A/N: Song Written by: Natalie Maines & Eric Silver. Sung by: The Dixie Chicks

Chapter One

Teresa and Jeremiah had been adopted and Lou couldn’t believe it. She had always believed they’d be together once she earned enough money for the three of them to live together…somewhere. But she never seemed to be able to earn enough for them to leave the orphanage. Now it was too late.

To make matters even worse, Ike had been killed trying to save Emily Metcalf from Neville. True, that had been a few months ago, but the wound of his loss cut deep into all the riders and no one had been the same since. That was especially true of Buck. He had withdrawn into himself to a place no one seemed to reach, not even Teaspoon and his sweat lodge.

Kid had quit the Express and joined up with the Confederacy in his beloved Virginia to fight in the War Between the States, leaving without so much as a goodbye to anyone. He just upped and left in the middle of the night, leaving a short note explaining where he’d gone. And still no one among them knew his real name so there was no way to know if he was surviving the war or had been killed or captured because no one knew what name to be looking for on the list of dead and wounded that would finally make its way West to Nebraska territory.

Lou had turned to Jimmy for solace. They gave into their affection and passion for one another only once…two months before the Express officially disbanded.

Right before the Express ended, Noah had been shot dead and shortly after that Cody enlisted in the Union Army as a scout. Rachel found work back in Sweetwater as a seamstress and Teaspoon returned to Texas to wait out the end of the war. Leaving only Jimmy, Buck and Lou as the last remaining members of their family.

Three months after Jimmy and Lou had made love, Jimmy encountered two more glory seekers that called him out just days apart of each other. Jimmy was the faster draw of course, but he felt if he stayed near Lou and Buck any longer he would be putting all three of them in danger. So he decided he needed to be moving on. Where, he didn’t know. He loved and cared for Lou so much it hurt, but remembering the danger he put her in at Willow Springs prompted him to move on.

It was a week after Jimmy left that Lou discovered she was pregnant with his child. She instantly sent Buck out to track Jimmy down so he would know, but Jimmy seemed to had vanished without a trace. Since they hadn’t heard of anyone taking down the famous ‘Wild Bill Hickok’, they had to believe he was still alive…out there…somewhere.

Buck stayed with Lou, each taking odd jobs where they could get them and living where they could. None of which was easy given the fact not many would hire a half-breed or an unmarried pregnant woman.

Buck finally found steady work as a ranch hand in northern Nebraska Territory. When he was hired on, Lou and Buck agreed it would be better if his boss thought they were married - so that’s what they told everyone.

Every once in awhile they would read in the paper about a ‘Wild Bill’ exploit, but never knowing for sure if it was true or not. Lou would instantly write a letter to the sheriff in that town addressed to Jimmy, but the letters would always be returned unopened, accompanied by a letter from the sheriff stating ‘Wild Bill Hickok’ had moved on.

After James Running Buck was born in late May 1862, Lou again tried to contact Jimmy to let him know he had a son, but again the letter was returned with another note explaining the same thing all the others had before, Jimmy had simply moved on.

Lou was desperate to find Jimmy and had finally broke down and wrote both Rachel and Teaspoon begging them to instruct Jimmy to write to her if they ever happened to see him again. She never told them her reason behind needing to get in touch with Jimmy, preferring the news come from her and no one else.

Rachel wrote back saying she had been in touch with Cody who had seen Jimmy, also working as a scout for the Union. She said she’d pass word along with Cody the next time she saw him.

Five years passed since little Jimmy had been born and still his father had never written Lou in all that time. Over those five years, Lou finally gave up hope of ever finding Jimmy and settled comfortably into the life her and Buck had made up pretending to be man and wife.

The small cabin reserved for the ranch hands with families was small and sparsely furnished, but it was home for the family of three. There was only one bed and bedroom and Buck and Lou shared it.

Once they had tried to make love, but there just wasn’t that spark that needed to be there and they had each quickly apologized to the other and gave up ever trying anything romantically between them again.

Before little Jimmy was born, Buck had built a cradle for the baby. Once Jimmy outgrew that, Buck built a trundle to fit under their bed for him.

Lou was able to take in washing from the other ranch hands, and between her earnings and what Buck made they soon had enough money to buy their own ranch. A small one, but it was all theirs.

Buck added on a room to the small cabin that sat on their ranch for Lou and little Jimmy to hopefully give her some privacy that was never afforded to her in the five years they had been living together.

Chapter 2

One day on a supply run to the nearest town Buck met the woman he had been looking for all his life. She, like him, was a half-breed. Her complexion belied her true heritage though and was able to pass as white. She had been adopted 20 years ago by another rancher nearby when she was three months old, after being left on their doorstep by her mother with a note explaining her plight. Helen Rainer had instantly fell in love with the little bundle and quickly talked her husband, Eric, into adopting her. They named her Ellen Sunshine Rainer. Ellen, after Helen, and Sunshine, after her Indian name, Giving Sunshine.

Luckily, the ranch Buck and Lou bought was in western Montana Territory, hundreds of miles away from where Buck first worked as a ranch hand, so they decided to become brother and sister. The story they gave regarding Lou was her husband had been a scout in the Union Army and had been killed so she came to live with Buck, her brother. This left Buck “available” just in case that special someone ever came along in his life. Lou knew there would never be anyone but Jimmy for her and was content to have young Jimmy - even if she couldn’t have his father.

The only problem with their arrangement was little Jimmy, himself. From the very beginning he had taken to calling Buck “daddy” and since at the time he was supposed to be his father, Buck never corrected him. Now five years later he really believed Buck was his father. Lou and Buck didn’t know what to do about the situation, so they did nothing. Lou vowed when Jimmy was old enough she would tell him about his real father. Lou and Buck both knew that a five year old just wouldn’t understand, so they left Jimmy thinking they were all a happy family.

But once Buck met Ellen and knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, he didn’t know what to do about Lou and young Jimmy. He decided to get back in touch with Rachel and Teaspoon in an attempt to find Jimmy again, only he kept it a secret from Lou.

A couple months later Cody arrived on their doorstep.

“Cody! How the hell are you?” Buck enveloped him in a bear hug and clapped him on his back.

“Fine, just fine. Rachel said you were lookin’ for Jimmy and she sent me up here to ya’. Your ranch sure looks good Buck. Where’s Lou at? Rachel said you two were stuck like glue to each other since the Express broke up. Is she still here? I’d love to see her again.” Cody asked.

Just then, little Jimmy decided to see what all the commotion was about and woke up from his nap. He came out into the kitchen and stared at the strange man with long blonde hair and buckskins.

“Are ya’ an Indian like my daddy, mister?” Jimmy asked.

Cody stooped down to the child and smiled. “Nah, just like to dress like ‘em. So Buck here is your daddy, huh?”

Jimmy nodded emphatically. Cody turned to Buck and grinned like a Cheshire cat. Before Buck could say anything to him, Cody asked Jimmy where his mama was at.

Jimmy just shrugged. Buck looked at Jimmy and said, “Mama went into town. She’ll be back soon.” Reassuring the child. “Jimmy, I’d like you to meet your Uncle Cody.”

Cody put his hand out and little Jimmy shook it. “Nice to meet you, Jimmy.”

“Jimmy, why don’t you go in your room and play for awhile while Uncle Cody and I have a little talk?”

No sooner than Jimmy toddled off to the other room did Cody ask that inevitable question, “So who’s his mama, Buck? It wouldn’t happen to be a small, brown-haired, brown-eyed lady named Louise now would it?”

“Yes, but it’s not what you think.” Buck started to explain.

“Well if you’re his daddy and Lou’s his mama, exactly what should I be thinkin’, Buck?”

“Shh, I don’t want Jimmy to overhear. Wait a minute will ya’ and I’ll explain everything.” Buck walked in Jimmy’s room and told him he and Uncle Cody were going out to the barn and would be back in soon.

Buck motioned for Cody to follow him outside and he did so. Once they were out of earshot of the house, Buck started to explain again, but was interrupted by Cody. “So’d you marry her Buck? Rachel never said anything and she certainly didn’t say anything about you two havin’ a kid.”

“He’s not mine.”

“What? He looks just like ya’, Buck. Tanned skin, brown eyes. He’s got Lou’s nose though. Darnedest thing I ever saw, a minute version of the two of you.” Cody shook his head. “Yep, darnedest thing.”

“I told you, he’s not mine. He’s tan, yes, but only because he runs around outside most of the time. As for the eyes, Lou’s got brown eyes and if you don’t remember so does Jimmy.”

Cody thought he was talking about little Jimmy and said, “Of course I remember, I just saw him a few minutes ago.”

“That’s not the Jimmy I’m talking about, Cody.” Buck stood back and waited for the realization to come. Cody was a lot sharper than he used to be because it wasn’t long in coming.

“Ya’ mean to tell me that’s Jimmy’s kid? As in James Butler Hickok?”

“The one and the same.” Came Buck’s reply.

“Well I’ll be. Now that’s the darnedest thing I ever heard. Does Jimmy know?”

“No, Jimmy hasn’t got a clue. We’ve been trying to track him down since the week after he left Rock Creek, but he always stays one step ahead of us. Have you got any idea where he’s at now?”

“A couple years ago I heard he was down in Springfield, Missouri, but he’s long gone now. He actually got himself arrested down there.” Cody shook his head. “Just like Jimmy, always finding trouble and being right in the middle of it all.” Cody paused for a moment and then added, “I think I heard tell he was headed up to Hays City, Kansas, but that might not be true. You know how the rumors of Wild Bill pop up everywhere. He was actually a deputy U.S. marshal for a time, at least that’s what I heard.”

“Hays City you say?” Buck asked.

“Yep, at least that’s the word goin’ ‘round. Don’t know whether to believe it or not. But it is Kansas. He might be going to see Celinda. Ya’ never know.”

“Celinda! We never thought to contact her to find Jimmy. ‘Course the way he keeps moving ‘round, she probably doesn’t know much more than we do. You know I tracked him the week after he left but it was just like he vanished. Poor Lou, every time we heard word in the paper about Wild Bill she’d post a letter to the sheriff in that town, but by the time the letter arrived Jimmy had already moved on. She’s got a stack of letters unopened in her room that were sent back.”

“So you mean to tell me that you and Lou haven’t…I mean you two didn’t get married?”

“No, I mean not officially.”

“So you two have been, uh, close?”

“Cody, where are you going with this?”

“Just curious is all.” Came his reply.

“Well after Jimmy left and Lou found out she was expecting I tried to find Jimmy like I told you. But when I returned without him she was devastated. She was sure I could find him. I thought I could, too. But I seriously think he didn’t want to be found if you ask me. Anyway, when I went out to look for work I took her with me. She didn’t have anywhere else to go. After her condition started showing, I couldn’t find any work because everyone knew we weren’t married. So I finally found work up here in Montana territory as a ranch hand and Lou and I agreed to tell everyone we were married so she’d have a place to live. God, that cabin was sure small. But it was a roof over our heads and she was safe, that’s all I cared about. We slept in the same bed together for five years.” When Cody raised his eyebrow at Buck, he quickly added, “But nothin’ happened.” Buck decided to leave out their botched attempt at lovemaking that one night. “We slept. Nothing more. Once Jimmy was born he stayed in the room with us. Then when he turned five we had enough money to buy this place. I built on a room for her and little Jimmy. We’ve only been here six months, but I know this is home for us.”

“So now you’re startin’ your search up for Jimmy again. Why?”

Buck blushed from the roots of his hair down to his toes.

“Let me guess, you’ve found someone haven’t ya’, Buck? And now Lou’s in the way.”

“She’s not in the way. She’s never been in the way. She’s my sister and I’d protect her with my life. But she’s got a right to be happy and I think she could be if Jimmy would just stay put long enough for her to tell him about little Jimmy. And to answer your question, yes, I’ve found somebody. Her name’s Ellen. I met her in town a month ago. But that’s not why I’m trying to find Jimmy. Lou deserves to be happy and I can’t be completely happy until she is. I owe her that much. She stuck by me all these years. I know she didn’t have a lot of options open to her and she could have moved in with Rachel. But she didn’t. She stayed with me. Even through all those times she was called an ‘Indian lover’ or ‘squaw’ by the townspeople, and other names I won’t even mention. She thought I didn’t know, but I always knew what happened when she’d come back home in tears.”

“You want me to go to Hays City and drag him back here? Because I will you know, she’s my sister, too.” Cody stated.

“No. I was wondering if you’d stay here with her for awhile and I’m gonna go see if I can’t bring Jimmy back.” Buck told him.

“Neither one of you are going anywhere to bring Jimmy back.”

They both whirled around to the sound of Lou’s voice. She was standing in the doorway to the barn, looking none too happy.

“I appreciate what you both are trying to do, but he’s had five years to try and find me and he hasn’t. I’ll not have either one of you traipsing all the way to Kansas on a fools errand.”

“But Lou, he doesn’t know about little Jimmy.”

“And that’s exactly how it’s gonna be. If he can’t get in contact with me because he wants to see me, I sure don’t want him here out of an obligation he’d feel because of Jimmy. We’ve gotten along just fine these past five years without him, haven’t we, Buck? I’m sure he knows where Rachel is and she knows where we are, so if he wants to find us, he can. If not, then I don’t need him around.”

“But Lou…” Cody started.

She cut him off. “Now Cody, come here and give me a hug and tell us what you’ve been up to these past five years.” She gave him a big hug and kissed his cheek. Then the three of them headed inside the house, knowing when Lou made up her mind about something there was no changing it.

Later that evening, Cody and Buck made their way out to the barn again and Cody agreed he was going to Hays City to find Jimmy and at least talk to him. But they both agreed it’d be better if he didn’t know about little Jimmy. On that point they agreed with Lou. Because if Jimmy did come back and already knew about little Jimmy, Lou would always be wondering if he came back for her or came back for little Jimmy.

Cody stayed with them for a couple weeks and then said he had to be heading out again.

The day he left was a sad one for little Jimmy who’d grown attached to his newfound uncle.

He woke up his uncle that morning by sitting on his chest and sing-songed, “Unca Codeeee! Unca Codeeee! Wake up, wake up. Time to wake up, sleepyhead!”

When Cody cracked an eye open and noticed Jimmy was looking the other way, he reached out and tickled the youngster into a fit of giggles.

Once the little boy caught his breath he asked as serious as he could, “Do ya’ hafta leave today, Unca Codee?”

“Yeah, I’m afraid so, Jimmy. But you know what, I’m gonna be comin’ back in a month or two so you’ll see me again soon.”

“Good.” And the child placed a sloppy, wet kiss on his uncle’s forehead.

Chapter 3

Once Cody reached Hays City, it didn’t take him long to locate Jimmy. He just had to mention the name ‘Hickok’ and everyone instantly knew who he was talking about.

Cody found Jimmy, of all places, in the local saloon playing poker. He waited until he finished his hand to approach him.

“Hey, Cody. I thought that was you I saw come in. How the hell are ya’?” Jimmy stood and shook his hand. He picked up his winnings and announced, “I’m out, fellas.” To Cody he said, “Why don’t we go over to the restaurant and talk, it won’t be so noisy?” He proceeded to walk out without even giving Cody a chance to say anything. Cody obligingly followed him out.

“Hey, Jimmy, wait up. Where are you off to in such an all fired hurry?”

Jimmy whirled on him. ”I know why you’re here. It’s because Lou sent you, isn’t it?”

“No, as a matter of fact she’d tan my hide if she knew I was here talking to you.”

“She needs to just leave me be. I don’t want ta’ see her. Doesn’t she realize I’d only put her in danger just by being near her? You know how my reputation has grown out of hand, I get called out at least once a week by some young kid trying to make a name for himself. I usually shoot them in the hand or foot and be done with it, but sometimes that ain’t enough. Sometimes they get up and try shooting me in the back as I’m walking away. Then I have to kill ‘em. Do you have any idea how that feels, Cody? I’m not asking for all this trouble, but there it is. So before you ask, the answer’s no. I’m not going to see her.”

“How’d you know she’s wanting to see you? She told me she hasn’t been able to get in touch with you. She’s been sending you letters for the last five years and they get sent back.” Then it dawned on him, “You low-down son of a…you got her letters all along and you sent ‘em back, didn’t you?” Jimmy didn’t see Cody’s fist until it was too late. Cody laid him flat with one punch. Jimmy just lay there in the dirt, staring at him.

“Happy now, Cody? Does that make you feel any better?” Jimmy said sarcastically.

“Yeah, as a matter of fact, it does. And if you do something like that to Lou again, I won’t just stop at a punch.” Cody leaned down and gave Jimmy a hand up. Jimmy accepted it. They walked to the restaurant and took a table.

“So why didn’t you answer her? Why’d you make her think you were already gone? Do you know she’s got every single one of those letters saved in a bundle in her drawer? Buck showed them to me.”

“Ah, Buck. I was wondering when we were going to get around to him. She sure didn’t waste any time after I left, did she?”

“What do you mean by that?” Although Cody had a sinking feeling he knew exactly what Jimmy meant.

“I did go see her…once. It was a couple months ago. Real nice spread they’ve got there. Real nice son they’ve got, too.”

“Whoa, Jimmy, you’ve got it all wrong.”

Jimmy interrupted him, “No, I’ve got eyes. I saw him. He looks just like Buck. So don’t go trying to tell me he’s not his.”

“If you’d have bothered to get a closer look at him you’d have noticed who else he looks just like.” Cody stared hard at Jimmy.

“Oh, no way. Huh uh. Don’t try to pin this one on me. She wasn’t pregnant when I left, she’d have said something.”

“She found out the week after you left. Buck went out to find you, but he said it was like you just vanished. You wanna know what I think?” Cody asked him.

“No. But you’re going to tell me anyway, aren’t you?”

Cody ignored him and continued, “I think you didn’t want to be found. Heaven forbid you’d actually have to stick around and protect someone other than yourself for a change.”

Jimmy let that last remark slide…for now. “There’s no way he’s my kid. I can’t have a kid. It’s too dangerous.”

“Too dangerous for who, Jimmy? For you or for little Jimmy?”

“She named him after me?” Jimmy asked incredulously.

“Yeah, you and Buck. He’s taken care of her and Jimmy this whole time and put his life on hold. If only you’d have taken responsibility for what you’d done…for what you and Lou created…” Cody’s thoughts trailed off.

A tense silence permeated the table.

“I heard she married him.” Jimmy finally spoke up quietly.

“Who? Buck? No.” Cody informed him.

“Don’t lie to me. I asked around where Buck used to work. They said he was married with a kid.”

“He had to tell ‘em that or else he couldn’t keep Lou with him. What was he supposed to do, take the job and just tell Lou she was on her own and oh, by the way, have a nice time trying to raise a bastard all on your own and find a decent job? Come on, Jimmy, you know Buck better than that. He didn’t do anything any one of us would have done.”

“You forget, there’s only me and you left besides Buck.”

“Yeah, well, I’d have done the same thing for her. I can already tell you don’t have the guts to take care of her. You’re too busy hiding behind that gun to notice there’s other people in this world besides yourself.”

“Cody, I swear. One more remark like that out of you and I’ll forget we’re friends.”

“Sorry, but I thought we were brothers, a family. Teaspoon taught us that family takes care of family. But I guess that fact never made it through your thick skull.” Cody was on a roll and there didn’t seem to be any stopping him. He came to say his piece to Jimmy and that’s exactly what he was going to do. “Do you realize she’s probably in more danger being around Buck? You have no idea the prejudices she’s had to put up with staying with him. The townspeople all thought she was a whore, an Indian squaw. Even though Buck and Lou said they were married, it didn’t matter. They still called her a whore. For five years she put up with that. Hell, the town they’re near now just barely tolerates her. They respect Buck because of the ranch, but even though Lou owns half – she’s still just an Indian loving whore and they whisper about her behind her back.

“Damnit Cody! Quit callin’ her a whore. You know that ain’t true.”

“Doesn’t much matter what I know – it only matters what people think. You know that. Remember how it felt when you first got to Rock Creek? What the town felt about you and there was no changing their minds how hard you tried. You were arrested because of the word of one man. It’s the same for Lou. And it’s even worse now because Buck and Lou changed their story. Now they’re sayin’ they’re brother and sister, but Jimmy calls Buck his father, so no one believes their story. Tell me, Jimmy, do you really want your son growing up being called a half-breed bastard?” Cody demanded.

“Better he have a chance to grow up. You know as well as I, that my having a family is a risk I just can’t take.” Jimmy lamely explained to Cody.

“No, Jimmy, I don’t know that. That’s some half-baked idea you have. I just wonder, is the risk you’re talkin’ about really involve Lou and lil’ Jimmy’s safety or is it your heart you’re really talkin’ about?”

Jimmy stared hard at Cody, scraped back his chair and got up and left the restaurant. He didn’t want to hear anymore. He had a kid. No, a little boy, named Jimmy and supposedly looked just like him according to Cody. Damn! If only he’d have gotten a better look at him when he was there. The thought never occurred to him that the child he saw might have been his. He was too filled with anger at the thought of Lou and Buck together that he had mounted his horse and almost rode him into the ground just to get away. To get away from the hurt he felt knowing that she’d moved on without him. Even though that’s exactly what he had wanted her to do – move on without him.

Maybe Cody was right. Maybe he’d spent too much time running away, hiding behind his gun to notice his family needed him.

He looked back at the restaurant and was glad Cody hadn’t followed him out. He wasn’t sure what he would have done if he had…probably something he would have regretted later.

Chapter 4

Cody left the following morning. He figured he had said what he had come there to say and there wasn’t any point in hanging around to see if he had knocked any sense into Jimmy.

He hadn’t seen Jimmy since he stormed out of the restaurant the night before and wasn’t entirely sure when he’d be seeing him again after the tongue-lashing he gave him. In a strange way Cody felt like he was Teaspoon trying to knock some sense into one of his ‘boys’. How did Teaspoon ever manage it?

Cody thought he’d go through Sweetwater on his way back to Buck and Lou’s to see Rachel. It had only been a couple of months since he’d seen her last, but she had no idea about little Jimmy. Plus, he wanted to talk over the situation of Jimmy’s stubbornness with her and see if she could come up with something.

A few weeks later, Cody and Rachel arrived at Lou and Buck’s ranch.

Lou was shocked, but happy to see Rachel.

“Louise, why didn’t you tell me about little Jimmy?” Rachel admonished.

“I just couldn’t, Rachel. I didn’t want Jimmy to find out unless he came back to me.” Lou said. “But why do I have a feeling he knows about him now?” She looked right at Cody. The look on his face gave him away. “You never were one to keep a secret, Billy Cody.”

“I’ll have you know that he already knew. Said he’d been by here a few months ago to finally come see you. Then he saw little Jimmy playing around outside. He knew all about you and Buck being ‘married’ and he thought the kid was you and Buck’s. I do have to admit though I had to set him straight on who the father was.” He held up his hand and said, “Now hold on before you go gettin’ all upset, there’s somethin’ else you need to know.”

“What could be worse than knowin’ he was here and didn’t come see me?” Lou asked.

“Well you might want to sit down for this.” Lou sat and Cody continued. “Er, well, all them letters you wrote to him…he was the one that sent them back.”

Lou was stunned. She had no idea what to say…or think for that matter.

Rachel put a comforting arm around her. “I’m sure Jimmy had his reasons, Lou.” Then she looked up at Cody. “He did have a good reason, didn’t he, Cody?” Rachel pleaded with him.

“Good reason? No, not in my opinion. He gave me some bull about not wantin’ to put Lou in any danger because of his reputation as Wild Bill.”

”Danger? Danger! I was in more danger ridin’ for the Express than I ever would be around him!” Lou was pacing now, frantically. “Okay, there was that one time in Willow Springs when I got kidnapped and almost hung because of him.”

Rachel gasped.

Lou cringed. “Oh, I guess we musta never told you about that.”

She explained the whole incident to them both. When she was finished Cody was the first to speak up.

“Lou, you’re not gonna want to hear this, but maybe Jimmy’s got a point. I mean look at what happened when his reputation as Wild Bill was still young. Now it’s grown all out of proportion. You’d be in constant danger.” He knew that wasn’t what she wanted to hear, but he was actually starting to see things from Jimmy’s point of view. Jimmy had loved Lou enough to let her go so he could protect her.

Buck and little Jimmy took that moment to return from their fishing outing.

“Unca Codee! You came back!” He launched himself into Cody’s arms.

“Just like I said I said I would, big boy.” He sat him away from him and asked, “Did you miss me?”

“I sure did!” Came the little boy’s reply. Then he ran to Lou and chatted excitedly about the huge fish he caught. “See, mama, lookie. It’s bigger than daddy’s fish.”

Buck held up his small fish. They all started chuckling.

“Buck you’re not a very good fisherman.” Cody told him.

“Yeah, well you shoulda seen the one that got away.”

They all laughed some more.

Buck crossed the room to Rachel and hugged her tight. “It’s so good to see you. Did you get some time off?”

“Something like that. I heard I had a nephew up here that I’d never seen so I came right away.”

“Are you my Aunt Rachel?” Jimmy asked of her.

“I’m sure am, sweetie pie.” She smiled.

“Mama and daddy have told me all about you and my Unca Teapoo.”

“That’s Teaspoon, baby cakes.” Lou tried to hide her smile.

“That’s what I said, mama. Unca Teapoo. Can I go play now?”

“Yeah, but stay close by.” The little boy scampered out the door.

“Lordy, but wait ‘til Teaspoon hears his new name.” Came Rachel’s remark. “Louise, you really need to tell him about Jimmy.”

“I will now that everyone knows. Oh, Rachel, I just didn’t know what to do. Buck’s been so wonderful.” She walked over and took his hand in hers. “I don’t know what I’d have done without you.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve got to go clean these fish for supper. You comin’ Cody?”

“Sure, sure. As long as I don’t have to eat that puny one you caught.” He clapped him on the back and they headed out the door.

“He’s found someone in town, you know. He thinks I don’t know.” Lou told Rachel. “I’m in the way. He’d never tell me so, but it’s true. How can he court someone with me and Jimmy here? Oh, Rachel, what am I going to do? Jimmy thinks Buck is his father. And even though that’s not true, how can I take Jimmy away from the only daddy he’s ever known?” Lou was sobbing by now.

“Oh, honey, don’t worry about it now. As Teaspoon always says, ‘Family takes care of family.’ We’ll figure something out. We always do.”

“But, Rachel, I do have to worry about it now. Buck can’t keep his life on hold forever just because of me. If only Jimmy wouldn’t be so stubborn about his reputation. Why couldn’t he just change his name and move far away where no one would recognize him?”

“I hate to say this, Lou, but I don’t think that would work. He’s been in Harpers Weekly and that paper’s from New York. I don’t know of anywhere he could go where someone wouldn’t spot who he was right off, even if he shaved his mustache and cut his hair. He’s just too well known. I think Cody’s right and Jimmy, too. Although he really needs to come see you and little Jimmy. I think he should be able to manage that without causing too much of a stir.”

The very next day a letter arrived for Lou – it was from Jimmy.

My Dearest Lou-

I’ve sat and stared at this blank sheet of paper for days, not knowing what to write, not knowing how to tell you what’s in my heart.

I love you, Lou. I’ve loved you since we first found out you were a girl. I love you with all my heart and I’ll love you and our son ‘til the day I die.

If circumstances were different I’d have never left you and I’d be there with you in place of this letter. But the way things are in my life, I can’t. I’ll never be able to hold you in my arms again. I’ll never have the chance to watch our son grow up. And we’ll never be able to grow old together.

But know this, I will always be there with you – in my heart and in my thoughts.

I can’t risk the danger you and our son would be in if I returned to you. I know this isn’t what you want to hear and this isn’t a choice I’m making light-heartedly.

I want you to move on with your life – find someone safe, someone you can spend the rest of your life with. I don’t want you to be in fear for your life and our son’s, that’s why I have to let you go – let you both go.

I will send money when I can. I’ve developed a real talent for card playing.

Please know that I will always love you,


There were dried tearstains on the letter and soon her tears were joining his.

Inside the envelope she found a large stack of bills. She let them fall to the floor.

She hugged the letter to her chest and cried herself out.

Chapter 5

August 2, 1876 – Deadwood, South Dakota

Jimmy had noticed the young man, who sat alone playing solitaire at a table across the room, three days ago. Each day he arrived, he went to the bar and ordered the same thing – a sarsaparilla and a cheese sandwich. Jimmy inwardly chuckled to himself at this request – the same order he’d placed countless times before while working for the Express.

Thoughts of the Pony Express inevitably led him to thoughts of Lou and their son. He had lost them both due to his stubbornness and fear. Yes, fear. He could finally admit to himself that was what kept him from making a life with them.

He had tried to convince himself and everyone else it was for Lou’s safety and his reputation as Wild Bill that caused him to keep his distance. But he now knew he was hiding behind that very reputation to keep his heart safe. He had never allowed himself to get close to anyone since.

During his Express days, he had finally allowed himself to get close to the other riders. They had formed a bond as a family of sorts, but as the Express came to an end, so did that bond.

Looking back, Jimmy realized he was partly to blame, especially where Lou was concerned. He had lost track of Lou shortly after he found out about his son…their son.

Jimmy knew he should have went to see Lou and explain things instead of taking the easy way out by sending a letter. Never in his life had James Butler Hickok taken the coward’s way out, but in this once instance he had. And he’d regret it as long as he lived.

He’d stood up to men with a steely gaze and unflinching accuracy with his gun, but he wasn’t able to stand up to a slip of a woman that held his heart because he knew he would lose.

Not long after he had sent Lou the letter, Jimmy received one in return – from Buck. He informed Jimmy that Lou had took off for parts unknown after she read his letter, taking little Jimmy with her. Reading between the lines, he felt Buck’s anger and contempt and Jimmy couldn’t blame him. Buck also advised him that whatever Jimmy had written to her wounded her badly and he thought Jimmy should set out and try to find her. Which is exactly what Jimmy did. Only just as he, himself, had done six years earlier, Lou had vanished.

That had been nine years ago.

Since that time, Jimmy lived up to his reputation as Wild Bill and tried hard to lose himself in women, whiskey and cards. He had succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. He’d be hard to recognize as the dandy he had become compared to the Jimmy he was in his youth during his Express days. There were many days he stared hard at himself in the mirror and didn’t recognize the man staring back at him.

As time passed, Jimmy thought his love for Lou and the hurt he felt in her disappearance would vanish just as she had, but he was wrong. His feelings for her had only deepened and the shadows ate away at him. That’s why he drank. He stayed sober enough to win at cards and keep his wits about him in case he got called out, but stayed inebriated enough to numb the pain he’d caused himself by letting down Lou and their son.

Whenever these melancholy thoughts began to take hold, Jimmy would decide it was time for another shot of whiskey. And this was one of those times. He scraped back his chair and headed toward the bar.

As he passed by, Jimmy noticed the young man playing solitaire staring intensely at him. He vaguely looked familiar to him, but couldn’t quite place him. Jimmy decided he’d better keep a close eye on him in case he was related to someone he had killed. It wouldn’t be the first time a brother or cousin of someone he’d shot and killed had come gunning for Wild Bill in retribution.

In the time that he was gone from his seat, his friend, Bill Avery, had taken his chair. Knowing Wild Bill’s penchant for sitting with his back to the wall, his “friends” would sometimes steal his seat in humor to get Jimmy riled up. Today was no different, only this time Avery refused to move. Jimmy considered drawing on him to make him move, but in the end he reluctantly took the empty seat with his back to the door.

Soon after, the young man went to the bar and ordered another sandwich. Jimmy looked down at his cards, but kept one eye on the other man all the time. As he was dealt the final card, the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and all his senses tingled. The shadows he lived with were back.

Jimmy slowly reached toward his gun, knowing he was already too late. He looked towards the bar and saw the gun aimed his direction, held by the young man. He heard the words, “Take that Wild Bill!” Then the inescapable sound of gunfire. Jimmy waited for the stinging pain to come, but it never did. Slow from the whiskey, Jimmy jumped up and aimed at the young man at the bar, but he had already lowered his smoking gun. Then Jimmy turned around and saw the dead man lying at his feet behind him. He recognized him as Jack McCall.

Jimmy glanced back at the bar, but the young man had resumed his seat and started playing solitaire, acting as if he hadn’t just saved another man’s life. Jimmy holstered his gun and stared toward the young man he now owed his life to.

“Damn, Hickok! Even when you’re about to die, you still win. You’ve got a pair of Aces and Eights here. You won the kitty.” Bill Avery shouted to him.

Jimmy waved him off. “Keep it. I’m finished.”

Jimmy decided he was finished with more than just the next hand of poker. Not since his Express days had someone actually saved his life. It was a feeling he hadn’t realized he missed until just now…the feeling that someone cared enough to stick their neck out for him. And he had absolutely no idea who this someone was. But he intended to find out.

He took the chair next to the young man and realized this young man was more boy than man. “I’m mighty obliged to you for saving my life.”

The kid shrugged and kept playing cards. “Weren’t nothin’.”

Jimmy held his hand out to the kid, introducing himself, “Name’s James Hickok.”

The kid refused to shake his hand. “I know who you are Wild Bill.” He hotly retorted.

Not understanding the kid’s hostility towards him, Jimmy tried another tactic. “What’s your name, son?”

The kid visibly flinched. He began gathering his cards to leave. “My brother will be lookin’ for me. I gotta go.” The kid stood and stared for the door. Jimmy grabbed him by the arm and turned him around. As if he’d been burned, the kid jerked back.

“At least tell me the name of the man that saved my life.” Jimmy pleaded with him.

At the word ‘man’ the kid stood a little taller and relaxed a little…but only a little. Jimmy noticed all the signs of someone trying to hide his identity and was about to give up when the kid replied, “Jimmy. My name’s Jimmy.”

“Jimmy what?” The older Jimmy asked, holding his breath with anticipation.

With all the bravado the younger Jimmy could muster, he strongly replied, “James Running Buck…Hickok.” With that the kid ran out of the saloon.

He took off after him, but the kid had disappeared before Jimmy had a chance to get out the door. He had vanished. Just like his mother had 9 years before. Only this time Jimmy wasn’t going to let them go.

Continue On

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