The Lancer Fanfiction Archive

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Margaret P and Doc

 

 

The Only Way to Have a Friend is to Be One

 

 

 

 

Title from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
With thanks to beta Suzanne Lyte

This story is part of the Eliot Series, by Margaret P. and the Widow Morris Series, by Doc.

 

“They're on the small mesa above the south gully, Señora.” Cipriano pulled the saddle off the back of the mare he'd ridden on his morning rounds and heaved it onto a fresh mount.

“Are you sure it's them?” Emily pushed the mare's head aside as it tried to nibble her hair.

“Let me.” Katie stepped forward from the corral rail and drew the animal's attention so Emily and Cipriano could talk.

Emily had been studying this group of horses for over a year. When the doctor declared Johnny out of danger, she asked everyone at Lancer to keep an eye out for it. “The lead mare is roan with a white blaze, and one of the mares is greatly in foal.”

“Not any more. I'd say el potro is about three days old.”

“That would be right. I haven't seen them since the day before Johnny was hurt.”

“I would love to see the foal, Emily. If you go to find them, could I come with you?” Katie's enthusiasm made Emily smile.

“There's no guarantee they'll still be near the road, but we could drive over after lunch and see.”

The mesa was a good walk from where they left the buckboard, but it was as close as the road would take them.

“We'll have to go on foot from here.” Emily jumped the ditch and clambered up the bank to the fence. She'd been embarrassed to wear her old trousers and work shirt in front of Katie, but she soon wished she hadn't been so silly. Her dress caught on the long grass and bushes. Katie was much more adept at tramping over rough ground in a skirt. Climbing through the barbed wire fence without tearing anything was the hardest part for both of them. They took turns using boot and blanket as protection to hold the wire apart as the other slipped through.

When they crested the slope, Emily pointed to the far side of the grassland. “There they are.” About a dozen horses, including a foal, grazed peacefully; the stallion was moving through the herd, keeping his eye on the maturing colts. “Stay quiet now and follow me.” She led Katie under the low-hung boughs of two old oak trees. “We should be able to see everything from here without spooking them.”

The girls spread the blanket in the shade and got out their sketch pad and notebook.

“Only one foal. Is that usual?”

Emily looked up from her writing. Katie had already sketched the outline of the foal from several angles and was beginning to add detail.

“It's early in the season. See that mare on the far right? I think she's in foal now; and possibly that one at the back too. If she comes nearer I may be able to tell for sure.” As if on cue, the cremello moved in their direction. “There. See how pendulous her belly is? The rest of her is the same proportion as the others, but that swollen belly is a good sign.”

“How would you know for sure?”

“We'd need to get close enough to see her udder. A mare's udder fills with milk about two weeks before the foal comes.”

Katie seemed genuinely interested, and she was such a relaxing companion to be with; happy to talk or stay silent. She sketched and Emily took notes for well over an hour with little more conversation.

“I envy you.”

“You do?” Emily raised her eyes from the page. She'd been recording how the stallion used snorts and head tosses to keep the other males away from the mares. “Why?”

Katie's eyes travelled between her sketch pad and the horses grazing in the distance. “Because of the way you and Johnny are with each other. You have something special.”

“Yes, we do, and thank you.” Emily closed her notebook. Katie kept surprising her like this. She didn't quite fit Emily's image of a Boston gentlewoman, all etiquette and reserve. “What makes you say that?”

Katie stopped sketching. For a moment, Emily feared she'd been too blunt. Easterners often considered her impolite and outspoken. Katie didn't seem upset though. She tapped the flat end of her pencil on her chin and stared at an orphan cloud floating across the sky. “Little things. Touches, looks—the way sometimes you seem to know what the other is thinking or feeling without being told. And there's respect as well as caring. I'm not really sure how I know, except that it's the kind of love my parents have; the kind of love I want.”

Emily relaxed. “I never expected to find anyone like Johnny.” The thought of him made her smile. “Maybe you'll be as lucky.”

“I live in hope.” Katie picked up a fresh pencil and began to put shade to the rump of her foal. Sunlight filtered through the canopy of oak leaves above, creating moving images on her plain white cotton blouse and black skirt. Emily looked at her own yellow dress; no images were created on its print.

Peering over at Katie's picture, she sharpened a drawing pencil. It was easier to sketch than record observations while talking. “How do you get that light and shade effect?”

Katie demonstrated. “Hold your pencil like this.”

Emily tried. Not bad.

She began sketching the foal too as it nosed around the spring pasture. With a sharp snort, it jerked its head up from a clump of Junegrass and pivoted away; a rabbit dashed out from the silver-green seed heads.

“Oh, how funny.” Katie watched the rabbit until it disappeared into the bushes. And until then, Emily watched Katie. She'd been nothing but friendly from the first moment they'd met, but her manners at the hacienda were usually formal. Out here, with no one else around, she seemed easy and unassuming.

The foal's cheeky curiosity reminded Emily of Johnny. She doubted she could match his artless charm, but should she be a little inquisitive? She peeked sideways. “Tell me if it's none of my business, but I kind of got the idea you liked Scott.”

The point of Katie's pencil snapped.

Oh dear, that didn't work so well. Emily tried to think of some way to make amends, but Katie put her sketch pad down and twisted around where she sat, her brow furrowed. “Is it that obvious?”

“To me it is, but I'm the crazy animal lady, remember? I notice all sorts of things other people don't see. What's more obvious to me is that Scott likes you.” Emily met Katie's eye. “You did know that?”

“Maybe.”

“And the feeling is mutual?” Emily held her breath. If she was stepping on toes, she hoped Katie would let her know without getting annoyed.

“I'm not sure what to say.” Katie plucked at the grass beside her. “I don't know what to do. Everything is so different here, and I've known him all my life. He went to school with my brother. He should be like a brother to me.”

This wasn't just polite conversation now. They were really talking. Crossing her fingers, Emily jumped in deeper. “But he's not?”

“No. He's not.” Katie blushed. Her eyes fixed on the foal as it gambolled about, testing its long legs on the grassland. “You'll laugh, but I've had a crush on Scott Lancer since I was eight years old. Ever since he rescued Poppy from the fire.”

“That sounds scary. Who's Poppy?”

“She's my rag doll—I've had her since I was two.”

“Almost a person, then.”

“Almost.” Katie laughed. She looked over at Emily. “My brother Bobby was teasing me. It was his birthday, and he had his friends so he didn't want me around. He stole Poppy and refused to give her back unless I promised to go away. He was holding her above his head, and I was trying to get her back when he accidentally dropped her on the hearth. Her hand fell against the grate. Scott grabbed Poppy out before she caught alight. None of the other boys did anything except laugh—well, that's not quite true. Bobby knew how much she meant to me. I think he was horrified by what he'd done, but Scott got to her first.”

“The Lancer men make a habit of rescuing maidens in distress. I didn't realise Scott started so young.” Emily smiled.

Katie smiled back. “She has a small scorch mark, but that's all.”

“And you've been sweet on Scott ever since.”

“Ridiculous, I know. It's not like I ever got any encouragement. We didn't see each other that often, and from then on, for years, I couldn't string two words together when we did. I'd just trail around after him and Bobby, making a nuisance of myself until Bobby found some way to get rid of me.”

Emily bit her lip. She missed the brother of her youth, the one who teased her all the time but played with her too. He'd been part of her family, and now he was gone. They were all gone. “Brothers can be cruel.”

“They can, but I don't want you to think badly of Bobby. We get on most of the time. And I did grow out of my crush—sort of.”

“Sort of?”

“Well, I've always had a soft spot for Scott, even when we were both walking out with other people. When his engagement to Julie Dennison was announced, I felt unreasonably put out.”

Julie Dennison: the name rang a bell, but it took Emily a moment to remember who she was. “I heard about Julie, but I never met her.”

“Good. You won't mind if I stick pins in her effigy then.”

“Of course not. If you feel the need, go right ahead. Let me know if you need help.”

“You're a true friend.”

Emily smiled. She was Katie's friend, and Katie was hers. It had crept up on her, but that's exactly what they now were to each other, and after only a few days. How strange. She'd never been someone to make friends easily, but there it was.

She straightened her legs to a more lady-like position. “Do you get along with all your brothers?”

“Mostly; we have our ups and downs. What about you? Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot. I didn't mean…”

“It's all right. No, Glen and I never really got along. He's older, of course, but it's more…a difference in outlook.” Emily gazed at the horses; the foal was back with its mother, its short tail windmilling as it nursed.  “You know how Johnny got hurt, don't you?”

“A little. I wouldn't mind knowing more if you want to talk about it. You don't have to.”

“Actually, I would like to.” Emily set her notebook down and hugged her knees. “I have all these thoughts and feelings inside me, and sometimes I just want to scream to get them out. Johnny helps me talk about things, but since he's been hurt…” Emily hadn't realized how much she'd come to rely on his intuition and his sense of humour. He was her best friend as well as her fiancé.

“Scott said your brother didn't like Johnny because he was part-Mexican. It wasn't only because he used to be a gunfighter.”

“My brother has always been a bigot. He refused to allow me to marry Johnny, but I told him he had no right. When he couldn't persuade me to call off the engagement, he hired some thugs to beat Johnny up. They dumped him in the backyard of a bordello. At the time, I thought it funny they'd left him there; it showed how little Glen knew about me or Johnny.”

“Was that when Johnny broke his rib?”

“We think it cracked then and broke in the second fight.  He was so badly bruised.” Even now the thought upset Emily. Nobody had told her about the beating. She'd called at the ranch three days after it happened to find Johnny wounded and swollen. She and Johnny had had words later; she'd made him promise never to shield her from the truth again.

Katie met Emily's eye. “Scott didn't tell me too much. He just said the gunfight wasn't Johnny's fault, and he got caught in the crossfire of an argument between your brother and another man.”

“Collier. He worked for Glen or they had some kind of business arrangement. I don't understand it fully myself, except that there was fraud involved. That's why Glen ended up in jail.”

“I'm sorry.”

“Don't be. He deserves to be there.” Emily shut her eyes for a moment. “Mr Lancer has been looking into ways to help him get out, but only because he's my brother.”

“You hate them and love them, all at the same time. Shades of Bobby and Poppy.”

Emily lifted her eyebrows. “Yes, you're right. A very similar case, though maybe one is somewhat more serious than the other.”

“I didn't mean to make light of the situation between you and your brother.”  Katie reached out.

Why was Johnny the only one who understood her humour right off the bat? For a second, Emily hesitated, but then she grasped Katie's fingers. “I know.”

In her mind, she could see Johnny grinning at her, and a child-like giggle bubbled up, taking her by surprise. She clamped her lips shut and clapped her free hand over her mouth to keep from laughing in Katie's face.

“What's the matter?”

Focusing on the patterned edge of the Indian blanket, Emily willed herself not to splutter. “I was thinking. It's more serious when an innocent is involved.” Taking a deep breath, she cocked her head to one side and looked at Katie. “And Poppy was definitely an innocent.”

Katie stared. Emily winked. Then they both burst out laughing.

Oh, it felt good. Emily hadn't laughed like that in such a long time. She gulped air and tried to stop, but she caught Katie's eye again, and they fell back on the blanket, giggling like school girls.

When their laughter dwindled to hiccups, Katie sat up, dabbing the corner of her eyes with her handkerchief. “I do like you. Whatever happens between me and Scott, we must stay friends.”

“Definitely.” Emily pushed herself up to sitting, and Katie wriggled close.

She took Emily's hand in hers. “Now tell me the rest of the story.”

Emily squeezed Katie's hand to let her know nothing was wrong, but then she slipped hers free and fixed her eyes on the herd. The horses were slowly bunching together. “Well, Glen didn't mean for Johnny to get hurt—not then, at least. Glen's not always truthful, but I do believe him about this. Anyway, Johnny went to talk to him in his office at The Occidental—the restaurant where Beth is going to speak on Friday—just before this man, Collier, arrived to talk business.  Glen and Collier argued. Collier pulled a gun and tried to kill Glen, but Johnny got hit instead. Collier kept shooting. If Scott hadn't got there when he did—if he hadn't shot Collier—Johnny and Glen could both be dead.”

“Scott killed Collier?” Katie jerked her head up, wide-eyed like the foal.

Emily was caught off guard. “Yes. I thought you knew that. We arrived just in time.”

“You were there?” The colour had drained from Katie's face. Was that because Emily had been at The Occidental during the fight, or was there something else? Emily wasn't sure.

“I knew Johnny was going to see Glen. I didn't think there was anything to worry about until Scott…I made him take me with him.”

Katie stared at the small cameo ring she wore on her right hand, twisting it around her finger. “Scott was a hero.”

“Yes, he was.” Emily hadn't known Scott well then, but he cared about Johnny and that was all she needed to know. “He sat with me the whole time Johnny was in surgery. I was so scared. And Scott was there through it all. He and I…well, it was a comfort to have him there.”

Katie glanced up with a flicker of a smile. “The surgery to remove the bullet went well? Scott told me you thought Johnny was going to be all right.”

“We were so relieved. Johnny was pale and in pain, but he didn't complain of anything unusual under the circumstances.”

“Yes, I know Scott is rather angry with Johnny about that.”

“Well, he shouldn't be.” Emily breathed in and bowed her head; she hadn't meant to sound so short. Katie didn't say a word, but Emily could sense her confusion. “I'm sorry. I did ask Johnny about it later. He said he was sore all over. He just thought he was dizzy and weak from the anaesthetic.”

“It was lucky you stayed in town.”

“That was Scott's idea. I've thanked God a thousand times we did. Katie, I thought my heart would stop when Johnny wouldn't wake up.” Emily shuddered.

Katie leaned over and hugged Emily. Beth had embraced her like that the morning after the Eliots arrived. They seemed to be a family of huggers and touchers—like Johnny. Not at all like her own family. Next to having Johnny's arms around her, it was the nicest feeling—unfamiliar but nice.

Katie sat back, but kept one arm loosely around Emily's shoulders. There was no obligation. Emily could pull away if she wanted to, but this time she didn't want to. She gazed over to where the horses were gathering into small groups. They would move on soon; when they did, she and Katie would head back to the ranch. But first—shutting her eyes, Emily forced her mind open to the images she'd tried so hard to stamp out. “Mr Lancer arrived early with a wagon set up with bedding.”

He'd been too early for the hotel. The main entrance had still been locked so he'd banged on the glass to be let in. Emily had a room at the front of the building; the noise had woken her up. She'd overslept, but it was only half past six; too early for townsfolk.

Scott must have been up already. The door of the room next to hers opened and closed. A minute later, she heard the bolt being drawn back on the main door downstairs and voices. She was drying her face and hands after a quick wash when she heard Scott knocking on Johnny's door, asking if he could come in.

There was no response. Half-dressed, Emily peeked out. She saw Scott enter Johnny's room, uninvited.

He'd gone to wake Johnny up, but he couldn't. Emily had left her door ajar; as she threw her dress over her head, she heard the panic in Scott's voice. “Don't play games, Johnny. Answer me.”

Then as she struggled with the buttons, she heard Johnny's father. “I'll go get Doc Owens.”

Mr Lancer pushed passed her in the hallway, and she ran into the room. Johnny was pale and grey, his skin clammy. She fell to her knees next to the bed. “What's going on? Johnny, wake up. What's wrong?”

She looked up wide-eyed at Scott as he stood gripping the brass bed end. “I don't know, but he's breathing. See.”

“Oh God, Johnny. Wake up. Please wake up.” She took hold of his shoulders and tried to shake him back to life, but nothing.

He didn't move, not even a little bit. His fingers lay limp in her hand, and the minutes it took the doctor to arrive were like hours.

“Damn. I should have recognised the signs.” Doc Owens put his head out of the hotel room door and yelled for the porter to get the stretcher from his surgery. “He's bleeding internally. A rib is broken—probably from being crushed between those men yesterday.  I'm guessing it's punctured his liver. I'll have to open him up.”

“Johnny took a bad beating a few days ago too. He seemed all right though.” Scott moved to the doctor's side. “What can I do?”

Johnny groaned as his father and the porter lifted him onto the stretcher. Emily gasped with relief and reached out to take his hand again, but Scott pulled her away. “We don't want to slow them down.”

She knew that. She only wanted Johnny to know she was there. For a moment she was angry with Scott, but he supported her as they followed the doctor and stretcher bearers, and by the time they crossed the street, she'd forgiven him.

Johnny moaned again when the doctor transferred him from the stretcher to the operating table.

“You need to wait outside.” George Owens ushered them from the room as his wife poured carbolic into a tray of surgical instruments.

Turning, Emily gained one last glimpse of Johnny, beyond her touch and lying unnaturally still. 

Then the door shut.

Forever after, purgatory would be a doctor's waiting room with hard chairs and gingham curtains. Emily's ears strained for every sound, and when the tongue and groove floor began to swim before her eyes, she stared at the oak-panelled door in front of her, numb and sick to her stomach. Scott and Mr Lancer sat there too, heads bent, barely moving. This couldn't be happening again. But it was and there was nothing any of them could do.

The shelf clock struck eleven before Doc Owens emerged from his surgery, dishevelled, his sleeves rolled to his elbows. Emily jumped to her feet.

“He'll live, but the road to recovery will be a long one. The internal damage was mendable but extensive.”

Emily didn't hear much after ‘He'll live', and from the looks on Mr Lancer's and Scott's faces neither did they. 

“I want to keep him under observation for a couple of days, and we must keep him as quiet as possible. Only one visitor at a time.”

Emily sank into the cane chair by Johnny's bed just as her legs would no longer hold her. She was so grateful Mr Lancer and Scott allowed her to take the first shift. She couldn't have stood another minute apart from Johnny; she couldn't.

“His hand is cold.”  She hadn't expected that. She tried to rub some heat back into it until the doctor made her stop.

“Don't worry. It's the anaesthetic. Just hold it so he knows you're here. He'll warm up soon.”

She held Johnny's hand for the next two hours, willing her warmth into him, staring at the rise and fall of his chest as if he might quit breathing if she looked away. The doctor came and went to check on his patient, and she barely noticed.

Mr Lancer relieved her mid-afternoon.  Emily didn't want to leave, but she had control of herself by then. She knew it was only fair to let Johnny's family be by his side too. She would come back in the evening. “He's still asleep. The doctor says it's the ether—he must have given him so much—but his breathing is steady.”

“Good. You should go and have something to eat.” Mr Lancer squeezed her hand, and she gave a weak smile before leaving him with his son. He looked like an old, old man.

At first she wandered aimlessly down the street, the clatter of wagons and horses and people just so much noise in the background. All she could see was Johnny's colourless face like some macabre death mask. “Please God, no.”

She looked up to find the little wooden church right in front of her. Maybe it was a sign. If God had saved Johnny, she would thank him and ask him not to change his mind.

She didn't know how long she had been there, but at some point, hinges had creaked, and Scott must have slipped through the blue-painted doors. He had knelt beside her at the altar. Fingers had entwined, and they had prayed silently together.

“It was a miracle Johnny survived.” Emily took her handkerchief from her pocket and blew her nose. She straightened up. At some point, she had rested her head on Katie's shoulder—she hadn't even realised.

Katie dropped her arm to her side. Emily no longer needed it. She had re-lived the worst few days of her life—even worse than when she was raped.

Not many people would believe that. Emily wiped her eyes with her handkerchief and tucked her hair behind her ears. It was months since her attackers had cut it off. It was nearly long enough to tie back, but strands kept escaping. Katie and her mother must have noticed, but they'd never said anything.

Without a word, Katie gently took Emily's sodden handkerchief away and gave her the one from her pocket. Emily smiled her thanks; she was grateful for her friend's silence as much as the hankie.

Most people would have felt it necessary to talk, express their concern or ask more questions. Emily was learning that the Eliots weren't most people—Katie in particular. She was unlike any friend she'd had before. One day Emily might tell her about the attack; somehow she sensed Katie would understand.

The rape had happened to Emily: she knew the damage she'd suffered, and she'd survived it.  Worse than her own ordeal was the fear her attackers would kill Johnny. When they were no longer a threat, she'd had Johnny to support her through the rest.

But when Johnny was close to death she could only guess at his pain, his fear. Not knowing how he felt, not knowing if he would live…she'd felt helpless in a way she'd never done before. “Dr Owens had attended a surgical course in San Francisco a few weeks earlier. He said he wouldn't have known what to do otherwise.”

“Johnny's guardian angel must have been working overtime. You certainly looked like you had been when we first arrived. I know Mama was more worried about you than she was about Johnny.”

Emily smiled. “You're lucky to have a mother like Beth. I loved my mother, but she wasn't as…motherly.”

“I know what you mean. Once upon a time, Mama and I used to argue, and the rest of the family would duck for cover, but we get on well now; and at the venerable age of twenty-four, I recognise how lucky I am. A lot of my friends and cousins hardly saw their mothers until they were of an age to go into society. The servants brought them up. We had nannies and later governesses or tutors, but Mama and Papa always made time for us. We did things together as a family, and we always felt loved.”

“It sounds like you have a good life in Boston.”

“I do.”

“Are you anxious to get back?”

“No, not really.” Katie laughed. “You look surprised. I think I got over feeling homesick when I went abroad with Aunt Dottie a few years ago. Christmas was hard, but the rest of the time there was so much to do and see. I met such interesting people. Boston is part of me, but I don't feel the need to live there all the time.”

“I know someone who'd be pleased to know that.”

“Behave.” Her cheeks flushed, Katie leaned forward for the canteen. She took a sip and offered it to Emily. “As it happens, I'm staying in San Francisco to help my cousin Olivia with her wedding preparations. Murdoch has suggested I come back here for a longer visit in May.”

“That's a wonderful idea.” Putting the canteen aside, Emily reached out again. “It would give you a chance to get used to the countryside, and we could do more things together when Johnny is better.”

“That's what Teresa said. I think I will come. I'm getting accustomed to the countryside already. You'll think I'm silly—I think I'm silly—but the open spaces really do make me feel…I don't know…exposed.”

Emily followed Katie's gaze. She was looking at their hands: Emily's sun-darkened and callused, Katie's smooth and unblemished. Katie had probably never washed a dish in her life, let alone scrubbed work shirts against a washboard. Was that what she was thinking? She didn't look happy.

“It felt strange to me when I first came out here, too.” Not that Emily had felt overwhelmed. In a way, for her, it had been just the opposite; she had felt invigorated and free. “I remember being awed by the vastness of the plains on the trip west.”

“If only that was all…Emily, I just don't know if I can do it. The way you live here, the guns and the roughness…I feel out of my depth.”

Emily wished she knew what to say. “I don't like the guns either. They're a fact of life here, but things are changing. When Mr Morris and I first arrived there wasn't one sheriff anywhere. Now all the towns have one, and there are places like The Occidental where firearms are banned—at least officially.”

“Thank you for trying to make me feel better, but you can't possibly feel the same way as me about guns and fighting. After all, you're marrying Johnny.”

Emily pulled her hand away. “Johnny's not a violent man. What are you saying?”

“I'm sorry. That came out wrong.”

Still bristling, Emily glanced over. Katie was twisting her ring again looking up at the branches, blinking. Oh, jumping Jehosaphat. Katie had only just told her she felt out of her depth, and what does Emily do? Fly off the handle…over the truth.

Emily didn't like guns, but living here, she'd had to get used to them—and she was marrying Johnny. Katie had been so wonderful earlier. Emily touched her friend's arm and then took her hand back. “I'm sorry. It's just…”

Katie rubbed her eyes with her fingers and gave a small smile. “I haven't known Johnny long, but I like him very much indeed. It's as I said before: I envy you.”

“We have talked about his life as a gun for hire. I know he's killed men—lots of men. I don't really understand…” It was so hard to put into words. “But I know him. In his soul he's…he's gentle. That sounds naïve, doesn't it? I know he can be violent when he has to be, but… ”

Katie nodded. “Scott was a soldier in the war. He killed men; I know that. But it's different in peace time. It's different when others are trying to hurt or kill a person you care about.”

They fell silent then. Maybe Emily and Katie were both too scared to examine the realities too closely.

The horses were no longer grazing. They stood nose to tail and rested, waiting for the roan mare to take them to the next green pasture.

“Ready to go back?” Emily started to pack up her notebook and pencils. It should only take ten minutes to reach the buckboard and about twenty more to drive to the ranch.

“Yes, I'll need to sort out what I'm going to wear.”

“When you go riding tomorrow with Scott? You don't have to ride side-saddle. I could lend you some trousers.”

“Now that's funny; it goes to show how people can still be good friends and see things very differently.” Rising, Katie slung the straps of the canteen and her drawing satchel over her head.

“I don't understand.” Emily got to her feet too. She shook the blanket out and together they began to fold it up.

“Well, Scott and Johnny come from different backgrounds. In many ways they're not at all alike, but they get along and really care about each other.”

“Yes?” Emily drew the word out; she didn't quite know what Katie was saying.

“Well, we're friends, and you've just demonstrated a significant difference in outlook.”

“Have I—how?” Taking the blanket from Katie on the final fold, Emily draped it over her arm and led the way down the incline towards the road. She'd thought about showing Katie her own place on the way back, but it was getting late. It could wait for another day—or May. They'd have plenty of time then.

Katie came alongside her as the slope levelled out, and they high-stepped through the long grass, dodging the dips in the ground. “This ride will be the first time since I got here that Scott and I have had more than a few minutes alone together.”

“The hacienda is rather overcrowded at the moment.”

“And Scott is a man who appreciates refinement.”

“That's true.”

“I know if he and I are to be more than just friends, I have to adapt. His life is here at Lancer. But in other ways, I don't think he'd want me to change.”

Reaching the fence, Emily turned and faced Katie. “What's that got to do with me lending you my trousers?”

“I am grateful.”

“But?”

“These are early days, Emily. Please don't be offended.” Katie grinned. “I thank you for the offer, but I'm definitely not going to risk my future on trousers.”

 

 

 

~end~

Notes
: Time-wise, this story occurs on Wednesday during The Visit by Margaret P., which comes immediately after Names by Doc .

 

Want to comment? Email MargaretP or Doc