Ghost Town
by Melissa
 Chapter 1

"Aw, címon Kid," Cody whined. "Weíve been ridiní all day! Canít we stop somewhere and rest for a bit?"

Kid glanced back at the blond rider who was trailing behind him sulking. "Cody, if we stop now weíll never make there before sunset."

"Thatís the point!"

Kid laughed. "But Cody, if youíll remember, we passed the last way station almost two hours ago! There isnít another one along the way."

"We did?"

Kid nodded. "Yup."

"Well, thatís okay because I remember seeing on Teaspoonís map that thereís a little town not too far up ahead." Cody smirked.

"Since when did you start lookiní at maps?" Kid said with a trace of disbelief in his voice.

"Since we started doiní long runs like this one!" laughed Cody.

Kid thought about it and realized that he was more tired than he thought. "I guess it couldnít hurt to get something to eat and a good nightís sleep. Whatís the name of this town?"

"Serenity, I think." Cody answered.

Kid pulled out the map from his saddlebag and looked for the town of Serenity. Youíre right, it looks like itís not too far ahead. Maybe another half hour at the most."

"Well then what are you waiting for?" whooped Cody as he suddenly raced forward with an apparent surge of energy and took off ahead of Kid. When there was something that Cody wanted, he didnít waste any time.

 

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The young girl paced the hardwood floor anxiously, wringing her hands and shaking. It had been almost a week since she had been in the company of other people and she thought that she was going to go crazy. What am I going to do? Where am I going to go? I have no money, no horse, no family! she thought to herself. At the thought of family she felt her chest tighten and the familiar sickness creep into her stomach. Iíve got to stop doing this to myself. Itís over, theyíre gone and thereís nothing I can do about it except try to keep myself alive. The young girl suddenly shuddered violently and threw herself on the bed to weep gut-wrenching tears of pain and loneliness.

 

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"Looks like this is it," remarked Kid as the two riders rode into a little town with a sign that welcomed them to Serenity. As Kid surveyed the scene in front of him he got an immediate feeling that something wasnít quite right there. For starters, there wasnít a single person or horse out except for the two of them. Stores and offices were open for business, but as far as they could see, nobody was inside manning them.

"Where is everyone?" Cody asked as he secured his horse to a post outside the General Store. It was almost 6 oíclock and not even the saloon had anybody out front.

Kid climbed down off of Katy and tied her next to Codyís horse. "I donít know, but I gotta a feeliní that weíre the only ones in this town."

Cody followed started walking down the main street looking in the General Store, the Docís office, the Marshalís office and finally the saloon before he realized something very peculiar. "Uh, Kid?"

"Yeah?"

"You wanna come here a minute?"

Kid walked over to where Cody was standing in the doorway of the saloon. "What is it?"

"Take a look inside and tell me what you see."

Kid walked through the doors and looked into the saloon. There were drinks lined up on the bar, half eaten food and drinks on the tables, dirty dishes and glasses waiting to be washed by the sink, and cigars that had burned down to ashes just lying in ashtrays. What was really odd was that there were cards strewn out on another table, dealt out to four hands, and it was obvious that whomever was playing was in the middle of the game because there was money piled in the center of the table. It was as if everybody that had been there just suddenly up and left without stopping what they were doing first. What was even stranger was that it didnít appear as if there was any struggle. Tables and chairs were in their upright position, there werenít any broken bottles or dishes on the floor, and there didnít seem to be any disarray at all.

"What the hell?" Kid remarked.

"It just donít make any sense," Cody replied. "Why would people just get up and leave?"

Kid nodded. "And by the looks of it, not just the saloon, but the whole town."

"I donít like this." Cody admitted.

Kid took one last look inside of the saloon and sighed. "Me neither. I say we ride out right now and make it over to Fort Kearney tonight. Maybe theyíll know what to do."

As the two riders walked back down main street towards their horses they didnít see the young girl that was perched up on the widowís walk of the general store watching them. They also didnít see the rifle that she slowly lifted, aimed, and then fired at them.

"What the hell?!?" exclaimed Cody as a bullet whizzed past his head.

"Cody, look out!" Kid yelled as the second shot rang out, but his warning was too late. Cody didnít see the second bullet in time as he felt it enter his body, a flash of searing pain.

 

 
Chapter Two

 
"Cody!" Kid screamed again. Cody was laying on his stomach, his right arm underneath his body, his left arm flung out to the side. And he wasnít moving. Oh God no, Kid thought. Please donít let him be dead!

**************

Cody lay motionless on the ground. He knew that he wasnít hurt too seriously, he had felt the bullet enter and leave a shallow wound behind. But he knew that he was better off laying still and waiting for the reign of fire to stop before attempting to get up. He just wished that Kid would take cover and stop trying to reach him. Maybe I can give him a silent signalÖ some way for him to know that I was okay, he thought to himself. Suddenly he knew what he could do.

**************

Kid noticed the slightest of movement coming from Codyís left arm. His hand was forming a loose "OK" sign with his thumb and forefinger! Kid sighed a breath of relief and took cover behind one of the swinging doors leading into the saloon as the shots continued to be fired. From there he was able to observe the scene in front of him without causing himself to be in the line of fire. He tried to look around as discreetly as he could, and in a split second he thought he saw movement on the roof of the General Store. He lifted his gun, ready to shoot, but was stunned by the sight of their assailant.

It took him by surprise that their sharp shooter was a girl! As she quickly raised herself up from the roof and started to climb back through the window, Kid noticed that she had a sinewy, lithe frame. She couldnít have been more than five feet tall, but was even thinner than Lou. Her hair was a flaxen blonde with deep gold streaks running through it in thick strands, which hung down to her waist in a tangled mass of ringlets. She canít be more than seventeen years old! Kid thought. Her face was covered in dirt, so he couldnít tell for sure, but he was pretty positive.

Kid was so entranced by the sight of this frantic, disheveled girl that it wasnít until Cody came banging into the saloon that he realized she had disappeared.

"Kid? Kid? Did you see him? Did you get him? Whereíd he go?" Cody rambled on anxiously as he held his left arms over his still bleeding right one.

Kid was still staring at the rooftop of the General Store in disbelief. Where did she go? Who is she and why was she shoo-

"Kid!" Cody snapped Kid out of his thoughts.

Kid turned to Cody with a concerned look on his face. "Cody! Are you okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, Iím fine. But what about that guy that was tryiní to kill us? Did you get a good look at him?"

Kid looked thoughtful for a moment. "Ummm.. not quiteÖ"

"Huh?" Cody raised his eyebrows in confusion.

Kid sighed. "That was no guy Cody. It was a girl."

"A girl?!? You mean to tell me that a girl did this to me?" he exclaimed, indicating his arm.

Kid nodded. "Better not let Lou hear you say that. Sheíd do a lot worse to ya!"

Cody shook his head defeated. "So tell me about this girlÖ"

Kid proceeded to Tell Cody everything as he checked out his arm. They both made sure to have their guns drawn as they ran quickly across the street to the Docís office where they found the necessary supplies to clean and bandage the wound.

"So was she pretty?"

"What?"

Cody rolled his eyes as he repeated himself. "I said, was she pretty?"

Kid threw him an amused look. "Is that all you ever think about?"

"Well, " Cody shuffled his feet. "I donít see no harm in askiní."

"I already told you, I didnít get a good look at her face. She was covered in dirt and it was hard to tell what she looked like." But as Kidís few short visions drifted back to him, he knew that he wasnít telling Cody the whole truth. She was beautiful. From what I can remember, she was the most beautiful girl that I have ever seen, he thought to himself, all other thoughts of Lou completely gone for the moment.

Kid shook his head. "This is ridiculous."

Cody turned to him. "What is?"

Kid hadnít realized that he had spoken aloud. "Umm, this whole situation," he quickly recovered and looked at Cody. "This deserted town, that girl shootiní at us, everything."

But what he really meant were the thoughts that were running through his head like wild horses. What was he doing thinking about another girl that way? He was madly in love with Lou, his Louise, the one woman he would lay his life down for. But thereís just something about that other girl--

"ódonícha think?"

"Huh?" Kid asked, once again embarrassed at being caught daydreaming.

Cody threw him a weird look. "Geez, what is it with you today? You feeliní alright?"

Kid nodded impatiently. "Iím fine. What were you saying?"

"Oh." Cody shrugged. "Well, what I was saying was, do you think itís possible that our girl here is the cause of this townís population decrease?"

Kid clenched his teeth. He didnít like the sound of Cody calling her "our girl" and for some reason he felt like he had to defend her, even though he didnít even know her Ė or why she was shooting at them. "No. I donít think so."

"Well, I canít think of any other explanation. We come into this place, completely deserted except for some nut-job that tries to kill us, and when you add one and one together you get-"

"A guy that canít add for his life!" Kid laughed, trying to relieve some of the tension building up inside of him.

"Hey!" Cody playfully smacked Kid with his good hand.

Kid looked thoughtful again. "Seriously though, I really donít believe that this girl is responsible for what happened here." he said honestly, remembering her frantic and nervous movements. "I think that whoever this girl is, she knows what happened Ė heck, maybe she even saw it happen, and is just frightened. She may have thought that we were here to harm her."

Cody nodded. "I guess that makes sense. But what do we do now?"

Kid smiled at Cody. "I donít know about you, but Iím not going to be up to much thinkiní and planniní until Iíve had a good nightís sleep myself."

Cody grinned his Cheshire Cat grin. "Itís about time we agree on something!"

"I say we go back across the street to the hotel, and find us two rooms with some good strong locks on the windows and doors." Kid suggested.

"I agree." Cody answered as they walked quickly across the street, their guns still drawn.

The town was eerily silent, but Kid knew that the girl was still there, and quite possibly watching them at that very moment. It made him nervous, but at the same time sent an electric shiver of anticipation through his body. He knew that he had no plans to sleep anytime soon. As soon as he knew that Cody was out cold, Kid planned to go out and find their beautiful assailant. What am I going to do when I find her? he thought to himself, for he hadnít quite figured that out yet. But all he knew was that he had to find her. Even if it was the last thing he did.
 

 

Chapter 3

As Kid sat by the window and looked up at the black sky, the only sound he heard was the lone cry of an owl. He sighed to himself and looked towards the bed where Cody was sleeping. Apparently the hotel had been booked almost to capacity when the townspeople disappeared, and since Cody was too spooked out to sleep in a room with someone elseís possessions in it, they were stuck sharing the only available room.

He would insist on taking the bed and leaving me with the floor, Kid thought to himself. Bad back my foot. Oh well, I guess it doesnít really matter since I donít plan on sleeping until I find that girlÖ

As Kid got up from the chair and began to tiptoe across the room, Cody stirred in sleep, and nearly caused Kid to have a heart attack.

"MhmmmmÖ." Cody mumbled as he tossed over.

"Cody?" Kid whispered. "Cody, you awake?"

Cody tossed again. "Mhmmm RachelÖ those sure do look goodÖ"

Kid laughed to himself. Cody did his all thinking with his stomach and his groin, so Kid couldnít tell if he was talking about Rachelís cooking or her attributes. When Kid was sure that Cody wasnít going to wake up, he slowly opened the door, silently cursing the squeaky hinges. He gently pulled the door shut behind him and quietly turned the key in the lock. Why am I bothering? Kid thought to himself as he chuckled. Ainít nobody gonna be breakiní into this room tonightÖ much to Codyís disappointment.

Kid walked down the stairs, lit a lantern, and took a look around the ground floor. It was still deserted, except for a mouse that he heard scuttling about on the hard wood floor. He walked to the front door and peeked outside. Not a sound. He figured the best place to start looking was the last place that he saw his girl - The General Store.

Did I just say my girl? Kid shook his head and walked across the street to the General Store.

"What the hell?" Kid said out loud as he opened the front door and took a look around the store. "Why in the world is this place clean and in order?" As he walked around the store, he noticed that there were no traces of dust and disarray, like in the other buildings that they had seen that day. It looked as of the shopkeeper had just cleaned the place that night! It was then that Kid noticed a faint light coming from the back of the shop.

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The girl slept soundly not hearing a thing, having no clue that there was an intruder in her safe haven. She had been so worn out from the dayís events that as soon as she thought that she was safe she had taken a warm bath and washed the weekís worth of dirt and grime off of herself. She hadnít planned on sleeping, but she had practically collapsed the second she sat down on her bed. Within minutes she had fallen into a deep and dreamless sleep.

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Kid quietly followed the yellow glow until he reached a set of stairs that lead up to the second floor of the building. He walked up the stairs slowly, anticipation growing in the pit of his stomach for he know that he had found his mystery girl. He finally found the source of the light Ė a room at the end of the hall with light peeking out from underneath the door. Now Kid knew why he hadnít seen the light from outside Ė this room was in the back of the building, so she must have known that she wouldnít be spotted.

The amount of time it took Kid to reach out and touch the doorknob seemed like an eternity. He closed his fingers around the brass knob and slowly turned it until he heard the latch give way. He walked into the small room and lost his breath for a moment when he saw the girl sleeping in the bed in front of him.

The small lantern by her bedside cast a soft yellow glow over her body, accentuating her very beautiful and very delicate features. He saw that she had bathed, for her face was free of the dirt mask and her hair was fanned across her pillow like spun silk. As he walked closer and knelt down by her bedside he drank in every inch of her that he could see. She had perfect pink heart-shaped lips, a tiny button nose, slim arched eyebrows, and the longest eyelashes that he had ever seen. She had a slim, graceful neck that lead down to dainty shoulders that were partially covered by her quilt. Her skin had a creamy peachy coloring that looked as smooth and soft as a babyís. He couldnít stop himself from reaching out and touching her cheek, and wasnít surprised when it felt like satin.

All of a sudden he was looking into a pair of the bluest eyes that he had ever seen before. Her eyes were as wide as saucers and her mouth was opened in a silent scream.

Kid jumped up and backed up as she sat up straight and drew her covers up to her chin, her eyes shining with terror.

"My name is Kid, Iím not going to hurt you!" Kid held out his hands in a sign of what he thought would be seen as friendly gesturing, but it only caused her to crawl back farther on the bed and pull the covers up even tighter around her body. She was shaking terribly and was now as white as a ghost.

Kid thought quickly. "I ride for the Pony Express was just passing on through. I know that something terrible has happened here and I want to help you. Please?" Kid pleaded with his eyes.

The girl seemed to stop shaking and she regained some coloring in her cheeks. She still kept the covers to her chin and watched him with guarded eyes, but at least she didnít look like she was going to jump through the window anymore.

"Were you the girl that was shooting at us earlier today?" Kid slowly questioned and she nodded. Kid decided to try and lighten the situation a little and laughed. "Cody, my friend that you shot, found it hard to accept the fact that he was shot by a girl."

A faint smile crept across the girlís face and Kid thought that she couldnít look any more beautiful.

"Can you tell me your name?"

The girl opened her mouth but found that no sound would come out. She tried again, but still no sound would come out. She started to get agitated, so Kid tried to calm her down.

"Thatís okay, you donít have to say anything." He spotted a pen and pad on the night table. He picked them up, sat down on the edge of the bed and handed them to her. "Can you write it?"

She nodded and took the pen and pad from Kid. A few seconds later she handed it back to him. Written in graceful script was "Patricia Sue Llandry, but you may call me Tricia."

Kid smiled at her. "Itís a pleasure to meet you Tricia. Thatís a beautiful name." Tricia smiled back at him. She seemed to have relaxed now that she knew he wasnít going to hurt her. Kid noticed that her eyelids were starting to flutter and he remembered that he had woken her out of a sound sleep. The last thing that he wanted to do was leave her, but he knew that she must be exhausted and needed her rest.

"Well Tricia, I think that you should get a good nightís sleep and weíll finish talking tomorrow." He started to get up and panic set into her eyes again. She reached out and grabbed his arm pulling him back down.

"Whatís the matter?"

Tricia shook her head.

"You need to get some sleep."

Tricia shook her head again and held on the Kidís arm more firmly.

"Iím not leaving town, Iím only going back across the street to the hotel."

Tears formed in the corners of her eyes and started to slowly drip down her cheeks. She kept shaking her head and holding onto Kidís arm with a pleading look on her face.

"You want me to stay?" Kid asked, surprised and also relieved. He hadnít wanted to leave Triciaís side, but he didnít want to frighten her.

Tricia nodded and smiled. She moved over to one side of the bed and lay down, motioning for Kid to lay down next to her. Kid couldnít refuse the look on her face. Whatever she had seen had certainly scared the daylights out of her, and he knew that if his presence would bring her peace, then his presence she would have.

Kid lay his head against the pillow and within minutes heard Triciaís soft, steady breathing, indicating that she was sleeping. For the first time in as long as he could remember, the last face he thought of before falling asleep was not Louís.

 

Chapter 4

 

At some point during the night Kid awoke to find Tricia in his arms. Her head was resting in the nook of his shoulder, and her right arm was encircling his waist. From somewhere deep in the back of his head a voice told him that heíd better get back to the hotel. If Cody woke to find Kid missing he would be worried. But then Kid looked down at Tricia, a look of pure peace and content on her face, and he told himself that he would stay just a few minutes longerÖ

 

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"What the hell?"

Kid sat straight up in bed, opened his eyes and was blinded by the glaring sunlight that was streaming in through the open window. He glanced around the room and found Cody standing in the doorway, his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open. Kid quickly checked to make sure that Tricia was still asleep, and then proceeded to free himself from her tangle of arms. He quietly climbed out of bed and indicated that Cody should go out into the hallway. Kid followed him, pulling the door shut behind him.

"You wanna tell me whatís going on here?" Cody said loudly.

"Sssh!" Kid put a finger to his lips.

"Whoís that girl?" Cody whispered, still a little loud and excited. "And what in the hell were you doiní in bed with her?"

Kid grinned sheepishly. "I found our sharp shooter."

"Her?" Cody exclaimed, with a trace of disbelief in his voice.

Kid gave an affirmative nod. "Uh huh."

Cody shook his head. "I donít believe this. Well, back to my other questionÖ what in the hell were you doiní in bed with her?" Cody asked accusingly.

"We werenít doiní nothiní."

Cody raised an eyebrow and gave Kid a skeptical look. "Nothiní, eh? I wouldnít call sleepiní in the same bed with another woman nothiní. What will Lou think?"

Kid threw him a hard look. "She wonít think nothiní because there is nothiní to tell her. Tricia was just scared and didnít want to spend the night alone."

"Tricia, huh? Youíre on a first name basis with the nut-job that tried to kill us?"

"Sheís not a nut-job. I already told you, she was scared. She thought that we were here to hurt herÖ or maybe worse." Kid reasoned.

Codyís face softened slightly. "Something really bad happened here, didnít it?"

Kid nodded and gave him a grim smile. "Tricia witnessed whatever happened here. It was so terrible that she canít even talk anymore."

"Canít talk? You mean like Ike?"

Kid shook his head. "NoÖ I donít think itís for good. You know that saying Teaspoon likes to use, Ďscared speechlessí?"

Cody nodded. "YeahÖ"

"Well, I think thatís what happened here. Whatever it was that she saw was so bad that she canít even bring herself to talk. Maybe sheís afraid that if she talks sheíll have to talk about it." Kid sighed sadly. "Iím hoping that as she grows to trust me more sheíll open up and talk again."

"You?"

"What?"

"Trust you? What am I, chopped meat?" Cody asked, a trace of hurt in his voice.

Kid hadnít even realized that he didnít include Cody in the equation. He immediately felt bad for insulting his friend, and tried to think of a way to cheer him up.

"What I meant was, Iím usually good at making people talk. Youíre so good at making them feel comfortable and relaxed with your humor. Sheíll probably end up laughing at one of your ridiculous jokes before saying anything of meaning to me."

Cody cocked his head to the side and thought about that for a moment. "Yeah, youíre probably rightÖ no woman can resist my charm."

Kid rolled his eyes. Iíve created a monster. The other riders will never forgive me when we get home.

"So, if she canít talk, how did you find out her name?" Cody questioned.

"I had her write it down on paper. Her full name is Patricia Sue Llandry, but she said that I can call her Tricia."

"So, are you planning to introduce me to this Tricia?" Cody grinned.

"CodyÖ" Kid warned. "Sheís been through something terrible, and I think the last thing that she needs is you tryiní to sweep her off her feet." Besides, if sheís going to end up with anyone here, it certainly wonít be you. Kid thought to himself. God, what am I thinking? I have to get these crazy thoughts out of my head or Iím gonna-

Kidís thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Triciaís bedroom door flying open. There stood Tricia, her eyes wide and frantic and her hair a mess. As soon as she saw Kid she relaxed and smiled.

"Hey! Good morning!" Kid said to her cheerfully.

Tricia smiled at him and nodded towards Cody. She cocked her head to the side curiously and motioned towards his arm.

Kid laughed. "Yes, this is him."

Cody stepped forward, half bowed to her, took her delicate hand in his and kissed the back of it. "Itís a pleasure Miss Llandry. My name is William F. Cody, but you may call me Billy - or just Cody if ya like." he said with a smile.

Tricia smiled, but then a look of bewilderment crossed her face. She motioned to Codyís arm again and then pointed to herself.

"Thatís okay, weíre not going to let a little thing like that stop us from being friends." Cody said, still smiling. It was obvious that he was immediately taken with this girl. "Besides, it was just a grazeÖ nothing too serious."

Tricia let out a sigh of relief and smiled again.

"Iíll tell ya whatÖ. why donít you go get washed and dressed while Cody and I make us some breakfast."

Cody laughed. "Now youíre really in trouble!"

Tricia smiled and her eyes lit up with happiness. Impulsively she leaned forward, planted a quick kiss on Kidís cheek and then shyly turned and ran back into her bedroom. Kid blushed a deep shade of red from the top of his head all the way down to his toes.

"She doesnít know about Lou, does she?" Cody asked seriously.

Kid shook his head. "No, last night we didnít really talk. I just told her who I was and why we were here. Thatís all."

"Well, I think Iíve been pushed out of the running here. And not by you either." Cody said with a knowing look on his face.

"Sheís not interested in me," Kid replied, but he didnít believe himself either.

"If you say soÖ" Cody must have realized that this was really bothering Kid, so he changed the subject. "So, are you really planning to poison us with your cooking?"

"Iím not that bad! Come on, letís go downstairs." Kid laughed as he began to walk down the stairs.

Cody followed, quietly shaking his head. This isnít good. Iíve never seen Kid like thisÖ not even with Lou.

 

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As Tricia walked back into her room, she spun around smiling very girlishly. What is with me? Why am I acting like this? she thought to herself. But she knew why. For the first time since the "incident" as she chose to call it, she was in human company again. But this time she was with someone that she felt she could trust with her life. Not only was he the most handsome man that she had ever laid eyes on, but she could tell that he was a good person inside. Honest, trustworthy, and someone that she was very definitely falling for.

She walked over to her wash basin and took a cloth to wash her face. As she looked up into the mirror hanging over the table she was shocked at her appearance. My God, I look like the walking dead! She thought to herself as she took notice of her flyaway hair and the dark circles under her eyes.

For the next thirty minutes she painstakingly worked on her hair and face, and by the time she finished buttoning up her dress, she was absolutely breathtaking. She had pulled her blonde curls into a loose bun at the back of her neck, with a few stray curls hanging down and framing her heart shaped face. She had chosen a dark blue dress with tiny white flowers that brought out the blue in her eyes. I hope that Kid likes the way I look now, she thought to herself again as she left her room and began the descent down the stairs to the kitchen at the back of the store.

Chapter 5

CLANK!

"Kid, what in the world? Are you okay?" Cody glanced at Kid, who had just dropped an entire platter of freshly cooked food on the floor. Cody then followed Kidís gaze to the kitchen door where Tricia was standing, and looking very beautiful.

Tricia ran over to help Kid pick up the food from the floor. She kneeled down and as she reached out for a stray strip of bacon at the same time that Kid did, their fingertips brushed gently against each otherís. Kid looked up and his eyes locked with Triciaís. Her eyes seemed to bore right through to his soul, and he was sure she knew how he felt.

Cody, sensing the sudden tension in Kidís face decided to break the silence. "Well Tricia, I guess I owe you a world of thanks!"

Tricia finally broke the stare and looked up at Cody. As she stood and straightened her skirts out, she gave him a perplexed look.

Cody pointed to where Kid had placed the ruined food on the table. There were strips of charred bacon and eggs that looked like they had been rubberized. "Kid here isnít the worldís best cook. In fact, heís probably the worst cook!"

Tricia smiled and giggled. It was the first time either of the friends had heard a sound come from her, and Kid thought that it was absolutely lovely. She motioned to Kid and Cody to sit down, and walked over to the stove where she took out fresh pans and the remaining raw eggs and bacon. Ten minutes later the three of them were sitting around the table eating, while Kid and Cody took turns telling Tricia stories hilarious stories of themselves and the other riders.

Finally Cody wiped his mouth with his napkin and stood up. "Miss Llandry," he began but she stopped him with a look. "Tricia, I want to thank you for not only saving us from Kidís cooking but for the delicious breakfast that you cooked." She smiled and began to start clearing the tables. Cody looked at Kid. "I think I should head out to finish the run to Fort Kearney, and then head back to Sweetwater to let Teaspoon and them all know whatís going on here."

Kid swallowed his juice, stood up and walked over to Cody. "Are you sure youíll be okay by yourself?"

Cody nodded. "Yeah, itís only a few hours from here and once I get there Iíll get a fresh horse and hope to be back in Sweetwater by tomorrow morning. Once I explain to Teaspoon what happened here, Iíll bring him and the other riders back and weíll work on figuring out what happenedÖ" Cody trailed off quietly, so that Tricia wouldnít hear.

Kid pat Codyís shoulder affectionately. "You ride safe. And take care of that arm."

Cody grinned. "Awww shucks Kid! I didnít know you cared about me that much!"

Kid laughed. "No I donít, itís just that if something happens to you then itíll just be more work for the rest of us!"

Cody walked over to Tricia, picking up her hand and kissing the back of it again. "Iíll see you in a couple of days."

Tricia smiled and took Codyís hand, squeezing affectionately. He turned away and started walking towards the front of the store. After he had left, Kid turned to Tricia.

"Let me help you with those dishes," Kid said as he walked over to the counter. He took a dish from Tricia, pumped some water into the basin and began soaping up the sponge. They began washing dishes, and after a few minutes Kid felt the dish that he was reaching for being pulled of his hands. He smiled to himself and pulled the dish back in his direction. This tug of war continued for a few minutes until Kid finally gave one firm tug and the soapy dish came flying out of Triciaís hands, slipped through his and went flying across the room, finally hitting the wall and shattering.

Kids eyes flew open, Tricia let out a loud laugh and Kid soon followed. The two of them collapsed into a fit of giggles and had to hold on to each other to keep from falling down. The next thing Kid knew he was cupping Triciaís chin between his forefinger and thumb, and slowly lifted it until he was practically touching her face with his lips. She closed her eyes as he used his thumb to softly trace the pattern of her luscious lips. Finally he closed in the tiny space that was remaining between their faces and brought his lips down, crushing hers in a soft kiss. Kid pulled back, but Tricia opened her eyes, smiled at him, brought her arm up around his neck and pulled his head back down to her. This time there was more passion in their kiss, and Kid felt like his lips were on fire. When they pulled apart Kid could see the longing in her eyes, and he knew that they were mirroring the look in his own eyes.

Tricia reached up and traced his cheek with her finger. He closed his eyes as she gently ran her finger over his own lips. "KidÖ" she whispered softly.

Kid was so overcome with emotion at hearing that one word that escaped her lips. He opened his eyes and stared into the deep blue abyss of hers. There was no need to say anything more. They both wanted the same thing, and they didnít need words to express that need between them. Kid gently lifted her into his arms, as if he were carrying a baby and kissed her again. He took the stairs two at a time, all the while his lips never leaving hers. When they entered her bedroom a few minutes later, Kid laid her gently down on the bed below her. She pulled his head down to hers and they picked up their kiss where it had left offÖ

 

**************************

 

Kid stirred in his sleep. He awoke, surprised to see that it was sometime in the late afternoon. The sun was just starting to dip down into the horizon, casting the room in a deep amber glow. He turned his head to the side and found Tricia still fast asleep, cradled in his arms. Her hair was in disarray, being pulled loose from the bun during their moments of passion, her make-up smudged and faded, and their clothes scattered around the bedroom. He stared down at her beautiful face, amazed at what had happened between the two of them. He didnít think she would have any more problems talking anymore. After a few minutes Tricia finally began to stir, opened her eyes, yawned, stretched and sighed contently.

"Would it be wrong to say good morning?" Kid asked her, smiling.

Tricia turned her head to look out the window. She wrinkled her nose, turned back to Kid and giggled. "I would think soÖ itís almost evening!

Kid laughed. "Okay, so good evening!"

Tricia laughed and hit him playfully, but then snuggled even deeper in his arms. "I still canít believe how wonderful it feels to talk again. I donít know why I wasnít able to before, and I was terrified that I was never going to be able to talk again."

Kid grinned. "Yeah well, you said some things before that I never imagined coming from your mouth!"

Tricia propped up on one elbow and looked down into Kidís face, her hair falling across her shoulder and landing on his chest. "There are a lot of things about me that you have yet to learn!" she said laughing as she poked his chest with her finger. She lay back down again and sighed.

Kid smiled. If someone had told him that he would be this happy, he would have said that they were lying. For a brief moment an image of Lou with tears of accusation in her eyes flashed through his head, but he quickly pushed it away. He didnít know what he was going to do, but for right now all he wanted to do was lay there with Tricia in his arms.

 

Chapter 6

 

The sounds of horses approaching woke Kid out of his sweet dreams. He sat up in bed and looked out the window. Dawn was breaking already! Had he and Tricia really slept the entire day away? He looked own at his side and Tricia was still sleeping peacefully. Kid jumped out of bed and frantically searched the dark room for his clothes. He was still tucking in his shirt as he ran down the stairs to greet their visitors. As he walked to the front of the shop he heard voices from outside. The front door opened and Teaspoon, Cody, Jimmy and Lou walked in.

"Kid! Thank God youíre alright!" Lou cried as she ran to him and threw her arms around his neck. Kid stiffened and hugged her back awkwardly.

"Well son, what exactly is going on here?" Teaspoon asked.

Kidís arms dropped to his side as he turned to face the old man they all thought of as a father. He thought that Teaspoon could see right through him. "What are you talking about?" he asked as he walked over to Teaspoonís side.

Teaspoon waved his arms around, indicating the town. "This here town, what is going on with it? Cody told us that thereís one survivor, but she ainít been able to talk since whatever it is that happened here happened."

Kid released the breath he had been holding and glanced at Lou quickly. She was giving him a strange look.

"I have no idea Teaspoon. I finally got Tricia to talk to me, but I didnít want to upset her so I thought itíd be best to wait until you got here to question her about what happened." You are such a liar, he thought to himself. How can you stand here and lie to them like this? Especially Lou!

"Tricia, eh? Where is she?" Teaspoon asked.

"Iím right here."

All five turned around to where Tricia was standing, dressed in the same clothes as the day before, her hair pulled into a hastily made bun.

"Well itís certainly a pleasant surprise to hear your voice!" Cody said with a smile as he walked over to where the small girl was standing. They embraced and she smiled back at him.

"Yes, you can say that again. I didnít think that I was ever going to talk again!" She turned to Kid and her smile grew. "If it wasnít for Kid here, I donít know if Iíd be talking right now," she said affectionately.

Lou walked over to Kid and placed her hand possessively on his arm, her eyes never leaving Triciaís face. "Yeah well, Kidís a real special guy."

Triciaís face fell as she looked down at her feet, shifting uncomfortably under Louís hard gaze.

Jimmyís eyes shifted from Lou to Kid to Tricia and back to Kid again. Somethingís not right here, he thought to himself as he noticed Kid go a shade paler than usual.

"So, uh, you wanna fill us in on what exactly happened her MissÖ.?" Teaspoon asked.

"Llandry. Patricia Sue Llandry, but please call me Tricia." Tricia supplied as she looked up into the old manís face, his eyes concerned.

"Alright then Tricia, what happened here?"

Tricia let out a small sigh. "Why donít we all go sit down in the parlor and Iíll get us some coffee. You all must be so tired from your trip, and this isnít going to be easy or quick."

"That sounds like a great idea to me. Iíve been dreaminí of your coffee ever since riding out yesterday morning!" Cody grinned as Tricia led them to the back of the building where the living quarters were. Kid started to follow, but Lou held him back until everyone else had left the room.

"What is it Lou?" Kid asked.

Lou looked into his eyes. "You tell me."

"I donít know what you want me to say?" Kid replied and gave her a weak smile. "I missed you." He leaned down to kiss Louís lips, but she turned her face so that he ended up kissing her cheek. "What did I do?"

Lou looked at him coldly. "I donít know exactly, but why donít you start by telliní me how you ended up with this on you?" she asked as her fingers rubbed off a smudge of lipstick from his neck. She held out her fingers for him to examine.

Kidís eyes widened and opened his mouth, but all he could do was shake his head. "Lou, I-"

"I donít want to hear none of your lies, you hear!" Lou cried, unshed tears shining her eyes. "Did you? Her? Here?"

"Lou-" Kid began, but was interrupted by Tricia.

"I just brought out some fresh coffee and cake." she offered as she smiled. "Kid, I would really like for you to be in there with me when I talk about what happened."

"Kid and I were in the middle of talkiní." Lou said flatly.

"Oh," Tricia faltered as she turned to leave the room.

"Thatís okay Tricia, Iím coming now. Lou and I can finish our conversation later," Kid said as he followed Tricia out, leaving a stunned Lou behind.

No, Lou thought to herself. This canít beÖ Kid would never! Not with her! He loves me, he would never sleep with another girl! There has to be some other explanation! Lou sat down on the bench by the counter and rested her elbows on her knees, allowing her face to fall into her hands. "Iím not going to cry. I am NOT going to cry!" She repeated over and over to herself.

"Since when did you take up talkiní to yourself?"

Louís head jerked up, surprised by Jimmy who had walked in without her knowing. She wiped away the tears that started to fall with her fists and stood up straight. "I wasnít talkiní to myself."

Jimmyís eyes were full of concern. He didnít like to see Lou in pain, and he had no doubt that the cause of her pain was Kid and this new girl. "You wanna talk?"

Lou looked at Jimmy and saw the warm compassion in his eyes. Suddenly all of her emotions came rising to the top, like a pot about to overflow. The pain from the many recent fights that she and Kid had been having, the insecurity of not knowing if she was woman enough for him, and now this! She just couldnít take it anymore!

"Oh Jimmy!" Lou cried as she ran into his arms and broke down into heartbreaking sobs.

 

Chapter 7

 

"Oh Jimmy, what did I do? What am I going to do?" Lou s sobbed as she buried her face in his jacket.

Jimmy just stood there holding Lou, stroking her hair and whispering soothing words. "Sssh, itís okay, everythingís gonna be fine." But he was lying and he just hoped that Lou didnít know that. How could The Kid do this to her? he asked himself.

Lou looked up at Jimmy, resembling a little girl at that moment. It wasnít very often that she revealed the vulnerable side of herself, and Jimmy knew that she was in more pain than he thought. "Not only did he sleep with her, but he didnít even know her! And do you wanna know what else?"

"What?"

Lou put her head down on Jimmyís chest and started to sob again. "He didnít even try to deny it!"

Jimmy thought that his own heart was going to break. He couldnít stand to just sit there and watch Louís whole world, her whole existence, just crumble around her. He would deal with Kid later, but for now he had to take care of Lou. He continued to stroke her hair for a few more minutes until her sobs began to subside and she stopped shaking. Finally when he thought that she was calm, he spoke to her.

"Do you want to ride back with me tonight? Thereís no reason for us to stay." Jimmy asked her.

Louís head jerked up, her brown eyes stained with red. "No way! Uh uh Jimmy. No way in hell am I leaviní here!" she said forcefully.

"But why Lou? If you stay youíre only going to make yourself feel worse."

Lou looked into Jimmyís eyes, and he thought that he had never seen a meaner look on anyone before. "If Kid wants her, fine. But Iím not going to run home like a kicked puppy."

Jimmy nodded. "I understand. But-"

He was interrupted by Cody, who had just walked into the room. "Hey? Arenít you guys cominí in?"

Jimmy turned to face Cody. "Weíll be there in a minute."

"No," Lou said, "Weíre coming now. Címon Jimmy." Lou walked past Jimmy and Cody and continued towards the back of the store with her back straight, head held high.

 

************************
 

"I was awakened in the middle of the night by the sounds of footsteps in the hallway. I peeked outside my door and saw three strange men walking towards my parentsí room. One of them was already carrying my baby sister in his arms, unconscious and gagged." Tricia had to stop because the tears were starting to fall again.

Kid handed her a handkerchief and squeezed her hand. "Itís okay, go on."

Tricia took a deep breath and continued. "I watched the other two walk into my parentsí room and then came out a few minutes later with them both in their arms. They were unconscious and gagged as well. I closed my door and ran under my bed to hide. After what seemed like an eternity I heard my door open and two of the men came inside. They opened every drawer and chest, but didnít look under the bed. I remember one of them saying to the other that I must be out of town because I sure as he-" Tricia looked down, "sure as hell wasnít anywhere in the house. Then-"

She was interrupted by the sounds of approaching footsteps. Lou, followed by Cody and Jimmy walked into the room. She gave Kid a glaring look and then sat down across the room from him, Cody and Jimmy on either side of her on the sofa.

"Itís okay Tricia, please continue." Kid encouraged.

"Then the other guy said that Harrison was going to have to be happy with what he got, and that with a town full of slaves, what difference would one missing girl make."

"Harrison? Did you say Harrison?" Teaspoon interrupted, practically sitting on the edge of his seat.

Tricia nodded.

"Well Iíll be damned."

"What is it Teaspoon?" Cody asked.

Teaspoon leaned back in his chair and grunted. "If this is the same guy that Iím thinking of, his name is Lenny Harrison. I received word the other day that heíd gone and broke outta prison a couple of weeks ago."

"Yeah, but what would he be doing kidnappiní a whole town full of people?" Kid asked, his face a mask of confusion.

"Son, I donít know. But if this is Lenny Harrison, then weíre in for more than you think. This guy has a reputation bigger than Codyís appetite." Teaspoon answered.

Jimmy looked at Teaspoon. "So what are we going to do?"

"Well, first thingís first. Weíre going to mount up and ride out of here right now. If any one of them gets wind that weíre in this town, you can bet your horse theyíll be back here in no time." Teaspoon turned towards Tricia. "Miss Llandry, if there is anything that you want to bring with you, I suggest you go and pack it now. Weíre ridiní out in thirty minutes."

Tricia nodded and stood up. "Iíll be ready in five." She turned towards Kid. "Can you come and help me please?"

Lou groaned, but was poked in the ribs by Jimmy. "Stop that," he whispered to her. "Show him that youíre better than that."

Kid glanced at Lou, but stood up and quickly followed Tricia out of the room.

Teaspoon looked from Jimmy to Lou. "Does one of you wanna explain to me just what in the hell has happened?"

 

************************

 

As soon as Kid and Tricia entered Triciaís room she spun around to face him. She looked at him for a brief second before slapping him hard across his cheek. His eyes widened and she slapped him again. She went to raise her arm a third time, but Kid caught her wrist just in time.

"How could you?" Tricia exclaimed. "HOW COULD YOU?!?"

 

 

 

 Chapter 8

 

"What is it Tricia?"

"LouÖ sheís your girlfriend, isnít she?" The anger in her voice had subsided, replaced now by hurt.

Kid hung his head.

"I take that as a yes?"

Kid looked up and met Triciaís stare. "Yes she is. Or, at least she was."

"Then why, did you? Me? Last night?" Triciaís voice rose a couple octaves higher as she trailed off.

Kid sighed. "I donít know. I honestly donít. See, me and Louise, weíve been having more fights than usual, and always about the same thing." He walked over to the bed and sat down. "I love her Tricia, I do, and I want to marry her more than anything in the world."

Tricia walked over to him and sat down in her desk chair facing him. "Then why did you allow me think that you were interested in me?"

"Well, see the reason that Lou and I have been fighting is because she keeps turning down my marriage proposals and lately Iíve started to feel like Iím not good enough for her." Kid clenched his fists as he continued. "I also feel like there are times that sheíd rather be with Jimmy-"

"Jimmy?" Tricia asked with a puzzled look. "The same Jimmy thatís downstairs?"

Kid nodded. "Yeah, him. I know that thereís something between the two of them, even though Lou assures me that she loves me. Then I meet you, and for the first time in a long time I feel wanted. I feel needed. Something I havenít felt from Lou in a long time."

Tricia hung her head low. "So you used me to make yourself feel better."

Kidís eyes widened. "No, thatís not what I meant at all!" Tricia looked up at him and he continued. "Tricia, you are a really wonderful girl, and any guy would be lucky to be able to call you his girl."

"Any guy but you, right?"

Kid nodded. "I feel terrible for what happenedÖ. Iím so sorry Tricia, I never meant to hurt you." Kidís eyes filled with guilty tears.

Tricia sighed. "Think of it this way. We both needed something last night. You needed to feel wanted, and I desperately needed human companionship after everythingís that happened. It was a one-time thing, and we both know that. Thereís no sense in arguing about it. In a way, we used each other."

"So you donít think Iím a terrible person?"

Tricia smiled reassuringly. "Only if I think that about myself. What do you say we work on smoothing things over with you and Louise instead of sitting here feeling miserable for ourselves? Friends?" She held out her hand.

Kid took it and pulled her into a hug. "Friends. Thank you."

 

 

**********************************

 

"Well? Is one of you gonna tell me what in the hell is going on here?" Teaspoon looked from Jimmy to Lou.

Lou sighed and Jimmy tightened his arm around her. "It seems that Kid and Tricia are more than just friends." Lou finally said.

"Oh," Teaspoon faltered. "I see. And do you know this for a fact?"

"What do you mean? I asked him and he didnít say nothing to defend himself!" Lou exclaimed.

"Yeah, but he did admit to it?" Cody asked.

Lou looked down. "Well, no, not exactly. But he had lipstick on his neck!"

"Well now Lou, it donít sound like he said that he did anything either." Teaspoon reasoned.

Lou looked up at Teaspoon and then Jimmy with wide eyes. "Oh no! What if I made a total fool of myself? What if I was wrong and Kid hates me for not trusting him? Iíve got to go talk to him!" Lou cried as she ran up the stairs to find Kid.

 

 

**********************************

 

 

Kid and Tricia remained hugging for a few minutes, both relieved that the awkward tension was gone, and that they had come to the understanding that they were just friends. Just as they were getting ready to pull away so Tricia could pack her belongings, the door to Triciaís bedroom flew open.

"Kid! Kid!" called an out of breath Lou. "I need to talk to-"

Kid and Tricia pulled away and looked towards the door, but it was too late.

"Lou!" Kid exclaimed. "Whatís the matter?"

"-you." she finished. Louís eyes narrowed as she took in the scene in front of her. "How could I have been so dumb as to think that there wasnít anything going on between the two of you?"

"Lou, weíre just friends."

"Donít hand me no lies Kid, Iím not in the mood. I come up here to apologize for jumping to conclusions before and to give you a chance to explain!" Lou cried. "And what do I find? No sooner are you out of my sight, you two are in each otherís arms again!"

"Louise please listen," Tricia started.

Lou glared at her with hard eyes. "I donít believe I was speaking to you," she said coolly.

Tricia paled and took a step back.

"Lou, thereís no need to do this. Please just give me a chance to explain?" Kid pleaded.

"Iím done giviní chances Kid," Lou stated and turned to walk out of the room.

"Lou, please donít go!"

The urgency in Kidís voice was heartbreaking, and Louís eyes filled with tears as her chest felt like it was going to explode. Oh Kid, do you really think I want to leave? Thereís nothing I want more than to run into your arms and have you hold me forever and tell me that Iím the only woman youíll ever love, she thought to herself.

"Lou, I love youÖ please talk to me." Kid practically begged, tears filling his eyes as well.

Louís back was turned to Kid, so he couldnít see that her tears were now falling freely down her cheeks. She physically ached inside, it was the worst pain she had ever felt. She walked over to the wall, leaned her arms against it, and buried her head in her arms, crying loudly now. Tricia looked at Kid, nodded and quietly slipped out of the room, pulling the door shut behind her.

Kid walked over to Lou and placed a hand gently on her shoulder. Lou reeled around and slapped him hard across the cheek.

Kid stepped back and rubbed his cheek. "You know, youíre the second person to do that to me today, and Iím really hoping that this streak ends soon."

 

 

 

Chapter 9

 

Tricia hurried down the stairs and almost ran literally into Jimmy.

"Whoa! Goiní somewhere?" he questioned her.

Tricia found that she couldnít meet his eyes. "Nowhere in particular, I just have to get out of here."

"Youíre planning on leaviní here alone?"

Tricia nodded, her eyes filling with tears. "Iíve caused too much trouble already, and I think it would be best if I just left and found some place to settle down until I can find out whatís happened to my family."

Jimmy stared at her, immediately feeling bad for being so harsh with her. "Yeah, that place is called Sweetwater, and youíre cominí back there with us," he told her in a softer voice.

Tricia looked up at Jimmy with hopeful eyes. "I thought you hated me."

Jimmy shook his head. "Look, I was wrong and Iím sorry. I assumed things without knowing the whole story. Lou was upset and I-"

"You protected her."

Jimmy nodded. "Exactly. Lou and I have been through some times together, and sheís like a sister to me. When I saw her hurt, I immediately labeled you the reason for it. And I was wrong for doing that."

"But I did hurt her," Tricia continued, a puzzled look on her face.

Jimmy took her chin in his hand. "Did The Kid tell you about her?"

Tricia shook her head. "Not until today."

"Then my problem isnít with you. Itís with him." Jimmy stated.

 

 

***********************************

 

"I should slap you again Kid! Lou exclaimed.

Kid rubbed his sore cheek and pleaded with her. "Lou, just please hear me out."

Lou turned around, tears staining her cheeks. "I donít know why I should, but go on."

Kid took a deep breath. "I was wrong-"

"Youíre certainly right you were wrong."

"Are you going to let me finish?"

Lou bit her lip to keep from saying anything else and nodded.

Kid took another breath and continued. "Yes, I did, as you say, "dance" with Tricia last night." Louís eyes widened and she opened her mouth, but Kid held up his hand. "Please, just let me say what I have to say."

Lou closed her mouth and looked down.

"It meant nothing to me. I was upset about the way things have been going between you and me, and she was lonely and scared. We were there for each other, but it didnít and still doesnít mean anything to either of us." Kid walked over to Lou and kneeled down in front of her. "I love you. I am hopelessly in love with you, and I donít want anyone else. Ever."

Lou looked up. "I donít know how I can forgive you."

Kid sighed. "Itís not going to be easy, I know that. I know about what happened between you and Jimmy, and although thereís a part of me that still hurts, I told myself that I wasnít going to allow that to ruin us. Iím willing to wait as long as I have to and do whatever it takes to make you realize that you are the only woman for me."

"Do you really mean that?"

"With all my heart and soul."

"How does Tricia feel about all of this?" Lou asked.

"She feels the same way that I do. In fact, when you walked in here and saw us hugging, it was because we had just agreed to put what happened behind us, and she wanted to work on makiní things right between you and me."

"So she didnít know about me?"

Kid shook his head. "Not until today."

"Ohh, I feel like such an idiot." Lou wailed.

"Youíre not an idiot Lou. Iím the idiot for taking the risk of possibly losing you forever."

Lou looked up at him. "Yes, you are an idiot. And just because Iím talkiní to ya, donít mean that Iíve forgiven ya. I just think that for now we should just call a truce until everything with Harrison is settled."

Kid hung his head, still feeling ashamed. "I know."

Lou offered a slight smile. "But it also doesnít mean that I donít love you anymore."

 

 

***********************************

 

Tricia had changed out of her dress into a pair of pants and a shirt. Since all of the horses were gone as well, she was going to double up with Cody for the ride back. When Lou and Kid walked downstairs and outside, the other riders were just about all mounted and ready to go.

"We were just about to come lookiní for you two! You ready?" Teaspoon asked.

Jimmy looked at Lou and offered a small smile, which she returned. "Yes, we are."

Tricia looked at Kid was a concerned face and he smiled and nodded his head to let her know that everything was going to be all right. He and Lou climbed up on their horses, and the six of them rode off back to Sweetwater.

 

 

 

Chapter 10

 

"Riders coming!" Noah called.

Rachel and Buck came running out of the house. Teaspoon, Jimmy, Cody, Tricia, Lou, and Kid came riding up.

"Kid! Are you all right?" Rachel asked as she ran over to greet the riders. When Cody had come back, he had filled her in on what was going on.

Kid climbed off of Katy and smiled to Rachel. "Iím fine, thank you"

"So what happened? And who, " Noah gave Tricia an appreciative glance, "is this?"

Cody climbed off his horse and helped Tricia down. "Tricia, Iíd like you to meet Noah, Rachel and Buck."

Tricia smiled. "Itís a pleasure."

"So is anyone going to tell me what in the world happened?" Rachel asked.

Teaspoon walked over and put an arm around Tricia. "It appears as if Harrison and his goons are involved in the disappearance of Serenityís townspeople. Including Triciaís family."

Buck looked up, suddenly very interested in the conversation. "Did you say Harrison?"

"Yeah why?"

Buck walked over to Teaspoon. "Harrison was in town today. He was mouthing off in the saloon about how he had just purchased the old Johnson place, and the mines that surrounded the property."

Teaspoon raised his eyebrow. "Did he say anything else son?"

Buck took a deep breath. "Yeah, but maybe we should talk about this inside," he said, indicating Triciaís presence.

Tricia looked from Buck to Teaspoon, walked in between them, and looked firmly at the both of them. "Anything you have to say can be said in front of me."

Teaspoon nodded at Buck to continue. "Well, he was saying that he was gonna be a rich man in a few days. Claims to have gold in those mines and says he has enough man power to dig it all out."

Jimmyís eyes widened as he looked at Teaspoon. "Enough man power? There must be at least a hundred acres of land there!"

Kid looked at Jimmy. "Are you thinkiní what Iím thinkiní?"

Jimmy nodded. "I think we found our missing townspeople." He looked at Tricia. "And your family."

"You mean, Harrison is using them as slaves?" Tricia asked cautiously.

"Well now, we canít go jumpiní to no conclusions, but thatís the way it seems." Teaspoon stated.

Tricia grew pale and Rachel rushed over to her. "Why donít you come on inside honey? Weíll get you something cold to drink."

Tricia shook her head. "I appreciate it, but no thank you Rachel." She turned to Teaspoon. "What are you planning to do?"

"Something tells me nothing I can say will keep these boys-"

"Ahem!" Lou cleared her throat loudly.

"Um, and Lou," Teaspoon smiled sweetly at Lou, "from heading over there to check out the situation."

Tricia nodded. "Well then count me in as well."

"Are you sure thatís a good idea?" Buck asked. "It could get dangerous."

Cody stepped forward and held up his arm. "I think Iím proof that she can handle herself with a gun!"

The riders laughed and Tricia blushed.

"Then itís settled." Lou said as she started walking towards the bunkhouse. "Boys, get all the extra ammunition that you can carry. I have a feeling weíre not going to be met with smiles."

 
*******************************

 

 

Twenty minutes later, Cody, Jimmy, Kid, Buck, Teaspoon, Lou and Tricia were on their way to Harrisonís place. There was a hill with a rock clearing that hung over the property where they could hide, and still have a clear view of the place. One by one they quietly climbed off of their horses and crouched behind the rocks. As they had thought, the townspeople of Serenity were being used as mining slaves. Harrison seemed to have no qualms about using men, as well as women and children, as his slaves, while he and his four men sat around laughing and drinking ale.

"Oh my God! MAMA!" Tricia gasped loudly as she spotted her mother, dirty and covered in dust, hacking away at rock with a pickax.

"What are we going to do Teaspoon?" Kid asked. "There are more of them than us!"

"Somethiní tells me that the hostages wonít back up Harrison. That means there are five of them, and seven of us." He looked over at the riders. "Think we can handle them?"

Jimmy snorted. "Of course we can."

 

 

Chapter 11

 

"Come on, move it! We donít have all day here!" Harrison grumbled as he pushed one of the slaves forward towards the mine.

"Mr. Harrison?" asked a timid voice.

Harrison turned and looked at the slight woman who was speaking to him. "This had better be important."

The woman bowed her head. "My little girl is very weak, she can not work for much longer without food or water."

Harrisonís eyes hardened. "Nobody rests until I say so."

The womanís eyes widened. "But-"

"Back to work!"

Without another word, the woman returned to her place on the chain gang.

 

************************************

 

"Somethinís happeniní down there," Jimmy observed as he watched the interaction between the woman and Harrison.

Tricia squinted and tried to make out what they were saying by reading their lips. "Thatís my mother heís talking to, but I canít understand what she is saying to him." She watched as her mother lowered her head and walked back to where her father and little sister were standing. Her sister was very pale and looked ready to pass out any minute. Her mother shook her head sadly at her father and began to cry. He enveloped her in his arms and tried to soothe her. Tricia felt lumps rise in her throat while fire burned through her veins at the same time. She felt a hand on her arm, and when she turned around she found Lou staring at her with compassion in her eyes.

"Tricia?" Lou asked gently. "You think you can handle this?"

Tricia fought back tears and nodded. "I want to make him pay for what he has done to my family, and everyone else."

Lou smiled softly. "I understand how you feel."

As Lou turned away, Tricia grabbed her arm. "Lou, I want you to know that I-"

Lou shook her head. "Itís over. Itís in the past. We all make mistakes, and I think my biggest one was almost losing the most important person in my life." Her eyes traveled to where Kid was crouching, watching Harrison with a hawk eye.

Tricia smiled. "He loves you a great deal."

"I know he does. And Iíve been a fool to push him away like Iíve been. Thatís why when this whole thing is done and over with I am going to tell him that I have changed my mind." Lou grinned.

Triciaís eyes widened. "You mean?"

Lou nodded. "I am going to accept his marriage proposal."

Triciaís eyes lit up with happiness. "Lou, thatís wonderful! Youíre going to make him the happ-" Tricia was cut off by the sound of a shrill scream.

All eyes turned towards the scene below where a little girl lay motionless on the ground.

"Sarah!" Tricia screamed as she watched her mother run over to where her baby sister had dropped.

"Hey! Whoís up there?" A gruff voice boomed from below.

"Uh oh, weíve been spotted!" Cody called out.

"Everybody take cover!" Teaspoon ordered as he stood up. "Harrison! This is Marshal Hunter!"

Harrison looked up at Teaspoon for a split second before raising his gun and firing off a shot. Teaspoon ducked down and barely missed being hit with the bullet. "Nice to meet you Marshal!" Harrison laughed sarcastically as he walked over to Triciaís mother and pushed her out of the way. "I told you no one rests until I say so!"

"Get your hands off of her." A cool voice came from behind him. During the exchange with Teaspoon, Tricia had managed to climb down from the rocks and position herself behind Harrison.

Harrison turned around slowly and found himself staring into the barrel of Triciaís revolver. "Donít you know little girls shouldnít play with guns? It ainít very ladylike." Harrison cackled.

Triciaís eyes turned to ice. She opened her mouth to say something, but before she could Lou screamed out to her.

"Tricia, look out!"

But Louís warning came too late. Tricia didnít see the man creep up behind her. She felt the impact of the bullet in her back, and then a fiery hot sensation travel down her spine. But before everything went hazy, she took one last look at Harrisonís face and squeezed the trigger of her gun. She had the satisfaction of seeing him drop dead to the ground before she herself collapsed.

"Tricia!" Kid screamed as he watched her fall. The other riders climbed down from the rocks, surrounded the remaining outlaws, and ordered them to drop their guns, while Kid and Lou ran over to where Tricia was lying, cradled in her motherís arms. Triciaís mother was humming a soft melody to her dying daughter, rocking her slowly like she used to do when she was a baby.

When Kid reached her side, he kneeled down next to her. It had happened so fast, he hadnít had a chance to say goodbye. He reached forward and closed Triciaís eyelids, all the while trying not to cry. Lou walked over to him and kneeled down next to him. She took his hand in hers, just like she had done to Tricia only a few minutes before.

 

"Itís going to be okay." She told him softly.

Teaspoon walked over and laid a hand on both Kid and Louís backs. "You two alright?" Both nodded silently. "Mrs. Llandry?"

Triciaís mother looked up at Teaspoon with devastation in her eyes. "The only thing I am grateful for is that she didnít have to suffer here with us." She turned and looked towards Kid and Lou. "Were you her friends?"

Lou and Kid glanced at each other before turning back to Mrs. Llandry. Kid spoke quietly. "We always will be."

 

 
Chapter 12

 

The next day, on the way back from Triciaís burial in Serenity, the mood was somber. Even though most of the riders had only known Tricia for a couple of days, she had made an impact in their lives.

Arriving back at the waystation, Kid walked Katy into the barn and began to brush her down. He didnít hear Louís soft footsteps as she walked in after him. She walked over to him and gently wrapped her arms around his waist from behind. Kid turned around so that he was facing her and hugged her tightly.

"Are you okay?" She asked him softly.

"I am now."

Lou picked her head up and stared into his eyes. She reached out and gently caressed his cheek. "Kid, Iím sorry Iíve been acting like a fool."

Kid shook his head and started to say something, but Lou placed her fingers over his lips.

"No, I have to say this." She looked sternly into his eyes. "It wasnít until I almost lost you that I realized how much I needed you. When I saw you with Tricia, it almost ripped my heart out." She stopped to swallow back tears that were starting to form.

"Lou-"

Lou shook her head. "Seeing you with Tricia made me realize how lucky I was to have you to love me, and I knew from that moment on that there was nobody else for me."

This time it was Kid that swallowed back tears. "Even Jimmy?"

Lou smiled. "Even Jimmy."

Kid pulled Lou to him in a tight embrace and kissed the top of her head. "Lou, I love you so much."

Lou sighed contently and hugged him back. She had been afraid that there would be no working things out with Kid, that she had finally gone one step too far. She was filled with such relief and happiness. Suddenly she had an impulsive thought. She pulled out of Kidís embrace, much to his dislike and stepped back, still facing him.

"Lou? What are you doing?" Kid asked, a perplexed look on his face.

Lou grinned at him, tucked her hair behind her ears, took a deep breath and dropped down on one knee. Kidís eyes widened with intrigue as she took his hand in hers and giggled nervously.

"Kid. Will you marry me?" She finally managed to ask.

Kidís eyes filled with happy tears as he pulled Lou to her feet and picked her us in his arms, spinning around at the same time. "Yes! Yes, yes, yes!" He shouted ecstatically, as the other riders came running into the barn to see what the commotion was. Kid leaned down and kissed Lou deeply, his tears mixing with hers.

Teaspoon came wandering into the barn after everyone else and scratched his head in confusion and bewilderment. "Did I miss somethiní?" He asked Noah.

Noah grinned and patted Teaspoon on the back. "I think this day is turning out right after all."

Kid finally stopped spinning and put a dizzy Lou down on the ground. She looked up at him with adoration in her eyes and kissed him quickly. "Now, now Kid, weíll have plenty of time for that later." She turned and smiled at the other riders, Rachel and Teaspoon. "For now we have a wedding to plan!"

The End
 
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