by Teri

Summary: Ezra has to 'pay the piper' & Vin 'has his back'.

#3 in A Day in the Life collection

Thank You to those who came before me and gave the guy's horses such great names.

Response to the Vin Fanfic and Discussion Group April Celebration Challenge - Revenge

The sun had started on its downward slope. It had been a beautiful day and promised to be an even nicer evening. The sky was dotted with fluffy clouds and a soft breeze carried the smell of rain in the distance. Vin Tanner was content.

Too bad the same couldn't be said for his companion. Ezra Standish had seemed to enjoy the day, even to have relaxed and pushed all worry out of his mind . . . for a while.

Tanner had been watching the gradual change in the gambler for the last few miles. The relaxed smile had once again been replaced with the ever present poker face. Now that the town of Four Corners could be seen in the distance, tension fairly crackled off the man

"Ez, ifn' we was ta ride any slower, we'd be goin' backwards," the tracker attempted to lighten the mood.

"Mr. Tanner, I find myself in no rush to hasten my demise," Ezra dead-panned, showing all the excitement of a condemned man walking to the gallows.

"Ah, come on Ez, Chris cain't still be mad. It were just a little paint." Vin rationalized.

Standish stopped his mount and turned to Vin, "Just a little paint? Surely you jest! A pail of whitewash was deposited on . . . how did 'The Clarion' so pithily state it . . . oh yes, 'notorious gunslinger Chris Larabee', at my suggestion!"

"Ez, ya didn't tell Billy and Caleb to dump that paint on Chris. It were 'n accident." The tracker tried to console his distraught friend.

"Semantics, Mr. Tanner," Standish groaned. "What was, or was not my intent, is of little concern. The outcome remains the same, and I fear that Mr. Larabee's retribution will be swift."

Looking toward Four Corners, it appeared that dark clouds were gathering over the town, an ominous sign. Reluctantly, the gambler spurred his mount forward, prepared to face his fate.

+ + + + + + +

The two men rode into town and headed for the livery. Dismounting they walked the animals into the structure and to their stalls. Vin grabbed a brush and tossed it to Ezra, and the men started to groom their mounts.

Tanner had finished rubbing down Peso and had already fed and watered both animals, yet Ezra continued to brush his horse. "Ez, l reckon Chaucer would prefer ya left a little hair on," Vin kidded. "Ya have to face Chris sooner or later, might as well git it over with."

Reluctantly, Standish walked over to place the brush on its hook. He sighed, taking note of the faint white speckles that could be seen on the wall, and then looking at the still muddy floor only a few feet away. He had to admire the youngsters daring; the loft had been the perfect vantage point from which to stage their attack.

"Ez, it's time." Vin announced and the friends headed out of the building.

They had scarcely cleared the door frame, when JD's voice rang out, "Vin, when did you get back? Ez, everybody's at the saloon waiting for you."

Vin acknowledged the youngest of the group with a nod.

"JD, why, pray tell, is everyone awaiting my homecoming?" Standish asked with aplomb.

"Poker or course," JD stated, matter-of-factly.

"Payday at Guy Royal's spread . . . " Vin volunteered, enjoying the confusion of his usually unruffled friend.

"Oh, yes, of course, the poker game." The gambler muttered, and the three continued on.

JD's sudden laughter caught the other two by surprise. Following his gaze they noticed what appeared to be wet spots on the boardwalk every few feet. "You should have seen Billy Travis and that Potter boy, scrubbing away. Must have taken them the whole afternoon to get rid of all the paint Chris tracked through town. Even saw Josiah helping them at the end. Seems he was feeling rather guilty for leaving the whitewash out where the boys could get it. Man, was Chris mad. I was afraid he might shoot Buck there for a moment, but I guess the whiskey Buck had me get, must have mellowed him a bit. . . ." JD rambled on, never realizing the unnerving effect his words were having on Ezra.

All too soon, they were at the saloon. JD moved through the swinging doors, not noticing that his two companions hadn't followed. Actually, it was only Vin's quick reflexes that kept him from plowing into Ezra's unmoving form.

The usually, unflappable conman jumped at the hands that landed on his shoulders and the voice in his ear, "Time ta face the music, Ez" Vin shoved his friend through the doors, a smile on his face.

Standish stumbled into the room, catching himself before tumbling to the floor. He knew where Chris was sitting without being told. Ezra could 'feel' the man's gaze on him even before Vin moved past to join the object of the gamblers dread. Brushing the dust from his jacket sleeve he composed himself and moved to the table.

"Mr Larabee, please accept my sincere affirmation of remorse. In no way, was it my intent that the impressionable, progeny of Mrs. Travis and Mrs. Potter, would take my reminiscence and endeavor to replicate my youthful . . ."

"EZRA!" The men chorused, in an attempt to stop the flow of words pouring from the man.

"Ez, jist say ya's sorry," Vin's soft voice encouraged.

"Mr. Larabee, I am sorry of my part . . .."

"No problem, Ezra," Chris interrupted, "never was one to hold a grudge. Sit down, and have a drink," the 'grinning' Larabee replied, sliding a full-to-the-brim shot glass, that had been sitting on the table, toward Ezra.

Noting the twinkle in Chris' eyes, Vin had to wonder what the man was up to when Chris winked at him.

Ezra caught the exchange between the men and thought better of accepting the drink. "No, thank you Mr. Larabee, I think I shall relieve Mr. Royal's men of some of their recently acquired wealth."

Vin overheard Buck's muttered, "This should be fun," as the man grabbed the drink and downed its contents with a chuckle.

As Ezra approached the poker game, one of the players motioned him to an open chair, "Standish, 'bout time, Larabee said we should hold 'this' chair for you. Started to fig're ya weren't gonna show."

Casting a surreptitious glance at his 'friends' table, Ezra noted Chris watching him, the lamp light giving the man's eyes a sinister glow from beneath the brim of the black hat. "Ah, Gentlemen, I regret that I will be unable to join you this evening, it has been a long day and I plan to retire early after a light repast."

The gambler moved away, only to see another man plop down heavily into the chair. Shaking his head he moved to the bar.

He had barely arrived when a plate with a large steak and some biscuits were place in front of him. Ezra raised an eyebrow in question to the barkeep. "Mr. Larabee thought you might be hungry," the man commented.

Vin grinned, when Ezra turned to the table and looking directly at Chris. He touched two fingers to the brim of his hat, before turning around and talking to the man behind the bar, then heading to the stairs and his room above. The food on the bar, remaining untouched.

Josiah's laughter rang out as he slapped his leg," Brother Chris, remind me to never anger you. I do believe you are playing with our friend's head!

"Wouldn't mind being a fly on the wall up there," Nathan commented, his laughter joining that of Josiah's.

Meanwhile upstairs . . .

A very apprehensive Ezra approached the door to his room. Pulling the key out of his pocked, he unlocked the door and carefully turned the knob. He pushed the door open and jumped back in an attempt to avoid any falling objects. When nothing happened he moved into the room, locking the door behind him.

Standing in the center of the room he turned slowly around, taking in his surroundings.

Leaning down, he looked under the bed, nothing there. Straightening up, he reached for the quilt and with one firm yank, pulled the cover down, discovering . . . nothing!

Taking in the room, one more time, the closet caught his eye . . . did I leave the door ajar, the man wondered?

Moving carefully toward the closet door he grasped the handle and threw it open. What he saw inside was . . . his fastidiously arranged shirts, trousers and jackets.

With a sigh of relief Ezra moved back to sit on the edge of the bed, and was soon laughing at his recent paranoid actions. Realizing just how strange he must have looked and sounded to the people downstairs, he lay back onto the feather bed.

+ + + + + + +

Buck Wilmington spit whiskey across the table, and began to laugh uncontrollably, as a loud crash was heard from one of the rooms upstairs. Looking at his long-time friend he somehow managed to wheeze out, "Don't tell me ya cut the slats on the bed?"

"Yep," was all the smiling Larabee said.

The remainder of those at the table joined in the laughter, with the exception of Larabee.

Vin looked at the man he loved as a brother and asked, "Thought ya don't hold a grudge?"

"Don't," Chris said a twinkle in his eye. "I get even!"