What If…

By JudyL

August 24, 2011


This story, or set of stories, is in response to another VinFD list challenge. We were to choose one of the questions below and write a story in 100-500 words based on it. Of course, my muse couldn’t be satisfied with just ‘one’ and I tried to tie them together a bit as well. Hope you like it


What if Ezra lost his favorite deck of cards?

What if Chris wasn't the fastest draw?

What if JD decided to change his hat?

What if Buck lost his animal magnetism?

What if Vin actually learned to play something recognizable on the harmonica?

What if Josiah really did see some crows?

What if Nathan was the one injured or sick?




What if Ezra lost his favorite deck of cards?

468 words

Ezra opened the next drawer in his dresser, pulling it hard enough to remove it from the piece of furniture all together. He pulled the clothing from the drawer, tossing it heedlessly onto the floor, his motions becoming more and more frantic. The gambler stood raking a hand through his hair as he turned to survey his room. Where did I put them?

He crossed to the bed and lifted the mattress, shoving it hard enough that it landed on its side on the floor with a thump. Nothing. Ezra dropped to his knees and looked under the bed frame, then sat back in defeat. How could I have lost them?

The door to his room opened and with a twist of his body and his wrist, Ezra aimed his derringer at the intruder.

Chris Larabee stood with his own weapon drawn, ready for danger that didn’t appear. He calmly holstered his gun as he surveyed the room. Every drawer in the room had been pulled from its socket and dumped on the floor. The closet door sat open, signs of similar upheaval visible in the form of hangers and clothing tumbled together just inside.

“Ezra?” Chris asked, taking a step inside and closing the door.

Ezra slowly replaced his derringer in its rigging and sighed. “I do apologize, Mr. Larabee.” He didn’t have the energy for a sarcastic retort or indignant protest to his leader’s unexpected presence.

“I heard some suspicious noises,” Chris explained when Ezra didn’t ask why he was here. “Thought you were in trouble.”

Ezra shook his head sadly and pushed himself up off the floor. “No, but thank you for your concern on my behalf,” he said despondently, moving around the bed to right the mattress.

Chris moved over to help settle the mattress back in place. “Something I can help you with?” he asked cautiously, knowing how much each of his friends hated ‘needing’ help, himself included.

“No… I don’t believe… that is,” Ezra sat heavily on the bed and sighed. “It’s silly.”

Chris sat on the edge of the bed, careful to keep his tone neutral. “Doesn’t seem silly if it’s got you this upset,” he said waving his hand to indicate the upheaval in the room.

Ezra looked around and gave a weak chuckle. He glanced at Chris then away, staring at his hands. “I misplaced a deck of cards.” He waited for laughter and when none came, he went on. “They were a gift from my father, before he died. I’ve had them for years and now I can’t find them.”

Chris nodded knowing how much losing something that tied you to a loved one could hurt. “Want some help looking?” he asked sincerely.

Ezra blinked hard before he looked up at Chris with a grateful smile and nodded.


What if Chris wasn't the fastest draw?

499 words

Chris eyed his friends speculatively. Was it really something he wanted to confirm? Did he really need to know who was the fastest?

Vin, Nathan and Josiah were usually more interested in making sure they hit their target. Buck was pretty fast, but Chris already knew he was faster than his old friend. Buck took it in stride, saying he’d rather have a reputation with the ladies than with fast guns. Chris grinned to himself.

Ezra could hit any target at short range and had the advantage of being a good shot with both hands, a trait that JD shared, though he still tended to try and be too fancy with his shooting to be as accurate as Chris knew he could be.

Thing was, lately, he’d seen how fast JD and Ezra were with their guns. Of course, that pop gun of Ezra’s didn’t count, but the man had two other regular weapons that weren’t for show.

When Rafael had challenged him some time back, Chris had avoided a direct confrontation and show of skill. He had managed to get away from his fast gun reputation during his time in Four Corners and didn’t really want to be facing down green horns looking to make a name by taking down the great Chris Larabee.


Would it be so bad if one of his friends was faster? Chris couldn’t decide. His trigger finger was itching to get in on the competition the others had set up. It was safe here on his land, away from prying eyes. Only the seven of them would know.

Chris sighed. But what if he wasn’t the fastest? That was what he was known for in their little group, well, that and his glare. Chris grinned again. And wearing black. He shook his head looking down at his dark blue shirt still not sure why that legend perpetuated.

He stood and walked over to where Ezra and JD were squaring off, having beaten the others in their test of skill. “Mind if I join you?” Chris asked with a feral grin. He may not be the fastest, but speed wasn’t everything. Intimidation counted for a lot.

Ezra grinned back. “Certainly, sir,” he said with an inviting wave of his hand.

JD pulled himself to his full height, smiled slightly and nodded. “Sure, Chris.”

“All right,” Buck said. “On three, pull your guns and fire. We’ll judge who hit their target first.”

“One… two… three…”

The sound of metal slipping over leather, a shot, or was it three, smoke wafted from the end of three guns, three sets of questioning eyes.

The judges conferred, seemingly in agreement.

“Well?” Chris asked with a growl.

“Well,” Josiah answered with a shrug. “We think it was a tie.”

“A tie?” JD and Ezra asked incredulously.

Buck shrugged. “It was so fast, it’s hard to say, but, yeah. It looked like you all hit your targets at the same time.”

Chris smiled slowly. He was okay with sharing.


What if JD decided to change his hat?

484 words

JD tapped his hat on his leg and paced in front of the Potter’s store, stopping to look in the window for a moment before putting his hat on going inside. He stopped just inside the door and pulled his hat off again.

“JD,” Mrs. Potter greeted with a nod.

“Ma’am,” he returned. JD moved slowly to the display of men’s clothing. The selection was sparse, but included everything from jeans to fine suits. And a number of different hats.

JD studied the selection and shook his head. He loved his bowler, but the harsh sun, rain and wind had done their work on it and it needed replacement. At least this one hadn’t met its end to bullet holes. JD grinned remembering.

His grin faded as he recalled the contest the seven had had a few weeks back. JD wasn’t sure it was as great as he’d thought it would be to know he was as fast a draw as Chris Larabee. But it had made him think about things, about how much his life had changed since he jumped off that stage. About all the guidance he’d received from these six men he considered more than friends.

It had made him wonder if maybe he should get a hat that said something about that change, that would show the world he wasn’t the same naďve kid he’d been when he first arrived.

JD opened the catalog on the shelf and flipped to the page showing the latest fashions. Some were just silly, who would wear a top hat in a gun fight? JD grinned thinking of Top Hat Bob. Buck would definitely knock that one off his head and probably stomp on it.

The flat brimmed hats, like Ezra’s and Chris’s were nice. He didn’t think he’d ever live it down if he got a hat like Buck’s.

“Doing some shopping, John Dunne?” Josiah asked, startling JD.

“Oh, hey Josiah. Yeah, time for a new hat, this one’s plumb wore out.”

Josiah nodded. “A difficult decision,” he said sagely.

JD frowned.

Josiah read the question in his eyes and continued as he looked at the catalogue. “A man’s hat tells a lot about him. Who he believes himself to be, how much he believes in himself. And yet it must also provide protection. Sometimes those needs don’t fit all in one hat.” He winked at JD and walked over to talk to Mrs. Potter.

JD looked down at the catalogue again, then down at his battered bowler. He buffed the top lightly with one hand, set it on his head and looked into the mirror on the shelf. It didn’t have much of a brim compared to some hats, but it made him look and feel like… JD Dunne, sheriff, one of the Seven. JD grinned. That was good enough for him.

“Hey, Mrs. Potter, I need to place a catalogue order…”


What if Buck lost his animal magnetism?

497 words

Buck sank down in the chair outside the jail and sighed. He fingered his bare lip and frowned. Millie and Janie walked by and he straightened, smiling what he thought was his usual charming smile, but the ladies just nodded at him and continued on by.

“I’ve lost it,” he muttered to himself, sagging back into the chair.

It had all started a week ago, right after the seven had come back into town after their little shooting competition. They’d walked into the saloon right into the middle of a bar fight. Buck never had figured out what started it, but it ended with him getting a chair across the side of his head.

When he awoke, it was to find that Nathan had shaved off his mustache to treat a cut. Oh, Nathan had been apologetic. Evidently the cut on his upper lip hadn’t been as severe as Nathan feared, but until he had shaved Buck’s magnificent mustache, he hadn’t been able to tell.

Buck had expected sympathy from the ladies, but instead he’d found himself sorely lacking in female companionship the last few days. Somehow he’d lost his animal magnetism.

Though Buck had always been proud of his ‘stache, he’d never really equated it with his prowess with the fairer sex. But, after this dry spell, he was beginning to wonder. He shook his head, rubbing at the light stubble that was the beginning of his new mustache.

“Problem, Bucklin?” Vin asked, taking a seat beside his friend.

Buck shrugged disconsolately. “You ever wonder what makes a person attractive to the opposite sex?

Vin raised his eyebrows. “Never really thought about it. Suppose it depends on the individuals involved.”

Buck nodded thoughtfully then sat forward with his elbows on his knees. “Think I lost it,” he said softly.

Vin frowned. “Lost what, Buck?”

“My animal magnetism. Ain’t had a single ‘date’ since…” he fingered his upper lip.

Vin held his grin in check by sheer force of will. “You think…” he paused dramatically, “you think it’s ‘cause you don’t have your mustache?”

Buck shrugged, slumping back in his chair again. “I don’t know, Vin. I just know that nary a lady in this town has looked my way since it happened! That can’t be a coincidence, now can it?” he asked looking Vin in the eye.

Vin bit his lower lip hard to keep from laughing. This was going better than he had ever planned. He couldn’t believe a few words of caution to the ladies in town had gone over so well. Words of warning that Buck was a mite self-conscious about his bare upper lip. That was all it had taken to convince them to not ‘stare’ at Buck and thus had kept them away from the ladies man all together. Vin couldn’t wait to tell Ezra and JD.

“Well, Bucklin,” he said finally. “I wouldn’t worry about it. Figure in a few more weeks, when your ‘stache is back, things’ll pick up.”


What if Vin actually learned to play something recognizable on the harmonica?

499 words

Vin leaned back against the tree blowing softly on his harmonica. Peso snorted, shook his head then went back to cropping the grass at his feet. Vin grinned then frowned slightly. “Ain’t so bad,” he said looking down at the instrument.

He’d never had anyone teach him how to play, had never really wanted to learn to blow real tunes into the harmonica. The harmonica had been his pa’s. It was his only connection to his father. Somehow he’d equated playing music people knew with sharing that connection and that wasn’t something he wanted to do. Blowing random tones kept it private-like.

Vin sighed letting his head tip back against the tree. He couldn’t remember his father, just stories of him that he vaguely recalled his mother telling. Was it wrong to want to keep his only connection with his father to himself?

The warm sun lulled the young man to sleep.

Matt Tanner lifted his son into the air eliciting a giggle as they spun around. “More pa! More!” Vin begged as his father set him on the ground.

“Later, kiddo. It’s time for supper, let’s clean up before your ma comes lookin’ for us.”


After dinner, Matt pulled out his harmonica and started to play a tune. Vin crawled up into his lap and settled his head against his pa’s chest, hearing and feeling the music at the same time. Matt stopped playing thinking his son was asleep, but a soft, sleepy “More pa,” made him smile. He shared the smile with his wife and caressed the blond head. “All right, Vin. One more then it’s time for bed.

Vin nodded and sighed happily as the music filled their small home.

Vin sat up with a start wondering what had woken him. He saw Peso a few yards away trying to reach a patch of grass just outside his reach, but everything else seemed calm. He took a deep breath and stretched feeling peaceful in a way that he couldn’t explain.

Later that evening, as the sun was setting and he was making a last tour of the town with Chris, Vin pulled out his harmonica. They paused to lean against the post in front of the saloon and Vin put the instrument to his lips.

Chris grimaced in anticipation and was surprised to hear a sweet lullaby. He glanced at Vin out of the corner of his eye and then turned to look straight at him, surprised again at the peaceful expression on his friend’s face.

“That was nice,” he said softly when Vin finished.

The tracker ducked his head, tapped the harmonica to clear the moisture and slipped it into his pocket. After a few moments he sighed. “Was somethin’ my pa used to play,” he said softly.

Chris nodded, a flash of understanding coming to him. He gave Vin a small smile and tilted his head. “Best finish up.” The two men continued down the boardwalk as the sun dipped below the horizon.


What if Josiah really did see some crows?

460 words

Josiah knew it was not logical, but he couldn’t help himself. They had to go.

Normally he would have just shot at the black birds of death, but these particular crows had settled in and nested… on the roof of his home no less. It was indecent and petrifying and Josiah couldn’t take it a moment longer.

It was only by the grace of God that some horrible evil hadn’t befallen the entire town with this pair of harbingers hanging about. Sure, the others had laughed calling him superstitious, but Josiah knew better. Crows were Death’s notice and he didn’t want to know when Death was on his doorstep. He preferred to be surprised.

So here he was, climbing up onto the roof of the church to do battle.

Down below he could hear his friends and some of the townsfolk talking. He was certain there was a betting pool. Oh, not on whether he’d fall, he had taken the precaution of securing himself with a rope, but Ezra had surely found something to wager on.

Josiah sighed as he grabbed the edge of the steeple and levered himself higher. He could see the raggedy nest perched on the top ridge of the roof against the outer wall of the steeple. Thankfully, the crows had flown away after a few shots to discourage them. Still, the nest had to go, then hopefully they wouldn’t come back.

The preacher worked his way around the steeple, ignoring Nathan’s calls to come down before he slipped and fell. The wooden shingles were a bit slippery with the recent rain, but he would be fine with his tether. No crows would get him today.

Josiah reached the pinnacle of the roof and braced himself carefully before reaching for the nest. It was surprisingly difficult to pull away from the roof. Evidently the crows had tucked the foundation of the nest tightly into any crevices, but with one final yank, Josiah was able to dislodge the nest and toss it to the ground on the backside of the church. He didn’t want to hit any of the bystanders in the front.

He heard a cheer go up and smiled at his little triumph. Pumping one fist in the air, Josiah adjusted his foot to face the crowd below and cried out when he felt his boot slip. He landed on his rump but slid only a few feet as he grabbed the rope anchoring him to the roof. Tiles skittered down the roof and slipped off the edge.

Josiah sighed. He was fine. The crows hadn’t won this time.

He couldn’t hear the quiet orders below and wouldn’t know until he reached the ground that one of the tiles had hit Nathan on the head.


What if Nathan was the one injured or sick?

500 words

Nathan opened his eyes, closing them quickly as the light speared into his head.

“Hold on, let me close the curtains,” a familiar voice said. Nathan kept his eyes closed tightly. “All right, open them slowly.”

He heeded the advice and slowly opened his eyes, relieved when he saw that it was much darker now and less painful. “What happened?” he asked.

Ezra poured a glass of water and helped him sit up. “You were in a most unfortunate position when our dear preacher decided to begin reroofing the church.”

Nathan blinked. “Huh?” His head hurt too much to decipher Ezra’s riddles.

Ezra smiled softly. “Do you remember Josiah going after that crow’s nest?”

Nathan frowned but nodded.

“Well, upon completion of that task, he misstepped and loosened several of the shingles, one of which landed on your head,” Ezra explained.

Nathan gingerly touched the top of his head, surprised to find a small bare patch of scalp with several rough knots of sutures crossing it.

“Yes, I’m afraid it cut a fairly good-sized gash,” Ezra said. “But now that you’re awake, we shall all rest much easier.” He stood taking the now empty glass back to the table before moving idly around the room.

“What are you doing here, Ezra?” Nathan asked, laying back on the bed. He’d have expected Josiah or Vin or any one of the others to be by his side when he woke, not the Southerner.

“It was my turn to watch over you,” Ezra said casually, briefly taking a seat in the chair on the other side of the bed before moving restlessly back to the book shelf. “You’ve been unconscious for almost twenty-four hours now. We didn’t want to leave you alone.”

Nathan blinked in surprise. “Must have had a concussion.” He frowned as he watched Ezra fidgeting. What was wrong with the man?

“Yes, that much we discerned. Fortunately, you have not acquired an infection from your laceration and appear to have regained all of your faculties,” Ezra said casting a relieved smile Nathan’s way before continuing his restless path.

“Ezra,” Nathan said firmly, “sit down, you’re making me dizzy.”

Ezra returned to the chair beside him. “I do apologize, Nathan.” He sat for a moment, then stood. “Would you like something to eat?”

Nathan shook his head. He was a little nauseous. “Could use some more water though.”

Ezra nodded and went to fill the glass. Nathan wondered what was making the gambler so fidgety. Usually, when Ezra was anxious, he’d just pull out a deck of cards and… Nathan leaned over and opened the drawer in the table by the bed.

“Hey, Ezra,” he said holding his hand out, “you left these here a few weeks ago, when you got grazed by that bullet. Kept meaning to give them to you.”

Ezra looked at the deck in Nathan’s hands and seemed to relax right before the healer’s eyes. “Thank you, Nathan. I’ve been looking everywhere for these.”

“Glad to help.”

The end

Feedback is great, send me some, please. JudyL

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