Disclaimer: I do not own The Young Riders.
The red bandana tied around his head was drenched with sweat as the hot sun beat down on him and a dark patch was working it's way down the back of his white shirt. Glancing up from the window he was fixing, he let his gaze sweep over the schoolhouse, over the young children sharing primers and small chalk slabs, past the two boys in the front row holding a frog cupped in their hands behind their desk, to stop on Miss Polly Tucker, who stood in front of the chalkboard with her back to the class.
Ike McSwain watched her write for a minute before focusing again on the window that wouldn't open. He'd been in the general store with Buck yesterday picking up feed for the horses when the young schoolmistress walked in, her pretty blonde hair plaited and pinned up. It was the first week of the summer session of school and Miss Polly had come into Sweetwater on the train a few days before that. News spread fast among the Pony Express riders, especially about pretty girls their own age. Jimmy and Cody had practically begged Emma to send them to pick up the feed, chomping at the bit to catch a glimpse or maybe more, so she sent Buck and Ike instead.
"One of the windows in the school house won't open," Polly told William Tompkins behind the store counter as she handed over a few coins in exchange for some paper and string. "Other than the window, the building will be nice once I give it a good sweeping."
Tompkins bid her good luck and Ike watched her pause over a bolt of pink calico. Her fingertips traced the soft cloth. Buck elbowed Ike in the side.
"You think she's pretty." The signed words were a statement, not a question.
"She's okay." Ike signed back before hefting the first of several bags onto his shoulder to carry out to the wagon. Buck hit him and Ike stopped.
"Talk to her."
Ike gave a silent laugh and pushed past him. Buck grabbed a bag and followed after him. The two tossed their load into the wagon and Buck got in Ike way before Ike could walk.
"Talk to her," Buck insisted, aloud this time.
"How?" Ike replied. "I can't speak."
"I can," Buck told him.
"She won't like me," Ike shook his head. "Jimmy or Cody –"
"Let her decide." This time, Buck didn't wait for an answer. He turned and walked ahead of Ike. "Miss Tucker?"
"Yes?" Polly turned, taking a step back when she saw Buck. Ike walked past and picked up a second bag of feed, carting it past Buck and out to the wagon. "Yes?"
"I couldn't help overhearing that one of your windows won't open," Buck nodded at Tompkins, who still kept a close eye on him when he was in the store. "Well, I know someone who can help you with that. My friend, Ike, he fixed the window at our station a couple weeks ago. He could fix yours."
Buck grabbed Ike on Ike's third trip back into the store and turned him to face Polly, Ike's face as hot and pink as the calico cloth.
"You can fix a window, Mr…"
"McSwain," Buck answered her. "Ike McSwain."
"Can't he answer for himself?" Polly eyed him. Ike shook his head and signed words Polly couldn't understand.
"Ike had scarlet fever," Buck explained and Polly nodded.
"You can fix a window, Mr. McSwain?"
"What can I offer you in return, Mr. McSwain?"
Ike shook his head, looking at the ground.
"I would really love to be able to open that last window."
"I can fix it," Ike signed.
That was how, against his better judgment, Ike had wound up in town at the schoolhouse that blistering afternoon. He almost had the window unstuck when Polly had the children line up in two rows, boys against girls, for a spell-off. The sound of the window finally wrenching free interrupted the spell-off when there were four spellers left and Ike held up a hand in apology.
The school let out when the spell-off finished, a twelve-year-old girl Ike knew by sight winning on a big word Ike couldn't spell in his wildest dreams. Polly straightened up and swept the room clean while Ike finished the window. Ike tapped on the wood frame to get Polly's attention when he was done and Polly looked up, crossing the room with a smile.
Ike nodded and made a point of showing her where he'd pried loose the stuck window and sanded down the wood where it had swelled, causing it to stick in the first place. Then he showed her the grease that would make it easier for her to open the window and the board that would keep it open.
"Your friend was right. You sure can fix a window," Polly put a hand on his shoulder and Ike felt the touch tingle through the rest of him. "Where'd you learn how to fix a window?"
Ike started to sign the words and then stopped short, a grim set to his face. Polly held up a hand and turned back towards her desk, returning with one of the chalk slates and a small piece of chalk.
"I learned." The scratchy, uneven print embarrassed Ike when he saw her pretty script still up on the chalkboard, but he held it so she could see.
"Sounds like your pa was a handy man."
"Was your pa handy?" Ike paused over the word 'handy,' sounding it out in his head as he scrabbled it out on the chalk slate.
"Sort of," Polly smiled. "My Pa is a preacher in Concord, back in Massachusetts. He was more interested in book learning than physical work. Where's your pa?"
"Killed." Ike looked down as he showed her the slate.
"I'm so sorry, Ike," Polly covered his hand with hers. Ike raised his head. Her brown eyes were soft and kind and looked into his grey-green ones like they were searching for something. "I think… I think your pa would be real proud of you."
Then, Ike did something for which he had no explanation. He leaned over and pressed a kiss to Miss Polly Tucker's lips.
One of my best friends / long lost big sisters / soulmates, BrilliantDarkness, got me hooked on this show when I was up visiting her and hers a week ago and so this is entirely her fault. ENTIRELY YOUR FAULT. FAULT. ALL YOURS. VERY ANGRY. /angryface
Okay, I honestly have no idea where I'm going with this. It got in my head so I wrote it. I've only watched up to episode 5, so any horrible OCC-ness is courtesy of that.
I like Ike.
Thanks for reading, I hope you liked it and, please, tell me what you think - good or bad.