Just Like Dominoes
by: Dede

I'd like to thank my muses, Cindy and Raye, for their help and Cindy for unknowingly providing the title! d;-)

The weather was oppressive, gray and muggy, but the clouds that looked so full wouldn't release their contents. It had been this way going on four days and the town was tired of it. That particular day, everyone was hurrying about their business, trying to get errands and chores done early so they could escape the pressure that the impending rains held over them.

The weather was the last thing on Emma's mind as she exited the dressmaker's, a small smile on her face. The dress would be finished in time. Heading over to Tompkins' store, it was hard to keep her excitement contained and it showed in the slight skip to her step. She'd actually have a tailor-made dress for the dance, a simple cut to show off her figure in a light green fabric with dark-green flowers, colors to accent her eyes and show off her red hair. Also, the dressmaker, Miss Birdseye, had just received an order of bobbin lace that Emma had so admired. Finally, after much convincing, Miss Birdseye had talked her into adding the lace for the collar and cuffs.

She knew it was an extravagance, something she normally didn't do. But for this particular dance, she wanted everything to be perfect. For Sam. Any other time, she'd either make the dress or alter one she'd purchased. But not this time, this was special. She knew it.

Emma suddenly realized she had been lost in her own happy thoughts so she glanced up to see where she was. Noticing that it was her destination, she turned to go inside but her eye caught the unmistakable tall and lanky figure of a certain man. Turning back, what she saw caused the smile to slowly fade from her face.

There was Sam talking to a strange woman. Ducking by the station's wagon, Emma peeked over the top and examined the lady, though Emma thought that was a bit kind for the likes of the woman and her appearance. The woman was wearing a burgundy satin dress with a hint of a bustle that fit her figure very well. Too well, for Emma's taste. The neckline wasn't really a neckline, more of a bust-line that accented her bust to such a degree Emma thought the woman would pop right out of her dress. To top it off, the woman was wearing a black headpiece with a feather that added at least two feet to her height and Emma would have laughed if not for the expression on Sam's face. He was grinning like a fool.

A lovesick fool.

'I've got to get inside,' she thought, feeling the heat coming from her face. 'I must be turnin' the color of...' she grimaced as her first thought was of that woman's dress. She turned quickly and almost ran over Horace Asby, a man just as cantankerous as Tompkins.

"Look where ya' goin' woman," the curmudgeon grumbled.

"Pardon me Mr. Asby," Emma muttered and hurried into the safety of the store.

Trying hard not to look out the window, Emma wandered over to the ladies apparel, or what small amount Tompkins had. She noticed that there were a few new hats, hats just like that woman was wearing. She strode over to the display but couldn't stop herself from looking back. Through the window, she saw Sam escorting the woman towards the hotel.

'Well if that's the kinda' woman he wants,' she thought, seething, 'he can...' But she couldn't finish the thought. She loved him, it was that simple. So, if that's what he wanted, she'd give him that. Heading over to the hats, she looked at the few that had the feathers, though none were as tall as the one on that woman's headpiece.

"Emma?"

Quickly hiding the hat behind her back, Emma turned to see Lou looking questioningly at her.

"What," Emma said, trying to keep the shortness out of her tone as she pulled the hat from behind her and resumed her inspection. She didn't want it, in fact she thought it was atrocious, but she wasn't going to admit defeat.

"Um, you gonna buy that?" Lou couldn't believe Emma was looking at hats like those. Emma didn't wear stuff like that; those hats were for women that worked in saloons not a real lady like Emma. Lou knew that for a fact.

"And what's it to you if I do?" Emma had a small amount of control on her temper but she knew she'd break if Lou kept it up.

Emma's response confused Lou and the young woman's face reflected that. "It's just that..." Lou paused, not sure whether to continue, not knowing what was wrong but knowing that Emma wasn't acting quite like 'Emma.' Deciding to go for it, she put on a big smile and said, "Emma, that's not a hat for a lady and you're a lady. Besides, you don't need things like that; you're pretty without 'em."

Before she could stop herself, Emma said, her voice low, "Now tell me, how would you know what a lady does and doesn't wear?" Emma placed the hat back on the post and, without looking at Lou, she hissed, "You spend all your time dressed like a boy." Not waiting for a response, she spun on her heel and walked out the door.

Lou was dumbfounded. She couldn't believe Emma would talk to her like that, especially since the woman knew what Lou went through not able to be her real self. Looking out the window, she saw Emma drive the wagon away and decided she'd go in the opposite direction to get home. It would take a half-hour longer but she didn't care. Right now, she didn't want to see anyone. Especially Emma.

*~*~*~*~*

From the porch swing, Teaspoon watched as Lou rode into the barn, expecting him to continue right on through the back, the boy was riding the horse that hard. Wondering why Lou had come the back way, he glanced over at the house. Not a half-hour before, Emma had driven the wagon in as if the devil himself was on her heels. She'd grabbed the few packages from the seat, marched up the steps and slammed the door shut behind her. He'd tried to speak to her but she'd not even acknowledged he was there. When he'd heard her opening a few of the windows, he'd waved but, again, received no acknowledgement.

He thought maybe he should go see how Lou was but when he saw Kid walking in the direction of the barn, Teaspoon decided to let the young man handle it. Lou, at least it had seemed to him, had developed a strong friendship with Kid so he figured Lou would rather talk to someone his age than to an old, crusty stationmaster. Chuckling to himself, he figured everything would be worked out in due time.

*~*~*~*~*

Kid walked into the barn and saw Lou zealously grooming Lightning. She seemed so intent on her task that he was worried he'd startle her so he walked cautiously over, thinking if he said something before he was right beside her it would be better.

"Ya' know, you're apt to brush the color right off that horse if you..."

Lou spun around, a white-knuckled grip on the brush as she pointed it at him. "I'm about tired of you tellin' me what to do."

Speechless, Kid just stared at Lou. Her brows were furrowed over eyes that were dark with anger. What had happened in town?

"Uh, Lou," Kid said quietly, "maybe if you just tol' me..."

"Right," she scoffed, "and then you'll make everythin' all better now, won't you?"

"Well, that's not exactly..."

"Look Kid," she said, throwing the brush in the corner of the stall with such force it bounced back and almost landed at their feet. "I know exactly how it will be and I'm sick of it." Walking away, she brushed past him, adding, "Find someone else you can control."

Kid stood there, mouth hanging open, as he watched Lou rush out of the barn. His first instinct was to run after her and find out what was wrong but then, the weight of her words hit him.

"So she wants me to find someone else," he grumbled. Clenching his fists, he yelled, "That's jus' fine by me!"

*~*~*~*~*

Teaspoon heard Kid's last words, wondering what had happened. He'd seen Lou come storming out of the barn in such a state that Teaspoon swore steam was coming from the young man's ears.

'Now what coulda' caused that?' Teaspoon wondered. 'Guess the chat with Kid didn't go so well.'

Trying to decide if he should go talk to one of the two boys, he saw Ike jog over to the barn.

"Ike'll take care of things, the boy has a soothin' way about him," Teaspoon said to himself, though he was a bit worried about how things were going so far.

*~*~*~*~*

Kid picked up the brush and put it on the shelf where it was supposed to go. He hated things out of order. Patting the poor horse that had witnessed the whole scene, Kid picked up the pitchfork to put some hay in the stall for Lightning. Busy in his work, his mind whirled with everything that Lou had said. He was used to feeling frustrated when she wouldn't talk to him but that last statement was too much to overlook. Suddenly a loud knock pulled him out of his simmering. He glanced up but, seeing it was Ike, he looked back at the hay. He wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone and, right then, he thought talking to Ike would be too much work.

"What?" Kid said, realizing that Ike wasn't going away.

Ike stood there waiting for Kid to look up. When the sandy-haired rider didn't, Ike knocked again. Why wouldn't Kid look at him? Ike pursed his lips. Kid knew Ike couldn't tell him what he wanted without Kid looking at him.

"What!" Kid barked, finally looking up at Ike. He stood, impatiently, with his right hand on his hip, the left one clenched around the pitchfork.

Ike frowned, not understanding why Kid was so annoyed. Shaking his head, Ike started to sign but was interrupted by Kid.

"Look Ike, I ain't got time for this," he said, turning his back to Ike as he placed the pitchfork against the wall, where it belonged.

Ike walked over and touched Kid's shoulder. Kid had asked Ike to let him know when Teaspoon got back from town. Ike had figured Kid had been off with Lou since it had taken him a while to find him. So now why wasn't Kid paying attention?

Kid spun around, almost the same motion as Lou just moments before. "What do you want?"

Ike started to sign again, but didn't get any farther.

"Like I said," Kid enunciated the words condescendingly, "I ain't got time to figure out what you're tryin' to say." Kid walked towards the door but Ike wasn't giving up so easily and grabbed Kid's arm. Kid yanked his arm back and, standing face to face with Ike, replied snidely, "Wait a minute, you aren't sayin' anythin' because you can't."

The smirk on Kid's face made Ike step back. Kid had never acted like this towards the mute rider. He'd always been interested in learning sign.

"Yeah," Kid continued, "you can't. That's what Buck's for. He's your voice. Well, where's Buck? Then we can get this over with." Kid looked around and, not seeing Buck, threw his hands up. "Oh well." He turned and finished his exit.

*~*~*~*~*

By the way Kid walked out of the barn, Teaspoon could tell that Ike hadn't succeeded. Standing and stretching his old bones, he walked down the steps and headed toward his room, hoping he'd run into Kid or Lou or both and try to talk to the boys. He didn't like it when his riders were upset, especially if it was at each other. A station wouldn't run well if everyone didn't work well together and get along and he considered this station and the inhabitants more than just a workplace and workers. Everyone here was family.

*~*~*~*~*

Ike couldn't believe what Kid had just said. He knew that the weather was making some people antsy but the riders hadn't been too affected by it, except Cody and his headaches.

Slowly Ike walked out of the barn, what Kid had said ringing through his head. Standing in the doorway, deep in thought, Ike didn't hear Buck walk up until it was too late.

"You okay?" Buck was concerned by the expression on Ike's face. His friend looked as if he were going to cry.

Ike looked up and instead of seeing his best friend, he saw a barrier. He thought about it and Kid was right. When Buck wasn't at the station, the other riders talked very little directly to Ike. They didn't ask him questions because they didn't want to wait to figure out what he was saying.

*What do you want?* Ike's hands moved jerkily, his only way to communicate that he was annoyed. Well, not the only way. His expressive face did that too.

Buck stared at Ike. His friend's expression had gone from sad to hostile in the blink of an eye. Wanting to make sure everything was okay, Buck said, "I just wanted to make sure you didn't need anything."

*Need?* Ike's hand lashed out, coming very close to Buck's face. *Like someone to talk for me?*

"What?" Buck was very confused. Why was Ike bringing that up, especially since there wasn't a soul around them.

*You know,* Ike continued, a scowl marring his smooth face. *People are right. I probably would have gotten a better job, better than this place, if I hadn't been burdened with you.*

Buck sucked in air. Why was Ike talking like this? "Ike, what are you saying?"

*That's a laugh,* Ike sneered, *since I can't really say anything right? Especially without you.* Ike turned to leave but added, *I really wish I'd never met you then I wouldn't be here.*

*~*~*~*~*

Teaspoon shook his head as he looked out the tack room window. What was going on around here? Though he couldn't tell what Ike was saying or hear Buck's responses, he knew that it wasn't friendly. And the fact that those two were at each other's throats didn't sit well with Teaspoon at all. Even if the weather was stifling, that didn't explain why his boys were acting so peculiar.

"Just like dominoes," he mumbled. "Passin' from one to another."

He wasn't sure what to do because he really wanted the boys to handle their own problems, even if they didn't think he did. He decided to wait a little longer and see if one or all sought him out to talk.

*~*~*~*~*

Buck watched as who he thought was his best friend and brother walked away. He could feel the rage building inside him, the hurt and anger fueling that rage. Knowing he needed to get away, he walked over to the bunkhouse, only wanting to get his bedroll and a change of clothes. He'd go spend the night out on the plains, the one place he truly belonged. His hope to not see anyone was crushed when Cody walked out of the door. Stretching, the blonde rider yawned.

"Boy that was a good sleep," Cody said, through another yawn. He twisted and turned, cracking his back.

"Isn't that what you always do?" Buck snapped.

"What?" Cody asked, confused as to why his sleeping would annoy Buck. This wasn't one of his sneak-sleeps. His horse had thrown a shoe so he'd had to baby the poor animal the whole way home. Since he'd rode in rather late, Teaspoon had told him to sleep until he woke up, which is just what he'd done. And, as he could tell by the position of the sun, it was still morning, though late morning, so he hadn't slept in that badly.

Buck pushed past Cody to go inside. "You are beyond a doubt the most useless person."

"Hey," Cody said, following Buck and wondering why the Kiowa was acting like this. "Teaspoon said..."

"I'm tired of being one of the ones having to do all your work," Buck said, grabbing his things and shoving them into his pack. "All you do is..."

"Now come on," Cody said, "that's not true. I may sleep more than most but I..."

"More than most," Buck scoffed, "try more than everyone. And eat more than everyone and loaf more than everyone and..." Buck let his point fade as he finished packing. Once done, he picked up his pack and bedroll and headed to the door but stopped to add one final shot. "You know, if you wrote about what you actually do, it would be the best cure for insomnia there is." Leaving Cody stunned, Buck slammed the door behind him.

*~*~*~*~*

"Well, that's not a good sign," Teaspoon mumbled, as he watched Buck, bedroll and pack in hand, head to the barn. Looking back towards the bunkhouse, he wondered about Cody. "Dominoes, I tell ya', dominoes." Sighing, he turned and put his shirt and hat on. "I guess I'm gonna have to do somethin'."

What that was, he didn't know.

*~*~*~*~*

Cody stared at the closed door. Why had Buck acted like that? He'd been awake when Teaspoon had told Cody to sleep in. In fact, everyone had been awake. The more he thought on Buck's comments the angrier he got.

Cody was tired of everyone getting digs in about his eating and sleeping habits. Yes he ate a lot and seemed hungry all the time, but that was because he needed it. Everyone acted like he didn't do a thing around here and that wasn't true. He had volunteered for a lot of runs he didn't have to. He'd volunteered to go over to the newly widowed Mrs. Jennings and fix her porch, roof and shutters and hadn't gotten anything but a kiss on the cheek for it. There were other times he'd helped out but did anyone ever think of those? No, they just thought of the times he'd taken the last piece of meat, or last ear of corn or last whatever was left.

Grabbing his hat, he decided to go for a ride somewhere, anywhere to get him away from this place. As he shut the door behind him and stepped off the porch, the last person Cody wanted to see came around the corner.

"Hey, you're up," Jimmy said, idly swinging the hammer he had in his hand.

"What about it?" Cody muttered.

"My, did someone got up on the wrong side..."

"Hickok," Cody said, "don't try to be witty, it don't work with you, you have to have a wit to be witty." Cody walked towards the barn, slowing down when he realized that's where Buck had gone.

"What's that suppose to mean?" Jimmy said, as he gripped the hammer.

Turning back to face Jimmy, Cody shook his head and said, "It means that you ain't smart enough to be witty. You know wit; it means someone with keen perception, someone that has intelligent observations. And from where I stand," Cody laughed, pointing at Jimmy, "that ain't you."

"Cody, I suggest you watch what you say next," Jimmy said quietly.

"Or what?" Cody taunted. "Wild Bill'll come get me?" He shook his head and brushed past Jimmy as he walked back towards the bunkhouse.

"Cody," Jimmy warned, turning to watch Cody walk by. "You know I don't like that Wild Bill stuff. That ain't me."

"Of course it ain't you," Cody said, whirling back around to face Jimmy. "You ain't deservin' of somethin' like bein' immortalized in a book."

Jimmy clenched his fists, a death grip on the hammer in his right hand. He was actually glad his holster was hanging on the corral fence because, if he'd been wearing it, Cody would be dead. Inhaling deeply, trying desperately to keep his temper, he said, "Fine, I ain't deservin' but I didn't ask for it neither."

"Right, right," Cody said, nodding his head contemptuously. "Shootin' at Marcus, showin' your fast draw, that wasn't askin' for anythin'."

"Look Cody," Jimmy said, "I didn't know he'd use me in one of his stupid books and..."

"Stupid books?" Cody echoed and then started laughing.

Jimmy was furious and had had enough of this. "What's so funny?"

"Just that you're the hero of a book and you can't even read about yourself," Cody said between laughs. "Ain't that rich?" Before Jimmy could respond, or hit him in the head with the hammer, Cody walked away.

*~*~*~*~*

"Lordy, Lord," Teaspoon muttered, standing in the doorway of the tack room. "What has happened to the people livin' here?"

He watched as Cody, laughing, walked away from Jimmy. The laughter sounded forced and harsh to Teaspoon's ears and Cody's face didn't convey any kind of humor. Jimmy's face was another story. Jimmy looked to be fighting very hard for control. Finally, throwing the hammer on the ground, Teaspoon watched as Jimmy stomped off towards the corral. And seconds later the sounds of gunshots were pealing through the air.

"Well, that's certainly the way to solve the problem," Teaspoon sighed as he looked up at the sky. If only it would rain. Walking back into his room, he sat on his cot. He wondered if he needed to drag all the boys into his sweat lodge. Maybe that would heal them of what was ailing them.

*~*~*~*~*

Staring at the cans, Jimmy drew his gun and plugged all six sitting there. He wasn't sure what had gotten into Cody but, if the blonde rider came anywhere near him, Jimmy would be sure to mistake him for a can. Walking over to replace the cans, he was so lost in thought; Jimmy didn't hear the rider come up behind him.

Whirling around, Jimmy had his gun pointed before realizing that the rider was Sam.

"Whoa, Hickok," Sam said, hands up. "What was that for?"

"Don't come up on me like that," Jimmy growled, stomping back to his position. Steadying himself, he drew and all six cans were flying before any hit the ground.

"Target practice?" Sam asked quietly. He was worried about the boy, especially since he knew the road Jimmy would be on if he kept going as he was.

"What of it?" Jimmy walked back to the cans and replaced them on the fence. Looking them over, he wished one of them were Cody's head. Though that brought a small smile to his face, it also put the comments Cody had made back in his mind, so Jimmy's smile turned into a grimace.

"Not sure you want to be doin' so much practicin'," Sam advised, "it invites..."

"Not sure I want any advice from the likes of you," Jimmy snapped, as he walked back to his firing position.

"What?" A curious smile crossed Sam's lips. Emma had told him just days earlier that Jimmy had been asking all kinds of questions about Sam and what he was like. Since Emma couldn't answer all of them, she'd told Jimmy to talk to the marshal. Emma had said that Jimmy blushed and mumbled something about the marshal being a busy man, too busy for Jimmy.

"The likes of you," Jimmy repeated, "someone with no reputation."

"Oh," Sam said, nodding, "like Wild Bill has?"

"What's wrong with that?" Jimmy asked, hands planted firmly on his hips.

"Well, the reputation that someone like that has isn't all it's cracked up to be and not one that I'd want." Sam watched the emotions cross Jimmy's face. Unfortunately, instead of stopping on understanding, Jimmy's expression was scorn.

"What's a small, dirt town marshal that nobody knows," Jimmy said, "gonna teach me?" Before Sam could give him an answer, Jimmy's gun was out and the sound of the shots drowned out any more conversation.

Sam sighed and rode back over towards the main house. He was looking for Teaspoon but decided Jimmy wouldn't answer him. He'd tried to ask Cody and then Ike and finally Kid but had received the same scowl and shrug from each boy. Finally, as he came around the front, he saw the older man walking slowly from his room.

"Teaspoon," Sam called, dismounting in front of Emma's house. She was also missing, he noticed, as he looked around. She normally came out anytime he was there but not today. He'd spotted her coming out of Tompkins' and, though he'd tried to get her attention, she'd snapped those horses into action fast and was out of there in a flash. He still wondered why she was in such a hurry.

Teaspoon came ambling over, still looking around for his boys. "Howdy Sam," he said, "what brings ya' out here?"

"As if you didn't know," Sam said, a skeptical look on his face when he saw Teaspoon's grin. "Hey," he whispered, glancing around, "what's with everybody around here?"

"Humph," Teaspoon muttered. "So you've noticed it too."

"Well, when I asked about you I got reactions that ranged from sullen to downright hostile. Did you do somethin'?" Sam looked at the stationmaster with a sly grin. "Maybe get another one of your special deliveries?"

"I beg your pardon," Teaspoon said, indignantly. "My ideas are all in fun. However, this has nothin' to do with me. I can assure you that." He looked up at the sky again, sending another prayer that this wouldn't last. "So, now, why is it that I'm supposed to know why you're out here?" Teaspoon glanced at Sam, as a small grin played on his lips.

"That, that, that," Sam stuttered, "woman."

"What about her?"

"Teaspoon," Sam said, "why in the world did you send her over to find me? I mean, what was I going to do for her?"

"Well, her fiancé had been in jail here but was taken over to Matlinburg to await trial. Who else would I tell her to talk to?" Teaspoon asked, innocently. He knew the woman would make Sam uncomfortable and he thought it would be funny. "So what'd ya do?"

"I walked her over to the stage depot and made sure she got on it."

"Now Sam, all the poor little thing wanted was a note from you tellin' the sheriff over there that she could visit with the prisoner." Teaspoon enjoyed teasing the marshal.

"Good grief," Sam said, "should have just sent her over to Barnett. He'd've given her a note." Sam leaned against the railing. "Course, he probably would've swallowed his tongue too."

Both men laughed at the thought. Teaspoon turned to Sam and asked, "She really made you uncomfortable didn't she?"

"Teaspoon," Sam said, pausing to collect his thoughts. "Did you see the dress she was wearin'? I mean it might as well have been painted on. And, speakin' of paint, all that mess on her face. And that hat. What was with that feather? I must have looked like a dolt with that stupid smile on my face. Every time she moved her head, well that blamed feather swiped my nose. I was tryin' right hard not to rip it off her head. Course, I was also tryin' hard not to laugh out loud." He chuckled as he paused again. "Nah, I'm not one for all that, that, stuff." A small smile formed as his thoughts drifted to a naturally pretty redhead. "I like a woman more natural, more fresh, more like..."

"Emma," Teaspoon answered.

"Does it show that..."

Sam was interrupted by the screen door slamming against the side of the house. Before either man had time to react, Emma rushed down the steps and grabbed the front of Sam's shirt, pulling him into a lip-searing kiss.

Just as their lips touched, Teaspoon felt a drop of rain on his face. The sky was finally sharing its treasure. Smiling, he looked around and noticed the boys were coming out of hiding.

Jimmy walked around the side of the bunkhouse. It wasn't good to have his gun out in the rain. But right at the moment, he didn't care, the rain felt good, like a cleansing bath. His anger was gone and, as he glanced over at Sam and Emma, he couldn't help but smile. The sight was beautiful. Standing by the porch, he heard the door open and saw Cody come out. Peaking around the door, he grabbed the blonde rider and pulled him out into the rain. Laughing at Cody's startled expression; Jimmy slapped his friend on the back.

Cody felt the hand grab him almost at the same time he felt the cold rain wash over him. The icy sensation shocked him at first but, seeing Jimmy's laughing face, made him grateful that his friend forgave him and enjoy the feeling of being alive. He joined Jimmy's laughter and the two danced around in the rain, ending up by the corral. It must have been an amusing sight because Teaspoon was laughing. Cody looked up and saw Buck come out of the barn. He hollered for the Kiowa to join them and laughed at Buck's expression.

The shouting of Cody and Jimmy had roused Buck from the barn. He walked out and was immediately covered in drops of cooling rain. He felt the smile, almost as an involuntary response to both the rain and the scene with Emma and Sam. When Cody called to him, he couldn't believe that Cody would want him over there. But he did, as Cody was waving like a lunatic. Running to join them, he spotted Ike coming from behind the barn. Still his best friend and brother. He smiled hoping the smile would be returned.

Ike saw Buck, not understanding why his friend would actually smile at him after all the hateful things he'd said but he wasn't going to question it and returned it with one of his own. His grin widened when he saw Cody and Jimmy, the two boys were throwing mud at each other, and then Buck joined in. Walking to take part, he raised his hands to the sky. The rain felt soothing, cooling the hot tempers of everyone around them. Including, he noticed, Kid. He nodded towards Kid, smiling.

Kid looked at Ike and shook his head sheepishly, a matching smile on his face. He knew he'd acted like an ass but then it seemed everyone else had too. He'd come from around the house earlier, when he'd heard Sam, and had seen both Cody and Ike give Sam the same sullen response as he had. Lifting his face to the rain, he felt all the hostility leave his body. As he jogged over to join the others by the corral, he spotted Lou coming from the other side of the house. He grinned.

Lou blushed when she saw Kid's smile. The fact that he'd forgive her was something she'd never expected. She noticed Kid was running over to the corral and, following the direction, she saw what the other boys were doing - having a mud fight. Laughing, she ran to join them and, glancing at Emma, who was now curled in Sam's embrace, she gave the station mother a quick wink. Soon, Lou was covered in mud.

Emma smiled at Lou, knowing that, though the young woman would forgive her, Emma could never forgive herself. When she'd gotten back to the station, she'd immediately gone inside, not wanting to see anyone - however hard Teaspoon had tried. She'd felt as if she was suffocating so she'd opened some windows. Through those, she'd seen most of what had happened and heard snippets of angry conversation and sounds. All this was her fault, just from simply misunderstanding what she saw. Sighing, she snuggled closer to Sam.

Smiling down at the petite lady in his arms - a real lady, Sam said, "You know Emma, you're gonna have a major washin' on your hands after this."

Emma glanced up at Sam and, returning his grin, she looked back at the boys. "Yes, I will...yes, I will."

Teaspoon chuckled as he watched the boys slipping and sliding, laughing and joking, and getting muddier and muddier. He glanced up at the heavens with a quick wink.

"See," he said softly, "nothin' can beat a good rain for washin' away a body's worries and woes. And nothin' can beat a good family for forgiveness."

*This is one of SEVEN 'Sins' stories... Dede's chosen sin was 'WRATH.'

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