A/N: This takes place just after "Between Rock Creek and a Hard Place". It is also inspired by the song "Run Away" by Sarah Jarosz.
Noah had been moody since it was revealed that Cassie killed Sergeant Leibrandt. It was a justified death because he attacked her, but that wasn't what had Noah all tied up in knots. Noah thought everything was going to fall back into place with Cassie. She was hiding from him now and he knew it. She had avoided him when she was struggling with covering up that truth, but it was all over now. Noah was worried that she did not want to see him anymore. What else could be getting in their way of seeing each other and falling in love?
Noah was giving her as much space as he thought he could afford. It was not easy for a woman to go through what Cassie had gone through, but at the same time she needed people for support and for some reason she was not allowing that. It was not just him she was avoiding, but Rachel had been trying to check in with Cassie too. Cassie was evasive and short while she was working and she would not allow visitors when she was not working. Noah did not really know which end was up.
Cassie had captured a piece of his heart. Noah knew that to be true. He had seen the silly looks on Kid and Lou's faces long enough to recognize the same look in his own features. His face displayed a dreamy look and silly grin whenever he thought of her. He was in love.
Noah was coming out of the feed store after putting the Express station's weekly order in. As was his habit he looked over to the laundry hoping to catch a glimpse of Cassie. She was looking at him as she scrubbed a petticoat against a washboard. She quickly looked away when Noah caught her eye.
Noah decided that he would walk over and visit. Perhaps he could get to the bottom of why she was avoiding him now. He did not think she had any reason to. Before he could open his mouth to ask, Cassie stopped him.
"I don't have time to chat, Noah," Cassie said flatly.
"Woman, why you have to be so difficult?" Noah asked. "I seen you from all the way over there. You looked like you had something to say."
"You must have been mistaken," Cassie said coldly.
Noah sighed in frustration. "Cass, I have feelings for you and I think you have feelings for me," he said. "Why are you fighting it?"
"I'm not fighting anything," she said but Noah could tell she was lying. "I'm sorry, Noah, I have to get back to work."
Noah walked away. He did not know why Cassie was acting like she did not care when she obviously did. Perhaps he was missing something. Noah decided that to really get to the bottom of this he needed to find Quinn.
Quinn was not very difficult to find. He was hanging around with Jesse and the two of them looked like they were up to nothing but trouble.
"Quinn!" Noah called when he was close enough. "Quinn, come here."
"Ah not you too," Quinn said. "Did Cassie send you over?"
Noah looked at Quinn confused. "Cassie won't talk to me," he said. "Why would she send me after you?"
Quinn just shrugged and tried to hide the look on his face.
"What's going on," Noah demanded as he grabbed Quinn by the shirt.
"I thought you knew," Quinn said. "Forget I said anything."
"Quinn, you better start talking now," Noah threatened.
Quinn struggled against Noah's hold.
"If Cassie didn't tell you, I don't think it's my place," Quinn said.
"Please," Noah pleaded. "If she's in trouble I can help."
Noah could see in Quinn's face how he wrestled between telling Noah what was going on and being loyal to his sister. Noah's grip on Quinn's shirt increased as the boy looked to side with Cassie.
"Quinn, look at me," Noah implored. "You know how I feel about your sister. I won't let anything bad happen to her."
Quinn looked to the ground and relaxed in Noah's hold. "Oh alright," he said, "I think we're gonna need your help."
"Tell me," Noah said releasing Quinn and straightening his shirt.
"A man's been asking questions about us," Quinn said. "Not here, but in a few other towns.
"How do you know?" Noah asked.
"Cassie has friends that look out for us that way," Quinn answered.
"She's afraid the man will take you back," Noah surmised. He took in a deep breath.
"She don't want to, but I think we're gonna have to leave," Quinn said, "Especially now after the thing with the army. It's probably all over the newspapers in the south."
"Does she think I wouldn't go with you?" Noah asked.
"I don't know," Quinn answered. "I think you'd best ask her yourself."
Noah stood stunned and looked off toward the laundry.
"Are we done here?" Quinn asked. "I gotta get back."
"Yeah, we're done," Noah said.
Noah walked slowly back to town. He needed to think about a few things. After everything he and Cassie had gone through, she still didn't trust him. All he wanted to do was hold her in his arms and protect her. He loved her, he was sure of it. Noah gathered his resolve and started to march his way back to the laundry. He was going to tell her in no uncertain terms just what she meant to him and how she could trust him with anything. He wanted to help her. After the picnic they shared, he knew he wanted to be with her forever.
The sight of billowing white sheets stopped him. Noah could see Cassie's silhouette dance gracefully behind the curtain of her labors. She was beautiful to him always. Noah pursed his lips and decided. He was going to talk to Cassie and the two of them were going to get a few things straight. His lips curled up in an excited smile. He had an idea.
Noah walked into the laundry camp and sat down by a cauldron of boiling water. It seemed logical that Cassie would be putting some laundry in it soon. He would be ready. Noah sat suddenly upright as Cassie rounded the corner with a basket of soiled clothes. She stopped and looked at him with a pleading look. Noah looked back at her imploring her to listen to his pitch. Her head tilted slightly but angrily away. Her eyes cast to the ground. Noah stood and the concern grew in his eyes. He knew what he had to do. He walked up to her.
"Run away with me," Noah implored.
"What?" Cassie asked startled. "I can't Noah, I have work to do."
"I'm not talking about an afternoon or a day," Noah argued. "I mean forever. Run away with me."
Cassie stared at him in disbelief for a few seconds and then walked around him to her cauldron of hot soapy water. She started to throw the articles of clothing in one at a time. It seemed to Noah that it almost helped her think. He started walking toward her. The closer he got the more violently she threw the clothing in the pot.
"Noah, I can't," she said almost crying. "I can't force you to lead the life I lead. I'm always on the run."
"I've been on the run my whole life too," Noah reasoned, "Not from danger exactly, but from responsibility. Sure I've helped people, but I've also let them down. I don't want to let you down. I want to help you."
"You can't, Noah," Cassie deduced. "I can't do this to you."
"Do what to me?" Noah asked. "I want to be with you forever. I can help you."
"But you're a free man," Cassie pointed out. "You'll always be a free man unless I'm with you. Then you'll always be running."
"That would be my choice," Noah said. "I love you and I would run the lengths of the earth to be with you. Don't you know that by now?"
Cassie gripped the wicker basket in her hands tighter and Noah felt for once she was seeing reason in his argument. He came closer to her and put his hand over hers. Her hold on the basket started to weaken. He looked into her eyes and he could see her rationalizing both sides of the argument. Noah took the basket from her and set it to the side. Cassie looked scared. She didn't say anything but Noah knew. He pulled her into his arms and held her. He felt her relax and knew this was right. The way she felt is his arms was right.
"When?" Cassie asked simply as she pulled away to look into his eyes.
"As soon as you want," Noah answered with a hopeful smile. He was almost in shock. Was she agreeing to be with him?
"I think we better leave as soon as we're able," Cassie said with either haste or fear in her voice. "I feel them closing in, Noah. I feel like if I don't get out of here now, I won't have the chance."
"I don't have much to pack up," Noah said. "We can leave as soon as you're ready."
Cassie broke free of his embrace and stared at all the work she had left to do. She seemed overwhelmed with her work and her decision.
"I'll finish up the days laundry," Cassie said making a decision as she wandered through the lines of clothes and sheets. "Quinn and me will pack tonight. That way we can leave in the morning."
"Cass there's just one more thing I want to ask," Noah said as lowered himself onto one knee in front of her. "I want to be with you forever. I know it. There are people here, in this town, that are closer to me than my blood family. I want to marry you and I want my friends to be there when I do. Will you marry me? Tonight?"
Cassie took a step back as if stung. It was a question she should have expected, but it looked to have taken her by surprise. She looked down at Noah who looked up at her with all the love and sincerity he could muster. He spoke the absolute truth. Noah wanted her for his wife and he wanted to commit to a life with her for better or worse in front of the people he called family.
Cassie stepped forward and smiled. She knelt in front of Noah and took her hands in his. "I would be proud to be your wife. Yes!"
Noah smiled and took her in his arms again and stopped before moving in to give her a tender kiss. They held each other's faces in their hands and looked at each other before breaking into smiles.
"How are we going to get everything ready?" Cassie asked. "I have so much laundry to do and then there's packing and getting a wagon and horses. Oh, Noah, I don't know how this is going to work."
"Leave it all to me," Noah said. "We have friends in this town that will be more than willing to help us."
Noah gave Cassie one last kiss and headed back to the station. On the way he stopped by the marshal's office to give Teaspoon his good news and to enlist the man to officiate the wedding ceremony.
Teaspoon gave Noah a hug and a hearty handshake, but was sorry the couple felt the need to leave town.
"You know they'll never stop looking for her," Noah said. "If we can go far enough away, perhaps we can outlast them."
"I wish you luck," Teaspoon said. "Me, Rachel and the boys are gonna miss you."
"I'm gonna miss you too, but I know this is right," Noah said.
Noah left Teaspoon feeling a little lighter and heavier at the same time. He knew if he wanted to, he and Cassie would stay. The riders would fight alongside him if men ever came to take Cassie away, but he felt this was something he had to do. He had to break out on his own and lead his own life. He needed to be a man.
Noah mobilized every one of his and Cassie's friends. Quinn and Jesse were packing up Cassie and Quinn's belongings while she finished the laundry. Noah sent Lou and Ike to help Cassie and while laundry was not their favorite thing to do, they did it for their friends. Kid and Buck were in charge of getting a wagon and a team of horses for the journey west. Noah thought he, Cassie and Quinn could make something of themselves in California. It was a land full of potential and opportunity. Besides that it was far, far away from the south. Jimmy and Cody were buying provisions for the couple and Quinn to make their journey. That left Rachel. She was cooking up a storm and grabbing any and all spare furniture, household items, and linens for the couple to start their new life together. With all his friends and family working together, Noah didn't see how they would not be leaving in the morning.
It was the middle of the afternoon, when Noah came out of the bunkhouse with his packed trunk. Kid and Buck had found a good sturdy wagon at a good price and were now loading it with the items Rachel had put together and the trunks and bags that Quinn and Jesse had brought over from the laundry. Jimmy and Cody were driving the buckboard back to the station with the needed provisions aboard.
All of the riders and Noah took note of the two riders that rode into town. They were well armed well and looked to be searching for someone. They were followed by what looked to be a prison wagon driven by another well armed man. The men did not sport badges. They were most likely bounty hunters or after runaway slaves. Noah's mind immediately leapt to Cassie and Quinn.
Noah ran down the board walk as the men rode up to the marshal's office. He needed to get Cassie and Quinn under cover. They were so close to leaving this town. Noah did not want to be this close and not have it work out. He thought she would be safest in Rachel's house.
Noah managed to get to the laundry and escape with Cassie and Quinn, just as a couple of the men started to look around the place. Ike and Lou kept the men distracted while the threesome dodged in and out of alleys and shops on their way back to the safety of the Pony Express station.
Noah had just about reached the station with Cassie and Quinn in tow, when a man walked out of a store front and blocked their way. Noah put a protective arm out to shield Cassie and Quinn.
"I see you have something of mine," the man said. He did not seem interested in negotiation and punched Noah on the side of his face just missing his eye. "My name is Franklin Todd and those two slaves behind you are coming with me."
Noah fell to the ground. He heard Cassie gasp and he knew he had to stand back up.
"Stand aside, Mister," Noah said getting up and puffing out his chest. He put out an arm once again to shield Cassie and Quinn and the other hand on his whip. "We don't want no trouble."
"Trouble's what you got," Franklin said menacingly. "Those two are runaways and I am taking them with me whether you like it or not."
Noah heard a board creak behind him and knew that more of this man's men were behind them. Noah just prayed that perhaps Teaspoon, Lou, or Ike had gone to the station to get help.
Franklin dropped his right arm and swept his jacket behind his holster. His hand was twitching and readying to draw his pistol. Noah swallowed hard. He was not a quick draw like Jimmy or Kid. He was quick with his whip, but only if it was already out. He was at a disadvantage he could not talk his way out of.
"I love you, Cassie," Noah said softly.
"Noah, no!" Cassie pleaded. "I'll go with him. I won't let you die for me."
Noah's weight shifted as he settled himself into a fighting stance. He felt Cassie retreat into Quinn's arms. She would be safe there, he thought.
"Please, Noah," Cassie begged.
Noah heard a couple of hammer clicks behind him as pistols were drawn and cocked. Then he saw Jimmy step out of the shadows in front of him with a gun. Jimmy cocked it as he pushed it into Franklin's back.
"Don't do it, Mister," Jimmy said.
"We've got you surrounded," Kid added from behind.
Buck went around and collected the weapons of Franklin and his men. Teaspoon came out of his office and looked on his boys.
"Good job boys," Teaspoon said. "Jimmy, Kid, Buck, why don't you make these fellows at home in a jail cell."
Jimmy, Buck, and Kid took the men and escorted them back to Teaspoon's office. As they walked away, Teaspoon said to Noah, "I can't hold them for very long, but I should be able to hold them so you can get a head start on getting to Canada."
Noah smiled. Teaspoon's voice was perfect. It was just loud enough to be overheard, but not so loud that it sounded like a piece of misdirection. He noticed the men take note of their intended destination and Teaspoon smiled. Teaspoon put his arm around Noah and was ready to walk him to the station when the both saw it.
The man Buck was leading away got the upper hand and grabbed one of the confiscated pistols from his off hand and knocked Buck to the ground. Franklin and his other man reacted by taking Kid and Jimmy by surprise with their elbows. The first man tossed them guns. Teaspoon didn't have time to react, but Noah ran up with his whip unfurled and disarmed one of the men before he knew what was happening. That in turn gave Kid and Jimmy time to draw down on Franklin and his other man. They were about to shoot so Jimmy and Kid shot them down in the street instead. The other man surrendered. He seemed to be the only smart one.
Noah dropped his head in relief and he felt Cassie's arms around him. He held her tightly and relaxed.
"I was so afraid they would kill you," Cassie said wiping a tear from her eye.
"I'm smarter than that, woman," Noah said with a smile. "I would never leave you. Not now."
Teaspoon observed a short interval and then walked up to the couple. "You know, with those men dead and that other one likely to be in jail for a long, long time, you might not need to leave," he said hopefully.
Noah looked over to Cassie and she looked at him and Quinn. "There will always be someone else, Marshal Hunter," she said. "There is always another one coming. Maybe if we can go far enough, they will stop coming."
Noah nodded his support. "I think we'll just keep the plan of leaving in the morning."
"Well I better help the boys with that prisoner and get the undertaker for the others," Teaspoon said. "I wouldn't want anyone to miss this wedding. I believe Rachel has a dress for you, Miss Cassie."
Noah and the other boys all washed up and put on their Sunday best clothes. They were all to meet at the church in thirty minutes. Cody, Ike, and Buck had gone to the church early to set up candles and lamps inside as the sun was setting and everything would be dark by the time the wedding was to be held.
Light was streaming from the church windows as Noah walked closer and closer. He was flanked by Kid and Jimmy. They and the other riders were like brothers to Noah. Brothers he never had growing up. It touched him that they were all ready to stand up for him. They would stand up for him not only in a street fight, but on the most important moment of his life. He shook each and every one of their hands as he made his way to the front of the church. This was not only congratulations, but goodbye. Noah couldn't believe he was leaving in the morning.
Noah reflected on everything, mostly on what had got him where he was today. There were many people that Noah would have liked to have here -his father or stagecoach Sally. He was happy to have Teaspoon and the other riders and he would miss them terribly when he left.
Noah stood now in front of the church facing the doors. Teaspoon stood behind him, ready to officiate and his brothers stood at his side. He was suddenly nervous.
The doors to the back of the church clanged opened and Lou and Rachel walked in dressed in pretty blue dresses. They didn't match, but the colors were similar. Noah had seen them wear those dresses to dances before. They both looked beautiful. Noah looked past them to the doorway. His breath hitched. Cassie was standing there in a beautiful pale pink taffeta gown. It was not a traditional wedding gown, but the dress itself looked like it was made for Cassie. It accented all her curves in the best possible way. Noah was not sure he would be able to think about anything other than her beauty. Quinn was at her side ready to escort her. His jaw fell open as she smiled at him. The moisture seemed to evaporate from his mouth and rematerialize on his palms as she walked nearer and nearer.
Quinn handed Cassie off to Noah and together they turned and faced Teaspoon. Noah knew Teaspoon was speaking but he could not hear the words to remember them. They wafted in the air as part of the atmosphere. All Noah could concentrate on was the beautiful woman standing before him. The light from the lamps and candles warmed her already glowing skin. The burden of worry had been lifted from her countenance. She stood radiant before him. All other thoughts were lost.
Noah vaguely remembered saying "I do," when prompted by the clearing of Teaspoon's throat and the thrust of Jimmy's elbow into his side. The sparkle of Cassie's eyes rivaled the glint of the gold band he placed on her finger. Only images remained in his mind as he kissed his bride. There were smiles, there were hugs, and there were tears. The only thing Noah would remember clearly is how beautiful Cassie looked and how much he loved her.
"Noah, we all chipped in," Jimmy said shyly, "and got the two of you a room for the night at the hotel."
Cassie blushed as Buck handed Noah the key to a room.
"Shall we, Mrs. Dixon?" Noah asked. The both smiled at the realization they were now husband and wife.
At the top of the stairs, Noah opened the door and paused. He looked down at Cassie and knew what he wanted to do. In one bold and quick move, he swept her off her feet and into his arms. "I believe this is customary," he said as he carried her over the threshold. Noah kicked the door closed behind him and then set her gently on the bed.
"I can't believe everything that happened today," Cassie said. "It's kind of this nightmare and beautiful dream wrapped up in one."
"I know the feeling," Noah added.
The pair stared at each other longingly neither one knowing just what was expected or allowed. They hadn't known each other for very long and while their marriage wasn't one of convenience or necessity it was one that was rushed into all the same.
Noah sat down on the bed beside Cassie and looked forward at the wall. He felt Cassie's hand on his leg and he looked into her eyes. She was nervously biting her lower lip as her hand worked its way up.
"Are you sure?" he asked. "I don't ever want to hurt you."
"I married you because I love you," Cassie said. "This is the only wedding night I'm going to have and I want it to be real. I want to make love with you, Noah."
Noah took that as the encouragement it was and proceeded to make Cassie his wife in every way. All the trials they faced together in the recent weeks fueled their passion for one another. They stayed up almost the entire night. When they weren't making love, they talked about who they were apart and together. They found they were not only attracted to each other physically, but intellectually and spiritually as well.
Morning came too quickly, but the promise of a fresh start and a new life together was appealing for both Noah and Cassie. They tumbled out of bed ready to take on the world and win. Dressing quicker than they wanted to, Noah and Cassie were ready to embark on their journey west. They walked out of the hotel to find their family waiting for them with their wagon packed and ready. Noah looked over the wagon. Kid and Buck did a good job finding it and the horses that pulled it looked strong and sure footed. There really wasn't anything left to do but to say goodbye. Noah's buckskin horse was saddled and ready for him to ride, while Quinn was settled into the driver's seat.
Noah embraced Teaspoon. "I'm going to miss you all so much," he said. He hugged each one of his brothers and sisters.
"You send us word when you're settled," Teaspoon said. "We may want to come and visit someday."
"Will do, Teaspoon," Noah said.
Noah mounted up on his horse after helping Cassie up into the wagon. They all gave one last look around Rock Creek and started out.
"Ride safe, son," Teaspoon said as Rachel, Lou, and the boys all gathered around and watched their brother and his new family go.
Run Away by Sarah Jarosz
Follow me down through the cotton fields
Moon shadow shine bright the way you will
Lead us down a road where no one goes
We can run away
Come take my hand while I'm waiting here
Get away from it all and find what's real
If we don't get out now the chance won't reappear
We can run away
Hold me tight and don't let go
Sweet and soft no one will know
We can run away
I buried my heart in a willow tree
You came along, gave it back to me
Now we're creatures of the night, we set each other free
Run away with me
Lay with me down by the riverside
Stars in the sky shining in your eyes
We won't make a sound no one will be around
We can run away