Shane Owens always had a wild streak in him and the undeniable urge to see everything the world had to offer. So when he reached the age of 16, he headed west to see the promised land. The land was all that he'd heard it would be…and more. Shane could never get enough of the beauty that this country held. There was so much to see that he wasn’t sure how he was ever going to get the time to experience it all. Shane tried every trade that he could think of along his journey. When one didn’t work out, he gave it up and jumped into trying another. It worked for him and he never went hungry for more than a day.
Shane had lived a rich and eventful life. Though the life he’d lead wasn’t always a happy one, he wouldn’t have traded it for all the wealth in the world. He looked at the outlying small town before him called Sweetwater, at least that was what the sign said, and smiled. The name had a nice ring to it. Kind of rolled off the tongue. Sweetwater seemed like a right nice friendly town. Some people shied away from the mountain man, but that was what he expected. No one could tell what the man was like, hiding under there. After checking in at the small boarding house, Shane Owens went to the saloon to check out the tables. It was rare that he actually played, he really wasn't very good at it, but he always enjoyed watching the game to see if he could spot all the bluffs.
The sun hung high in the sky as Shane strolled down the main road. He’d just exited the local barbershop after a shave and haircut. Releasing a deep breath, Shane Owens thought that life couldn’t get any better than this.
While he walked cheerfully on his way, Shane’s attention was grabbed by a bunch of young men outside the general store. They were happily bantering with each other and seemed to be enjoying the day. He couldn’t hear what they said but he smiled over at them. Yes, good friends and real love could never be traded, never be bought. Upon taking a closer look it seemed that the young Indian was the object of the bantering. The Indian smiled and laughed along with the rest of his friends.
Shane recognized something about the Indian, a face he hadn’t seen in such a long. It couldn’t be…? Shane walked closer because he had to be sure. The Indian turned and looked at Shane, his expression revealed that he knew that the older man was watching him. It was at that moment when Shane recognized the young man. The Indian was the little child that he'd once held in his arms. The handsome young Kiowa was Running Buck and he had his mother’s dark brown eyes. Shane never thought that he would look upon Little Wren’s eyes again, nor his son for that matter.
Late that night, Shane lay awake thinking. He had to tell his son who he was, somehow. He hadn’t seen Running Buck since he was just an infant, but Shane was sure it was him. He saw it in the eyes. Ever since he’d been forced to leave the Kiowa village so long ago, his thoughts always returned to Running Buck and Little Wren. Their images came to haunt him over the years, especially in the evenings. He would remember the songs that Little Wren used to sing to their son, and how protective Red Bear, Little Wren’s first son was of his younger brother. When the little one cried at night, Red Bear was always the first one to reach him but then the older boy was very mature and knew that he had great responsibilities, even at the age of seven.
All that changed when Little Wren’s brother in law, Red Bear’s uncle, Strong Wolf, had set his eyes on her. Shane didn’t want to think about that, not now. It still hurt having to leave Little Wren and Running Buck behind but he hadn't been given much of a choice. It had been a matter of saving the lives of his family and it had been the hardest decision that he ever had to make. Rolling over on the small bed, Shane closed his eyes to sleep but all he saw was the young man that his son had become.
Normally, Shane didn’t stay in any town longer than he had to, but he needed to find an opportunity to talk to Running Buck. Ever since that first day that he'd noticed Running Buck, he couldn’t get his son out of his mind. Shane had been asking around about the young man and found out that he went by the name Buck Cross. According to the local townspeople, his son was married to a woman called Doreen whom some folk believed was a witch. Shane had a hard time believing that. He also heard that Running Buck was a Kiowa half-breed which assured Shane that Buck Cross was indeed his son.
Seeing Running Buck sitting outside the doctor’s office waiting for someone, Shane knew that this may be the only chance get. The only chance to talk to his son. It was now or never. Shane swallowed hard as he made his way across the street.
Buck had insisted that Dorrie went to see the doctor, to make sure that the baby was all right. Ever since she’d been kidnapped and Buck had found out she was with child, he hadn’t stopped worrying. Dorrie had assured him that everything was just fine with both her and the baby, but Buck wanted a second opinion. Looking up from his worrisome thoughts, Buck saw an older man walking towards him. It was the same man he’d seen staring intensely at him in town the other day.
“All right if I sit down?” the strange man asked, looking a little nervous, like he was afraid of something. Buck nodded. The man was free to sit wherever he felt like.
“I saw you in town the other day. You reminded me of someone I used to know...although it was quite a long time ago.” Shane saw the young man's confusion and understood why Running Buck was looking at him kind of strange for it wasn’t as if Running Buck would remember him. “Her name was Little Wren. I know she’s your mother...Running Buck, I am your father. I remember holding you as a baby. You were such a quiet child. I never meant to…” Shane didn’t have a chance to continue.
“So he marched you right up here, did he?” Doc chuckled.
”Aye...” she sighed, but with a small smile on her lips. “He means ta bay sure I’m takin care o mayself. I have been a wee bit tired boot tis ta bay expected and I told him. Maybe if ya were ta tell him he’d believe may,” Dorrie said gently touching the doctor’s arm.
”You are right, things are going just fine, Dorrie. The little one is a bit big for five months but that’s not too unusual.”
”Umm wheel Doc... I’m really six month along. Ya see Buck and I... We were afraid if...” she started but the kindly older man stopped her by patting her back.
“I understand my dear. You aren’t the first and Lord knows you won’t be the last,” he said with a twinkle in his eye. “Just take a nice long nap in the afternoons. If you’re here working, just rest on one of the cots for a bit. We don’t have that many folks in need that we can't handle between the two of us.”
Slipping off the cot, Dorrie rose to her feet and quickly gathered her things together. “Thanks Doc. I can’t tell ya how mooch I appreciate everythin ya’ve doon,” Dorrie said softly. “I best get outside and put his mind at ease. I have a lovely picnic in the wagon fer the two o us ta enjoy by the pond. Some o his favorites..” Before Dorrie could finish her sentence the sound of fighting could be heard just outside the door.
Green eyes widening and with a frown on her face, Dorrie rushed out the door.
Buck couldn’t believe it. In front of him was the man who had fathered him. The man that had taken his mother, beat her and left her for dead.
“Die, you bastard! Die and rot in Hell!,” Buck ground through clenched teeth. He beat at the man with all his might. He wanted the man to be punished for the sins he had done to his mother so long ago. Buck needed to make up for all the years of scorning which he and his mother had taken. “God damn it, why won’t you die.”
Marshal Sam Cain was in his office looking through some wanted posters when he heard the commotion coming from outside. He looked out the window and couldn’t believe what he saw. If he didn’t knew any better he’d think that he needed glasses. Without another thought, he marched out into the street and ran towards the fight that was taking place outside the doctor’s office. It was obvious to see who was winning, but that had nothing to do with the situation. Picking the right spot, Sam drew Buck up by the collar of his shirt and did everything in his power to hold him back. Buck struggled with all his might to get free all the while muttering curses in Kiowa.
Buck’s mind was blinded. He couldn’t see the man lying bloodied on the ground or his wife staring in disbelief. He couldn’t see that it was Sam holding him back. All he could see was the man that had brutally taken his mother.
”Buck!...Sweet Bridgette what happened?” Dorrie called out while moving over to her husband's side to try and help calm him down. As Sam held his arms, the healer moved close to Buck and gently touched his shoulder.
“Buck what’s wrong? Did he hurt ya?” she asked in a trembling voice. She could tell by the look on his face that her husband was elsewhere and in the midst of his anger he swept his arm back, accidentally pushing Dorrie off the boardwalk and into the street.
“Sam, why won’t you let me go! He raped my mother! He just said so. Let me go, I tell ya! Lemme kill him for what he's done!” Buck spat. He fought to get loose from the grasp that Sam had on him. Buck needed to get his hands around the man’s throat.
Shane looked up from where he sat on the boardwalk. Raped Little Wren? He would never do that. “He’s lying!” Shane called in his defense. “ I loved Little Wren, just like she loved me.” Then he turned to his son. “Running Buck,” he spoke in broken Kiowa. “Please believe me. I speak the truth. Your mother and I loved each other. Raging Bull said I had to leave or he would kill both of you,” Shane pleaded, hoping that Running Buck would understand.
“No,” Buck replied, also in Kiowa. “Don’t speak the name of the dead! And she never loved you, she would never lie to me! You’re lying!”
“Doreen, my dear, are you alright?” Doc asked as he slipped out his office door and helped the young woman to her feet. “What’s goin on here Sam? This man hurt Mrs. Cross?” Doc asked while looking for any visual signs of injury on Dorrie.
“I...I Buck?” the auburn haired woman questioned her voicing shaking.
“Doc you take care of Dorrie and when you have the time take care of him.” Sam motioned with his head towards Shane. Barnett came running over and grabbed the Indian's arm. Yet even with two strong men at hand, the still had problems holding Buck back.
“No!! I have ta go with him... What did ya do? He’s naer been like this, ever...” she pleaded struggling to pull out of Doc’s gentle grasp.
“Now Dorrie we have to think of the baby. Just let me check you over make sure everything is alright. By the time we’re done, I’m sure Buck will have calmed down and he can explain things better.”
The healer tried to take a few steps, but her ankle that she’d injured a few months previously rebelled and she winced in pain. “Aye...may ankle tis a bit sore...and the baby...tis fine too,” she mumbled placing her hand on the small mounding stomach. “Boot as soon as ya check on may I want ta go after him.”
“I’ll even help you over to Sam’s office. Come along now,” he said as he led the limping girl back into his office while he gave the older man that Buck had been attacking a glaring look.
Sam nodded to the Doc and started to pull Buck towards his office. Buck cursed and fought to get free. It was amazing that one person could hold such strength. Sam and Barnett more or less threw Buck into the cell and hurried to lock the door.
“Now Buck, do you mid telling me what’s going on here?”
Shane looked as the Marshal and the Deputy pulled Running Buck after them. No, it couldn’t end like this. It just couldn’t. Shane stood up and followed the trio. As he entered the Marshal’s office, the cell door was locked right into Buck’s face.
“You get out of here,” Sam called. “Wait till Doc is ready to stitch up your lip and don’t leave town.”
As the man proclaiming to be his father came into view, Buck tore at the bars as if he was trying to break them. He calmed a little bit after the man left, but he was still breathing heavily, as the adrenaline pumped through his body.
“Settle down a bit Buck and tell me why in tarnation you went after that fella. What did ya mean he raped your Mother? Did you see him do it?” Sam asked tipping his hat back to meet the Indian’s dark eyes.
“He said he’s my father. I know how I came to be, I’m not stupid. He talked as of he loved her. He never did. He’s the one that belongs in here, not me. You hear me? I never hurt nobody that didn’t have it coming!” Buck tore at the bars to make his point. “He knew her name...my Kiowa name...” His voice faded.
A frown came onto the lawman’s face as he moved a bit closer to the bars. “Ya sure that he raped her Buck or are ya going by what others said. Seems to me that you don’t have anything to lose by listening to what the fella has ta say. The law says I have ta protect him unless ya have some proof.” Sam let the words drift off .
“Why would a mother lie to her own son about something like that? Come on, tell me. I’ve got nothing to lose. Sam, when I needed a father I didn’t have one, and now I don’t need one.” Buck bit the inside of his cheek. “You’re only holding me here because I’m not white. According to the law anybody can kill me and there is nothing you can do about it. So, are you going to put me in front of a judge, or are ya gonna just hang me?”
A hurt look came into Sam’s eyes before it turned to anger. “Buck you have no cause ta say that and if you had your senses about you right now you’d know that too! Good Lord, you even pushed Dorrie off the boards in your effort ta kill the man! I’m gonna leave ya here ta cool off a bit and think on things. Maybe then you’ll be able to really listen for a change instead of only wanting to get revenge.”
“Dorrie...she was there?” Buck blurted out. He didn’t remember. She was still inside Doc’s office when this man approached him, she had to be. And he hurt her. “I swore in blood that I’d kill the man that took my mother. Red Bear did the same thing. And all the good it did.” Buck hit the wall in frustration, not feeling the pain that went through his arm. “Sam, he raped her, he admitted it. He said that he’s my father. He’s the one that should be locked up. He was sick enough to stay nearby and wait until I was born. He said so. He said that he held me when I was a baby. Well, I never had a father. He was just an unknown face. Until now...”
Sam looked over at Buck and thought on his words for a few moments. “I understand that ya think the fella raped your mother Buck but think on it a bit...why would some fella come up and claim ta be your Pa if he’d raped your mother? Especially if he raped her?”
Buck looked at Sam through the bars. “Why would my own mother lie to me about something like that? In the Kiowa world, the only thing that can’t be forgiven is speaking with two tongues. How could one person convince the whole village that something happened that didn’t? It doesn’t work that way.” Buck sat down on the cot and placed his face in his hands. “Why won’t you believe me?”
“Buck, did your mother tell you that the man who was your father raped her? She told you that?” the lawman was baffled and he pulled a chair up next to the bars. Rubbing his chin he tilted his head to look at the angry young man whom he rarely saw loose his temper. “Could she have been forced to lie?”
“When I lived in the village I was never accepted. When I was old enough to ask... I asked her if it was true, what everybody said. She told me it was. My mother had honor, Sam. Honor despite what people said about her and no matter how much she was scorned.” The expression on his face was dead and he spoke as if he was reciting a book he didn’t like.
“Well guess the only way ta get ta the bottom of this is for me ta talk to this here fella. I’ll be back in a bit. Ya might as well sit back and relax,” he said straightening his hat and moving out of the cell hold and into the front office.
“I’m fine Doc, tis joost a scrape on may hands when I poot them out ta catch may fall.” Dorrie muttered as she tried ineffectively to get off the bed.
”I’m the Doctor here and you’ll do as I say young lady or I’ll go get Rory to keep you in line.” The older man said as he pushed her back on the cot and checked her over from head to toe. Once his task was completed he helped her to sit up and smiled. “Well other than yer brush burns there, you and the little one seem to be fine.”
”I told ya I twas...Now I need ta get oer ta the jail and see what this was all ab...” Dorrie broke off as the man she’d seen Buck hitting out on the walkway came through Doc’s door.
Shane took his time walking across the street and to the Doc’s office. There was so much going on in his head and he was having a hard time making sense of it all. Rape...? He would never do that. He wasn’t capable of it. Absently he sucked on his split lip to get the bleeding to stop. Standing in front of the door to the office, Shane took a deep breath and went inside. Mrs. Cross was sitting in a chair next to the Doc and both looked up when he entered.
”What did ya do ta him?” She said while struggling to rise to her feet.
”Sit!” Doc ordered as he turned to look the man over. “Hmm...busted lip?” Then with a sharp look at Dorrie he said lowly. “Rory...”
The auburn haired young woman glared at the new arrival as she struggled to get her shoes back on. Now that her tummy had grown quite a bit bigger, fastening the hooks became quite a chore. “Joost so ya know...as soon as may shoes aer on I’m leavin...Rory o no!” she grumbled.
Shane swallowed hard. He avoided looking at the two other people in the room. Wincing as the doctor touched his swollen lip, Shane turned to see the Marshal enter the room with a look on his face that gave him the creeps.
”Sam! Where tis Buck? Tis he alright?” Dorrie gushed out while finishing with the last hook on her right shoe. Her eyes looked behind the lawman in an effort to try and find her husband.
Shaking his head, Sam gave her a small smile. “Sorry Dorrie, but I think it’s best he stays locked up till I can get to the bottom of this.”
”What? Why?” she asked breathlessly pushing the small tendrils of hair that had come loose during her fall away from her face.
”That’s why I’m here, ta get some answers.” Sam said his eyes narrowing on Shane. “Doc, he in good enough shape ta answer some questions?”
”Now Sam...” Doc started but saw the determination in the man’s eyes and shook his head. “Yeah...he looks to have a few cuts and a busted lip but otherwise he’ll be fine.”
Sam’s blue eyes looked straight into the other man’s as he moved forward to stand a mere two feet away.
”Mind telling me what ya said ta Buck ta get him all riled up like that mister,” the ex-gunfighter asked with a tilt of his head.
Shane sighed and gave Sam an uncertain look. “I’m his father. Didn’t think that so much trouble would come from it. I think maybe it’s best if I left town. I don’t want to be a bother or a thorn in anyone’s side. I’ve been here for two days and already managed to get an innocent man jailed and his wife injured. Sir, I’m not going to press any charges so you can let him out. I got what I had coming and he needs to be with his wife just as she needs to be with him.”
“Father!?” Dorrie gasped out and then sat back down on the cot dazed by the man’s words. Her emerald eyes grew wide as she realized why Buck had been trying to kill the man. “YOU? You aer the one who raped Little Wren? Why would ya thin ta even come near may husband at tal?” she spat out while she thought on how angry Buck was feeling right now.
“I’ve never raped anybody! That’s what I’ve been trying to tell him! I loved Little Wren. Just as she loved me. I was a fool to leave her and Running Buck, I know. But I had no choice. Marshall, I never raped anyone. Little Wren was the widow of the war chief when I first came to live with the village. Normally, when a husband dies the wife goes to live with the brother in law. I came in the way of that. I had to leave the village because he, Black Wolf, would have killed Little Wren and Running Buck.”
Dorrie shook her head vigorously, “You’re a liar! Why would Little Wren lie ta Buck?”
”So your saying that Buck was told you raped his mother but that in reality you...um...she was in love with you? I find that hard ta believe myself Mr....what ya say yer name was.”
Shane looked at Sam. “Shane. Shane Owens. I swear I’m telling the truth. I haven’t seen Buck since he was a baby, but I can recognize my own son any day. If his brother, Red Bear, is alive, he can vouch for me.”
"Red Bear? He knows o this ? Then why dinna he tell Buck about this a long time ago when he twas a boy?" Dorrie asked in confusion before taking a deep breath and looking from this strange man back to the doctor.
Sam nodded at the pretty young woman’s words and waited for the older fellow to reply.
“In the Kiowa tribe, if a husband dies it is normal for the husband’s family, brother, to take the wife in. I came in the way of that tradition and was forced to leave. Strong Wolf, Little Wren’s brother in law, said that he would kill her and our son if I didn’t leave. I know I made a stupid mistake, but I want to make it right. Running Buck doesn’t owe me anything. I’ve been the worst of fathers but I guess when I saw him in town the other day, I was just so happy to see him...I thought that I'd lost the both of them. I have no right, but I’m asking for a second chance to be a father to him.” Shane let out a laugh. “But my son is all grown up now and doesn’t need anyone to mend a scraped knee...”
Looking from Dorrie to the Marshal, Shane continued. “Strong Wolf lived up to his name. He would be warrior chief until Red Bear was old enough to do it. What most likely happened after I left was that Strong Wolf took Little Wren to be his wife. He was a powerful man in the village, what he said was law. He could have forced Red Bear and Little Wren not to tell Running Buck about who his father was."
Sam rubbed his chin and moved in a little closer to the man. “Well Mr., I have to tell ya that Buck ain’t exactly in a listinin mood right now. Maybe if I send Dorrie in first ta explain...he might be willin ta hear what ya have ta say.” The lawman looked over at the young woman his eyes wondering what she thought of his suggestion.
Dorrie looked at the man who claimed to be Buck’s father, taking in every detail of the his story while gazing at his face to see if there were any similarities between Shane and her husband. No matter how much she wished she could just turn and walk away or tell Buck that the man was crazy, she could see that there was truth in his words.
“Give me some time ta talk ta him Sam,” she said in a soft pain filled voice. “Then ya can bring him up ta see Buck. One way o another he needs ta know the truth...however painful it might be.”
Slipping off the cot, Dorrie straitened her dress and with a last glance at all three men she moved toward the door.
”Doreen dear..” Doc started but the young woman turned and gave him a weak smile.
“I’ll bay fine Doc...dinna worry bout it.” Then turning toward Sam she said, “Ya can bring him once Doc finishes stitchin his lip and checkin him oer.”
”Ya sure Dorrie? I can hold him here and check into some things before....” The Auburn haired woman stopped him by touching his arm.
“Nay.. twill bay alright Sam.” Then with a weary sigh she slipped out the door and made her way up the boards and into the Marshall's office.
Slowly she moved to the back area where Buck was pacing the cell like a trapped animal.
”Lo love,” she whispered from the doorway.
Buck turned around when he heard Dorrie. He had been pacing so much that he hadn’t heard her come in.
“Dorrie,” He whispered as he walked up to the bars. “Is everything alright with the baby?” he asked. He was so guilty about hurting her. Buck bit his lip because if something might happen to Dorrie or the baby in the future, it would have been his fault. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t let him get away. What he did...” Buck wiped at his eyes and started to pace again. “He’s the one that should be in here. I never raped anybody, he did...”
Taking slow steady steps, Dorrie walked over to the cell and reached through the bars. “Buck, lov...the babe tis fine so dinna ya worry bout him, boot...” she said before looking down at the ground. “There tis somethin ...I need ta talk ta ya about that tis...wheel ya wilna care ta hear it boot ya need ta.” Her voice slipped to a whisper.
“Please don’t tell me you believe his lies!” Buck pounded at the wall in frustration. “Dorrie, you know what he did. I saw the pain and shame my mother had to wear. He’s a rapist and a liar.”
“Boot Buck I’m nay sayin I dinna believe what ya were told, it’s joost...he knows yer brother and says Red Bear can confirm what he says tis true. Bring your brother here and have him face ya and the law. If he tis lying then the law wheel make him pay fer it boot if he tis tellin he truth then...” Dorrie left the words hang in the air for him to think on as she leaned against the bars.
“Well I’m not exactly welcome in the village, now am I.” He was being sarcastic. “Besides what reason does he have for telling the truth. It would never have worked out anyway. I’m done with my past and there is no point in looking back at what has been and what might have been. But I promised my brother and my mother that I would avenge what had been done to her. When she was killed, I knew that the pain had to stop.”
“I dinna understand. Yer doon with yer past boot still ya want revenge? You would kill a man without knowin all o the truth? Then yer no better than those who tried to burn may when I was fourteen. A witch they judged may...tied may ta a post and were bout ta light the flames if Rory hadn’t come.” The anger in her voice was growing. “Ya wheel throw our lives and that of our son’s away so ya can have revenge?” The healer spun away from the bars and headed toward the door with a hand resting on her stomach. “I’ll tell Sam yer nay willin ta talk ta the man. I...I need ta go home and rest. Ya think real hard on thins Buck Cross. I’ll always...love ya nay matter what ..” She said with a shaky voice before turning and heading toward the door just as Sam and Shane were heading in.
”He wheel nay listen. I ..I’ll be back later. I can’t...” she choked out as tears began to roll down her cheeks and she squeezed past the man whom said he was Buck’s father.
Buck was about to open his mouth when he realized that he had nothing to say. Dorrie was right, he couldn’t let go of the past. But it didn’t matter. As long as he didn’t have to deal with the man, he could pretend today had never happened. If he could just erase this last hour from his life, he, Dorrie and the baby could continue as if nothing had happened. Sitting down, Buck rested his head in his hands and sighed. Hearing noises, he looked up to see Shane and the man come in.
“Running Buck,” Shane said. That was all he said.
“Fine, I’ll believe you. There’s no point in getting my brother into this mess. But you are not my father and I don’t want anything to do with you. You stay away from me and my family, that is all I ask.”
Shane swallowed hard. This was better than he had expected. “That’s fine. I know I made a mistake and...” He didn’t say anything further because he didn’t know what. Instead he looked at Sam, hoping that the man would release his son from the cell so that he could go and be with his family.
With a skeptical look on his face, Sam rose from the desk and gave both men a worried look. “Sounds like the two of ya have come ta an understanding. Just be sure that I don’t catch ya fighting again Buck.” The lawman then turned to look at the other man while he unlocked the jail door.
“Might be a good thin ya keepin yer distance Mr. If ya are Buck’s father...well it seems he ain’t takin kindly ta the matter. Ya can go now Buck. Mind what I told ya now...” Sam said while opening the cell. “Might want ta catch up with your wife. I’ve been keeping the Simmons’ brothers away from her but... I still hear them callin her ..um...ungentlemanly things now and again.”
Buck nodded at Sam before he exited the cell. He made it a point not to look at the man who claimed to be his father.
The walk home felt good. Nature was such an oxymoron compared to the cell. The cell was so small and the air wasn’t fresh, everything the open prairie was.
With swollen eyes from crying, Dorrie stepped down from the wagon and began to unhitch Butternut from the rigging. She just hoped no one could tell that she'd been crying. “Shhh now Butter...there now have yer fill o food...there’s a lov,” she murmured before dusting off her skirt with her hands. Turning about she moved toward the barn door when Ike came sauntering in with a smile.
”Lo Ike! Umm...there was a bit o a problem in town. Seems some man who claims ta bay Buck’s father arrived.” she paused as Ike’s hands began to fly and she focused on them to try and understand what he was saying. She was still learning, and when he moved too fast it became very difficult for her to gage the words.
”Ike ..please...slow down,” she said with a shy smile, “I’m not that good joost yet.”
*What are you talking about? How would the man that fathered Buck...? Are you alright?* He moved to give Dorrie a hug. She looked like she needed one.
“Thank ya, Ike. Yer a good friend,” said Dorrie, “I just need ta lay down for a bit.. then I’ll feel better.”
As Buck entered the station, he noticed how good it felt to be home, though he wasn’t sure for how long. The company had hired orphans and he was no longer one. The other riders must be wondering why he was walking home.
With determined steps, Buck didn’t talk to anyone but headed straight off for the room that he shared with Dorrie. His wife was resting so he took extra care to be silent. Looking at the cradle that stood in the corner of the room, Buck couldn’t help to think that he could have hurt Dorrie and the baby and though she might say that everything was alright at the moment...what if something happened in the future? It would be his fault.
Laying down next to Dorrie, he placed his hand on her swollen stomach. The feeling of a small child moving under him brought a smile to his lips.
“I’m sorry for hurting you, little one,” he spoke in Kiowa. “I love you, whoever you are and I love your mother. Just wanted you to know that.”
Feeling a touch on her stomach and the flood of painful emotions mixed with the loving ones that flowed into her consciousness, the young healer was pulled from sleep while hearing Buck saying something in his native tongue.
Her green eyes looked up into his troubled brown and she reached her hand to take hold of his. “Yer son knows that ya love him, Buck. He naer doubts it, just as I naer doubt yer love fer may,” she murmured sleepily.
Buck sighed and laid his head in the nook where her neck and shoulder met. “He promised that he would stay away from me and my family. I promised Sam that I wouldn’t fight with him.” The last word came out with detest. “That’s why Sam let me out.”
Laying a hand on her stomach, Buck let out a small smile. “Are you sure that it’s going to be a boy?”
“Oh Buck..” she whispered pulling him tight into her arms for she’d been so frightened that Buck wouldn’t be able to leave without venting his anger on his father.
A soft mysterious smile came onto her face. “Aye, a son we shall have. Strong and handsome, just like his father I would bet,” she said turning her face to look into his dark brown eyes as her hand gently touched his cheek.
“I’m so glad ya came home...I twas so afraid...I canna loose ya. Yer the very breath I take Anan Cara.”
“I love you, too, Anan Cara,” Buck said. His voice was barely above a whisper and he snuggled down next to Dorrie, getting as close to her as he could.
“Dorrie, I don’t know what to do. I’ve never had a father before. And he isn’t my father even if he fathered me. It’s confusing.”
Running her hand through his long dark hair, she nodded her head. “I canna even imagine what yer feelin right now, being faced with this man. I do know that the truth gets distorted on it way from one ta the other. Sometimes deliberately...sometimes through misunderstandin. Ta some all Indians are savages and murderers, and ta others whites are the same. Truth tis lov that they exist in all people, the good as wheel as the bad. I’ll stand behind what ya wish on this.. whataer ya care ta do. All I ask that ya keep yer mind open and nay let what others tell ya tis truth blind ya from seekin it fer yerself.” She leaned her head down a bit so that she could kiss his forehead. “Boot no mater what...I wheel lov ya.”
Just as she finished speaking the child within her womb moved to make his presence known to his parents.
“I love you, too,” Buck smiled. Feeling the child move under his hand was the greatest feeling ever. “Yep, bound to be a strong boy. He’s already kicking my butt.”
Dorrie giggled at his words before her eyes met his. “So ya gonna bay takin naps with may as wheel, husband? Boot now that yer here with may...I'm nay feelin tired ...” her lips rising slowly as her eyes sparkled mischievously.
Buck grinned and moved to place a kiss on her lips. Slowly he deepened the kiss...
Sighing in content Buck knew that this moment was perfect. Laying his head over Dorrie’s heart he could hear it’s steady rhythm and it calmed him. She was resting and he wasn’t far behind. He heard Dorrie’s words about seeking the truth in his head and he knew that she was right. He had to find out what was right and what was wrong. Then he heard Shane’s words racing through his mind. He would talk to Dorrie in the morning and hear what she had to say. Closing his eyes, he was soon fast asleep.
The morning light came through the white muslin curtained window and woke him. They had both been asleep for nearly 12 hours, but it didn’t matter because they both needed it. Looking over at Dorrie, he saw that she was still sleeping. She looked so beautiful when she slept. There was this peace about her and her face was so calm with her mouth slightly ajar. He placed a light kiss on her lips and drew in the scent that could only be described as Dorrie.
A light feathery touch of soft lips pressed against her own pulled the young woman from her dreams where she found her husband’s bare chest pressed against her own. She returned his kiss while the sun's filtered rays shone across the room and onto their coming child's cradle.
“Ay goodness...I thin I oer slept a bit. Ya moost bay near starved!” she said huskily her hand moving up and down his back.
“I love you,” Buck mumbled as he leaned in to kiss her again. “Dorrie,” he said seriously. “I’ve been thinking about what you said...about seeking the truth.”
“And I love ya too.” She replied while noticing the troubled look on his face. “Aye the truth...tis nay easy love ta face it at times boot...it can set yer weary heart ta rest I thin. Call it a touch o the gift. Whether good o bad ya wheel know the truth and in that your spirit wheel find peace I thin. What do ya want ta do Cara?” she asked hesitantly.
“I have to go to the village and talk to Red Bear. He's the only one who can tell if that man...if he’s really my father. I don’t know if Red Bear will even talk to me after what happened last time but I have to try...otherwise I'll go around wondering. I won’t be away for long. Just a couple of days. Red Bear has responsibilities in the village so he can’t come here, but at least he can tell me the truth.”
An overwhelming sense of pride rushed through her as she reached up to brush a lock of dark hair back from her husband’s face.
“I understand lov. Maybe ya should take the man who claims ta bay yer father with ya ta see if Red Bear recognizes him. Then he will be there to face the truth o yer brother’s words.” She knew that she was growing more tired as the months went by but she also wanted to be with her husband and to support him when he faced this demon. “Do ya want may ta go with ya, Running Buck?”
“Thank you Dorrie, for understanding. Are you sure it’s safe for you to travel? Maybe you should talk to Doc and your mother first.” There was a smile on his face because he knew that the truth would come out. There was a big smile on his lips and he kissed Dorrie loudly. “I just have to ask Teaspoon for the time off.”
“Aye, ta bay safe I’ll ask may Mum,” she said softly not wanting to leave the warmth of his embrace but knowing they both had work to do before he could take off toward town. “Truth tis I’m fightin the temptation ta keep ya here with may.”
Sighing, she pushed her hands beneath her to try and rise but had to struggle with her swollen stomach.
Buck pulled Dorrie down and gave her a kiss. “Why don’t we stay here till someone comes to get us.”
With a soft moan from where his hands were roaming, she shook her head in agreement and touched her lips to his once again.
Cody heard that the two were awake before he entered. “Guys, Emma wouldn’t let me eat before you were at the...” He stopped mid sentence and put both his hands over his eyes.
“Cody, you sure have bad timing sometimes...” Buck groaned before he made sure that they were both covered up.
“Ummm... sorry I forgot. Could ya get yer butts outa bed so we can eat? I mean...sorry Dorrie.” he paused moving back out of the room but called out over his back before he closed the door. “Ya do know Buck that ya ain’t newlyweds anymore?"
Dorrie’s face was a bright red as she snuggled her face into Buck’s chest. “Please by all the saints tell may that that twas a nightmare and ya joost woke may up!” Dorrie pleaded as her waist length hair was spread about the two of them.
“Guess we have to finish what we started later or else Cody might come back in to check on us,” Buck smiled as he placed a light kiss on her forehead.
As the two entered the bunkhouse everybody was looking at them and giving catcalls. Buck was red to his toes and gave Cody a look that could kill. Cody simply shrugged and got ready to start in on his breakfast.
Dorrie blushed near red and hid her face in Buck’s shoulder for a minute before scurrying off to get some biscuits from the oven.
“Mornin Emma...um ..surry I twas late.” she whispered.
“Now boys,” Teaspoon called. “Even though this is a respectable establishment, there’s nothing at all wrong with a bit of love. Now park you behinds because I know that Emma has a delicious meal just waiting to be eaten.”
Teaspoon cast a half-closed eye over at the young Indian who pushed his food around on the plate. Yep he could tell something was bothering the boy. After Emma and Dorrie had gone off to finish cleaning up, he followed Buck out the bunkhouse door and into the barn.
“Umm Buck wait up a bit,” he called out while fiddling with his suspenders. “I see yer a bit antsy son. If it’s about being a father I wouldn't worry too much bout it. Ya'll do just fine.”
“No.” Buck turned around to face the older man he considered a father. “It’s about my father.” When he saw the look of surprise on Teaspoon’s face he let out a sigh, knowing that it wasn’t all over the place that what could be his father had showed up.
“Yesterday, while Dorrie was at Doc’s this man came up to me and told me he’s my father. I think he might be telling the truth.” Buck let the sentence drop and looked down at his boots.
With a furrowed brow, Teaspoon reached out to touch Buck's shoulder. “Ya sure bout that? I mean how could ya know..” the older man asked with concern and confusion.
“He knows my Indian name, he speaks Kiowa, he knows my brother’s name.” Knowing that he was making no sense, Buck started to explain. “He said that he lived in the village before I was born, that he and mother loved each other. Someone who just took her, beat her up and left her for dead wouldn’t know the things he does. Guess I’m just hoping that she wasn’t taken.”
Buck looked up at the older man. “Are you going to fire me now. Because if you are you might as well just do it and get it over with.”
“Now son, why on earth’d I do somethin like that?” Teaspoon asked totally baffled by the young man’s question.
“Because the company would only hire orphans. I’m no longer an orphan.”
Teaspoon leaned his head back and laughed. “Boy ya really think all them boys is orphans? Sometimes tisn’t an orphan in reality like poor Ike but no longer havin a place ya called home. I’d say all ya boys had that bout ya till ya came here. No we’re all a family. No silly thing like this will come tween us.” the older man winked at Buck. “He want ya ta live with him or something? Is that what ya worried about?”
“No, I don’t want anything to do with him. I don’t even know his name. But I need to know the truth. Dorrie and I talked about it and the way he tells it, Red Bear can tell if what he’s is the truth and if I could get a few days off I could go see my brother. Dorrie and my fat...him would come with me. I can’t ask Red Bear to come here. He is warrior chief and has responsibilities in the village. It’s the only way and I need to know the truth.”
“Well now... I think that can be arranged,” Teaspoon said with a small smile. “I think it's a good thing ya gettin ta the bottom of things. Sometimes ya only get one chance ta find some truths in life and this here seems ta be your chance son. Ya need anything, ya know your family is here.”
“Thanks Teaspoon! You’re the best.” Buck beamed. “I figure we’ll leave as soon as Dorrie’s mom says she can travel.”
Buck knew that the man who claimed to be his father was in the saloon playing the piano. Walking inside, Buck felt a few eyes on him, but it was nothing more than he would expect. Sitting down at a table he ordered a sarsaparilla. The man played good music. Buck had to admit that. Buck tapped his foot with the rhythm of the music and enjoyed the taste of he sarsaparilla.
When Shane discovered that his son was sitting in one of the corners in the back his whole body tensed. Hadn’t they agreed to stay out of each others way. Figuring that now was a good a time as any to take his break, Shane ordered a whiskey and sat down next to the man. Buck pulled his hat further down in his face as the musician sat down in the chair just off to his left. “What’s your name?” he asked in a low voice.
“Shane Owens,” the man answered.
“I have a proposition to make...”
That had been a day ago and now three people were headed towards the Kiowa village. Buck was in the wagon with Dorrie and Shane was riding a horse. Buck had made it crystal clear that he wanted Shane to stay as far away from Dorrie as possible. He didn’t like the man and didn’t want his wife anywhere near him.
‘Shane Owens...’ Buck tasted the name and he didn’t like it. ‘Buck Owens...’ He didn’t like the sound of that either.
Dorrie already knew that she could make a journey with Buck to visit his brother Red Bear but her husband wanted her to be certain to ask her mother first. While Moira agreed that her daughter could indeed travel, she did tell Dorrie to be careful and be certain to rest. So Buck had spent the next day arranging everything. Making certain his rides were covered, getting some gifts for his Kiowa family and borrowing Emma’s buckboard.
Letting her eyes drift over toward the older man, the healer looked at him wondering why he’d agreed to go along on Buck’s quest for the truth. Had her husband paid the stranger to come along with them? Finally she shifted her gaze to Buck’s strong tan hands to find them clenched tightly on the reins.
”Twill bay alright may love...you’ll see,” she whispered wearily. They had been traveling at a hard pace and it seemed her husband could not wait to arrive at the place where his answers lay. Unable to keep her eyes open any longer, Doreen's head slipped down onto Buck’s shoulder and she slipped off to sleep her hand resting on her growing stomach.
Buck looked down on Dorrie’s sleeping form and let out a sigh. He knew that they should have stopped for a rest earlier, but he wanted to get to the village before dark. Pulling the horses to a stop, Buck lifted Dorrie up in his arms and laid her in the wagon bed where he had constructed a resting place for her.
Shane was anxious to get to the village, too, so that Buck could learn he was telling the truth, but he also knew that it was important for Dorrie to rest. “You have a fine family,” he said in a low voice. “A good reason to be proud of yourself.”
“I am,” said Buck, but then he realized that he was making conversation with the man and he didn’t want that. “We’ll be starting again in about an hour. The baby doesn’t let her sleep for long.”
Buck looked upon the village. It was nothing like he remembered it. First of all, it was a lot bigger and there were people everywhere. He had instructed Shane and Dorrie to stand behind him.
Seeing Red Bear walk up to him, Buck knew that his brother was mad at him for showing up.
“Brother, why are you here. You belong in the white world.” Red Bear looked at the two people that his younger brother had brought with him. The woman, Red Bear hoped, was Running Buck’s wife. The second man he wasn’t sure he recognized. Time changed a man.
“I have come to seek the truth about the man that fathered me, my brother. I have come to seek the truth about him.” Buck motioned towards Shane.
“The four of us will be in council when the sun is high in the sky. Until then, you rest.”
Dorrie couldn't help staring at the man Buck called Red Bear. She’d always wanted to know what Buck’s older brother looked like and now she knew. Somehow she had imagined that Red Bear and Buck would look more like each other. She could tell by the tone of their conversation that the elder brother was not pleased to see Buck.
With a wave of his hand, the Indian man moved off and Buck turned around and moved back toward them. “Buck...twas that yer brother? Did he tell ya what happened?” Dorrie asked laying her hand on his arm.
Buck nodded. “He is my brother. The three of us will meet him in council when the sun is high in the sky. Until then we are to rest outside the village. He will meet us there. Come on, we are not welcome here and I took a big chance in coming.” Without another word, Buck led them to where they had left the buckboard. Sitting down on the grass covered ground, he took his wife hand in his and gave it a squeeze.
“When he comes, do not speak unless he has given you permission. He is one of the most important men in the village and he must be treated as such.” Buck looked down.
Everything in the village was so different from that of the whites. In the white world, the riders were his brothers and sister: they were equal. In the village, he was worth nothing and his brother was worth everything. Draping his arm around Dorrie, Buck waited for Red Bear to arrive.
Knowing that night would be here soon, Buck stood up and reached for Dorrie’s hand.
Buck helped her up onto the bench of the buckboard once more before driving them a short distance from the village and setting up camp for the evening. Dorrie could tell that Buck was agitated and frustrated at having to wait until dawn for the answers he sought.
The older man was quiet. After eating the stew she made he walked off away from camp saying that he needed to stretch his legs but the healer saw the pain in his eyes before he slipped away.
Buck helped her clean up the supper and then they both got under the blankets. laying her head just below her husband’s shoulder, Dorrie placed her hand above his heart. “No matter what ya find out in the morrow Buck, it dinna change who ya are. You are the man I love and no words anyone will speak can make me love ya any less.” She whispered her breath touching the curve of her love’s neck. “Yer son and I are proud o the man that ya are. Of who ya shall bay...” Dorrie was struggling to keep her eyes open but could not seem to rest while she felt the struggling emotions within the man who held her heart in his hands. “Sleep Buck...rest...fer ya wheel need all yer energy fer the morn.”
Buck nodded lazily. “No matter what my brother says I will always be Buck Cross.”
Red Bear had been watching the three set up camp and eat together. He didn’t think they knew he was watching them, but Running Buck was always good at feeling things. His little brother had picked a fine wife and there was no doubt that they loved each other for soon there would be a baby as a proof of that love.
Knowing that now was the time to let his presence be known, Red Bear stepped out from the bushes and walked towards the three and sat down in front of the small fire and motioned for the others to do the same.
“Running Buck, what has brought you back to the Kiowa when your heart is in the white world?” he said in broken English.
“This man says he is my father. He says you can say if it is true or not. He claims that he loved my mother and that he didn’t take her against her will. I need to know what is the truth and what isn’t before my spirit can rest. Again my heart is torn between two worlds and I do not belong in either of them.”
“Running Buck. Do you remember when I taught you how to keep a secret and that the fewer people that know the better? Mother and I had to keep his secret,” Red Bear motioned towards Shane, “to keep her safe. Strong Wolf was a hard man and it was better that he didn’t know that they loved each other.”
“No,” Buck said, louder than what he had intended. “Why didn’t you tell me the truth? I deserved to know, I have never done anything to you but to honor you and give you the respect that you got for being a warrior chief!”
Red Bear sat in silence.
”Buck...please!” Dorrie pleaded while he shrugged her hand free from his arm. She could feel the anger and betrayal from her husband as his brother’s words cut through the early morning air like a knife. All his life Buck had been marked by the lie that claimed he was a child created by violence. “How could ya do this ta him? Lies...I was told are evils within the tribe that eat away the spirit...til a brave remains bound to the earth and unable to walk in the land of his ancestors?” Dorrie said in a soft voice but it rose as her green eyes flashed at Red Bear. Struggling to her feet, she stood above the older Kiowa “All those years he was spit on and tormented...and ya knew it was a lie!”
“Yes, it was a lie.” Red Bear spoke a calm voice. “But sometimes even a warrior chief must tell a lie to save the life of his brother. Running Buck, this man, Little Otter, is your father.”
Buck just stared at his brother, he stared at his wife, at Little Otter...Shane Owens...his father.
“Why didn’t you tell me...?” Buck asked in shock.
“You know how Strong Wolf was. He would never have let you live if he knew that your mother and your father loved each other.”
“I was afraid of him.” Shane was speaking under his breath. “And I made the mistake of leaving, thinking I never really belonged with your tribe. I didn’t know how to be a Kiowa. Running Buck, I’m sorry I let you down. I’m sorry I let your mother down.”
“Running Buck, now you know the truth. What do you want to do with what you have learned?” Red Bear asked as he stared into Buck’s pain filled eyes.
“I don’t know. I didn’t...I didn’t think that what he said was the truth. I swore that I would avenge him taking mother. You were there. I grew up thinking that I was like him and that I couldn’t love someone because his blood ran through my veins. All you had to do was to tell me the truth.” The tears fell down Buck’s cheeks and he stared at his brother with glazed eyes. “All you had to do was to tell the truth."
What happened next, Buck would never have expected. Red Bear rose from where he sat and walked over to his little brother and held him while he cried.
At hearing the pain in Buck's near childlike voice, Dorrie sank slowly to the ground as tears ran slowly down her face. She watched as Red Bear held her weeping husband in his arms and she could do nothing but let them heal the chasm that a lie had made between them. Using the sleeve of her blouse, the healer wiped the dampness off her cheeks and turned to look in confusion at the man who was Buck's father.
Shane sat silently, eyes cast downward. At this moment, he wished that he had never said anything to Buck about who he was. He wouldn’t have done that if he'd known all the trouble that he would cause the young man. Standing up, he walked down to the river and splashed water in his face.
Looking up, he saw Red Bear standing behind him.
“He is resting now,” said Red Bear. “Little Otter, you have been gone a long time.”
Shane looked up at the younger man and gave a small smile.
"What has brought you seeking the steps of your past? When you left, my mother and I thought we never see you again after you rode from the village. " the young brave asked while leaning against an old Birch tree by the edge of the rambling river.
“I was afraid of Strong Wolf.. he said that he’d kill all of you. I made a stupid mistake in leaving. If I were given another chance, I wouldn’t have done such a stupid thing, I would have stood up to the man. After all these years, I kept telling myself that. Then I saw Running Buck and thought I was given that chance, but it seems that I've made a bigger mess of things this time.” It was a big admission for Shane to make, but he knew that it was the truth and he would never lie to Red Bear. “Running Buck...is he going to be alright?”
Red Bear nodded slowly. “He has his mother’s gentle spirit and his fathers determination to succeed. It may take him a few moons to come to terms with the lies we have told him so he could survive within the tribe.” The proud Indian looked across the river and then back to the older white man. “His life was not easy with the torment he took from the other braves and Strong Wolf’s anger but we know that these are the tests the Great Spirit gives us to lead us along our given path.” After a few moments, he continued, “Now you are to be a grandfather and I...an Uncle it seems,” he chuckled with a nod of approval.
Shane let out a big smile at that. “Yeah, never thought I'd live to see the day. Running Buck is a lucky man to have a wife like Doreen. Just have to look at them to tell that they were meant for each other.” Then Shane sighed.
“It’s strange how I recognized Running Buck, even after all those years. Just wish he'd want me in his life somehow.”
”Yes...he has my mother in his face as well as his father. Maybe it best you wait for the wounded pup to come to you. He will...it just take some time. Right now his spirit is burning with anger and pain but he will understand when he has a child why his life’s journey had to begin with a lie. He will need his father to help him in the white man's world and that...I can not do.” Red Bear looked over to where his brother and Dorrie had laid down to rest.
”I see much love in the white woman’s eyes for my brother. Maybe with her beside him he will ask you to come into their circle. No matter what we do Little Otter, we can not control all things. We must learn to trust in the Great Spirit,” Red Bear said softly as the trickling water sang its song.
“Thank you Red Bear. You have grown up to be a great man. Your mother has every right to be proud of you.
It seemed like forever since Red Bear had laid him down on the makeshift bed and walked away to the spirits knew where. The night had fallen and yet he wasn’t tired. He had that uneasy that feeling for most of the day. Buck couldn’t believe that Red Bear and his mother had lied to him. Growing up he had held so much respect for Red Bear, but all that was gone now. He couldn’t respect a man that had lied to him for so many years. Rolling over he looked at Dorrie.
“We’ll leave in the morning. There is no point in being here and imposing on my brother.”
Dorrie gazed at the pain in her husband's dark eyes wishing desperately that she could somehow take it away.
”Are ya sure lov? Maybe if ya talk ta him some more...ya can work thins out. I know I twood hate ta leave thins like it is between may brothers and mayself,” she whispered not wanting the other two men to overhear their conversation.
“Things are different in the Kiowa world. My brother lied to me and I can’t forgive that. You hear them talking, like they’re old friends or something. My brother doesn’t care about me, he just thinks he does. He never saw how I was treated and I couldn’t ask his for help because it would have shown my weakness. I never had a father and I don’t need one. I have you and I have my express family and that is all the family I need.”
Gently touching his cheek, “All right love. I’ll do whatever it is ta bring ya some peace in this...I hate seeing ya hurt so...” she shook her head as her throat closed and her eyes began to fill with tears. She reached forward and pulled Buck into her arms as she laid her head on his shoulder. “I love...” she started but before she could finish the baby kicked and she gasped out.
“Dorrie, are you alright? What happened? Is it the baby?” Buck sat up and began to look her over for any sign of pain. “Dorrie...is everything alright. We can stay here longer if you’re not feeling well.”
”Oh Buck, lov...dinna frash. Tis joost our wee one wantin ta tell ya that he loves ya I thin.” she said taking her husband’s tan hand into hers and placing it on her swollen stomach. “We’ll tell our son always that he is loved and that we are proud of him.”
Buck let out a sigh in relief and snuggled down next to Dorrie. “I love you,” he whispered into her hair. “You too son, whoever you are.”