The afternoon was hot in the town of Four Corners. It seemed anywhere you tried to escape the heat it was in vain.

JD and Buck were sitting outside the sheriff's office. JD was reading the paper and Buck was rubbing his neck from the insistent heat.

"Hey Buck." JD spoke up and peered over at him while holding up the paper. "Didn't you say you knew a fella in Missouri named James Prescott?"

"Yeah, what of it?" Buck was still rubbing his neck from the heat and getting really annoyed with its persistence.

"Says here in the paper he was shot. He's dead."

Buck shot up from his chair and grabbed the paper out of JD's hands.

"I'll be a son of a..." Buck whispered.

Buck threw the newspaper down and made his way off the boardwalk in quick long strides.

"Hey Buck!" JD was trying to keep up with Buck's pace. "Where yeah goin?"

Buck turned on his heels and turned to JD. "Missouri."

Chris, Vin, Josiah, Nathan and Ezra were all having a glass of beer and enjoying Ezra's love for his talents with the cards. It amazed all of them how the heat seemed to bother him the least of them all. They chalked it up to the sticky southern climate; he must be used to the heat.

Their quiet however was shaken by Buck's animated entrance into the saloon. JD followed behind him on his heels.

The table of men looked up at Buck. "What seems to be the problem Buck?" Chris looked him up and down.

"Gotta go to Missouri..."

With Vin and Nathan offering to stay in Four Corners in case of trouble, Ezra, Chris, Josiah, Buck and JD made there way to Sweet Water.

The ride at any other time would probably have seemed long and hard but their long stay at Four Corners had left them eager for change.

"How do you know this fella anyway Buck?" JD asked. Darkness had come and they had just gotten comfortable sitting in a huddle around one another.

"After me and Chris...well." He looked about the men; they all held the same blank stare, with the exception of Chris. Chris's eyes were more thoughtful and Buck was pleased that his old friend so understood in his stupid choice of words sometimes. "Anyway, found odd jobs here and there. Got me a job as a Sheriff in the town of Sweet Water, MO for a spell...didn't stay long there though. But while I was there, James came to be Deputy, he took over as Sheriff when I left." Buck's face loosened to a slight grin. "Met and married the prettiest little thing ya ever saw too." He shook his head in remembrance. "Her name is Lea, her hair like golden sunshine, her eyes the color of the bluest sky, I kid you not fellas, and one of the kindest, gentlest women I've ever had the honor of knowin."

When the men entered the city of Sweet Water, MO it was booming with excitement. Well, compared to the time they'd spent at Four Corners of late, anything was booming.

Ezra was thrilled. Lord if this wasn't his element. He gazed at all the shops and the saloon that awaited him. He was bursting with anticipation of all the activities. Being in the city he was thinking how he would definitely have to do some shopping. And with any bit of luck...and luck was his speciality, he would find an appropriate brandy to put in his ever so frequently used sterling silver flask.

After all the men had dismounted they made their way to the local restaurant. The group all but had to drag Ezra in. He was quick to point out that there were certain civilities one takes in life. Being a respectable and suitably attired gentleman at a dinner table was a most particular regulation. The men made clear, that they'd kick his ass if he didn't go with them. They were too tired and hungry to argue with him. Once they pointed out the cuisine they'd digested or lack there of, on the road, Ezra complied reluctantly but complied to join them none the less.

"We'll go and see Lea tomorrow." Buck informed the group, they'd settled themselves at a table and basically ordered on of everything of the menu.

"How longs it been since you've seen her Buck?" Chris was taking a sip of his coffee.

"About three years I think." Buck had his elbows on the table and his chin rested on his knuckles. "She's young." He smiled warmly, then relaxed his hands to rest on his thighs. "Probably twenty Two-Twenty Three now."

"How is it James and her met?" Josiah was sitting back with his hands behind his neck.

"She didn't grow up here." Buck relaxed in his chair. "She was here visitin family." Buck grinned widely. "Them two saw each other and wham!" Buck slapped his hands together loudly. "It was over." He relaxed again in his chair. "Told her folks she was stayin, they were none to pleased." He played with his fork. "She came from money and the fact she fell for some deputy---well, you can just imagine."

"Sounds like quite a lady." Josiah smiled observantly.

"That she is." Buck peered over at him.

"I'll get some rooms, we'll go see her in the morning." Chris said while standing up. He then looked about the table at his men, they nodded in response. Chris left the table; the rest of the men finished their dinner and parted company for the evening. Half the group stayed the hotel to retire for the night; the other half went to the saloon.

As the men entered the land that once belonged to Buck's now deceased friend. Buck couldn't help but think how it hadn't changed, not at all.

At first no one was in sight and then out on the porch, walked a very small blond woman.

Buck immediately quickened his pace. The others followed.

Lea Prescott placed a hand over her brow for a better look at the approaching riders.

"Buck?" She whispered at first. As he came closer she saw that it was he.

"Buck?!" She ran up to his horse.

Buck jumped down from his horse and grabbed her for a strong embrace; he then twirled her around. Finally releasing her, he tipped his hat back with an index finger and admired her thoughtfully. "Lord Lea if you aint the most beautiful woman I ever saw."

"Oh, Buck." She embraced him again.

Buck embraced her back eagerly.

Releasing him again. She looked up at him and smiled widely. If he wasn't the best thing that happened to her in the longer time, she was overwhelmed with joy. "It is so good to see you!" Her eyes sparkled with warmth.

"Hey." He lightly took her arm. "These are my friends." He gestured to Chris, Ezra, Josiah and then JD. They all tipped their hats and smiled at her.

"This here fellas is Lea." He put an arm about her.

"Hi." She peered up at them shyly; she then turned to Buck. "Why don't you all come in." She took both Buck's hands in hers. "I just made some coffee."

"What do you fellas think?" He turned to regard the men.

They all complied without hesitancy.

Once Lea had finished the coffee, she thought it best they sit outside on the porch. Due to there not being enough chairs in the house for all of them to sit. Lea also offered them a plate of cookies she had made. The group of men eagerly accepted them as well. Once they were situated on the porch, Buck introduced her properly to his friends.

Lea sat on the lone chair on the porch. Buck and Chris did their best to sit on the bench that was attached to the porch in front of her. JD and Ezra sat of the steps to the left of her and Josiah was also to the left of her, leaning against the beam to the porch, his hip set against it.

She was holding her coffee cup between her palms and lightly moving it. "I guess you want to know." She looked up to search Buck's eyes.

"Only if you want to tell us Lea." He whispered.

"I found him." She nervously cleared her throat. "He was lying right about were you were when you came." She looked about the men, whose faces were unreadable. "I don't know.... I think.... I think he was shot either in town or maybe somewhere on our land." She shook her head confusingly. "I don't know, maybe he thought the wound wasn't to bad and...maybe, I could help him." She dropped her head to her chest.

"Read it was a shotgun wound." Chris said in more of a question then a comment. "Strange." He crossed his arms over his chest. "Man with a shotgun wound should no he'd need a doctor."

"I don't know what to tell you Mr. Larabee." She answered softly.

"Maybe he was going to send her for a doctor?" Josiah stated while standing straighter and also, folded his arms across his chest.

"Well," Buck moved away from the wooden bench.

"Is they're anything you need Lea?"

She gazed up at him, placed her cup gently down on the floor of the porch and rose to stand before him. "No Buck, thank you." She smiled up at him.

"You alright out here alone?" Josiah inquired with a gentle smile.

"IM fine." She assured him. "I love it out here alone."

Buck took her hands in his. "We'll find this fella Lea, we won't leave until we do." He bent and kissed one hand and then the other. He then brought up his head and gave her a wide grin.

"What about help around here?" JD was now standing next to Josiah.

Lea turned her gaze to JD. "There really isn't much to do around here. It keeps me busy IM fine." Lea sensed an instant likeness towards JD and found it interesting that he seemed to fit in so well with this rather intimidating bunch of men. She felt nothing in that sense from JD however.

JD looked about the land as if questioning her answer; he then turned to regard her. "Just don't seem right...a woman bein out here alone without help."

Lea was flattered that he pressed so about her situation. "Really I'm fine.... Really." She gave him a confirming smile.

"Well...well," JD looked at his friends they all seemed to accept her answer. JD decided if she needed help, she new were to find them.

"I'll come and check on ya from time to time." Buck assured her. The men made their way off the porch. Lea stopped before the steps and waived to them as the road away. It was so wonderful to see Buck again; his friends were nice enough. They were certainly men in every sense of the word. Her thoughts however, were of one in particular...JD.

After a few days had passed since their visit at Lea's home. Standing out in front of the hotel JD, Ezra and Josiah were taking in the morning air and waiting on Buck to inform them of how he wanted to go about the day. Josiah decided to sit himself down on one of the inviting chairs outside the hotel until Buck decided to show.

The men spotted Lea making her way across the street to them.

"Good morning gentlemen." She greeted them warmly.

"Lea." Josiah brought himself up half way from his chair and tipped his hat, he then sat back down.

"Hi." She lifted a hand slightly at Josiah, accompanied by a wide smile.

"Hi JD." She beamed. She hoped he wouldn't mind calling him JD as opposed to Mr. Dunne. He seemed much to young for that type of title.

"Hey, Lea, how are ya today?" JD was surprised to learn he was happy to see her as well.

"Hi." She turned her attention to Ezra and gave him a quick smile.

He tipped his hat. "How are you today Lea?"

"Oh...I'm fine thank you." She couldn't get over how different he was from the others and wondered how he fit in?

"Well, Mr. Dunne," he inclined his head to JD. "Lea." He tipped his hat again at her and walked off the boardwalk in search of a store to shop at and kill some time before Buck tracked him down.

Lea watched Ezra as he walked away; she then turned to JD. "He sure is fancy."

JD laughed. "Ya, that Ezra..."

"He certainly is a heartbreaker." She thought out loud in a low whisper.

JD laughed again. "I don't know about that.... But he sure has a way with people."

"So are you JD." Her eyes set on his. "You're a heartbreaker as well...just a different kind."

"Sure," He snorted lightly. "I leave em droppin in the streets like fly's." He obviously thought her opinion of him most amusing.

Lea now laughed slightly. "JD IM serious, really, you have a strength about you." Her tone then became less serious. "You hold your own with those men and it is very impressive."

"Really?" JD never thought of it in that way. His eyes shifted about pondering her compliment.

"Well, I just wanted to say hello." She gave both JD and Josiah quick smiles, turned and made her way back across the street.

JD watched her and was thinking about what Buck had said about her hair and eyes, he was right.

"She has her eye on you JD." Josiah said casually, he then placed his boot against the wooden beam in front of the hotel and used his length to lean back the chair.

"No way Josiah." JD shook off Josiah's tease. He then stole a glance across the street at Lea.

Lea was inspecting a barrel of apples. She looked over at JD. To her amazement, she felt warmth spread through her body.

NO way JD thought. Josiah was just pullin his leg. JD made up his mind that he was beginning to imagine things.

Buck was getting frustrated. They'd been in town for nearly two weeks and nothing no leads, nothing. And here they were having a drink in the saloon. What good was this going to do? Buck threw back a shot and kept at himself with the fact he couldn't find James' killer and get some peace for Lea.... Or maybe himself? He was uneasy and restless but he couldn't keep pushing the guys. What great friend's Buck thought proudly? How did he ever get so lucky to have these four men and the two back at Four Corners in his life.

"I'm getting a drink." Buck announced and got himself up from the table.

The others just exchanged glances. They new Buck was disappointed.

"Hey! Barkeep!" Buck slapped the bar with his palm and held up his empty glass to indicate a refill was needed.

"Prescott." The man next Buck was sneered. "Here he wasn't much at home either."

The man next to the drunk didn't even seem to be paying him any mind.

Buck turned to glare at the mans profile. "What is it your sayin bout my friend!"

The man stumbled, he'd obviously had had one to many beers, he placed his hand on the bar for balance in hopes of not falling over.

"I was sayin mister...I didn't like him." He met Buck's eyes and challenging a glare as he could.

"Listen!" Buck roughly grabbed hold of the man's shirt. "That man happened to be my friend!"

The man tried with both his hands to ungrasp Buck's firm hold. He met Buck's glare. "Listen mister it aint my fault you can't pick your friends more carefully."

"That friend happened to have been murdered." Buck came face to face with the man. "Don't think you'd know that now would you?" He whispered with venom in his voice.

"What do I care if some sheriff was killed?"

"You don't care huh!" Buck pushed the man, he then took a hand and placed it on his throat and with the other hand he took out his revolved and uncocked it. The man struggled in Bucks' grasp. Buck shoved his unwilling victim up against the bar and put the gun to the mans temple.

"Buck!" Chris warned, standing behind him.

"Shut up Chris!" Buck never took his eyes off the man nor did he move the gun from the mans temple.

"I didn't kill the sheriff mister how stupid do you think I am?" He was choking for air.

Buck tightened his grip on the mans throat.

"Listen...." The man pleaded. "Kill me if your gonna...I hate the law ya, but that's no crime."

He was searching Buck's eyes. "Id didn't kill him mister I swear it."

Buck searched the mans eyes. He knew he was telling the truth. Buck pushed him away and slowly uncocked his gun.

The man was rubbing his throat. "What's wrong with you anyway? You better stay off the sauce!"

"Get out of my sight." Buck seethed and moved closer with the gun still firmly in his hand. "Or I will kill you."

The man spat on the floor, gave Buck a quick once over and left the bar.

Buck felt a hand on his shoulder. He peered over to see Chris. "We'll find em Buck."

Buck doubted that.

Dinner was difficult for Buck. He was frustrated that he couldn't find James' killer and felt he was letting down Lea.

Throwing down his fork. "I'm sorry, I just.... I'm sorry." His eyes full of regret.

"It's alright Buck. Some things are better being left alone." She used her fork to play with her supper.

"How can you say that?" He whispered. "I'll never find that fella."

"I did it." The words came between them like the roof had just caved in.

"Wha--- what?" Buck was obviously stunned.

She looked up at him threw tired eyes. "I said I did it."

Buck got himself up off the chair and began to pace about the table. "Tell me your kiddin?"

"Buck he wasn't the man you thought he was." She was glad she was finally telling someone, especially it being a friend, it was a relief to her. "He beat me...and worse." She then got up from her chair, walked over to the door that had been open for the evening breeze. "I waited for him right there." She inclined her head to the chair set on the porch. She let out a desperate laugh. "Like a wife.... Just waiting for her husband to come home any other night. But it wasn't any other night." She slumped her shoulders. "As soon as he was close enough.... I shot him." She turned to Buck her lower lip trembling. "You know I even went over to make sure I didn't have to shoot the son of a bitch again." She put her hands to her face and wept uncontrollably.

Buck went over and took her in his arms. She embraced him tightly.

"You know," She said sobbing in his chest. "He kicked me so bad once.... I can't ever have children."

"Lord almighty..." Was all he could say.

When Buck made his way back into town he made sure to get all the men together so that he could inform them of what Lea had told him. They weren't hard to find; he found them all in the saloon seated at the same table.

"I don't know." He was shaking his head. He was seated with the chair backwards. "I just don't know what to do." He had just told them what had been said between Lea and himself.

"We the only ones that know?" Chris was sitting back in his chair and studying his shot glass.

Buck looked at him through squinted eyes. "Ya."

Chris looked about the table. He knew all the men were thinking and feeling the same. "Then I don't see a problem." He then tipped his shot back and drank.

"So we don't tell anyone?" Buck whispered while sliding his beer glass from side to side.

"Unless the young lady has the urge to divulge her.... Well, her unpleasantness, I see no need for the current authorities to become involved." Ezra said coolly while shuffling his deck of cards.

Angrily shaking his head, Josiah whispered. "Nothin worse on this earth then a woman beater." He then banged the table with his fists with such force; all contents fell to the floor in a crash. The men looked at him dumbfound. The patrons of the bar as well stole a curious glance in their direction. He kept his gaze intense. "He's just lucky she killed him."

After a few moments of silence and the tension ceased. Chris cleared his throat. "JD."

JD shot a nervous look at him. Obviously still shook up by Josiah's sudden outburst.

"Why don't you go and make sure Lea is alright."

JD went to get up.

Chris peered up at him. "Try not to scare her, just keep an eye one her."

"Ya, sure." JD took his hat off the table and made his way out of the saloon.

When JD arrived at Lea's homestead the house was dark. JD expected this. It being late he knew she'd be sleeping and he would have to sit in the dark and talk to himself.

JD dismounted, looped the reins of his horse around the post positioned in front of the house. He slowly walked over to the steps, in hopes of not causing Lea any alarm by making noise. He decided to sit down on the steps until dawn. He was glad it wasn't a pleasant night, which eased him a bit.

His thoughts kept drifting to what Buck had told them and how Josiah reacted. JD's gut twisted with hate for this man he'd never met. How could a man hit a woman? Especially one as pretty and nice as Lea. JD could see why Josiah would have torn him apart. The door opening behind him interrupted his thoughts.

JD stood up so quickly he fumbled with his footing; he then took his hat off his head and twisted it about his hands nervously.

"I hope I didn't scare or wake you?"

She waived her hand and rested an arm against a beam holding up the porch. "No I always come out at night. It's so peaceful at this time."

JD looked about nervously. He didn't know what to say. He didn't expect to see her.

She looked at him as if just realizing he was there. "Why are you here anyway JD?" She let out a small laugh. "What, you were just passing by?"

"No I---well." He slumped his shoulders. "I just wanted to make sure you were alright." He didn't want to tell her the real reason and upset her.

"You're out here all I just thought." He kept his eyes to the ground.

"Yes of course." She had no doubt Buck had told him and the others of her confession and they sent him to watch over her. "IM sure Buck said nothing to you about our talk?"

JD said nothing, he continued looking at the ground. He knew he was busted and he didn't know how to talk to her about such things.

"JD." She whispered. "It's alright."

His eyes slowly came up to meet hers. She looked at him as if to say, it's already been said and I don't want to talk about it anymore.

"Why don't you come inside we can have some coffee." She tilted her head slightly and smiled at him.

JD breathed a sigh of relief. "Ya, I'd like that."

"You can hang your hat there. " She gestured to the coat rack by the door as they entered the house.

JD placed his hat on a hook and made his way to the table. He looked about the small house. It appeared to only be the one room and he guessed probably her room. JD turned to see her standing staring at him warmly; her hands were folded in front of her.

"There a problem?" He hoped he hadn't done something wrong.

"I'm so absent minded of late JD. I forgot I'm out of coffee."

"Oh, oh well, that's alright, I don't need any." He again began to look about. Uneasiness was creeping up inside him and didn't know why.

"JD." Lea whispered and walked over to him until they were face to face.

"Yeah?" He didn't understand the feelings that this woman placed on him. Not even Casey made him this nervous. He stepped back a couple steps.

She searched his eyes. "You have a girl?" She whispered.

"I---I," He bumped his hip against the table. He looked down at the table dumbly and turned to face her again. "No-not really---I." His feeling that were happening to his mind and body weren't making sense.

"JD." She said gently. She again came to stand in front of him. She trailed knuckles along his cheek; she then traced his lower lip with on finger. "Kiss me JD, would you do that for me?"

JD thought he had lost leave of his senses, did she ask him to kiss her? "What?" He mumbled.

"Kiss me," She repeated gently and pressed her body against his.

JD's pulse quickened and his heart slammed. He stared at her mouth. Lord she was asken the wrong one of the bunch for a kiss. "You might not like it." He whispered shyly.

"JD, people kiss each other all the time...most of the time they don't mean it. Kiss me like you mean it...or like you've always imagined." Her eyes were cutting into his.

He went back to staring at her mouth. He then slowly bent down and gave her a quick kiss like one would give a relative. Pulling away he looked into her eyes and saw longing or was it desperation. She certainly was pretty he thought, how could she look so sad? Then, with slow hesitancy he settled his mouth more firmly on hers. Lea pressed herself against him and embraced him tightly.

To his surprise JD obliged her with the same enthusiasm. Her body molded to his. "JD." She breathed. She then slowly pulled back; her flushed face met his. "Please stay with me tonight?"

JD's body was on fire. "I-I." He gulped his words. He then loosened his grasp on her. He was beginning to panick.

"What?" She whispered while searching his eyes. Was she imagining things or did he look nervous. "Oh...JD." It occurred to her he had most likely never been with a woman.

Embarrassed he looked away.

"JD." She lightly kissed his neck. And held her strong embrace on him.

JD turned to her. His inexperience was bound to embarrass him and leave her wishing she'd never made an advance in his direction. "Lea.... I can't." He whispered shakily.

"JD, it's natural your nervous." She planted her palms softly on his chest. "IM nervous too." Her face sincere.

JD wallowed. " can you--?"

She placed a hand threw his thick, silky black hair. "I have my reasons."

JD fastened his hazel eyes on her. He bent his head and pressed his mouth to hers, she sensed that kissing was indeed new to him but after a few experimental nibbles, he mastered it.

"JD?" She grasped his shoulders for support. When at last she drew back for air, her blue eyes clouded with tenderness, she smiled and slowly glided a hand down to JD's. Their eyes locked, they both new by the next morning they'd both be new people.

"Ezra was sitting in front of the saloon when JD rode in late the next morning.

JD got down from his horse and went to be were Ezra was sitting. He had his legs stretched out one over the other and playing with his deck of cards.

"Hey, Ezra." JD sat down on the vacant chair beside him.

"And how are we this morning JD?" He smiled so wide that his gold tooth sparkled in the sunlight.

"Oh," he took his hat off and rubbed his hair with a hand. "I'm alright."

"How is Mrs. Prescott?" Ezra peered over at JD and kept in tempo with his card trick.

"She's great.... Well she's---" JD's neck turned crimson and rode to his cheeks.

"Indeed." Ezra smirked.

"What's that supposed to mean?!" JD spat.

Ezra didn't understand JD's plight at first. And then it struck him.... JD and Lea had been together.

"Why Mr. Dunne." Ezra gave him an "I know what you did last night look".

"What?!!" JD was really worked up now.

"You and Mrs. Prescott? My, my" He shook his head amusingly "Tsk, tsk, a woman in desperation of grievances. You may possibly have trouble meeting the maker for such a sin."

"Shut up Ezra!!" JD jumped to his feet and glared down at him.

Ezra threw back his head and roared with laughter.

"I said shut up!!" JD clenched his fists and continued his dark gaze on him.

Ezra continued to laugh heartily, while shuffling his deck of cards.

"What do you know!" JD placed his hat on his head roughly. "You make me sick Ezra!" He then stomped off.

Chris was coming towards them as JD parted. "What's with him?" He inclined his thumb in JD's direction. He then took the chair JD left vacant.

Ezra's laughter subsided. "It appears Mr. Dunne has joined the rest of us gentlemen in the knowledge of, he glanced over at Chris with a wicked grin. "Shall I say...womenly intimicies."

"What!" Chris exclaimed. "Really?!" He was shaking a look of shock. "How I mean...he was with Lea Prescott all last night?" He then turned to Ezra.

"Indeed." Ezra shuffling his deck and keeping the wicked smile.

"You mean!" Chris's jaw dropped. "No?!!

Chris was shaking his head again. "Jesus! He then leaned rested his head on the building behind him and stretched his legs in the same manner as Ezra's.

He and Ezra shot each other amusing glances and couldn't help but laugh.

JD found himself over by the horse stables kicking rocks. And mumbling profusely to himself.

"Ezra.... Thinkin it's funny!" JD sat himself down on a stump of wood and placed his elbows on his knees, his face rested his hands. Was it Ezra he was mad at or himself? He didn't' regret what he had done with Lea...but he felt like he had betrayed Casey in some way.

"Soul searching JD?" JD dropped his hands and looked up to see Josiah looking down at him.

"Hey, Josiah." He slumped his head back down.

"What's bothering you JD?" Josiah placed a kind hand on his shoulder; he then sat down Indian styled beside him.

"Nothin." JD whispered.

"Nothing huh?" Josiah let out a small laugh. "Never met a man who said that and meant it."

"Josiah," JD turned to him, his hazel eyes deep with concern. "Me and...well..." he slumped his head down once again as if the words couldn't find there way out.

"Nothing to be ashamed of JD." Josiah was studying him. "Your lucky you had a fine woman like Lea for your first." He chuckled. "The rest of us I doubt could say the same. Cept maybe Chris."

"I feel like I did wrong by Casey." He shook his head. "But.... I like Lea and I don't regret it."

"Did you promise Casey anything?" Josiah was hopen to lesson JD's obvious guilt.

"No." He whispered softly.

"JD you live life. You don't owe anyone any explanations. A mans gotta find himself before he can settle down." Josiah was hoping JD would realize the only person he needed to answer to was himself.

JD lightly chuckled. "Bet Ezra had a good experience."

"No, Ezra's probably the one who had to pay for it." Josiah answered with a hearty laugh.

JD couldn't help but join him.

"Hell JD." Josiah shrugged. "Just live life."

Josiah met JD's eyes. "Just live it."

Josiah rose to his feet and arched his back. "Well I'm off." He turned to JD. "Want a drink?"

JD looked up at him and at first was going to decline, and then he thought after the night he just had, he could use one. "Ya, sure Josiah why not."

The two men made their way to the saloon.

Buck new it was time he and his friends headed back home. He had eased his conscious in some parts. He had come here to find a murderer and instead he found a victim. The lord did work in mysterious ways he thought with an aching regret. He also knew his friends had strangely enough been itching to get to Four Corners as well.

Before his departure he was aware that he must say goodbye to Lea. JD hadn't told him about he and Lea's personal situation, Josiah had come to him with the knowledge in hopes to lesson JD's burden and Buck's possible anger. Buck wasn't angry however. Like Josiah, Buck found it a strange comfort that Lea had found a bit of tenderness and JD no doubt was in need of the same.

It was a warm afternoon the day Buck ventured to Lea's. To his expectation, he found her sitting on the porch enjoying the fresh air.

Lea stood as soon as Buck came into sight. She was certain that he had come to say goodbye. He found out what he needed to know and she hoped he was aware she was content.

"Howdy Lea." Buck got down off his horse, took a hand and placed his hat so that it rested on his back.

"Hi Buck." She met him on the steps before the porch.

"I um----." He placed one leg on the step she was on and placed his hand there. "I gotta get back to Four Corners."

"I know Buck." She caught a sob in her throat. She then caught the profound sadness his had in his eyes.

He nodded dumbly and kept his eyes to hers.

"Would you like some coffee?" She turned and made her way to the porch.

"No." He walked to be were she had stopped at the doorway. "You could come ya know?" He knew she would say no but he had to ask.

"Buck." She placed a palm to his chest. "This is my home." She then released her hand, walked around him, made her way to her chair on the porch and sat.

Buck paced back and forth for a bit until he brought himself to lean against the pole to the left of her.

"Can I ask you somethin..." Buck treaded lightly.

"Of course." She searched his gaze; she knew what he was going to ask.

He peered at her cautiously. "Why JD?"

Shaking her head. "The truth. I don't----I don't know." She turned to him. "Maybe because he's young and he hasn't experienced things. And if he hasn't experienced things.... Then maybe he couldn't hurt me."

"What will you do with yourself Lea? I don't feel right leavin and not noin you're alright?"

"I don't need money if that's what you're worried about." She chuckled softly. "Believe me I have enough of that." She then put her elbow on the arm of the chair and placed her chin to rest on her knuckles. "I was thinking of charity work." She peered over at him. "I'd like...well, I'd really like to work with the orphanage.

Buck knew full well why she had her heart set on helping kids. He found it as a justification in the fact that she could never have her own.

"I think they'd be the luckiest kids on earth Lea." His words with full intent.

"You know Buck." She dropped her hand. "I believe good or bad things happen for a reason." She nodded her head acceptingly. "Orphans really have no one."

"They'll have you Lea and if they aren't the luckiest...well, I don't know who would be."

She brought her tear-swelled eyes up to meet with his. "You're the best man I've ever known Buck Wilmington." The awaiting tears then flowed from her eyes.

Buck then brought himself to stand straight. "If there is anything you ever need..." Buck choaked a sob as well.

Lea jumped up from the chair and threw herself into his strong, comforting and safe arms. Buck stroked her hair as he held her. He know she would do fine but he still couldn't help feeling some bitterness knowing she could have had a completely different life. Then again what would be better then this woman keeping watch over under loved children.

JD knew he had to talk to Lea before he left. Daybreak on the morning they were to depart back to Four Corners, JD left to see her.

JD had been at the house a few moments. He had already tied his horse to the post. All he had to do was knock on the door. JD's feet felt like they'd been dipped in cement. Lord if he couldn't move. Finally, he took a deep breath and walked slowly and cautiously until he reached the door. He lifted and dropped his hand several times. Again, he took a deep breath; he then lightly knocked on the door.

The door opened after a few minutes and Lea stood in the doorway. After opening the door she immediately hugged her night robe closer to her body.

"JD." Her eyes twinkled at him.

JD's throat tightened. Quickly, he grabbed his hat from his head. For a moment he couldn't drag his gaze from her, so fascinated by the beauty of this woman, not a girl like Casey but a woman. He suddenly felt proud she'd chosen to be with him and not one of the others.

"Lea I---I'm leaving today."

"I know JD.' She placed a hand lightly on his arm, looked into his distraught eyes. "Do you want to sit out on the porch?"

"Ya." He backed up so that she could step out.

A silence accompanied them outside. Occasional quick and uncomfortable smiles were exchanged for some time.

"Lea." JD broke the silence while studying her profile. "IM glad I know you."

She turned to face him and rested her eyes on his. "You're going to make some girl the envy of the whole town one day Jonathan Daniel Dunne."

JD dropped his head to his chest. He really liked this woman and knew in his soul he would never see her again. "I'll never forget you." He new he meant the words when he said them.

Lea saw the fondness and his eyes and was touched. "And I'll never forget you JD." She lightly touched his cheek with her hand. "Ever, you came at a time when I needed someone."

She went to take her hand away and JD grabbed it in both his. He brought his eyes to meet hers. Their eyes locked, both knowing there were no words left to be said.

While JD slowly released his hands from her, their eyes stayed on one another. A slight smile crept across his mouth. She replied in the same fashion. JD then turned on his heels, walked down the steps and rode to meet up with his friends so they could make their way home.