"Hickok, I'm calling you out." A deep, raspy voice bellowed out from somewhere outside the jailhouse.

A tall man with shoulder-length dark hair and steel gray eyes forgot all about the lively conversation that he was sharing with his two male companions, and turned his head toward the direction the shouting had come from. He rose from his chair behind the battered
desk, and moved toward the window to look out of it.

"Jimmy," a soft Southern voice said from behind him, as he peered out of the window to size up the situation.

"Relax, Kid. I can handle this."

His two companions moved to take up positions on either side of him and peered out of the window. Kid, shook his head at his friend's cockiness, and exchanged worried looks with his half-Kiowa companion, Buck Cross, behind Jimmy's back. Dark brown eyes locked with Kid's
cerulean blue ones and held. Then, with a slight nod to one another, Kid slipped away from the window and headed out the back door of the jail. He crept along the back wall of the jail, gun drawn, moved around the corner and took up a position that would enable him to aide Jimmy if the need arose.

Being Jimmy's friend came with some risks, that he and the other riders had come to terms with long ago. Jimmy didn't openly look for trouble, but it seemed to gravitate towards him nevertheless. When faced with trouble he met it head on, and despite his cockiness, he approached gunfights with wariness and caution. He was also a man who played fair. Only problem was that most of the gunfighters who sought to make themselves a name by calling James "Wild Bill" Hickok out, didn't. So it had become old habit for any of the riders who were
with him, to go out ahead of him and find a nice spot in which to oversee the general area where the gunfight was going to occur, and take out whoever was in cahoots with the gunfighter, to prevent death from taking Jimmy from them too soon.

Buck crossed in front of Jimmy as he moved toward the door, casting a sidelong glance back at his hot-headed friend before exiting the jailhouse and moving out onto the sidewalk and taking up a casual position on the right of the doorway where he had already pegged a
man across the street.

"What are you waiting for Hickok? Are you yeller?" called the gunfighter. He was a slovenly man in torn buckskins and scuffed boots, with greasy dark hair, and bloodshot eyes. He stood in the
center of main street dirty hands resting on his hips, placing his gun hand on the butt of his gun strapped to his left hand.

A brief smile curved Jimmy's lips at the man's antagonistic attempts to rile him. Cautious he had learned to become when dealing with other gunfighters, but yellow? It would be a cold day in hell when he would ever be called yellow. He moved toward the open doorway, his steps sure, hands steady on the butts of his guns.

"Here I am?" Jimmy called out, his gray eyes leveled on the man.

"You going to come on out here and handle this like a man or am I going to have to shoot you dead where you stand?" the man growled.

"If you insist," Jimmy said resignedly, stepping off of the porch and moving into the street. "I must warn you though that I won't be the one they'll be fitting with a pine box when the gunfight is over."

"We'll see about that."

As the two men squared off with each other, Buck shifted his position against the beam, and lowered his hand onto the butt of his gun. His eyes flicked from the man he was covering, onto Jimmy, and hoped for his friend's sake that he hadn't finally met his match.

Kid crept closer, coming out of the alleyway by the jail to crouch behind a crate, to cover Jimmy's back. He could just see over the crate where Buck was positioned on the sidewalk, and tracked the Kiowa's gaze across the street and onto another disheveled figure, partially hidden from view by the barrels and crates outside Tompkins store. Where there was one, there was another. Kid's blue eyes tracked over the rest of the stores along that side of the street until they settled on another man who seemed to be watching the little scene with some interest from the corner of the store, directly across from him.

He didn't appear to be nearly as disorderly or slovenly as the other two men were, but that didn't mean anything. Maybe he had arrived in town before the others, to keep Jimmy under surveillance, and had had time to clean up a bit. Kid didn't know, and it really didn't matter.
All that mattered was the fact that his man was against Jimmy, which made him his enemy.

Jimmy's gray eyes narrowed as he glared into his opponent's face, his eyes locking on the bloodshot ones, knowing from experience that it would be there in the man's eyes that he would get the first glimmer that the man was going to go for his gun.

The bloodshot green eyes twitched for a fraction of a second, and it was all the warning that Jimmy needed. His guns were in his hands, and he was firing them both, before the other gunfighter's gun cleared its holster. With a surprised look on his face, the gunfighter stared across at Jimmy for a moment before he toppled to the ground and lay still. He was aware of Buck flying across the street, yelling out for someone to drop his weapon, when gunfire erupted from behind Jimmy and he whirled around, firing his guns before he had a clear shot and felt horror fill him when he saw Kid fall to the ground.

"Kid!" Jimmy screamed, running forward and dropping onto his knees beside Kid's inert form.

There was blood seeping out through a wound high on Kid's chest, spreading across the blue denim shirt and staining it purple. Jimmy felt frozen in place, watching the blood spread outward, from the hole he had placed there. Kid didn't move, and he wasn't even sure he was still breathing, and all he could think was that his best friend was lying there dying and it was his fault.

He felt movement behind him, and swiveled around, gun drawn and stared momentarily into Buck's shocked face. Jimmy immediately lowered the gun, and Buck gulped with relief at not having the business end of Jimmy's Colt staring him in the face anymore.

"I'll go get the doctor." Buck gasped out and took off running down the street in the direction of the doctor's house. Jimmy was
distantly aware of people gathering on either side of the street, watching as the scene unfolded before them, and didn't care. All he cared about was the fact that he had shot his best friend, albeit accidentally, and nothing else.

Jimmy's gaze left Buck's disappearing frame for a moment, before swiveling back onto his still friend, fearing that the worst had already happened and there was nothing he could do or say to change the outcome. But then Kid gasped suddenly, his body arching up off of the dirt road and a strangled moan escaped his lips, propelling Jimmy to scoop him up into his lap and hold his head cradled to his chest.

"Ji-jimmy." Kid rasped out on a breath. "Yo-you okay?"

"I'm fine, Kid…" Jimmy gasped out past the lump of pain in his

"N-next time r-remind me n-not to sn-sneak up on you." He chuckled

"Kid, I'm s-" Jimmy began, feeling his throat close as sobs welled up
within him.

"S-sh." Kid said, " I-I kn-know you d-didn't m-mean to."

The sobs broke free from his chest then, and tore out of his mouth. He didn't deserve Kid's friendship, his forgiveness. Time and time again, he had messed up, said or done something he shouldn't have, and Kid had forgiven him. Now, here he was having done the most
unthinkable, unforgivable thing to betray their friendship, and Kid was telling him that it was okay, that he forgave him.

Kid's body suddenly arched upwards in Jimmy's arms, for a moment, another strangled moan erupting from between his friends' ashen lips. Just as fast as he had arched upwards, Kid sagged against him; his eyes fluttering closed, and head lolling to one side.

"Kid! Kid! Don't do this to me! Kid!" Jimmy screamed, shaking his friend's lifeless body for all he was worth, desperate to hear a sound, feel a movement, anything that would signal to him that Kid wasn't really gone.

A ragged gasp escaped from Kid's lips and Jimmy felt it was the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. "That's it, Kid...Stay with me…The doc will be here real soon to patch you up."

Almost as if he had been overheard, Dr. Bates was suddenly there beside him, tearing open Kid's shirt and applying his head to the young man's chest to make sure he was still breathing. A stethoscope appeared in his hand next, and he glanced up at Jimmy with a troubled expression on his face.

"We best get him back to my place." Dr. Bates said.

Jimmy nodded, and felt Buck crouch down beside him, to keep cradle Kid's head as Jimmy scooted out from under him and into a standing position. Together the two riders lifted their wounded friend onto the makeshift stretcher that Buck had brought from the doctor's
office, then hefted the stretcher into the air and began hurrying down the street with him, with the doctor keeping pace beside it.

No sooner had they reached the doc's office, and deposited the unconscious Kid onto an examining table, than Buck turned to Jimmy. "I'm going out to the station to get Teaspoon and the others."

Jimmy absently nodded, his gray eyes riveted on the still form on the bed that Dr. Bates was working frantically over. He hadn't thought of the others needing to know what had happened, what he had done to Kid. He couldn't even begin to think of the recriminations he knew
would be forthcoming his way from the others. More than that, he dreaded seeing the pain, anger, and disbelief on Lou McCloud's beautiful face. Next to Kid, she was the closest of them all to his
heart, he had once even considered pursuing a relationship with her, but had decided in the end that she and Kid were meant to be together.

He didn't have long to wait. Lou was the first person through the doctor's outer door, her dark hair flying around her, face filled with terror. She moved as if she didn't even see him standing in the
waiting area of the doctor's office, but hurried toward the closed door that she knew led into the examining rooms in the back. Jimmy stepped forward to block her entrance.

"You can't go back there, Lou." He told her softly.

"Get out of my way Jimmy! I have to see him! I have to know that he's alright!" Lou cried out, her voice breaking with emotion.

"Not until the doctor comes out here and tells us can we go in." Jimmy said firmly, taking hold of her gently by the arms and trying to lead her away from the door, as Teaspoon came into the waiting area, followed by the rest of their Pony Express family members.

"Let go of me!" Lou demanded angrily, struggling frantically in his grasp, in attempts to free herself so she could go to Kid's side. "This is your fault! You did this, Jimmy! Kid's lying in there…
he's probably dying and it's all your fault!"

"Don't you think I know that?" Jimmy exclaimed hoarsely, his own voice breaking as his own emotions got the best of him, and he turned away from them all.

"Oh, God, oh Jimmy, I'm so sorry…" Lou gasped out, hand rising to cover her mouth for a moment as she realized what she had done to the man she loved most, next to Kid.

She moved to circle Jimmy, finding his hands covering his face as he tried to get control of his emotions. She placed her hands over his and pulled them away from his face, so that she could look into his anguished gray eyes with her tear-filled brown ones. She reached up
and cupped the sides of his face.

"Forgive me, Jimmy. I know that you would never willingly do anything to hurt Kid. I'm just so scared…I don't want to lose him." She cried.

"Neither do I." Jimmy said, and wrapped her into his arms and held her close while the rest of their Pony Express family looked on.

One hour passed…

Two hours…

Then finally, the door leading from the inner rooms opened and Doctor Bates stepped solemnly into the room. Lou took one look at the doctor's face and dissolved into tears again, thinking their worst fears had been realized. Jimmy held her in his arms, and gazed over
her head at the doctor, with fear in his heart.

It was Teaspoon who voiced the question they all wanted the answer to. "Is Kid still alive Doc?"

They all held their breaths, waiting tensely for the doctor's response to Teaspoon's question.

"Yes…but he's in critical condition. The bullet ruptured his lung and came very close to penetrating his heart too. I've removed the bullet and patched him up as best as I can, but the next 24 hours is going to tell whether or not that young man has the strength to recover. "Dr. Bates told them.

"He'll fight." Jimmy said with conviction. "There isn't anyone more stubborn than Kid when it comes to his making up his mind to do something. "

"That's right." Lou said, finding strength in knowing that Kid was still alive. "He'll come back to me."

"Kid will come back to all of us." Rachel interjected tearfully.

"Can I see him?" Lou asked.

Dr. Bates nodded. "Yes, but only for a short time."

Lou let the doctor show her into the room in which a pale and still Kid laid upon a bed. Tears filled her brown eyes and overflowed onto her cheeks again, as she moved into the room and up to the bed. She took one of Kid's limp hands into her own, and raised it up to her cheek.

"Fight, Kid. Fight. Please, for me." She told him softly. "I can't live without you."

Dr. Bates left her alone for a few moments, then came back in and ushered her back into the waiting area so the rest of Kid's `family' could spend a few moments alone with him, realizing that hearing their voices even in his unconscious state would encourage him to fight even more to stay with them.

"I think it would best if the rest of us headed on back to the station and gave Doc back his waiting room, "Teaspoon said after he and Jesse had seen Kid.

"Leave?" Cody asked in surprise.

"No…I want to stay here." Buck said.

*Kid needs us here.* Ike signed.

"How can we leave without knowing whether Kid is-" Noah started, but Teaspoon cut him off, before he could finish the sentence, or Jesse could pipe up with his own arguments.

"We're going and that's it. I don't like the idea of leaving here any more than the rest of you do, but we all have jobs to do." Teaspoon told them. "The Express can't run itself, and the doc doesn't need us all here getting in his or his other patients' way."

He walked over to Lou, whose eyes seemed glued to the closed door leading into the interior part of the doc's office, as if she was willing it to open again, and see Kid standing in the doorway.


It took effort to force her eyes away from the door and to look up into Teaspoon's wide and concerned face. "Oh Teaspoon," Lou managed to say before she dissolved into tears again.

Teaspoon pulled her into his embrace and held her close for several moments as she cried, while the others looked on in an emotional silence. Jimmy felt the knife in his chest twist a little bit more at his having been the cause of the pain Lou was going through. He felt a hand upon his arm and he turned to see Ike standing before him. He stilled himself for the harsh words he knew would be coming.

*Don't beat yourself up, Jimmy.*

"Easier said than done, Ike. It's my fault Kid's laying near death in that bed." Jimmy said voice harsh with emotion.

*It was an accident. Buck told us how it happened.*

"Doesn't change the fact that I shot Kid, Ike. I should have known that the gunshots behind me were Kid protecting my back." Jimmy told him.

Noah moved over to stand next to Ike, his dark eyes intent on Jimmy's face. "You don't have eyes in the back of your head, Jimmy!"

"I should-" Jimmy started, but Cody cut him off, as he stepped up on Ike's other side.

"Stop it right now, Jimmy! What's done is done and there isn't any sense in dwelling on it, because you can't go back and change it. All you can do is go forward from here."

Jimmy glanced from one friend to the other, each of them in their own words, letting him know that they didn't hold his accidentally shooting Kid against him. Gratitude, relief, and an even stronger emotion welled up within him at their acceptance of what had occurred as being a horrible accident: Love. It was more than he deserved, and everything that he had wanted, and it humbled him.

"Thanks," He told them softly.

"Any time Hickok." Cody said, clapping him on the back before heading for the door. The others followed him outside, until only Teaspoon and Rachel remained inside with Jimmy and Lou.

"Let us know right away if anything changes." Teaspoon instructed.

"I will." Jimmy promised, as the two men watched Rachel and Lou talk quietly with each other for a couple of moments, and then exchanged a hug.

"Someone will be here in the morning to see how Kid is, if we don't hear anything from either of you tonight." Teaspoon said before he and Rachel headed outside to join the others.

Silence filled the waiting room after Teaspoon, Rachel and the others had left. Lou seated herself in one of the chairs to await her next opportunity to see Kid, while Jimmy moved over to one of the windows and stared out it. Both of their thoughts were focused on Kid.

Jimmy's thoughts centered on the many fights and talks he and Kid had shared over the year or so since they had first met, a lot of them having been about Lou, and how that no matter what had been said or done, Kid was always the first to step forward to make things right between the two of them. Jimmy found himself feeling quite humbled as he recalled how many times he had held onto a grudge, or injured feeling, and made Kid feel as if he was the one that been in the wrong the majority of the time, when Jimmy knew damn well that that guilt rested on him and not on Kid. But Kid had obligingly gone along, relieved; as he obviously was that their friendship was on the mend again and not holding onto the past.

Lou's memories were both happy and sad. The first memory had been about when Kid had discovered that she was a girl after she had been shot during her first ride for the express. It had changed things between them from that moment on and although there had been some
definite bad moments, most of them had been happy ones. The first time they had kissed. The first time they had shared that they loved each other. The first time they had been intimate with each other.

She closed her eyes against the well of tears that sprang into her eyes and couldn't help the little sob that escaped from her lips. Jimmy turned from the window at the sound and moved to seat himself beside Lou on the settee and without a word, took her into his arms and held her.

Jimmy realized he must have fallen asleep holding Lou as she cried, as he heard a door open up and he opened his eyes. Grayish-pink light flitted in through the muslin curtains on the windows, telling him that dawn was close at hand. It was only as he became aware of footsteps walking toward where he and Lou were seated, that he turned his head and saw the doctor approaching.

"How is he doc?" Jimmy asked in a low voice, so as not to disturb Lou as she slept with her head upon his shoulder.

"He developed a fever during the night, and I had to pack him in ice. It seems to have broken now, which is a good thing, and he's awake and asking to see the both of you." Dr. Bates told him.

"Thanks, Doc. Will you tell him that as soon as I can wake Lou up we'll be in there to visit with him?"

The doctor nodded and disappeared back into the interior of his office. Jimmy yawned and rolled his neck, trying to loosen up the kinks in it from sleeping sitting upright, before he turned to the
task of waking Lou up.

"Lou…wake up." He said quietly, using his free hand to gently shake her as he spoke.

"Huh?" she mumbled sleepily, turning her head and settling it once again on his shoulder.

"Wake up." He prodded her arm again and smiled when a frown creased her beautiful face and she mumbled," Just a few more minutes Kid, and then I'll get up."

Before he had a chance to say anything further, Lou's head shot up, and her brown eyes popped open and she gazed at Jimmy with a look of panic on her face. "Kid! How?"

"Relax; Lou…the doc was just in here. He says that Kid's awake and asking for us." Jimmy told her.

Lou fought to calm herself. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly and then rose from her place beside Jimmy, and smoothed down her hair with her hands.

Jimmy stood up, stretched his long limbs to ease the cramping in them and together the two riders moved into the hallway and down it to the room where Kid was recuperating.

They found Mrs. Bates in the room, sponging Kid's forehead with a damp cloth. When she saw them, she placed the cloth back into the bowl of water she held on her lap, stood up and left the room to give them some privacy.

Lou moved immediately up to the bed and felt tears fill her eyes again as she stared down into Kid's pain filled blue eyes, and realized just how terrified she had been that she would never see
them open again.

"Morning, Kid." Lou said softly, reaching out to stroke his sweat dampened forehead. "You gave us all quite a scare."

"S-sorry…" Kid said apologetically as his eyes lifted off of her face and onto Jimmy standing behind her. Even though his own eyes were cloudy with pain, he could easily read the guilt and remorse tinged with relief in Jimmy's gray eyes. "J-jimmy…"

"How are you feeling?" Jimmy asked, moving closer to the bed.

"L-like I've b-been shot." Kid said softly, and then inwardly cursed when he saw the stricken look come over his best friend's face. "J-jimmy…you have to let it go. It was an accident. "

"I don't know if I can Kid." Jimmy replied hoarsely, swallowing back the lump of emotion that welled up in his throat. "I nearly killed you…and all because I let some idiot call me out."

"You c-couldn't have w-walked a-away from I-it. "Y-you s-saw how it w-was s-set up." Kid told him, before he was seized by a fit of coughing.

Lou stood up and moved over to the bureau and poured water from the pitcher on it into a glass and came back to the bed. "Jimmy you'll have to help him sit up so he can drink this."

Jimmy moved to the other side of the bed and slipped his arm under Kid's head, and braced his chest with the other, careful not to apply any pressure to his wound as Lou held the glass up to Kid's lips so that he could take a few sips.

"T-thanks." Kid said, after he had finished drinking and Jimmy had helped him to lie back again. "W-here's B-buck?"

"Buck is just fine Kid." Lou was quick to reassure him, seeing the fear for their Kiowa friend in his pain filled cerulean blue eyes. "He's back at the station with Teaspoon, Rachel and the others. "

"G-good." Kid whispered, before closing his eyes and falling asleep again.

Lou leaned forward and pressed a tender kiss upon Kid's lips, and then settled her head upon the edge of the bed, and wept with relief. Kid wasn't entirely out of danger, but the first night had been passed, and that was enough to give her hope that he was on the mend for good. Jimmy waited until he was certain that she was on the verge of regaining control of her emotions, before speaking.

"I'm going to head out to the station and let everyone know how Kid's doing."

Lou nodded. "Will you bring me back a change of clothes?"

"Sure." Jimmy replied. "I'll be back as soon as I can." Lou nodded again, not taking her eyes off of Kid. Jimmy gave her shoulder a light squeeze of reassurance, before leaving.

Sundancer welcomed his owner with a loud whinny when Jimmy arrived at the livery. Jimmy patted the palomino on its head before unbolting the stall door, and stepping into the stall. He led the horse out of the stall and up to the front of the livery, and saddled him. A few moments later he was riding out of town toward the Pony Express station.

Everyone was just sitting down in the bunkhouse to eat breakfast, when Jimmy walked in. A chorus of "How's Kid?" echoed through the bunkhouse, as the other riders, Rachel, and Jesse clamored around him. It took Teaspoon banging his fist on the table a couple of times to get the others to pay attention to him, and he called for everyone to settle down and retake their seats around the table. He gestured for Jimmy to take his seat as well, his face clearly stating that he
wouldn't brook any arguments from the gunfighter. Jimmy reluctantly sat down as Rachel set a plate, coffee mug, and silverware onto the table before him.

"Now, Jimmy…why don't you tell us how Kid's doing?" Teaspoon asked once everyone was seated.

"Doc Bates said that he developed a fever during the night, but that it broke a short while ago. Whether or not it's going to come back or not, the doc didn't say. Nor did he state exactly when he expects Kid to be better. He did tell Lou and I that Kid was awake and that he
wanted to see us. I left her with him to come out here to tell you all how he's doing." Jimmy said.

"How did he seem?" Rachel asked.

Jimmy smiled at her as he accepted the plate of bacon that Cody passed to him. "Like Kid…he told me not to feel bad about what happened. He joked around about not surprising me the next time, and asked about Buck."

"Me?" Buck asked in surprise. "Why me?"

"Because he's Kid, Buck. You weren't with us in the room and he just wanted to make sure that you were all right." Jimmy replied.

"He sounds alert. Knows who he is, where he is, and who you and Lou were." Teaspoon mused. "That's a good sign. Are you heading back into town?"

Jimmy nodded." As soon as I eat, wash up, and gather some clothes up for Lou. "

"I'll make up a basket of food for you to take into her when you head back to town." Rachel said. "She needs to eat, and I know she won't leave Kid's side until she knows he's going to be all right."

"Okay." Jimmy said.

"I'm going to ride into town with you Jimmy. I'd like to talk to the doc about Kid. Find out what we can do to help Kid as he recuperates." Teaspoon said, as he brought his coffee mug up to his

A short time later found Jimmy and Teaspoon arriving back at the doc's house, dismounting, and tying the reins to their respective horses to the hitching post outside of Dr. Bates office. The two men entered the waiting room and made their way down the hall to the room in which Kid was recuperating.

An endearing sight awaited their arrival. In Jimmy's absence, Lou had curled onto the narrow bed with Kid and fallen fast asleep with her head on his shoulders. As they neared the bed, both men saw that Kid was awake, as his head turned slightly toward them as he heard them approach.

"How are you feeling son?" Teaspoon asked softly.

"L-like h-hell." Kid whispered back.

"That's understandable." The stationmaster replied with a smile. "Reckon we should leave you, two, to get some rest. Not unless you want Jimmy and I to move Lou?"

"L-leave h-her here."

"Will do son. I'm going to go have a talk with the Doc, see when he's going to let us spring you from here. "Teaspoon said and then left the room.

Jimmy settled himself into the chair beside the bed, setting the basket with the food Rachel had packed, and Lou's change of clothing onto the floor beside him. His gray eyes studied Lou's sleeping form for a moment, before leveling them on Kid's pain filled face.

"She didn't sleep much at all. Just kept tossing and turning and fretting until about an hour before the doc came out to tell us you were awake." He told Kid.

"It's w-why I w-wanted y-you to l-leave her h-here." Kid shifted slightly on the bed and had to bite back the cry of pain that sprang to his lips.

"Are you in pain? Want me to get the doc?"

Jimmy didn't wait for Kid to answer him before he strolled out of the door in search of Dr. Bates. He returned a few moments later with both the doctor and Teaspoon. He and Teaspoon stood back as Dr. Bates moved over to the locked cupboard in one corner of the room.

"You're going to have to move Lou off of the bed so that I can examine Kid more carefully." Dr. Bates said as he readied a syringe with medication.

Jimmy stepped immediately forward and gently lifted Lou into his arms. She stirred in his arms, but settled once again as soon as Jimmy began talking quietly to her.

"You can take her into the adjoining room. Don't expect she's going to want to be too happy when she wakes up, but he really doesn't need to be worrying about anyone else but himself right now. "Dr. Bates said as he moved past Jimmy and his sleeping burden toward the bed.

When Jimmy returned, Dr. Bates was in the process of cleaning Kid's wound. Kid's forehead was covered with sweat, his eyes clamped shut, and teeth gritted tightly together. Jimmy bit down on his bottom lip his gray eyes glued to Kid's face and felt new guilt wash over him. He hated to see anyone in pain, especially those he cared about, and the added knowledge that he was the reason behind the current pain Kid was experiencing, tore at him.

Teaspoon placed a hand upon his shoulder. "Don't let it take hold of you son. You won't do Kid or anyone else, especially yourself, any good if you let this eat at you."

"I know…I just can't stand to see him like this…to know that he's in this much pain because of me." Jimmy's voice was laced with guilt.

"I know, son. I know." Teaspoon replied as the two men fell silent as the doctor continued to work on Kid.

By the time the doctor was finished with cleaning and dressing the bandage, the pain medication he had given Kid had taken effect and the wounded rider had finally fallen asleep.

"How's he doing doc?" Teaspoon asked.

"He's doing a lot better than I had expected he would. He's going to have to stay here for a few more days, so I can watch over him and make sure an infection doesn't set in, and monitor the pain that he's feeling. After that I think that he's going to be fit enough to be taken back to the station for Rachel to tend too, but he'll need another week or two of bed rest before I'd deem him ready to be ready to go back to work. "Dr. Bates told him.

"Just as long as he's going to be okay is all I care about." Jimmy commented with relief.

"Don't reckon I need to remind you to pay more attention to whom you are aiming those guns at, do I?" Dr. bates said, his tone firm, but not unkind.

"No sir." Jimmy replied.

Dr. Bates left them alone with Kid then.

"I'm going to head back out to the station and let the others know what the doc has said about the Kid. When Lou wakes up, make sure that she eats something." Teaspoon told Jimmy and followed the doctor out of the room.

"I will." Jimmy murmured as he settled into the chair beside the bed to wait until Kid awakened.

The next few days passed with Kid sleeping through most of it, except for an occasional hour or two of wakefulness. Jimmy and Lou stayed close to him during this time, although the rest of their Pony Express family members popped in from time to time to check in on how Kid's recovery was going. By the time Dr. Bates agreed that he was well enough to go back to the station, Kid was more than ready. Teaspoon drove a wagon into town and helped assist Jimmy in carrying him out to it and placing him onto the pallet of blankets Rachel and Lou had prepared for him.

Jimmy stayed glued to Kid's side for the next day or so after he had been moved back to the bunkhouse and was under Rachel's competent care. If there was something that Kid wanted, he went and got it. If Kid felt like eating something specific, he made sure Rachel knew
about it so that she could make it for their next meal. He traded off chores with the other riders, so that he could stick close to the station and be there if Kid needed him for something, and none of it went unnoticed by any of them that his guilt over what had happened, was behind it all.

Finally, Teaspoon was forced to tell him that if he didn't go on the next ride out, that he was going to have to look for a replacement rider. He had made the warning when he, Kid, and Jimmy were alone in the bunkhouse, and left the dark-haired gunfighter seething.

"Can you believe that? Teaspoon's going to fire me because I'm helping you? Doesn't that beat all?" Jimmy exclaimed, pacing back and forth in front of the door in obvious agitation.

Kid smiled. "It was a warning Jimmy. You haven't been carrying your weight around the station and you know it."

"What? You're siding with him?" Jimmy asked him incredulously, turning gray eyes onto his recuperating friend. "I thought that at least you would understand why I'm doing this. I was helping you cause-"

"Cause you feel guilty about what happened to me." Kid finished the sentence for him. "Look Jimmy, I'm real grateful for the way you've been helping me out and all…you're a good friend…I only wish that you could let go of the reason behind you doing it. It was an accident pure and simple and you need to let it go now."

"But..."Jimmy started, but Kid cut him off again.

"No buts…I've forgiven you Jimmy…But it's not like you needed any forgiveness in the first place…it was an accident…something that occurred in the heat of the moment."

"I just wish I could forgive myself as easily as you've forgiven me," Jimmy admitted as he settled down on the chair next to Kid's bunk.

"Me too."

"I'll try, but it's not going to be easy."

"It never is with you."

"Thanks a lot."

"You're welcome."

"I'm glad I didn't kill you, Kid."

"So am I."

The End