Parallel Universe retelling of In the Presence of Mine Enemies

Prologue

The night of the dance, the rider's couldn't remember the last time Ike had been so happy. He and Emily caught everyone's eye. Buck was happy for his friend but couldn't help but feel protective of Ike. His friend had fallen before, and he'd never had an easy time of it.

When Ike and Emily disappeared from the dance, Cody and Noah joked with each other about where they went. Buck on the other hand moved to the back of the room... he silently hoped that Ike would take his time. Even as he wished it, he knew that there was something desperate in the way the two connected with each other. Love flamed fast and hot between the two. At this moment the two of them were mostly likely enjoyin' a different kind of dance.

Gunfire interrupted the dance and the riders spilled out into the street to investigate. Emily's father lay dead in the street outside of the saloon. They searched for Emily and Ike, the two ran out from the stable. Ike's shirt unbuttoned and hay clung to her dress and hair. It was painfully obvious what they had been doin,' and when Emily saw her father's body lying in the middle of the street a full measure of guilt fell on her shoulders. It would haunt them all for a long long time.

Chapter One

The day that Emily's father was laid to rest they all stepped on egg shells around Ike. Emily had asked him for some 'time' and the separation was killin' him. Buck realized that his suspicions were right... Ike was completely in love with her. As Ike hunched over his latest drawing, reducing his pencil to a tiny nub, Buck went out to see Emily at her home.

Buck didn't know what he was goin' to say, but he knocked on the door. He announced his name and Emily told him the door was open. She wasn't too friendly at first, but when she found out he was there on his own she relaxed. Ike was important to both of them and Emily felt an immediate bond with this other rider.

She agreed to have Ike at the funeral and even asked Buck if he'd like to attend.

He had wanted to be there for the two of them... but when he got back home, Ike took hold of his friend's arm . Ike had felt this way about a few other women, but this time there was a maturity to his actions that everyone seemed to notice. Ike reached into his coat pocket and withdrew a little purple velvet bag... he turned it over into his hand and gold fell out. Buck picked up the dainty chain between his fingers turning it in the light. An oval locket spun on the end of the chain.

He looked up at his friend.. a giddy smile on his face. "You sure Ike?"

*just a present... take her mind off things*

Buck dropped the chain and locket back into the bag and playfully shoved his friend towards the door, "Give her our love."

Ike nodded and stepped into the light.


Buck spent the morning doin' chores and basically goin' out of his mind. The other riders left him alone for the most part. They all understood his mood. If things continued the way they were, Ike would be the first rider to marry and it would forever change his relationship with his best friend.

Chapter Two

The church bell rang and Buck looked up from the immense pile of cut wood stacked up in front of him. The funeral was over.

He set off into town, wanting to meet Ike on his way back. He was eager to know how Emily had received the gift. He'd had his own doubts, but Ike was so sure. He took the direct route to the church, but Ike was nowhere to be found. He took the long way back, hopin' to catch Ike along the way. Just outside the livery he saw her. She still wore the black dress he had seen that morning.

He followed behind, calling her name... after the second time with no answer, he picked up his pace and came to a stop in front of her.

Tears stained her cheeks, but Buck had a feeling the tears weren't just from the funeral, "Emily, did Ike-"

"Why do you want to know?"

"Ike's my-"

"Your friend, yes I know! I told him I wasn't ready.. I needed time.. to set things right... why?"

"It's not what you think, it's just a gift. He wanted to make you smile."

"But-"

"It wasn't what you think Emily, did you give him half a chance-"

"I still don't understand half of what he signs...you know that... damn! He must think I'm -"

Buck laid a hand on her shoulder, "He thinks you're in pain...he wants to help you."

Emily quieted for a moment. They were in the street near to the Saloon, and voices called out from the dark interior. Buck could feel the tension shoot into her shoulders. "Just leave me alone." As she turned he saw the handle of a gun poke out from her skirt.

It didn't take a genius to read her thoughts, he had to stop her.

He touched her arm as she headed for the Saloon. "Emily-"

She shook his hand off her face an angry mask, "I just need a drink!" She balked at her own tone, "Just-leave-me-alone," she gritted out through her teeth.

She ran up onto the landing outside the Saloon and pushed her way through the doors.

Buck heard voices behind him and turned. Some of the people in the street were staring at him with cool eyes, while others looked downright hostile. It was one thing for a half-breed to talk to a white woman in the street, but to lay a hand on her. That was nearly a sin to most.

He laid his hat on his head and walked away, trying to show that he was unaffected by the cruel looks. He was no more that twenty paces down the street when he heard two shots ring out in the still afternoon air.

The Saloon doors flew open and Emily fell out onto the landing. He could see the blood on her blouse as she fell to the floor.

Her gun fell from her fingers, making a loud clunk on the wooden planks. She grabbed at the darkening stain on her blouse, bright red blood turned to near black on the fabric.

Buck ran up and slid to a stop beside her. "Oh God, Oh God...." she murmured the same words again and again. He took hold of one of her hands, the other pressed down on the wound.

"It'll be okay Emily, you'll be fine."

She looked around frantically, "Ike? Where's Ike?"

One of the men that had gathered called out that he was goin' for the doctor. Jesse appeared behind Buck, drawn by the gunfire. Buck turned back, "Go get the others Jesse.... HURRY!"

Jesse nodded and dashed off down the street.

Emily looked up at Buck, "What have I done?" With one last gasp, she fell into darkness.

Chapter Three

Ike hung up his jacket in the bunkhouse. The velvet bag in his shirt pocket seemed to burn a hole in his chest. He'd picked the wrong time to give it to her... that much was evident. She's shoved it back into his hands and turned away from him.

His heart hurt... it had not been the reaction he had hoped for. They had only known each other a short while and as much as he loved her... he was beginning to realize that there was a lot he had to learn about Emily.

With a smile he looked at his half finished drawing of her, he had a lot to learn.. but he was looking forward to it.

Lou came in and put her arms around her friend. She knew this was a hard day for everyone, but especially Ike. Her silent friend was stonger than others gave him credit for, but he was still the most sensitive by far. She knew he was hurting.

She looked into his saddened eyes, "Ike? What happened?"

Ike raised his hands, pausing to consider how to express his feelings.

"Ike! Lou! Come out!"

Lou ran outside from the bunkhouse, "Jesse? What is it?"

The boy was leanin' on his knees, huffing out ragged breaths, "It's Emily-" Ike was already running in the direction of town, "She's been shot!" He called after him.


Ike's heart thudded against his chest. He ran for the Saloon, he knew that's where it would have happened. He repeated the same question over and over...'why did I leave her?'

He rounded the last corner as the doctor's wagon was halfway to the office. Changing directions he ran after the disappearing cart. He ran between the building and came to a stop beside the cart just as it arrived at the doctor's door.

Ike lifter her out of the wagon and up into the doctor's office. She roused as he was settin' her down on the bed. She clung to his neck, "Oh Ike... -I wanted to tell you - I - I," she fainted again.

The doctor helped him settle her on the bed and then he asked Ike to step outside. Ike shook his head . The doctor looked behind him and Jimmy and Kid dragged him outside. Buck stood outside in the street and when Ike came out he couldn't meet his friends eyes.

Ike walked over and saw the blood staining his shirt and hands, *what happened*

"I came into town to meet you... find out how it went. I saw Emily walkin' through town.. she didn't seem happy and I stopped her to see if she was okay."

Ike was nodding his head, *and...*

"She said that I should leave her alone...that she needed a drink-"

Buck looked away as he remembered seein' the gun in her skirt pocket. Ike caught the look as it crossed Buck's face.

*what else!?*

Buck hung his head, "She had a gun.. I saw it when she turned-" He regretted it the moment it passed his lips.

Ike's eyes turned icy cold, like flint, *you knew, and you let her-*

He barrelled into Buck, his shoulder flew into Buck's middle and the two of them sprawled in the dusty street. Ike pounded Buck with his fists, but his friend didn't try to stop him... It took three other riders to pull him off. Buck stayed on the ground looking up at Ike, "I'm sorry... I'm sorry... I didn't know this would happen-"

Chapter Four

That night, dinner at the bunkhouse was uncharacteristically still.

Ike was still at the doctor's and wasn't planning on leaving Emily's side. Buck stood sentinel outside the doctor's office.

Lou set aside the new schedule and rubbed at her eyes. They had just divided up the rides so both Ike and Buck wouldn't have to make a ride in the near future. Cody had volunteered for a few rides. Lou and the others had quietly thanked him... unwillin' to make a big issue of it, especially now.

They were heavily into conversation over the law's stance on the shooting in the saloon. Jimmy shook his head, "Neville deserved what he got-" Everyone nodded in agreement, "But what happens to Emily? I mean - if she's still al-"

Teaspoon set a hand on Jimmy's shoulder, "I don't know son, but either way - things don't look good."

Noah set his fork down, "It don't seem fair, Teaspoon. We all know he tried to burn down their barn-"

"Noah, the important thing was that Emily didn't tell anyone about it. I can't force her to say anything, and I can't act on somethin' - excusin' her for killin' him, just 'cause y'all say she had a good reason."

"But -" Kid began.

"None of you 'saw' him do it? Did ya?"

They shook their heads and Teaspoon swept up the last of his gravy on a biscuit, savoring the flavor, "Rachel, that was just excellent."

Rachel replied to the compliment wih a weak smile, "I was wonderin,' on your way back to the Marshal's office... if you'd take dinner over to the boys?"

Teaspoon hadn't even formed his reply when Lou stood. "I'll go with him." She took one of the plates Rachel had prepared and headed out the door.

The Marshal stood and with a look to the boys he headed for the door, "Well, you boys get some sleep, it's been a long day." They all mumbled their agreement and set about clearin' the table.


Teaspoon called out to the swiftly retreating rider, "Lou?!" She continued to move through the darkly lit street. "Louise? Come on now, hold up!" She stopped dead in her tracks and waited for him to catch up. As soon as he stopped beside her, she was off again, "Well, Miss Louise? What's the hurry?"

The stubborn tilt of her chin was back, "I just thought they'd be hungry by now."

"Ah-huh!" He set a hand on her shoulder, slowing her to a stop again. "Could it be you want to go down there and fix everything?"

Lou turned away, but Teaspoon knew her. "Why would I do that?" she sounded hurt.

"Because they're your friends and you care."

"Yeah - so?"

Teaspoon hauled her up next to him, "There's nothin' to do, the boys will work it out on their own." He tried to sound a warnin' bell for Lou, but her mind was already workin' away.


Buck watched from the shadows as they approached. Looking down at his shirt, once covered in angry red blood it had dried to a dull and dirty brown. He stared wordlessly as the two stopped near the porch.

Teaspoon was the first to break the silence, "Son? You hear any news?" He felt horrible as the young man before him stood before them with souless eyes. There was a saddness that tore at them at he shook his head.

Lou took Teaspoon's plate and set them both on the bench next to the door. She moved to stand close to her friend. Teaspoon saw the unconcious shift as Lou steeled herself to be Buck's champion. He nodded at the rider and turned toward his office.

He could feel her eyes on him, looking up through the darkness. Buck wanted to run and hide. There was a way she had of lookin' into him... and he closed his eyes hoping that she would look away from his face and let him wallow in his sorrow. He felt her small hand touch his own and he turned his head away, "Lou?" Tears fell slowly, "He blames me-"

"He's just angry... it's not your fault-"

"It is-"

Buck felt her hand on his shoulder.. turning him, making him face her, "No it's not... and the sooner you stop beatin' yourself up about it.. the sooner you can be there for Ike."

All the fight he had inside left him as he thought of his friend. He couldn't escape the feeling that he had failed Ike and Emily... how would he ever make it up to them now?

Lou moved away and to the bench. Lifting one of the cloth napkins, she set a fork on the edge of the plate. "The dinner Rachel sent over is gettin' cold, you better come over here and -"

Lou looked up and shook her head. He was gone - disappeared into the night. He needed to think... far away from the problems at hand.


Lou rewrapped the food and grasped one plate in her left hand. She set the second plate on her arm. Quietly with her free hand she rapped gently on the door. Doc Halloran opened the door after a moment and smiled down at the young woman. He'd become a close aquaintance and 'conspiritor' in keeping her secret. To him it had always been quite exciting.. that he was the only one in town who knew. Now as he looked down at her his smile was tinged with exhaustion. "Thank God you're here!"

"Did something happen to Emily?" Lou pushed her way through the door.

"No, no...It's Ike... he's going to kill himself if he doesn't rest.. I don't think he's taken a breath since she came here."

Lou set the plates down on the doctor's desk and looked into the next room. Ike sat next to the bed. He was on the edge of his chair, his body a mass of energy, every inch of him seemed to be movin' and she could tell he was about to burst.

Lou turned and took the doctor's arm and sat him down at the desk. She tucked an extra napkin into his shirt and set a fork in his hand. "You eat.. I'll take care of him."

Lou squared her shoulders and walked up behind him. "Ike?"

He shot out of the chair and stared at her, gun in hand. Wild eyes , hot and unblinking, made her step back.


"What... what is wrong with you?"

Ike's eyes bore into her.. *what do you mean*

"Well you just about shot me.. for one.. and another.. your best friend.. your Brother, has been kickin' himself and pacin' around outside since Emily was shot... Have you said one word to him?"

*why would i*

Lou walked right up to him, almost under his nose, standing ramrod straight. Hands on her hips she faced off with her friend, "You don't mean that... you couldn't..." She saw the anger leave him, his shoulders sagging. The last 5 hours now sat on him like 50 years of hard labor.

Lou set a hand on his shoulder, "Rachel sent over dinner.. the doctor is already settled.. now it's your turn."

Ike looked back at Emily laying asleep.

She could sense his worry and set a hand on his arm, "You think Emily would mind some company?"

The quiet rider nodded slowly. Dinner smelled awfully good.... *I'll just be a minute* He was already smothering a yawn.

Lou's sweet smile was his answer.

She walked him into the front room.


Lou re-entered the back room as quiet as a mouse and shut the door. Emily caught sight of movement in the doorway. She saw who it was through her slightly open lids... "Lou-" she whispered softly.

Emily smiled shyly. She had only met the youngest rider once, but of all the boys he was the least intimidating.

The small boy crossed over to the bed, respectfully settin' his hat on a side table near the bed. Lou sat down beside her. "Do you want me to get Ike or the Doctor?"

"N-no." The hours had stripped away the strength of her voice. "It's nice to have Ike outside for a bit... he was a .... .was..."

"Like an avengin' angel? I'll bet he scared you a bit.. I know he scared me."

Listening to Lou talk Emily thought she was seeing somethin' new in this young man. Emily motioned for Lou to lean closer. Lou looked around the room nervously and then did what she had asked. Emily found herself studyin' the young rider's features. She moved her hand, motioning for Lou to take off his glasses.

Lou reached up a small hand and tucked the glasses into his pocket after carefully foldin' em, his eyes carefully trained on the ground.

"Oh my lord, Lou?" Emily's eyes grew wide, "You're a girl!"

A wry smile crossed her face, "Isn't there anyone I can fool anymore?"

"I just never really 'looked' at you before."

"You mean you never looked at anyone besides Ike." Emily smiled and blushed.. Lou could definately see what Ike fell in love with. Lou finally felt comfortable enough to return the smile, "Emily?"

Tired eyes rested on Lou's concerned posture. "Mmmhmm?"

"Could you? Ah --- I shouldn't be askin' this." She stood to leave.

"Wait Lou, please.... tell me-"

Lou plopped back into the seat, "Could you," she leaned in closer, almost nose to nose with her new friend, "talk to Ike?"

Emily stared back, "about Buck?"

Nodding, Louise felt hope flutter in her stomach. "Uh huh. Those two have been like brothers for years... and now they can't be in the same room together anymore. It's hard on everyone, seein' you like this.."

Emily's face fell, "But, you're all worried...." she was afraid to look at the young woman beside her, "It's all my fault... this happened because of me!"

Lou felt for her, reaching out.. she held her hand, "Ike loves you - an he thinks that Buck let this happen to you." Emily stifled a yawn, "I'm sorry, I should never have bothered you-"

"Lou-" Emily stopped herself, "Louise?" she questioned. After the answering nod she continued. "I'm glad you told me - at last I've found something I can do for Ike. Could you find Buck and send him in.. I need to say somethin' to him... please?"

Lou nodded and stood to leave.

Emily squeezed her had and relaxed into the pillows, her eyes sliding closed. As Lou walked back out to the sitting room she couldn't help the uneasy feelin' gnawin' at her stomach... 'there's somethin' about the way she said it.. it sounded so final.'


Lou crossed to the door and slowly turned the knob... she nearly laughed at the sight that she stumbled into ... Doc Halloran and Ike were asleep. Doc on the table and Ike sprawled on the desk, a biscuit in his hand.

She quietly shook the doctor awake. After a quick explanation, he went to check on his patient and creeped around the sleepin' rider.


Into the evening air she ran...heading home. Just as she thought, Buck sat alone stone still on the top rail ... neither breeze nor breath moved him. Lou slowed as she reached the corral and let her breath catch up with her.

She knew that he wasn't goin' to make this easy, "Fine, make me climb all the way up," she muttered under her breath. Within moments she had climbed the rails and settled herself next to Buck.

He looked at her from the corner of his eye. He wasn't ready for what she had to say.. and part of him wanted to run... the other part... "How is Emily?"

Lou looked down at her hands, "Not good."

"Ike?"

"Not much better... worse really."

Buck looked over at her, her face hidden in the shadows of her hair, "He still-?"

Lou turned to face him, "He's angry-worried, mostly worried. The doctor, Ike.. they all know she doesn't have much longer."

Tears silvered his lashes, "Ike - he needs, I should-"

"Actually, Emily sent for you."

Buck couldn't contain his confusion. "Emily? I've got to go-" he slid off the rail and started for town.

"Buck wait!" He slowed and turned, impatient to get there. "She wants to help, she knows that-"

"I don't have time for this-" he was gone into the darkness.

Lou slid off the rail and stood in the waning moonlight. Her bunk lay waiting inside and she had a ride in a few hours. With one last look toward town.. she prayed that they would lay this ghost to rest.


The dawn was beginning to climb out from behind the horizon when Buck reached the office. It had been a long night and Buck worried what the morning would bring to light.

The doctor saw him comin' and held the door open. "Go right in."

Buck was relieved that he wouldn't have to explain himself or beg to see her. It took enough courage to face her.

She lay so still on the bed that he feared he'd come too late. Relief leapt in him as her eyes fluttered open. "Emily?" he spoke in a whisper.

"Buck... you came."

He nodded and moved to sit near her side. "Lou said you asked for me."

Emily looked away from him, "It's embarassin' really. I thought I knew it all. I had my mind made up about things... and when someone tried to change my mind I couldn't be bothered to listen."

She set a cold and quaking hand on his, "I thought I knew what I had to do... and you tried to stop me. You were the only voice of reason in my mind and ... and I wanted to thank you... but I realize it's not enough." Tears, hot and thick flowed across her pale cheeks.

"You don't owe me anything-"

Quickly wiping them away she looked directly at Buck. "Actually... I owe it to you and Ike. Now, I worry that I can't fix it before-"

Buck fell backwards off the stool and onto the floor behind him. Ike stood over him, glaring a challenge.

He saw Emily tryin' to sit up and reach for Ike's arm. Buck stood and looked into his friend's angry eyes and backed away.

*get out - you're not wanted here*

Words now failed him as he saw a stranger with Ike's face. His presence was only causing Emily pain...and he had to take care of her too. Fighting back tears he took his place outside on the porch.


Ike walked over to her from the door. He shut his friend's desolate expression from his mind as he focused on Emily.

She held out her hand to Ike. The simple motion cost her dearly. "It's killin' me to see you like this..."

*like what*

"You and Buck-"

*I don't want to talk-*

"Well I do.... I swear, you're more stubborn than I am! The only thing I'm more sure of than my love for you.... is that the two of you are closer than any brothers I've ever met. That's not something you throw away... ever!"

"I'd never forgive myself if this hurt your friendship... I couldn't ask for him to help.. it was my choice!"

*I would have helped you*

"I know Ike... but I never would have let you. You know it all comes back to guilt.. I've been sufferin' from it since my father was shot. He faced Neville 'cause he thought he didn't protect me well enough.... I faced Neville 'cause I thought I should've been there for my father... and that's what you're feelin' now..." She closed her eyes.. the light hurt too much, "you're angry that you weren't there for me. Well you can stop that right now - there wasn't anything you could do. I did what I've always done... followed my own will."

Her eyes were open and shinning with unshed tears, "The only difference this time... is you."

"You're the first one who actually made me reach out-" Pain, deep and abiding swam through her veins, time was short. "Buck tried to stop me.. keep that in mind Ike... I should have listened to him.. wish I could take it all back.."

Emily felt awful - she wasn't gettin' through to Ike and she knew by the pain building in her chest - this was the last chance she had.

She touched his hand, bringing him out of his sullen reverie. "He explained about the locket -" Ike looked at her confused. "I'm sorry I didn't give you a chance to explain that day." She opened her hand on the bed, "Can I see it?"

A little bit of a smile spread over Ike's face as he reached into his pocket and pulled out the purple velvet bag. He stretched the drawstrings and turned the bag upside down. The locket fell first... the cool metal against her palm. The chain slid after it, coilin' around and around the locket... pooling in her hand.

She picked it up and held it up in the light so she could see it. "Ike... it's beautiful-" she breathed.

Ike smiled, his eyes alight with new hope. With trembling hands she opened it and with a curious look, she turned it so Ike could see inside.

"It's empty?"

An impish smile danced across his face...tearin' at her heart. *For your father's picture* Tears brimmed in her eyes,

"No, don't be - It's the sweetest thing anyone has ever given me." She reached up to touch his face as waves of pain washed over her again and again. Emily cried out as she doubled over.

Ike grabbed her hand, holding it as tears poured down his cheeks. The doctor rushed in as the last of her strength failed her. She found herself in Ike's eyes - watching him as her life faded away with a single expelled breath.

Silence like Ike had never known filled the room - he barely heard the doctor as he expressed his sympathy to the young man. Doctor Halloran reached over, startin' to draw the sheet over her body. Ike's hand stopped him - shakin' his head . He spent the last hours of the day memorizing every inch of her face - he needed no paper or pencil, for he etched it in his heart.


Buck stood as the doctor pushed open the door. His heart was already hammering out a warning. A simple shake of the doctor's head brought it all to light. Emily was gone... and with her, some part of Ike.

He leaned against the wall, wanting to put his fist through it. Instead he silently touched his forehead again and again to the rough wooden planks and prayed.


The two men stood in the graveyard listening to the words of the preacher. Sooner than either of them thought possible.. it was over. Emily's body was laid to rest in the ground, but Ike's heart was still torn apart.

Ike turned and shook the preacher's hand. Buck stood behind Ike and took the man's hand, thanking him for the beautiful words. He watched as Ike walked closer to the grave. His life-long friend knelt beside the open ground, his strong eloquent hands sifting through the broken dirt near the yawning hole.

Silently Ike stood. His arm held straight before him, reachin' over the open expanse of the grave. Buck moved closer, watchin' as Ike's fingers metered out the dark earth cupped in his hand. Millions of tiny grains drifted on the air... smoothing a layer of dust on the coffin. As the last film of dirt left his hand it fell to his side like a weight.

"Ike, you okay?"

Buck waited for Ike to turn. It took an eternity, but his friend looked up with a desolate mixture of emotions swirling in his gaze. Buck knew some of what Ike was feeling and tried to show in a simple glance that all was forgiven.

The two stood like that for a moment until Ike stepped closer... forehead to forehead they touched, each listening silently to the grief rolling around inside each other. Ike reached his hand around and laid it on the back of Buck's neck, reaching out to his brother. The gesture was returned and the two cried openly.

They'd been through it all...together. This would be no exception,

'cause with friends like these....

you can live through anything.

THE END

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