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26 July 2008 @ 11:19 pm
Mag 7 Fic: Welcome To Four Corners  
(I'm willing to bet that no one on my regular f-list has heard of this fandom!)

Title: Welcome To Four Corners
Rating: PG
Characters: OC, Ezra, Vin
Summary: Young Hettie Henshaw didn’t want to stay in Four Corners and she certainly couldn’t understand why anyone would want to come to the town by choice. Still, she supposed that some men were just different from others.

Author’s Note: Written in reply sfulton229 ’s challenge about why some of the guys ended up in the town. Also, rather cheekily, a prequel to something else I’m writing.


Hettie cautiously looked out into the street, needing to be as sure as she could that nothing was amiss before she left the relative safety of the general store. All seemed quiet but she knew that meant nothing in this town of late, deadly trouble liable to spark up at any moment and for all sorts of reasons. Other towns out in the territories may be getting more civilised but Four Corners certainly wasn’t one of them. In fact, it’d got so bad that her papa had decided it was best if the family moved on to safer parts and in just a few short days now they’d be leaving. Hettie couldn’t say she’d be sad to go, having little love for the town, but even so she’d insisted on coming to work at Mr Potter’s store right up until the end. He’d been good to her and she didn’t want to leave him with no help on such short notice. Besides, her family really needed the money if they were going to settle somewhere new.

Deciding to risk the street, she stepped out onto the boardwalk and began to sweep, clearing the area immediately in front of the store of dust, hay and a few empty liquor bottles. Directly opposite, another man was doing the same outside the hardware store. Catching her eye, he smiled warmly at her, tipping his hat in greeting. She smiled too, risking a ‘good morning, Mr Tanner’ before hurrying back into the shop, wondering if she’d been seen. Mrs Potter had been very disapproving when she’d last spotted Hettie exchanging a friendly word with the town’s newest employee and Hettie didn’t want another scolding. He was far too old for her, the other woman had lectured, and in any case he weren’t the sort of man that a nice, young, respectable girl like her should be seen conversing with. Hettie didn’t think there was much wrong with him herself. True, he weren’t a rich gentleman nor a god fearing farmer, but he was quiet with good manners and an amiable way. There was some mystery about him too which only increased her interest, even though she was too shy to ask him outright. People said he’d lived with the Indians and had learnt their ways and she had to admit there did seem to be something of the wilderness about him.

He was awful handsome as well.

The thought made her smile and she soon found herself half lost in fanciful daydreams about being whisked into the wilds by a passionate, long haired man of secrets who declared that he was so violently in love with her that he couldn’t live without her.

The gentleman who interrupted her thoughts as he entered the shop was quite different from the one in her vision. No less handsome she supposed, but he was neat and well groomed, and there was nothing so earthy about him. When he smiled at her it seemed to be with some amusement at her expense, not with basic friendliness, and she wondered with a blush whether the expression on her face had given her daydreaming away.

“Ma’am,” he said politely, tipping his hat.

A Southerner, his accent revealed. She knew she was young, but Hettie had always considered herself a good judge of people and, despite his fine appearance and decent manners, there was something a little secretive about this man. And not in the good, mysterious way Mr Tanner had. No, this was something more deceitful and it made her a little uncomfortable.

Not that he gave her any real reason to feel so as he casually browsed the shop, seemingly unbothered by her gaze following him. He paused by the gentlemen’s clothing, taking prodigious care in examining the shirts.

“Well,” he spoke up after a moment, apparently totally at ease even if she wasn’t, “I must congratulate you, miss. I certainly did not expect to find such quality merchandise in a backwater town.”

She was a little thrown by that, not knowing whether to be pleased or insulted by the sentiment, but he smiled her at, flashing a wink of gold tooth and not giving her a chance to respond before continuing.

“One of my best shirts suffered an unfortunate fate at the hands of some rather poor losers,” he explained in an easy going drawl, now inspecting the stitching as though with a trained eye, “and a replacement would be most welcome.”

Hettie was curious despite a warning notion that was telling her she should steer well clear of this man.

“Poor losers?”

“Occupational hazard, my dear.”

She was silent, still not quite understanding him and her confusion must have been obvious because when he looked up he felt the need to explain further.

“Not all men are equally blessed in skill at the card table and even fewer have the capacity to lose with grace or dignity.”

In amongst all the unnecessary words and purposely vague reasoning she found one simple fact; he was a gambler. Perhaps that was why she’d sensed such an air of pretence around him. After all, it was part of his work to deceive people.

If you could call what he did ‘work’.

He papa certainly wouldn’t and she doubted Mrs Potter would either. If the woman hadn’t been happy with her talking to Mr Tanner, then Hettie doubted she’d approve of her talking to this man. But she was schooling her children upstairs and what she didn’t know wouldn’t hurt her. Besides, Hettie had never met his type before, Four Corners not exactly being the sort of town that attracted serious card players, and she couldn’t help the small thrill of interest that ran through her. She knew it wasn’t proper but she wondered what it would be like to live in his world; all fancy parties, flowing money, rich food, fine drink, well dressed ladies and neatly groomed men, no doubt.

“So you won then?” she asked, suddenly wanting to keep the conversation going but only realising once she’d spoken what a silly thing it was to say.

He graciously didn’t point that out.

“Several times,” he replied with no attempt at false modesty. “The gentlemen of Mellor Valley are clearly not known for their intellect.”

Her eyes widened a little. “Playing there it was lucky it was only your shirt you ended up losing!”

Mellor Valley was one of the few supposedly respectable towns in the area that had a bigger reputation for violence than Four Corners did. Her papa had gone there a while back, desperately searching for more business and had come home looking ashen faced and exhausted. It was shortly after that he’d announced they were moving back East, saying he didn’t have the stomach for life out here anymore.

The Southerner simply chuckled at her exclamation, his attention fully on her now. “So I hear. And believe me I would not have set foot in such a delightful province if it hadn’t been necessary.”

“Why necessary?”

She knew she shouldn’t ask but the question came out unbidden.

For a moment she thought she saw a flicker of genuine emotion in his face, as though the guise he showed her was a mask and it had somehow slipped. But whatever it was, it had been unreadable to her and he immediately had an easy smile back in place.

“I’d heard a rumour that an old acquaintance of mine may have been there.”

“If they were in Mellor Valley,” she pointed out gravely, “then they only could have been in trouble.”

“Exactly, my dear.”

She knew it was uncharitable that the notion he’d gone somewhere potentially dangerous in order to help a friend was a surprise to her, but in her mind that wasn’t the behaviour of a gambler. Still, she didn’t even know this man and it was unfair to make judgements on his character based upon his profession alone, and so she gave him the benefit of the doubt. Besides, there was something a little charming about him that encouraged you to like him whether you really should or not.

“He wasn’t there then?” she asked before inwardly berating herself for another silly question.

“No,” the man confirmed, and he sounded genuinely disappointed.

Feeling like she was definitely prying too far into his business now, she nodded at the rack of clothes behind him.

“So, do you want that shirt then?”

He shook his head ever so slightly, as though waking himself from a private reverie before he spoke.

“It is very fine, but a little large...”

“Well, if you’re staying a few days we could fix that,” she said eagerly, knowing the Potters could certainly do with the money. “Mr Potter could take your measurements when he’s back this afternoon then I could fix it for you. I’m very neat with a needle and thread.”

She almost sounded too keen to help and she blushed a little in realisation, not wanting him to get the wrong impression. He was handsome enough certainly, but she didn’t have any sudden designs on bagging him as a husband. It was just in her nature to be helpful.

“I’m sure you will,” he said with warm smile, apparently sold on the idea. “I shall return this afternoon then. Now, my dear, I understand this is probably outside your area of expertise but I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of a drinking establishment where one might partake in a game of chance to pass the time.”

Why he didn’t just ask her ‘where’s the saloon?’ she had no idea. He somehow seemed to delight in using as many words as possible. She found it disconcerting in a way, as though he was looking down on her. In fact she just found him confusing all round, wondering how one moment he could seem all charm and the next all superiority.

“Across the street, next to the hardware store,” she replied, deciding not to bother trying to fathom him out, “That’s where the ranch hands go anyway. Papa wouldn’t let my brother be one because he says they all waste their money on whiskey and cards.”

And women too, of course, but she was too polite to mention anything so crude.

He nodded courteously before heading to the door and he was three paces away before she felt compelled to call him back.

“The town’s plenty lively enough though,” she warned, deciding she wouldn’t be able to forgive herself if she didn’t and he got himself killed, “you should be careful.”

He grinned again.

“Trust me, ma’am, I always take extra special care of my own interests.”

She had a feeling that that, without doubt, was the gospel truth.

**********

Ezra arose the next morning with a pained sigh as soon as he remembered where he was. He certainly couldn’t claim that he was overwhelmed by the prospect of spending another day in a small, dusty frontier town like Four Corners.

If he’d had a true choice in the matter he would have taken one look at the place and kept on going. But it was the largest settlement in the immediate area and to get to anywhere else he would’ve had to push his horse hard indeed. The animal was a prized possession and it clearly needed rest, so he’d decided not to chance it.

The town certainly seemed to have quite a reputation from what he’d already gathered in his short time there, but that didn’t really bother him. He was more than capable of taking care of himself. No, it was more the lack of basic amenities and the niceties of life that made him dislike the place. Still, perhaps with it being a town growing ill repute, anyone who’d followed him there might think twice about continuing the pursuit. Yes, uncouth settlements did sometimes have their advantages.

As luck would have it, neither he nor his mother had ever ventured this far and so no one even batted an eyelid when he used the Standish name; a definite advantage when a little healthy anonymity was required. If he was being truly cautious he wouldn’t have given his name at all, but he’d grown more tired recently of pretending to be someone else and the thrill seeker in him had told him to be frivolous and risk it for once.

Still, now he was a little stuck. After the troubles in Fort Laramie and the moment of sentimental madness that had nearly cost him dear by taking him to Mellor Valley, he did really need to lay low for a while. But, neither his finances nor his boredom threshold would allow him to rest on his laurels and do nothing during his stay.

Besides, he needed to pay for that shirt.

Checking his reflection in the mirror, doing the best job he could of dressing well when he was working with second rate material, he decided that he might as well make the most of the few days he would spend here.

After all, who knew what opportunities would arise?

And perhaps now was just the right time to bring the ‘five shots in one hole’ trick out of retirement. He really could do with some practice on that one.
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ex_egorstan on July 27th, 2008 02:04 am (UTC)
This was an interesting answer to the challenge. I enjoyed reading it from Hettie's view point, (I love reading what other people think of the guys).

Thanks for sharing and I look forward to the sequel!
doylefan22: m7 - ezra lose your shirtdoylefan22 on July 27th, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC)
Thanks.

I really liked the idea of having a local's view of Ezra and Vin, seeing how they might appear to an outsider.

As for the sequel, well I'm slowly but surely working on it! :)
sidhe: gambler greenquietcontrary on July 27th, 2008 12:34 pm (UTC)
Nice work! OCs always scare me a bit, but you did a good job. It's good to see Ezra and Vin through the eyes of someone new. And if the promise of a new shirt is what enticed Ezra to stay, I'm very glad your OC is a good seamstress! I really do think your premise is very plausible, though - Ezra was just in town long enough to collect his shirt and go, but got caught up in something wonderful before he could leave.
doylefan22: m7 - ezra lose your shirtdoylefan22 on July 27th, 2008 06:39 pm (UTC)
I think I lose a lot of potential readers by writing OCs but I do enjoy creating new characters and I'm just glad some give them a chance.

Yeah, I always got the impression that Ezra's being there was very much accidental and he was just wandering through.
gemspegasus: Ezraeyes2gemspegasus on July 28th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
Oooh very nice. I like seeing how others view the boys and I'd love to know who Ezra was looking to help out. Maybe in your next story which we look forward to.

Thanks for creating and sharing.

take care,
hugs
Angela
fara: Vin forward-halffarad on July 30th, 2008 11:41 am (UTC)
Good start - I'm looking forward to the rest of what you're writing! wonderful Ezra-voice, and I agree with the comments above; I too love to see the boys as viewed through other eyes.

Thanks!
sfulton229sfulton229 on August 11th, 2008 08:50 pm (UTC)
Great answer to the challenge and a very good reason for Ezra to hang around town. Love that Hettie is interested in Vin. It's nice to see how Ezra comes off to others and Hettie does think he's a bit of a snob. Nice backstory that Ezra was looking to help a friend. Love Ezra's attitude to the town and how eager he is to leave. Thanks for posting this; I'm looking forward to more.