Topic #48: Fate
It Happened One Day by: Cindy
Mirage by: Amara
It Had To Be Me by: Debbie
Fate Or Foolery by: Okeshala
Fate's Coincidence by: Dede
The Family That Fate Built by: Jo
It Happened One Day
by: Cindy

Buck sat on his bunk, his back cushioned by a thin pillow against the wall. He had a book in his hands, but he hadn’t actually read a page for a little while now.

His concentration had been broken by a booming peal of thunder, and then he’d stopped to listen to the rain hitting against the roof and the windows.

Now he found his attention drawn to his best friend. Ike was at the table, his profile turned to Buck. The mute rider was busy with his drawing pencils, his hand working furiously as he tried to capture a scene. Buck didn’t want to interrupt the artist at work, so he didn’t get up to see what the picture was – even as much as he wondered.

Instead, he leaned his head back against the wall and closed his eyes, remembering. Remembering a time of loneliness and self doubt.

A time before Ike.

Events had just seemed to happen back then, and he hadn’t given it much thought. But now, with an older, and hopefully somewhat wiser, perspective, he had to wonder. What was it that had caused him to leave the Kiowa at that particular time? The resentment of the others in the tribe had been there all his life; it hadn’t been anything new. And even when he had decided to leave, what was it that had taken him in that one certain direction? Oh, he’d told himself he was going to find Little Bird – but the heavy rain as they had returned from the hunting trip had washed out any tracks long before the hunters had discovered the grisly scene in their village.

Even the tribe’s best trackers hadn’t found a sign of the attackers.

So what had drawn him southeast, so far from the only home he’d ever known? He’d certainly passed many towns – and schools – before coming across that lonely mission.

With his eyes closed, and the memories flowing, he could almost see the mission, just as he had first seen it that day. The adobe walls stood out against the background of the prairie. The bell tower, topped with a cross, gleamed white under the setting sun, and the reddish evening light made the bell seem to glow.

He remembered going to the gate, his knees shaking with a level of fear he’d never known. But he was also afraid to go on, to pass this place by, and so he knocked.

Whatever he had expected, it hadn’t been the fear and distrust he’d been met with. Before he knew it his long hair was gone, his medicine pouch was locked away, leaving him with no protection against the bad spirits of that place. And he was bullied, as badly as he had been in the Kiowa village – maybe even more so.

But just when he’d thought things were as bad as they could get, as he was being beaten by the gang of men in town, salvation had come in the form of another outcast at the mission – a bald boy with no voice who was suddenly in the fray, flailing wildly away at the men.

Oh, even with the two of them, they’d definitely come out on the poor end of that fight. But as they’d recovered together, and he’d given Ike a voice, the cuts and bruises didn’t matter.

He had a friend – a brother – and everything would be all right.

Yes, something had guided him to that mission, at that time – and he was glad.

They’d been together ever since that day. No matter what the challenge they faced, there was nothing that could beat them as long as they were together.

And now that Ike had found Emily, Buck was only happy for his brother. He didn’t see Emily as a threat at all. Anything that was good for Ike was something that was good for Buck as well.

Nothing – and no one -- could take away the bond that he and Ike shared. Nothing would tear them apart.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Ike glanced over at the bunk where Buck sat, smiling as he noticed his friend’s eyes closed. That made it easier to finish what he was working on. It had been hard to just watch Buck out of the corner of his eye – but he didn’t want Buck to know that he was working on a portrait of his friend.

He paused for a moment, pencil held off the paper, just looking at Buck. It brought back memories of how they had met.

And he wondered how it had come to pass that Buck had arrived just at the right time back then.

The sisters at the mission seemed to have a hard time understanding that he was mute, not deaf – and not stupid. Because he couldn’t speak, they nearly talked baby talk to him, and they insisted he sit in classes with the much younger children.

And since they never really considered him to be all “there,” it hadn’t been hard for him to find out that they were talking about sending him away from the mission. They talked about it right in front of him, as if he wasn’t even there.

He wasn’t fully sure at the time what an asylum was, but from the way they said it, he knew it wasn’t a good thing.

It was the arrival of the Indian boy that had taken the attention away from him – so that was good. And the other children apparently decided that new blood was more fun to taunt, so their attention also shifted to the Indian.

Part of Ike was glad that the attention was off of him – but part of him felt bad for the Indian. The other boy usually looked as alone and confused as Ike felt much of the time.

He never really knew what had made him jump into the fight in town that day. He definitely remembered thinking that it wasn’t smart – there were too many men, all of them much bigger than the two boys. But there was something – maybe a feeling of being a kindred spirit, a fellow outcast – that had made him dive in.

Ike smiled as he remembered the joy of discovering language – a voice hidden in his fingers. At first his bruised fingers made it hard to sign, but he kept at it. And soon he could at least voice things to Buck – and Buck’s ever-improving command of English let the other boy translate Ike’s thoughts to others.

When he could finally convince the sisters that he wasn’t the simpleton they had thought, he was moved into classes where he could actually learn. With Buck’s help he could even ask questions.

The two outcasts became as one, and nothing could hurt them as long as they were together.

Yes, whatever had brought Buck to the mission at that time, it was one of the luckiest things that had ever happened to Ike.

Ike looked down again at his drawing, adding a few final touches. The others would be in soon to get ready for the big dance that night, and he wanted to draw a picture of all them. And then he had plans for this night – plans he’d kept secret from all of the others, even Buck.

He’d told everyone that he wasn’t going to the dance, but he’d be there. And he’d have Emily on his arm. He was sure he could convince her to go. It even sounded like the rain was letting up, so that wouldn’t be an excuse.

He was so glad that Emily seemed to like Buck, because he was definitely falling in love with her. Of course, how could he possibly fall in love with someone who didn’t like Buck?

Nothing could break their bond of friendship.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Ike put his pencil down and looked from his finished drawing to the subject just as Buck’s eyelids opened.

Their eyes met, and each man smiled. Neither knew that the other had just been thinking about the same period of time – the time when they first met. But each was reassured by the thought that nothing in the world could tear them apart.

Mirage
by: Amara

In the fog of night, in the realm of sleep, a lone figure sat at a table. The edges of the dream blended into obscurity, shrouded in the depth of darkness that can cover a wounded man’s soul. The figure sat hunched over the table working, obsessively, on some task that had his arm jerking in rapid successions of movement that sent a grating scraping of charcoal against course paper. The action was so forced that the sound was amplified by the frenzy with which the man worked.

Lou felt her heart hammering in her chest as she walked on weighted legs towards the man knowing that she should recognize him, but finding it difficult in the darkness. The closer she drew the more she felt dread creeping into her veins as realization and recognition began to softly collide. “Ike?”

There was a pause and the head of the man craned slightly back showing that he had heard the call. Then all at once the arm began to move again and the sound sent shivers racing down Lou’s spine. “Ike, what are you working on?”

Lou stopped a few feet back feeling terror grip her heart as she remembered that Ike died years ago...why hadn’t she remembered that? Lou began to move around the edge of the table to try and see what Ike was working on, but Ike quickly covered the paper with a bony skinless hand that held tightly to the piece of charcoal. Lou froze seeing that only the hand with which he worked was skeletal. The rest of Ike looked the way she remembered him. “Ike?”

“I’m not finished.” Ike said in a voice that should have never belonged to him. “It’s not for you until it’s finished.”

Lou didn’t know what to say. She stood there dumbfounded by the whole thing as she realized that none of this should be happening. Ike shouldn’t be in her head, in some nightmare, Ike shouldn’t be talking, none of this seemed right.

Lou wished she could wake up.

Finally Ike turned to face her, placing the crumbling charcoal onto the table as he pushed the page forward.

“Hurry.” Ike said, pushing the chair back from the table. Ike rose to his feet and without another word he walked away from the table and into the darkness. Lou rushed around the table trying to catch him and broke into a full run to find him even when her surroundings blurred into nothing. She stopped when she came upon the empty table again with only the charcoal and paper atop it and Ike no where in site.

Lou walked slowly to the table and looked down at the paper there. The thick black charcoal looked as if it had been done in such a hurry that it took Lou a log time to focus on the blending lines and figures to actually take in the whole of the picture.

It was a tree...Maple by the look of it... with smoke rising over the top and a full moon to the far right. Lou Jumped when She felt the bony hand on her shoulder and She was turned to face Ike. She hadn’t heard him approach.

“Hurry.” Ike said one...last...time.

~*~*~*~*~

Lou jumped awake and nearly fell off the bed. She caught herself on the bedside table and sent the contents spilling to the floor. It took her several minutes to pull herself together...to let the dream slip away into nothing more then a lingering unease.

She found herself making her way down her darkened hallway in the silent house her breathing coming faster as a chill crept through her and wound it’s way round til it seeped into her bones. She was down the stairs and to the door pulling her robe round her tight when she paused her hand on the handle as a soft breeze picked up and ran through her hair causing her head to shrink back at the sheer frigidness. She let out a puff of a breath, barely visible in the moonlight that came in through the large front window.

Lou felt her heart quicken as she realized that she hadn’t left the curtains open before she had gone to bed and slowly pulled her hand from the handle feeling drawn to the open window that was beginning to fog over with condensation.

It was mid August not near cold enough for the windows to fog up. Lou stared at the panes of glass and felt her stomach tighten into a knot as an icy glaze seemed to run from one corner to the next dancing across the glass like it had a mind of it’s own. She felt her hand move of what seemed to be a will of it’s own to touch the glass. Her fingers trembled inching closer as the cold reached for her. She hesitated half an inch from touching and jumped when the glass gave a creak and slowly began to crack.

Lou felt her breath coming hard, her heart hammering, her legs tremble. She was having a hard time staying on her feet as she watched the crack spread slowly out from the center, spiraling outward. She kept waiting for the glass to break, to shatter to the floor, but it didn’t. The creak and grate of the sound was beginning to make her sick at her stomach until all at once the grating stopped. The cracking ceased. And there was a bellow of hot air that dissipated the fog from the window leaving a picture in it’s place.

“Black Maple.” Lou whispered, seeing the same tree from her dream and the tendrils of smoke over the top. Where the moon had been in Ike’s drawing the actual full moon resided hung low in the night sky positioned perfectly through the window from her vantage point just as it had been in the picture.

Lou jumped as she saw a figure outside appear out of nowhere mere inches from the glass on the other side. It was Kid, but his face was distorted by the cracked glass. “Lou.” He said weakly in a pleading tone. Lou reached towards the glass again just as the door slammed open.

“LOU!”

~*~*~*~*~

Lou jumped awake and nearly fell off the bed. She caught herself on the bedside table and sent the contents spilling to the floor. Lou caught her breath and lay back down on her back staring up at the ceiling resting a hand over her thundering heart. She slowly closed her eyes and let her breathing become steady and even. What in the world was going on tonight. She had half a mind to go on down stairs and get her a strong cup of coffee so she could wait on Kid and Buck to get back from Benton in an alert awakened state that didn’t involve dreaming in any form or fashion.

She opened her eyes and took in the dimly lit ceiling as well as a few measured deep breaths to further steady her nerves. She put her hand on the corner of the blanket ready to pull the covers back in an attempted to go on downstairs and carry out her well intentioned plan when she noticed a dark spot begin to spread across the ceiling. It was being burned into the wood over head and the smoke was drifting downward towards her.

Lou watched unable to move, paralyzed by fear, as she tried to tell herself that this wasn’t happening, that it was just another dream. Still she was spell bound to the images that shifted in the shadows and moonlight against the wood grain above. The smoke billowed out creating a clear view of the ceiling where this spiritual art work was forming. Finally she focused in on the finished forms and saw the distinct landscape of trees and clouds and in the very center a tornado.

She didn’t understand this. What was happening to her? The smoke filled back in over the picture and began to coalesce into a shape. The shape took a more sculpted tone gaining more and more substance until Kid’s face and upper body could be made out. Lou gasped as his mouth opened in a silent scream and watched in horror as the smoke was wrenched backwards into the twister burned into the ceiling.

His hand shot out and she reached for it instinctively. Her hand passed straight through though and before she could gather herself together to even scream a hand grabbed her shoulder from the right side of the bed. She jumped turning instinctively to face Ike again. “Hurry Lou!” Ike screamed at her yanking her out of the bed.

~*~*~*~*~

Lou hit the floor coming awake instantly at the painful contact. She lay there on her stomach panting in terror. She didn’t wait to calm down as she pushed herself up to her feet and yanked the robe from the bed post, hurriedly getting it on. She yanked the bedroom open, made her way into the hallway, and then broke into a run down the stairs. She Knew Buck and Kid should have been back by now, but there had been a storm and they were probably hunkered down somewhere about a mile or two from her and Kid’s ranch. Lou jumped off the last step and ran across the room to the front door. She flung the door open and walked out into the night still completely out of breath. She kept waiting for the twist, for the hook, for something horrible to happen, and to wake again.

Suddenly she thought she saw it as she ground to a halt on the front porch. Lou stood there starring at Katy. The soaking wet horse stood right at the bottom of the steps still saddled and missing only her rider. “Kid.” Lou breathed as she hurriedly mounted Katy paying no heed to the fact that she was still in her gown and robe as she turned Katy in the direction that Kid and Buck should have been coming in from.

Lou had to do little prompting to get Katy moving as quickly as possible towards the West. Lou kept expecting something to jump out of the shadows, to startle her awake, or into the grasp of another dream. Nothing did though.

Half an hour later and good piece away Lou’s breath caught in her throat as she spotted a giant black maple tree in the distance. The moon hung low but there was no smoke. She pulled Katy to a stop near a trench and dismounted. “Kid?! Buck?!” Lou screamed as she scrambled into the trench and then up the other side.

“Lou?!” Buck’s voice was a welcome sound and Lou whirled to see him trying to pull himself out of the trench, but obviously injured and having a hard time of it.”What are you doing out here?” Buck called finally collapsing on the ground next tot he trench.

“Looking for you two.” Lou panted wiping the rain from her face as a loud crack made the both of them jump. Lou whirled on the tree seeing the fleeting flash of the lightning as tendrils of smoke began to waft upwards behind the tree.

“Where’s Kid?” Lou whispered unable to take her eyes off the site.

“I don’t know...we both took cover in the trench when we saw the twister. I turned around for just a second and he was gone.” Buck struggled to his feet watching the panic cross Lou’s face as she broke into a run for the tree. “Lou!” Buck called out behind her, but Lou wasn’t listening.

“Hurry.” Ike’s unnatural voice had said. Then there was that image of Kid being pulled into the tornado. Lou ran faster jumping over rocks and trying not to slip as she ran full out towards the growing blaze around the tree.

“Kid!” Lou screamed. She neared the tree and finally saw him laying unmoving directly in the path of the flames but still reachable. She was to him in no time. It didn’t take long for her to pull him to safety but when they were finally clear she collapsed on the ground next to him just as Buck finally managed to get to them.

Lou looked over Kid breathlessly and saw that he was breathing steady and didn’t seem too badly injured save a pretty bad knock to the head. He was even beginning to come around.

Buck sank to his knees next to them in shock. “How did you know?” He whispered looking to the tree in horror. He wouldn’t have even guessed that Kid had been there. All he knew was that one minute Kid had been right beside him in the trench and the next thing he knew he was gone.

Lou pulled Kid the rest of the way to her and looked up at Buck still trying to catch her breath. “I think fate had a hand in it tonight.” She whispered, thinking on Ike in her dream. “Or fate had some help.”

Buck just looked at her quizzically as Kid’s eyes flittered open. “Lou?”

“It’s alright, Kid...every things fine.” She whispered. She forced a soft smile fighting back tears as she found her eyes drawn back to the tree, the smoke, and growing blaze. For a brief second she thought that she saw someone walking into the smoke with a wave of his hand over his head, but then just as quickly the figure disappeared like a mirage.

It Had To Be Me
by: Debbie

Episode reference: Bad Blood

One by one the riders got up from their various positions on the bunkhouse porch and began to file into the building, ready to settle in for the night – all that is except Kid. All evening he had sat on one of the benches with his back leaning against the wall, legs stretched out in front of him and arms crossed over his chest. Now that everyone was standing, Kid sat up as if to rise to his feet as well but didn’t get any further than the edge of the seat. He watched as each rider went through the door and out of his line of vision.

Lou had been sitting on the edge of the porch, opposite Kid. She’d tried to participate in the conversation going on around her but her eyes and thoughts kept returning to the man who had done so much for her just the day before. He’d saved her life then offered, along with the others, not to give her secret away. Sure he’d made that promise to her once before and kept it but this time when he said it there had been a slight blush on his cheeks which made Lou positive there was a different reason than last time that he wanted her to stick around.

She stepped through the open door then paused and came back out. “You coming?” she asked the non-moving figure on the bench.

Kid looked her in the eyes and grinned. “I’ll be there in a few minutes, Lou.”

Lou raised her eyebrows. She saw the grin but also noticed that it didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Alright but if you’re not in by the time everyone’s undressed, I’m coming back out to get you.” She went to head inside again and stopped once more. She looked back at him. “It wasn’t your fault, Kid. You did what needed doin’. He brought it on himself and he got what was comin’ to him. I don’t hold you responsible for anything except savin’ my life … and for that I say, thank you.” Lou grinned at him. “Remember – a few minutes.” She turned and went inside, deliberately leaving the door open for him.

Kid watched her walk through the door then sighed and resumed his earlier position. He had been so relieved when they’d gotten back to the Way Station and all the other riders had agreed to keep quiet about the news they’d just found out that Lou was really Louise. He didn’t know what he’d do if they had thought it their duty to tell and Teaspoon had been forced to fire Lou. But for now, her job was safe and Kid was happy – about that at least.

As the evening had worn on, his mind kept drifting back to what had transpired at Eagle’s Canyon. All he had wanted to do was rescue Lou and her brother and sister and bring them all to safety. But he should have known it couldn’t have been left to just that, not when there was a father involved. Knowing that someone else had been mistreated by their own father, whether it was similar to his childhood situation or not, had been hard enough to swallow but when he saw Lou’s father holding a gun on her, threatening to kill her, Kid had done what was natural. He had made the man pay for his threats and for the pain he had caused.

It couldn’t have been Jimmy or Cody to shoot Boggs; no, it had to be him. And why not? After all, he was the closest to Lou so the others thought it made perfect sense that he would be the one to kill the man. He was the one that they all now knew liked Lou more than as a friend. He was the one who wasn’t held with a gun at his back, like Jimmy had been, so he had been the perfect candidate to retrieve the gun lying on the floor and fire.

Kid could go on and on with explanation after explanation as to why it had to be done. He had saved Lou’s life and kept Boggs from taking her brother away from her and that’s all that mattered, right? Maybe to everyone else it mattered but Kid knew the real reason he had shot Boggs. He was the one with the most experience dealing with a man of that nature – a man that only thought of himself and didn’t care who he hurt in the process of getting what he wanted. It was only a matter of time before it happened again and the only question on Kid’s mind now was whose father would be the next one he got rid of.

Got rid of – Kid chuckled as he thought of his own father. If they only knew. A shadow appeared across the porch and Kid quickly looked to see who it belonged to. He grinned when he saw Lou standing in the doorway in her over-sized shirt and her long johns sticking out from underneath.

“It’s been more than a few minutes,” she told him. “Come on. The last few days have been long for all of us.” She nodded her head toward the inside of the bunkhouse.

Kid smiled as he got up. “I’m coming, Lou.” He slowly made his way inside, his mind thinking back to a night in Virginia that no one in the world knew about, a night that was so similar to the afternoon in that cabin in Eagle’s Canyon. The only difference was that instead of a gun being the weapon to end a father’s life, it had been a poker from the fireplace. It was a good thing the rest of the riders didn’t have any fathers alive that needed killing because he would have gotten to them eventually too. It was bound to happen; there was no escaping it.

He followed Lou through the door and closed it behind him. Kid looked around the bunkhouse at the people he considered brothers and that made him think of his own brother. If Jed ever found out about their father returning that night so long ago, just after their mother had died, and picking up where he had left off, Kid wasn’t sure if Jed would be happy or angry to learn what Kid had done. He’d taken justice into his own hands and like Lou said, did what needed doing. So it had to be the Kid to kill Lou’s father; there was no one else suitable for the job but him, no one else that could live with the guilt, the memories. All he had to do was store the memory away with the one from Virginia and go on with his life. It was that easy – at least until another father came into town demanding to be punished for their mistakes. It was, after all, becoming expected of him and Kid wasn’t about to let himself down.

Fate Or Foolery
by: Okeshala

The sound of a horse's hooves pounding across the dry and dusty earth drew the attention of the waiting rider. Jimmy could see dirt rise up from the ground as Buck rode steadily towards him. Reaching out, he grabbed the machilla while hearing the common greeting "Ride Safe, Jimmy!" Hickok threw the pouch over the saddle horn and kicked his Palomino into a gallop.

Buck pulled back on the reigns and watched Jimmy take off westward across the open range. He was dead tired and swore he'd eaten a least a pound of red clay this ride. The whole region had been suffering from a drought for over a month now and many of the crops as well as some of the livestock were dying as a result. They really needed the Rain God to bless them. Looking up at the clear blue sky, the young Indian knew that prayer would not be answered today.

Buck jumped down from Warrior's saddle and threw back his black hat. Taking the navy blue bandana from around his neck, he wiped the grit and grime from his eyes and face. He was so thirsty. He could drink at least a bucket of water. Actually after getting some water and caring for Warrior, he intended to go down to the pond and cool off. His hair was sticking to his neck and he couldn't wait to feel the refreshing water on his sun-baked skin. He tied his horse's reigns to the hitching post and walked over to the water pump. Buck took the tin cup from the nail on the wood post by the tap and after a few strokes the cool water surged into the cup. He gulped the first two cups down without pause. The third cup he took his time sipping. Buck looked around the yard and still saw none of the other riders, Teaspoon or Emma.

The young Indian hung the cup back on the nail, pumped a few times on the handle and then put his head beneath the gushing water feeling the chilly water run over his head and down his face. After a few moments, he stood back up and threw his black hair over his shoulders. Wiping the water from his eyes, Buck walked over to Warrior, untied his bedroll and slung his saddlebag over his shoulder. He strode with determination toward the bunkhouse door and walked into an empty room. Well almost empty, except for Cody, who was lying in his bunk sleeping. Buck crossed to his bunk and laid his things on top of the bed. He reached into his gearbox under his bed for some soap, a towel and clean cloths.

"I'm glad yer back Buck" Cody mumbled as he turned toward the new arrival.

"Cody. Restin up huh? " Buck mumbled back as he turned to move once more toward the door.

"Nah, ain't feelin so good. Stomach's hurtin something fierce." He moaned while grabbing his gut.

He didn't doubt his friend's words but he'd probably found himself in this predicament from eating too much of Emma's good cooking.

Turning to head back out the door, Buck heard Cody mumble "Buck, could ya do me a favor? Emma needs some supplies in town and I was supposed ta go but my stomach hurts too much I can barely move too far from the ….. ah ..the privy. Could do it for me? Please."

The Kiowa shook his head "Where 's everyone else?" He asked frustration edging into his voice.

"We had a couple of special military deliveries come in. Kid and Ike took them out yesterday. Emma has Lou taking her to visit a sick friend near Laramie and Jimmy just left on his run. I don't know where Teaspoon got to. Maybe the sweat lodge."

'Dang my luck' Buck thought as he laid the soap and towel back on the bed. He quickly began to change out of his filthy cloths for the ride into town.

"Just don't forget you owe me for this Cody cause I was really lookin forward to that swim." He muttered as he finished fastening his belt.

"The supply list is on the table. It's only some small items, which you can pick up without using the wagon. Can't tell ya what caused this Buck. Maybe fate just dealt me a bad hand " Cody said as he ran quickly out the door toward the outhouse.

"More like food gone bad." Buck sighed picking up the list and his saddlebag once more then slipped out the door.

Buck untied Warrior and led him into the barn where the young Indian unsaddled and brushed the horse down Afterward he gave him some grain and water. "You behave yourself and rest up while I'm gone?" he ordered the horse and then worked quickly to saddle Tempest for his ride into town. Once the Roan was saddled and ready Buck set off toward Sweetwater.

Cody came out of the outhouse just as the Indian rode out of the yard, with a smile on his face. "Well I got out of that chore. Now I can enjoy a good long swim in the pond" He chuckled. The blond could have sworn that the water was just calling to him. With a smirk, he stepped happily towards the barn to saddle his horse for the swimming trip. Teaspoon came around the corner of the barn to see Cody saddling up a horse. "Getting ready ta go get them things Emma asked fer are ya?"

"Nah, Buck seemed all fired up ta go inta town so I let him do it." With a smile, Cody mounted his horse and rode toward the pond.

"Hmm wonder what…er who is in town that Buck is wantin ta see so badly?" with a shrug the older man walked into the barn to check on the horses.

~*~*~

"Joost a few minutes alone tis all I ask sweet Bridgette" Dorrie muttered in silent prayer as she snuck along the boards her eyes keeping vigil for the sight of her eldest brother. Rory Mor Macalister was very dedicated to protecting his little sister. To be honest, there were reasons for his protectiveness but today, just today, Dorrie wanted a bit of freedom. How bad could it be anyway? It was broad daylight and she was only going to the mercantile to replenish some of her healing herbs. Her mother and she normally grew their own but the drought had killed their sage and she needed some for the women soon to give birth.

The young Scottish woman smiled as she rushed quickly into the store. Gliding across the room and seeing the goal of her quest, she reached for the container that held the sage and found herself touching another person's hand. Doreen lifted her head to gaze into the most beautiful chocolate brown eyes that she'd ever seen. At his touch she felt frustration and fatigue, so she instinctively pulled her hand quickly back as her cheeks turned a light pink.

Buck had collected all the items on Emma's list and figured he might as well pick up a few things he needed while he was in the store. He needed some more soap and some sage. Just as he reached for the small bundle of sage he felt skin beneath his touch. Looking down he stared into green eyes the color of spring leaves bursting forth from the bud. The young woman before him was beautiful. Her auburn hair was pinned as was the fashion but little ringlets seemed to escape the pins; curling about her face and down her back. He felt her hand pull back "Surry" she whispered blushing.

Buck smiled "It's alright, I just needed one bunch " he said handing her the other bunch of sage leaves.

"Oh, aye for purification. " she told him and then covered her mouth as her eyes widened. She probably shouldn't have said that. It is very sacred and she'd only heard about it from her mother who helped many of the Indians scattered throughout the area birth their children. A healer never turned anyone away no matter what color or race. "Umm forgive may. Tis used fer pain as wheel " she smiled looked down at the ground shyly and then walked to the register with her herbs.

Tompkins was watching the two of them with a sour look on his face. "What ya doin talkin to likes of him? Bad enough I have to sell to him cause he rides for the Express, but I don't talk ta the breed."

"Now that's yer problem now tisn't it? I haven't a problem atal talkin ta him." she said her eyes sparkling in anger. With a quick glance toward the young Indian, she walked back out onto the boards her purchases in her hand. Dorrie glanced at the door her mind wandering back to the handsome Indian she'd just met. Something drew her to him. She'd been around plenty of young men who were friends of her brothers. Some who even wanted to court her. The other young men were nice enough but she never really connected to them. They were just like brothers to her and she treated them as such, much to their disappointment.

Buck watched the young women as she went to purchase the sage and a few other herbs he knew were used for healing. Tompkins seemed to glare at him from across the room as he spoke to her. He heard her soft-spoken voice turn sharp at something the storeowner said and then glance over at him before walking out of the room. Buck wished he could have spoken to her a little bit longer but he rarely spoke to women except for Emma and Lou. He felt like a new foal struggling to find his feet around women. There was something different about her that made him want to risk humiliation. Shaking his head at the missed opportunity, he collected his items and walked to the dreaded counter where Tompkins was already glaring at him to check out.

Dorrie walked toward the Livery where her brother would most probably be finishing up his work for the day. He was a Blacksmith and had a gift for working with horses. With a dreamy smile on her face, she enjoyed her stroll through the town. The sounds of wagons creaking and horses making their way down the center road were mixed with children's laughter as they played tag the tree. She'd loved that game as a girl and had been fairly good at it as well. A little girl's crying broke through her reminiscing and drew her attention to the scene just a few yards down the boards. There on the wood walkway near the saloon was a small girl of about six. The healer picked up her pace to discover the cause of the little one's tears.

Looking down, she saw that the young girl had a scrapped knee. 'The lass must have fallen on the rough wood boards during the game.' She thought pulling her bag from her shoulder and kneeling down next to the child.

"I see ya got a wee bito a scrap from running on the boards. If ya like I can make it feel a tad better. What say ya lass, do ya want may ta fix ya up?" The healer smiled at the little towhead girl with tears still flowing steadily down her cheeks. Dorrie pulled out bandages, ointment and tweezers. She could see she would need to pullout the splinters that were sticking out from the child's skin before it became infected.

The Scotswoman worked quickly and efficiently to take care of the wound. After she was done cleaning and wrapping the scrape, the little girl's tears turned to periodic sniffles and a slight smile pulled at the edge of her mouth.

"Wheel now that was a fair hard job for a lass ta be so brave about. Let may see…" she paused while rummaging in her bag and finally pulled out a small peppermint candy, which she handed to the child. "You've earned this fer being sooch a good lass. Now take care fer a while not to play so rough til it heals, alright?" she ordered.

The little girl nodded her head as Dorrie helped her to rise to her feet. "Now off with ya." The healer chuckled.

Buck came out of the store and began to tie the items to his horse's saddle when he saw not far down the street, the young woman from the store helping a little girl who was crying. He couldn't help himself. Buck's eyes just seemed to lock onto the young woman and he stood watching her care for the little girl. The young Indian shook his head and continued to put some of the items into his saddlebag.

While she was cleaning up after the treatment of the small one. Dorrie felt someone grab her hair from behind and draw her upward to her feet. She yelled out as the pain brought tears to her eyes.

"What ya think yer doin to my lil sister witch?" a gruff voice muttered as he pulled her backward. She heard others chuckle as he turned her around to face him.

"I was tryin ta help the poor girl. She'd been injured playin and…." The healer gasped out in pain as the young man tugged again on her hair.

"Shut up witch! We'll show ya what happens ta witches in our town ya hear?" and he began to drag her toward the saloon doors.

“No let may go!" she screamed out struggling for freedom.

Buck heard someone cry out in pain and saw young Billy Corgan tugging the woman by her auburn hair toward the bat wings of the saloon. He took off running and just reached the boy as he'd pushed the doors open.

"Let her go Billy!" Buck ordered his hand grabbing the other boy's arms.

"Well, well, well, why am I not surprised that the breed would come to save a witch?" the tall blond boy spat out. "This doesn't concern you injun so just turn around and walk away"

Buck didn't waste time on words. He could see the tears of pain running down the woman's face and pulled his knife from his boot and placed it at the boy's throat. "Let her go now!" he ordered looking the boy in the eye. Billy felt a prick on his neck and a small drop of blood ran down his neck. The Indian watched as fear came into the brazen boy's face. Billy swallowed and then released his hold on Dorrie's hair. She quickly backed away, picked up her healing bag and moved to stand beside the young Indian. She felt his hand on her arm and together they walked cautiously toward his horse.

She was shaking in reaction by the time they reached Tempest's side. "I'm ss orry" she chattered out fear still in her eyes. Buck helped her to sit on the step in front of the store. "Are you alright?" he asked softly. He saw now that the hair that had been bound now fell to her hips in waves of reddish curls.

"I think so. All I did was wrap up his sister's wound and he was goin ta… thank you. I guess fate led ya into may path." she whispered out.

Buck sat down next to her on the step. 'Fate' he thought. It was the second time the word had been spoken to him today. "What is this fate you talk about?" he questioned while dragging a stick in the dirt in front of him.

"Hmmm, wheel it tis like sayin that we are led to do things like… me sneekin away from may brother ta go and fetch the sage which caused the two of us ta meet. I shouldn't have left the livery without Rory but I tempted fate. I let it lead me to the mercantile. I don't know what led you here but I was certainly lucky to have you close by to help me when…. that boy grabbed may." Buck tiled his head and looked at her.

"Guess if this fate has brought us together, we should at least know each other's name. Buck Cross " he said giving her a small smile.

"Yer right of course" she giggled looking over and returning his smile. "May name tis Doreen Macalister, boot may friends call may Dorrie." She said putting a curl behind her ear.

"It's a pleasure to meet you Ms. Macalister" the young man said dropping the stick and holding his hand out to her.

Dorrie took his hand into hers and felt his surprise and attraction. Blushing she replied "Why Mr. Cross tis a playsure ta meet ya as wheel."

Buck stood up and taking her hand helped her rise once more to her feet. She brushed the dirt from her dusty rose skirt and tried desperately to pin her hair up once more with what few pins remained. It just made her all the more beautiful in Buck's eyes.

"Let me walk with you back to your brother. I just don't want the guys trying anything with you again." The Kiowa paused for a moment. " Why did Billy do that to you when you were helping his sister Maggie?"

A sad smile came to her face as Buck untied Tempest from the rail and walked by her side down the road toward the Livery.

" Many people fear may mayther and I because we use the old healing ways of our homeland. To them it is often different and strange. We' re different and that scares people like Billy. He does the same ta you. He fears you for your differences as wheel." Dorrie shivered slightly. "He's angry too. That I'm naer so sure as ta the reason but most likely he uses it ta hide the fear."

The young healer peeked up at the man at her side to gage his reaction. He didn't flinch nor pull back from her. Instead he smirked over at her. " I can't see anyone being afraid of you, Ms. Macalister" He chuckled.

"Please call may Dorrie. I feel like your talkin ta may mayther when ya call me that." She giggled as she tried to wipe the dirt from the scrape on the heal of her hand.

"I guess I can do that if you call me Buck. Is it a deal?" he asked anxiously waiting for her refusal to acknowledge a half-breed.

She stopped as few feet from the Livery entrance and met his eyes. "I'd bay proud that ya let may call you by your given name. Thank you, Buck fer helpin may and walking may back. I … hope that way may run inta each other again." She smiled then bit her lip fearful he wouldn't want to be around her again.

Buck's eyes were drawn to her lips as the tiny teeth bit into her bottom lip. He looked at her face and toward the ground embarrassed to be caught staring.

"I better get going. I… I'd like to see you again too Dorrie. See ya later" He sighed and turned to leave. He had gone about ten feet when an idea came to him and he stopped to turn around.

"Um…Dorrie, there's a church social next Saturday. I was wonderin if you would be going and if I might perhaps have a dance with you?" Buck stammered out. 'I'm such an idiot' the Indian thought as the words left his mouth.

Dorrie smiled her dimples showing on either side of her mouth. "I'd like that Buck. I'll see if I can convince may mayther or may brother ta bring may."

Buck swung himself up into the saddle and nodded at the pretty young woman before him "See ay then" he shouted while riding Tempest back toward the station.

~*~*~

He's waited all week for this day. Buck tugged nervously at the tie around his neck. He would never understand the white man's need to try and choke themselves with the annoying pieces of fabric that they wrapped around their necks.

"Howdy Buck! Have ya check out all the beautiful young ladies here tanight?" Cody said while waving to a pretty blond haired girl across the room.

Buck was looking all right but only for one young lady. He'd been searching for her auburn hair all night and had yet to find her. The Indian was about to pull the tie off and give in to defeat when he heard Cody's obnoxious whistle and turned to look at what had the other rider was so excited. There across the room stood Dorrie in a lovely hunter green dress. A few pretty green ribbons were woven into her hair and a rope of her hip length hair hung over her shoulder. Buck smiled at the young woman chewing on her bottom lip. He was just about to work his way across the room when she caught his eyes upon her.

Dorrie finally found him standing on the opposite side of the dance floor. She smiled catching his eyes upon her and began to cross the floor.

"Will ya look at that! Why ain't she the prettiest thing ya ever did see?" Cody pointed out as he fixed his tie and wiped his hands on his pant legs. "I do believe she's comin over here to talk to me. Well I be danged!" The blond rider began to move toward Dorrie but she moved past him to stand in front of Buck.

"Hi Buck. I didn't know if ya'd come or not but tis glad I am that ya did." She smiled shyly.

"Sorry miss, but I have ta wonder how ya know my friend here. He's never told us he met such a lovely woman as yourself. Names Cody miss, William F. Cody at yer service" Cody bristled while reaching out to take her hand.

"Aye, wheel Buck and I were brought together by Fate last week when he came ta the mercantile and rescued may from a very nasty young man." She explained giving his hand a quick shake and then turning to look up into Buck's eyes.

"I believe ya owe may a dance Buck. " she teased and waited for his answer.

"Your right Dorrie I do" he murmured back as he placed his hand behind her back and led her onto the dance floor for what seemed to be a slow dance. They were both nervous at first but once they found the rhythm it looked to the others around them as if they had been dancing together for a long time.

Cody shook his head in frustration. Buck had met Dorrie when he'd gone to the store in his place. The realization that it could have been him out on the dance floor with the pretty young woman if he hadn't shirked his job onto Buck bit into his gut.

A slow smile came onto his face as he realized that maybe it was fate that made it all happen. Cause his friend and the young lady seemed to be enjoying each other's company. With a shrug of his shoulders, Cody began to walk toward a slender young brunette standing by the cake table. 'I can see about trying out two sweets at once.' He thought smirking at the young couple dancing happily in their own world.

Fate's Coincidence
by: Dede

'Souls that live for a day, now is the beginning of another cycle of mortal generation where birth is the beacon of death.' Plato "Republic"

"I'm bored," Lachesis said, yawning. She sat by her sister's spinning wheel doing what she always did, measuring another thread of life. She was, after all, the 'Apportioner of Lots,' wasn't she?

"Will you stop?" Clotho responded, irritably. "You're going to lose track and measure one wrong." She continued spinning the threads, eyeing her spindle every so often, because that's what she was, 'The Spinner.'

"How could I be wrong?" Lachesis retorted. Grumbling, she continued measuring as she glanced over at their third sister who hadn't moved in forever, or so it seemed.

To anyone coming upon this scene, it would appear as if three old women were spinning thread for cloth. However, as with most things, appearances can be deceiving. And, it wasn't likely that anyone who didn't already know these women would come along. These women were the Moirae and age was a matter of opinion.

The Moirae, or the Fates, dressed in white robes, were three sisters, goddesses, who decided on the fate of mortals. At the birth of a mortal, one of these threads was allocated and each goddess took her turn in manipulating this thread, following the steps and directing the consequences of the mortal's actions.

Thus is the inescapable destiny of man.

Unfortunately, it had been a millennium or two since they were revered and worshipped and that had taken a toll on the temperament of the goddesses, especially Lachesis.

"Let us play a game," came a soft, teasing reply.

Both Lachesis and Clotho looked over at the petite Altropos. Though she was the smallest of the three, she was also the most feared. In fact, Altropos' sisters were loath to offend her. Lachesis and Clotho exchanged a tentative glance.

"Oh, that's alright," Clotho began, her hands trembling slightly as she tried to busy herself with the spinning. "We are much too..."

"Um, what kind of game?" Lachesis cut her older sister off. She was bored, so much so that she was willing to do anything - including play one of Altropos' games.

"Lachie," Clotho said through gritted teeth. She could have taken the entire length of thread stretching from her distaff to her spindle and wrap it around her sister's throat. Of course it wouldn't do anything to Lachesis, but Clotho would have felt much better.

"Shhh, Clo," Lachesis whispered, "let's see what the game is. We don't have to play."

"Right," Clotho muttered, rolling her eyes. No one refused Altropos once she suggested anything.

Without saying a word, Altropos gestured for her sisters to join her, never turning from the well she'd been gazing in. Altropos was 'she who cannot be turned,' which was a very apt title for her. Nothing ever turned her from her duties and her duties were inevitable - she was death. She cut the thread. Sometimes she thought her sisters were annoyed because of all the work they put into spinning and measuring the thread that she, at any time she chose, could come along and snip, cutting it smoothly with her shears. The shears she never let go of, the same shears that were hanging from her bony fingers.

"Look," she whispered, using the shears to point, as her sisters joined her by the well's edge. "More have been born."

"Well, yeah," Lachesis said, sarcastically, "what do you think Clo and I have been doing this entire time." She rolled her eyes, even though time had no real meaning for them.

Altropos finally looked from the well to her younger sister's face. Smiling, she nodded. "And that is the game."

"Huh?" Lachesis grunted, looking from Altropos to Clotho. She never understood why Altropos stood staring into the dark abyss for time on end, moving only to cut the threads she plucked from the shimmering surface.

Altropos looked back into the depths of the well, waving her hand, and the shears, over the opening, she caused the water to churn and then to vaporize. "Look," she indicated as the faces of millions of newborns flashed across the mist. "You both never really look," she sighed, with the same wistful smile on her face as she watched the images spinning around. Because time was a mist itself, the faces changed, as the babies grew older they were replaced by other newborns. The process was constantly moving and Altropos loved it.

"That's nice, dear," Clotho said, as she grabbed Lachesis' arm and tried to pull her back to the spinning wheel. "We really do need to continue." She turned to walk back to the wheel, tugging Lachesis with her.

Lachesis just nodded, realizing that it was probably a bad idea to play anything that Altropos had in mind at that point. Leaning into her sister's shoulder, she whispered, "Clo, is it me or is she loopier than normal?" She emphasized her statement by twirling her finger in a circle by her head.

"Stop."

Clotho and Lachesis stopped in their tracks. They both sighed and turned back to face their older sister.

"We will play this game," Altropos stated, solemnly staring at each sister, knowing now that she would not receive any opposition.

"Yes, of course," Clotho said, pinching Lachesis on the arm. She was going to get Lachesis back for this somehow.

"Ow!" Lachesis growled, before regaining composure and looking at Altropos. "Right, the game." As the smile returned to Altropos' face and she turned to face the well once more, Lachesis did a very dignified and goddess-like thing - she stuck her tongue out at her sister, Clotho, and quickly joined Altropos by the well.

"Okay, so Altie," Lachesis said, leaning on her right arm and left elbow against the edge of the well and propping her chin in her left hand. "What's this fun, new game you have in mind?" She really was curious but she knew that nothing was ever straightforward with Altropos and it wasn't good to be curious about anything Altropos did.

"We each pick a newborn and follow its life," Altropos said, simply.

Lachesis leaned forward slightly, glancing at Clotho, who had come up on Altropos' other side. Clotho was leaning, both hands against the edge. She shared Lachesis' confusion.

"Dear, um," Clotho hemmed, "we do that already."

"No, no, no," Altropos said, slowly shaking her head. "Not like this. I mean we truly watch them, not instruct them. We see how they choose their paths, what makes them do what they do." She was so excited about this idea. She'd been pondering something new for a few hundred years but this had just come to her in a flash of decades.

"So, we just watch them?" Lachesis asked.

"Yes."

"Oh, that sounds nice," Clotho said, releasing the breath she'd been holding, waiting for Altropos' announcement. "Decide on who we'll watch, Altie." She turned to go back to spinning.

"Sounds good," Lachesis agreed, as she pushed herself up from the ledge to join Clotho. "Okay, so back to..."

"But first," Altropos began.

Lachesis and Clotho both grimaced as they stood, dreading what was next. There was always a 'but first.'

"We each must pick the one we want," Altropos said, looking at her sisters' backs. "And, we each will say one word to describe who the mortal will become."

Lachesis and Clotho exchanged a knowing look before they turned back to face their sister. They knew what she was up to. They would actually become vested in a mortal's life, something they never did - at least Lachesis and Clotho never did. The one thing they didn't understand was the choosing of a word.

"Fine," Lachesis said, as she spun on her heel. She was annoyed with Altropos' manipulation of how things happened. 'So Altie's 'inevitable,' that doesn't mean she's right.' "Why don't we draw lots to see who goes first?" She smiled sweetly at her sister, pleased with herself and the use of the word 'lots.'

"Oh, Lachie," Clotho whined, "can't we just go in order like always." She just wanted this to be done so she ignored the look Lachesis gave her.

Lachesis glared at her sister beside her. She couldn't believe that Clotho was practically siding with Altropos.

"However we do so," Altropos stated, "I will be last."

Throwing her hands up in defeat, Lachesis walked over to stand by the well. She crossed her arms over her chest in a defiant pose. She may have to play but she wasn't going to like it.

"Very well," Altropos said, smiling at Clotho, "you are first."

Clotho stared into the swirling mist. There were so many, how could she choose? She had an idea.

"How about we narrow the field," she suggested. "Pick newborns from the expanding land of America. In their time it's around eighteen hundred and something, I think," again, time had no meaning for them, thus they really didn't keep track, "so it should be easy."

Lachesis uncrossed her arms and nodded. "That's a good idea. We've been watching the other areas for so long, it would be interesting to see something new."

Altropos waved her arm, causing the mist to shift. Most of the newborns vanished and only a few hundred thousand remained. "Better?"

"Much," Clotho confirmed. As she looked through the haze, one tiny face stuck out. "Him," Clotho pointed to a chubby face with hair so light it looked as if he was bald. "I like him." Once she indicated the babe, the face stopped and hovered in front of the goddesses. Pleased with her choice, she smiled at her younger sister.

"Lachesis?"

"Yeah, yeah," Lachesis muttered, concentrating on all the different faces that flew by. "Wait!" she screeched. "Oh, where'd he go?" She looked and looked until finally the tanned face she'd been searching for appeared again. "HIM! HIM!" She gesticulated frantically, fearing that the face would vanish again. Instead, it hovered next to Clotho's baby.

"Me," Altropos murmured. "That one." She pointed to a male child with a grimace planted firmly on his face.

They stared, smiling, at the three faces, bobbing in the air in front of them.

"One word."

"Stea..." Lachesis started, not looking away from the babe she'd picked.

"No." Altropos held up her hand. "We go in order." She turned to Clotho and brought Clotho's pick to the front. "This one will be known by the name Kid and nothing else."

As the women studied the baby boy's face, his blue eyes curiously taking in his surroundings, they were overcome with a sense of duty, a sense of right and wrong, a sense of loyalty. As Clotho beamed over her choice, a sudden sense of misfortune appeared but then was gone in an instant. Shaking off the feeling, Clotho decided on her word.

"Resolute."

Altropos nodded and looked at Lachesis.

"Ah, good one," Lachesis said. "Hmmm, I go with..." She snapped her fingers. "Allegiant."

Clotho and Lachesis nodded happily at each other, indicating that the words were good.

"Futile."

Clotho and Lachesis stopped, their faces falling, and stared at Altropos. When they looked at each other, their eyes said the same thing, 'So this is what she's up to.'

"Lachesis," Altropos said, ignoring her sisters' expressions and bringing the next face forward. "This one will be known as Running Buck for part of his life and will add Cross at a later time."

Studying his solemn face, the women couldn't help but feel the sorrow and pain from the child's birth, the somber expression projected was as if he knew how he'd been created. However, they also felt a feeling of pride, a feeling of honor and a feeling of spirit. And, as Lachesis smiled at her choice, the feeling of the repulsion that those around him would bear towards him, and that would follow this mortal as he grew, washed over her.

"Um," she mumbled, still trying to shake the sense of dread. "Let Clo go first."

"Tolerant," Clotho answered, not waiting for Altropos to say anything. She smiled sadly at Lachesis, knowing what she felt.

"Steadfast." Lachesis knew that with all this boy would go through, he would not let people change him.

Lachesis and Clotho waited, tensely, for the third word.

"Isolated."

'Well, I guess it could be worse,' Lachesis thought.

"Now mine." Altropos brought forth her choice. "This one will be known as James Butler Hickok."

The grimace was still firmly fixed on the child's face as if he were weighing his options and with it came the impression of confidence, the impression of stubbornness and the impression of willingness. But again, something dark, as with the other two, a defiant angst was felt by the three goddesses, an impression that this boy would never feel worthy of anything good that came to him in his life and, thus, would not accept it.

"I'm feeling rather tired now," Clotho stated softly. This had been more than she'd bargained for and was sure, by the look on Lachesis' face, that she felt the same way.

"We are almost done," was the only response Altropos offered.

"Aloof." Clotho said it before she thought about it. That wasn't a very nice feeling but that's what she got.

"Impetuous." Lachesis nodded in agreement with Clotho. Though this boy was not going to open himself up easily, when he felt something strongly, he would be impulsive.

"Ill-fated."

Lachesis and Clotho said nothing. They couldn't argue with this - it was inevitable.

"We are done."

As Altropos brought her shears up to wave the mist back into water, Lachesis placed her hand on her sister's forearm and stopped her.

"Wait."

Clotho looked from the three images over to Lachesis. "What is it?"

"This isn't complete," Lachesis stated assuredly. "There should be three more." She looked at Clotho who hadn't moved from her spot.

"Yes, she's right," Clotho agreed, knowing there had been a reason she hadn't moved. "Three more."

"So be it," Altropos said, lowering her arm. "Three more."

Quickly, the goddesses picked their three. Lachesis and Clotho picked two more boys and Altropos chose a girl. Altropos brought forward Clotho's child, a fair-haired boy with bright blue eyes.

"This one will be known as William Frederick Cody." A small smile appeared on Altropos' face, as she added, "Billy if you like."

Choking back their laughter, Lachesis and Clotho exchanged bemused looks. Altropos had made a joke.

As they stared at the cherubic face, they felt the passion, charm and a subtle hint of arrogance that danced through this mortal boy. Of course, they also felt the neediness that lingered on the edges. He would desire acceptance more than anything else.

"Clever," Clotho said, still trying to stifle the giggle that lingered in her throat.

"Hungry!" Lachesis blurted out. She looked sheepishly at the other two and shrugged, saying, "That's what I see!"

Clotho lost control of her laughter and doubled over. "I know, me too!" Hearing Lachesis join in, she felt the stress of the last choosing leave her.

"Insecure."

The laughter ceased and was replaced by two loud, distinctive sighs. Lachesis and Clotho rolled their eyes; Altropos was intent on the foreboding. Though she was right and it was inevitable, they still didn't see why she couldn't apply one of the many good qualities that were apparent in these babies.

"I'm changing mine," Lachesis announced, as her choice was brought forth by Altropos.

"You chose this child, you cannot..." Altropos admonished.

"Not the kid," Lachesis snapped, "my word." She stared again into the blue eyes and said, "Defender." She smiled slyly at Clotho.

"Very well," Altropos said, subduing the sigh she felt welling up. Her sisters didn't understand, she wasn't doing this out of malice; she wanted the two to understand what they truly were doing. That the three of them had molded mortals since the dawn of time wasn't enough. Though they directed the journey, they never truly partook in the adventure. She brought forth the next image.

"This one will be known as Ike McSwain."

As a sweet face hovered in front of them, wearing a toothless grin, a sympathetic, generous, tender nature was projected from the heart of this child. It caused a warm, happy feeling until the sudden coldness of silence and desolation wiped the warmth away. Lachesis unconsciously wiped a tear from her eye.

"Friendly," Clotho quickly said, trying to get the feeling of sorrow out of her mind.

"Pensive," Lachesis murmured, seeing how this boy was destined to find solace in times of reflection.

"Sacrificial."

Before her sisters could say a word, Altropos brought forth the last child - a mortal girl. A delicate face with the biggest brown eyes they'd ever seen.

"This one will be know as Louise McCloud," Altropos said, pausing as she stared into the child's eyes. She thought of the destiny that this baby girl had, that all these children had. Snapping out of her musings, she added, "But will hide behind the name Lou for a time."

Watching the brown-eyed baby girl smile and gurgle as she looked around her world, they felt the sense of integrity, assurance and self-reliance well up inside. This tiny person would grow into a proud, caring woman - unless the underlying feelings of doubt and fear overpowered her.

"Strong."

"Independent."

"Despondent."

They stood there for but a moment, until Lachesis sighed and asked, "Are we done?"

"Yes," Altropos said, as she gathered the six images together, allowing them to hover over the well as she waved the mist back into water. "And we will follow their journey through time, watching their lives develop."

"Right," Lachesis replied, crossing her arms over her chest again, turning to face her older sister.

Clotho sighed. 'Why does she always try to instigate Altie?' But before Clotho could stop her, Lachesis continued.

"And so we just watch them live their lives until you come along and use those stupid shears." She brushed her hand across her eyes, willing the tears not to fall.

"Lachesis," Altropos said quietly, turning from the well to face the young goddess, "it is not my intention to cause you hurt. I just feel it necessary to do this. I'm sorry I called it a game, because it is not. These are human lives we deal with. I just want you to see what I see." Altropos turned back to stare at the six chosen babies.

"So, are you going to keep them up there for us to watch?" Clotho asked, changing the subject. She moved to stand by Lachesis and placed her arm around her sister's shoulder.

"Yes."

When Altropos offered no more, Lachesis glanced sullenly at Clotho, and announced, "Well, I guess we're done. Let's get back to spinning." She turned stiffly and marched back to the spinning wheel.

"Right, spinning," Clotho said, sighing as she followed Lachesis over to the wheel.

Once Lachesis and Clotho were intently occupied in their task, Altropos smiled. As she looked deep into the well, she saw the face of the man she'd been watching since he was born. He was a special man. So special that he would receive the chosen six to take care of and guide without any interference from them as if he were a brother of the three. She chuckled at this thought. "A god named Teaspoon."

Sighing contentedly, she looked upon the six tiny creatures, all blank slates, all waiting for their lives to begin. Even though a couple of the babies would start with good, loving families, they would all eventually come together and create the one true family where they would each feel the safest, securest and most loved.

"It has begun."

The Family That Fate Built
by: Jo

Buck sat in the rocker; a colorful afghan covered his legs, on his grandson’s porch, closed his eyes and smiled….. He was twelve summers old again and he’d just spent the last few days getting to know the little bald mute kid in his dormitory at the mission school. Isaac McSwaine or Ike had gotten the stuffing beat out of him helping Buck defend himself against a bunch of older boys. Now they lay side by side in the school’s infirmary. Buck had been told the boy was a dummy but Buck soon discovered this was very wrong. Ike was smart and funny with a big heart. The two boys had become inseparable. The Nun’s had called it fate that the young half breed had met Ike and befriended him. They both gave each other a voice. Ike taught Buck English and the ways of the white world and Buck taught Ike Indian Sign allowing him to communicate with the rest of the world.

Their friendship had grown and they were released into the world outside of the mission school to face life together. They found the advertisement for the pony express and were both hired. They managed to find the one thing they both needed, a family. Oh and how that family grew.

“Grampy? Grampy, are you OK? Mama said you needed a glass of lemonade.” Tyler, Buck’s great grandson stood holding a glass filled with ice cubes and the sweet yellow liquid Buck loved.

“Thanks Ty, I’m fine I was just thinking back to when I was a little older than you are now.” Buck took the glass in his ancient work worn hands and brought it shakily to his lips. “Ahhh, your momma knows just how I like it!”

The young child tilted his head and looked at his elder with a puzzled look. “Can you really remember that long ago? Timmy Bishop says you’re as old as dirt! How old is dirt?”

“Hmmm, I think Timmy’s just jealous because his Grampy isn’t here to tell him stories.” Buck placed the glass on the table beside the chair.

“Yeah but he’s six and he knows everything, he says that since I’m only….” Ty paused and put up four fingers. “This many, four and a half, I’ve got a lot to learn. How old is dirt?”

“I don’t know how old dirt is but I do know that I was your age when my brother taught me how to ride a horse.” Buck motioned for Ty to come sit in his lap and the child happily climbed into Buck’s arms and settled down for a story.

“Will you tell me about……” Ty paused to think of all the stories he’d heard about Buck’s life. “….’bout when you learned to ride a horse? Did you fall off like I did and make your arm bleed? See it’s almost all better!” Ty squirmed around in Buck’s lap to show him an almost healed scab on his elbow.

“I don’t remember skinning my arms or legs, I probably did, but I do remember once I was playing and I fell right into a cactus, we called ‘em prickly pears, anyway the stickers got all stuck in my backside and my brother’s wife had to pull them out…” Buck laughed as the little boy scrunched up his nose.

“Did it hurt? Did your mama kiss you and make you better? Momma kissed my arm and it didn’t hurt anymore! She said that Momma kisses are….” Tyler stopped looked up as his mother stepped out on the porch.

“Dinner’s almost ready Pop, Ty you best go in and wash up.” Ashley turned to her husband’s grandfather. “You look tired, let me help you up.”

Buck waved her off. “Do you know what today is?” Ashley shook her head. “I met your Great-grandmother sixty three years ago today…..we used to write notes to each other all the time and she’d remind of all the important dates in our lives. I never thought I live this long!” He stood on wobbly legs and moved slowly toward the door.

His wife of sixty-one years was already at the table. Buck took his set beside her and kissed her cheek; she smiled. The rest of the family joined them dinner began, Ty, as usual was the center of attention.

“Grampy what was you smilin’ about when I work you up?” The little boy asked as he tried his best to push the peas off his plate and onto the floor where the dog would gobble them up.

“I wasn’t asleep, I was resting my eyes.” Everyone laughed and Buck gave a little lopsided grin. “Anyway, I was thinking about how this family of ours got started. I was only twelve when I met your Great Grandpa Ike; he was a little older than me….” Buck paused thinking. “I was only sixteen or seventeen when I started riding for the Pony Express and met your Great Aunt Louise and your Great Uncles Cody, Kid, and Jimmy. I wish you all could have known the man I called my father, Teaspoon Hunter, he was something else, wasn’t he hon?” Buck patted the hand of the woman beside him. “I can still remember him telling us once that fate brought us all together but love made us a family. I guess he was right, he almost always was…..Fate made me meet your Great Grammy here and fate made me take your Grandpa Ike in as my son.” Buck took a sip of water.

“Grampy, what’s fate?” Ty asked with all the innocence of a soon to be five year old.

“Fate is the thing that makes you do something you might not have done otherwise. It sort of gives you a push in the direction you’re supposed to go but just didn’t know you were supposed to…..” Buck patted his lips with his napkin and pushed back his chair as the others collected their plates.

“I feel fate is telling me I need a couple of cookies….see its pushing me toward the cookie jar.” Tyler began moving in the direction of the counter where the jar sat.

“Not so fast young man” Ashley’s voice stopped her son in mid stride. “I have some more peas for you since you didn’t manage to keep all of yours from falling on the floor. Your fate is to sit and eat them first then we’ll talk about cookies.”

Ty gave her an “aw, Mom” look but sat down to a small spoonful of peas on his plate.

Andy, Tyler’s father, just laughed and shooed the dog outside ending any hopes Ty might have had of loosing his peas to the dog.

Buck and Jane sat back and held hands watching the family they had created.

“Grampy?” Tyler looked at his great grandparents, “I don’t think Fate likes me…..” he painfully swallowed a few peas.

Finis

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