Disclaimer – You recognise it, I don't own it.
The sound of soft hooves disturbed Nettie's sleep. Frowning in confusion about who would be trying to come after her now, she picked up her Spence Carbine.
But no one came to the door. The rider had clearly stopped and dismounted. However he didn't approach.
Maybe he was waiting… A scout for a larger force, Nettie wondered.
Grateful that Casey was still in town, being cared for by Mary Travis, Nettie fell into sleep again, seated in her chair with her gun across her lap.
The first light of dawn woke Nettie.
Nothing had happened.
Cautiously she got dressed, before creeping out, her gun cocked and ready.
She ran a weathered eye over what she could see. The intruder was still there. Barely visible in the tree branches.
"Boy!" Nettie yelled, "Get down from there. Land sakes alive child, what do you think you're doing?"
JD moved slightly, almost rolling off his branch, before he managed to sit up.
"Just sitting watch, ma'am." The boy nodded at her, "Reckoned that some of Royal's men might try to get some revenge on you tonight. Seems that they didn't try."
"You been up there all night, boy?" Nettie asked.
"Pretty much." The boy chirped back.
"You can't have gotten any sleep."
"Pretty comfortable up here, actually." The boy smiled, "I'm fine."
Nettie couldn't believe that the boy had come all the way to sleep in a tree to protect her.
But here he was. The boy… For that was how she thought of him, just a little boy playing pretend. The little boy trying so hard to be a man. And yet not understanding how.
That wasn't to say she disliked the boy. But she felt that he should have more of a childhood. It was something too precious to be stolen or wasted. And this boy was throwing it away for a dream that would get him killed before he reached the age he claimed to be.
Oh, no, Nettie wasn't blind. She knew the boy was younger by a good few years than he claimed. But she kept her mouth shut. No need for her to go prying into someone else's business after all. Wasn't hurting her any.
"Why'd you come out here?" Nettie asked.
"Saw a couple of looks Casey got thrown by Royal's men in town." JD shrugged, "Didn't reckon they would take no for an answer. Even if they listened. Know she's still in town, but don't know they know that."
Nettie stopped to reassess the boy. He wasn't as innocent as he appeared. He clearly knew what he was talking about, by the tone in his voice. And he was trying to protect…
"You have a sister, boy?" Nettie frowned.
"No, ma'am." JD was confused, "There was always just me and ma."
It was a possibility, Nettie knew. To some age didn't matter. And perhaps the woman had had the boy young.
"You get down from there, right now." Nettie ordered, as she pushed her mind away from her questions. She might like to know things for her own curiosity, but there was no need to go prying into personal business, particularly if it was in a touchy area. And this no doubt was.
Nettie watched as the boy swung, so both legs hung the same side of his branch. Then he just jumped down.
Nettie's eyes went wide as the child landed. It seemed that age was not the only thing the child was lying about.
Better to keep her mouth shut though. No doubt the child had a reason for the deception. And she could fill in the blanks. It painted a pretty grim picture.
No need to make the child worry though.
"Come on in." Nettie said, "I'll make you breakfast."
"You don't need to do that. I'm fine."
"You been out here all night for my sake. Least I can do is feed you, child. I ain't letting you argue."
The child surrendered to Nettie's firm voice. Letting the woman herd her inside and to the table.
"I can't eat all that." The child protested, once Nettie had served up the food.
Nettie looked at the plate. It consisted of a simple breakfast, as far as Nettie was concerned, pancakes, sausages and eggs.
"What do you normally have, child?" Nettie asked.
"Two biscuits?" The child shrugged, "I don't eat much. Never have."
"Good Lord, child!" Nettie stared, "That's hardly enough to feed a bird. You'll eat all that. Even if it takes you all morning. No wonder you're all skin and bones. I'll put some meat on you. You need it."
And Nettie sat there for a good hour making sure that the child ate properly.
She knew there would be issues later, considering that Casey now had a hopelessly unrequited crush. But things like that could be solved later.
And at least she didn't have to worry about Casey being pushed into things she wasn't ready for. Not until she moved on romantically, at any rate.
But what she could do was provide a little piece of shelter from the world outside, should the child ever need it. Though she wouldn't tell the child that.
No need to make the child worried about the secret being spilled.
Buck was a little frustrated that his work with Casey hadn't gone as well as he'd hoped.
There were no declarations of love.
In fact the two potential love-birds had been going out of their way to avoid each other. Though that seemed to be more on Casey's part than JD's. Buck had seen JD sitting on the sidewalk when Casey had seen him and skittered away like some sort of scared cat. Trying desperately hard not to seem as if she was avoiding the boy.
It was starting to drive Buck mad. He couldn't even approach Casey to try again. As the girl seemed to (rather unfairly, in Buck's opinion) blame him for the entire skirt fiasco.
Priming JD to make the next move was completely pointless, as the boy seemed to be firmly in denial about his feelings.
The only solution that Buck could see was to back off… Just for a little while.
Once Casey was more comfortable and had gotten over the embarrassment, he could try again.
It had clearly helped. Because if Buck hadn't seen a look of shock, awe and borderline reverence on JD's face, he didn't know what was.
"Morning JD." Josiah looked up as the youngest of the Seven rode into town, "Where have you been so early?"
"Here and there." JD shrugged, "You okay, Preacher?"
"Feeling better than I did yesterday, son."
"Good." JD dismounted, "I'll be back once I've sorted my horse out. Give you a hand."
"Take your time." Josiah smiled broadly.
It only took JD about ten minutes before he was back. He quickly picked up a plane and started work on one of the crude pews. He hadn't been allowed near the saw since the incident where he nearly took his leg out.
"You wanted to talk, brother John?" Josiah asked after a few minutes of silent work.
"I'm… I'm sorry that you and Emma didn't work out." JD managed to only stammer slightly as he spoke.
"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man."
"Huh?" JD frowned.
"We both changed over many years." Josiah explained fondly, "Maybe at one time we could have made a wonderful life together. But we didn't take the chance. So I must be content with happy memories. I wouldn't give up anything I've experienced for what could have been."
"Oh." JD blinked.
Josiah could tell that the boy didn't really understand. But was too embarrassed to press further. He smiled. Understanding would only come with time. Some lessons had to be learned the hard way.
"She had a pretty voice though." JD commented, after a long period of silence.
"She does indeed." Josiah agreed, "Though it was sweeter when I knew her."
"Voices change over the years." JD shrugged, "Usually dropping slightly."
"You know music."
"I know a bit." JD replied, "Can't read music. Don't even try."
"Do you sing?"
"No." JD pulled out his pipe, "But I play."
"What can you play?"
"Pretty much anything. You hum it. I'll play it." JD twirled his pipe slightly.
"Now there's a challenge." Josiah grinned.
About an hour later, Josiah was impressed. JD had lived up to his promise. True, the boy didn't know all the music Josiah did. But he was quick to pick up a tune and while he wasn't perfect at reproducing it, he was better than most.
Several of the citizens of Four Corners had turned up at various points, most just listening, but others suggesting songs.
JD was playing a piece of his own choice, just when Chris and Buck were wandering past. It was clear that Chris, at least, was fighting off a hangover and a fowl temper for some reason.
JD's fingers were flying up and down the pipe. His eyes closed in enjoyment.
Suddenly the pipe was snatched out of his grip.
"You have patrol. Get going!" Chris snarled, before tossing the pipe back.
He then stormed off. Anger coming off him in waves.
JD had rocked back as if he had been hit.
"Kid," Buck looked at the startled boy, "Reckon it'd be best if you didn't play that tune again… Least not round Chris."
"Why not? It's just a song. Why'd it upset him?"
"It was Sarah's favourite. She used to sing Adam to sleep with it."
"I didn't know. My Ma used to sing it."
"No way you could. Sarah always liked the bit about the ship."
"There is a ship and she sails the sea?"
"That's the one."
"Ma liked the verse about trees."
"Not a happy marriage then?"
"Who said Ma was married?"
The casual comment threw Buck for a moment, but he didn't let it show.
"Sarah used to say death was like the first verse."
"Oh," JD breathed, "Well, I'd better go on patrol, before Chris gets mad again."
Then he was gone.
"Old memories haunt brother Chris today." Josiah noted.
"Sarah's birthday." Buck shrugged, "Catch you later, 'Siah. Someone needs to keep Chris from killing someone."
"At least he didn't break the boy's pipe." Josiah conceded, "Or hit him."
"He's getting better." Buck agreed.
The next day, JD had managed to sneak into Ezra's room again. Ezra wasn't too surprised. He had seen that the girl seemed a bit confused and also nervous.
"From what Ah here, you were a bit entranced by Miss Cassie the other day." Ezra started the conversation, "Considering that Ah doubt it is due to what Mister Willmington believes, Ah must inquire as to what caused it."
"It was… Well, she looked so different. With the skirt and top. And her hair brushed, loose and all pretty… She was just so different… Pretty."
Ezra didn't correct the girl's grammar. It wasn't the right time. It was better to just let the girl talk, until he reached the centre of what was disturbing her.
"Made me wonder what I would look like. All like that."
"You could try." Ezra suggested softly, "Wouldn't take too long."
"No!" JD hissed in horror, "I… I… I can't!"
"No one would have to see." Ezra pointed out, "It would not have to go beyond these walls. However until you are ready, Ah will not press you."
The two sat in silence for a while, Ezra shuffling cards. JD's fingers running up and down her pipe, apparently playing silent scales.
"I don't understand," JD sighed after a while, "Why does Cassie act so strange around me?"
"Ah do believe," Ezra was trying hard to keep a straight face, "That the young Miss Wells is suffering from an infatuation with yourself."
"That can't be it." JD dismissed the idea, "She ain't…"
"Isn't, JD." Ezra corrected.
"She isn't acting like the ladies do around Buck. And they are usually in-fat-u-at-ed with him."
"Different ladies show their infatuations in different manners. Miss Wells is trying to impress you by, to use the vernacular, showing off. An attempt to garner your attention, by playing on your competiveness."
"But why me? I'm a…" JD tailed off.
"So is ignorant of the main obstacle between the two of you." Ezra reminded, "Also Miss Wells has grown up primarily in this locale.. What few gentlemen present here, of a suitable age, she has known for many years. As such she knows them too intimately to consider them objects of her affection. You are deemed to be of a similar age and as she has not grown up with you, you have an air of mystery around yourself. Something that any woman with healthy curiosity will always be interested in unravelling."
"That's nuts." JD was blunt, "She would rather risk the unknown that stick with what she knows?"
"One might say that you took the same risk coming West." Ezra reminded.
"I didn't have a choice." JD shut down almost completely.
"Ah know," Ezra regretted his words, but knew they were at least partially true, "What course of action will you take?"
"I'll be friends with her." JD shrugged, "I'll just ignore that she wants what I can't give. She'll get over it."
JD was up and out the room, before Ezra could formulate a response.
"Ah am afraid that will not result in the outcome you anticipate." Ezra addressed the room.
Unfortunately he could see no plausible solution to the problem.
The only possible way to stop Cassie's advances would be to tell her the truth. Something that not only would JD not endorse, but could also backfire horribly.
"Someone, somewhere, ah do declare is expressing amusement at my situation." Ezra addressed the ceiling in exasperation.
Thanks to my Reviewers. Sorry for the slight delay. I managed to kill my computer and transferred the information. But some got lost. Luckily I have some hard copies of some of my stories. So I've been busy transcribing and trawling my memories for any bits I've lost.
Fortunately this story was not a victim. Just got a bit delayed.
Trecebo – Glad you enjoyed. I make the assumption that anyone reading this story knows the episode, so I don't have to regurgitate the plot. As for JD and Casey? I'm sure I'm going to have lots more fun with them.
Guest – Sorry for the slight delay.
MalikaiDragonSlayer – You'll have to wait. I've got a few more tricks up my sleeve before that happens.
Lunaz – Glad you liked. Had to work it somehow.
Aira Silver – Yeah, New Law is going to be an interesting episode to write. Well, I'm taking it one section at a time. Now to go off and rewatch Manhunt, before I write the next chapter.
Once again thank you.