THE BET II 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. It is meant to be all in good fun. Many thanks to everyone who has supplied me with pictures for both of The Bet stories. Thanks to Wen at the Sharpshooter, Marg at Blackraptor, and to Zen, and all my fellow BrigaDears who dug through their picture files to help me out on this.

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 is welcome and greatly appreciated, but no flames please.

"Mr. Wilmington, you are indeed a scoundrel," Ezra exclaimed, when he realized that Buck had been teasing him.

The ladies man grinned broadly, barely choking back a laugh as he replied, "yeah, but ya gotta admit, that ya thought I was serious there for a minute."

"I assure you, if I had had a moment to consider..." The gambler began to try to explain his way out of this latest embarassing situation, but Buck interrupted.

"No, ya ain't talkin' yer way outta it this time. I had ya fooled. Now, who conned who?" Wilmington's chair creaked as he leaned back and crossed his arms across his chest. He was truly enjoying watching the southerner squirm.

Ezra could not help but smile. There was no denying it. The other man had had him believing that he had suddenly become very attracted to him. He began to chuckle softly. "All right," he conceded. "I admit it. Your declaration most certainly did cause me some measure of alarm for a brief moment. Your skills of deception are improving, Mr. Wilmington," he said, as he gave Buck a friendly slap on the shoulder.

"I don't know what the rest of you think," Josiah remarked, "but, this game could get interesting." The big man grinned as he continued, "That is, as long as we can keep Ezra from dealing so we at least have a chance."

"I take it, that you are now willing to participate in the game, Mr. Sanchez." The gambler's green eyes glinted in anticipation. At the preacher's nod, he turned to Buck. "As winner of the last hand, you may decide the next challenge."

"Can I chose anything I want too?"

"Anything that does not break the rules of common decency or those established by Mr. Larabee," the con man explained.

"Even somethin' real silly?"

"Buck, I think the whole idea of this game is to be silly," Josiah said with a smile.

The ladies man started to smile that devilish little boy smile of his. The other six men groaned at the thought of what idea could have sparked that grin. "Low hand has to walk up and then back down the stairs with a full tea cup on his head. Every time he drops it, he has to start over."

"That could take all night," JD complained.

"He's right. At least set a limit of some kind on how many times he has to try." Chris suggested.

Wilmington looked at his friends and decided that they were probably right. With the exception of Ezra, they were a pretty graceless lot. He nodded his agreement. "Six," he said.

"That is quite an interesting challenge, wherever did you come up with it?" Ezra eyed his colleague with new appreciation. "I could not have come up with a better one myself."

Buck grinned, and then reconsidered. "Thank you.... I think. I ain't sure if that was a compliment or an insult."

"I think that could be taken which ever way ya wanna take it," the healer offered.

This time all seven men decided to take part in the challenge, and they settled in to play the hand. Upon the resumption of the game, the observers began to return. "What they playin' fer this time?" One spectator asked another.

"Don't rightly know," came the reply, "but, after that first hand, it oughta be good."

Chris shuffled the cards and set the deck down for JD to cut the deck. After the hand was dealt, the men began to seriously study their cards.

Vin grimaced at the cards he held and then gave Chris an accusing look. "Hey pard, ya sure ya shuffled these?"

"I say we go back to lettin' Josiah deal," Wilmington said disdainfully.

"Excuse me gentlemen, but what is happening here? Have you learned nothing from me?" Ezra asked as he looked from Vin to Buck and back again.

"What ya talkin' 'bout?" Buck was clearly puzzled.

"Please explain the meaning of this banter in regard to your cards?" the gambler was sure that the men knew it was a serious breach of gambling etiquette.

"Oh that," Vin jumped in. "Why not? We're stuck with whatever we're dealt," he said in way of explanation. At Ezra's look of uncertainty he continued. "We can't raise the bet, so there's no reason fer bluffin'."

The southerner looked at his two associates with a serious expression on his handsome face. After a moment he smiled and announced, "In that case, gentlemen, I suggest that we redeal this hand."

"Why?" Chris asked as he shot the con man a sharp look.

"Because, Mr. Larabee," the gambler retorted with an amused glint in his green eyes. "You seem to have rubbed all the spots off of mine."

The men dissolved into laughter at Ezra's uncharacteristic remark. The healer suddenly stopped laughing and took on a more serious air. "Hey, ya know, that might not be a good thing." He continued when he saw that he had their attention. "Ya know, aces only got one spot each."

"Ah, Nathan, ya didn't have to say that," JD whined.

One by one, the men replaced part of their cards with new ones from the deck. Then came the moment of truth when the cards were laid on the table. The men grew quiet, and the spectators stepped back a step when they say who had the low hand. Collectively, they held their breath when Ezra quipped, "What beverage would you like in your tea cup, Mr. Larabee?"

There was a long pause as the occupants of the saloon waited for Chris' reaction. At last, he said, "I think I'm going to agree with Ezra..." He shot Vin a menacing look when the younger man interrupted.

"That's somethin' ya don't hear every day." He looked at his friend and grinned, despite the glare Larabee aimed in his direction.

"As I was saying..." the man in black paused to be sure no one planned to speak up again. "I think I should redeal that hand. I don't think I shuffled them very well."

"I don't think so, Cowboy," Tanner retorted.

The patrons of the saloon began to laugh and to cheer when they saw Inez head for the table with a pitcher of cold water and a tea cup.

Larabee shot an 'I'm going to get you for this' look at Buck. With a sigh he stood up, filled the tea cup with water and walked to the foot of the stairs. Wilmington grabbed the pitcher and followed close behind their leader. The crowd edged up behind him to watch the usually forbidding Chris Larabee set out to pay the bet. Side bets were exchanged on whether he could complete the challenge and on how many times it would take him, if he did.

Laughter erupted when Chris attempted to balance the cup and it listed severely to the left, spilling its contents down the side of his head. Buck stepped forward to refill the cup. "That don't count ya hadn't started movin' yet."

After a couple more false starts, and more soaking, Larabee finally management to balance the cup. Very slowly he started up the steps. JD had counted them. There were eighteen steps, including the top landing. After six steps, the cup tipped spilling its contents down into his face, causing Larabee to sputter. With water dripping off his nose, Chris returned to the bottom. The spectators had taken sides, with part of them shouting encouragement and the others trying to distract the big man in hopes that the cup would tip. On the fourth try, he finally made it to the top, but he lost it when he tried to turn to come back down. The big man was amazed at how much water a little cup could hold.

It was on his sixth and final attempt that he men in the saloon got their loudest. He had made it to the top, turned, and started back down. He had twelve more steps to go when he caught sight of Mary Travis peering through the door of the saloon. He froze on the steps; his arms outstretched like a tightrope walker, as he watched the blonde woman make her way through the crowd to where his associates stood.

Mary was smiling brightly when she stepped up between Buck and Ezra." What on earth is going on here?"

"Our illustrious leader lost a wager," Ezra replied.

"Come on, Chris ya gonna stand there all day?" Buck shouted from beside her.

Slowly, Chris started down the stairs again. Five steps from the bottom his foot faltered, and he reflexively looked down, sending the cup to sliding from his head. He juggled it frantically, in an attempt to keep it from shattering on the floor. "Ah, Shit!" Larabee exclaimed. He looked up at Mary and cringed, "Sorry, Mary!"

Mary was struggling hard to keep from laughing. Amusement danced in her eyes as she shook her head and smiled. "I guess now I know what they say is true."

"Oh, and what might that be, Mrs. Travis?" Ezra inquired.

"Men are just little boys hiding in grown up bodies." Mary could no longer suppress the giggles as she took in the chagrined look on Chris' face and his sodden appearance. Shaking her head in disbelief, she turned and headed out of the saloon. Once outside, she burst out laughing. She leaned against a post for support as she wiped away tears and tried desperately to catch her breath. The sight of a dripping wet Chris Larabee balanced on the stairs with a tea cup on his head would be one that she would never forget.

Inside, the patrons of the saloon settled their bets, and a few of them risked teasing the man in black as he descended the last few steps. Chris tried to keep a stern look on his face as he reached the bottom, but the jovial atmosphere was very difficult to ignore. He glared at Buck menacingly.

"Hey pard, did ya know yer all wet?" the ladies man taunted.

Larabee continued to stare at his oldest friend.

"Come on, Chris!" Wilmington pressed. "Ya ain't gonna get mad over a little water, are ya?"

A bare hint of a smile touched the corners of the leader's mouth, as he reached out and snatched the pitcher from the other man's hands. In one quick motion, he dumped its contents over Buck's head.

Buck gasped and sputtered as the water ran into his face. "What the hell! What'd ya go an' do that fer?" he growled as he wiped water from his eyes.

At the look on his Buck's face, he could not hold back the laughter any longer. Chris' stern demeanor gave way, and an immense smile spread across his own face, as he began to laugh. "Hey pard, did you know your all wet?" he teased. Wilmington scowled at him. Larabee could not resist the temptation. He threw an arm over his friend's soggy shoulder, and he surprised everyone with an excellent imitation of Bucklin, complete with the devilish little boy grin. "Ya ain't gonna get mad over a little water, are ya?"

The End?
Who might be next?

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