Second Chances

by LT

Part 1 -3 | Part 4 - 7 | Part 8 - 11
Part 12 - 14 | Part 15 - 16 | Part 17 - 18
Part 19 - Epilogue

Part Eight

Mary made her way slowly down the stairs. She felt useless. The seven had each other and there was no place for her in their company right now. Chris wasn't even aware that she existed at this point. Until the crisis passed, all that mattered to him was Buck. She had felt jealous of Buck in the past, when the two of them had their heads together, devising a plan or making small talk. She wondered if Sarah had ever felt that way. But slowly over the last year, she learned that Buck was an important part of the man she loved and the jealousy disappeared. She still didn't know all the details of their relationship and maybe it was better that way. Everyone had skeletons in their closet, she did, and Chris had a right to his. She was glad Chris had someone to share them with. Sometimes, she noticed the look, the one that communicated so much between the two men. It was almost like the look lovers have between them. It spoke volumes and no one else could fathom its depths. They usually disappeared for a while after that and generally returned, hours later, dead drunk. Mary felt no need to go with them. She wouldn't have been welcome. She smiled to herself. ‘Vin knows that look too. Why doesn’t Chris’s relationship with the tracker make me jealous? Chris is probably closer to Vin than Buck.’ She knew the answer to her question. History. A blood bond of brotherhood forged over so many years that it could never be broken. Vin’s relationship with Chris was spiritual, a blending of two minds whose thoughts were almost parallel. Buck’s relationship with her lover was built on a foundation of gratitude, respect and love. Add in guilt and pain and it was as convoluted as one could get.

Suddenly, Mary thought of someone who could use her help. She had completely forgotten her best friend in all the confusion and grief this morning. What a terrible blow to Inez! Mary picked up her skirts and fairly ran the last hundred yards to the saloon.

As she entered the dimly lit room, she stopped. Although perhaps a dozen men were sitting drinking and playing cards, the atmosphere was forlorn, the voices hushed. Mary looked first to the bar but Ida Mae was behind the bar serving a customer. Mary scanned the rest of the room. Sitting all alone at the rear table the Seven preferred, Inez had her head on her arms and was crying. She didn't look up as Mary approached her. She was lost in her own world.

Mary laid her hand on the young woman’s shoulder. Softly she relayed the good news. "He's alive, Inez, barely, but the doctor says there's a chance he'll survive."

Inez stared at Mary as if she had gone insane. "Ezra told me Buck died about three hours ago. What are you talking about Mary? What doctor?"

"Dr. Amanda Elder. She happened to be stranded here in town when the stage broke down. She operated on Buck and he's not doing great but he's alive. She said the bullet did a lot of damage to his lung and it tore up an artery so he bled a lot. She told us not to hope for a miracle but I think the fact that he's still alive is one, don't you agree?"

"Buck is alive! Oh Mary, I can't believe it. Is he truly alive? Ah, Matre di Dios!"

"Inez," Mary sat down close to her friend’s side. "I know what he means to you. You may fool Buck but not the rest of us. And I know I would be devastated if anything happened to Chris. I know you have chosen your course with Buck but you may wish to reconsider. I have never seen him so challenged, flabbergasted, and tied in knots as he is with you. It's love, Inez, he just doesn't recognize it yet. So, if you are willing to risk your heart, I want to give you some advice. You have to stay strong for him. He's going to need you if you're willing. Look at me. It took Chris a long time but he finally came around. Buck will too. Just be there for him now and maybe he’ll get it through that thick skull of his, just how important you are to him. Give him a chance."

The Mexican’s eyes bore straight into Mary’s. A smile slowly crept across her face. "He’s alive and I have a second chance with him. Do you really think that I mean anything to him?"

"Believe me, Inez, even Chris can see it. Why, I bet even JD knows how Buck feels for you. It’s just Buck that can’t see what’s in his heart."

"I have a second chance, Mary. Oh no, Ezra was so sure that Buck was dead when he told me this morning. We've got to find him and tell him the news. I'm sure he doesn't know. He is really alive, Mary?"

"He's really, truly, alive."

With a smile on her face, Inez embraced Mary and then the two of them went in search of Ezra Standish.

Part Nine

Chris watched the doctor as she examined Buck. Buck was still unconscious, he hadn't moved since they had laid him on the bed. He was using all his strength just breathing, in and out. Chris sat down at the table where they had cut Buck open this morning. He put his head in his hands and began to weep. He never noticed the doctor standing ten foot away from him, watching him cry.

"Do you need someone to talk to? I have plenty of time to listen." Dr. Elder sat down at the table with Chris.

He wiped the tears away and looked at the woman who had saved Buck's life. But for what? He studied her and came to the conclusion that she was basically a good woman, devoted to medicine but he wasn't sure she was devoted to her patients.

"Did I make a mistake this morning?" He asked her, his eyes narrowing to judge her response.

"A mistake about what?"

"About letting you operate on him. Did I just do it because I wasn't ready to let him go? You never said what you could do for Buck besides save his life and I let you do it. Is he ever going to be able to do the things he loves or is he going to be confined to a bed the rest of his life? Is he going to live just to suffer until he passes away at a later date? All I heard was that my friend was going to die unless you operated and I blindly said okay. Maybe JD was right, maybe it was purely selfish."

The doctor looked at her hands. She had never had someone question her surgery saving a loved one before. Was there an answer for him? She looked up and saw that he was judging her answer.

"Your friend there, seems to have a lot of people that love him. You seem particularly devoted to him. Why?"

"Why? I don't understand?" Chris looked puzzled.

"What is there about him that makes people care if he lives or dies? Obviously, there are several of you who were distraught to see him passing away. Is there something special about him?"

"Special about Buck? I don’t know where to start." The man in black looked down at his hands for a minute and then slowly, raised his head to the doctor. "The first day I met him, he was willing to sacrifice his life to save mine and he was only a kid. He took the blame for something stupid that I did and the guards put him in the box. He was barely alive when they pulled him out.. He did the same thing for JD, jumped right in front of a sword to save him. Is that special enough for you?" Chris felt defensive all of a sudden.

"My name is Amanda, by the way. Since we are going to be spending a lot of time together, why don't you call me that. Buck must be a very special man to do that for you. You've been best friends ever since, haven't you? But surely he hasn't done that for everyone? There must be more to him then that?" She baited him a bit more.

"He loves life and he lives it to the fullest every day. He's willing to give his all for this town, these people, and some of them love him for that. He sucks everyone around him into his exuberance and he gives all six of us a chance to laugh at ourselves. He’s what makes life worth living at times. Is that good enough for you, Doctor?"

"It’s Amanda and I think you just answered your own question. He loves life and lives it to the fullest. Why would he choose death then? That man wants to live or he wouldn't be breathing right now. The rest of your question, I don't know if I can answer. I would expect him to make a full recovery but he may have trouble breathing on occasion. He may have trouble running a hundred yards or he may get winded in a fight. His lung is damaged and I really don't know how well it will heal. He can live with one lung but two is better. Even if he has trouble breathing for the rest of his life, he can do almost anything he does now, just slower, at his own pace. Can you deal with that?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I can live with that and I reckon Buck can too. By the way, I'm Chris, Chris Larabee. Thank you, Amanda. I guess I did what he would have wanted." Chris was about to get up and go sit by the bed when Amanda stopped him.

"Tell me about your friend over there. I'm intrigued by what you said. He was willing to give his life for you at such a young age. That’s very heroic. Do you think I would like him?"

Chris chuckled at her question. "You're a woman. Of course you would like him. Above all else, my friend is a ladies man. And he has the ego to go with it. He seems to have a way with women and I have yet to hear of a jealous one. They seem to have no problem sharing him. Now husbands, that's a different story. There have been quite a few of those who don't seem to want to share."

She smiled and shook her head. "I'm sure that you don't think he's special because he can get the ladies into bed with him. Why do you care for him so much?"

Chris hesitated for a moment and then he said, "When we first met, he was a tall skinny kid, stuck in a prison camp with a whole bunch of older soldiers. He was quiet, almost withdrawn from life and yet he looked at me with a grin that drew me to him and held me there. He was starvin' to death, like the rest of the prisoners, and he was hurtin’ bad, and yet, despite all the terrible things goin’ on there, he could smile and light up the whole camp. The war had really sucked the life out of almost all of us. Still, there was a light in his eyes and I knew that if he could just get past the pain … well. We got out and he regained his love of life. After the war, the two of us raised hell all over this part of the country. We took on men in every town we came to and we sparked every woman we could find. We have always watched each other’s back and not once in almost fourteen years, did he ever stab me in mine. He's kind, mischievous, passionate, generous, irresponsible, and audacious. He's the exact opposite of me, I guess. Besides all that and maybe because of it, he's my family, the only one I would give two cents for. No, I take that back. He's one of six brothers that I have now."

Amanda was stunned by his honesty and insight. "I guess he is very special. I'm sure you made the right decision, Chris."

"What's your story?" Chris was interested now.

Amanda got up and poured both of them some coffee. "My father is a doctor and my mother helps him. It was only natural, being an only child, to want to follow in my father’s footsteps. I didn't realize what resistance I would run in to though. There was only one other female in med school with me. I guess the two of us were about as close as you and Buck. She didn't save my life or anything like that but we supported each other through a lot of prejudice and scorn. I found I really liked digging into the human body and seeing what I could fix inside. I'm good at it too. I'm going back to work with my father. I haven't seen my parents since I left for school, and that was ten years ago. I guess this delay won't kill me but I sure was mad yesterday."

"How about you, Chris? I sense that even though you say Buck is the ladies man, you're the one who won the prize. Is she gone now?" Amanda asked sincerely.

"Yeah." Chris got up and walked to the bed. He looked down at Buck and then he turned back to the doctor. "Sarah was special to both of us. I loved her so much and Buck thought of her as the sister he never had. I guess you could say she tamed both of us. I think she was the only woman Buck never tried to seduce." He sat down and the conversation was over.

Part Ten

Josiah walked to the saloon in search of Ezra. He wanted to make sure that the gambler was all right and that he knew about the surgery and Buck's currant condition. The gambler had been so full of guilt when he left them this morning that Josiah was afraid that he might do something rash. The big ex-preacher entered through the swinging doors and looked around the smoke filled room. Ezra was not at his usual table so he walked up to the bar.

"Inez, have you seen Ezra today? I have some good news about Buck and I want Ezra to know about it."

The beautiful woman behind the bar turned to face Josiah. Her eyes were red and filled with tears. She slowly walked over to where Josiah was standing against the bar.

"No, Senor Josiah, I have not seen Ezra since he came and told me that Senor Buck was dead. That was very early this morning. Mary was here a short time ago and told me a woman doctor operated on Buck and saved his life. I was so relieved. It is a miracle from God. Mary and I searched for Ezra but could not find him. Josiah, have you seen Buck since the surgery? Is he really still alive?"

Josiah took her hand. He knew that she had feelings for Buck even though they had never consummated their relationship. He had always thought that Inez was afraid of falling for Buck, that she kept a distance between them because she cared deeply for the big man and didn't want to share him with the other women in town. He could be wrong but he saw sincere sorrow in her eyes this day.

"God works in mysterious ways sometimes. Yes, Inez, he's still alive. He's still in grave condition but there is hope now where there was none before. Just keep praying for him, my daughter. Right now though, I'm worried about Ezra."

"So am I. I'm sure he still believes that Buck is dead and he blames himself. After he told me about Buck getting shot, I saw him about fifteen minutes later. He had saddlebags and a piece of paper. He gave me a dollar and told me to put a beer on Buck's coffin. Oh my God, Josiah, I never looked at the paper." She ran into the kitchen and returned seconds later with the paper in her hands. She held it out to Josiah. The paper deeded her Ezra's share of the Standish Tavern which he owned with his mother, Maude. "He's gone!"

Josiah had feared that Ezra would do something like this. He shook his head and said, "Did he say anything else, Inez? Please, think hard about it."

"Nothing else to me, Senor." The beautiful Mexican woman shook her head sadly. She loved Ezra for being her friend, a fact that had almost not transpired for when Maude had bought the larger share of the tavern, she made Inez the manager instead of her son. He had been extremely incensed about that for a while. But he never took it out on Inez and the two of them worked well together. He was one of the reasons she had no desire to ever leave Four Corners. If Buck had died and Ezra had run from his guilt, she would have packed her few possessions and left. They had to find Ezra and tell him about Buck.

If it weren't for Buck, she might have made a play for the gambler but there was something about the tall gunfighter that appealed to her from the first time she had laid eyes on him. There was also something about him that scared her away from him. Ever since the day he had fought with swords in the street for her, she had wanted him. Knowing she had almost lost him before she could tell him how she felt, it had almost crushed the life out of her. Maybe Mary was right, maybe she should rethink the whole affair.

"Is there any way of tracking him, Senor? He needs to know that he did not cause his friend’s death. The guilt will destroy him. We need to find him soon!"

"We'll see what we can do. Meanwhile, pray for both of them, Senorita." Josiah turned and walked out.

Josiah had to tell the rest of the Seven that Ezra had taken off, believing that Buck was dead. They had to find him and tell him that Buck was still alive. Just as Josiah got to the hotel, he saw a dozen men riding into town together. Saul Ferguson was in the lead, his sons, his foreman and ranch hands behind him. Saul was Rory's father and he was an ill tempered, hard man. Josiah didn't like this one bit. Saul and his men stopped in front of the Sheriff's office. Vin happened to be there and Josiah hurried his pace to join him.

"What can we do for ya?" Vin fingered his mare’s leg, his eyes narrowed.

"I want my son's body and the man who shot him." Saul Ferguson was used to getting his own way and he was not a man who would be denied easily.

"You're welcome to your boy’s body. It's at the undertaker's. But that's all you're welcome to. Take Rory's body and the rest of your men and leave town."

Josiah joined Vin on the porch of the Sheriff's office. He too had his hand on his gun. Within seconds, JD was also with them. The three men faced the dozen men in front of them.

"I guess you didn't hear me, gunfighter. I want the man who killed my son. I don't expect I'll have to repeat myself. Turn him over and there won't be any trouble."

"Oh, I heard you just fine, Mr. Ferguson. If you want trouble, you came to the right place. But you know what, I don't think you want to lose another son and I know your men can't battle us and win. So, just move on out of town."

Mr. Ferguson glared at Vin , Josiah, and JD and then directed his men to the undertaker's. He rode off with his men but he never took his eyes off of Vin.

"Where's Ezra? We need to get him under wraps for a while."

Josiah turned in front of Vin and spoke just loud enough for Vin and JD to hear him. "Ezra’s gone, no idea where he might have headed to. It's going to be up to us to find him. It won't take long for Saul to find out who shot his boy."

"Damn that cussed Southerner. Josiah, could you try talking to Ferguson again. He's got to understand what happened, that his son was at fault." Vin pleaded with his eyes.

"I'll try, Vin, but it's not going to be easy to get him to see things our way. Why don't you two go to the livery and see if Ezra said anything to Yosemite while he was saddling up. I'll meet you back at Nathan's. I need to know Buck is still doing alright."

They parted ways.

Josiah walked up to the table that Saul Ferguson and two of his sons occupied. He doffed his hat and stood, hat in hand, waiting for the rancher to acknowledge him. He stood for quite awhile.

Finally, Saul looked up and said, "What do you want, Preacher? Are you ready to tell me who shot my boy in cold blood? Or are you here to plead his case? You see, I already know who it was. And I would imagine that the rest of your gang is going to try to protect him. I know that justice won't be done by you or the Judge, so I will have to take matters into my own hands."

"Mr. Ferguson, Ezra shot your son after he shot Buck. I think justice has already been done. Rory tried to rape Ida Mae and then he shot Buck in the back. Ezra had no choice."

"That's what you choose to believe happened. I choose to believe that my son was set up by that whore and bastard gunslinger and that it backfired on them. Rory was most likely defending himself when your friend shot him in the back. My son is dead and the man who killed him is going to pay, Preacher, make no mistake about that. I think that's all that needs to be said. Good day, sir." Mr. Ferguson went back to talking to his sons, completely ignoring Josiah.

Josiah turned slowly and left. He made his way back to Nathan's to wait for Vin and JD to arrive. As he made his way up the stairs, he saw Dr. Elder sitting out on the landing in the rocking chair.

She smiled wearily and said, "Hello Mr. Sanchez. Nothing has changed for your friend. He's still unconscious but he's still alive. Actually, he's doing better than I thought he would. I'm still amazed by the resiliency of the human body. You look awfully down in the dumps. Is something else bothering you?"

"Yes. It's not anything that you should be bothered with though. I do need to speak with Nathan and Chris. I'm glad to hear that Buck is doing all right. He's somebody special to all of us. When the seven of us joined forces, each of us was alone, none of us had anybody we could really live for. I guess Chris and Buck had each other but even they had drifted apart. The seven of us formed a brotherhood of sorts, a family if you will. None of us is more important than anyone else but Buck is sort of the spirit of our little family. If Buck died, Chris would leave and so would Vin. JD and Ezra would follow shortly afterwards. With all of them gone, I would probably feel the need to pursue other avenues myself. I guess you could say that Buck is the glue that binds us."

"He must be someone very special. Chris speaks glowingly of him also. I look forward to meeting this man. I'll go in and get Chris and Nathan for you." She smiled warmly at the ex-preacher. "I promise I'll do everything I can to keep Buck alive, Josiah." She got up, opened the door, and disappeared inside.

Part Eleven

Five men gathered on the landing in front of Nathan's room to discuss their mutual friend. All were concerned for his welfare but where he might have gone to, none of them had a clue. Of all of them, Ezra kept to himself most of the time. When he did seek the company of one of the others, it was usually a scam he had in mind. Sometimes, he would talk about his past but rarely did he talk about the future or what he really wanted in life.

"One of you has to stay with Buck. The rest of us will each go in a different direction and hopefully, we'll find him before Ferguson does. What do you think, Nathan?" Vin asked the black man.

"As long as Dr. Elder is with Buck, I don't have to be here. Chris, I think you should stay with him. Dr. Elder can take care of any medical needs he has but you can keep him wanting to live. I'll go east." Nathan said and then he went back inside to pack a few things for his journey.

"He's right, Chris. Buck needs you here. Tell you what, you keep Buck alive, we'll try to keep Ezra alive." Josiah nodded to the gunfighter.

"Be careful, guys. Ferguson has a lot of men at his disposal. Check Eagle Bend and Sweetwater. I bet he went somewhere to pick up a stage. Ezra's goin' to want to bury himself in a big city. I know you're right, that I have to stay here, but I sure would like to be with you." Chris reached out and shook Josiah hand and then Vin's. He turned to JD.

JD looked him in the eye and then he turned his gaze to his boots. "I'm sorry about this morning, Chris. I didn't mean those things I said. I just, well, my ma suffered so in the last few weeks." He lifted his head. "You did the right thing for Buck and he's going to pull through this with you by his side. Tell him I have a few more things for him to teach me so he better be here when I get back."

"I will, kid, I will. Watch yourself." The two men shook hands.

It was after midnight. Dr. Elder was asleep in Nathan's bed. Chris stretched his cramped muscles and went to get himself a cup of coffee. He sipped the hot liquid by the stove and then slowly made his way back to the bed. He reached down and pulled the blanket up on Buck's chest. He reached out and pushed the hair away from Buck's forehead and then kept his hand on the skin, feeling for a fever as he had seen Nathan do numerous times. Chris sighed and pulled his hand away. His eye was caught by the flutter of Buck's eyelids.


Buck's eyes opened fully and he glanced hesitantly about the room until his gaze fixed on Chris. "Chris?"

"Yeah, it's me. You made it, Buck. You beat old death away from your door. How about some water?" Chris was smiling broadly at the man lying in bed.

Chris carefully lifted Buck's head and gave him a few sips of water. He could see the pain etched on Buck's face that even that slight bit of movement caused. He eased him back down and then he sat beside him. Buck's tentatively reached his hand toward Chris and the fearsome gunfighter, a tear in the corner of his eye, took his friend's hand into his.

"You scared the shit out of me, Buck. We all thought we had lost you. Then, out of the blue, Mary and Josiah show up with this lady doctor and she operated on you and saved your lousy hide. You probably can hardly breathe right now, so don't try to talk. The Doc said if you woke up, you might stand a chance. And look at you. I can't believe you're still here, buddy."

Buck smiled. He squeezed ever so slightly the hand holding his and then he fell back asleep. Chris breathed a sigh of relief and then, still holding Buck's hand, he also closed his eyes and fell asleep.

Dr. Amanda Elder woke up and for a minute wondered where in the world she was. Her surroundings were Spartan, the walls were brick and plaster, no wall paper, no curtains, and the furniture was crude. A stand for the pitcher and water basin stood in the corner. A beat up old dresser was against the wall, beside the door. A small table beside the bed held a lamp and about five books, one of them laid open. A man's coat hung on a hook at the back of the door. The floor was bare wood but appeared recently swept. The bed was comfortable but small. Everything about this room screamed man.

She sat up and realized she was still partially dressed. She must have slept in her petticoat. Her dress was laid out at the foot of the bed and she slipped it over her head. She smelled coffee and after quickly washing her face, she opened the door and stepped into the next room. This room screamed doctor.

She moved to the stove and poured herself a cup of coffee and then looked around. She smiled at the scene before her. The man she had operated on yesterday was sleeping in the bed and the man who could stare daggers through her was sleeping in the chair beside him. What was so endearing to her was the fact that they had ahold of each other’s hand. Even in sleep, these two were connected by a strong bond.

She moved outside onto the balcony and studied the town below her. It was a dusty, dirty town but it was alive. People were moving toward their destinations, horses were trotting down the main, possibly only, street, and the air was filled with the sounds of the day. By the position of the sun in the sky, Amanda figured it to be about eight and she wondered how she could have slept so late. She moved down the stairs and took care of her morning business. She would have liked to have gone for some breakfast but she knew she should not stay away from her patient too long. She made her way back inside.

Chris had awoken and she found him pouring himself a cup of very strong coffee. He nodded to her as she walked in. She smiled at him and then moved toward the bed to check Buck's vital signs.

From right behind her, Chris said, "He woke up during the night. He spoke a few words, drank some water, and then he smiled. That's good, huh? He's going to be all right, isn't he?"

She looked at the man standing right beside her and then moved her gaze back to the man on the bed. She didn't want to tell the gunfighter that it really didn't mean all that much. Instead, she said, "I bet you were glad to see him awake, to talk to him." She took out her stethoscope and listened carefully to Buck's heart and then to his lungs.[can't remember why I highlighted this bit - sorry] She placed a thermometer in his armpit and while that was registering, she looked at his fingernails and toe nails. She eyed the thermometer and finally she stood up and turned to Chris.

"He's got a slight fever but his vital signs are about the same. At least his color is better this morning. Let's keep our fingers crossed. Today should let us know if he's going to make it."

Chris looked at the woman and for the first time noticed the color of her eyes. They were the deepest blue he had ever seen and there was a determination in them that he hadn't noticed yesterday. She was not what you would call beautiful but she had good cheek bones and a small straight nose. Her lips were too thin for Chris's liking and her chin was receding. She had light brown hair which she pulled back severely in a bun.

He liked this woman, not romantically, but he felt he could trust her, and that was rare for him. There were only a handful of people, men or women, which he could say that about.

"How about I go get us some breakfast? Would that break your antiseptic code?"

"No, I guess that would be all right." She smiled. "I’m starving. I'll make a fresh pot of coffee while your gone. Chris, I don't mean to be evasive, but let's get through today before we declare that he's going to be all right, okay?"

He liked that. "Okay. I'll be right back."


As Chris stepped out the door, he spotted Inez coming up the stairs. She had a large tray full of food in her hands. He stepped forward to help her with her load. He set it down inside and then came back out to where Inez was waiting for him.

"I thought you could use some food. How is he doing, Senor?"

"Come sit with me for a while, Inez." He sat down in one of the wooden chairs on the landing. He patted the one next to him. Chris rarely stuck his nose into anyone's business, mainly because he didn't want anyone sticking their nose into his. He guarded his past and his feelings like Fort Knox did it's gold. His pain and grief from the past, plus the killings he had been part of, were nobody's business. There was one man, and only one, who could discuss his past with him and that was Buck. When Buck stuck his nose in, Chris would grimace and then sit down with Buck and listen quietly to what the big man had to say. Chris had to admit, Buck had his number.

So, this morning when his friend lay fighting for his life, he felt a sudden need to ask about someone else's business, mainly Buck's. When Inez was seated beside him, he reached out and took her hand. "He's a fighter. He's not ready to go." He hesitated a moment and then proceeded full speed ahead, "Inez, what are you waiting for?"

"What are you talking about, Senor Larabee?" She eyed him suspiciously.

"I don't know if you've noticed, Inez, but I generally spend more time watching than talking."

"I've noticed, Senor."

"Call me Chris." Chris's eyes softened. He smiled at the beautiful young woman before him. "I've seen the way your eyes follow his every move. I've seen the fire in your eyes when the two of you are arguing. Fire like that only comes from deep emotions. If you have feelings for him, tell him."

Inez hung her head and said nothing for a long time. Chris waited, not meaning to push. He probably shouldn't have said anything. It really was none of his business. He regretted even bringing it up.

"Does everyone know?" She said it so softly, Chris strained to hear her.

"Everybody but him. Inez, I've known Buck for what seems like forever, and I know the way he goes through life, woman to woman, like a bee around flowers. But there's more to him than that and I see you bring out the other side of him. Yeah, he acts like a buffoon around you, a real asshole sometimes, but late at night, I see him watching you and there's a look in his eye that I have never seen in all the years we've been together. It's not lust or animal instinct like he gets in his eyes around other women. It's a softness that I see, a longing for something new, better."

Inez smiled at the gunfighter in black. "I too have seen that look, Chris. After the sword fight, before Don Paulo charged us, for a second he looked down at me with a gaze that was so tender, I lost my heart to him in that instant. I will never forget that look, Senor. But, I also know deep in my heart that he would kill me. I don't mean physically, he would never hurt me like that. It's just that I know that with every fiber of my being, that if I gave myself to him, it would be completely, and for a while it would seem miraculous. But we both know that he would leave me for another and that, I could not stand. I would die on the spot. So I keep my feelings to myself."

Chris sighed. He knew what Inez said was probably true. Buck would probably find a way to screw things up between them. But Chris had seen a softness in Buck recently that he had rarely seen before. It reminded him of the way Buck used to be around Adam, very tender and loving. Perhaps Buck was really falling in love this time. They had both settled down here in Four Corners. Hell, he had built himself a home and fallen in love with Mary, something he had never thought he could do again.. Maybe this town could change Buck too. "I understand. Still … " Chris stood to go back inside. He turned to Inez and smiled slightly. "Anything is possible. I've fallen in love again. Maybe he deserves a chance at love too?"

Inez lifted her face and Chris could see the tears starting to well up in her eyes. A myriad of emotions played across her face in that instant. She shook her head slightly and said, "Senor, tell him I look forward to serving him a beer soon. And tell him there will be no splash this time. He'll know what I mean." She remained seated.

"I'll tell him. Thanks for the food, Inez. Would you do me a favor?"


"Tell Mary I miss her. I can't leave Buck right now but I am thinking about her."

Inez smiled and arose from the chair. She walked up to the man in black and placed a light kiss on his cheek. "You are both lucky to have found each other. I can see the love in each of your eyes. Hold on tight to one another. It's what life should be, wrapped in the arms of the one you truly love."

"I hope that kind of love is going to be yours one of these days, lovely lady." Chris smiled and went back inside.


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