Their not mine, I make no money.

Snakes, Sainthood and Baptism of Sinners

JD, Buck, Nathan and Josiah sat at their usual table in the saloon. The men were playing an unexciting game of poker more just to pass the time than anything. Staying in out of the sun waiting for the others to return from Eagle Bend.

"It's been awful dull around here lately," JD observed as he folded.

"Peaceful," Nathan disagreed "Only doctoring I've had to do the last few days was for Buck."

"Dammit Nate!" Buck flushed a brick red.

"Buck how'd you get hurt?" JD barked. Josiah just grinned widely and chuckled evilly. Nathan looked shamefaced at having spoke up.

"I'm sorry Buck it just sort of slipped out," Nathan apologized.

"You didn't say anything," JD began in a concerned tone. Suddenly he flushed brightly and jumped up moving to the other side of the table well away from Buck.

"What's wrong with you?" Buck demanded.

"If you didn't say anything about needing to see Nate I figure you have some kind of disease," JD muttered very softly.

"Ah Hell! I ain't got no clap or nothing," Buck blurted loudly bringing every other conversation in the saloon to a halt. "Well I don't," he informed the saloon at large.

"Then why didn't you say anything?" JD's voice trailed off. He paled markedly and his eyes looked huge.

"JD, son are you alright?" Buck asked worriedly.

"Buck are you dying?" JD asked shakily suddenly sounding very young.

"No, JD I didn't mean to scare you," Buck sighed.

"He's fine JD. Nathan had to pick some birdshot out of his butt." Josiah smirked.

"Somebody SHOT YOU!" JD's voice rose.

"Miss Reva Purcell," Josiah said.

"Miss Reva? I thought she liked you?" JD asked in bewilderment.

"She did until she caught the fool in her bed with her sister Miss Lindsey," Nathan broke down into snickers.

Everyone looked up as the batwing doors slapped the wall. Vin Tanner was making a bee line for the bar.

"Whiskey and give me a bottle," he rasped in a hoarser than normal voice.

"What's up with Vin?" JD demanded "look at him".

"Lord the boy is stepping out," Josiah said sharply.

Vin walked directly to the table. His normal saunter was not in evidence. Reaching them he sat his bottle on the table and sank in to his regular seat.

"Is everything alright?" Buck asked with a slight tightening of his lips. Vin usually drifted in so quietly most people didn't even notice he was there, not this time. The batwing doors were still rocking slightly. Vin looked up. The sapphire blue eyes were alight with mischief. When Vin tried to speak he broke into a whispery laugh.

"Are Chris and Ezra alright?" Nathan demanded.

Vin began to chortle, the lean body shook. Then a deep all the way from the toes laugh broke loose. Answering grins greeted the infectious laugh. Tears started to run down the normally stoic face as Vin tried to control himself. Buck started to chuckle totally enchanted by the tracker's behavior.

He's just a kid. Buck realized in shock. The doors slammed open and Ezra stormed through and up the stairs to his room.

"Must have taken a mud bath" Josiah mused studying the clumps of mud shed by the gambler across the floor and up the stairs.

"What in blue blazes happened to his hat?" Buck asked. Vin hiccuped and actually fell off his chair. Soft whimpering laughter came from the tracker. He lay curled on the floor his arms wrapped around his now tender belly in an attempt to ease the painful muscles.

"Nate does Vin look kinda blue to you?" JD looked concerned.

"He'll be fine. He'd pass out before he did himself any harm." Nathan poured a drink from Vin's bottle calmly. Chris stalked in with a strange look on his face.

"Where is he?" Chris hissed.

"Brother Ezra went upstairs," Josiah answered.

"Not him, Tanner" Chris snarled. Eyes dropped to the figure curled on the floor.

"Get up you damned Hyena it wasn't that funny," Chris ordered. Tanner finally managed to pull himself up to rest against the wall.

"Was so," Vin giggled.

"I ought to just shoot you, you scrawny assed runt" Chris glared.

"Bad element mah ass," Vin snorted.

"Tanner, you're dead."

"Only iffen I die from tha laughin'," Vin snickered.

"Mr. Larabee I'll gladly pay for the privilege of ventilating his scruffy hide," Ezra's voice carried clearly from the landing.

"I'm not selfish we can share," Chris growled in response.

"Buck yah shoulda tolt me about Chris and snakes," Vin giggled once more.

"Snake?" Buck frowned.

"Nah, it weren't but a bitty lizard," Vin hiccuped.

"Is that how Ezra got so muddy?" Josiah asked softly.

"Nope he did that to his ownself," Vin gasped and clamored to his feet while wiping his eyes.

"Mr. Tanner, you're a man of few words. I strongly suggest that it would be in your best interest to remain so." Ezra warned a flush rose to his cheeks under the intent study of his companions.

Vin shakily poured himself a shot of whiskey and downed it.

"Certainly Mr. Standish, the quality of the libations in this establishment is somewhat inferior is it not?" Vin flashed a smirk worthy of Ezra, revealing amazingly white teeth and dancing blue eyes.

"Blackmail, Mr. Tanner?" Ezra demanded.

"Certainly not Mr. Standish, blackmail would be so crass," Vin flashed a wicked grin. Amusement grew on the others faces at the byplay between the two friends. Ezra sighed deeply and walked to the bar. Returning he sat a bottle of his private stock in front of Vin.

"It appears Brother Vin has a mighty interesting story," Josiah noted. Glasses were quickly emptied of the rotgut when Vin began to fill everyone's glass with the good stuff. Carefully recorking the bottle he sat it in front of Ezra.

Lifting his glass Vin toasted "Ta Snakes, Sainthood and the Baptism of Sinners."

"Good Lord," Ezra moaned chugged his drink and lay his head on the table.

"Why did you let someone shoot your hat, Ezra?" JD asked curiously.

"It was preferable to them shooting holes in the head upon which it normally resides," came the muffled response.

"Come on Vin, what happened?" Buck wheedled.

"Best not," Vin stifled another snicker.

"Brothers this calls for drastic measures," Josiah pushed back his chair. Eyes widening Vin lept to his feet heading for the door. Buck thrust out a foot and tripped the tracker up long enough for Josiah's huge hand to latch onto Vin's suspenders. Where upon he lifted the lean man off the floor and dumped him belly down across his lap.

"Josiah?" Nathan asked hesitantly.

"Brother Vin is keeping secrets. It's time for confession son, it'll be good for your soul."

"Ah Hell! Let me go," Vin struggled for release.

"You're not going to get a thing out of him with a whipping," Buck warned.

"I'm not going to whip him. I know one of the boy's weaknesses."

"'Siah let me ..." Vin's growl suddenly changed key.

"Vin squealed like a girl," JD goggled over at the struggling tracker. Amazed looks lingered on the almost hysterical tracker.

"Josiah what did you do to him?" Chris asked intrigued.

"Nothing yet," Josiah rumbled innocently.

"I'll tell, I'll tell," Vin squealed staring fixedly at the preachers wriggling fingers dangling before his eyes.

"I'll shoot you," Chris growled.

"'Kay," Vin replied still mesmerized by the fingers. Chris stared dumbfounded at the tracker. Ezra sat openmouthed as the others shook their heads in amazement.

"Josiah!" Vin hissed desperately.

"You'll be confessing now, son?" Josiah asked calmly.

"Yes!" Vin barked nodding wildly.

"What did you do to Vin?" JD gasped.

"Not a thing," Josiah settled back and sipped his drink. Vin scrambled off Josiah's lap dumping himself into the floor and crawled away. Rising he slunk over to his chair and moved it well out of reach of Josiah. Vin's chair collapsed under the combined weight of Ezra and Chris when they attacked.

"No!" Vin howled when Ezra's talented fingers danced over his ribs, while Chris tried to hold the frenzied hunter.

"Let go, " Vin wheezed, "Dammit let go." Chris and Ezra continued the assault without remorse. "Stop or I'se gonna pee all over yah," Vin squeaked. Immediately the two men turned loose and pulled away. Vin sprang to his feet and rushed for the back door.

Once more Vin slunk to the table, bringing a new chair with him. "Won't be fergittin'," he warned.

"Snakes, Saints and Baptism?" Josiah reminded. Vin ducked his head and began his story.

"Was bringing Miz Netty and Miz Mary back from Eagle Bend. Stopped fer water there at Simpson's Bog. Chris was fillin' his canteen at that little spring when he let out a screech that'd curl yer hair. I looked over ta see him skinning outta them black britches sa fast it woulda put Buck ta shame. Fer the life of me I cain't figure how he done it. There he stood duster flapping in the breeze. Hat, shirt, duster, gunbelt and boots was all still on over a raggedy union suit missing buttons offen the flap. The duster had wrapped around him and he mooned tha ladies. Yellin' something 'bout a snake climbing up in his britches. Them pants fluttered a might and Ez commenced ta shootin' at 'em.

"Did Ezra kill the snake?" JD asked eyes wide as he was drawn into the story.

"He kilt them poor britches sure 'nough.," Vin nodded. "Scarit tha hell outta that poor little lizard whilst he's at it. Chris had that duster wrapped clean to his ears. I went and moved tha lizard. Ole Ez had turned durn near white. Chris says 'Yah shot mah pants'. 'Mr. Larabee, Ez up and says, 'Anything would be an improvement.' Mary come over and picked up them pants and helt 'em up. Ez had done shot the crotch clean outta 'em. Chris was turning plumb purple 'bout then. That vein on his forehead had taken ta poundin'. 'Mary looks down and says 'Interestin' fashion statement.' I thought Chris was gonna choke ta death. Mz. Netty's givin' him hell wantin' ta know why he ain't got no decent drawers, and why he's too lazy ta sew on a couple buttons.

Ole Chris is blowing steam by then. His eyes was all squinched up. He's trying ta keep that duster from flappin' in the breeze. He was just 'bout ta boil over. Well he cain't shoot tha ladies, I'se standin' to close ta the horses. So he glares over at Ez and yanks that hogleg a his.

Ez decided it was time ta skedaddle. Ez has him a mighty quick step when he's of a mind to. Chris fired off a round and Ez jumped right good. Went right over ta bank and inta the bog.

'Bout that time Chris realized things was a might drafty. Tha duster had hung on his holster revealin' a fair amount of his assets to all and sundry. Couldn't help it Mz. Mary took ta snickerin' and Mz. Netty was a cackling like an old hen. He did tha onlyest thing he could. He unloaded on Ez's hat. I figured be best ta get tha ladies ta town Yah shoulda seen Chris' face when Mz. Netty tolt Mz. Mary ta leave one a her petticoats so's he could come ta town decent covered.

"Coward," Chris growled.

"I ain't stupid. I rode like hell," Vin huffed.

"Why?" the others chorused.

"Cause Chris cain't fit inta Ez's pants,"Vin muttered.

"Loose as you wear yours he could fit into them," Buck smirked.

"Yeah," Vin sipped his whiskey keeping his eyes down.

"So you'd still have your ...," Josiah stared.

"Ain't got none," Vin drawled faintly. Ezra's eyes widened and he dropped rapidly to the floor to avoid the spew from Josiah's whiskey. Buck grinned widely. Chris was gasping and rubbing his tearing eyes.

"Musta hurt whiskey comin' out yer nose like that," Vin sympathized.

"I told you it wasn't civilized running around without drawers." Nathan lectured. Finally things settled back down.

"Snakes and Baptism I understand but where'd the Sainthood come in?" JD asked.

"Holey as them britches and hat was I figured they was sainted." Vin smirked.


fyi: It person really can strip off with out removing their boots or equipment belt. I saw my father-in-law do it one time when a itty bitty lizard headed for high ground.