Author's Note: Written mainly in Lou's POV. Will let you know when POV shifts.
It's been two years since I've seen the town of Rock Creek and the only family I have left. Kid and I left shortly after Noah's funeral to return to Virginia, Kid wanted to serve in the confederate army and against my better judgment I went along with him. Not even a year after we arrive, I received news that my brother and sister had been killed when the mission they were living in was burned down. There I was leaving in a strange place all alone, Kid had left as soon as we arrived in Virginia. I wrote 'home' to my 'family' to tell them my sad tell. Buck wrote back and offered to come stay with me if I needed him. That touched me more than I can say. I had to decline, it wasn't safe for Buck here, and I didn't want to lose any more of my family than I already had. Looking back now I wish I had accepted; I've just received word that my husband Kid has been killed in action. I really am all alone now. There is only one thing I can do, I'm not staying here, I'm going to return to the one place I still have family. I just hope they don't turn me away. I don't write ahead, I just pack my bags and go.
Teaspoon Hunter and his young deputy Buck Cross are eating the lunch that Teaspoon's wife, Rachel, had prepared for them when the stage coach came into town. "Stage is here." Buck said getting up to go outside, followed by Teaspoon. They always liked watching people get off, wondering who has come to their town. The first to step out of the coach was an older gentleman, who turned to assist an older woman he must have been his wife. Teaspoon and Buck didn't pay them much mind; it was the young woman that stepped out next that caught their eye.
Stepping lightly from the coach, l looked up to see Buck and Teaspoon standing there. The looks on their faces was priceless when they saw me. I beamed at them as I rushed to hug first Teaspoon and then Buck. "Teaspoon! Buck! Oh you have no idea how happy I am to see you two!" I cried as I hugged them. Teaspoon hugged me back quickly in shock. Buck hugged me but didn't let go. "Lou? What on earth are you doing here?" he asked looking into my face. I was slightly hurt; did he not want me here? "I have nowhere else to go." I said quietly. "Come on inside so we can talk," Buck said as he and Teaspoon led me into Teaspoon's office.
After they had me comfortably seated the questions began. Buck had still not let go of me. I think he could tell something was wrong and was giving me the only comfort he could think of. "What's wrong Louise?" Teaspoon asked. "Kid's dead. He was killed in the war. I couldn't stay there anymore. I had to come home Teaspoon, to the only place I still have family." I say softly the tears rolling down my face. Buck wrapped his arms around me holding me as I cried. Teaspoon stood up and came closer so he could place his hand on my knee in a comforting gesture. "I'm glad you came home Lou, you know you are always welcome here, this is your home. Rachel is going to be glad you're back" Teaspoon said to me. "Come on let's get you home," Buck said as he pulled me to my feet. Keeping his arm around my shoulder Buck led me out of the jail, Teaspoon carrying me bag we went to the old Pony Express station. After the Pony express went bust, Teaspoon and Rachel had purchased the land at a cheap price from Russell, Majors, and Waddell. They married shortly after the Kid and I did. I was glad they had found happiness together.
Rachel Hunter was sitting on the front porch shelling peas when she saw her husband and 'son' Buck coming. She wondered what they were coming home for at this time of day, but then she saw the young woman Buck had his arm around. Dropping the bowl of peas she just shelled, Rachel rushed down the steps and ran to her 'daughter' Lou.
When I saw Rachel running towards me, I rushed away from Buck and Teaspoon and met Rachel halfway, throwing my arms around her in a fierce hug. I broke down and sobbed into the arms of the woman who was like a mother to me. After I got control of my emotions I pulled away slightly, looking down I saw the tall tell baby bump. "You're pregnant! Oh how wonderful!" I cried hugging her again. "Oh Lou, it is so good to see you. Whatever brings you home sweetheart, not that I'm complaining." Rachel said as she hugged me tightly. "I've come home to stay with the only family I have left," I say as the tears start falling again. "Kid?" Rachel asked already knowing the answer. I could only nod. Together we went into the house that had been the only home I really remember as Teaspoon and Buck followed.
Chapter 2 - Buck's POV
It had been two years since Lou and Kid were married and left Rock Creek, along with the rest of the Pony Express family. Sometimes I wondered why I had stayed. I don't belong in the white world, but I don't belong in the Kiowa world either. So I stay, I have nowhere else to go. My best friend and brother was dead, killed protecting the woman he loved. The day Ike had died, I wanted to join him. I know the baby I help delivered is what saved me. Some where there was a little boy named after Ike. Then Kid married Lou and Noah was killed. His funeral was the last time we were all together. They all left me behind. Kid wanted to serve in the confederate army, since Lou was married to him now; she went, although I know she really didn't like the idea. I could always tell what she was thinking. Cody went to serve as a scout for the army and Jimmy went north. Jesse ran away with his brother Frank the day of Noah's funeral. I stayed with Teaspoon and Rachel. I was best man at their wedding. Teaspoon made me deputy marshal, and surprisingly the town did not object to a half-breed lawman. I had won their respect somehow.
A year after Kid and Lou left, we received a letter from Lou telling us about the tragedy of her siblings. I felt awful for her. I knew she hadn't wanted to leave them in the orphanage, but she did because she didn't want them in the war torn south even more. She had thought they would be safe there. I wanted to be there for her to comfort her. So I wrote back saying I would come if she needed me. When I got her letter back I was disappointed. She didn't want me to come, not because she didn't want me there. She just didn't want me to be hurt. She thought my life would be in danger there. She was probably right. But I couldn't help the feelings that were in my heart. I was hurt. I was in love. I knew it was wrong of me to be in love with my friend's wife, but I couldn't help it. I had been in love with Lou since I had found out she was a girl, even before then I would catch myself looking at her like she was one. Truth be told, I think all of us were a little in love with Lou. Who wouldn't be, she was one of a kind.
It's been a year since we have received any word from Lou, even longer from the Kid. I worry about her every day. It's not safe for a woman to be alone in the south right now. Every day we get reports of homes being burn by the Yankees and the woman being raped by union soldiers. Of course we get the same kind of reports coming from the north as well. I don't know how much is exaggerated. I still worry for her. Today I find myself eating lunch with Teaspoon in the jail when the stagecoach arrives. "Stage is here." I say, getting up. Teaspoon followed me outside. We both always enjoyed watching the people coming to our town.
The first to step out was an older gentleman, judging from his expensive suit, he turned to assist and older well-dressed woman from the coach. She must be his wife, I thought. As the couple moved down the street the last passenger exited. I was shocked by the sight before me. I saw the most beautiful woman in the world before. Her dark brown eyes looking up at me before a huge smile broke out on her face. It was Lou. She was home. She ran towards us. "Teaspoon! Buck! Oh you have no idea how happy I am to see you two!" she cried as she hugged first Teaspoon than me. Teaspoon had let her go quickly, but I found myself unable to. "Lou? What on earth are you doing here?" I asked, still not believing she was here. I see the hurt cross her face. Damn, I hadn't meant to hurt her. "I have nowhere else to go" she tells me quietly. Still not letting her go I say, "come on inside so we can talk." I lead her inside and make sure she is comfortably seated. I still couldn't let her go.
Teaspoon starts asking the questions, but I don't really pay attention to him. I just watch Lou. She is so beautiful. Her hair is a lot longer now, and there is no denying she is a woman. I watch as the tears slip from her eyes as she tells us that Kid had been killed in the war. She had come home to stay. While I was saddened by the loss of yet another 'brother' I was glad Lou had come home to us. To me. I put my arm around her shoulder as she cried; Teaspoon moved closer and placed his hand on her knee. Finally I help her to her feet and say, "Come on let's get you home." With my arm around her shoulder I lead her back to what was once the Pony Express station but was now Teaspoon and Rachel's home. I stilled lived in the bunkhouse. Teaspoon followed behind with Lou's bags.
As we approached home I saw Rachel on the porch. I knew the minute that Rachel realized it was Lou with us, because she had jumped to her feet and was running towards us. Lou left me and went to Rachel. I was a little concerned; with Rachel being pregnant I didn't think she should be running like that. I watched as Lou clung to Rachel and sobbed. Then I heard her exclaim when she realized Rachel was pregnant. I looked at Teaspoon who winked at me. I stifled my laugh. Together with Teaspoon we followed the two women into our home. The only real home I had ever had. The only real home almost all of us from the Pony Express had had. We were all orphans. Throwaways, strays, freaks some would say. But together, with Teaspoon and Rachel, we had become a family. I was glad to be a part of it, and even gladder that Lou had come home.
I stepped into the home I had been missing for two years next to the 'mother' who had shown me as much love as my own mother had before she died. It felt so good to be home. Rachel led me to the table where I sat down while she went to get tea. Teaspoon took my bag upstairs to one of the empty bedrooms. Buck sat next to me taking my hand in his. For some reason he couldn't seem to quit touching me. I wondered if he thought he was dreaming my presence. I knew things had been rough on Buck when we all left. Buck had never really fit in anywhere but with us other misfits of the Pony Express. We had become family, I still thought of the guys as my brothers, even if I hadn't seen them in two years. But as I looked in Buck's eyes, I thought I saw love, and not the love a brother has for a sister, but that of a man for a woman. Surely not, Buck couldn't possibly have feelings like that for me. Could he? I found a part of myself hoping he did. Where had that come from? I had always thought of Buck as a brother hadn't I? Maybe I was just lonely. It had been so long since anybody had shown me love. While Kid had just died, I hadn't seen for much of the two years we were married. Basically just the time it took us to get to Virginia because as soon as we were there he left to fight for the south.
Rachel came back in carrying a tray with tea things as Teaspoon came downstairs to join us. I didn't miss the look that passed between the older couple. In that one look was so many emotions. Happiness that I was home with them again, sadness over Kid's death, love for each other and their 'boys', worry of the state of my wellbeing, and so much more. Those two could carry on a conversation with each other without speaking a word, much like the way Buck and Ike used too. I had the sudden realization that me and the Kid never had that ability. That was why would use to fight so badly, because I would say one thing and he would think I meant something else entirely and vice versa. I looked over at Buck as we drink our tea, nobody had been saying much, and I think we all were getting used to being with each other again. Meeting his eyes again, he gave me a smile. I could read him like a book. He was glad I was home to stay. He was sorry about Kid's death and that I had been alone for so long. He had missed me terribly. With a start I realized that there was one person I could have a conversation with without saying a word. Buck.
I just still can't believe she's home. I have to be dreaming. I sit down next to her at the table and take her hand in my own, I just need to touch her to be sure she is real, and not another one of my dreams. Yes she is very real. I can't help starring at her, I know the minute she looks into my eyes that she sees the love there. I can see the confusion on her face as she tries to process that information. For a brief second I thought I saw a look of hope cross her features but then it went back to confusion. I watched as she watched Rachel and Teaspoon converse with each other without saying a word. I could tell what she was thinking. She thought about how Buck and I used to do the same thing, it was something only those with the closest bond can do, Ike and me were brothers of the soul. Rachel and Teaspoon were soul-mates. I watched as she realized that she didn't have that kind of connection with Kid, that was the reason for all their fighting they never really understood the other. She looked back at me meeting my eyes again. I smile at her, while I think how glad I am she's home to stay. That I was sorry Kid had been killed, that she had been alone for so long. I missed her so much. Then it hit her and me, we had just had a conversation without words. We had always been able to do that I realize.
Neither of us was aware that Teaspoon and Rachel had left the room. We just continued to look at each other. I had always loved this woman but he never told her. I had always been afraid that because of my half breed status no white woman would ever want me, nor would any Kiowa. I had resigned myself to a life alone. Now I wished I had told her back when we were all riding for the Express, maybe then things would have been different. Maybe, she would never had married the Kid and left Rock Creek. Maybe then she would not have spent the past two years completely alone. While I had been left alone, I at least had Teaspoon and Rachel, Lou had no one. It hurt to think of her crying herself to sleep at night in her loneliness, but I knew Lou had done that, probably quite often. Not that she would ever tell anybody. Lou had always been tough, she tried so hard to make us treat her the same as the other 'boys' and we did try. But we always tried to keep her from the most dangerous assignments. Nobody wanted Lou to get hurt or worse killed. I wanted to kiss her right then. I didn't but I wanted too. Instead I just hugged her again as we both cried over the lost years, lost friends, lost family.
I couldn't believe it. Why had I not realized that Buck and I could always do that? I never noticed Rachel and Teaspoon leaving the room to give Buck and me some privacy. I'm not sure what they thought they were giving us privacy for. I watched the emotions play across Buck's handsome features. I had always thought him handsome. He had always been the most caring and compassionate, aside from Ike, out of all of us. At the time it stuck me funny that the two that were shown the most hatred throughout their lives would be the two who showed the most love. I could see the regret in his features. I realized he had loved me when we rode together, he regretted never telling me. I could hear all the maybe's as he thought them. I knew he knew how lonely I had been, of the countless nights I spent crying into my pillow. I also knew he would never say anything about it. He knew well enough to know, that I would not people to feel sorry for me. He knew I always tried to be tougher than I was. Always trying to get the guys to treat me the same as the others, I knew they tried their hardest to do so. I also knew, that they still protected me the best they could. They would keep the most dangerous assignments for themselves, Buck especially when it dealt with the Indians. He tried to protect all of us from those. I could see he wanted to kiss me and I found myself wanting him too, but instead he just hugged me tightly as we both cried for our losses. I know the past two years have been hell on us both, but to me the future was looking brighter already. I know it is because of the man holding me right now, and the two people hiding somewhere watching us I'm sure.
That night after supper Buck returned to the bunkhouse where he slept, while Rachel showed me to my room. I found myself longing to sleep on one of those uncomfortable bunks again instead of the comfy bed I was now on. I couldn't help longing for the days when I rode for the Express. As of right now I can honestly say that those were the best days of my life. I had a good job. I had a roof over my head, a safe place to sleep without fear of being raped again. I had good friends, a family. When I married Kid, I thought we would have a family together and be happy like we were here, but it wasn't to be. During the two years we were married, we spent a grand total of a month together. We never had children. While that thought saddens me, I also can't help being relieved. How in the world would I have cared for a child on my own? I still long to have a family of my own, I wish my other 'brothers' were here, that the war was over and we could all be together again. I doubt we ever will be though.
Earlier tonight at supper, we all decided to have a memorial service for Kid. I don't even know where they buried his body. We plan on having it tomorrow. I know I should try to go to sleep and get some rest, but my mind won't stop. I hear the familiar neighing of the horses. How I miss that sound. I had to sell my and Kid's horses to survive these past few months. The last of my money was spent on transportation here. I was completely broke now. I had the irresistible urge to go for a ride, I knew it was too dark now, going for a ride at night around here is asking for trouble, but still I couldn't stop the longing. Finally not being able to lie there another minute I slipped on my house robe and tiptoed down the stairs. I paused briefly when one of the stairs creaked and waited to see if I had disturbed Rachel or Teaspoon, I didn't hear anything so I continued on my way.
Once outside I headed straight for the corral. There weren't as many horse as there used to be in there, but I recognized a few of them. It was nice night so none of the horses had been put in the barn. I saw Ike's horse, which brought a sad smile to my face. I knew Buck must be taking care of it because it was still in prefect shape. There was the team Rachel used to pull the buckboard, Teaspoons feisty mount, and Buck's small mare. I still remember the day that horse came in. Nobody could ride her and believe me we all tried several times. The damn thing even kicked Ike in the head once; we had all just about given up hope that she would be broken, when even Ike couldn't do it. Ike could break almost any horse there was except that one, he just had a way with animals, and children. I think because children and animals don't judge people on appearances, they can tell when someone is kind. Anyway back to the horse, the only person who hadn't tried yet was Buck. I remember being so scared when he went into the corral with her, this was right after she had kicked Ike, but Buck never showed any fear. He walked right up to her and looked into her eyes. I think the two were kindred spirits the way they connected. Buck simply mounted her, she never moved. As he directed this way and that way, she did as exactly as she was told. She was broken, well we thought she was. If anybody else tried to ride her she would act as wild as she was before, only Buck could handle her. I still laugh thinking about that. The other horse I don't recognize and wonder who they could belong too, there about five others in the corral. I just stand there watching the horses, Ike's trots up to me once it recognizes me. It felt good to pet it again. I smile and laugh softly, and proceeded to have a conversation with the horse about the good ole' days and about its master. I was unaware I had an audience until I heard his voice.
I left the house shortly after supper to return to the empty bunkhouse. I should have shown Lou how it looked now, she wouldn't recognize it. It was no longer a bunkhouse, even if we continued to refer to it that way. It was more a one room cabin now. The bunks had been removed along with the long table. The small stove still stood at one end of the room for heat during the winter, I never cooked on it, and Rachel always made sure I was fed. Good thing too, because I can't cook to save my life. Instead of the uncomfortable bunks we used to sleep on, I know have a comfortable bed big enough for two people, though I'm the only one to have slept in it. I don't know why Rachel made me such a big mattress. My bed stood on the opposite wall from the stove in the exact spot my bunk used to be. Over my bed I have hung a small shelf that holds a few books, one being the magazine that Cody had written, even if he did say some not nice things about all of us, it was well written. I also had a copy of the book about Jimmy, I would read it to get a good laugh; the man in that book did not exist when I knew him. Next to the few books I own is a small box in which I keep the picture I drew of me on horseback and the one of himself, along with his bandana and family bible, it also holds all the letters I have received from Lou and the others. That box holds my most cherished possessions. Along one wall I have a small table with two chairs under the window; I sit there sometimes in the evenings and read. I have a rack built on the wall that holds a rifle, shotgun, and my bow and arrows. The only decoration is a small hand drawn picture of all of us riders, minus Ike since he was the one who drew it, in are best clothes. Ike drew it the night of the dance, the night Emily's father was killed, the night that changed everything. To this day I believe that if her father had not been killed, Ike would not have been either, I think he and Emily would have been married by now, maybe with a kid of their own, if things had worked out differently.
Yes the bunkhouse was no longer a bunkhouse but a home, albeit a fairly lonely one but a home none the less. Yet as comfortable as it is, I can't help but wish for the days when we all shared it together, even with Cody's loud snoring that would keep the rest of us awake. Try as I might I can't sleep, I keep thinking about those days. As restless as I was I wished I could go for a ride as foolish s it would be in the dark. Well at least I could go outside to see the horse, I think to myself as I get out of bed pulling on a pair of pants but not a shirt. It was a nice night out so I didn't see the need of more clothes. Stepping out the door I am surprised by the sight before me. There by the corral in her house robe is Lou watching the horses. It's amazing to me how much we think alike. I hear a soft chuckle escape her as Ike's horse trots up to her. I can hear her murmuring to him; I walk silently up to her to her what she is saying. She talks to the horse about the good ole' days, she misses it as much as me I realize, and about Ike. I'm not surprised that she misses him almost as much as I do. I think she was the closet to him other than me. I know she doesn't know I'm here, so I quietly say her name so I wouldn't scare her.
She turns to me and smiles softly. "I couldn't sleep," she says. "Me neither," I tell her. "I kept thinking about the old days and I wanted to go for a ride but I know that's a dumb idea." She laughs as she says, "Me too!" We both start laughing when we realized how identical our thoughts had been. I don't know how long we stood out there talking about those days, watching the horses. I told her I would take her for a ride tomorrow after the service if she wanted. She told me she couldn't wait, it had been too long since she been on a horse. She told me about having to sell the horses so she could survive and how it took the last of her money to get here. I told her not to worry about it anymore. She was home; she wouldn't have to worry about where her next meal was coming from ever again. She asks me about the extra horses, I tell her those weren't the only ones. The ones in the corral were just the females that were soon to birth. I tell her that I had started a horse ranch, that I had purchased the land connected to the old station and there were about a hundred head out to pasture right now. "So you got that horse farm you and Ike always thought about after all" she says to me. "Yes, but it's not the same now. It had been more Ike's dream than mine. It's doing well, I have some of the best horseflesh in the territory but I only have Rachel and Teaspoon to share it with." I tell her. "Do you run it all by yourself?" she asks me. I smile, "I'm good Lou but not that good. Teaspoon helps some, but I have several ranch hands their bunkhouse is further down the way. They have their own cook, who bunks with them, I hired a male; I didn't think I wanted to deal with finding a female cook, especially considering how we used to think about Rachel. I didn't need that kind of trouble." We laugh at the memory of the first night Rachel showed up. We all made fools of ourselves that first week.
I can tell she misses having a horse of her own, so I surprise her by saying, "When we go for a ride tomorrow, I'll show you the horses, you can have anyone you want as your own, unless of course you want one these in here." The smile she bestowed upon me was worth it, "Oh Buck thank you, thank you, thank you." She says throwing her arms around my neck. I couldn't help but hug her back. As she pulled away slightly to look at me, I did what I had been wanting to for years. I leaned in and kissed her softly on the lips. She smiled at me softly before pulling away and bidding me goodnight. I watched her go back to the main house. Yes it was a goodnight.
When Buck told me I could have my pick of any of his horses I was ecstatic. I knew how much horse like these ran, he was given me a great gift. Thanking him profusely I threw my arms around him and hugged him tightly, Buck hugged me back just as tightly. It felt so right to be in his arms. When I pulled back I smiled at him, then he kissed me softly on the lips. I swear my heart skipped a beat when he did. After he broke the kiss I smiled up at him before pulling away and saying goodnight. I knew I was blushing but was pretty sure he couldn't tell in the dark. I walked slowly back to the main house knowing he was watching me. Once inside I turned to peek out the door to watch him. He still stood by the corral, starring at the house, even in the dark I could tell he was smiling the same as I was. Turning back around I head upstairs to my bedroom. Rachel was waiting for me inside.
"Rachel." I cried in surprise. "Sorry Lou I didn't mean to startle you. I thought I heard you moving around earlier and came to check on you. When you weren't here I was worried until I looked out the window and say you down by the corral with Buck." Rachel said to me as I went to sit by her on the bed. "I couldn't sleep, so I went to look at the horses. Apparently Buck had the same thought as me." I tell her. "I'm not surprised Lou, you two always did think alike." Rachel says to me. "I also know how hard it's been on him since you left Lou. I know he never said anything to you, in fact he's never said anything to me, but I know he loves you, he always has. I don't want to see him hurt worse than his has been." I look at Rachel the tears start filling my eyes, "I know Rachel. At the time I never knew he loved me, but since coming home I've realized it. I don't want to hurt him anymore either. I know it may be too soon after Kid's death but I know I love him too. I think deep down I always have. You know I loved Kid but I wish I would have realized sooner that I loved Buck. It would have saved me a lot of heartache." I tell her. Rachel wraps me in a hug, "I don't think it's too soon Lou, for all accounts you have been a widow for the past two years. Kid wasn't around; I can see how you can move on so quickly." "So you don't think I'm wrong in loving Buck?" I ask the woman who was like a mother to me. She smiles and shakes her head, "not at all. It's about time if you ask me." We both laugh, and then Rachel leaves me alone. After my talk with Buck and then Rachel I found it easy to fall right to sleep.
The next morning when I woke up, it took me a minute to realize where I was. Looking around the small bedroom I smiled, I was home. It felt so good to be home. Dressing quickly in a dark dress I headed downstairs. I wished I could just put on a pair of pants and shirt like I used to do, but with the memorial service being this morning I figured I should at least look like a grieving widow. I mean it's true, I did grieve Kid's death, but as Rachel said last night I have practically been a widow for two years. I've already did my grieving. I found Rachel in the kitchen cooking and offered to help, I told her living on my own for two years had forced me to learn to cook, and while I wasn't as good as her, I could manage well enough. It was nice to work together with another female in companionable silence. I heard Teaspoon come downstairs just as we were placing the food on the table. Buck had not arrived yet. I offered to go get him. Rachel smiled at me as I hurried out the door; I caught the questioning look Teaspoon gave Rachel as I exited.
Walking quickly across the yard I headed straight for the bunkhouse. I knocked on the door, but did not hear any movement. "Buck" I called knocking again. "Buck breakfast is ready." I say as I knock once more. When he still had not responded I tested the knob, the door opened easily. I stepped in and looked around; I couldn't believe how different the place looked. It was no longer the bunkhouse but a home. I spotted Buck's empty bed standing where his bunk used to sit. He wasn't here, turning around I went to leave went the only picture on the wall caught my attention. I walked over towards it, when I saw what it was I couldn't help the tears that filled my eyes. There we all were, one of the last times we were all together. The only one missing was Ike, but I knew it was because he was the one who had drawn this picture. I wished Ike could have been in it as well, it just didn't seem right for him not to be there with us. So caught up in my musings I didn't hear Buck come back inside until he came up next to me and drew me into a hug as I cried into his wet hair. He must have been bathing when I came to get him.
After my tears dried he asked if I was ok. I told him I was. I told him the picture made me remember it was one of the last times we were all together and that I thought it a shame that Ike couldn't be with us in it. It just didn't seem right. "You're right Lou; it's not right for him to not be with us." He said as he walked over to his bed and took down a box from the shelf above it. He brought the small box to the little table under the window and opened it. As he took out a folded piece of paper he said to me, "I should have done this a long time ago, but I just couldn't." He handed me the paper, I opened it and started crying all over again. It was Ike. Buck hugged me to him again. When I once again had control of my emotions he left me in search of a hammer and a nail. When he returned Ike's picture was nailed up right next to the rest of us. At least our images were together again if nothing else. "Breakfast is ready I tell him." He smiles and says he would be right there as soon as he finishes getting dressed. It was only then I realized that the only thing Buck had on was a pair of buckskin pants, he wasn't even wearing shoes. I blushed slightly before excusing myself. I could hear Buck's laughter as I ran to the main house. I knew what he was thinking, it's not like I hadn't seen any of them like that before, Hell I'd seen them all in nothing but their long johns, and they had seen me in nothing but long johns as well. But that was a different time and a different Lou. Well maybe not so much a different Lou, it was just different now.
I entered the house to find Teaspoon and Rachel already eating. I told them Buck was coming in a minute. A few minutes later he enters, wearing his best clothes I know, with his hair pulled back in a ponytail. I know he only does that for special occasions but I liked it better when it was hanging loose, I had noticed yesterday that it was even longer now, going down to at least the middle of his back. Mine wasn't even that long, but then again his hair was already longer than mine two years ago so it's not like that was much of a surprise. "What kept ya" Teaspoon asked when Buck sat down across from me. "I was bathing. Then I found a beautiful woman in my house crying. I had to take care of that before I could finish getting ready." Buck said winking at me. I felt my face turn beat red. "Gees Lou your face is as red as a tomato," Teaspoon said laughing. I glare at him. This only made him laugh harder with Rachel and Buck joining in. "What were you crying about sweetheart?" Rachel asked after the laughter died down. "Just memories, good memories." I say to them.
After breakfast we all leave to go to the small cemetery not far from the old station. I was surprised by the amount of people waiting for us. "How did they know?" I asked Buck. "I told them this morning first thing." He tells me. I give him a grateful smile. Gathering in the small graveyard I spot many familiar faces along with some I didn't know. There is already a white cross in the ground next to Noah's grave that simply read 'Kid'. I thought it appropriate, Teaspoon was the only one to know his real name; he never even told me. The service was simple and quick, I felt a few tears fall from my eyes. I wanted Buck to hold me but for appearance sake he didn't he left that job to Rachel and Teaspoon. But I knew he wanted to be the one giving me comfort. After the memorial was over, several people came to offer condolences and to say how glad they were I had come home. Tompkins even offered me a job as a shop girl if I was interested. I told him I would think about it and let him know. I knew I needed to earn money somehow, I didn't feel right sponging off of Teaspoon and Rachel, but I would rather die than be trap inside behind a counter all day. I needed the fresh air and sunshine.
After the service we returned home. I went upstairs to change into something I could ride in, meaning that pair of pants and shirt I had wanted to put on first thing this morning. Rachel went into the kitchen and packed a picnic lunch for me and Buck. Teaspoon went to the barn to saddle a horse for me. And Buck went to his house to change into some older clothes. When I came downstairs I got the picnic basket from Rachel, she gave me a quick hug and kiss on the cheek and told me to behave. "Don't I always Rachel?" I asked her. She just laughed. Walking outside I find Teaspoon and Buck in the barn. Teaspoon had just finished saddling a horse for me, while Buck had just started saddling his. I was surprised to see that he had saddle Ike's stallion for me. Buck seeing the expression on my face told me that he told Teaspoon to saddle that one. After Buck had finished with his mare he took the picnic basket from me, so I could mount my horse. He handing the basket to Teaspoon while he got on his mare, taking it back he quickly led the way from the barn. It felt so good to feel the wind in my hair again. Showing off I did the same tricks I had performed the first day we had met. The one's I used to impress Teaspoon after he called me puny. I heard Buck yell show off, and that if he didn't have the basket he could give me a run for my money. I knew that was true.
We came to the spot where Buck's horses were grazing. Buck was right, he had some of the best horseflesh there was. It didn't take me long to find the horse I wanted. It was a stallion the spitting image of Buck's mare. A matched set, Buck signaled his ranch hands to take that one to the stations corral. I knew 'we' would break it in later, whether he wanted to let me or not I intended to break that horse. After I had picked out my horse, we went to a private spot were none of his ranch hands could see us and set up our picnic. It was the most enjoyable afternoon I had spent in a long time. After we ate, he had a horse riding competition between us. Buck easily won. Two years ago I might have been able to give him a run for his money but it had been too long since I had been on a horse. At least that was my excuse. It was late afternoon, almost supper time when we finally returned to the main house. My horse was already tied to the post in the corral that was used to break the horses in. I knew what I would be doing tomorrow.
Chapter 6 - Buck's POV
I woke earlier than usual the next morning; I had some things I needed to take care of before breakfast. I got dressed quickly and headed into town. None of the shops were opened yet, I knew, but I hadn't come to shop. I find the small home that the preacher lived in and knocked on his door. The preacher's wife answered yet away. "Sorry to disturb you so early ma'am, but I would like a word with the preacher if you don't mind," I say taking my hat off and holding it in my hands in front of me. The small old woman calls over her shoulder to her husband. I'm not invited in, I may be except as a lawman, but most people still didn't want me in their houses, even the minister it seems. The preacher comes to the door, "Deputy is there something I can do for you?" I quickly tell him my reason for coming, he remembers Kid; he had been here while the Express was still operational. He agrees to perform the service. I thank him, and ask for him to spread the word. Leaving I go to my next stop, the one person I knew who would have the whole town told before breakfast was over, Tompkins.
I find him sweeping in front of his store. Despite all the problems we have had over the years, Tompkins had finally come to respect me and maybe even trust me. "Morning Buck, what brings you by this fine morning?" he asks shaking my hand. "Lou came back into town yesterday." "Is that a fact is Kid with her?" he asks me. "That's the reason she came home, Kid was killed in the war. We are having a memorial service this morning right after breakfast; it would mean a lot to Lou if you came Tompkins." I tell him, he says he would come and spread the word. I thank him and head home. My work done. Once home I head around back to where the old bathing closet was stationed. I remember when Teaspoon had installed the thing. I thought he was crazy. A man-made rain machine? But it worked great, we all enjoyed it. I never heard Lou calling me, so I was surprised when I found her in my home crying at the sight of the picture on the wall. I hold her and she cries into my already wet hair. After she tells me she thinks it wrong for Ike not to be there with us, I get out Ike's picture and after finding a hammer and nail put it up where it belong. She tells me breakfast is ready, I tell her to go ahead I would be there when I finish dressing. I see the blush steal across her face as takes in my appearance for the first time, I laugh as she practically runs to the house. I mean come on, it's not like she hadn't seen me like this before, any of us for that matter. Hell she'd seen us in nothing but our underclothes, the same as we seen her.
When I joined them for breakfast Teaspoon asked what kept me, I tell them winking at Lou, this causes her to turn beet red. Of course Teaspoon has to make a comment about that fact. The glare she sends him just makes all of us laugh. After breakfast we head to the graveyard. I see the look of surprise on her face when she sees the small crowd gathering. She asks me how they knew, when I told her that I had told them this morning; the grateful smile she gives me is payment enough. As the preacher says the words over the cross I had put up before coming home, I watch Lou cry. I want to hold her, to be the one comforting her, but for appearance sake I leave that job to Rachel and Teaspoon. After the service several people offer Lou their condolences and welcome homes. I even hear Tompkins offer her a job; yeah Lou working stuck behind a counter all day? That's not going to happen, she would go crazy; like me she needs to be out in the fresh air and sunshine.
Once we arrived back home, I ask Teaspoon to saddle Ike's horse while Lou and I get changed. I change out of my best clothes and put on my work worn ones. Sticking the hat on my head, I realize how bad I need a new one, this one is practically fallen apart, but I can't part with it, Ike had given it to me for a birthday present right before we started riding for the Express. I head to the barn to saddle my mare; Teaspoon is just about finished with Ike's, when Lou comes in. I grin as I take in her appearance, there is the Lou I remember; the woman was still more comfortable in men's clothing than a skirt. I can't help but be glad she hadn't changed much. I take the basket she is carrying from her so she can mount her horse, and hand it to Teaspoon so I could mount mine. After taking it back I quickly lead the way out of the barn and towards where my horses are at currently. I knew my ranch hands would already be there working. I can see the look of joy on Lou's face as the wind whips through her hair, showing off she does those same riding tricks she had used to impress Teaspoon on that very first day we had met. I yell show off too her, and say that if wasn't for the basket I was carrying I could give her a run for her money. She knew it was true too. Aside from Ike I was the best horsemen out of them all. Lou was just the fastest, because she was so small.
It didn't take Lou long to find the horse she wanted. She picked out a stallion that looked identical to my mare. A matched pair, I couldn't help but smile that she wanted a horse identical to mine. I signal my men to round it up and take it to the corral so we could break it in tomorrow. I knew she would want to help, and while it's a dangerous task, I knew there was no way I would be able to stop her. After my men took care of the horse, I led Lou to a shaded area away from prying eyes. There we enjoyed a leisurely picnic lunch and pleasant conversation. After which Lou took my challenge from earlier. I won easily, though I tried to hold back, I couldn't help showing off for Lou trying to impress her. It was the best day I had spent in long time. When we finally returned home it was close to supper time. It had been a good day, but tomorrow was going to be more interesting when it came to breaking that horse.
When I awoke the next morning it was with a smile on my face. Yesterday had been just what I needed to feel like myself again. I was no longer the lonely and afraid woman known as Louise, but the spirited, loved, happy, and independent one known as Lou. Dressing quickly in my pants and shirt I headed down stairs to breakfast. Rachel already had it on the table; apparently I had slept in a little. Buck was just coming in the front door as I reached the bottom step. "Morning" I say to him. "Good Morning Lou", he says back with a smile. I can see Teaspoon looking at us out of the corner of my eye. I know he is trying to figure out just what is going on between the two of us. I would tell him, but I'm not exactly sure myself. Neither one of us has made our feelings clear to the other. Granted I knew how he felt about me, and I think he knew I returned those feelings, after all he had kissed me and I hadn't hit him. We just had come right out and said it is all.
After breakfast we went outside to begin breaking in my horse. Several of Buck's ranch hands were already there waiting. When we walked up to them he introduced me, "Boys I like ya'll to meet Lou. She used to ride with me in the Pony Express". I could see the looks of doubt pass over their faces at that introduction. I could almost hear them saying yeah, right, a girl riding for the Express. Buck had not missed the looks on their faces, he said to them, "Hey don't let her being a woman fool you, she was one of the best damn riders who ever rode for the Express. In fact known of us knew at first she was a girl. Although I must say she was the prettiest boy any of had ever laid eyes on." That statement caused me to blush and the guys to laugh. I knew I was going to have to prove myself to them.
After the first few guys tried to ride the stallion I had picked out without success Buck turned to me and said, "Well Lou do you want to show the boys how it's done?' I grinned at him before hoping off the rail I had been sitting on. Buck joined me in the corral holding the horse still until I could mount up. "You ready Lou?" he asked. At my nod he let go and high tailed it out of there. I was almost unseated right away, but manage to hang on. That horse tried just about every trick in the book to get me off of his back, but I managed to stay on. I could hear Buck calling his encouragement, along with Rachel and Teaspoons voice. I didn't realize they had come to watch until that moment. And then the next thing I knew the damn horse went down rolling over me, I could hear Buck yell my name before the world went black.
I grinned as Lou, tenaciously held on to the bucking horse. I could see the looks of respect come over my hands faces as a girl started to show them up. "Way to go Lou!" I called out to her. Rachel and Teaspoon had joined me now by the fence, they shouted their encouragement too. Then I felt my world stop when the horse Lou was on fell to its side and rolled over her. "Lou!" I screamed rushing into the corral along with my hands. They got control of the horse but I headed straight for Lou. I saw her stir briefly before she collapsed back, her head lolling to the side. I reached her now, and carefully gathered her in my arms, "Lou, please honey wake up. You can't leave me Lou. Not you too. Please wake up." I could feel the tears flowing down my face. I yelled at one of my hands to go get the doctor and be quick about it. Teaspoon and Rachel help me carry Lou into the bunkhouse because it was closest. When I laid her down in my bed, I thought she looked dead. She was still breathing though. I don't know how long it had been, but the doctor finally arrived. Rachel forced me out of my home so the doctor could examine Lou. I didn't want to leave her, but Teaspoon pulled me away. Outside I paced waiting for word from the doctor. I had only felt like this once before, the day Ike had been shot. That had not worked out the way I prayed. Hopefully I wasn't about to suffer the same pain. "I never should have let her get on that horse." I say to Teaspoon, knowing this was my fault. As if he could read my thoughts Teaspoon said, "This ain't your fault son. You know as well as I do, that you never would have been able to keep Lou from getting on that horse." I know he's right, but if I lost Lou because of this I would never forgive myself.
After what seemed like hours the doctor finally came outside. "How is she doc?" Teaspoon asked before I could. "Well she has a couple of cracked ribs and a busted shoulder. She also suffered a concussion, I don't want her moved from that bed for a couple of days, give her ribs time to heal before you let her move too much. And someone is going to need to sit with her to keep her from going into too deep a sleep. Other than that she will be right as ran in a couple weeks." I let out a big sigh of relief and shake his hand. "Thanks Doctor." I say. "I'll be back to check on her latter, oh and I left instruction with Rachel on the dosage of the medicine I left for the pain." With that he left and I went inside to see Lou.
Rachel had change Lou out of her clothing and put her in a larger shirt, one that I realized was mine. Even with the blanket covering her and the sling her arm was in, I could tell she didn't have anything on underneath it. I tried to stop my thoughts from running away with that image but I am just a guy after all. I knew Lou knew what I was thinking the minute she said, "Buck Cross you just best watch where your mind goes wandering because if you don't when I get out of this bed I'll have to beat you." I laugh at the smirk that crossed her face; yup she could definitely read my mind. I cross the room to sit on the bed beside her. Rachel gave me the instructions the doc had left and left the room with Teaspoon leaving me and Lou alone. "Lou, I'm so sorry you got hurt honey. If I had known that horse was going to do that, I would have tried to stop you from getting on it yet." Lou laughed but then cringed in pain, "Oh don't make me laugh Buck it hurts. And you know me too well to think you would have been able to stop me." I give her a pained expression when she cringed in pain, seeing her hurt made me hurt. "Yes I know you too well, that's why I didn't even try to stop you. Promise me though, that you will listen to what the doctor said. He doesn't want you out of that bed for couple of days at least; you've got to give you ribs time to heal." Lou smiled at me and said, "I ain't going anywhere, I kinda like being in your bed." After she realized what she just said she flushed a bright red and I gave her the crooked grin of mine before I leaned down and kissed her. "I like having you in my bed too." she blushed even redder and I laughed before I kissed her again.
When I had come to, I found myself in Buck's bed, with Rachel and the Doctor hovering over me. The doctor had waved some nasty smelling something under my nose to bring me too. I felt like hell. My head hurt, my shoulder hurt, my sides hurt, but most of all my pride hurt. I had been doing so well. The doctor is telling Rachel some instructions then he leaves. Rachel is mothering me; I knew I must have worried her. A few minutes after the doctor leaves Buck comes in, as bad as I feel, I think he was the one who looked worse. I could see the guilt written all over his face. He thought this was his fault. Rachel gives him the same instructions the doctor had given her, then she leaves with Teaspoon. Buck comes and sits next to me on the bed. He apologizes and says he should have tried to stop me from getting on that horse. I laugh, but it hurt. I see the look of pain cross his face; it hurts him to see me this way. I try to tell him this wasn't his fault that he knew me too well to think he would have been able to stop me. Buck agrees; says that's why he didn't even try too. He begs me to at least follow the doctors' orders. I don't know what made me say it but I told him I wasn't going anywhere, I liked being in his bed. When my choice of words hit me, I blushed. Buck just smirked before he leaned down and kissed me gently. Then he said he liked having me in his bed too. This caused me to blush even redder I'm sure. Buck laughed out right at that and kissed me again. I decided right then that if he kissed me that way every time I got hurt, I might have to pretend to be hurt more often.
Buck pulled his boots off and lay down next to me, his hands brushing my hair from my face. I wanted to tell him how I felt but I could feel my eyelids getting heavy. Buck carefully pulled me into his arms as I drifted to sleep. It felt so nice to fall asleep in his arms.
I know I probably shouldn't have done it, but I couldn't help myself. After I kissed Lou that second time, I sat up and pulled my boots off before I laid down next to her. I brushed the hair away from her face so I could look into her eyes better. I wanted to tell her how I felt, but she looked so sleepy. As carefully as I could I pulled her into my arms. It wasn't long until she was fast asleep; I kissed her gentle on the top of her head. I knew I would have to wake her again before too long, but right now I was just enjoying the feeling of her asleep in my arms.
I stayed with her the rest of the day. I would wake her; we would talk for a few little while. I'd give her medicine if it was needed and then she would fall asleep in my arms. Rachel came in with a broth for Lou to eat, she sent me up to the big house for my supper. I didn't want to leave her but I hadn't eaten since breakfast so I was pretty hungry, also I was sure Lou needed to take care of personal business that she would be too embarrassed to ask me to help with. After I had finished my supper Teaspoon cornered me. "Buck, might I have a word with you son?" I wasn't sure I liked the tone in his voice nor the look on his face. "Sure Teaspoon." I say sitting down again.
Teaspoon came and sat across from me. "I want to know just what your intentions towards Lou are." I smiled as I realized why Teaspoon had used that tone and look. It was the look of a father protecting his daughter. "Only honorable ones Teaspoon. I know Kid only recently passed, but I've been in love with Lou since the very beginning. I never said anything because she was with Kid, and I still haven't told her. I want to marry her if she will have me." I could see Teaspoon thinking about what I said. "Well, I reckon that explains a lot. And why wouldn't she have you son. You're hardworking, honest, and loyal, you've got a good heart and head on your shoulders, and from what I can tell you're a might handsome man." I just shake my head, "I'm a half breed Teaspoon." "Since when has that mattered to Lou? She's never thought of you any less for it. She's always stood by your side. Why would she stop now?" "Teaspoon being friends with a half-breed is different than marrying one. She would face the same hatred and bigotry I have faced my entire life. I don't think I can ask that of her." I tell him. "Son don't you think you ought to ask Lou how she feels about it?" Teaspoon said to me. "I don't know Teaspoon. I love her, I want to marry her, but I guess I'm just afraid." I admit to the man who was like a father to me. "Never thought you were a coward Buck" he stated matter of factly. This angered me, "I'm not a coward!" I yelled at him. "Then tell Lou how you feel boy." Teaspoon said. "Alright I will, right now." I said getting up and walking out of the house, I could hear Teaspoon laughing as I shut the door.
Buck spent the rest of the day with me. Every time he woke me up he would get me whatever I needed. We would talk, and then I would fall back asleep in his arms. As much as I enjoyed that, I was thrilled when I saw Rachel come in with a bowl of broth. I was starving, plus I really had to go. I had been too embarrassed to ask Buck to help me, so when she ushered him out of the bunk house I could have kissed her. As soon as he was out the door I was begging her to help with the chamber pot. Rachel laughed; she said she figured I wouldn't ask Buck for help. After I had relieved myself, Rachel helped me eat my broth. While I ate we talked about what was going on between me and Buck.
"So Lou, what is going on between you and Buck?" she asked. "I don't know Rachel. I know he loves me, I know I love him, but he has yet to say anything. I think he might be afraid." Rachel looked at me in shock, "I've never known Buck Cross to be afraid Lou, what could he possibly fear." I smiled sadly, "rejection. Buck has known nothing but hatred and bigotry for much of his life Rachel. If we were to say marry, I would be faced with it too, being married to a half-breed. I think he is afraid that I won't want to marry him because of his being part Kiowa." "He should know better than that. His being part Kiowa has never caused any of us to think less of him." Rachel said. "I know that, I just know how Buck thinks. I wish there was some way I could reassure him." I had finished eating by this time and was starting to get sleepy, as Rachel helped me get comfortable she kissed my forehead and said, "I'll talk to him." I smiled at her before I slowly drifted off to sleep; the last thing I was aware of was Buck coming in the room with a look of determination on his handsome face.
As Lou drifted off to sleep I turned to leave, but was startled when Buck came in. I was going to talk to him about what Lou and I had just been discussing. But when I saw that look on his face, I knew Teaspoon had beaten me too it. I smiled at him and told him he would have to wait until it was time to wake Lou up again. He gave me a sheepish grin, knowing I knew what he had been planning to say. I patted him on the shoulder and said, "She will give you the answer you want, don't worry." With that I left them alone for the rest of the night.
The next time I remember waking it, it was already morning. I was still in Buck's cabin, in his bed, I still hurt like hell, but for some reason I was completely comfortable. It took me a minute to realize it was because I was being lovingly held in Buck's arms. I can feel his warm body pressed to my side, his breath against my neck, stirring my hair. I knew he was still sleeping. I really didn't want to wake him up but I wanted to be able to see his face, so as carefully as I could I tried to turn towards him. I hadn't planned on the pain this small movement would cause my ribs. I cursed softly under my breath, but it was enough to wake Buck.
I watched as his eyes focused on my face. He gave me a small smile, before his features clouded over in worry by the pain that was evident on my face. He got up as carefully as he could to get me some more medicine. Helping me sit so I could swallow it and the water he handed me. "Thanks Buck." I say after I handed him back the glass of water. "Do you need anything else? Is there anything I can do to help?" Buck asks truly wanting to do anything he can to make me more comfortable. I bite my lip, knowing that the only thing that could make me more comfortable at the moment was a chamber pot, but I absolutely refused to allow Buck to help me with that. But Buck being Buck he knew what I needed. "I'll got get Rachel." He said before hurrying out the door, in nothing but a pair of pants.
Rachel came in a few minutes later while Buck stayed outside and helped me. She had also brought with her a nightgown for me to wear and a basin of water to help me freshen up. I was very grateful for that. I know I probably smelled like a horse, considering I hadn't bathed since before I was almost crushed by one. After she left with the promise of returning with some breakfast Buck came back in. He walked over to his dresser and pulled out a shirt to put on. I was disappointed; I rather liked looking at him, not that I would ever tell him that.
Watching Buck, I saw the same determined look I had seen last night on his face. I knew he wanted to say something to me, but for some reason he was waiting. I realized he was waiting for Rachel to get back with breakfast and leave. Whatever it was he wanted to say to me, he didn't want to be interrupted. Trying to make small talk while we waited for Rachel I asked, "What are your plans for today Buck?" He looks at me and smiles, "I plan on staying right here with you Lou. Somebody has to make sure you don't try to get out of that bed yet." I just smile and shake my head, "Don't worry Buck I'm not about to try to do that, I feel like I was almost crushed by a horse. Oh wait I was almost crushed by a horse." I give him a cheesy grin as he burst out laughing. I know I put his mind at ease.
Rachel finally returns with a tray of food. There is food for both me and Buck on it. She sits the tray down on the table and tells Buck, that she would be in the house if we needed anything and that some of his hands were out there trying to break in my horse. Teaspoon was watching them. She gives me a wink before she leaves. "You must have your ranch hands trained well Buck, you don't even have to give them orders and they do what needs to be down." Buck gives me that easy grin of his, "At first I couldn't get them to do anything, even after I ordered them, they didn't care too much about taking orders from a half-breed, but eventually after I earned their respect by working just as hard as them, and never asking them to do something I wasn't willing to do, and with Teaspoon's help. Now they know what I expect of them and they do it without being told. They are a good group of guys and I count them as friends, but they aren't family like our friends from the Pony Express were." "I don't think anybody can be family like them Buck, all of us were one of a kind." I say laughing, which just makes my ribs hurt. Buck smirks, but then turns serious. I know he is fixing to start the conversation he had been putting off.
I loved talking to Lou; she could always take my mind off of things and make me laugh when I didn't feel like it. I loved her. Even as banged up and bruised as she is right now, she is still the most beautiful woman in the world to me. I have to tell her. I can't tell her. Teaspoon's right, I'm a coward, No I'm NOT. I can do this. I have to do this. I take a deep breath and gather my courage. "Lou there is something I need to tell you, and please don't say anything until I'm finished." I pause she gives me a nod. Ok here it goes. "I know you may not believe this but it's the honest truth. Lou I love you. I have loved you from the very beginning. I knew you were with the Kid, that's why I never said anything, but I've never stopped loving you. I know I have no business asking you this. I know you just lost Kid. But I have to know. Is there any possibility that you could return my feelings? That you could consider becoming my wife. Don't say anything yet. I want you to think really hard about this. Remember Lou, I'm a social outcast. I don't belong in the white world, and I don't belong in the Kiowa world. I fit nowhere. I have faced nothing but hatred and cruelty and bigotry my entire life. The only place I found love was with the Pony Express, with you, Ike, Emma, Rachel, Teaspoon, the boys. If I marry, my wife will face that same life, any children we have will face that. I want you to really think about what I'm asking of you Lou. But know this whatever answer you give me, I will always love you and be here for you no matter what."
I sit and silently listen as Buck pours out his heart. It was exactly as I told Rachel. Buck was afraid that I wouldn't want to subject myself to a life with him because of what people would think. I didn't care what people thought, they could all go to hell for all I cared. All I cared about was the man sitting with me now, pouring his heart and soul out to me. The man I loved more than anything in this world. The man I would gladly go to Hell and back for. I bite my tongue to keep for interrupting him. I know what my decision is; I don't have to think long and hard about it. I knew what it would be the moment I realized I was in love with Buck. When he finally finished talking there are tears in his eyes and in mine. Taking his hand in mine I rest it over my heart, "You fit right here Buck. You always have, always will, no matter what people may say, what they may think, or what they may do. I love you; nothing will ever change that fact. Nor will the fact change that I have wanted to be your wife from the moment I found you again. I've always loved you too Buck, I just didn't realize it at the time. I wished I had, you have no idea how much I wished I had. It would have saved us both a lot of heartache." Watching his face after I had said all that, I see him processing it. He smiles at me and gets down on one knee by the bed, "I guess I should at least do this properly, even if I don't have a ring to give you right now. Louise McCloud will you do me the honor of becoming my bride?" I knew I was grinning like an idiot when I said yes, but Buck's grin matched my own right before he kissed me. While Buck had always been reserved in his behavior there was nothing reserved about that kiss. In it was every bit of passion and love he felt for me, and my kiss answered in kind. We didn't break apart until we absolutely had to in order to get air. I couldn't wait for my ribs and shoulder to heal so I could really show Buck how much I loved him.
She said yes. I couldn't believe it. I kissed her with every bit of love and passion I felt for her, the kiss Lou gave me in return was identical. I refused to break that kiss until I absolutely had to in order to breath. I couldn't wait for Lou's ribs and shoulder to heal so we could marry and I could really show her how much I loved her.
The next few days were spent in pretty much the same way. I slept in Buck's bed while my ribs healed. At night he would hold me tenderly. He would only leave me for short periods to take care of business with his ranch or something that Teaspoon needed him to do in town, he was still a deputy after all. When we were together we would plan our future. The doctor came one day and said I could get up and move around now. I didn't want too; because I knew it meant I would have to move back into the main house. I had grown accustom to sleeping in Buck's arms. But my ribs were healing nicely and so was my shoulder. In fact he thought it wouldn't be much longer until I was back to normal. And as much as I wanted to get better I still was happy to hear it. I knew Rachel knew what I was thinking when she grin at me and winked. After the doctor left she said, "We don't have to tell Buck that the doctor said you could move around." I grinned at her and she winked when Buck came inside a few minutes later. He had seen the doctor leave and wanted to know what he had said.
"Oh he said that I was healing nicely is all." Buck smiled glad I was getting better, "Did he say if you could move around yet?" "He didn't mention it," I lied. I could tell by the look on Buck's face he knew I wasn't telling the truth, but I also knew he would never say anything about it.
I had just finished my turn at trying to break Lou's horse when I saw the doctor leave. He seemed to be happy about something so I figured Lou must be doing well. I tell the boys I would be back in a minute. I didn't miss the smirks on their faces. I knew what they were thinking, "yeah if he is back in a minute than I'm the king of England.' They were probably right, I tended to lose track of time when I was with Lou. Walking into the bunkhouse, I see the grin Lou gives Rachel as she leaves. "What did the doctor say?" I asked her. She tells me that he said she was healing nicely. I was happy about that; the sooner she healed the sooner we could get married. "Did he say if you could move around yet?" I asked hoping the answer was no, I had grown accustomed to sleeping with Lou in my arms. I didn't like the idea of her moving back into the main house, even if it was only for a few weeks. "He didn't mention it" she says to me. I can tell by the look on her face she is lying. So he had said she could move around. I don't say anything about the lie, I'm glad Lou doesn't want to go back to the main house either.
Grinning I walk over to her and kiss her. "Shame you can't move around, I wanted to show you your horse, he's just about broken. Thought you might want to come up with a name." I can see Lou really wants to get out of that bed, I know her well enough to know she hates being trapped inside. "Teaspoon is in town, and I won't tell him." I say tempting her. "Alright ya got me, help me up." She says holding her arms out to me. I carefully help her to her feet. "You know Lou, as much as I enjoy the sight of you in a nightdress, I really don't want half my hands seeing you that way." I said taking in her appearance. Lou blushes as she looks down, "Yeah I guess you better help me get dress too." I grin at her wickedly. "I'd rather help you undress." I tease. "Buck!" Lou cried as she gave me a playfully swat on the arm, "Maybe you should go get Rachel." I hold my hand up like I'm taking an oath as I say, "I swear on my honor I will be a perfect gentleman, I will even keep my eyes closed." Lou grinned as she agreed.
I accepted Buck's offer to help me change out of my nightdress and into some clothes. He even held to his promise of keeping his eyes closed. Problem was with one of my arms in a sling, I was having a hard time of it even with his help. And the fact that he had his eyes closed meant he didn't always know where he was placing his hand until it came into contact with a part of my body. He would always mutter sorry before pulling his hand away. Finally after five minutes of this and I still wasn't dress, we had just managed to get me into a pair of pants, I was exasperated. "Oh honestly this is crazy, it's not like you can see anything with the bandages around my chest Buck, just open your eyes so you can help me get this damn shirt on and buttoned already." Buck's eyes shot open at that, and while it was true my chest was completely covered it was still the first place Buck's eyes rested, he blushed before raising them to meet my eyes. I know my face is red too but I grin slightly biting my lower lip as I shake my head. After that it wasn't quite such a feat to get dressed. He had to do up the buttons on my shirt though, I couldn't manage one handed, and when he help tuck in my shirt, his hands had a mind of their own as he grabbed by bottom. "Buck!" I cried trying to give him a dirty look but not succeeding. He just winked at me as he led me outside to the corral.
I don't know how long we stood outside watching as the hands continued breaking my horse. It wouldn't be long at all now; he almost never tried to buck anymore. "So what are you going to name him?" Buck asked me. "Hmmm…. Let's see. I think since he's identical to yours, they should have similar name. So let me think, your mare's name is Wild Spirit, so how about I call mine Spirit Chaser." I said grinning at him, "Meaning he's going to be chasing after my mare, huh." Buck said teasing me. I smack him. "I like it; I think it appropriate for him to be name after me when I name her after you." Buck said softly to me. I turned to look at him, "What do you mean?"
"What do you mean?" Lou asked when she turned me. I give her a crooked smile, "I named her after you. She reminded me of you. She had a spirit that couldn't be broken." "But you broke her Buck." Lou said confused. "No, she allowed me to ride her is all, her spirit has never been broken, it never will be, just like you." "I never knew you had named her for me. That's really sweet Buck." She said as she kissed me on the cheek. "But how is the name of my horse named after you." I laugh, "Because I have been chasing after you for years." She grins, "Well I'm not running anymore." I smiled as I lean down to kiss her pretty mouth, no she wasn't running anymore, but she still had a wild spirit that couldn't be broken, and I never wanted it to be. That spirit is what makes Lou who she is; it's that spirit that made me fall in love with her. I pull back when whistles and catcalls coming from my ranch hands break through to my senses. Slightly embarrassed at being caught I yell at them, "Don't ya'll have work to be doing." I could hear them snicker as they said right away boss. I was glad I didn't share a bunkhouse with them, because I knew if I did, they would rib me much the same way as the 'boys' used to. Lou just shakes her head and together we return to the bunkhouse.
It had been three weeks since my accident and I was completely healed. Unfortunately, Teaspoon had figured out two days after the doctor left that I was able to get up and about, so I had been moved back into the main house. I didn't get that, I mean I lived in the same bunkhouse with six men at one time, what was the difference. But according to Teaspoon the difference was we all had our own beds and there was always the five other guys there for witnesses to any hankie panky as he put it. I just rolled my eyes and so did Rachel. Like Teaspoon didn't know that the Kid and I were 'riding double' as Jimmy put it before we were married. I could tell Buck was just as frustrated by this as I was. Teaspoon barely gave us a moment alone together. According to Rachel it was because he thought of me as his daughter and was trying to protect my honor, that and he was nervous about becoming a real father in just a couple of weeks so he was taking it out on me and Buck.
Little did Teaspoon know he didn't have a couple of more weeks to prepare to become a real father. The day the doctor said that my shoulder and ribs were completely healed was the day Rachel went into labor. And it just happened to be the day that there were no ranch hands anywhere near the house, Teaspoon was in town attending his Marshal duties, and Buck was out of town at a horse show, he wouldn't be back until the next day. So that left me alone with Rachel. I had no idea what I was doing and the baby was coming to fast to leave Rachel alone and go for the doctor. I'm not sure who was more scared me or Rachel; I think it might have been me. Rachel never even screamed, to this day I don't know how she did it. An hour later Rachel gave birth to her first child, a boy, she wouldn't name him until Teaspoon came home, which he did about an hour later since Rachel had not brought him his lunch.
Needless to say Teaspoon didn't mind missing lunch when he found out the reason why. I had never seen such a look of wonder on his face. I couldn't help but think what it would be like to give Buck a child, if he would look just as happy as Teaspoon did at that moment. I knew Buck would be nervous about what any child he had would go through, but I knew that our child would be loved completely; there would never be any doubt of that. I couldn't wait for Buck to get home. Teaspoon and Rachel decided to call the baby Noah Kidrick Hunter; I found out later that Kidrick had been Kid's real name. I could understand why he had shortened it, but why he chose the Kid part I never knew. I also knew that the reason they named their son Noah was because they knew Buck would want to name his first born son after Ike.
When Buck returned the next day it was with success. The horses he had taken to the sale had went for almost triple what he paid for them, most went to the army. When he saw little Noah, the look on his face was priceless, it was a complete look of awe, love, and devotion. I have to admit, I was in love at first sight with the little guy too. But when he looked at me, I knew he was thinking the same thing I had been earlier, what would our children look like. He gave me a wink, and I blushed. Now that I was healed we could finally set the date for the wedding. I hoped it would be soon.
I couldn't believe how successful I had been at the sale. I had never expected my horses to go for that much, I knew they were worth it, but usually as soon as the fact that I was the owner became public, the price would plummet, that did not happen this time. Lou was thrilled when she heard the news, but then she told me what I had missed the day before. Lou had delivered Rachel's baby. I couldn't help but remember the time that I had to deliver one, I wondered if she had been as scared as I had been that time. When little Noah was placed in my arms I fall completely in love with my 'little brother'. He was perfect. I knew I would gladly die to protect the little guy. I look up and catch Lou's eye, she has the same look on her face; that I am sure is on mine. I can't help but think about what our children will look like, I hope if we have a girl she looks just like Lou. I wink at her and she blushes. Now that I'm back from the sale and Lou is healed we can set the date for our wedding. If I have my way, we will be married by this weekend. It's not like we have any family that can come. I have no idea where Red Bear is right now, plus I really doubt he would attend if I could invite him. Cody and Jimmy are fighting in the war so they can't come. Sam and Emma, though I would love to have them, live to far away to come, what with Emma expecting again. So anybody that is going to attend is already here.
Little Noah starts crying and Rachel takes him upstairs to feed him and Teaspoon follows leaving Lou and me alone. Lou came and sat down in my lap and I kissed her my arms going around her to keep her steady. I know I was only gone for a couple of days, but man it felt longer. After she broke the kiss I say, "You know Lou, I was thinking, since everybody who can attend our wedding is already here, why don't we get married Saturday?" Lou stares at me for a second before saying, "Buck you do realize today is Thursday don't you, that will only give us a day to get everything in order." I grin, "I know, but honestly honey I don't know if I can take many more nights without you by my side." She kissed me on the cheek and said, "What the hell, I'm tired of waiting too." I laugh as I draw her closer in my embrace. As I kiss her my fingers work their way into her hair, my other hand slid lower down her back towards her bottom. I was just about to pinch it when the clearing of a throat broke us apart. Teaspoon and Rachel stood at the bottom of the stairs. Teaspoon was trying to look disapproving and Rachel was trying not to laugh.
Lou was just about to get off my lap, but I stopped her, if she moved right then it would be very apparent how turned on I had just been. I didn't think I should subject Rachel to that. I knew Lou realized why I had stopped her when her face turned even redder than it was before. Trying to distract Teaspoon and Rachel from my predicament I say to them, "So do ya'll feel like a wedding on Saturday?" "Hmm… I reckon I'm free on Saturday." Teaspoon said grinning. Rachel didn't look as happy, "Saturday? Are you two crazy that only gives us a day to find Lou a dress and prepare for the reception." "Rachel, I can find a dress that will work in town and we don't need anything fancy. Personal I would be happy to get married in pants, as long as it's Buck I'm marrying." Lou said. Her statement made my chest swell with pride. Rachel eventually came around and got started on preparing food for the reception with Lou's help. Teaspoon went into town to spread the word, and I went to tell my ranch hands and send telegrams to Sam and Emma, Cody, and Jimmy. I knew they couldn't come but I could at least tell them I was getting married. I didn't tell them I was marrying Lou, I wasn't sure if they knew about Kid or not and didn't think it should be something put into the telegram. I would write them all a letter to mail off when I get back to the bunk house.
I had no trouble finding a dress to wear in town on Friday. It was beautiful but simple. I now found myself staring at my reflection in the small mirror in front of me. Rachel is standing with me; she was going to walk me down the aisle, since I didn't have any of my 'brothers' there to do it. And since Buck didn't have anybody to stand with him, I wasn't going to have Rachel stand with me. "You ready Lou?" Rachel asks me as the music inside the church changes. I smile, "More than ready Rachel." Taking my arm as we start towards the door she asks, "Are you nervous?" I shake my head, "Not in the slightest bit." "good." Was all she said as the door opens and head inside. I see Teaspoon standing at the front of the church, Buck had his back towards me at first, and I had a strange sense of Déjà vu. It was so much like my wedding to Kid, only I wasn't being escorted by Jimmy and Jesse, and I didn't have my other brothers waiting up front for me. I only had Buck waiting. And in that moment I needed no one else, I only needed Buck.
When he finally turns towards me, his whole face lights up in a beautiful smile, I love his smile. I beam back at him, I feel like I'm floating as I make my way slowly towards him. I want to run to him, but Rachel's steady pressure on my arm keeps my pace slow. I finally make it to him and Rachel hands me over. Buck mouths that I look beautiful as Teaspoon begins the ceremony. I hear Teaspoon ask who gives me away and Rachel's soft answer. Then comes the part I really love, "Do you Running Buck Cross, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife?" I hear Buck's quick, "I Do." Then it's my turn, "Do you Louise McCloud, take this man as your lawfully wedded husband?" I smile as I say 'I Do', Buck's answering smile just about makes my knees melt. Then we are exchanging rings, I hadn't even seen the one that Buck had picked out for me until he slipped it on my finger, he had given me his yesterday. The ring was beautiful. It was silver and had intricate design instead of being a solid band, in the center was a turquoise stone. It looked Indian, but I knew Indians didn't wear wedding rings. Teaspoon is now pronouncing us husband and wife and then Buck is kissing me. Unlike most of our kisses this one was brief out of respect of our audience; I knew we would have plenty of time tonight for the real kissing and more.
I find myself standing at the front of the little white church, my back towards the front door waiting. I'm dressed in the same suit I wore to Kid's and Lou's wedding, the only difference is I'm the one marrying Lou today. Normally I would have pulled my hair back but Lou had said she liked my hair hanging loose, so loose it was. The music changes and I hear the door open. Surprisingly I'm not nervous; I have been waiting too long for this day never thinking it would actually come. I turn to Lou and my breath is taken away. She was absolutely stunning. Her dress was a simple creamy color, no frills, no lace, nothing, but she made it look stunning. She is walking so slow, I want to run down the aisle and meet her halfway, but I know that's not how it's done, so I wait. When she finally arrives Rachel hands her to me, I mouth that she is beautiful. I don't hear much of the ceremony, but I must say the right things at the right time. Just about the only part I hear is Lou saying 'I do' and Teaspoon saying I could kiss 'my bride.' I happily do so, but I keep it short out of the respect of our audience. There would be time enough for more tonight.
We head back down the aisle together and wait outside the front doors as our guests file past offering congratulations. The reception that followed was a simple affair, but enjoyable. I for once got to dance with Lou. The few dances that we attended were she went as a girl Kid had always hogged her, now she was all mine. Though I did give her up to Teaspoon while I danced with Rachel. Now it was finally time to go home. Arriving back at the bunkhouse, I'm surprised to see light inside, but then I notice the new curtains hanging in the window and realize Rachel had been busy. I help Lou from the buggy and carry her over the threshold. Looking around we see candles on every surface that could hold them. I set Lou down on her feet, but don't let go. Looking into her eyes I say, "I love you." "I love you too Buck." She replies kissing me, her hands going around my neck and tangling in my hair. I step away for a minute and turn her around, and slowly I undo the buttons of her dress until I can push it off her shoulders. The only thing Lou had on underneath is a thin chemise, she never was one for a corset.
She turned back towards me and pushed my jacket off, along with my customary black vest. Then her small hands untie my ribbon tie and unbutton my shirt. After my shirt is added to the pile of clothes on the floor I pick Lou up and place her on 'our' bed. Sitting down next to her I slip her shoes off and then bend to pull my off as well. I then stretch out beside her, and proceed to shower her entire body with kisses. What happens next there is no need to describe. I will leave that to your imagination. Afterwards, as I hold Lou's naked body next to mine under the covers I was perfectly happy. I had waited many years to find love like the love I found with Lou. I hear Lou's contented sigh as she drifts off to sleep in my arms. I know I will never tire of going to sleep with Lou in my arms or of waking up with her in them.
It's been two years since I returned to Rock Creek and married Buck. The war has finally ended and our 'family' is together again. Cody and Jimmy have returned and are thinking of joining Buck in the horse ranch. I don't know if they will, I think if they do it won't be a permanent thing, I don't see either of them staying in one place for long. Sam and Emma and their little ones are here too. Only Jesse has not returned, we aren't surprised Jesse and his brother Frank are both wanted men. Oh and the reason they are here is I'm about to give birth to our first child. They all came about a month ago waiting for me to give birth, the baby however has my stubborn streak and is a week overdo when I finally go into labor. Unlike Rachel, my labor isn't going fast and I'm not being quiet.
Lou's screams tear at my heart. This is my doing, I'm the cause of the pain she is in now. If something happens goes wrong I will never forgive myself. I pace the porch outside our 'bunkhouse', while Teaspoon sits back in a chair and whittles. Jimmy is leaning against one of the post and Cody against the wall. Sam is keeping the kids distracted near the corral. Emma and Rachel are inside with Lou. My poor Lou has been like this for hours, I don't know how much more I can stand. I'm just about to go in when I hear a new sound; it was the sound of a baby crying. A grin quickly spread across my face at that sound. I look up to see the others smiling like idiots. Emma comes to the door and tells me to come in.
The first sight I see is my beautiful wife on our bed. Despite the fact that she appears to be completely exhausted she is beaming, she is beautiful. I finally look to the bundle in her arms and step closer sitting on the edge of the bed. "Buck I want you to meet your son." She says as she hands the baby over to me. He's beautiful. I know people say you can't tell who the baby looks like when they are this small but I could pick out features. The baby had Lou's nose and long lashes, but he his other features were mine. I didn't know yet if he would have my coloring or not, but I had a feeling he would. It didn't matter, our child would never lack for love the way I had growing up. He would always know where he belonged.
I become aware of the fact that our other 'family' members have entered. I stand and taking the baby I hand him first to Jimmy, who holds him for a second. I think I even saw tears in his eyes before he passes him to Cody. Cody makes some goofy baby talk before passing him on to Sam who in turn gave him to Teaspoon, the proud 'grandpa'. "So whatcha going to call him Buck?" Jimmy asks as Teaspoon hands me back my son and I go sit next to Lou again. I look at her and she nods, she knows what I'm going to call him. "Isaac Silent Eagle Cross, Ike for short." The others think it's a good name.
"Isaac Silent Eagle Cross, Ike for short" Buck said as he told our family the name of our son. We had a son. I know that somewhere the missing members of our family are looking down and smiling at their new nephew. And I know he is just one of the many more that are to come. I know our family will grow with children, and that eventually the original members will join those already waiting for us in heaven. When the day comes I know we will all be together again, but until that day I am grateful for the ones here today sharing Buck and my joy over the birth of our son.