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Everybody's Lady

Title: Everybody's Lady
Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Character/Pairing: Seven Ensemble, Nettie, Inez
Rating: PG/K+
Challenge/Prompt: fffc June Bingo Challenge: Much Too Hot
Warning(s): None
Word Count: 2,052
Date Written: 27 June 2017
Summary:
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.





"It's much too hot for this," Ezra drawls, trying unsuccessfully to wave the heat away from his sweaty face.

Buck snorts. "Says the man who's lifted -- What? Two nails? -- since he's been here!" He carefully keeps a post in place as Nathan hammers.

Josiah wrings sweat out of his handkerchief and dabs again at his grizzled, wet face. "As much as it pains me to admit this, brothers, I'm afraid ol' Ez may have a point."

"Ah am far younger than -- " The look Josiah shoots the gambler hushes him immediately. Temperatures have been running remarkably high these last few days, and he's seen, firsthand, too many times how high tempers can easily run alongside the temperatures.

Nathan nods and swipes at the sweat on his brow with the back of his hand. He straightens from finishing nailing another board into place. "It's hotter than one of your Hell and damnation sermons," he agrees with Josiah, "and unlike a service, there's no end to this fence in sight."

"There's an end all right, boys. It's just -- "

"Chris, look at yer face, pard," Vin says gently. "It's as red as Buck's shirt." Shaking his head, he adds gently, "They've got a point. What we all need is something cool. We could take a break, get some of Miz Nettie's sweet tea."

"And be back out here in the actual hottest part of the day." Nathan shakes his head. "Sorry, y'all, but I gotta disagree. Nettie wouldn't want us dying of sunstroke. We need to call it quits for the day and meet back here first thing in the morning, soon as there's enough light in the sky for us to see what we're doing."

Ezra jumps nimbly to his feet. "Ah salute you, Mistah Jackson. That is the most sensible thing Ah have heard all day." He quickly folds his chair and starts toward the horses.

"Like he's actually done something all day," Buck grumbles, swiping sweat onto his sleeves, "but I'm with y'all. I got a sweet, little filly just waiting to cool me down."

JD grins, his eyes twinkling with mischief. "I know what you mean, Buck," he agrees, heading for Milagro. "I know just the woman to cool me down."

"Kid," Vin calls, "what about Casey?"

"What about her?" JD retorts, saddling up. "She's been out swimming all day when she could've been here helping us."

"This ain't woman's work, kid."

"She never lets that stop her with anything else."

The men can't argue that point, because they know the boy's right. Casey Wells is more like a man in every other aspect. "Probably the only reason why she's not here," Vin speaks up, "is her aunt."

JD flicks Milagro's reins. "Maybe," he acknowledges, "but the woman I'm heading to knows how to cool a man off, and she cooks way better than Casey ever will."

"You know what you do in a case like that, kid?"

"What?"

Buck's eyes twinkle. "You get those women together. Get 'em to teach other their best attributes. Then you got all the best in either one."

JD shakes his head as he laughs. "Leave it to you, Buck!"

"Yup! Leave it to me! I told you I know everything there is to know about women!"

Vin shakes his head, too, as JD's and Buck's voices drift back to them. "Well, what about you boys?" he asks as he, Nathan, Chris, and Josiah finish collecting their tools. "Join me and Nettie for some tea an' pie?"

"Keep the apple pie, friend," Nathan says gently, tenderly touching his stomach. "I couldn't eat a bite after all this heat. And you need to come with me," he adds, looking up at Chris. "I need to fix that face of yours before that burn really does a number."

"After the saloon," Chris drawls, heading for his horse.

"Josiah?" Vin turns to the Preacher.

"I thank you for the invitation, my friend," Josiah answers, clasping Vin's shoulder, "but I don't want to eat the Wells out of home, and I'm afraid I'm just the opposite of Nathan. After all this work today, I could eat a bear!"

"We don't serve bear, boys," Nettie's voice cuts smoothly into their conversation, surprising them all, "but you're welcome to share what we do have."

"Thank you, ma'am," Josiah replies, touching two fingers to the wide brim of his sombrero, "but I know just the woman who can make bear, possum, and every other thing God has blessed us with remarkable."

Nettie smiles. "I'll have to try some of her recipes sometime."

Nathan and Chris nod respectfully to her. "Good day, ma'am," Nathan speaks for them both. "We'll see you first thing in the morning."

Chris glances scornfully at the sky, beginning to feel his face burn and blister. "Before this bear of a sun gets back up good."

"Thank you, gentlemen." Nettie turns to look at Vin, an invitation to dinner poised on her tongue, but she smiles fondly when she sees the shy twinkle in his soft, blue eyes. "Go," she says, gesturing with her head toward town, to where all the rest of his friends are riding.

"But -- "

"Go. We'll be fine. We'll still be here in the morning, and you can join us for breakfast and lunch."

Vin nods bashfully. If it wasn't for his own sunburn, Nettie would be able to see him blush, but she knows he's doing it all the same. He wonders how it is he's always been able to hide his true feelings so easily around the menfolk but certain women, like Miss Nettie, Inez, and Mary, have always been able to see right through his defenses. "Thank you, ma'am," he drawls softly and hurries after his friends.

The trip back to town is short, uneventful, and marked with very little conversation. All seven men are exhausted, barely able to keep their eyes open on top of their horses. Buck finally looks expectantly at JD as they ride through Four Corners. "Well, kid?" he asks. "Where's this woman of yours?"

"I never said she was my woman," JD says honestly at last, "but she's at the saloon."

"Really?" Buck waggles his eyebrows. "This should be interesting."

"Indeed it shall be, gentlemen. Anybody for a game of chance when we reach home?" Ezra stops suddenly, a look of surprise on his face. He hadn't realized he'd come to think of the saloon, instead of simply being with these men, each remarkable in their own right and each something he'd never believed before he would have -- a true friend --, as home until just now.

Catching the look on the suddenly tongue-tied gambler, Vin grins. "Maybe later, Ez," he says, his sky blue eyes twinkling. "Right now I could definitely go for some of Inez's sweet tea and a slice of her cherry pie."

"You and pie," Buck mutters out of the corner of his mouth, but then he grins, letting everybody know he's just teasing.

"I hope she's baking cookies," JD murmurs, his stomach rumbling hungrily. "She said she was going to today."

"What kind?" Josiah asks.

"She wasn't sure. I put in my bid for chocolate chip."

"Anything that woman cooks will be just fine by me." Buck whistles.

"She does have a . . . quelque sorte," Ezra murmurs fondly. He clears his throat and quickly adds, "With food."

"Uh huh." Buck snorts. "Sure, pard. But you know she's wanting to quail do me."

Ezra chuckles, his eyes shining. "We shall see about that, Mistah Wilmington."

"We should take the horses to the livery first," Nathan states as the saloon comes into sight. "They're hot and thirsty too."

Buck sighs, his mustache almost literally drooping. "Yeah, yeah," he mutters and steers Beavis toward the stables.

"He's right," Vin adds, gently touching Peso's wet neck.

"'Sides, the boys there'll take good care of them," Chris points out. "They always do."

The seven men leave their steeds at the stables and head together in silence to the saloon. They're hot and tired, their muscles sore and aching from the day's work or, in Ezra's case, lack thereof. Inez is positively beaming when they walk into the saloon. With a click of her fingernails in the stale air and a shout to a couple of her girls, she heads toward them.

"Well, kid?" Buck asks, looking around them. "Where's this girl of yours?"

Inez reaches them just in time to hear Buck and strokes JD's hot and dirty cheek before he can answer him. He stops and stares at her in surprise, suddenly tongue tied. "The heat did not eat you after all," she says, smiling. "I made chocolate chip, sugar cookies, and brownies today. I hope you find something to your liking." She walks around Buck as though he's not even there and gently touches Vin underneath his stubbled chin. "And I've made a couple of fresh pies, too."

Spinning, she claps her hands suddenly together and points to a couple of tables in Ezra's usual corner of the saloon. They've been pushed together and are currently being filled with trays of food. Josiah's stomach rumbles loud enough for all to hear. "Oh, you're too good to us, Senorita Recillos."

Inez's brown eyes shine happily. "Nonsense. Eres demasiado bueno para nosotros, senors."

"All in a day's duty, ma'am," Chris rumbles and starts for the food.

Buck watches the others walk around him and head after their dinner. His mustache bristles. He wishes like mad he understood Spanish better and almost stomps his foot. Instead, he reaches out and grabs one of Inez's girls. "What are you doing after work, sweetheart?"

"Senor Wilmington," Inez snaps as her girl wriggles free of Buck's arms with a slightly nervous giggle, "stop making a fool of yourself and go eat!" He starts to make a retort, but she stops him with a slow, sly, and seductive smile spreading across her beautiful face and a certain twinkle in her dark eyes. "We'll discuss after dinner," she says, "after dinner."

Buck hushes, his rumbling stomach reminding him that he is hungry after all, and goes to join the others. "So that's your woman, huh, kid?" one of the other men is asking teasingly.

JD nods but is too busy shoving cookies into his mouth to verbally answer. Vin's eyes twinkle as he watches Inez practically dance across the saloon. "She's everybody's lady."

Buck starts to retort but stops. He didn't say she was everybody's woman, just everybody's lady, he realizes before he can make a bigger fool of himself, and perhaps in that, he's right. She makes everybody feel welcome here. She is a friend to all of them, and probably some of the others look to her like a sister and maybe even, especially in JD's case, a maternal figure. Perhaps she's even part of the reason why this place has come to feel so much like home -- she and the other men with whom he spends so much time together here.

"Pass me one of those burritos," he says, leaning over and stabbing one with his fork. She is everybody's lady, and everybody's friend. She is a part of their adopted family just as is Miss Nettie, who is the very reason why they labored so hard and so long today in the heat. They are all one family, but that doesn't mean he won't eventually make her his Missus. "She's everybody's lady," he agrees aloud in between hungry bites of delicious food, "but she's going to make some guy very lucky and happy one day, and that guy's gonna be me."

Ezra's eyes sparkle as he watches the caring, passionate beauty. "Sigue soñando," he murmurs at Buck.

"What?"

Ezra just grins, his gold tooth gleaming in the shadows.

Buck waves his half-finished burrito in the humid air. "You're so teaching me Spanish."

"Maybe another night, Senor Wilmington," Ezra agrees mildly, catching Inez's eye, beaming, and knowing whose lady she truly is. "For now, sigue soñando."

Buck shakes his head, choosing to ignore the gambler in favor of the delicious food spread out before them. "If that means good food, friend, yeah, yeah, it really is." Vin laughs. Ezra keeps smiling, and Inez . . . Inez sashays away to deal with other customers, but always, always, her heart remains with the Seven.

The End

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