Author's note: This moment falls at the end of Season 1, Episode 4, Home of the Brave.
The Home Front: Buck
Home on the Range
“The love of your white family stays in your heart. It is time you return to them.”
“You and I must realize that the next time we meet may be in battle.”
“But I would have to kill you.”
“And never look back.”
Red Bear’s words circled through Buck’s mind again and again as he slowly rode out of the Kiowa camp. Once, a long time ago, it had been home. For a brief, bittersweet, moment he’d thought it might be again. That, once he’d proven himself to be a true Kiowa, he’d finally be accepted. Apparently that was not to be. Even his own brother was rejecting him now. That hurt in ways he couldn't even comprehend yet. So he set the pain aside to deal with later. Stoically, he refused to look left or right, to let anyone see just how much his heart was fighting this departure.
Determined not to show any weakness, he refused to flinch when the horse’s movement down the slope from the plateau of the camp to the plain below made the bruises and strains leftover from the previous day’s beating complain sharply.
The first clue he had that he wasn't alone, that his white brothers hadn't left him as he’d told them to, was the sun shining off the top of Ike’s bald pate.
What was Ike still doing here? He’d been badly hurt. Kid should’ve taken him back to the station! Buck tried to get mad on his brother’s behalf, but somehow couldn't find it in himself to do so. All he could do was marvel at this warm feeling filling his heart, a sense of rightness he hadn't felt since his mother’s death. How could he feel this now? When he’d just been made homeless by the only blood he had left.
Pondering this, he rode slowly up beside Kid. Looking up, he saw the other man’s gentle smile as he handed over Buck’s hat, a white man’s hat.
Buck looked from that hat to Kid and his eyes opened wide. Suddenly he understood what Red Bear had been trying to tell him. He didn't need a Kiowa home anymore. It had been a home because they’d had no choice but to accept him. He’d had to fight for anything they gave him. The smarting cut slashing across his chest was a vibrant reminder of that. But he’d found a different sort of home, among the white men no less, one that suited him far better.
It was a home where they stayed by his side, even if he didn't want them there, ready to fight for him. It was a home where they loved him no matter what, no questions asked. He knew Kid, especially, had to be bursting with curiosity over what he’d just seen and heard, but the other man didn't say a thing. It was a home where they teased him about his snoring, but never actually kicked him out of the tipi, uh, bunkhouse.
Buck’s shoulders relaxed as he placed that hat upon his head and turned to follow Kid’s horse up the next rise. He barely heard the words that accompanied Kid’s smile.
“Let’s go home, Buck.”