RATING: PG....for some light swearing
STATUS: Complete
CATEGORY: OW - challenge
MAJOR CHARACTERS: Ezra, JD, Josiah and Buck
DISCLAIMERS: This is fanfiction. No profit involved. This story is based on the television series "The Magnificent Seven". No infringement upon the copyrights held by CBS, MGM, Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp. or any others involved with that production is intended.
NOTE: This is in response to Jean's April 2001 Magnifiction Challenge  "For this challenge I'm going to give you the title and three key words (which must appear at some stage in the story); from there it's up to you. It should be short, no more than 3000 words, but can be about any or all of the seven in which ever AU you choose, provided you have permission to write in it. The title is: FIGURE OF SPEECH. The key words are: chiseler, harass and furtive."
FEEDBACK: Yes please! comments and suggestions are greatly appreciated. 
DATE: Finished April 11, 2001

Figure of Speech
By NotTasha...figuratively speaking 

"Ya damn chiseler!"  the wrangler barked as he threw down his cards.  "I ain't stayin' 'round this crooked game fer one minute more!"  He glared menacingly at the man who held the deck before he snatched up the meager remains of his stake and stalked out the door.

JD frowned as the man left the saloon and turned his gaze on Ezra, who was busily straightening the bills that had, until recently, belonged to the wrangler and to the other two men at the table.  "Why does he think you're a wood carver?"

Ezra raised an eyebrow and Josiah laughed.  "Son," the preacher said, "the man said that our friend here cheats."

Standish looked deeply hurt. "The game may have been crooked, but it was not my doing. Our erstwhile companion was hoarding cards.  His furtive attempts were sloppy at best"

"So you out-cheated him," Josiah declared.

"Only to stop his efforts," Ezra scoffed.  "If I had not, he would have carried off all our hard earned cash."

"As it is," Josiah said, "You're the one doin' the carrying. It looks like you did rather well." Josiah sighed discontentedly and nodded to the large stack of cash that sat beside the gambler's left hand.

Ezra smiled.  "Ah yes, such are the spoils."  He shrugged and continued, "At least it is I who benefited.  You can take comfort in that."

"Yeah, that's a comfortable thought," JD grumbled. "So you cheated us, too?"

Ezra's eyes were wide with innocence. "No, my friend, I only manipulated the cards against the miscreant who dared to try me. Your poor card playing is a matter you'd best take up with yourself."

Dunne sighed and fingered his last few coins. His expression was dour and his eyes downcast. "Well, I'd better quit while I still got a couple of dollars left. I wanted to get somethin' for Casey and it should be somethin' better than a frog gigger this time."

"Ah, young love," Ezra sighed, placing his hand on his chest. "It warms the cockles of one's heart."

"Well, in any case," JD said sourly.  "I'd better take what I got left and go."

"Please, Mr. Dunne, the night has just begun and you have enough for another hand," Ezra stated as he shuffled.

"Don't harass the kid!" Buck stated, suddenly appearing at the table. He had been at the bar with the others until this point, watching the lopsided game. He had kept his hand near his gun as he observed the obvious cheat. The stealthy cheat was a concern as well. Ezra usually had the common decency to allow his opponents to leave the table with their pride intact and enough money to call it a fair evening.  If this was a new tactic for Standish, Wilmington wanted to find out what the heck was going on.

"Lord, you nearly cleaned out both of 'em." Buck pointed out to the gambler, but was met with cool and indifferent green eyes.  He turned to the others and stated, "And ya'll should have more sense when Ezra's in a 'mood'."

Josiah sighed sadly as he eyed his own small remainder. "It would be nice to have a little left for the church. There's plenty that needs to be done yet and it won't be accomplished with this paltry sum."

"One more hand," Ezra said, concentrating on the cards that flew through his hands like birds. "Five card stud?"

JD rubbed two coins together. "Okay, I'm in. I 'spect I wouldn't know what to get her in any case." He threw one of the coins into the middle of the table.

"In for a penny, in for a pound," Josiah intoned as he anted and Ezra followed.

Buck huffed in disbelief. "Like lambs in the fold."

"What?" JD asked as his cards were dealt.

"Ah, figure of speech, kid," Buck replied.

"Mr. Wilmington," Ezra said as he set down the deck to pick up his cards. "You've managed to mangle two turns-of-phrase into one incompressible mess."

"What did he mean to say?" JD picked up his cards and tried desperately to keep his face still – three-of-a-kind! He placed his bet.

"I believe he meant to say either 'like lambs to the slaughter' or 'a wolf in the fold'."  Ezra smiled as Josiah grimaced and tossed his cards onto the table. "Either way, I don't come off well." He raised the bet and nodded to JD.

The kid quickly added what was left of his money. After the coins were deposited, he wondered if he should have hesitated a moment first, make it look like he had reason to doubt. But, damn, this was the best hand he had had all night. He couldn't stop the grin that formed on his face. "So, Buck here thinks you're either a wolf or a butcher?"

"Not a lamb," Josiah added softly.  "I think we can all agree to that one."

"Figure of speech," Buck said again as he gazed at JD's cards. He grinned and squeezed Dunne's shoulder. The kid might actually have a chance this time.

"I call," Ezra declared, adding the appropriate amount.

JD displayed his cards and Ezra's face twitched. "You've bested me, Mr. Dunne," Ezra said as he dropped his cards facedown onto the table.

"I knew I'd win that one!" JD crowed as he raked in his winnings. "I just knew it! Three-of-a-kind!  Dang good hand!"

"Ya pulled one over on our wolf here." Buck chuckled. "Think you can handle that, Ez?"

Standish rolled his eyes. "When one plays the game, Mr. Wilmington, one must be ready to lose every now and again." Ezra glanced to the preacher. "You have enough for another round."

"I know I'm in!" JD said with a laugh, tossing in his ante.

Josiah gestured to the few coins that still remained before him. "I was hoping to win enough tonight to buy the wood to finish the pews in the church. I don't even have enough for the nails now."

"Then there’d be no harm in losing it," Ezra answered with a mild expression.

Buck watched as another hand was dealt and JD ended up with crap. The kid quickly tossed the cards to the table with a groan of disgust. Wilmington changed his position to see what Sanchez held… two pair. He tried to maneuver to see Standish's hand, but there was no point in that as the gambler sat with his back to the wall and was well aware of Buck's intent.

The game went as Buck suspected and Sanchez was soon smiling over his winnings. Both JD and Josiah were significantly happier as the cards were dealt out again.  Buck waited until he saw a full house in JD's hand, and then left the table with a shake of his head.

Vin, Chris and Nathan were still where he left them, leaning against the bar.

"Everythin' alright over there?" Chris asked, nodding to the table just as JD broke off with a gleeful shout.  They watched as the kid leaned over the table and raked in another pot. Josiah sat back and watched with a contemplative look on his face while Ezra shuffled without meeting anyone’s eyes.

"Yup," Wilmington said as he picked up his mug.

Nathan then asked, "They playin' nice?"

Buck laughed.  "Like lambs in the fold."

THE END - by NotTasha
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