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The Unpredictable Lives of Cat Herders

Title: The Unpredictable Lives of Cat Herders
Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Character/Pairing: Vin, Chris, Nettie, mild Buck/Inez, Ensemble
Rating: PG/K+
Challenge/Prompt: 1_million_words Say What Friday: Commercials (I used this one and beattheblackdog 86: Urge
Warning(s): AU
Word Count: 1,379
Date Written: 2 November 2017
Summary:
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.




Keen, green eyes watch the darkening sky. “We need to keep moving,” Chris drawls.

Buck stops beside Chris and Vin, who’s just drawling out a question, “Think we’ll make it in time?”

“Hard to say the way those clouds are moving.”

“Where is she?” Buck asks, completely ignoring the building storm concerning the other two. The hot, humid air is filled with meows and yowls as Buck shields his eyes from the sun and scans the area.

“HI-YA!” Josiah thunders, urging his horse into a faster gallop. “SHE’S JUST AHEAD!” he calls back to Buck over the sound of stampeding paws, swishing tails, and the ongoing cacophony of meows.

Buck looks in the direction Josiah has turned his steed and breaks out into a grin. “Damn, she’s beautiful!” he murmurs. “One of these days, we’re gonna have time to stop!”

“We’ve stopped before,” Chris reminds him, his green eyes chuckling merrily at his friend. “We stop again, don’t mean you’re gonna get any closer to the senorita than you did last time.”

Vin smiles slyly. “But now’s not the time to stop. Miz Travis said we were two hours ahead of the storm, but it looks like it’s gaining speed.”

“I know, I know,” Buck mutters, cracking Beavis’ reins. His dark mustache twitches his agitation. “We can’t stop this time. Don’t mean we can’t next time or that I won’t conquer her when we do!” He turns Beavis toward the beautiful senorita who is currently surrounded by running cats. “HI-YA!” He barrels down on the cats, urging them forward, but he can’t help chuckling as they leap into the air, grabbing the bits of food Inez is throwing out as they pass.

“No kibble today!” she calls proudly to Buck as he runs by. “All treats!”

“MEOW!” One of the larger cats jumps over three of the others and snatches two treats simultaneously into his mouth.

Buck chuckles, then winks at Inez. “Remind me to give you a treat next time we meet, darlin’.”

“You only wish you had such a -- “ Inez’s retort is drowned out by a yell from Nathan. He’s got the outer left side of the herd right now. Buck turns just in time to see the healer throw out a knife lightning fast. He hears a cat hiss, but then he hears an altogether different hiss. “RATTLER!” Nathan calls to the others as he leans down from his saddle and grabs the knife, his horse not missing a hoofbeat.

“CATS OKAY?” Chris calls.

“FINE!”

“GOOD GOING, PARD!” Josiah congratulates Nathan. The others nod.

“This herd is important, ma’am,” Buck calls to Inez with another nod, a tip of his hat, and a mischievous wink. “We gotta keep movin’, but I’ll see you next time!”

“Of course,” she returns, smiling. Her dark eyes twinkle with her delight. “I’ll be here -- for the cats, not for you, Senor Wilmington!”

“So you say, darlin’. So you say.”

Thunder rumbles, sounding too close behind them. Buck tucks his head and keeps riding, urging the cats forward and keeping them in the herd with Beavis. He’d never thought he’d spend a large chunk of his life chasing cats, but this new job is working out fine. For a change, he’s actually got a whole posse of men he can trust, rather than just his best friend, the man dressed in black who’s coming up fast behind him.

“WE GOT ONE MORE STOP BEFORE WE GET HOME!” Chris calls over the rising wind.

“NETTIE’S!” Buck answers, slapping down his hat. “THINK WE’LL MAKE IT?”

“OH, WE’LL MAKE IT ALL RIGHT,” Vin drawls, but he looks sad as he glances away back to Inez. His stomach rumbles. Buck wants to spend some time here again one day, but he longs for an afternoon spent with Miz Nettie, her apple pie, and her sweet tea. He shakes his head as the sky grows ever darker. It’s not happening today, no matter how much he wishes otherwise!

“COME ON, MEN!”

A kitten cries suddenly. Six men look to their youngest. JD holds the kitten high up over his head. “IT’S ALL RIGHT!” he calls. “I’VE GOT HER!”

“GOOD MOVING, KID!”

“COME ON, YOU SEVEN!” Chris commands. “ONE MORE STOP, AND WE’RE HOME BEFORE THE STORM!”

It’s not quite two hours before they reach Nettie’s ranch. She’s standing out in the front yard, waiting for them as her niece, Casey, holds a couple of struggling toms. She drops them just as the herd approaches, and they run quickly to other cats they recognize. Vin has to grin as a ginger tom leaps in the air, his front paws meeting his blood brother’s. It’s rare that they get that many cats of one litter, but those two have been might near inseparable since their beginning.

“GOT ANY FOR ME?” Nettie calls up over the roar of the herd.

“NOT TODAY, MA’AM,” Vin’s happy to report. Mary always keeps them advised of what weather or other threats are coming their way. Inez is the stop for food, and usually water, for the herd while Miz Nettie does the mending Nathan doesn’t have time to do and tends the ailments that take longer than the healer’s quick methods can fix. These two toms had both been suffering from colds when they’d left them with her, but they seem fine and dandy now!

Vin’s stomach rumbles again. He wishes he had time to stop and sample the food Miz Nettie’s holding on an old, wooden tray. “Casey, grab the canteens!” Nettie instructs as she makes her way carefully through the herd and closer to Vin. She stops just as two cats tumble into each other. A third, a gray who’s more wild than tame, jumps into the fray. “‘NOUGH OF THAT!” Vin yells at them, cracking his reins loudly in their direction. They scamper apart but stay in the herd.

“GOT SOMETHING NEW FOR YOU TO TRY!” Nettie calls. “CATCH!”

Vin grabs the food she throws at him, shocked that she’s actually throwing it. It’s not a biscuit, though it does have some kind of breading. It smells like apple pie instead. Vin can feel the warmth of the food through his glove, and his stomach rumbles like a hungry bear. He bites into it. A golden glaze smears over his mouth, and ecstasy thrills inside his hot, hungry mouth.

“APPLE PIES ON THE GO!” Nettie hollers proudly.

Vin eats the pie swifter than any of the cats around him can run. “My God, Miz Nettie, your food just keeps getting better ‘n better!”

The old woman beams and tosses him another. She and Casey then work their way slowly through the herd, tossing canteens and fresh apple pies up at the men who took it upon themselves, when it was first discovered that cats can be sheared like sheep, to start delivering fur to the people who would pay unscrupulous fur traders and baiters, men who didn’t care what happened to the cats, and keep the cats safe while doing so.

And they’ve learned a lot more while they’ve been doing it, Vin reflects, grabbing another flying apple pie, especially because of these three -- four, if you count Miz Nettie’s niece, Casey -- remarkable women. Raindrops hit his shoulders. Vin nods again to Miz Nettie. “Thank you, Miz Nettie,” he says and quickens his pace and that of the cats nearest Peso.

“COME ON, MEN!” Chris yells. “WE’RE ALMOST THERE!”

Three hours later, and they finally reach home. They’re wet but not soaked, having stayed just ahead of the main storm the whole journey home. Working together, the team leads the cats into the barns waiting for them and finally dismount.

“We’ll shave ‘em in the morning,” Chris announces, patting Pony’s sweat-slicked neck.

“Well, will ya look at that?” Josiah rumbles, glancing up at the sky while still astride his steed, Quincy. The horse whickers as though seeing what the Preacher sees and finding it funny.

Buck swats his hat against his knees. “DAMN IT!”

Vin looks up into the sun, who’s come out from the last of the clouds and is now shining brilliantly down on all of them. “Figures,” he drawls, but nothing stands between him and savoring the last bite of Miz Nettie’s new apple pies.



The End

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
sharpiesgal
Nov. 3rd, 2017 11:04 pm (UTC)
That was cute. The title gave me a chuckle and it is in the spirit of the prompt, so good going.
katleept
Nov. 4th, 2017 07:48 am (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed! It's the first thing that came to mind when I saw the prompt was commercial-based, and, like I mentioned, I didn't really watch/listen to commercials any more. I had fun with this one!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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