Author's note: This moment comes at the very end of the series finale, 'Til Death Do Us Part, part II.
The Home Front: Jesse
Jesse sat there, still mounted, the reins clenched tightly in his fist. He fought the tears that struggled for freedom. He’d liked Noah. Would miss him all his days. But this was war. It was a reality the others had yet to truly face. Except maybe Teaspoon. That irascible old man knew what war was. And at its core, war meant death.
Jesse was sorry his actions had led to Noah’s death. But, in the long run, Noah wasn’t family. Not really. Oh, he and the others had talked a good game, about how the riders at Teaspoon’s Express station had formed their own little family, and family stuck together. Well, they’d gotten part of it right. They’d just missed the most important part.
Family did stick together, through thick and thin. But a group of lonely orphans couldn’t make a family. Family was the folk who’d brought you into this world. Family was blood. And blood would always be thicker than the thin strings tying the Express riders together.
That’s why, even though this was the best home he’d ever known, he’d had to help Frank. Frank was family. Jimmy, Kid, heck even Lou, might’ve been a better choice as a brother. But you didn’t get to choose your brothers. God gave them to you and you worked with what you got. That’s what Ma’d always told him. And he figured it was true. Frank wasn’t the best, sometimes he was a real bastard, but he was blood.
He didn’t really hear what Teaspoon was saying, the rumbling of the old man’s voice flowed soothingly over Jesse's ears as he said goodbye to them all. Most of them might not know it, but Jimmy certainly did. Teaspoon, too. This was it. This was goodbye, in more ways than one.
He’d miss them all. But if he saw any of them across the coming battlefield, his thoughts stuttered slightly as his eyes landed on a stoic-faced Cody, he wouldn’t hesitate to shoot them down. They might be friends. But they weren’t family. And that’s why he had to leave the best home he’d ever known.
Realizing his thoughts were moving in circles, even as the funeral was ending, Jesse sat up a little straighter in the saddle. It was time to move on. Time to answer the trumpet call of war.
Even as he fought with himself, telling himself repeatedly it was time to leave, catch up with Frank, his eyes caught Jimmy’s. Jimmy understood. That’s why he was so mad at him, Jesse knew. Didn’t make it any easier. Then, Jimmy nodded slightly, as if giving him permission to leave without guilt, and the invisible ropes that had been holding him in place suddenly snapped free.
Jesse nodded back and urged his horse into motion. Soon, he was streaking across the prairie, headed for Missouri and the fight that would define the rest of his life.
Author's note: And thus ends this series. Thanks to the ladies at the Plus for their support and encouragement as I worked through the difficulties of trying to get inside each of the riders' heads. It wasn't easy!