Getting to Know You

by Beth Green

Characters: Chris, Vin, Buck

This story is set in the early days of the Seven.

Someone once mentioned to me that it was a shame that Buck & Vin didn't have many scenes together in the original series, as it was so much fun to watch them in the same scene together. I don't think that this is what she had in mind. <g>

Chris patted at his clothing, trying to remove some of the trail dust. All he succeeded in doing was making himself choke on the resulting cloud of sand. He'd just completed a long, hot, dust-bedeviled trail ride. The dark-clad man spat at the gritty taste of a few stray dust motes that seemed to have taken up residence in his mouth.

Chris decided that his next stop was going to be the saloon. His body began to relax at the simple thought of the cool, quiet atmosphere, combined with a glass of beer to soothe his parched throat. The fantasy lasted as long as it took for Chris to walk through the batwing doors.

He'd no sooner set foot in the place when a body came hurtling toward him: a very familiar body belonging to a certain tracker. Chris sighed as he ducked out of the way and bent down to assist his friend in righting himself.

Vin did not take his eyes off of his foe, and paused only long enough to secure his hat on his head. Tanner nodded his thanks and breathlessly muttered, "Much obliged," before throwing himself back into the fight.

Buck's breath left his body in a sudden "Oof!" of pain as Vin launched himself headfirst into the taller man. Vin did not seem to notice when his hat went flying. He was too busy defending himself.

Chris did a quick survey of his surroundings, more confused with each observation. Someone had thoughtfully cleared the area in front of the bar of any obstructions, giving the combatants a clear field of battle. Larabee's fellow peacekeepers stood idly by, doing nothing to stop two of their members from pummeling each other senseless. Until he had more information, Chris decided to join them in the role of spectator.

Buck swung his fists repeatedly at his opponent. Vin did not sit idly by while this was going on. He met Buck blow for physical blow. By their waning strength and the fading intensity of the punches, Chris could tell that the two men had been going at it for more than a few minutes. As if their slowing responses were not sufficient evidence, both men's faces bore the marks from where more than one fisted hand had impacted upon skin.

Buck momentarily managed to get Vin in a headlock. Arms wrapped around his friend's head, The taller man gasped out the words, "You done?"

Vin wriggled free and got a leg behind Buck's, tripping the taller man. He flung himself on top of Buck and declared, "No!"

Buck used his greater weight to advantage and rolled so that Vin found himself lying on the floor beneath the larger man. Vin struggled to break Buck's hold as the older man managed to bind Vin's arms to his torso and pin his legs to the floor. Vin felt himself weakening. He commented, "Figures . . . huff . . . puff . . . you'd set on me like . . . huff . . . puff . . . some big hairy snake!"

Buck smiled. "Well . . . huff . . . puff . . . If'n you're stuck fightin' me with words . . . huff . . . puff . . . Maybe it's time to end this."

Vin nodded. "Maybe so," and decided to use the only weapon remaining to him. He snapped his head up sharply and smashed it into Buck's own head.

Buck's eyes widened at the impact, before they rolled back into his head and he collapsed in a dead faint on top of Vin.

Vin found it difficult to focus on Buck, or anything else in the room, for that matter. His head was ringing from the force of the collision with Buck when the last remaining breath was forced from his bruised ribs as a result of abruptly being smashed by the full weight of the older man's unconscious body. The impact was too much for Vin's battered body to take, and he joined Buck in a blissful state of unconsciousness.

Ezra's voice rang out in the abrupt silence as he pocketed a rather large pile of cash. He smiled wide enough to flash his gold tooth and declared, "It appears that I win." A dozen or more voices were raised in vehement disagreement with that statement and Ezra found himself surrounded while he argued his point.

+ + + + + + +

The remaining members of the Seven left Ezra to fight his own battle while they stood observing the aftermath of the fist fight.

Nathan leaned against the bar, in no apparent hurry to assist his stricken friends. Josiah and Chris stood by the fallen men as JD joined them.

JD bent down, supporting himself with his hands on his knees as he looked closely at the two men.

Josiah bent his knees so that he was closer to the unconscious peacekeepers. He looked up at Chris. "Want to help me separate these two?"

Chris shook his head. "I don't know. Somehow I feel like we oughtta poke 'em with a stick, like you do with a snake."

Josiah's laughter boomed out. "Even though I don't figure you've got any idea what just went on, you have definitely shown the proper respect owed to this situation."

Chris smiled and bent to join Josiah in lifting Buck off of Vin. Buck groaned at the movement, but did not open his eyes.

JD tapped gently at his friend's face. "C'mon, Buck, time to get up."

Buck grimaced. "Now darlin', don't be in such a hurry."

Chris gave a snort of laughter as JD blushed at the inappropriate endearment.

Nathan shouted to get through to the stricken man, "Buck!"

The mustached man's eyes sprang open, then closed to mere slits. "Ow! Dammit, Nathan, show some respect to a dying man."

Nathan ran his hands over Buck's body as he performed a swift but sure examination, then stated, "Hate to tell you this, Buck, but you ain't dyin'. The way it looks, come tomorrow you might wish you were."

The healer's smile reassured any lingering doubts that JD may have harbored. Nathan turned to offer more encouraging words to the young man. "He's beat up more than a little, but he'll be okay."

Nathan then shifted his attention to their other stricken friend. "Now, let's take a look at Vin."

The healer gently felt along the bruised and swollen skin of the fallen man's head.

Vin batted away the helping hands, his blue eyes glaring his pain and displeasure as he stated, "Let's not."

Chris gruffly ordered, "Let Nathan check out your head." He continued, "There must be something wrong with it, or you wouldn't have done something to make me think you don't have the brains God gave a flea."

Vin began to slowly sit up. It was obvious from his labored actions that the younger man was in a considerable amount of pain. Chris slipped an arm around his friend's back and helped him to sit up.

Nathan resumed his prodding. Vin gasped as Nathan's exploring hands found a particularly tender spot along his ribcage. After a minute, the healer stated, "I don't think you broke anything, but you're gonna be plenty sore the next couple of days."

While Chris and Nathan had been hovering over Vin, JD and Josiah had assisted Buck to a standing position. The mustached man was not shy about sharing his discomfort during the proceedings. "Ouch, ow, dammit!"

He turned to look at Vin, and smiled. "Leastways, there's somebody in this room that looks worse than I do."

Vin bit his lip to refrain from repeating the sounds Buck had made while Chris and Nathan helped him to his feet. He licked at the blood he could feel leaking from his swollen lower lip as he smiled. "Can't be me you're talkin' about."

Buck's thoughts were still muddled. The comeback he uttered was not up to his usual standards. "Oh, yeah?"

Vin's nod of agreement was abruptly cut off as his aching head informed him that a verbal response would be preferable. "Yeah. Even on my worst day, I don't look near as ugly as you."

Buck disagreed, his thoughts clearing as evidenced by his response. "Tanner, you obviously haven't looked in a mirror lately. If you had, you'd know that you look like you fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down."

Vin frowned. "There you go again, with your nonsensical notions. Seems like you need me to teach you another lesson."

Buck scoffed derisively, "Me teach you a lesson? Son, you got it the wrong way around. You gotta learn from your betters, and that would be me."

Nathan stepped between the two men and raised his arms at his sides, with palms held outward. "Stop it, the both of you! It ain't gonna do nobody no good, the two of you not gettin' along."

When neither of the two combatants chose to respond, JD waved a hand toward Ezra. The gambler seemed to have won his argument that he was entitled to keep all of the money that he had collected. JD commented, "Looks like it did Ezra some good."

Ezra joined their small group and smiled. "Ah, gentlemen, thank you kindly for offering me this moneymaking opportunity."

Chris' voice reflected his incredulity as he requested clarification. "You mean this was all on account of a bet?"

Buck nodded as he began to explain, "Sort of. Me and Vin got to talkin'. . ."

Earlier . . .

Buck and Vin were seated comfortably at a table in the saloon.

"Vin, a little fella like you, I understand why your weapon of choice is a rifle."

Vin frowned at the statement. It was obviously not meant to be a compliment. "What's that supposed to mean?"

Buck waved a hand, "Now don't go gettin' your dander up. I'm just saying, a little fella like yourself 'd get pounded into the ground in a fist fight."

The younger man had heard enough. "That's the second time you've called me little."

Buck shrugged. "Can't help but tell the truth."

Vin may not have been quite as free with words as Buck or Ezra, but he could come up with an insult when one was called for. "Buck, you've got your head stuck in the clouds if you think that your bein' taller 'n me means you're a better fighter."

Buck sipped at his drink, then replied, "I'm just sayin' what I know."

Vin shook his head. "Just shows you don't know me at all."

The older man frowned. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"I learned to fight hand-to-hand from the best. The Indians hold with a man fightin' a man face-to-face, and they're very good at it. I may be smaller than you, but I'm quicker, and I could beat you easy in a fist fight."

Buck leaned back and folded his arms in front of his chest. He smiled. "Is that a fact?"

Vin smiled in return. "Yep." He added, "And if that wasn't enough, I'm younger, too."

Buck uncrossed his arms and leaned forward. "Boy, them's fightin' words."

Vin shrugged and pushed his chair back from the table. "If you say so."

Nathan and Josiah tried to talk the two men out of their upcoming combat. They were unsuccessful.

Ezra and JD were too curious to discover which of the two men would prove to be the better fighter to even think of trying to put a stop to the upcoming fight. They cleared away tables and chairs to give the two combatants room to maneuver. Ezra proceeded to take bets regarding who would be the winner, while Buck and Vin squared off.

Afterward, no one could say for sure who had struck the first blow. Chris had walked into the saloon in time to witness the aftermath of the confrontation.

+ + + + + + +

The man in black placed his hands upon his hips and swiveled his head from Buck to Vin and back again. "You mean you two aren't mad at each other?"

Buck's smile appeared to be rather lopsided due to the swelling along the right side of his face. He clapped a hand enthusiastically along Vin's back, nearly toppling the injured man. "Hell, no!" The mustached man continued, "Damn, Vin, you got moves I ain't never seen before!"

Vin's smile was more of a grimace due to his split lip. "You ain't so bad yourself."

Buck continued, "You got to show me how you did that little move with your feet. Let me buy you a beer."

Vin slapped a hand along Buck's back, causing the older man to wince. "You did a lot better 'n I thought you would. I gotta admit, I'm impressed. You can buy me two beers."

Buck nodded, then stopped himself. "Yeah, no, wait. What do you mean, two beers?"

+ + + + + + +

Chris' smile was more than a little bit relieved. He had been worried as to how his oldest friend would get along with his newest. When he'd seen the two men fighting, his worst fears seemed to have come to pass. Instead, the two men were working out their differences. Despite Chris' misgivings, it seemed as if the seven men were forming a more cohesive group with each passing day.

Chris ran a tongue along his dry lips, recalled to the reason for his original presence in the saloon. He stated, "Seems like the two of you owe us all a drink."

Buck's, "Now wait just a darn minute . . . " faded into the general noise of the saloon as the peacekeepers comfortably argued with words instead of fists.