A/N Originally meant for Quick Fic #70: Revolution... time got away from me...
“How goes things, Tompkins? Enjoying the life of an idle old man?”
Growling up at Teaspoon, Tompkins shielded his eyes from the late day sun. “What’s wrong, Teaspoon? Come to bother me instead of ridin’ herd on those kids you call family?”
Stretching his suspenders out from his body. “Oh, I got plenty of time on my hands. Jimmy’s girls pretty much take care of themselves, but it’s the boys I have to watch out for.” Teaspoon leaned in to nudge his old acquaintance. “I’ve seen Jenny down at the store, you must be so happy to have her home.”
Now it was Tompkins’s turn to shine. “That I am, Teaspoon. She’s sure takin’ after my side of the family. A born business woman she is… has all kinds of ideas to change things and make us the most modern mercantile west of the Mississippi.”
“Come to think of it,” began Teaspoon, “ the last few times I did notice a few things in different places and then there’s that abi-aba- thing that Buck’s usin’ to add up the purchases and-”
“Buck?” Tompkins was on his feet like lightning. “Who said that boy could be in my store?”
Teaspoon cocked his head to the side. “Don’t know for sure, but it looked to me like he was workin’ there, Bill. Can’t have a problem with that, can you?”
Tompkins never answered the question. He was gone, walking through town in the direction of the store.
William Tompkins walked in on a nightmare. His daughter was making cow eyes at the half-breed. “Jennifer Isabel Tompkins, what in God’s name do you think you are doing?”
With a sweet smile she crossed the room leaving Buck behind at the counter. “We’re looking over our next order to our supplier in St. Jo, Papa.”
“We?” Tompkins tossed a murderous glare at the boy behind the counter. “You’re the one in charge, girl. Don’t you forget that and let that… that… half-breed push you around.”
Jenny grabbed her father’s arm and pulled him out onto the walk. “That’s enough. I knew you’d react like this when you found out.”
“Found out? Did you think I wouldn’t? I live in this town, girl. Folks around here have no problem tellin’ me that my daughter is cavortin’ around town with someone that ain’t fit for her to wipe her shoes on.”
Jenny stuck a finger into her father’s chest, hard enough to make him utter a surprised, “Ow!”
“First off, Papa, you put me in charge of this store as you decided you were getting too old to worry yourself about it, so you’ll let me worry about it. Buck Cross has a great mind for business and he’s been a huge help.”
“Help,” Tompkins scoffed, “Can’t see how a-“
She took his arm and propelled him back into the store and stopped both of them at the first display. “We’ve sold more shirts in this last month than in the last six months, all because Buck put the shirts next to the pants. Simple… but so very effective. Now the men come in to find one and the other is right there within their grasp. Another step down,” she drew her father over a few steps, “you’ll find socks and neck kerchiefs. One counter and a man can pick up everything he needs to look presentable on the street.”
Tompkins surveyed the area with some interest until his eyes lighted on the ladies clothing on the mirror side of the store. That’s when his eyes narrowed and expression turned cold. “I suppose you let him put his hands all over the ladies under things.” His voice was filled with distaste.
“He has every right to, he’s an employee of the store. But if you really must know, I did the rearranging on this side, but it was all Buck’s idea. You don’t think highly of him father, but you should.” Jenny left his side and moved around the back of the counter to stand at Buck’s side. “I do. We work well together and thanks to his help profits are up and most days it’s all we can do to keep stock on the shelves and the line down to three deep.”
She saw the sweat bead on his brow as the wheels turned inside the old stubborn head.
“You may not like the fact that Buck works here, Papa… but as it’s my store now I think you need to let me make the decisions.” Jenny raised her chin and stared straight into her father’s eyes. He saw the strong glint that made her eyes look like steel and the becoming braids that pulled her hair back into a bun signifying her as a woman. She wasn’t the young girl following him around and around between the cracker and pickle barrels… no, she was a woman with a mind of her own and the trouble was… he wasn’t the only one that noticed.
He caught sight of Buck Cross out of the corner of his eye and felt a growl rumble through his belly.
“You’re right, honey. It’s your store…” he saw the hint of smile on her lips and continued on, his voice raising so even the half-breed could hear, “but you’re still my daughter so I think you’ll be seein’ me around most days… and most nights too.”
He saw the color flare in her cheeks as she realized how little privacy or peace she’d get with her father around. He saw that and the smile on his lips wasn’t forced at all, in fact it was downright cheery once he’d made up his mind. William Tompkins leaned over and gave his furious daughter a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll be by later to walk you home, girl.”
He walked away listening to the sharp clip of her boot heels on the floor as she stomped back into the storeroom.