This work of fiction is owned by the author, and may not be reproduced
without the author's express written permission. The Young Riders was
created by Ed Speilman and is owned by Ogiens/Kane Company and
MGM/UA. No copyright infringement is intended by this work of
Copyright September 2000.
Fandom: The Young Riders
Category: Post-episode, "Dead Ringer"
Warning: some violence (as is typical for the time period), bad
language, liberties taken with Native American religion
Archive: TRIS. Okay to forward and archive elsewhere, so long as
someone tells me where it's going.
Summary: While Buck may have forgiven Cody for the sacrilege
against his religion, he explains that he dared not make Cody
perform the actual ritual because he feared Cody would not survive
it. However, the spirits are less than impressed with this excuse,
and have neither forgiven nor forgotten. Raven and Coyote take
their revenge on the two boys -- one a liar, and the other a thief -- in
a most peculiar fashion.
Many thanks to Chris and Starr, who beta-read at warp speed. Aliens
are responsible for any remaining mistakes.
All in all, Teaspoon Hunter thought, everything had worked pretty
good since the ride back from Cottonwood. Hickok was out of
trouble -- again -- that bounty hunter Colter was out of his
hair -- again -- and the unlucky bastard playin' at being an outlaw
was dead. Well, that hadn't exactly been in the plan, but if only
damned Colter had kept his pistol in its holster where it was
supposed to be.... There was nothin' to be done about it. At
least the poor bastard'll get a decent burial, he thought, leaving
the undertaker's office.
When he arrived back at his own office, Jimmy hadn't moved
from where he sat in Teaspoon's chair. No doubt he was still
brooding over the events of the past few days, so it was time --
past time, in fact -- to nip this poisonous bloom in the bud. "Son,
ain't no good gonna come of wishin' something else had happened.
All those could'ves, should'ves, and would'ves are gonna do is
hound you right into your grave."
"But if --"
Interrupting with a clear gesture, Teaspoon shooed the younger
man out of his chair before settling himself in it carefully. Someone --
and whoever was responsible had better own up to it soon --
had cracked one of the chair legs, leaving it ever-so-slightly
tilted and liable to fall over at the slightest twitch of the unsuspecting
seated sheriff. He looked up to where Jimmy was perched on the
edge of the desk. "It's hard, I know, I been there. Sometimes there
just ain't nothin' you can do. The sooner you realize no matter how
hard you try, you can't save everybody, the better off you'll be."
Jimmy didn't look entirely convinced. Still, he'd have to let it be for
a while yet. Let the boy chew on that for a spell, Teaspoon thought.
According to what he'd overheard on the way and what Rachel had
said, something had happened between Buck and Cody. Rachel
hadn't been sure what it was, but snatches of conversation and
half-heartedly muffled snickers in Cody's direction indicated that
something frustrating had happened. Well, he had just the thing for
those two; let them work out their differences constructively. "Jimmy,
think about what I've said."
"Yeah." Hickok still didn't look convinced.
"Send in those two miscreants on your way out."
"Cody and Buck."
Apparently that explained everything as far as Jimmy was concerned.
He hurried out the door, leaving Teaspoon with the sore knowledge
that this next conversation probably wasn't going to be enjoyable
by any stretch of the imagination. These two were hell-bound for
trouble, the both of them, and God alone knew where they'd end up.
Cody seemed to waver between a young idiot and a practical fella,
only there were other times he'd swear that boy was the unexplained
cross of a mule and a rabbit walking upright. Most of the time, Buck
acted older than he was and so it was easy to forget that he warn't
even eighteen. 'Course, most of the time that boy had a good head
on his shoulders, not like now, when he was acting like a fool. Leastaways,
so Rachel had intimated before they'd headed out for Cottonwood.
Looking like guilty children, the two boys stood in front of him, waiting
for something or other. Too bad no one had told Teaspoon exactly
what had happened, else this would have been the perfect opportunity
to know all and see all. Still, that didn't mean he couldn't act like he
knew what was going on, even if he didn't. "So," he began, stretching
out stiff muscles and resting both ankles on the desk, "how did this
They glanced at each other uneasily, neither willing to speak. Teaspoon
wasn't surprised at that. "I'm waiting." He could tell they were wondering
what he knew and how much. Buck had an oddly challenging look in
his eyes, piercing through where Cody stood; he wasn't quite looking
at the other boy, and Cody was looking down at the ground. That was
downright strange, 'specially where these two're concerned.
"Well," Cody said, "I was only trying to help...."
"I didn't need your help --"
"Buck!" Teaspoon leaned forward in his chair; this was serious business.
He couldn't have division between his boys, not with the troubles they
dealt with every day. Lord knew they had enough to worry about, they
didn't need to be fighting each other. Besides, Jimmy and Kid were
more than enough on that score. "Let Cody talk. You'll get your chance."
Now Cody looked even more troubled than before, and his words seemed
to rush out of him like water from behind a dam. It was almost like if he
left them too long, they'd dry up and fly away on the wind. "While we
were swimmin', I stole the stuff outta Buck's medicine pouch and put
somethin' else in it, so he wouldn't realize what I'd done. Then everything
started happening, all that bad stuff all at once in a row, and I couldn't
believe what Ike said, that it was spirits gettin' revenge --"
"Whoa, son, take a breath."
Cody couldn't seem to stop himself. "-- Until the snap broke and the
hay bale nearly fell on me so I told Buck and he made up some ritual
that was supposed to stop all that bad stuff from happening." Only then
did he wheeze for air.
Teaspoon couldn't quite believe what he'd heard. After all, from what he
knew of Kiowa religion -- which wasn't much, admittedly -- those medicine
pouches were some serious business. You don't fool with them. You
don't ask questions. You just accept it and leave it lay. Maybe that was
a way to make that boy understand that you don't go messin' around with
someone else's beliefs, no matter how silly they seem to you.
He fixed Cody with a stern stare, and was rewarded with a sad look. Well,
he supposed, that was a good sign; the boy knew he'd done wrong. Now
he just had to make sure Cody understood why he'd done wrong. "You
know what you've done, don't you?"
"It's like you've walked into the church and blown holes in the altar with
Hawkens of yours, and done it deliberately."
"Then why'd you do it, then?"
"I thought I was helping ... Buck doesn't need no spirits to keep him safe.
He can keep hisself safe, if he's careful and such." Cody looked deadly
serious about this, but surely the boy understood that he was treading on
dangerous ground. "Figur'd that I'd show him it was all hoo-hah and then
he wouldn't need it any more."
Teaspoon shook his head. "So you told Buck about it." A nod answered
his statement. "Then what, pray tell?"
Buck took up the tale. "Cody wanted a ritual to show the spirits that he
was sorry for what he'd done, so I made something up for him." He didn't
look terribly upset over what he'd done, either. As a matter of fact, he had
the appearance of having won a contest of wills, or the proverbial cat after
munching a tasty yellow canary.
"You made something up?"
"I had to." A faint flush spread over Buck's face and throat; with his dark
complexion, it was hard to tell when he's blushing, but Teaspoon had learned
to read the boy's complicated body language. He watched Buck glance
in Cody's direction, almost apologetically but completely without shame.
"There *is* a ritual of appeasement but ... I didn't think Cody would want
go through with what it would require him to do."
"You mean I went through that for nothing?" His outrage was clear but Buck
wasn't fazed by that in the slightest.
"Unless you don't mind losing a finger, that is. Or two, depending on what
the spirits demand for payment for the sacrilege."
Teaspoon could almost see the outrage fizzle out in Cody's face, from
where he leaned half-sprawled against the wall. The younger boy squeaked
something, but he couldn't tell exactly what it was that was said. Still,
couldn't blame the boy. Cody might have meant well, but it was a sacrilege
against gods, no matter whose gods they were. Nothing said that they were
any more or less real than the white man's gods. It seemed a high price,
even so, and Cody certainly weren't likely to risk his marksmanship on such
Buck obviously knew that.
"So? Will they take this ritual of yours instead?"
Buck shrugged. "No way to tell. The basic ideas are the same. Atonement,
humiliation, remorse, shame, and some physical pain -- it might be enough.
We'll just have to wait and see."
There was nothing to be done about it, Teaspoon decided. Best for everybody
to let these two deal with it on their own, preferably somewhere that they
couldn't kill each other. "Well, while you're both waiting to see, I've got
delivery to go to Fort Laramie, and -- in the light of this new
development -- I'm
sending you two."
In protest, Cody nearly leaped from where he was against the wall, moaning
disappointment. "Aww, Teaspoon, why us?"
"Why not you two?" He settled himself back into his chair. So far,
was going along according to plan. It was about damn time something did.
"Because ... well, because...."
Buck just sighed, and picked the parcel up off Teaspoon's desk, glancing at
the addressee without any real interest. "Might as well forget it. He's
mind made up."
"Yep, I do. Pick up some supplies from Rachel before you leave and get
Those're important Army papers in that package." Their responses were less
than enthused, but he didn't entirely mind. At least they were going, and
by the time they'd returned, both of them'd be back on a steady pace and
spirits would have made up their own minds on how they felt on the whole
At least, he hoped so. "Ride safe, boys."
Teaspoon watched them nearly run each other over in their hurry to get out
door, and shook his head in frustration. Some days he felt like a proud
and other days he felt like he was really in charge of a primary school with
bunch of overgrown kids. Today, he wasn't sure which one was true. Maybe
both of them were, he decided, settling down into his balanced chair for a
The snap-crackle of imminent doom took him by surprise. "Dammit --"
The next few days flew by, it seemed to Buck. They rode hard, did their
as far as Teaspoon and the company was concerned, and stayed as far
away from each other as humanly possible. In fact, it was easier to ignore
each other than he had thought it would be. No one noticed, but Buck was
certain something had changed between them. Their friendship had always
been on shaky ground, but now it limped along precariously, a valued pony
limping dangerously along a steep gorge. Sooner or later the creature would
fall, smashing itself to bits on the sharp rocks below, half-hidden by the
Would it be better for both of them to simply end the problem by putting the
poor creature out of its misery? Should they take the extra steps to lead
pony around the slippery spots on the trail, working together to rescue this
horse called friendship?
Now, they had made their last camp before returning back to the Sweetwater
station, and it was time to make some decisions. Watching the fire pop and
crackle ominously, Buck shifted from where he was sitting, knowing he had
to begin down this rocky trail and follow its shifting paths to its end.
"Where are we going from here?" That wasn't what he had intended to say,
but somehow the words had leapt from his mouth so clearly it must have been
the right thing that wanted saying. Of course, Buck knew other things
inside his head that wanted saying, but those things could wait. Most of
things had waited, locked away where no man could find them, but they waited
patiently all the same. Sooner or later those hateful words and thoughts
find their way clear to the blue sky.
Cody obviously had the same problem, and his internal war showed on his
expressive face. "I don't know. You and me, we've not often agreed on
anything, but I never intended this to happen."
"But it has." He looked back down at the fire, unable to stand the
on the blond man's face. Without looking, he knew it was a mournful mixture
of sorrow and regret. Sometimes it seemed regrets were the only things any
of them ever really owned, the only thing any of them were ever destined for
owning. They were mourning a death after all, and the corpse lay between
them, unbidden, unwanted, but there nonetheless.
Buck knew there was no denial he could make that would not sound unnatural,
but if that word exited his mouth, their fate would be sealed somewhere.
Cody had begun their passage on this perilous trail, so his job was to
After what seemed like an eternity, the words left his mouth, no more than a
whisper. "Good-bye." He would never have known Cody had heard, but the
words impacted on the lines of his young face. He tightened all over like
over-girthed pony, carrying far too much weight for its size and choking
the breath to carry its load. Buck knew the weight he carried; it was the
weight of a corpse, and the pain it brought would only get heavier with
The flesh might drop away, the bones go to dust, but the memories remained
.... and those always got more painful every time the load was disturbed.
No more had to be said between them. There was nothing of importance left
to say. Apart, they rolled themselves into sleep, and dreamed of a place
hapless ponies stayed safe, no matter what foolishness dogged their tracks.
Raven watched the two boys mean a very great deal while saying very little
all, and knew he had to intervene. Indeed, he was upset at such sacrilege
caused to his own, but in truth -- and truth must be spoken, always -- the
responsible acted in ignorance, not in spite. To blame him would be to
a small child that knew no better, and there would be no justice in that.
the other hand, he knew enough not to play with the totems of another. He
claimed to be acting in his friend's best interests, but was he? He
so, so perhaps.
Night's wind whistled through his black wing-feathers, shading them in
untold, and he shuffled them to better hear the unspoken words. He stood
watching his charges sleep, and wondered what to do. Could he solve this
tragedy, mend this broken friendship? Certainly.
Did he want to? Perhaps.
After all, there remained the matter of payment for the sacrilege. His own
made a ritual to fit his friend, and it had paid the debt in part. That
presumption and unwarranted pride; his own had no standing to judge
inner worth, for such a position demanded divine knowledge. How should he
know what price needed paying? This friend -- there was much to be read in
his future, Raven saw -- also needed teaching. One did not take things
unless one had rights of creation against them.
Indeed, such rights he had against them both; one by birth and by blood, the
by his own craft, and both showed themselves in need of intervention. One,
and the other, a thief -- what punishment best fit their crimes? What would
solve this pain?
Lightning flashed the idea into his mind, and he gurgled in laughter.
Truth, it was
perfect but he would need another's assistance.... "Coyote!"
No answer. Raven tapped one talon against the cold ground in frustration.
like Coyote to keep him waiting, no doubt he had found a sweet young female
somewhere to torment. "Coyote!" He clacked his jaw anxiously.
"You called upon me, Brother?" His yellow eyes gleaming in the darkness,
Coyote slunk into the small camp, sniffing as he picked his way toward where
Raven waited. Slouching next to his relative in apparent sloth, he took a
moments to smooth tangled fur on his flank before relaxing on the ground.
color of burnt sand, he faded into the shadows well but Raven could always
pick him out of the night.
"I did. These two humans are ours, and they require teaching. I have just
plan for them, but I will need your help to make it work." Raven quietly
plan, and his brother's reaction was immediate.
"Perfect," he yipped in excitement. "They will not enjoy it, not at all,
*will* learn ... perhaps some parts of it will be enjoyable, I suppose."
lolled suddenly in glee, trapped between sharp teeth and a set of powerful
still caught up in joy. Coyote yelped in sudden pain; that had been
but such things were part of life.
"Quiet!" Both nervously watched as their own stirred faintly in sleep, but
was averted. As they watched -- well, mostly patiently, as Coyote could not
himself from pacing the ground as if awaiting the birth of pups -- the boy
back to sleep and dreams and destiny unfulfilled. "To work, then."
Coyote yipped again, softly this time, and trotted over to where their
lay sheltered against the winds. Placing one paw against their temples in
Raven saw him doing his best to leave no marks with his long toenails. With
the roads he walked, you were better safe than sorry ... but perhaps that
was a lesson their humans had best learn, and quickly before they did
injuries that would not heal. Raven busied himself, concentrating their
power and croaking out the words of binding. This would be limited,
to teach, not to punish, but they would not know that. That is, not
Waiting until Coyote had completed his work but had not yet removed his paw
from the gold-haired human, Raven croaked once sharply, having timed his
for the effect he wanted to achieve. "Coyote!"
Startled, his brother jerked around at the sound of his name, realizing too
what he had done. His expression annoyed, Coyote looked down to judge the
damage. "See what you have made me do." His hackles raised in frustration,
the words were hissed through a clenched jaw.
Raven elegantly shrugged his wing-feathers. He had already seen that his
brother's toenails had made scratches on this human's forehead, where hair
kissed skin, and blood would no doubt meet Father Sun come dawn. He
saw Coyote make an evil face in his direction, like the laughing child he
sometimes be, but there was nothing to be done about it now.
Father Sun was coming. It was time to go, and leave these quarreling
to their lesson.
Like any good Kiowa, Buck had always endeavored to wake with the
rising of the sun. In this way, he could prove his worth -- disputing
claims of sloth -- and deserving of all the spirits' blessings. Life
hard enough without having Father Sun turned against you, but
nevertheless rising had always been difficult. Waking seemed doubly
difficult this morning as everything seemed hazy and indistinct,
much too far ahead than it should have been. I thought I was taller
yesterday, Buck noted sleepily, pillowing his head on one arm. A
sudden realization jerked him out of a pleasant
His skin was the wrong color.
In stunned shock, Buck jerked awake and sat up straight in his
extending both arms and gazing at them as if they belonged to someone
else. Apparently, they did ... and it was a possibility that seemed
unreal. Almost fearing the outcome, he grabbed a stick and threw it
at the dark head poking out of the bedroll across the fire. "Cody!
"Whaaaat?" The bundled figure stirred and woke, rubbing his eyes
free of the sandman's dust. A few moments later, he dropped both
hands only to stare at them before looking over at his friend.
"How -- how did this happen?"
Buck wasn't sure he could answer that, wasn't sure he wanted to answer
that. He knew Cody was upset, knew that because he wasn't too far
behind himself -- so to speak -- but such a reaction would solve
While panicking would make him feel better, it would not tell either
why they had ended up wearing each other's skins. How this had
.... well, that he was fairly certain he could guess. Only the spirits
ability for such things, though never had he heard of such an
Still, all things are possible. He tenderly felt a painful area on
and his hand came away with blood on it.
"Looks like an animal scratched you." Cody sounded caught between
panic and outrage, furious at being so treated but also too at being
to fight it. That was simply the way he was -- give him someone or
to fight with hands or weapon, but something like this, something he
prevent ... caused him worry and anguish. Unfortunately, Cody's fear
that he had to come up with answers while controlling his own worry.
his own unease would be the hard part.
"Probably not just any animal."
"What do you mean?"
"Remember when I said we'd have to wait and see what the spirits
When Cody nodded, Buck continued, "I think we've got our answer."
Cody said nothing, staring at his friend open-mouthed. Buck took the
opportunity to begin their plan of action. "I think they're punishing
else could it be? We can't stay here and hope it goes away, so we're
to have to deal with it."
"For how long?"
"I don't know."
His own words rang in Buck's mind over the next few hours, hounding
every act, tangling his thoughts like a kitten playing with string.
he took, every move he made, even an off glance of his current body
served as a reminder of his punishment. From the very beginning,
had been problems. Since they'd changed bodies, they had to adjust
themselves to other changes. Finding himself taller with longer hair
longer legs, Cody stumbled as does a newborn colt on unsteady limbs;
worse, he walked into low-hanging tree branches, leaving bruise upon
bruise. Buck found himself shorter in stature, forced to run when he
never needed to do so in the past; even his mannerisms had suffered,
ducking obstacles that barely brushed his hat, habitually brushing
hair from his shoulder that wasn't there as it had been. Combined with
body troubles, riding each other's horses had been more trying than
they'd thought. Cody's horse in particular, Buck decided, had a
choppy gait, nothing like the comforting longer stride of his red
least he could take pleasure in the annoyance he saw on Cody's face.
That is, the annoyance he saw his own face wearing on Cody's behalf.
frightening thing, to see your own face staring back at you, knowing
worn by a stranger. Still more frightening was knowing a friend was
All things considered, Buck tried not to think how they would look to
others, if it came to that. Both of them tired, stiff, and covered in
Teaspoon would think they'd been fighting. He didn't even want to
about all the extra trouble that would cause, as if their situation
enough. Part of the trouble was that they didn't know each other very
not because they didn't want to, but mostly because they seemed like
near-opposites of each other. If Cody wanted one thing, most of the
it was exactly what Buck couldn't allow. Was it any wonder why they
talked, especially about important things? He sighed, and pushed his
friend's wretched brown hat off his face.
"Hey," Cody shouted from behind him. "I paid good money for that hat,
bad enough that Kid made my horse trample it all outta shape."
Buck remembered that incident well. Teaspoon had gone on about the
difference between pride and self-respect. Was that somehow what this
was about? "I'm just pushing it up, relax. I'm not hurting it any."
The blond rider wasn't completely soothed by that response. "Yeah,
remember who it belongs to."
That was too much for him to take without insult. "If you'd kept your
off my property in the first place, we wouldn't be in this mess, would
"I said I was sorry!"
"But that doesn't change anything!"
No one spoke for a few moments, and Buck wondered whether he'd
gone too far in his anger. Still, he knew he was right in that saying
changed nothing; some things could not be made better with soft words
and a peck on the cheek. Cody knew this all too well, he was certain,
and that knowledge seemed to make him even more culpable with his
"I know it doesn't." Cody -- even in his own voice, some of Cody's
tone came through -- sounded more sorrowful than Buck had even heard.
"I don't know how many times I can say it, or even if you'll ever
I say, but I am sorry. It was a damned stupid thing to do."
"I believe you." Truth resonated from his words, his tone, and shone
his inner spirit. How could Buck not accept that truth, even if they
to deal with the consequences of his actions? Those very consequences
could be far-reaching and painful. He supposed that pain was part of
punishment. "We can't tell anybody about this, not even Teaspoon."
"Why not? It'd make ... things easier." Bewilderment came through
Odd noticing how expressive one's own voice is when it's not your own
control. Buck had considered what actions to take, and wasn't pleased
with the solutions available to them. Their options were limited,
was obvious. It was a rocky trail, full of obstacles, but the prize
couldn't be denied.
"Cody, use your brain for something besides holdin' your skullbones
He hated to insult his friend, no matter how deserving, but they had
absolutely clear on this. "If we tell him that we've been switched
by the spirits, he'll send us straight to the nearest asylum. At the
least, he'll think we've been drinking, and not sarsaparilla, neither.
care what wild stuff he says he's seen. We can't take that chance."
Obviously, the idea of the grizzled stationmaster not believing their
hadn't occurred to the blond rider. Buck had to admit the idea
him as well, but if it hadn't happened to him, he would likely be hard
pressed to admit that it was even possible. After hearing a murmur of
agreement from the rider behind him, Buck continued laying out their
plan. "We're just gonna have to play at being each other for a bit,
this is over ... however long that'll be."
"How long do you think that is?"
"I don't know." At this point, he was beginning to feel like a dog
one trick. They might be the spirits he had been raised to believe in
and trust, but Buck didn't have all the answers. Hell, he didn't even
have the important answers. Even if he'd had the answers, he wouldn't
have begun to determine what the questions were, beyond the obvious
ones. "I can only guess that we're supposed to learn something from
this, so I'd say, until we learn whatever it is we're supposed to
Cody opened his mouth to speak, but didn't get a chance to say what
was on his mind before Buck continued thinking out-loud. "Our biggest
problem, though, is going to be Ike. He's going to know something's
up. We've been best friends since we were kids, he's going to know
something ain't right." Not being able to tell his oldest friend
at Buck's nerves, but something else inside him buzzed the importance
of keeping this secret. Some things were meant to be hidden.
"So what do we do? Tell him?"
Furthermore, maybe this was meant to be their problem to handle alone.
"I don't know. If we tell him, we might risk some rule that says we
If we don't tell him, he'll get suspicious." Both of them rode in
for a few minutes.
"What are we supposed to learn by this, anyway?"
Buck said nothing, but simply pulled his horse to a halt and stared at
friend, one eyebrow raised. Embarrassed, Cody blushed faintly -- but
was clear as blue mornings to Buck -- and kicked his horse forward in
a trot. "Yeah, yeah, okay. You don't know. Right."
The next few hours passed quickly for them both, as they traded
information and mannerisms to help the other in their necessary
Buck took great glee in informing Cody that he wasn't really a very
convincing liar, but cheerfully neglected to tell him that he tended
nervous fidgeting whenever he had a good hand at poker. He knew
better than to give away the riders' biggest secret where Billy Cody
concerned. Giving away other secrets wasn't really something he
forward to, but he couldn't see any other way to give Cody information
might need. Still, if it weren't intensely personal, maybe it would
Before he could speak, Cody shushed him quietly. They could now hear
hoofbeats, lots of them, coming over the rise toward them. "At least
riders," commented Buck. Both boys reined up their mounts, ready to
at the first sign of danger. Neither of them felt like risking
a gunfight at the moment; matters were painful enough without a bullet
add to their misery.
Anxious minutes dissolved when Teaspoon, followed by Lou, Ike, Noah,
and Kid, galloped over the rise to meet them. "What's up," he heard
"I don't suppose you hid any lunch in that saddlebag," Buck chimed in,
adding a faintly mournful look to his face.
"You boys alright?"
They glanced at each other; no, they weren't alright, not at all, but
could hardly say that.
Everything, Buck thought. "Nothing," he said. So the lies start
Teaspoon was still looking at him a little strangely, but didn't let
him from giving the details. "We're headed out to pick up Zachariah
Fawkes, a gambler on a losing streak. Worse yet, when he loses, he
pays out in information. Word's out that he paid up his recent debts
information on the Gould gang, and they would like nothing better than
shut Fawkes' trap permanent-like." He pulled on his reins, trying to
his horse's eager sidestepping. "Got a territorial marshal coming to
to Fawkes, see if he'll pay his debt to society the same way he pays
"Huh." Buck really couldn't think of anything else to say. The
thought, I should have guessed.
Noah chuckled. "I can't imagine he's too popular."
"Son, you ain't just whistlin' ... at that." He had been going to say
something else, he could tell, but had changed his course at the last
minute. "They want him bad, real bad, and so does the marshal."
"A territorial marshal, you said?"
"Anyone we know?" That would be all they needed, thought Buck.
While he wanted to see Sam Cain again -- and certainly Emma, who
had been like a mother to them when they had first started riding for
the company -- this would not be a good time. Plus, he wouldn't put
past Emma to demand to go with her husband on finding out where
he was going and who he was going to go see. Emma would just have
to look at them both to know there was something wrong; he could lie
to anybody, it hurt, but he could do it ... but he knew he'd never get
with lying to Emma Cain.
"Don't know, 'xactly." The sheriff nodded toward Cody and Buck. "Why
don't you boys head on back toward the station? Both of you look all
done in." That was his way of saying without saying it outright, 'I
you boys been fighting but I also know neither of you'll admit it, so
is how I'm going to get you to go home before you get hurt any
Teaspoon probably also meant it as a sorta punishment, he supposed.
They couldn't allow that, they had to continue the charade that
was just peachy, no matter how much it cost them. Buck said the first
thing that popped into his head. "Buck said he'd teach me tracking,
least, more than what I already know, that is." He wanted to cringe
the words. At best, it was a feeble lie but no one could deny he'd
said such a thing.
Reading his mind, Cody picked up the story. "... And now's as good a
time as any, I mean, we know where he is, don't we?"
Kid looked startled, but Buck remembered why. He hadn't wanted to
teach the Virginian a damned thing, certain one day it would come
back to haunt him. In the end, he'd done it only because Ike had
him into it, pointing out that one day it might save his life. 'What
happen if one day you were missing, how would we track you', was
really what Ike'd asked, and he hadn't had a satisfactory answer.
did?" Yep, Kid even sounded confused.
"Is there some reason why he wouldn't?" Buck let some of his anger
and frustration come out wearing defiance's clothes, and that seemed
to settle the matter where Teaspoon was concerned. Ike was looking
askance in Buck's ... that is, in Cody's direction, but then again, he
understood why Buck hadn't wanted to teach Kid in the first place.
Ike said nothing, apparently content to shoot lingering glances at the
both of them, obviously wondering what he was missing.
So far, that had gone fairly well. Cody had always wanted to be an
Buck knew all too well, so perhaps he was in some ways better prepared
to play a role. Well, this was probably the most important role he'd
have. In this, they needed to be triumphant, and passing Teaspoon's
little inspection -- even marginally -- felt like a celebration.
He wheeled his horse to follow where Teaspoon led, heading toward the
town of Willow Springs. Out of the corner of his eye, as he shifted
saddle, Buck thought he caught a flash of black feathers, of gleaming
yellow eyes laughing at him. He turned quick to look, but saw
It came as no surprise; if the spirits wanted to check up periodically
their progress, it wasn't like he could prevent them. He just hoped
noted how hard they were working to stay out of trouble.
Looking back over the past few days, watching the new morning burst
into life, Teaspoon wondered what in all the seven hells was goin' on.
First Ike, then Kid, both of them come see him, insisting that
ain't right, that something's real wrong with Cody and Buck. True,
Cody, how were you supposed to tell when he was acting strange some
of the time, and Buck, well, pretty much anything out of the ordinary
odd where he was concerned. He supposed that now, at leastaways, he
had the time to figure out what -- if anything at all -- had happened.
Even so, he couldn't deny that something felt vaguely off about them.
was something he couldn't explain ... that snake-sense you developed
after years of having a target painted on your back as a Texas Ranger,
when you just knew there was a desperado lurking somewhere in the
shadows, itching to carve another notch on his gun. That sense was
now, burning a path along his mind, demanding he look deeper into this
Teaspoon mentally tallied up the little things he'd noticed over the
of the previous afternoon and evening. First, they had seemed
joined at the hip, looking to each other to answer any but the most
questions, like they had to ask permission to reply. Second, walking
fits of stop'n-starts, like a couple'a big dogs on short leashes. It
like they couldn't remember things: where they usually sat at the
they'd hung their hats and holsters, even where they slept. At least
what Kid had confided late last night before he slipped back off to
bunkhouse. Third, he could see that their personalities were oddly
like some great hand had poured bits of Cody into Buck's head and visa
versa. Buck had looked downright jubilant while Cody had been more
somber than usual. Though, every once in a while, they would flash
to approaching normal at the same time, almost like they were aware of
the changes themselves and were working to fix the problem.
Lastly, that business with Fawkes yesterday. Neither of them seemed
exceptionally thrilled about the chase; to be honest, neither of them
the bloodthirsty type, which Teaspoon thanked God for, but usually
had more excitement in them than that. Yep, he had to admit,
was definitely wrong. He just didn't know what it was.
Hoofbeats rang in his ears, and this early in the morning, that meant
trouble. Usually bad trouble, the worst kind. "Kid!" He banged on
bunkhouse door with one hand. "Rider comin'! You're up!" He braced
himself for bad news, wondering what in tarnation it could be, coming
so early as Jimmy galloped into the yard in front of where Teaspoon
Kid flew out the door just in time to grab the pouch out of the air
Jimmy threw in his direction, then ran with it into the barn to saddle
He didn't look happy, but Teaspoon couldn't blame him. Pouch comin'
this early also meant no breakfast until later unless you eat while in
saddle. Not a fun way to enjoy your morning repast, he knew.
"Damn, son, you musta ridden all night."
Jimmy wheeled the horse and dismounted, walking his palomino over
to the stationmaster. "Nah, just seemed like it." He tossed a letter
Teaspoon, who snatched it out of the air.
Glancing at the address, he was startled to see the sender was a
Doctor Abraham McElroy. "Any idea why the Army doctor at Fort Laramie
would be sending me a letter?"
"Can't say." Jimmy shrugged, but little smidgens of his curiosity
out around the careless edges. Teaspoon tore the flap open with a
and could nearly hear another wrong-thing tick into place. "A private
guess -- caught me up outsida Blue Creek and wanted it passed on to
you. Didn't say what it was."
Reading the letter only brought more questions, and he tapped the
with an index finger in frustration. "Dammit, I knew something had
"What happened?" Now Hickok did look confused.
"This here letter's from the Army doctor, just like I figgured, but it
that he treated Buck for some minor injuries. Nothing serious, he
but he just wanted me to know just in case it mattered later."
couldn't believe what he was reading. "He also expresses some ...
distaste ... sayin' that the night in the cell prob'ly didn't help
him about his temper, hoped it wouldn't happen again, but says he
he can't change the way things are." He folded the letter up before
Jimmy's startled eyes and stood up.
"Why would Buck have spent the night in a jail cell?"
"I'm damned if I know ... but this tears it. Time to get to the
Teaspoon's voice rang through the bunkhouse, and Cody suddenly
realized that he would have to answer, since -- at the moment -- he
was Buck. Making sure everything on his person was where it was
supposed to be, he went out rather uncertainly to face the
Personally, he felt rather like looking a nest of rattlesnakes in the
but Buck looked to be taking all of this weirdness in stride. Maybe
it was his upbringing, Cody didn't know, but some of that Indian
would sure do the trick right now. He was doubly certain of that fact
when he found himself facing a simmeringly angry Teaspoon.
"Well? What you got to say?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Teaspoon waved a letter at him. "Doc McElroy says that you had
lots of bruises, a bad temper, and a night in jail. Mind telling me
what happened, son?"
Cody still hadn't the slightest idea what he was talking about.
he exhorted himself, come up with something Buck would say. "Nothing
happened." He could practically feel Teaspoon's eyes boring holes
in his skin, and it was all he could do not to squirm under the older
"That ain't what the doc says."
"Then why did you spend the night in jail?" That seemed to be the
point that bothered Teaspoon the most, the fact that he had spent a
night in a jail cell. Where the hell had Buck been that night? He'd
sworn that his friend had been in the room next to him, but then ...
hadn't really been speaking that much, either. But, in a jail cell?
didn't sound like Buck at all. Maybe the Army was mistaken, and they
meant someone else....
"Teaspoon, nothing happened." Cody couldn't figure out what else to
tell the man. He hadn't the slightest idea what had happened, since
far as he knew, nothing had happened. Obviously, though, something
had happened, but nothing had happened to him, personally. So ... it
wasn't exactly a lie, right? Well, a fib maybe, but not an outright
He realized that he'd have to tell Teaspoon something, anything, to
the question for a bit, preferably until they were back inside their
skins and Buck could deal with this himself. "I ... I don't really
about it right now ... it ain't nothing bad ... I just ... don't want
it yet." Cody looked away, trying not to look at the man at all,
diverting his attention toward the open plains.
That seemed to work; Teaspoon didn't back down, but didn't press
forward either. "Alright, son, we'll talk about it later. I'll take
that it warn't nothin' serious. Mark my words, though, we will have
"I know." Cody wanted to jump up and down and yell, but he had to be
discreet about this, no matter how much he wanted to know what was
happening. Personally, he had to admit how unlikely it was that the
had made a mistake. How many Express riders were half-breeds? He'd
be willing to bet that Buck was the only one in the whole company.
fled off the front step and tried not to run into the barn, where he
Buck was busily cleaning stalls. Entering the barn, he noticed that
had perversely cleaned his mare's stall first, as opposed to Cody's
horse. Since each of them tended to clean their own horse's stall
depending on whose turn it was, this wasn't a good sign. He also
noticed that Buck had the barn to himself; well, Jimmy's palomino was
in the barn with him, so he wasn't totally alone. "Hey," he said,
to the red mare's clean stall, "what gives?"
"Habit." Buck shrugged, and rubbed the palomino's nose. "Lou
though. I told her I lost to you at poker and that was all the amount
won was worth." He grinned widely, and Cody saw an avaricious gleam
shining in his eye that looked nothing like the Indian but somehow
at home on his own face. Well, fine. He'd ignore the minor problem
this 'losing at poker' slur later, when everything was behind them.
"What isn't?" Cody tried to keep his voice down, but couldn't help
some volume to that comment. "Teaspoon corralled me ... I mean, you
and wanted to know what happened at Fort Laramie."
"Nothing happened at Fort Laramie." Buck sounded awfully sure of
but clearly something had happened while they were there. Why else
would have the doc written otherwise?
"That's not what the letter from the Army doc says."
"What letter?" Now Buck sounded unsure and a little tense. Cody
couldn't blame him; he'd been tense since this whole disaster started.
thing for certain, he knew he'd never look askance at Buck's religious
again. After all this, he might even start going to church himself.
hurt to hedge your bets with the Almighty, after all.
Cody took a deep breath and prepared to start at the beginning. "The
Army doctor at Fort Laramie sent a letter to Teaspoon telling him that
had to doctor you --"
"You make it sound like I'm a horse --" Buck sounded like he was
between amusement and insult. Funny, he'd never noticed how odd his
voice sounded. Damn shame that it wasn't more ... musical, like
own voice was. Still, Cody knew he'd never survive with hair this
the hell did he manage it? It'd taken him near forever to brush it
"-- And that you spent the night in a jail cell." Buck had no comment
one, Cody noticed, and pressed on with his verbal attack. Hell, it
like even the damn horse was takin' an interest in their argument.
was really --"
"It's none of Teaspoon's business --"
"-- And, damn, he wants answers, Buck! What the hell'm I supposed t'
"What did you tell him?"
"Nothing, what the hell else could I tell him? I didn't know
He could tell that Buck didn't particularly want to talk to him about
didn't have much choice in the matter. In order to answer Teaspoon's
and they were going to have to, because the man was like a big dog
a bone and you were the bone -- Buck was gonna have to talk. "Nothing
happened at Fort Laramie."
"I think he thinks you got in a fight."
His eyes looking far off into the distance, Buck chuckled. "He thinks
fought each other and the Army broke it up. Then the doc treated us,
since I spent the night in a jail cell, obviously, I started the
jammed the pitchfork into the floorboards. "When that wasn't what
at all." Jimmy's horse didn't appear bothered by the act in the
merely flicked his ears, swished off some flies with his tail, and
Cody was confused now. "So what did happen?" He moved to one side,
allowing Buck to exit the stall and maneuver the wheelbarrow in front
doorway. That way, the palomino couldn't just walk out of the open
"Just like I said. Nothing." The boys sat down on an old trunk --
from the look of it -- to talk. "Doc McElroy sometimes checks up on
whenever I go on a run to Laramie, he's interested in Indian medicine.
that it's good to know what else he can use if he has an emergency and
supply of white man's medicine is gone." He shrugged, and Cody could
see that -- even though he wasn't sayin' so -- Buck was pleased to be
even if he was a bit suspicious. "I had some cuts and bruises,
bad, just sore, from crashing through the brush and woods with you
after me. I don't know why he wrote Teaspoon, but I wish he hadn't."
"So why did you spend the night in a jail cell?"
Buck sighed, an almost grievous sound in the quiet barn. "Cody, I
night in a jail cell every time I have to spend the night at Fort
sounded like a teacher explaining something to an especially difficult
or someone trying to discuss some distressing thing rationally. His
was almost bland, drained of nearly all emotion in his efforts not to
about any of it. "Think about it. Most of those soldiers came there
Indians ... they're not going to allow one to just wander around
whether he works for the express or not."
Cody couldn't believe what he was hearing. How dare they treat an
rider like that? It ain't like Buck was the enemy an' all. "Why
Teaspoon?" He wanted to run out the door and tell the stationmaster
this very minute, and do something about this ... this ... this total
for the whole of the Pony Express, that's what it was.
"What good would it do? Army'll say it's policy, they're just being
around 'the savages'." Buck sounded almost like, Cody didn't know,
almost like he wasn't going to fight it. "I lost my temper a bit, and
at the doc about it when the guard came to escort me to my cell for
night. That's probably what he meant by telling me to mind my
"You ain't gonna do nothing about this?"
Buck shrugged again. "Why bother? It's always been that way, ever
since I first carried the pouch into Laramie, and it ain't just there.
the Army bases on our routes have that policy when I ride inside the
Confusion didn't begin to cover how Cody felt; he was feeling a fair
of shame, too. Not just him, neither, but covering most of the human
Buck hadn't never done nothing to nobody that didn't deserve it, and
he's been being treated like a criminal while he's doing them a
"Buck," Cody began, uncertain exactly how he was going to end that
sentence, putting one hand on his friend's shoulder with a gentle
Just then, both boys heard Teaspoon shouting from outside the barn.
moment broken, both of them ran outside to find Barnett astride his
waiting patiently for the sheriff, and the other riders running about,
their horses. Jimmy ran past them in long loping strides, buckling
on as he went, heading straight for his palomino's stall.
>From what Cody could make out, the Gould gang had been spotted in Blue
Creek, and they were headed right for Sweetwater. Cody didn't like
sound of that; any other time, he admitted to himself, he'd be jumping
joy at the chance to go up against them, but now he felt like he had a
painted on his back. He didn't like the feeling, not at all. Did
like this all the time, he wondered. Worse, the Gould gang -- led by
Gould -- were some that the territorial marshal wanted to question
about. Apparently, they'd heard he was in custody and that the
was on his way. What kind of nickname was 'Goose', anyway? How were
you supposed to take anyone named Goose seriously?
Buck wasn't pleased about this turn of events at all. The Gould gang
comin' after Fawkes, a territorial marshal was comin' after Fawkes,
they were like sitting ducks, smack in the middle. As they galloped
he allowed himself to sulk and fret for a few minutes before he
and Cody in the middle of what looked like a serious conversation.
from here, he could catch snatches of Cody's words and Ike's signs; it
like Ike wanted to know what was going on. They couldn't allow that,
sure, so he nudged his horse into a faster pace, coming even with the
watching Ike edge his mount away.
"Things are getting complicated, ain't they?"
"They're about to get worse." Buck really hated to break this news,
was honestly surprised that Cody hadn't noticed it by now.
Keeping half an eye on where Ike was and what the other riders were
Buck nudged Cody in the side with the forward roll of his horse's
what side your holster and gun are on ... now show me what hand you
with." Cody looked down to his left side, then at his right hand, and
horrified expression on his face said everything. Buck felt much the
way. He was left-handed and his friend was right-handed; stuck in
other's bodies meant that both of them had their guns on the wrong
for what they were used to. "It's a bit easier for me, with the
continued, "but not much." And my shooting with a rifle isn't up to
normal for you, Buck thought, but there was no way he would say that.
reason to add to Cody's already inflated ego.
"What the hell are we supposed to do?" He sounded like he wanted to
run or cry or both at once. Buck didn't blame him; this whole mess
him getting more upset by the minute, and it seemed things got worse
every time he turned around.
Teaspoon pulled up his horse, and shouted over the pounding hoofbeats
of the small posse. "Buck, Cody, you boys go into town, grab Fawkes,
and get the hell outta there. Take him to Fort Laramie, and sit on
The rest of you boys come with me."
They glanced at each other, knowing that this should be a good thing,
also certain that nothing could be this easy. From where they were,
into town didn't take too long, but they took the precaution of
horses to a post behind Thompkins' store. Better safe than sorry,
figured. From there, it had been a quick walk to the sheriff's
deserted, except for Fawkes. Teaspoon had sent Barnett out to meet
territorial marshal. At least, that's what he'd heard him tell the
deputy. More likely, Teaspoon had wanted him out of the way.
However, their premonitions had been correct. No sooner had they set
inside the small office and shut the door than someone with a heavy
begun knocking. Buck peeked out a corner of the window, over which
Barnett had thought to draw the blinds. "Three men, all armed." He
over to where Cody was unlocking the cell door and cuffing their
"We can't risk a shootout in the middle of town, but we can't just
"How did they get here so damn fast?"
Buck knew that wasn't the real question on his mind, since it wasn't
wanted to know. He knew what they were both thinking. How did they
past Teaspoon? It wasn't really a question -- or an answer -- either
really wanted to dwell on.
In a reedy voice, Fawkes spoke for the first time. "Goose probably
them ahead days ago." He looked badly shaken by the whole situation.
were probably registered at the Sweetwater Hotel before your sheriff
locked up in here." As the knock sounded a second time, all of them
toward the door as one entity.
"So why did they wait so long before coming for you, if they've been
the time?" Cody looked perplexed. He had busied himself loading the
that Teaspoon kept for emergencies while Buck kept an eye on their
That was a good question, but Buck thought he could guess why. "A
to kill the territorial marshal?"
"I'd take that bet," Fawkes admitted.
"I wouldn't, not with your record." That was a low blow, Buck had to
but the words had just slipped out of his mouth before he could stop
Being in Cody's body must be rubbing off on him. Buck had to restrain
shudder. At least Fawkes didn't take offense, that was good. A plan
They needed a plan, and they needed it right now. What did they have
work with? Buck looked around the small office, and took a mental
Guns, ammo, a reasonably friendly prisoner. Assorted furniture. A
Unwanted visitors outside.
What did their visitors want? Their prisoner, and a chance to kill
marshal. That being the case, they wouldn't bat an eye at killing a
deputies. Worse, they'd become hostages to use against Teaspoon. All
these things meant that they had to deal with them on their own. They
have surprise on their side, since they'd hardly be expecting
glimmer of an idea sparkled into Buck's mind. It was a long shot, but
everything about the past couple days had been a mother of a long
nodded at Cody. "Keep them talking, but don't open the door. I got
Not bothering to wait for acknowledgement, Buck began ransacking
Teaspoon's desk, looking for a small blanket he was fairly certain was
kept in one of those drawers. Locating it, a pillow, and an old
poncho, he carried them into the small jail cell and arranged the
with the pillow already inside -- underneath the blanket to look like
was sleeping. Or hiding, he supposed.
"That's never going to work," Fawkes hissed between clenched teeth.
"It's not supposed to." Buck grabbed the man and shoved him toward
desk. "Hide under there, in the kneehole."
"They'll see me."
"No, they won't." At the edge of his awareness, Buck could hear Cody
talking endlessly with their unwanted visitors, trying to convince
away, but he wasn't having much success. Still, they hadn't broken
the door, hadn't shot up the place. Yet, that is, and his friend
himself once. Buck firmly controlled a chuckle. He'd always thought
Cody suffered from some kind of verbal dysentery, but now he was
for the affliction.
Fawkes wedged himself under the desk, and Buck pushed the chair in
of him, turning it around to face the door before seating himself. He
help but notice that it creaked suspiciously; it must have broken on
and he must have fixed it, or gotten someone else to do the job.
could use that ... since it still seemed rather shaky. "Don't make a
Okay. Their odds were even, now it was time to cut the cards. Buck
to Cody, who opened the door.
When their so-called guests entered, Buck spoke to them first, trying
their attention away from Cody. "Welcome to Sweetwater." They herded
Cody along toward the desk, which -- while it wasn't exactly good --
to hide Fawkes, and made it easier for his plan. Stupidly, they only
holstered weapons but didn't keep them. Nor did they collect the
guns in the office. And these guys were supposed to be professionals?
All three men aimed their guns at him, but didn't seem to care about
them. That was good. "Where is he?"
Buck pointed wordlessly toward the cell. One of the men kept his gun
at Buck, while the other two men turned toward the cell, walked in,
firing on the hapless cot. Neither boy could help flinching slightly
of the slugs; just the sound brought back bad memories. Being shot
something you never got completely out of your head. The two emptied
guns, and walked up to check the 'body.' Buck tensed, knowing the
minutes would either break the bank or bring down the house.
The first man swung around to see what had alarmed his cohorts, and
took his chance. He grabbed the wooden chair and threw it at the man
a loaded gun, who crashed unceremoniously to the floor. Pieces of
chair rained down around them while Cody scooped up a nearby pistol to
the men in the cell. Buck stripped the man of his weapons before
the unconscious man to the cell and dumping him inside it. He then
the other two men of their weapons under Cody's watchful eye before
"You can come out now."
Fawkes poked his head out from inside the kneehole, and looked around
astonished at the destruction before noticing the three men inside the
"I don't believe it."
"Maybe I should have taken that bet," Buck quipped.
Cody grinned in response. "I don't believe it either. Teaspoon's
"The chair died a valiant death."
"I'll have them write that on your tombstone." He looked around,
Buck had to admit it was an unholy mess. Still, it had worked, and
important thing, wasn't it? Wasn't it? They were safe, Fawkes was
bad guys were in jail.... Teaspoon wouldn't be too angry. At least,
Taking their prisoner firmly in hand, the two boys stepped out into
but Buck was wondering what to do with him. Obviously, going to Fort
was out of the question; they couldn't leave their other three
nor could they transport four prisoners by themselves. Well, Buck
could, they just didn't want to take the risk.
"Look." Cody pointed toward a small group of oncoming riders.
and the others." They were coming into town fast, it looked like.
know what had sent them back into town so quickly, he was just glad to
that they were here.
Buck breathed in relief, and thanked the spirits for that. It looked
safe, too. Good. Finally, something was going according to plan.
relieved, he raised a hand to gesture to them when a bright flash
across his eye. A mirror flash? He heard Cody shout next to him, a
already going to his face. "What --"
"Gun!" Shoving Fawkes toward the sheriff's office, Buck only had time
a hissing sound and another sound like something falling before
swept away by a boom. Then another noise, vaguely, like a dream
recalled. A beating of great wings, soft against his face. He was
landed against something soft, then against something hard ... then
Buck didn't know how long he drifted in the blackness before hearing
call his name. He tried to answer, but it was hot and he wanted to
voice was persistent, demanding loudly that he awaken and right this
Blearily, he opened his eyes for a few moments before closing them
but was immediately aware of several things all at once. First, he
Second, it was dark out when he had been fairly certain that it hadn't
before. Third, how did he get back to the station? Fourth, where was
Some memories came back. Fawkes. The unwanted visitors. What the
happened? Another memory hit him, and he had to know. Opening his
again, Buck examined his arms and breathed another sigh of relief. He
the right color ... he was back in his own body. Hopefully Cody was
his own body as well. Some pieces of the puzzle were missing, though.
"You alright, son?" He hadn't noticed Teaspoon sitting there, but it
well. Since he didn't look like a grieving man, Buck could only
was fine or at least in the same shape he was.
"I think so." Buck slowly picked himself up off the bed in the guest
actually, it was the one they used as a sick room, whenever someone
hurt badly enough so the bunkhouse wasn't proper but stayin' over at
Barnes' place wasn't necessary -- and got to his feet. He was pleased
find that he didn't sway ... much, and it was real nice to have
correct length and height. "What the hell happened?" Teaspoon took
elbow, supporting him a bit from underneath, but Buck wasn't about to
him on it. "Last thing I remember was a mirror flash in my eye. Then
was a noise...."
Teaspoon made a noise halfway between a harrumph and a grunt. It was
a noise Buck generally associated with agreement. "Gould had a
man waitin' outside the office. When you came out, he lit up a lil'
TNT wired with some chemical or another." Buck felt his eyes widen.
"The flash was him lightin' it up, he tossed it, like a distraction.
shoot Fawkes, but couldn't get a bead 'cause he'd been pushed behind
an' Cody. Jimmy got a shot off first, and dropped the bastard."
"Good," Buck heard himself murmur. Now he had bruises on his body to
match the ones on his face. "Cody?"
"The bomb was too small to do any real damage; he'd meant it only as a
distraction, to keep ya both busy while he took out Fawkes. Still,"
rubbed his chin thoughtfully, "it knocked both you boys offa your feet
for nearly an hour. The doc checked you both out, and he gave real
instructions. Cody woke up not long ago, so we been waitin' on you."
"Oh. Fawkes?" They were making their way slowly down the stairs to
Teaspoon enthusiastically called the 'family room'. From the
he could pick out, Buck could only guess that the others were gathered
waiting for him to wake up. Damn these stairs. What did he land on,
"Fine. In custody. Singing your praises, the both of you." Teaspoon
him shrewdly, looking him up and down. "Tellin' some interestin'
Buck wasn't sure what to say to that, and luckily didn't get the
respond. Before another word could be said, they had reached where
other riders were waiting. He saw, too, that his first instincts had
Sam and Emma Cain sat on the love seat, smiling at him. Looking
as punch, Cody sat next to them, gesturing expansively with one hand,
Buck saw him wink on the sly in his direction. Yeah, Buck thought,
back to normal. As normal as Cody gets.
"Sam, Emma." Nodding to them both, Buck found a chair and lowered
into it gratefully. Now things can finally get back to normal, for
glad to see you."
"Well, we're glad to see you, Buck." Emma's soft voice was like a
his battered nerves. Something about her tone told him that maybe
had been some question about whether he would see them, but that -- in
truthfulness -- was something he felt was better left alone. "I'm
both are all right, thanks to Cody's quick thinking."
That caught Buck's attention, and he turned to see Cody smirking at
figured. He had a brainstorm of a brilliant idea and a plan that
who got the credit for it. Still ... there was something he was
Buck said, without much inflection, aware they were waiting for him to
something. "I guess that's what happened."
Teaspoon cleared his throat. "Now that the matter of whose brilliant
has been settled, there's another very important matter we got to
"What's that?" Jimmy sounded as much in the dark as the rest of them
"Since Cody's brilliant plan was responsible for the blatant
favorite chair," Teaspoon walked over to where Cody was sitting, "I've
that it's only fair that he fix it." Buck could hear his friend's jaw
he was, even over the laughter.
"But Teaspoon --"
"No buts, Cody!"
A grin blooming on his face, Buck knew that things were back to
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