A sequel to Fate or Foolery

Dorrie all but ran down the boards as she focused on her intended destination. She was supposed to meet Buck at the Wilcox Hotel at noon but her brother had been annoyingly late as always. Rory kept asking her why she was wearing her navy blue Sunday dress and she had told him she was meeting someone for lunch. Of course she did elude that it was with Sarah Michaelson, but she never actually said it was with the other young lady.

A large smile came over her face as she neared the steps. A few of her auburn curls had fallen in her rush to meet the handsome Indian and Dorrie pushed them back onto place while searching for his face through the people walking up and down the boards. The young Scotswoman paced while she nervously awaited his arrival.

*~*

“Ain't my fault ya got called up on this Buck. Teaspoon says he wants someone who can talk to the tribe inta cuttin near eighty miles off of our ride by going through Big Bear pass. So don't take it out on me cause I'm just the messenger. Go talk ta Teaspoon bout it.” Cody shook his head as he handed Buck the mochilla.

“But I have plans to go out with Dorrie,” Buck complained. He had been looking forward to this day for a week now, and in a second it had been completely shattered. Quickly he scribbled a note to Dorrie and handed it to Cody. “I was supposed to meet Dorrie at the hotel for lunch. Will you give this to her after you’ve cleaned yourself up?”

“Sure thing,” Cody answered with a wicked smile.

*~*

Cody wore a big smile on his face as he walked down the street towards the hotel. This was his big chance, all he had to do was to bend cupid’s arrows a little bit. He wore the note safely tucked in his pocket.

Seeing Dorrie looking around, obviously looking for someone, Cody called out her name and waved before he snaked his way through the crowd.

Hearing her name, Dorrie’s green eyes lit up in anticipation of seeing Buck only to find the blond rider whom she'd met at the dance making his way toward her. Dorrie looked at him worriedly, wondering if something awful had happened to Buck.

Out of breath when he reached her, Cody smiled as he leaned on the wall to the restaurant.

“Buck had to go on a run because he's the only one of us that speaks Indian languages and he’s the safest person for the job. Before leaving, he asked me to give you this.” Cody handed Dorrie the note and stood back, smiling kind of lopsided.

Dorrie looked at the note as if it was a snake that he was handing her. Swallowing hard, she forced a small smile and nodded at Buck's friend. “Oh...thank you,” she said softly. “I...I'll...read it later.”

“I'm surry but I forgot yer name.” Her face was rosy as she met his eyes in embarrassment.

“Cody, ma’am. William F. Cody at your service." Making a small bow he took her right hand in his and placed a small kiss on it all while he looked into her green eyes.

“Well Miss, I am to stand here till ya read that note. Those were Buck's exact orders,” he chuckled pulling his hat off his head.

Nodding nervously, Dorrie tore open the envelope and pulled out the letter. Slowly unfolding it, the pretty young woman moved her head following the letters on the page and her lips moved as she tried to decipher the message.

“The note is just saying that Buck hopes that he can meet up with you when he gets home and that you can make a day out of it.” Cody said it as if it was nothing at all because he had a feeling that she couldn’t read and didn’t want him to know.

"Well, you're right he can't come." she sighed hoping he wouldn't notice her inability to read.

“Guess I best be on may way then. Thank ya fer bringin may the note. I know it moost have taken ya away from other things ya wished ta bay doin.”

“Um, if you want, the two of us can have lunch. My treat. I mean, since you’re already dressed up and everything.” Cody was bold to make the suggestion. Truth be told, he liked Dorrie and he would love to have the opportunity to spend some time with the pretty lady.

“I'm surry Cody boot I came ta meet Buck and...” she sighed sadly. “I...” she started. “I wonder if he really wants ta eat with may another day?” she asked aloud.

“Sure he would. Buck’s a real gentleman, like that,” Cody said in a cheerful tone. “Now how about the two of us get something to eat instead of hogging the sidewalk?” He offered his arm to her.

The healer was about to turn him down when she saw Rory coming up the boards on the other side of the street. He would see her for sure. “Umm wheel maybe joost a glass of lemonade and I'll bay on may way home.” Taking his arm she let him lead her up the steps and into the restaurant.

*~*

Cody smiled at the waitress as he finished ordering.

“Would there be anything else?” The waitress asked, her voice a little perplex. She was already amazed by the number of food choices that Cody planned to eat.

“Dorrie, are you sure you don’t want anything other than the lemonade?” He looked from Dorrie to the waitress and back.

“I dinna think that would bay proper you buyin may a meal because yer friend couldn’t show up,” she answered

While he was ordering his lunch, the healer reached into her purse to pull the note out once again. She wanted desperately to know what the letter really said and knew she couldn’t ask Rory. Lord he would have a total fit if he knew. “Umm Mr. Cody...I twas wonderin if ya could read what Buck wrote in his letter.” Looking down at the paper in her hand and then back up into his blue eyes with embarrassment. “Ya see,” she sighed “I canna read.”

“Well.” Cody dragged the word out flashing a smile laced with conspiracy. “I could tell you...and I could also teach you to read it yourself..”

“Teach may ta read? You would do that?” she asked. “I...maybe we could meet at Doc's sometimes and ya could...” shaking her head. “Nay twood bay too much imposition on ya.” Dorrie paused for a moment and then handed him the note. “Could ya please not tell Buck that I canna read. Tis awfully embarrassing,” she asked her eyes pleading.

“I am known for keeping my secrets, secret.” Cody made a motion as if he was looking his mouth and throwing away the key. “And you wouldn’t be an imposition at all. I’d love to teach you how to read. How about we start tomorrow?” Cody gave a big smile after having finished his glass of milk.

‘The offer was so tempting,’ the young girl thought while looking down at the paper in her hand, then passing it to Cody. “If ya dinna mind we could use Doc's desk when he leaves ta check up on his patients. If that tis good fer ya. I know ya all have different time ta ride and all,” she smiled as he took the note from her tiny hand.

Cody smiled. Even though his plan hadn’t worked out just the way he had planned it, it still worked.

“I can stop by tomorrow if you want,” he offered. “Since I got back from my ride today, I'll have the tomorrow off.”

“Okay,” she whispered softly. “Boot I dinna care fer anyone ta know. Tis bad enough not being able ta read o write without the whole town knowin bout it. Please Mr. Cody, read the note ta may.” She all but begged the man as she leaned forward in anticipation.

Suddenly realizing that Dorrie was expecting him to read the note. “Oh...” Making a big show of reading the note, he straightened his back and gave his voice a touch of drama.

“Dear Dorrie, I am sorry that I can’t meet you today as we had planned. I must be on this run that is going through Indian land, but I will be back the day after tomorrow around lunchtime, if all goes as planned. Maybe we can have lunch then? Buck Cross”

“And don’t you worry. When I show up at Doc’s, I’ll try my best to look like a patient,” Cody stated with a mischievous glint in his eyes.

Her face brightened like the sun and her eyes twinkled like two newly opened leaves. “The day after tomorrow!” she giggled. “Oh thank ya sooo mooch Mister Cody fer readin it ta may. You've certainly brightened a dismal day!” Reaching out she nabbed a piece of bread and took a bite.

“You and Buck moost bay good friends. I like gettin ta know his friends,” she smiled obviously happy with what the note contained.

Cody was about to reach out to snag the bread back from her, but when he saw the look of stars in her eyes he didn’t have the heart. “Guess we will meet tomorrow then.” He was already getting giddy thinking about all the books that he was going to teach her to read.

*~*

Cody had been looking forward to this moment. If fact he had hardly slept at all last night. Remembering that he was supposed to look like a patient, he limped the rest of the way to Doc’s office.

Upon entering he was met by the smells of what he imagined a Doc’s office to smell like. He grinned as he saw Dorrie waiting for him.

“Lo Cody.” The young woman nervously walked over to his side. She couldn't help but smile as the pony express rider limped into the room. “Ya care fer may ta check your ankle out, Mr. Cody?” she chuckled while shaking her head.

“Well, it was just a part of the act, but if you don’t mind...” Cody grinned. “Shall we get started then?” he asked, placing the bag of books that he had brought along on the table. “Oh, and before I forget, I brought you this.”

He held out a package wrapped in brown paper.

“Oh...may. Ya really shouldn't have,” she breathed out in fear as she saw the bags of books he's brought. Lord knew she was lucky if she could read 10 words. Seeing the excitement on his face as he handed her the package, Dorrie slowly tore the paper away to find a brown leather bound book with blank sheets of paper inside. Feeling a little overwhelmed by such an expensive gift, Dorrie cleared her throat and looked up into his face once more. “May Mr. Cody tis lovely boot I canna accept sooch an expensive gift. Besides, I canna write.” She whispered holding it out towards him.

“Well, one of the best ways in learning how to read is also by writing stuff down,” Cody countered. He decided not to mention anything about the price of the item. “Do you know anything already?” he asked. “Or are we to start at the beginning?”

Looking down at the journal and then back up at his face. “I know may letters and...may name...a few words boot not mooch more than that.”

“May family moved around a lot and...the kids at the schools saw may as different and...wheel may parents thought it best I stay home after that. I learned how ta heal from may Mum without using books.”

“Well, I for one, think that’s a great start,” Cody smiled and picked up one of the books. It was one of the first that he could remember reading, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe. “We can start reading this one.” He showed the book to her and tried to encourage her to read the title.

Smiling shyly, Dorrie pulled up a chair nest to the Doc's oak chair while laying the leather book on top of the desk. The young woman took the book from Cody's outstretched hands and looked at the letters on the front. Nervously looking from Cody to the cover, “Rrrr...ah..b,” she started sounding out each letter. “n..ssss oh..n. Roebinsoen?” Her eyes sought confirmation from the blond man who stood above her.

Cody grinned widely. “That’s one word. Now Just one more,” he encouraged. “Soon you’ll be reading like you’ve done nothing else your entire life.”

Her green eyes glowed with excitement. “I read a word? What does Roebinsoen mean?” she asked slightly confused.

“It’s the name of the main character in the book. Now try the next word,” Cody smiled as he saw her eyes giving the room a glow.

Nodding she started the next word, "Cay...r..u..so? Tis that right?" she asked her finger running under each letter as she spoke.

Again, Cody smiled. “Almost. Cr...” he started to guide her towards the right pronunciation.

Giving a little giggle, “Ahhh I see. Crooso? Tis a man's book?”

“Well, I kind of see it as an adventure for children of all ages, but the main character is a man, yes,” said Cody. He was glad that Dorrie had accepted his offer to teach her. He liked spending time with her.

Dorrie was excited that she was actually learning to read and it showed on her face and how she touched the binding of the book. She hoped to be able to read and maybe, if she was lucky, have Cody help her write a letter to Buck. “Can I learn more words please, Mr. Cody,” she asked opening the cover of the book to the first page.

“Of course I will teach you,” Cody grinned, “Why don’t we start with chapter one.” Leaning closer to her so that he also could see he pointed to the title of the chapter.

The young healer began to struggle through the first sentence and began to get frustrated. She was so focused on the sounds of the words she couldn't understand the story's meaning.

“In the ci..cit.why of whyork, ... It dinna sound right and I canna understand it!” She muttered closing the book. “Maybe I'm joost too daft minded ta learn.” Handing the book to Cody she rose to her feet and crossed to the cabinet to hide the tears that slipped down her cheek. Dorrie quickly tried to get her emotions back in check so that Cody wouldn’t see.

Cody was surprised when she handed him the book and walked to the end of the room. Standing up she walked up to where she stood and slowly turned her around until she was facing him. “Don’t you ever put yourself down like that. That’s against the rules of the School of Cody. The only rule there is to never give up.” Wiping her tears away with his thumb he gave her a lopsided smile. “Now how about we give this an other try? One word at a time. Please, don’t give up,” he pleaded.

Brushing the tears on her cheeks away, she looked up at him and shook her head. “All right, I'll try again boot I canna understand what I'm sayin. They are all joost sounds all runnin tagether,” she replied, then tilting her head. “If I try till the end o the page, wheel ya write a letter ta Buck fer may?” The healer rocked back and forth on her feet anxiously waiting his answer.

“Yes, I will help you write a letter, when you’ve read the first page.” Cody had a big grin plastered on his face as he led Dorrie back to the table. “Here we go again. Just remember, one word at the time. No sense in rushing.”

Smiling brightly in return, she all but bounced back to the chair and began to struggle through the first page. Stopping every now and again for Cody to make the pronunciation for her.

“Wheel ya read it ta may now so I can hear how the words should sound all tagether?” Dorrie asked when she reached the bottom of the first page.

Most of all, Cody wanted to hug her because he was so proud of her, but he contained himself. “And then I will help you write the letter to Buck.”

Listening to Cody's flamboyant retelling of the story they both got caught up in the story by the time he reached the bottom of the page. “When ya read it I can understand sooo mooch better.” The Scotswoman sighed. Taking a pen and paper that were laying on Doc's desk, she handed it to Cody. “Could ya write the note fer may now...please?” she all but begged.

“As I promised, milady.” Cody was still feeling a bit theatrical. “And what would the lady like the note to read?”

“Hmmm....I didn't think about what I wanted to say,” she laughed a bit. Then her brows came together as she concentrated.

“Lo Buck...um...I was surry you couldn't come ta lunch. I missed seeing ya but your friend, Cody, told me that ya were called away ta work so I understand. It happens a lot with healers as wheel. I...” Dorrie paused trying to think if what she would say would be appropriate or not. “I would love ta go out ta lunch with ya tomorrow. If ya like I’ll make the food and meet ya by Coftan's pond so can talk in peace. So I'll bay there at noon waitin. I canna wait ta see ya again. With sincere good wishes, Doreen Macalister”

“Do ya think that is alright, Mr. Cody?” she asked, watching him writing across the white paper.

“I think that will be perfect,” Cody said as he finished writing. He had taken special care in making his hand writing seem more feminine.

“Um, guess my time here is up then...” Cody really didn’t want to leave, but he didn’t want to impose on Dorrie any further. “You can borrow the book if you want...and try some on your own.”

“Thank ya so mooch Mr. Cody. I loved yer story and I have learned some words taday,” she said taking the book from his hand. “And I wheel be most grateful if ya give Buck that letter. Guess I better get on home and start cookin,” she chuckled lifting her shawl and medicine bag off the hook by the door. “I want ta be sure ta have the food ready fer that picnic with Buck! See ya soon!” the young Scotswoman called over her shoulder as she skipped off toward the livery.

Cody smiled as he looked after her. She sure had pretty eyes. Heck, it was supposed to be him going to the store that day and if he hadn't...okay so he did play a trick on Buck but he was the one she would have fallen for if Buck hadn’t been there. So as far as he could tell, he was just correcting things. With a large grin, Cody pulled out another sheet of paper and rewrote the note. Nodding he put the first letter inside one of his books, and strode toward his horse.

*~*

Whistling a smart tune, Cody was all but dancing into the bunkhouse. He could hear outside the door that Ike was heading out on a ride. “Hey Jimmy!” He patted his friend on the head as the young man sat at the table playing cards. Lou and Kid looked up at him with a questioning look.

“You look like the fox that has gotten his way in the henhouse,” Jimmy gave his friend a very skeptical look while taking on his trademarked lopsided grin.

“Very funny Hickok. For your information I was doing a good turn for a friend. Makes a fella feel kinda good inside.” He grinned tilting his head back and forth at them all. Laying his books back in his trunk, the blond came over and gave Lou a little wink.

“Now I just wonder Kid if that 'friend’ is a man or a woman?” Lou smirked while Kid shook his head.

“I don't know but if Cody is involved, he had ta get something out of the deal. They feed ya Cody?” Kid said, laying his card on the table and picking another from the pile.

“That's what I want to know. But please, no gory details,” Jimmy chimed in.

“You all are so funny. To answer your question the answer is no...well not today anyway but maybe tomorrow.” Then he went to his bunk and laid down covering his face with his hat to rest.

“He's up ta something I'm sure,” Lou whispered to the other boys.

“Yeah, something here smells fishy.” When it came to Cody, something was always fishy.

“I heard that Lou. And can ya keep it down, I need my beauty rest...” he chuckled “Cause I will be busy tomorrow and I want to look my best!”

Buck was tried and most of all he wanted to drop dead in his bunk. He had been rushing back to that he could maybe make it in time to meet Dorrie, but he had failed. He would go see her tomorrow and explain further than what he had time to in the rushed note. Upon entering the bunkhouse he didn’t even notice the other people there but headed straight for his bunk and went down head first.

“How did it go Buck?” Lou asked softly. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m okay,” Buck mumbled. “I wouldn’t mind sleeping for the remainder of the century though.”

“Alright we'll let ya sleep,” Lou started.

“Can't help but notice Buck is exhausted and Cody over the moon,” she chuckled laying a card on the table.

“Yeah you rest Buck, we'll try to keep Cody from waking ya” Kid chimed in.

Jimmy chimed in with a chuckle before he too laid a card on the table. Not soon after he could hear the snores coming from Buck’s bunk.

*~*

Lou looked over and jerked her head in Cody's direction. “Is today Sunday cause sure looks like Cody is dressed for services.”

Kid looked at Cody as he bushed his hair for the third time. “Where in tarnation are you goin dressed like that Cody?”

“Doin my duty ta end ignorance and help a friend, Kid. That's where.” Cody grinned wider than a Cheshire cat. As Cody lifted his book up he remembered the note he promised to give Buck.

“Oh...Buck I near forgot. Dorrie...I mean Ms. Macalister gave this to me ta give to ya.” Cody held the note out and his eyes shifted to the floor before he gave his friend a small smile. “I gotta get goin. I have ta meet someone. Hope it’s good news.”

Buck looked at the note and grinned. It seemed that finding Dorrie had been easier than he had thought. Two o’clock at the hotel. He could manage that. Putting the note in his pocket he went back to his chores with a new vigor.

Putting in a fresh shirt, he nodded at himself in the mirror, before he left.

In town he looked up and down the street for Dorrie but she was nowhere to be found. Buck was beginning to feel like an idiot.

*~*

Sitting on the tartan cloth with a basket next to her, Dorrie sadly looked out over the pond. 'Where was he?' she wondered. Resting her chin on her knees, the young girl sighed for being such a fool! He had been making excuses not to see her because he really didn't like her as much as she'd thought. The doubts flew through her mind but she still stayed there waiting...hoping.

A small smile came upon his face as he beheld her. She looked so beautiful sitting there. Tethering Sultan next to Dorrie’s horse, he walked up to her slowly, putting a sorrowful look on his face.

“Dorrie, I am sorry, but Buck couldn’t make it. There was an other run. Also through Indian land.”

The Scotswoman didn't even raise her head. “Mr. Cody tell may the truth. Buck doesn't really want ta see may does he? He joost sends ya here ta tell me that he busy working boot he really tisn't...tis is he?” she said with a tear filled voice.

Cody rushed to her side. “No Dorrie. Don’t think like that. It’s just the safest for all of us if Buck takes the runs that goes through Indian land. You know, since he is Indian and knows their language, there’s lesser of a chance that he will get killed.”

‘What am I doing?’ Cody thought, making Buck to be the hero. “But if you want I can stay with you and when Buck gets back...” ‘No, shut up while you’re still good.’

“No...that's alright. Guess I'll joost pack everythin up and head back home. Thanks fer comin all the way out here ta tell may tough. I truly appreciate it!” Dorrie said crawling to her knees as she began to put the food away.

“No, please don’t,” Cody put a hand on her arm to stop her. Quickly he withdrew it. “I’m sure you went through all this trouble making this food. It would be a shame if it just went to waste.”

Looking up at him she gave him a sad smile. “Guess yer right. Would ya like ta eat some of it before I go home?” she asked quietly wiping a tear from her eye and pulling some of the food from the basket.

“But only if you’ll eat with me.” Cody looked at her. The tear that had escaped had not passed by unnoticed. “Please, you are such good company. And later maybe we can continue with your reading.”

“I guess I can have a bite or two. I do want ta know what happens ta the man on the island. Boot we dinna have the book!” she said shaking her head. “May mind tis all filled with wool gatherin,” she chuckled handing Cody a brownie. “Try one of these. They help may when may spirit...needs a wee liftin.” Dorrie took a small bite and waited for Cody to take a bite.

Cody, never saying no to cake, took a big bite out of the brownie that Dorrie had presented. It tasted delicious. He had in fact never tasted such a good cake before. “Dorrie, you have to give me the recipe for this so that Emma can make it. And we can continue reading an other time.”

With a little giggle, Dorrie looked over to him, “Wheel I'll tell ya how ta make it if ya write it down. It tisn't that hard really and I thought Buck...” Dorrie's animated face fell as she thought once more of the Indian and wondered if they would ever see each other again.

“Well, I didn’t bring anything to write with, but you could come by the station some time and I can help you write it down,” Cody said with a smile as he took an other bite out of the cookie. It was truly the best brownie that he had even had. Not that he had eaten that many of them.

Cody ‘s mind drifted to how he was going to keep on fooling Buck. Sooner or later he would have to find out that he was the one meeting up with Dorrie. And by God, he was the one that should have seen her first and helped her when she was bullied in town.

Realizing that he was frowning, he forced a smile an his face and wondered if he could take the liberty to kiss her. Though he was a ladies man he couldn’t for the life of him understand all the rules that women made up when it came to courting.

“Or maybe next time we have a lesson ya can write it down or if Buck comes inta town...” Dorrie's voice drifted off. With sad eyes she took a small bite of the dark chocolate delight and without really tasting it, swallowed.

"Cody, did ya ever feel...um...things inside ya fer someone boot ya dinna know if they liked ya. I mean..." Dorrie sighed while pushing a curl behind her ear. "Ya thought they liked ya, but ya wondered if it was true or joost you wantin it ta bay so? Oh never mind, I'm joost bayin silly. Guess I should start packin everthin up. If ya like, ya could take the food back ta share with yer friends. Joost bring may basket back next time yer in town." The young healer said flatly while placing some of the items into the basket. The bread was close to Cody so she leaned over to pick up the loaf and gave him a small smile.

Cody knew exactly how she felt. He had listened attentively and when she leaned to get the bread he knew that this was probably his only chance.

*~*

Buck had been waiting in town for nearly an hour and he was beginning to wonder if Dorrie was just playing around with him. He was feeling stupid just standing there waiting for someone that didn’t show up. When he thought about it, maybe something had happened to her on the way here. She could have fallen off her horse and laying injured in a ditch somewhere.

Jumping up on Midnight's back, he kicked Midnight to a trot towards the Macalister farm two miles out of town, constantly searching for Dorrie or a rider less horse.

As time passed, the worry grew stronger within him. Something had to have happened to her. He could feel it in his stomach. He had to stop himself from imagining all the bad things that could have happened to her. Then while he was coming around the bend in the road, he saw something he never would have imagined...and the pain at what he saw slammed into his gut and he jerked back on Midnight's reigns. There, sitting on a blanket by the edge of the pond was Cody kissing Dorrie!

“Dorrie...how could you...?” Buck uttered as his heart sank to his boots. He didn’t know which one of them he was the angriest at; Dorrie for deceiving him, or Cody knowing that he liked Dorrie.

Looking from one person to the other, Buck’s mouth opened and closed, not a word coming out.

As she reached for the homemade wheat bread that she'd made the night before, Cody leaned forward and touched his lips to hers. The young woman was stunned and couldn't move for a moment but then as the shock dissipated she jerked back gasping. Dorrie jumped to her feet while looking down at the blond man with a hurt and confused expression on her face.

The healer tucked one of her fallen curls behind her ear as she struggled to deal with Cody's feelings of guilt and attraction as they flowed through her as well as her own anger and betrayal. As Doreen stood there dumbfounded, she looked up to find Buck sitting on Midnight watching them.

In that moment her heart broke. All her thoughts and dreams of being with Buck shattered in one second. "Why? Did ya both thin it would bay fun ta play with may. Look at the strange witch girl, Buck. Let's see how far we can go with her. Was Buck ta be the next in line? Was I joost a game ta ya both?" she choked out, her eyes closing tight in pain.

Tears slowly fell down her flushed cheeks as her green eyes met Cody's blue. "I... t...trusted ya. I thought ya were may friend..." she sobbed loudly. Turning to Buck she shook her head "And you...you...oh naer mind!" Turning in demoralizing pain, the healer swung up onto Wind Chaser's back and sped across the open field toward her secret place where she could weep in private.

Cody liked the feel of her soft lips but when he saw her eyes...the pain that was in them. "No Dorrie, just let me explain. We weren't playin with ya." he said but he could tell that she wasn't listening. Cody looked up at Buck and was filled with guilt and anger. Why had she met the Kiowa first? He'd hurt her and he really hadn't meant to. He just liked her a lot and wanted to be with her.

Cody picked up his hat and rose to his feet. "Buck...look," he started but struggled with how to make things right and still end up with Dorrie.

It was then Buck realized it; Dorrie was completely innocent in all of this. It was all Cody’s handiwork. Feeling guilty because he had blamed Dorrie for what was Cody’s expert manipulation, he looked up and caught a glimpse of her as she disappeared into the distance.

Jumping off of Midnight, he walked up to Cody with determined steps as the blond sputtered out once more, “No ‘Buck, look’. You just hurt a wonderful woman because all you’re able to think about is yourself and how you’re doing. If you’re happy! Did you ever stop to think how your scheme would affect Dorrie? For once can you just use that brain of yours for...something?” Buck threw his hands up in the air in exasperation. He couldn’t believe what Cody had done.

"Buck let me explain I..." The blond rider tried to interrupt.

Walking around in a few circles Buck again turned his attention to Cody. “I thought you were my friend, I thought you were family...but I guess I was wrong.” With that Buck jumped up on his horse and rode back toward the station. He couldn’t bear seeing Cody right now. His fellow rider had not only hurt Dorrie but him as well. Ever since meeting Dorrie, Buck had allowed himself to feel something for another woman. After Kathleen Devlin used him and dumped like a bag of potatoes, he believed he could never trust his feelings again. It was as if there was some higher power that wanted him to spend his life alone. With Dorrie, all that changed.

Cody felt awful. He'd only wanted to see that if he were given a chance. Maybe Dorrie would like him more than Buck. But inside he'd known that she was only thinking of Buck when she came out here, and he'd taken advantage of that to be with her. When she'd leaned over close to him, the blond rider hadn't been able to resist. He thought if he kissed her she might find him irresistible like in all those dime novels he read and it would change her mind about Buck. As his Kiowa friend rode angrily away, Cody thought about what he'd said. He had been thinking of what he wanted and ended up hurting Dorrie. He'd hurt her and Buck.

Looking down at the picnic lunch laying out before him, his stomach turned from the guilt. For the first time since Cody could remember, the thought of food made him sick. Bending down, he quickly put all the food in the basket and loaded it on his horse. Once he had everything situated, he jumped up on his horse and rode off toward the station. He owed Buck and Dorrie an apology and it looked like instead of a picnic lunch, he'd be eating crow.

Tears were pouring down Dorrie's cheeks as she raced across the open field of grass like the hounds of hell were on her heels. She couldn't believe they would do this to her. 'Well dinna matter what ya thought Dorren Macalister, ya were a good game fer the two of them.' She could just see them laughing about this later. "And you should see Buck, she can't even read nor write!! " Her imagination had Cody saying that to the Indian. Before she knew it, her horse had made it's way into the grove of oaks that bordered the Gerard's property and their own.

Due to her emotional upheaval, Dorrie wasn't being a very attentive rider. As her horse began to head down the small hill toward the creek, the young girl was not holding tightly with her legs. The horse slipped on the wet turf and the healer cried out as she slipped from the saddle. All she saw was the ground rise up to meet as her as her knee solidly hit the embankment.

The Scotswoman lay stunned for a few moments until the ground beneath her began breaking apart under her weight. In a panic, the healer reached out and grabbed a tuft of grass to keep her from falling the rest of the way down the hill. Holding tight to the two pieces of field grass, she pulled with all her might to try and work her way upward only to feel the grass give way. Doreen screamed as her body rolled the rest of the way down the fifteen-foot incline to finally stop on the bank of the creek. Her body lay still as the trickling waters flowed by.

*~*

Buck wasn’t sure where he was riding. He didn’t want to run into Cody on the way home or back in the bunkhouse for that matter. Finding himself on a field he had never been before, Buck got off of Midnight and let the horse wander as she wanted. She was a good horse and would not stray far.

Sitting down and gathering his legs under him, Buck tried to meditate and to clear his head of everything; of Cody and of Dorrie. If he decided to go back to the station, he didn’t want to return in anger. This was between him, Cody and Dorrie and it should stay that way. The Spirits only knew what would happen if Jimmy got involved in this mess.

Sighing in exasperation, Buck stretched his legs and pounded the ground with his fists. There was no way that he could calm down knowing that Dorrie’s feelings were hurt. Cody had been the cause of it and there was nothing he could do to make it better. Dorrie hated him, and there was nothing he could do about it.

Walking up to Midnight, he patted her for a while before he started on the road home, hoping that Cody had the sense to stay away.

Buck hesitated at the barn door wondering if Cody had returned before him. Finding the blonde’s horse was still missing, Buck unsaddled Midnight and started to rub her down. The motions of the brush seemed to calm him. Soon as he was finished he washed up at the pump and headed into the bunkhouse hoping the others would leave him alone.

“How did it go with the lady?” Jimmy asked and leaned against the wall.

“Don’t ask,” Buck huffed as he threw his hat down on the bed and just barely stopped himself from punching it. He wondered what he was supposed to do now. Jimmy and Ike were the only other people in the room, and Buck really didn’t want to talk to anyone just now. Picking a book out of his trunk, he sat down on his bunk and pretended to read, not even caring that he was holding it upside down.

Jimmy guessed it had gone pretty bad if the look of anger on Buck's face was anything to go by. Actually, now that he thought about it, he could count the times he'd seen Buck angry on one hand. It was a real shame cause Buck had really liked this girl. The gunfighter had been surprised when the other rider had even mentioned going to the dance with Dorrie. The young Indian all but hid from the ladies since Kathleen Devlin used him to spite her father.

*Ya want to talk about it? * Ike asked frowning when he saw how upset his friend was. The mute boy shook his head at seeing Buck holding the book he'd waited weeks for upside down.

Before Buck could even say a word, Cody came bursting through the bunkhouse; the door slamming against the edge of one of the bunks.

"Buck …look we gotta talk about this .." he started while moving over to stand just above the Kiowa's bed.

Buck had been ignoring Ike, pretending not to be watching, but he couldn’t ignore Cody. Putting the book aside he looked up at his former friend. “You want to talk, huh? You, you, you. We’re done talking. It’s not me you should be talking to, anyways.” It was way too crowded in the bunkhouse right now so he pulled on his boots and was about to walk out the door when he felt a hand on his shoulder.

“Cody, get away from me!” He turned around with incredible speed and hit the man square in the face. Realizing what he'd done, the Kiowa ran out of the room and headed toward the barn.

He had been taught as a child never to act out in anger and now he'd just done that. Why was it so hard for Cody to understand?

Ike looked after his friend as he disappeared out the door. He had never seen the man so angry before. Knowing that, for now, Buck was best left alone, Ike went over to Cody to check on his friend.

"Damn why won't the dang fool let me explain," the blond muttered leaning back in the bunk in frustration.

Jimmy's eyes narrowed in on Cody, and he asked sharply, "What the hell did you do Cody ta get Buck that mad at ya?" But before his friend could answer a thought went racing through his mind. "You didn't!" Jimmy barked out. "Tell me you didn't go and ruin his date with that pretty little redhead he's takin such a shine to."

Hearing Jimmy's question, Ike's eyes widened and narrowed on the boy on the bunk.

*What'd ya do Cody? Play a prank on him while they were together? * Ike asked moving closer to Cody angrily.

Glancing from Jimmy to Ike, Cody could see things weren't looking so good for him. He figured if he danced around the questions he might be able to get himself some breathing space.

"Nah," he drawled his answer in a long steady tone. "I didn't play a prank on them while they were together Look this is between Buck and I. Don't worry we'll work it out."

Rising from the bunk, Cody pulled out his handkerchief and held it to his busted lip. "I'm gonna go an fix that step Emma's been nattering about. If Buck comes back and wants ta talk tell him where I am." Then the blond strode across the floor and out the door toward the house.

"Somethin ain't right Ike. I'm wonderin why Cody's dressed up in that new shirt he bought last week at Tompkins." He shook his head, "Ya think you can go an find out from Buck what's goin on? Outta all of us here, your the one he trusts the most."

Ike thought for a moment. The man was right. Something fishy was going on around here and it all lead back to Cody. The mute rider had never seen Buck so angry that he would use his fists to get out of a situation. Nodding to Jimmy, Ike moved out the door and over to the barn.

*~*

Buck was busy mucking out all the stalls when Ike came in and stood quietly watching. 'I have to do something or I'll go mad.' the young Indian thought as his anger continued to grow. Why had he acted the way that he had? Never before had he punched someone just to shut them up. He would be fired for sure – when he had first started working at the express he had to signed the paper saying that he was not to quarrel with his coworkers and he had done just a bit more than quarrelling.

After finishing one of the stalls, he set down the fork and sighed. Ike would be standing there until he said whatever it was that bothered him. “Ike,” he started. “Look, I’ve told you how difficult it is to be Kiowa in the white world, but I don’t need Cody to make it harder.” Buck didn’t want to say anything else because it really wasn’t any of his friend's business.

Ike shook his head in frustration and knew that he would have to press his friend to get at the truth. Picking up the book, which Buck had accidentally carried out from the bunkhouse and placed on the bale of hay, Ike sat down and slapped his hands to get Buck's attention.

*The problem won't just go away. You need to tell me what happened. Maybe I can help. What happened with Dorrie? I thought you and she had a picnic. Why would Cody have anything to do with that?*

Buck sighed, knowing full well what was going to happen next. Ike would be prodding at him until he caved in. He started to pace, wondering what to say. “Cody had everything to do with it! He was the one that was kissing Dorrie!” Buck screamed suddenly, scaring the horses. He fell silent after he had said it, as if voicing it made it real.

“Listen, I really don’t want to talk about. Dorrie doesn’t like me and that’s the end of that.” Buck was breathing heavily and needed something to do. Taking the book he had been pretending to read, Buck tossed it at the wall. A note fell out.

Buck went to pick it up. He hadn’t had a chance to actually read the book yet so there was no way that he would have marked a page

The note read:

Lo Buck, I was sorry you couldn't come to lunch. I missed seeing you but your friend Cody told me that you were called away to work so I understand. It happens a lot with healers as wheel. I would love to go out to lunch with you tomorrow and if you like I will make the food and meet ya by Coftan's pond. I wheel make a nice lunch and we can talk in peace. So I'll bay there at noon waiting. I can’t wait to see you again, With sincere good wishes, Doreen Macalister

“Lies, lies, nothing but lies,” Buck muttered under his breath. He curled the letter into a tight ball before he threw it at the wall.

“BUCK!” He heard Teaspoon’s voice boom from outside. Just the mere sound made him cringe and chills were sent down his back. He was definitively in trouble for punching Cody. Before he knew what was happening, Teaspoon had a tight grip on Buck’s shirt and pulled him out of the barn.

*~*

Cody stared in frustration at the opening of the sweat lodge wondering just what to say to Buck when he came. It’d probably taken longer for Teaspoon to find out if Jimmy hadn’t come pestering him for answers. Needless to say, it ended with both of them wrestling on Emma’s clean kitchen floor. Teaspoon had heard Emma creaming at the two of them, and the next thing Cody knew the older man was carting him out here.

The blond had done what he was told and started the fire. As the sweat began to drip down his forehead, he contemplated what he should say to Buck when the Kiowa entered, most likely dragged by Teaspoon. Cody figured it was best if Teaspoon was the one to have the first word.

Cody was already waiting for the two in the sweat lodge. He had started the fire and was already sweating. He wanted to talk to Buck when the man entered dragged by Teaspoon, but figured that Teaspoon should be the one to have the first word.

“Cody, why don’t you start with your side of the story?” It wasn’t a question that Teaspoon had asked as he poured more water over the rocks.

The blond rider looked over at Buck then up at the Stationmaster. “It's this way Teaspoon. Bout a month ago I let Buck go into town ta pick up some supplies fer Emma. Well...turns out that Dorrie Macalister showed up and needed some help. Buck helped her out and...it led to him askin her ta the dance.” Cody paused to wipe the droplets off his forehead before continuing.

”See I thought if I could have a chance to spend time with her, since it would have been me she shoudda met first, that she might wanted ta go with me instead of Buck. So...so I went in to see her at Doc's to give her Buck's note canceling their meetin and...she...she wanted to give him a note but didn't know how ta read or write.” Cody took a breath and looked down at Buck.

”So I started teachin her. While I was teachin her I...I really started to like her...”

“Like her? You more or less jumped her!” Buck spat. He couldn’t believe that Cody was acting so egotistical, even for Cody. He was going to say more but Teaspoon put a hand on his shoulder to quiet him down. It was not his turn to speak, not yet.

“Go on Cody,” said Teaspoon.

“As I was sayin, I really started to like her. I mean she is so nice and she listens to me with out makin rude comments. When I was helping her to read I felt...special. Seeing her eyes when I read Crusoe to her, she just lit up like a candle so ... I had to see her and not just for lessons.” Cody stopped.

What he had to say next was the toughest for him cause he knew he'd done something he shouldn't have. “So...one day while we were studying...she asked if I could write a note inviting Buck to a picnic. I wrote it...what she wanted to meet him at twelve o'clock today. I did write it but...” Cody stopped and rested his head in his hands unable to look at the other two.

“But...” Buck put in. He wanted to hear Cody say the words. Say that he had switched the notes. Say that he had been acting selfishly and without any regards to how other people might feel.

"But I made two notes. One that said she would meet Buck at noon at Coftan’s pond like she wanted and the other at one o'clock in town." He paused at hearing his own words and he felt awful. At the time it seemed right because he actually believed that if he were around her more than Buck, she would turn her eyes his way. He thought that he was fixing the screwed up chance of fate that had Buck meeting her first when it should have been him.

”...The second note was made for Buck ta find. I told her he couldn't come cause he was busy on another ride into Indian territory. Dorrie thought that Buck just didn't want to see her and she told me that I could sit down ta eat since she'd lost her appetite.”

Cody raised his head and looked from Teaspoon to Buck. “I didn't know Buck would ride by and see....”

“Well, I did, and now the only chance that I ever had at being happy is ruined.” Buck didn’t realize what he had said before the words were out of his mouth. “Cody, you have no idea how lucky you really are,” he continued. “I’m glad that you don’t know what it’s like to be judged everywhere you go based on the color of your skin. What it’s like wondering if you can trust a person because he might kill you for no good reason. You have no idea what it’s like to have your own mother scorned for deciding to keep you when everyone told her to set you out. And I glad you don’t know because I wouldn’t want half of what I’ve been through to be set on you.” Buck was feeling like he was losing the ability to breathe. The was no air inside the lodge.

*~*

Pushing the faded blue curtains from the kitchen window, Rory looked out once more wonder where in blazes she was. Dorrie should have been home at least two hours ago if not more.

He knew she was going on a picnic with one of the Pony Express Riders. Buck...yeah the Indian. Dang girl was always going for the things that made her life harder instead of easier.

”Ah, Dorrie lass they'll bay hell ta pay if you 're nay home soon,” he grumbled.

”Tis she home yet?” Moira asked as she came in from the living room.

”Nay, Mum. Boot after I have words with her she'll wish ta heaven...” but before he could continue he heard the sound of hoof beets coming toward the house. Swinging the door open ready to hand out retribution, Rory looked in fear as Wind Chaser came riding up rider less.

The dark haired man stood frozen with fear as his stomach rolled at the sight before turning to find his mother 's white face.

”May babe...Rory?” She asked her hands shaking as she rushed to the horse's side to take it s reins and tie them to the old wooden rail.

Rory moved over to his mother and laid a hand on her shoulder. “Let may look at Windy here. She probably joost fell and tis walkin on home.”

Running his hands over the horse, the Scot could see that the horse had no blood on her but was limping slightly on her front leg.

”Aye joost a spill. I best get after her afore it gets dark. Ya go in and be certain things are ready for I'm sure our Dorrie wheel bay cold and tired.” Giving his mom a kiss on the cheek, Rory took Wind Chaser to the barn and saddled Cinnamon as quick as his hands could move. Anger lit his eyes as she thought on the boy she'd gone to meet and all the horrors that could have happened to his little sister. She was a good rider and he was having problems believing that she got tossed going not but a few miles up the road.

With a kick and a curse under his breath he rode at a full gallop along the path his sister would have ridden home. Though he searched for near a half hour along the paths she usually rode, Rory found nothing . He did see three sets of horse tracks at the pond where they often went to have picnics. Bending down he picked up a piece of bread that sat near the matted grass. Tightly squeezing the bread in his hand, Rory rose from the ground, mounted his horse and rode toward the Pony Express Station with fear and anger driving him on.

*~*

Running a hand through his soaked hair, Cody choked out, “I'm sorry Buck. I really am I...I guess I didn't think that she was that important to ya. I mean ya barely spoke about her and...I knew you liked her and I guess the longer I was with her...I got jealous. I was jealous because while Dorrie was with me no matter what we were talkin bout she always had ta bring you up.”

Cody rose to his feet and paced back and forth a bit as he fought to get air into his lungs. “I was wrong to do what I did and if I could change things I would...but I can't. I can only tell Dorrie what I did and make her see that you had nothing ta do with it.”

Stopping in front of Buck, the blond rider continued, “Dorrie is a good person Buck. I'm sure she'll listen ta me." Cody stopped talking for a voice came toward them screaming at the top of their lungs.

“Where are ya Indian! Come out and face may or I'll tear yer wee teepee ta pieces ta get ta ya." Rory shouted and smacked the side of the doeskin lodge.

Buck sighed as he heard the voice. What he had just talked about was ironically enough going to happen. Light slipped into the closed off lodge and he squinted against it. He knew that he had seen the man somewhere, but he couldn’t place him. It didn’t matter if he said something, the man was going to beat him anyways. Taking a deep breath he stood so that the man could punch him without much difficulty.

Teaspoon had been listening to the two men talk. The two of them were doing a good job at making up. With a smile on his lips, he crossed his arms across his chest and nodded. But no sooner had trouble been calmed, a new one showed up.

Rory peeked into the smelly steam filled room searching for his sister but only finding the lad she'd gone to meet by the pond. “Ya best get out here lad o I'll drag ya!” Rory spat out his hands clenched on the leather flap. “I've looked around here and I dinna see her. Ya best tell may where may sister tis o by God ya'll no live the night!” Rage steamed within the dark haired Scot as he stepped back and waited for the Indian to come out.

Teaspoon was quick to step between Buck and what appeared to be Dorrie’s brother. “Now calm down the both of ya. Mr. Macalister, why don’t you, me and Buck go up to the house and discuss this like men? Cody, will you clean up here for us please.”

“No Teaspoon...it's me he should be talking to and not Buck cause...Dorrie was with me this afternoon. Buck didn't do anything ta Dorrie.” Cody said as he too slipped through the flaps of the buckskin room to stand before Rory.

”I dinna understand. All she told us was she was meetin a boy named Buck. Are ya tryin ta tell may she's runnin round with all the boys.” Rory moved to make a reach for Cody but Teaspoon was in the way. Looking up at the older man he growled. “May sister dinna run around with all different boys! This was actually the first she even...someone best start clearin things up quickly.”

“Now, now, things will be cleared up.” Teaspoon put a hand on the man’s shoulder in order to calm him.

“Sir,” Buck jumped in. “Dorrie was supposed to be with me today, for the picnic. But see, Cody likes her so he lied to me about the time and where to meet. I only saw Dorrie briefly today. Is something wrong with her?”

“What da ya mean supposed ta bay. Why in blazes would she pack up a lunch thinkin she was meetin you?” he paused looking form Buck and then to Cody. “And end up with ya? Where the two of ya playin a jest on her? If ya did twas truly mean and spiteful. Not that folks haven't takin her gentle nature and used it against her afore. Well speak up boy!” Rory spat at Cody.

”No...we weren't...I mean I wasn't trying to hurt Dorrie. I...like her...a lot and I wanted her to like me and not Buck so I lied to her about Buck being on a run when he was thinking she was going to meet him later. She got upset when I...kissed her.” Cody paused for a moment and took a step back wondering if the man was going to hit him. “Buck saw us together and she thought we were playing around with her, like you said. Last we saw her she rode off across the field heading toward your place.”

Rory took a few steps forward, his fist gripped tightly. “There tis nothin I'd like better than ta teach ya a lesson boy but I want ta see may sister safe more. So she came cross the field and not down the road? What time did ya last see her?”

”Round one thirty ... maybe two...” Cody's voice shook and fear could be seen on his face. “Maybe she went somewhere to cry or think and she 's probably home now while you're here,” he said hopefully while running a hand through his long blond hair.

”No...I went ta her special spot where she goes ta think things out and she wasn't there. Wind Chaser just came home bout half hour ago with out her. St. Patrick , I hope...” The proud man's voice broke.

Buck had been silent the whole time. He wasn’t really sure what was going on and he didn’t want to say anything until his mind was clear. “You don’t have to worry, sir.” He put a hand on Rory’s shoulder. “We’ll find her, together.” Turning to Teaspoon, he said, “I’m going to saddle up a fresh horse and then I’ll be on my way.”

Teaspoon nodded seriously. He still wasn’t too sure about what was going on. What he did know was that he had two boys that both cared a great deal about Doreen Macalister.

“Wait, I’ll go with you,” said Cody. “It was me that made all this happen, and I’ll be damned if I’m gonna sit around and do nothing until she’s home safe and sound.”

Cody looked over to Buck and then back to Teaspoon. “I have a run in the mornin, can ya see if one of the other's can take it? I...I have ta go Teaspoon. This whole thing is my fault and if she...If something happened.” Cody stopped and pulled his leather shirt over his head. “I need ta help. I have to.”

“Very well, we best move quickly fer the sun is joost but ready ta set and twill bay naer impossible in the dark.” He said meeting Buck's eyes then turning his gaze back to the older man. “Could ya see that someone goes ta tell may Mum what's happenin? She should also bay warned ta prepare herself if...” he looked at his hands and then back to Teaspoon. “If may sister needs care.” Then turning to the two riders Rory asked, “Which one o ya tis gonna show may the way?”

“I’ll see that one of my boys head out there right away.” Teaspoon said rubbing the stubble on his chin. “Ya needn't worry bout findin yer sister. Buck's one of the best trackers I've seen in quite some time.”

Buck nodded and looked over at Rory, wondering what the man was going to do.

Rory looked at each of the young men and nodded. He had little time to waste worrying over who went or didn't and he knew the more eyes the better. “Alright then lads, lead may ta which direction she rode out of from where she met ya,” Rory waited for one of them to lead the way. “Let's be quick about it. Dorrie could be hurt or de...” He stopped looking each of the boys in the eye.

The blond rider swallowed hard as he thought of Dorrie dying all because he'd only thought of himself. Buck had been right. He hadn't thought of what this would do to Dorrie or Buck he'd been so focused on what he wanted and how to make the young girl like him that he disregarded everything else. Striding to the barn, he saddled Sultan and swung up into the saddle.

Rory mounted Cinnamon and turned the horse's head toward the barn door as he waited for the boys to prepare their horses. Soon he saw the boy with the long blond hair ride out from the barn into the yard.

With a determined look on his face and a nod in Rory's direction, Cody kicked his horse and sped down the road toward the place he'd seen the auburn haired woman last.

Buck was quick to follow after Cody and Rory. Many emotions were running through his mind. He was so scared for Dorrie. She was probably laying in a ditch somewhere, hungry and alone. He had no idea where they were riding, he was just following Cody wherever Cody went.

They had come to the place where they had last seen Dorrie and Buck began to scan the area, searching for her green dress or auburn hair. There was so much that he just couldn’t understand. He had made a decision though; he was going to find Dorrie, bring her home, make sure that she was alright and then leave her alone. She was too good for him. He was Indian and couldn’t bring her anything good. Maybe if they lived with the Kiowa. No, he could never go back there. Red Bear had all but declared him dead. He belonged in the white world and that was that.

Eyes focused on the ground before him, Cody sought any sign of Dorrie's trek across the field. The tracks had been fairly clear and easy to follow at first but as they neared the woods he picked up multiple sets of tracks and stopped for a moment. “Dorrie!” he called out wondering if she was nearby and could hear them.

Searching the area which Dorrie had ridden, Buck spotted some tracks in the mud, it looked like a horse that had slipped. “She’s down here,” he called. Jumping off of his horse, Buck slid down the small hill to where Dorrie lay unconscious. Taking her in his arms she prayed that she would open her eyes.

Rory followed the young men as they led the way while his hands gripped the reins tightly. He'd been hoping that they would find his sister walking back as they rode along the tree line. Just as numerous horrifying images of what could have happened to her flashed through his mind, Buck's voice echoed through the wooded area as he hollered out that he'd found Dorrie. Spinning his horse around, Rory raced towards where the voice had called out to them, his heart pounding in fear.

”Where are ya Dorrie?” Cody whispered as he followed the tracks along the ridge. The blond rider noticed that the tracks were not as deeply embedded into the ground as the previous one's and he'd been following Wind Chaser's solo path toward the Macalister home. He had just turned his horse around when he heard Buck's voice call out from behind him.

Kicking his horse hard, Cody raced to the spot where Buck's horse now stood and dismounted. He made his way the crest of the hill and heard another horse galloping quickly towards them. Cody looked down the sharp graded incline that led to a creek bed. He saw Buck with Dorrie in his arms. Seeing her laying limply against his friend's chest sent a shiver down his back. The blond shook his head and prayed that she wasn't dead. A voice screamed out from behind him as he looked down at Buck almost afraid to move. “Buck...Dorrie is she..?” he asked and then began sliding down the hill toward the Indian's side.

“No, she’s just out cold.” Buck could see the fear and worry in the other man’s blue eyes. Looking down at Dorrie and then back up at Cody, Buck knew that he didn’t have a chance, and if he took one he would most likely end up being hurt. This wasn’t a conscious thought, but he knew within himself that Cody was the one to be with Dorrie.

Gently Buck brushed a few wayward strands of hair away from her face and smiled, sadly. The cut on her forehead would probably leave a scar. Taking his neckerchief, he bound it around her head to stop the bleeding. “Cody is a good man,” he whispered to her in the Kiowa tongue as he worked. “He will treat you the way a lady is supposed to be treated.”

“Cody, will you carry her up to her brother. Take the way around there.” Buck pointed. “It’s safer. I’ll go up the way I came down and start making a travois. It will be more comfortable for her that way.” Carefully he handed Dorrie over to Cody, who was sitting beside him, kind of dumbfounded.

“Buck ... what?” Cody started but saw the look on Buck's face as he held the young woman out for him to hold. ‘Somethin ain't right. Why would he hand her over to him if he liked her so much?’ Reaching out Cody pulled her into his arms and held her tight against his chest. He looked down at Dorrie's pale face and noticed the neckerchief wrapped around her head.

It was much harder going up the hill than it had been coming down. Buck’s feet kept slipping and it was hard to get a firm grip on anything to help him so he had to dig into the stony surface with his hands. Finally reaching the top, the Indian saw Rory looking at him with panicked eyes. “Rory, your sister looks like she hs been knocked out and has a cut in her head, but she should be alright. I’m gonna need your jacket to make a travois so we can get her home.”

Buck didn’t wait for the other man to answer or even react, but set to work on making the travois. Red Bear had showed him how to do it when he was a child, and he had made one many times after that. When the tribe moved, it was how they carried their possessions. Red Bear had been so proud when he had managed to make one all on his own.

Before he could say another word, he watched his friend climb up the steep slope as stones fell downward with each step he took. Finally finding a path further downstream, Cody gently carried Dorrie as they wove their way up the small ravine. Just as he reached the top of the embankment, he saw Rory demounting. He saw Buck say something to the large dark haired man and saw him take his coat off and give it to Buck. Cody made his way over to where the two stood.

”Doreen, A Stor!” He whispered touching the young girls cheek, as he looked worriedly at how pale she looked. When he took her small hand in his larger one it felt like ice. “She's so cold.” Cody quickly moved toward the travois that Buck had made and laid her down on it. Then the blond young man shrugged out of his coat and laid it over the unconscious woman.

Rory knelt next to her, “Ahh Mavoreen, Soon wheel have ya home all tucked up safe and sound.” Then turning to the two young men he nodded. “We best yet her back ta may Mayther. She'll know how best ta care fer her boot if need bay I'll ride ta get the Doc.”

”She don't look so good,” Cody whispered to Buck as he pulled the coat up further around her neck. “You sure she'll be alright Buck?” The guilt at what he'd done was eating him up inside.

“She’ll be alright,” mumbled Buck. “She just needs a lot of rest.” It was all he said before he mounted his horse and with a determined face, started to ride toward the Macalister farm.

*~*

Teaspoon had sent Kid out to the Macalister farm to inform the Mrs. on what was going on and that they had the best rider out looking for her. Kid had ridden hard, knowing that Mrs. Macalister was probably beside herself with worry.

Kid spotted the woman in the yard taking care of a horse but he guessed that her mind was probably elsewhere. Trotting up to her, he dismounted. “Mrs. Macalister, Buck and Cody are out looking for your daughter right now. Buck is the best tracker in the territory, he will find her in no time, you don’t need to worry.”

Turning to face the handsome young man, Moira said in a soft pain filled voice, “Ahh I believe ya lad but...tis a mayther's lot ta worry oer their bairns and she...Sweet Bridgette...hers has been a tough enough life without this happenin.” With a final pat on Wind Chaser's neck, she looked into the young man's eyes. “Thank ya lad fer comin ta tell may. Knowin that there are others searchin fer may lass warms may heart a bit boot I thin I'll stay here and wait til they bring may bonny angel home.” The older woman turned her anxious eyes to the road and waited.

The Kid knew that Mrs. Macalister was right. It was a mother’s job to worry over her children. Standing next to her he too waited for Buck and Cody would be bringing Dorrie home...alive.

As Kid's eyes returned to look back down the lane, he saw a movement by a tree at the edge of the road. Moving forward and jumping off the porch, Kid saw that someone was coming toward them but they weren't moving very fast.” Ma’am I think...” The rider didn't get much further when Moira flew down the beaten path to meet up with the oncoming horses.

”RORY…!” she called out coming up beside the lean-to. Dropping to her knees, the healer brushed the blood-covered hair back from the kerchief on Dorrie's head. “Doreen, Aghra?” she choked out touching her unconscious daughter's cold hand. After checking the girl over, Moira breathed a sigh of relief. “She's unconscious boot her heart tis strong and her lungs working fine but may sweet tis cold as ice. Bring her inside…quickly!” the older woman ordered looking with grateful eyes to her firstborn and the men behind him.

”I will Mum! Let may bring the horse a wee bit closer ta the house before I move her.” Rory said roughly.

”Aye...I'll bay in the house getting thins set.” His mother answered as she rose to her feet and ran across the yard past Kid and into the house leaving the door open behind her.

Watching the woman rush up the steps and through the door, Kid grabbed hold of Rory's horse as he dismounted and then looked up at his two friends asking, “What the heck happened?”

Cody nodded at Kid and then slipped off is horse's back. Casting a glance at Buck, the blond rider waited for Buck to tell their friend the horrible thing that he'd done.

Buck looked from Kid to Cody, he had hoped that this would stay between those who were involved but he had no such luck. “Kid, it’s a long story, really. It all started because both Cody and I...like Dorrie.” Seeing that Mrs. Macalister had taken Dorrie inside, Buck sighed. “Let’s take care of the horses. Cody is with her and she’s in good hands.” Buck didn’t say anything else before he turned to take Rory’s horse into the stables.

He was more worried about Dorrie than he let on. God, he had never felt this way about anyone before, and he hated himself because he could never be with Dorrie. Taking the horse’s reins, he started towards the barn.

Kid stood for a moment, thinking about what Buck had just said. Cody and Buck liking the same girl. It only took him a moment to figure out what was going on. Grabbing Katy’s reins he followed after Buck. “Buck,” he called. “Don’t care about what Cody says. You know he tends to think with his foot.”

“I know that,” Buck said as he started to unhook the travois. Setting the thing up against the wall, he unbound the jackets. “But there’s no use, anyway. Will you give this to Rory when you see him.” Buck handed Rory’s jacket to Kid and continued to take care of the horse.

Kid just shook his head and walked up towards the house.

*~*

Cody had followed Mrs. Macalister to the house. He stayed close to her and continually cast worried glances at Dorrie. “Is she going to be alright? Buck wouldn’t say much when he found her.”

Moira looked up at the blond young man, her brows coming together. The older woman didn't need to touch the boy to sense the guilt he was feeling for it was written all over his face.

”Dina know fer certain but...” she paused watching Rory carrying her daughter in and placing her on the bed she'd prepared earlier. Grabbing two quilts that were lying atop a small wooden chair in the corner, Moira tucked them around Dorrie's body.

”I need ta get some warm water ta clean the wound. Why dinna ya set beside her and keep an eye on her til I return?” Moira said with a nod to the chair in the corner.

”Rory, Come along. Ya can build up the fire for the lass tis near ice ta touch.” Then with a small smile the older woman spun away from the bed and headed toward the kitchen. The Scottish man leaned down to touch his sister's head gently before giving Cody a sharp look and striding from the room.

Cody pulled the small ladder back chair next to the bed and sat down. Swallowing hard, the rider reached beneath the blankets to take her icy hand into his.

”Dorrie...I'm so sorry,” he whispered then ran the other hand through his long blond hair.

*~*

Kid shook his head and walked up to the porch and slipped past Rory who seemed to be on his way out to the wood pile. He could see Mrs. Macalister standing by the stove working diligently. Walking toward the open door where Cody sat next to the pretty auburn haired woman. Something wasn't right, of that he was certain. He'd seen Buck and Dorrie together and at the time she'd only have eyes for the Kiowa at the dance. He wondered what Cody had done this time to mess things up.

Rory picked up the wood and began piling it into his arms. When he'd seen his sister laying limp in Cody's arms he near cried. Now...now he just wanted to pound on the young man who'd hurt Dorrie so much that she ended up at the bottom of that ravine. The blacksmith moved over to the fireplace and began to build up the fire. He'd seen the blond young man by the bed looking almost sorrowful. The ebony haired man didn't know what had happened but he did know one way or another he'd find out the whole truth.

Mrs. Macalister came striding in the room with a white ceramic wash bowl filled with steaming water and Cody jumped up from the chair with a quick glance in Kid's direction and then stood nervously by the wall.

Smiling at both riders, Moira sat down by the bed and untied the bandage on Dorrie's head and with a tsking sound began to clean the wound. “Now I'll tell ya Ma Agra this twas pure foolishness fer ya ta ride so recklessly.” Picking up her medicine bag, the older woman threaded the needle and began to sew the small cut.

Once she was all finished, Mrs. Macalister rose once more to her feet and looked around the room. ‘Where had the young Indian her daughter had spoken of constantly run off to?’ she wondered.

”Now Lads, all way can do is wait. I'll bay back in a wee bit. If she wakes or begins ta thrash around call fer may. I'll bay close at hand.” Then looking directly into her son's eyes she said in a quiet yet loving voice, “A Stor, take care of yer sister.”

Rory nodded and sat down in the chair to take his sister's hand into his and he gently brushed her pale cheek.

Moira gave Kid a small smile. “I thin yer friend there may need someone ta talk ta. Sometimes the words clear the spirit a wee bit.” Then she hustled out the door across the yard and into the barn. There she found Buck taking care of the horses. “So...here ya are!” she started and then sat down on a bale of hay before continuing. “Does may daughter mean so little ta ya that ya hide here bay yerself?” she asked the young Kiowa her voice belaying some disappointment at the young man whom her daughter cared so much for.

Buck had been startled by Mrs. Macalister coming into the barn. He didn’t know what he was supposed to answer to that. The woman that stood before him was Dorrie’s mother and he knew that he had to tread carefully. “Um...” he began. “I wasn’t hiding. Not really.” For a moment he stopped brushing Dorrie’s horse. “Dorrie means a lot to me and that is why I’m out here taking care of the horses.” Mrs. Macalister had a way about her that made Buck think that she would pound him to the ground unless he told the truth.

The older woman couldn't help but give a chuckle. “So lad ya care so mooch fer may wee bairn that instead o being beside her yer here takin car o the horses? Hm, I dinna remember that the ways o the Lakota when I helped them ... boot maybay tis the way of yer people?”

“I am Kiowa. No, it isn’t the way of my people.” How was he going to explain all of this and not be killed in the attempt. “Dorrie deserves someone who can take care of her and I’m not that person.” Buck gave a weak smile as he ran his fingers through the horse’s mane.

“Ah, I see. Yer not the one who wanted ta meet with her in town and who took her ta the dance? Why did ya care fer her then boot nay now?” The older woman asked while plucking a piece of straw from the bale and sticking it in her mouth.

“It’s hard to explain.” Buck sighed as the horse was now taken care of and there was nothing he could do to distract him. “I liked Dorrie from the beginning...but after today...I don’t know...things changed. My mind is no longer clear.” Buck wondered why he was standing here talking to this woman that was a complete stranger to him.

“I see...” The Irish woman started and then rose to her feet. “Ya know may daughter has a large and lovin heart boot she dinna give it away recklessly. Today changed yer opinion of her? She changed so suddenly from the girl ya knew bayfore? Maybe tis best then ya think long and hard about what carin fer someone means may boy. If ya canna handle what may daughter is and all the problems that come with her gift then Aye tis best ya thin good and hard about it. Loving may Doreen tis not fer the faint o heart nor the weak o spirit,” she said her voice fading to a whisper. “I best get back ta check on her.” Moira gave the Kiowa a nod and then slipped back out of the barn heading the way she'd come.

Buck didn’t know what he was supposed to say, so he decided that for the time being it was best to say nothing at all. He wasn’t sure that Mrs. Macalister understood what he had meant – that Dorrie was too good for him. It was the truth. What was this gift the woman had talked about? All he knew about Dorrie was that she was a healer and used healing ways that the town wasn’t all to happy about.

Sighing, he went over to where Midnight stood tethered. Letting out an other sigh, he leaned against the steady stallion’s neck and tried to empty his head of everything. Nothing would leave though; the image of Cody and Dorrie kissing and how he had felt betrayed when he saw them. God, he liked Dorrie so much he didn’t think it was possible. Letting out an ironic chuckle, thinking that he had been right in his original thought; that women weren’t a pleasure for him to enjoy – not Little Bird, not Kathleen and not Dorrie, Buck mounted Midnight and rode out of there.

*~*

Seeing the worried expression on Rory's face tore at Cody’s heart. The sight overwhelmed him and he stepped lightly out the door to stand next to Kid with his eyes downcast as the guilt ate at his gut.

Kid didn’t have to look at his friend to know how worried he was. He didn’t know half of what was going on and he had a feeling at it wasn’t his business to know. “Come on, Cody. Let’s get some fresh air.”

Cody only nodded and walked out the door and onto the porch where he saw Buck mounted and riding off into the night. “Buck!” Cody screamed but the young Indian ignored his call and flew down the small path toward the road. “Damn!” He muttered kicking the dirt beneath his feet.

Kid walked after Cody. “Leave him be. You know he handles his problems in silence.” Placing a hand on his friend’s shoulder he looked him in the eye. “Is there something you want to talk about?” It was an open Question, which Cody didn’t have to talk if he didn’t want to.

“Dang it Kid, I messed things up somethin fierce this time,” Cody started, shaking his head. “Dorrie's laying in there because of me and...Buck probably won't talk ta me again!”

“You don’t know that. When Dorrie wakes up and Buck calms down, I’m sure everything will be back to normal. You just wait and see.”

“Na Kid...not this time. I mean...I kissed her and he rode up and saw me...” he paused for a moment and sat on the old willow rocker that sat just to the right of the door. “Her eyes will haunt me forever I swear. She didn't want me ta kiss her but I couldn't seem ta stop myself. Dorrie got hurt Kid because she was running from me! Because she'd trusted me and I...lied.” Cody choked out as he looked down at his lap with his head in his hands.

Kid’s brow frowned. Cody was right – he had really messed it up this time. Squatting down in front of Cody Kid looked up at his friend. He had never seen Cody at such a loss before in his life. “Do you want me to talk to Buck? Or maybe ask Teaspoon or Emma.”

“Don't know if it'll do any good...I really messed it up Kid. Maybe ya better tell Teaspoon I'll be movin on. It ain't right for Buck ta have be around me...seeing me and knowing what I did...”

“Are you leaving now?” Kid asked.

“I can't. Not yet anyway. I need ta wait and make sure she's alright.”

Kid nodded, knowingly. “Just make sure that you think it through before you leave. You might not believe it, but we’ll miss you.”

Cody looked into his friend's eyes. “Yeah...right...the biggest fool ever!” Rising to his feet , Cody began to pace. “Just do me a favor Kid. Watch out for Buck...I think he is pulling away from Dorrie...blaming her but...it really was all my fault. She trusted me when I told her that Buck was on a run and that he couldn't make it. All she kept talkin about was him but I...I wanted her to like me more. So I lied and took advantage of the fact that she can't read or write to mess up the picnic she's set up for Buck. It wasn't her fault, Kid. It was mine and I don’t think Buck realizes that. Maybe if you told him..." Cody stopped shaking his head and looking toward the door to the house wondering if Dorrie was awake yet.

“I’ll talk to him for you...but I think it might be better coming from you. If you don’t want to face him you can write him a letter.” It wasn’t until now that Kid understood the extent of the mess. “I also think that you need to talk to Dorrie. Make her understand.”

"I'm gonna try to talk to her...if she'll let me. She has every right not to want to.” He shifted his gaze back at this friend, “I'm gonna go and wait inside. I need her to know how sorry I am and if she wakes up I need to be there. You understand...right?”

“Yeah, I understand. I’ll be out here waiting for ya.”

Moira waited anxiously beside her daughter's bed. Rory had slipped outside to bring in some more wood to brew up some tea for everyone as they all waited. Just as her head began to drift down to her chest, she heard a soft voice whisper, “Mum?” The healer jerked her head up and looked over to see her Doreen's lovely green eyes looking questioningly over at her. “Ah may lass ya gave a good scare ya did!”

Dorrie had a confused look on her face as she tried to remember why she would be in her bed and then the pain began to sink in and she lifted her hand to her head. Grabbing the young girl's hand before it reached the wound, her mother shook her head. “Nay lass ya have a cut there. Moost have happened when ya rolled down the hill. Ill go and brew some willow's tea fer the pain”. Then rising to her feet she turned to see the blond young man from earlier standing by the door looking in. “Why dinna ya set with her while I get the tea ready. Seems may sleepin beauty has finally awoken!” With a small chuckle the older woman slipped out the door.

Raising her eyes in expectation of seeing Buck, she cast them down to the quilt when she saw that it was Cody that her Mum had been speaking to.

Cody had been watching the scene between mother and daughter with a small smile on his lips. It made him miss his own mother, but this was not the time for reminiscing. Sitting down on the chair next to Dorrie, Cody wasn’t sure where he was supposed to fix his eyes.

“Dorrie, I have no right being here talking to you, but I want you to know how sorry I am and that none of this was Buck’s fault.” Cody gave a sad smile. “I was jealous of Buck because you liked him...and I like you. Too bad that you had to get hurt before I realized that I had been acting a fool. I’m sorry. You don’t have to forgive me. I don’t deserve it, but please, forgive Buck.”

“Why...? Why dinna ya tell may this boot instead lie ta may? Then ya kissed...” She stopped as a tear slipped down her cheek. Cody's hand had touched hers in his asking for forgiveness. She knew he was sorry and it was a bit overwhelming for her to fell so she moved back from his touch. “I know yer surry Cody. I know,” she choked out. She didn't give her trust very often and when it was abused Dorrie often pulled away from those around her. “Forgive Buck? So he wasn't in on this at all?” she asked hesitantly.

“No, it was all me...you see...like you too, and I thought that if you spent time with me then you’d like me better than Buck. I was stupid, I know. Buck already busted my lip as proof.”

Licking his lips Cody debated if he should tell Dorrie about Buck. “Dorrie...there are something about Buck that you might want to know.” There was no turning back now. “A few months back he was seeing this girl. She was the bankers daughter. Kathleen Devlin was her name. Buck met her at the Founder’s Day horserace. She was giving out the price...” Cody took a deep breath because he didn’t know all the details. “Mr. Devlin didn’t like Buck so he sent his henchmen after him, but Buck kept seeing her. Kathleen asked her to take her to some family that she had in St. Joe. They would be safe there...but as it turned out...she was only using Buck so that she could get to her lover...”

Cody didn’t wait to see Dorrie’s reactions. “Most of what I told you I learned second hand. Buck never spoke about it except to Ike. Anyways, after that, Buck changed. It was like he hid inside himself. At all the dances, he just stood in the corner. He never asked a girl to dance ... until you...but now I wrecked that...Buck told me that I had ruined the only chance that he ever had of being happy...that’s how much he likes you.”

Dorrie closed her eyes and the tears slipped silently down her cheeks as Cody spoke of what this Kathleen Devlin had done to Buck. Gently wiping the tears from her cheeks she met Cody's eyes. “Tis he here now?” she asked tryin to peek past Cody's head in hopes of seeing the young Kiowa.

“No, he left. I think that he has...don’t know how to say it, Buck is always so secretive. I think that he thinks that you are angry with him and don’t like him. I mislead him as much as you and I don’t think he is ready to forgive. Kid, my friend said that he would talk to him...” There was a hint of hope in Cody’s voice.

Dorrie looked down at her hands and thought for a moment about all that Cody had told her. She couldn't MAKE Buck like her or trust her. Either he did or he didn't, but she didn't like one bit being compared to that little snit Kathleen Devlin. Her head was pounding and she was fighting to stay awake. "Cody what can I say ta make Buck believe may? I dinna know what ta do ta make him believe may and right now....I canna do mooch...maybe when I ...rest some..I " Dorrie's eyes closed once more and her head shifted to the side as once more she sucumbed to the darkness of sleep.

“Rest now,” he whispered. “I will figure out a way to make things right.”

*~*

Buck had no idea how he had come home. He really didn’t want to be home right now because there would be people there, but here he was. Patting Midnight’s neck, he knew that he had been riding the poor animal too hard. Pulling some sugar out of his pocket he gave it to the horse as a way of apologizing. After having brushed the horse down, Buck walked towards the bunkhouse. If he feigned a headache, then maybe he would be left alone.

Teaspoon sat on the old wooden chair just outside the bunkhouse looking to all like he was sleeping yet again. He'd seen Buck ride in earlier and guessed that it was the young man that was hurrying to his bunk for the night. Just as the Indian reached the top step he mumbled, "So ... Buck ya find the young lady?" he asked while lifting his head to look over at the boy.

Buck heard the man, but he didn’t want to answer. The last thing he wanted right now was talking. Throwing himself down on his bunk, he buried his head in his pillow and wished that that was sufficient enough to kill him.

Teaspoon rose from the chair and quickly entered the bunkhouse after the disrespectful young man. “I asked ya a question, Buck. Believe it or not there are others here that care about the young lady other than yourself.” The older man waited a second before asking. “Is she dead?”

Buck looked up at the older man, the imprint of a pillow on his face. “Not that I know of,” he mumbled. Sitting up on the bed he drew his legs up to his chest and rested his chin on his knees. Looking up at the man he respected so much, Buck felt the tears welling up in his eyes. He didn’t even knew if Dorrie was alive. Pulling his face downward so that Teaspoon didn’t see him cry, his shoulders quietly shook.

Shaking his head Teaspoon pulled over one of the ladder-back chairs and sat down. Teaspoon couldn't understand hide nor hair of what was going on. It wasn't like Buck to give up searching for someone, especially someone he had feelings for. “It'll be alright Son. I'm sure the boys’ll find her and she'll be right as rain again.” Hearing the young boy cry near broke his heart. “I'll go on over an help'em out if it'll help any.”

“We found her, but...I liked her so much. She’s too good for me ... she deserves someone better. Someone like Cody.” It was good talking to Teaspoon like this. Sometimes he saw the older man as kind of a father and a mentor. He never had one while he was growing up, and now that he was an adult, he really didn’t need one, but it was still nice.

“Teaspoon, I miss her so much already.”

Teaspoon wasn’t sure what to say to Buck. He had no idea that the boy, on the inside, put himself down like that. Teaspoon had always seen Buck as strong and proud, one who got up on the horse right after falling off. But every one had a breaking point and Buck had reached his.

Sitting down on the bed next to Buck Teaspoon put an arm around the boy’s shoulders. “What makes you say that Cody is better than you? The way I see it you are both equals.”

Buck sat in silence. Why did Teaspoon always have a way of rationalizing things? It bugged him to no end. “In town they already call Dorrie a witch. There’s no need to add Indian-lover to the list. I’m doing this to protect her.”

“Buck, I saw the two of you at the dance and if Dorrie likes you half as much as I think she does she doesn’t care what people call her. Sleep on it and then tomorrow you’ll know what to do.”

Sighing, Buck wasn’t sure what to think. “My mind isn’t clear now. Tomorrow I will go out and pray at the rising sun for the answer.”

“Sounds like a right smart thing ta do, son. Just remember while yer out there thinkin and prayin that no one's any better than another is just on how ya were born. It's what ya do that speaks about the quality of a man. Cody, you, Kid, Jimmy…all of you are born with yer own troubles but now yer men and it's how ya live yer life despite them things that really matters. I know being a half-Indian living in the white man's world ain't been easy but yer a good man despite that hardship, don't forget that.”

”Ya got a lota things on yer mind with worrying bout Ms. Macalister and dealing with Cody. Guess the biggest thing ya really need ta know is can you live without her. Heck, I've been married quite a few times but I can honestly say that I felt that way bout every one of ‘em. Just take yer time and be sure.” Teaspoon slowly rose to his feet and gave Buck a pat on the back. “Get some rest. Tomorrow's gonna be here before ya know it.” Then the older man then left Buck to think over what he’d just said.

Buck sat in silence. He knew that what Teaspoon had said was true. Still, he didn’t know if he could forgive Cody for what he had done. Slipping off his boots and gun belt, Buck crawled under the blanket and knew that his answers would come when they were good and ready.

*~*

Moira returned to her daughter’s room with the willow tea to find Dorrie asleep once more but wasn't really surprised for she knew the young girl would be waking up off and on all night. The older woman still didn’t understand exactly what had happened between Buck and her child. The healer wondered how this blond haired boy fit into the picture as he looked sadly down at her daughter.

"So she slipped back ta the Land o Nod, Eh? Dinna frash. Tis a good sign her wakin. I'll bay settin up with her throughout the nigh. I do want ta thank ya boys fer bringin her home...Mr.?"

Cody heard someone enter the room but he was too busy trying to think of a way to make things right between Buck and Dorrie to pay any mind.

He quickly rose from the chair when he heard the woman speak to him. “Cody, Ma’am. William F. Cody. I'm real sorry we never got ta meet…I..." He didn't want to tell her that he hadn't wanted to meet Dorrie's family until the young woman grew to like him more than Buck...or so he'd stupidly thought at the time.

”Wheel Cody, you and yer friend should head on home and get some rest. Ya needn't worry, I'll carefully watch oer may bairn. If ya like ya can stop by tamorrow morn bright and early.” Moira said as she gently laid a hand on his shoulder. The older woman staggered a bit when she sensed his overwhelming feelings of guilt, concern, self loathing and fear.

Cody looked at the door to see if Kid was still there and then back to Mrs. Macalister. "I didn't mean for this ta happen I...she's special and I was such a stupid…fool." Swallowing hard, Cody gently touched Dorrie's tiny white hand. “I'll be back early in the morning, Ma’am” He said huskily. With a nod of respect and one last lingering look at Dorrie, he strode from the room to search for Kid.

Stepping out onto the old porch, he found his friend sitting on the rocker.

Kid had been deep in his own thoughts when Cody exited the house. At first he had been angry at what Cody had done, but when he realized that the man regretted his actions he was forgiven. Plus, he knew that Cody would find a way to set things right.

“How is she doing?” he asked as he stood up and looked at his friend.

Cody just stared out into the darkness for a moment in silence then said quietly, “Dorrie should be alright...well her Ma says she will. She thinks we should go home and get some rest.” Taking a deep breath, the blond all of a sudden hit one of the white porch posts and then turned to look at Kid. “I don't know what to say ta Buck. How can I make things right? Yeah Dorrie will wake up and she'll recover physically but...I'm bettin Buck is goin back to being a loner which means not seeing Dorrie anymore. I can't let that happen Kid. All because of me?” he paused for a moment before choking out. “He said that I took his only chance of happiness away and that's eatin me up inside.”

Shaking his head he cut a glance to his friend. “But I guess I can't hide from him forever. Let's head back. He should know how Dorrie's doin even if he's too hardheaded to say that he still cares. Maybe on the way back I can come up with some way to get the two of them back together.”

Kid nodded and walked after Cody to where the horses were standing. “Cody, everything will work themselves out in the end. Buck isn’t going to stay mad at you forever.”

*~*

Buck saw that it was beginning to get dark outside. He hadn’t thought that evening would come this soon, but then again the whole of today had been a little strange. Everybody had left him alone which suited Buck fine. Right now he didn’t want to talk to anyone. He looked up for a second when he saw Cody entering.

Cody was dead tired when he walked through the bunkhouse door. Pulling his hat off, he looked over to Buck's bunk and their eyes met. He ran a hand trough his tangled blond hair and then threw his hat onto his bunk. He needed to ask for the Indian's forgiveness before his troubled spirit would find any rest.

”Buck...I...I can't tell ya how sorry I am about everything. You were right I just thought of myself...didn't think of anyone else.” Cody slowly sank into the chair that sat near the Kiowa's bed.

"She woke up fer a little bit...she asked where ya were. Buck ya need ta know that the whole time I was teachin her ta read she...she wanted to do it so you wouldn't be ashamed knowin she couldn't read nor write. Actually all Dorrie wanted to talk about was you and I let her think..." The blond looked shamefully down at his hands, "...you sent me to tell her that you couldn't meet her. Buck ya got every right ta be mad at me but not at Dorrie."

Buck sat up in the bed and looked at the other rider. He could tell that the man was really sorry and that he was telling the truth. “I’m not mad at Dorrie. I was, but not anymore.” Drawing his feet up under him. “Cody, I know that you didn’t mean it the way it ended up, but you hurt me deep and I’m not ready to forgive that yet, but it feels good that you realize what you have done and regret it.”

“You're a lot more frogivin than I deserve but...I... Thanks Buck. I understand ya not being ready ta forgive me and if ya want me to leave...the Express ..I'll go. None of this was you're fault and..I can understand if ya can't work with me,” he said his voice drifting to an uncomfortable silence.

“Cody, no...” Buck began. “You don’t have to leave. When many people live together disputes are bound to happen. Tomorrow I will go out and pray at the rising sun. Maybe then my mind will be clear.”

Cody shook his head and stared at Buck in amazement. He didn't think he would ever be as forgiving and he nodded at Buck's plan for praying in the early morning. He closed his eyes and fearfully asked, “Ya gonna go and talk ta Dorrie? I was gonna go and make sure she was alright early tomorrow. Ya gonna head over ta see her after ya pray?”

Buck looked down. “I don’t know. I don’t think I’m her favorite person right now.” Staring at his blanket Buck sighed. He didn’t think that he would be Dorrie’s favorite person, ever.

“What ya talkin bout? Buck you were the first one she wanted ta see when she opened her eyes. I think it hurt her feelings that you weren't. Why would she not want ta see you? Heck, her not wanting to see me, that's understandable, but her not wantin ta see me but you?"

Buck smiled, slightly. So there was a chance. Buck didn’t know what to answer. “You saw the way she looked at me before she rode off,” he said it in a low voice. “Maybe I’ll go see her tomorrow, maybe I won’t...I won’t be sure until after I have prayed.”

With a frustrated growl, Cody rose to his feet. He hated the thought of being the reason that Dorrie and Buck would break up. It was one thing if the two of them just didn't like each other anymore but... No, he could tell that this whole thing had hurt both of them deeply. “All right Buck. I...I need ta go see her though . To make sure she's all right. Do ya want me to tell her anything?" he asked catching the Indian's eyes.

“Tell her...tell her...that I care about her and that I hope she’ll be better soon.”

“I will, but I'm sure she'd rather you told her in person,” Cody said quietly as he undressed for bed. Once he was in his long johns, Cody laid down on his cot wondering if getting the two of them back together again was possible. “Well I need some shut eye if I'm gonna go out ta the Macalister place in the morning. Night Buck.” he said solemnly as he closed his eyes only to find Dorrie's bruised head and pained filled eyes .

“Night Cody.” Buck not feeling sleepy laid up and thought about today. What had Mrs. Macalister meant when she told him that Dorrie had a gift and concluded that that was why he was taking care of the horses? Was there even a possibility that he could back together with Dorrie?

The Kiowa lay there listening to Cody's deep breathing but was unable to close his eyes. Every time he did, he saw Dorrie lying on the ground at the bottom of that ravine. He was so worried about her and wondered if she really was alright. Slowly getting up, Buck dressed and was careful not to step on the planks that he knew creaked.

The night air was refreshing and if his mind wasn’t filled with worry he would have enjoyed the ride.

Buck had left Midnight a mile away from the station and on light feet he had run the rest of the way. Carefully looking in the windows Buck searched for Dorrie’s room. He let out a sigh in relief when he found Dorrie’s room and also discovered that the window was open.

She looked so peaceful when she slept. Gently Buck touched her cheek and let his fingers gently caress her face. Smiling he sat down on the chair that stood next to the bed. “You are a wonderful woman, and one day you will make a man very happy. Too bad that man can’t be me.”

*~*

When Buck woke up the following morning he remembered that he didn’t have time to go praying. He had a two day run to Dakota Springs. When he got home he was feeling a strange kind of rested but he knew that it was time for him to pray. Picking up the items that he would need, he stuffed them into his saddlebag and walked toward the barn. Midnight greeted him with a neigh and a nod. Buck had to smile. The horse knew when he had sugar on him. Giving her the sugar, he scratched her between her ears before he began to saddle her.

Walking out into the courtyard he stopped and drew in a breath of fresh air.

Carrying a large basket filled with eggs, bacon, fresh made biscuits and butter, Emma made her way of the house and was crossing the courtyard when she saw Buck standing in the middle of the yard. With a smile she shifted directions and soon found herself at the Kiowa's side. "Not having any breakfast Buck? I din't think you had a run this mornin or is there a pretty little somebody you are hopin ta go and see?" Her eyes looked at teh young boy with concern. She'd heard the news from Kid but was hoping that Buck would tell her on his own with out her prying too much.

“I’m sorry, Emma, but I need to go out and pray. Could you save some breakfast for me. You know I love your cooking,” Buck said. He was anxious to get out. He had had a dream last night and he was eager to reflect on it. The Man of Dreams said that only in the Indian-world was he protected by the Eagle, but Buck wasn’t so sure any longer. In the dream he had been wearing the white man’s clothes and the Eagle had circled above him.

A worried expression came over her face, "Is everything all right? Ya aren't thinkin of leaving the Pony Express or anything foolish are ya Buck?”

“No, it’s nothing like that. I just need to think in on things in my life circle. Make my mind clear again.” Buck had to admit that the thought had crossed his mind, but he didn’t want to worry Emma.

Emma gave him a caring smile. "I understand. Just you remember that we care about ya Buck. If ya need anything or ya need ta talk...I'm here. Don't you worry , I be sure ta keep Cody from stealin all the food." Emma just realized what she 'd said about Cody stealing and gave Buck an apologetic look.

“Thanks Emma,” Buck smiled as he mounted Midnight and rode of at a slow gallop.

*~*

Cody had been looking forward to seeing Dorrie today. It had been nearly four days since her accident and he'd been to see her when he could. He knew now that there could never be anything between them other than friendship, but that didn't stop hm from caring about her, but only as a friend. Riding into the yard of the Macalister farm, Cody took a deep breath and smiled. Hopefully he would be able to talk Dorrie into going to see Buck. He had a sinking feeling that Buck wouldn’t show up today either. Shaking his head, the blond was frustrated and almost desperate to get the two of them together.

Moira helped Dorrie to sit up against the pillows behind her back as the young man waited nervously in the living room.

“Mum, I'm alright truly!” she began with a sigh. “I've been in this bed near on three days! I'm joost a wee shaky and may head hurts every now and again, boot I'm FINE!”

”Naer ya mind A Ghra, you'll bay takin it easy fer quite a few more days and that tis that. Now let may bring in the young man whose been waitin ta see ya.”

Dorrie waited anxiously hoping that today it would be Buck's face she would see.

Pulling at the green Irish wedding quilt on the bed, she stared at the door and waited.

Cody nodded at Mrs. Macalister as he walked part her and entered Dorrie’s room. “How are you feeling today?” he asked her sitting down on the chair that was next to Dorrie’s bed.

She couldn't help the disappointment from showing in her eyes. “Oh...Cody...I...I'm mooch better. Tis nice o ya ta come out and check on may...I thought...” ‘He must not want to be around me after seeing Cody kissing me.’

”Ya needn't worry Cody. I'll bay alright. May head wil bay sore fer a wee bit boot...twon't bay boot a day o two and I'll bay back on may feet. Ya dinna have ta come and check on me everyday yer not workin." ‘Physically I'll bay fine, boot may heart...may heart will naer bay the same,’ she thought to herself and she gave the blond rider a small smile.

”That’s good, that you’re doing alright I mean. Buck asked me to tell you that he cares about you and that he hopes you get better soon,” Cody said. “He’s been really worried about you.”

”Ohh, twas he worried? So why dinna he come ta see may if he's so worried? Yer not speakin fer him again are ya Cody?”

”No, I promise I’m not putting words in his mouth.” He made an invisible X over his heart to show. “Buck...he’s complicated. Lord knows I will never figure him out. He told me that he thinks that you don’t want to see him. He was going out to the meadow to pray this morning which he does whenever he’s troubled.”

”So he's prayin. Probably still thins I'm like this Kathleen Devlin I'm sure.” Dorrie spat out her temper rising a bit. “I"m not ya know. Not the least bit like her and...it hurts that he would thin I was,” she whispered while pushing a strand of the long auburn hair behind her ear.

”NO!” Cody was quick to say. “Maybe he thought that when he first saw me...um...kissin’ you. But Buck knows that you're nothing like that. The only person Devlin thought about was herself and you’re nothing at all like her.”

”What Buck thinks is that you don’t like him and his heart is hurting. He told me that I had ruined the only chance he ever had of being happy. He really likes you and I don’t think he’ll ever stop liking you.”

”He doubts may...doubts that I dinna care for him? Does he thin that tis you that I like? That I...that the kiss...that I wanted that?” she asked as color filled her cheeks. She'd rather not discuss the whole embarrassing moment but she needed to know if that was why Buck thought didn't like him.

”I think that may be a part of it, yeah. If you want, I could try and talk to him. But it would be better if you did it. When you’re feeling better you could come by that station and talk to him then.”

Dorrie looked from Cody to the blanket and then met his eyes once more. “Cody do ya really want ta help?” she asked her chin rising a bit as a determined glint came to her eye.

”Yes,” said Cody. “I feel bad about what happened and I want to make it right,” He smiled as he saw the glint in Dorrie’s eye.

”Alright then I need ya ta close the door when ya leave and tell may Mum I'm restin. Then I need ya ta go and saddle Wind Chaser fer may...I dinna thin I can do it fer myself. I'm still feeling a bit weak. Can ya do that Cody? Please?” the auburn haired girl pleaded in a hushed voice so that her mum couldn't hear.

Cody grinned at the possible thought of mischief. "Of course I will. All to get you two back together." Cody winked at her and then left. He did as he was told, right down to the smallest detail. He had to admit though, that he was a little worried that Rory would discover him.

*~*

Slowly crossing the field where Cody said Buck would be praying, the young girl looked pretty worse for wear. A white bandage was still wrapped around her head as she rode in the hopes of keep the pounding in her head down to a minimum. She was sure to be told what a foolish young lady she was when her Mum found out and as far as Rory... No, she would pray that she would be home before her brother found out she was missing. Weaving her way through the tall mix of oak, beech and maples, she came out into an open field filled with wildflowers and grass.

There sitting by the edge of the woods was Buck and he...he was not wearing a shirt. He seemed to be chanting or singing something. Dorrie sat here and stared at him for what seemed like forever. Just seeing him sent a rush of emotions flooding through her; her growing love the greatest of all. Worrying that she might not be able to get back up on Wind Chaser’s back, Dorrie rode closer and made her presence known but did not interrupt him until he finished.

Buck had been praying for almost an hour now and he was none the wiser. Feeling someone behind him, Buck slowly stopped chanting and rose. Turning around he saw Dorrie, and he smiled in welcome, albeit weakly. He had no idea what he was supposed to say, or do for that matter. Looking down at his hands, he noticed that he was still holding the twenty dollar gold-piece that he had won in the Founder’s Day horse race and the feather that he had received from Red Bear’s daughter the time he had visited the village.

”Hi,” he said.

”Lo...I...dinna mean ta interrupt. I have some thins ta say ta ya and I'm afraid if I dinna say them now I'll naer get the chance to again so...” She began but hated talking down at him so she lifted her leg over the saddle and struggled to get down from her horse.

Seeing that she was about to fall, Buck moved quickly to catch her. "Are you alright?" he asked. “Are you sure you should be up?” When he smelled her hair his whole body stiffened and he wasn’t sure what to do with himself. Making sure that she had a good grip on her horse, Buck let go.

As he lifted her slowly to the ground, she'd unknowingly reached out and touched his chest. Her eyes rolled back into her head as all his emotions flooded through her. She felt him pull away and she gripped the saddle horn to remain on her feet. Shame, pain, rejection, humiliation... the emotions flew through her. Once she'd caught her breath, Dorrie turned to meet Buck's gaze with her deepening green.

“Aye probably shouldn't bay out and about boot I dinna want ya ta leave...without may havin may say. I know ya saw Cody kiss may...I dinna want him ta. I...shoulda known what he twas feelin boot... All I knew was that he was yer freind and he knew you and so I ..foolishly trusted him."

"Part o all this tis may stupidly trustin others so easily. Tisn't the first time ta cause may a problem and ya'd have figured I 'd have learned bay now. I need ya ta know ...that I am not like this girl Cody told may about...Kathleen Devlin and that ya would thin I was hurts...hurts so deeply." Dorrie paused a moment and then walked over to sit on the grassy ground.

Buck stood and watched her for a short moment before he moved to sit next to her. Taking a deep breath he laid the feather and the coin next to him and gave a lopsided smile. “I don’t think that you’re like Kathleen. Maybe when I first saw Cody kiss you. But I know that you're nothing like her. You don’t use people for your own gain.” He reached out to touch her shoulder but withdrew it when he realized that by white standards he was half naked.

”It made may angry ta think ya would and I was ready ta give ya a good tellin too boot...I know how ya feel...inside." she whispered fearfully at what she needed to tell him but dreaded. All too often those she told either shunned, teased or wanted to hurt her.

Buck’s brow frowned. He wasn’t sure what she tried to tell him. “What are you saying?” he asked.

The young woman closed her eyes and then looked across the open field as the early morning sun shone down on them. “Buck I'm different. I'm like may mother and hers afore her. We have what to some tis considered a gift boot ta others a curse,” she started while picking a piece of grass and playing with it in her hands. “When I touch a person I can sense what they're feelin. Joost now I touched ya...I felt so many things inside ya it ..well tis a bit overwhelmin. I felt shame, rejection, fear o humiliation and losing somethin once more that ya care a great deal about.”

”May name in Gaelic, Doreen, means gift. Tis an irony that may Mum should call may that when all I've doon tis bring more problems than anythin special about.”

Suddenly Buck understood – the gift that Mrs. Macalister had been talking about yesterday. He thought for a while before he said anything because he was afraid that he might say something wrong. “I know what it feels like to have people think that you’re something you’re not. When I lived with the Kiowa I used to pray that my skin would be darker. When I first came to the white world I used to pray that my skin would be lighter.”

Looking down for a few seconds, he looked back up again. “But after a while I realized that I was as much a part of my Kiowa brothers as my brothers in the white world. I got my self-respect.”

”Different, aye that tis what I am fer certain boot though when ya look at may ya canna see that difference tis there joost the same. With you I didn't feel as if twood matter that I was different boot...I may bay wrong. Buck I felt the fear at being around may. Fear at may bein different, tis that why ya dinna want ta see may anymore? Because o that?” she asked afraid to see in his eyes what she'd seen in so many.

Buck bit his lip and looked down before he looked into her eyes. “It doesn’t matter to me what you are. I care for you because of your spirit and your kind heart. And when I touch you now I hope that you will feel acceptance and love.” Slowly Buck reached out and touched her cheek. Letting his hand rest there.

At his touch, Dorrie sucked in her breath and she felt the truth in his words. “Ya do need ta know...some o the people who dinna care for people like may...they've tried ta kill may and may family because of it,” she said softly waiting for him to draw away once he knew the trouble being with her meant.

”Dorrie, people have tried to kill me too. I know what it’s like. But know this, I will be here for you as long as you want me to.” Biting his bottom lip again, Buck looked right into her eyes. “Dorrie, is it all right if I kiss you?”

Her emerald eyes looked deeply into his dark ones and she slowly nodded her head while leaning forward.

Buck smiled and most of all he wanted to jump for joy, but instead he too leaned forward and gently his lips touched hers. He may not be able to say the words “I love you” yet, but at least he could show it.

Feeling the warm pressure of his lips on her, Dorrie felt as if she was soaring high above the clouds and she pressed herself closer returning the kiss. 'I dinna want this ever ta end,' she thought feeling the truth of the young Kiowa’s heart. He did love her! She only hoped he believed her words.

Buck, without realizing it moved closer to Dorrie and wrapped his arms around her waist and at the same time he deepened the kiss. He didn’t want this ever to end. Leaning into the kiss the two fell backwards into the grass.

As Buck wrapped his arms around her waist Dorrie reached up to put her hands behind his head and as their kiss deepened. Slowly the two of them began to sink slowly backward on to the soft grass. Slipping her hand downward, Dorrie touched his bare chest and let out a groan of pleasure.

They lay there on the ground as the outside world faded away and all that the two young hearts longed for they found in each other's arms. Dorrie’s hand gently caressed his neck and face while they hungrily sought each other's lips.

Buck was in total euphoria – he had never felt like this before in his life. He reveled in Dorrie’s caresses and the way they made him feel. Subconsciously one hand moved to the buttons on her blouse.

As Buck reached the last button of her white blouse, Dorrie heard a snap of a branch and pulled back as thoughts of someone finding them in this position even worse her brother.

Her dazed eyes looked up at his face and she fought to keep from returning the kiss once more. “Buck ...I...” She shook her head as her tiny hands began to fasten the buttons of her blouse. “I heard somethin and I ...we ..really shouldna. If may brother comes...sweet Bridgette! He'll kill us!” she said her voice husky with desire.

Buck sat up and nodded in agreement. He hadn’t heard the branch snap, but then again, he was a little preoccupied.

”Dorrie, are you alright? Did I move too fast?” When he noticed that she was fastening the buttons on her blouse Buck realized what might have happened if they hadn’t stopped. As of late...he just wasn’t thinking.

’Move to fast? She'd wanted for him to...felt a need for him to keep touching her.’ "Aye Buck...I'm fine really...” Dorrie closed her eyes and tried to catch her breath. “I ..I've naer doon this o...felt his way afore. I want ...” The young woman moaned as her hand accidentally brushed once more against his naked chest.

”Why do they think tis wrong when ya love...” Dorrie'e eyes sought Buck's as he pulled her gently up front the ground. “when ya love someone ta be with them...touch them?”

”I don’t know. There’s a lot of things about the white world that I don’t understand. In the village, making love for the first time meant that those two are married and then they live together. There are no games...” That came out a little strange, considering what had almost happened a minute ago.

”Um...” Buck looked down and then back up at Dorrie. She had the most beautiful eyes. “I really...care about you.” What he wanted to say was ‘love’, but he couldn’t get the word out. Why? He wanted to know. He needed to know.

’Being together as they were...well as they were almost together...they would have been married in the eyes of his people?’ Dorrie reached over and touched his cheek. "I know Buck...I ...I understand it being hard ta say the words boot know that I feel it from here.” she said moving her hand downward until it rested against his skin where his heart lay beating.

”I canna keep from sayin them. I love ya Buck,” she whispered as her green eyes looked deep into his. “All I've ever wanted was ta be with ya. Not Cody...not anyone else...I've naer wanted this with anyone else...joost you,” she stopped feeling a little foolish rambling on so.

When she touched his cheek Buck felt the flutters go through his spine. How was it possible to love a person as much as he did and not being able to say it out loud. Buck put his hand over hers and held it against his heart. Everything was so hard. Why couldn’t he say that he loved her? He was pretty sure that he had ever since the day that they had run into each other. Moving so that he drew her into a hug, he kissed the top of her head and smelled her hair.

"Thank you ... for understanding. I don’t know what’s wrong with me."

Dorrie could feel the wind tugging at her auburn curls as her cheek rested on the soft skin of Buck's chest. She savored every heartbeat and the warmth of his love wrapped her close to his soul as surly as the arms that held her tight. No, though she would love to hear those three simple words, Dorrie didn't need them to know that he loved her for it was in every touch, every movement he made.

Closing his eyes, Buck felt the slight breeze flow through his hair and the love between them. One day he would be able to say the words and there would be no stopping him.

Email Nina & Okeshala

HOME