“What a beautiful morning! Saw Ike off earlier. Hope he has a terrific day.”
Jimmy rolled over and opened one eye to see Cody standing by their bunks, fully dressed wearing the most absurd smile on his face.
“Come on sleepyheads,” called Cody. “Best to get an early start on your day!” He grabbed his hat and coat and started whistling as he all but skipped out the door.
“That’s it,” muttered Jimmy. With some effort, he pushed himself up to sit on his bunk, his legs hanging over the side, and wearily rubbed his eyes. “This has gone on long enough. We need to get to the bottom of it. This just can’t be good.”
“Jimmy,” said Buck amused, “it’s been a day.” Buttoning the last button of his shirt, he pulled on his vest.
“Yeah Buck,” said Kid, putting on his boots, “but ya’ gotta admit, it’s a might scary the way he’s acted.”
“True,” agreed Buck. After putting his medicine bag around his neck, he looked out the window. The others were startled by Buck’s gasp. “I can’t believe it.” Kid and Lou were quickly at his side as Jimmy jumped off his bunk.
“What? What?” Jimmy hobbled over to the window, his feet hurting from slamming them onto the floor. “Oh good grief!”
“Remember, he did fall off his horse,” Lou pointed out. In shock, she watched as Cody started repairing the corral fence. He was even singing as he did it. “This can’t be good.” She looked back at the others, her eyes wide.
“Must’a hit his head hard,” murmured Jimmy, hastily pulling on his pants. Shoving his feet into his boots, he snatched his shirt off the end of the bunk, and threw open the door. As he shrugged into the shirt, he saw Cody wave at them.
“As I said,” called the blonde, “beautiful morning.”
The four riders stood on the bunkhouse porch, dumbfounded by the change in their friend. Though they should have been thrilled, it was so drastic that it worried them. They saw Teaspoon emerge from the tack room, his mouth hanging open at the sight of not only Cody doing chores, but of him doing them so early in the morning. Pulling his suspenders over his shoulders, the station master gaped at the scene in front of him. With a glance every so often at the ground in front of him, making sure he didn’t fall, Teaspoon hurried over to the bunkhouse, unable to take his eyes off Cody for long.
“What the devil?” he mumbled. Once he was standing with the others, he pointed over at Cody. “What the devil?” he could only repeat.
“Seems it’s worse,” said Buck seriously. “This really can’t be good, Teaspoon.”
The day before, Cody had ridden in from his run bearing a small bump on the back of his head. Emma had given it a quick look and pronounced it nothing to worry about and that he’d be fine. Cody had explained that he’d been thrown from his horse but that, as Emma had said, he felt fine. It hadn’t been long though before the others doubted his and Emma’s diagnosis.
When Ike had offered to take care of Splinter, Cody had refused saying it was his “duty” to look after the horse, even if it had been a rough ride. Once he was done with that, Cody had commented to Buck that he thought the stalls in the barn were looking messy and needed fresh hay. Instead of finding someone to do the chore, or just ignoring it, Cody had picked up the pitchfork and started working. Buck and Ike had immediately found Teaspoon, who had dismissed their concerns telling them they should be grateful because Cody was working.
Soon after, Kid and Lou had gone to talk to Teaspoon about Cody, when the rider had swept out the bunkhouse and made everyone’s bunks. The last one to go to Teaspoon was Jimmy, who had grumbled that Cody had made him take off his boots before coming into the bunkhouse because (and Jimmy mimicked Cody as he said this), “I just cleaned this floor so you ain’t gonna track dirt in here with those filthy boots on.”
It wasn’t until evening, when they’d sat down to dinner that Teaspoon had begun to understand the other riders’ worries. Cody had not only served everyone before he’d put food on his plate, he’d passed up the last pork chop, the last serving of potatoes, and had taken only one slice of apple pie. The group at the table was speechless and Emma had leaned over to feel Cody’s forehead to make sure he didn’t have a temperature. Cody had just shrugged it off with a wide smile, assuring all of them that he was fine.
After dinner, while Cody was cleaning off the table, Teaspoon had surreptitiously herded everyone onto the porch and had again declared that Cody would be fine, once he’d had a good night’s sleep. “It’s just the smack to the head givin’ him trouble,” Teaspoon had said.
“Well, Teaspoon, you’re wrong ‘bout the good night’s sleep,” Jimmy said as they watched Cody in the corral. “He’s just not right.”
“What’re we gonna do?” Lou asked.
“Think he should see the doc?” Kid’s browed furrowed as Cody continued singing.
“You think it’s –” started Buck.
“His head,” finished Jimmy. The two exchanged puzzled glances.
“Whatever it is,” said Teaspoon thoughtfully, “it can’t be good.” After a deep sigh, he turned to the others. “I think we should see what happens at breakfast. Here comes Emma now.”
“Breakfast’ll be ready in just a few,” called Emma as she walked towards the bunkhouse with her basket of biscuits and ham. “I’ll scramble up some eggs in jiffy.” She glanced back at Cody, who hadn’t moved, and gave the group a questioning look. Everyone just shrugged in response. “So have ya’ decided on what to do?”
Teaspoon shook his head. “Think we’ll just wait ‘til he –”
“Emma,” hollered Cody, “I’m gonna finish up this so go ahead and start without me.”
“That does it,” announced Teaspoon as he jumped off the porch and hurried over to Cody. The riders and Emma stuck close behind Teaspoon. “Son, son, I believe you need to rest.” Teaspoon waved for Cody to come towards him. “Put the hammer away and come over here.”
An innocent grin spread across Cody’s face as he did what Teaspoon said. “Somethin’ wrong?”
“No, no,” answered the station master, but he kept a keen watch as Cody climbed over the fence. “Jus’ that, well, perhaps you should take it easy for – ”
“Teaspoon,” said Cody, almost plaintively, “that wouldn’t be fair to the others. I’m fine, really, I think I should finish this and then I can work on fixin’ them loose shingles on the –”
“NO!” All four riders, Emma, and Teaspoon responded at once, startling Cody.
“Honestly Cody, we all think you should rest,” said Emma as she looked around at the others, who nodded emphatically. She leaned towards Teaspoon and whispered, “This can’t be good.”
“Um, well…,” he hesitated. “I don’t think it’s right for me to be doin’ that but if y’all think it’s fine.” He glanced at the six fervent expressions that seemed to tell him they thought it was a perfectly fine idea. “Do ya’ think I can take my book and go read somewheres or should I stay here?”
“Oh no, going to a quiet spot to relax is a good idea,” encouraged Teaspoon. “Tell ya’ what,” he turned to look at Emma expectantly, “perhaps Emma could make ya’ up a little somethin’ to take with ya’.” Emma nodded in agreement. “There ya’ go!” With a slap on the back, Teaspoon propelled Cody forward towards the bunkhouse.
Still unsure, Cody stopped after a few steps and turned back to look at his friends. “You positive that I can’t stay and help?”
“That jus’ proves there’s somethin’ wrong with him,” muttered Jimmy. In a louder voice, he said, “Go, we’re fine. We’ll get it all done without you.”
“Like we usually do,” said Buck, under his breath. He waved and smiled so Cody would see they meant it. Kid and Lou did the same.
“All right,” said Cody finally, and he hurried to the bunkhouse.
Before Cody was too far from her, Emma followed behind and walked into the bunkhouse after him. It took a matter of minutes for Emma to wrap up a few ham biscuits, and for Cody to get his saddlebag, stuff the food inside, and hurry to the barn. Kid had saddled Soda for him, so Cody pulled himself up and, with a jaunty salute, rode out of the yard.
“Do ya’ think he should’a gone to the doc?” repeated Kid, the worried tone now apparent.
“Naw, he’ll be back to normal once he’s had a good rest,” assured Teaspoon. “Perhaps that fall knocked something loose and he needs to relax some.”
“If Cody relaxes anymore than normal,” said Buck, wearily, “he’ll be comatose.”
“Yeah, and I ain’t too sure I want Cody back to normal,” added Jimmy, stiffly.
“And what could be loose that wasn’t b’fore?” asked Lou as Kid smirked and nodded.
“Boys, let’s get to work,” said Teaspoon, thus cutting off anymore discussion. As the boys walked back to the bunkhouse to eat breakfast, Teaspoon watched Cody ride off. A curious smile crossed Teaspoon’s face and he turned to go have breakfast.
After riding for several miles, Cody slowed his horse as they approached a small copse of trees. Inside, hidden behind those trees, was a cool pond and, hopefully, something more inviting.
Sure enough, as Cody hopped off Soda a soft voice purred, “Is that you Mr. Cody?”
Cody grinned. “Yes ma’am. Hope I didn’t keep ya’ waitin’ too long.”
A tall, curvy redhead stepped out from behind a tree. Unable to take his eyes off her, only one thought was singing in his mind, ‘This definitely can be good.’
“I was beginnin’ to wonder if you’d forgotten about me.” Her deep, seductive laugh made Cody’s skin tingle.
“Now how could ya’ even think I’d be able to do that,” he drawled, closing the distance between them.
“Did ya’ have any trouble?” she murmured, her eyes even with his. He loved that he could look straight into her eyes, and imagined how long her legs must be.
“Nope, went accordin’ to my plan,” he boasted. “Never had any doubts.” Though he had caught Teaspoon’s odd smile, he’d chalked it up to worry.
“How’s the bump?” His eyes focused on her hand as she raised it up to his hat. With a gentle tap, she pushed it off his head so it hung down his back. Then, as she ran her fingers through his hair, he closed his eyes.
“Mmmm, doesn’t seem to be bad,” she said coyly.
“Uh, yeah” he said distractedly. Opening his eyes, he grinned. “But wha’d’ya’ expect with you nursin’ me?” Without thinking his eyes wandered down her form. Again, she laughed that beguiling laugh.
“I’ve brought something yummy, ya’ hungry?” She glided back through the trees, towards the pond. The glance she gave him over her shoulder glued Cody to the spot where he was standing. Those eyes, that body, her voice. For one of the few times in his life, he was momentarily at a loss for words. But the next look she gave him, batting her eyelashes and smiling a slow, wicked smile, got his feet moving and he hurried towards her.
“Wha’d’ya’ have in mind?” He chuckled as she turned and grabbed his shirt front.
“Oh I believe you need more nursin’.” And she pulled him into the trees.
A/N: thanks to Raye for my prompt, “this can't be good...”