Sequel to Fool’s Gold

The Four Ponies

Buck was nervous. He took deep breaths as he readied the ponies to be taken to the Macalister farm. He was wondering how her family would react because this was a Kiowa tradition, but Buck knew that he couldn’t put it off any longer. He had explained the situation to Emma had she said that the best way to handle things was to just do it and not to worry so much about what might happen.

The ponies were groomed and their coats were shining. Buck nodded for indeed they were fine ponies. Saddling his own horse, him and Ike set out toward the Macalister farm. The trip took twice as long because he was nervous about meeting Dorrie’s father and brother.

He was happy that Ike was riding beside him because he knew he couldn't have done this all on this own. Smiling over at his friend and Best Man, Buck knew that in the end everything would be all right.

Seeing the farm of in the distance, he slowed the ponies to a walk and continued down the road. He shared a nervous glance with Ike but knew that it was now or never.

*~*

“Doreen may love, poot down that rag and set down. The boy has already seen the inside o the house when he brought ya back from when that horrible man took off with ya. I dinna thin the lad tis really interested in seeing how clean the room tis…boot more ta meet yer family... Specially yer Da I'm sure,” the older woman grinned as she looked over the tip of her blue willow tea cup at her daughter who was gazing nervously out the window.

”Doreen!” Moira said once more.

”Boot Mum…I want him ta see everythin…joost right!” Dorrie answered back as she went to the stove to check on the roast…for the fifth time.

”Lass twill bay fine ya’ll see. Joot set yerself down. Ya know yer Da twas in the same situation himself when he courted may. May father dinna like may seein a Scot. Goodness, said it was next ta worse than being English. I’m sure he remembers and wheel treat Buck with respect. He knows the boy saved yer life nay once boot twice,” she chuckled as Dorrie went to the small mirror in the living room to be sure her hair was properly in place.

”Boot Mum...I dinna want Da ta make Buck uncomfortable. I love him and I want may family ta love him as wheel! Sweet Bridgette...what o Liam? Mum ya know he always finds a way ta make trouble,” Dorrie moaned with a pleading look toward her mother.

”Yer brothers always mean well Dorrie naer forget that although tis true that yer brother tends ta…see the world as a big game o sorts. Makes the lad both charmin and frustratin at the same time,” Moira chucked with a shake of her head.

”That tis what I’m worried bout! Playin a game on Buck!” Dorrie pouted before seeing two riders headed down the lane toward the house followed by four young ponies. “He’s here!” Dorrie said huskily while giving her skirt a final tug. Opening the door, she moving out onto the porch.

Rory was walking across the open yard and heading toward the barn when he noticed Buck and Ike riding up with some ponies tied off behind them.

”Buck.” He nodded at the two young men noticing that the young Indian seemed a bit nervous. “I take it ya’ve come fer supper. Nice horseflesh bay the way. I thin Dor…” he tried to continue but was interrupted by a loud voice callin out, “Now what have we here, Liam?” James called out as he stepped out into the yard to stand in front of Buck’s horse while a younger man with chestnut hair followed behind.

The thought of his daughter marrying a Native was difficult for the older man to accept. There were so many good lads from his homeland working the rail that would be far better suited for his little girl than a boy whose people were looked on as enemies and often killed on sight.

”Son ya pick up some ponies on yer way here? Hmm, wheel now if ya care ta ya can poot them in the barn til ya leave,” said the older man. Mr. Macalister was younger then what he seemed, only a few spatters of gray revealed his age. His blue eyes narrowed on the two young men as he pulled his hat off and wiped the sweat of his brow off on his sleeve.

Buck was even more nervous now than he was when he and Ike left the safety of the station. Jumping down from Midnight, Buck placed his hat on the saddle horn. He could feel Mr. Macalister looking at him with a judging eye, trying to see if he was fit to marry his daughter.

“Mr. Macalister, I brought the ponies for you and your family. My friend Ike helped pick them out.” Buck nodded his head towards his friend. “They’re for Dorrie’s hand in marriage. It’s the tradition of the Kiowa for the man to offer ponies to the family of the woman...”

The older man threw his hat down on the ground and moved to grab the front of Buck’s shirt. “What ya talkin bout boy? Yer nay buyin may daughter...like some...some strumpet from a brothel o a slave!” He shouted while pulling his fist back to swing at the Indian.

Eyes widening in fear, Dorrie jumped down from the front porch when she saw her father grab Buck and raced over to grab at his arm before he could follow through. “No Da ya dinna understand! Please...” Her father gave his daughter an angry look before releasing his one hand to push the girl out of the way, unfortunately knocking her to the ground.

”Da...” Rory began but his father cut him off, “Why in St. Bridgette’s name have ya let this lad see yer sister? Are ya daft?” He said gruffly as Dorrie placed a hand to her stomach and grimaced in pain.

Buck had been expecting it, but it threw him off guard for a second. “Dorrie!” he called as she fell to the ground. Delivering a well-placed elbow to James’ stomach he ran to Dorrie’s side. Gathering her up in her arms and held her tightly. “Are you all right? Is the baby...? Does it hurt?”

Buck’s number one concern was the baby. After he had discovered that he was going to be a father, this time for real and with the woman he loved, he was so thrilled that he'd begun planning all the things that he was going to teach his child.

Ike had been watching the chain of events and now he had his gun aimed at James. If the man tried something he would regret it.

“Uhhhgah,” James grunted out as his face turned a bright red while he looked angrily up at Ike and then over to the Indian who now had his arms wrapped tightly around Doreen. His sharp blue eyes narrowed on the couple as Rory held tight on to his father’s arm, struggling to keep the older man from going after the Kiowa. “What did ya joost say boy?” Mr. Macalister growled out while pulling against Rory’s grasp.

Noticing that things were getting out of control, Liam strode over toward his sister eyeing the Indian warily. When he heard the word baby, he called out to a higher power for help,

“MUM!!!” He knew that out of anyone here, his mother could control the raging bull that was his father.

”Ya alright Ree?” Liam asked his little sister as he looked curiously at the Indian by her side. Wondering whom the man that was marrying his sister really was.

Dorrie wept as she clung to Buck. “I wanted it ta bay special...nay like this! Oh Buck...our baby... I thin tis fine boot I canna say how surry...”

”Robert James Macalister!! That wheel bay enough!” Moira called out loudly while striding toward her daughter's side. Leaning down she touched her daughters wet cheek and then rose to face her husband.

”James...what tis wrong with ya? This tis the man our daughter has chosen ta bay her husband, and ya try ta lay him on the ground?”

The Scot ignored his wife and stared down at Buck. “Get yer hands off may daughter! Moira...he said... Tell the truth boy is may wee lass carrying yer child?”

Everyone fell silent as they waited for Buck’s reply while Dorrie’s soft weeping could be heard echoed in the silence.

Buck rubbed Dorrie’s back in gentle motions. He could hardly stand to hear her cry. He didn’t mean to blurt out about the baby. It had just come out of his mouth. A slight smile came to his face as Ike went to stand by their side, showing his silent support.

“Mr. Macalister, Dorrie isn’t carrying my child. She is carrying our child,” Buck said with determination. “Caring for a child isn’t a one man’s job. It takes two people who love each other.”

Hearing how Buck spoke of their child, brought a smile to Dorrie’s tear streaked face. “Oh Buck...” she started laying her head to his chest and giving him a tight hug.

Moira reached out and placed her hand to her husband’s arm while her green eyes shone with determination. “Tis well and doon Robert James so ya might as wheel set yer mind ta it. Our daughter obviously loves the boy so stop actin like may Da,” the older woman said lifting her chin as if preparing for a fight.

”Boot...boot he came here ta BUY her with horses! No one BUYS may daughter Moira! NO ONE!” He growled back.

”Oh no? And what tis a dowry but joost that? May Da gave us some land and the family silver. How tis that any different, ya old fool!” the older woman said putting her hands on her hips.

”James...the boy’s people ..like the Lakota that I go ta help...the horses are an HONOR... Tis a way ta show how much he loves her...nay ta buy her!” Reaching out, to gently touch her husband’s arm, Moira eyes softened. “Four horses tis a very nice gift.”

Liam looked from his sister to Buck and then as he helped Dorrie to her feet commented, “I thin two ponies would have been a fair nough exchange.” His green eyes twinkled mischievously.

Dorrie rubbed the tears from her cheek and held tightly to Buck’s arm. “Very funny Liam!” she mumbled giving him a small grin before trying to stand in front of Buck in the hopes of stopping her father from hurting the man she loved.

While Rory had a good hold on his father, he looked over at his sister and Buck in anger and disappointment.

Buck had been watching the exchange quietly and observed that Moria was a champion at calming her husband. Holding Dorrie tightly in his arms, a small smile came to his face as Moria spoke about why he was offering the horses. “Moria is right. The horses are a token of how much I love Dorrie. I would never try to buy anyone.”

Buck held Dorrie’s hand in his and smiled slightly. “Mr. Macalister, please know that I love Dorrie with all my heart and spirit. I would never do anything to put her in harm’s way.”

“Boot Moira ....A baby ? He’s been...he ..with may sweet bairn!” He stuttered glaring over at Buck.

“I dinna know Da...I...joost thought they were seein each other in town.” Rory grumbled letting go of his father’s arm

Buck was silent. He knew now that he would get nowhere with Mr. Macalister. The man refused to listen to what him or anybody else said. Tightening his grip on Dorrie’s hand he looked at the ground. He knew that he needed to be careful about the words coming out of his mouth. There was something about the way that both Mr. Macalister and Rory looked at him. He had somehow betrayed them both.

Ike was standing next to Buck and Dorrie, still not trusting Mr. Macalister.

Moria let out a great big sigh. “Don’t ya get all high and might now, Robert James. How on earth did ya think Rory got here? The stork?”

Liam let out a huge guff of laughter before his father's angry look made him change it into a coughing fit.

Dorrie’s eyes widened in shock and she looked form Rory to her mum and then back to her Da as a the corners of her mouth slowly lifted upwards.

While Mr. Macalister turned a charming shade of red, Rory moved a bit forward, his face reflecting his disappointment and sense of betrayal. “I dinna know Da...or I would have made certain she'd been watched closer.”

The small smile on the auburn haired girls face suddenly fell and she looked with shame at the ground. “I’m surry Ror...I...” she couldn’t continue for her throat tightened and she squeezed Buck’s hand.

Buck bit his lip. He knew that he had to say something. The only problem was that he had no idea what he could say to make things right. “Mr. Macalister. You have every right to hate me, but before you make any decision I want you to know that I love Dorrie more than anything and will protect her forever. You and Moria have raised a wonderful daughter and I am honored that she loves me the same way I love her.”

Moria smiled at the young man while softly putting a hand in her husband’s arm to stop him in case he might try something.

“Da...please tis may fault and nay Rory’s ta make sure I...that I waited til I twas wed boot...I...” She paused for a moment an then looked to everyone around her. The group that was her family and whom she loved greatly. “I love him more than anythin and I want to be with him until I die so...” she looked up into Buck’s chocolate eyes. “Judge may as ya wheel boot Buck tis may husband already in may heart and goin bafore the church dinna change that.”

James shook his head at his foolishness and he closed his eyes for a long moment before opening them to look at his daughter. ”Ah angel...” he let out a long deep sigh “Ya take may breath away fer yer mooch as yer Mum. So be it. I wheel take these ponies fer a spell boot they wheel come ta may daughter when you’ve a home o yer own and no arguments on this,” he stated pulling Moira close to his side. “Liam help the boys see that the ponies are wheel cared for.” Moving forward with Moira by his side, he held his hand out to Buck. “I can see may daughter’s heart tis wheel and truly set ta ya so tis best we learn ta get along!” he said in a soft voice.

Buck smiled slightly as he pulled Dorrie close. The turnabout that he had seen in Mr. Macalister was one that he hadn’t expected and it sort of came upon him as a surprise. “Thank you sir.” Buck shook the man’s hand.

As everyone else turned to either the house or the barn, Buck stood still and drew Dorrie into his arms. Placing a light kiss on her lips he mumbled, “I love you.”

Ike shook his head at the kissing couple and headed towards the barn to help take care of the horses.

“Now, if you to kids are done smooching, go get washed up. Tis time for supper.” Moira called back over her shoulder.

Dorrie turned a bright shade of red and pulled Buck toward the wash pump. “This way Buck.” she said huskily.

Liam burst out laughing, “Aw Mum, yer sooch a Corker!” Then he moved toward the barn leading a few of the ponies. “Ror, help out! Ya can’t stand round lookin like a thundercloud forever!” he called out over his shoulder.

Mr. and Mrs. Macalister looked at one another and he leaned down to give her a quick kiss. “Soo...used yer Da on may did ya...wheel he dinna like this Scot and we turned out good nough!” As they made their way up the stairs, all of a sudden he turned to his wife with a shocked expression on his face. “I'm gonna bay a Granda!”

A Spotty Situation

Buck hadn’t slept too well that night. He woke up several times unable to pinpoint exactly what was wrong. The soft snoring of the others bothered him immensely and he was about to go crazy trying to block the sound out.

Now it was morning and he had no intention of getting out of bed, ever. He simply didn’t feel like it. There was an itch on his back and knowing that he wouldn’t be able to reach it Buck twisted in his sheets trying to make it better. It didn’t work. In fact it had made the itch worse. Maybe he’d ask Dorrie if she had something that might help, but right now he didn’t have the strength to get out of bed. Hearing the others waking he pulled the blanket over his head while groaning out in pain.

Holding a basket of laundry in her arms, Emma walked in to the bunkhouse. Her eyes widened when she saw that Buck was still under the covers. Frowning, she walked over and stood by his bunk. “Buck... Ya gonna sleep forever sweetheart?” she asked gently touching what looked to be a shoulder under the blanket.

Buck grunted. “Scratch back. Can’t reach,” he mumbled into his pillow and rolled over on his stomach. He was feeling a dizziness come over him and he closed his eyes in an effort to shut it out.

“Scratch yer back? What...?” Reaching down to touch his back she could feel the heat just radiating form him. Lifting his shirt, she saw tiny pimple-looking dots all over Buck’s ruddy skin. “Good Lord! Buck ya need ta come on up ta the house. You’ll need ta stay away from the others fer a bit... Ya have the pox!” Emma said waiting for the boy to turn over so she could help him to his feet.

Buck froze. THE POX! He’d heard about that. Red Bear was telling him about it once. “Emma...” he breathed. “Whole tribes have died from that. Red Bear told me that the army gave them blankets and they all got sick. What about Dorrie ? The baby? What about the rest of the riders? If I have it, it’s only a matter of time before they get it.” Buck’s voice shook with worry and high fever.

“Hold on Buck!” she started at the sight of the boy’s panicked expression. “There are other things that can give ya marks on yer skin and a fever. Not that I’m a doctor or anything. Right now it’s best ta get ya out of here and inta a room in the house. Then well work on bringin yer fever down!” Grabbing a hold of the boy she quickly picked up his blanket and wrapped it around him before the two went staggering out the door and across the yard like two drunken sailors after a long night at the pub. “We're almost there Buck,” she huffed.

Buck stumbled over the doorstep and was lead into the downstairs bedroom. His vision was blurred and he was dizzy. Being situated under a mound of blankets, Buck’s mind started to race. “Emma, what if I die from this. I already feel half-dead. And yesterday I kissed Dorrie. What if she gets sick? What about the baby? If I die who’s going to take care of them? And you know how people think about a child that is born out of wedlock. People are still talking about Kathleen. Emma, I feel so sick,” Buck coughed and closed his eyes. His head was throbbing so much that he wished he had a gun so that he could shoot it off.

Pulling the young man into her side to balance him, Emma cleared her tightening throat before replying, “That will be enough such talk Buck Cross. First off by God you are gonna be fine and secondly, your family’s all about ya and if anything were ever ta happen...from being sick or when your out on a ride...we’d take care of em like they were our own, you know that,” she ended softly while helping him beneath the blankets.

At that moment, Ike came bursting through the door. He had seen that Buck hadn’t gotten up with the others this morning. Ike had let him sleep seeing as yesterday had been a big day for Buck figured that his friend was probably just tired. When he saw Emma leading a blanket-wrapped Buck up to the main house, the bald headed boy immediately began to worry. He quickly fed Samson before he ran up to the main house. *What’s wrong with him? * demanded Ike.

“Ike, go into town for me. Tell Dorrie that I have pox. Whatever you do, do not let her come over. I don’t want her to be sick too. Ike when...if I die, take care of Dorrie and our child for me. Raise him like you would your own son. Teach him everything you know. Tell him about the Kiowa. Teach him to be proud of both of his where he’s from.” Buck let out a series of coughs and sighed. He had given up getting the infernal itching to stop.

“BUCK! I know your worried but you need to take it easy sweetheart. You need to rest right now and focus on getting better. We’ll get one of the boys ta head ta town ta tell Dorrie you’re not feelin well and that she shouldn’t come here. If she’s at her home we’ll send them there to tell her, so stop your frettin.”

“No, she’ll be in town. I was going to meet her there at ten to make some arrangements for the wedding.” Buck looked up at Ike with a silent plea in his eyes.

It hurt Ike to see his best friend, his brother, like this. *I’ll do it, * he signed. *But only if you promise that you’ll rest. You’re too stubborn to die. Besides if you do, Dorrie will kill you. * Ike tried to make a joke but he wasn’t smiling. He had never seen Buck look so sick. In fact, he didn’t think that he had ever seen Buck sick.

“I’m goin ta get some water ta bring your fever down,” she said with a smile, tucking Buck’s blankets in around him. Rising to her feet she picked up the pitcher from the wash stand and with a nod towards Ike, Emma moved outside the door with Ike following quickly behind.

“Ike I don’t want to worry Buck but...he thinks he caught this first...” She stopped, trying to brush a lock of strawberry hair from her eyes. “I’m worried that Dorrie might be the one who had this first,” she paused looking over her shoulder at the door. Let me give ya a list of things ta get me in town while ya check. If Dorrie is there make sure she doesn’t come...especially with the baby. If she isn’t there, head to her house to find out if...to make sure she’s alright.” Now go on and say a quick goodbye cause I don’t need ya all sick!” Then with a pat on the mute boy's arm and a small smile she carried the pitcher back through the door.

Ike nodded and walked after Emma in the door and waves a good-bye to Buck. He rode into town as if the devil himself was on his heels. Once in town he tethered his horse outside the Doc’s office and searched wildly for Dorrie but didn’t see her until he ran right into her.

She was getting a bit worried when Buck hadn’t shown up to meet her at the restaurant to talk about some of the things they needed to do before their wedding. She’d begun pacing up and down the worn boards when she felt someone bump into her and two hands come out to grasp hold of her arms to keep her from falling. Her eyes widened in surprise and then fear as she saw Ike standing before her with a worried look on his face.

*Buck’s sick, * he started to sign furiously. *Emma said that he has the pox and that you might be sick, too. She doesn’t want you to come to the station because of the baby. *

She could feel the fear and concern rushing through him. Dorrie looked up at Ike with a frightened expression and then did her best to understand his fast moving hands.

“THE POX? Ike did ya say the Pox?...yer sure?” Her voice shook slightly. She had to be mistaken...misread the letters that Ike had signed.

He nodded solemnly. *Emma said to take you home. She doesn’t want you to get sick too. * Ike didn’t tell her that she had thought that Buck might have gotten it from Dorrie. There was so need to make her worry even more.

“NO!! I’m goin to take care o him!” Dorrie gasped out before turning and rushing toward Doc’s office where her healer’s bag was.

Ike ran to catch up with her. *No, Buck won’t see you. He doesn’t want you to get sick. Please listen to me. Just go home. I’ll go with you. I just need to pick up some stuff that Emma needed from Tompkins for Buck. *

“Ike...the pox...” Her voice shook as she gently touched her stomach. “I dinna want ta loose him... We can’t loose him.” Raising her eyes to meet Ike’s green eyes she said, “I want ta see him...to make sure. I mean… he may nay have it...could bay somethin else...” she drifted off noticing that Ike wasn’t going to change his mind.

“Alright Ike...boot let may get may healer’s bag if we’re headin home. Wind Chaser tis in the stable could ya saddle her while I get may bag?” she asked in a quiet voice.

Ike put his hands around her and held her in a hug. There was nothing he could say to make her feel better. The only thing that would was for Dorrie to see Buck, but he had made a promise. Drawing back he nodded and watched her walk into the office. The young rider was quick to saddle Wind Chaser and he found Dorrie waiting anxiously to leave.

Dorrie played with the strap of her healer's bag as she anxiously waited for Ike to come with the horses. While she stood there, she looked at the church with its white steeple poking skyward. They were going to walk through the church today while she explained some of her parent's traditions then they were going to talk over what they needed to do before their wedding.

The steeple stood there almost as if it was mocking her and an overwhelming fear ran through her. 'What happens if he dies? How can I live without him?' She thought painfully as Ike came up and handed her Wind Chaser’s reins. Hooking her bag over that saddle horn, Dorrie swung up onto the stallion's back, she gave Ike a nod before riding towards her home. “Let’s go Ike!” she said in a tearful voice.

*~*

Dorrie had wiped the table for at least the fifth time and given poor Ike enough tea to make the boy float away. “Ike...canna way go ta the station?” Seeing him shake his head she looked pleadingly at him with her emerald green eyes. “I willna go in... I’ll joost wait...on the porch.”

*No, Buck told me to tell you not to come and that I was to take care of you. I don’t break promises. * Ike looked to Mr. Macalister for help. He was just as worried about his brother as Dorrie was and he was running out of things to say to make her calm down.

Slowly the old Scotsman moved over to his daughter's side. “Now Angel, ya know he’s with yer Mum and she’ll do her best by the lad. Now ya need ta go lay down fer a bit yerself. Yer near worn out and ya have ta think o the wee one.”

Dorrie looked from her father to Ike and ran her fingers through her hair. “I know Da, boot what if...I...naer see him again... I can’t,” she choked out before crossing the floor once more weaving on her feet in exhaustion.

“Aww lov, twill bay fine. Dinna ya frash. Now go on and lay down fer a bit. Bay the time ya open yer eyes yer Mum will have sent us word on the poor boy. Tisn’t that right McSwain? Good name bay the way...knew a few in Scotland,” he jested trying to get his little girl to smile.

Ike nodded as to say that his name was Scottish. He remembered his father having the same accent as Mr. Macalister. Giving Dorrie a light hug he signed, *Your father is right. Your mother will be back soon with news about Buck. And if you close your eyes and rest a bit, your mother will be here sooner than if you stand around and worry. *

Dorrie returned Ike’s hug *Thank you,* she sighed before going over to her father and giving him a hug. “All right I'll go and lay down boot ya have ta promise that if news of Buck comes ya’ll wake may right away. Yer word Da!”

“Ahh yer a quick witted lass. All right may word now off with ya,” he grumbled giving her forehead a loving kiss.

Nodding, Dorrie wearily opened her bedroom door and all but fell onto the bed.

James watched his little girl enter her room and lay down and sighed. “Let’s hope we hear from may wife soon o that girl wheel need ta bay tied down ta keep her from goin ta the boy’s side. She’s stubborn may Doreen... Gets it from her Mum,” he murmured shaking his head.

Ike wasn’t sure what he was supposed to do now. He hoped that Buck would be all right. His brother had talked as if he was going to die. *Can I wait here till your wife come back? I want to make sure that Dorrie is all right.* He looked at Mr. Macalister.

“Surry boy canna understand all that there hand motions yer making....but dinna frash it wheel bay alright. If ya like ya can go lay down in Rory’s room and rest. It’s oer there.” the older man pointed.

Ike nodded, so worried he wasn’t thinking straight. He was used to everyone he interacted with knowing sign. Taking out the notepad that he kept with him out of old habit he wrote; 'Thank you. I’ll stay till your wife comes back in case Dorrie wakes up.'

“Sure lad...go on with ya and rest up a bit. I’ll keep watch oer her. Tis what parents are used ta doin.” Then with a sigh, he got up form his chair and poured himself another cup of coffee.

“Moira may love...take care fer I dinna want ta bay losin ya...ya stubborn headed...” he whispered touching one of her charms that hug by the window.

*~*

Moira rode quickly up to the station trying to figure out where, between the two buildings, the young Indian boy would be residing. Slipping from the saddle, she tied Sadie up to the rail and pulled her healing bag from the saddle horn. “Lo!” she called out hoping some one would hear her. As she shifted her gaze, she saw Mr. Hunter come out from what appeared to be a bunkhouse. “Good evenin, Mr. Hunter. Aye...I came ta check on the lad. May daughter tis beside herself for fear he has the pox. Near had ta tie the lass down ta keep her form comin along boot if it is the pox...” She left her sentence unfinished for she'd seen the great losses at the hands of the deadly disease. Moira followed after him up the porch steps of the old white clapboard home.

Teaspoon had just told the boys to check if they had any red bumps on their bodies when he saw Moria ride in. “Hello,” said. “C’mon, I’ll take you to him.” Teaspoon led the way to the main house and let her in. “I’ll take care of the horse for ya.”

“Thank ya kindly. She's an old horse, Sadie tis, boot a treasure joost the same,” she said with a small smile before searching for where the young boy was being kept. She moved through the living room and off to the right she saw a door partially open and with a gentle push, she found Ms. Shannon bathing Buck’s forehead with a damp rag.

“Lo Emma, been awhile since I’ve seen ya at the church social. Looks like we have a sick one. Mind if I take a wee look at the boy?” Her lilting Irish accent singing softly into the room.

“No, come in,” Emma said as she stood, looking about nervously, it was all she could do was to hope that the healer would say that Buck didn’t have the pox.

“Dorrie,” Buck slurred as he looked up at the person that had entered the room. “You should’na come. Love you. Whad bout baby.” Buck’s head started to spin and he slumped back down into the pillow, which was soaked in sweat.

Moira gave Emma a comforting smile as she moved to look down into Buck’s face. “Hmmm… Seems his fever tis high fer him ta think I 'm may daughter,” she chuckled trying to lighten the fear that resided in the room. “Why dinna ya have some o the boys fetch some more water and get the bath filled with it. His temperature needs ta bay brought down. I’ll take a peek at the marks on him ta see exactly what we have here.”

Then the older healer laid her medicine bag down on the hope chest at the bottom of the bed and began to touch Buck’s head and neck to check for swollen glands. “Shhh tis alright Buck. The baby tis fine as wheel as may shiela. Now let’s work on gettin ya better.”

Buck looked up at Dorrie’s face as she touched him. “Love when ya touch me. Your skin against mine. Hold me, I feel cold,” he said in a slurred as he closed his eyes and tilted his head backward in an attempt to stop the feeling of being choked.

Emma couldn’t help but to let out a chuckle when she heard Buck’s words. If Cody heard about this Buck would never live it down. Exiting the room, she saw Jimmy outside and asked him to go to the well. She wanted to stay nearby to help with Buck.

Shaking her head while giving a little chuckle, Moira pulled the blanket back and lifted Buck’s shirt to get a good look at the red marks on his body. Touching the marks she noticed there wasn’t a bead like center to the pock and a smile came to her face. “Yer in luck lad, tis chicken pox ya have...and nay small pox. I’ll need ta brew up some tea for ya boot first let’s put ya in a vinegar bath ta bring down yer temperature and help with the itchiness,” the healer spoke softly to her patient. Going across the room to a chair where a lovely afghan lay, Moria picked it up and brought it across the room to use in helping the boy with his shivers. The poor lad was already covered in blankets but one more couldn’t hurt. Laying the blanket on him, she took his hand in hers and gave it a light pat with her other hand.

”You’ll bay fine...” she whispered as she waited for Emma to return so they could bring in the tub and begin getting his bath ready.

“Why won’t you lay down next to me?” complained Buck as Dorrie sat down next to him and held his hand. “You said the baby will be fine.”

At that moment Jimmy chose to come in the door carrying two buckets of water and Cody followed with a tub. Both of them stopped dead in their tracks when they heard what Buck was saying. Cody burst out laughing while Jimmy excused himself to get some more water. Emma gave Cody a stern look before she started to prepare the bath. “Boys,” she muttered under her breath.

“Hmmm. Wheel now Emma this may bay more difficult than I thought,” she chuckled rising to her feet to check on the tub. Then reaching in her bag she opened a bottle and added some vinegar to the water. “He willna like the smell boot twill help with the itchin. Emma while he’s in the bath, might bay good fer us ta change the sheets fer I’m afraid they’re soaked through.”

With a large sigh, she moved to Buck’s side and touched his cheek. “All right lad we need ta get ya out of those wet clothes and inta the bath.” Then the Irish woman reached down and put her arm behind his back and helped pull him upward while tugging the shirt over his head.

“Don’t you go and take advantage of me now,” laughed Buck weakly. The slur was still evident in his voice. “I’m a very sick man.”

“Sure you are.” Emma smiled and shook her head. Buck would never be able to live this one down. Especially now that Cody had heard what was coming out of the sick boy’s mouth.

After having removed his long johns, the two women carried Buck to the bath.

“Dorrie,” slurred Buck. “Come hold my hand.”

As Emma and Moira got him into the bath, Moira rolled her eyes heavenward. “Sweet Bridgette, no mayther should know so mooch o her daughter’s love life,” she whispered. “Now lay back in the water fer a bit and let it take the heat from yer body...shhh tis best fer ya ta keep quiet.”

Buck nodded seriously before he closed his eyes and tried to relax. The water reeked of vinegar but he could live with it because it made the itching go away.

*~*

Nearly a week had passed and Buck’s fever was finally gone. So were the pocks and he would only have a few scars on his arms and chest from where he had scratched. Dorrie was with him and she was resting in the nook of his arm. Life couldn’t be any better than this.

“I love you,” Buck whispered and kissed the top of her head. He wanted to do so much more, but Moria was in the room and he was slightly embarrassed. “Though when I was sick, I’d wish that you would lay down next to me, but all you did was hold my hand.”

A frown came to Dorrie’s face as she turned to look up at Buck. “Buck what are ya talkin about? I wasn’t there... Ya had Ike keep may away.”

Moira looked across the room at the two and gave a small cough.

“No, you where there. You gave those horrible smelling baths that made the itching go away.” Then he looked up at Moria. “Oh my...” Suddenly Buck wished that he could disappear as he sank into a prone position on the bed and tried to pull the blanket over his head in embarrassment. “All the things I said...” The things he had said weren’t the worst of it – the fact that Moria, Dorrie’s mother, had seen him with nothing on was something that he wished had never happened.

“Wheel now tis true lass, he sure couldn’t wait ta get better and get his arms about ya that is fer certain,” the older woman chuckled. “Boot I’m thinkin this babe will be a strong lad o lass by looking at Buck’s constitution.”

With a small smile, Moira began bustling about the kitchen.

“Lay down with ya?” Dorrie’s eyes went from her mother to Buck, “What things did ya say?”

Buck felt the blush flow to his cheeks, as well as the rest of his body. He wished that he hadn’t opened his mouth at all. “I said...” There was no way out of this. He knew the look in Dorrie’s eyes. “I said when your mother was giving me those baths...not to take advantage of me...” Buck looked away, fearing what Dorrie would think or say.

Eyes widening, “What?” she stared at Buck in amazement then like a rain that just began she let out small little giggles before reaching over to press her lips gently to his. “Wheel Mr. Cross tis a good thin may Da twasn’t around fer I dinna thin he’d like ya sayin sooch thins ta may Mum.”

“Dorrie leave the poor boy alone. He had a fever and twasn’t clear o mind. Now take the boy out for a walk before supper. He needs ta get some more clean fresh air in his lungs."

What to Wear and How to Wear It

“Hurry now lads, we need ta head off an make the boy a part of our clan. Yer mum’s been working her tiny hands ta the bone sewing the Macalister tartan tagether so may new son in law wheel bay seen as o member o the clan,” James rough voice called over to his boys.

Rory stepped nervously forward, “Da, how do ya know Buck wheel want ta wear the Scottish Highland dress? He tisn’t from our lands and he may want ta follow the ways o his people. Ya know like the ponies.”

”Nay, he’ll like it, ya’ll see. Being part o the Macalister’s tis a privilege many desire boot few gain,” the old man chuckled as he put his sporran around his waist so that the head of the fox stared at them from just below his stomach.

Liam shook his head but began to follow his father in putting on his highland garb. “Hurry Rory! We can eat once we’re doon with dressin the lad in all the frivolities. Mum’s made lamb stew and I want ta dig into it before I’m laid ta rest,” jested the young man with cinnamon colored hair.

Rory shook his head but hastily began to dress in his kilt. “The horses are saddled and ready boot I have bad feelin bout this Da. I thin we should have talked to the boy bout it bayfore we go and filch him from his work.”

”Ahhh stop yer frashin Ror and get ya dressed,” His father ordered as he put on his fancy leather jacket and preened before the mirror. With a large smile he continued, “Ya still look fine James Macalister…yer Mum loves it when I dress full up.” Then with wiggling brows, he walked out the bedroom door to seek out his wife.

*~*

Buck had just finished grooming Midnight after coming home from a short run. It would be the last one that he would take before he got married and it was great to think that the next time he would get home from a run Dorrie would be here waiting for him. Then he’d kiss her and tell her that he loved her.

With a happy sigh he laid the brush away and headed to the shower. He was glad that Teaspoon had decided to put up the shower contraption because sometimes, like after getting home from a run, it felt so much better than a bath.

Looking up from drying his hair Buck saw three riders approaching the station. The first thing he noticed about them was the way they were dressed. He’d never seen anybody dressed like that before. Then he realized it was Mr. Macalister, Rory and Liam. Standing silently he waited to for the three to come into the station yard.

The three Scotsmen made quite a sight as they rode in. Swinging from the horse’s back James nodded to his boys and they followed suit. After they had tied their horses to the bar, the three men moved to where Buck stood watching.

“Wheel boys, looks like he’s clean and ready.” With a nod to Liam, the two men grabbed each of the Indian’s arms and moved him into the barn while Mr. Macalister called over his shoulder in Gallic, “Bring the kilt and such Rory Mor!”

“What the hell is going on!” Buck yelled, hoping that someone would hear and come to the rescue. “Rory what the hell are you three trying to pull?” Buck looked from one person to the next and when neither face revealed what was happening, Buck took a deep breath hoping that someone would come to his rescue, and soon.

“Joost go along with it Buck...tis best when may Da is in a mood boot we’re nay gonna hurt ya,” Rory said as he brought up the rear. “Might bay best if ya dinna call out though or Liam wheel hav ta gag ya and ya wouldn’t like it.”

“Quit yer yappin,” James barked out as they finally got to the barn. “Alright boy undress.” he ordered as he crossed his arms and waited.

Liam stood close at hand in case the Kiowa decided to run.

“What?” Buck asked. This was all too weird, but the look on Mr. Macalister’s face told that he better to as he was told. Slowly Buck drew his shirt over his head. Surely they weren’t expecting him to get naked. But as it seemed, that was exactly what he was expected to do. Leaning down, Buck considered going for his knife, but he knew that wasn’t a good idea.

“There,” Buck said, looking up at Mr. Macalister who stood about a foot taller than him.

James’s eyes traveled from the Indian’s head down to his feet and he nodded, “You’re man enough fer may lass.”

Liam burst out laughing while Rory sputtered out a small chuckle.

“Alright lad we brought ya yer kilt ta wear fer the wedding. Rory wheel show ya how ta fold the tartan butt first ya poot on the shirt so that the wool dinna make yer skin itch.” the older man doled out orders. “Liam ya get the sporran ready. Wheel dinna wait all day, the boy’s getting cold!”

“Wear for the wedding? What? I was planning to...” But Buck didn’t have a chance to continue before a shirt was draped over his head and something or an other was put around his waist. Buck was so beside himself that he had no idea what was going on before he stood wearing the same outfit that the other three was wearing. “Sir, I’m not sure I understand. Why do you want me to wear...this to the wedding?”

“Wheel lad, yer becomin part o our family and this is what a highland Scott wears ta his weddin. This fabric tis called a tartan which carries color that tis solely fer Macalister’s. May lass wheel wear her dress and then have a Kinsale o this about her.”

Liam chimed in, “They really are comfortable even if I have ta say so mayself. At least easier ta go ta the loo and...whell other thins.”

“Liam!” Rory barked out smacking his little brother in the head. “Are ya daft talkin like that about...with our sister!”

Giving his older brother a push Liam chuckled. “Ya do know that she’s pregnant Rory and already knows how thins are...doon?”

A loud growl came form James, “ENOUGH YA TWO!” Turning back to Buck James touched Bucks long black hair. “Wheel need ta braid some o this and ya’ll look like a true Highlander.”

Buck looked down shuffling his socked feet under him. Just so long as Liam didn’t find out the words that had come out of his mouth when he was sick. Buck hadn’t known Liam for very long, but he did know that clown wise, Liam was ten times worse that Cody.

Taking a step back from Mr. Macalister, Buck looked the man in the eye. “Sir, I really appreciate all that you’ve put into this, but I’m no Highlander. I’ve never even been to Scotland.” Buck didn’t want to hurt the man’s feelings but how was he going to let the man down when he had other plans. Before Red Bear had all but banished him from the village, he had given his brother a war suit and that Buck had planned to wear.

“Sir, I’m not a Scot, I’m Kiowa.”

James yes narrowed on the boy before him. “Aye lad...I thin we all know yer not a Highlander boot yer marryin the daughter o one so ya become part of may clan now. If ya were a Scott, Dorrie would go to her wedding wearing the Macalister colors and then when the joining happened, she would leave wearing her husband’s colors boot since ya dinna have a clan...wheel ya become part o ours. Tis an honor,” he said the last three words almost like a challenge.

“Da...yer nay thinkin bout how Bucks people...” Rory started but his father gave his ‘be silent’ look. “He dinna live with his tribe boot here in the white man's world so I would thin he wants ta do things right fer Dorrie.”

Buck sent a grateful look in Rory’s direction. He knew that there was no way around this. Mr. Macalister was in many ways just like Red Bear; he was right because he said he was.

“Yes, I will wear this to the wedding.” There was a slight sign of resignation in his voice.

Rory watched the look in Buck’s eyes and knew that he was doing what his father wanted but not because he really wanted to and as and idea came into his mind. He looked form his father to Liam and back to Buck. “Aye this wedding wheel certainly bay an eye opener fer us all I thin. Ya do look very handsome Buck and I know may sister will thin so too,” the blacksmith added to try and cheer the Kiowa up.

“Look at us lads...we look bout ready ta take on the Anglish. All way need tis our claymores and we’d give the whole o the town somethin ta remember!” James chuckled out loudly giving Buck a thump on the back.

“I joost hope ta catch a pretty young thins eyes when she sees may in may kilt. Maybe that dark-haired young lady, who has Scot in her fer certain with a name like McCloud,” Liam jested with a cocky tilt of his head.

”Not unless you want to be killed,” commented Buck. “She’s taken and I don’t think Kid would take it too lightly that you’re eyeing Lou.” Giving a laugh to lighten the situation, Buck wished that he was still out on that run.

*~*

Buck looked over at Dorrie out of the corner of his eye, not wanting her to catch that he was looking at her. He hadn’t talked to anyone about the “talk” that he had had with Mr. Macalister the day before, but he knew that he couldn’t hide it forever. He hadn’t realized that Midnight had stopped before he felt a hand on his arm and he looked over at Dorrie. He forced a smile to his lips.

Dorrie looked over at Buck worriedly and wondered what had brought about such a change in him since she’d been with him last. As Buck stood still on Midnight, Dorrie moved her horse next to his and touched his arm and felt the rush of confusion and struggle within her future husband or was that the problem. Had he changed his mind but was afraid to tell her.

“Buck? What’s wrong? Are ya...did ya wish ta change yer mind...bout the weddin?” she asked with a small catch in her voice.

“No, I’ll never change my mind about loving you. It’s just that since... Well, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and I don’t think I can be Kiowa any longer...” Buck’s gaze dropped from Dorrie to the ground. He hadn’t realized that that was the problem until he had voiced it. “It’s not your fault.” He hurried to say. “But it is the right thing to do.”

“Oh love...why would ya thin that? Tis a part o ya and one that gives you pride. Why in the world would ya thin ya have ta give that up? I hope ya dinna thin ya need ta do that fer may. I love all that ya are...everythin...the Kiowa part o ya as wheel as the white. I mean...ya have ta deal with may being Irish as wheel as Scot,” she said with a small smile.

“It’s not that. I’m more proud of the Kiowa part of me than the white. The first thing I learned about white men is that they rape innocent women, beat them up and leave them for dead.” He wished that he hadn’t said that because he didn’t want to share his past with anyone. “But I made the choice to learn about the other part of me and I can’t keep the worlds separate. I don’t know how to do it.” Buck tilted his head so that his hat would fall down in his face so Dorrie couldn’t see the tears that was forming in his eyes. The emotions that were plowing through him were so overwhelming.

Dorrie felt the rush of pain and anger flow through Buck and it took her breath away. She leaned a little forward in the saddle and gripped the horn tightly as she dealt with the sensations. Her brows came together as she heard how he’d thought white men raped women and left them for dead.

“Buck ..what...do ya mean that white men rape and beat up women. I know that in town those boys were ..angry boot they dinna... Ya know they dinna rape may...?” she asked in a confused voice.

“I know that,” Buck mumbled. “But that didn’t stop it from happening to my mother.” His voice was so low it could barely be heard.

“Dorrie, you have no idea what it’s like to see the pain in her eyes every time she looked at me... And to know that that pain comes from how I came be,” he sighed. “Sorry, I never meant to put this on you. But in a way I guess you needed to know. We’re going to spend the rest of our lives together and there should be no secrets, so now you know who I am.” Buck looked her in the eyes. The tears threatened to fall down his cheeks.

She could feel his pain and Dorrie took a risky chance as leaned over from her horse to wrap her arms around Buck. “I’m so surry ya had ta go through that may love. Ta feel like you were a source o her pain. Boot she loved ya... Ya told may that. I’m glad ya shared it with may...who ya are cause I love ya...joost the way ya are Running Buck.”

Buck smiled in earnest. “Thank you for understanding. I know she loved me, but I can’t help thinking... It’s all in the past now. I love you, too.” Buck moved to place a light kiss on her lips. “Thank you for loving me when I thought I couldn’t be.”

“I wheel always love ya Buck...joost as ya are...all quiet when yer thinkin o thins,” she reached forward and took his hand and placed it on her stomach. “O I should say we’ll always love ya. Ummm Buck...could we go ta the pond and ya tell may some o the Kiowa peoples traditions. I would love ta hear them and...then...maybe take a nap?” she yawned a bit and rubbed her eyes.

“I’d love to,” Buck smiled at the thought of that in about seven months he would be a father. Buck took pride in knowing that his son would know him.

Turnabout of Traditions

Buck didn’t know why Dorrie wanted to do this, and so soon before the wedding. She wouldn’t be back until the evening before the wedding and Buck was worried about her and the baby. He took comfort in the fact that Lou was going with her.

“I’ll miss you,” Buck mumbled as they kissed of the umpteenth time in the last five minutes. Ever since he'd told her about where he was from, he hadn't been able to stay away from her for more than a day.

“Hmmm,” the Scotch-Irish lass murmured into his kiss and fought herself into pulling back. “I’ll miss ya too may love boot tis needed. I canna refuse ta help when it’s asked...ya know that bout may. Louise and I wheel bay back afore ya know it!” she said touching his cheek gently.

"The next time we meet Mr. Cross, wheel bay ta marry,” she said in an almost reverent voice. “I canna wait fer ya ta take may away fer a wee bit so way can bay tagether without may Da and brothers hangin about like hawks.” Dorrie pulled him close into her arms and squeezed him tight. “Take care o yerself, Agra.”

“I will, Anan cara.” Buck gave her one last kiss before he knew that it was time for her to go.

Lou looked down at the Buck and Dorrie and sighed. She swore the two of them had been saying “goodbye” for near a half-hour now. They were loosing daylight but she didn’t have the heart to break the two lovebirds up. She’d been sure that Kid was out on a ride or he would never have let them head out alone.

“Doreen we best get a move on,” Lou said softly.

Then with a last kiss, Dorrie swung up into the saddle and with a lingering look in Buck’s direction she signed her love before kicking Wind Chaser into motion.

“Make sure you’re in front of the church on time Buck...wouldn’t want ta have ta come after ya and drag ya up in front of the preacher,” Lou jested before nodding and heading after her Auburn haired friend.

*~*

James had been listening in on Moira and Doreen talking about how the young Indian felt his Kiowa heritage was to be pushed aside for his highland traditions and he looked down at his hands somberly.

Maybe he’d been a bit too pushy...alright a lot pushy with the boy. The Scott went over to the pen where the ponies Buck brought over were playing about in the corral.

“How do ya poot this ta rights, ya old fool?” he said to himself holding tight to the top rail of the pen.

When Buck had decided to go for a ride, he hadn’t realized that he’d end up at the Macalister farm. Guess he just missed Dorrie.

“Maybe I can help?” he said when he heard Mr. Macalister talk to one of the ponies.

Dorrie’s father was so lost in thoughts that Buck’s wourds startled him. The man on the horse before him was the very reason for his pondering. “Lo Lad....joot looking at yer ponies here and remembering how ya bringing them tis a part o yer peoples ways.”

The older man looked down at the ground with a frown. “Guess when we fitted ya with that kilt we naer thought o how yer people...I mean ..the Indian part o ya ..Sweet Bridgett, I mean we dinna thin o how the Kiowa marry. I joost assumed ya dinna have any and we would do it bay the Scott tradition.” James paused for a moment to get up the nerve to say the following words, “Surry bout that lad. We can change thins if ya care ta....ta also follow yer peoples traditions.”

“It’s alright. You didn’t mean it the way it came out,” Buck smiled in earnest and put a hand on the man’s shoulder. “About traditions, if we're being honest, by the Kiowa’s traditions, Dorrie and I are already married.” Buck looked down before he looked back up at Mr. Macalister. “Sir, I’m sorry about the way I acted. I didn’t mean to react the way I did. I'm glad to honor your people’s traditions. I would have said yes if you had asked me, but I felt like I was under attack.”

Mr. Macalister listened to the young man and then nodded. “Aye, guess we Shanghaied ya right inta the kilt. This old Scot only thought ya would see it as an honor ta bay a part o the clan that I naer even thought ta ask...nor listen.” He raised his eyes with a smirk on his face, “Moira complains that I need ta bay a man less takin ta action bayfor I think, boot old habits are hard ta break.”

“I’m surry fer that lad.” A reflective look came into his eyes. “So...ya and may daughter are already married in the Kiowa’s eyes. I take it ya mean when ahh ..when the two o ummm....” he left the last words floating in deathly silence.

Buck didn’t look down. “Yes,” he said with pride. “But Dorrie knew before we...” His voice trailed off and an evident blush came to his face. “We want to make it right in both worlds,” he was quick to say.

“What would ya like ta do fer the church wedding...son. Now that this old fool is listenin?” asked James.

“In the Kiowa tradition a shaman, that would be what you call a priest, would say a blessing asking the Great Spirit to watch over us, and then Dorrie and I would say in our own words how we will promise to protect each other and love each other, always. It’s about all I remember from my time in the village. I left there when I was 12 winters and have only been back once. I know it’s a lot to ask and I’m not sure how the priest would react. But I would like to incorporate some of my people’s traditions because Dorrie and I are two different persons and on that day we will be joined as one.”

“Then mayhap ya should go and find a shaman fer the truth tis lad our traditions aer nay that different.” A wide grin came onto the man’s face as he reached out to pat Buck on the back, “Now way need ta wait fer the lass ta come back. I thin the girls are goin ta get their dresses on their way back from helping may wife’s friend Standing Bear.”

“Bay ready lad fer no matter what the traditions, the women wheel lead ya a merry dance the rest o yer life.”

“But we love them just the same,” Buck added with a smile.

With a shake of his head James sighed, “Aye...way love them joost the same.” James said as they walked side by side to check on the ponies.

*~*

They’d ridden for near the whole day and talked about how they loved the men in their lives as well as how frustrating they could be. Finally, with Lou’s great sense of direction, they found the Lakota camp.

Dorrie and Lou looked at each other nervously as two warriors approached them aggressively and began speaking gruffly in Lakota. Not understanding a word they were saying, the healer looked at one of the young men saying, “Standing Bear…healer.” The two Indians turned to one another and said a few things before looking more closely at the two of them.

Lou wasn’t too sure about what was going on around her. She had never been to an Indian village before and she could feel all the eyes on her, trying to figure out who she was. She shared a nervous glance with Dorrie. One of the men that had greeted them motioned for the two to follow him which they did. After tying off their horses, they were led into a large teepee where the two girls stood and waited neither knowing what to say.

An older man with dark hair with strands of gray mixed in was sitting in front of them. He looked to be a chief of some kind, but they couldn’t be sure. The man’s gaze made Lou nervous and she reached for Dorrie’s hand.

Dorrie looked anxiously at the old Indian before her and then took the small beaded necklace her mother had given her and told to ask for the medicine man Standing Bear.

“Could I speak with Standing Bear? May mather sent this to give him,” the young girl stuttered looking at the three Indian braves who were staring intently back at them.

The older man nodded to the door and then turned pointed at the buffalo hides on the floor next to the fire as one to the young braves moved quickly out the teepee.

“Ya thin he wants us ta sit down?” the Scottish Irish girl said with a shaky voice.

Lou nodded. What else could the pointing to the buffalo hides mean. Slowly she sat down and crossed her feet under her. She could feel the man’s eyes on both her and Dorrie. It was like as if he was able to know what was going on inside their heads. Lou looked over at Dorrie. Going to the Lakota village was her idea. She was just along for the ride and to support her friend in whatever it was that needed doing.

Before long an Indian with gray hair who looked to be in his early sixties, came into the small quarters. He had a wool blanket about his shoulders. He looked long and hard at Dorrie then to the younger chief sitting before them.

“Welcome daughter of Spirit Woman,” he started before lowering himself to her left so that he sat between her and the Chief in a circle and he began to speak to the Chief.

“My chief know your mother and how she help our people. He says the blessing of Wakan Tanka upon you.”

The man paused to say something to the two handsome young men who’d brought them to the teepee and they sat down next to Lou.

“This Chief Eagle Feather.” He reached out to point to the man nearest Louise. “That Eagle Wing...the chief second son...and he my son Black Wolf.”

Dorrie was unsure of what they sere supposed to say so she just looked over at each of the Indians and nodded saying, “Lo... I'm Doreen Macalister.”

Why did Standing Bear have to sit so close to her? “I'm Louise McCloud,” she followed the same suit as Dorrie, looking over at her friend wondering what was supposed to happen now. She wished that they had brought Buck with them – Buck would know the right thing to say and the right thing to say and do. Deciding to keep a brave face she did not move a muscle. Out of the corner of her eye she watched Dorrie wondering what her friend would say to the old Indian.

"I...May mum sent may fer I'm about ta marry a young Kiowa...and...I wanted to learn more of the marriage traditions of your people...so that I could show him that I accept that he is Indian and carry on those traditions as wheel,” she said with a look at Lou. “I'm a healer...like may mum. I would bay happy ta help yer people while I am here if you could share with me some of the ways of your people.”

While the two girls waited in silence for the older gentlemen to talk, the young braves were looking at them strangely. She couldn’t really blame them since they were dressed a great deal differently than the Indian women in the village.

“Han... The chief says it okay that you learn the traditions of our people. We have young woman. She knows your tongue. We ask her to show you the village and tell you ways of our people. She is called Summer Wind.”

One of the Indians’ heads jerked up at the mention of the woman's name. It was obvious that there was some concern in his tone as he spoke.

“Black Wolf and Eagle Wing will take you to see her and then to those who are ill. Chief give you name, daughter of Spirit Woman. You called Fire Spirit and your friend need Indian name, too. Her name is Gentle Friend. ”

Lou looked nervously at Dorrie. She wasn’t sure what the Indian was saying. She knew that it was something about her getting an Indian name. She was called Gentle Friend, though Lou wasn’t sure it fitted her.

Nodding in respect for giving them new names, Indian names, the young girl’s eyes opened wide and she watched Standing Bear rise to his feet and give the girls a hand motion for them to follow.

Swallowing hard and giving her friend a nervous look, Doreen pushed a piece of auburn hair back from her cheek, pulled her medicine bag up on her shoulder and rose to her feet. “I guess we need ta follow him. Thank ya Standing Bear.”

With a smile to the chief, she slipped through he flap and waited for her friend to follow. The sky was a darkening, but they could still see well enough to walk through the village. Standing Bear led the way, while the chief's son followed behind.

Lou followed Dorrie as the Indian Brave led them to where Summer Wind knelt working. She was a pretty young woman who was very focused on her task of preparing some newly stretched buffalo hides. Lou stood next to Dorrie as the chief's son Eagle's Wing said a few words to Summer Wind in Lakota.

As the woman rose, Lou saw that the woman was very pregnant. Once she realized that her mouth was open, she was quick to close it and then shared a smile with Dorrie.

“Hello. I called Summer Wind. Eagle Wing tell me that Shaman say you healer...this true?” she asked.

“Aye, I'm a healer like may Mum, Moira Macalister,” she smiled at the pretty Indian girl while catching Lou's grin. “May name tis Doreen Macalister and this is may friend Louise. We wanted to help your people and also learn some of the Indian traditions.” Seeing the confusion over he word traditions Dorrie bit her lip and said “The ways o your people. Ya see...I'll bay marrying a Kiowa brave soon and..I want to make him proud by doing something in our ceremony that tis...a part o his people.” she said slightly embarrassed.

“Ahhh I see now. I am happy to help the daughter of Spirit Woman. She helped my son to see the sky. Though he gone to the hunting grounds of my ancestors, I have him in my circle for many days to give me much happiness.”

“I will take you to see sick little one, Spotted Doe. She is four summers old and very sick with fever. You help her please?”

Brows coming together, Dorrie nodded and gave Lou a quick glance before they followed after the pregnant woman.

She led them into a teepee where a feverish child laid in the lap of her mother. Immediately Lou sat down next to the child and stroked the sweat drenched hair away from Spotted Doe’s face. “Don’t worry,” she said to the child in a soft voice. Lou knew that Spotted Doe didn’t understand what she said, but she hoped that her tone of voice would help a little bit. Sharing a worried glance with Dorrie, in a low voice Lou began to sing a lullaby from her childhood.

Spotted Doe seemed to breathe a little easier and Lou could see that the child’s mother was relieved. Gently touching the child’s cheek as she begun to sing another song, Lou watched as Dorrie checked the girl over to find out what was wrong.

Slowly and with a gentle touch, Dorrie ran her hands over the small child 's body until she found a small sore near the girl's ankle that looked like a bite of some kind. Shaking her head in concern, she looked up at the young brave. “I need water boiled as wheel as some cool water brought from the stream.” The language barrier frustrated Dorrie, but Summer Wind translated quickly for Eagle Wing and with a nod he spun out through the flap of the Teepee.

”She’s been bitten by somethin and we need to draw the poison out. Then I can work on bringin her temperature down.” Working quickly, she pulled a small bag of reddish clay powder from her medicine bag and began to mix it with some of the water that lay by the child’s sleeping form. Once the paste was finished, the healer put it over the bite marks and held a cotton towel on top of it to keep it in place.

”Lou, can ya hold this ta the wee one’s wound? I’m hoping we may be able to get some of the poison out. Looks like some kind o bite boot canna tell what,” she said as her eyes met Lou’s in concern.

”Summer, I wheel need this tea brewed. It wheel help with the fever.” Then taking a rag she wet it and placed it to her small patient’s forehead. While she watched over the child, Summer left the teepee to do as Dorrie had requested. “If only we’d come a bit sooner. I could have gotten more of the poison out of her,” she whispered in frustration.

“Don’t beat yourself up over it,” Lou said while she held the mound of cotton to the child’s leg. “There was no way we could’ve known.” Looking up at the small child, Lou swallowed hard. The little girl looked so weak.

Soon the chief's son came in bringing a small pot of hot water as well as Summer Wind returning with the tea. “This should stop the pain and help with the fever.” Pausing for a moment Dorrie looked back up at the handsome warrior. “I’ll need the cool water to bathe her and another blanket fer when the shivers set in.”

The Auburn haired lass looked toward her friend, “Now we just wait...and pray these thins work.”

Dorrie stayed up the entire night with the sick child while Summer Wind and Lou took turns helping out with the baths and teas. By the sunrise Dorrie was exhausted but the child’s fever had broken and she asked, in Lakota of course, for her mother. Smiling Dorrie rose unsteadily to her feet so that the mother could lie next to the little girl. Seeing that she was near exhaustion, Eagle's Wing began to argue with Dorrie and before she knew what was happening he pushed her down on a sleeping mat.

”Eagle Wing say you sleep now. Bossy as he is, I think he right and you should get some rest. Don’t worry... I wake you if there is problem with the little one,” Summer murmured quietly so as not to awaken the mother or child.

Lou stood behind Summer Wind and nodded in agreement. She was getting tired herself. Yawning. She laid down next to Dorrie. Soon, both young women were asleep.

*~*

Tomorrow he was going to get married. It was a strange thought, but he was happy and that was all that mattered. Buck was worried about Dorrie though. Whatever possessed her to go to the Lakota village the week before they got married? Still he knew that she cared about other people and Buck loved her for it.

Emma and Moria had taken it upon themselves to get their rooms ready. Buck didn’t have a lot of say in the matter but he liked the results. Dorrie and he had been given the entire second floor at the way station. There was one large bedroom for him and Dorrie and a nursery. There were also a few smaller rooms which Buck didn’t know what use they had. He hoped Dorrie might know.

A smile came to his face and his hand went to the medicine pouch around his neck and felt the ring in there. He was looking forward to tomorrow though he didn’t have a clue as to what exactly was going to happen.

He missed Dorrie. This was the longest that he had ever been away from her. Everybody was teasing him about it, but it fell to deaf ears. Lazily, he brushed Midnight’s.

It took all the energy she had left to hold the reins in her hands to steer Lightning. A small smile came onto her face as she thought on all the things that Summer Wind had taught them about the ways of The People. She never realized how important the buffalo was to the Indians and how everyone joined in to care for one another. Now she had a better understanding of why Buck sometimes meant the things that he did.

The young rider had kept her word and seen that Dorrie was taken to her parent’s place before heading back to the bunkhouse. “Alright Lightning lets get you fed and put up for the night so I can get some beauty rest since I'll be in the wedding tomorrow.”

Groaning, Lou swung off of Lightning's back and she led her toward the barn.

Buck had been pretending to read a book when he heard Lou ride in. Tossing the book aside he ran out to greet her. He'd been worried and thinking that something had gone wrong since it was so late.

“Lou, is Dorrie alright?” he gasped as he caught up with Lou. “Did you get to the village? How was it? Did Dorrie get home safe? Can I see her?”

Lou was surprised that Buck was still up. She figured for sure that he’d be getting some rest before his big day. A small smile came to her mouth. “Hmm let’s see. Yes, Dorrie is fine just really tired like me. I rode her right up to the door of her house like I promised. “We got ta the village just fine...had the help of the Chief's son ... Seem ta take a shine ta Dorrie but I made sure he understood she had her own brave waiting for her.” Lou teased as she tied Lightning to a post in the barn and began to take her saddle off.

“What?” Buck yelped. “If he so much as touch a hair on her head I swear I’ll kill him." Then he took a look at Lou and recognized her teasing tone. “You’re really evil, you know that. Seriously, and I call you a friend.” Buck threw his hands up in the air as if he was giving up. “I’m going over to see Dorrie. I’ve missed her.”

Lou reached out and grabbed Buck’s arm, “Buck...sorry couldn’t help myself. Truthfully, we were kept pretty busy and she's probably asleep as we speak.” Pulling the saddle from her horse’s back, she set it on the stall rail and began to brush Lightning’s back. “You don’t have to worry...you’ll see her soon enough in the morning...in the church. You know when she walks down the aisle and becomes your wife?” she said with a small chuckle that turned into a long yawn.

Pouring some feed into a bucket, she placed it inside the stall and led the black mount inside before tying her reins to the rail. “I thought the boys were gonna take you out for one last night as a free man?” Lou sighed before picking up her bed roll and saddle bag.

“You mean the cathouse? Nah, I snuck out of there after Cody got drunk and needed more than a few babysitters,” laughed Buck. “When I think of it, it was kind of funny.” With that Buck walked back towards the bunkhouse, looking forward to tomorrow.

The Big Day...Finally

Dorrie barely got a wink of sleep worrying over the wedding ceremony that would be taking place just a few hours. It wasn’t marrying Buck that had her so edgy it was the expectations of others. Her parents, brothers...Buck.

She wanted it to be perfect so that as they grew older together they would always remember the day they chose to become one. Dorrie rose from her bed and moved silently over to the bundle that was wrapped in leather and tied with sinew. She lifted it up into her hands and held it to her chest. Her mother had badgered her to see the dress but Dorrie told her it would be a surprise and there would be no doubt it would be. Placing the package on the bed, Dorrie moved to the mirror to begin working on her hair. As she brushed the wayward curls she hummed an Irish tune.

*~*

Standing in one of the smaller rooms at the front of the church, Buck had finally figured out how he was supposed to put on the kilt. That is, with a little help from Ike. Ike was half Scottish and remembered how it was done.

Letting out a sigh, Buck looked in the mirror and tied his hair back in a ponytail. Mr. Macalister had wanted to braid it, but Buck liked it better when it was just tied back. It was more comfortable that way. After straightening his tie and putting on his jacket the priest entered the room and said that everyone was ready.

“This is it,” he said to Ike and with a smile he followed after the priest.

*~*

It had taken a good bit of arguing to get the others to leave without her but Dorrie had remained resolute that she wanted everyone to be surprised. She’d refused to come out of her room until they had all ridden off toward town. Once the rest of her family had left for the church, Lou had shown up dressed of course as a boy in a black Sunday jacket and tie. Emma had volunteered to be the maid of honor since Louise couldn't. Swinging onto Wind Chaser’s back Dorrie rode in the direction of the church.

“I sure hope I’m doin this right and that I dinna forget anythin!” Dorrie sighed nervously while Louise mounted Lightning and pulled up along side her. "You look great and I think Buck will be...happily surprised. Come on we’re a bit late as it is. He’ll think I lied to him about ya gettin back safe if we don’t get a move on,” Lou prodded. Giving her horse a gentle kick, they rode quickly toward town.

*~*

“Where tis the lass! If she dinna show up soon Moira, I’m sendin Liam after the girl!” James sputtered as he glanced toward the back for the tenth time.

“She’ll by here soon love. Ya have ta remember she t’was so tired when she came in last night. Give her a few more minutes love...her friends wheel bring her about soon, ya’ll see!” Moira smiled, her lovely lavender dress making her eyes look a bit purple.

Buck stood at the front of the church absently running his fingers along the edge of the kilt. He was nervous and waited for Dorrie to arrive. He felt everyone’s eyes on him and wished that they would go away. He knew what they were thinking. that Dorrie had run out on him, but he knew she wasn’t like that.

Ike looked at his friend and put a hand on his shoulder. *She’ll be here soon. It’s just us that we are early. *

Buck turned around as he heard the door open.

Sitting in the front pew, Liam scratched his leg once again. He knew the family kilt was important to his father but the wool was a bugger and it itched like crazy!

“Liam I'm goin after her if she dinna come soon....she shoulda been here by now and something moost have hap...” Rory grumbled but stopped abruptly when he heard the door in the back open and Lou come busting through. With a smile to Buck, she found her place next to Kid and with a wink turned to wait for Emma and Dorrie to come down the walkway.

Dressed in a pretty lemon colored dress with small white flowers on it, Emma walked up the aisle toward the altar holding a bouquet of wild flowers in her hands. The older woman gave Buck a comforting smile shift into a wide-eyed look at his wearing a kilt in the reds of the Macalister clan.

To be truthful the four men in kilts looked very handsome and many a young miss were giving the two remaining single men an eye.

Swallowing hard, Dorrie took a large breath and opened the white scuff-marked door at the back of the church.

She slipped through the door and looked up at the altar where Buck stood dressed her family’s tartan with his hair pulled back. The green-eyed girl let out a little laugh at the irony of the situation.

There her future husband stood, a Kiowa brave, dressed in Highland Dress while she...she wore a soft white doeskin dress that hugged her body and had fringes hanging about her thighs and arms. The neck and bottom were beaded in an intricate pattern, which represented the sun and wind gods. Her auburn hair hung down to her hips in curls while two sections had been braided on either side of her face with small dove feathers hanging at the bottom of each braid. About her head, she had a strand of leather that had feathers hanging from them.

Looking down at her moccasin covered feet, Dorrie licked her lips and stared for a moment up at Buck. She approached, not with flowers in her hand but an ear of corn, a leather water skin and a buffalo hide draped across her arms.

Buck’s mouth dropped open as he caught sight of Dorrie. He'd never seen her more beautiful. He openly stared as she slowly walked towards him. Buck had never thought that he would see her wearing an Indian Dress, and least of all on their wedding day. His mind went back to the conversation that they had after he had thought that he could no longer consider himself Kiowa.

After finally closing his mouth, it dropped open again when Dorrie licked her lips. Oh, how he wanted to capture those lips with his own. He longed, no needed to do that. “You look beautiful,” he whispered so that he wouldn’t interrupt the priest who had started doing a long speech about life, love and God. “I love you.”

There were gasps as the people in the pews began to murmur to one another about how the girl had been turned heathen. Rory turned and a frown could be seen on his face while Liam let out a loud laugh, which led to his father quickly smacking him on the back.

James looked at his little girl and at first he was a little disappointed not to see her all dressed in white with her family's colors about her shoulders as her mother had been, but then the older man nodded his acceptance and gave his angel a smile.

Moira felt tears slipping down her face as her bairn walked toward her future husband wearing the cloths of his people. “That’s may lass,” she whispered as her little girl passed her on her way toward Buck and then move to stand beside him.

Dorrie laid the small buffalo hide on the ground and turned to give Buck a bright smile as her emerald green eyes all but glowed. “I love ya,” she whispered as the priest began his litany.

Buck wrapped his hand around Dorrie’s and smiled. The only sound that he could hear was the one of his heart and he was in a trance like state when the priest tapped him on the shoulder.

“Do you take Doreen Moria Macalister to be your wife, for better or for worse, till death do you part so help you God?” The man spoke the words all slow-like as if Buck was stupid.

“I do.” His voice was barely above a whisper, but it was loud enough to be heard.

The priest turned to the Dorrie, “And do you take Buck Cross to be your husband for better or worse, till death do you part so help you God?”

With a nod of her head Dorrie said in her soft lilting voice, “Aye I take Running Buck Cross as may husband till there bay no breath left within may.” Then she silenced the Minister with her hand before turning to take the water skin and the corn. “Together we shall share our life with what food God shall give us let us nourish each others body and mind but most importantly our spirits.”

Dorrie got nervous for a second as voices began to mutter from the pews and her hands began to shake.

Buck bit his lip for a moment before he began to speak, “Thank you for loving me when I thought that I couldn’t be, for knocking some sense into me when I needed it and for making me believe in myself. I love you more that I ever imaged possible and I know that we will be happy for as long as we are allowed to walk Mother Earth.” Then he reached into his pocket and pulled out the ring that he had bought her. Slipping in on her finger he leaned forward to kiss her. He had seen how nervous she had suddenly gotten and wanted to reassure her that he would always be there for her. Wrapping his strong arms around he held her tight never wanting to let her go. He was deaf to the catcalls from the other riders.

Cody cringed in pain from his hangover, and the mutterings from the town’s people who had come to see the witch and the half-breed get married.

“Oh Buck, I have waited may whole life fer ya ta come. Ya love all o may that which others canna accept, and ya do so with open arms. Summer Wind taught may the rest o this...I hope I remember it all”

Dorrie squeezed tight and gave a nervous laugh at the others teasing. Taking the water skinshe took a sip and then handed the skin over to Buck. “Water that was sent to give life and purify we shall carry with us as the Great Spirit sent it to nourish the earth so that life could spring forth.”

At these words Dorrie blushed and gently touched his hand to her stomach, then reaching down she pulled the Buffalo skin up and handed it to Buck. “May the gods bless us both and lend us his strength when we are weak. Give us his warmth when we are cold and bless us on our long life as we walk the earth together till the time we are called to his hunting grounds.”

Dorrie shifted her weight from foot to foot as she waited for Buck’s reaction while unconsciously biting her bottom lip as the riders and the Macalister’s grinned from ear to ear.

Buck took the water skin that Dorrie offered and repeated her words, only he did it in the Kiowa tongue. When Dorrie gave him the hide, he wrapped it around her. The ear of corn would be shared as their first meal together as husband and wife.

Hearing the priest declaring them married, Buck smiled and placed a light kiss on Dorrie’s lips. He loved her so much that he didn’t have the words to say it.

“Oh Buck...” Dorrie paused her voice drifting to a hushed whisper. “I love ya so mooch...” Then she felt his lips gently touching hers and she clung to him. When they pulled back she noticed everyone moving out of the pews to come up and congratulate them.

All of the riders and the Macalister’s came rushing up to congratulate them, even Cody put on a brave face. There was a big smile on his lips as he held Dorrie’s hands in his.

“Well, looks like fate finally got things right,” Cody groaned out as Liam gave a huge shout and swung his mother about in a circle. “Does that brother of yours know how to talk without waking up all of God’s creation?”

Giving a little chuckle, Dorrie gave Cody a hug, “Nay, not really. Tis always full tilt with may younger brother I’m afraid!”

“Now I must say Dorrie, ya look very pretty in that doeskin dress. I take it that you two girls weren't just helpin out the Lakota this week,” Emma said with a grin and giving her a hug.

“Aye ma’am, I wanted ta find out some o the Indian traditions fer tis a part o Buck that I love as wheel. A pretty woman named Summer Wind helped to make this for may. She also told us about the ceremony and sooch. Lou helped may get everythin tagether.” Dorrie gave her a grateful look that spoke deeply of their friendship

“Lou helped ya get this all together huh...maybe sometime soon HE might be making his way down the same aisle,” Kid chirped in from behind.

Dorrie chuckled when Lou elbowed Kid in the gut while her brown eyes sparkled and the edges of her mouth rose slowly upward.

“I don’t know Kid...I think Cody might be the next one down the aisle.” Jimmy gave a half grin and jerked his head over his shoulder at a rather large freckle faced girl that seemed to be staring at the small crowd. “Missy Turner’s been sighing an awful lot while she stares at our blond haired friend here.”

“Very funny Jimmy! It’s probably you she’s looking at...and keep yer voice down will ya?" Cody mumbled.

Buck laughed because he had a feeling that Cody liked Miss. Turner.

Gently, almost as if afraid to hurt her, Buck slipped his arms around his wife’s waist and hugged her too him. This was what it was supposed to be like, and it was hard to imagine, there would be no more sneaking around and making plans in secret.

He was looking forward to their special time together, and he could hardly wait. He'd spent a whole day making sure that the clearing was perfect. There was no room for error. All that had to be done now was to take Dorrie there.

“Now how about we all get out of the newlywed’s hair. I’m sure they want some time to themselves. Been married six times myself so I know bout these things.” Teaspoon efficiently herded everybody out of the room like a mother hen.

Buck blushed a little bit – it wasn’t as if Dorrie and he were completely innocent. “Love you,” he whispered in her ear before he placed a light kiss on her cheek. “Are you ready to go?”

As the others laughed at Teaspoon’s comment, Dorrie felt her cheeks grow warm and she moved further into Buck's side to hide her embarrassment.

“Aye... We should probably eat a bit o the food may Mum made...especially the cake then I’d like ta get goin before it gets too late.” Lifting her head she looked into his dark brown eyes, “Where are ya takin may, husband? Ya naer did say… nay that I twould matter mooch ta may so long as we’re tagether,” she whispered softly.

“I want it to be a surprise, but I can tell you that it’s a place that is very special to me,” he whispered as he gently rubbed her stomach.

“Hmm, then twill bay special ta may as wheel,” she laid her hand above the tanned hand on her stomach for a few moments. Then taking his hand they moved quickly about the room saying their goodbyes. After a gobbling down the carrot cake, the well wishers and gawkers followed the couple out to where their mounts were loaded and ready.

Buck helped Dorrie up onto Midnight's back before swinging up behind her. Wind chaser was loaded down with all sorts of supplies. “Bye... take care o may lass... Be careful” the voices called to them as they rode southwest out of Sweetwater.

They made a striking couple; a handsome young Indian wearing the red plaid tartan of the Macalister’s and the Auburn haired young woman in a near white buckskin dress.

*~*

Buck smiled when he saw that they were getting closer to their intended destination. The familiar and comforting smells of home tickled his nostrils.

Jumping down from Midnight, he reached up to help Dorrie down. “This,” he said. “Is where I grew up. It’s where the village used to be when I was a child. The new one is about 10 miles that way. But this is where I will always remember it being.”

Taking her hand, he started to show her around. Explaining that this was the mark in the tree from where he had learned to use a bow and arrow, and where he had learned to throw a knife. Buck also showed her where him and Red Bear used to go fishing and take baths when the heat was too much from them.

Lastly, he showed her the teepee that he'd set up for the two of them.

Looking out over the small clearing at the edge of the forest, Buck sighed happily. “This is my home,” he said in a low voice.

Listening to the excitement in Buck’s voice she knew that this place held a special place in her husband’s heart. In each place her led her, she would see the image of him as a boy playing laughing learning.

She touched where her child grew and a small tear worked its way slowly down her cheek. “Then Buck, tis also our home, your child’s and mine for we're now a family...” she sighed and then reached up to gently touch his cheek. “Thank you for sharing this part of ya with may Buck...Aman Cara.” Then she rose up on her toes to gently press her lips to his as her damp cheek rested against his.

“I love you, too. Aman Cara.” He smiled as he drew her into a hug. He could see the sun setting over the horizon and he knew that right now the world was at peace. “I want to be there for our child. Always. I know what it’s like to grow up without a father or anybody to look up to, and I don’t want our child to feel that way, ever. I want to be there for you, too. For my family.”

Buck led her towards the teepee that he had prepared and opened the flap. Holding it open with his foot he leaned in to softly kiss his wife.

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