by Etakyma

Written for: Lou

Larabee glared at the three men in his kitchen. Getting woken up out of a sound sleep at two-thirty in the morning to pick his men up at the police station hadn't been at the top of his list of things to do that week. They'd only just completed a hell of a case, and he was tired. Just one night where he didn't have to think about the job or his teammates was obviously too much to hope for.

"It weren't like that," Vin Tanner gingerly repositioned the steak over his left eye where Chris had slapped it in a fit of pique.

"Wasn't like that." Came the softly drawled correction from behind the split lips of Ezra Standish. Ezra was leaning forward in his seat in an effort to keep the blood spilling from his injury off of his clothing.

"See? Ez agrees with me." Vin sprawled back in his chair, the hand not holding the raw meat curled protectively around his rib cage. Ezra snorted and glared at him.

"Ez-ra. Ez-ra! What is so difficult about saying a two-syllable name?" Ezra grumbled into his ice pack. Unsurprisingly, they ignored him.

"What the hell was it like then? A tea party?" Chris Larabee glared at the men in front of him. The vein in his forehead that the rest of the team took not-so-secret delight in causing to throb, throbbed in time with his pulse. His far too rapid pulse. His doctor had told him he needed to eliminate some of the stress in his life, or he would stroke out at a relatively young age. He already cut down on his caffeine and alcohol intake and watched his salt, upped his exercise and went for blood pressure and cholesterol checks every three months. But he couldn't eliminate the biggest stressors in his life. Three of the six of them were sitting in front of him. "Buck, you got anything to add here?"

Buck Wilmington, the last, battered member of the terrible trio, raised his head and promptly leaned so far over to the right he slid off his chair. "... Wha-?" His eyes were bloodshot and out of focus. He'd been kneed in the gut and bashed over the head with a chair - and that was the relatively tame part of the bar fight - no - BRAWL the boys had been caught up in. He'd been diagnosed with a concussion and inebriation. Only one of which would play havoc with his balance, but both made it so he couldn't tell up from down. He looked up at Chris, surprised to find himself on the ground, but didn't move to get up. The concussion left him finding it hard to follow a conversation, so he'd been trying to focus on the floor instead when Chris called his name. He had no idea what was currently going on.

"C'mon, Cowboy. We went out fer some drinks. Been a bad week, y'know?" Vin's one good eye peered at Chris from a battered face. The bruising was going to be spectacular. His face was already mottled a lovely red and purple.

"What. Happened." Chris grit his teeth so hard he thought he felt one crack. Dentist bills in his future and it was all their fault, goddamnit.

"We's just minding our own business when this..." Vin paused to hitch himself up in his seat and groaned when he moved, his arm and hand clenching tighter against his side.

"Malefactor. Miscreant. Cretinous criminal of the highest order." Ezra was still grumbling into his ice pack just low enough that Chris could ignore him.

"Cretinous Criminal. Cretinous Criminal." Buck murmured in a sing-song. "Miscreant cretinous criminals. Criminal crimany cry-many. All the little criminals jumpin' on the bed. One fell off and broke his head..."

Vin laughed. "Hell, pard. I think yer the one broke his head."

"Mama called the doctor an' Nathan said... NO more jumpin' on the bed." Buck was now leaning precariously against the seat of his chair.

"Vin. Tell me." Chris glared.

"Sure, Lar'bee. Don't git yer panties in a wad." Vin grinned at his boss. A macabre sight, as there was blood lining his teeth from the mouth injury. "It started with Buck."

"Doesn't it always?" Ezra said sourly.

"He was jus' bein' friendly."

"He had a metaphorical ten foot tall neon sign over his head that flashed 'All you can eat buffet. No lines, no waiting. We serve everybody'" More blood dripped down his chin as Ezra's split lips reopened. Between the forehead laceration and his mouth, Ezra had lost quite a bit of blood.

"Dang, pard. That's nasty." Vin stared with near horrified fascination at the growing puddle of blood staining the floor. Chris threw and old towel at Ezra to mop the floor with. "Anyways. He was talkin' to this pretty little filly and..."

"If you are going to embellish to the point of fabrication, Mr. Tanner," Ezra paused to position the towel just so. "I might as well continue the story on my own. She was by no stretch of the imagination little..."

Vin cut him off rudely. "Aw shit. Not that 'Mr. Tanner' crap again! M' name is Vin. Use it."

"Yes, well, the lady in question, little or not, was not free to pursue our favorite rogue." Ezra was now trying to keep blood off his shoes.

"Rogue rogue rogue yer boat gently down the streammmmm" Buck warbled off key, now lying supine on the floor. Chris ignored him. "Merrily merrily mer..." Buck's voice trailed off in a mighty sigh.

"Well, then her boyfriend objected to him puttin' the moves on his woman." Vin doggedly picked up the narrative.

"The large young man in question did not merely object Mr. Tanner." Ezra lectured. "He decided to do his 'speaking' with fisticuffs. And his odiferous compatriots decided to join in."

"Yep. We had ta pull ol' Buck's ass outta the fire, Cowboy. S'why we got so busted up." Vin spat into a second proffered towel to clear the blood from his mouth.

"And the cops?" was the quiet question, with only a hint of the frustration and fury that lurked under the surface.

"Some yahoo called the cops. Didn't know that 'til they were there pullin' me off the big one." Vin settled back in the chair and leaned it back, before deciding that was a bad idea and it rested once more on all four feet. "He took the first swing. I's just defendin' myself."

"'He' out weighed you by about two hundred pounds and had nearly six inches on you, Vin!" Larabee pointed out.

"C'n take care of myself." Tanner pouted. "I had him on the ropes. No big deal."

"Ah yes, you took the behemoth and left the other four for us to deal with." Ezra snarked. "And you failed to take into account that Buck was not going to be much help, as inebriated as he was at the time."

"Yeah. Sorry 'bout that Ez. If he was a little smaller, I'da helped you out." Vin said a trifle sheepishly.

"Well, Mr. Tanner, I have to give you credit. When he fell, he fell spectacularly." Ezra said charitably.

"Yeah. He landed good on the little loudmouth. Knocked that sucker right out!" Vin crowed with a grin, and then winced as various parts of his anatomy sang with pain.

"That left three. Where was Buck?" Chris was drawn into the story in spite of himself.

"Buck was getting' the chair over the head at this point." Vin said.

"He did it to shield the young lady from her paramour." Ezra added, dabbing at his lip and checking the Kleenex to see if the bleeding was slowing down.

"She didn't care none." Vin snorted. "Thought he was getting a mite familiar and kneed him. Missed what she was aimin' at, though."

Chris shifted from side to side in sympathy. "Ow."

"I agree." Ezra paused. "So you see, we were not at fault. They fought with us and not the other way around."

"Hell of a night. Kinda glad JD sat this one out." Vin contemplated Buck, now curled up on the floor, humming lullabies.

"Yeah, me too." Chris looked at his oldest friend and sighed. Lullabies the big man used to sing to Adam. Chris's anger drained away. Buck was going to wake with a crick in his neck if he didn't find a better bed than the kitchen floor to sleep on. Damn. He should have known when those three mentioned going out together he'd end up picking them up at the police station and bringing them back to the ranch to tend their wounds. "Shit. You three are gonna be the death of me." Chris sighed, "Help me get him to bed?"

"Sure, Cowboy." Vin grunted with the effort of rising to help steady Buck when Larabee finally got him standing. With Chris holding him up, and Vin flanking him so he didn't walk into the walls, Buck was gently steered toward the guest room.

"See you in the mornin' Ez." Vin tossed over his shoulder before disappearing into the guest room.

"Ez-ra. Ez-ra." Was the only muttered reply into the quiet night as Standish rose to his feet and headed toward the bathroom to wash some of the dried blood from his face. "Why can no one call me by my full name, Mister Tan- Vin?" he said plaintively after his friends.


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