Chris Larabee was not in a good mood. Well, that in itself wasn't all that unusual but today he'd decided to do something about it. It had only been four days since his second in command and best friend had taken a bullet in the thigh, and contrary to Nathans orders he was out of bed, out of the clinic, and if Larabee's instincts were correct he about to head out of town.
Well not if Chris Larabee had anything to say about it. He headed down the street hoping to intercept the stubborn tracker before he could get himself out to one of his secret hideaways. As Chris approached Mrs. Potters store he noticed that Nettie Wells was there picking up supplies, that was when inspiration struck. He knew that if he tried to stop the Texan it would result in a frustrating stalemate and might just end up with Chris putting a bullet in the man. But Nettie, she could get Vin to do things that even six armed regulators would be unable to convince him to do.
He slowed and casually approached the feisty widow. "Morning Mrs. Wells," he opened, "you probably already heard about the shootout the other day?"
She looked up at the man, squinted and replied in her usual direct manner. "You mean have I heard that you let my boy take a bullet?"
Yep he thought, mother hen to the rescue. "Well, Nettie, I didn't do it on purpose, but yes Vin did get shot, and maybe you can help us out with that."
She met his look with a formidable glare of her own. "First you let him get hurt and now you want my help?"
Chris smiled then. "Yeah Nettie, I do," he continued. "You know how stubborn that man can be about taking care of himself when he's hurt. Well I was thinkin that maybe you would have something that would require his presence out at your place for a couple days, maybe get him to take it a little easy, you know he'll listen to you better then he will to any of us."
She returned his smile then. "Yes, he will, and I see where you're going with this. As a matter of fact we've lost almost all our chickens and about half the ducks to some damn fox, and I just can't seem to get a shot at him."
"That sounds like just the kind of job Vin could handle about now without hurting himself." His grin widened, "I think you can find him down by the livery if you hurry.
Vin had slipped out of the clinic, stopped in at Inez's for breakfast, and snuck down to the livery using the back alleys. He wouldn't admit it to anyone else, but he'd barely made it. His leg throbbed and he was feeling a bit dizzy but now that he was here he was determined to get a saddle on Peso and at least get out of town for a short ride. He'd managed to get Peso ready and now just needed to get up in the saddle. As he leaned against the stall to catch his breath the door opened and Nettie Wells entered...
A little while later Vin, Nettie and Casey headed out of town. He couldn't believe his luck, a chance to get away and Chris couldn't even get mad since Nathan had agreed with Nettie that a few days out at her place would be good for him.
As they disappeared from sight Chris turned to Nathen and they both smiled. "Well done Chris, she'lll keep him in line way better than we could. And he thought it was all his own idea."
"Yeah, sometimes I wish I could handle him as well as she does, but then, I don't make peach pie."
By the time they arrived at Netties it took all of Vin's strength just to slide out of the saddle and barely manage to stay on his feet. He groaned to himself, wondering just how the hell he was gonna get the ornery horse untacked and cared for.
Nettie could see the man fighting the pain as he'd ridden and was surprised that he'd managed to stay on his feet as he dismounted. Nathan had assured her that the wound was healing up nicely, but it still had to be painful and all his muscles would begin to ache as he favored that leg. No doubt his back would be hurting a lot by now.
She climbed out of the wagon, letting Casey take the team up to the porch to unload and approached Vin as he swayed slightly.
"Now, you're gonna go inside and rest up a while, Casey and I can unload the wagon and take care of the horses." Her tone allowed for no argument, and at the moment Vin didn't think he had the energy to even think about defying the woman.
"Thanks Nettie, right about now that's about all I think I can do." He conceded gracefully, but added a warning, "jest be careful with that nag of mine, he's as likely to bite ya as anything."
She shook her head as she looked at the beast. "Oh, he'll behave himself because he knows that if he gives me a problem he'll spend tomorrow hitched to my plow."
By the time Vin woke up, the sun was setting and the smell of Netties cooking filled the small home. He wandered into the kitchen where the table was already set and Casey was pulling a panful of buscuits from the stove.
"Sit down Vin." Nettie called as she brought the stew over to the table.
The rest of the evening was spent catching up on news and current local gossip. When Vin moved toward the door to go set up his trap for the rogue fox Nettie insisted that it could wait until the following day after he'd rested his leg a bit more. Vin wanted to argue but knew that it would be useless to do so. They all turned in early since tomorrow would be a busy day.
The next few days Nettie kept Vin on a short leash, letting him help with minor, easy to do chores without letting him push too hard and hamper his recovery. They lost another duck the first night and her recently hatched ducklings decided that the tracker was an adequate substitute for the missing mother. They had been following him as he moverd around the yard. By the time he realized that he was being tailed it was too late, the baby ducks had imprinted on him. Vin now had a small waddling family of seven. When Casey came out and saw them she immediately named them. The one that always led the group was Chris, followed by Vin, then Buck, JD, Ezra, Nathan and Josiah at the end. Both she and Nettie seemed to think that this was very funny, but Vin just did his best Larabee imitation and continued with his work.
The second night he was ready and waiting when the fox showed up for dinner. His new "family" would now be safe.
By the time JD arrived to visit Casey a few days later, things had settled down to a regular routine. After finishing up a small repair on the fence, Vin he came around the corner, followed by the seven ducklings to find his friend staring at him and his entourage.
"Aw, Hell!" the blushing man cursed as he heard the laughter. "Ya gotta promise ya ain't gonna tell Chris or any of the others."
JD just laughed harder. "I don't know Vin, this seems like a pretty good story, you know how much the guys like a good story."
After a long and grueling bargaining session JD agreed not to tell any of the others what he'd seen. Vin would be giving the younger man more tracking lessons, and riding a few patrols for him after he was healed up. Vin smiled, knowing that he'd have done so anyhow.
"So, Vin, when are you coming back into town?" JD asked as they lounged on the porch later in the afternoon.
"Pretty soon JD." Vin replied, "I'm just about all better, and if I stay here much longer I'm gonna be totally spoiled."
"Yeah, it sure is nice hanging out, taking it easy, raising up the young-uns and all." He laughed again at Vin's glare.
"You promised not to tell, JD." Vin warned.
"Not a word, Vin, I promise." The younger man vowed, then turned back to Casey and smiled.
JD stayed the night, and left early the next morning. He looked over his shoulder as he left, to see Vin heading out to the barn. A small part of him felt bad about what he was about to do, but he got over it, oh yeah, this was gonna be good.
As he approached town he increased his speed and raced up to the saloon where Chris and Buck were sitting on the walk, drinking coffee and waiting for whatever the day brought.
"Chris! Buck!" JD shouted as he approached, you gotta go out and help Vin, I think there's someone tailing him..."
As they raced out to the Wells farm Chris tried to get more information from JD but unlike his usual habit of talking their ears off, today he was quiet. Chris figured it was because he was worried about Vin.
As they neared the farmstead, JD suggested that they should sneak up just in case there was trouble, Chris agreed so they slowed and came in from the west where the trees gave them a fair amount of cover, then as they reached the edge of the small forest they could see the entire farmyard. For a few minutes it was empty, then as the watched Vin came out of the barn carrying a bucket towards the house. JD watched the faces of his companions as the small procession made its way across the large yard. Chris let out a chuff of laughter and asked JD if this was who was following the tracker. Buck just howled.
Unfortunately for JD, Buck howled loud enough for Vin to hear, he looked up and spotted the three men standing just inside the treeline, groaned, and realized that JD hadn't *told* anyone what he'd seen, he just brought them out to see it for themselves. As the men approached, Buck and Chris still laughing at the embarassed man, he simply shook his head in defeat before looking back at JD.
"Just remember JD, payback is hell!"
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