Author: Kat Lee
Fandom: The Magnificent Seven
Character/Pairing: Vin, JD, Buck, Josiah, Nathan, mild JD/Casey, Nettie
Challenge/Prompt: As a prize for agdhani fulfilling a previous weekend challenge and for the Wonderful World of Make Believe's challenge to pen a new Magnificent Seven story
Word Count: 1,933
Date Written: 24 July 2018
Disclaimer: All characters within belong to their rightful owners, not the author, and are used without permission.
“Hey, JD!” Buck called, his whiskers twitching and tail swishing. “Why don’t you join the girls and me tonight? They’ve got friends who’re just as lonesome as they are and are looking to show a fella a good time!”
“No, thanks, Buck,” JD said as he swung up on his horse next to Vin. He took Milagro’s reins in his furry hands and began to lead her away from the post. “We’re headed out to the Wells ranch.”
There was a twinkle in Vin’s sky blue eyes as he added, “You’re welcome to come with us, pard. We could use the extra hands. The girls can come too.”
Buck rolled his eyes and almost snorted out loud. “You guys know nothing about showing a girl a good time! And JD, you’re wasting all your time on Casey! You wanna get married to her or something?” His whiskers twitched again.
“No. Not any time soon at least. But they need our help.”
“Sure they do. They’ve needed it every night this past week,” Buck grumbled, “and last week too! Oh, well!” He shrugged and threw his arms back around his two female companions. “More loving for me then!” His mustache started to twitch but then faltered as his queens looked at him sharply.
“I think what they’re doing out there at that ranch is a wonderful idea!” Lily exclaimed, the tone of her voice making Buck remember how much his cheek had stung the last time she’d slapped him.
“Yeah, so do I!” Ingrid agreed. “Why, if there’d been an old widow woman to help me when I was a kitten, maybe I wouldn’t’ve turned out the way I have!”
“Now, baby, you don’t mean that,” Buck cajoled. “You’re a fine woman.”
“Yes, I am, but look at the life I’m living! It’s not like you’re going to get me out of it!”
“Darling, we ain’t talked about -- “
“Oh, please, Buck!” Lily protested. “Every queen in town knows better than to talk about commitment with the likes of you! You’re in it for a good time only! Talk of marriage’ll make you run for the hills and your orange fur turn yellow the way God intended it to be!”
Buck’s mouth didn’t work for a moment. Then, slowly, he demanded, “What are you saying?!”
Lily slapped him, and she and Ingrid stormed off together. “How the Hell did that go wrong?!” Buck fumed, watching the two women march angrily away from him. “Come back here, sugars! I didn’t mean any harm!”
“‘Course you didn’t!” Ingrid called back over her shoulder. “You only ever want fun!”
“What’s wrong with having a little fun?”
“There’s more to life than fun!”
“You’re wasting your breath, Ingrid!” Lily retorted. “Talking to that man is like talking to a rock! He ain’t got no better sense! It’ll take a real man like JD or Vin if we ever get out of this saloon!”
The saloon doors swung shut behind them while Buck continued to fume. His orange fur bristled from the tops of ears through the pads of his feet. “What the Hell did you two just do to me?!”
Vin’s eyes twinkled merrily down at him. “Don’t you dare laugh at me, boy!” Before JD could speak, Buck turned to him, took his hat off his head, and swatted his knee with it. “Shut up!” he commanded before JD could start. Vin was already chuckling despite Buck’s angry warning.
Buck shot a cruel glower back at the tracker. “You should come with us,” Vin said again, growing serious once more. “We’re picking up Josiah and Nathan at the church.” He nodded to where two of their friends were waiting just outside the church.
“I notice Ez and Chris ain’t comin’.”
“Chris . . . has his reasons.” Vin’s ears twitched. Peso snorted, impatient with standing still for so long. “An’ you know Ez ain’t about to work if he ain’t gotta.”
“Why should I?!” Buck demanded.
“There’ll be lots of good viddles for everybody to eat. You know what a great cook Nettie is.”
“Yeah, but no women worth courting,” Buck complained.
“Hey!” JD sharply protested. “Casey’s -- “
“Beautiful and the right girl for you, JD, but she’s the only one available out there. I’m not about to court Nettie!” His exclamation was followed by lots of laughter.
Vin glanced up at the saloon where a whole gaggle of women were peering out the windows at Buck. “Maybe if you wanna impress ‘em,” he drawled, nodding toward them, “or at least keep ‘em happy.”
“Fine, fine.” Buck growled. “I’ll saddle up Beavis, an’ join you at the ranch. I still don’t see what’s so dang fired important ‘bout raising Casey anyway.” He was still fuming and fussing as he walked down the dusty road, heading for the stables.
“Should we tell him?” JD asked, looking at Vin.
“Nah.” Vin shook his head, then grinned. “Keeping the secret’s too much fun when he’s like that.”
JD laughed. Buck turned and waved his hat angrily at him. “I told ya, Kid, not to laugh at me! Maybe Nettie can get you a real hat! You’re the laughing stock in that bowler!”
JD narrowed brown eyes at him, but then Milagro and started to head out. His Siamese colored fur was ruffled by Buck’s teasing, but he wasn’t going to let him get the better of him. He had an important job to do tonight. They all did or, at least, the ones who were coming with himself and Vin did. Something very special was going on at the Wells ranch, and JD felt particularly lucky to be a part of it.
He was well into the swing of things, working side by side with Casey, when Buck stomped through the open door. The night was hot, too hot to shut the doors and windows just yet. JD turned toward Buck, cradling a very special bundle in his arms.
Buck snorted when he saw them. “This is what y’all are all fussing about?!”
JD lifted his head and started to retort, but the kitten in his arms mewed plaintively and reached, with flailing arms, for the bottle. “Oh, just go shut your trap and make yourself useful somewhere, Bucklin,” he responded, sliding the bottle back home into the kitten’s mouth and realizing, a second later, that he sounded a lot more like Vin than himself. Maybe the Texan was starting to rub off on him; he could think of worse men whose habits he could pick up.
Casey touched his shoulder gently. “Don’t let him get to you,” she told him before accepting a bottle from her aunt and starting to feed the kitten she held.
“There’s plenty of mouths ‘round here need feeding,” Nettie told Buck, her ears laying back against her head the only sign of her irritation. “You could make yourself useful.”
“YEAH!” Vin’s booming voice thundered in the next room.
“HALLELUJAH!” cried Josiah.
Buck glowered at Nettie, JD, and Casey, then stomped over to the other room to see what Vin and Josiah were carrying on about. He stopped in the doorway just in time to hear a young tom, who couldn’t have been more than seven, punching the air with his tiny, furry fist and exclaiming, “HOT DANG!”
“Boy,” Vin hissed through gritted teeth, “what did I tell you about that language?”
“I picked it up from you,” the kid responded, bringing a genuine chuckle from Buck.
“That’s ‘xactly why I don’t need you repeating it around here! You may not mind Nettie washing your mouth out with soap, but I don’t want mine cleaned that way!”
The boy’s grew as large as dinner plates. “She does that to you too?” he breathed shakily in surprise.
“Yeah!” Vin snorted. “When she can catch me.”
Buck’s chuckling made Josiah look at him. “You’re just in time to help out, Brother Wilmington.”
“What’s going on around here?” Buck asked, looking imploringly at his friends and the kid.
“Well,” Nathan turned to face him, and Buck noted his arms were full of a kitten too. “This little fella just ate his first food outside of a bottle.” He grinned, and his sharp, white teeth seemed to shine in the dark room. “That means he’s gonna be just fine.”
“What happened?” Buck asked softly, growing more serious. He waved a hand around them. “Since when does Nettie care for all these kids?”
“Since their wagon train was attacked by rabid dogmen and left for dead,” the old widow said, coming up behind him, her arms loaded with two kittens. She stopped right before him and looked up into his eyes. “Now are you gonna help or not, Mister Wilmington? My apple pie’s only for those who help.”
Buck sighed, but his lips lifted into a grin underneath his furry mustache. “Of course I’m gonna help, Miz Nettie, apple pie or no apple pie.” He took the bundle in blue from her, accepted a bottle from Josiah, and started working on trying to feed the kitten. Soon he was melting into the baby’s big, blue eyes and tender, loving face. “You know,” he told the others, “if you’d just bothered to tell me what was going on, I would’ve done been out here helping. Ezra would come too if he knew.” He didn’t mention Chris, because he knew being around kittens after having lost his own son was painful for his dearest and oldest friend.
“I told them he would,” Josiah agreed, his long, gray tail swishing as he rocked two full kittens to sleep. “They didn’t believe me, though, and they were concerned he’d share the kittens’ story with the wrong people. Seems there was gold on that wagon train.”
“Makes sense,” Buck said. “Even if the dogmen were rabid, they rarely trail a train without a good reason. Bet they could smell the gold dust.”
“That could very well be, Mister Wilmington,” Nettie spoke as she removed another bottle from the fire, “but the fact remains that there are those lowlifes out there who would think these poor, precious babies know what happened to that gold and would come after ‘em.”
Buck nodded as he gently swayed the kitten in his caring arms. “I know what you mean, Miz Nettie, but ain’t gonna happen to these kittens.”
“Would you promise me that?”
Buck looked up, and from across the room, his eyes met hers. “Yes, ma’am,” he said solemnly.
“And what makes you so certain you can keep your promise?”
“Because, ma’am,” he answered earnestly, “these fines babies have got the same seven protectors as the rest of this town. Anybody comes after ‘em, dogmen or otherwise, they’re gonna have to come through all seven o’ us first. I don’t think they’d make it. Do you?”
She smiled. “No, Mister Wilmington, I don’t. You and your friends have proven yourselves truly invaluable time and again.”
“I”m sorry, ma’am,” Josiah drawled from where he sat by the fire, “but that ain’t the phrase for it.”
“Then what is, Father?”
He grinned, and the firelight seemed to dance in his gleaming, green eyes. “Magnificent, ma’am,” he said, nodding his head to her. “We are The Magnificent Seven after all, and no one gets through us to anyone we’re protecting, including these fine younguns. Doc, what do you think?” he asked, looking up at Nathan.
Nathan smiled. “I believe we’re all going to make it, Josiah.” For the first time, he felt in his heart his words were right not only about the kittens but about his friends and everyone gathered tonight on this ranch.