With much thanks and appreciation to Jo for being my Beta and listening to my ramblings as I tried to get this out. I’d also like to thank Maria; I couldn’t have done this without your help and encouragement.

Note: This story is part 2 of Buck’s Wife and is also written in the reflective format.

Prologue:

Lou: How much everything had changed in the last 4 months hit me this morning. I stood by the window and just began to think about all of it. My cousin, Marty, had shown up in Sweetwater looking for me after her family had died and she was left alone at 14. Teaspoon gave her a job with the Pony Express as a rider and soon it felt like she’d always been here and we’d always known each other. Jimmy took an interest in her right away, though Marty swears it was only because we look similar and except for a kiss nothing ever happened between them. Then one day 5 weeks ago Marty and Buck came home from a run and announced that they’d gotten married. It was strange because I don’t think I’d ever seen the two of them even sit down and talk. Now Buck and Marty are sleeping in the room the boys just built onto the bunkhouse. The whole room feels different with 2 empty bunks.

Chapter 1:

Buck: When I woke up that first morning after we had lain in each other’s arms and expressed our love to each other, I had never felt such a feeling of complete happiness. My wife loved me. I tightened my arms around her and gently kissed her in the little cove where her neck and shoulder join. I had found this spot last night. I love how it makes her shiver. I love knowing that my lips against her pulse point makes her shiver. I love being able to make her shiver when she’s lying in my arms. As I kissed her, I felt her stiffen suddenly and then as she came more fully awake relax back into me. Eventually I pulled my lips away from her neck and she turned into me. Her face looked so bright and happy as she smiled at me.

Marty: I felt skin on my skin and lips on my neck. For a moment before I woke up, I was afraid and then the memories came rushing back to me. I was laying in bed with Buck, in the room and the bed that he had made for us and last night I told him I loved him and he had replied in kind. We had spent the night learning about each other and exploring each other in a way that we were unable to before. I turned to look at him and as his hands slowly slid over my turning body, I felt my heart tingle and my skin seemed alive. We laid there for just a moment staring into each others eyes, his body wrapped lovingly around me, trapping me to him and then before anything could happen we began to hear movement.

Buck: I wanted to touch her and kiss her all over but when we heard the boys and Lou begin moving around in the bunkhouse I knew I’d have to wait until tonight to hold her like this again. As we began to get up and get dressed, we couldn’t seem to help ourselves. We kept watching and touching each other, relishing in all the things we were now able to enjoy about each other. Eventually though we managed to get our clothes on and were ready to start the day. We got only as far as the doorway when the comments began, mostly from Cody.

Marty: I’d never seen Buck blush before. The way his copper skin reddened made me wonder how far that new color went. As I began to think of his smooth, beautiful skin and how that skin had touched mine last night and all that had happened I felt myself begin to turn red. That was when Cody asked, “Well Buck, when are we gonna start buildin you and Marty a new bed?” Rachel who was closest walked over to Cody and hit him upside the head with her serving spoon. That was the last comment we heard.

Chapter 2:

Lou: We all heard them last night. It became real clear just how much in love they are. There is something between them that is so real you could almost touch it. I’m worried that Kid and I don’t have that kind of love. So, after breakfast I went over to Rachel’s to ask her opinion and get her advice. Rachel and I were sitting on her porch talking about all of it when Marty showed up. We were really surprised because she’s never needed to talk about girl things with us. She looked like something was bothering her.

Marty: There were things that happened last night that I didn’t understand and it scared me. Things I had never experienced before kept running through my head and when I saw Lou talking to Rachel on the porch I walked over. Rachel and Lou stopped talking when they saw me coming. I’d never spent much time over here but what happened last night was something my mother never talked to me about and that had me worrying that it must be something bad. As I sat down the girls smiled at me and Lou asked, “Did you like your surprise?”

Lou: I wanted to give Marty time to get comfortable talking with us so I asked something we all knew the answer to already. “Yeah”, she answered when I asked about liking the new room. The smile that slid across her face was gone just as fast as she looked down in embarrassment. “Rachel”, she began “can I ask you something?” I offered to leave but Marty shook her head.

Marty: I wanted to ask them but I was embarrassed, I also couldn’t let on that this was the first time that Buck and I shared a bed, so I was going to have to choose my words carefully. Lou offered to leave us when I asked Rachel if we could talk but she and Kid have been together a while and they’ve been “dancing” before and I couldn’t help hoping that something real similar happened to her. “I think something is wrong.” I began. “What is it?” Lou interrupted then quickly apologized.

Rachel: Poor Marty she looked like she would rather crawl into a hole and pull it closed after her before she said what was wrong. Last time I had seen someone this nervous about talking about a problem was when they had been hurt; hurt really bad.

Marty: “When Buck and I are….” I started and then stopped. I felt my face begin to redden with embarrassment at what I was about to talk about. I looked down and saw a small Aspen leaf dancing along the ground. I followed it with my eyes and began again, “When Buck and I are…That is, when we…What I mean to say is…” I had to stop and take a deep breath, “What I’m trying to say is that, Buck and I are connected, but when we’re alone like we were last night,” I said in a flood of words, “I get scared.” A look of protectiveness came over the two women.

Lou: When Marty said that being alone with Buck scares her…I was ready to go hunt him down and beat him to dirt but before I could move Rachel asked, “Marty has Buck ever hurt you?” My fingers were already clutched into fists and if it weren’t for Rachel’s hand on my shoulder, I might not have stayed to hear Marty’s answer.

Marty: Did Buck ever hurt me? I suddenly realized what they thought I was saying and I shook my head quickly and looked at these two brave women who were ready to fight for me and I almost laughed. “No, it’s nothing like that.” I said and then shut my eyes and tried to find the words. “When Buck and I are alone…” I looked back down at the leaf “this feeling comes over me, it’s like there’s a fire burning inside of me, near my stomach, and it burns right through me until it melts my bones. Whenever Buck and I are…”

Lou: She sat there with back against the porch rail and a foot on each step. She looked so small and lost with her head bent down on her knee that way. Suddenly she faltered looking for the words…”dancing?” I offered, remembering how Kid had described it to Jimmy. She turned her face towards us for just a second, it became real clear how embarrassed she was and then she turned her head back to her knee.

Marty: Dancing, yeah that works, so I nodded and continued where I left off. “Sometimes I want it to stop before I explode and other times I want it to keep going and eat me alive and then when it explodes and it always does, for just a second I feel like I’ve died and then I’ve never felt more alive and I feel…It scares me.” As I looked up, I could see Lou’s face as she covered her mouth with her hands trying to hide a smile and Rachel was working really hard at keeping herself looking matter of fact.

Rachel: The more she talked the better I felt and the worse she felt. After a time it became real hard to keep a straight face. I let her talk until she got it all out and then I finally said, “Martha-Jean I know you were young when your Mother passed but did she ever talk to you about being a wife?” “Yeah, but she never told me about anything like this.”

Marty: “She talked about how it can be nice if you marry for love but she never told me that I would feel like this. That I would think about…and want to…that I would want to feel like I’ve died all the time.” I wanted to hide under my bunk…what was I doing talking about this stuff? I must have lost my mind. But, there is still something I need to get off my chest.

Rachel: “Martha-Jean it’s good that Buck can make you feel these things. It’s normal and healthy. My guess is you just feel them stronger than most because of the connection the two of you have.” Lou took a breath and picked up my thoughts. She and Marty had spent more time together and were able to talk to each other on a more even level.

Lou: “When you came over we were talking about this thing between you and Buck. Kid and I don’t have that. Remember telling me about Buck’s eyes, well this thing between you that lets you talk the way you do, the way your eyes get locked. That’s probably the same thing. It’s what lets this fire take you over, everyone feels that, you just feel it more than most.” Rachel picked up then telling her that it’s nothing to be scared of and how lucky they were to find each other.

Marty: “You’re lucky you were able to find each other and are able to enjoy each other that much.” Rachel looked at me as though she didn’t believe I was comforted and asked, “Is there something else bothering you?” There are times when having a glass face is good and times when it’s bad, luckily this is a good time. “No”, I answered way too quickly “Well, it’s just how do you know if you’re going to have a baby?”

Chapter 3:

Rachel: I wasn’t expecting that question. Lou’s mouth opened so wide I thought a swarm of bees would fly in. I took me a few seconds to figure out what to say. We must have looked an interesting site. “I guess you wouldn’t ask if you didn’t have reason to. You and Buck have been married about 6 weeks right.” When Marty nodded, I asked her something only a mother or Doctor should ask, “When were you due?”

Marty: “A week ago” I said but amended silently nearly 2 months ago. “Well it may be nothing, but Ladies I think we should go to town.” Rachel said. Then she called Buck over and asked him to hitch up the buckboard. “Is everything all right Rachel?” He asked and then his eyes turned to me and I began to gently finger the carved bead necklace Red Bear had given me when he first called me little sister. I hoped he knew what I was trying to tell him.

Buck: When Rachel called my name, I was surprised to see Marty sitting on the porch with Rachel and Lou. There was something about the way she was sitting that worried me. “Can you hitch up the buckboard please?” Rachel asked knowing that I would. I asked if everything was all right and she said, “Of course we just need to pick up a few things in town.” As I watched, Marty caught my eye and very slowly dipped her fingers under the neck of her shirt and brought out the necklace that Red Bear had given her. She calmly caressed the beads, I had explained that this necklace showed her to be a part of Red Bear’s family, and then it dawned on me. They were going into town to see the Doctor, today was the day.

Marty: Rachel insisted that I get into my dress. If we were going to town to find out if I was going to have a baby I should look like a girl. No sense given away Lou’s secret as well. When we got to town, Rachel introduced me as Martha-Jean, Buck’s wife, to the doctor and then said she’d be back in a little while. The Doc acted like I would be surprised by what was about to happen but the only one who was shocked by the Doctor’s findings was the Doctor. When Rachel and Lou came back they had several packages from Tompkins store and although I knew they wanted to know what the Doctor had said I never said a word.

Chapter 4:

Lou: It was the longest ride home…Marty just sat there looking straight ahead her fingers twisting her wedding ring while her hands sat in her lap. I didn’t tell Rachel but while we were at the store I picked up a rattle. I would love to be an Aunt…or would it be a cousin? Well no matter, I just really hope they are having a baby.

Marty: When we got back, I went to change out of my dress so I could get started on my chores. Jimmy must have seen me enter the bunkhouse because as soon as I went to shut the door I felt it collide with his arm. I don’t think he was hurt but, it certainly didn’t help his mood any. “We need to talk.” He said “What’s on your mind Jimmy?” I asked real coolly, like I couldn’t have guessed.

Jimmy: I had had enough. When Marty came back from town wearing that dress I just had to go and talk to her. “What’s on your mind Jimmy?” Like she didn’t know. “I’m tired.” I said and she replied that I should just go and take a nap then and began to walk away. I couldn’t let her leave not this time so I grabbed her arm.

Buck: I saw Jimmy follow Marty into the bunkhouse and I got nervous. There haven’t been any more problems and I know Marty can take care of herself but she’s still my wife, so I followed them in. “No!” I heard Jimmy growl just as I opened the door. His hand shot out and grabbed Marty just above the elbow and pulled her so that she turned to face him. “Let her go!” I said emphasizing each letter through my clenched teeth. “Buck it’s all right, Jimmy and I just need to talk; I’ll come find you in a minute.” Her eyes never left Jimmy’s face and as she talked, I could see her words breaking through the haze of hurt and anger around him so I stepped outside and shut the door. I never left the porch, I just sat there playing with my knife and praying I wouldn’t need to use it.

Jimmy: Her eyes never left mine. She wasn’t afraid of me or if she was she wasn’t about to let Buck know. She told Buck to go wait outside while we talked. Once the door was closed she very quietly put her hand on top of mine and said, “Jimmy I’m not going anywhere.” Somehow that made me realize how hard I was holding her and I let go. She never gave me a chance to apologize.

Marty: When Buck walked in I knew this could be trouble and the only thing I could think of was to get him away. I can handle Jimmy but I can’t handle Jimmy and Buck. When Buck went outside and Jimmy let go of my arm, I started talking. I knew Jimmy would apologize for grabbing me and I didn’t want to get into that right now so I cut him off at the pass. “Thanks. Look, Jimmy I get it, I do.” As I talked I walked slowly around the table away from Jimmy, I put my hands on the back of Teaspoon’s chair so that I had something to hold onto. When I stopped for a breath Jimmy said in voice full of pain, “You don’t get it. I hate this. Last night when I heard you two…Marty it ain’t right.” “ I can guess how hard this is for you but Jimmy this was your choice. Me, I’m real grateful that you didn’t love me. Because of you, I found Buck and I’ve never been happier. This baby…” I said my hand unconsciously rolling over my stomach, “will have a wonderful life because of you. I know it’s hard for you but Jimmy this was your choice.”

Jimmy: I know I did the right thing. I’m never going to be able to settle down and have a family. People have been telling me for years that I’m going to have a short life. It’s just last night when I heard them together and I heard her say that she loves him, I got so jealous I had to do something. How does she do this to me? I know she’s mad at me but she doesn’t let it come out. She just talks like everything is normal and somehow it makes me calm down. She’s not afraid of me either, when she first told me about the baby I was so angry, I thought she did it on purpose and I could see the fear in her when I yelled at her and that made me yell more and then the next time we talked she had a gun drawn on me and she was afraid then but ,even more so she was mad but now she’s so calm and happy and somehow that’s making me calm down and I don’t like it; I like being angry with her. It’s easier.

Marty: “Jimmy you’re part of our family and I will always love you for what you’ve given to Buck and I but next time you want to talk to me… don’t grab me.” I said the last part in the same voice I used for everything else but I leaned forward on the table and looked him dead in the eyes when I said it. Then I left the room and got changed.

Chapter 5:

Buck: When Marty came outside she was back in her work clothes. She looked normal…she came over and sat down next to me…I don’t know what I expected but it wasn’t for her to reach over and start trying to tickle me like nothing had happened. I grabbed her hands and pulled her close. I lowered my head to hers and began kissing her. I kissed her rougher than I’d ever kissed her before. I wanted her to feel my frustration.

Marty: I pulled back from his kiss. My lips felt bruised. He’d never kissed me like that before and for a second it reminded me of how Jimmy would kiss me. As I looked in his eyes, I saw how upset he was that I had pushed him out of the bunkhouse. That I had ‘taken on’ Jimmy by myself. “I know” I told him and then leaned forward and gently placed my lips on his, then as I pulled back I felt his arms go around me and pull me to his chest. “I’m sorry.” He said and we went back to work after that.

Buck: She’s so strong. I love her. I never should have hurt her. Not like that, especially after she had told me how things had been between her and Jimmy. She should have hit me, yelled at me, done something but all she did was look at me accept my anger and kiss me sweetly. We didn’t get a chance to be alone again after that. I wanted to hold her to me and really show her how sorry I was. I couldn’t believe how fast the day had gone. When Rachel rang the lunch bell I found myself sitting on the bale of hay that I was supposed to be breaking up for the horses. I was just sitting there and smiling, thinking about how many ways and times I could apologize to Marty for this morning.

Marty: After we had all eaten, Teaspoon began to usher us out “Boys, once you finish up go on out and…” but I interrupted him. “Teaspoon, could I say something?” He looked a little surprised but nodded and sat back down. “I just want to say that I’m real grateful to you all for building us that room,” I nodded my head towards the door behind me “and uh in 7 or 8 months you're gonna be real glad that that room is there too.” I kind of smiled as I said it. Buck reached over and took my hand and we waited.

Buck: It was Ike who got it first. He looked over all excited and signed I’m gonna be an Uncle? Lou and Rachel just kind of sat there smiling the others made little exclamations as they realized what we were telling them but it was Cody that finally broke the silence. “Ike, how do you know it’s gonna be a boy?” “What?” Jimmy asked. Cody answered, “Well he said he’s going to be an uncle…how does he know if it’s a boy, the baby could be a girl.” He sounded so matter of fact about it that I began to choke on the milk I was drinking. “Cody, it don’t work that way.” Teaspoon said and we all laughed.

Chapter 6:

Marty: After Teaspoon told Lou to explain things to Cody he shooed them all outside. Just as Buck and I were about to follow he put his hand on my shoulder and said “Not so fast, you two.” Rachel and Teaspoon sat us down and began to talk. We knew what was coming, I can’t ride if I’m going to have a baby, I was about to be out of a job or at least that’s what we thought. “Marty it ain’t safe for you to be going out on runs anymore. But, since I’m in town so much lately with this Marshalling, I could use an extra hand around here; making up schedules, going to horse auctions, keeping track of supplies and money stuff like that.”

Buck: “You mean I’m not fired.” She said the relief pouring out of her. “Nope, not unless you want to be, that is” Teaspoon answered. I put my hands on her shoulders and I felt her sink back into me with relief. Then she suddenly ran to Teaspoon and hugged him. I don’t know who was more surprised by that Marty or Teaspoon. Then she looked over at Rachel and said, “You had something to do with this didn’t you. How’d you know?” Rachel just smiled and said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about” and then turned and walked out of the door. Teaspoon followed her out and suddenly Marty and I were alone. I looked down at her and felt it beginning to take hold of me. I bent down, scooped her up in my arms and carried her to the door that leads to our room. Somehow, the door opened and then shut behind us I laid her down on the bed and began to kiss her slowly at first and then as her spirit overwhelmed me the kiss turned more and more passionate.

Marty: Our secret was out and I wasn’t even going to lose my job. I opened my mouth to say something to Buck when I noticed the look in his eyes. He was hungry and I realized that I was soon going to be devoured. He advanced on me slowly like he was a hunter and I was his prey, his eyes never left mine as he stepped ever closer and then he stopped and bent down, put an arm behind my back and the other behind my legs and picked me up. He pulled me close to his body, his chest warm against me and hard under my hand. His heart beat pounding. I slid my arms around his neck and he lowered his head to mine, his lips soft against mine. He carried me into our room, laid me down on the bed and then lowered himself down as well.

Buck: My fingers had just reached the third button on her shirt when we heard someone knocking on the door. I cursed silently and pulled myself away from her. “Later” I said and then I stood up and went to the door I opened it just enough to see Ike but not to let him see in. “What is it?” I asked as Marty came up behind me. I let the door open further as I slipped my arm around her back and pulled her closer to me. “Where’s the fire?” Marty asked as Ike began to explain.

Marty: Rachel and I hitched up the buckboard and road into town to sound the alarm and get supplies. The boys wouldn’t let me ride with them now that they knew about the baby. I’m not going to like having a baby if they never let me do nothing anymore but right now stopping this fire is most important. Rachel kept telling me that they’re only acting like this because they care but it’s still infuriating. Later after we had all gotten home and cleaned up, I didn’t feel like yelling at them. I guess I realized Rachel was right and I was so glad to have Buck home in my arms singed but safe.

Chapter 7:

Buck: The next several months went by in a blur of activities. Marty and I spent every minute we could together and when we couldn’t be together she would hide little notes for me to find when I was on a run. One night as we lay in bed kissing I realized just how big our baby had become and so we began to try new ways of holding each other…I can’t even imagine what the boys must have thought we were doing with all the laughter that came out of our room.

Marty: Buck held me close, nearly every night for months, and then one day we couldn’t quite hold onto each other anymore and so we began to try out different things. Some worked better than others, one night when trying something new we fell out of the bed and laughed so hard we couldn’t get back in so we slept on the floor. Then the news came about the Hale Boys, Teaspoon deputized Buck and the others and left Rachel and I alone with Noah who had the next run.

Buck: Teaspoon came home one day and gathered us all on the porch. Marty was so large at this point that she waddled like a duck when she walked and it took her five minutes to get from the bunkhouse to the porch. It would have been funny if I didn’t know how much pain and embarrassment she was in. Teaspoon told us about three brothers called the Hale Boys who were riding around terrorizing families, shooting farm animals, and kidnapping small children. He then deputized us all except Marty and Noah and we got ready to ride. Marty walked with me to the barn and I wrapped my arms around her and held her close. I felt the baby kick as I held her in my arms. Lou walked in on us and mumbled something about getting my horse for me and quickly walked back out. I whispered words to Marty; I’m not even sure what I said to her.

Marty: I walked with Buck to the barn and once we got inside the door, he pulled me close. His arms were wrapped tight around me and I began to tell him I loved him but I couldn’t get the words out because just then the tears started. Lou walked in on us like that and said “Sorry. Buck I’ll take care of your horse.” She left just as fast as she had come in. Buck kissed my tears and told me he loved me. He began to talk of all the things we had to look forward to when he got back and he’d only be gone for a few days so, I shouldn’t worry. I lifted my head and he lowered his and our lips met. We would probably have stayed like that, slowly caressing the others mouth our hands running over each others bodies if Kid hadn’t come in and cleared his throat. We looked up and knew it was time.

Rachel: As Buck and Marty came out of the barn, I walked over to her and put my arm around her shoulders. Being pregnant makes a girl emotional to begin with but when the man you love is riding off to capture criminals and will probably get himself shot in the process and you’re used to riding alongside him at times like these, well I knew Marty was going to have a rough week or two. I had Noah pack up some of Marty’s things and move them up to my house. She was looking ready to pop and even though it’s a bit early, I’d feel better having her close to me. Marty, Noah, and I stood there for a minute as we watched them ride off. She never said a word she just stood there watching after them.

Chapter 8:

Marty: We lived together in the big house for over a week. I hadn’t slept well last night. I ate something that didn’t agree with me and moving around because of the stomach cramps must have made my back cramp up too. When Rachel asked if I wanted to ride into town with her I begged off saying I would stay and finish up the layette for the baby. She left and I soon found myself staring off into space, once again thinking about the baby, the pain came on so suddenly I didn’t scream at first. As it eased, I stood up and just then, I felt something wet pour down my legs and splash on my ankle, the pain came again so hard I sat down on the floor and screamed. I knew something was happening Rachel had told me about having pains when the baby came so I knew I should try to get myself upstairs to the bed. I got to the first landing and dropped again from the pain screams ripped from me as I felt the baby begin to try and come out.

Buck: We got up to the bunkhouse and I heard her screaming. The sound tore through me and I rode straight to it. I don’t even remember getting off of my horse, all I knew at that moment was I had to get to her. I ran in and a second later, the others were behind me. The sight I saw scared me. Marty was on the stairs straining her hands pushing against her stomach and she was screaming like she was being split in two. Lou sprung into action, “Cody find Rachel. Kid, Ike, Buck, Jimmy carry her upstairs to bed before she has this baby on the stairs.” At one point, we had to stop on the stairs as another wave of pains over took her.

Lou: I didn’t know where Rachel was but it was clear that she wasn’t here. When I saw Marty on the step, trying to push that baby out I knew we had to get her upstairs fast. I got the boys to carry her up and once she was on the bed I told Ike to get some bandages and a blanket, Kid to boil some water, and Jimmy to find some cord and scissors. Buck was sitting on the bed by her head holding her hands and talking to her…I almost felt embarrassed to be hearing the words of love and support he was saying to her. Marty began pushing again and when I looked down; I could see the baby's head and one shoulder. Just then Jimmy came running into the room, “I’ve got the cord and…” he never finished saying what he had because as he stood there, frozen in the doorway, the baby came into the world red and screaming.

Buck: My daughter came into the world screaming loud enough to drown out her own mother. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree I guess. There we all stood her Aunt Lou, holding her up, her mother straining to sit up enough to see her, and her two fathers frozen in awe staring at the most beautiful little girl the world had ever seen. Just then Rachel came in her hair was wet; she said that a light rain had started just as they pulled into the yard and heard the baby. She shooed everyone else out and took over cleaning up the baby. When she handed me our daughter for the first time I wasn’t sure if I could hold her without shaking I was so close to tears. I leaned over and gave her to Marty to hold and as she looked at me and our eyes met I fell in love all over again.

Marty: As Buck handed me our daughter I thought my heart would burst with love. I looked into her eyes and said the first thing that came to my mind, “We’ve been waiting for you Isabella.” I didn’t know that we had a name for our baby until it came out of my mouth. I looked over at Buck and he smiled and said “Isabella Gentle Rain Cross, yup I’d say that fits.” He said a huge smile on his face. “It’s a lot of name for someone so small.” I said and Buck suggested calling her Rain. Rain I tried it out but it wasn’t quite right. I tried it again this time I said, “Raina, our little girl Raina.” and as I said it adding that extra sound onto the end I knew, we had found her name. Pretty soon the room was filled and Buck took Raina from my arms and held her out to Lou and said, “I’d like you to meet Isabella Gentle Rain Cross but we’re calling her Raina” Lou reached over and took her niece in her arms and Kid crossed to her and wrapped his arms around them both and said, “She’s nice.” Then whispered something to Lou that had her looking away. Just then, Raina began to cry and Lou handed her back to me and Teaspoon began to usher the boys out.

Buck: After she’d fed Raina for the first time, Marty fell asleep still holding her close. I sat there for a moment and watched them. I’ve never loved two people more in my life. I wanted to go and get the cradle I’d been making for Raina when I saw Jimmy standing in the hall almost like he was keeping watch. I picked Raina up and asked him to do me a favor and watch them for a minute and then I handed him Raina and walked away.

Chapter 9:

Jimmy: Buck handed me the baby and asked me to watch them and then walked away. I didn’t know what to do so I walked over to the window and looked out. I could see them all down there and decided to introduce her. So, I lifted her up so she could see out the window and said, “That’s your family.” And then I looked down at her and I could see my own eyes looking back at me. “So you’re the one who started all this.” I touched her cheek and she turned her face the same way Marty would when I would touch her like that a million years ago. “You’re so beautiful Isabella and I’m real proud to be your Uncle Jimmy. I want you to learn how to love. Something I never did but you watch your Mama and Daddy, they’ll teach you everything you need to know. I want you to learn how to shoot a gun but never have too. I want you to be smart and learn to read and write and do your figures. I want you to have everything you need and most of what you want. I want to give you more than just an Uncle who’ll only show up when he needs something and I’m gonna try but I …are you asleep?” I leaned down and kissed her warm forehead then looked back out the window trying to blink back the tears as I said goodbye to my daughter and hello to my niece.

Marty: I woke up to see Jimmy standing at the window talking to Raina. He was telling her all of the things he wanted for her. I thought my heart would break as I listened to him. When the first tear fell onto her head though I felt my own eyes begin to fill I looked away and saw Buck standing in the doorway holding a cradle and smiling a half-smile as he watched all of us. He pushed a strand of hair behind his ear and when he saw me looking at him, he put his finger to his lips and stepped back into the hall a few steps. Then I heard him begin to walk heavier than normal and I quickly shut my eyes. We wanted to give Jimmy a few seconds to pull himself together before he had to face us. When Buck walked in, I opened my eyes and watched them. Jimmy quietly walked over and laid Raina down in the cradle and then he put his hand on Buck’s shoulder and nodded to him then he started out but he turned just before the door and walked back over to the bed put a kiss on my forehead just as he had on Raina’s and then walked back to the door. This time when he got there he didn’t turn around, he simply said, “Thank you.” and walked away.

Epilogue (1871):

Rachel: It had taken 10 years and a lot of work but we had finally managed it. I convinced all of the “boys” (who were still with us) to come home to Sweetwater for Christmas to surprise Teaspoon. Even better though, they would be bringing their families. It would be crowded but I finally figured out where everyone would stay. Ike and Emily’s 4 children (3 girls and 1 boy), Kid and Lou’s 2 (Jedediah and Millicent “call me Miles”) and Buck and Marty’s 7 (2 sets of twins) will sleep in the bunkhouse and since most of the kids are Buck and Marty’s they’ll sleep in their old room. Kid and Lou will sleep in their old room at the house along with Ike and Emily who’ll stay in the third room. Jimmy and Cody will stay in the tack room. It’d be tight but Teaspoon would love his surprise. Little did I know that the kids did some planning of their own. Jimmy brought Cody, in handcuffs, into the jail and asked Teaspoon if he could board his prisoner for the night, it apparently took Teaspoon a minute to recognize his new prisoner. When the three of them rode up for lunch Kid and Lou and Ike and Emily and the six kids were already at the table waiting. I was amazed at how quite these kids could be while we waited for the boys to come in. I thought Teaspoon would pull his suspenders straight off he was so proud. Over lunch he commented that the only thing that could make this better would be if Buck and Marty and their lot could have come. No sooner had he said that then we heard the unmistakable sound of a wagon pulling up to the house. We all ran out and the kids began pouring out of the wagon and soon there were children everywhere. While all of this was happening, Buck was helping a very pregnant Marty down out of the seat. Everyone began talking at once but it was Cody who shocked us all by just standing there and staring silently at the 13 kids running in the yard. Marty looked at him and then turned to her kids and told them to go exploring with their cousins while the adults caught up. Once the kids were gone we all sat down on the porch and Marty turned to Cody and said, “You may never get a chance like this again. Go ahead and ask.” Poor Cody stuttered and stammered for a second and finally said, “Who is Raina’s father?” The story began simply, at the beginning, with Buck finding Marty in the barn and as it went on we all began to add to it. We never heard them come back and we never saw them watching us as we told each other the truth that we all had a part in hiding. Suddenly Raina walks up, with a maturity beyond her ten years and sticks her hand out towards Jimmy as if to shake it and says, “I’m glad to meet you. My mother and father have taught me about love. They have made sure that I can read and write and do my figures but they’ve yet to teach me how to shoot. Will you teach me?” “I would be honored too.” And then after a pause, “If your Mom and Dad say it’s ok.” We were all amazed at how we could have not seen it sooner. As they stood there, her little hand in his larger one, we could all see his eyes coming out of her face.

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