The Henshaws Are A-Coming.

Standard Fanfic Disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: These aren't my characters. (Excepting for the Henshaws, of course.) I'm just borrowing them for um, er, typing practice. Yeah, that's it, typing practice. They will be returned to their original owners unharmed, or at least suitably bandaged. This is the fourth chapter in the Mrs. Standish AU, originally published in the fanzine Let's Ride #8. You might want to ride chapters one through three first. It's Mary Sue, it's AU, and it's part of a continuing series. If you don't care for AUs, Mary Sues, or multi-part stories, you might want to read something else.

The Henshaws are A-Coming

by Susan M. M.

Magnificent Seven, Old West: Mrs. Standish AU

"Hey, Deputy."

Startled, JD Dunne looked up from the dime novel he was reading. He looked barely old enough to shave, so it wasn't surprising a stranger thought the brown-haired young man was the deputy instead of the sheriff.

"Looking for a card cheat name of Stanton or Stanley, something like that," continued the stranger. He was a big, beefy man with sandy-blond hair. Next to him stood another stranger, like enough in visage to be his brother, but with light brown hair. Both were dressed like cowboys; both were armed.

"You mean Ezra Standish? He don't cheat at cards," JD protested.

"Ezra Standish," repeated the second man. "That him?"

The first one nodded. "Where'd we find this louse?"

"Likely at the saloon." It occurred to JD – somewhat belatedly – that Ezra might not want these men to find him. "You might try the Lazy Hawk, north end of town." That wasn't quite a lie, since he simply suggested they try the Lazy Hawk, and hadn't said that Ezra would be there. He knew perfectly well that Ezra would be at his own saloon, the Queen of Diamonds.

"Much obliged, Deputy." The two turned to leave.

JD had the sense to wait until the door was closing behind them before he called out, "It's not deputy, it's sheriff."

oOo oOo oOo

Marina Standish stepped out of the butcher's shop. She hoped Ezra would like the pork chops she had bought for tonight's dinner. She glanced up and saw five men ride past. She shrunk back into the doorway, praying they wouldn't see her.

As soon as they were past, she ran south, heading for Ezra. She had to warn him.

oOo oOo oOo

"Ezra!"

Startled, the gambler looked up. His jade-green eyes blazed at his wife. "I thought I told you never to come in here."

"The Henshaws are here. They must be looking for me – looking for us."

Ezra frowned. His memories of his in-laws were unpleasant. He had no desire to renew the acquaintanceship.

"They're armed to the teeth. They're going to kill you, Ezra," Marina said.

"Better men than they have tried." Nonetheless, Ezra went behind the bar and put on the holster with the Colts he kept there for emergencies.

"I'm not going back with them," she insisted.

"I should be so lucky," he muttered. Louder, he replied, "Of course not. Don't worry, I wouldn't send my worst enemy back to the Henshaws."

"There are five of them, Mr. Standish."

"And three of us," Chris said. He looked over at Buck, who nodded. Ezra might have been a rapscallion, but he was their rapscallion. They wouldn't let him face his enemies alone.

"Go over to the church. Josiah will take care of you," Ezra told her. "Wait there. You'll be safe."

"But–"

"Go, I said. Out the back door," Ezra ordered her.

"Yes, Mr. Standish," she submitted reluctantly.

"Don't worry, Mrs. Standish. We'll take care of him," Buck promised her.

Unconvinced, she nodded. "Don't you dare get yourself killed."

"I assure you, madam, it is not in my plans." Ezra watched as she scurried through the back door, making sure she obeyed.

"She's worried for you, Ez," Buck pointed out.

He did not reply.

JD rushed into the saloon. "Ezra, there's strangers in town looking for you."

"I know. My in-laws," the dark-haired cardsharp said. Still, he was pleased to see the young sheriff. Four against five was much better odds.

A few minutes later, the five Henshaws arrived. All looked mean, and ready for trouble.

"We're looking for Ezra Standish," Daniel Henshaw announced. He was a big man. His sandy-blond hair hadn't been near a barber's chair recently.

"You've found him," he replied. His tone was unfriendly.

"Is that him, Daniel? Is he the skunk that seduced our sister?" asked a younger man with brown hair.

"Step-sister," Ezra corrected. "And I didn't seduce her."

"That's him, Zeph." Daniel spit on the floor. "Step outside, Standish. We got unfinished business."

"I have nothing to discuss with you."

The Henshaws laughed. Zephaniah, Rina's step-brother, put his hand on his gun butt. "We ain't planning to talk."

"Not grammatically, at any rate," the gambler muttered under his breath.

"Maybe you ought to reconsider." Larabee stepped forward. He brushed his duster open to reveal his gun. Buck rose, too, and did likewise.

"Sheriff Dunne, as a businessman I reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In-laws or not, these… persons are not welcome in my establishment. Be so kind as to invite them to leave."

"You can't do that to us," Jonas Henshaw protested. And as a Henshaw, he was used to getting his own way.

Daniel looked from Chris to Buck. He ignored JD, who looked more like a boy playing cowboys and Indians than the town's sheriff. "Why you sticking up for him? He ain't nothing but a card cheat."

"I do not cheat at cards," Ezra contradicted him.

Larabee hid a smile. It would be more accurate to say that Ezra did not cheat at cards any more. However, the gunslinger didn't spare the gambler as much as an amused glance. He wasn't about to take his eyes off the Henshaws for even a second. "Why you gunning for him?"

"This rat seduced and stole away our sister," Frank accused, piping up for the first time.

"We came to fetch her back and make him pay for what he did," Daniel said.

"Thanks to your precipitous actions of the previous month, the lady is now under my protection. And she is not desirous of returning to Franklin County with you."

The Henshaws just stared at him.

"Ezra means she don't wanna go," Buck translated. "And if she don't wanna go, y'all ain't gonna make her."

"She's gotta come back," Zeph said, as if stating a law of nature. "Gram said so."

"Your grandmother might own half of Franklin County, but she has no say here," Ezra informed them coldly. "I couldn't care less what she wants."

Frank inhaled sharply. He had never heard anyone speak that way of Gram.

"Step outside, Standish, and we'll settle this matter," Daniel ordered.

"No."

"What did you say?" Daniel couldn't believe his ears. No one ever refused a Henshaw's orders, especially when there were five Henshaws there, all of them armed.

"Get the hell out of my saloon. In fact, Mrs. Standish and I would prefer it if you got the hell out of town. And do not come back," Ezra continued.

"We come to rescue our sister and 'venge her honor," Zeph declared. "We're gonna fetch her back home. If'n you don't wanna step outside, we can take care of you right here."

"Make up your mind. First you forced me to marry the girl because you thought I insulted her honor, now you want to shoot me to avenge her honor?" Ezra rested his right hand on his Colt.

Larabee stepped forward. "Couple ways we could handle this, boys. You could walk away, and no one gets hurt. Sheriff Dunne could escort you out, like Ezra asked, and again, nobody gets hurt. Or you can do something stupid."

Bill Henshaw, playing silent rear-guard by the entrance, looked over the batwing doors. He nodded to his brother and cousins. All five reached for their guns.

Larabee's pistol fired before any of the Henshaws had managed to clear their holsters. The bullet passed through Daniel's sleeve, missing his left wrist by a quarter of an inch.

"They always choose stupid," Buck muttered. He shot only a second after Chris, his bullet grazing Frank's side.

"First shot's a friendly warning. Next warning's not so friendly." Larabee didn't mention that he had been aiming for Daniel's arm, hoping to wing him, and was as surprised as Henshaw was to get nothing but cloth. It wouldn't hurt if they thought he was a better shot than he was. In the mean time, Ezra and JD had drawn their guns.

"Drop 'em, boys," Buck ordered. "So far nobody's hurt bad. Put down your guns and nobody else needs to get hurt."

The Henshaws did not comply.

"Your kinfolk, Ezra. You want 'em dead or just chased out?" Larabee asked the man.

"So long as they leave my establishment, I have no preference whether they walk out under their own power, are escorted to jail by Sheriff Dunne for disturbing the peace, or are carried out feet first." The gambler aimed his Colt at Daniel's head. "Well, I have a slight preference in his case."

Fear shone in Zeph's eyes, fear and confusion. "Carl said he weren't nothing but a cardsharp, that no'un would care if we killed him."

"Carl was wrong," Larabee informed Rina's stepbrother.

"Gram said kill him and fetch Rina back. What're you waitin' for?" Daniel growled at his kinsmen. He fired. After a second's hesitation, his brother and cousins did likewise.

Ezra fired once, then ducked behind the bar. Smoke and noise filled the saloon.

The gambler winced as the mirror behind the bar was hit; mirrors were expensive.

A moment later all five Henshaws were on the floor.

"Everyone all right?" Larabee asked the others.

"Think so," JD replied shakily.

Ezra rose carefully from behind the bar. "What about them?"

Buck approached Zeph cautiously. Rina's stepbrother was trying to struggle to his feet. "Stay down, boy."

Zeph moaned and tried to sit up.

"Stay down," Buck repeated, "or you're gonna have a serious case of dead." He kicked the gun away from the young man.

Larabee went to Daniel, who had a bullet in his shoulder. "You'll live."

Ezra got some rope from behind the bar. Tying the knots just a smidgen more tightly than necessary, he helped Larabee disarm and tie up his in-laws.

"You'd best fetch Nathan," Larabee told the young sheriff. "If he hurries, they'll all live."

"That's a good thing?" Ezra asked him.