A/N this story is a prequel to Wanted: The Ace of Hearts

Chapter One

"Awe, come on Teaspoon, I got stuck with this job the last time too, remember Elias Mills?" Jimmy grumbled kicking the dirt at his feet. "I hate takin' prisoners to get hung….feels like I'm doin' the hangin' myself."

"Well then Jimmy at least you won't feel like that all by yourself 'cos I'm sendin' Buck with you." Teaspoon smiled as the Kiowa rider scowled.

"Why me, what about….?" Buck was suddenly at a loss for words; he kicked some dirt off his boot in Jimmy's direction.

"And just who would you like me to send? Kid is out on a run, Cody's off doing Lord knows what for the Army, Noah's not safe in Kansas, you remember what happened the last time he crossed that border? AND Lou's getting ready for her wedding…Now if'n you'd like to tell Lou that instead of getting her dress for the wedding next week she needs to spend that time escorting a prisoner over 100 miles of hot, dusty open prairie be my guest….I'll tell the undertaker to expect you…." Teaspoon smiled as both Buck and Jimmy suddenly found their feet very interesting and their boots dusted with dirt. "Can I expect you both ready to ride by sun up tomorrow?"

Buck and Jimmy looked like they were the ones going to be hanged but reluctantly nodded and began their preparations for the week long trip. Both knew they would be lucky to make it back in time for the wedding if the weather turned bad.

~*~*~

The trip out went better than expected. They had planned the route along the pony express lines so they could switch horses and make better time on fresh mounts. As soon as their prisoner had been turned over to the soldiers at the fort they again changed horses and headed home. They had just left the last way station where they picked up Jimmy's beloved palomino, Sundance, when Buck spotted hazy smoke on the horizon.

"Looks like something's on fire over there; I'm going to check it out." Buck spurred his horse in the direction of the smoke. Jimmy hesitated a moment and then followed his friend.

"I hope it's nothing, Kid and Lou's wedding is in what….three or four days?" Jimmy yelled at Buck's back.

"Relax Hickok, its five days and you'll be home in plenty of time to give away the bride!" Buck yelled back over his shoulder.

The smoke led them almost two miles to the remains of a wagon train which had been hit by outlaws. Buck dismounted and looked at the ground for tracks. Jimmy looked around before dismounting and noticed arrows everywhere. The bodies of the settlers were riddled with them as where the remains of the wagons. Anything of value including the horses had been taken; the rest had been set on fire.

"Can you tell what tribe did this?" Jimmy asked as he rode over to Buck and dismounted. "I've never seen so many arrows…."

"You tell me….what does that look like to you?" Buck shook his head in disgust as he looked around at the carnage and pointed to the ground.

Jimmy knelt down and examined the prints Buck had pointed to. "Damn, these look like the ones we found at the Shaughnessy's that time when Kid found Curly. What about the arrows?" Jimmy looked up in time to see Buck retching over by a wagon with two very small bodies beside it. Jimmy turned away to give Buck some privacy, afraid he would also loose his breakfast. The summer heat and the small grass fires from the burnt wagons had made the bodies decay faster; the smell was enough to turn his stomach already. He knew he and Buck would either have to take care of the bodies or leave them to the elements soon.

"There are arrows from almost every tribe I can think of, and no self respecting Indian would use this many arrows. One shot, one kill… don't matter the tribe, we're all taught that. The horses hooves were all wrapped in rawhide to hide the shoes just like before….. This was staged to look like an Indian attack but white men did this." Buck shook his head and took the canteen that Jimmy offered him. "Thanks, I'm going to start a fire. We need to burn these bodies there's too many to bury."

"Yeah, I'll see if there's anyway we can identify who they are so the families can be told. You gonna be alright?" Jimmy looked at Buck who looked a little pale.

"They just murdered everyone; men, women, little kids…babies." Buck turned away but not before Jimmy noticed his cheeks were wet. "Indians ain't that cruel, for the most part children are spared. There is no honor for a warrior to kill a woman or child." Buck turned and began building a pyre for the settlers. "This just makes me sick."

"Me too, Buck, me too." Jimmy began the grizzly task of checking the bodies and noting anything that could be used for identification. A few of the wagons that hadn't been consumed by the fires yielded family Bibles; Jimmy added those to his saddle bags. "Buck, I think you're right, most of these people have been shot, these are bullet wounds, these people were murdered first and the arrows were shot into them later." Jimmy swore under his breath as he watched Buck gently lift a tiny body wrapped in a bloody blanket and carry it to the fire. Jimmy could easily see the cleaner lines on Buck's face where his tears had etched a path through the soot and grime.

The afternoon sun was low in the sky when they finished caring for the deceased settlers. Jimmy noticed that Buck spent much of the day clutching his medicine pouch and at times he looked like he was praying. Jimmy even ventured a prayer or two; it seemed like a good time to start asking for strength. Both men were sickened and saddened by the job they'd taken on; both had cried.

"I want to put as much ground between us and this little piece of hell as possible. Isn't there a stream over that way about a mile or so from here?" Jimmy asked Buck and they mounted and began riding toward the setting sun.

"Yeah I think so…I want to get the smell of this place off of me…even the horses don't want us near them. We can make camp there for the night too; it'll be too dark to ride after we're washed up." Buck urged his horse into a lope; Jimmy followed.

They'd gone about two miles when Jimmy thought he spotted someone walking in the area ahead of them to the right. Do you see someone over there? On the right? Your other right, Buck…." Jimmy shook his head.

Buck could see the stream ahead of them but the figure Jimmy thought he saw was no where to be seen. "I don't see anything. We're headed that way anyway so keep your eyes open, this twilight can play tricks."

"I know that Buck, I'm sure I saw someone, a woman." Jimmy grumbled and Buck nodded. Their nerves were raw after the stressful day and Buck was almost afraid to push his friendship with Jimmy too far. He might shoot first and have regrets later.

Chapter Two

Jimmy and Buck reached the stream without finding anyone, removed their gun belts and boots and waded in clothes and all. They washed and scrubbed as much of the horrible day off of them as they could with the tiny pieces of soap Jimmy had in his saddle bags. Finally they felt somewhat cleaner and Buck waded out first to start a fire and begin drying off before he settled down to sleep. Jimmy followed minutes later and began to shed his wet clothing too, placing the items on the bushes around the fire to dry. Buck had spread out his bedroll and Jimmy did the same on the opposite side of the fire. Buck's clothing soon hung beside Jimmy's and both men sat cross-legged on their bedrolls with nothing but the warm prairie breeze touching their skin. Neither man felt like eating nor talking, both stared, lost in his own thoughts, into the fire. About half an hour later Buck lay down on top of his blankets and closed his eyes; Jimmy sat up another half hour and then lay down too. He prayed he wouldn't dream because tonight he was sure it would be nothing but nightmares.

~*~*~

Buck's eyes snapped open; instantly alert. He listened for the sound that had awoken him. As he lay still listening to the sounds of the night he noticed it must be after midnight by the look of the sky; the nearly full moon was past its apex. He finally heard it; a soft sob that sounded like it was coming from the direction of the stream. He reached for his gun and started to get up when he remembered he wasn't wearing anything. Buck glanced at Jimmy on the other side of the fire and saw his eyes were also open and his gun was in his right hand. Both men silently stood and crept down toward the stream Buck was afraid the outlaws had made a camp nearby and after seeing what they did to the settlers he was taking no chances. Jimmy apparently felt the same way as he didn't bother with clothing either.

The light from the moon cast a silvery glow over the land and sent long shadows reaching toward the two friends. The two riders didn't need to speak as they crept closer to the source of the sounds; from opposite sides. Buck was still hidden in the shadows of the bushes when Jimmy located the source of the sobs. There, on the very edge of the stream, sat a young woman holding a gun to her head and crying as if her heart had been broken. Jimmy's own heart skipped a beat when he heard the distinct click, click of the hammer being pulled back and the cylinder turning. Without a second thought he lunged for the gun which discharged wildly a heartbeat after he'd knocked it away from her head.

"LET ME GO" the woman screamed over and over as Jimmy tried to calm her.

"I'm not going to hurt you or let you hurt yourself. Now stop struggling before you do get hurt…..Let me help you…." Jimmy tried to get a firm hold on the struggling woman. She fought him; scratching his face and chest with her fingernails before he was able to wrap both his arms and legs around her effectively halting her movements. Finally she stopped struggling but continued sobbing.

Jimmy was wondering where Buck was for the hundredth time when a shirtless Buck showed up carrying Jimmy's clothes and his own bedroll; his pants and boots in place. "Nice of you to finally show up….I could use a little help here ya know…..are you bleedin'?"

Jimmy's question seemed to quiet her slightly and she turned to look at Buck.

"Yeah, well that stray bullet had to go somewhere….." Buck walked stiffly toward the couple lying on the ground. "It didn't catch me full on, it just grazed me but it still hurts like hell." He knelt down and offered a blanket to Jimmy and the woman. "Ah, Jimmy, I brought your clothes…"

Jimmy suddenly realized his state of undress and felt his face grow warm; he was grateful for the simi-darkness.

"I'm so sorry….I didn't mean for anyone to get hurt…" the woman spoke quietly between sobs.

"It's alright, I'll be fine see? No hole, just a bruise and a cut, it looks worse than it is….Here wrap this around you and come back to our camp, we'll let my friend here get dressed." Buck draped the bedroll around her shoulders and almost had the woman calmed down enough for Jimmy to let her go when she got a good look at her captor.

"OH MY GOD! You're still naked! What are you going to do to me, rape me like your friends did to the others?" She began struggling again trying to get away from Jimmy's arms and managed to elbow Buck in his very tender ribs.

"NO, no, we're not going to hurt you….We didn't rape anyone…..we're here to help you" Jimmy again got her under control which was made easier because Buck had managed to get the blanket around her. "Buck, are you alright over there?"

Buck was laying on the ground on his side curled up, knees to chest, and moaning. "I think the bullet may have damaged my ribs and her elbow just finished the job." Buck managed between clenched teeth.

"Oh God, I'm so sorry, why didn't you let me kill myself? Your friend wouldn't be in pain because of me? I'm so sorry, so, so sorry…." she was sobbing again.

"Nope, that would be a waste of a pretty face and I don't like that…" Jimmy grinned at her with a lopsided grin. "Now can I put on my clothes? I really need to see how my friend is….If I let go, promise me you won't try to run away.

The woman nodded and Jimmy thought he saw a hint of a smile. As soon as Jimmy let go of her she reached down and lifted the hem of her skirt then tore the ruffle off of her petticoat. "We can use this to bandage him up, its linen so it's strong." She knelt down beside Buck. "I'm so sorry….You're bleeding more."

Buck felt her pulling his hands away from his side and in the pale moonlight he could see dark blood covering his hands. He wondered how bad it really was, he'd lost more blood than he thought because he was getting lightheaded. She used part of the torn ruffle to press against the wound in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

"Wonderful…. Ow! That hurt, don't touch…." Buck was slowly trying to move and finally managed to sit up. Jimmy managed to dress in his still damp clothes in record time and was beside Buck in minutes. He helped Buck to his feet and with Jimmy on one side, practically carrying him, and the mystery woman supporting him on the other, they walked back toward their campsite. Buck was panting from the effort when they arrived.

Buck's breathing was soon back to normal once he lay down and rested a few moments. Jimmy used his neckerchief to wash the blood off of Buck's side and, to Buck and Jimmy's surprise, the woman took over and did a very good job of cleaning off the wound and binding his bruised ribs.

"I'm sorry I hurt you…I never meant for anyone to be hurt, well except for myself….I've had a really bad day." Her eyes filled up with tears again but this time she managed to blink them back.

"Its OK, just don't fall or roll on me or shoot me again today! I'm Buck, this is Jimmy, what's your name?" Buck asked still laying on Jimmy's bedroll where Jimmy had placed him on their return to camp.

"I'm…I'm Melissa but my friends and fa..fam..family ca…call me Mimsy." She started crying again but remained in control of herself this time. Jimmy reached out to the stranger and pulled her against his shoulder; he stroked her hair and rocked her gently. She didn't resist and after a moment or two moved one hand to rest against his strong chest.

"You said something about the men earlier, we found a wagon train a few miles back were you from there?" Buck asked gently. He saw tears welling up in her eyes again.

"Yes, it was horrible….." She cried hard for a few minutes and then as the sobs slowly subsided she just lay against Jimmy's shoulder staring at the fire. Sometime during the rest of the night they all slept, Buck lay on Jimmy's bed roll while Mimsy shared Buck's with Jimmy.

Chapter Three

Buck woke just as the sun began to spread a glow over the horizon. He felt much better and although, moving was still awkward and a bit stiff, it was much less painful than it had been last night. He looked over at Jimmy and saw Mimsy sound asleep on his shoulder. Jimmy had a protective arm curled around the young woman. In the light of day Buck could see that Mimsy was actually much younger than he had guessed last night. She had long wavy brown hair that was badly in need of a brushing and a solid figure. She was wearing a light colored dress that was covered in smudges of dirt and had a large dark brown stain on the front, Buck assumed it was blood. She appeared short but Buck couldn't really tell with her laying curled into Jimmy. Buck built up the fire a bit and started some coffee then went to say his morning prayers and find something for them to eat for breakfast.

Jimmy awoke from a dream where he was trapped and couldn't move. He opened his eyes quickly when he discovered that he really couldn't move. He blinked when he saw a mass of curly brown hair nestled on his shoulder. The events of the last twenty-four hours came flooding back. He fought the urge to be sick again, hugged the woman in his arms closer and brushed the hair back from her face so he could see her. Her eyes were still swollen from crying but that didn't hide her beauty; he smiled. His nose detected the inviting smell of coffee brewing and he shifted his head so he could look over to where Buck had been lying. He hadn't expected Buck to still be sleeping but he didn't expect to find him gone. Jimmy tried to move as gently as possible and extract himself from the sleeping form beside him. She mumbled something in her sleep but didn't wake when he moved away from her. "Shhh….I'm right here, you sleep awhile." Jimmy whispered to her and kissed her forehead tenderly.

The morning air was brisk and Jimmy shivered at the sudden loss of warmth. He reached down and picked up his bedroll that Buck had slept on and covered the young woman; even in sleep her eyes were puffy from crying. All they had learned about her last night was that her name was Melissa, her family called her Mimsy and she'd been part of the devastated wagon train. Jimmy heard a twig break and spun around, gun in hand, toward the noise.

"It's me Hickok, sorry, I didn't mean to surprise you." Buck emerged from the brush carrying two dead rabbits. He was moving a bit awkwardly and was obviously uncomfortable, but he had more color in his face and he was breathing normally.

"How are you feeling? I was surprised to find you gone when I woke up. You looked pretty rough last night." Jimmy whispered indicating the still sleeping woman.

"Mmmm, well I don't think anything is broken but my whole side is bruised, look." Buck shoved the rabbits on a spit and placed it over the coals. When he stood he lifted his shirt revealing a large deep purple and red bruise that covered his whole right side. "I think I'll take it easy on the ride home…how's she doing?"

"Still sleepin' if that counts….do you need to rest up before we ride again? That really looks nasty. Where the bullet creased you is all swollen and raw and the rest just looks like, well, um the rabbit guts look better." Jimmy cringed as he inspected Buck's side.

"Thanks…You don't look so hot yourself…..She got you good, you've got scratches on your face and neck." Buck teased. "One look at you and Teaspoon's gonna wonder who attacked who!"

"Very funny, I think she got my chest and back too…" Jimmy unbuttoned his shirt and looked. "Yup she did, for someone that was holdin' a gun to her head she sure fought me to live. Go figure!" Jimmy shook his head, "Women I'll never understand them."

"Me either but I don't want to hang around here too long. I just want to put as much distance as I can between that massacre and us as possible. I have a bad feeling about this place." Buck turned the spit and the smell of the cooking rabbit wafted toward them. Between the smell of the coffee and the rabbit Jimmy discovered he was starving.

"OH, man that smells good! I need to, um, answer a call of nature but I didn't want to leave her alone in case she woke up. She looks all innocent and pretty sleepin' like that…how old do you think she is?" Jimmy asked.

"I don'no….couple a years younger than us, I guess, maybe sixteen, not more than seventeen? Buck replied with a shrug. "I thought you had to go…."

"What? Oh yeah…be right back…" Jimmy stopped studying the woman and left to take care of some personal business. Buck just shook his head.

Jimmy returned a half hour later with wet hair and dry clothing Buck guessed he'd gone for a swim, something he'd done himself in a vain attempt to wash away the memories of yesterday's events.

"That water feels really good don't it?" Buck asked as Jimmy came back over to where the nearly done rabbits were still cooking.

"Sure did but I kept looking over my shoulder, you're right lets just get the hell away from this place after we eat….hey, look whose awake!" Jimmy smiled when he realized he was being watched. "Good mornin' sleepyhead!"

"Morning, what smells so good?" Melissa sat up and took a good look at her companions. "I'm sorry I was a little, mmm, out of it yesterday. I know you told me your names but I've forgotten. I was kinda hopin' I'd wake up and this would all have just been one big nightmare." She buried her face in her hands and tried to come to grips with the horrible memories.

Jimmy sat down beside her, placing his arm around her young shoulders. "That's Buck and I'm Jimmy, we ride for the Pony Express and I'm also starving…Let's get something to eat and then we'll pack up and head to our home. If you want to talk we'll listen, if you want to cry go ahead I'll dry out!" Jimmy attempted to make her smile and it worked.

Melissa looked up at Jimmy with big brown eyes and grinned, "Well Jimmy, something smells really good, that sounds like a good idea. What happened to your face? OH! Did I do that?" Melissa looked at her hands as Jimmy nodded; her smile faded, "I'm sorry…Buck, how are you feeling? I shot you and then hit you didn't I? I'm sorry…."

"Ah, well, Yeah, you did but I'm up and I'm also hungry so how about something to eat the rabbits are done." Buck smiled but it turned into a grimace as he reached for the spit and his side protested.

Twenty minutes later they were all full, the coffee was gone, the pot washed and stowed for the trip home. Jimmy rolled both bedrolls up to save Buck's ribs and helped him on his horse. "Melissa, you'll ride with me, we need to go a bit slower so Buck doesn't get bounced around too much." Jimmy lowered his voice and whispered in her ear. "Between you and me he's really hurtin' but he don't want to let us know."

"I heard that, and yeah, I'm damn sore, no secret there, Jimmy. I'm not you!" Buck laughed and then regretted the movement; he smiled and shrugged as the couple laughed at the face he made.

The first few miles passed and the trio became more comfortable with each other. Melissa insisted that Buck and Jimmy call her Mimsy and they learned her last name was Sullivan. She was almost sixteen and from a place called Smithtown just out side of New York City. They stopped a few times to rest and water the horses but their slow pace still left them about ten miles outside of Rock Creek at the end of the day. Buck was going slower and slower as his body passed from a dull ache that he could ignore, to a screaming gnawing pain that demanded rest.

"I can't go any further tonight, Jimmy….If you want to push on and get home with her tonight go ahead. I'll be fine here and I'll catch up in the morning." Buck moaned as they debated whether they should ride after darkness back to the way station. The moon would be full and there would be plenty of light in an hour or so.

"Rachel will kill me if I ride home and leave you out here. She'll take one look at your side and my backside will match it! No way buddy….I'll go gather some wood for a fire you rest….Here I'll even put your bed roll down for you." Jimmy smiled impishly.

Buck would get him back for treating him like a child but right now he couldn't agree more. He eased his aching body down onto the bedroll and stretched out. "Thanks Jimmy, I'm sure I'll repay the favor someday."

Jimmy rummaged around in his saddle bags and managed to find enough food for them all to have something for dinner while Mimsy found some wild berries. Once they'd all eaten Mimsy began to speak.

"It was near the end of the day and the wagon master decided to stop for the night, we'd had a really good day and everyone was looking forward to our usual evening ritual, a Ceilidh.* It' a Celtic tradition and one I'll miss. Everyone would get together for a meal then one of the men, usually either Mr. Beaton, or Mr. Peterson, would bring out their banjo or fiddle and we'd all sing and dance until the little ones started falling asleep. It was lots of fun and it really made the trip more enjoyable, those wagons are not comfortable. Anyway I needed to, um, answer a call of nature, I guess you'd call it, and I walked off away from the group; I wanted some privacy. I guess I was about a quarter maybe a half mile away just finishing when I heard gunfire, and lots of it. I started to run to the wagons but I saw one of the woman get shot, I fell over something and was so scared I couldn't move, so I just flattened myself down on the little rise I'd hidden behind and watched." Mimsy was fighting tears and shaking. Jimmy sat beside her and held her.

*(pronounced K-lay)

"You don't have to tell us if it hurts too much…You'll probably have to tell the marshal when we get to Rock Creek anyway, but I'll stay with you if it'll help…" Jimmy offered.

Mimsy stayed leaning on Jimmy and held his hand tightly. "Thanks Jimmy, but I need to tell someone I can't sleep with those memories locked inside of me." Jimmy nodded and, without thinking, kissed her head; she smiled, Buck did too. "They did horrible things to the women and girls I was too scared to move or even scream." Mimsy shook her head then continued. "They just killed everyone, ripped the wagons apart like they was looking for something, took the horses and stuff from the wagons and then they took out arrows and lit them on fire and started shooting those at everything, even the bodies. I stayed where I was until the next morning when I finally got enough courage to go and look for my family. I found my parents and my brother, at least I think it was them, they'd been burned and were all kinda disfigured. My little sister's body was untouched and I held her for awhile before I just started walking away. There was nothing I could do…" her voice dissolved into sobs that shook her whole body.

Jimmy pulled her closer and leaned his cheek on her head. "I know it doesn't feel like it right now but things will get better. You're safe with us, you know that don't you?" He rubbed her back and held her as she cried.

"I know, but it still don't hurt any less….When I saw you both yesterday afternoon I thought you were part of the group that did that to my family so I hid. I watched you in the water and when you were asleep. By the way, you both snore. I wasn't sure about you Jimmy cos you're white and all the men who attacked were white but I knew Buck wasn't one of the men, you're Indian aren't you?" Mimsy paused. Both men looked a bit shocked as they realized she had seen them without clothing.

"I'm Kiowa…How did you manage to get close enough to see what we looked like? I'm a pretty light sleeper." Buck asked somewhat embarrassed that he'd been seen unclothed by a woman, a young unmarried one that he didn't know at that!

"Don't tell me you two are upset cos I saw you in your birthday suits?" Mimsy laughed and Jimmy decided he'd be embarrassed more often if it meant he could hear the funny lilt of her laugh more. Buck shrugged, smiled lopsidedly and looked at his hands. "I was going to shoot you; I wanted to kill you for what had been done to my family. I was able to get close up quietly because back home one of the floor boards always squeaked and my little sister sleeps….slept so light that the smallest sound would wake her….we got used to being really quiet. Anyway, once I realized that Buck wasn't one of the men who did this, I couldn't shoot you if I wasn't sure so I decided I didn't want to live." Jimmy pulled her closer. "I'm kinda glad you found me before I did something really stupid. I don't feel like that anymore….."

"Good! I'm getting really tired and Buck looks like he's ready to fall over so how about we all call it a night." Jimmy smiled when he realized that Mimsy was preparing to sleep beside him again. "Hey Buck? Can we use your jacket?" Jimmy asked as he took Buck's jacket to use as a pillow. Buck just smiled and eased his aching body into a comfortable position.

Melissa snuggled right down beside Jimmy with her head on his shoulder as if it were the most natural thing in the world to do. Jimmy placed his arm around her and smiled, somehow this felt so right.

Chapter Four

The next morning Buck was moving even better but the bruise still looked ugly and the cut where the bullet creased him was oozing blood and something that smelled really nasty. Melissa and Jimmy were curled around each other and Buck looked at the pair and smiled. She might be a little young right now but in a couple of years Buck could see the couple as just that, a couple. Buck stirred the fire into life, set the coffee pot on to brew and left to complete his morning routine.

Jimmy awoke to the smell of coffee brewing and something warm and soft laying partly on him. He opened his eyes and smiled down at the sleeping woman in his arms. He looked over toward Buck's bedroll and again found the Kiowa had risen before him and was not in sight. This time Jimmy decided to take advantage of the privacy and hugged Mimsy tighter against him, kissing her forehead as he did so. Moments later her eyelids fluttered open and he gazed into her beautiful brown orbs. "Morning Mimsy, you sleep good?" Just once he'd wished he'd listened to some of Cody's stories so he could have better opening lines….Cody always seemed to say just the right thing to the ladies.

"Other than a couple of bad dreams, yeah I did." Mimsy purred into his chest as she smiled up at him.

"I'm sorry you should have woken me up, bad dreams go away faster when you share them." Yup another great line, Hickok! Jimmy thought to himself.

"I didn't need to, every time I woke up you held me closer, I don't remember ever feeling this safe before; except maybe when we lived in New York." Mimsy answered nuzzling his shoulder.

Jimmy brushed the hair back from her face and leaned his face toward hers. His lips had just brushed hers when he heard a twig snap; Buck was back subtly announcing his persence. Jimmy kissed her nose and then her forehead. "Good! I smell coffee and I could really use a cup how about you?" Jimmy pulled back and asked a little too quickly. Mimsy giggled and sat up.

"Hi Buck, how are you feeling this morning?" Mimsy asked as she smoothed out her skirts before standing up. Jimmy stood up and extended a hand to help the young girl up. "Thanks…." Mimsy glanced at Buck and looked like she was going to say more but she settled for just squeezing Jimmy's hand before letting go. Buck wondered what he'd interrupted.

"Better thanks, I really needed to rest. I'll feel a lot better once I'm in my own bed. I found some apples and berries. I figure Rachel will feed us all when we get home." Buck smiled as he poured himself a cup of coffee.

"Mmm, a hot meal, a soft bunk and a hot shower, that sounds really good Buck! I can almost taste Rachel's stew now….and maybe a piece of her chocolate cake….." Jimmy smacked his lips.

"Ok, cut it out, now you sound like Cody!" Buck laughed and immediately regretted it. He wrapped his arms around his sore ribs and grimaced. "I hope this heals up fast."

Jimmy and Mimsy laughed at Buck but both helped him with his bedroll and saddling his horse. The trip home was slow but they made it just after everyone finished lunch.

~*~*~

"Riders comin'" sang out Kid. "Looks like Buck and Jimmy have company. Hey it looks like Buck might be hurt….." Kid jumped down off the porch and ran toward the approaching riders; Lou, Cody, Noah and Teaspoon followed. Buck was sitting hunched over, walking his horse slowly and holding his right side, when he moved his hand to the pommel there was blood on both his hand and his shirt.

Lou took the reins of Buck's horse while Kid and Noah helped him down. Cody, ever the ladies man, offered his hand to Mimsy and helped her off Jimmy's horse. "William F. Cody at your service Miss….?"

"What in the name of Sam Hill happened to you two? Good Afternoon Miss." Teaspoon cut Cody off as he looked over his riders. "We expected you back two days ago. Tom Dunlop said you left his station early, plenty of time to get home in one day. Buck go on over to the house, Jimmy why don't you help him and your lady friend inside. I'm sure Rachel will take over from there. Lou, would you help Rachel? Kid, why don't you get the Doc for Buck…" Teaspoon held up his hand before Buck could protest. "I can tell that needs lookin' at just from the way yer movin'…Noah, Cody can you take care of these horses? Once everyone is settled we'll find out what their story is…."

"D'ya think this had anything to do with that wagon train that got ambushed?" Noah asked as he led Jimmy's horse to the barn.

"I'd lay money on it Noah" Teaspoon said as he mounted the stairs to the house.

Rachel was in the kitchen with a now shirtless Buck. She had water on in the bath kettle and a smaller kettle was heating for tea or water to wash Buck's wounds with. Teaspoon also noted that the pot of left over stew was simmering on the back burner. Jimmy, Lou and their visitor were not in the room. "How's it look Rachel? Son, that is one nasty looking bruise, its all infected too….did you get shot?" Teaspoon looked at Buck's side and grimaced. "It even looks painful"

"Ah, thanks Teaspoon, it is…it's also a long story and I'd, Arghh Rachel, that hurt! I'd rather wait until Jimmy and Melissa are here." Buck flinched as Rachel cleaned out the wound.

"I'm sorry Buck I wish I could touch you without hurting you but this needs to be cleaned." Rachel tried to sooth the injured rider. "Jimmy helped Miss Sullivan upstairs and then went over to the bunkhouse to get cleaned up, Lou and Miss Sullivan are upstairs getting her some clean clothes and as settled in as possible. I don't know what happened to her but she looks like she's been through a lot. She was shaking like a leaf when she came in, I'm hoping a nice hot bath and some clean clothes will help her calm down… Sounds like Kid is back with Doc Barnes." Rachel exclaimed as she heard footsteps on the porch followed by a knock. "Come on in…… we're in the kitchen." Rachel called to the doctor as he entered the house.

An hour and a half later the two riders and Melissa were enjoying fresh biscuits and stew, all of them having taken baths and donned clean clothes. The others were in the parlor waiting for them to finish eating so they could find out what had happened on the run. Rachel practically had to tie down Jesse to keep him from pestering the trio; the news of the ambush was all over town. She finally gave him the job of pealing the vegetables for the roast she had placed in the oven for dinner. He finished in record time not wanting to miss out on hearing what the riders had to say about their ride.

Finally Jimmy, Buck and Melissa came into the parlor; Jimmy was holding Melissa's hand. "Alright, everyone, I'm not sure who met who so, everyone, this is Melissa Sullivan. Miss Sullivan this is Teaspoon Hunter, he's the marshal, you know Rachel, that's Noah, you met Cody, that's Jesse and these two are Kid and Lou. They're gettin' married in a couple of days and I'm gonna be givin' away the bride!" Jimmy added proudly. Everyone either nodded or said hello. Melissa nodded back as she clung to Jimmy's hand. "This is our family, and I know it's not the same as most people's but for us it works."

"Buck, did you get shot by them robbers? Were they fake Indians…like Noah said?" Jesse could contain himself no longer. "Was it really…..

"That's enough Jesse, let them speak first." Rachel admonished in a voice that left no room for argument.

Buck cocked his head to the side and looked at Noah. "How'd you know about the faked raid?"

"I was on relay the day after you were at the Dunlop's and saw the haze so I investigated and saw all the arrows and what remained of the funeral pyre. I figured you and Jimmy probably had som'thin' to do with it and I expected to find you already here. When I got back and you weren't, we were afraid you'd gone after the killers. I saw those tracks too and I've seen that trick before, hooves covered in rawhide." Noah shook his head.

"Yeah Jesse, Noah was right, the whole thing was staged to make it look like Indians attacked the wagon train but the settlers were killed with guns and then shot with the arrows. And as for me….weeelll…. Melissa, Miss Sullivan, sort of shot me."

"WHAT!?!" everyone said at once. Buck and Jimmy both started to laugh and Melissa looked like she'd happily kill them both with her bare hands.

"It's a long story so why don't we all get comfortable." Buck said as he pulled over a chair. The movement made him grimace in pain but he refused Lou's offer of help. Jimmy led Melissa to the big overstuffed chair by the hearth and he sat on the floor beside her.

"I didn't mean to…really it was an accident" Melissa looked like she was going to begin crying, everyone was looking at her, their faces a mixture of emotions.

"Hold yer horses, I think we're getting' a bit ahead of ourselves here. Miss Sullivan I'm sure you didn't mean to shoot Buck, so don't worry that pretty little head of yours alright?" Teaspoon smiled at the girl as he spoke. She nodded. "Good, now who wants to start?"

Jimmy looked over at Buck and read the exhaustion and pain in his face. "I guess I will. We had just left the Dunlop's station when Buck spotted smoke on the horizon and wanted to investigate….." Jimmy spoke for the next several minutes and was only interrupted by Jesse six times, the last time he finally got mad. "Jesse, will you just listen and ask questions later?" Jesse stared to say something and Jimmy looked him right in the eyes… "One more word and I will shoot you…got it?" the boy looked stricken but only nodded, everyone else stifled their laughter. Jimmy continued his narrative without further interruptions. "….So I figured that if I came back without Buck you'd skin me alive Rachel, so we stayed the extra night and here we are."

Everyone laughed except Buck who looked like the only thing he cared about was finding his bed. "You got that right mister! And as for you Mr. Cross if you weren't hurtin' so bad I'd fix your hide for suggestin' he leave you!" Rachel admonished both men but with a smile on her face.

"You're the only survivor of that massacre, Miss Sullivan, what can you tell us about the men who did this? How many of them were there? What were they wearing? What did they look like? Anything you can tell us will help us track them down and make them pay for what they did." Teaspoon spoke softly trying not to upset Melissa any further.

"Please call me either Melissa or Mimsy. Like Jimmy said I'd left the group to ummmm…I had a sour stomach. I went behind this little rise and got sick that's when I heard the gunshots. There must have been a dozen or so men all dressed in dark clothes. They weren't dressed like Indians we'd seen on the trip more like regular people. I couldn't hear the words but I could hear the screams." Mimsy was speaking through the tears that coursed down her cheeks. Jimmy had moved from sitting beside her to standing beside her chair and holding her shoulders as she spoke; Mimsy clung to him. "I saw them shoot anything that moved, they killed all the men first then attacked the women and girls. They did horrible things to them I can't get their screams out of my head…. I saw my mother, my little sister…." Mimsy turned to Jimmy and buried her face in his chest sobbing as if her heart had broken.

Rachel stood up and walked over to Mimsy and Jimmy kneeling in front of the couple. "I know you've been through a lot Honey, but you're safe here. You don't have to tell us anymore tonight. Do you want to lay down for awhile?" Rachel hugged the young woman.

"Thanks, can I just have some water? I really need to just do this and get it over with." Jesse bounced up and ran to get the water while Mimsy composed herself. He handed her the glass without a word and sat back down. "Thanks, Jesse, did I get it right?" Jesse nodded but said nothing as he sat and looked at Jimmy holding the woman's other hand. "They started burning everything, once they had their way with the women and girls they killed them too. They took stuff out of all the wagons, they even took two of the wagons and loaded them with the things they took from the others….they shot arrows into everything, some of the arrows were on fire and the fires burned all night. I was too scared to move. I started to run over when it first started but I tripped over a root or something and then crawled into the bushes on the rise and watched. It was horrible." Mimsy lost control, turned and sobbed against Jimmy's strong chest when he moved to her side, his arms encircled her and his hands gently massaged her back until she quieted again. This was a side of Jimmy none of them had seen before. Buck had a knowing smile on his face when Jimmy looked up at him. Buck winked at the couple.

"Do you have any family?" Teaspoon asked softly

Mimsy shook her head. "Everyone is gone that I knew, I think my mother had a couple of sisters but I don't know where they are or even what their names are. I guess it's just me now? What am I going to do?" Mimsy looked at the kind faces offering her sympathy and comfort.

"I want you to know you're welcome here for as long as you want…we don't have much but we'll share…I could sure use a hand around this place too…" Rachel looked over at Teaspoon.

"Well, I agree completely! If you want, you can stay here…I have the feeling at least two of my boys will have no objections. Errr, don't we have a wedding to get ready for?" Teaspoon chuckled.

"Wedding? Oh yeah! Lou and Kid, right?" Mimsy perked up as the conversation turned to the preparations for the big day.

A few moments later Lou stood up and took Mimsy by the hand. "My dress is upstairs in Rachel's room… come on I'm dying to show someone!" The two young women hurried up the stairs.

"Ok, I think its time Buck got some rest, I need to make dinner unless you all aren't hungry anymore?" Rachel teased.

Buck stood up and swayed slightly, his body protested and he moaned. "I'm sorry but I think I'll skip dinner all I want is my bed." Buck started for the door and stopped to hold onto the chair back to keep from falling.

Cody was at Buck's side in an instant. "Come on Buck, let's get you to bed, I don't mind eating your share of dinner…"

Buck leaned on Cody and mumbled the word "figures!" as they exited the house.

Chapter Five

The next two days flew by as the big day approached. With three women fussing over him and everyone telling him to take it easy Buck's ribs healed quickly, the infection was clearing rapidly and by the day of the wedding he was honestly looking forward to dancing with Lou at her wedding reception.

Lou, Rachel and Mimsy were all in the house primping and preening for the ceremony while the boys were all finishing chores and getting dressed in their Sunday best. Since Buck wasn't allowed to do chores yet he was giving the task of calming a very nervous Kid until he was taken to the church. Finally the time came for Buck, Noah and Cody to head over to the church to act as ushers. Teaspoon, who was presiding over the service, had taken Kid to the church a few minutes earlier, relieving Buck of his duties. Jesse and Jimmy would accompany the woman shortly before the service was to begin and both would walk Lou down the aisle.

The women arrived at the church and found the three ushers waiting for them. Lou had a sheet wrapped around her to both hide the dress and keep it clean. Cody and Noah each offered an arm to Rachel who was beautiful in a white lace blouse, a dark blue satin skirt and had flowers in her hair. Once they were seated Buck offered his arm to Mimsy who looked stunning in a light pink organza dress Rachel had altered for her. Buck seated Mimsy next to Rachel and took his seat next to Cody and Noah. The doors at the back of the church closed for a moment and then opened to reveal Lou on the arms of both Jesse and Jimmy. All of the riders gasped, she was so beautiful in her long white dress with a high neck line and lace and bead covered bodice; a ring of wild flowers graced her head.

Kid mouthed the words 'you're beautiful' as she took the hand he offered and they climbed the steps to the alter together. Teaspoon cleared his throat and began "Dearly beloved, I always loved that part…."

The wedding was beautiful; the entire congregation was on the edge of their pews when Teaspoon asked Kid for his name. Kid leaned forward and whispered in Teaspoon's ear. Lou cocked her head trying to hear Kid's answer but a collective groan could be heard when Teaspoon said "Do you Kid, take Louise…." Jimmy's hand shot out in front of Cody palm up the second Teaspoon said Kid instead of a real name. Cody dug in his pocket to pay the failed bet.

At the reception each of the riders danced with Lou but Jimmy and Buck danced mostly with Mimsy, Jimmy was her unofficial escort and he clearly loved every minute. By the end of the evening Jimmy and Mimsy were inseparable. Rachel smiled as the young couple drifted by her lost in their own world.

Mimsy even caught the bouquet and, contrary to Cody's belief that Jimmy might shoot it out of her hands, Jimmy smiled and kissed her forehead.

Teaspoon nudged Buck gently and said "I think you're right, he's fallin' hard." Buck smiled wistfully.

~*~*~

The next few days brought both happiness and sadness to the riders as they again had to lay one of their own to rest. Noah was killed in a gunfight between abolitionists and the law, unfortunately Frank James, Jesse's brother, was right in the middle of all the action acting as the gang leader. Jesse met with his brother and decided to join the gang; he rode off to join them after Noah's funeral which he attended from a distance.

They received word that the Pony Express would be limiting their runs and would be ending in a few months. All the riders, except Cody, seemed unsure of what the future would hold.

Lou and Kid had made an offer on a small farm a few miles outside of town and it was accepted. They had spent the first couple of days of their marriage at the hotel and were happy that their future was looking brighter. The place needed a lot of work but Jimmy and Buck both volunteered to help get the place in order. Rachel and Mimsy both volunteered to make curtains, quilts and pillows; domestic arts were not Lou's forte. Lou and Kid moved into the other spare room over at the house so that Rachel could help Lou learn to cook meals that wouldn't kill the Kid. Even Lou admitted some of the things that were her first attempts were unidentifiable and just plain awful!

Cody left to go join the Army as a scout and left behind some bad feelings between him and the others. He and Buck almost came to blows over Cody's new gloves. Buck hated the war and refused to take either side.

Jimmy had been receiving pressure from his sister and her husband to join them in Kansas and decided to visit them before he made any decisions about his future. His sister was about to have her first baby. Teaspoon had spoken with Jimmy on several occasions about staying in Rock Creek with limited results; Mimsy overheard Teaspoon offering Jimmy a job, whispered something to Jimmy and he immediately accepted Teaspoon's offer as deputy. Teaspoon raised an eyebrow and wondered silently what the young woman had said.

Mimsy accepted Rachel's offer to stay as a part time housekeeper and cook and full time advisor to Lou who was feeling a bit overwhelmed at suddenly becoming a housewife. Lou and Mimsy became close friends almost instantly, Lou was glad to have another woman around and Mimsy was grateful to have a safe place to live. The friendship between Mimsy and Jimmy continued to grow. Buck felt a bit left behind, Teaspoon had offered him a job as a deputy, part time, and Kid had done the same. His days were full but his life seemed incomplete.

One night about a month after the wedding Jimmy, Mimsy, Lou and Kid were sitting out on the porch just watching the moon rise and listening to the night creatures, Mimsy began to cry silently. Kid happened to notice the wetness on her cheek and nudged Jimmy, silently telling him to check on her. "Mimsy, you're crying, what's wrong?" Jimmy moved down one stair so she was sitting between his legs, leaning her back against his right leg. His strong arms enveloped her and rocked her as she cried quietly into his chest. "Shhh, you're safe here." Without thinking he kissed her head. Kid and Lou exchanged glances, Mimsy had told Lou she really liked Jimmy; Lou had told her he could be a hard man to love.

"Today was my sixteenth birthday, I was just thinking of all of the plans my family and I had for today. I'm sorry it's just that, well, today was something that was supposed to be special for me and now everything is changed." Mimsy spoke softly and tried to extricate herself from Jimmy's arms.

"I wish you'd told me or someone that today was your birthday, I'm sure we would have tried to do something nice for you." Lou patted the younger girl's arm.

"Are you still having nightmares?" Jimmy asked when Mimsy didn't answer Lou.

"Yes, but the dreams aren't coming every night anymore…..I did tell someone…I told Buck but I made him promise not to tell. When I woke up this morning there were wild flowers in a glass on my dresser. I thought that was sweet." Mimsy wiped the tears away on her sleeve.

"O…K….Hey, I don't have to ride tomorrow and Buck won't be back for another day, how about you and I go for a picnic? I know a great spot, nice and secluded." Jimmy asked with a smile.

"That sounds like a great idea Jimmy; we can make a day of it! You men can swim or fish while we set up the food and after we eat we can just relax!" Lou said with a smirk.

"Um, I wasn't…." Jimmy started to say but Mimsy cut him off.

"I'd really like that, thanks Jimmy, Lou….Do you all like fried chicken?" Mimsy smiled at Jimmy who looked slightly irked. He was seething inside.

The friends continued to talk and make plans for the next day until the moon was high in the sky. "I think its time we all turn in, I'm fallin' asleep…" Lou yawned. "I'll turn down your bed, Mimsy hurry on up." Lou and Kid left the young couple on the porch to say good night.

"I'm really looking forward to tomorrow, Jimmy. Its time I started to get on with my life and start living for the future instead of the past." Mimsy nestled down into his warm embrace.

"Hmmm, do you think that that future might have a place in it for me?" Jimmy spoke into her hair; he held his breath waiting for an answer.

"I can't imagine it without you" Mimsy whispered. Jimmy hooked his finger under her chin and lifted her face to his. He gazed into her eyes a second, trying to read her feelings, he leaned forward and cupped her head with his hand, drawing her lips against his, gently at first, then passion took over. They kissed until they had to breathe and broke the kiss both wanting more. They looked into each others eyes and Jimmy leaned down to her again. This time he parted her lips with his tongue and kissed her deeply and passionately.

They kissed for several more minutes until a horse nickered loudly from the corral. Jimmy reluctantly broke away. "I guess Lou going with us tomorrow is probably a good thing, Huh?" Jimmy wanted so much more but he knew she wasn't ready.

"I, um, think so…." Mimsy touched her kiss swollen lips with her finger tips.

"Happy Birthday, Mimsy." Jimmy kissed her one last time before opening the door to the house for her. Mimsy knew she wouldn't have any nightmares tonight.

Chapter Six

Buck came home to find an angry Jimmy waiting for him. "Why didn't you tell me it was her birthday? You knew! You snuck into her room and left her flowers….what else did you do there?" Jimmy caught him in the barn.

"Hold it. Calm down Jimmy…..I didn't go in her room. I gave the flowers to Rachel and asked her to leave them for her. I didn't tell anyone about her birthday because she asked me not to. I know you like her Jimmy; I'm not your competition. She told me I remind her of her brother, BROTHER, Jimmy NOT boyfriend, that's for you to figure out." Buck angrily turned back to cooling down his horse and now his own temper as well. He could hear Jimmy skulking behind him, and was wondering if Jimmy was going to hit him. Finally Jimmy left the barn, punching the door as he left.

Jimmy walked out of the barn and almost directly into Mimsy and Rachel, they'd heard the shouting and came to investigate. "Everything alright in there Jimmy?" Rachel asked cautiously.

"Yeah just a misunderstanding…. That's all…" Jimmy looked at Mimsy and knew she'd heard a good part of the argument.

"I have chores to do right now Jimmy but I think you and I need to talk later, with Buck…" Mimsy patted the side of Jimmy's face, hard. He groaned.

Supper that evening was quiet since neither Buck nor Jimmy spoke much and avoided each other as much as possible. Mimsy was mad at both of them for arguing over her so she was quiet too. Lou and Kid exchanged glances with Teaspoon and Rachel but Rachel only shrugged and Teaspoon had no clue about the argument between the two riders.

As soon as the dishes had been washed and put away, Mimsy called both Jimmy and Buck over to the house. "I'm going for a walk and you are coming with me, both of you, no excuses."

The two men looked at each other and shrugged. "That's fine with me, just let me get my coat." Buck said not knowing that Mimsy had over heard the argument earlier between him and Jimmy. Jimmy just looked worried and retrieved his coat without a word.

They had been walking about a half hour before anyone spoke. Mimsy was between the two men. "I didn't like what I heard today….you two are supposed to be friends and if I'm causing problems then I think I should leave." Her voice cracked as she spoke the last words. Both men stopped and looked at her in stunned silence; they would not have been more shocked if she had hit them.

"Mimsy…" Jimmy stammered.

"Melissa, I don't know what you heard today but I thought you were happy here…this is your home, our home…." Buck looked stricken and his voice cracked as he spoke.

"Thank-you, Buck. Jimmy, you got mad at Buck because I accidentally told him about my birthday and then asked him not to tell anyone." Mimsy looked into Jimmy's face.

"But why did you tell him and not me? Don't you trust me?" Jimmy reached for her hands but she pulled back.

"Buck found me crying in the barn, I'd gone out to check on the new kittens and it just hit me. Buck held me and let me cry a bit then he asked what was wrong….Jimmy don't look at Buck like that…that's the problem you're jealous of Buck and there is no reason for it." Mimsy started to cry out of frustration, neither man had any idea what to do. Buck wished he were anywhere but where he was right at this moment.

"Mimsy, I'm sorry, it's just that, well, after the other night and the picnic I thought we were kinda seein' each other, if ya know what I mean." Jimmy touched her shoulder and she didn't pull away.

"I like both of you but in different ways. Lou told me you'd be hard to love Jimmy and I'm beginin' to see what she meant. Buck is so easy, so open, I know what to expect from him. He's the big brother I always wanted but never had. I feel safe and, I don't know…. cared for, I guess, when Buck's with me. Jimmy, you're right, there are feelings between us and in some ways it scares me. Lou was right, I'm not totally ready for the same things you are Jimmy. Jimmy you got mad at Buck and thought he was hiding something from you and I don't even want to know what you thought he might have done in my bedroom. I didn't like what I heard in the barn today and if I'm going to cause problems between the two of you then, as I said before, I think I should leave. Teaspoon thinks he may have found one of my Aunts, I'll write…" Mimsy paused when she heard both men gasp.

"Mimsy, I never meant to cause problems by giving you those flowers, I just wanted to brighten your birthday a bit. I'm…" Buck had more to say but Mimsy cut him off.

"They were a lovely surprise and very much appreciated. You've done nothing wrong Buck. Jimmy jumped to a few conclusions that he had no right to. I was taught never to allow jealously, lies or anger to cloud my judgment and I sort of expect it from others. Buck, I know you're nothing if not honest and open and I love you for it. You've been my friend when I really needed someone to lean on and you've let me know how you feel about me. I kinda think you enjoy bein' a big brother!" Mimsy smiled as Buck winked at her and smiled a little lopsided grin.

Jimmy swallowed hard as she turned to him…. "As for you…how dare you think that Buck was anything other than a gentleman, don't you at least know him better? I guess you think I'm no better than a common whore if you think I'd just.….." Mimsy started to cry again and Buck put his arms protectively around her and stroked her hair in an effort to calm her. "I'm going to miss you when I leave." She mumbled tearfully into his chest.

"Shhhhh, Mimsy, it's alright, really, Jimmy didn't mean it that way." Buck looked at Jimmy who just stood there. His face was very pale in the moon light and his mouth was slightly open as if he'd just swallowed something rotten. "Please don't leave, we all want you here. You're part of our family now." Buck kissed the top of her head and held her tighter. "Jimmy is Jimmy, we've butted heads before and we'll do it again over something or other. Don't worry, both of us know that no matter what we'll always look out for each other even if we're not talking at the time. That's what family does. Lou has never been happier and I know the Kid's stomach is happier since you've started showing Lou how to cook. If you leave he'll starve to death or at the very least, die a very long slow painful death from Lou's attempts at cookin'." Buck tried to at least get a hint of a smile from her but he settled for a sniff instead of a sob. "I won't force you to stay, none of us will, but I need my little sister. I've lost too many of my family and I don't think I could take losing anyone else I love. It just hurts too damn much."

This time Mimsy drew back from Buck and looked into his eyes. She had heard the sincerity in his voice but the unshed tears made his eyes glisten in the moon light. "You love me? I'm your little sister?"

"You said it yourself, I'm the big brother you never had, big brothers love their little sisters." Buck hugged her tightly than released her. "Now I happen to know that someone here has feelings that go deeper than brotherly love. Why don't the two of you have a good long talk? But first promise me you'll stay….please….?"

"Um, I'll stay……I promise…." Mimsy said in a small voice.

"Good! Jimmy, can I speak with you, over here?" Buck asked as he moved away from Mimsy. Jimmy followed Buck a few paces down the path they had just walked. "I'm warning you Jimmy, You've got a second chance here and if you don't take advantage of it I will." Buck spoke in a low but menacing voice. "Don't hurt her anymore."

"I thought you loved her like a brother, Buck? That don't sound like the words of a big brother…" Jimmy shot back.

"I love her Jimmy, she loves you and I think you love her. I'll hurt you if you hurt her. This big brother is watching you." Buck turned and walked back toward the station leaving the couple alone. Jimmy stared after him a moment not quite believing what he'd just heard. Buck had feelings for her too but was letting him have a chance first.

Jimmy turned to the woman he knew he loved and wanted as a wife. "Mimsy, I'm sorry, Buck's right, I can be more stubborn than a three legged mule stuck in mud. I want you to stay too, I need you, probably I love you, no wait I know I love you and I'll give you all the time and support you need to make you comfortable." Jimmy held open his arms and after several heart stopping moments she finally walked toward him but didn't go into them.

"Jimmy, I'm going to need some time. I think I love you too but I'm not ready to forgive you for thinking what you did about Buck and me. I promised Buck I wouldn't leave and I won't but I need to be allowed to have friends and a life that doesn't revolve around you. Promise me that you will work on being open and honest with me and not being jealous of Buck when there is nothing to be jealous of." Mimsy finally closed the distance between them and felt his arms encircle her.

"I may need to get kicked back into line on occasion but if you're willing to sharpen your boot, I'm willing to try." Jimmy kissed her head. "Buck's gonna help me there too. Do I get a second chance?"

Mimsy looked up into his face. "Do you deserve one? No. Will you get one?….Yes, but I still didn't hear any promise from you."

Jimmy put both hands on either side of her face and looked directly into her eyes. "I promise I will do anything it takes to make you my wife, no matter how long it takes. I love you." His eyes glistened with tears as Mimsy stared into his face and then kissed his cheek. He pulled her against him again and they stayed just holding each other for what seemed like eternity.

"I'm starting to get a little chilled maybe we should start home." Mimsy finally spoke. Jimmy immediately pulled off his jacket and draped it around her shoulders as they turned toward the station.

Buck shivered in the darkness as he watched them leave. He smiled even as a tear trickled down his cheek. Jimmy had made his intentions known.


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