THE BET 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. This is in no way meant to be a slash story. It is meant to be all in good fun.

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.

Four Corners had been unusually quiet during the past month. The residents enjoyed the peace and went about their daily business, often stopping to chat with friends they met along the way. Everyone was content, well, almost everyone. The town's seven peacekeepers were bored. They all knew that the tranquil times seldom lasted this long, and something was bound to happen soon. But, right now, anyone of them would have welcomed the chance to chase a prairie dog out of some woman's kitchen just to have something to do.

The seven men sat around their usual table at the saloon, staring listlessly into their half empty glasses. "Might I interest anyone in a game of chance?" the gambler broke the silence.

"You cleaned me out days ago," Nathan confessed.

"I don't have two pennies to rub together," Josiah admitted.

"Hell, Ezra, we're all flat busted an' ya know it," Buck declared accusingly. "Now, if ya want to play fer fun, then ya can count me in."

"Excuse me? Did I just hear you say 'play for fun?'" Standish was incredulous. "You surely jest."

Buck just shrugged and looked innocently at the con man.

The gambler thought for a moment and then began to smile. His friends knew that smile and it almost always meant trouble. "Gentlemen, since you all find yourselves in a state of financial insolvency, perhaps we could wager non-monetary items."

Wilmington leaned in a little closer and asked suspiciously, "like what?"

"Personal effects, services....."

"No, Ezra," Chris interrupted. "It's bad enough that you win all our money, but you are not going to start taking our few possessions or turning us into your servants." The look on their leader's face said that there was no room for argument. Larabee watched as Standish puzzled over the situation. There was that smile again.

"Do you have any objections to a challenge as the stake for the game?" The gambler's green eyes sparkled in anticipation.

"Depends on what you mean by a challenge," Chris said noncommittally.

"You might think of it more along the lines of a dare." The con man watched as the man in black considered this suggestion.

Larabee's eyes narrowed in thought. He knew the southerner had a cunning mind, and he was a little uneasy about the thought of what the gambler could come up with for a dare, but he could not come up with a tangible reason to object. After all, he had no right to tell the other men what they could or could not do. He had already pushed the limits of his authority with the men by stopping Ezra from taking their meager belongings. "As long as everyone that plays knows what the dare is, and agrees to it up front, I don't see a problem with that."

The southerner nodded his acceptance of the conditions to his proposal. He turned bright eyes to his fellow peacekeepers and proclaimed, "As the first challenge, I shall throw into the pot, a kiss." Ezra's smile grew as he took in the stunned expressions on his colleague's faces.

"A kiss? Kiss who?" JD asked the question they all wanted answered.

Buck started to grin, and his eyes sought out Inez where she stood near the bar.

"Oh no, Mr. Wilmington," Ezra chided. "A forfeit as pleasant as that would have everyone seriously attempting to lose."

"Just explain what you're talking about, Ezra," Chris ordered.

"Very well gentlemen. The man with the lowest hand must forfeit a kiss to one of the remaining six." Standish nearly laughed when he saw six jaws drop open in disbelief.

"Uh..... Ezra? Is there something you want to tell us about yourself?" Josiah looked at the gambler appraisingly.

"I assure you, Mr. Sanchez, that there most certainly is not!" the smaller man responded indignantly.

"Then are you outta yer mind?" Nathan asked a bit too loudly. Men at nearby tables were starting to stare.

"On the contrary, Mr. Jackson, the purpose of such a wager is that it should be something you would rather not have to pay." The gambler smiled slyly and continued, "No offense gentlemen, but I would rather kiss my horse."

JD looked from one of his friends to another in amazement that they might actually be considering something so outrageous. "No! No way! I ain't gonna kiss another man. You can count me out."

One by one, the men declined to participate in the challenge until only Ezra and Buck were left. "What kinda kiss are we talkin' about?" Buck asked.

"A real kiss, not a peck on the cheek," the gambler stated evenly.

"But they all backed out," Wilmington nodded toward the others.

By now a small audience was forming around the table, as word of the unorthodox bet spread through the room.

"The stakes remain the same," Ezra said calmly.

"Hey! I didn't say you could still use me in your bet." The young sheriff jumped to his feet. "I'm not stickin' around for this."

"Sit down JD," Chris said in a low voice. "You can't honestly say you don't want to see how this turns out."


"But nothing. I'll take the risk of being picked to see this hand played out," the big man looked coolly at his young friend.

Dunne looked at the leader of the group for a long moment and then sat back down. If Chris would let himself be wagered, then so would he.

"All right," Buck said. "I'll take the bet on certain conditions."

"And those condition are?" the con man queried.

"Take off yer jacket, and roll up yer sleeves."

Ezra nodded his acceptance of the terms and stood to comply. The crowd surrounding the table had continued to grow, and the gambler noticed it for the first time. At least they were providing some measure of entertainment for the masses, he thought. He resumed his seat and picked up the cards.

"Wait, that's not all," Buck added. "Ya let someone else deal."

Ezra had not counted on this, but he could not back out now. Not with all these people watching. He smiled and handed the cards to Josiah.

The preacher shuffled the cards and set them down for Chris to cut the deck. "You two sure you want to go through with this?" When neither man spoke up, he began to deal the cards.

The air was filled with the tension of a high-stakes poker game as the two men studied their cards. Spectators began to make bets among themselves on the outcome of the game.

Buck took two cards and silently groaned when he saw that he had not improved his hand.

Ezra also took two cards. His face was impassive as usual. There could be no raises in this hand. There was no one to 'call,' so the two men sat and looked at each other in anticipation.

"Gentlemen, let's see your cards," Chris instructed the two players.

Simultaneously, they laid their cards on the table. The room was hushed as the players and spectators eyed the cards. Then pandemonium broke loose in the saloon. Ezra had lost. Buck's pair of sevens had beaten the gambler's pair of fives.

Wilmington let out a whoop that could be heard over the noise in the room, and he grinned widely at the con man. "Now ya remember, it is supposed to be a real kiss." He laughed heartily and accepted the congratulations of the onlookers.

Ezra was stunned. He was not used to losing unless he planned to lose. Slowly, he raised his eyes to look at his friends who were watching him with interest, mixed with a bit of apprehension. He eased himself out of his seat. "I am quite aware of the terms of the wager, Mr. Wilmington." He looked from one man to the next as he resigned himself to paying off the bet.

Each of the men tried to avoid attracting the con man's attention. JD sank lower into his chair when Ezra's eyes fell on him. Standish had to admit that young Dunne was a tempting choice after the scene he had made earlier, but he had other plans. He allowed his gaze to travel over the other men one more time. "All right gentlemen. I have made my choice." Silence again filled the room as everyone waited to see who the con man had chosen. Ezra stepped away from his chair and casually bent and pressed his lips to Buck's.

The ladies man was too shocked to react when he first felt the southerner's soft lips on his. For a moment, as the gambler's lips played over his own, Buck forgot who was kissing him, and he allowed himself to return the kiss. Then reality struck, and he pulled away from the other man. "Ya son-of-a bitch!" Wilmington growled. "Ya were supposed to chose one of them!" He pointed to the other five lawmen, who were all laughing in earnest.

Ezra grinned. "The terms of the wager were one of the remaining six, of which you are a member, Mr. Wilmington." He let out a small laugh and then continued, "You were predestined to pay the price, whether you won or lost the hand," the gambler said smugly.

The ladies man's eyes grew wide as the realization sank in. "Ya conned me!" he exclaimed.

"Buck, you should never try to out con a con man." The southerner chuckled again as he resumed his seat amid the laughter of the spectators.

For several minutes, Buck Wilmington sat looking at the table in front of him with a sullen expression on his face. "Come on, Buck," JD teased. "It was just a kiss. You aren't going to stay mad at Ezra are you?"

"I ain't mad. I was just thinkin'," he said seriously.

"Thinkin' 'bout what?" Vin asked.

"Just thinkin' that I'm real glad that Ezra doesn't go chasin' after the ladies as much as I do," Buck said downheartedly.

"Why's that," the tracker asked in concern.

"Hell, I couldn't stand the competition from a man that kisses as good as he does. I'd just have to give up and become a monk." Wilmington's tone was serious.

"Now that I would have to see to believe," Josiah quipped.

"Well it would be either that or....." Buck let the sentence trail off unfinished.

"Or what?" JD inquired innocently.

"Or... I could just make a play for him myself," the ladies man managed to say with a straight face.

Ezra stopped his glass halfway to his mouth and looked at Buck in horror, as he remembered that Buck had responded to the kiss. Color rose into his face at the memory, and he was temporarily speechless. At last, he found his voice. "Mr. Wilmington.....I am.... um....I am...flattered." The southerner's blush deepened as he stared at the table, no longer able to look his friends in the eyes. "However, I..... not have inclinations of...."

"Ezra," Buck said softly, almost seductively, but the con man continued to sputter. "Ezra," he said a little louder this time. Slowly, the flustered gambler looked up at the ladies man, and saw his huge grin and the mischievous glint in his friend's eyes. Wilmington arched his brows and stared straight into the con man's green eyes as he good-naturedly declared, " Got ya!"


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