“Well,” began Teaspoon, “I doubt I’ve ever seen a bride and groom look less… enthusiastic.” He ventured a shy smile at the young woman who promptly burst into tears, barely muffling the sobs behind a handful off posies.

With a look to the girl’s father for help, the glint of early morning sunlight flared off the metal plate on the side of his shotgun. The young woman, Perdita Jacobsen, clutched onto her hastily gathered wedding bouquet as if it was a snake threatening to bite her. Her soft green eyes were full of questions and helpless pleas for his help.

Teaspoon swallowed hard. “I’m guessin’ yer not ad-verse to a few tears, Mr. Jacobsen.”

The stick-thin man shook his head, his well-oiled mustache maintaining its own rigid countenance. “No problem here, Marshal. I jus’ want what’s right.”

The young woman swung around, her face etched in alternating rivers of dried and fresh tears. “But Pa, I wasn’t-”

“Everyone,” he emphasized the word with a gnash of his teeth, “saw you ridin’ in with that injun come dawn… knowin’ you’d gone out the afternoon afore… it ain’t right what he done to you.”

“I didn’t do anything-”

Teaspoon grabbed Buck’s arm and gave him a look of warning. “Son,” Teaspoon whispered, “Her daddy’s go t his finger leanin’ a mite heavy on that trigger… what’s say we just take things easy-like for now.”

“Easy?” Buck’s eyes were round with surprise, “you’re about to marry me off to his daughter.”

Teaspoon tapped his fingers against the Bible he had clutched to his chest, his face a mask of thoughtful repose. “True… but that doesn’t have to be a ‘bad’ thing, Buck… you never know, it might be-”

“I don’t even know her!”

Mr. Jacobsen lowered the muzzle of his shotgun a fraction of an inch in Buck’s direction. “Accordin’ to custom round these parts, boy… you ‘know’ her well enough… since you had her with ya all to yerself in them dark hours of the night.”

“Across a fire circle.” Buck wasn’t ready to take this lying down. “We were late in coming back, her horse-”

“Oh don’t you blame this on me, Buck Cross.” She waved her bouquet at him as though she was brandishing a weapon. “If you’d been any kind of a guide we’d never be in this mess to begin with!”

Buck’s nose wrinkled at the cloud of pollen flung in his direction by the bouquet. “Me?” He looked to Teaspoon, but the older man looked a little green around the gills. “I did exactly what you asked for… if you’d been truthful about your skill,” he bit back the urge to add in ‘lack of’ before his last word… he was angry, but he was still trying really hard to be a gentlemen, “we’d never have gone out that far… or stayed as long.”

“You blamin’ my girl for your needful ways, Injun?”

“Oh, Papa… that’s enough.” She kept a careful gaze on her father. “I didn’t think you would jump to conclusions.”

“It ain’t me, girl… anyone that knows you left yesterday with the half-breed can put it together.”

Teaspoon cleared his throat. “Ahem… the ‘gentleman’ of which you speak does have a ‘name.’”

“Don’t see as how I care.” Mr. Jacobsen turned his nose into the air.

“Now, Mr. Jacobsen, I think it might be a bit of your concern.”

“Hmph… and why is that?” The man squinted at Teaspoon, searching for the answers on the other man’s face.

“Just ‘cause yer the one that told me I was to marry up… Buck to yer daughter. You might want to know that name it is your daughter will be signin’ in the family Bible.”

“Aw hell,” spat the farmer, “Perdy ain’t much for writin’ and the like.”

“Pa!” His daughter flushed a bright pink over her cheeks. “Nobody needs to know-”

“Quit yer whinin’ girl…” he waved the muzzle of his shotgun toward Buck, “he didn’t think to ask ya ‘bout your readin’ and writin’ and t’other skills when he made a laughin’ stock of ya here in town.”

“I didn’t do anything of the kind-”

“He didn’t do anything of the kind-“

Both the young woman and Buck stopped mid-sentence and looked at each other. It was Perdy that broke the look first. “Please Mr. Teaspoon… can’t you make my Papa see reason… I can’t believe the whole town would think such a horrible thing about Buck…” She turned from Teaspoon’s indulgent smile to her father’s grim expression. “Why he didn’t even yell at me when I couldn’t get my horse to stop eating every bush and leaf in sight.”

“I’d already fed the horse.”

“I know you told me that, Buck.” She blushed again, “I mean, Mr. Cross, told me that, but I doubt he mentioned it to the horse.”

Teaspoon didn’t miss the smile the curved up the corner of Buck’s mouth.

“True,” Buck allowed, “maybe I should have mentioned that to Dot before we hit the trail.”

The statement caught the young woman by surprise and she turned to look at Buck. It wasn’t until she saw the glimmer in his eyes that the round ‘o’ of surprise eased into a gentle smile. “That probably would have helped, Mr. Cross.”

“Buck,” he clarified, “especially since your father is so dead set in marryin’ you to a ‘half-breed.’” He turned to give Mr. Jacobsen a nod and a smile. “So, what should I call you, sir? Mr. Jacobsen?” He watched the man’s mouth twitch beneath his mustache. “Or maybe, Pa?”

The man sputtered beneath the comb of hair on his upper lip and little bubbles of spit decorated the ends. “Ain’t no injun gonna call me ‘pa.’”

Perdy nodded quickly. “But if you had us marry up, Papa, he’d be just as much your son as I’m your daughter… and then when the children came-”

Mr. Jacobsen grabbed a hold of his daughter’s arm and swung her toward the door. When he got to the front door of the church he swung around, his daughter’s skirts tangling with his britches. “Consider yourself warned, injun… you stay away from my girl… y’hear?”

Buck didn’t bother saying anything, just raised a questioning brow as Perdy nearly flew after her father, his gun in one hand and the other with a death-grip on her upper arm.

Teaspoon sidled up next to the young man in his charge. “So, I notice you didn’t bother tellin’ Mr. Jacobsen that you’d keep to a path wide of his daughter.”

“That I didn’t.” Buck watched the young woman whose hair burned like flame in the sunlight.

“I thinkin’ he won’t take kindly to you hangin’ around his daughter.”

Folding his arms across his chest Buck pondered the memory of her face by firelight. “I’m thinkin’ that he might have to get used to the idea of havin’ me around his daughter.”

Teaspoon leaned against the open doorway of the church. “I thought you were in this all-fired hurry to avoid the state of matri-money this mornin’, son… what’s got you thinkin’ on hangin’ around Miss Perdy Jacobson?”

Buck lifted his hat from the peg on the wall and set it resolutely on his head. He’d walked to the edge of the landing when he finally turned around to answer Teaspoon. “She sure does make life interesting, Teaspoon.”

With a wide grin, Buck turned and stepped down to the street. Behind him Teaspoon looked up to the sky in askance. “Oh Lord… why do I get the feelin’ that Buck’s only too right in this instance.”

A gentle breeze down the street brought the distinct sound of a whistled song as Buck tipped his hat to a passing man.

Teaspoon hung his head. “Oh great, here we go.”

Dedicated to Cindy’s overly hungry horse at Old Tucson Studios and of course the fact that it’s Buck.

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