THE BET VIII by Luna Dey

Author’s Note: This story is just a silly little piece, which is somewhat out of character for the guys, but that explores what they might do if they were terribly bored and broke. It is not intended to offend anyone’s sensibilities. Although it contains content that might be considered questionable to some readers, it is not a slash piece. All activities are purely for the purposes of the bets. It is meant to be all in good fun. Thanks to Marg at Blackraptor and Zen at Zen's Magnificent Seven Page who allowed me to use their pictures for the Bet fics. Also thanks to my beta, Alex, for giving this a proofread for me. <G>

Main Characters: Josiah, Chris, and Vin

Disclaimer: I do not own them. They are the property of MGM, Mirisch, and Trilogy Entertainment; however, if they ever come up for sale, I will be in the front row at the auction.

Feedback: Feedback is welcome and greatly appreciated, but no flames please.

JD rubbed a hand over his smooth-shaven face and grinned. "Wow! I should have you two do that more often."

"Mr. Dunne, I will perform such a task to satisfy a wager; however, unless you have two broken arms, I will not attempt the task again," Ezra said with a dramatic sigh.

"It's a wonder we didn't cut his throat," Chris added. "I never saw anyone wiggle that much while someone was holding a sharp blade to his throat."

"Hey! I wasn't that bad!" JD protested.

Chris and Ezra both showed their fingers where the straight edge razor had slipped and nicked them.

"I believe this is adequate proof of our statements," the gambler offered.

"Could just be proof that you two don't know how to give someone else a shave without cutting yourself," JD countered.

"Brothers, you could debate this all day. Are we still playing the game or not?" Josiah looked from one to the other in question. "I believe it is my turn to set the challenge."

"Indeed it is, Mr. Sanchez. What impossible feat do you have planned for us?" Ezra asked as he resumed his seat.

Josiah smiled and looked around the table at his fellow peacekeepers. "I propose a modified sack race."

Nathan looked puzzled. "How ya supposed to race against yerself?"

"I said modified. One sack, two men, and all four feet in the same sack. You have to go out onto the boardwalk and back. If you fall, you have to start over. You get three tries."

"So, what does the winner get?" Buck voiced the question that was on all their minds.

"If you do it, I'll clean your boots. If you don't, you clean mine."

The other six men all looked under the table at Josiah's boots. They were a mess; all covered with mud and probably some other things best left unmentioned.

"I reckon that would be a good incentive to win," Chris commented and turned up his nose.

Josiah looked around the table. "Everyone in?"

"Mr. Sanchez, if I am willing to risk having to perform such a disagreeable task, I find it hard to believe that any of our colleagues will refuse to participate," Ezra said with another disdainful look at the boots in question.

The preacher winked at the gambler and broke into a wide grin. He shuffled the cards and slid them to Vin to cut the deck. That done, he dealt the cards and gave everyone a chance to decide how many they wanted to replace from their hands.

Word of the unorthodox poker game had spread around the town and the saloon was becoming crowded. The crowd gathered close, jostling for position to peer over the players’ shoulders to get a glimpse of their cards. Chuckles could be heard from various spectators around the table as they watched the men rearrange their cards and replace their worst ones.

"Josiah, you been takin' lessons from Ezra?" Nathan grumbled.

Vin huffed. "Even Ezra gives us two that go together sometimes."

"Why thank you, Mr. Tanner… I think." Standish grinned and then stopped to ponder whether he had really just been complimented or insulted.

"Alright gentlemen, let's see your cards," the preacher instructed.

All seven men laid out their cards at the same time, and the onlookers held their collective breath as they waited to see the outcome. A few near the table tried to back up when they realized who had lost, but they couldn't move due to the press of people behind them.

"Son-of-a-bitch!" Chris swore and slapped his hand on the table. "How the hell did I lose with a pair of aces?" He glared at the cards as if trying to get them to burst into flames.

"Well, Mr. Larabee, last I checked the rules of the game, a flush, a full house, and three of a kind do still beat any pair." Ezra grinned, but he was still secretly glad there was a table between the two of them.

"Oh, just shut up," the man in black grumbled under his breath. At least he wouldn't have to do the challenge with him.

"Uh… Chris? Any idea just how we're supposed to go about this?"

The gunslinger looked at his best friend and shrugged. "Damned if I know."

At that moment one of the bystanders, who had made himself the official retriever of necessary items, returned with a feed sack. "Here, Josiah. Is this the size you want?"

"It will do just fine; thank you, Silas." Josiah gave the man a friendly pat on the arm and took the sack. "Vin, Chris, you have three tries to get this done. He handed the sack to Larabee.

Someone in the crowd started taking bets on the final results of the challenge, and everyone quickly began to choose up sides.

Luckily, feed sacks were pretty big, but there was no way they would be able to get both of them in that sack and have any room left to try to move. "Tanner, get your butt over here and let's get this over with." Chris stepped into the bag and held the edges down low enough for Vin to do the same. The tracker stepped in facing his friend, and they tried to sort out their feet. "Put your left foot between mine." Once in place, the gunman pulled the sack up to where he could hold onto it without having to bend down. A feed sack might be large, but it wasn't that large. When the top edge was just below hip level it became a tight fit, forcing the two men snugly against each other.

"Somethin's pokin' me," Vin complained.

"Woooo, Chris; better behave yourself there, pard." Buck teased his oldest friend and hoped that he didn't hold a grudge when the game was over.

"Shut up, Buck!" Tanner and Larabee shouted in unison, causing their audience to burst out laughing.

"Okay, this is going to have to be little steps. You step back with your left foot a few inches when I tell you to." Chris looked over Vin's shoulder to see where they were going. "Now."

The tracker stepped back half a step at the same time Larabee stepped forward. "Dang it! I'm still getting poked."

"Hold the sack." The gunman quickly unbuckled his gun belt and handed it to JD. "Is that better?" he asked, as he took hold of the sack again.

Vin moved experimentally and grinned. "Yeah, a lot better."

"Okay, step with the other foot." Chris felt his friend totter off balance when his right foot caught in a fold in the bag. He let go of the sack with one hand and instinctively grabbed Tanner's arm to steady him, but it was too late. The two fell, with Chris pinning Vin to the floor.

Buck jumped up and once again tried to shield JD's eyes. "I'm tellin' you kid, this is gettin' a little too raunchy for ya to be seein'. Maybe I oughta get a blindfold for ya."

JD knocked the hand away and gave his friend a glare that their leader would have been proud to see. "Buck, do that again and I swear I'm gonna hurt ya."

"Ooooo, I'm so scared," Buck pretended to cower in fright.

Their youngest member took off after the ladies' man who quickly ducked back into the crowd of onlookers to keep out of reach. "Buck, you coward!"

"Ain't a cowardly bone in my body, son. I just don't want to miss the rest of the show." He waggled his eyebrows and winked at the smaller man from his vantage point behind a couple men.

"You alright?" Chris asked.

Vin stared wide-eyed at nothing in particular. He struggled to pull air into his lungs to replace the breath that had been knocked out of him when Larabee landed on his chest. Finally, he blinked and nodded. "Will be, as soon as I can breathe again."

"Looks to me like you need to start again," Josiah reminded them.

"It ain't like ya gotta start from too far back again," Nathan teased. "Ya only went one step."

"Shut up, Nathan!" Chris yelled.

The healer broke out laughing and shook his head. "Now, I feel like one of y'all," he said with a grin. "Got my own shut up outta ya."

They tried again, only this time they tried stepping sideways instead of one of them going backwards. It worked slightly better, but they still didn't get far. At most, the pair made it about five or six feet from their starting point before they fell, this time with Tanner landing on top of Chris.

Onlookers cheered if they had bet against the two finishing the challenge, and those who had bet in their favor urged them on. Shouts of advice on how to do the last attempt rang out through the room.

The two men got back to their feet and stood pondering the situation again. "Maybe if we hop," Vin suggested.

"It's worth a try."

"I ain't tryin' to hop backwards," the sharpshooter said with conviction. He stepped back into the bag, this time with his back to his friend. "Let me hold the sack."

Chris relinquished his hold on the bag and grasped Vin by the upper arms, hoping that would help keep them steady. "On three," he said. "One… two… three."

They hopped, tottered a little, but stayed on their feet. Encouraged by that success, they tried again with similar results. "Sorry, Chris. It's just, when ya land, ya kinda push me a little," Vin explained. "Maybe if ya hang on tighter or somethin'?"

He knew the tracker was right. He had felt himself bump into the younger man, and had no doubt that it was throwing him off balance. After considering the situation for a minute, he reached around Vin and hugged him tightly to his chest. Maybe if they couldn't move independently of each other they could stay on their feet.

"Hey, Chris? You gonna pass some of that around when yer done with junior there?" Buck teased.

"Only you would want to know," Larabee shot back at him. "Always had my suspicions about you."

"Now, hold on there, pard. Ya know I ain't that kinda guy," Buck said in his own defense.

"Oh really? Sure could have fooled me with that kiss you shared with Ezra, and you seemed to enjoy passing those dimes." Chris grinned at the uneasy expression on his old friend's face and saw him relax when he realized he was only being teased in return.

"You gonna stand there hugging me all day, or are we gonna finish this?" Vin asked, slightly irritated.

"Alright, let's finish it. I have no intentions of cleaning Josiah's boots, so don't you even think about falling again." Chris checked his hold on the younger man and then counted, "one… two… three."

They hopped and landed steadily on their feet. Both men grinned at their success and repeated the process. It took them several minutes to make it to the boardwalk. Some of the spectators were kind enough to hold the batwing doors open for them to hop on through. Once outside, they had to figure out how to turn around.

"Move your right foot ahead and to the left. Yeah that's it. Right there," Chris coached from behind Tanner. "Okay, now pivot just a little to the left. Good! Now, do it again."

JD caught a glimpse of Casey standing with Mary and a group of the town's ladies on the walk in front of Mrs. Potter's store. He waved cheerily, but none of the women waved back except for Mary, who looked like she was about to burst out laughing. Some of the ladies glanced at her and seeing her amusement decided that maybe the men in charge of keeping the town safe hadn't really lost their minds.

It took a few tries to get turned all the way around, and by then Chris was getting a little flushed in the face. All this moving around with someone pressed tight against him was having an effect on him that he hoped Tanner wasn't noticing, and that he really hoped Buck didn't discover or the teasing would be merciless. His hopes were dashed when Vin tipped his head back, and turned to face him, so he could whisper low enough that no one else could hear. "Happy to see me, cowboy?"

"Tanner, so help me, if you breathe a word to anyone, I'll haul your ass back to Tascosa myself." Chris let the threat soak in a moment.

"Yer secret's safe with me," Vin said with a hint of a chuckle. He knew it had been an idle threat, but the fact that Chris had made it told him how much he really didn't want anyone to know of his current situation.

"You two gonna stand there all night?" Nathan asked.

"Now, Mr. Jackson, don't you know it is rude to interrupt someone during an intimate moment."

They all knew it was coming, and the spectators chorused along with the two men in the sack. "Shut up, Ezra!"

That did it. Tanner and Larabee both cracked up laughing. Some of the tension that had been building since Chris first roared when he saw he had lost again began to ease.

"Come on, let's just get this done," the man in black urged. "I really want outta this sack."

The trip back to their starting spot took less time than the trip out had. They had gotten into a rhythm of counting and hopping that had them moving at a fair pace. Fair, considering each hop covered about a foot. Vin let go of the bag and let it fall around their feet amidst the cheers of those who had just won their own bets.

Josiah sighed and then broke out in a huge grin. "Gotta say it is worth having to clean some boots, just to have witnessed that. Who's first?"

"Vin is!" Chris was quick to respond as he abruptly took his seat and grabbed for his beer. He watched as the preacher took a stiff brush and got to work on the tracker's boots, with him still in them, and hoped Josiah didn't finish the job too quickly.

The End?

<Who's next?>

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