"Owww!" Buck bit back a curse as he swung the hammer deftly... into his thumb, completely missing the nail in the door hinge. Immediately dropping the heavy tool, it landed with thud on his booted foot.

"Owww,Damn it, owwwww!"

"Is everything alright, Buck?" Emma stood framed in the doorway watching Buck clench his jaw, obviously in pain.

"I'm fine, Emma." Buck replied through gritted teeth.

If truth was told he wasn't fine, he wasn't fine at all. How could he possibly be fine and concentrate on repairing a simple door when a pair of the most enchanting eyes, sweet smile, soft ringlets of dark hair belonging to the most beautiful women he had ever beheld lay upstairs suffering and in pain.

Emma raised a brow at his response clearly not believing him as she noted the hammer laying close to his foot. "I made some lemonade for you and the rest of the boys. You've been working hard all morning, Buck. Why not take a break and let me pour you a glass."

Buck gratefully obliged Emma, and sat down on the porch step and proceeded to rub his throbbing thumb. He wasn't sure which hurt the most, his thumb, his foot or his aching heart.

"Here you go, Buck."

Buck thankfully took the offered glass and relished the feel of the cool sweet/tart liquid sliding down the back of his parched throat.

"Thanks Emma. This is really good."

"Your Welcome, Buck." Emma beamed as she sat down beside Buck and studied him for a moment while he drank his lemonade.

Of all her Boys, Buck was the hardest to read, he had a face that seldom revealed the emotions hidden deep within, but today the well placed mask slipped and Emma saw all the worry and care he truly felt for the young lady. Emma hadn't realized just how deep his feelings for Branwen went until this very moment.

"She's goin' to be okay, Buck. I know you're worried but there's no need to be; Branwen's made it through the worst of it. Doc Barnes is with her now, and I'm sure he'd tell ya the same as I'm telling ya right now. It's going to take some time for all her memory to come back, and she's still weak, but she's goin' to be just fine." Emma patted his arm reassuringly, while longing to pull the young man who never felt part of either of his two worlds into a hug, but resisted the urge, after all Teaspoon kept reminding her they were becoming men.

"I know." Buck quietly said. He never knew anyone like Emma, she was so kind and caring. No one had ever treated him like that before, except his own mother who was now gone, and he still missed dearly.

Emma knew there was something more he seemed to want to say, "What is it, Buck? What's really troubling you?"

"Nothing, I'm fine. The lemonade was good. I think I'm ready to tackle that door again." He forced a crooked grin as he tried to change the subject and handed Emma back her glass.

"Buck...," she softly urged.

"It's just that...it's just that I..." He faltered and paused. How could he possibly tell Emma how much he longed to see Branwen's smile and those beautiful golden green eyes once more? He didn't understand what was happening to him, all he knew was that it was an all-consuming ache within him to see for himself that she was alright, that her wound was healing as it should.

Emma smiled and simply stated the obvious, "You want to see her before you ride out tomorrow."

Buck nodded, "I want to make sure her wound is healing as it should, I...I want to make sure she is alright."

Emma's smile widened and she slightly shook her head at the thought of being young again and in love for the first time. She understood the young man's pain and couldn't help herself. Emma gently put her arm around Buck's shoulders, drew him in and gave him a quick hug.

"I don't see any reason why you can't see Branwen, I am sure she'd enjoy the company.
Remember, Buck, Branwen did ask after you," Emma couldn't help smiling at Buck. " And I would certainly like it if you had a look at her wound, I'm not sure when Doc will return. If I need more herbs, I'll be needing them before your run tomorrow."

"Thank you, Emma."

The grateful look in his dark soulful eyes nearly melted Emma's heart – how could she deny him this small request to see the girl he had rescued and that had captured his heart so completely.

"Your welcome, Buck. Now, you understand I will have to ask Branwen if she is up for a visit?"

Giving her one of his charming lopsided grins, Buck nodded his understanding as he put his arm around her and gave her a quick hug in return.


"Well, there you are, Mrs. Shannon. I thought I heard your voice back here." Doc Barnes said with a warm grin as he stepped onto the back porch.

"Well hello there Buck! Just the fella I was looking for."

Emma and Buck stood up and warmly greeted the Doctor.

"Can I offer you some lemonade, Doc?"

The older man's face lit up at the offer. He had learned early on never to pass up an offer of some treat made by Emma Shannon and her lemonade was the best he had ever tasted.

Emma didn't wait for Doc's answer, the look on his face was all she needed to know and was off to fetch another glass.

"How is Branwen doin' Doc?" Buck asked.

"She's doing better than I would have thought. The lass is a fighter that's for sure. The wound is looking good, not the harsh pink of yesterday and the bleeding has slowed considerably. There is nothing more I can do for the girl. The best I can offer, is to keep doing what you are doing." He paused, "By the way, what did you use on her wound?"

"Why?" Buck asked a bit too quickly,while trying to fight back the defensive edge that crept into his voice.

Emma handed Doc his lemonade, while placing a light hand on Buck's arm to silence him as she spoke up. "It's a poultice Buck made to help slow the bleeding and help fight infection. Why do you ask?"

"I'm not criticizing what you put on her wound," Doc said matter of factly, looking from Buck to Mrs. Shannon. "Its just that whatever was used, it's working! I've never personally worked on a patient, such as Miss Taylor, who has a problem with her blood clotting. I've read about people who are, well for lack of a better word for it; bleeders." He sought out and caught Emma's gaze. Relief filled him when he saw within her soft brown eyes that she understood completely what he was trying to convey to her.

"I was really concerned for the lass," Doc,continued. " I truly thought on my visit today, I would find Miss Taylor burned up delirious with fever, and well, perhaps worse; but that's not the case at all."

Buck hadn't realized he was holding his breath until Doc's words washed over him and he let out a shuddering sigh of relief.

Doc caught Emma's eye once again and they both smiled at Buck.

"Now, ..." Doc continued, "I'm not ruling out fever, there is still a chance it could set in. But I think the bleeding from her head wound is under control and a fair portion of her memory has returned. I'd say you'll need to keep an eye on Miss Taylor for a day more. But your lass is strong and doing better." Doc shot a quick wink at Buck, who felt heat rise to his cheeks.

"I'll check back on Miss Taylor in a couple days. In the meantime, Mrs. Shannon, Buck, just keep doing what you're doing. One more solid days rest and I think she'll be alright."

"Thanks Doc. You have been so kind." Emma reached her hand out and placed it on Doc's arm and smiled.

Doc blushed at Emma's gesture, "No need for any thank-yous, Mrs. Shannon. And your lemonade was delightful, I believe you make the best in the County." Doc said with a shy smile.

It was Emma's turn to blush at Doc's honest compliment.

Buck extended his hand out to Doc who warmly clasped his hand with Buck's. "Thanks again, Doc for all you have done."

"I haven't done a thing, Buck. It's because of you that the young lady is alive and doing better."

Doc started towards his horse, then turned back around.

"Oh, and by the way, Buck, the poultice you used on Miss Taylor, you don't happen to have any more of the herbs you used?"

Buck was startled by the request. "I don't have any right now, but I can get more, why do you ask?"

"After seeing the effects on the young lady, I wouldn't mind having some of what you used around my office."

"I'll be happy to bring some by when I get back from my run." Buck replied.

"Good! Whenever you are in town, bring it by." Doc beamed, "Oh, and Buck, one more thing."

"What's that?"

"If you happen to know of anything that will help with pain and help Miss Taylor rest I would greatly appreciate it."

Buck arched a brow at Doc's odd request, "I'll be happy to find something, but why is it needed? Is the pain getting worse?"

Doc laughed, "No nothing like that Buck. It's just that, well lets just say, that gal of yours, pretty as a spring day she may be, but she's also a bit stubborn. She's refusing to take the Laudanum I gave her, claiming she doesn't like how it leaves her feeling."

Emma chuckled at Doc's comment about Branwen's stubbornness. Both men turned to look at Emma with questioning looks.

"She is a bit stubborn for sure. She is as kind as could be, but resolutely refused to take her pain medicine this morning. She told me she wasn't in pain, but I knew better."

"Don't worry, Doc." Buck pipped up. "I think I have something that will help her."

Doc clasped Buck on the shoulder. "You are a good man, Buck. These are two of the luckiest ladies in Sweetwater to have you looking out for them."

Buck's face turned crimson at the compliment.

Doc Barnes tipped his hat at Emma,then mounted his horse.

"Ride safe, Doc." Buck and Emma, called out as the older man rode out of the station yard.

He smiled and waved goodbye at the station mistress and rider, wishing there were more people like them in the world.


Dinner had turned into a rather boisterous affair with the arrival of Marshal Samuel Cain at the Sweetwater Station.

He came by to check and see if there was any storm damage and also in hopes of being offered some of Emma's good cooking. He wasn't disappointed, and was readily offered a spot at the long table; Emma had cooked up a huge pot of beef stew. But in truth the real reason he made the trip out to the way station was to make sure Emma and Branwen had made it safely through the stormy night, he should have known he wouldn't have reason to worry with Buck keeping vigil over the young woman in Emma's care.

"So, how's the young lady, Branwen doin'? Doc been by to see her yet?" Sam inquired, as he bit into one of Emma's light fluffy biscuits to hide his grin as he looked over at Buck.

Emma cast a glance over at her Kiowa rider, then back at Sam, "Doc's been by. Branwen's doing much better. He said she still needs at least a days more rest, then we can get her up and about. Gotta say, it's goin' to be hard keeping that young lady down any longer than that. Never seen anything like it, Sam. She's already wanting to help out and in her words 'Be useful and not a burden'. I gave her some light mending to help keep her occupied. Doc said he would be back by in a couple days to check on her.

Buck was only half listening to what Emma was saying to Sam. His thoughts were intent on what type of herbs to use help ease Branwen's pain and help her sleep. Normally he would make Willow bark tea, but in Branwen's case, it was out of the question. The Horsetail was working to help clot the bleeding and help stave off infection. If he used Willow bark it would help with the pain but it would also thin her blood and undo the effect of his poultice.

Yet weighing more heavily on his mind was if Branwen would actually want to see him. Granted, she did ask after him and he so longed to see her. But there was also a part of him that feared she would shun him once she realized that he was nothing more than a half breed.

"Do you want a biscuit, Buck? Buck?" Lou nudged his arm and gave Buck a quizzical look.

He was so deep in thought and mindlessly shifting a chunk of carrot around his plate that he never heard Lou's question.

"What? – What is it, Lou?" Jerking his mind back to the present he looked at Lou with a slight befuddled look on his face, as if trying to figure out why she nudged him and was holding a plate full of biscuits out to him.

Emma caught Buck's puzzled expression and quickly moved to take the platter out of Lou's hand and placed a biscuit upon his plate. While doing so she leaned in towards Buck and quietly whispered, "Branwen said she's looking forward to seeing you, Buck." Emma patted his shoulder before placing the biscuit platter next to Cody.

Try as he might, Buck couldn't keep the loopy grin from tugging at the corners of his mouth as Emma's words sunk in. "She 's looking forward to seeing me..."

Lou, studying Buck's change of expression, found herself grinning at her lovestruck friend and jabbed him in the ribs in a knowing playful gesture. Buck proceeded to hide the full out grin that now spread across his face with a bite-full of beef stew.

Cody was oblivious to this little exchange, he only had eyes for the platter of biscuits Emma set in front of him, but the rest of the men sitting at the table took notice and eyed Buck, Emma and Lou.

Teaspoon and Sam had a fairly good idea of what had transpired between the trio to change Buck's solemn expression, but it was Kid that finally had to ask. "Okay, what goin' on, Teaspoon? What did we miss?" He nodded his head to include Jimmy and Cody.

Lifting his head up from his plate of food, Cody gazed around the table with a questioning look. "Did I miss something?"

"It's nothin' you boys need to know about. Now finish your meals before it gets cold." Emma gave them all a matter of fact look that left no room for questions.

She threw a look towards Teaspoon and Sam as well. Placing her hands on her hips she replied with a saucy edge, "That goes the same for the two of you, Mr. Spoon and Marshal Cain."

She shot Sam a quick wink then turned and caught Buck's eye, giving him an impish smile, then settled herself in her customary spot next to Kid.

Sam and Teaspoon let a low chuckle filtered around the room until it became full-fledged laughter from all those seated at the table.

As the laughter died away, the boys settled into their dinner as Sam proceeded to fill them in on the storm damage in town.

"The worst was to Tompkins' store. He had some roof damage and a window broken out, but that's mainly the worst of it. Also that new banker in town, Jack Devlin, his house had some bad roof damage, but nothing too severe." Sam snatched up the last biscuit as he continued, "You guys were lucky out here. I heard that over in Willow Springs a tornado touched down and leveled the schoolhouse and a couple of homesteads. Not sure about the Express station, though. I'm sure I'll know more by tomorrow."

He looked over at Emma and saw the sadness form within her pretty brown eyes, so he quickly added, "As far as I know no lives have been lost from the storm, it's not as bad as it could have been."

He noted Emma whispering a "Thank-God," as she smiled softly at Sam. The one thing he loved about Emma was her tender, caring heart.

Teaspoon cleared his throat, while wiping his mouth. "Speaking of Jack Devlin, I hear his son is expected to arrive in town sometime tomorrow."

"That's right. Patrick Devlin is expected on the 12 o'clock stage. And all I can forsee is a whole heap of trouble from the Devlin's."

"What do ya mean, Sam?" Cody asked, curiosity getting the better of him.

"I can't put my finger on it, Cody, but something doesn't add up. Patrick graduated from one of those fancy back East schools, Yale I believe. Now that doesn't mean any thing in itself, but from the talk I've been hearing around town it sounds like Patrick intends to work for his father."

"Why would someone with that kind of schooling come all the way out to the middle of nowhere to work with his father at some small out of the way bank? There has to be more to it." Jimmy mused.

That's the same thing I was thinking, Jimmy. Something about this isn't sitting right with me."

"I agree with ya Sam." Teaspoon stretched back in his chair, "Two things don't sit well with me either that has happened here recently."

"What's that, Teaspoon?" Lou asked.

"Aside from the recent Indian trouble that has this town in a uproar, have you noticed that since Jack Devlin took over running the Cattleman's Bank, how long has it been," Teaspoon paused to rub his chin thoughtfully, "About a month now, and he has already bought up all the land around the Scottsman's. He's even sniffing around the Crawlys'."

"But why?" Kid asked puzzled, "Jim Crawly has been mining that hill for well over a year without even a hint of gold. What could possibly interest a man like Jack Devlin?"

"Perhaps, ..." Sam paused. "Perhaps Mr. Jack Devlin knows something about those hills that we don't."

"It's possible, Sam. From what I understand, Jim Crawly staked all he had on that piece of land. I've done some mining in my early days and when a man gets that fever, it grabs hold of ya and won't let go till ya find gold."

Teaspoon paused as the delectable aroma of apples, cinnamon, and nutmeg wove its way throughout the bunk house and set everyone's mouth to watering.

As Emma passed around heaping plates of Apple cobbler she asked, "What's the second thing that doesn't sit well with ya, Mr. Spoon?"

"Thank you, Emma. As always, your cobbler smells divine." Teaspoon took a hearty bite and moaned in pleasure. For a moment the bunk house was silent as they all savored Emma's culinary creation.

"Sam," Teaspoon spoke between bitefuls, "If I were you, I wouldn't let this one slip away from ya."

"I don't plan on it, Teaspoon." Sam grinned at Emma like a schoolboy.

Emma laughed at Sam who wasn't usually so open with his affection for her. She swatted Sam with her towel and scolded the men for getting away from the topic at hand. "So Mr. Spoon, you were saying that the second thing that hasn't sat well with you was..."

"Oh, that's right, Emma. The second thing. This dang school teacher hiring business. Sam and I talked to Reynolds, the school superintendent and discovered something rather interesting."

"That's right," Sam picked up the thread of conversation. "The hiring process, guess who's idea it was?"

"I'm guessing Jack Devlin."

"That's right, Jimmy." Sam said.

"But what's that got to do with his son arriving, and the land being bought up by his father?" Lou asked, a bit puzzled.

Buck had sat in silence, just listening and finally spoke. "What if the teaching position offered to Branwen was meant for Mark Browning all along. Perhaps there is a connection to Browning and the Devlin's?"

"What are you talking about, Buck? Who the heck is Mark Browning? Why do you think there is a connection that banker, Jack Devlin?" Cody asked, clearly confused, as were the other riders."

Sam merely shook his head. It amazed him at times how intuitive Buck could be. But in this case Buck did have one up on the rest of the riders, Buck knew Mark Browning was the teacher hired in place of Branwen, but how he figured him to be Devlin's man was clever thinking.

"Boys, quiet! Let the Marshal speak." Teaspoon's voice rose over the clamor.

The Boys quieted down as Sam spoke. "Buck's right. I think there is some connection to this newly hired teacher and Jack and Patrick Devlin. I did find this interesting, Mr. Browning just purchased the Scottsman's place from Devlin, and from what Tompkins' says, Browning has just been placed on the board of trustees at the Cattleman's Bank, which, as we know, is owned by Mr. Jack Devlin.

The bunk house drew quiet. Buck seethed at the thought that Branwen had gotten hurt, was all alone in a new part of the country, and now had no job because of this crazy nonsense.

"What do ya think they are up to?" Jimmy asked.

"Nothing good, I can tell ya that." Came Teaspoon's cryptic reply.

"I agree, Teaspoon. I plan to do some digging around, that's for sure," Sam said. "This storm has put me behind schedule, but I'm determined to have a nice chat with our newly appointed school teacher, Mr. Mark Browning. And I also plan to be there tomorrow to welcome our newest resident to Sweetwater."

There was a collective round of agreement from all the Boys.

"Now hold your horses. You Boys aren't going anywhere." Teaspoon leaned back towards the table. "Some of you have runs scheduled and the rest of ya, I suspect have chores to do in the mornin'."

"Awww, come on Teaspoon, we could help out Sam," Cody complained.

Murmurers of agreement rose among the riders.

"You, Mr. Cody, I believe are scheduled for a run if I'm not mistaken in about an hour?"

"Kid, you could take my run," Cody begged. "C'mon, Kid."

"No, Cody! I'm not taking your run. I just came off a three day ride. All I want is to get some rest."

Lou caught Buck's eye. He had the run after Cody and the question his dark brown eyes held within was obvious.

"Don't look at me like that, Buck. I ain't taking your run." Lou leveled her gaze on Buck, letting him know the puppy dog eyes wouldn't work on her.

Before Buck could open his mouth in protest, Teaspoon proceeded to draw reign on his riders. "Alright! Not another word outta ya, that includes you too, Buck. You have a run tomorrow! But..." He paused to look at each of the remaining riders, "If you finish up your chores in time, I don't see any reason why you can't head into town and keep an eye on things, see if you hear anything."

"But, Teaspoon..." Buck started to protest, anger starting to well in him. If anyone should stay it should be him. Teaspoon simply leveled his weathered brown eyes on the Kiowa's dark brown ones in a knowing look.

Buck slouched back defiantly in his chair, knowing Teaspoon was right. He knew he had a job to do, Branwen would have to wait. She would be here when he returned; but it still didn't help how he felt at the moment.

"Sam?" Kid tentatively called out the Marshals name.

"Yeah, what is it Kid?"

"Do you think," He paused and looked over at Buck, who seemed in quite the pensive mood. "Do you think that ummm..."

"Spit it out, Kid." Sam said as all eyes were riveted on the curly haired rider.

'Oh, the hell with it', he thought. "Branwen is from back East, just like Patrick. Do you think there is another connection there as well?"

Buck shot him a lethal look across the table while Lou kicked Kid hard in the shin.

The impact Lou managed to level was enough to halt the blow Buck was about to deliver on Kid's jaw. "Owww," Kid cried out, "What the blazes, Lou..."

"That's enough! All of you!" Emma said with a stern edge to her voice.

Sam gave a grateful nod to Emma. "Thank you, Emma. Kid, your instincts are sharp,but Branwen is just an innocent victim in all this crazy mixed up mess. I did consider her for a moment as well," He looked over at Buck, who met his blue eyed gaze. "I'm a lawman first Buck. I have to look at all the angles. For whatever reason your gal is seeking a teaching position out west, it ain't cause of this Devlin business, that I'm sure of."

Buck nodded his understanding to the Marshal. "Thanks, Sam."

"Buck?" Kid looked earnestly at his friend, truly shame faced and sorry.

Buck just gazed at his brother with those dark penetrating eyes of his, not saying a word, waiting, willing Kid to speak.

"I'm – I'm truly sorry, Buck. I didn't mean to imply that Branwen was..."

"It's alright, Kid, I understand." Buck,wanted to hear the words, and smiled at his brother.

A collective sigh seemed to waft through the bunk house...

"What about Tompkins', Teaspoon, did ya learn anything from him?" Cody asked.

"Sam had better success than I did." The station master said ruefully.

"All I got for my effort was and ear full of nonsense that proper young ladies shouldn't be traipsing themselves across the country, working. Young ladies should be married and raising a family, not seeking a career, especially a career out here in the west! I wanted to knock him on his backside!"

"Serve him right!" Lou muttered under her breath.

"Now that would be a sight to see. Teaspoon knocking Tompkins' to the ground" Jimmy laughed at the thought.

"Alright, enough, Boys.!" Emma hollered out over the laughter that had erupted throughout the bunk house.

Suddenly pushing back his chair, Sam announced between laughs, "Well, Teaspoon, I best be getting on back into town, got a heap of business to get done." He turned and gave Emma a heart melting grin, "Dinner was wonderful, as always. I guess I'll be seeing ya later?"

"I'd like that, Sam. Take care." Emma, was grinning sweetly at the town's Marshal.

A measure of seriousness claimed the bunk house once again and clearing his throat Teaspoon spoke out, "Well Boys, that fence sure ain't goin' to finish fixin' itself, and Cody, you're next up for a run, Ike is due back here anytime now." As he rose up from the table he eyed his boys, expecting them to do the same.

Grumbles were heard throughout the room as the riders made their way out the door back toward the corral fencing and Cody went to check on Soda, who was saddled and waiting Ike's return.

"Buck, wait! Hold up a minute." Emma called out.

He turned as she called out, "After you finish all the repairs and your chores are done, you can come on over, alright."

Buck gave her one of his sunny full out smiles, nodded his thanks and headed with purpose towards the coral.

"Hey, Buck slow up!" Kid yelled out.

The others quickened their strides to catch up with Buck.

"What was that all about back there with Emma?" Kid asked.

"Kid, c'mon!" Cody chided, as he caught up with Kid and knocked his hat playfully off his head. "You really need to open your eyes here and keep up. Emma just told Buck that he could see Branwen. Didn't ya see the goofy grin on his face?"

"So that's why you're in such a hurry to get the corral fixed." Kid grinned as he slapped Buck on the shoulder, "Way to go, Buck."

Buck heaved a sigh and cut a look at the pair. "Doc asked me to bring Branwen something to help with the pain, that's all I'm doing, it's nothing!" He proceeded to pick up a hammer and nails. "I just want to get this fence finished, alright."

"Nothing?!" Lou asked in disbelief. "C'mon, Buck, you don't expect us to believe that, do ya?"
Placing her hands squarely on her hips, she stood on her tip toes and gave Buck one of her knowing looks.

"Not the way he's been trying to hide that grin, he don't." Cody replied, laughing. "Can't say I blame ya, Buck. I'd be smiling too, Branwen sure is as pretty as a picture.

A smile threatened to form, as the lovely image of her standing on the boardwalk, swiping at what Buck knew to be tears came wafting back to his mind.

Laughter broke out from the riders, thus snapping Buck out of his momentary reverie.

"If you would all stop laughing, I would like to get this fence fixed before dark." Buck grumbled.

"He's right, Boys. We're burning daylight." Teaspoon said as he handed Jimmy a new board to hold up for Buck.

A quick hard swing slammed a nail head deep into the wood board and post, leaving a solid round impression of the hammers head imbedded in the plank.

"Easy there, Son." Teaspoon's eyes widen at the force Buck used.

Jimmy's brows shot up. "Ummm, I think I better take that hammer, Buck before you do further damage to your hand, or worse; mine." Jimmy and the others stifled a laugh as he took the heavy tool out of his brother's grasp. "Judging by the looks of that thumb of yours Buck, I think its best I do the hammering and you hold onto the board."

Relinquishing the hammer to Jimmy, Buck looked down at his hand. He cringed at the condition of his thumb that had swelled and started to turn blue and decided Jimmy was right, he didn't need to be around hammers at the moment. Inwardly he groaned; what would Branwen think of him now.

A momentary silence ensued as the Boys worked hard and fast. But Cody was never one to keep quiet for long. "Buck?"

"What is it, Cody."

"Are you gonna make some of your tea for Branwen?"

Jimmy's head shot up, "You're not planning on giving that gal of yours some of that bark tea stuff are ya, Buck?"

"Oh, no, Buck! You can't give that to her!" Kid groaned, as he remembered his last experience with the horrid bitter concoction.

"Why?" Buck asked, looking from Jimmy to Kid.

"It's awful! That's why, Buck!" Jimmy complained. "I told ya, the next time you try giving me some of that stuff, it ain't goin' to be the cup I throw across the room."

Hitching a thumb into his belt, Buck cocked a brow and smirked at Jimmy. "Yeah, I remember you telling me that, but I also recall you thanking me when it helped ease the pain from that gunshot wound you had.

Jimmy clenched his jaw and grudgingly acknowledged, "Yeah, okay, you have a point there, Buck, but still..."

"But still, you can't give her that, Buck!" Cody pleaded. "You want the gal to like ya don't ya? If you give her that stuff she is sure to high tail it back home without a second look back at ya, Buck!"

"Don't worry. I'm not giving Branwen willow bark tea, it will make her bleeding worse. I have something else in mind I think might work."

Buck's words were met with a chorus of sighs and rounds of, 'Thank goodness and Thank-god'."
He frowned at his friends, "Oh, come on. The tea isn't that bad."

"Not that bad? Ha!" Lou laughed at her brother as she walked up to him and tapped her finger on his chest, "Buck Cross, I'm going to remind you of what you just said the next time you're hurt and moaning over having to drink that wretched tea."

"Okay, that's enough out of ya Boys." Teaspoon hollered out. "Lets get back to work, still got a fence to finish and chores that need doin'." He cast a twinkling gaze at the young Kiowa. "Buck, go, get yer self cleaned up and see that pretty damsel of yours." Teaspoon looked around at his remaining Boys, "I'm sure we can finish up here and take care of your chores for a day, ain't that right Boys?"

For all the teasing and laughter Buck took in the last day and a half, it paled and was nothing to the response his family gave him as they heartily agreed that he leave the remainder of work to them and go see his gal. "Are you sure? I can stay and help finish." He looked at all his brothers.

"Buck, go!" Came the collective reply as Teaspoon added, "If you don't head off to the bunk house right now, I just might change my mind."

As Buck dashed across the yard, he turned and grinned at his makeshift family as Lou hollered out, "Rider coming!"

They all turned towards the cloud of dust being kicked up across the open prairie land.
Teaspoon strode across the station yard and looked westward. "Looks like Ike coming in! Cody!"
He hollered out.

Kid jabbed Cody in the ribs as he said, "Cody, you're up! Ride safe."

"I'm on it!" Cody replied as he dashed off towards his horse, tied and ready to ride at the hitching post.

As he heard his friends cries of "Ride safe!" he hollered back "I will! Y'all keep me posted, I want full details when I return, ya hear!"

Buck groaned as he caught a mischievous gleam in Jimmy's eye as he hollered out, "We sure will, Cody!"

They all watched as Cody nimbly swung himself upon his saddle, his horse rearing and ready to ride.

Ike came racing into the station yard, reaching out to pass the pouch to Cody who nimbly grasped it with effortless easy and swung it upon his saddle horn and hollered out a single, "HayYa!", and with dust and hooves flying, he rode east.