Disclaimer: The Magnificent Seven are owned by MGM and Trilogy. No infringment is intended. No profit is being made from this activity.
Notes: This is the first in a three piece series. The stories follow one another closely and will make more sense if read in order. The other pieces are Chosen Family and Repairs and Renovations.
"You be careful up there!" Nettie called.
"Yes Ma'am." Vin politely ignore all the advice being called from the ground as he clambered over the roof of the Wells' homestead, nailing down loose shingles. Vin had been drawn to the tenacious old widow from their first meeting, and she in return had welcomed him into her home and heart like a long lost son.
Nettie Wells was getting on in years and her husband long since passed on, so now some chores had become too much for her. Nettie shook her head and stepped onto the porch. There was never a need to ask Vin for help, he simply appeared. She had discovered that on longer trips out of town, she would return to find some new project attended to - a closer well, new corrals, and bless the boy, a lovely porch swing. She new he also spent a lot of time helping Chris Larabee with the small property he owned outside of town. Yes, for a boy who didn't seem to think much of living indoors, for that wagon didn't count as indoors, he certainly spent a lot of time ensuring his friends homes were always solid and safe. Nettie watched as Vin nimbly swung down from the roof.
"You've got a ladder there for a reason," she chastised.
Vin cast her a sheepish glance as he reached to pull the ladder down. He'd thought she'd already gone indoors.
"Plenty enough for you to do with both feet on the ground," she issued with a shake of her finger. "I've got enough to do in the kitchen without worrying over you."
Vin cast a hopeful look to her at the prospect of Nettie in her kitchen.
"Apple or berry?" Nettie asked, needing no interpretation for that look.
"You stay on the ground," was her departing order.
"Yes Ma'am." Vin headed off to the shelter of the barn to cut new planks for additional siding on the draughty old building.
Vin had arrived early that morning while the frost still lay on the ground, but now a weak winter sun was high in the sky. Enticing smells were wafting to him from the kitchen windows. He noticed a rider heading toward them. Chris. Vin put his tools down and went to meet his friend in the front yard. One look at Chris allayed his concerns of trouble in town. Larabee dismounted and tied his horse to a nearby fence rail.
"Cold day for it," he declared, casting his eyes toward Vin's work-in-progress.
Nettie had heard the horse approach and was now on the porch to greet her new guest.
"Good Mornin' Chris. Stay to lunch, I've made plenty."
"You'd have to feeding this one." Chris declared as he stepped up onto the porch to greet his hostess.
"Where's your coat Vin?"
"Nettie, I's workin' in the barn. I'm fine."
"It's cold out. You put your coat on," Nettie ordered.
"Yes Ma'am." Vin continued to mutter under his breath as he stepped over to the coat he'd left over the porch rail earlier.
"Vin Tanner, I'm old not deaf."
Vin shot an embarrassed glance to the porch residents only to see Chris smiling at the scolding.
"What are ya smilin' at Larabee? Least ya could make yer self useful and swing a hammer, not clutter up Miz Nettie's porch like that."
"This is a social call Vin," Chris replied.
"Yeah right. Spread a little of that Larabee sunshine 'round the district on a cold winters day. I can see all that frost just meltin' right off," Vin scoffed at the claim.
"Lunch is in an hour, Vin. Chris is staying for lunch, so put his horse in the barn with yours." Nettie called as she moved to lead Chris indoors.
Chris laughed as the affronted tracker led the black horse past. The mutterings drifted up to the porch.
"Put up Mr Sunshine Larabee's pony. Got nothin' else to do. Nah, shouldn't have a man walk an extra twenty yards to the barn when he could be sittin' on his ass in front of a fire, drinkin' all the damn coffee."
Chris's urge to retaliate was quickly quelled when he saw Vin's performance had not gone unnoticed by Nettie.
"Vin Tanner! You mind your language or there won't be any pie for you" Nettie ordered.
Vin lookup up startled and embarrassed to be caught by Nettie. He saw the smug look on Chris's face and the laughter in those eyes, but Nettie's look had him ducking his head quickly and leading Chris's horse out to the barn.
Vin toiled away the next hour, hammering new siding into place. It was approaching lunch, so he cleaned himself up and headed over to the house. Nettie greeted him just as he entered.
"I was just coming to call you. Have you washed up?"
"Yes Ma'am" was the slightly defensive reply, embarrassed to be getting the 'all clean' inspection in front of Larabee.
He looked past Nettie to see the smirking gunslinger already seated at the dining table.
"Ya lookin' to be fed without puttin' in a decent day's work?"
This received a sharp rap on his upper arm from Nettie as she moved past him to the kitchen.
"Chris is my guest. Go sit down and I can start serving."
Disgruntled at yet another reprimand in front of Chris, the tracker moved to take the seat opposite the gunslinger. Vin was about to tell Chris the lose the smirk when he noticed the tell-tale purple stain on the gunslingers lips.
"Ya ate my pie!" Vin declared.
Nettie stepped back out of her kitchen, hearing an outburst from the dining table.
"Nettie! He ate my pie!" Vin again demanded, pointing an angry finger at the gunslinger.
"Vin Tanner, you mind your manners. I served Chris some of that pie with his coffee. There's plenty, so you can share."
The tracker was outraged and turned a glare on Chris that should have caused him to burst aflame. Chris had his back to Nettie, so he gave the tracker a wide purple grin, daring Vin to continue his tirade in front of Nettie. Chastised again, Vin mumbled quietly about the 'rights of workers' and 'an honest man's sweat'.
"You say something Pard? There's more words coming out of you today than I've head all month."
"Nothin' a warm assed, coffee slurpin', pie stealing varmint would know about."
"Vin, did I head that?" Nettie cast a sharp look to Vin as she began to place dishes on the table.
Vin quickly ducked his head. "No Ma'am."
Chris was enjoying himself. This trip was turning out to have been a really good idea. The town was quiet and knowing Vin was helping Nettie Wells today, he'd decided to come out for a visit. The tantalizing smell of chicken and dumplings now reached him as Nettie set the serving dishes down. Lunch at the Wells place was always tasty, but this time he had all the entertainment of watching Vin get treated like a truculent eight year old. Nettie returned from the kitchen and placed the now cut berry pie on the table before seating herself at the end.
"Oww!" Vin had reached for the pie plate only to receive a rap over the knuckles with the back of Nettie's fork.
"You eat your dinner before dessert, young man."
"But he had pie!"
Chris just had to let out a chuckle. He would swear the tracker was actually pouting. Tanner didn't take orders or reprimands from anyone but this woman, and he was taking more than his share today. Chris felt no guilt at his enjoyment of the situation. The damned tracker ignored all his orders and wouldn't recognize a reprimand from him even if it was delivered with a slap on the back of the head. No, this was just plain justice that he got to witness this display today.
Nettie started to serve out some chicken onto Chris's plate first. Chris watched as Vin's mouth opened to prepare to voice yet another grievance. Their eyes met, laughing green to outraged blue. Vin saw the challenge there, but after casting a quick look to Nettie he decided not to risk dessert. The meal progressed with Nettie catching up on the happenings in town and news of the other peacekeepers. Then it came to dessert. Nettie reached for the pie plate and cut it into large wedges. Vin watched eagerly as she lifted the slice onto a plate, berries oozing out of the flaky pastry. But the plate was handed across to Chris.
Horrified, Vin couldn't contain himself. "He's already had one damn piece!"
"Vin Tanner. I'll be taking the lye soap to your mouth if I hear that language in my house again."
A blush spread across Vin's face as he realized what he'd said.
"No buts, Vin. Guests are served first."
"What am I then?" came the disgruntled mumble.
"Don't be silly Vin. You're family," Nettie declared as she handed him an extra large wedge of pie.
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