Author's Note: A Letter of Declaration

Opening Communications

Buck came in out of the cold and paused in the doorway for a minute. "Why are you up so late, Kid?"

Kid tossed a look over his shoulder and then huddled back over his paper. "I'm writin' a letter, Buck… so close the door will ya?" He peered into the ink pot and then back down at his paper. "You'll freeze my ink."

Nodding, Buck closed the door and shrugged out of his coat. "A letter? Why not write it in the morning? Better light… and-"

Kid dropped his pen on the table. "Look, Buck… I know this is hard to believe but my life ain't an open book just because we all live in the bunkhouse together." He looked over at the bunks where the others were sleeping. "I'm writin' a letter and unless I missed the point when you became my Mama, I get to write to who I want and when I want." The sharp edge of his tone softened a bit with a smile, "'sides you'd want a little privacy if you was writin' to your girl, wouldn't you, Buck?"

Buck returned Kid's smile for a moment before turning toward Lou's bunk. She was sleeping with her back to the room, her blanket clutched around her body. Buck's shoulders slumped a bit when the pieces fit together in his head and he realized that the letter wasn't for her. "Yeah… I guess I would."

There wasn't anything left to be said between the two as Buck started to prepare for bed in silence.

*** ***

The shadow that fell over his desk was enough to make him stop his reading and look up into the bright daylight outside. "Yes?"

Kid held out an envelope toward Teaspoon. "I brought you a letter I wrote."

"Letter, huh?" Teaspoon eyed it with curiosity and angled a look up at the young rider. "Looks like yer missin' a bit of information Kid. How do you think it's gonna get somewhere without a town or even a territory written down?"

The younger man cleared his throat and shifted his stance even as his hand stayed steady as a rock. "Well, that's where I was hopin' that you could help."

Teaspoon leaned back in his chair and placed his hands on his belly, settling in to listen.

A moment later Kid launched into his explanation. "I heard you readin' that letter you got nearly a month back… the one about that Robert fella."

Nodding, Teaspoon sighed, "From the Edgars woman."

A slight blush crept up into his cheeks. "Yeah, Samantha."

"Go on…"

Shrugging a bit, Kid continued on. "You might remember that when Samantha was here, we ah… well, we were a little close. Closer than just friends… I think."

"But you don't know. Is that what this letter's for, son? You wanna put your worries to rest?"

Kid put the letter down on the desk. "I'm hopin'… that I ain't gonna put it to rest as much as find out if maybe… if it'll grow to somethin' more."

There was a moment of silence in the room and then Teaspoon nearly doubled over in his attempt to sit up in the chair and lean his elbows on the table. He reached out a hand and touched the corner of the letter adding just enough pressure to turn it ninety degrees. "She never gave me permission to tell nobody 'bout where she is, Kid. What makes you think that she'd want you to know-"

"I'm not askin' you to tell me, Teaspoon. I just want you to write it on the letter for me." Kid pulled some coins out of his pocket and set it on the desk beside the letter. "Would you? Would you do that for me?"

Teaspoon set his hand over the letter and gave a heavy sigh. "I dunno, Kid… you might not get the answer you want." His fingers drummed on the hard wood upsetting one of the coins and sending it clattering against another. "Are you sure you-"

"I need to know, Teaspoon… one way or the other. I need to know."

Drawing in a deep breath, Teaspoon nodded slowly. "Then I guess I'll be sendin' this along with the next pouch. Better get Rachel's shoppin' done if you're thinkin' of gettin' back before dark."

Kid took a couple of steps backward a grin on his face. He wasn't watching and nearly tripped over the feet of the coat rack by the door. Righting both himself and the rack he gave Teaspoon one last look. "Thanks, Teaspoon… really. I'm indebted to ya."

He nearly ran into Jimmy on the way down the walk prompting Jimmy to walk in growling a bit. "Where the hell is he goin'?"

"I'm sure he's got things on his mind, Jimmy… like you if my ears are as good as they were a few minutes ago." Teaspoon got up out of his seat to head for the stove. "You want some coffee?"

Jimmy gave him a questioning look. "No… not really. I guess I just got a lot of things on my mind, Teaspoon. Don't bother worryin' about me."

"Oh hell, Jimmy… you ain't no bother… I got myself a whole mess of patience and you caught me on a good day. You wanna talk about it?" Teaspoon lifted the cup up to his lips and took a long sip.

"Naw, Teaspoon…" Jimmy turned toward the door and then back again, "it's just this thing… these thoughts that I've been havin'…" the younger man looked out the window as his fingers drummed on the desktop, "and it's like I know… I know what I want… or what I think I want… but I just don't… know."

Teaspoon grinned into his cup. "Well now, son… that seems like it's clear in your head."

Jimmy's look was rife with unspoken insolence, but to Teaspoon it was a sign that life might eventually return to normal. Or at least as normal as his own life ever got.

"Seems like you're not the only one with a malady of the heart, Hickok." Teaspoon's gaze flickered unconsciously and Jimmy looked down at the folded paper.

He knew he shouldn't, but he picked it up between his fingers and held it up to the light. "Samantha Edgars." The name was salt on his tongue and he dropped the letter back on the desktop. "He still moonin' after her?"

"Ain't my place to suppose, I suppose."

Jimmy bounced his fingertips on the letter. "Some sweet Southern thing waltzes into town and turns everything inside out and I was hopin' we'd heard the last of her."

"Seems like the Kid feels different."

A myriad of emotions flickered across Hickok's face and Teaspoon took another long sip to keep his lips occupied and away from the subject. He shouldn't have said anything… but then again… it wasn't like it was a secret…

"I wish I'd never learned how to read."

'Then again,' Teaspoon thought, 'maybe it should have stayed one.'

Jimmy shook his head and looked up at the stationmaster. "I gotta go… do somethin'." He didn't wait for a response from the older man, Jimmy just turned on his heel and left.

Teaspoon stared at the empty room with no small bit of enjoyment. 'Funny' he thought, 'how a man can want company until the subject matter gets uncomfortable and then all you want is quiet.' Reaching for the coffee pot, Teaspoon poured himself another cup in case he got more company. "Better be prepared just in case."

Even with the office blissfully quiet, Teaspoon had the distinct feeling that things were about to get interesting. "And that," he sighed, "ain't always a good thing."

Teaspoon was a very smart man.

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