Good Deed M7 OW

The seven men hired to guard the town were all done with their chores and rounds for the time being, and there was no one in the jail to be watched, so they all gathered in the saloon for a few beers and some hands of poker.

Ezra Standish, the resident gambler, was in his element, though the stakes were definitely not 'high' by any means. JD Dunne kept making the other men groan instead of laugh with his collection of not-so-witty jokes, and Buck Wilmington had been told to "shut up" several times when he got too enthused with his stories about his exploits with the ladies.

Josiah Sanchez retaliated for a bad hand by regaling the men with an obscure parable that no one but him understood, and Nathan Jackson was good-naturedly accusing Standish of cheating. The peacekeepers had been together long enough now that the healer knew the gambler wasn't actually being dishonest, he was just that good of a player. Jackson still liked to tease the other man, though. Especially when he had nothing better than a single pair of tens.

Vin Tanner and Chris Larabee were both fairly quiet, though Tanner groused quite vocally when Standish dealt him five cards that nowhere near matched, throwing down his hand in disgust and tilting his chair back on two legs while he watched the rest play. Larabee seemed to be the only one providing the gambler with any competition at the moment, the blond's bland expression and slight curve to one corner of his lips not giving any idea of what he held.

The group occupied almost an hour with the games, the saloon girls fetching refills for the men on their drinks. When a nearby player who'd had too many reached for the girl called Ivy, grabbing and twisting her arm when she tried to sidestep him, Chris rose fluidly to his feet. Moving over to the seated form, one hand clenched over the man's wrist and applied pressure.

"Turn her loose. That's not part of the entertainment." The tone was soft but dangerous, and the hazel gaze was an icy predator green.

"A little mark won't hurt. It's what she gets paid for." sneered the inebriated figure.

"No, it's not. You like bruises . . . how about I give you one?" The pressure increased on the man's arm, causing him to wince involuntarily. Releasing Ivy, he tried ineffectively to get his own wrist free.

"I'm going to make allowances since you've been drinking, but I think it's time you got some fresh air."

When the man looked like he was about to protest, Chris pressed harder on his arm, making the appendage start to go numb.

"Go on your own, or I'll take you out. . . ." warned the low voice that was now as hard as steel.

The judge was in town and had just entered the saloon, so he now approached. He grabbed the drunk's free shoulder while Wilmington strolled over and 'assisted' the man to his feet.

"Like Chris said, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt for now since you've been drinking. But go outside and cool off, and no more alcohol. After that, I catch you touching one of these girls or making any other kind of trouble, I'll have you thrown out of town, and you won't come back."

"I'm a payin' customer! That ain't good business, old man." protested the smaller form as Buck angled him toward the door.

Travis' lips compressed into a hard line.

"This town is in my jurisdiction. Whether it's good business or not is my business, not yours. Now you've got one chance . . . don't waste it. If you come back in here, you better be sober and respectful."

He gave a wicked grin then. "You mess up a second time, I may just let Larabee and his boys teach you some manners. If they do, I bet it won't be a lesson you'll soon forget!"

The man glanced at the dark-garbed blond. What could only be called a smirk curved the dangerous figure's lips and five other imposing forms stood and formed a semi-circle behind him. The ruddy complexion turned pale and a thick tongue licked along the now dry mouth.

A cackle escaped the judge. "Oh, did I forget to mention that the town's star gunfighter is also the leader of the local peacekeepers?"

Buck gave a wink at the now pasty figure he held, and Nathan pulled out one of his knives and began testing the edge. Josiah got his own ten-inch blade out and began cleaning his fingernails, while Vin fingered his mare's leg and Ezra gave a gold-toothed smile and popped out his derringer just for effect. JD put his hands on his Lightnings and Chris appeared to be daring the now-sobering drunk to try something. The name Larabee now rang a bell, and the man wanted nothing to do with the lean form.

Wilting in the ladies' man's grip, the trouble-maker ducked his head as the tall figure walked him to the exit. Maybe some fresh air was a good idea!

The whole altercation had taken only five minutes or so, and only those in the immediate area were aware of everything that had happened. Ivy thanked Chris and let Nathan look at her arm. A small bruise was all the damage that appeared to have been done. Blossom walked up and placed her hand on Chris' bicep in approval, the other girls nodding their appreciation as well.

There was silence for a moment, then Chris and the others sat down and everything went back to normal. The girls gave each other secret smiles. It was always good to have one or more of the Seven around whenever they needed a good deed.

DMA