by Julia Neal


"Get off me!" Nathan barked, shoving the others away from him and prying himself off the ground. "I'd prefer to keep my limbs intact, if you don't mind."


"But it's called tackle football!" JD complained. "How are we supposed to play it right if you and Ezra keep complaining about it being too rough?"


Ezra looked at Nathan, then they shook their heads in unison and headed for the cabin.


"Where're you goin'?" Buck demanded.


Standish raised an eyebrow. "We prefer to remove ourselves from this vicinity. Having you harass us is not our idea of a pleasant afternoon."


Josiah levered himself up from his seat on the porch, then swung his crutches around and followed the two men inside.


"Spoilsports," JD said.




"You, sir, are a dirty chiseler and I demand recompense!"


"Say what??" JD asked.


"I think our friend means that Chris cheated," Josiah said.




"Just because you cheat doesn't mean Chris does," Buck said, coming between the card players. "War is a game of luck, Ez. It's not possible to cheat."


"Actually, he did cheat," Vin said quietly from the corner. Ignoring his team leader's infamous glare, he walked over and flipped over the deck of cards. "I saw him switch these three cards..." He pulled out a 3, 5, and 2. "With these three..." He revealed an Ace, 10, and King.


"I knew it!" Ezra announced.


"Hold on, there," Vin said, giving Nathan a furtive look. Nathan nodded and quickly left the room before anyone noticed him. "Ezra cheated, too."


"WHAT?!" two voices cried.




After a moment of consternation, two murderous green glares fixed on Nathan. "Give. Me. That. Picture." Chris snarled, climbing to his feet. "Or we'll play tackle football in here."


"Umm... April Fools?" Nathan said uneasily, laying the Polaroid picture on the stereo table behind him.


"That was Sunday. Today, you receive no mercy," Ezra growled.


"Help me out here, Vin!"


Vin backed up quickly, holding up his hands. "Sorry, Nate. You're on your own."


"But this was all your idea, Vin! I'm not taking the fall for you!"


"Vin...?" Chris said sweetly.


Sharpshooter and medic looked at each other with panicked faces, then tucked tail and ran, Nathan out the front door, Vin out the back, Ezra and Chris close on their heels.




From the back porch where they could see the action, Buck and JD triumphantly held up the winning photograph. "I liked our job in this better than theirs," JD said, nodding his head in the direction of Nathan and Vin.


"They're gonna be tired little rabbits when the foxes get them," Buck agreed.


"Say what?"


"Figure of speech, Kid. Feel sorry for the guys-- no one's gonna win this thing. 'Cept us."


They dissolved into helpless laughter, and walked back into the cabin, ignoring the plight of their partners-in-crime.