Magnificent Seven

The Little Gambler

Summary: Ten year old Ezra Standish arrives in the town of Four Corners with a letter from his mother for his father, Chris Larabee.

Author's Note: Some of you might recognize this story from another sight, but I've also made some minor changes to it. I've had this written for awhile now, but kept retweaking it. I've finally decided to post it. I hope ya'll enjoy it.

Warning: Spanking of Minor(s).

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. I just wrote this story for fun.

Chapter 8: Renegotiation

Billy made his apology, to both his mother and Ezra.

"Though I still feel slighted," Ezra replied, holding out is hand, "for the sake of peace I humbly except your apology."

Billy looked a bit puzzled at the odd-turn-of-phrase, but took his hand anyway.

"Uh, thanks," he said, "I think."

Chris chuckled at that. "Trust me," he told him, ruffling his hair fondly. "You're forgiven."

"Oh, baby," Mary said, pulling her son into hug. "I love you, but if you ever do something this foolish again you'll be getting TWO spankings—one from Chris and one from me, and possibly even three, if your grandfather hears about it. Do you understand me?"

Billy gulped and nodded. "Yes, Mama," he said, wide-eyed. "I won't start nothin' with Ezra ever again!"

"And I'm sure Ezra won't start nothing with you," Chris said, eyeing the young Southerner out of the corner of his eye.

"Of course not, Sir," Ezra told him, smirking. "A gentleman never starts anything, although we certainly do finish them."

Chris rolled his eyes. "That's what I'm afraid of," he muttered out of the side of his mouth.

Mary grinned, and went to kiss his cheek.

"Thank you, Chris," she whispered in his ear. "From now on, I promise to try and be firmer with Billy."

The black-clad sheriff nodded.

"He's a good boy, Mary," he whispered back, "and I love him, too. If you ever need a hand, don't hesitate to ask. All right?"

The blonde widow smiled.

"Oh," she said, "I'm sure now that their friends you'll have your hands full keeping them out of trouble."

Chris winced at that.

Mary chuckled, and then went over to Ezra.

"I want to apologize too, Ezra," she told the boy. She then kissed him on the cheek.

The boy blushed bright red and gulped. "Don't fret so, Mrs. Travis," he told her. "Twas not your fault, I know."

Mary reached out and cupped his chin with one soft, smooth hand.

"You may just be what this town needs," she told him. "It could stand to have a few more gentlemen in it."

She cast a glance Chris' way, and smirked. Chris rolled his eyes at her.

After kissing him on the cheek again, she and Billy said their good-byes and headed once more for home.

Chris removed his hat and sat down on the bed with a sigh.

His headache may have been gone, but for some odd reason he felt utterly exhausted.

He closed his eyes to rest them a moment.

Ezra glanced over at the black-clad man, biting his lip.

"Sir?" he asked hesitantly. "You never answer my question earlier. Am I to be punished, too?"

Chris opened his eyes and stared at the boy, puzzled.

"Why would you be punished, son?" he asked him. "You didn't do anythin' wrong that I know of...except maybe gamble on the church steps, and I reckon you'll just to have to take that one up with Him."

He pointed up toward the ceiling.

Ezra bit his lip again, and came to sit next to him.

"You mentioned before you went after Billy that we were going to talk about the rules when you returned," he reminded him, hesitantly.

Chris nodded. "Yeah, I did," he said, "and we are."

"Then I do not understand," the ten year old replied. "If I did nothing wrong, why are we to discuss the rules?"

The sheriff sighed.

"Because I think I need to be a little bit clearer," he told him. "I told you before I didn't want you to gamble in the saloon anymore, and I meant that, but I reckon I need to add to that that I don't want you gamblin' period anymore."

"But I enjoy playing cards," Ezra told him, "uh, Sir."

He added that last part as a reflex.

He didn't want to anger the man by seeming disrespectful, after all.

Chris nodded, and placed an arm around his small shoulders.

"I know yaw do, son," he told him, "and I ain't sayin' you can't play cards, I'm just sayin' you can't gamble anymore. After this, if you and Billy, or you and JD what to play a friendly hand of Five Card Stud, then ya can...just so long as no bettin' takes place. Understand?"

Ezra frowned. If he didn't gamble, how was he to earn money? He bit his lip, uncertainly.

"Is there no way that I may gamble, Sir?" he asked him, curiously.

"Nope," Chris told him, firmly. "I know you and me are just gettin' used to each other, son, but I don't approve of boys your age—or any age really—bettin' money. From now on, if I hear you've been doing it then you WILL be in trouble. BIG trouble, too, because you'll be breaking the rules. Understand?"

Ezra sighed, and nodded. "Yes, Sir," he told him, "I understand."

Chris patted his back, and stood up. "C'mon on, then," he said, "let's you and me go get JD and grab us some grub. The fellas are probably still out at Nettie's place fixing that fence. She'll feed 'em supper so the three of us are on our own."

Ezra nodded, and slowly got up, but then stopped when an idea occurred to him.

"Sir?" he asked, reaching out hesitantly and grasping the sheriff's sleeve.

Chris turned back around. "What is it, son?" he asked, curiously.

"It is customary, I believe," the boy told him, "for a parent to give their child a weekly or monthly sum to teach them financial responsibility, correct? At least, several of the older boys I spoke to once said that their fathers did this for them..."

"Yaw talkin' about an allowance?" Chris asked, grinning.

Ezra nodded. "Yes, Sir," he told him. "Would it be possible for you and I to have such an arrangment?"

Chris scratched his head.

"Well, I don't make that much myself," he told him, "but maybe...you do know that an allowance has to be earned, don'cha?"

"I understand it is customary for one to earn such a right, yes?" Ezra informed him. "For doing well in school, staying out of mischief, and performing such mundane labors about the home."

Chris scratched his chin, trying to decipher all that the kid had just said…

Let me see, he thought to himself trying to put the boy's word in laymen's terms, that would be gettin' good grades, not causin' trouble, and doin' chores.

"I ain't worried none about the school or the mischief," Chris said, "but other than keeping this here room clean there ain't too many chores for you to do 'round here."

Ezra grinned. "Then perhaps we can renegotiate a bit?" he asked, smirking.

"Renegotiate?" Chris asked, puzzled.

"Yes, sir," the ten year old gambler replied, smiling brightly. "Perhaps instead of performing manial labor, I may earn my weekly income another way. By winning it."

"Winnin' it?" Chris asked, really perplexed now.

"You said that I could not gamble any longer," Ezra told him, "but did say I could play a friendly game of cards, correct?"

"Yeah, I did," Chris said, wonderin' where the boy was going with this.

"You also said you did not approve of boys betting money, correct?" the ten year old con artist asked next.

"Yeah," the black-clad lawman replied, hands on his hips. "Mind lettin' me know where all this is leadin' to, son?"

"Well, Sir," Ezra told him, "I propose you and I play a 'friendly' game of poker ever Friday evening. Should I win, I recieve my allowance...as I will have essentially 'earned' it."

"And if I win?" Chris asked, smirking. He wasn't that bad at poker himself, after all.

"Well," Ezra said, thinking, "I..." He stopped. He hadn't thought about if he lost. He wasn't counting on losing, after all.

Chris had to hand it to Maude—she had certainly taught her boy well.

No wonder he could beat the pants off people in cards.

Oddly enough, he felt a strong sure of paternal pride in the boy's use of such an obvious con tactic.

He reached out a hand.

"How about if I win," he told him, "you still get your allowance...only not all of it for that week. Let's say, you'll only get half of it. Then the next week, you'll have the chance to win...uh, 'earn'...that half PLUS the full amount for that week. How about it?"

Ezra smiled. This was perfect!

This would allow him to keep up his card playing skills, without breaking the new rules set for him, and allow him to spend time with his father as well.

"Then, Mr. Larabee," he told him, "we have an agreement." They shook hands on it.

Chris chuckled, and cupped the boy on the chin.

"Good," he said, but then gave him a stern look, "but if I hear you bettin' any of the money you 'earn' then not only will you not be gettin' it that week but you'll also earn a trip over my knee to boot. Understand?"

There, that was putting it plain and straight.

Ezra gulped. He had not doubt the man would do just that.

"Yes, Sir," he told him, "and I promise. Any card playing done between anyone else but you and I will be of the strictly 'friendly' variety."

Chris nodded at the boy. "All right, son," he said, smiling. "Now, if we're done renegociatin', let's head over and get JD. I don't know 'bout you but I'm starvin'!"

Ezra smiled. "I could do with a bite to eat myself, sir," he told him. "It seems renegotiation works up an appetite."

Chris laughed and shook his head as they made their way down the stairs of the boarding house.

He reached over and pulled the boy closer to his side, wrapping an arm around his shoulders.

He was a little surprised when Ezra leaned his head against his side.

He smiled down at the boy, and Ezra smiled back up at him.

At that moment, there was no doubt in Chris Larabee's mind.

Ezra was his, and no one was ever going to take his boy away from him again.

Together, father and son walked on.

For the moment, both were completely and utterly content.

The End.