Author's note: This moment falls at the end of Season 1, Episode 17, Decoy.
The Home Front: Cody
Hearth & Home
His horse’s tread sounded as weary as he felt, Cody thought as the large animal trotted heavily into the station yard. But, as physically exhausted as he was, there was a sense of exhilaration coursing through his body. He’d done something worthwhile these last few days, even if no one would ever really know about it.
He felt a lithe pair of arms tighten around his middle in nervousness and gently patted the hands folded over his waist. Correction. One person would have at least an inkling of what he’d done. Not that even she knew the full truth. No one would ever know that. For some reason this wasn’t going to join the other stories of his adventures he liked to tell. This was a run he’d keep to himself.
He slowed the horse to a walk, then brought it to a standstill as they reached the middle of the yard. He wanted to slump in the saddle, fall out of it and straight into bed. Instead, he stiffened his spine and sat straight and tall as his family seemed to come out of the woodwork to greet him.
If he weren’t so exhausted, he might greet them with a shout and a smile, the exuberant greeting they’d generally expect from him. But it was more than he could muster today.
He watched as his family, and that’s what Emma, Teaspoon and the other riders had become to him these last few months, came to welcome him home.
The thought of that word made him pause a moment. Home. He hadn’t had a home since he’d left his Ma and his sisters and brother to look for work after his Pa died. Heck, so far’s the others knew he didn’t even have any family left.
There was so much they didn’t know about him. Much like there was so much they’d never know about this last run. But that didn’t matter. They loved him anyway.
Oh, they joshed and kidded around a lot, but when it came right down to it, they were always there when he needed them. It wasn’t that he needed them around every second of every day. Unlike some of them, he thought watching as Kid and Lou sauntered his direction from Emma’s house, trying to look like they hadn’t just been involved in some deep discussion. He was just as happy out on his own, having adventures, living the high life. When he wasn’t around the others, he didn’t worry overmuch about them.
And that was a good thing, he thought, as his family clustered around his horse. But it was also a good thing to have a place to come home to. Such an odd thought that. But there it was. He mulled it over a bit, then set it aside. There was business to take care of, food to be eaten and a bed to sleep in. Glancing down at the miserable state of his buckskins, he wondered if he could cajole Emma into doing a special load of cleaning for him.
“This is Mary Lou,” he introduced the widow woman mounted behind him to his family. The sooner he got all the details taken care of, the sooner he could enjoy all the comforts of having a home again. “She’ll be stayin’ ‘til the next stage comes.”