Lou stood between Kid and Buck as they watched the gravediggers bury Noah. This is the third funeral Lou and The Kid had attended in the last month. The first was Dawkins, and then there was Michael who died on their wedding day. Now they were burying their dear friend and brother, Noah Dixon.
Everyone had already left the small cemetery except for Lou, Kid, Buck, Teaspoon, Rachel, and Cody. Rosemary, feeling very uncomfortable, had pulled Jimmy away as soon as everyone else started leaving. Elbach tried to get Cody to go, but he'd stood his ground. Rachel was crying, and Teaspoon had taken her in his arms to comfort her. Buck, Lou, and Kid just stared at the hole being filled.
Cody knelt next to the grave as the coffin was being covered by dirt. He was devastated about Noah, and he wasn't about to forgive Rosemary or Jimmy right now. Lou was thinking about how both Cody and Kid were blaming Jimmy for bringing her back to Rock Creek. They were blaming Rosemary for Noah's death. Jimmy was blaming Jesse, who had told Frank what was going to happen. There was too much blaming, and too much hate going around right now.
Buck was right, they didn't trust each other anymore, and it scared her. She was scared that she was losing her family. She'd been married less than a week and she was losing people who meant more to her than anything. Jesse was gone now, leaving during the funeral to go with his brother Frank back to Missouri to fight for the cause.
Noah had been killed saving Rosemary's life, because she couldn't let Elbach's troops take care of Pearson and his men. She went off after them, and Noah being the man that he was, couldn't let her go alone. If Rosemary had just stayed behind, Noah might still be with them now. He didn't like staying behind either though since he wasn't able to sign up for the Union.
Cody was leaving soon also. He'd signed up to scout for Elbach and his men when the war officially started. Teaspoon might be leaving soon too. He was planning on going back to Texas to fight for his homeland. And it looked like Jimmy was going to be going off with Rosemary to take up where her husband left off.
Buck hadn't said anything about his plans yet. Lou figured he'd be going off soon to go look for his brother and the Kiowa. Rachel she knew, was staying in Rock Creek to continue teaching at the school as long as there were children to teach. She couldn't bare to think what tomorrow would bring them all.
Mostly Lou thought and worried that her new husband, the Kid, would be leaving her too. She knew he wanted to go back to Virginia and fight for his childhood home. He'd talked about it as much as Teaspoon had about Texas. She was afraid that she'd lose him before she got used to being his wife.
She knew that she couldn't hold him here if he chose to go and fight. She wouldn't hold him to the promise he'd made to her the day she'd said yes to his proposal. It would kill her to let him go, but it would kill her more to see him blame her for not letting him do what he thought was right. And Kid always tried to do what was right.
When Noah's grave was filled in, Teaspoon and Rachel took one of Cody's arm, and coaxed him out of the cemetery. Lou took both Buck and Kid by the arm and the three of them followed their friends back to the bunkhouse. No one said anything as they walked through the door and sat at the table, pretending that everything would be okay. Rachel got up and made a pot of coffee.
Kid was the first to break the silence as he took Lou's hand. "I've made a decision about Virginia and the coming war." He said, not looking at anyone.
Lou held her breath and waited for the dreaded news. She closed her eyes to keep from crying as she waited for him to tell them he'd be leaving, and when. She couldn't even feel him caressing her hand, she was so numb. She wasn't ready to let him go yet, she couldn't lose him now.
Kid cleared his throat, afraid what the others would think of him when he told them what he'd decided. "I have thought this over for a long time, but made my mind up during your speech at Noah's service Teaspoon." He started.
He looked at the man he thought of as a father. "There's been too much blood shed and the war hasn't even officially started yet. I couldn't stand it if I had to face Cody in battle, and I could never take his life. I'm staying here in Rock Creek, and starting a life for me and Lou." He told them, finally looking at his wife.
Lou started crying hard when his words finally set in. He pulled her into his arms and held her as she wept tears of relief. "A... are you sure Kid?" She asked him between hiccups.
He lifted her chin so she could look him in the eyes and know he was telling the truth. "I'm very sure. I love Virginia and will be very sad to see it change, but I love you more than life itself Lou."
She hugged him even tighter as she cried again. "I love you too Kid."
Teaspoon cleared his throat and tried to smile at them as they all looked at him. "Well, I guess it's my turn. I'm not going anywhere either. Texas will always be my home, and I'll always love it. But, I already fought the war for her. This is where I belong, with all of you. Besides, if I left, this place would fall apart in a week."
Rachel cried, and walked over to hug Teaspoon, who looked surprised. Pleased, but surprised. "Thank God, some of my prayers have been answered." she said as she looked at Buck. "What about you? Are you staying or going to find your family?"
"You are my family, I don't need to go far to find you. I'm not going anywhere either." Buck told them, looking at each one of them as he said it. "I will always love Red Bear and he'll always be my brother, but we have all been more together, and it binds us as family."
Lou and Rachel took a sigh of relief and hugged Buck. Teaspoon and Kid both shook his hand and pulled them all into a family hug. Cody still refused to look at them as he sat on his bunk. They knew he was going to be leaving when Elbach moves out, and there was nothing they could do to stop him.
Rachel went over and sat on the bunk with him. Taking his hand in hers, she smiled sadly at him. "We will miss you Cody, terribly, but know you'll always be welcome here. As long as we're here, this will always be your home." she told him.
The tears fell down Cody's face as he looked at her. "Thank you Rachel, for everything. You don't know how much it means to me." he said as he hugged her.
Teaspoon, Buck, Kid, and Lou went over to them and hugged him too. It meant so much to him to have them understand why he had to go. He held onto Rachel and Lou the longest, but then he looked at Teaspoon, Buck and Kid...wagging a finger at them. "You three better take good care of our ladies here. I better come back and see some babies around here too."
Kid smiled and blushed, and so did Lou, as he pulled his wife into his arms. When he looked back at the others, he lost his smile. "You don't think I'm taking the cowards way, cause I'm not going to fight?" He asked sheepishly.
Cody was the one to answer. "No one better call you a coward around me or they'll be eating lead."
"No one here thinks of you as a coward, son." Teaspoon said as he cupped his shoulder.
"That's right Kid, you are no coward. I've seen you face a gang of killers all by yourself to save a prisoner and the town." Lou told him as she put her arms around him, and hugged him.
"Not only that, you just did one of the bravest things I know of. You went and got yourself married." Buck added.
Cody laughed for the first time all day. "And, even the bravest thing was to have to be married to this one right here and have to eat her cooking."
"Hey! I can cook some." Lou said as Kid hugged her tight to keep her from hurting Cody as they all laughed. It was something they all needed right now.
Rachel took Lou's hand and pulled her over to the stove. "Why don't you help me make supper? Then you and Kid can figure out if you still want to move into the spare room at the house tonight, unless you want to stay here tonight."
Lou looked over at her husband. "I think we'll stay in the bunkhouse tonight. We wanna spend as much time with Cody before he has to leave."
"Yeah, besides, I have the final run tomorrow for this station. I'm going to St. Jo. for the last run. Cody, will you be here when I get back in a few days?" Kid asked him.
Cody shrugged. "I should be. Elbach said we're not supposed to be leaving Rock Creek for another week or two."
Rachel and Lou made them all a light supper since none were really hungry. The six of them sat at the table eating, just being together. It might be the last time they'd be like this before the war starts. Tomorrow Kid would be going on the last run before the station stopped running mail to the East. There was to be a few more runs west the next week. Then the Express would only run the mail from Salt Lake City to California.
When it got late, no one wanted to make the first move to leave the table. They'd been talking and laughing about life in Sweetwater, Ike, Emma, and Sam. Cody told the story of Sam fixing Emma's bedroom window. They told Rachel how he fell into the cart of manure and onto the rake left in it. They all laughed about that.
"Is that why that window never worked right?" Rachel asked laughing.
Lou covered a yawn as she laughed. "Yeah, Emma never could get him back up there to work on it again."
Kid stood up and took his wife's hand. "I hate to say this, but Lou's having trouble keeping her eyes open, and I've got to get some sleep too."
Cody stood and over to his bunk. "I'm sure gonna miss sleeping in my bunk when I leave rock Creek."
Rachel sniffed and tried to hold back the tears. "It'll be here waiting for you when you get back."
"That's right son. The bunks will always be here for you when you need them." Teaspoon told him.
"What about me Teaspoon?" Lou asked.
"Especially you Lou," He said as he enfolded her in a hug.
"Thanks Teaspoon." She said as she tried to keep from crying.
Rachel took Teaspoon's arm and pulled him out the door. Cody sat on his bunk and watched his friends slowly get ready for bed. He was going to miss his dear family while he was gone. He thought of Buck and Kid as his brothers, and Lou as his sister. He'd always love them like family, even Jimmy.
As if his thoughts conjured him, Jimmy walked through the door. They stopped what they were doing as he moved to his bunk, none of them saying anything. He sighed as he sat down. He couldn't look at them. He didn't want to see the hatred in their eyes, and he didn't blame them for it.
Lou kissed her husband and shoved him towards Jimmy. Kid walked over and sat next to his friend. "We missed you at supper tonight."
Jimmy was surprised at Kid's friendly tone. "I didn't think anyone wanted me here."
"Of course we want you here Jimmy. You're family and it might be our last night all together before this damn war starts." Lou said as she walked over to sit between the two of them.
"It's not going to start tomorrow Lou." He said.
"Maybe, maybe not, Jimmy. Kid's going on his last run to St. Jo tomorrow. I might have to leave before he gets back if Elbach decides to go east." Cody said.
Jimmy nodded in understanding. "I'm sorry I missed supper then. I'll be here when you get back Kid, I promise. What about everyone else?"
"Buck, Teaspoon, and Kid have all decided to stay here in Rock Creek with me and Rachel. That only leaves Cody if he has to pull out early." Lou said.
Jimmy looked at Kid with a question in his eyes. "There's been too much fighting already. I don't want to have to look up to see you or Cody on the wrong side of my gun." Kid explained.
"I'm happy to hear that Kid. Lou would never forgive any of us if we ended up shooting at each other in battle." Jimmy replied.
"You don't think I took the coward's way out?" He asked Jimmy.
"You're no coward Kid." Jimmy told him.
"That means a lot coming from you." He replied as the two men shook hands and then hugged each other with Lou in the middle of them.
Buck sat on his bunk and smiled at his friends. He finished getting ready for bed. Cody got up and moved over to his friends and threw his arms around the three of them. They may argue and get mad at each other sometimes, but they will always be family.
Lou and Kid walked to their bunks and got themselves ready for bed. When he kissed her goodnight and turned to get into his bunk, she grabbed his hand and pulled him back to hers. "I want to sleep with my husband tonight." She whispered.
Kid hugged her tight and got into bed with Lou. He pulled her into his arms so he could hold her all night while they slept. He hoped that everything went as planned on his trip to St Jo. He was going to be bringing her back a special wedding present. Only Teaspoon knew about it since he had to make the request to go on this last run. He fell asleep smelling his wife's hair and thinking about their future together.
Lou walked through Rock Creek towards the marshal's office with Teaspoon's lunch. Kid had been gone for the last four days and he should be home today. She couldn't wait to have her arms around him. She missed him more than she would have thought possible. She was so happy he'd decided to stay with her instead of going back to Virginia. She could never be apart from him that long.
She was so lost in thought that she almost walked into Rosemary Burke, who'd stopped to talk to her. "Oh Rosemary, I didn't see you."
"Hello Lou. I guess you had other things o n your mind." she said as she smiled at Lou.
Lou blushed and smiled back. "Yes, I was thinking about my husband, and how much I am missing him."
Rosemary stopped smiling and bitterly said, "Oh? Did he already leave to go fight with the South? I bet he left as fast as he could to fight for his precious Confederacy."
Lou couldn't help but hear the hatred in the other woman's voice. "No, he's on his last run for the Pony Express. Not that it's any of your business, but Kid won't be going off to fight this damn war. He's going to be staying here in Rock Creek with me. He and Teaspoon both decided to stay since there was already too much blood shed. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to take Teaspoon his lunch."
Lou pushed her way pass the other woman before she forgot herself and hit her. How dare she say anything against Kid. He didn't share the same beliefs about slavery as some of the other southerners did. He wanted to go back and fight to protect his childhood home. She wondered why Jimmy hadn't told Rosemary about Kid's decision to stay out of the war.
Lou walked into Teaspoon's office to find him asleep at his desk. She put the food down and sat to watch him sleep for a few minutes. It gave her time to calm her thoughts after her encounter with Rosemary. She watched the man who was like a father to her and smiled.
Teaspoon wasn't really asleep. He'd seen Rosemary approach Lou on her way to see him. He didn't like the way Lou looked when she left the other woman standing there. He'd let her collect herself before he pretended to wake up. He'd be there for her if she wanted to talk.
"You can stop faking now, Teaspoon. I'm okay." She told him.
"Aw Lou, how did you know I wasn't really asleep?" He grumbled. "I've known you long enough to know what you sound like when you're asleep. But thank you for giving these few minutes." She said as she put his lunch in front of him, and kissed his cheek. Rachel had started teaching her to cook some after she told Kid that she'd marry him. Even Cody liked her cooking now.
Teaspoon smiled at her and patted her hand. "I'm here if you want to talk Lou."
"Thanks Teaspoon, I'll remember that. I need to get back to feed the boys...well Buck and Cody anyway. I haven't seen Jimmy all day, and Kid's not home yet. I miss him like crazy Teaspoon." she said on a sigh.
He took her hand and squeezed it. "That's 'cause you love him, honey." He told her.
"Is it wrong that I'm so happy he's not going to Virginia?" She asked him, worried she was being selfish.
"No Lou, it's not wrong. It would be wrong only if you had kept him from going if he truly wanted to fight. You let him make his own mind up, and didn't try to hold him back." He told her and took a bite out of his sandwich.
Lou hugged him. "Thanks Teaspoon, for everything. Oh and thank you for staying around too. We'd miss you if you left."
"You're welcome honey. Now go feed those boys before Cody goes crazy." He told her fondly.
Lou smiled at him before walking out the door. She loved him as a daughter would love her father. When she and Kid had children, she'd be honored to have them call him grandpa. She liked the idea of her and Kid having children together. Maybe when they got themselves settled in a place, they could bring her sister and brother to live with them.
She headed towards the bunkhouse to make the boys lunch. Jimmy had missed most of the meals the last few days, probably spending time with Rosemary. But, he'd showed up for lunch yesterday, and stayed with them the rest of the day. It was almost like before they moved to Rock Creek. She thought of Ike and Noah as she moved through town. She missed them both with all of her heart.
Lou turned the corner to see Katy and two other horses tied up outside the bunkhouse. Kid must have just come home. She was curious about the other horses, but she was happy to see Katy, it meant that Kid was home. She ran the rest of the way, and he met her on the porch. She threw herself into his arms and started kissing him.
Kid kissed her and laughed when he put her down. "I missed you too Lou."
She kissed him again. "Just promise me it's the last time we'll be away from each other this long. Next time you go away from a few days, I'm going with you."
He was happy she missed him as much as he missed her. He hoped that she liked the gift he'd brought back for her. "I promise Lou. I brought you back a wedding present."
"Aren't you a little late to give me a wedding present? We've been married two weeks now. I mean, I want the present, but you don't have to say it's a wedding gift." She told him rapidly.
"Hold on Lou, slow down." He told her as he put his arms around her. "Now are you ready for your gift?"
"Yes, I'm ready. What is it? Where is it?" she asked, trying to look through his pockets, getting mad when he just laughed.
"Not there Lou, this is too big to fit in my pockets." He told her and took her hand to lead her into the bunkhouse.
Lou let him pull her inside where Cody, Buck, and Jimmy were standing next to each other hiding something. "Okay, what's going on? What are you boys hiding?"
They all smiled at her when Kid went to stand in front of her. "I love you Lou with all of my heart, and I wanted to make you as happy as you've made me."
Tears formed in her eyes. "I love you too Kid and I am happy. I'm the happiest I've ever been." She replied as she wiped the tear away.
He turned to look at their friends and the boys stepped aside to reveal her surprise. Standing behind them was Jeremiah and Teresa, her little brother and sister. Lou squealed and pulled her siblings into her arms and hugged them tight. "I can't believe you did this Kid. I've missed them so much."
He watched his wife reunite with her siblings and he saw how happy she was. He knew he'd made the right choice to bring Jeremiah and Teresa to come and live with them in Rock Creek. He had no regrets about staying there with her, instead of going back to Virginia.
He was pulled out of his thoughts when Lou put her arms around him and kissed him as the boys took Jeremiah and Teresa outside. "Thanks you for the greatest gift ever Kid."
Author's Note: Thanks to Wendy who beta read this for me.