Faster and faster Buck ran, up the side of the bluff. Stones slid under his boots, it did not matter, his feet refused to slip. His senses were alive; the cold wind against his face, the shifting light filtering through bending trees, every sound- especially sound... he felt them all, absorbed them all. Every instinct, every skill he had ever learned as a hunter, a tracker, consumed him. He could not stop, or slow down and most importantly he could not miscalculate. Not when her life depended on it. Not when he was this close. With his next step he unsheathed his knife and gripped it in one hand, his other already held his gun, ready to fire. He held up his knife as a sign, without bothering to turn his head behind him. He knew Kid was there, climbing nearly as fast as he was, with gun drawn. He knew Kid would be ready, for what came next because they could not fail... they had come too far to fail her now. He was nearly overwhelmed with the sense of her presence. She was calling out to him, as surely as if he could hear her voice, leading him to her... she was frightened of her captors, angry, and she loved him. Any doubts he had before fell away, as the knowledge sank deep, to the bone. She loved him. The words repeated with the rhythm of his racing heart as he reached the top of his climb. He was ready to fight, even to the death. For her.
Several weeks earlier- Omaha- after the end of the Pony Express.
"I'm sorry son, the Federals are acting on orders from Washington. It gives them jurisdiction, my hands are tied."
Buck sat with hunched shoulders and kicked at the dirt as the dismissive words from the Territorial Governor rang in his ears. There had been so much darkness and grief in the last few months, and now this. It had been a long shot, he always knew it had been, but he had been hoping, just maybe, talking to the most powerful man in the territory might make a difference. Perhaps he should have known better. Sam Cain might have listened and cared enough about helping him out to set up the meeting, but Sam was family. He knew Buck, saw him as more than just a half breed. The Territorial Governor however, was just another white man who had gotten a taste of power and would do what it took to keep it. Even if that meant turning a blind eye to the deaths of innocents.
"The Sioux killed those farmer's cows because they are starving. Can't you see that? The settlers have been pushing farther west, into their hunting grounds, breaking the treaties the Sioux signed in good faith... and now the army sends out troops to push them back even further, killing women, children, over a few cows? Can't you see something has to be done?"
He had been met with an impassive stare when he spoke those last, desperate words before the meeting ended. Sam had tried to offer some hope, that they could keep working on it, talk to others in power; senators, legislators. But Buck had only nodded his head in response as he shook Sam's hand goodbye. That hope could be for another day, right now he just wanted to go back home, to Rock Creek.
Buck's eyes fell to the large and heavy box resting next to his feet where he sat on the boardwalk on the bustling Omaha street and felt like kicking it. This box was the reason he wasn't on his horses' back, riding at full gallop with the wind in his hair, feeling his troubles fall off his back the faster he rode. No, because of the box he would be taking the stagecoach instead. Trapped inside a lurching, stifling compartment all day, with people who would no doubt feel uncomfortable in such close quarters with him all because Teaspoon was a romantic.
Even as Buck dreaded the tedious trip he knew awaited him, he couldn't help but smile, just a little. Fine china and fancy silverware, that's what was in the box. It was to be Teaspoon's present to Rachel at their upcoming wedding and it was a surprise. Buck had wondered why Teaspoon's eyes lit up like Christmas morning when he announced his plans to go to Omaha. Sure, Teaspoon agreed with him about the recent injustices to the Indians and supported his desire to do something to help, but his excitement about Buck's trip was more than supportive, Teaspoon saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and took it. There was a store in Omaha that sold real nice dishes, the kind that you'd ususally only be able to find out east. Normally Teaspoon'd just order what he wanted out of a catalog, but the wedding was soon, would Buck be willing to pick them up so Rachel would have them in time? There had been so much boyish glee on Teaspoon's face, it had been impossible to say no.
It may make for a miserable day, but it felt good at the same time to be contributing to the happy occasion. There had been too few of those lately. Buck watched the people, horses, and wagons of Omaha pass by without really seeing them. With Ike's death, then Noah's so close together there had hardly been time to catch his breath. Losing the two men he viewed to be like brothers had only been the beginning of what he worried would be the total unraveling of his family. The Express had ended a few weeks before, with the arrival of the telegraph, and that had been the main thing holding them all together. Ike had died trying to defend a woman he loved, but Noah's death stood for something else entirely and had effected the path each of them chose once the last mochilla had been passed.
Jimmy had left with Rosemary at his first opportunity and they hadn't heard from him since. Jimmy said he would honor Noah's memory by fighting for the freedom of Noah's people now that Noah could not. Kid however, gave up any thoughts of going back to Virginia and fighting for the South. He bought a small farm with Lou instead just outside of Rock Creek and Lou's siblings now lived with them. The war still weighed heavy on Kid's mind, he didn't agree with the North invading the South, but one quiet night recently Kid had explained why even with all his misgivings, he would not fight in this war. The desire to protect his childhood home was strong, but the memory of Noah laying lifeless before them was stronger. Noah died ultimately because he believed all black men should be free and Kid could not fight against that.
The mutual grief that Rachel and Teaspoon felt over losing Noah caused them to seek out comfort in each other, pushing their relationship quickly from friendly partnership to much more. Life was too short, Teaspoon explained to Buck one morning as they drank their coffee in the Marshal's office, to not grab at every little piece of happiness you could. Teaspoon had looked at Buck rather pointedly when he said that. Ever since Buck agreed to be Teaspoon's permanent deputy and stay in Rock Creek, Teaspoon would find subtle and not so subtle ways to suggest Buck needed to further settle down. Waking up every morning alone in an empty bunk house filled with memories of happier times did more to convince him of that than anything Teaspoon could say, but now was the not the time to further complicate his life trying to find a woman, white or Indian who would love him, despite being both. Not when things for the Sioux were as bad as they were, with Cody, his brother Cody using everything Buck ever taught him about tracking to increase their misery.
Buck shoved off the boardwalk and stood, resisting the urge to pace. The stage would be arriving any time now. Maybe that would distract him from the feelings of anger and betrayal he'd get whenever he thought about Cody scouting for the army. He knew Cody felt bad about it, but that changed nothing in Buck's mind. Cody had to do whatever Captain Erbach said he had to do and lately those orders were go out and "deal" with the Indians. That never ended well. If Buck didn't like Cody much right now, he almost hated Captain Erbach. It may not be rational, but Buck blamed Teaspoon's old Texas Ranger buddy Tommy Erbach more than Cody or anyone else. The Captain and his men rode into town and bad things started to happen. Cody listened to his speeches and enlisted. Noah got killed, Jimmy ran off and nothing had been the same since. Why couldn't he have picked a different town to set up camp, instead of Rock Creek. Buck had tried talking to Captain Erbach first, but the Captain only defended his actions, saying there were laws in place to protect settler's property and it was his job to enforce them. The Captain seemed like a decent and reasonable man, and that almost made Buck hate him more. It had made him hope that just maybe, he'd be different than any of the other army officers he had tangled with in that past, but he wasn't. They were all the same when it came to the Indians.
"Buck? You frown anymore and your face is going to stay that way."
Buck turned to the sound of the familiar voice and smiled,
Emma Cain put her arm around him and he returned her quick embrace,
"I know we already said our goodbyes this morning, but I couldn't let you leave without packing you a lunch and some treats, I'm just glad I caught you before the stage arrived."
Buck took the knapsack from her extended hand, brought it close to his face, and took a sniff.
"It should, I packed some fresh muffins I just made for you in there and a pot roast sandwich for lunch."
"Two of my favorite things."
"I know," she said with her eyes twinkling, then she looked him over, "are you going to be warm enough with that jacket, looks like it might even snow today."
Buck looked down at his jacket and buttoned a few buttons, to Emma's nod of approval.
"There. I'll be fine, but I think the snow will hold off. Been a pretty mild November so far... and look at you, you're just wearing a shawl."
"Oh, I'll just be out here for a few minutes to see you off and... well now look at that, isn't she lovely?" Emma murmured as she peered over Buck's shoulder.
Buck sensed her first before he saw her. The hairs on the back of his neck stood on end and there was a change in the air, like an imminent storm. When he turned and actually laid eyes on her, he had to remind himself to breathe. Lovely was an understatement. Buck couldn't help but stare as she and the woman she was walking with stopped across the street from them, paused and then crossed, headed right towards where Buck and Emma were standing.
"I see you agree with me," Emma said, amused as she glanced over at Buck's stunned expression.
Buck nodded his head and tried not to rudely gawk, but it was hard. She had a trim figure, shown to its full advantage by her expensive looking traveling suit. Her chestnut brown hair was tied up with a ribbon under her hat, but a few loose strands had escaped, framing a delicately featured face that held the widest and bluest eyes he had ever seen. She and her companion caught him staring at the same moment. The older woman frowned while the younger smiled.
"Are you waiting for the stage?" The young woman asked.
"Um... yes," Buck answered, finding his tongue.
"Good, we're in the right place then."
"Oh no we're not, we still haven't found someone suitable to escort you to Rock Creek yet. Your aunt entrusted you into my care, and I would be remiss if I didn't..."
"Mrs. Stibler, please. We have traveled all the way from Milwaukee without incident, you're with your family now, and should not have to worry about me anymore. The stage from Omaha to Rock Creek will be the shortest leg of my whole journey, I will be fine."
"Now Miss Marta a proper young lady should not be unaccompanied, not in the wild savagery of the west." Mrs Stibler cast a sideways look towards Buck as she spoke.
Emma quickly sized up the situation and decided to interfere.
"Miss if you need an escort to Rock Creek, you couldn't do any better than my friend Mr. Cross here. He happens to be a deputy in Rock Creek and is going home on this very stage."
"This half breed? Really? and who are you?" Mrs. Stibler sniffed as she regarded Emma coolly.
Emma rose to her full height and narrowed her eyes.
"I am the Territorial Marshal's wife and Buck Cross is a dear friend to both my husband and myself. My husband is indebted to his acts of bravery many times over. I assure you, Mrs. Stibler, if Buck is entrusted with this young woman's care, he would protect her with his very life."
Buck had been prepared to let this Mrs. Stibler know exactly what he thought of her rudeness, but Emma's righteous indignation had done a better job than he ever could. He couldn't help but smile at how flustered the older woman became under Emma's steady gaze. The smile fell from his face though as he caught the younger woman looking at him intently.
"That is wonderful, but we have not asked the most important question. Mr. Cross, would you be willing to escort me to Rock Creek?"
Buck felt his mouth go dry,
"Yes. I would be happy to, Miss," Buck said seriously.
She looked relieved,
"Marty, you can call me Marty."
Buck raised his eyebrows at the informal nickname, a boy's name that did not fit how feminine and pretty she was.
"Alright... Marty. You can call me Buck."
She smiled brightly, from ear to ear. It lit up her whole face and left Buck feeling light headed. She stepped forward and looped her arm around his.
"It's settled then," she said firmly as she looked at Mrs. Stibler.
"It most certainly is not. Miss Marta, I am wholly certain that your aunt would not approve of this arrangement. Not at all."
The older woman made a move to grab Marta's elbow, but was distracted by the sound of the stage rumbling down the street. Marta moved away slightly and gripped Buck's arm a little tighter.
"I will write my aunt and explain all when I get to Rock Creek, Mrs. Stibler. Now I am afraid there is no more time to argue. I need to fetch my valise and trunk from the hotel. You will hold the stage for me, won't you... Buck?" she asked with a hint of desperation in her voice.
Buck wondered for a moment why she wanted to get to Rock Creek so badly in the first place, but lost the train of thought when she turned her pleading eyes up to him,
"Thank you," she said before she hurried across the street to the hotel, Mrs. Stibler hot on her heels.
"You need to reconsider this rash decision, think of your reputation, think of..." the older woman's voice faded away as they crossed the street.
Buck walked up to the stage as it came to a halt and spoke to the driver, explaining the need to wait a few minutes. Then he loaded up Teaspoon's box to the back of the coach, before turning back to Emma. She was grinning and had a mischievous gleam in her eye.
"Well, Buck looks like your ride home just got a lot more tolerable, don't you think?"
Buck sighed and shook his head,
"I don't know. She may be... beautiful, but women like that... I'll sit across from her for few hours and that will be it. It's all I got time for right now, anyways."
"Mm hmm," Emma only smiled wider. Buck rolled his eyes.
"Emma," he groaned, before giving up and chuckling as Emma gave him a hug.
"Enjoy your trip, Buck. Write me all about her."
"I thought she'd never fall asleep," Marta whispered as she regarded the plump middle aged woman sitting next to her who was now leaning against the side of the coach, open mouthed and snoring softly, "she was really determined to stay awake and watch you like a hawk, wasn't she?"
Buck startled at the sound of her voice. He had been looking out the small window, occasionally watching the pretty girl across from him using his peripheral vision, but resigned to the fact that the only other passenger, a Mrs. Collins, was going to block any attempt at conversation. She had spent most of the last hour glaring at him as if she expected him to scalp her at any moment. The repetitive, lulling motion of the stage coach must've finally won out over her paranoia.
Buck glanced at the sleeping woman and nodded before returning his eyes to Marta. He wasn't sure what to say and so he said nothing. He saw Marta blush slightly and drop her eyes. She played with the hem of her jacket sleeve before glancing at him again.
"Riding in a stagecoach is the worst isn't it? I much prefer the train. We were able to ride in one for most of our trip, until we got out further west. It would've been easier to take trains all the way to St. Joseph, Missouri, but Mrs. Stibler's son lives in Omaha, and my Aunt Agatha wouldn't let me come out here without her. I had to wait months until she was ready to visit and..." Marta stopped as she saw Buck leaning forward to listen, "you must think I'm all sorts of silly to be prattling on like this to you."
Buck's long hair fell forward as he shook his head and looked up to her,
"No, I was actually thinking you have a pretty voice."
"Oh," she smiled one of her bright smiles at him again.
Buck felt his pulse race and mentally gave himself a shake, she was just a passenger going to the same place he was, nothing more.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Of course," she said, her smile fell slightly.
"Why aren't you afraid of me?" Buck asked quietly.
"Should I be?"
Buck frowned and shook his head,
"No, but how do you know that?"
She shrugged her shoulders,
"Milwaukee is a large sized city, growing every day with people from everywhere, even Chinamen, and I've traveled too. I lived in Texas when I was small, some of my playmates were Mexican... but besides all that, you have kind eyes. I could see that before I even crossed the street."
The side of Buck's mouth turned to smile,
"Thank you... for the kind words."
Her eyes really were an amazing shade of blue, warm and bright like the summer sky. Internally Buck groaned, she may look innocent but she became more dangerous the longer he thought about the color of those eyes, how tempting her mouth looked when she bit her bottom lip, like she was doing just then. He cleared his throat,
"So why have you done so much traveling?" he asked, steering his mind and the conversation to safer topics.
"Oh my dad's work... but really, my life hasn't been all that interesting. The last few years I've been going to the Milwaukee Female College and learning lots of useless things about how to hide my ankles and arrange flowers. Latin was interesting, botany too I suppose... and at least I got my teaching certificate when I graduated a few months ago, so there is that. I'm much more interested in your life. Living out here on the frontier, being a deputy, you must have some really interesting stories," she stopped talking suddenly and looked at him expectantly.
"You want to hear about my life? What do you want to know?" he asked, unable to hide his surprise.
"Whatever you want to tell me," she saw him pause and let out a quiet laugh, "it's a long ride and you're much better company than Mrs. Collins."
Buck followed her eyes to the sleeping woman, now snoring in earnest.
"Well, I guess the first you probably want to know is what kind of Indian I am. Kiowa... well, my mother was Kiowa, my father is white but I don't know anything about him..."
Before Buck realized it, he was telling her his whole life story. He hadn't meant to. He was just going to tell her the basics, but her genuine interest was obvious. She asked questions and furrowed her brow when he talked about some of the more difficult aspects of his childhood; his mother's death, leaving the Kiowa and ending up at the mission school, befriending Ike. He got to the part about signing up for the Pony Express when she gasped in reaction, her eyes as wide as saucers.
"Really? You rode for the Pony Express too? That's fascinating! What was it like?" her voice rose a little, causing Mrs. Collins to stir. Marta cast a furtive glance at her seatmate and grimaced, then she pointed at the open space next to Buck apologetically.
"May I?" she asked quietly.
"Sure," Buck said, bemused as Marta quickly moved to sit next to him. She smelled like roses. Now that she was closer he could see that her eyes weren't just blue. That seemed too simple a word for the various shades of the color, bursting forth from the center, like rays of the sun. Buck blinked and made himself look away. He was in trouble.
"I'm sorry, I just don't want her to wake up," she said as she blushed slightly, "I read about the Pony Express in school and... it was fascinating. Riding like the wind over the plains, through dangerous terrain and weather. You must be very brave."
Admiration shined in her eyes, leaving Buck speechless. Any words he could have used to describe his time riding left him.
"Are you always this friendly, to people you've just met?" Buck asked finally. She moved away slightly and her expression cooled.
Buck felt a momentary panic,
"I didn't mean nothing bad by that, honest. It's just, I'm not used to it. I like it though. Please..." he trailed off.
"Don't you have girls being friendly to you?"
"I have women in my life who are like family to me, who don't see me as a half-breed, they're the exception."
"Can I be an exception too?"
Buck looked at her intently before giving her a slow smile,
"You already are."
She returned the smile before answering softly,
"Good, I'm glad."
They both fell quiet. The air crackled between between them and felt heavy. He had to remember to breathe normally, images flashed through his head of reaching his hand out to cup her face, pull her towards him, kiss her inviting lips. He forced his thoughts elsewhere. He didn't know why she was so open and kind to him, or interested in his life, but just because she wanted to be his friend, didn't mean she wanted to be anything more than that. Buck glanced down at the knapsack resting by his feet that Emma packed for him and cleared his throat.
"Are you hungry? I can give you one of the best muffins you'll ever taste and then tell you whatever you want to know about me riding for the Express."
She accepted the muffin from him and nodded, then leaned against the bench and shifted around until she was comfortable.
"Go on, I'm all ears."
She was easy to talk to and so he explained each and every member of his family. How Emma had been a second mother to him. Teaspoon like the father he never had. Kid and Lou living close by, how Lou had disguised herself as a boy. Then Ike... though he tried not to, he had to fight back the tears, talking about how painful it was to lose Ike. Normally he would have been able to say the facts of the story and move on before the grief would have a chance to rise from where it was buried deep inside. Marta wouldn't let him brush it aside though. She covered her mouth with one hand, and then reached out her other gloved hand to cover his,
"I'm sorry," she said as tears swam in her own eyes.
"Why? It ain't your fault." Buck said gruffly as he stared down at his boots.
"No. It's not, and it isn't yours either. I'm sorry you lost a brother, I'm sorry you carry that guilt with you."
Buck looked at her and sighed. He was revealing too much to her and even the things that he meant to keep from her, she saw anyways. He suddenly felt too vulnerable, like being naked, even with the layers and winter jacket to keep him warm.
"Maybe someday I'll be able to let it go. Until then..." he shrugged before giving her fingers a light squeeze.
She slid her hands back into her lap and the moment was over. He continued on, enjoying her surprise about the goofy and hot headed Jimmy he had described, being the basis for the "Wild Bill" legend.
"I promise if you ever meet him, you'll see he's a much different man than the lies written about him. Well, except for the skill he has with his Colts. That part's true."
He didn't say much about Cody or Noah. His anger for the former held his tongue. There were still some things you should not say in front of a lady and Marta was every inch a lady, and with the latter, his death was too recent and raw. He moved on to telling stories of the adventures they all had on their runs instead. She loved every word.
"I've talked for a long time bout myself, but I still don't know much about you and Mrs Collins won't sleep forever... your turn," he said with a smile as he pointed to her.
She glanced at Mrs. Collins, still sawing logs before turning back to him.
"I'll tell you whatever you want to know... only... what happened to Noah and why are you angry at Cody? Then it will be my turn," she said gently.
"You don't miss a thing do you?"
Buck looked to the ceiling and took a deep breath, before speaking again.
"Noah died too, shortly after Kid and Lou's wedding," he saw her instant sympathy and shook his head angrily,
"It's all because the army came to town, this Captain Erbach brought the war right down the middle of our street and nothing's been the same since. Noah died because he wanted to fight for the freedom of his people and got caught up in an army raid for some bushwhackers. Cody enlisted as an army scout and was there. He tried to save Noah but he was too late. I hate this war and how it's torn apart my family. I hate that Cody is scouting for the army and using everything I ever taught him about tracking to go out and kill. Not just the bushwhackers, but my people too. That's why I went to Omaha, to talk to the Territorial Governor." Buck noticed Marta had grown pale and he frowned, wondering the reason before continuing,
"Say you're starving, you see your children growing weaker by the day... wouldn't that make you a little desperate? You'd do whatever you had to, to fill your children's bellies, wouldn't you? That's what's going on with the Sioux right now. Only Captain Erbach can't see that, he can't see how every treaty ever signed over land has been broken, he can't see that people need their hunting lands to live. The army only sees a few missing cows, a few scared settlers... and after this trip, now I know the Territorial Governor is no different."
Buck finished his rant and ran a hand through his hair before turning to Marta. She was paler than before, if that was possible and her bottom lip was between her teeth again. She wouldn't look him in the eye.
"Marty, what's wrong... did I say something that offended you?"
"No! No of course not. I was just thinking that you carry a heavy burden, being able to see through both sets of eyes, white and Indian..." then she trailed off, her eyes wandered to the window over his shoulder. Buck's frown deepened.
She smiled at him suddenly, and squared her shoulders, as if gathering her courage. She scooted closer to him and let her hand rest gently on his arm.
"I have a lot to tell you, Buck, about myself... but I suppose I should start with how I got that nickname. My parents were an odd match, but they loved each other. They met when my father traveled north and within days she had agreed to travel south to Texas. They married there. My mother came from money and my father didn't have much, but that didn't matter. They were happy. I came along shortly after and my mother had such a difficult time birthing me the doctors told her if she had another child it might kill her. So I was it. My father wanted a boy, but he got me so I became Marty, and though he played tea party with me sometimes, he mostly just took me along on adventures with him, like I was his son."
Marta paused and looked to be unsure how to continue, so Buck gave her a nod of his head and leaned in to her. He had no idea where she was going with this story, but he was transfixed all the same.
"I learned how to ride a horse, shoot and hunt... he'd let me tromp through marshes with him, looking for tadpoles, in my Sunday best. It would give my mother fits, but I guess we were having such a good time, she'd let us carry on without protesting too much. My mom was never overly strong... she got consumption. Died from it when I was twelve," she looked up and blinked back some tears.
It was all Buck could do to not pull her into his arms just then,
"That must've been really difficult,"
"Yes, no one would know that more than you. What age were you, when your mother died?"
"Something we have in common then... only I still had my father. He was grieving powerfully though. He blamed himself. Said life on the move and in Texas was too hard on her... and my mother's family agreed with him. Demanded that I move to Milwaukee so I could be brought up properly, go to the finest schools, take my place in society. He finally gave in and I've lived in Milwaukee ever since. I see him once or twice a year. He tries to visit around Christmas especially, but my aunt never makes it too pleasant for him. She means well, and she has loved me in her own way all these years, but she sees in me the same sort of wild spirit my father has and did everything she could to bend me every other way, except the way I am. I couldn't do much about all that while I was in school, but now I am eighteen. I have a piece of paper that says I'm a teacher and I've waited long enough."
She looked at him again with her eyes full of anguish and Buck felt a growing sense of unease.
"I lied. I told my aunt my father gave his permission to come out here, but he didn't. He told me no, not with the war, it was too dangerous, given what he does. I didn't care though. I had to travel all this way too see him. I've missed him... I've missed tromping in the swamps with him and feeling free. I've missed hearing him call me Marty. I hope he'll forgive me. He taught me to always be truthful, no matter what. So now, I have to tell you the truth Buck, even though my stomach is in knots and I'm not sure what you'll say..."
Buck felt his mind race as he started to put the pieces together of what she was trying to tell him. It all came together just as she turned her big blue eyes to him and breathed out,
"Captain Erbach is my father."
A/N: You may be thinking, what is this? Where is another chapter of Divided? Why is this woman starting another multi-chapter story when she takes so long updating that monster one she's already got going?
Good questions, all. Problem is, my Muse does not care. She kept me up one night and the plot of this story flooded in all at once. Buck running full out to save the woman he loves and then going back to the quiet way they met, taking a stage that Buck never wanted to take. There is a lot more to Marta, or "Marty" here, and her story and what they go through... and I am compelled to tell it.
I have already warned my family that I want to enter a season of serious writing. NaNoWriMo is coming up and I want to honor the spirit of that by writing the 50,000 words between this story and Divided, so hopefully you will see more chapters from me and enjoy them.
Oh! and I don't know why the muse likes these post-Express stories, but let me tell you, Kid and Lou are happy and fine in this one. I am not messing with the canon or tearing them asunder. If you have avoided Divided because of my blasphemous split of the canon couple... welcome!
As always thank you for reading, and let me know what you think! :)