Author's note: This is a sequel to my 2007 anniversary story 'Heading Home'

When does a house become a home?

When does four walls, a floor and a roof seem like more than just a structure that keeps out the cold, wind, rain and other elements that nature throws your way? When Kid had driven the wagon up onto the property of the old Sweetwater Pony Express station, all Lou had seen was Emma's house staring back at her. Even when she'd stepped inside, she was able to ignore the cobwebs and nest or two she'd found around the place as all she could see in her mind was the house as Emma had set it up.

After her talk with Kid about needing to accept the wonderful gift Emma had handed to them and facing the challenge of the two of them, along with Buck, heading off to begin their new life together, Lou had made plans in her head of what she would need to do and what would be expected of her for them to live comfortably there. Once packing their belongings was finished and the good-byes to Teaspoon and Rachel had been given, Lou had actually found herself excited at the prospect of making a home for herself and Kid, now that they were a married couple.

When does a house become a home?

When does a place start to feel like your own and not like you're just visiting it? Kid and Buck seemed to have no problem differentiating the reason they were there now from what they used to do when they first lived there. The buildings were all still there, even the tool shed that Teaspoon used to sleep in. Lou had thought it would be along the lines of how she had pictured things but coming back to Sweetwater was like going back in time and she didn't know how to get past all the memories that kept surfacing.

With Lou being two months along with child now and having to deal with bouts of sickness that kept her irritated and tired, the boys had decided first and foremost that the house needed to be in living condition. Pitching in the best she could, Lou worked diligently at their side cleaning while Buck and Kid made repairs to the building. Having had to step over a hole in the front steps, she had recalled another time in what seemed like a lifetime ago when Ike had promised to fix a similar problem, only to be sidetracked by problems of his own that resulted in Rachel missing her footing and almost breaking her neck in the process.

Little by little, room by room, the house was getting back into shape but it always seemed to be getting back to the way she remembered it. Everywhere the petite woman went brought back memories of when they had been a family of nine living on that property. So much had changed since then for all of them. They were now a scattered family of seven living members but she was grateful that at least three of them were together there and in seven months a new member would be born to them. It had taken Lou a couple weeks of walking into the wrong bedroom for her to remember that she was now the mistress of the house and therefore she and Kid would be sleeping in the main and biggest bedroom. The ex-rider had chosen the room Emma had set up as a guest room as the location that would be the nursery for the baby. At first Lou had looked at Emma's old bedroom and had only seen the way the redhead had set the room up but after a trip to town and Kid buying a bed frame and wood to make them a carved headboard, Lou had begun to see the possibilities that abounded in making the room hers and Kid's and not a replica of the older woman's.

When does a house become a home?

When does cleaning and cooking become a part of your routine and not just a job you're expected to do? The three of them had to eat each day and with Lou limited in what she could do, she found herself in the house most of the time. Her mother hadn't taught her but basics where cooking was concerned and she had learned more than that at the orphanage but hadn't had the chance to put it to the test. Thankfully Kid and Buck were patient as they let her experiment on their stomachs. As the ex-rider got better at it with each passing day, Lou actually found herself looking forward to finding out what else she could cook. So that was the first new obstacle she'd took on and conquered that she hadn't done when living there.

After the house was neat and clean, the three of them had moved on to working on the bunkhouse next. Once the boys had made sure the structure was sound, Lou had told them it would be easy enough for her to get the place clean and livable for Buck to make it a small home for himself. This gave the two men the opportunity to fix the corral fence that seemed to be missing pieces left and right. Pulling down the rotted and torn curtains and discarding the ripped mattresses, Lou scrubbed and cleaned until the room shone brighter than it ever had.

It had begun as a routine, one she was familiar with as all the riders had had to take turns cleaning the bunkhouse from floor to ceiling. But the routine had turned on her without her knowing it and Lou had slowly begun to tell Buck or Kid where to move pieces of furniture; she'd purchased new bedding, some pictures, and even simple fabric to make curtains for the many windows in the room. She'd gone over all the bolts in the general store, searching for just the right one that would say that the place belonged to Buck. Finally finding one that seemed masculine yet not too harsh in color or design, she'd bought it and with the sewing skills she'd acquired from her mother then perfected at the orphanage, Lou had proudly made then hung up the curtains.

After surveying her workmanship, Lou hadn't wanted to stop there so another trip to town had her purchasing several yards of assorted fabrics that would be used to make curtains for the kitchen, master bedroom and lace drapes for the living area at the front of the house. Lou found herself smiling more and more with each stitch she put into what she was making. It would take a while for them to be done but it was something that added to the new look of the place and made it seem much different than what Emma had done. Lou's taste was obviously different than the ex-station mistress' had been but supplies were limited so colors and types of fabrics were ways to make those differences visible.

When does a house become a home?

When does your fear of the unknown go away and let you look forward to the future instead? Lou had been scared to leave Rock Creek but it had been leaving Rachel and Teaspoon and not the actual town that had delayed her in making the right decision for her and Kid's future. Their future .

Lou glanced around her. The front sitting room had a new sofa in it and across from that was a chair by the fireplace. There was a rug underneath that had been Emma's but other than that, everything else in the room was what she and Kid had picked out. The last thing added to the room had been the lace drapes that Buck had helped her hang just that morning. Surveying the room, the dark-haired woman smiled as she unconsciously placed her hand over her stomach. This was where her child would be born and would grow up. It was a good house, one that had made her feel welcome when she'd been alone in the world.

Thinking about the newly furnished rooms upstairs, the freshly painted kitchen, the redecorated bunkhouse, as well as the repaired corral and barn, Lou sighed happily. Buck was pleased and comfortable with all the work on his new house as she and Kid were with theirs. Their house. Now they were ready to start their own ranch, ready to accept horses to train and sell. Suddenly she couldn't remember what the place had looked like earlier. All she saw was the sweat, time and energy they had put into what she could now see. There was love behind each swing of the hammer, behind each stitch of the needle and thread, and behind each meal that was placed on the kitchen table.

When does a house become a home?

When does a wife accept the life she's been given and make it her own? Lou had spent years trying to forget the past and live for the present. Coming back to the old way station had brought back so many memories that she'd had to try to forget again. Well, Lou was wise enough to know there was a difference. These memories she didn't want to forget; she just wanted to push them aside a little in order to make room for new ones. Glancing around her once again, Lou recalled all that the three of them had done since coming back to Sweetwater. It wasn't a job to them; it was their life they were making here. Even though she missed Rachel on a daily basis and had a hundred questions she wished her friend could answer for her, just knowing Rachel would be coming when it was time for Lou to deliver was enough to hold her until that time came. She had a routine now that she did each and every day. It kept her busy as did the chores her husband and their Kiowa friend had to take care of. They weren't youngsters any longer who rode for the Pony Express or filled in as deputies at the jail; they were grown men and a woman doing what they'd been doing for years - making their own way in life. The difference this time, though, was that they weren't doing it alone; they had each other and they had this place they could call .

At the sound of the front door opening, Lou spun around to see her husband enter into the front hallway. "Kid," she called out to get his attention.

"Hey, Lou." Kid headed her way but stopped short and chuckled as he suddenly found his arms full of his wife. "I was only gone to town for an hour. Don't tell me you missed me that much," he teased as she tightly wrapped her arms around his back.

"I always miss you when you're not with me but that's not the reason I'm glad to see you." She looked up into his blue eyes, wanting him to see how happy she was, before moving her head to rest on his shoulder. "Kid?"

"Yes, Lou." He completed the hug as he wrapped his arms around her. Kid glanced down curiously at the head resting under his chin. He had noticed something in her facial expression that he hadn't seen since they'd come here. He'd caught glimpses of it but this was full blown pleasure she was showing him. He ran his hand over her hair as he placed a kiss upon her soft tresses. "What did you wanna tell me?"

Lou let out a contented sigh as she snuggled in closer to him. "Kid we're home."

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