Note: This story is written in the reflective format.  Each character tells his or her own piece of the story picking up where the most important point to them is.  At times, they are all talking about the same moment as they saw it.

Chapter 1:

Buck: I was the first one up that morning.  It was only two weeks until Christmas and bitter cold.  You could hear the wind long before you felt it.  It sounded like someone learning how to whistle, mostly air with just a hint of song on it.  Once it touched you though, all the air got sucked out of your lungs and you felt cold right to your bones.  I had to hurry out to the barn to hide Ike’s present before he came out to help with the horses.  As soon as I entered the barn I felt it… something was off but I couldn’t put my finger on it until I got to the empty stall where we keep the hay and feed.  There was a horse in the stall.  I walked closer trying to figure out whose horse it was when I saw this little brown pile laying right beneath the horse.  It wasn’t until it breathed that I realized it was a boy.  Ike came in just then and I sent him back out to get everyone else.  I slid my arm in through the slats to wake the boy and the horse went wild and tried to bite me.  As I stepped back, I realized that whoever this boy was he must be something special for his horse to protect him so.

Marty: I woke up in a small bed and was confused.  The last thing I remembered was lying down in the hay next to Flower.  I heard something clatter out of my line of sight and said they only thing I could think of “Lou”.  I must have passed back out because the next thing I know there are long shadows of a setting sun peeking through the window.  I tried to sit up but I felt a hand on my shoulder and when I looked over an Indian, who was sitting next to me,  was urging me back down against the pillows and said “Rachel, he’s awake” 

Buck: I don’t know why but I sat inside, by the boy, most of the day.  I guess I felt responsible for him since I found him.  Rachel patched him up but she said the boy was mostly tired and would be real hungry when he finally woke up.  He woke once and said something but, I couldn’t make it out.  A few hours later, he woke up again and the first thing he said was “Lou”.  So, when Rachel came over to tend to him I ran out to get Lou.  She was out in the corral with Kid looking at some new horses Teaspoon had just got. 

Lou: When Buck came and told me this boy was asking for me, I thought he’d lost his mind.  Why would this kid be asking for me or even know my name.  Then I thought that it might be Jeremiah.  I hadn’t gotten a good look at the boy when Jimmy carried him into the bunkhouse since I went to get Rachel.  I ran to the bunkhouse and I knew right away this boy wasn’t Jeremiah. 

Marty: This real nice woman, Rachel I guess, was trying to feed me some stew when all of a sudden the room was filled with boys.  I looked around trying to find her but I couldn’t.  “Lou?”  I asked, my throat so scratchy I thought it would split from the effort.  Finally, one of the boys said, “What do you want with him?”  The effort to keep talking was too much and Rachel saw that, shooed the boys out and gave me the remainder of the stew.  After a while, my throat felt better and Rachel asked me how I knew Lou.  I started to explain but quickly realized that it would get tiresome saying this story more than once and asked if she wouldn’t mind bringing everyone in so I only had to go through it once.

Buck: I couldn’t believe his story.  He’d survived a small pox epidemic, buried his twin brother and parents all before he was 14 and then got run out of town because he hadn’t gotten sick when almost everyone else in his town had died.  He traveled all the way from Maine, by himself, looking for a distant relative “goin’ by the name of Lou”.  It was Cody who asked the question I guess we were all thinking, “So, are you a girl too?”

Marty: When Cody asked if I was a girl, too I didn’t know what to say.  That was the one thing I never expected to hear.  With out realizing I had done it I nodded my head.  You never heard such laughter.

Jimmy: Now that I knew that Marty was a girl, it was real easy to see.  She’s not bad looking either.  Look’s a lot like Lou when she puts her glasses on…though it makes you wonder what it is about the girls in this family that they all dress like boys.

Chapter 2:

Marty: It wasn’t long after that first night that Jimmy started finding ways to spend time around me.  If I went out to the barn suddenly he was there, if I was on a run he’d turn up part way back, if I was alone in the bunk house he’d come in to talk.  It was nice.  No boy had ever paid that kind of attention to me before.  It was like he didn’t care that I acted like a boy.  One night when I was in the barn checking on Flower, Jimmy came in and kissed me.  Next thing I know he’s laying me down in the hay.  Jimmy and I found ourselves alone a few times after that night.  About two months later, I knew something was wrong. 

Buck: Marty came back from her run and was real nervous about something.  Her face is like glass.  You can see everything she feels on it.  Watching her while she talked to Jimmy nearly broke my heart.  It was strange because normally she looks at Jimmy like he has the answer to every question she’s never even asked.  I don’t know what she said to him but before long the two of them were yelling at each other like they were two birds fighting over the same nest.  The only thing I heard clearly was when Jimmy yelled, “What was I thinking?  You’re nothing like her!” 

Teaspoon: I don’t know what is going on around this place anymore.  One minute people are acting all sweet on each other and the next they’re trying to tear each other apart.  Now, I can handle Jimmy’s temper.  I’ve done it before but Marty is a different story.  So, I figured that even though she just got back, sending Marty along with Buck on a run to Fort Laramie would probably give every one enough time to calm down.  Plus Buck is real good at calming wild things down and I don’t recall ever seeing anything as wild as Marty just then.

Marty: I know I shouldn’t have lit into Jimmy the way I did but when he started calling me all of those awful things…I just got so angry.  When Teaspoon told me that I needed to ride along with Buck I didn’t argue.  Getting away would feel good and Buck wouldn’t push me to talk unless I wanted to.  He’s real good about respecting people’s silence when they need it.

Buck: I let Marty take the lead.  She rode her horse hard.  When we finally stopped on the trail for the night she was so quiet, she wouldn’t talk about anything unless it was necessary.  I knew she was hurt about what had happened with Jimmy but she was not going to talk about it that much was clear.  I wanted to make her better so badly it hurt.  But, she didn’t have a clue about how I felt.  How often I wished she’d look at me, just once and really see me.  Next morning she was just as silent as she had been the night before and riding just as hard.

Marty: I must have been in quite a state for us to get to Fort Laramie so quick.  Since we got the dispatches to the Colonel so fast, he offered to put us up for the night, at a hotel in town, since there were no bunks available at the Fort.  I tried to turn him down but Buck accepted.  Said it would be nice to have a decent meal and a clean bed.  Problem was that he was only getting us one room. 

Buck:  I knew Marty didn’t want to take that hotel room but the offer was too good to pass up.  We were going to have to stay over any way and why spend another night on the ground if we didn’t have to.  Plus I hoped maybe Marty would relax enough to open up to me about what was bothering her after a decent meal.  As soon as we got to the hotel, I realized why Marty had been so uncomfortable.

Marty: When we got into the room Buck sucked in his breath, I don’t think he realized we’d only be getting the one bed.  Lots of small hotels back east make the customers bunk together and I’d seen the hotel when we rode in.  He quickly took a blanket and pillow from the bed and laid them on the floor.  He never said a word.  Just got himself cleaned up and asked if I was ready to get some dinner.

Buck: After we got back from dinner I sat down on my makeshift bed and waited until Marty was settled then I turned down the lantern and must have fallen asleep instantly.  It couldn’t be more than an hour later that I heard her, she was laying there crying.  She was trying to be quiet but I couldn’t just let her lay there and cry.

Marty: I didn’t even know he was awake until I felt his hand on my shoulder.  He held me while I cried and when I settled down asked me what must have been on the tip of his tongue for two days.  “What happened?”  I couldn’t look at him. 

Chapter 3:

Buck: She just stared at the floor shaking her head, and looking like she would start crying again any second.  “What happened, Marty?”  I asked, “What happened between you and Jimmy?”

Marty: I didn’t know what to do.  I felt like if I didn’t tell I would burst but what I needed to say would make me look stupid at best, and cause problems back home at worst.  “You won’t tell anybody?”  I whispered, “Promise me, Buck.  Promise me you won’t tell no one.”  My voice seemed to get louder and more panicked with every word I uttered.  He put his hand on arm and ran it up and down like you would on a horse when it’s skitterish and somehow it had the same calming effect on me.  Before I could think the words started flowing out of me like water once the spigot has been primed.  I told him everything from the first time Jimmy took my hand right through to the fight we’d had two days ago.  The whole time Buck never said a word just sat there on the bed next to me with his hand on my arm.  When I was done, talking Buck said, “So, marry me.”

Buck: I didn’t mean to say it.  Not really.  At least not then.  But, when she looked up at me, I could see the smallest glimmer of hope.  I just took her hands, looked into her eyes and spoke from my heart, “Marry me, Marty.”  I could tell she was trying to come up with an argument.  I started talking so fast I don’t even know what I said but I know what I felt.   

Marty: He said I was special, that he’d known it for a long time.  How I was a good person.  He talked about how he’d watched me learning sign language by watching Ike and about the first time, I tried to talk to him.  How he’d watched me make a real start at being a family with Lou.  He’d watched me with Jimmy and understood.  He’s been studying me all this time.  He even knew that when I’m thinking I chew my lower lip.  What got me though was when he said, “I’m not Jimmy.  I’m nothing like him….”

Buck: I saw the change come over her when I told her, “I’m not Jimmy.  I’m nothing like him.  But, I’ll treat you and the baby right.  I’ll take care of you and we’ll make a good family, the three of us.”  After that, all of her arguments become kind of half-hearted.

Marty: I kept telling him it wouldn’t be fair to him.  It wouldn’t be right.  We didn’t know each other well enough.  But every time he would just ask me again to marry him.  Finally, out of sheer annoyance I agreed to marry him.  Well, maybe not just annoyance, he painted an awfully nice picture of how it could be.  Buck is a good man with a good heart.  He doesn’t talk much but when he does, he means what he says.  I trust him to keep his word.

Chapter 4:

Buck: “All right, I’ll marry you Buck.”  When she finally said those words, I felt like a great weight had been taken off of my heart.  It had been fun to watch her as she realized I’d been watching her and learning about her for nearly two months.  But I wasn’t ready for what she said next, “I’ll marry you Buck, but only if you can find a preacher willing to marry two boys.”  I didn’t know what to do when she said that.

Marty: I’d dumbfounded him when I admitted to not having a dress and the preacher would have to marry Buck and Marty, two boys, not Buck and Martha-Jean.  Eventually Buck reached over and got the blanket from the floor where it fell when he had sat down on the bed.  He told me to lay back and when I did, he covered me up.  He didn’t go back to the floor though.  He just sat there at the foot of the bed watching me.  I should have felt self-conscious but somehow knowing that Buck was watching over me made me feel safe enough to sleep deeper than I had in days.

Buck: Marty didn’t fall asleep until near dawn.  Once she was asleep, I wrote her a quick note and left.  I needed to take care of some things before I could marry her.  I looked for a good place to leave the note and finally decided to put it on her saddle pack.

     

Marty: I woke up in the morning and knew I was getting a late start to the day.  Then I remembered why.  I looked around the room and I didn’t see Buck.  I started wondering if maybe he came to his senses and rode off so I stuck my head out of the window and sure enough, his horse was gone.  I felt a little ripple go through me.  It’s for the best or at least that’s what I tried to tell myself.  I started to get ready; I was just about to leave when the knock at the door came.

Chapter 5:

Buck: I knocked at the door before going in.  I’ve never seen Marty so shocked as when I walked into the room.  Then when I gave her the package I was carrying and she didn’t open it I got worried that something was wrong.  I took the package back and opened it up.  When I handed the contents back to Marty, she sat down so fast I thought she was sick.

Marty: He had come back.  Buck was standing there handing me a dress.  I couldn’t speak.  I could barely breathe.  It was the most beautiful dress I’d ever seen.  It was the lightest shade of purple with veins of pink and blue running through.  He asked, “Why are you surprised?”

Buck: She didn’t see my note.  She thought I’d left her.  The fear I saw leaving her face as we stood there, I knew then that I’d have to be real careful with her.  Treating Marty like a wild horse wouldn’t be smart; it’d be necessary.  I can’t tell her how I really feel about her until I know she feels the same, no matter how long it takes.

Marty: I made Buck leave and I put on the dress.  I can’t remember the last time I felt so pretty or so lucky.  A friend like Buck is a rare thing.  As I came downstairs, I thought Buck’s jaw would drop clear through the floor.  There was a look in his eyes when he first saw me but he quickly blinked back his mask of calm reserve.  As we walked across town towards the church, I felt amazingly calm. 

Buck:  We never touched the whole time we were walking from the hotel to the church.  Even when we got into the church and stood before the Preacher, she kept her hands tight behind her back.  I was afraid I’d spook her if I took her hand when the Preacher asked for the ring and then she looked up at me; she looked me right in the eyes and real slowly unclenched her hands and placed them in mine.  Even as I put the ring on her finger, her focus never wavered.  It felt like our eyes were the only thing keeping us both standing.

Marty: When I looked in Buck’s eyes, I felt connected to him.  I knew that somehow what we were doing was the right thing.  When he took my hand and put the ring on my finger, I tried to look down but I couldn’t seem to move my eyes away from Buck’s.  He held my gaze so firmly that I didn’t even hear the Preacher tell Buck to kiss me.  I wasn’t until I felt his lips touch mine that I even remembered this part of the ceremony.  His lips grazed mine and my eyes closed instinctively.  As I went to pull back, I leaned further in instead as if I had lost control over my own body.  Buck’s kiss hypnotized me; it pulled me deeper into him.  When his mouth opened over mine and I felt mine responding automatically I knew we had to stop, we were still in church.

Buck: That kiss.  I’ve never felt anything like it.  It was as if we became one through that kiss.  I don’t think we could have separated then even if we wanted to.  Our bodies moved towards each other, our kiss deepened without either of us meaning for it to happen.  Marty breathed in suddenly and it brought me back.  I remembered then that kissing like this in a church was not a good idea.  My eyes never left Marty as I thanked the Preacher and we began out of the church.

Chapter 6:

Buck: We rode home slowly.  Talking all the way.  Sometimes about important stuff and sometimes about anything that came into our minds.  All in all the trip home was uneventful until we got near Sweetwater.  Marty’s riding became real erratic after that sometimes she’d speed up like she couldn’t wait to get home and other times she’d be moving so slow the horse would stop.  We’ve already decided how we’re going to tell everyone.  I’d hoped talking that through would make her less nervous. 

Marty: For some reason I’m scared to go home.  Lou is going to be so upset with me.  I can’t even imagine how bad of a scene Jimmy is going to make.  The closer we get to home the more real it becomes.  I ran off and got married…I eloped.  Buck thinks I don’t know what he’s doing, but I do.  He treats me like a horse that hasn’t been broken yet.  He touches my hand or my arm all the time.  He’s trying to get me comfortable with him.  He hasn’t tried to kiss me again though.  I don’t think he’d try it unless I asked him to.  Sometimes though I can see he wants to kiss me.  When he has hold of my hand his eyes get even darker than normal, like small pools of hot, liquid, chocolate.  His breathing becomes shallower and he sends little shivers running up and down my back.

Buck: She watches me all the time now.  Every time she stops, she looks like she wants to ask me something but she just sits there staring at me like I already know the question and she’s just waiting for me to answer.  I knew something was different this last time.  We could see the bunkhouse from where we were and she stopped and got off her horse.  She walked over to me and put her hand on my leg.  It was the first time she ever touched me.  As soon as I looked down at her, I knew this time would be different.  I slid off my horse and took her hands.  As soon as our eyes met, they locked.

Marty:  I felt his breathing change when I reached my hand up to him and placed it on his leg just above the hilt of his knife.  Our eyes met and he got off his horse.  He held onto my hands and waited.  I wetted my lips and then without ever taking my eyes away I asked him to kiss me.  He had the funniest look on his face when I asked him like he was afraid.

Buck: “Buck can I ask you something” she said, her eyes never moving from mine.  “Sure” My heart leapt into my throat, I’d do anything for her but, I was afraid she was about to ask me not to tell anyone we were married.  That she realized that she couldn’t be married to an Indian, a half-breed, that she just couldn’t be married to me.  “Will you kiss me?”  I couldn’t believe that was what Marty wanted.  I’d been holding myself back from kissing her for two days because I didn’t want to scare her and here she was asking me to kiss her.  My wife is an amazing woman.

Marty: He dropped my hands and cupped my face his fingers as light as feathers on my skin. He looked into my eyes and I have never seen his eyes so dark before and in that second before his lips reached mine I felt like I could see all the way into his soul and I’ve never seen such a beautiful thing.  And then his lips brushed mine and it was just like before.  My breath stopped, like I was drowning, and my heart started beating so fast I thought it would leap out of my chest and right into his.  When I felt his tongue on my mouth, I lost all reason, I forgot everything but the feelings running through me at his touch.

Buck: I took her face in my hands and I slowly bent my head meaning only to give her a small kiss but when our lips touched, I felt her spirit reach out to mine.  I couldn’t have slowed that kiss or stopped it, even if I had wanted to.  I slowly opened my mouth over hers and flicked my tongue out and as I felt it enter, the warm cavernous spaces of her mouth my hands left her face and slid along her back.  Pulling her closer to me, if that were even possible.  Then I felt her tongue slowly, cautiously dance across my lips, touch over my teeth and more slowly than I thought possible enter my mouth and run across my tongue.  I felt like a snake picking up her scent, marking her as mine.  It was then I felt it.

Marty: I didn’t realize I was crying until Buck pulled back from me and wiped the tears from my cheeks.  Then he kissed each of my eyes, took my hands in his and stepped back from me.  We stood there staring at each other for the longest time.  A million questions ran through my mind.  What was this thing between us?  Why did this happen?  What are all these feelings that run through me?  Did he feel it too?  Why did time stop whenever he looked at me?  

Buck: “I don’t know.”  She looked at me as if I had lost my mind.  Then I realized I had answered a question that she had never given voice to.  And yet, I knew it was the question she was about to ask me.  “Buck, have you e…” she started “No.” and then I realized I’d done it again.  I’d answered her question before she had finished asking it.  We looked at each other then and started laughing.

Marty: I began to ask him if he had ever felt anything like this before.  But before I could even get half the words out of my mouth, he had answered my question again.  He said it with so much feeling behind it that I knew he was answering the question I had been starting to ask.  I looked up at him then and we both started laughing.  I laughed so hard I fell down, and when Buck leaned over to help me up I pulled him down and there we were rolling around on the ground, laughing ourselves silly, underneath our horses when he showed up.

Chapter 7:

Buck: “Jimmy” I heard Marty say so suddenly it startled me.  I looked up, there he was, standing there glowering, hauling Marty up by her arms, and given the look on her face he wasn’t being as gentle as he could be.  “You all right?” he asked

Marty: “You all right?”  Jimmy asked as he pulled me away from Buck.  “I’m fine.  What are you doing here?”  “  I’ve been riding since you left to get some medicine for your… stomach.”  I looked at Buck trying to figure out what Jimmy was saying when it hit me like a gunshot between the eyes.  I felt my hands move protectively over my stomach as I said in shock “My stomach?”  “I rode all the way to Texas to get these herbs for you,” Jimmy said.  It wasn’t until Buck asked “What kind of herbs?”  that I felt the anger coming from him.

Jimmy: Why was Buck still standing there?  Usually he’s real good about walking away when people want to be alone.  Why does she keep looking at him before saying anything to me?  Something wasn’t right, I just couldn’t figure out what.

Buck:   It looked like Jimmy was holding himself real tight.  If I didn’t know him better I’d’ve thought he was going to hit Marty.  He sure had the look in his eyes when she said, “These herbs, are they to make me lose the baby?  You want me to get rid of my baby don’t you?”  Jimmy’s jaw clenched and he said without looking away from Marty, “Would you excuse us Buck?”  When I looked at Marty, she gave me the tiniest of nods, so I stepped back towards the horses.

Marty: “What?  Did you go and tell everyone one about that?”  Jimmy asked pointing at my stomach.  “No, but as upset as I was when we rode off Buck had to find out why I nearly killed us and our horses.”  I practically yelled at him.  The anger I had felt towards him came rushing back.  I could see Buck out of the corner of my eye holding onto the saddle horn of his horse…he was so tensed I could feel how badly he wanted to hit Jimmy.  Amazingly he managed to hold himself back until Jimmy once again began calling me horrible names and making wild accusations about me and Buck and any other man I’d ever met in my life.  He even tried to warn Jimmy, told him to calm down, not to say what he was saying, and even just shut up for a minute and listen.  And, with each warning, he stepped a little closer to us.  When Jimmy said, “I was right the first time, you are nothin’ more or less than a cheap whore who’ll spend time with anyone who has the…”  He never got to finish that sentence because Buck had had enough and hit him so hard he fell straight to the ground. 

Chapter 8:

Buck: I held myself back as long as I could.  I couldn’t let Jimmy hurt Marty again.  He’d gotten away with calling her all of the worst things imaginable once and I’d seen how his words hurt her.  When he started in on her this time I tried warning him off but he wouldn’t stop.  Each of his words striking Marty harder than any fist ever could.  I couldn’t let it continue…so I hit him.  He wasn’t expecting it, so he found himself on the ground with me standing over him.

Jimmy: It happened so fast.  I’d forgotten Buck was even there until he hit me.  I kicked my leg out and knocked him to the ground as well.  We began fighting and probably would still be at it if it weren’t for Marty and her gun.

Marty: I saw Buck hit Jimmy and then I saw Buck go down and Jimmy pounce on him.  I realized then that I’d had enough.  If Jimmy wanted to take his anger out on me that was one thing but I wasn’t about to let Buck get hurt.  “Buck stop.”  I screamed, “Oh, Buck” I said my own disappointment ringing in my ears.  They didn’t seem interested in stopping anytime soon.  “Damn!”  I said under my breath, then I drew my gun and fired once into the air and as the boys separated, I pointed the barrel straight at Jimmy’s head.  “Get away from him.”  I said my glare never faltering from Jimmy.  I saw his fingers twitching as if he were trying to figure out if he could draw on me in time to save his own skin.

Jimmy: “Don’t do it.” She said, “I’ll kill you the second your hand touches that gun.”  I believed her too.  I’d taught her how to draw quick and fire faster.  Maybe I taught her too well.  She’d even pulled faster than me a few times.  “You’re going   to sit there and shut up and listen to what I have to say and when I’m done saying my peace you can say whatever you want and then we are never going to talk about this again.”  I’d never heard Marty this cold before.

Buck: When Marty pulled her gun on us I wasn’t sure who she was talking to or aiming for until she said to keep your hand away from your gun.  All the warmth and humor that had been in her eyes just moments ago was gone, her eyes looked like cold, hard, steel.  I’ve never felt such a surge of relief as I did just then when it dawned on me that she was pointing at Jimmy because when Marty wants to shoot something she rarely misses.

Chapter 9:

Marty: I lit into Jimmy.  I said all the things to him that I’d been thinking for almost a week.  “I’m not a whore or any of the other things you’ve called me.  What I am is stupid.  I idolized you.  I thought you could do no wrong.  I thought you loved me.  I was stupid, but that’s over now.”  I explained about the hotel and how Buck had comforted me.  How everything that’s happened this week has shown me that I did the right thing by marrying Buck.  I told him about Buck’s promises to me and the baby.

Buck: As she talked to Jimmy, I saw the warmth begin to replace the steel.  She lowered her gun and sat down next to him.  She told him everything that happened.  Her voice never wavering.  Jimmy didn’t seem to care about what she was saying until she referred to him as Uncle Jimmy.

Jimmy: “I’ll make it real simple for you Jimmy.  I’m 15 years old.  I’ve seen and done more than I should have.  I’ve had to grow up real fast.  You know as well as I do that I’ve only been alone with one man.  I never thought you would have hurt me the way you did.  I never imagined you would deny your child the way you have.  Despite it all, I still want you in my life but only as a friend.  I want this child to know his Uncle Jimmy.  I want him to see the same good in you that he’ll see in his father, in Buck, the same good that I have seen in you.  The choice is yours though.  You can be a loving Uncle or nothing at all.  Buck is the father of my baby from this point on and I’ll not allow anyone to say differently.”  She was so cold and unfeeling as she spoke, she never even raised her voice.  She didn’t look away like she usually did when we would talk.  I’d never seen this side of Marty.  It scared me.  I knew that I had no choice.  A man like me can only burn so many bridges behind him.  I knew that keeping Buck and Marty as my friends, willing to help me when I go too far into the shadows or get in over my head, was the best offer I’d ever have.

Buck: I’m still not sure what made him do it.  He sat there for a minute and stared hard at Marty.  Then suddenly he put his hand out towards me and said, “Treat them well.”  I could feel the finality of that shake.  I knew then that Jimmy would go along with us and our little lie. 

Chapter 10:

Buck: We rode home, the three of us in a line; I was in the middle with Marty on my left.  I could see them all, for just a moment frozen, our friends, our family like a photograph that I could keep with me.  Rachel saw us first and gave the call.  Marty sped ahead of us as we approached the turn to the corral, where they were all standing watching Noah on a new horse.  She jumped down and went straight to Lou.  I know she said something but I have no idea what.

Cody: When Rachel made the call I looked up and saw not just Buck and Marty but Jimmy also.  He had ridden off after the fight and hadn’t come back.  Teaspoon wouldn’t let any of us ride after him.  So I was real glad that they had found him.  There was something going on with those three.

Marty:  As soon as I saw Lou standing on the corral fence with Kid’s arm around her shoulder, I felt like I had to try and explain.  I pushed my horse ahead of the boys and got to Lou.  I pulled up in front of her and jumped down and said, “I’m sorry Lou.”  But before I got to explain, further, I felt Buck’s eyes on me and I turned.  His eyes captured mine and I forgot about explaining to Lou as I watched him close in on me a look of possessiveness and determination on his face.   He placed his hand on my shoulder and stood just slightly behind me. 

Lou: Marty rode up and said she was sorry.  Then she turned away.  The way Buck was looking at her, they stood there staring at each other, it was like they were talking about something real important but neither of them ever said a word.  Then he put his hand on her shoulder, which made everything that much stranger.

Ike: When Buck put his hand on Marty, I felt the strangest dueling sensations of jealousy and hope.  Buck does not touch people often and Marty never likes to be touched.  The way she responded to his touch though, I felt like I was watching something private.  I asked them what was going on but it was like they didn’t see me.

Buck: I put my hand on her shoulder and I felt her gather strength from me, just as I was gathering my strength from her.  I felt a million little fires under my hand as I touched her.  It was the most intimate caress I’d ever experienced and I froze.  I was supposed to explain to everyone.  I convinced Marty to let me be the one to say it but, as I stood there looking at all of them I froze.  I couldn’t remember what I was supposed to say or do.  We stood there like a statue for a moment while Marty waited for me and then I felt the vibrations run through her as she said, “Guys”

Marty: I didn’t know what to do.  We just stood there with everyone staring at us.  They could tell something was different.  I waited for Buck to break the news.  For the questions to begin and the problems to start.  Then I realized that Buck couldn’t say it.  So I did, or at least I started but as soon as the first word was out of my mouth Buck came back to himself and said, “I want you to meet my wife, Martha Jean Canary Cross.”  It exploded then.  Everyone was talking and asking questions, Ike was signing faster than I’d ever seen before.

Buck: It took some time to sort it all out but eventually things calmed down.  Teaspoon said we’d need to figure out some new sleeping arrangement.  He felt it wasn’t right for us to be married and be living like we do.  “Being married is hard enough.  Never having any privacy not to mention having to sleep in separate bunks just ain’t a good way to start a marriage.” 

Marty: We have to move out of the bunkhouse, but not right now.  Lou’s not too mad but she still thinks we should have waited so she could have come to our wedding.  We didn’t tell anyone about the baby.  We’re waiting until we have to say something.  Ike was the best though.  A few hours later after everyone had stopped carrying on I was sitting on the porch trying to clear my head, watching the horses.  Ike came out and sat down next to me he said he’d just realized something, I was his sister now.  I really liked hearing that.  It was such a nice thing to say after I been hearing so much about how Buck and I went about this all wrong.

Chapter 11:

Buck: Marty and I get closer every day.  We hold hands as we walk.  We talk for hours.  We’ve kissed a few times and every time it’s the same as the first only more so.  I had to tell Marty to step away from me when we went to see Red Bear.  She watched me when I changed my shirt and when she saw my chest she drew her breath in sharp.  When I asked her what was wrong she said in little more than a breath, “Your skin is so smooth.”  And her fingers moved slightly.  “Do you want to…?”  I asked and she looked down for a moment like she does when she’s nervous and bit her lip like she does when she’s thinking and then real slowly she looked in my eyes and lifted her hands and placed them on my chest.  As she began to slowly, move them over my skin.  It was all I could do not to pull her to the ground and kiss her and touch her.  So I told her to step away.  I hurt her feelings, but I couldn’t let things get away from me.  I think she understood though because she was having the same feelings I was.

Marty: Buck and I spent nearly everyday for three weeks together.  We must have traded off enough shifts that we’ll be riding double or triple shifts for the next year.  We’ve gone for walks, sometimes to town and sometimes away from everything.  We’ve gone riding together off into the country.  We talk all the time and sometimes we just sit together.  Buck even took me to meet his brother, Red Bear.  I learned a lot about Buck that day.  That was the same day we had a real serious conversation about what we will become to each other when the timing is right.  The more time we spend together, the more we want to spend together, the more we need to spend together.  I can’t bear to be away from him any longer than is necessary. 

Lou: I knew what was coming when Teaspoon called us all into the bunkhouse.  In fact we all knew and it was kind of fun to watch Marty’s face as she tried to hide her feelings.  She even agreed with Teaspoon when he said that she and Buck had skipped more than enough shifts.  It was real hard to hide the laughter.  She was going to be real surprised when we got back in about two weeks. 

Buck: “Short straw takes the run.”  Teaspoon finally said.  We’d been planning this for weeks.  Poor Marty, her face fell when she saw that she had the short straw and would be going on the run with Lou.  Teaspoon went on about trading shifts and doing your job.  Marty agreed with him even thanked him for letting us miss so many shifts.  But her eyes were so sad.  I was standing next to her and said I’d help her ready her horse.  She stopped next to the door and real slowly reached over took her gun and belt.  She hasn’t touched her gun since she pulled it in Jimmy.

Marty: I knew that it had to come.  Lou and I were going to ride from Sweetwater to Fort Kearny and then on to St. Joe.  We’d be gone for nearly two weeks.  I couldn’t bare the thought of leaving Buck for that long.  Buck took my hand and said real quiet I’ll help you get your horse.  When we reached the door, I saw it, my gun hanging on the hook.  I couldn’t help but remember the last time I had to draw it.  I would do it again if it meant saving Buck, but I liked how much lighter everything seemed with it left at home.  This time though I knew I had to take it…the package we were to deliver was going to have an assortment of people on our tail trying to stop these dispatches.

Buck: When we got to the barn, I pulled Marty over to the empty stall where I had first seen her three months before.  I told her that I wished I could switch with her but Teaspoon would never let us.  “Switching would do us no good Buck…I’d still be apart from you and I don’t know how I’m gonna stand it.”  I pulled her close to me and ran my hands along her arms.  “Marty” I began “It’s just” she said and stopped.  She looked away for a second she took in a shaky but steadying breath.  “I’ve loved these three weeks with you Buck and,” she licked her lips “I’m going to miss you.”  I couldn’t stand it any longer.  I kissed her and when I pulled back I asked her, “Do you know what you do to me?” and then I kissed her again this time as we began to lose ourselves I lowered her down into the stall.  Our lips never breaking contact.  My hands holding her head and back.  I laid down on top of her without even intending to, I felt my hand graze her neck and begin to slide down her arm and as I touched the side of her breast, I came back to myself.  I leaned up putting all my weight on her hips and said, “Marty not yet.”  “I know,” she said.

Marty:  He laid me down in the hay as we kissed.  He was cradling me close, his hands on my shoulders, as his hands began to move I felt a sigh escape from my mouth and a then he pulled back.  I’d been thinking about those last minutes alone with Buck for two weeks.  We were about a ½ days ride away from home and stopped to water our horses.  It was late enough that we should have made camp for the night but after being away for so long we were both looking forward to getting there no matter how late it would be.  Lou and I had talked about everything possible during the ride.  But the closer we got to Sweetwater the more our talk turned to home and the boys.  “What are you looking forward to the most when we get home?”  I asked.  “A warm bed and a clean meal” she said and then with a little laugh added “and being clean.  What about you?”  I couldn’t stop the smile that spread across my face.  “Do you really miss him that much?”  She asked before I could even say Buck’s name.  I surprised myself with how much I realized I did.  “What do you miss most?” she asked me.  I didn’t even have to think.  The answer came as soon as the question was asked. 

Lou: I asked Marty what she misses the most about Buck and her answer was surprising given how young she still is.  “His eyes.  When he looks at me, his eyes become so dark and warm.  I feel like I could get lost in his eyes, like I could see his soul.  When he looks at me, I feel beautiful.  Sometimes when we look at each other, our eyes get locked and we can’t look away and sometimes it’s like we can talk to each other with out ever saying a word.  His eyes can make me feel things I’ve never felt before.  He moves things in me just by looking at me.”  “  You must really love him.”  I said, she just bit her lip and said we should get going.

Marty: When Lou said that I loved Buck I didn’t know what to do so I said, “Let’s head home.”  Do I love Buck?  Yeah of course I do.  I’ve known it for a while now.  I needed to get away from him to admit it to myself but I love Buck more than I would have ever thought possible.  Why didn’t I say something to Lou then?  Because I need to tell Buck first.  It’s only right.  We rode the rest of the way in silence our thoughts on the men we love.  By the time we got to the bunkhouse the boys were asleep so we put our horses in the barn for the night and went on in to bed.

Buck: I heard the girls come in.  I waited until Marty’s breathing became even and then I got out of bed I snuck around getting things ready and then I want and sat on the side of Marty’s bunk.  I placed my hand on her shoulder and woke her up.  She was so groggy I felt kind of bad about it but I couldn’t wait a second longer.  “Do I gotta put on my boots?” she asked.  “No” I said as I took her by the hand and led her out of bed and towards the far wall of the bunkhouse.

Marty: I was asleep for only a few minutes when I felt the bed shift and Buck put his hand on my shoulder and started shaking me gently.  I was so tired I didn’t think my eyes would open.  “Buck?  You ok?”  I think I said I was so tired I may have only thought it.  “Marty wake up.  Come on, I need you to wake up.  You need to come with me.”  He said quietly his breath warm on my ear.  “Buck what’s wrong?”  I said slowly coming awake and cracking my eyes slightly.  “Nothing’s wrong.  I just need you to come with me.”  I heard something in his voice that I’d never heard before.  Whatever it was, it was enough to get me moving.  He took my hand, we walked to the back wall of the bunkhouse and Buck opened a door that wasn’t there when I left.

Buck: I opened the door we had put in just this morning and led Marty in.  I’d already lit the lantern so I shut the door.  Her jaw dropped as she looked around.  “Do you like our room?”  I asked.  She just stood there for a minute and then she looked at me her eyes were suddenly really awake.  “Buck, I need to ask you something.”  She said so seriously I was afraid to respond “Sure.”  I said, “You have to promise me that you’ll tell me the truth.  Even if you think I don’t want to hear it or I won’t like it.”  She said real fast.  “OK” I said my voice catching slightly.  “No, promise me Buck.  I need you to promise me, the truth all right?”  She said her head shaking, her hands slowly rubbing each other like they were cold.  “Í promise you Marty.  I’ll tell you the truth no matter what.”

Marty:  I needed to tell Buck and I needed to know his feelings before anything else happened.  I made him promise to tell me the truth no matter how he thought I would take it.  The question I needed to ask him was a hard one.  I knew I’d be going about it the wrong way but I’d never had to ask something this important before.  “Do you care for me?”

Buck: She wanted to know my feelings for her.  “Yes, of course I care for you.”  I told her.  “Do you care for me the way a husband cares for a wife?”  She clarified her eyes had hold of mine and she was watching me so closely I could almost see my reflection in the blacks of her eyes.  “Yes Marty, I care you the way a husband care for his wife.”  She took a step closer to me, put her hands on my chest and then took three slow steadying breaths and said “Buck, do you love me?”  “Oh, Marty.  Of course I love you.  I think I probably fell in love with you the first second I saw you.  Asleep in the hay.  I love the way you look at me and the way you always tell me the truth.  I love the way you make me feel.  I love the fact that the first time you looked at me there was no fear in your eyes.  Nearly everyone I know has had fear in their eyes when we met, even if it was only for a second.  And you who had probably the best reason to be afraid of me, as I pushed you back against the bed that first day never looked at me like that.  I love how when you were looking for a reason why we couldn’t be married you never said I was an Indian, a Half-Breed, a Savage.  I love that those things never even enter your mind.  I love that when I am with you I am simply Buck.  I love that you make me feel whole.”

Marty: I stood there looking at Buck as he spoke.  I felt his truth coming through my hands and into my heart.  As he spoke, I slowly sat down on the bed.  Buck moved as though he couldn’t separate himself from my hands and sat with me.  He never stopped speaking but when he said that I make him feel whole I felt my hands cover my face.  This man who has spent his whole life being considered a half and has spent years trying to understand these two warring halves said that I make him feel whole.  I couldn’t stop the tears that filled my eyes.  I began to shake as the tears came over me.

Buck: She was crying.  I should never have told her all of this.  It’s too soon.  She’s not ready.  I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her into my lap.  She felt like a little shaking ball as I held her.  I put my head down onto hers.  I spoke to her scalp.  I apologized to her.  I tried to get her to stop crying.  I was feeling as small as it is possible for a man to feel, for hurting her this way.  I’d promised her I’d never hurt her.

Marty: He pulled me into his lap and put his lips on my hair.  He began to speak, “I’m sorry Marty.  I’m so sorry.  Please don’t cry.  I never should have told you this.  Oh please stop crying.”  As his words reached me, I saw the humor of this situation and began to giggle.  I tried to lift my head but he was holding me so tightly I couldn’t.  So instead, I turned my face to his chest and said, “I love you Buck.”  He loosened his grip just enough that I could lift my head.  “What did you say” I could see the tears forming in his eyes.

Buck: I must have asked her to say it over again five times.  I couldn’t believe what she was saying to me.  She loves me.  My wife loves me.  I began to kiss her.  I kissed her forehead, her eyes, her nose, her cheeks, her chin and finally her lips.  I felt the pull of her come over me.  I let myself slide into it.  I touched her lips with my tongue and recognized the taste of her.  She opened her mouth to me.  She welcomed me into her mouth with no reservation.  Her tongue slid into my mouth and caressed me.  As I lowered her back onto our bed my hands left her back and began to run along her arms. 

Marty: As he laid me down on the bed, I moved my hands to his head and ran my fingers through his silken hair.  He began to touch me.  Suddenly he lifted his head and pulled away from me.  Just as I was about to protest he said, “Tell me again”.  And when I did, he lowered his head to mine with renewed vigor.  His hands began to dance across my skin, burning me wherever they touched. 

Buck:  Later as we lay in our bed, our arms wrapped around each other, I stroked her hair while she slept and then whispered, “I love you.”  She looked at me and I realized she hadn’t been asleep simply still and content.  “So how do you like our room?”  I asked.  She began to laugh and her laughter bubbled up inside of me and I laughed as well.  She rolled into me and I wrapped my arms and legs around her body and held her tight to me, shaking with laughter. 

Marty:  “I love you,” he whispered.  I lifted my head, looked at him, and smiled.  He reached his hand out and caressed the tiny bulge of my stomach where our child grew then lowered his head and placed a single kiss on my stomach as if he were kissing our child good night.  “So how do you like our room?”  He asked me.  I began to laugh, the absurdity of a question like that after all that had happened, and then he began to laugh as well.  He pulled my back against his chest and wrapped his body around me.  We lay entwined like that, wrapped up in a blanket of our love and happiness and fell asleep. 

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