Lou leaned toward the window and smiled. The familiar song drifted in on the wind and the answering jingle jangle of wagon harnesses had her calling over her shoulder.

"Buck? They're here!"

A clatter of sound was deadened a bit, but still managed to reach her ears. "I'll get the door!"

"Don't be silly, you're busy!" Lou laughed as she maneuvered herself out of her chair and lifted Isaac from the basinet beside her as he started to fuss. "Oh you know you're about to be spoiled rotten."

The team outside came to a halt and large brown eyes stared back at Lou as she raised the edge of his gown so she could balance her son on her hip. His little chubby hands grabbed the front of her gown and drew as much of it toward his mouth.

Buck popped his head in around the edge of the door. "What are you doing up? I told you I'd get the-"

"Buck Cross. I've told you twenty times if I told you once, I'm not yet to the point of bein' big enough to require anyone to open a door on my behalf… I am able to shuffle across the room without your help."

His grimace was enough for her to know she'd gotten her point across. "Then I'll go back in to the kitchen."

She raised an imperial brow and nodded. "Just what I was thinking."

The kitchen door swung shut as Lou turned to the door. Isaac craned his neck around her shoulder as she walked, watching the door that had swallowed up his Papa.

Polly just hit the top step when Lou opened the door and gave the older woman a one armed hug. "I'm so glad you both could come."

"Me too," Polly gave Louise a gentle squeeze in return and then turned to take her grandson in her arms. "Oh dear me… look at this boy… he's soooo big. Aren't you?"

Isaac opened his mouth in a smile that let a whole mouthful of drool escape down his chin. Without a thought she took the rag Louise offered her and mopped him up as Teaspoon stepped past.

"Well look at you? Big enough to pop are we?"


He ignored his wife's grumbling and stretched his arms around Lou's body and danced her around in a circle. "Just like a ripe apple you are," he pulled back to grin down into her rosy face, "You have never been so beautiful as when you've been 'bakin' up a baby in there." He reached out and tapped the top of her round belly with his fingertips. "I bet Buck's got his hands full around here."

Polly's words of protest died on her lips as something large and metal hit the floor in the kitchen and baby Isaac whimpered in protest.

"Buck?" Lou's voice had a little more of an edge to it than she'd intended. Much of the reason for it was a healthy dose of fear that he'd hurt himself. "Do you need my he-"

"I'm just fine!" His tone was adamant, but the string of unintelligible sounds that came afterward belied his words. Another noise cut into the silence. "Really!"

Lou froze for a moment, her mind whirring with ideas and horrifying pictures of the state of her kitchen. Then recovering enough to remember her guests she moved to the large chair in the middle of the room and slowly lowered herself down into it, rearranging the folds of her skirt so they wouldn't be stretched over her middle.

Still on her feet rocking, Polly smiled down at her. "I guess Buck's cooking tonight?"

"Got that, did you?"

Teaspoon sat down opposite Lou on another chair and scrubbed his fingers through his long white hair. "Either that or he's sendin' smoke signals to his brother at the Kiowa camp. It's quite the display of smoke comin' out of your stack."

Louise lay back against the cushions and picked up a cloth from the side table pressing it to her cheeks and forehead. "I think he's just nervous for some reason. He's great in the kitchen and we love to cook together when he's home from work, but tonight he's got somethin' on his mind."

"Two little ones are on his mind if you ask me." Teaspoon gave her a wink. "He was pretty surprised when you folks started expectin' after little Isaac was born. Can't say that I was, though…"

"Teaspoon!" Polly cuddled Isaac against her chest, a hand covering his open ear to shield him from his Grandfather's words. "You'll be sleepin' in the barn you keep this up, look you made her blush."

"We're all adults here," he shot back with a knowing wink to his wife, "they know their way around the flowerbed like us. And she's only red 'cause it's hellish hot in this house." Teaspoon looked over at the shut kitchen door. "Did Buck put the entire woodpile to burnin' in the stove?"

Louise shrugged. "I should go check on him."

Teaspoon stayed her movement with a hand. "Wait… allow me to make amends to you 'fore my wife bunks me in with the donkey." He walked past Lou's chair and gave her a gentle pat on her shoulder as he went.

Setting the cloth on her forehead Louise looked at Polly with a wistful smile. "Is he always like that?" A second later she thought better of it and held out her pointer finger. "Wait, I've known him for years… yes, he is. How do you deal with it and not wring his neck?"

"The old fool is a joker at heart but you know how much he loves both of you…"

"And we love you too, Polly… you've been such a wonderful help to me. To both of us."

Isaac leaned forward in her grasp and landed a wet kiss on her nose. Polly giggled and kissed him right back. "You know we're here to-"

Something akin to an explosion rolled through the room, pressure that stopped their ears. Polly froze in place. "Teaspoon? What's going on in there!?!"

"Noth…. Nothing!" There were a few unintelligible grumblings before they heard. "You ladies just… uh… stay right where you are!"

Louise was up, one hand on her lower back. "Buck? I'm comin' in there!"

"No… really!" The ex-Station Master bellowed out. "We can't have you in the way when we come through."

"Through?" Polly started for the door and had to jump out of the way when Buck barreled out of the kitchen, the door swung open behind him to show Teaspoon beating out some flames licking at his shirt. "Dear God, Teaspoon!"

The screen door at the front of their home screamed at the hinges as Buck ran to the landing with a burning pan in his hand, smoke obscuring his face.

Louise opened her mouth to speak but stopped as the large mass that had most likely been a turkey arched through the air trailing flames and smoke behind it and landed into the rain barrel with a huge HISSSSSSSSSSSS.

"Buck?" Louise set her hand over her heart and counted the frantic rhythm revealed with her touch. "What happened?"

He turned around and gave both women a smile. Stepping back inside he grabbed his coat off the peg by the door and the wrap hanging beside it. "We had a little change of plans."

Buck helped Louise on with her wrap and picked up a blanket to wrap around Isaac as he watched Teaspoon emerge from the kitchen dusting off the little fragments of fabric that had burned off his shirt.

"Never really liked this shirt anyway," explained the older man as he grinned at his wife.

"Change of plans?" Polly's tone was laughing but her look was pointed. She wanted the truth.

Teaspoon nodded and helped Polly on with her cloak before covering the burn holes on his shirt with his coat. "Well now that I've put out the fires in the kitchen-" Lou looked at Buck with open horror at the plural of the word. "Buck and I think we'd like to take you two lovely women and adorable baby boy to supper."

Polly handed Isaac to Louise, her gaze never really leaving Teaspoon's face. "That was the plan to begin with, Sugar Lips… that's why we're here."

"And we'll be just as happy at the restaurant in town." Buck held the door open and waited while Teaspoon and Polly stepped out into the late afternoon.

"Fires, Buck?" Lou looked up at her husband with more mirth than anger. "Just how much damage did you and Teaspoon do?"

He leaned down and gave his wife a lingering kiss, the ends of his hair tickling his son's cheek. "You can have as much pie as you want."

Lou's expression dropped and she blinked back tears. "That much?"

The end.

Prompt by Cindy: Buck has company coming for dinner -- guest list is your choice. But things aren't going very well in the kitchen...

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