Elder '04: Push Fit

Maybe I should have never made those cowboys mad at Nathan.

Seemed like a good idea at the time. Buck was in town, Chris was in town – it'd give them a reason to work together again. I didn't count on Buck getting so drunk with that girl that he'd sleep right through the whole shoot up. I certainly never conceived he was actually so mad at my husband that he'd allow himself to get passed-out stinking plastered on cheap whiskey.

Well Chris always could bring out the worst in people.

So instead of working with Buck to save Nathan, Chris ended up working with that young tracker. Days of gently pushing and prodding and getting my two boys back together ruined by a longhaired kid with a conscience. Don't get me wrong, it's nice to know the boy's got a good heart and Chris can depend on him to watch his back, but really! Nothing like knowing the devil's working to muck up all your plans.

Just my luck those Indians were looking for help. Wish I could say that was my doing, but I can't – just the Old Scratch's own plan backfiring on him. Lord did say the Old Man doesn't always think his plans through, and I guess he didn't count on those oppressed people not laying down and giving up. And Chris may be one hell of a stubborn jackass but he knew he needed more men than just him, a former buffalo hunter and a black healer. S

o he went to Buck, and I'm back on track.

Of course, he took that tracker with him, damn it.

Sorry, Lord.

One look at that pretty boy and Buck decides he's been replaced, the moron. Like after twelve years, a marriage, all the fights and struggles, birth and death and everything else, Chris would just put his best friend and oldest lover aside for a newer model? You would think Buck would know Chris better. This is the man who didn't put Buck aside even when I came along; he just rearranged things to make it all work and made sure I knew the score. Heck, I couldn't even get the man to buy a new pair of boots till I had Bucklin tie him to a chair while I threw the old ones in the fire in front of his eyes and made him watch them burn.

Well, I never claimed my boys were the smartest creatures on the land.

So it's been a few weeks now. I've been working up a heavenly sweat trying to work those two. Lord knows they – and Old Scratch – haven't made things easy. Buck not initially going to the James Ranch with the others was a set-back – had to whisper some serious guilt in his ear to change his mind – but when he did I thought for sure I had them. So then the devil goes and tosses Buck a wagonload of oppressed working girls. I was mad enough to spit nails! Not the girls' fault, but I really didn't need that kind of distraction for theman.

Felt a little bad for that gambler fellow when I encouraged the girls to go it on their own rather than participate in his mail-order-bride scheme. He may have been in it for the money, but he's a good man and would have done right by them in the end. This of it is, the whole scheme would have kept the girls in town for months on end before they were all properly married off, and I just didn't have the patience for that. I mean, Buck would have felt a responsibility to keep them all entertained, and then where would Chris be?

And then there was that mother and child. Luckily the idea of a child of his own has always scared Bucklin silly. Oh, he was an angel with my son, the best uncle any boy could hope for, but at the end of the day you could see the relief in his eyes when he could hand the disciplining and scolding and book-learning over to Chris and me. And that little girl sure was a hellion.

Reminded me of me, actually. Thinking maybe I should go apologize to my ma the next time I'm visiting Jacksonville. Good Lord has her watching over a house full of newly freed slaves there, and I understand it's quite the task.

I think the devil honestly planned to get Buck killed that time. We're not supposed to play in life and death business, but I suppose he could claim ignorance by saying he was just encouraging the evil in Morgan Hill's soul. Nasty man, that – made me stomach-sick to be around. If I hadn't managed to goad Chris into that cockamamie 'killed my brother' thing, that could have been it. But I know my boys, don't I? In the end it might have even helped some, giving Chris a wake-up that he could lose Buck too.

Just like me.

I don't kid myself. It wasn't exactly losing me and Adam that has Chris in such a bitter twist. It's really the fact that my death and the death of our son truly drove home the idea of mortality. Of his own, and of Buck's. That at any moment, they could be parted by the end of life. Don't right know if Chris had ever considered that in a real way before. Buck says the fire that took me and Adam burned up Chris' soul, but that's not quite so much the truth. Not that Buck is ever gonna really get that, I suppose. Buck's lost more folk than Chris can ever know. Didn't know it myself till I got here and met up with some of them. His ma, his baby sister, the black nanny who took care of the younguns at the working house where he grew up.

By the time he'd hit eighteen he'd buried near a dozen friends and close folks, women his ma worked with or their kids and the like. Buck's got that big heart of his that just lets about anyone in so long as they don't betray him, and when he loves it's with everything. So by the time I got around to dying, it was just one more heartache in a long line.

Chris, though, had never really lost anyone before. His ma and pa are still going strong back in Indiana, all his brothers roaming about doing just fine. Sure, he saw death in the army, but that's a completely different thing. In a war, you expect death – it's not exactly a surprise when it happens. Not that you're happy with it, but if you understand how the world works it doesn't shock you either.

Not the same as when you come home to your land and find the house burned to the ground, the bodies of your wife and son laying among the ashes.

But see, Buck knows. Chris probably doesn't get it, but part of what makes him love Buck so fiercely is how easily Buck knows everything going on in that thick blond head of his. Things I could never understand about Chris, Buck has always gotten. And there are things about Buck that Chris instinctively understands, even if he doesn't realize it. It's why they're so good together, why they just meld together so seamlessly, whether fighting, loving, or just sitting on the boards watching the dust go by.

Which is why I'm not really all that worried about getting them together. It'll happen. Devil may try his damnedest, but when the chips are down, my boys will stand beside each other.

Where they belong.