Rating: PG-13 for a hint of sexual content
Couple: Ezra/Inez; Josiah/Maude; Buck/Inez sort of
Summary: The Seven and their companions must cope with the news that Nathan brings.
Disclaimer: Ezra Standish, Inez Recillos, Chris Larabee, Maude Standish, Vin Tanner, JD Dunne, Buck Wilmington, Nathan Jackson, The Magnificent Seven, and all characters within this story are © & TM CBS, The Mirisch Group, MGM, and Trilogy Entertainment. Everything else is © & TM Kitka. The author makes absolutely no profit off of this work of fan fiction.
A collective moan of complaint uttered from the huddled group of people in the saloon as the doors were pushed open and a gust of icy wind blasted in, pushing in both another inch or two of snow to cover the entrance and a newcomer. The man's slight trembling was obvious despite his thick layers of clothing as he walked to the bar. A Mexican woman rushed to meet him with a mug full of coffee. "Thank you, Inez," he spoke as he gratefully accepted the offered mug and took a long swallow of the coffee. He sighed as its warmth spread through his body.
"You're welcome, Senor Jackson, though if you do not mind my saying so, it is rare that people around here order coffee."
"I realize that. Normally, I wouldn't even be drinking it at this time of the night, but I have to keep my senses sharp. With this storm, there's no telling how many people might need my services before sunrise." Inez started to answer when a customer called out for another drink. As she hurried off to fulfill the order, Nathan bent so that he could reach his boots, and his gloved hands slapped as much of the snow off of his boots as he could. He then straightened and turned around, his dark eyes surveying the saloon.
"Brother Jackson!" a familiar voice called out, and Nathan headed to join his friends.
When he reached the group, he started to speak only to be interrupted by a myriad of voices, each trying to get the answer they sought out of him before the other could. "Well, what is it?" JD asked eagerly among the clamor of his friends' voices. Only the man in black remained silent; his curiosity was shone only in the green eyes that lifted from his cards to look at Nathan.
When Nathan did not immediately answer and instead chose to take the one remaining empty seat at the table before responding, Buck insisted, "How's the score?"
"24," Nathan answered as he sank into the chair, his hands continuing to hold tightly to his mug in a vain attempt to warm themselves.
"Whoa!" JD hollered, his eyes growing as round as saucers.
"Pay up, Kid," Buck told him, holding his hand out toward him.
Vin's mouth opened to release something, but one glance at the woman at the table changed his mind as he instead exclaimed only, "Shoot!"
It was Chris who let slip the sharp exclamation of, "Damn!"
"Such language, Mister Larabee!" the woman at their table dared to scold only to have the gunslinger fix her with a glare so sharp that even succeeded in silencing her. Josiah carefully watched the interaction between the two as he regretted how irritable the weather had made so many people.
Ezra hid his smile as his mother was silenced and brought his eyes away from the situation at that part of the table to find Buck grinning as JD reluctantly handed him the money he had won. "Not so fast, Mister Wilmington," the smooth voice of the gambler interrupted the two. "You also have a debt to settle."
The scoundrel's grin instantly vanished at the Southerner's reminder. "Fine," Buck muttered under his breath as he handed the money JD gave him plus a little bit more to Ezra.
Maude finally broke her attention away from Chris to allow her steady gaze to encompass the entire table. "Have you gentlemen so quickly forgotten? Ah do believe Ah won the pool." A chorus of mutterings met her ears even as the men paid up.
"Teach me to make two side bets and toss my money into the pool," Buck muttered darkly. He took another swallow of his whisky as he began to sulk.
It was then that Inez arrived to refresh their drinks. "Who needs some more?" she asked even as she began to pour the proper drinks in the lifted mugs.
Buck snorted as he noticed the hot chocolate being poured into JD's mug. "Can't handle a real drink even on a night like this, eh, Kid?" he asked with a chuckle.
Even as JD began trying to think of a proper retort, Inez spoke again, "Hot chocolate isn't that bad, especially on a night like tonight, Senor Wilmington! You should try it some time!"
"No thanks," he told her as he put his mug down. He then added with a wink, "I'd rather drink of your sweet wine, senorita," he started to reach up to her, but she gently yet forcibly slapped his hands away and continued filling the other men's mugs. "Aw, come on, darling!" the ladies' man insisted. "You need somebody to warm your bed on a night like tonight!"
"Even if I did, Senor Wilmington, that man would most certainly not be you," she retorted even as she filled the last mug. Ezra took a sip of his drink, his green eyes watching the interaction between the two though he did not speak a word and was careful to keep from allowing the others to realize where his attention had been drawn.
"Who could warm you better than I could, beautiful?" he asked her, his blue eyes sparkling as his grin grew. "Why, one night with me, and you'll think it's Summer again! I'd..."
Even as Buck started to tell her the things he could do to her that would surely make her blood boil and her hormones soar, Josiah interrupted, his eyes flashing in warning. "Not with a lady present, Brother Wilmington!" he exclaimed angrily. When the others looked at him in surprise, Josiah blushed lightly and slightly lowered his head. "Not that you're not a lady, Sister Recillos!" he added quickly. "It's just... Hum..."
Even as the preacher desperately sought the right words, Maude pushed back her chair and stood. "Before you bury yourself any further, dear, perhaps we should retire for the evening?" Her words so shocked the others that they completely forgot Josiah's previous slip. Ezra's mouth still hung open in shock as Josiah met Maude, slipped his arm around her to pull her closer to him, and they walked away.
Buck was the first to speak again after Josiah and Maude departed. "Now, sweetheart," he asked again, giving Inez his most charming smile as he looked up at her, "as I was saying, who could be better than me?"
"Well, for one, Senor Standish could leave you in the dust in a heartbeat's second," she snapped.
Ezra's head snapped up, and his eyes grew wide even as red coloring filled Buck's face. "WHAT?!?!" the scoundrel bellowed in disbelief.
Inez's own eyes grew wide as she realized what she had admitted to. "Hum... Well... I... He was just... the first one that came to mind... That's all... Really..." One of her few remaining customers called at that time, and she gladly whisked away to see to their needs, leaving both men stunned behind her.
A smile slowly inched its way across the gambler's handsome face until his face glowed with its brilliance. Folding his cards, he tucked them securely back into his jacket pocket before rising. "Ah do believe Ah shall see you gentlemen tomorrow," Ezra spoke as he began to go after Inez.
"Not so fast, Standish," Buck growled out as he turned to block the gambler's path. "You heard her say that you were only the first one that came to mind."
"Ah, but Mister Wilmington, she was clearly quite befuddled at having made such an admission out loud. The thought must have been on her mind for quite some time already for it to slip out the way that it did."
"I'll slip ya something!" Buck exclaimed, his hand balling into a fist.
Ezra's green eyes flickered dangerously. "Ah should say that Ah would like to see you try," he began to say only to have Nathan's stern voice interrupt him as he ducked between the two.
The healer's hands held up to emphasize his statement as he exclaimed, "Enough, you two! This cold weather's bad enough to give me more patients than I can handle! I'm not about to have to be fixing you two up too!"
"Tell him, Nate," Buck made the mistake of saying.
Nathan whirled to face the scoundrel, his dark eyes flashing with his fury. "I'm telling you, Buck. You're the one that started this mess. The lady's made her choice, and for once, it's not you. You've got plenty of other women out there. Go bother them, and leave Inez and Ezra alone!"
Buck glowered at Ezra from around Nathan's head, but then, after several minutes, he backed down, turned, and headed out of the saloon, muttering darkly with each step he took. When he reached the doors, he turned back to shoot another glare at Ezra but, finding the infuriated Nathan standing there, decided it would be wiser if he just went on outside and so did exactly that.
"Ah do appreciate your aid, Mister Jackson, although it was most assuredly not..."
"Save it, Standish!" Nathan barked as he whirled around to glare up at the Southerner. "I didn't do it for you but to save myself a little peace." He then stalked out, heading for his clinic.
The slightly bewildered gambler shook his head and hesitated just one moment more before scanning the saloon. He saw Inez waiting at the bar, and his smile took her breath away as he headed quickly toward her.
Larabee took one last swig of his drink before placing the empty mug back down on the table and rising from his seat. "I'm going to bed," he growled out. "Wake me only if it gets warmer or trouble happens." He then walked off without another word.
The two last men remaining at the table exchanged a look. "Who'd have thunk this damn freezing weather would even make our group tear at each other?"
JD shook his head in disbelief. "I don't know, Vin, but 24?! I didn't even know it got that cold out here!"
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