chris grimaced in pain as he bent over to retrieve his trousers.  They were only slightly damp; he could live it with for now.  After dressing as quickly as he could, he strapped on his gun and moved quietly to the kitchen.  Slowly pushing the door open he glanced into the room, it too was empty except for the delicious aromas still hovering on the air.  Cautiously moving into the room, he found the plate of biscuits.  Picking one up and stuffing it into his mouth; he chewed slowly.  The biscuits were still warm, so wherever they went, they hadn’t been gone too long.  By the looks of the supper laid out, someone had been industrious in the kitchen.


Chris could hear the wind knocking the branches against the house and a draft swept under the kitchen door, causing him to shiver against the chill.  Balking at the thought of going out in the cold, he snagged another biscuit off the plate and stalked back into the parlor to grab his coat.  Looking around for his hat he sighed and his shoulders slumped; he’d lost it when he’d fallen into the well.  Damn it! He’d just gotten it broken in the way he liked too; Vin’s nag had destroyed his last one.  It just wasn’t fair.  Pulling open the front door he slipped silently into the night, tip toeing down the stairs, he kept to the shadows.





Buck watched Frank Peters pace back and forth from where he was tied to one of the support beams in the barn, the thief had been grumbling under his breath for the last fifteen minutes.  “Guess Ol’ Dick don’t trust you to nothing but guard duty.” Buck snarked as Frank passed by him.


“Shut your mouth or I’ll shut it permanent like.” Frank snapped as he rushed at the ladies man.


“Really, you gonna bash me over the head and leave me for dead like you did Yosemite?” Buck spit out in defiance. 


Vin just sighed in frustration, Buck and this fool had been going at it off and on for the last half hour, and if Vin’s poor head hadn’t been pounding before; it sure was now.  Vin watched out of his one good eye, as Frank puffed himself up as much as he could in front of Buck.  Unfortunately, the man was built like Chris Larabee, and no amount of posturing was going to intimidate the ladies man.


“You won’t be alive to see the sunrise, you heifer.” Frank laughed and danced away as Buck fought his bindings. “Dick’s gonna eat you for breakfast.”


Buck yelled at the top of his lungs in pure unadulterated anger, which left Vin wincing in pain.  Frank just giggled in the middle of the barn, slapping at his knee.  The barn door suddenly blew open and the thief drew on the two people walking in.

“Put that gun away, Frank.  It’s just me.  I’ve brought another one of their friends.” Dick snapped and kicked Ezra in the back, sending the gambler sprawling across the dirt floor.


“That was not very hospitable of you.  If you treat all your guests this way, you shan’t keep many friends.” Ezra simpered as he slowly stood up and brushed the dirt from his clothing.


“Be quiet!” Dick growled and kicked him toward an available support beam, “Frank, tie ‘im up.  Make sure you make the knots extras tight.  Think we got ourselves a weasel here.  Don’t want him slinking away before we need him to.”


Frank looked Ezra up and down, “Why can’t you do it?  Let me go after the gunslinger.  I want to have some fun too.”


Dick scowled at Frank, “This is not supposed to be fun, at least not yet.  Once we’ve got’em all squared away I’ll let you have some fun.  The gunslinger is mine.  You can have the others.”


Frank just shot Dick a glare and grabbed Ezra by the elbow, dragging him to an open post.



Part 7


Chris noticed that the wind was bitingly cold and whipped his hair about his head, wiping at his running nose he mumbled to himself. “Should have gotten that hair cut the other day.”  As he moved along the outside of the farmhouse he looked toward the only logical place to possibly find his missing friends, the dark and silent barn; its hulk blocking out the stars resting on the horizon.  Having no idea what would have called all three from the house, he preceded cautiously across the yard, silently wishing for some moonlight to light his way across the unfamiliar property.  He had no intention of falling into anymore wells or being happened upon any ne’er-do-wells who may be in the immediate vicinity.


A sudden prickling of the hairs on the back of his neck caused him to stop where he was.  Standing perfectly still and holding his breath, he listened for any sounds out of the ordinary.  His empty fingers itched to be wrapped around his Peacemaker; and just as he was giving into the sensation, a twig snapped behind him.  Gun clearing leather, he spun in the direction of the noise, but before he could bring it to bear something with the force of a sledgehammer slammed into his back and out through his chest, near his shoulder, dropping him to the ground.


Lights flashing behind his eyelids, he gasped in pain as he managed to open his eyes and look around frantically, trying to find his assailant in the darkness.  There was nothing; just the tree limbs creaking in the wind and the rustling of the winter grasses.  Who was out there and where were they hiding?  Groaning through grit teeth he tried to lever himself up, but his left arm useless and his right hand holding his gun in a death grip it almost impossible.  With his strength ebbing away with his life’s blood here he was lying out in the open like a landed fish, unable to get himself up off the frozen ground.  Chris yelled in frustration, “Show yourself you yellow-bellied coward.  Only cowards shoot people in the back, get out here and face me!”


“I’m no coward, gunslinger.” A rough voice called from the darkness, up near the house, “I just know how to tips the scales in my favor.”


Taking a shuddering breath Chris slowly rolled to his knees, sweat pouring off of him despite the coldness in the air.  His chest burned with every stuttered breath; fortunately he wasn’t tasting blood so he counted his blessings.  He could feel the blood running in rivulets down his back and front, soaking into his clothing and gathering at the waistband of his trousers.  The gunslinger could hear a ringing in his ears and knew time was running out, “What do you want?  Why are you doing this?” he croaked out, his breath short.


Stepping into the light cast by the lanterns in the kitchen, Dick Peters grinned evilly at the gunslinger, “I want you, Larabee.  I want to destroy you and your reputation.  When I’m done with you, you’ll be a shadow of your former self.”


Chris tried to bring his gun up but it felt as if it weighed a hundred pounds.  Looking down at his hand he tried to will it into movement, but his brain had lost communication with his arm.  Two feet came into his field of view and he slowly looked up, there stood Dick Peters larger than life, and he was grinning like the cat that licked the cream.  Chris gave him one of his most heated glares.


“Welcome to Hell!” Peter’s cackled and kicked the gunslinger in the chest, sending him into a sprawl back into the dirt.

Chris looked up at Peters with heavily hooded eyes, unable to gather the strength to fight back.  They were definitely in trouble this time.


Ezra watched Frank Peters pace back and forth in the barn, the man was obviously disgruntled.  It was probably some form of sibling rivalry, big brother trying to keep little brother under his boot or some such ploy.  He tried to think up some barb to rile the horse thief, but before he had his chance Buck was back at it again.  The ladies man was a glutton for punishment.

Taking the opportunity to interrupt the silence Buck called to Peters, “Hey, Frankie.  Why you let him walk all over you like that?  I bet you got just as much clout as he does, bet you’re the better shot too.  I saw the way you wielded your gun.  Wouldn’t want some brother keeping me under his thumb.”


Frank turned on Buck, “Shut up! You’re not supposed to talk.  Dick’s in charge.  He knows what’s what.”


Buck shook his head and licked at the blood that continued to weep from his split lip.  “You know big brothers aren’t always right, sometimes they need guidance too.  Dick’s probably just hoping you’ll step forward and take over. You being the smarter one an all.”


Frank scrubbed at his neck with his hands and thrust them through his hair, “I told you to shut up!” he charged over to Buck punching him in the gut hard enough to leave the man wheezing for air.


On the other side of the barn Vin was trying to work his hands free of his bonds as Buck continued to torment Frank.  Chris was the only one who had yet to be trussed like a bird at Sunday supper and the tracker was concerned, Dick had gone back out and had yet to return.  They could only hope that Chris would somehow evade their tormentors and start a rescue.  Vin’s head was throbbing with every beat of his heart and he could barely see out of his left eye.  How in the world are we getting out of this mess?  He thought silently.





“Get up you lazy good for nothing dog!” Dick Peters spat at Chris kicking him viciously in the back just below the bullet wound.


Chris cried out and jerked away in pain, his hand scrabbling for his gun which was laying a few feet away.  Peters saw this and viciously stomped down on Chris’s hand forcing him to release it.  As Peters reached down to grab up his gun he used his free hand to grab a handful of tangled blonde hair and pull the injured man to a seated position.  Tears unwillingly sprang to Chris’s eyes as the horse thief yanked his hair harder and jammed his own weapon under the gunslinger’s chin.


Peters moved in close and breathed in, “You smell like fear Larabee.  Are you scared?” he whispered in Chris ear, grinning as his captive tried to push free.  He pulled him closer, his lips brushing the gunslinger’s ear; the thief impulsively ran his tongue around the outside shell of the gunslinger’s ear reveling in the responding quake. 


Chris shuddered in revulsion and froze as Peters pressed closer, “Don’t!” he rasped out and aimed a fist Peters’ face, which the man caught easily due his weakened condition.


“My, my, aren’t we full of piss and vinegar!  Guess we better get you to the party.”  Moving to a standing position Dick Peters pulled Chris up by his hair and pulled him in close to his body, “Come on sweetheart, we’ve got work to do and you’ve got a long night ahead of you.”



Part 8



The taunting that had been going on in the barn ceased with the sound of a gun shot outside.  Buck watched as Frank moved hurriedly to the barn door to peer out, glancing at Vin and Ezra, he could see right away the fear in their eyes.


Turning back to his prisoners Frank smirked, “Guess Ol’ Dick got tired of your friend.  Figure you three will be joining him in hell soon.  I wonder which one of you will get to be first.”


There was total silence for all of about a minute and then Ezra chimed in, “Excuse me, but how are you positive that your nefarious brother was the one who did the shooting?  For all we know, Mr. Larabee got the jump on him and is at this moment working to effect our release.”


Frank just laughed and slapped at his knee, “You’re a funny one, Gambler.  Someone get a jump on Dick?  I do not think so, he’s killed at least a thirty men down in Mexico and he’s gonna do that here too, but bigger.  We’ll be famous; it’ll be parties every night, all the women you want, and all the liquor you can drink.”  At Buck’s guffaw he turned to face the ladies man.  “What?  You think that’s not going to happen?”


Buck gave him a toothy grin with none of his usual kindness, “You think Ol’ Dick’s just gonna let you ride on his coat tails?  You’ll be there to do his bending and stretching, he won’t share his fame with you.  Oh, and you think you’ll get the women?  You might, after he’s done with them.”


Frank stalked up to Buck and stabbed a finger into the ladies man’s chest, “Why do you continue to speak when I’ve told you to stop?  Can’t you follow orders?” throwing his hands up in the air, he moved over to where the gambler was tied up, “Here’s what we’re gonna do.  Each time the magpie over there opens his mouth I punish you; that seem like an idea to you?”


“I don’t know what you hope to accomplish with that.  Mr. Wilmington has always been loquacious, can’t seem to help himself.” Ezra grinned when Frank looked at him in confusion.


“Speak English you candied ass peacock.” Frank’s eyes narrowed as Ezra smirked.


“I am speaking English.  Would you prefer it if I said he was talkative, chatty, glib, oh how about voluble or garrulous.  I can go on all day if you like.”  The gambler gave the horse thief the most innocent expression he could muster.


Roaring in anger, Frank grabbed Ezra’s face in one hand and his knife in the other, “I’m gonna cut your tongue right outta your head.  Then let’s see how chatty you are.”  Frank brought the knife to Ezra’s lip and squeezed his face tighter forcing a moan of pain from the man.


A banging on the door to the barn broke up the pandemonium that was occurring in the inside, Buck and Vin halted their protests as the door vibrated again, the hinges loudly protesting their abuse. 


Frank re-sheathed his knife and gave Ezra a hard pat to his cheeks, “You get to keep your tongue for now, you better be thankful for the interruption.”  The banging echoed through the barn’s interior again, “Hold your horses, I’m a comin’.  Had some business to tend to.”


As the barn door was opened, Dick Peters struggled in with his captive.  Laughing as he made his way to the center of the building.  His left hand still tangled in the gunsliger’s hair, dragging him along.  Chris had a desperate grip on Peters’s wrist trying to keep his hair from being pulled out from the roots.  When Peters finally released the him he fell to the ground in a boneless heap, unable to move; his precious store of energy depleted.


Dick turned to his brother, “Well, the gang’s all here.  Shall we begin or should we partake of the evening’s feast?  Appears we interrupted their supper plans.”


“Let’s eat first, don’t want the food to get too cold.” Frank answered as he glanced down at the injured man at his feet.  Frank used his foot to flip him over onto his back, “Course I’m not sure this one’s gonna make it that long.  Probably shouldn’t have shot him, not much life left in him.”


Dick clapped Frank on the shoulder, “That’s why I’ve got you little brother, see you’re gonna go on up to that fancy house, put us together two beautiful dinner plates and bring down some supplies to patch him up.”


Frank looked at his brother in frustration, “Me? How come I gotta put him back together?  You shot him, you put him back together.  We’re supposed to be partners in this, fifty-fifty.”


“Come, come little brother, I shot him, that’s fifty percent, you fix him, that’s another fifty percent.” Dick explained as he pulled Chris’s Peacemaker from the waistband of his pants.  Walking over to one of the lanterns he looked at it in the light, letting out a whistle, “Nice piece of work you got here Larabee, think I’ll add it to my collection.”  He grinned at the gunslinger, who was starting to show signs of life.  Stalking over, he pressed Chris back to the ground with his boot, “Now Frank, I ain’t telling you again.  Go get the food and supplies or I’ll make you sorry Ma ever birthed you.”


Frank snarled at his brother, but said nothing more as he slammed out of the barn and into the night; his brother’s laughter following him.


Dick turned back to the others once Frank was gone, “Now as I see it, you all are my opportunity to make a name for myself in these parts.  Heck, seems to me you all are widely known round here and I’m gonna become famous by putting each and everyone of ya seven in the ground.”


Buck snorted and both Vin and Ezra cringed, “Seems to me you can’t count, you’ve only got four of us.  Plus out here, you don’t have any witnesses to the killings.”


“Buck!” Ezra and Vin shouted, the man was gonna get them all killed; quick like.


“You should heed your friends’ warning; you’ll live longer that way.” Dick sauntered over to Buck, looking him up and down.  They were of a size, maybe he’d have to fight this man before he killed him.  As he thought on it, he liked that idea better and better.  Yes, he thought to himself.  That idea definitely had possibility.  Out of the corner of his eye he saw movement on the floor, turning he could see that the gunslinger trying to get up, “You just don’t know when to stay down do you?”


Chris warily watched Peters as he finally gained his feet.  The hole in his chest felt like a burning inferno and he was as weak as a newborn colt, to compound matters, an incessant ringing had begun in his ears.  “Do you really think you can get away with this?” Chris rasped out, taking an unsteady step back.


Grinning widely, Peters drew closer to the gunslinger, “So far it seems to be working.”


Vin watched anxiously as Chris wavered where he was standing, it appeared that only pure cussedness was keeping him on his feet.  The tracker continued to work at his bindings and had to steel his expression when he felt them start to slip.

Frank startled them all when he banged into the barn, laden down with food from the kitchen and a sack full of supplies, “Got what you wanted, Dick.  Them biscuits sure are good; brought the whole plate down with butter and honey.”


Dick Peters’ attention remained on Chris, “Bring me that chair over in the corner and set it right in the middle here.”  Quick as lightning he lunged at the gunslinger, Chris managed to land a few well placed punches before Peters had him back down on the ground; face in the dirt.


Peters had one hand on the nape of his neck and a knee pressed into his lower back.  Chris fought for all he was worth.  When Peters leaned over to grab his free arm, Chris somehow managed to grab the horse thief’s ear.  Peters screamed at the top of his lungs and he lost his grip on the gunslinger and Chris was able to scramble onto his back.  Bringing his booted foot up with as much force as he could he landed a kick to Peters’ crotch; dropping him to the ground like a felled tree.  Wheezing heavily Chris pulled himself away as Frank rushed in to check in his brother.




Part 9


Vin started in surprise as Chris’s kick landed true.  The gunslinger’s labored breathing sounded harsh inside the barn, as he tried to crawl away.  Chris was going to be down for the count after this and it would be up to Vin to get them all free.  As the tracker looked to his right, he noticed a pitchfork resting near some hay bales, it was not the most practical weapon but it could damage a person just the same.


Ezra watched as Dick Peters toppled to the ground after receiving a stiff boot to his nether regions.  Grimacing to himself; the gambler realized that Chris was in real trouble now and he was unable to help.  Out of the corner of his eye he detected movement from where Vin was biding his time.  Directing his attention to the tracker, he watched as Vin moved stealthily toward the direction of the hay bales.  Both of the Peters were distracted with Chris Larabee and hadn’t seen Vin move.  “Bravo Mr. Larabee!” Ezra called from his location on the other side of the barn.  “You took the bull by the horns, so to speak and made him a cow!” 


Frank snorted as he rose from where he squatting by his brother, and moved over to where the gunslinger lay trembling, curled into himself, “Feeling kinda poorly there aren’t ya?”  Reaching down he grabbed Chris’s left hand and yanked it back behind him, causing the man to scream in agony, “Hurt’s don’t it; well this is just the beginning.”


Buck struggled at his bonds, yelling in frustration as they only seemed to rub at his already tender skin.  He could see the tears of pain running down his friends face; he could hear the hitching gasps of breath.  If he could get free, he’d cut Dick Peters’ balls off and feed them to him as he was choking out his last breath.  “Get up you sniveling little weasel!  You want to take someone on, you take me on!”


Dick Peters’ pried his eyes open and glared at the ladies man, “You had best hobble your lip, or I’ll make you regret the day you saw sunlight.” Peters growled out as he slowly rolled to his knees, taking heaving breaths to quell the nausea that threatened to send the contents of his stomach spewing all over the barn floor, he barked out.  “I’m gonna gut you and feed ‘em to your gambler friend, then I’m gonna stake him out on an ant hill and slather him in honey.”


Buck watched in satisfaction as Dick Peters’ gained his feet and staggered over to him.  Beefy hands wrapped themselves around Buck’s neck and Peters started to squeeze, staring at the ladies man with fire in his eyes.  Buck just grinned and wheezed out, “Shame you don’t have your brother watchin’ your back.”


Peters looked at him in confusion, “What are you blabbering about?”  The ladies man just grinned at him so he squeezed harder.  Buck choked for breath, stars starting to dance before his eyes.


“Hey! Not Nice!” Vin hissed behind Dick Peters, the man spun round in surprise and Vin slammed the tines of the pitchfork up and under their nemesis’ rib cage, piercing his black heart.  As Dick Peters reached up and wrapped both hands around the handle, Vin grabbed his gun.


“Frank! He’s killed me!” the horse thief shouted out as he dropped to his knees, clutching at pitchfork, blood slowly leaking out around the wounds.  He stared down at the tool sticking out of his chest in amazement.  This was not how he had planned to go, no he was supposed to go down in a ‘Blaze of Glory’ to be written into the history books, not in some ramshackle barn out in the middle of ‘God’s Country.’


Frank jumped up from where he was tying up the listless gunslinger, pulling his own weapon and firing.  Vin was faster, his bullet striking bone in Frank’s lower leg.  The man crumpled to the ground crying out in agony.


Vin cut Buck loose and handed him the gun, “Watch him!” he spit out indicating the floundering Dick Peters, “I’m gonna take care of the other one.”  Vin stalked over to where Frank was writhing on the ground in pain, grabbing up an extra length of rope Vin flipped the man onto his stomach; dropping a heavy knee into the small of his back he reached forward, pulled Frank’s arms behind his back and secured them tightly. 


Glancing down at the blood freely flowing from the gunshot wound, the tracker pulled off his neckerchief, “Waste of a good bandana if you ask me.” Vin barked as he tied off the wound.


“Mr. Tanner, may I remind you that they--,” looking down at Dick Peters who was starting to get a glazed look about him, “Uh, let me rephrase.  Frank Peters can be hanged for horse theft.  Personally I’d like to be in the front row.”


Vin grinned as he stood up, “You have a mean streak in you, Ez.”


“We all do when provoked, Mr. Tanner.” The gambler pointed out, glancing down at the ropes still holding him to the post, “Do you think you could maybe untie me now?  This is becoming quite tedious.”


“Sure, Ez.  Let me untie Chris and I’ll be right over.  How you doing over there Buck?”  Vin asked as he cut away the gunslinger’s bonds and gently turned him over.  Chris groaned as Vin pulled his coat open to look at the wound.  “You just relax, Cowboy.  We’ll have you back up to the house in no time.”


Buck watched Vin from across the barn as he pulled the pitchfork from Dick Peters body, “Well, Vin.  I believe he’s deader than a can of corned beef.  How’s the other one?”


Looking over at Frank Peters groaning on the floor, “Oh he’s hurtin’ all right; crying for mercy and all that.  Have to say I wouldn’t mind helping to build the scaffolding for this one.” Vin admitted as he dug through the bag of supplies.  “I think we should take Chris up to the house where we can fix him up proper like.”


“Sure, let me free Ezra and we’ll be right over.”  Buck divested Dick Peters of all his weapons and used the knife to cut Ezra free.  “Okay, Ez.  Let’s drag him over away from the horses and cover him with that canvas over there.”


Ezra screwed his face up, “Can I not help Vin instead?  I really hate dragging dead bodies around.”


“Ezra, he’s dead weight.  It’d be easier and quicker with two of us.  Just grab his foot and we’ll drag him.  Not like he’s gonna feel anything, he’s dead.”  Buck puffed out as he grabbed one foot and tried to pull the man across the barn.


Looking doubtfully at the ladies man, Ezra grabbed Dick Peters’ foot and pulled for all he was worth.  With a lot of huffing and puffing, moaning and groaning, they were able to move the body and cover it up.  “Next time, I think Vin would be the better choice of brute strength, not me.  I detest manual labor.”



Part 10


Grunting under the gunslinger’s dead weight, Ezra and Vin pushed through the front door of the house.


“I believe Mr. Larabee has been partaking of Ms. Potter’s apple pies a little too often.” Ezra tightened his grip on Chris’s legs as they started to slip from his grasp.


“You saying Chris is getting fat?” Grinning, Vin backed around the settee to the cot.


Narrowing his gaze Ezra sighed, “Mr. Tanner, I was just pointing out the fact that Mr. Larabee appears more robust since the last time I had the pleasure of carrying his dead weight.” Ezra dropped the gunslinger’s legs onto the cot while Vin pitched forward as he took the brunt of Chris’s weight.  Ezra grimaced at the scowl Vin directed on him. “Oops.  A momentary lapse of reason overcame me.”


“Oops?  You better be glad he’s unconscious,” Vin whispered as he pushed himself up off the gunslinger.  “Go help Buck with Peters and see if you can find any whiskey.  Then get me some hot water and clean rags.”


Pulling off Chris’s boots, Ezra placed them under the cot before heading back outside to assist the ladies man.


Vin threw a few logs onto the small fire which had managed to survive while they had been out in the barn with the Peters brothers.  Hoping the chill would soon dissipate, he knelt down next to his friend.  “You sure know how to get yourself into trouble Larabee.”  Realizing he was going to have to lever the gunslinger up to get his coat and shirt off, Vin sat on the edge of the cot.  Pulling Chris toward him, the tracker slipped one arm out of the coat and shirt.  He was able to remove Chris’s left arm from the coat, but the shirt fabric was stuck to the wound.


The tracker jumped in surprise as the front door banged off the wall when Buck and Ezra made their way inside with Frank Peters.


The man was bawling louder than a calf looking for its mother and Buck was reaching the end of his tether.  Indicating the corner of the room, which happened to be the furthest from the cheerfully dancing fire, Buck growled, “Hey Ezra, spread that bedroll out in the corner over there.”


Frank ceased his moaning long enough to complain, “I’ll freeze over there.  I’m injured and you should be treating me better.”

Buck gave Frank an evil grin and dropped him in the corner once Ezra had moved out of the way.  “I don’t remember you being too hospitable to us and I just can’t bring myself to ‘turn the other cheek.’  So just sit right there and hobble your lip.”

Vin was about to go fetch the water for himself when Ezra arrived with a basin and rags.  “I was about to go look for ya, Ez.”


“My apologies, I had to heat the water and it took longer than expected.”  Ezra looked down at the pale gunslinger in concern when Vin soaked the fabric loose from the wound and there was no reaction to be had.


Wiping at the oozing bullet hole Vin sighed, “I wish Nate was here.  He’d have ol’ Chris fixed up in no time.”


Ezra squeezed Vin’s shoulder but said nothing.  They would have to do the best they could, at least they had a roof over their heads and enough stores to hold them for awhile.  “I’ll heat us up something to eat.  I sadly admit I am quite famished.”


“That’s ok, Ez.  We need to eat.  Maybe you can find something to make a broth with ‘cause Chris’ll be needing something too.” Vin finished cleaning the entrance and exit wounds before covering them with whiskey soaked bandages.


As the whiskey burned into the tender flesh Chris moaned in pain but did not awaken.


“How you holding up over there?” Buck called from where he was finishing up with Frank.  Wiping his hands on a rag, he stood and joined the tracker and the gambler by the welcoming fire.


Vin reached out a hand and rested it on Chris forehead noting the gunslinger’s flushed cheeks.  “He’s a little warm.  Not surprised though considering what he’s been through today.”  Securing the bandage, Vin pulled the blankets up to Chris’s chin.  “I’m hoping he’s gonna sleep awhile longer.  Best thing right about now.”


Buck shot a glare at Frank Peters as he sat in the chair next to the cot.  “Why don’t you go wash up Vin while Ezra heats some supper up.  While ya’ll are busy I can watch over Chris.  Peters ain’t going anywhere if he knows what’s good for him.”


Dragging himself up from his knees the tracker picked up the soiled rags and blood tinted water.  “I’ll rinse these and be right back.  I’ll bring some cool water to wash him with.”  Poking his head in the kitchen door he chuckled, “Still looking forward to those biscuits Ez.”


Looking up from the pot he was stirring on the stove Ezra replied, “I’ll put a tray together.  We can all keep an eye on Mr. Larabee and Mr. Peters and still enjoy supper.” Ezra bustled into the pantry to gather what was needed.





Vin moved his chair closer to the hearth and pulled his boots off, enjoying the comforting warmth of the fire and fullness in his belly.  “I didn’t know you could cook up a meal like that, Ezra.  My belly thanks you heartily.”


“You’ll get no complaints from me.  Next time we’re on the trail I’ll let you cook.”  Buck sniggered as he gathered up the tray of dishes.  “I’ll take care of these, least I could do.  Those biscuits were pure heaven.  I sure hope you mix some more up in the mornin’.”


Ezra took a sip of his coffee and smiled cockily.  “I could be persuaded if you and Mr. Tanner would give me first watch.”


Vin snorted and got up from his comfortable slouch.  “We all know you’re a night owl and need your beauty sleep.  You want first watch?  It starts now.”  Vin had noticed Frank getting a little antsy in the corner and knew it was only a matter of time before the man needed to use the privy.


“Thank you my dear sir.  I’ll be sure that you have your biscuits in the morning.” Ezra grinned as he relaxed back onto the settee and sipped from his coffee mug.  How hard could it be to watch two invalids?


After pulling his boots back on Vin grabbed up his coat and moved to the front door.  “Gonna check on the horses and then I’ll hit the hay.  Back in a bit.”


“We’ll be here enjoying the cozy warmth of the fire.  Don’t feel rushed on my account.”  Ezra waved as Vin pulled the door shut behind him.


Buck wandered out of the kitchen about ten minutes later and flopped down in an available chair.  “Where’s Vin?”


Yawning widely Ezra scratched at his belly.  “Mr. Tanner has gone to check on the horses.  He should be back directly.”


“Hey!  I’ve got to use the privy and you better be quick about it.  I’m about to spring a leak.”  Frank shouted from his dark corner of the room.  Waiting in the uncomfortable silence he cried out again.  “What in tarnation you all doin’ over there?  I told you that I’ve got a need.”


Buck slid a glance at Ezra who was lazing on the settee with his eyes closed.  Buck cleared his throat, “Um.  I believe he’s callin’ your name there.”


Ezra cracked an eye at the ladies man.  “I believe you are mistaken.  I’m not helping him to the privy.  I made supper.”


“I believe you called first draw on watch.  It is all you, have fun.” Buck barked out on a laugh.


Looking over the back of the settee at Frank Peters, Ezra scowled.  “But it’s cold outside.  You take him and I’ll make up an extra special breakfast.”


Crossing his legs at the ankles Buck sniggered.  “Sorry.  Your watch, your problem.”



PARTS 1-5 / PARTS 11-14




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