A/N: Thanks to Kelly Bolster Leach for the inspiration!
It was only a couple of days until Christmas and Buck Wilmington, the resident ladies' man of Four Corners was finishing up his shopping. The handsome peacekeeper loved Christmas - heck any holiday that gave him an excuse to give presents and make people happy. He was humming a carol under his breath as he strolled toward the mercantile, tipping his hat to all the ladies he met as he almost danced along the boardwalk. The collar of his tan plainsman jacket was pulled up against the brisk wind and a muffler that one of his female - friends' had knitted him was wrapped around his neck with a debonair flourish that even Standish had to approve of. Well, would have if he'd actually seen Buck, but a couple of wealthy landowners looking for new property to invest in had gotten off yesterday's stage, and the gambler was currently intent on relieving them of some of their disposable income.
Buck was close to the store now, and his pace quickened in anticipation. Word was Mrs. Potter had gotten an extra-large shipment of lace-trimmed knit stockings in by mistake and not having time to return the excess before Christmas, had decided to keep them. Wilmington figured they would be the perfect gifts for all his paramours and save him having to hunt down half a dozen individual items at the same time.
Stepping into the crowded business, the lanky figure was greeted by a harried Gloria, who was busily wrapping some purchases in brown paper and tying them with string.
"Mr. Wilmington - just help yourself. I'll get to you as soon as I can."
"No hurry, Miz Potter. I'll just take a lil' look around while I wait." purred the former lawman. He just couldn't help the way his voice lowered and turned smooth as butter when in the presence of a lady. And the women didn't seem to mind in the least, if their pleased smiles and dreamy expressions were any indication.
Turning to avoid a farmer eying a frilly bonnet for his wife, Buck sidled to one side and slid past, heading for the shoe and hosiery section of the modest shop.
There before him was spread an array of stockings in a variety of colors. Red and green matched the holiday season, and there was also pink and purple, blue, mauve, and yellow - all with white lace adorning the tops and giving the pieces a festive and elegant air.
Buck thoughtfully brushed his luxurious mustache with one finger as a big grin appeared underneath. Perfect - he could get one of each color for his lady friends. The only problem would be deciding who got which hue. Picking a pair of the red, green, pink, purple, blue, and mauve, his long fingers lingered over the yellow as well. Hmmm - he could get Inez the yellow. The bright shade would suit her dark coloring and go with the shorter peasant skirts the pretty bartender favored.
A sudden mental image of the fiery Latina throwing them in his face, accompanied by a string of curses in Spanish that even Ez and Vin would have trouble deciphering flashed in his mind however and he hastily drew his hand back as if it had been scalded. No, a pretty embroidered handkerchief or a nice lace shawl was probably better for the lovely brunette!
By the time he made his mind up, the store had cleared out somewhat. Taking his choices to the counter, he laid them down and reached for his money. He'd already chosen or made gifts for the other peacekeepers, so these were pretty much his last purchases.
Mrs. Potter gave him a knowing wink as she totaled the items up.
"Gifts for your . . . young ladies', Mr. Wilmington?"
"Yes, ma'am. Glad you had plenty left."
"Indeed, now I'm glad I kept the extras that came in with my order. Young sheriff Dunne even looked at them, but he - wisely, I believe - decided that a new fishing pole was a better gift for Miss Wells."
Buck shuddered at the picture of JD giving Casey a pair of red stockings. That would probably end as badly as the image of him presenting the yellow pair to Inez had! Not to mention what Nettie would do to the boy if she caught him buying unmentionables for her niece!
Nodding in agreement with Gloria's observation, Wilmington paid for his purchases and happily headed out the door. Now he could work on convincing Chris and the others that they really needed a tree for the saloon . . .
TWO DAYS LATER . . .
The sound of raised female voices started upstairs above the saloon, then proceeded to roll down the stairs as the strident tones got louder and arms started to flail in wild gestures as six of the working girls of the establishment boiled down the steps. The peacekeepers were sitting at their usual table, sipping at glasses of the fine Scotch that Ezra had imported as his gift to them. Otherwise the place was empty, since even the town drunks had someplace else to be on Christmas day. Inez had fixed the seven men a big meal, including a wild turkey that Vin had brought in the day before. The tracker had gone out with Buck and the two had cut a small juniper tree and placed it at one end of the bar. Even Larabee had joined them and the rest of the men the night before to drink and string popcorn and cranberries to decorate the evergreen. Inez provided colored ribbon to make bows and JD had gone around collecting candle stubs to light the tree. Now the poor thing was in danger of getting knocked down and trampled as the irate women poured off of the steps and into the saloon proper.
All were clad only in their chemises or corsets and bloomers and it was easy to see that they were all sporting a different color of knit stockings. Chris' eyes turned to Buck as the leader's chiseled lips pressed together in a resigned move. The lean blond figured the women had just discovered they all got the same gift from the ladies' man and were unhappy, to put it mildly.
"He wanted me to have these, so mine are the best!" "Well, he gave ME these, so I'd say mine are!" "You're all wrong!!" echoed around the seven bemused men as the upset women headed for the door in a tangle of arms and legs. Hair was flying and in one case a whole wig went sailing into the air. The sound of tearing cloth could be heard as Blossom reached for one of the other girls and got the neckline of her undergarment instead.
Buck was looking chagrined as he and the others rose to follow the angry females out.
"I'm sorry, Chris. I thought gettin' 'em all the same thing was a good idea. Didn't think about this happenin'." mumbled the tall brunet in contrition.
Larabee just shook his head.
When they got outside, it suddenly became apparent that having similar presents wasn't the problem . . .
"My pink ones are the prettiest!" "Are not!! Blue's the best color and Buck knew it looked good with my blonde hair!" "Well, mauve* is the newest shade so it's better than all the rest!" "Is not!!" "Is too!"
As the men prepared to wade into the roiling, screaming ball of women Chris looked at Wilmington.
"Buck . . . next time just get 'em all the same damn color!"
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*Mauveine, also known as aniline purple and Perkin's mauve, was the first synthetic organic chemical dye, discovered serendipitously in 1856. It is also among the first chemical dyes to have been mass-produced.
Here's the stockings from Kelly's pic that inspired this idea.