Disclaimer: This story is a work of fan fiction based on CBS's The Magnificent Seven. It is not intended to infringe on the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, Trilogy, or any other PTB. The characters, setting, and concept are not mine, but the story is. I would prefer not to have it turn up anywhere I didn't put it.

Rated G

Thanks to Shellie for the idea. Feedback appreciated.

by Katie

"Nothing like a good fight to get the blood stirring."  Buck ducked a flying chair and winced as it shattered against the wall.  "Hard on the furniture, though."

"Yosemite charges a fortune to replace those," Ezra said morosely, stepping out of the way of a flying bottle.  He tossed back a shot of whiskey with a grimace.  "You'd think he imported the timber from England."

One of the brawlers reeled out of the fray.  Buck shoved him back in.  "What are you griping about?  You don't even own the place anymore."

"It's the principle . . . " Ezra pulled a pistol out of one of the fighter's hands before he could hit another man over the head with it.  " . . . of the matter.  Fair recompense for the quality and quantity of work produced.  Shouldn't we put a stop to this?"

Buck surveyed the room.  At least ten combatants ranged across the field of battle, weilding chairs and broken bottles and a few table legs here and there.  A few farmers, two or three ranchhands, and a scattering of townsfolk, each waging war with cheerful abandon.  Tensions had been high lately.

"Nah.  Haven't seen Chris having this much fun in a while."

Ezra looked over to where Chris was pounding on a farmer and nodded.  "He does seem to be enjoying himself.  I am a little more concerned, however, that Mr. Dunne might be finding himself out of his depth."

Buck stepped out of the way as Bob Sykes, the town's barber, went flying over the bar.  After glancing over to make sure the man wasn't too badly injured, Buck turned back to the fight.  He spotted JD across the room, dodging the somewhat clumsy blows of a drunken ranchhand.

"Kid needs the experience."  Buck grinned.  "He's getting to where he hits pretty good."

"An enviable accomplishment, I'm sure."  Ezra poured himself another drink.  "That man is twice his size."

"And JD's twice as fast."  Buck shrugged.  "I'm watching.  He gets in any real trouble, I'll pull him out."

Ezra raised his glass in acknowledgement, gracefully stepping back to avoid a pair of struggling townsmen.  "In that case, may I offer you a drink?"

"Thank you kindly, Ezra."  Buck grabbed a shot glass from behind the bar and held it out for Ezra to fill.  The whiskey burned the back of his throat going down.  He sighed in satisfaction as he leaned back to enjoy the ruckus.

His eyes strayed back over to where JD was still whaling away at the drunken ranchhand.  JD seemed to be holding his own in spite of his opponent's size.  He slid easily under a wild swing and shot a hard right upward into the other man's breastbone.  The ranchhand staggered back.  JD followed up with a left to the ribs.

"Good boy," Buck muttered approvingly, and ducked another chair.

Then the ranchhand seemed to get his second wind.  He drove his fist into JD's face hard enough that Buck heard the crack from where he was standing.  Red blossomed from JD's nose and lip as he fell backwards.  Buck started to settle back as he saw JD pushing himself up, but then the ranchhand kicked him, sending him sliding back across the floor.

And Buck was across the room, shoving the ranchhand into the wall, holding him there by his collar.  "That," he said, slamming the man's head back against the wood with a satisfying thunk, "wasn't real nice of you, mister.  Or real smart."

He heaved the ranchhand back against the wall again, but didn't have time to press his point before a loud shot echoed through the room.

"Gentlemen," Ezra said from by the bar, surveying the room with a look of disgust on his face and a fresh whiskey stain on his vest, "and I use that term optimistically, I do believe you have had your fun for the evening.  I suggest you clear out immediately, or else I may be forced to do something drastic."

The saloon was empty in a matter of moments.  Reluctantly, Buck let the ranchhand go with the others.  He would have prefered pounding on the man a little more, but Ezra had been known to be unreasonable when his wardrobe became involved.

JD pushed himself to his feet, ignoring the hand Buck offered him.  He touched his nose gingerly, wincing.

"You all right, JD?" Buck asked.

"Yeah," JD answered, using the back of his hand to wipe at the blood that still trickled down his chin.  "I'm fine.  Buck?"

His voice sounded odd, thin and distant.  It probably was the result of being hit in the mouth, but Buck felt a twinge of unease all the same.  He took a step closer, intending to get a better look at JD's injury even if the younger man put up a fuss.

JD blinked at him, a slow movement that seemed to take more effort than it should.  Then with a boneless grace he folded downward, one hand stretching out uselessly as if to catch himself.

Buck lunged.  His fingers brushed cloth and then latched on, catching JD just in time to keep his head from cracking against the floor.  Easing him down the rest of the way, Buck held his breath until he felt the steady rise and fall of JD's ribs, then let it out in a relieved sigh.  JD's skin was white against the stark red of the blood, but his eyelids were already starting to flutter open.

"What the hell?"

Chris loomed over them.  He was sporting a split lip of his own and a dark scowl that Buck recognized for the worry it hid.

"He'll be all right."  Buck took off his hat and fanned JD's face.  "Got hit in the face and the wind knocked out of him, then tried to stand up too fast after.  No permanent damage."

"I'll get Nathan just the same," Ezra said, peering over Chris's shoulder.

Chris nodded sharply, and Ezra headed for the doors.  Buck patted JD's cheek with his free hand.  

"Come on, son, time to wake up.  No napping on the job."

"Go 'way." Frowning, JD reached up and pushed Buck's hand away and opened his eyes.  "What happened?"

"You ran into some cowboy's fist.  Looks like it was harder than your head," Buck answered cheerfully.  "How you feeling?"

"Like I been kicked by a mule."  JD touched his lip with careful fingers and grimaced.  "You sure it was a cowboy?"

"Well, he was mighty ugly."  

Above them, Chris laughed as he turned back to the bar.  "Looks like you're going to live, kid.  Either of you boys feel like a drink?"

JD felt his split lip with the tip of his tongue, wincing again.  "Think I'll pass."  Accepting Buck's hand, he pulled himself up into a sitting position.  "Ow."

"Better stay put till Nathan gets here."  Buck rested a hand on his shoulder, steadying and restraining at the same time.  "You keel over again, he won't be too happy."

"Me neither."  JD rubbed his chin, studying the blood that came away on his fingers with morbid fascination.  "Buck, do me a favor?  Next time I decide to get in a fistfight with someone the size of a barn door, just point me in the direction of Yosemite's old mule and save us all some trouble, all right?"

Buck grinned.  "It's a deal."