Sequel to Love Reclaimed

With heavy hearts, the riders returned to the station. Shane's funeral pyre had made them all think of lost loved ones, and those they were afraid of losing. Out of the corner of their eyes, everybody fixated on Buck, knowing that he would be thinking on the loss of his father.

Buck rode at the very front of the small procession. He didn't want everyone to look at him, but he appreciated Ike staying merely a few steps off to his right. The Kiowa had been feeling lost lately: he'd blamed it on his father's illness and subsequent death, but he knew that there was something else, something deeper. Seeing the station up ahead, he gave a large sigh as he looked on his home, though it wasn't ... not really. Buck would never be truly home without Dorrie and Tsen at his side.

Through the growing darkness, the station blurred before his eyes and everything seemed to dance in front of his eyes. By closing his eyes, Buck tried to will the world away. He hoped that when he opened them, everything would come back into focus. Sliding down from Warrior's back, Buck felt everything around him tilting to one side and he crumpled unconscious to the ground.

Teaspoon had been keeping his worried eyes on Buck for quite some time, wondering if all that had been happening in the boy's life was too much for him to bear. When the young man fell to the ground, the older man's suspicions were confirmed and he moved quickly to his still body.

Ike was the first to reach Buck's side and quickly laid his friend's head in his lap. At a glance, he could tell that Buck's left arm looked a little out of place and Ike had a feeling that his shoulder had gotten dislocated in the fall.

All of a sudden, chaos broke out. The riders started to argue about which one of them was going to get Doc while Teaspoon and Emma knelt down next to Buck.

After running his hands over the boy's body, Teaspoon said with a shake of his head, "Best not to try and rouse him. Let's get that shoulder fixed while he's still out. It'll hurt like hell and it'll best that he ain't here to witness it." The stationmaster looked at Emma, his silent question being if they should set Buck's shoulder now or wait for the doctor to get here.

Emma nodded in agreement before moving to brace the young man's arm as Teaspoon held his torso. Between the two of them they popped Buck's shoulder back into place.

"Ike...Kid...help me get him into the house. We'll put him in his old room." Emma said rising upward. Noticing that Ike was shaking his head in negation, she sighed. The redhead understood Buck not liking to stay in the room, but it was where she could watch him and wouldn't be disturbed by people coming in and out as they would in the bunkhouse.

"Jimmy, you ride ta town and get Doc," ordered Emma. Ike and Kid lifted Buck and followed Emma inside the main house. After a bit of maneuvering the two had him through the narrow door and into the bed. The older woman pulled down the quilt and helped shift him beneath it.

Dorrie and Buck had received the quilt on their wedding day. The pattern was called an Irish Wedding Ring and theirs had soft blues and greens on a muslin background. Shaking her head to push the memories aside, Emma rose to her feet and walked toward the basin where she began to fill a bowl with water.

"I'll stay here with him, Teaspoon," She said in a sad voice.

The stationmaster looked down at the boy and then met Emma's eyes. "I'll see to his horse and then be back ta check on 'im. By the looks of his hair, he's probably been mourning in the Indian way..." Teaspoon let the sentence drop, not knowing whether or not Emma knew about the ways of Indian mourning.

Emma bit her lip and looked up at Teaspoon. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, Emma placed the water bowl on the small table next to the bed and placed the damp cloth on his head. "When ya come up see if ya can't bring up some milk and one of the boiled eggs on the table. Buck needs some food in him."

"Sure thing Emma, I'll be right back." The older man turned and strode from the room intent on completing the tasks set before him.

Ike moved to the other side of the bed and sat on a chair, waiting in fear for his friend's eyes to open.

Pain was the first thing he noticed when he woke up. Wincing and trying to open his eyes, Buck didn't know how he had ended up here, or where he was. Seeing Emma and Ike, Buck's eyes closed and he shook his head. He didn't want to see the rest of the room for he knew where he was, and had no intention of staying.

"Don't want to be here, not without Dorrie and Tsen. Ike, get me out of here! I don't want to be in this room. Not until I get her back. I don't belong in this room alone!" yelled Buck as he started to thrash about in the bed in an attempt to rise. He was forced to stop his movements for the pain was too much for his already tired body. "I don't want to be here..." His voice was nothing but a whisper.

"Shhh Buck. I know you don't want ta be in this room but it's the best place for me to take care of you. Please sweetheart, I need ya ta relax," said Emma in her softest voice while brushing a chopped lock of hair from his eyes.

Ike nodded and placed a hand on Buck's good shoulder to keep him from rising.

"Just close your eyes and pretend yer at the bunkhouse. Get some rest," spoke Emma's soft voice as she took the cloth and soaked it in water. She attempted to place the rag on Buck's forehead but the injured man pushed it away with his good arm.

"I don't wanna," said Buck. "I don't wanna be in this room. Ike, I told you I'll be going after Dorrie, but I don't wanna be in this room until I have her back." Leaning on his elbows to get up, Buck screamed in pain as his left arm caved in under his weight. "Ike, what happened to me?"

Ike looked anxiously from Emma to Buck. *You passed out getting off your horse and when you fell you hurt your shoulder. Jimmy went to get Doc...He'll be here real soon. Just do as Emma says, Buck, or you won't be able to bring Dorrie back from Eagle Wing's camp...* The mute boy's hands stilled when Ike realized what he had almost told his friend.

"Buck, you need to relax," said Teaspoon as he came into the room carrying the items Emma had requested. "You've had a rough couple of days and need to rest up."

"Not here I won't," stated Buck with a pain filled frown. "Ike, what do you mean about Dorrie and Eagle Wing? Who is Eagle Wing? What aren't you telling me?"

Ike looked shamefaced from Emma to Teaspoon his eyes darting from one to the other as if asking them to intercede.

Emma had a frown on her face as she held the cloth to his head. "Buck, now isn't the best time ta be taking about such things. After Doc's had seen you, maybe then...." but before she could continue, Buck jerked toward the man he considered a brother.

"Then I'll make time," spat Buck before turning his attention to Ike. "Ike what aren't you telling me?"

It was at that moment the Doc came into the room with Jimmy on his heels. "What happened to him?" asked Doc as he moved to the bed. "Jimmy said he wasn't sure."

"He blacked out and fell from his horse," explained Teaspoon. "Dislocated his shoulder."

Glad the Doc had arrived, Ike got up form the chair and moved out of the way, making room so the physician could look at Buck's arm.

"Teaspoon and I set it back in place but thought it would be better if you took a look at him," said Emma trying to calm the agitated Buck by taking his hand and giving it a squeeze.

"Hmm," said Doc. "By the way he's wincing as he pushed himself up I would say the left arm," Leaning down, Doc ran his fingers over Buck's shoulder and proceeded down the arm. "Tell me where it hurts the most when I touch you," the older man ordered.

"It hurts all over," said Buck, "and I do not want to be in this room!" The last part of the sentence came out in a painful scream as Doc touched a place that hit a nerve. "I'm tired of everybody telling me what I should and shouldn't do. I'm gonna write to dad's folks in New York like he asked me to, then I'm going after Dorrie and there's no stopping me." With determination, Buck sat up using his right arm for support. "I don't want anybody doting over me like I'm a cripple."

Teaspoon shook his head but a small smile came to the man's face when he heard the determination in his voice. "Well son, nothing would please yer family here ta have ya skedaddle and bring Dorrie and Tsen back, but ya need that arm of yours to do it, so ya might want ta relax. Think about it, you'll ride a whole lot faster if you didn't have to worry 'bout an injured shoulder."

"Well, best place for ya Buck, is bed. Rest and keep that arm tied to your chest. That way, it'll heal in peace. In about two weeks you should be able to ride, if you're careful and don't push it. No runs for at least a month. Easy barn chores is fine as long as your shoulder doesn't feel strained." Doc stated while checking for any other injuries.

A troubled look came over Ike's face as he thought on Dorrie living with the Lakota for that long and, believing Buck no longer wanted her. Trying to slip from his observant brother's eyes, Ike began moving toward the door.

"Two weeks!" cried Buck. "I don't have two weeks. Teaspoon tell him… Ike, why are you leaving? What aren't you telling me about Dorrie?" Buck looked from Teaspoon to his brother. "Why is everyone working against me?"

Doc shook his head and gathered up his things. "Well Emma, I'll leave you and Teaspoon to talk some sense into him. Here's some of laudanum if ya need it to help settle him down and take the edge off the pain. Don't give him more than a few drops at a time and only if he really needs it." The last words were said with a wink in Teaspoons direction.

Ike looked at his friend and knew Buck must be feeling betrayed. Trying to make his brother feel better, Ike went to stand next to Buck's side.

*I...when we first arrived, Dorrie was placed in the chief's son's teepee, but he was gone most of the time...war parties...hunting, things he needed to do to keep his place in the village. Lately, he's been around her...a lot. Helping her take care of Tsen.* He swallowed hard and looked down at his hands. *I don't know, she thinks you don't love her ..and you love some blond girl she saw you with in the barn. I think...* Ike stopped when he saw the look on Emma's face.

"Ike McSwain! You'll stop talking nonsense right now. Dorrie knows she's married and she loves Buck!"

"The more reason I have to go. Emma, Indian laws are different. We've been apart longer than a moon. That means we are no longer married. Dorrie and I married by the laws of my people as well as the laws of the white man. I have to go get her, now! Before..." Buck couldn't finish the sentence as he imagined the woman who held his heart with this Eagle Feather and Tsen calling that man Father. "Ike, I will write the letter to dad's family and then I'll leave. Don't try to stop me because if you do I'll slip out when you aren't looking." Buck stood, but held on to the bed knob to keep his balance. "Emma, where do you keep paper?"

Just as he said the words, Buck remembered that he had some paper tucked away… in his trunk. Rushing down the stairs before the others could catch him, he was quickly out the front door and inside the bunkhouse. Crossing his legs under him as he sat on the floor, Buck used his good arm to open the trunk. Tossing out shirts and other odds and ends, Buck frantically searched for the slips of paper. A tartan fabric fell to the pine floor with a thump and he looked at it with disbelief. How could he have forgotten? Pulling the fabric off of the book, Buck touched the soft leather of Dorrie's journal with his fingers. Crawling up into his bunk, the young Indian knew that if he were ever to get his wife back, he had to learn her side of the story, how she had been feeling when he had pulled away.

Buck turned the first page and saw her neat handwriting running across the white paper.

"I'm married!! Wheel officially by the laws o the church anyway, but Buck and I have been married in may heart since near the first time I laid eyes on him. It was strange, excitin' and wondrous all at once. Taday we just let the world know how mooch we love each other. I must say 'twas worth it ta see him wearing a tartan...for he was the handsomest man I aer laid eyes on."

Buck smiled at that memory. He had never been happier than when he saw Dorrie walk down the aisle wearing a white doeskin dress. It was kind of funny the way he had honored her traditions by wearing a kilt and Dorrie his people's by wearing a doeskin dress. It showed that they respected each other's traditions fully.

Turning the page, Buck found the next entry.

"Oh may...I felt our son move inside may while doin' the laundry and I ran ta the barn as fast as I could so that Buck could feel. I was screamin' so loud that Buck came runnin' out the doors thinking that something was wrong. I just grinned at him from ear ta ear before placin' his hand on may stomach. 'Twas sooch a wonder ta see the look on his face as his brown eyes lit up and he smiled. ...We sort o ended up layin' in the hay while the horses snickered about us. Twas a moment I'll nay forget...ever."

Buck thought about feeling Tsen move in Dorrie's stomach. It had been a confirmation that there really was a life in there and he wanted to feel that again. Feel the knowledge of being an expectant father and wondering if the child would take after him or his auburn haired wife. Buck remembered resting his head on Dorrie's stomach and listening to little Tsen moving in there.

"Twas a strange day. Buck met a dark haired man who claimed he was his father. We think he's lying o course since Red Bear and Little Wren told Buck as a child that his father had raped his Mum. This man, Shane...says he didn't and that they loved each other."

A page later:

"We traveled ta see Red Bear and it took forever to finally reach the Kiowa camp. We're a bit stunned. Red Bear says that Shane is indeed Buck's father. When I look at his face I do see a few similar traits. Buck is hurt and angry. I canna blame him since he'd been lied ta for so long. Our son wheel know the truth of where he comes from and that he'll always bay loved."

The following page:

"I moost admit I feel sorry fer Shane. He loves Buck but may husband is so angry.. tis frightenin' this anger that still keeps them from one another. But Buck wheel nay have anythin' ta do with him. I shall keep prayin' that eventually he will learn ta forgive...o he wheel look back and regret naer getting' ta know his Da."

How come he didn't see what Dorrie meant by forgiving before it had been too late? Buck had spent mere minutes with his father in comparison to his whole life. It burned in his gut knowing that if he had stopped being angry for just a moment and been more forgiving, he would have had all the time he wanted with Shane. Buck also knew that he would not follow in his father's footsteps. He would bring his son back into the circle of his life's path and Tsen would know who his true father was before it was too late. With a sigh, Buck continued to read.

"Today our son was born! I was helpin' a sick wee one joost outside o town and was on may way back when the pains began. I thought I 'twoon't make it home in time when Buck came ridin' up ta meet may like an answer ta may prayer. Mooch of what happened seems unbelievable...like a dream almost. The pain o may lord ..boot Buck was there holdin' may hand...may Mum and Lou. I nearly lost may life boot may family was about may...helpin'. No greater gift will I ever have than may child in may arms. The first tug as he nursed ...the tears in his Da's eyes as he held him in the light and named him Tsen T'ainte .which means White Horse in Kiowa. The family all rallied round fighting for a chance to hold our small wonder... I have more than anyone could wish...a husband I love more than the breath in my body and now a son who reminds me daily of how blessed we are to have a such a love."

The day had been filled with so much fear, but even more love. Buck smiled, as envisioned Tsen's little face and wondered what he looked like today. Would the little boy recognize his father?

The next few pages were marred by what looked to be teardrops making it impossible to interpret some of the words.

"Buck twas hurt comin' home this mornin'...beaten by men who hated him for being an Indian. He...he almost died and..."

A definite change in handwriting could be seen.

"I cried fer a bit and lay next to Buck in bed fer the writin' o the words made me fear loosin' him...I dinna know what I wood do if he died fer tis no doubt I would die inside along with him".

"Lou, Jimmy and Ike went out lookin' for whoever did this to him and they found the miners in town near braggin' bout what they'd doon. I would have loved ta given them all a thrashin'! I'm joost glad he's up and around...."

Following entry:

"They found the men!! Boot not a thin twill happen!! I dinna understand! After what they did...I'm so angry! Buck just keeps takin' more and more rides...I miss him beside may and Tsen cries out fer his Da ta play with him. Somethin' has changed in him and it scares me...I dinna want to loose him fer I love him so much."

This wasn't the information Buck needed, but at least he knew that his pushing her away had something to do with everything happening. Tsen missed him...! Then maybe his son would not have forgotten who his father was. What if he came to the Lakota village and opened his arms towards Tsen? Would his son turn away and run in the other direction.? When he came to bring his son home was there a chance that Tsen would still want him?

"Oh I am so happy! Buck started to talk ta may again!! I'm goin' inta town and when I come back he promised to spend time with may! Lou says she'll watch Tsen so we can bay alone but I warned her that Tsen's ears were botherin' him but she still agreed. Maybe I'll buy something nice in town for Buck... I know a book!"

The handwriting looked rushed and soon was followed by a page filled with wet splotches.

"I wasn't able to write these thins boot...may Mum tells may twill help. I was hurt by two men in town the day Buck and I were to be alone together. Tsen was cut by one of them. The things the men said and did...touchin' may where ...only Buck should touch may. Now he hates me. Buck hates to even look at me and worse is takin' every ride he can to be away from may. I don't now what to do! I hate mayself...I hate not protectin' Tsen. He says that he doesn't blame may fer our son being hurt boot tis like Buck canna stand ta bay around may."

A turn of the page revealed the last entry in the book....

"I want ta die! If 'tweren't for Tsen .. Lou told may she saw Buck in bed with a woman at the Saloon. At first I believed her but then as I thought on it I realized in may heart that Buck wouldn't do that ta may...but then I saw him with her. With may very own eyes, I saw him holdin' her in the barn. I canna stay and watch him love someone else...I canna... and I canna write in this book or look at the words that speak of a love that I now know 'twas false...I have ta leave."

Within the pages of the book lay a small golden ring. Buck saw its shimmer as he held it between the fingers. Buck's hands were shaking as the ring burned his flesh. Tears fell down his cheeks as Buck learned of one more thing he had to do before bringing Dorrie home. Looking over at Ike, standing in the doorway along with everyone else, Buck said in a weak voice, "She left the ring I gave her. She wrote our love was false."

*She was hurting Buck ...she didn't mean it,* said Ike. Walking over and sitting next to him on the bunk, Ike placed a hand on Buck's shoulder. *When I took her to the Lakota she wouldn't talk too much, but she did say she loved you more than anything and she thought she was a burden. Said you didn't love her, but someone else.. Sherrie?* Ike touched the journal and looked at his friend. Seeing the tortured look on Buck's face, Ike wanted to tell him about the baby but his promise to Dorrie kept him silent. The mute rider felt torn between his word and his brother's happiness.

Emma and the others looked in the room and knew that Buck was hurting immensely. They also hoped that Buck and Dorrie would get back together so that their family could once again be complete.

Lou felt bad, but she was confused as to why Buck should be so stunned by the words in the journal.

"I don't get ya Buck! You go and sleep with some harlot, then can't understand why Dorrie left?" Shaking her head Lou turned to leave.

"Lou!" Emma and Teaspoon called out in unison while the stationmaster grabbed the small woman's arm to keep the rider from slipping out the door.

"What? What about Dorrie? You men all think that it's okay ta run around sleeping with whoever, but us women get near rap..." Lou stopped at the realization that what she was saying wasn't just about Dorrie's life, but also her own. "Never mind!" she spat while looking anywhere but at Kid and the others.

"I didn't sleep with her!" cried Buck. "I only lay next to her because she was the only one who wasn't mad at me! I would never sleep with anyone but Dorrie." Buck winced and was pulled back into a prone position by the pain in his shoulder. "Neither of you wanted to hear my side, you just judged. All you had to do was to ask."

Embarrassment shown on Lou's flushed face while Jimmy looked uncomfortably from Buck to the floor. He had been wrong to think that Sherrie was in the barn other than to give Buck news about his father.

"I...Buck.." said Lou while grimacing. "I'm sorry. I saw ya there with her and .I told Dorrie what I saw. I..." unsure of what to say and seeing Kid's eyes focusing on her, Lou pushed her way out the door and ran to the barn.

Kid wanted to follow, but Emma reached out and touched his arm. "Best let her have some space ta breathe Kid. She'll be back when she's ready."

*We're sorry Buck. Guess none of us asked you what happened, or how we could help.* Ike signed slowly before looking at the ring in his friend's hand. *Why don't ya write that letter and we'll send it out next ride east. Then we'll get that ring back where it belongs, okay?* He asked hesitantly with a small smile.

"Thanks, Ike, for understanding and offering to help." Buck's lip was quivering as he looked at the ring. "Ike, do you have some paper I can write the letter on? Cody, dad said his folks owned a publishing house in New York. Do you know of one owned by someone name Owens? Dad didn't say an address so..."

Initially, Cody had been angry at Buck for making Dorrie so miserable over the past months, but he also knew that their attack had been the main reason for his strange behavior. His head moved slightly in negation and he thoughtfully rubbed his chin.

"Lots of people in a big city like New York, Buck. Probably best if we go through his stuff at the Saloon ta see if he didn't have letters with their address on it. Shouldn't be a problem you gettin' his things since you're his son." The blond rider looked from Emma to Ike before shifting his gaze back to Buck who seemed lost in his own world. The Indian just sat there running his hand over the journal and looking at the golden ring in his hand.

"It's almost dawn. I'll go there before the saloon opens. Ike, will you go with me? I don't want ta go alone." Buck looked at his friend. He didn't want to go through his father's things and learn about the man that he'd spent so long hating. "If all goes according to plan," said Buck, looking at Dorrie's ring and journal, "I should be riding out to get Dorrie before noon." Buck looked at Emma, the woman he considered close to a mother.

Sitting down on the bed, Emma gave the young Indian a look that brooked no argument.

"You'll stay in this bed for a least a couple two weeks, Buck Cross! You heard what Doc said, and if you don't listen I'll have Ike and Teaspoon tie ya ta the bed!" she said with a small smile.

Ike looked sheepishly at his friend, *Don't worry Buck. I'll go and get your Dad's things from the saloon. By the time we get back you'll have slept some and feel a whole lot better!*

"But I don't wanna sleep," cried Buck. "I wanna go get my wife and son." Buck looked at Emma with pleading eyes. Deep inside he knew that there was no point in trying to argue, but it didn't stop him from trying. "I've lived with pain before. Doc says I can't ride but I say I can. Emma, you gotta believe me. I have to go get my family, dislocated shoulder or not. How about I keep it bound to my chest like Doc says?" Buck tried to bargain.

"Oh you'll do that as well. Now hush up and close those eyes. Dorrie is fine and so is Tsen. Ike just got back from checking on the two of them. In two weeks you'll be able to ride out after them, but not until you've given that shoulder some time ta heal," she stated stubbornly before looking at the others in the room. "What ya all standin' about for? Ike ..Jimmy go on and get those things Buck wants so badly from the saloon! Teaspoon if you could, would ya bring me my knitting? I'll work on that sweater I was making for Tsen while I'm here watching over Buck."

Ike gave Jimmy a look before nodding at Emma and signing, *We'll be back soon. * With a worried glance at his friend, Jimmy followed after the mute rider.

Buck gave Emma a frown, stating his discomfort. He didn't want to stay in bed, but when the station mistress had that look on her face he knew better than to argue. No, in his present condition he knew that he couldn't ride. Putting Dorrie's ring in his medicine pouch proved difficult with the use of one arm, but Buck somehow managed it.

"Emma," said Buck. "I miss Shane…Dad."

Patting his hand, Emma gave him a sympathetic look. "I know ya do, but at least ya learned the truth. You weren't a child of rape but a child of love. He gave you that peace before he went to his maker." She picked up a glass on the side table and filled it with water and added a few drops of laudanum. "Here take a few sips. It will help take some of the pain away so you won't feel so restless."

"I don't..." Buck began before giving in and taking a sip from the glass which was pressed to his lips. "I just wish I had forgiven him sooner. That way I would have had more time with him. Dad would have gotten to know Tsen. I think he would have liked that..." Leaning back on his pillow, Buck tried to get into a comfortable position, but was soon fast asleep.

Gently brushing one of his uneven locks out of his face, Emma leaned back in the chair and began knitting. Every now and then, she would glance at Buck to make sure he was resting. With a glimpse out the window, she prayed that Dorrie and Tsen were safe and that the small family would be back together soon.

*~*

Jimmy worried about Buck. He knew it was a good thing that Buck had decided to fight for Dorrie, but he didn't like the way his friend was acting. Cutting his hair like that. Who did that just because someone died?

"So," said he, looking at Ike. "Never thought I'd live to see the day Emma told us to go to the saloon."

Ike was thinking about Buck and feeling bad about not telling his friend about Dorrie being pregnant so Jimmy's comment made him jerk his head in the gunman's direction. *Guess we won't let her forget it either, * The bald rider started. *I just hope he and Dorrie get back together soon.* He looked sadly down at the ground and then up at the lantern lit streets of Sweetwater.

"I wouldn't worry too much 'bout it," said Jimmy as he patted Ike on the shoulder. "Buck's stubborn. He'll fight for her, tooth and nail, until she takes him back." Entering the saloon, Jimmy thought about how different the place looked when it wasn't crowded with customers. Seeing the saloon girl Sherrie in the corner, Hickok swallowed hard when he realized that she was the only person in the room.

"We're here to collect Shane's things," said Jimmy in a bold voice.

Weary and disheartened by the loss of her friend, Sherrie was leaning on the old piano, plucking at random keys, when she heard a voice speaking just over her right shoulder. Turning, she found the young man she'd bumped into in the barn at the Pony Express station. Recalling their previous discussion, she tilted her chin upward and put on her best 'call girl smile' but it fell quickly when he revealed the reason for coming.

"Shane's things?" she breathed out in dismay. "I..." she looked around quickly, "Where's Buck? He should be the one coming for Shane...his father's things."

"Buck dislocated his shoulder and is back at the station with Emma," explained Jimmy. He didn't want to go into any further detail. "He needs Shane's things to fulfill a promise he made to his father."

Her golden eyes met Jimmy's and she nodded before leading them up the stairs. Reaching her room, she pulled some of her golden hair back so that she could pull a ribbon from beneath the bodice of her dress.

Hanging from the pretty pink strand was a key. "I locked his stuff in my room I...I didn't want anyone working here to take anything," she whispered while placing the old key into the lock and turning. Sherrie pushed the door open wide to reveal an unmade bed and various pieces of feminine undergarments scattered about the room,

"I know Shane would want Buck to have his things so I thought I'd keep them till he felt up to collect them." Kneeling on the floor, she leaned over and pulled up one of the pine floorboards to reveal a small wooden box. Lifting it out, the saloon girl rose to her feet and held the box out to Jimmy. "Here ya go...it's all he really had. I gave the clothes that weren't in bad shape to the church like he asked."

"Thank you," said Jimmy, flashing a small smile at the woman whom he'd just realized was quite pretty. "Ike, let's get going. Buck would want these things as fast as possible."

"You're welcome." She started then returned the smile. "Tell Buck I...I miss him too, will ya?" Then as she followed them out into the hallway, she unconsciously pulled a piece of her hair behind her ear..., which revealed a yellowish purple bruise. "I best get back downstairs and get the room ready."

Ike nodded and tipped his hat to Sherri before following Jimmy out the door. *Jimmy, let's head back to the station, the sooner Buck goes after Dorrie, the sooner things will get back to normal.*

Hickok's eyes narrowed on the bruise and he'd been about to ask the young woman who had beaten her when Ike mentioned their friend. Tilting his hat at the pretty woman, Jimmy strode behind Ike toward the bat wings. Casting one last look back at the young Saloon girl, he watched her move over to stand in front of a man who had come out from a back room. Shaking his head and pushing the bat wings a little harder than he intended, Jimmy quickly caught up to his friend.

*~*

Buck woke up and found himself in a strange place. Mist seemed to be rolling rolled in over the plain, yet it didn't disturb his vision. Rising slowly to his feet, he found it unusual that he no longer felt any pain in his shoulder. Even though he couldn't recall ever coming to this place before, Buck didn't feel concerned. There was something in the air that smelled like home, something safe and yet also familiar.

He walked about somewhat dazed until he caught sight of two people whom he never thought he'd see again. The sight of their faces sent him falling to his knees. Buck couldn't believe his eyes for his parents were standing in front of him looking ecstatically happy.

"What...?" exclaimed Buck, wiping at his eyes in order to make certain that his mind wasn't playing tricks on him.

Little Wren knelt down next to her son and pulled him tightly into her arms while Shane sank onto his knees next to Buck and Little Wren.

"My son, I'm so proud of you." Shane placed a hand on Buck's shoulder before taking part in the hug. "You gave me the chance to be reunited with your mother."

"I did what you asked me." Buck's voice was hardly above a whisper. Lifting his head and looking into his father's eyes, he bit his lip and tried to remain strong. "I didn't want to disappoint you."

"You'll never disappoint me... You'll never disappoint us."

"Why am I here?" asked Buck, looking up at his parents.

"You need us now..."

"I don't want to leave here." Buck clung to his mother as if his life depended on it.

"You will meet us again," said Little Wren, "When your time comes, you will make your own journey to the spirit plain. Do not fear my son for we will be here waiting for you. For now, your place is on Mother Earth with your wife, son and…"

"I miss them. I miss you. I want Dorrie and Tsen." Buck felt himself falling apart. Closing his eyes, he saw the image of Dorrie living in the Lakota village. She wore a dress much like the one she had worn the day they'd married. Today would be a special day in the village, Buck could sense that from the atmosphere. His wife looked a little nervous, but he could tell that it was a good kind of tension - like she was expecting something grand to happen.

What Buck saw next, he would never forget. A tall warrior came up next to Dorrie and pulled her into his arms kissing her soft lips. Buck didn't want to see anything more. He wanted to get out of this dream… out of this vision, nightmare, whatever it was, but he found himself trapped. The Kiowa was forced to watched Tsen grow up to be a fine young man and call Eagle Wing father. To look at Dorrie and Eagle Wing, the love that transcended between them and the children they had together.

"No! Anam Cara ....Dorrie don't...my wife ..son ..no" Buck muttered in his sleep and began to thrash about in the bed.

Emma put down her knitting and gently took Buck's hand. "Buck...wake up sweetheart. " A look of concern filled the pretty station mistresses' face. "Poor thing ...he's been fighting within himself for so long and none of us really knew." she whispered to herself as she tried to hold him still so that he wouldn't make his injured shoulder any worse.

Jerking awake with a loud gasp, Buck's only thought was getting to Dorrie and Tsen before what he saw in the vision came true for they belonged with him, no one else.

Holding tight to Buck's shoulders, Emma leaned forward, "You all right Buck? You must have had some nightmare. "

"Emma!" Buck was disorientated for a moment before remembering that he was in the bunkhouse. "Some kind of nightmare... Are Jimmy and Ike back with dad's things yet?" Buck let himself be pulled into Emma's open arms. "It was so horrible..." he sobbed.

Pulling the young man tight within her arms, Emma murmured. "It'll be all right Buck...shhh. It was just a dream...just a dream. Yes the boys came in to check on ya but you were sleeping and they figured it could wait till later. They put the things over there on top of the dresser." The red haired woman gently ran her hand over his head in an effort to comfort him. "Buck do you want to talk about it? With all that's happened to you lately...being beaten up...loosing your father... it's no wonder you've been hunted by nightmares."

"I don't know," said Buck. "It's all so confusing. Dorrie kept saying I should talk to Sha...dad, but I didn't want to. Then all I wanted to do was protect her. It's because of me that they got attacked in town. But Dorrie left and then dad...Emma why does everyone I care about leave?" Buck buried his head in Emma's shoulder as his body was shaking. "I don't know what to do anymore."

"Oh Buck..." She started but shook her head at the poor young man's pain filled words. "You had no way of controlling what those men did to you or Dorrie. That was their own distorted prejudice that caused that to happen. I guess we look at things from our own perspective and forget that others might be seein' something different. You could have chosen never come ta terms with your father...never taken the time to know him at all...but ya didn't."

She paused for a moment to think before she continued. "There are so many things we face on life's journey. Turns in a road that we choose to walk. Some things ya can change..." The red haired woman's words trailed off as she thought on her child dying and being helpless to stop it. "Some ya have no power over but have to accept and move on."

Pulling back a bit so she could lift his chin Emma looked him in the eye, "Ya couldn't stop Shane from dyin' Buck. He lived his life the best he could … making choices along his journey. You could choose never to have spoken to him again, but then ya'd never have gotten to know him at all. I think that would have been far worse."

Taking a deep breath and releasing it, Emma's eyes softened. "You didn't have any choice over your father leaving you when you were small, that was his choice, but Dorrie...I think you know that she didn't leave you because she didn't love you Buck. Now you need to find out how you want to deal with her not being here ...or do something to change that from happening. Only you know what's in your heart and only you can walk your own path in life. It ain't easy growin' up cause you have to take the consequences of the steps you take along the way and you can't always blame a parent or another for where you choose ta walk. Those choices are the hardest to take...and some of the most rewarding."

Silence filled the room as she rocked slightly back and forth on the bed while giving Buck some time to think on what she'd said.

As they rocked, the steady comforting motion calmed Buck. "I don't want to make dad's mistakes. I want to see my son grow up and I want Dorrie to curl up next to me at night. I was a fool to think I was doing the right thing by pushing them away. If...if she won't have me back, then I'll just have to fight for her, tooth and nail. I'll do whatever it takes."

A smile came to her face at his words and she felt his tense body go slack in her arms. It was as if by making his decision to go after Dorrie, his restless spirit had finally found some peace. "Sleep Buck...you'll need to heal up a bit before you ride out to fight anything."

*~*

When Buck awoke, it took a couple of moments before he realized where he was. Struggling to sit up, Buck saw a small box at the bottom of his bunk. The corners of his mouth rose upward as he realized that it must be one of his father's things. For a long time, Buck did nothing but stare at the reddish wooden container. In a way, he was afraid of it. What if he learned something about his father he didn't want to know? The Kiowa really didn't want to think about what he should do.

Inwardly scolding himself while trying to gain the courage needed to open the box, Buck finally just flipped the lid upward. Inside the rather ornate box was a few bundled letters. Buck took one of them out and smiled when he saw the return address at the corner was from Shane's parents. There was also a deck of cards, the cap off of a whiskey bottle and a necklace Buck recognized as one similar to his mother had worn. Buck ran the green, yellow and blue beads through his fingers. His mother must have made two of the same design to show that her and dad belonged together. Putting it around his neck, Buck's attention shifted back to the letter. After he finished reading, the young man struggled to his feet and sat himself down at the main table to prepare to write.

Buck sat at the table in the bunkhouse, tapping his fingers in an uneven rhythm. He had been staring at the blank paper for almost an hour, wondering what to write. Well, he knew what he was going to write, just not the way to put the words. Should he tell that he was Shane's son? Should he make it brief and formal? Or should he pour his heart and soul into the letter?

When Teaspoon came in the door, Buck let out a large sigh. "Teaspoon, can you help me?"

The older man snapped his suspenders and gave Buck a small quirky grin, "Why, sure Buck. What seems ta be the problem?" He made his way over to one of the chairs at the table and sat down next to the Kiowa.

"I'm not very good with words. Can you help me write the letter to dad's family in New York? I don't know how to write it, or if I should let them know who I am," said Buck.

"Well now son ...I find it's best ta just tell things the way they are.."

Teaspoon leaned forward and squinted down at the paper. "Guess the best thing ta do is putting the pencil to paper."

"Yeah..." said Buck and his tongue stuck out of the corner of his mouth in concentration. After five minutes, Buck turned to Teaspoon. "How's this:

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Owens,

You don't know me, but I knew your son, Shane Owens. He was my father. My father passed away in his sleep last night after having been ill for some time. He asked me to inform you of his death when the time would come for him to meet his maker. Your son was a good man and I am proud to call him my father.

Sincerely, Buck Cross

"What do you think?" asked Buck, looking at Teaspoon.

Seeing the heartfelt caring behind the difficult words, the stationmaster gave him a vigorous nod. "Looks like a mighty fine note ta me Buck. Not to long as ta ware on a man's nerves with rambling but still giving them an understandin' of who ya are and that ya were a part of Shane's life. " Rising to his feet, the older man patted Buck's shoulder. "Why don't ya wrap it up and put the address on it and I'll send it out with the next rider."

*~*

"Ike," said Buck in a low voice while shaking his friend's shoulder. "We have to go." The Kiowa didn't want to wake anyone else. They would only stop him and there was now way he was going to wait until his shoulder was healed. "Ike." His voice was a little louder this time.

The mute young man was in the midst of a strange dream where he was riding along the edge of a riverbed just as the sun moved downward nearly touching the horizon. Upon scanning the area around him, Ike noticed a young woman with head bent crying on the ground. Her ebony tresses fell about her face like a curtain. She was kneeling just outside a burning teepee huddled over a small dark-haired boy that she held tightly in her arms. When the Indian woman ever so slowly raised her head, Ike jerked his horse to a stop when he realized that it was Summer Wind and her son, Silver Fox.

"Ieek ...Ieek!" she called out to him ...but the feminine voice from the dream faded and his eyes opened to find Buck whispering his name.

Disoriented, the bald young man abruptly sat up, his brows furrowed in concern until he realized that it must be time for them to leave for the Lakota camp.

Ike gave his friend a nod and pushed back his blankets. Slipping off his cot, the mute rider rose to his feet hurriedly grabbed the clothes that he'd left at the bottom of his bed and began to dress.

*Are the horses ready? * The silent young man asked before he began buttoning his muslin shirt.

"Yes," whispered Buck. "We need to get going before we wake the others. I made a note explaining where we are and asking them not to follow." Buck almost jumped up and down; he was so excited at the prospect of seeing Dorrie and his son again. The Kiowa didn't want to stay at the station a minute longer, because that meant one less moment with his family. "Come on let's get going." Buck more or less pulled Ike out of the bunkhouse.

There was one part of their journey that Buck wasn't looking forward to; riding with an injured shoulder. Burning pain flashed though his entire body with every movement. Gritting his teeth, he placed his hat on his head and led his friend through the door.

While Ike tried to button his shirt and deal with the eerie images he'd just seen in the haunting dream, Buck pulled him out the bunkhouse door and closed without making a sound. Side by side, they quickly made their way across the yard toward the barn where their horses were saddled and waiting. Ike had volunteered for duties in the barn the previous evening so that they could pack their saddlebags and leave them hidden behind a few of the hay bales.

Picking up his saddlebag from their secret location, Ike flipped it over the back of his horse and fastened it to the saddle. Untying his reins from the stall, the bald rider swung up onto Piper's back and sat there for a second or two waiting for Buck to mount. Then with a silent nod, the two walked their mounts about a mile down the road before increasing their speed and galloping away from the station.

They rode hard on their first day. Buck would have kept going through the night but Ike made him see that they needed to rest for the sake of their horses. The truth was that the bald rider had seen the pain on his brother's face and knew that Buck needed to rest for the night.

Ever since they'd ridden out from the station, Ike noticed a glazed look of desperation in Buck's eyes. It was as if he wanted ..no NEEDED to get to the camp as soon as possible.

Finishing the last of his coffee, Ike threw the bits of grounds at the bottom of his cup into the nearby grass and then placed his cup on a nearby rock. * You should get some sleep Buck. Dorrie will be fine...don't worry. She's been there for months and each time I visited she was fine. One day more or less won't make that much of a difference. * Ike signed in an effort to calm his friend's nervousness so that he would lay down and close his eyes. Picking up his blanket, the mute young man lay down next to the fire and stared at the flames thinking about the dream he'd had with Summer Wind. A frown soon appeared on his face. 'It was a dream right?....It didn't really happen...had it?' he fretted as a spark or two sailed up into the star strewn sky.

Buck looked at his friend weary eyed and remembered that Ike hadn't had his dream. "I can't. I don't want to dream." His hands were shaking from exhaustion and his skin was paler than ever. Looking down at his now cold coffee, Buck thought about the dark liquid as a pitch-black pond where he was drowning.

"When you and Jimmy went to get dad's things, Emma gave me some laudanum so I would sleep." He paused for a moment to take a sip of his coffee. "I had this dream where Dorrie and Eagle Wing were married. They were happy …and Tsen grew up to calling Eagle Wing 'Father'. I don't want that dream to come true. I have to get to the village and prevent it from happening no matter what I have to do. I love her so much Ike.. I was stupid to let my pride get in the way of our love. "

Sitting up, he thought deeply on what Buck said about his dreams. He'd been afraid to sleep himself. Dreading seeing the young woman he'd grown close to in trouble while there was nothing he could do to help her.

*Maybe you had the dream because I mentioned that Eagle Wing had been taking care of Dorrie and Tsen …so you dreamed that they were together. * Ike signed trying to put his friend's fears to rest. After a few moments he added, *Buck...do your dreams... come true often?" the mute rider looked down slightly embarrassed at sharing his dream of Summer Wind. But his fear for her safety had him continuing, *I've had a dream about Summer Wind and her son in danger...I thought it was just a nightmare but...now I'm not so sure. * Fearful green eyes sought the Indian's wisdom.

Buck swallowed hard. "Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't. When you have a dream that seems to affect you deeply, those are usually the ones that usually come true for me. I dreamt about Dorrie before I met her." Buck grinned while thinking about all the hours that he'd spent searching for the beautiful woman from his dreams.

Ike's eyes widened in surprise. *You saw Dorrie in your dreams? I thought the first time you met her was in town...at the mercantile.* The young rider shifted his eyes to the orange and gold embers of the burned wood. *I always thought dreams were either memories of something that happened.* His hands stilled as he thought back to the nightmare of his family's murder before he continued, *…or what you wish could happen. Maybe you saw Dorrie in town and you thought her pretty but didn't remember seeing her. She somehow made her way into your dreams from that one look?*

The mute rider was trying to make light of the dreams they both had because he hated the idea of Summer in danger. He was anxious to see her face so that he could be sure that what had transpired in his dream was only just a dream.

"In a way it was like that. I saw her in my dreams after I saw her in town too, but I saw her before I even joined the Pony Express. I just couldn't make out her face. For the Kiowa, dreams are important, and if interpreted correctly, they tell the future." Buck drained his cup and thought for a moment. "If we rest until dawn and ride hard, we should be in the village come early afternoon."

Swallowing hard, Ike looked up at Buck with a worried expression on his face. *Buck...in my dream I saw Summer on the ground in front of her burning teepee with her son held tight in her arms. Everything seemed to be burning all around them and she...she was calling for me. You don't think...that the tribe might be attacked? I mean I'm not Indian and your spirits wouldn't talk to me...would they?* The bald rider looked at his friend with a pleading expression ..hoping he would agree that it was just a nightmare and not vision.

"I think they might," said Buck. "I don't think spirits see the color of a man's skin, only what he has in his heart. Talk to the man of dreams when we get to the village. He will be able to help you more than me. Talk to Summer Wind as well." Buck thought about the possibility of the Lakota village being attacked. He didn't think the Lakota's had any enemies, but Buck had been away from the Indian world for a long time. "Ike, everything will work out in the end. You will have your Summer Wind, just as I will have Dorrie and Tsen."

Nodding, Ike slipped back down beneath his blanket and thought on Buck's comment. 'Your Summer Wind...' until that moment he hadn't realized that he'd cared so much for the pretty Pawnee and wondered if she felt something deeper than friendship for him. He really never thought any woman would want him due to inability to speak and bald head. It was strange but with Summer...he felt things deep inside but had been afraid to acknowledge them to her in fear of her rejection. Ike stared at the glowing orange embers and swore that the next time he saw her, he would tell Summer Wind how he felt.

With a smile, he looked up into the dark sky that was the color of Summer's hair and slowly his eyes slipped closed and he saw her in his dreams...calling him.

*~*

As one of the young Indian girls who was about seven touched her neck, Dorrie let out a soft giggle and tried her best to hold the young toddler still on her lap. The young healer had volunteered to watch a few of the children while their mothers worked on tasks that she was not permitted to assist due to her pregnancy.

The red head had to admit that her present duty was most probably due to her becoming sick when she'd tried to clean the last buffalo carcass. Since that day, the rest of the women delegated her to caring for the children. Today Little Doe and Singing Creek decided to weave small button daisies into her long auburn tresses. Letting out a loud whine, Tsen tried his best to break free of his mother's confining hands.

"Shhhh Tsen, joost a wee bit longer may love..." she grunted as his little hand accidentally hit her in the cheek. "Keir!"

"That is enough little ones. Your mothers have your meals waiting for you!" Eagle Wing called out to the young girls and boys in Lakota as he moved quickly along the river path.

As soon as Tsen saw the large Indian approach, he gave a cheery squeal and reached his hands upward in a sign that he wished to be picked up.

The small group of young children all obediently ran, giggling and laughing, up the path toward the camp.

Reaching down, Eagle Wing lifted the small child up into his arms. "You have been good for your mother, have you not Tsen T'ainte? " Then he looked down at Dorrie and a smile came to his face as he saw her struggling to rise to her feet.

Still holding the small child, the future chief wrapped his arm about her waist and lifted her upward. The two adults looked at each other for a long moment as if frozen in time. Tempted by her mouth so close to his, the warrior leaned in press his lips to hers. Dorrie made a small sound in embarrassment while pulling from his grasp to stand about a foot away from the warrior and her son.

Nearly every night, she'd been haunted by the touch of Buck's hands on her body as he slowly made love to her. So much that she'd let her eyes close and almost pretend that Eagle's lips where her husband's. Looking up into his handsome face, she wondered why she just didn't let Eagle touch her...kiss her. Hadn't Buck moved on with another woman? Hadn't she been long forgotten by her husband? Still something within her felt uncomfortable letting another man touch her. It was as if by doing so, the connection and love they shared would truly die; be forgotten. Still the hurt woman within wanted to know if she was still desirable. Buck leaving had left her wondering what the other woman had that she hadn't?

*~*

Buck and Ike had been watching in the bushes as Dorrie took care of the children. She looked beautiful with the flowers spread throughout her hair like snowflakes and dressed in the Native dress. In Buck's eyes, Dorrie's beauty would never fade. Watching as the Lakota brave he assumed was Eagle Wing come up to her, Buck grew ridged with anger and his fingers instantly wrapped about the handle of his knife to pull it free. When he saw Eagle Wing kiss his wife, Buck hissed and began to rise but his friend grabbed his arm and shook his head vigorously. *There are too many men here!*

The tension in his body eased a bit when he saw Dorrie pull abruptly away from Eagle Wing's kiss. That one action told him that he still had a chance to reclaim her love. As the redhead shifted to take his son back, the Kiowa noticed her dress move against a swelling stomach and he froze while thousands of questions raced through his mind. The two riders watched as Dorrie, Tsen and the Lakota warrior walked up the path toward the camp. Turning to Ike, Buck shoved his knife back into its sheath before giving a small nod and signing, *Tonight!*

Ike nodded in return, though he wasn't completely sure what he was agreeing to. Buck looked like a madman and it frightened Ike. He knew his friend was stubborn and wouldn't rest until he had accomplished what he had intended, but blinded by jealousy and something he couldn't define, Ike was afraid his friend would do something he'd later regret.

*~*

Once, night had fallen, Buck and Ike snuck into the heart of the small Indian village. They both moved silently toward the teepee where he knew Dorrie had been living in with Tsen. During the course of the day, Ike became more and more concerned about his friend for Buck's expression grew even colder as the daylight faded. In the pitch-black darkness of night, the Indian's dark brown eyes were focused with a crazed emotion Ike could only hope was simply determination.

Crawling into the teepee, Ike became anxious when he saw Buck draw out his knife and look over towards Eagle Wing's sleeping body with the intent to kill. Laying a hand on his friend's shoulder, Ike shook his head and pointed to where Dorrie and Tsen were sleeping. Buck shrugged Ike's hand away and moved quietly across the small room and knelt down next to the infant. Carefully picking up his son, a lone tear slipped from Buck's eye and slid slowly down his cheek.

Handing the child to Ike, Buck placed a hand over Dorrie's mouth and he waited till she opened her eyes before showing her his knife.

*~*

Thoughts of what had happened earlier that afternoon with Eagle Wing raced through Dorrie's mind and she returned to that moment in her dreams...as he held her to him, touching her lips ...but this time she closed her eyes and let her body lean into his while deepening the kiss. As the passion rose between them, her breathing grew heavy and she reached her hand upward to run her hands through his hair.

Opening her eyes, Dorrie saw that it was no longer the Lakota Chief holding her but Buck. He gently touched her cheek and then lowered his fingers slowly down her neck sending shivers through her entire body. In the depths of her dreams, the young woman's body rocked slightly on the mat.

The touch of a hand pressed against her mouth pulled the young woman from her sleep and she opened her eyes to find Buck standing over her with a knife in his hand while he signaled for her to be quiet. His eyes looked at the knife and then across the room to the sleeping man and made his message easily understood. If she made a noise, Eagle Wing might be killed. She shifted her eyes and saw Ike standing at the door holding her son. Anger and pain raged through her at Buck coming here now after months of dallying with the blond woman to steal her son from her. An aching sadness nearly overcame her when she saw the mute traitor holding her son. Burning green eyes met Buck's dark brown and she nodded in acquiesce to his demand that she remain silent. Dorrie moved as quietly as she could in fear for Eagle's life but the greater threat in her mind was that the Sioux would awake and kill the man whom she'd been trying so hard to forget.

With cautious steps, the three of them wove their way to where two horses were tied. Dorrie swallowed hard knowing that it meant that she would be riding next to her husband....or ex husband by the laws of his tribe. The healer watched Ike mount and Buck hand Tsen up to him. She gave Buck an angry look as he pushed her to mount Midnight but followed his silent orders and swung up into the saddle.

As the foursome rode towards the small camp, Buck enjoyed the feel of Dorrie's body pressed once more to his. He found security in the scent of her hair and her body's warmth. In the back of his mind, Buck knew this was the wrong way to go about things but knew that it was the only way he could get Dorrie to talk - listen. "I've missed you," Buck whispered in her ear as they entered the camp.

During their ride, Buck thought about Dorrie's pregnancy. He wondered if the child had been created due to the men in town raping her or if Eagle Wing was the father. Resting his cheek against her head, he made a promise to himself. Buck would make sure the child who now rested within Dorrie would grow up without having to feel unwanted by anyone because of the circumstances of his or hers birth.

Dismounting Midnight, Buck lifted Dorrie down before leading her to where he'd set his bedroll. Ordering her to sit, Buck sat down opposite her.

"I want you to come back to Sweetwater with me."

Listening to how he ordered her to sit, Dorrie's eyes flared in anger. She turned to look at her son in Ike's arms and said sharply; "I want may son now!"

"When you come back to Sweetwater with me." Buck's tone was brisk due to the anger that still burned inside him at seeing her with Eagle Wing. In his heart he knew that there was something wrong with how he was handling things but he'd come here to bring Dorrie home and he would be damned if he would return without her.

She brushed a curl behind her ear and watched as Buck looked toward his friend and Tsen before jumping to her feet and saying in Gaelic, "I'll see ya in hell first!" The healer raced over to the mute rider and giving him a look of disappointment pulled her son form his arms. Faltering for a second at seeing the sad look in Ike's eyes, she began to run along the first path she could find.

Buck sat stunned for a few moments before running after Dorrie. He easily caught up to her and reaching out grabbed her arm to pull her to a stop. To keep her from struggling, he pulled her and Tsen into his chest where he held them within his strong embrace. Trying to calm her, Buck nuzzled his face in her hair murmuring, "Dorrie, I only want you back. Neither of us should run anymore."

Dorrie sucked in her breath and tried to push him away. "Want may back? For how long bayfore yer off with another? What the blond chit nay care fer ya anymore?" she spat out her eyes watering. The Scottish lass bit her lips to keep the tears from falling. "I know ...that ya dinna want ta bay married ta may..." she started and ran her cheek over her son's dark head in search of comfort while Ike came panting up the path.

"So bay Kiowa law we're no longer married! You can rut as many o those women at the saloon as ya like now!" she spat out her voice filled with pain. Subconsciously she touched her swollen stomach and rocked her son in her arms.

Jaw locked in anger at her judging him, Buck spat angrily back "And what of you and Eagle Wing...you were in his teepee...laying on mats inside his lodge! I saw him kiss you!" The words came out in a growl as his eyes followed the movement of her hand across her stomach. "Is the child his?" He hadn't meant to say the words but the jealousy and pain sent them from his mouth before he could stop them.

"I dinna kiss him! He kissed may and..." She paused for a moment and blushed for the thoughts and desire had been there, along with the guilt. Then the image of the saloon girl and him in the barn rose up before her and she tilted her chin upward her green eyes sparkling. "I dinna ..he ..what's it matter we're nay married any longer and if ya thin ya can joost come and take Tsen yer wrong! This baby tis mine... MINE! " She screamed before beginning to rock back and forth on her feet to try and sooth her weary spirit. "Ya nay take may baby…I canna loose him too." Her eyes glazed over for a bit before she met his angry eyes. "I want ta go back! Take may back ta the Lakota."

"No!" screamed Buck. "I want you to come back with me to Sweetwater so that we can be a family again. I won't let you marry Eagle Wing when we're the ones who should be together." Buck took a hold of her shoulder an gave her a gentle shake hoping it would bring her to her senses. "Come back with me to the station and everything will be as before. I promise."

The whole time she'd been at the Lakota camp Dorrie had dreamed that he would come for her...that he would want her again. But the thought of trusting him and having him leave her for another woman burned in her mind. She closed her eyes and felt the truth in his words but wondered if they were motivated only by his desire for his son? 'Promise you...promise..' the words spun about in her mind as she recalled the first promise he'd made that had been broken which had sent them on different paths.

"If ya want ta see Tsen...I...we can work that out Buck." she started wearily before taking a deep breath and continuing, "I'll nay keep ya from seein' him boot I canna bay married fer joost that sake and watch while ya go off with another woman again...I canna. I want ta bay with someone who'll love may...nay leave me o may children again...I.." Dorrie stopped and brushed the tears that had slipped from the corners of her eyes. She looked down at the ground and waited to hear the words she knew would be her undoing. That he loved that other woman he'd been with...that she lacked something so he'd needed to seek another.

"I want both of you. Dorrie I never cheated on you. I just want things to go back to the way they used to be before those men attacked us. I'm stronger now. I won't run away again… I promise. I don't want another woman ..I only want you." Buck had a small smile on his face as he reached out to tuck a golden curl behind her ear. "Dorrie, I'm so sorry about those things I said. I was angry because I thought you deserved someone better than me. I love you, Dorrie. Anam Cara."

The feel of Buck's fingers as they touched her cheek and tucked her wayward curl behind her ear sent so many emotions loose within her that she could scarcely breathe. But the last vestige of restraint was lifted as he spoke the words she'd prayed nearly three months to hear. All the pain she'd held behind her anger broke free and she began to weep so deeply that her whole body shook with each gasping breath she took.

Ike saw Buck nod towards him so he walked slowly up and laid his hand on Dorrie's and waited for her to release Tsen into his care. As her fingers uncurled around the young child's body, the bald rider took him into his arms. Ike gave his brother one last look before carrying the precious bundle back toward their camp and giving the couple some time alone.

Lifting her head to meet Buck's dark eyes, the tears ran down her pale cheeks and fell onto his outstretched hand. "I ..oh Buck it hurts. It hurt lovin ya so and havin ya leave ...I wanted to die without ya. I tried nay ta love ya after...but I canna. Anam Cara...part o may soul, the breath of my body. I love ya so."

Once the tears began to fall, they refused to be held back. The pretty healer stood before him in her leather dress with hair hanging to her gently rounding waist as the evening breeze caught a lock or two causing it to dance in the air.

Buck bit his lip and pulled Dorrie to him. Drawing in her scent and the warmth of her body against his. When he felt her rounding tummy against him, Buck realized how much he'd missed her and swore that he'd never leave her side again. "Love ya so much," mumbled Buck before he kissed her, pulling his long lost wife even closer.

Dorrie felt Buck pull her into his arms and she pressed her damp face against his chest and wrapped her arms about his waist. She held him tight, in fear that if she'd step back he would disappear and she would once again find herself alone within her dreams. A gentle hand cupped her chin and lifted her face to his. She heard him whisper his love for her before his lips touched hers. Their kiss was like their very first nearly two years ago. It began like the gentle touch of the wind as it caressed one's skin...but like one starved for far too long, the kiss quickly deepened as it gave way to passion.

Buck felt like he was floating on air. The pain of their separation began to dull. He knew that it was only a matter of time before it would fade, replaced by the new paths they would walk together. Withdrawing from the kiss, Buck grinned from ear to ear. "Love you." His voice was barely above a whisper. "I want to be with you but we need to leave before Eagle Wing comes."

Still dazed from the glorious sensations his kiss sent through her, Dorrie looked up at him for a moment in confusion and then nodded. A frown came to her face as she reached up and touched his roughly cut hair.

"Why? What happened ta yer hair Buck? Did ya cut it ta make yerself look more like the white people? I liked your hair the way twas before." she drifted off her hand running down his cheek to rest against his chest.

Buck felt his chest tighten. Everything had been going so well… he didn't want to be brought down by anything. "Um, I had to..." said Buck. "Dad died." He could feel the tears well in his eyes. He didn't want to cry in front of Dorrie.

Hearing him call Shane his father shocked Dorrie. When she'd left, Buck had kept a wide birth from the man. "I ...oh Buck I dinna know. How? When? I dinna understand...I thought ya dinna care ta talk ta one another." she said gently touching a lock of his ebony hair and then gently cupping his cheek and wiping the tear with her thumb.

"I didn't...but I changed my mind. He got sick soon after you left. Doc said, he's been drinking too much and that his body couldn't take it any longer." Buck laid his hand over hers and gave it a squeeze. "I wished I listened to you, then I would have gotten more time with him. I think all he ever wanted was for me to call him dad, but I couldn't even do that. I feel so stupid. I couldn't even say a simple word." Tears came down Buck's cheeks as his whole body shook.

Hearing his pain, she pulled him close into her arms. "He knew what was in yer heart ...that tis the way o it once ya die. All shall be revealed and you will know everything ya aer wanted ta know. He knows what twas in yer heart may love." Her mind took in all that Buck had told her and she offered a silent prayer for the man. The two stood there in the dark as a wolf howled at the small sliver of a moon; Each deep in thought of what would happen at the sun's rising. What did the new day offer them?

Buck nodded. "I'm not so sure. I want to believe it, but... Ike told me looked peaceful when he went, but I don't think so. I didn't want him to die because I had just forgiven him and I wanted more time with him."

"Maybe one day you'll know that he did through Tsen o...one o aer other children..." Dorrie said softly. "Joost as he had ta forgive himself so moost you Buck o it will eat away within ya."

A soft crying could be heard from the camp and they both looked at each other. "Tis Tsen.." she said preparing to head back to the camp. Taking a few steps away from him, she said barely above a whisper, "Who knows maybe wheel name this child Shane."

Buck smiled at that thought. He liked the idea of naming a child after his father. It would be a great homage to the man and he thought Shane would appreciate it. "Let's take care of our son, together." Buck touched Dorrie's stomach in a loving matter and thought about the child that might be called Shane. He didn't know whether this child was his, the men that raped her, or Eagle Wings, but Buck didn't care. He would love this child as his own, and whoever the little one turned out to be, he or she would know that Buck would always be there, no matter what. "Then we'll worry about this little one."

Placing her hand over his, Dorrie nodded silently. "Another bairn ..." she whispered softly her forehead resting on his chest as she looked at their two hands resting upon the new life that would soon join their small family.

Hearing Tsen's growing cries, the Auburn haired woman sighed and lifted her green eyes to Buck's. "Seems our first born tis calling for us?"

"That he is," said Buck as he took her hand in his and together the two walked toward their camp.

*~*

Rising early, Eagle Wing smiled as he recalled how good it felt to hold Spirit Woman in his arms and feel her soft lips pressed to his. He turned his head to gaze at her while she slept but his smile quickly changed to a frown when he found her missing. Quickly sitting up, his dark eyes noted that Tsen was also absent from his small mat. 'The little one must be ill,' he thought while quickly pulling on his moccasins and rising to his feet.

Eagle Wing pushed the swath of leather that blocked the exit and looked around the camp in the grayish light of early morning. Standing still by his teepee, he listened for the sounds of the crying child or her voice but was met by cold silence. The Sioux warrior, growing concerned, walked around the teepee and noticed two sets of footprints on the other side. Two sets of large footprints. Fear and anger mixed as he pulled his knife from his sheath and followed the tracks to a spot near the river where the found signs which revealed that two horses had been tied to the lower branches of a cottonwood.

The soon to be Chief of the Lakota's let out a loud scream before racing back to where two of the warriors stood with weapons ready and puzzled expressions on their faces. Whoever his new enemies were, they'd taken her from him without waking him and the shame of not stopping the thieves burned in his gut. "Swift Runner, Growling Bear...we need to ride and fast. Spirit Woman and her son have been taken during the night!"

Grabbing hold of his Mustang's white mane, Eagle swung up onto its back and was quickly off. The other two dog soldiers followed his example and soon the three raced through the woods following the trail that their new prey left for them to follow. 'She is riding on the horse with one of them, which will slow their journey!' he thought with each rise and fall of his stallion's body. "I shall come for you Spirit Woman...be brave of heart!"

The three Indians only stopped for short periods to rest their horses before continuing on their quest. They moved over the lands of their ancestors like wolfs who'd just caught the scent of a their next meal in the air. Seeing the smoke of a fire, Eagle Wing signed for his friends to come in from the other side of what he believed was the thief's camp.

Slipping from his horse's back, the Lakota stepped carefully toward the camp so that he would not alert them to his presence. When he arrived, he saw two forms lying together on a blanket not far from a small fire while Tsen lay an arm reach away. He also noted another bedroll on the off to the right.

Fear for the pretty red head clawing at his gut, he crept with his blade in hand toward the unsuspecting couple.

Buck couldn't be happier for he had his family back. Once again, Dorrie rested in his arms and Tsen right next to him. He'd been awake for some time but was content to remain still while his wife's cheek lay against his bare chest. Brushing an auburn curl from her face, Buck stared down at his wife. He knew that they should be preparing to ride out but just lying around and relaxing with her in his arms was far too pleasing. Besides, he had a lot of late mornings with Dorrie to catch up on. Hearing someone move off to his left, Buck's eyes shifted as his eyes searched for their approaching unwelcome guest.

In one fluid motion, Buck pushed Dorrie to the side and lurched upward to attack the man who'd been poised to strike; the only thing on his mind to protect his family.

Eagle's knife swung downward at Buck but the Lakota was caught by surprise when the shadowy form rose up to push him backward.

"You will die like the thieving dog you are!" Eagle Wing said in his native tongue as he wrestled to free his knife hand. The thief's face now close to his, Eagle noticed his white man's cloths and chopped hair.

Feeling the sudden movement of Buck pushing her away, Dorrie's eyes popped open in fear as she pushed her long tresses from her face. "Buck?" she said sleepily before hearing the grunts and seeing two forms struggling a few feet away. Dorrie pushed to her feet while calling out in fear, "Ike!" The young mother then immediately reached down to pick up her sleeping child.

Out of nowhere, two more figures came rushing into the camp. One grabbed Dorrie's arm while the other moved swiftly to attack Ike. Being grabbed up from his makeshift bed and hearing his mother's panicked call woke the small child and he began to cry.

Buck managed to get a cut across his enemy's chest before his opponent plunged his knife into his recently dislocated shoulder. The Kiowa screamed out in pain and fell backward while he fought hard to keep the warrior off him. Hearing his son's cries, Buck screamed along with him in pain while he gathered the strength he needed to fight the Lakota warrior.

Ike had just gotten to his feet when a figure moved in behind him. Feeling the knife pressed to his back, he was forced to stand and helplessly watch his friend fighting on the ground.

As the light of the rising sun touched the face of the warrior above Buck, Dorrie screamed out, "NAY! Eagle Nay! Please ..." Jerking free from the hand that held her, she ran with her son tight to her chest up to place her body before the blade. "Ne han, Eagle ...Tis may husband....tis Running Buck! Please dinna hurt him!"

He'd been poised to strike when Spirit Woman jumped in front of his blade and pleaded with him to stop. Eagle was so angry with the man who'd taken the healer from the safety of his teepee that he hadn't heard her cries at first. When she stood before his knife, Eagle jerked back from Buck to stare at her and then down at the man's face to find that indeed he had features that belayed his ancestors.

Reaching out he touched Spirit Woman's cheek, "He not harm you?"

"Oh nay..ne han Eagle. I am fine and so is Tsen." She said softly rocking her son back and forth in her arms as she tried to sooth his fears. "Shhh Tsen tis alright ..look tis joost Eagle…see.." Soon the child's tears faded and she passed her son into the warrior's arms. Once her son was in the Lakota's arms, Dorrie ran back and got her healing bag and knelt at Buck's side. Taking the knife from the confused warrior's hand, Dorrie cut Buck's shirt so that she could see the wound. Pulling a wad of cloth from her bag she pressed it against the injury. "I'll have ta stitch it."

Both men had stunned expressions on their face as the young woman pushed her husband back so that he lay flat on the ground.

The Lakota Chief 's confusion was evident on his face as Tsen played with one of his feathers. "Why he take you from your home? He no longer bound to you!" His voice sounded almost petulant and he glared at the wounded half breed.

"Because I love her," said Buck, wincing in pain as Dorrie touched his wound. "And my son. True, we have been apart for a long time, but that has nothing to do with the love we share." The Kiowa looked at Eagle Wing, his voice conveying his determination. "Give me my son." He ordered. Buck could tell that Tsen liked Eagle Wing but that the moment, he didn't want the other man to have anything to do with his child.

Tsen, not knowing that the tension was building between the two men, gave a small giggle and tapped his hand against Eagle's cheek to get his attention. "Atewhi!" he said loudly in Lakota mimicking what he'd heard other children in the tribe call the men who held them.

Dorrie on the other hand was clicking her tongue to the top of her mouth. "Ya'll do no sooch thin! I have ta sew this closed Buck. Now be still while I thread the needle."

The young dog soldier's eyes opened in surprise at Tsen calling him father in his tongue, well almost. The beginning of the word at least. Eagle held the boy a bit tighter and tauntingly grinned at Buck. "Han…best you be sewn up."

With a large sigh, Dorrie muttered as the thread finally went through the head of the needle. "Stop yer teasing Eagle! I'm havin' enough trouble holdin' him still as it is!" But the tall proud Indian still gave Buck a mocking look.

Tsen's word burned in the back of Buck's throat. "Give me my son. You have no right to hold him. Give him to me now!" demanded Buck. Grimacing in pain at his wife's ministrations, he still pushed upward to try and reach Tsen for the sight of his child being held by Eagle Wing filled him with an uncontrollable rage. "My son. My Tsen T'ainte."

Dorrie struggled to keep her strong husband on the ground. "Buck what in the world is wrong with ya? You'll hold Tsen soon! Our son is fine…stay still! She ordered while she bit on her bottom lip in concentration. With swift experienced stitching, she pulled the two pieces of skin that were about three inched wide closed. "Once I'm doon the front I'll have ta work on closin' the back." she murmured more to herself before nibbling on her lip once again.

The dark haired boy looked down at his father and gave a cheery grin. "Atewai.."

Buck grinned as Tsen called him father. "Ciksi," said Buck, calling Tsen son.

"Atewai," said Tsen, showing off his one tooth.

"Ciksi," said Buck, grinned at Eagle Wing. 'Who's the father now!' the look in his eyes silently spoke to the dog soldier.

"Now quit makin' faces at Tsen cause yer movin as ya do it! You two can play later when I AM DOON!" She growled as her husband's blood covered her hands and she focused on her task.

"Eagle please take Tsen off ta the side and keep him busy til we're finished." she asked as Ike came over and knelt by his friend's side. He looked at the three Indians nervously but noticed that they'd let him move without harming him.

The Lakota chief grinned down at Buck and said to his men in their native tongue, "Come we wait over here til Spirit Woman done." By now Tsen was squiggling to get down so he could try to practice walking once again.

Buck grinned when Eagle Wing was forced to put the boy down on the ground to prevent the child from slipping out of his arms. Tsen had a wide grin on his face as he stumbled towards his father. "Tsen," called Buck as he hugged his son to his chest. The toddler didn't care so much about his father; it was the beaded necklace that held the young boy's attention. Tsen grinned at the colors and the way he could make the beads produce sound when clacking them together.

"Goodness...there's a love. Aye yer Da has a grand necklace. Ike could ya PLEASE go and play with him?" she said in exasperation after giving Eagle a disappointed look.

With a frown on his face, Eagle moved forward to pick the small child up but Ike had the toddler already in his arms and heading back to his bedroll.

Once she finished sewing the front wound and putting a dressing on it, the healer pushed at Buck's body to try and flip him over but the injured man did not want to present his back to his enemy and Eagle Wing was most certainly that in the young rider's eyes. Seeing that she was having some difficulty, Eagle gave the Kiowa a grin before pushing the injured half breed over onto his stomach.

"Thank ya so mooch Eagle...I couldn't have doon it without yer help." she said brightly and then began cutting the fabric away from the wound on Buck's back.

"Dorrie," scoffed Buck. "I'm eating dirt here." It didn't help much that Eagle Wing did his best to hold him still. Pushing his head further into the dirt was more like it. Once the cut was stitched and the Sioux warrior let him go, Buck crawled up into Dorrie's arms much like a child who had scraped his knee and needed the comfort only a mother could give. Buck gave Eagle Wing a smug smile and rested his head on the pretty woman's shoulder.

Once she'd finished taking care of the smaller cut on Buck's back, Dorrie helped him turn over and brushed some of the dirt from his cheek. Smiling at her husband as he laid his head against her chest, she kissed him lightly on the forehead, "Tis best ya get some rest, love." Looking up she saw the cut on Eagles Wing and gasped. "May goodness, your hurt as wheel! Why dinna ya say so Eagle?" she asked gently disengaging herself from Buck and laying him upon the ground.

Rising to her feet, she took one of the strips of cotton and wiped her hands before walking over and touching the wound on the Lakota warrior's chest. "Aye ya'll need stitchin' as wheel. Come tis best if ya set down oer here." she said leading him to Buck's bed roll so he could sit and then returned to her husband's side to pick up her healing bag. Seeing his questioning eyes looking petulantly at he, she said softly. "You rest up til I'm doon and then I'll make ya booth some tea ta take away the pain."

Moving over to the blankets, she laid her bag on the ground and began to wipe the blood on Eagle's chest. The warrior 's breathing slowed as her small hands touched his chest. He closed his eyes and let out a small groan. "Oh I'm surry did that hurt that bad?" she asked in concern.

"Ne han" he replied gruffly before his eyes shifted to note the dark look on Buck's face.

Ike spun Tsen around to keep him distracted from the growing tension that his mother seemed oblivious to.

Buck's eyes darkened as he watched his wife take care of Eagle Wing, who, in Buck's opinion, was enjoying his wife stitching him up far too much. The Lakota shouldn't be on his bedroll where he and Dorrie had been resting mere moments ago. Eagle Wing represented all that had been stolen from him during his wife's absence and Buck hated seeing the way the other man looked at Dorrie...the way he reached up to touch her hair. Buck didn't allow himself time to think things through as he leapt forward to attack Eagle. The Lakota warrior didn't have a knife on him, which Buck took advantage of as he had picked up his own knife and held it to the future chief's throat.

"Stay away from my wife," growled Buck under his breath. All he wanted was to take his small family and return to their home where their lives would continue as if none of this had ever happened.

"BUCK! What is sweet Bridged's name do ya thin yer doin'?" she asked while reaching to touch the hand that held the knife tight to the large Lakota's throat.

At seeing the knife at their chief's throat, the two warriors grabbed Ike and copied the movement shouting in their native tongue for the Kiowa to let their chief go.

"Do not harm the child!" Eagle ordered his men; fearful that in their concern for him Tsen would be hurt.

Buck felt Dorrie's hand on his, distracting his mind from the task at hand. "Dorrie," he whispered, "Don't leave again. Promise me we'll always be together and I'll let him go."

"What did ya say Eagle? Buck? Dinna ya know that I love ya more than anythin'? I'll nay leave ya. I naer wanted ta leave ya. Joost promise naer ta push may away!" she said rising on her knees and laying her hand on his arm. "Buck?" his name came in a whisper. She felt awful that her staying within the Lakota tribe had brought forth the feelings she knew Eagle had for her but she'd thought he knew that her heart was firmly placed in her husband's hands.

Buck smiled and let go of Eagle Wing. Touching Dorrie's face, Buck leaned in to kiss her. "I promise …I'll never push you away. I was a fool for what I did, and I won't let it happen again. You'll always be the woman I love." Kissing her again, Buck wrapped his good arm around her and pulled her closer to him.

Dorrie realizing that the injured man was leaving pulled back in concern for her friend. "Eagle ..I could sew.." but she got no further as he shook his head and mounted his horse.

Rising to her feet, Dorrie gave the Lakota chief a sad smile of gratitude. Realizing that he had feelings she couldn't return sent her eyes looking uncomfortably to the ground before rising upward to gaze at him once more. "Eagle if ya could...could I have one o may friends...maybe Ike come to get may horse later? Wind Chaser has been mine since a colt and I would hate to loose him."

While his men climbed up on the backs of their horses, Eagle Wing took a necklace from about his neck and rode forward. "This will give safe passage to the one who carries it. We will keep your stallion safe until the bearer comes for her." He promised handing her the turquoise and feather beaded ornament. As their hands touched, he gave her a small nearly undetectable comforting smile. "My camp will always welcome Spirit Woman."

Buck bit his lip and chewed on it. He knew he had stirred a lot of trouble with Eagle Wing. Draping his good arm possessively around his wife's shoulders, the Kiowa pulled her into his side as they watched Eagle Wing ride away. Looking down into Dorrie's face, Buck smiled weakly.

After a long silent moment he asked, "What do you want to do?" fearful that Dorrie would tell him that she wanted to follow Eagle Wing back to his village but hoping she would choose to stay with him.

Laying her head on Buck's shoulder as the sun peeked through the branches above them, she reached up and tenderly touched his cheek. "I want ta go home...Buck...let's go home..."

Ike smiled as his friends held one another before setting the squiggling toddler loose. Tsen waddled toward his parents. "Muummm...Atewai.." Ike followed behind the small one to be sure he didn't hurt himself on the rough ground but stopped when the young child grabbed his mother's leg.

"Home seems like a mighty fine idea," said Buck as he lifted his son, smiling at the fact that his family was finally back together.

*~*

The welcome home had been grand as everyone had gathered in the station yard to greet them. Buck and Dorrie grinned from ear to ear while Tsen reveled in all the attention he was getting. Helping the young mother down from Midnight's back, Buck drew his arms around her and pulled her into a kiss. He didn't really care that they weren't alone.

As soon as Buck's lips touched hers, Dorrie forgot the murmuring of the others and reveled in the feel of Buck's arms wrapped around her and his lips gently pressed against hers. Cody let out a loud whooping sound while the others laughed.

Ike swung off his horse and shook his head. Meeting her mute friend's eyes, Lou came forward to take Tsen from his arms. "Hey Tsen ...Aunt Louise missed ya something fierce!" she said with a laugh of relief. She'd been so worried that she wouldn't see Dorrie or the small boy again.

"Hey Lou...ya look pretty good holding a baby in your arms!" Cody teased and gave Kid a shove.

"Shut up Cody!" Kid said but his eyes said something totally different as he stared at Lou and Tsen.

"Everyone head inside! It's time to eat...Ain't that right Mr. Spoon?" Emma said clearing her throat and patting Dorrie gently on the back

"That's right," said Teaspoon. "Everybody in the bunkhouse, Emma worked real hard ta make this meal and I want ya'll ta enjoy it." All the riders hurried towards the bunkhouse, but Teaspoon held Dorrie and Buck back, giving them both a bear hug before ushering them along.

"How about it, beautiful?" said Buck. "Let's go have a meal with our family."

Blushing at having been kissing so passionately in front of their family, Dorrie hugged Teaspoon back and then wiped a crystalline tear that had sneaked out from the corner of her eye.

"Aye...Buck. I've missed us being a family so much..." she said huskily and let him lead her into the bunkhouse where everyone was laughing including little Tsen who was sitting in Emma's lap with a fistful of mashed potatoes all over his face and a happy grin on his face.

Buck smiled as he sat down next to Dorrie. After giving her a serving, he piled a mountain of mashed potatoes on his plate. In the last few months he hadn't had much of an appetite, but now it was back, full force.

*~*

After dinner, Buck and Dorrie went upstairs to their room to rest. It had been a long journey and they were both exhausted. So many nights she'd lain awake picturing him sleeping with the young woman from the saloon. As they undressed, Dorrie ran a hand over her swelling stomach wondering if Buck still found her attractive. She peeked at him as he took off his shirt and pants until all that remained was the bandage that she'd change a few hours ago.

Dorrie shifted nervously back and forth. It had been such a long time since the two of them had made love that she feared disappointing him. Moving slowly toward the bed, the pretty young woman pulled back the sheet quickly and slipped beneath.

Lying there looking at the ceiling, the auburn haired lass felt the other side of the bed sink under Buck's weight and she bit her lip. Once he'd pulled the quilt over them, Buck leaned over to tenderly touch her lips with his. It was like the first breeze of spring, as its warmth seemed to wash over your skin causing one to inhale deeply.

Instinctively reacting to his hands on her body, she pressed closer and moaned aloud beneath his lips.

"Love you," mumbled Buck as he placed small kisses down her throat. Moving one hand to touch the life that was growing in his wife's, Buck smiled at the thought that soon there would be another addition to their family. Moving his body over hers, Buck once again captured Dorrie's lips.

"Oh Buck...may love...may heart" she gasped aloud as his lips touched her neck. Her hands clung to his shoulders as her whole body began to burn. "Ahhh.. I've missed ya soo.." she whimpered just as the door banged open.

"Dorrie, we've missed ya lass ..." the low tenor voice that burred with the Scottish brogue stopped suddenly at seeing Buck laying atop his sister,

"Ahh!" she screamed and pushed her head beneath the wedding ring quilt that Emma had given them.

"Ugh," grunted Buck as his wife's elbow hit him in the stomach when she dove beneath the blanket. It didn't take more than a moment of panic, before he too joined Dorrie under the quilt. Burying his head in the sheets, Buck felt himself grow beet red. He had never been more embarrassed. This was supposed to be a private moment between him and his wife which he most certainly didn't want ruined. "We need to get a lock for that door," mumbled Buck as his mind traveled back to the time when Cody had walked in on them.

"Rory, What aer ya doin'? Get yerself down here and let the two o them bay! " Moira called out to her son from the bottom of the stairs.

The oldest Macalister child stood stunned by what he'd seen. With a nearly unheard, "Oh..surry.." He pulled the door closed and thumped down the steps. "Wheel how was I ta know they were ..tagether? I joost thought she twas changin' Keir's nappy not.. I think I'll go out fer awhile til they come down." The Scot huskily muttered with a ruddy looking face.

"Hey I did that before...creepy ain't it?" Cody said with a grin. "Nice shade of red you're turning Rory!" he teased and then the sound of a chair hitting the floor could be heard which was quickly followed by the thudding of running feet. A loud bang of the door reverberated through the house as Cody raced away from the Blacksmith saying, "Hey I was just jokin'!"

Dorrie slipped the blanket back and peeked at her husband. "Buck I'm so surry!" She said with a frustrated and disappointed look on her face.

"Doesn't matter," said Buck. "Now… where were we..." His voice faded as his lips touched Dorrie's once again.

Bright green eyes met his dark brown as he rolled onto his side and kissed her once again. The interruption was quickly forgotten as she ran her hands up his back and deepened the kiss. Every once in a while two voices could be heard bantering outside as Cody teased Rory and the huge man would growl before continuing the chase.

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