Author's Notes: Sheer foolishness with the guys. As always, thanks to my beta Judy. Feedback is welcome.
It was noon when the seven regulators of Four Corners gathered together at the saloon and sat down at their usual table. Ezra Standish signaled to Inez Recillos, who was behind the bar.
The pretty bartender came over and greeted the men with a smile. "Hola, senores! What may I serve you?"
Ezra was the first to respond. "I think that I will have quiche, Senorita Recillos."
"Sushi," Josiah Sanchez said.
Nathan Jackson was next. "Spinach souffle, with a side order of chitlins."
"A double cheeseburger and some pop tarts," said JD Dunne.
Buck Wilmington made his choice. "Pizza with anchovies, stovetop stuffing and rice-a-roni."
Inez was perplexed. "Senores, I have never heard of these foods."
"How strange," Ezra said. "This is what we always order in Denver. Since you are unfamiliar with these items, however, I will simply order for all of us."
Chris Larabee gave the con man a hard stare. Glaring green eyes locked with shifty green eyes. "Not so fast, Ezra. You ran out on us once. That means we can't trust you."
"But I am only ordering... "
"Don't matter. I'll do the ordering." Chris looked up at Inez. "We'll all have some beef jerky sandwiches. Bring some milk for the kid and a bib. The rest of us will have whisky."
Vin Tanner spoke up. "No beef jerky fer me, cowboy. I got a hankerin' fer some fried rattlesnake."
"There's no way you're gonna get that, son," Buck scoffed.
Vin gave Inez a soulful look. "I ain't had no rattlesnake in weeks. Think ya could rustle me up some?"
Inez melted. "I will go out in the back and capture a rattlesnake for you, mi precioso."
As Inez walked away, Buck looked at Vin in disbelief. "How'd you do that?"
"Ain't sure," Vin admitted, "but when I look at women like that, I always git what I want. Works the same way on Chris."
Buck gave Chris a suspicious look. "You ain't one a' them funny cowboys, are you, Chris?"
"Hell, no!" Vin retorted. "There ain't nothin' funny about Chris. He don't know no good jokes."
"Hey, Chris, I know a good joke," JD volunteered. "See, there's this three legged... " JD broke off when he saw Ezra's derringer pointed straight at him.
"If you insist upon telling that joke again, Mr. Dunne, I will shoot you here and now."
Tears filled the kid's big, hazel eyes, and he turned to Buck in distress. "Did you hear that, Buck? He threatened me!"
Buck spoke in a menacing growl. "I heard it, kid, and Ezra's gonna pay for that." Buck stood up, reached across the table and grabbed Ezra by his lapels. Buck's face was a thundercloud of rage as he jerked the gambler out of his chair and threw him on the floor. He punched Ezra in the jaw and then began punching him in the stomach.
"Buck! Buck!" the con man gasped. "Stop! This is the week that you beat up Vin. Don't you remember the schedule?"
Buck halted in mid blow. "Damnit, Ezra, you're right. It is Vin's turn to get beat up this week." Buck helped the gambler up, brushed him off and sat him back in his chair. "You probably deserve it, though, even if it ain't your turn."
"No one understands me," Ezra said sadly. "No one knows how noble I am."
"I'm a saint," Vin remarked shyly.
Josiah glanced around the saloon with a crazed look in his eyes. "Brothers, I'm gettin' the urge to wreck this saloon."
Nathan spoke soothingly. "Now, Josiah, just calm down."
Josiah spoke again. "'A false witness shall not go unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish.'"
Ezra gingerly touched his bruised jaw, disturbed by the possibility of a multicolored bruise clashing with his new fuchsia jacket. "What, pray tell, does that have to do with anything?"
Josiah gazed up at the ceiling, a faraway expression on his face. He wrinkled his brow and considered the matter, before redirecting his gaze to the con man. "Why, absolutely nothing, brother Ezra, but I like the sound of it."
Vin looked pointedly at Nathan. "Josiah ain't been the same since ya done that brain surgery on 'im."
"What'd you expect?" Nathan huffed. "It was the first time I ever tried brain surgery. I need some more practice." Nathan looked speculatively at the other regulators, who shifted uneasily in their seats.
"'Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?'" Josiah rumbled.
"There he goes again," Ezra sighed.
Inez returned to their table with food and drink. She placed the dish of fried rattlesnake in front of Vin. "Just as you requested," she said softly. "I caught the rattlesnake with my bare hands. Nothing is too much trouble if it is for you."
The tracker blushed and picked up his fork.
Before Vin could take a bite, shouts of "RUNAWAY STAGE" came from the street. All of the regulators got up and rushed to the saloon doors, with JD bringing up the rear. The pint sized lawman jumped up and down in a futile attempt to see over the others who refused to let him in front.
The driverless stage was racing wildly down the main street. "I gotta do somethin' ta slow down the stage!" Vin exclaimed desperately. "I gotta save all the kids in this town."
Chris made a grab for the sharpshooter's sleeve, but Vin pulled away and ran out into the street. "VIN! COME BACK!" Chris yelled. "THERE AIN'T ANY KIDS IN THE STREET!"
Vin paid no attention to Chris and threw himself down in the path of the stage. The stage ran over Vin, barely slowing, and continued careening down the street.
The other regulators hurried over to their fallen colleague. Nathan knelt beside the sharpshooter and gave his diagnosis. "He got a dislocated shoulder, a broke arm, two cracked ribs and... " He peered closely. "A hickey on his neck." All of the mens' eyes immediately swung to Chris.
Chris glared at them. "Don't look at me. Givin' hickeys is a violation of the gunslingers' code."
The others nodded and turned their attention back to Vin. JD was awestruck by Nathan's expertise. "You can tell what kind of injuries Vin has without even touchin' him!"
"I be a quick study," Nathan said. "We best get him up ta my clinic, so's I can get these clothes off of him and hide 'em."
"Just a minute, Nathan," Chris said. "First, let me see what I can do." He took Vin's hand, and Vin's eyes fluttered open. "You got to recover, pard," the gunslinger entreated. "I'll have to start talkin' more if you're not around to read my mind. There's nobody who can track like you. There's nobody who can shoot like you. There's nobody who can play a musical instrument like... " He stopped. "Forget that last part. The thing is, you gave me a reason for living just by looking at me. I still ain't figured that one out, but when I can stay sober long enough I'll make sense of it. I want you to know how important you are to me. I like you more than Mary. Hell! I even like you more than my horse."
Vin sat up. "That's a downright sickenin' speech, cowboy. Makes me wanta puke."
"What does not?" murmured Ezra.
Chris smiled at the tracker and gripped his broken arm in their special forearm grip. Chris was oblivious to the look of agonizing pain that appeared on Vin's face, busy as he was brushing the hair back from Vin's forehead with his other hand. He let go of the tracker's forearm and Vin gasped with relief.
"Vin, I oughta take care of them injuries of yours," Nathan said.
"No need fer that," Vin answered. "Chris is makin' me feel better already." Chris continued to stroke the sharpshooter's hair, crushing the occasional louse. Finally, a much restored Vin stood up. "Let's git back ta the saloon, boys," he said.
The seven regulators trooped back into the saloon to finish their lunch. After lunch, Chris lit a cheroot and was enjoying a leisurely smoke when Mary Travis marched into the saloon. "Chris!" she cried. "I can't help myself. I can't stay away from you any longer." Mary plopped herself onto Chris's lap. "I have a weakness for blond men with a fast gun and a tight butt." She jerked the half smoked cigar from his mouth and gave him a passionate, lingering kiss.
When Mary eventually withdrew her tongue from the gunslinger's throat, Josiah was moved to speak. "'As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.'"
"Stay out of this, preacher," Chris growled.
"That kiss was wonderful," Mary said to Chris, "even though your cigar breath is frankly nauseating."
"Tell me about it," Vin said.
Mary shot Vin a suspicious look before turning her attention back to Chris. She spoke in a low, seductive voice. "How do you like my dress?"
Chris eyed Mary's revealing cleavage. "I can't say as I noticed your dress."
"I'm a strong, independent woman, but I happen to like spilling out of my clothes." Mary ran a manicured finger, stained with printer's ink, down the side of Chris's face. "Why don't we go someplace where we can be alone?"
"I was planning on going out to my shack to brood," Chris replied.
"There's something better to do than brood."
Chris looked surprised. "There is?"
Mary nibbled on Chris's ear. "Let me show you how I can pop the buttons right off those tight pants of yours."
"You're too late, Mary. When we came back in the saloon after Vin got run over, I forgot to draw in my breath when I sat down, and all the buttons on my pants popped off."
"One of 'em landed in my milk, and now I can't drink it," JD complained. His big, hazel eyes filled with tears.
This was too much for Buck. Enraged, he shoved back his chair and stood up. "Damn you, Chris! You made the kid cry. Now I'm gonna have ta beat the hell outa you."
Mary bared her teeth at Buck. "Back off, Buck," she hissed. "This is my time with Chris."
"We'll see about that, dearie," a female voice broke in. The saloon doors swung open and Lidia, the Wickestown madame, sauntered in.
A happy grin spread itself across Chris's face. "Lidia!" Forgetting about Mary, he stood up, dumping her on the floor. "Come on over and join us."
An indignant Mary scrambled to her feet, rubbing her bruised backside. "Chris! You can't choose a woman with no social standing, when you could have a newspaper editor like me."
Chris gave Mary a regretful look before starting towards the door with Lidia. "Sorry, Mary. I'm real impressed with the way you can run a printing press, but there's something about paying a woman for her favors that turns me on."
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