Teaspoon leaned against the wall on the side of the bunkhouse and lit his *cigar*. He was enjoying the quiet evening and cool breeze after the delicious meal Emma had cooked. She'd made all his favorites and some of his second favorites. In her sweet, wonderful way she was welcoming him back and telling him she was glad he was there, safe and healthy.
He was glad to be back. There'd been a moment when Eberly was shooting that Teaspoon hadn't been sure he'd survive especially after Eberly had shot him. He'd felt the burning and, when he'd pulled his hand away and saw all the blood, he'd assumed he was done. But then he'd been able to distract Eberly and kill him. Not something he was proud of, and, in a way, Teaspoon wished he and John had shot at the same time. He still didn't know why he was the only one remaining. He was glad to be back but uncomfortable with being alive.
So many times he'd been tempted to just take off, like a *runaway*, and leave everything behind. But then he'd stayed, always one to face his obligations. Not so much for his personal ones, he sighed, thinking of his many wives. Those poor women had to put up with so much from him. He chuckled but his side reminded him that it wasn't quite healed and the stitches were still grabbing. He touched the wound reverently.
Just 'cause a man lives, don't mean he didn't die.
Teaspoon swallowed the annoyed sigh that he felt rise up. "Yes Jimmy?"
"I, um, I mean, we jus' wanted to make sure you're okay." Jimmy walked over to his father and friend. He'd been terrified after listening to all the gunplay in and around the church that Teaspoon was dead. When the stationmaster had walked out, strong and proud, but badly injured, Jimmy had been tempted to run up to Teaspoon but had stopped himself. Now he wished he had, since he didn't think he'd ever get up the nerve to tell Teaspoon how he felt.
"If we're bothering you," Buck said hesitantly. He'd been as frightened as Jimmy during the gunfight. So many times they'd been tempted to jump off their horses and run in to help but it had been something Teaspoon had to do on his own. There was a special bond among those men. Buck thought in some way it was like what the riders shared. Even if Eberly had killed all but Teaspoon, Teaspoon still mourned the man as a friend and comrade.
"No," Teaspoon said softly, "I could use the comp'ny." He motioned for the boys to follow him to the bunkhouse porch. He sat on the chair, tilted it back and rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet.
Buck sat on the top step and leaned against the post while Jimmy sat on the bench. The three men sat in silence for a moment, the two riders giving their friend time to talk about whatever he wanted in his own time. After a long pause, Teaspoon took a deep puff on his cigar and blew a ring. They watched it float up, getting wider and wider, until it dissipated into the air.
"I met her when she was about twenty years old." Teaspoon's voice was soft and gravely with emotion. "And I thought she was the most beautiful woman I'd ever seen." He sighed, a dreamy sound.
Jimmy and Buck exchanged a glance but said nothing. It was Teaspoon's tale to tell, at his speed without any prompting or questions.
"If I said sparks flew when she was around, well, that wouldn't be doin' her justice or tellin the half of it," he said, a sly grin on his face. "We sure were careful never to put *gunpowder* anywheres near her." He slapped his knee and laughed, wincing when his side caught. "Ya'd think I'd remember this fool thing," he muttered, placing his hand over his side. Wiggling to get comfortable, he took another puff on his cigar. "I was surprised that she took a shine to me." He blushed slightly and picked at an imaginary spot on his pants. He grinned sheepishly. "Course that's not to say I wasn't worthy." He leaned forward to impart a special secret. "I was a very handsome man."
"Teaspoon, ya' still are," Jimmy said, as he and Buck laughed.
"Yeah, distinguished," Buck added.
"I like that," Teaspoon said, sitting up straight and tipping his hat. "Distinguished." He laughed and got comfortable again. "Not then. I was brash, daring and hellbent on gettin' my way." He eyed the two, making sure neither one made a wisecrack.
Jimmy and Buck put on their best innocent expressions, but couldn't stop the grins that broke through.
"Yeah," Teaspoon said, chuckling. "I'd laugh too." He sighed and puffed some more on his cigar as his mind drifted off to another place and time. He could see the Dolores of years gone by so clear as if she still looked the same. Then Rosa's face popped into his mind and there was Dolores. He smiled sadly. The many things he'd given up for no reason but pride and stupidity.
"She made me this sweet pastry," he mused, rubbing his scruffy chin trying to think of the name. Clicking his fingers, he said, "*Sopapilla*."
"Sopa-what?" Jimmy laughed.
"Isn't that the fried dough with the honey?" Buck asked. His mouth was watering at the memory. While they'd waited for Teaspoon to recuperate, Rosa had made it for him and Jimmy so many times that Buck figured his fingers would stay sticky permanently.
"Yep!" Teaspoon said, gleefully.
"Oh that," Jimmy murmured, looking at Buck with a silly grin. His stomach growled and the three laughed.
"Maybe we should get Emma to make some," Buck suggested. "I think we could figure it out." The thought of having more of that delectable treat made him want to try right then.
"Good idea," Teaspoon said softly, again drifting back to his special memories. He remembered how Dolores had his number every time and could put him over a *barrel* when it came to telling the truth. She could read him like no other woman ever could, before her or since. 'Naw, that ain't true,' he admitted to himself. There had been one other. Another special woman whose father had put him on the right track after all the pain and suffering he'd experienced.
After several minutes of Teaspoon's silence, Buck said, "Well, I think I should get to bed. Still catching up on sleep." He got up and looked over as Jimmy stood too.
"Yeah, me too." Jimmy was still worried about his friend but the expression in Teaspoon's eyes when the man looked up at them made Jimmy think that everything would be okay.
"You boys know I haven't forgotten that ya' disobeyed my orders, right?"
Jimmy and Buck grinned sheepishly and nodded. "Yeah we know," they said in unison.
"Well, good," Teaspoon said, giving them a definitive nod. "Go get some sleep."
Buck walked by and Teaspoon held up his hand to stop him. "Um, about how I talked to ya', ya' know, uh, when I was fixin' the window." Teaspoon patted Buck's arm. "Ya' know I'm sorry, right?"
Teaspoon was looking at Buck with an almost pleading look. Buck swallowed hard, not trusting his voice. "Sure Teaspoon." He squeezed Teaspoon's shoulder and opened the door to the bunkhouse disappearing inside.
As Jimmy walked by, Teaspoon reached out and squeezed the boy's hand. Jimmy did the same without a word and followed Buck inside.
Teaspoon continued to enjoy the last of his cigar and the last of his memories. He now thought he knew why he was still alive. And they were right inside the building behind him. He took the last puff of his cigar and, as he snuffed out the stub, his face softened into a content, happy smile. There wasn't one left, there was more than one. Much more.
A/N: This is because Dee can't come up with a story on her own. Thanks to Raye for my favorite kinda' prompt. A WORD LIST!!!! d;-) The words are: barrel, cigar, gunpowder, runaway and sopapilla