Topic #73: Word List: powder, future, oops, interest, sound
Now and Forever by: catsimmie
Direct From Paris by: Cindy
And Two Shall Become One by: Lori
Impressions by: Lori
Ponder by: Lori
The First Day of the Rest of My Life by: Ellie
Oops by: Tomwarp42
Boys Will Be Boys by: Raye
Unconscious Nightmare by: Debra
Combustible by: Michelle R
Not What He'd Expected by: Shannon
Not What He'd Expected Part II by: Shannon
Not What They'd Expected by: Shannon
Sooner Then Expected by: Shannon
More Than She'd Ever Expected by: Shannon
One Order of Distraction Coming Up! by: Debbie
Smoke And Dreams by: LMS
Three Wishes for Joshua by: Dede
Summer Find by: Dee
Now and Forever
by: catsimmie

Kid laid in bed staring at his wife off less than twenty-four hours and smiled. Almost from the moment he learned her secret, he’d imagined a **future** with her in it. It took them what seemed like a long time to get to this point; his over protectiveness and his morals had driven her away, but that day by the creek when she held out her hand and said he still had her, she had silently told him she was offering him a second chance. One he took eagerly, promising both of them things would be different this time.

As he listened to the **sound** of her deep breathing, he felt as if he were dreaming. He longed to kiss her and wake her, but knew after the night they’d had, she needed her “beauty rest” as she called it. But to him, she couldn’t be any more beautiful than she had been when she walked down the aisle.

“Good morning,” Lou said as she opened her eyes. She had feigned being asleep for the past fifteen minutes, knowing her husband was watching her. “What time is it?”

“Around two,” he said smiling down at her.

“In the afternoon?” she shrieked as she sat up. The movement was so quick and uncoordinated that Kid chuckled as she fell of the bed.

“**Oops**,” Lou said smiling at him. “See what you made me do?”

Kid nodded. She looked so helpless and sweet. He couldn’t help but notice how **powder** white her skin appeared without clothes. In contrast, her arms and face were tan from the hard work she had put herself through; day by day, side by side with him and the other riders. Work he would make sure she would never have to do again unless she wanted to; not because she felt she had to.

“Stop looking at me like that,” she said finally standing up. “So what are you **interest**ed in doing today… husband?” She grinned. It felt as if she were dreaming. That day in the barn when she said no to his proposal, she thought she had lost him for good. It tore at her heart as she watched him with other women, and as hard as she tried, she couldn’t move on like he had. Now the day had finally arrived that they became husband and wife. If she were dreaming, she never wanted to wake up.

Kid smiled and grabbed her hand, pulling her back down on the bed next to him. “Just you, my love… just you for now and forever.”

Direct From Paris
by: Cindy

“*Oops.*”

The single word muttered by Cody came almost simultaneously with the *sound* of glass breaking – and suddenly the smell of a flowery perfume permeated the air inside the store.

That got the *interest* of everyone in the building, and especially Tompkins, who came storming out from behind the counter. “What the devil are you doing?” he demanded, staring angrily at the broken bottle. “You know how much that costs?”

“Oh, come on, Mr. Tompkins,” Kid said. He considered himself the most knowledgeable of the riders about buying perfume. “It’s just a bottle of perfume. It can’t cost…”

“That there bottle was from Paris, France.”

“Paris?” Buck caught himself after the one word. Normally he tried to stay out of anything involving Tompkins – but ever since Kathleen Devlin, Paris really caught his attention.

“France,” Tompkins added, still angry.

“What for?” Jimmy asked. He crinkled his nose, sniffing the odor. “It stinks.” He picked up another bottle from the shelf.

Tompkins quickly grabbed it away. “It’s the finest in the world,” he growled, replacing the bottle carefully on the shelf. “The perfume, this here fancy *powder,* and this… lip stuff,” he finished, gesturing at another item.

“But still,” Cody started. He was studying his boots, which were now soaked with the stinky concoction.

“Still, nothin’,” the shopkeeper insisted. “This here’s gonna make my *future.* All the ladies’re gonna want this.”

“Don’t know why,” Jimmy mumbled, waving his hand in front of his nose. He took a couple of steps backward.

Tompkins ignored that and turned back to Cody, pointing his finger. “You owe me six dollars.”

Cody blanched. “Six dollars?”

“That’s right,” the shopkeeper insisted. “An’ I want it right now!”

Cody looked around desperately, “Uh, guys?”

Buck raised his hands, shook his head, and backed toward the door.

“I didn’t break it,” Jimmy said, moving to join Buck.

“I spent all my money on that new brush for Katy,” Kid said, shrugging.

Cody watched helplessly as the other three riders made a hasty exit out of the store, and then he looked back to Tompkins, hoping to plead his case.

The angry look on the older man’s face pretty much eliminated that option.

Cody began to dig in his pockets, dislodging a few pennies, but nothing close to six dollars. A few of the pennies fell to the floor, landing with a splash in the spilled perfume. “Uh, fellas?”

Tompkins took a step closer, a low growl in his throat.

“FELLAS!”

And Two Shall Become One
by: Lori

The conclusion of James and Emmaline

“I should have known you would lie to us.”

Emmaline struggled to maintain her composure and not roll her eyes as her father angrily accused James. She and her husband had arrived early this afternoon and had left their bags at the marshal’s office before heading straight to see her parents. Plenty of people saw them get off the stage and they knew that to wait before visiting would only make the older couple angry.

There was no anger, or hardly any reaction to the news that she and James were wed; what upset her father was the belief that James had known where she went after she left Rock Creek. It was just one of the reasons she had dreaded coming here. Her parents fixated on the minutia, the esoteric, and the broader scope was overlooked.

“James didn’t know where I went,” Emmaline spoke up. “The only person who knew where I’d gone was Mr. Lovelace.”

“Why would he lie to us?” her mother demanded. “We knew you’d been spending time at his shop, but he told us he didn’t know anything about your leaving. How could he do that to us?”

“Because he liked me better than you.” The words slipped out before Emmaline was really even aware of them and suddenly the air in the room changed, became fraught and heavy, tension filling it. A match had just been struck, now they were all waiting for the *powder* keg to blow.

“Emmaline Howard,” her mother gasped, a scandalized hand fluttering dramatically to her throat.

“Hickok,” James said softly, but clearly to everyone in the room. “She’s Emmaline Hickok now.”

Her mother’s lips thinned into a tight line, but she said nothing. “How dare you make such claims about Mr. Lovelace.”

As Jimmy’s hand settled over hers she said, “It’s true. He’s never liked you. He merely tolerates you because you’re on the school board and the town council.”

“That’s enough,” her father bellowed, his hand clenching in his lap and his face flushing with anger.

“You, sir, will not yell at my wife,” James stated. His voice was hard and cold, and there was danger laced in every word.

“She’s my daughter,” her father insisted.

“And she’s my wife,” her husband retorted. “You may have hit her, yelled at her and tried to guilt or shame her into action, but you have no control over her anymore. She’s under my protection and I will deal with any man who treats her disrespectfully.”

Looking her father square in the eye, he asked, “Are we clear?”

Her father stared back, but eventually looked away. He never spoke, but his gaze out the window signaled his backing down. Her mother, however, seemed to be picking up the cause.

“How could you do this to us, Emmaline?” she asked plaintively. “How could you marry someone like…like him?”

“Because I love him,” she answered immediately and full of feeling. “And he loves me.”

“But he’s a criminal.”

“Actually, he’s a deputy marshal,” she corrected. “Just like he was here under Marshal Hunter. Just like he’s been for the last two years or better. Before that, he was a scout for the Army. Before that he worked for the Pony Express. He is not a criminal.”

“He’s Wild Bill Hickok,” her father said, his eyes narrowing in disgust.

“A bunch of lies made up by a cheap writer in order to sell books,” she answered with a shake of her head. “You were the ones who told me not to believe everything I read or hear. Yet both of you have judged him without getting to know him.”

“But…he’s so…unsuitable,” her mother said with a wrinkle of her nose.

“You mean he’s not one of your handpicked milquetoast ciphers,” Emmaline corrected. “Someone who would reflect well on you regardless of whether I was happy or not. James makes me happy.”

“We only wanted the best for you,” her mother insisted. “We were looking out for your best *interest* because you can be so headstrong and stubborn. How could you know what you want?”

“I think Emmaline is quite capable of making up her own mind,” James spoke up. “She knows who she loves and what she wants, and she’s made her decision.”

“Of course you would say that,” her father shook his head. “You tricked her into marrying you.”

“I’m sorry you have such a low opinion of me,” Emmaline stated, her spine stiffening. “But I knew exactly what I was doing.”

She stood and James immediately was on his feet. Her father sat for a moment longer, just enough to show his slight, before he stood as well.

“We came to tell you the news,” she said tightly. “Now that it’s done, we’ll be going. We’ll be in town until tomorrow; we have to get back for James’ new job.”

Looking at her parents, she felt a wave of sadness come over her. “I’m sorry that you cannot accept my choices and be happy for me. I love my husband, and I’m happy with my life. Happier than I ever was living here. How much involvement you have with us in the *future* will be your decision. I won’t apologize for my choices, and I won’t beg for your acceptance. I have a husband who loves me, supports me and wants the best for me, and one day we’ll have a family of our own.”

Taking a piece of paper out of her reticule she placed it on the table beside the settee and stated, “This is where you can write me if you choose. I won’t bother you again since you’re so ashamed of me. Goodbye, Mother. Goodbye, Father.”

Then she turned for the door and felt James right beside her as she went. His hand was on the small of her back in support and once they were outside her former home, she took a deep breath and blinked to keep the tears that threatened at bay.

“It’s alright,” he said softly, leading her back to the main street and turning back towards the center of town. “You’ll be alright; I’m right here, Emmaline.”

She nodded, grateful for his support. She was saddened, she was angry, she was tired, she was on edge and as they got closer to the hotel all she wanted to do was check in and close the world outside for a while. Without even getting the chance to convey that to James, he guided her towards the hotel, his hand ever-present and comforting on her back.

“Let’s get checked in and I’ll go get the bags from Teaspoon’s office,” he told her softly. “I think you just need to rest a while.”

“I do,” she agreed as they ascended the wooden steps towards the hotel’s door. “Thank you, James. I…I just need…”

“I know,” he said with a slight smile. “Just remember, Emmaline. No matter what your parents say or think, I love you, and I’m here.”

She nodded slightly, “I know. That’s the only reason I ever agreed to come. Because I knew that no matter what happened here, we would be leaving together. You were the only good thing to come of our move to Rock Creek, but now I just want to leave and build our life away from here.”

“We will,” he vowed as they stepped into the dim interior. “We will, Emmaline. Tomorrow we’ll leave Rock Creek and start our new life together.”

As she sat on the chair in the lobby where James had insisted she wait and watched him sign their names to the register, Emmaline was immensely grateful for Mr. Lovelace telling James where she’d gone, and for James caring enough to come. She was glad he hadn’t given up, even when she was determined to not care about him any more and to live life her own way. She realized that she would be living life her own way, but she would also have James by her side. He supported her, he loved her and he didn’t seek to control her or hurt her the way her parents had.

She didn’t know if they would ever come to accept the choices she’d made in life, but she knew that their approval was not necessary for her happiness. She was happy now and it was because of her husband. They would make their way in the world together, side by side in support and love, just as she had learned in Sunday School. She had left her parents behind and joined her life to James, and she knew that no matter what came their way, they would make it through. Because their love was unconditional, and they were truly of one mind and heart.

The End

A/N: And thus ends James and Emmaline’s experience. Thanks to Dede for all her help on this series and for her, along with Raye, telling me that my CD challenge story was not the end of their story. I’m glad I listened to them.

Impressions
by: Lori

More of Molly's story...

Nobody had really been able to sleep last night after Sam left to return to town, least of all Emma. Ever since the day Jimmy had come back and said he’d been helped by an obviously frightened young woman, Emma had been curious. She knew most of the families around here, and didn’t recall any mention of a daughter at what had to be the Emerson place. Then when more information came out, Emma’s heart broke for the child and she was just as angry as Jimmy that there wasn’t anything they could do to help the girl.

Now knowing that her father was dead and they could talk to her, aid her without angering her father caused relief to fill the station mother. But she also knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Raised by an abusive and neglectful father, Molly was distrustful and scared of everyone. She had reluctantly talked with Jimmy, but the meetings had been tense and uneasy. She was frightened to talk to the young rider for fear of her father finding out, and Emma knew those feelings weren’t going to go away just because her father was dead.

If anything, she might become even more frightened. The only person she’d had in her life, no matter how poorly he’d treated her had just died. She was an orphan now, and if Sam’s information was correct, the bank would be selling the only home she’d ever known. She would be lost, scared and just as Emma had once told Mr. Spoon that the riders weren’t orphans as long as she was around, she was determined to do the same for Molly Emerson. The young woman would have a home with her and she was going to tell her that.

Breakfast was finished early since nobody had been really able to fall back asleep. Then Jimmy helped hitch up the buckboard, saddled his own horse and the two of them rode to town to meet Sam. The marshal was already outside the jail when they arrived and in a short time they were on their way. The trio was sober as it approached the farm and Emma and Sam slowed and allowed Jimmy to ride ahead of them.

It was remarkable, but not surprising, for Emma to see her young rider look nervous as he approached. She had watched Jimmy mature in the months since the Express began and she knew that he cared about other people. Particularly those who could not stand up for themselves. The injustice of Molly’s situation had preyed heavily on him and Emma knew that this was difficult for him to do. Tell a young woman her father was dead, even when he was more than likely relieved by the occurrence.

Jimmy stopped his horse and tilted his head, most likely looking for a sign or *sound* of where the girl was. Dismounting from his horse, he handed the reins to Sam and then said, “She’s usually begun her chores by now. I’ll go see if she’s in the barn.”

Emma wanted to go with him, but knew that it was best if Jimmy went alone. Molly Emerson didn’t know anyone aside from Jimmy, and they didn’t want to frighten the girl. So instead, Sam and Emma nodded and sent Jimmy off on his own.

~*~*~*~*~

Jimmy took a deep breath as he neared the barn and let it out slowly. He knew he was going to upset Molly with his presence and he hoped that he could calm her down quickly. Of course, he was only planning to impart news that would hurt her and upset her. No matter what her father had done to her, he didn’t believe that she would calmly accept news of his death.

Stepping into the barn, he listened and then walked towards the stalls on the left. That was where the milk cow was, and no doubt she’d be working on the morning’s milking. Slowly he approached, and when he saw her he called her name so he wouldn’t startle her.

Her head came up, and she looked at him, irritation and fear warring for dominance in her eyes. “Why are you here? I told you not to come back. If my father comes home and finds you here…”

She trailed off, but the implication was clear. They both would be in trouble.

Holding out his hands he licked his lips, “I know, Molly. But…somethin’s happened. Your…your father won’t be comin’ home.”

Looking at him in confusion she demanded, “What do you mean? He’ll be home soon. Sometimes…sometimes he doesn’t get home ‘til morning.”

“Molly.” He paused and swallowed. “Molly, something happened at the saloon last night. The…the marshal is here to talk to you. Since I know you, I offered to come along so you wouldn’t be frightened.”

“He…he’s…gone, isn’t he?” Her voice was soft and uncertain.

Jimmy nodded.

“He…he always threatened to take off and just leave me to fend for myself,” she said in hurt and fright.

“No, Molly,” he shook his head, taking a step towards her. “He…he didn’t run off. He…there was a card game and a fight broke out. Your…your father is dead.”

“Dead?” she whispered hollowly. “He…I… Are you sure?”

By now he was standing by her side and he gently touched her elbow. “Why don’t you come outside? Marshal Cain, Sam, wants to talk to you. And Emma came along. Remember when I told you about her? She’s our station mother for the Express. She…you can talk to her, Molly. She’s a real fine woman.”

Nodding slightly she followed him out of the stall and then out of the barn. Jimmy knew that she was definitely going to need Emma to help her; he just hoped that somehow it was enough.

~*~*~*~*~

As they stood waiting for Jimmy to emerge with Molly Emerson, Sam pushed his hat back and squinted at the dilapidated barn and house. “You know, if Jimmy’s horse hadn’t come up lame that day, none of us would have known about her. Prob’ly not ‘til someone showed up after buying the place from the bank and discovered her livin’ out here.”

“I know,” Emma sighed sadly. “I knew there was someone livin’ out here, but he was never very sociable and I never saw in him in town much.”

“Why do you think Hickok took such an *interest* in her?” he asked. “Think he was sweet on her?”

“I’m not sure,” she shook her head. “I think Jimmy was curious. He might have thought she was pretty, or maybe he just wanted to thank her for her help. Or maybe he saw how frightened she was and something called to him to help her. You know that Jimmy don’t like to see women hurt.”

“Yeah,” the marshal nodded. He suspected there was something in Jimmy’s past that drew him, almost compulsively, to help women who were in need. It had ended up getting him trouble and nearly on the wrong end of a hangman’s noose, but though the boy never spoke of it, Sam figured it wasn’t something about the young man that would change. He saw injustice and a part of him demanded it be rectified.

“’Course, even if he is sweet on her,” Emma continued, “now isn’t the right time for that. She’s going to need help and a friend; not someone who wants to spark with her.”

“Want me to talk to him?” Sam asked.

She looked up at him and graced him with a beautiful smile. “Thank you, Sam, for offering. I think the best thing to do is wait and see what’s really happenin’. We don’t want to offend him if all he’s tryin’ to be is her friend.”

Movement caught his attention and Sam touched Emma’s arm and then tipped his head towards the barn. “I believe that’s Molly Emerson.”

Emma frowned at the pale, thin young woman and nodded. “I do believe you’re right. Poor child.”

And with that maternal cluck, Sam knew that whatever happened in Molly’s *future*, Emma Shannon was determined to take care of the young woman and help her however she could. As he watched Jimmy help the girl walk closer to them, Sam knew that it was a good thing Emma was here. Molly Emerson was going to need a lot of help to get past what her father had done to her.

Ponder
by: Lori

“*Oops*,” Lou giggled menacingly as the knife accidentally slipped into the cloth and rent it in two. “Another accident. I really am so clumsy.”

Tossing the destroyed shirt onto the bunk, she reached into the trunk and retrieved another one. Once again the knife slipped and sliced the shirt down the back, leaving it in two pieces. The *sound* of the ripping cloth was a sweet melody to her ears and she smiled as she continued with her path of destruction.

Once the shirts were destroyed, she turned the pants in the trunk into shortpants. The longjohns were next, followed by socks, handkerchiefs and a few minor inconsequentials. Looking over the destructions, Lou nodded resolutely and dusted her hands off once the knife was returned to its proper place.

The door opened just as she climbed up onto her bunk to read. There was silence which meant it was either Ike or whoever was in the room was too stunned to speak. She didn’t look over though; she kept her gaze fixed solely on her book.

“What happened?”

Kid. And apparently he’d found his voice. She looked over slowly and saw he was really mad, but she didn’t say anything.

Hands on his hips, he looked up at her and demanded, “Lou? What did you do?”

“Just gave you somethin’ to think about,” she commented.

“Somethin’ to think about?” he repeated. “For what?”

“The next time you want to move me into Rachel’s house, or make another decision that affects my life and claim it was all in my best *interest*,” she tilted her head to the side, “perhaps you’ll think twice.”

Then she went back to reading her book, and left Kid to chew on that thought while he cleaned up his belongings.

The End

The First Day of the Rest of My Life
by: Ellie

Ambrose sat happily with his new friends preparing for the most exciting day of his young, sheltered life. He watched his hero, James Butler Hickok, pouring *powder* into the chambers of his pearl-handled Colts, with *interest.* Ambrose returned his gaze proudly to his own brand-new gun. Jimmy had gotten it for him, and it was a replica of Jimmy’s own revolver, adorned with a picture of a bulldog to represent his new nickname, “Bulldog” Merriweather. He sure liked the *sound* of that. Almost as good as “Wild Bill”, he thought.

He pulled out his own bag of gunpowder and opened it in imitation of his idol. “*Oops*”, he muttered softly, as it overflowed onto his bunk. He glanced around hastily, hoping none of the Express riders had noticed; he heaved a sigh of relief when he saw that they were all absorbed in cleaning and loading their own weapons.

As he scraped the loose powder surreptitiously back into the small pouch, he looked around again at the others in awe, reflecting how true his words in his journal the other day were. His life, his *future,* had started in earnest now that he had left the city behind, come out West, and met Jimmy and the others. He couldn’t wait to get started on the first adventure of many, and the sooner the better.

Ambrose finished loading his pistol and asked casually, “So what time we headin’ out?”

“WE?” they chorused . . .

THE END.

Oops
by: Tomwarp42

Note from catsimmie: The other day my husband and I were at lunch and he accused me of being lazy all day. I told him that wasn't true, that I had written a entry for the Quick Fix. He asked what it was and after telling him he said "That doesn't sound to hard, what's the word list?" So within minutes I had coke coming out of my nose and the other people staring at me. I tought it was jut to good to pass up. So here is his first attemp at FanFic, enjoy!

BOOM!

“What was that **sound?**” Buck asked as he and Kid ran from the barn to where Jimmy and Cody were unloading supplies from the buckboard.

“**Oops,**” replied Cody. “I guess I wasn’t payin’ attention to what I was doing.”

“You idiot!” Jimmy exclaimed. “You let the barrel of black **powder** roll off and into the fire!”

“I won’t do it again in the **future**,” he said sounding sincere. “I swear it.”

“Next time,” Kid told him. “Stay **interested** in what you’re doin’ instead of what she’s doin’,” he replied sounding jealous as he noticed Cody had been watching Lou as she headed towards the showers.

Boys Will Be Boys
by: Raye

“You sure we’re gonna get this all done in time?”

Sam surveyed the area and turned back to Buck. “I dunno, Buck but we’re gonna give it a shot.”

“Shot?” Kid’s head popped up from a bush nearby.

Waving him back down, Marshal Sam Cain tried to settle his own nerves. “Just have a few more things to do.”

Ike ran up beside Buck and signed to his friend, rapidly. Sam tried to focus on the young man’s hands, but he couldn’t quite see well enough in the near dark to ‘read’ the movements. “Slow down, Ike… I can’t-”

“He said, ‘the charges should be set up in a minute, Cody wanted to make sure the *powder-*”

“Cody?” Sam’s voice rose in sound and pitch at the thought of, “Cody has the gunpowder?”

Ike stopped in mid-sign and saw a similar confusion on Buck’s face. Ike nodded to the Marshal and then stepped out of the way when Sam stepped away.

“Wait.” Sam turned around and grabbed the front of Ike’s shirt. “Where did he take it?”

Ike looked over at Buck and quickly answered the question.

“He said he went behind the trees over there.” Buck pointed in the same direction Ike was and then dropped his arm when he saw the dire look on Sam’s face. “Something wrong, Sam?”

Sam pushed his fingers against his temples and tried not to black out. “Fine… really, fine… as long as manage to keep things quiet.”

It was suddenly the Fourth of July and Independence Day all at the same time. Blossoms of fire erupted behind the trees and a boom of *sound* threw them all to the ground like the ripple edge of a pond replaced with a hammer.

Sam was the first one, who scrambled to his feet as Cody peered through the stand of trees, his face coated with ash. “*Oops*… sorry. Anyone get hurt?”

Dusting off his clothes he shook his head to rid himself of the cobwebs. “Dang it, Cody… we were settin’ a trap for those outlaws… now they’ve got to know we’re here. What the hell did you think you were doin’?”

The younger man was instantly contrite, shuffling his feet and wiping at the black *powder* on his face with the backs of his hands, only serving to streak it across his skin. “Sorry, Sam… I was tryin’ to do like you said… to set the trap, but…” He looked at Ike where he stood beside Buck. “I guess when Ike was explain’ things… I probably should have paid more attention.”

Jimmy ran up, Lou trailing behind. “What do we do now, Sam?”

Sam gave the younger boy a smile, Lou was always so concerned, a real sensitive boy. “Well, I doubt we’ll be able to surprise ‘em after all the noise we made… so let’s pack it in for tonight and head on home.”

“Home?” Jimmy gave Sam a wolfish grin, “You stayin’ at the Station tonight?”

As Sam moved off to get his horse he shrugged. “Maybe.”

Buck elbowed Jimmy in the side as they followed Sam into the shadows.

Kid crawled out of the bushes dusting brambles from his clothes. “At least things’ll work out for one of us tonight.

Cody’s grin gleamed white in the darkness even though his ears were still ringing from the explosion. “What?”

Unconscious Nightmare
by: Debra

Cody dressed in his army uniform had finally finished his last run before settling in at Ft. Laramie for a couple of days off before his next scheduled run for the army. For months now he has been transporting highly top secret documents for the army between Ft. Kearny, Ft. Bridger and Ft. Laramie. The distance between the three forts has put a hurting on Cody’s much older body since the days he had rode for the Pony Express, but his days as a Pony Express Rider is what landed him this very important job for the army. The army anticipated that he could ride fast and get out of dangerous situations from transporting mail with the Pony Express years ago.

The very first thing that Cody planned on doing was to take a nice hot bath and as he walked into the room that he was to stay in while at Ft. Laramie, he discovered a tub overflowing with bubbles had already been arranged for his comfort. A wide Cody grin formed on his face as he quickly began to shed his clothing sinking slowly down into the relaxing tub of hot steaming water and bubbles. He gave out a sigh of instant gratification while closing his eyes to the world around him.

As he relaxed in the tub he had started to hear a lot of commotion just outside his door. He perked up and tried to hear what was going on. It sounded to him like a large group of men were cheering another army man for an accomplishment that he had achieved. Cody decided he wanted to see exactly what was going on and so he planted his feet on the cold floor and wrapped a towel around his lower body to take a peak outside his room just to see what was going on.

Unfortunately for Cody he is definitely one that could never stay away from commotion, always having to be the center of whatever is going on. Even with age he shames himself to think that he has never been able to say no to anything exciting that might be going on around him even if it doesn’t concern him and more times than not his curiosity has put him in dangerous situations like the time he almost got Buck killed.

As Cody starts to turn the knob on his door an explosion stuns Cody and sends him backwards onto the floor! He quickly picks himself up from the floor and clad only in his towel he hurriedly rushes to his door and opens it only to walk a few feet outside when he is met with another explosion that sends the back of Cody’s head slamming into the building that he had just come from!

While men are scattering in every direction dumping buckets of water from the wooden water trough to try and put out the fires that had started from the explosions, Cody is slumped over onto the ground unconscious!

~*~*~*~*~*

“Cody, can you hear me,” Lou spoke loudly worried that she can’t awaken Cody from his deep sleep while lightly shaking him as he is now comfortably laying in his bed at Ft. Laramie.

Cody can hear Lou’s familiar voice pleading with him to wake up, but he can’t seem to open his eyes.

Lou lightly shakes Cody awake as his eyes start to open slowly he can hear the *sounds* of small children’s feet tramping over each other to get downstairs for breakfast and in the next room he can hear the sharp* sound* of a baby crying! “Cody, it’s time to get up,” Lou spoke as she shakes Cody awake. Lou gets out of their bed and starts to get dressed into her clothes for the day.

Cody gazed over at Lou with a pleasing eye as she continues to undress from her nightgown and dress into her clothes. He looked over at the side of the bed that she had just crawled out of and he realizes by the indent in the mattress that Lou slept next to him. “Lou what is going on?” Cody asked confused as to why he is in bed with Lou.

Lou finished dressing and walked over to Cody’s side of the bed sitting down next to him. “Don’t you remember that yesterday we agreed to switch roles? Today you are taking care of our SIX children including the baby and I’m going to go out and take care of the farm,” Lou replied with a smile.

Cody is confused by all that Lou is telling him, but he truly doesn’t remember a thing. “I really don’t remember. We have SIX children?! We are married? What about Kid? I mean whatever happened to Kid?” Cody asked as he closed his eyes tightly thinking that when he opens them this will all be some sort of bad nightmare.

Lou shook her head and smiled warmly at Cody. “Cody you don’t need to be that practical joker that you were ten years ago.”

Cody looked at Lou with a stunned gaze on his face as if he was truly living a joke and Lou is happily playing along with whoever set this joke up. “What do you mean the practical joker that I was ten years ago?”

Lou hugs Cody tightly. “Cody, please stop you’re making me laugh and we really need to get our chores finished early today so that we can take the children on that picnic that we promised them down by the creek so they can get in and swim a little,” Lou stated as she gets up from the bed and walks over to her vanity. She picks up her hair brush and begins to brush her hair while gazing at Cody through her mirror as he gets out of bed.

As Cody throws the blankets off his body and stands up from the bed he suddenly realizes that he has no clothes on and then he witnesses a smiling Lou staring at him through the mirror on her vanity. He covers up with a blanket from the bed. “Lou, do you think you could close your eyes while I get dressed,” Cody pleaded as his face turns ten shades of red.

Lou placed her hair brush down on her vanity and walks back over to Cody. She grabs his pants and then proceeds to try and take his blanket away from him. “For God’s sake Cody, we’ve been married for ten years and we have SIX children together. Now is not the time to suddenly become modest around me and besides you weren’t this modest last night after we crawled into bed together,” Lou stated with a pleasing smile.

Cody released the blanket and pulled his pants on clasping them with his belt. “Lou, whatever happened to Kid?” Cody asked as he pulled on his shirt and then willingly allowed Lou to button the shirt for him.

Lou reached up to Cody and kissed him lightly on the lips after she got his shirt buttoned. “Kid and I broke up a long time ago and then you and I started seeing each other, we fell in love and we were married ten years ago. Now stop it, we have a lot to do today,” Lou replied as both Lou and Cody walk over to the baby’s bedroom. Lou picks the baby up out of his crib and hands him directly to Cody as the two walk down the stairs and into their kitchen to be met by five children sitting at the table ready for breakfast.

“Cody! Cody!” Lou spoke loudly into Cody’s face hoping to wake him from his deep sleep and also praying that his injuries from the gun *powder* explosion are not severe.

Cody continues to hear Lou from a distance. He can’t understand how the two of them ended up together and married with SIX children!

Lou decided to help Cody out this morning before making her way to the barn since he seems to be a little disoriented by his surroundings. She proceeds to get out a large pan for cooking bacon and eggs for their children. She hands Cody a bottle of milk to feed the baby.”

Cody looked at the bottle with confusion. “What do I do with this?”

Lou looked at Cody with an impatient gaze. “Cody, you put the bottle in Ike’s mouth so he can eat.”

Cody placed the bottle into a hungry Ike’s mouth and the baby instinctively began to suck on the bottle. “So we named one of our children Ike? So Lou, explain to me this little arrangement that we discussed last night about you taking care of the farm and me taking care of the children. Honestly I don’t remember that arrangement,” Cody stated as he watched Lou start to prepare breakfast for their five other children.

Lou began cooking the bacon for their children as she watched Cody feed the baby. “It’s apparent to me that you can’t remember much of anything this morning. Cody, the *future* of our marriage is at stake. You have been saying for months that your chores are more demanding than taking care of our SIX children. So to prove that each of our jobs as a family is equally important and physically draining we agreed to switch jobs for a day. I can see that already I will win because you don’t know one thing about cooking and feeding our children,” Lou stated as she makes her way over to the back door in the kitchen.

Cody turned and watched Lou with horror as she opened the door to leave. “Where do you think you are going?” Cody asked with extreme* interest* in their arrangement now that his wife of ten years is going to leave him to fend for himself with their SIX children. “Lou, you win! There is no way that I can take care of SIX children for an entire day!” Cody exclaimed already wishing the day were over with.

Lou walked over to her husband and kissed him lightly on the cheek. “Actually, I’m looking forward to a day outside with all the farm animals and the chores. You enjoy your day darling,” Lou stated with a teasing smile as she walked out of the house.

Cody watched as Lou walked out the door with a horrified expression etched on his face. As the door shuts Cody hears the bacon begin to sizzle on the stove. He hands the baby to his oldest daughter and tends to the bacon on the stove.

~*~*~*~*~*

“Cody, can you hear me!” Lou spoke softly as she hears a painful moan coming from Cody. At least she figures that he can hear her even if he can’t wake up.

As Lou is doing the chores in the barn, milking the cows and giving the horses fresh hay and water her two oldest children Noah and Ellen come out to help their mother.

Lou looked down at the sad faces of her two children. “How is your father handling you children?” Lou asked pretty much able to guess by the expressions on Noah and Ellen’s faces that Cody is not doing so well taking care of their children.

Noah looked over at Ellen and with a gesture of her eyes Ellen confirms that Noah should tell their mother about all the things that their father has done wrong this morning. “Pop burnt our bacon and then he cooked the eggs until they were so hard that we couldn’t chew them,” Noah replied quietly not really wanting to tell on his father and how terrible he is as a mother.

Ellen glanced down at the barn floor also not wanting to tell on her father, but feeling that she has to because she doesn’t want to be the cause of something bad happening to her baby brother. “Pop is trying to change Ike’s diaper and he got some of this white stuff out of the kitchen to put on his red bottom,” Ellen spoke just above a whisper.

Lou’s face becomes pale white as she runs toward the house wondering what Cody pulled out of the kitchen cupboard to put on Ike’s bottom while changing his diaper. She runs into the house and watches in horror as Cody sprinkles a white powder on Ike’s bottom. The baby instantly begins to cry! “Cody that is garlic *powder!”* Lou shouted as she begins to wipe the powder off of Ike’s already red bottom.

Cody stood up and allowed Lou to take his place on the sofa where he was changing Ike’s diaper. *“Oops!”* Cody exclaimed as he watched Lou wash off the garlic *powder* and replace it with talc *powder* and then put a clean cloth diaper on Ike.

Lou held Ike in her arms as she turned to her husband.* “Oops* is all you have to say,” Lou spoke upset that Cody could mistake a kitchen spice for talc * powder*.

Cody looked at Lou with a sorrowful expression. “Obviously our children are not safe with me as their mother,” Cody replied hoping that Lou will forgive him for saying that his work on the farm was harder work than taking care of their SIX children.

“Cody, it’s time you woke up!” Lou spoke her voice commanding Cody to wake up from his unconscious state.

Cody gives out a few loud moans and grabs his head with his hand as he tries to focus his eyes on the woman and young boy that are sitting next to him on his bed. He realizes that it is his wife Lou. “I’m so sorry Lou that I put garlic *powder* on Ike’s red bottom while changing his diaper. Can you ever forgive me for being so stupid?” Cody spoke as he sits up in the bed.

Lou looks confused at Cody. “What are you talking about Cody?”

“Ike, our baby. I put garlic *powder* on his bottom instead of using talc *powder.* He sure started wailing and crying, but you saved the day. I will never again claim that my farm chores are more difficult than taking care of our SIX children,” Cody spoke as he tries to understand why Lou is looking at him with a horrified expression on her face.

“Cody, this here is Ike. He isn’t a baby and I don’t believe even when he was a baby that you were around to change his diapers,” Lou stated in a confused tone.

“I’m sorry Lou, I wasn’t there to help you when Ike was a baby,” Cody whined giving Lou a tight hug.

Lou manages to get herself free from Cody’s tight hug. “Listen to me Cody, you and I do not have SIX children and we certainly are not married. You were hurt in an explosion of gun *powder* here at Ft. Laramie. You’ve been with the army for ten years,” Lou stated trying to make Cody understand that they are not together as husband and wife.

“Lou, we are married. We have SIX children and we live on a farm. We’ve been married for ten years,” Cody stated as he grimaced in pain from the bump on his head.

“Cody, you’ve been unconscious for two days. Kid and I have been married for ten years and we have four children. Ike is mine and Kid’s son and he is six years old,” Lou stated softly hoping to get Cody’s mind straight after being out cold for two days.

Cody looks at Lou with a confused look on his face. “Are you sure?”

“I’m sure,” Lou spoke softly with a grin.

“Why are you here at Ft. Laramie?” Cody asked wondering why the army would bring Lou here to help wake him up from his unconscious state of mind.

“Don’t you remember a couple of weeks ago when you stopped at the farm and Ike had broken his arm when you, Kid and Ike were playing with that ball and bat set that Teaspoon had bought us years ago when we were still riding for the Pony Express. You recommended the doctor here at Ft. Laramie because he had a great reputation for doctoring children,” Lou replied trying to help Cody to remember his memories.

Cody smiles broadly. “I remember. We brought Ike here for the doctor to set his arm.”

“Ike and I arrived yesterday to have the doctor exam his arm to make sure it’s healing correctly and that’s when your commanding officer told me that you had been hurt. I’ve been trying to get you to wake up since then,” Lou stated praying that Cody no longer believes that the two of them are married. “What made you think we were married with SIX children?”

Cody thinks for a moment back to his married life with Lou. “It was just a nightmare,” Cody replied with a teasing grin.

Cody immediately receives a soft slap across the arm from Lou for his remark about their marriage.

But I’ll tell you one thing Lou. You sure look good in a nightgown,” Cody replied as Lou, Ike and Cody share a laugh over Cody’s unconscious experience.

THE END

Combustible
by: Michelle R

“Oops...” was all the riders heard before the sound of the blast going off to the west of them.

“Oops!! That’s all ya have to say for yourself Cody!!” Teaspoon was seething, while Buck, Kid, Noah and ducked down behind an outcropping of rocks and still found a way to watch in utter amazement.

Teaspoon and the others slowly lifted their heads above the rocks, making sure that they either didn’t get them shot off or pummeled by the falling rocks and brush that went up with the powder keg that Cody had accidentally shot.

“I’m sorry Teaspoon! When I was aimin’ to hit the guy behind that shack, I slipped and my gun went off!”

“Son...Jimmy and Lou are on the other side of that shack, trying to surround these guys. Let’s just pray that they didn’t go up with the powder keg, too.”

He shook his head and then looked at Cody from the corner of his eye. He could see the remorse in Cody’s features, but he didn’t have time to worry about that now. They needed to get this finished and get this gang of freight robbers taken care of and then check and see if Jimmy and Louise were alright.

Teaspoon looked on and didn’t see any movement from behind the shack, so either who ever was back there was long dead or they scattered when Cody’s shot went off.

“Buck, Kid? I need ya’ to head West of that shack and see if these fellas went towards those rocks or if you can see any of the body’s from there. Cody...you and Noah need to go ‘round East and see if they went that way behind the house, and see if you can find Jimmy and Lou and see if they’re ok.”

Kid looked at Teaspoon in question. “You gonna stay here Teaspoon?”

“Yep. I’m gonna make sure they don’t try and cut through here if they did survive.”

They all looked at him in concern.

“Don’t give me that! I may be old, but I still have a few tricks up my sleeve. Now git!”

They all went in the directions they were told and prayed that they would all get out of this alive.

************************###**************************

“Lou?” Jimmy lifted his head off the ground and looked around for her.

“Hmm...” Lou was lying next to him, with one arm covering her head and the other at her side, bent at an odd angle.

Jimmy started to get up, alarmed at what he saw.

“Lou! Sweetheart, can ya’ hear me?” He looked around cautiously to make sure that they weren’t being surrounded by the gang of bandits that they were sneakin’ up on.

“Oh God...what hit me?” Lou started to roll over to gain her bearings. “Ow!”

She instantly grabbed at her arm, holding it to her body.

“Hold still Lou. I think your arms broken.” He came over to her and kneeled down to see if anything else was broken or wrong with her.

“I’m fine Jimmy,” she looked up at him, with dirt streaking her face and tears at the corner of her eyes. “Really. Just give me a minute and then we need to get out a here.”

“Let me see your arm Lou. I just wanna keep it in place until we can get ya to a doctor and get your arm splinted.”

She pulled away from Jimmy, “Don’t start actin’ like Kid used to Jimmy. I can’t handle that from you too.”

Jimmy looked at her with hurt in his eyes. “Do you honestly think I would do that? Really?”

Seeing the look in his face, Louise knew she shouldn’t have said what she did. Her and Jimmy had grown much closer since her break up with Kid, and if there was one thing she knew she could trust Jimmy with, was his knowin’ not to doubt her and her abilities.

“Sorry, Jimmy. I’m just shaken up is all, and this arm hurts like Hell.”

Looking around, they tried to see if they could see of any of their fellow riders or the gang of bandits.

“What in the Hell blew up?!” Jimmy was trying to concentrate on Lou and tying her arm up towards her upper body and keeping it in place, but he was worried that something had happened to their friends.

“I don’t know. All I remember was us followin’ those two guys behind that outcropping of rocks and then bein’ thrown back like a rag doll.”

Jimmy looked into Lou’s eyes as he finished with her arm. “You sure you’re ok? I can go look and see if we’re alone here or if the guys caught up with the rest of the gang.”

“Jimmy, stop worryin’.” She started to stand up and pulled her gun out of the holster, holding it with her good hand.

“I know. I just couldn’t...” he looked over at her, not exactly sure where to stop or start his sentence.

“Couldn’t what, Jimmy?”

“I just couldn’t imagine havin’ a future without you in it is all.” He stood all the way up, brushed off his clothes and pulled one of his colts out of the holsters.

You could’ve heard a pin drop after he said that. “Are you sayin’ what I hope you’re sayin’?”

“Lou, we ain’t got time now,” Jimmy turned towards her. “But I promise, when we get home, I wanna sit down and talk to ya. ‘Bout everything.” He leaned towards her and placed a gentle kiss on her lips. Knowing now wasn’t the time for somethin’ like this, but he just had to let her know that he really had fallen for her and he wanted a future with her. One he hoped wouldn’t put her into danger, just ‘cause she was with him. But, like Elias had said, she was a match for him, and could be the one woman who could handle him. It was high time that he did somethin’ about it, and he wasn’t gonna forget that kiss that they had at the fire that night. He never could. It was combustible, and it lit him a fire like he never knew could, and he didn’t want that fire to ever go out.

He started walking carefully away from her and towards the rocks again. “Let’s go. Maybe we’ll still be able to catch who’s left after that blast, and then meet up with the others.”

Lou just shook her head in disbelief. She knew she had been fallin’ for Jimmy for a while now, and she could only have hoped that he felt the same way, but she was never one to get her hopes up. Especially after what had happened with the Kid. She and Kid were finally able to be friends, but they had to work at it. A lot. It was hard goin’ from friends, to lovers and then back to friends again. But the friendship between Jimmy, Kid and her was already strained because of Kid’s jealousy of Jimmy and her relationship. He always thought Jimmy was intervenin’ with their relationship, when it was Kid’s overprotectiveness and lack of trust in her abilities that was the strain. All she knew, was that maybe, just maybe, she would get her happily ever after, after all. Jimmy had a way of makin’ her feel special. He made her feel wanted and trusted at the same time, and she had been needin’ that for awhile. Now she might finally get it.

They walked in silence along the rockery, guns aimed at anything that moved. She was walking close behind Jimmy, when she heard a branch snap behind her. Whirling around, she aimed her gun as Jimmy did the same, at the intruder.

“What the Hell? It’s just us,” Cody and Noah were shocked at the guns being pointed at them.

Seeing who it was, Jimmy and Louise lowered their guns and motioned for the other two to follow them quietly.

The group of four lowered themselves quietly towards the ground cover and peered behind the rocks. What they saw was a surprise to them all. Kid, Buck and Teaspoon had managed to creep forward as well and they had surrounded the rest of the gang. Teaspoon motioned for them all to keep quiet and then they all stood quietly, cocking their weapons and pointing them to the group of men that survived the blast.

“Gentlemen...I do believe that it’s time for you to put down your weapons.” Teaspoon said matter of factly.

The remaining men all turned around frantically, surprised that they had been snuck up on. Some reached for their weapons, but would get a shot towards their feet when they tried, by Jimmy.

“I think you heard the Marshall. I’d do what he says if I were you,” Jimmy said with his familiar smirk on his face.

“Times up boys, it’s off to Rock Creek for ya’. The Territorial Judge will be in town in ‘bout a week and we’ll see what he has to say for the stealin’ you’ve been doin’.”

The men knew that they had been beaten, so they gave up the ghost and dropped what weapons they had. ‘Sides, their leader had been killed in the blast anyways. Most of them, had know idea what was gonna happen, but knew they were gonna be put away for a long time.

The boys, Teaspoon and Lou all stepped around the rocks and then tied up the prisoners, and loaded them onto the buckboard that was at the house they were usin’.

Teaspoon walked over to Jimmy and Lou, lookin’ them over. “You two ok?”

They nodded and looked at each other. “Let’s get ya’ home Lou. That arm don’t look too good, and I want the doc to take a gander at it. And no arguments Lou.”

Teaspoon raised his eyebrow, waiting for the argument to ensue from the rider that was like a daughter to him. He was surprised when one never came.

“I know Teaspoon. I’m fine...but, I’m lookin’ forward to goin’ home anyways. I’ve got a conversation I can’t wait to hear.” She smiled at Jimmy, and noticed his slight blush.

“I mad him blush...I’ll be.” Louise smiled and said to herself.

Just looking at the two riders in front of him, he smirked and shook his head and said to himself “Now that’s a powder keg ready to blow, when them two get together.”

Noticing that Kid was watching Lou and Jimmy’s interaction, Teaspoon watched in resigned fate. He always thought that it was gonna be Lou and Kid together, but when he sees how Jimmy and Louise are together, besides bein’ combustible, their was a respect that the two had for each other and a trust. Jimmy trusted everything that Lou did, and she watched out for him, so it was a good match. “Who knows? Fate has a way of doin’ things that you never thought would happen, but do. Until then, I guess I’m just gonna have to watch and see what happens.”

Jimmy helped Lou onto Lightning and then he mounted Sundancer, with the other riders in tow, except for Teaspoon who was drivin’ the buckboard, pullin’ his horse behind and carryin’ the prisoners.

“Let’s go home boys. We got ourselves a bit of ride back and I just want this over with.” Teaspoon drove the horses forward and they were all off with a jerk. Jimmy and Louise were ridin’ next to each other, and the others were to the right of the buckboard.

All was quiet, the exhaustion of the day’s events rainin’ down on them. That’s when it hit Lou with the question, she was wonderin’ about earlier.

“Teaspoon? What was that, that blew up?” It was an innocent question, but one she really wanted to know the answer to. At least, she thought she did.

Teaspoon looked over at Cody, “Why don’tcha ask Cody ‘bout that one, huh?”

She and Jimmy both looked over at their friend, with a questioning glance.

“Thanks Teaspoon.” Taking a deep breath, he explained about what happened and prepared for the onslaught of anger that he was sure was going to be directed at him. What he got was a surprised laugh from the two.

“You ain’t angry?” Cody was unsure of how to handle this turn of events. For one thing, he was expecting to have at least one gun trained on him and then angry words from the other one, but he certainly wasn’t expecting to hear laughter.

“What’s so funny?” Buck asked.

Jimmy and Lou just smiled at each other. “Let’s just say, that today’s been a real eye openin’ kind of day. And who woulda thought that Cody’s mishap with his gun would be the one to light that fire again.”

The other riders just stared at Jimmy and Louise in disbelief, while Teaspoon watched them. “Yep...definitely combustible, but I think them two was made for each other.”

Not What He'd Expected
by: Shannon

Kid nervously paced the front porch of the doctor's office waiting for his wife of only ten days, who was inside. He was worried out of his mind. Lou had been suffering from some sort of stomach virus for over a week now. It started the morning of Noah's funeral, the same day Jesse ran away with his brother, Frank. He knew the disintegration of their Express family was weighing heavily on his wife's heart. Furthermore, his own indecision on whether he should return to Virginia to fight was only contributing more to her worries. He feared Lou's anxiety over their uncertain *future* was making her physically ill. Seeing her so distraught had only further affirmed his decision to stay, he just hadn't had the opportunity to tell her yet.

The *sound* of a female clearing her throat brought Kid out of his thoughts and he turned to see his petite wife staring at him amusingly. He sighed with concern as he noticed her new dress was now a size too big now from all the weight she had lost from not eating. Still, he could not help but notice the radiant look on her face. He looked into her eyes with concerned *interest.* "What did he say? What's wrong with you?"

"Nothing." She smiled. "He said everything appears to be normal."

"You haven't kept anything down in over a week. That ain't normal!"

"Well, actually considering the circumstances, it is; but he did give me this *powder* to mix in with tea. He said it should help calm my stomach."

"How can you being sick, be normal?"

"I'm not sick, Kid." Lou grinned, her face beaming with amusement. "I'm having a baby!"

Kid looked at his wife in shock right before his eyeballs rolled up into his head and he fainted backwards.

"Kid!" Lou cried as she knelt beside her husband. Maybe this wasn't the best way to tell him, she thought. *OOPS!*



To be continued in Part 2

This series is dedicated to my three pals with the nine month bug, Kathleen, Hanny, and especially Jen, who was also kind enough to beta these.

Not What He'd Expected Part II
by: Shannon

A continuation of Not What He Expected...

Louise knelt next to her husband as he came to after passing out from her unexpected announcement. "Are you alright, Kid?"

He nodded silently as she helped him up, his face still as pale as the scented bath *powder* Rachel had given Lou for her birthday. "Maybe we should sit down for a spell." She carefully guided him to the bench in front of Doctor Barnes' office. "You don't look so good, Kid."

"I'm fine." His face turned red from embarrassment. When he'd thought of their *future,* he knew it would include not only Lou's siblings, but one day children of their own, but he'd never dreamed it would happen so soon, or that he'd react to her news like that. "It's you I'm worried about."

"The doctor says everything is fine."

"I don't understand how this happened so quickly. I mean until we got married, we hadn't even done you know since we got back together. Well, except for..."

"Except for that first night," she finished his sentence, giggling softly as she fondly remembered the night they got back together, right after the funeral of Kid's friends, Doritha and Garth. What started out as her consoling him in his grief quickly turned into mutual declarations of love. Caught up in the emotions they had both long been fighting, they found themselves making love. While neither one regretted their actions; afterwards, they worried that they'd moved too hastily again. After a long heart felt talk, they agree to put their physical relationship on hold so they could focus their *interest* on learning to communicate with each other.

"But that means you're already..."

"About two and half months along," she interrupted.

"You didn't know?"

No, I mean I'd been feeling a little funny. Before I started feeling sick, I thought it was just the stress with the wedding and all. You know I'd never have gone after Pierson and his gang if I'd thought I was carrying our child."

"Of course I know that." Kid answered in a monotone voice as if he were lost in thought.

Lou lowered her head, afraid Kid wasn't as eager about the baby as she was. "I know it's earlier than we'd have planned."

The *sound* of her voice told Kid her concern. He smiled and took her hands in his. "Well this is one *oops* I'm very happy about."

Not What They'd Expected
by: Shannon

A continuation of my "Expected" Series...

"Kid, come on! I'm your wife and I'm carrying your child, I think it's about time I know my husband's name." Lou glared at her husband in aggravation as she tried to snatch the bag she knew contained their marriage certificate with his legal name. Kid had packed it just in case they needed it in order to legally adopt Jeremiah and Teresa from the orphanage. They were only a half day's ride out from St. Joe and Lou had been trying to get to that bag since they started their wagon trip over a week ago. "It'd be nice to know what my own last name is."

"Fine," Kid sighed as he pulled the reins to stop the horses and looked at his wife with defeated exasperation. He reached behind him and pulled out the paper. "I just hope you don't make a habit of calling me it."

"It can't be that bad," Lou giggled with delight as he handed her their marriage certificate. Her eyes quickly found the line that peaked her *interest.* "Perceval Kidrick?"

Kid grimaced at hearing his first name for the first time in years. "Are you happy now?"

"It's a nice last name," Lou said as she leaned in and kissed his cheek in gratitude. "Don't worry, you will always Kid to me, Perceval." She giggled as she saw the expression on his face. "I promise, that was the one and only time, I'll call you that."

"Thank you." He smiled in relief before looking at his wife curiously. "So you don't mind being called Mrs. Kidrick?"

"Not at all." She wrapped her arm around his. "It's our name, isn't it? We'll just keep your first name under wraps, because if Jimmy or Cody ever found out..."

"I don't even want to think about that." He shook his head before commanding the horses to continue on towards the orphanage.


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



"Nervous?" Kid asked as he helped his wife down from the wagon.

"A little," she admitted as he set her down. She grasped his hand as they made their way to see the Mother Superior. "I'm not sure what to tell them about the baby. They are both old enough to know ..."

"I know. I'm really worried about how Jeremiah is going to take it." Kid couldn't imagine the anger the boy might have towards him when he learned Kid had gotten his sister pregnant before they were married.

"Maybe we should wait a little bit to tell them, let them get adjusted to their new home and all."

"We can't wait too long," Kid smiled as he placed his hand on Lou's rounding belly. "You're starting to show."

"Don't remind me," Lou sighed as she knocked on the door to the Mother Superior's office.

The door opened slowly and a petite nun peeked through the crack before smiling and opening the door fully. "Louise, welcome! You arrived sooner than we had expected. Jeremiah and Teresa will be so pleased to see the two of you. Congratulations on your marriage."

"Thank you," Lou said as they followed the woman into the room and sat at the chairs in front of her desk.

"Jeremiah and Teresa were thrilled when we told them you were coming," the nun said as she sat down and began rummaging through her desk for the appropriate paperwork. She looked up to see the concerned looks on their faces. "Don't worry, I did as you asked. They don't know about the wedding or the adoption."

"Thank you," Lou said as she and her new husband both let out sighs of relief. "We wished they could've been there, but everything happened so fast. I wasn't even sure if Kid was going to go back to Virginia...." *Oops,* she thought as she stopped herself for giving out too much personal information about their marriage.

"I'm afraid this war is going to be tearing many families apart," the nun sighed.

"Not our family," Kid said. "My home is with Lou and the children now."

The Mother Superior smiled as she handed them the adoption papers. "Well, let's get this paperwork out of the way so you can tell them the good news."


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



Lou walked into the classroom to see her little sister straightening the bookshelf. "Tessie Bear!"

Teresa turned to see her sister and ran up to hug. "Louise!"

"Let me look at you, I can't believe how big you've gotten." Lou smiled as her baby sister proudly stood up as tall as she could and turned around. Lou frowned when she noticed her torn dress and her hands were covered in a fine white *powder.* "Teresa, what happened?"

"I got in trouble so I had to clean the chalk boards and straighten the shelves." The girl lowered her head in shame.

"What did you do?"

"Melanie Sheffield stole Miss Mumble Puss. When I tried to take her back, she ripped Annabelle's dress so I hit her."

"Teresa Elisabeth!" Lou looked at the girl in disbelief. "You were fighting? Is that how you tore your dress?"

Teresa broke down in tears and flung her arms around her sister. "I'm sorry, I won't do it again. Please don't stop coming to see us."

"What?" Lou looked at her curiously.

"Jeremiah said that if I keep fighting, you won't come see us any more."

"What? Where is Jeremiah?"

"Outside helping to feed the animals."

"Please go get him, the four of us need to have a long talk."

"Four?" Teresa asked curiously.

"Kid's here too, and we have something very important to talk about, so go get Jeremiah."

A huge grin appeared on the young girl's face when she realized her sister's beau was there, too. Lou smiled at her sister's excitement and chuckled as she took off to find their brother. She began to nervously pace the floor wondering if her siblings will be happy about their surprise. She looked around the old school room that she spent a good deal of her own childhood cleaning for getting into mischief. The nuns did their best to try to educate and take care of all the orphans but she and Kid were going to give Jeremiah and Teresa the home that she had promised them and her mother so long ago.

"Hey," Kid said as he walked in and crossed to his wife. "How'd it go?"

"She thinks I won't come visit them if she's bad." Lou frowned.

"What?"

"She got in trouble for fighting..."

"Teresa was fighting?"

"I know, I guess she's more like me than I ever realized." Lou lowered her head in exasperation.

"That's not necessarily a bag thing." Kid put his arms around her and kissed her. "You're feistiness is one of the things I love about you, Mrs. Kidrick."

She giggled and returned his embrace. "And you're bullheadedness is one of the things I love about you, Mr. Kidrick."

"You're married!" The *sound* of Jeremiah's confused voice interrupted the couple's private moment.

*Oops,* Lou thought as she covered her mouth and turned to see her siblings walk into the room, this is not how I wanted them to find out.

"You're pregnant, too!" Jeremiah exclaimed in anger as he saw his older sister's growing belly. "He got you in trouble and now you're here to tell us that you can't take us in."

"What?" Teresa said as tears began to fill her eyes.

"Jeremiah, it's not what you think." Lou said as she tried to grab hold of her brother's shoulders to get him to listen to her.

"Let go of me!" He pushed away from her. "You broke your promise again. You said you were saving up to find us a place so we could be together, instead you decided to start a new family."

"Don't talk to your sister like that!" Kid said as he crossed to his wife who was on the verge of tears.

"I hate both of you!" Jeremiah spat as he wrapped his arms around Teresa who was now crying hysterically. "I hate you for lying to us all these years and I hate him for taking you away from us!"

"Jeremiah Michael McCloud that is enough!" Lou said as she tried to sound calm but Kid could feel her body shaking. "Yes, we got married. We wanted ya'll to be there, but we didn't have a place to live yet and we needed to find a place first."

"And now you're having a baby." His voice still filled with anger.

"Yes, we are having a baby, but that doesn't mean we don't want you."

"Yeah, right. I'm the same age you were when you ran away. By the time you come to take us, Teresa and I will be gone."

"We are taking you now." Lou said softly as she crossed and knelt in front her brother and sister. "I know this is sudden, but we are buying a ranch in Rock Creek. The house is big enough for all four us, plus the baby when it gets here."

"Really?" Jeremiah asked in disbelief.

"We want us all to be a family." Kid said as he joined his wife and the children. "I always wanted to be a big brother, if you'll let me."

The two children exchanged glances before they simultaneously wrapped their arms around Kid, telling them they accepted his offer. Kid and Lou exchanged smiles, please that they will be able to provide for a better *future* for the children.

Sooner Than Expected
by: Shannon

Another installment of my "Expected" series....

"And now you just add the baking *powder* and stir until it's well blended," Rachel explained as she handed the bowl to a very pregnant Louise.

"That's it?" Lou asked with much *interest* as she stirred the mixture into a smooth batter. "Making a cake can't be this easy."

"It is when you follow the directions," Rachel reminded her.

"And not trying to do too many things at once," added Teresa, who was also in the kitchen helping to prepare the food for Kid's surprise birthday party.

"I can't help it. I never realized how busy I'd be now that I'm a wife." She said truthfully. Five months ago they purchased the RC Horse Ranch from Mary Hansen, just weeks after her husband, Lee died. The couple had been childless so the young widow decided to move back east to live with her family and sold the entire operation including the land, contracts, and horses to Kid and Lou for a very reasonable price. Between settling into their new home and getting the ranch, which was run down from Mr. Hansen's long illness, back into running order, both Kid and Lou were constantly on the go. Fortunately, both Teresa and Jeremiah were eager to jump in where they could. Jeremiah helped as much as possible with taking care of the animals and rebuilding parts of the corral and barn. Teresa helped Lou not only with the cleaning and cooking, but also with the vegetable garden they had planted. Although both had done a little gardening as part of their chores at the orphanage, both sisters were surprised to find out what green thumbs they had.

"You and Kid are doing a great job rebuilding this place." Rachel smiled.

"I'm afraid Kid's done most of it," Lou sighed. "With the baby on the way, I haven't been able to help him as much as I wanted, especially with the horses."

"You've been working very hard to make a home for the four of you," Rachel reminded her as she took the bowl and poured the batter into the pan.

"I know." Lou rubbed her very large rounded belly. "I don't even want to think about how busy things are going to be around here after I'm a mother, too."

"Lou, you'll be fine," the former station mistress said as she put the pan into the oven.

"That's right, Lou. You're already a mother to me and Jeremiah." Teresa grinned at her older sister. "And I promise to help all I can with the baby."

"Thank you, Sugar Bear." Lou hugged her your sister.

The *sound* of the front door slamming could be heard all the way in the back of the house where the kitchen was. A look of horror swept over all three female faces. Rachel turned to look at Lou. "I thought Kid isn't supposed to be back for another three hours."

"He isn't." Lou shook her head. "Teaspoon and Jimmy promised to keep him busy until six so we'd have plenty of time to get everything ready. What are we going to do? The guests won't be here until 5:30? We don't even have the decorations up yet!"

"You two go and try to get him out of here," Rachel suggested. "I've got everything under control in here."

Lou walked into the parlor with Teresa directly behind her. Both expected to see a very early arriving Kid there, but to Lou's dismay she saw something almost as bad. A set of muddy footprints led from the front door across her freshly mopped floor and trailing up the stairs. The mother to be thought she was living a nightmare. "Jeremiah Michael McCloud!"

"What is it Lou?" The boy called from upstairs.

"Get down here this instant!" His older sister ordered.

"Is something wrong?" He asked as he came down the stairs.

"Look at this floor." Lou pointed to the path left by his dirty boots.

"*Oops.*" The boy said sheepishly. "I'm sorry Lou. I was in a hurry to change so I could help get ready for the party. I guess I didn't notice my boots were covered in mud."

"Lou what's the matter?" Rachel called as she came running in to see what the commotion was. "Oh dear," was all she could say as she say the dirty floor.

"Well, go back upstairs and finish cleaning up," Lou instructed her brother. "I expect you back down in twenty minutes cleaning up this mess."

"Yes ma'am!" The boy nodded and turned to go back upstairs.

"And in the *future* remember to wipe your feet before coming inside the house!" Lou called as he ran back up the stairwell. She felt a sudden slight pain in her abdomen and she left out a load moan.

"Lou?" Teresa asked and both she and Rachel looked at her with concern.

"I'm okay, the baby just gave a very hard kick is all."

"Louise why don't you lay down for a bit and rest," Rachel suggested. "With the way you've been running around here, you'll be too tired to enjoy the party if you don't."

"I can't." The woman shook her head. "I still have to put up the decorations and finish the dinner."

"Teresa and I can take of everything."

"Yeah Lou," Teresa agreed. "Jeremiah can help too, after he cleans up the floor."

"Oh, the floor," Lou sighed. "I'd better do that, he'll forget."

"No you don't!" Rachel said firmly. "We will make sure he does it and he does it right."

"But..."

"No buts young lady," Rachel interrupted. "Go up stairs and lay down for at least one hour. I promise everything will be almost done by the time you're up."

"Fine." Lou relented when she realized she would not win this argument. "Just make sure I don't oversleep and miss the party."

"We would never let you do that." Teresa said as her older sister carefully climbed the stairs, attempting to avoid stepping in Jeremiah's muddy footprints, which was no small task considering she couldn't even see her own feet at this point.

Two hours later Lou came back downstairs all dressed up for her husband's birthday party. She wore her new pink calico dress and her shoulder length hair was pulled back in a French twist. She sighed in surprise when she saw that not only had Jeremiah cleaned up the floor as promised but the parlor and dining area were both decorated as planned.

"Oh Louise!" Rachel cried as she walked out of the kitchen. "You look beautiful."

"Thank you." Lou blushed. "Where are Jeremiah and Teresa?"

"I sent them upstairs to change for the party. As soon as I finish frosting the cake, I was gonna do the same."

"I'll do it, you go on up and change." Lou said, glad that Rachel had thought to go ahead and bring her party dress with her so she could change there rather than running back into town just to change.

"Are you sure?"

"I think I can handle frosting a cake," Lou chuckled. "Besides the guests should be arriving soon."

"Okay."

"Rachel thanks for all your help." Lou hugged her friend. "I could never have pulled this off without you."

"It was my pleasure." Rachel smiled before heading upstairs.

Lou walked into the kitchen and felt another pain in her stomach. She had been unable to nap due to the reoccurring twinges, which seemed to be getting stronger, and she was beginning to worry something was wrong with the baby. Not tonight, she prayed. This is Kid's night. I want everything to be perfect. She gently rubbed her belly before she finished frosting the cake.

Ten minutes later, Lou heard a knock at the front door. As she made her way out of the kitchen and across the parlor, Jeremiah ran down the stairs and beat her to the door. He opened the door and exclaimed, "It's Cody!"

"Cody?!" Lou ran to the door and embraced her blonde friend. "What are you doing here? I thought you couldn't get leave?"

"Well, we are camped about thirty miles away and I talked the Colonel into giving me two days off so I could come see my family." He looked at her and grinned. "Looks like you've picked up my eating habits!"

"Very funny," Lou slapped his arm playfully. "You know I've only got about three weeks left."

"Yep, I'm hoping to use all my leave for it." Cody nodded. "Figured Kid could use a hand around here since he won't be getting much sleep."

"That's sweet, Cody. Kid will be thrilled to see you." She led him to the settee. "Have a seat. Buck and Jenny should be here with her father any minute." She turned to her younger brother. "Jeremiah can you go check on Teresa and knock on my bedroom door and tell Rachel there's a surprise down her for her."

"Okay, but I want to hear all about Cody's adventures when I get back," the boy said before heading upstairs.

"Jenny Tompkins?" Cody asked.

"Yep." Lou nodded. "She moved to Rock Creek about three months ago to help her dad run the store. She and Buck have been courting since the moment he saw her step off the stagecoach."

"I'll bet Old Tompkins loves that."

"Actually he and Buck are getting along great. Buck's even working at the store part time."

Before Cody could answer someone knocked on the door.

"I'll get it!" Teresa cried as she ran down the stairs.

"Teresa Elisabeth, don't you mess up your dress!" Lou cried as the girl hastily pulled the door open revealing Buck with Jenny linked on his arm and Mr. Tompkins right behind them.

"Cody?" Buck looked at his friend in shock. "Lou didn't tell us you were going to be here!"

"That's because I didn't know."

"They're riding up right now!" Jeremiah called out as he and Rachel came running down the stairs.

"Cody!" Rachel cried as she hugged the former Express rider.

"Rachel you look even lovelier than I remembered."

"Oh, you." She blushed at Cody's compliment.

Just then the door opened and Kid walked in with Jimmy and Teaspoon right behind him.

"SURPRISE!" Everyone called out in unison.

"What's all this?" Kid looked around in disbelief.

"Happy birthday Kid." Lou smiled as she walked over to her husband and kissed him.

He kissed her back but pulled away when he felt something wet drip onto his boots. "Lou?"

"I think my water just broke," she began to cry as a strong contraction enveloped her and she buckled forward into Kid's arms.

"Kid get her upstairs!" Rachel ordered. "Jenny gets some water boiling and one of you boys better go get the doctor!"

Everyone did as instructed. Kid carefully carried his wife up to their bedroom while Buck and Jimmy took off to find the doctor. They arrived back in less than an hour. Doc Barnes quickly told them that although she was early, Lou was far enough along that the baby should be fine. "Babies have a tendency to know when they are ready."

The party guests spent the next hour trying to entertain Lou's siblings as they all nervously tried not to pay attention to Lou's cries upstairs. Despite the doctor's disapproval, Lou insisted Kid stay with her. Kid told himself he was going to be strong for her and not pass out like he had when she first told him she was expecting. After two hours of watching her push, he was afraid he couldn't take any more, his heart aching for his distraught wife. He even contemplated never making love to her again so she wouldn't have to deal with the pain of childbirth again, but just as the thought entered his head the doctor said he the could see the head.

"You're almost there Louise," he said calmly trying to encourage his patient. "Just one or two more pushes and it will be all over."

"I don't think I can," Lou cried, weak from the trials of labor.

"Lou, you're doing great," Kid said as he looked into his wife's eyes. "If any woman can do this, it's you. You are the strongest person I know."

Lou squeezed her husband's hand tightly as she cried out and pushed with all her might.

"That's it, sweetheart, just a little more."

The *sound* of a babies cries filled the house.

"It's a boy!" The doctor announced as he held the tiny newborn up so his parents could see. After cleaning the baby off, he handed him to Lou.

"He's beautiful," Lou said as she studied there son. "He has your eyes."

"And your lungs," Kid teased as he curled up next to her.

"I'm sorry this spoiled your surprise party." Lou sighed. "After Rachel and Teresa worked so hard."

"Lou, you gave me the best birthday present ever." Kid said as he kissed his wife's forehead. "Thank you."

"I love you, Kid."

"I love you, too, Lou."

More Than She'd Ever Expected
by: Shannon

The final installment (for now anyways) of my "Expected" series...

Louise awoke to the *sound* of her newborn son, Noah Isaac Kidrick, crying softly in his bassinet. She rose up carefully and chose not to light the lamp on her nightstand. She did not want to disturb her sleeping husband, who had been up most of the night delivering their first colt. She did not bother to find her slippers and quickly walked in her bare feet to the baby's bed, which was placed at the foot of his parent's bed.

"Shh Noah, Mama's coming," she said as she tried to carefully make her way in the darkness. Still half asleep, her eyes were not adjusting to the darkness as fast as she'd hope and she walked into the bassinet, stubbing her right big toe on the leg of the baby bed. *Oops,* she thought, afraid she had woken up Kid.

She smiled as she picked up her one month old who was the spitting image of her husband. Noah coed softly in response to his mother's loving touch. "Oh, my," she whispered softly to him as she felt the dampness of his diaper. "No wonder you woke Mama up."

She carefully carried him over to the changing table and lit a small lamp they kept nearby. She quickly removed the soiled diaper. After wiping her son clean, she shook some diaper *powder* on his rosy bottom before putting a fresh diaper on the child.

She picked him up and crossed to the rocker. As she settled down in the chair, she felt her son's tiny hands pulling on the front of her nightgown with great *interest.* She quickly unbuttoned the gown to feed him. "There you go, Sweetheart."

She rocked her son gently as she nursed, humming softly. She glanced over at her husband of six months and thought of how perfect their life was. They were living her dream, a dream Lou had feared they might never reach but now she not only had a home for her siblings, but a loving husband and newborn son, too. She'd spent most of her life concentrating on trying to make a better *future,* and now she was living it.



Special thanks to Jen who not only betaed all five stories, but betaed my html coding too! You rock and I love you! Again, this series is dedicated to my three "Expecting" friends, Kathleen, Hanny, and Jen.

One Order of Distraction Coming Up!
by: Debbie

Kid snatched the room key off the front counter of the hotel and turned around in a huff. He moved so quickly that he ran smack into Lou's chest. "Lou!" he cried out in frustration. He took hold of the petite rider's arms and moved her aside so he could continue on his way to the stairs.

Lou held her arms up in mock arrest then raised her eyebrows in surprise as Kid didn't even smirk at her gesture. She turned and watched as he disappeared up the first flight of stairs, not even bothering to glance behind him to see if she was following. Any other time she would have been annoyed at being ignored but the words the hotel clerk had told them kept permeating through her mind.

'One room left; take it or leave it.'

Of course they'd taken the room but Kid hadn't done his usual shuffling of his feet and lowering his eyes so no one would notice the red glow appearing on his cheeks like in the past when two 'boys' went upstairs to spend the night together in one room that held only one bed, and winding up with nothing on their bodies. He'd always said it was inappropriate and would insist on sleeping on the floor but then desires and wants would take over and they'd wind up waking up in each others' arms the next day.

Tonight, though, Kid was too flustered by what was going on outside to even think about the consequences of them sharing a hotel room for the night. Well Lou was definitely thinking about it and Kid not realizing she would be in the same room with him once nightfall came, might prove to be the best thing to happen on this trip.

An hour later and he still didn't seem to be concerned about any kind of sleeping arrangements. All Kid did from the moment he stepped into the room was sit in the chair he'd pulled up to the curtained window and look outside at what was causing his foul mood.

After pacing the floor for a while, Lou now sat cross legged in the middle of the bed. "Kid, it ain't that bad," she tried telling him for probably the tenth time.

"Yeah, it's not bad, it's horrible." He released the curtain he'd been holding open so he could look through the window and leaned forward, resting his arms on his thighs. "I just wanted everything to be perfect but then we had to feel the rain drops, followed by the downpour that won't stop. And on top of that the wind had to pick up and make it so you can't walk two feet without being blown off the boardwalk!"

Kid got up and after looking out the window once more, turned to the female rider. "I just wanted this night to be special for us, Lou. We haven't had much chance to be alone and go out as a real couple so I made all these plans and timed it so we'd be here when the town was celebratin' their founders' day. Now the celebration's been postponed until tomorrow and we'll be headin' out before then." He shoved his hands in his pockets as he rubbed the toe of his boot against the wood floor. "I thought we would get dressed up in nice clothes … I even bought you a present so you had somethin' pretty to put on … then I thought we could go out for a nice dinner in the best restaurant in town. I planned on orderin' a bottle of wine, makin' it the type of meal we've never had before."

He paused as he turned to the window, watching the rain splatter against the glass. He wasn't seeing the rain anymore but was describing what he was picturing in his mind that he'd planned for them to do. "We'd go for a walk through town afterward then wind up at the dance that would just be starting. I'd ask for a twirl on the dance floor and take you in my arms … no hiding behind the livery, no eating in privacy, just us being the couple that we are and getting to enjoy each others' company." The image he'd made was being washed away with the rain drops running down the window panes. "He banged his fist on the glass in frustratioin. "Now it's all ruined." He slumped down in the chair once more.

Lou felt deeply touched by all that he had planned for them to do. He'd put so much time and thought into making it a night they'd both remember. "That was awfully nice of you to think of all that, Kid. No one's ever tried to make me feel so special before … and I can't wait to see what you bought me." She paused to give him a smile. He knew she was no good at waiting for surprises. "But at least we're together and not in the bunkhouse with the other boys. We're not working and have the whole rest of the afternoon and evening ahead of us to do whatever we want. Maybe we could have some food brought over from the hotel?"

"We've done that before so what's special about that?" Kid asked in a voice that came out more like a whine. "I don't wanna order out, I wanted us to order in … in the restaurant, where people are supposed to eat food."

"Then maybe we could do this the next time we go on a ride," Lou suggested.

"And when in the *future* do you see us goin' on a ride together again, just the two of us?" he asked sarcastically. "I can't even remember the last time we went anywhere, ride or not, that one of the other boys wasn't tagging along like an unwanted puppy."

Lou giggled at the image he'd presented. "Alright, you got a point. So it's been a while since we got to spend any time together but just because you're plans have been ruined, don't mean we can't make some new ones." She glanced around the room and as her eyes fell on the dressing screen beside the bed, she covered her mouth quickly to stifle the laugh she felt growing at the idea she had forming.

"I ain't in the mood," Kid muttered. "And besides, whatever you might come up with for us to do, I'm sure I won't even be able to stay focused as all I'm thinkin' about is what we're supposed to be doing." He let out a long sigh.

"Oh I think I might be able to keep your *interest* long enough for you to not even care about what you're missin'." Lou gave him a sly smile as she got up from the bed and casually took her saddle bag from the corner she'd dropped it in. She then carried it over to where the screen stood and stepped behind it.

"What are you doing?" Kid asked as he watched her disappear from sight.

"I'll be done in a minute."

He heard rustling of different items as she was obviously going through her saddle bag. Not having her within sight, made him focus on the storm raging outside the window once more. It was only two in the afternoon but the darkness of the weather made it seem like it was eight at night. The lack of sunlight plus his disappointment over what they were not doing was making him tired.

Kid was about to sit back in the chair when Lou clearing her throat caught his attention. Turning his head, he stared open mouthed at the sight standing across the room from him.

"What do you got on, Lou?"

Lou glanced down at her attire and shrugged her shoulders indifferently. "It's a nightgown; ladies wear 'em."

Kid was beginning to get an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Yes, ladies do but you don't."

"You sayin' I ain't a lady?" Lou rested her hands on her hips as she looked at him.

"Oh no! You're definitely a lady." Kid gave a small nod of approval as he looked her up and down. His eyes stopped on the top edge of the garment and smiled at what he knew was hiding just under the lace. "But you don't wear one of those things; you wear what I wear."

"You mean to tell me you'd rather see me all covered up by long johns than wearing this lacy, feminine garment?" She touched her shoulder in emphasis as her fingers ran under the strap.

Kid stood up but remained where he was. "Oh, I didn't say that. I only said you don't normally wear one. And especially not in the middle of the day."

"My clothes were wet."

"Not that wet."

"Well then I just felt like puttin' on my nightgown. You got a problem with that?"

"No, 'cept it's no where near bedtime."

"Well then I'll just have to come up with a reason to be wearin' it," Lou told him as she brought her left hand up as if to scratch her shoulder. Her index finger hooked under the strap and with a flick of her wrist, the material was floating down onto her arm.

"*Oops*! Darn strap just won't stay on my shoulder." Lou shook her head in mock disappointment like she was mad at the nightgown. She then moved her right hand to her other shoulder.

"Lou," Kid warned as he took a step toward her. He swallowed the lump that had formed in his throat. The baring of her shoulder was making him weak in the knees. He knew what that exposed flesh did to his control.

Ignoring his warning, she slipped her fingers under the other shoulder strap and repeated the movement. "And there goes the other one." One hand came up to hold the front of her garment in place, resting deliberately in a very delicate place. "Now what am I gonna do?"

Kid's eyes stayed focused on the place where her hand now lay, wishing his hand was in its place. A smile started forming on his mouth and as his eyes never left the spot she'd so obviously brought to his attention, the southerner began to walk across the room. "I could give you a hand with that if you wanted."

"I'd be mighty beholdin' to ya," Lou told him. She smiled when he finally drifted his eyes northward enough to meet her gaze.

"My pleasure, ma'am." In one fluid motion, Kid wrapped his arms around her back, encircling her petite waist, drawing her up against his chest, so that the only thing now holding the front of her garment up was his body.

Lou's hand released her nightgown as she was swept into his arms. She wrapped her own arms around his neck and began to play with the ends of his hair. "I owe you my thanks. I'd be in a mighty embarrassin' situation you hadn't offered to help." She licked her lips as her eyes traveled from his blue orbs down to his mouth.

"I'm always willin' to help a lady, especially one as fine lookin' as you are. Now let's see about this problem your havin'." With a wicked smile, Kid moved his hands to the straps resting on her upper arms but instead of pulling them back up to her shoulders, he pushed them further down, bringing the front of her nightgown with them.

Lou moved slightly so she'd be free from the cumbersome article of clothing. She looked at him in momentary shock but also sheer joy; she hadn't expected him to be so bold so quickly. Before she could say anything, she gasped as Kid suddenly lifted her off the ground and carried her to the bed where he lay her down. Kid then climbed on the bed, hovering over her.

As his gaze moved up and down her body, she began to unbutton his shirt. "I knew I'd be able to provide you with enough of a distraction," Lou told him proudly as she lifted herself up on her elbows.

"Oh you're a distraction alright; can't think when I'm with you."

"Is that a good thing?"

Kid glanced down at the spot the nightgown used to cover. He looked back at her with a smile. "Definitely." Kid then leaned down and claimed her lips with his own. Lou melted into the kiss, lying back down on the bed.

As Kid ran his hand down the side of her body, he paused when he reached her thighs, knowing his interruption to the attention he was giving her would drive her crazy. He got the result he wanted when she frowned up at him. Biting back a smile, he instead smirked as he leaned close to her ear and whispered, "You've done so much for me already but you're gonna have to help me out with one more thing by keeping the *sound* level down."

Lou moved so she could look him in the eyes. "What does that mean?"

"Just that you tend to get a bit loud when you get worked up."

"What?!" She swatted him lightly on the shoulder. "No, I don't! I ain't the one to moan and groan and call out my name over and over again."

"Wanna bet?" Kid challenged.

"Yeah, the winner buys dinner."

"I have a feeling I'm gonna be too full of Lou to even wanna think of food."

Lou reached up and hungrily tasted his lips. She then rolled him onto his back and moved until she was straddling his waist. She leaned close to his ear this time and whispered, "Kid."

"Yes, Lou?"

"Get ready to moan."

Smoke and Dreams
by: LMS

It had been a quiet day in Rock Creek: the kind of day that made Teaspoon nervous. It just wasn't right, and he knew it. He scratched the back of his head and shifted his hat slightly on his head as he tried to figure out what had set him on edge.

Ten minutes and two cups of coffee later, he still had no idea.

He knew that the news of express shutting down, and their recent losses had put a damper on the boys' (and Lou's) spirits. Still, there were more than two hundred other people in the town: loud people; and he hadn't heard a peep from them either.

"Too much peace and quiet isn't good for a man's soul," he sighed.

"What was that Teaspoon?"

Teaspoon looked up surprised to see Barnett standing in the doorway.

"What in 'tarnation are you doin' here?" he asked a little more gruffly than he'd intended.

Barnett shrugged and shuffled into the Marshal's office. He poured himself a cup of coffee and took a seat across from Teaspoon. "I was bored."

"You was bored?" Teaspoon asked in disbelief. He was on edge; Barnett was bored. Something just wasn't right.

Barnett had been about to object when he looked out the window and shook his head. "Looks like I weren't the only one…"

"What in the name of all that's holy?" Teaspoon grumbled as he walked to the window. He was surprised to see Buck and Jimmy heading his way with Cody on their heels.

Judging by the agitated motions they were going through, it wasn't good.

Teaspoon waited until they entered the office before he gave them a raised eyebrow. "Well?" He asked. "Ain't enough work for you boys back at the station?"

Before they could answer, he turned towards Cody. "And ain't you left already?"

"Almost Teaspoon," Cody answered. "But I need to talk some sense into these two before I leave."

"We're being sensible," Jimmy complained. "You're the one who wants us to pull our money out of the bank and invest it all in some traveling show."

"Not just some traveling show Jimmy, it's a play by Tom Taylor and I'm not saying invest it all. But the more you invest, the more you'll earn. I'm tellin' ya you'll at least double your money."

"Or lose it all," Jimmy answered rolling his eyes.

Cody was about to object when Buck interjected. "Cody, from what we've saved and Ike's investment-we have almost enough to buy our own spread. Your investment's going to take how long to develop?"

"Four, five years at the most…"

Buck simply nodded, which caused Cody to try and start again.

Teaspoon leaned against the desk. If nothing else boredom was not going to be a problem. Not with the way the conversation was going.

"Teaspoon…" Cody objected. "Will you help me out here?"

To his chagrin Teaspoon shook his head. "I'd have to agree with Buck on this," he answered. "You heard of any other plays by this Taylor fella?"

"A few… "

Teaspoon could tell by Cody's answer that he hadn't heard of one, more importantly so could Jimmy and Buck.

"Look, our money's safe in the bank. Next week we're going to look at the old Scotsman's place back in Sweetwater," Jimmy stated.

If Teaspoon had been out of sorts before, he was now downright twitchy. His boys were showing signs of maturity. Hell, Jimmy was talking about settling down and running a ranch.

Something was rotten in the town of Rock Creek…

The thought had barely formed when he heard someone calling for him.

"Marshal Hunter! Marshal Hunter!"

A bundle of energy that was ten year old Davy Gray barreled into the Marshal's office almost tripping over Jimmy and Buck.

"Easy there son," Teaspoon said as he looked down at the young boy. "Take a breath and tell me what's so all fired…"

"The bank," the boy interrupted. "They're robbin' the bank."

"Oh Lord," Teaspoon sighed. There were times he hated being right. "How many of them were there?"

"Don't know-three, maybe four men… They rode into town and just took over."

"How'd you get out?"

"I didn't… " Davy admitted bowing his head. "Ma… ma made me stay outside…"

"Do you know how many people were in the bank?"

"Just Mr. Hobart and my momma…"

Teaspoon nodded. "Well son, I want you to stay here with Deputy Barnett. Me and these three are going to go get your ma… all right?"

Davy eyed Barnett suspiciously and finally nodded.

"Come on boys," Teaspoon said as he headed for the door.

To their credit, the three riders followed him out without question.

Once they were sure there was no one standing look out, Teaspoon sent Cody to the roof of the hotel across the street from the bank.

Jimmy slipped into place in the alleyway next to the bank, and Buck worked his way to the back of the bank.

Once he was sure they were in place Teaspoon drew a deep breath and called out to the men in the bank.

He was never quite sure what happened after that. All he knew was that the bank robbers had met his call with shouts of their own just before they started shooting at him.

Even as he ducked down, he knew his boys were moving. He knew that depending on how the men reacted and where the hostages were, Buck and Jimmy would work on getting them out of the bank while Cody provided the cover fire.

He knew his boys would take care of each other, but there was only so much a man could do. The silence that followed was almost more than he could stand.

The next few minutes seemed to drag on as he waited to finally hear Jimmy call out that everyone was safe and that the Banker and Mrs. Gray were coming out.

Teaspoon greeted them at the door and had just helped Mrs. Gray over the threshold when he caught a movement out of the corner of his eye.

He pulled Mr. Hobart out of the way drawing his gun even as Jimmy turned and fired. Outside he could hear the Cody fire from across the street.

Teaspoon was ready to head back in when Buck and Jimmy came running from the Bank as quickly as they could.

Buck managed to yell 'Gun Powder' before the world around them was engulfed in an explosion. The sound was deafening.

Three hours later, as the last of the flames were put out, Teaspoon was able to relax. He found Buck and Jimmy leaning up against a water tough, looking about as worn out as he felt. Then he noticed the mortified expression on Buck's face.

"You all right there son?"

Buck nodded numbly. "That sound…"

"Yeah? What about it?"

"That was the sound of our future going up in smoke."

Jimmy shook his head and ran his hand through his hair. "Oops."

There was a long silence as they sat there. Only Cody remained standing, watching the smoke rise from what remained of the bank. "It sure was pretty."

"How much was it?" He finally asked as he turned back around.

"Nine thousand, eight hundred and twenty three dollars and seventy cents," Jimmy answered woodenly.

"Plus interest." Buck added.

"Plus interest," Jimmy agreed.

Teaspoon remained silent. There really wasn't anything else to say.

Three Wishes for Joshua
by: Dede

"Quit it," grumbled Joshua, trying his best to sound angry as he shoved Hickok off his leg.

He wasn't exactly angry, more like annoyed, though he probably didn't have a reason to be either. He'd asked Daddy a few days earlier if they could go fishing. Joshua had thought that since Daddy was feeling better, he would want to go get some fresh air after being cooped up in the house. And after the whole skunk incident, everyone in the house had wanted fresh air.

Daddy had responded with "maybe." Of course, to a young boy, maybe was just as good as yes. However not to Daddy. Each day, Daddy said, "Maybe tomorrow." There now had been at least four tomorrows that Joshua could think of. To appease him, Daddy had announced that morning that Joshua could come into town and stay there while he worked. Normally, Joshua loved that idea because he not only got to act as a deputy and wear a badge, he also got to see his Grandpa Teaspoon and Grandma Polly but the only thing on the boy's mind was fishing. So now he sat on the walk across the street from the marshal's office and pouted, trying very hard to maintain his sullen mood.

However, Hickok made that impossible. The dog had either nudged Joshua's leg, stuck his wet nose in the boy's face or headbutted Joshua's shoulder. Finally, since Joshua wouldn't move, Hickok had tried to sit on Joshua's lap.

"I'm bored," he said, as Hickok changed positions and plopped down beside Joshua, placing his head on his master's leg. Joshua unconsciously rubbed the dog's ears. "There's nothin' to do. Grandpa's not around and -" Joshua stopped as he heard something that could take his boredom away.

The *sound* of metal clanging together, bells jingling, the melodic tones of glass clinking together and a man singing told Joshua that Peddler Man was there. He jumped up from the boardwalk and ran over to where the man's wagon just rounded the corner.

"Peddler Man!" he called and the man waved at him and Hickok. He ran up to where the man was slowing his wagon to a stop, just past the marshal's office. Joshua hoped his father wasn't inside.

Joshua really liked the man because he reminded him a lot of his grandfather. Peddler Man, or Mr. Pangalos as most people called him, was very eccentric and told wild tales of his past and the people he traded with, like gypsies and other mysterious foreigners from places that Joshua had never heard of. He also had all kinds of little trinkets in his brightly decorated, rebuilt chuck wagon to hold the *interest* of a seven year-old, though Joshua's father frowned upon most of them. In the past, Joshua had gotten many things; his favorites were a slingshot, a set of finger cymbals and a Jacob's ladder that Peddler Man had made. Daddy had taken the slingshot away, promising to give it back when Joshua was older, but the boy still played with the other toys.

"Well, well, it's my favorite little man." Mr. Pangalos grunted as he climbed down from the wagon seat. The man was old, older than Grandpa Teaspoon and Mr. Tompkins, to Joshua that was really old. "How are you this fine spring day?"

"I'm fine and you?" Joshua asked politely. He loved listening to soft lilt of the man's accent. He eyed the wares displayed along the side of the wagon and wandered to the back to see what was there.

"Oh, can't complain," the man answered as he followed Joshua to the back. He unhooked the latches on the sides of the hinged-top panel that covered what used to be the chuck box. He pulled the support beam down, securing the legs on the ground, and propped the lid on top. He began pulling out various items - pots, pans, lamps, clocks and other small household goods - things that didn't really interest Joshua so the boy kept looking in the various nooks and small boxes for the oddities that Mr. Pangalos tended to carry. As he nosed around, Joshua kept glancing at the store across the street.

Mr. Tompkins didn't appreciate Mr. Pangalos being there and made it known to anyone who'd listen, usually causing such a fuss that Mr. Pangalos would leave, but today he didn't come out of his store. Joshua was glad. This meant he had more time to talk to his friend.

"Any new stories?" asked Joshua, grinning and hopping around.

"Mr. Pangalos, it's good to see ya'."

Joshua stifled a groan as Daddy walked up behind him, but he still rolled his eyes because he knew his father couldn't see that. Joshua didn't want his father there because now Daddy would stand with them, which would stop Peddler Man from telling all the exciting things that he had seen and done.

"Deputy, it is good to see you too," said Mr. Pangalos, reaching out to take Jimmy's offered hand. "As for you Joshua, have you been behaving yourself?" He continued to set up his wares but glanced over at the sullen face Joshua was now wearing.

Daddy laughed and placed his hand on Joshua's shoulder before Joshua could answer but Joshua shrugged his father's hand away and muttered, "No less than usual, I guess." He moved slightly away from the men and stood closer to the side of the wagon with Hickok.

While his father and Mr. Pangalos talked, Joshua watched people come over to the wagon. The townsfolk knew that the peddler had much better prices on cookware than Mr. Tompkins did and, if the item was damaged, Mr. Pangalos would either fix it or replace it. People seemed to appreciate this and kept him in business. As he listened to the chatter, Joshua felt a breeze against his leg.

"Watch your tail," Joshua whispered harshly as he put his hand between the dog's tail and the items hanging down. He saw the leather-banded sleigh bells and the chimes swaying with each swat of Hickok's tail. "Stop." He tried to push Hickok's rump away from the wagon but Hickok resisted, wagging his tail harder. Joshua moved to get between Hickok and the side of the wagon, knowing this was why his mother had moved anything breakable in the house above three feet; the height of Hickok standing from floor to tip of tail.

"Well, I should get back to work," Joshua heard his father say. He glanced over and saw Daddy looking at him, curiously. "Don't bother Mr. Pangalos, alright?"

Joshua just nodded his head and turned back to pushing Hickok away from the wagon. He knew his father was still looking at him but after a moment, without Joshua turning back, Daddy walked away. "That's all I am is a bother." Knowing it was useless to get Hickok to budge, Joshua just sat on the edge of the walk, arms crossed over his chest.

"What's with the face?" Mr. Pangalos chided as he walked over to stand in front of Joshua. He scratched Hickok's ears as he waited for the boy to answer.

"Nothin'," Joshua mumbled. There were other things Joshua wanted to talk about so, changing the subject, he looked up at Mr. Pangalos and smiled. "So, got any good stories?"

"Hey Peddler," barked a man's voice from the other side of the wagon. "We want help."

Mr. Pangalos looked apologetically at Joshua and shrugged as he left to help his customer.

Joshua's shoulders slumped in defeat but he hoped if he stayed there long enough that the people would finally leave and Peddler Man would be able to talk. So Joshua got up and walked to the back corner of the wagon and waited for his friend to finish. Hickok stayed behind Joshua and the boy could hear the rhythmic clanging of the dog's tail against the metal objects.

"Get out of here!"

Startled, Joshua looked over and saw Mr. Tompkins storming out of his shop.

"Mr. Tompkins," said Mrs. Weberson, "he has every right -"

"Not across from my store he don't," growled Mr. Tompkins. "You just pack up and leave. I don't wanna see you doin' business here again. I tol' you that b'fore."

Without saying a word, Mr. Pangalos quickly put his wares away and closed up his wagon. He walked over to Mrs. Weberson, whispered something to her and Joshua saw the woman smile broadly. Mrs. Weberson walked away but not without motioning the others to follow her. Mr. Tompkins watched this and turned back to the peddler. "Like I said, you'd best not be doin' business 'round here anymore." He turned and in a huff marched back to his store.

Sighing, Mr. Pangalos turned to Joshua, and said, "I'm sorry little man. I won't be through here again."

Joshua was shocked. He looked at Mr. Tompkins' store then back at Mr. Pangalos. "But, that's not right. I bet my daddy can do somethin' about it."

"No, no, don't bother your papa, he's a busy man." Mr. Pangalos ruffled Joshua's hair. "I'll just go to the houses then, I know who my customers are. That's what I told Mrs. Weberson. So I'll be fine. And, maybe I can stop by your house to visit." Joshua nodded enthusiastically. "As long as your papa and mama don't mind," Mr. Pangalos added with a grin.

Joshua followed as the peddler walked to the front of the wagon with Hickok close behind. "You be a good boy. I know that your *future* holds great things for you." He took the boys hand and held it, palm up. "It says so right here." The man pointed to the middle of Joshua's hand and Joshua looked where he indicated, puzzled by how his hand could tell anything. It just looked dirty to him. Mr. Pangalos smiled and turned Joshua's hand over and shook it. Joshua felt very adult. The peddler scratched Hickok's ears and, bending over to look the dog in the eye, said, "And you take care of your master." Hickok responded by barking softly his agreement.

Standing, Mr. Pangalos looked at Joshua, seeming to study the boy for a moment. Joshua didn't feel uncomfortable because he was used to this with the peddler, but the boy was curious as to what Mr. Pangalos was thinking. Just a small sigh escaped and, without a word, the man turned and climbed up onto the wagon seat. With a final wave, he snapped the reins and got his team moving out of Sweetwater.

Joshua stood watching as his friend's wagon slowly faded away. He was sad at how his day was going, no fishing and now, no Peddler Man stories. Sighing, he reached out to pet Hickok but the dog wasn't there. Joshua looked around and saw Hickok, hunkered down over his front paws, his butt up in the air, staring at something under the walkway. As always, his tail was wagging furiously.

"Did ya' corner a cat or somethin'?" Joshua was annoyed as he trudged over to where Hickok was. The dog cocked his head and looked up at the boy. Joshua got down on his hands and knees and peered under the boards, expecting to see the frightened eyes of a cat. Instead he saw something metal. Joshua sat up suddenly and looked in Hickok's very happy dark-brown eyes and then at the dog's tail.

"*Oops*," Joshua muttered, realizing that Hickok had knocked something off Mr. Pangalos' wagon.

He glanced around surreptitiously, making sure that no one was watching him, especially his father. The townsfolk appeared to be going about their business not paying him any mind and Daddy wasn't anywhere around. He leaned forward and reached under the walk, pulling out Hickok's treasure, he stopped just short and kept it hidden slightly. His eyes widened because he'd never seen anything like it. It was oblong-shaped, an elongated spout on one end and a thin, curved handle at the other. There was a small crown-shaped cover on the top. Joshua figured it was supposed to be silver but it was very tarnished so it was an almost bronze color. Furrowing his brow, he stared at the object suspiciously because, for some reason, he felt like he'd seen it before.

"I wish I could…"

Wish

Joshua's jaw dropped slightly as he finally figured out what he was holding. "Hickok," he said in a hushed, awed tone, "this is Adalin's lamp."

Immediately he knew he had to find his grandpa - fast. He looked around again and, seeing no one, jumped up. He clutched the lamp to his body and ran to the side of the building. Unbuttoning his shirt, he stuffed the lamp inside and placed it under his arm so he could squeeze it to his body, hiding the bulge. Once he felt certain that no one would suspect anything, he ran all the way to his grandparent's house, Hickok right on his heels. Joshua just hoped that Grandpa Teaspoon was home.

*~*~*~*~*

"Grandpa!" Joshua ran into the house slamming the door against the wall. If Grandma Polly had been there he'd have been in a great deal of trouble but the only person he saw was his grandfather, who had been sleeping in his chair. Hickok was jumping all around.

"Lord Joshua," Grandpa Teaspoon said, jumping up. "Is the town on fire or just yer pants?" He reached out, patted Hickok's head and walked over to close the door. He turned back to his excited grandson who was, as he always did, hopping around about to burst with news.

"Ya' won't believe what I…" He stopped suddenly struck by the situation. How did Joshua explain the lamp in his possession? "…found." Which was true since he hadn't known it was under the boards until Hickok pointed it out. As he unbuttoned his shirt, Grandpa Teaspoon's eyebrows shot up.

"What the devil ya' got?"

Joshua pulled out the magic lamp. "Adalin's lamp, Grandpa." Again, he used his church-voice as his mother called it. Wide-eyed, he held it out to the old man and grinned.

Grandpa Teaspoon looked skeptically at the lamp one eyebrow cocked. "Um, Son," he said, "I'm not sure that's -"

"It is!" Joshua insisted. He knew he was right, he could feel it. It had been on Mr. Pangalos' wagon and Mr. Pangalos knew all about gypsies and strange, magical stuff; so it was only natural that he'd have the lamp.

"Well," his grandfather began and Joshua knew he was going to pacify him without really believing.

Joshua stomped his foot and gripped the lamp so hard his knuckles went white. "It is Grandpa, I know it!" He thrust the lamp out in front of him, almost willing it to do something to prove it was magic.

"Alright," Grandpa Teaspoon consented, holding out his hand. He took the lamp from Joshua, turning it over in his hands. It did look similar to the one in the storybook. He handed it back to Joshua and, holding up his forefinger for Joshua to wait, he hurried to the pantry. Joshua watched as his grandfather pulled stuff out and put it back, looking for something.

"Found it," Grandpa Teaspoon said, satisfied. He motioned for Joshua to sit at the table, so the boy did as he was told, and his grandfather busied himself with things in the kitchen. He came back to the table with a couple of rags, a cup of water and the tin and sat across from Joshua. Once everyone was seated, Hickok curled up under the table and put his head on his paws.

Grandpa Teaspoon laid one of the rags on the table between them. "Put the lamp on here," he said, indicating the center of the rag. Joshua placed the lamp on top and Grandpa Teaspoon put the container to the side, removing the lid. He picked up the other rag, dipped it in water, then into the tin, and moved to wipe it across the side of the lamp.

"Wait!" Joshua grabbed the man's hand just before he touched the lamp.

Grandpa Teaspoon looked at the boy, not understanding. He pointed to the tin. "Joshua, it's just a little silver *powder*."

"Don't ya' remember the story?" He couldn't believe that his grandfather, the man who knew everything, was just going to rub the lamp without any preparation.

"Well, now," he hemmed, looking up as if wracking his brain to remember.

"If ya' rub the lamp, Miss Jeanie will appear and ya' get three wishes," Joshua said, matter-of-factly.

"Oh, right," acknowledged Grandpa Teaspoon. "But Joshua, I'm not too sure the genie will come outta this here lamp." He handed the rag to Joshua. "Why don't ya' give it a try?"

Joshua hesitantly took the damp rag. He took a deep breath and rubbed it across the lamp.

Nothing.

'Maybe it wasn't hard enough,' he thought. He rubbed again, this time harder.

Nothing.

Sighing, he put the rag on the table and leaned back in his chair, slouching. Hickok's head was immediately in his lap and he mindlessly rubbed the dog's ears. "It ain't workin'." He heaved a deep sigh.

"Now," Grandpa Teaspoon said, leaning forward, "why don't ya' go ahead and rub it one more time. And make a wish while yer doin' it."

Joshua eyed his grandfather. Could that work? He'd rubbed it but hadn't made a wish so…. Leaning forward, he picked up the rag and pulled the lamp closer to him. He rubbed the lamp and in a clear voice said, "I wish Daddy would take me fishin' today."

He saw the doubt in his grandfather's eyes. Everyone knew that his father had felt bad for missing work while he was sick so he'd vowed to make it up to them by working extra. That was why they hadn't gone fishing. Joshua shook his head. His grandfather was right, it was doubtful.

There was a knock as the door opened. It was his father.

"Hey there," said Daddy, "I've been lookin' for ya'." He walked over to where Joshua was sitting and squatted down. "I've been thinkin'…how would ya' like to take off and go fishin'?"

Joshua stared dumbfounded at his father. "Really?"

"Yeah, I think it's safe and Barnett's on. He's been tryin' to get rid of me anyway, I think I'm botherin' him askin' if there's anythin' I can do." Daddy laughed, probably because Barnett being put out by him was a funny idea. "So? Wha'd'ya' say?" He stood up and looked expectantly at Joshua.

Joshua jumped up and danced around, Hickok circling around him. "Yes!" He ran out the door and then came right back in. "Are ya' comin'?"

"Go to the jail and get the poles, they're in the backroom. I'm right behind ya'."

Joshua flew out the door, running and jumping all the way to the jail. He was so excited; he was going fishing. Hickok had to run to actually keep up.

*~*~*~*~*

Jimmy watched as his son jumped down each step and sped across to the jail. Laughing softly, he looked back at Teaspoon, who was sitting there staring at the pitcher in front of him.

"That's an odd lookin' pitcher," said Jimmy, reaching down to touch it. "Did you get it from Mr. Pangalos?"

Teaspoon nonchalantly brushed Jimmy's hand away. "Um, yeah," he mumbled. He couldn't take his eyes off the lamp.

"Well," Jimmy drawled, "I guess I'm goin' fishin'. Ya' wanna come?"

There was silence from the old man so Jimmy repeated his invitation.

"What?" Teaspoon looked up. "Oh, no that's okay, but thanks. I've got some things to do around here." He glanced back at the lamp.

"Suit yourself," Jimmy said as he walked to the door, left opened by his son. He turned back to look at Teaspoon. "Are ya' sure yer okay? Ya' look like…" he paused, "like somethin' spooked ya'."

"Nah," Teaspoon laughed, louder than necessary, "I'm fine. Joshua just woke me up from a deep sleep, guess I'm still wakin' up."

"Okay," Jimmy said, "see ya' later." He walked out the door, closing it behind him.

Teaspoon sat looking at the closed door. After a moment, he turned and stared at the lamp. "Joshua still has two more wishes," he muttered.

Summer Find
by: Dee

The three lovely ladies from the *future* sighed at the first sight of the water. It was a hot day, and Alexis, the most adventurous of the three, had suggested a swim in a nearby spring.

Sarah smiled at Melinda, then turning to Alexis she said, "You're right, this is like heaven, especially since we don't have any AC."

Melinda finished stripping off her jeans and joined them in the water; it was and ice cold. "Mmmm," she sighed as she slipped into the water.

Alexis laughed at the expression on her face. "Looks like you aren't arguing about this anymore? My brothers and I use to go swimming at a spring in the mountains. It was just like this ice cold even in one hundred and twenty degree heat. I loved it." She dove under and came up in the center of the small pond.

Sarah and Melinda dove under and joined her there. They were splashing and laughing so hard none of them heard the approaching riders.

*********** Buck signaled Jimmy and Ike to slow up as he heard what seemed to be voices on the wind. He heard a scream and pointed toward the spring they sometimes used nearby. As they drew closer they heard a yelp, and then a shout, followed by laughter.

Jimmy got a twinkle in his eyes thinking maybe they were sneaking up on Kid and Lou. "Think we should let them know we're here?" he asked his friends.

*Who?* Ike signed a perplexed look on his face.

"It's got to be Kid and Lou. Who else could it be?" Jimmy replied.

"I don't know Jimmy; if it ain't them it could be embarrassing." Buck replied.

As they crept closer to the spring, they hid behind some brush that was near the edge. Jimmy's jaw dropped as he got a good look at exactly who was in the water. Three beauties swam near the center, all laughing and having a good time. What held his *interest* though was the fact they were almost naked. The fabric that covered the three bathing beauties was less than he'd ever seen on a woman, but he sure wasn't complaining. His eyes landed on the young woman with the darkest hair he'd ever seen, and watched as she dove off a rock into the spring.

Jimmy wasn't the only one having a hard time tearing his eyes from the vision in front of him. Buck stood transfixed as he watched the young women in the water. The one that caught his attention the most was the one that was fartherst out. Long brown hair floated out behind her as she leaned her head back. She turned her face to the sun, letting it warm her, and then raised her arms over her head and dove under the water. She came up shaking the water from her face and hair, laughing as she did so. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen.

Ike noticed the blonde had swum slightly away from her friends. She was smiling at their antics, but was enjoying watching them more than participating. Her quiet beauty took his breath away. She wasn't a raving beauty, but there was something about her that he found irresistible.

As they crept closer so they could hear the conversation the three women were having, Jimmy stepped on a branch that was lying on the ground startling a flock of prairie chickens, and causing the three women to turn in their direction. "*Oops*," he mouthed to his friends with a slight grin as they all held deathly still.

************* "Did you hear that?" Sarah asked a trace of fear in her voice.

"They probably just got spooked by a fox or something," Melinda replied as they all stared in the direction the sound had come from.

"I don't know, I thought I heard someone," Alexis said as she slowly walked over to the clothes and pulled out her gun. "I'm going to find out."

"Allie, it was just….." Melinda started to say as a large fox ran out of the brush after the chickens. "See I told you it was just a fox."

Alexis nodded her agreement, but something still didn't feel right.

***********

Buck pulled Jimmy away from the lovely sight. As they reached the horses Jimmy said, "That sure wasn't Lou and Kid."

Buck grinned at him, "Nope."

*I saw them in town the other day.* Ike signed.

"Come to think of it I believe I saw them in Tompkins' store about the same time," Jimmy replied, then added with a wicked grin, "But I think they were wearing a bit more."

"Remind me to go to town with you more often," Buck replied as they mounted up and with one last look toward the spring rode for home.

Writers Ranch Main Page