by Grasshopper

Chapter 4

Davy hit the back door running. He slid through and jerked to a halt in the middle of the floor. What was that wonderful smell? His mouth started to water as he licked his lips. "Cody?" he yelled.

Cody was just laying the silverware on the table beside the folded napkins and the pretty china he had found crammed in the back of the cabinet. At the sound of Davy's voice, he smiled and answered. "I made a big pile of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and a peach pie. Do you know anyone who might want to help me eat some of it?" He watched Davy's sweet face light up, his eyes twinkle.

"I know someone, Cody. ME!!!" he giggled.

He grinned right back. 'What was that about the way to a man's heart...?' he thought. If it was just this easy to get to Jase.

Just then, he heard the truck pull into the yard. "Go wash up, Davy. We'll eat as soon as your father comes in."

For just a second, Davy's eyes lost their shine but then he grinned again and ran off to wash his hands.

Jase smelled something delicious wafting from his house. What the hell? He strode up onto the porch and opened the screen door to find Cody standing defensively beside the kitchen table. His eyes raked over the dishes, the table, the freshly baked pie, the fried chicken and then back to the younger man's face.

"What's all this?" he asked.

"I wanted to, um, thank you for letting me stay last night," he answered nervously. This had been such a good idea until Jase actually walked in the door. Now, Cody didn't know where to look or what to do with his hands. "I knew you'd be tired and I like to cook."

Jase nodded his head and gave him a half smile. "Davy will be thrilled," he said softly. "I'm not the best cook in the world."

Cody let out the breath he'd been holding and turned to check on the green beans. Jase just stood by the door, his eyes following every movement. The younger man looked so different today. Gone were the city clothes, the navy blazer, the choking tie. Jase watched as the denim of Cody's tight jeans pulled across his cute butt as he walked toward the stove. A strand of silky black hair had fallen down across Cody's left cheek. Jase almost reached to push it behind his ear. He looked at the strong smaller hands that lifted the frying pan. His body jerked as he remembered seeing much more of him this morning while he slept. Cody slung his head to get his long ponytail out of his way and it made Jase think of a gorgeous amber stallion he had gentled one summer when he was 15. His face scrubbed clean of big city dirt, his skin shone with all the highlights of his ancestors, those wide chocolate eyes, those high cheekbones; Cody was beautiful. Jase looked away.

"I'm gonna go wash up," Jase mumbled as he walked out the door, slamming the screen door, across the porch and toward the barn. "I cannot look at him like that. I cannot want him like this." His mind knew how it had to be. His body was arguing loudly. In the deep shadows of the barn, he threw cold water on his face, willed his body to ease down, and washed his hands.

Cody watched Jase march to the barn, as if he was arguing with himself. "I guess he can't even enjoy some home cooked food without remembering who's cooking it," he sighed.

Davy pounced onto the nearest chair and picked up his fork, grinning. "This is so great!" he laughed. He wiggled in excitement as he waited for his dad to come to the table. Cody glanced out the window and saw Jase walking across the yard.

He entered the kitchen, his eyes taking in the sight of his son grinning and this irritating young man waiting for him. He tried unsuccessfully to squelch the tiny waves of pleasure that threatened to escape onto his face. His eyes softened and his mouth creased into a crooked grin. "You hungry, Davy?" he smiled. "I'm amazed you waited for your old dad once you smelled the fried chicken."

Davy gaped at his daddy. He never smiled directly at him. He never talked to him like that. He forgot the food for a minute. "Hi, Daddy. We were waiting for you, Cody and me."

Jase's eyes swept over to him. Cody felt a wave of embarrassment coupled with a totally unsuspected wave of desire as he caught a glimpse of something burning in those hazel eyes. Oh........

Jase ruffled Davy's hair and slung himself down into the chair opposite. He refused to look at Cody. He was not going to get trapped in some web. He never wanted to feel anything for anyone, not ever again.

"Cody's gonna go riding with me after dinner, okay?" Davy asked, his eyes wide, his tone uncertain. He liked this 'new' Daddy but he wasn't gonna push his luck.

Jase looked at Cody. The dark-eyed man nodded his head slightly and his eyes asked, "Okay?"

Jase's entire body seemed to melt. Taking a deep breath, he shook his head and grinned slightly. "I have to feed the stock but if you wait I could go with you."

"No, Daddy, just Cody," Davy jumped in. Then realizing what he'd said, he said quickly, "I want you too, Daddy, but I want to talk to Cody." Jase raised his eyebrow and glanced over as a blush rose on Cody's cheeks.

"I can see that you want to be alone with him," he raised one eyebrow. "Just be careful and be back before dark." Davy grinned. He had no idea what was going on with his Dad but he loved it. He jumped up from the table and ran to stand by his father's chair just tentatively touching his sleeve. Brow wrinkled, Jase looked at his son. He looked nothing like Charity; nothing like him but he was a beautiful boy. Jase knew he had treated Davy unfairly. He had never been able to help it. Why, all of a sudden, did he feel the need to make up for it all? His eyes rose to the stranger looking on, Cody's chocolate eyes glistening with unshed tears. His arm slowly encircled Davy's waist and he drew his son in, for the very first time in forever.

Davy tried to stay stiff, in case this was a trick; in case his dad pushed him away, but he wanted this hug so badly. Jase felt the little boy's body soften and melt into his arm. Davy rested his face in the curve of his daddy's neck and held on tight, his arms clutching.

Jase's eyes never left Cody's. He thought he would see accusation but all he saw was hope and gentleness, and a flicker of something he had never thought to see again. Clearing his throat, he set Davy on his own feet again and tried to lighten the serious atmosphere. "Let's eat before it all gets cold," his voice rumbled, heavy with emotion.

Every piece of chicken devoured, every bite of peach pie that their stomachs could hold, both Mcbride 'men' sat back in their chairs and moaned.

"Cody," Davy sighed. "I don't think I can eat anymore."

Cody laughed at the sight of his full tummy. "You don't have to eat it all, Sweetheart. It'll be waiting for you later."

"Not if I get it first," Jase found his uncontrollable mouth saying. Where were these words coming from? Who was this man to make him lose his iron control? He stood up, trying hard not to actually rub his belly like an old bear, tried to keep a serious expression on his face and failed miserably. Touching his son's shoulder lightly, Jase said, "I'll be on the south range if you need me. Thank you for the meal." He paused, then murmured softly, ..........."Cody."

He watched Jase stride across the yard, and a few moments later lead Sazi out. As he swung up into the saddle, Cody had the distinct feeling he was struggling not to look toward the house, towards him. A tiny smile creased his lips. Cody, huh?

"Cody," a sweet rather stuffed voice murmured from the table. "Want me to help you wash up?" He looked over at the beautiful little boy and smiled.

"No, you go get the horses ready. I'll just put the dishes in to soak. I want to see if Lone Coyote Canyon has changed since I saw it last." He watched Davy spring back to life, his smile contagious.

The heat of the day over, the air began to fill with the smells of the desert. The cactus blossoms gave off a tantalizing aroma and the tiny painted blue bonnets almost seemed to jingle as they trotted lazily along, in no hurry to get where they were going. Davy kept his pony close by Cody's sorrel mare, as if he was afraid Cody would disappear.

"Can I ask you a question?" Davy half spoke, half whispered. Cody took in a deep breath, not knowing what was coming, but feeling the seriousness of his words.

"Sure, Davy. I'll try to answer," he told the shy little boy.

He opened his mouth, trying to form the words. "Cody, my daddy.............."

'Oh Lord,' he thought to himself. 'Is he all any of us think about?' "What about your daddy, Sweetheart?"

"He....I.....Cody, we don't look the same. I don't look like my daddy. I don't look like my mama either. Cody...........I look like you." Davy's questioning eyes turned to his. He had no answers. "Am I an Indian? How can I be if my mama and my daddy aren't?"

Cody reached out his hand and let it take Davy's in a gentle grip as the horses rocked slowly along. "Davy, I know it's bothering you. It would bother me too. I think...," he took a deep breath,............."I think that's something only your daddy can answer."

"He won't tell me. I've asked him. He just says I'm Davy McBride; that I should be content with that. But, Cody, that isn't good enough. I want to know. Wouldn't you?" His little face was threatening to crumple, his eyes filled with tears. 'This was not going to happen,' Cody groaned. Realizing what he was saying, realizing how much deeper this would mire him in the life of a man who hated him, Cody promised the little boy with the Indian paintbrush eyes, "I'll find out for you, Davy. I'll talk to your dad."

Davy's eyes widened. If anyone could find out, it would be Cody. He was changing everything. He had made Daddy smile. He had cooked dinner and let Daddy hug him. Cody would fix it. He grinned and called, "Race ya!" his pony taking off at a gallop.

Cody sat for a second, his heart racing. What had he promised this fey little child? How in the world would he get past the 100 foot brick wall that Jase McBride, the man with the hidden eyes, had built between himself and the entire world? He straightened his back and a quiet resolve seemed to settle over his strong young shoulders. For this child, a child he was beginning to love dearly, he would find the answers, even if it meant Davy's daddy would hate him.

Jase was not his father. Charity was his mother. Who had his father been and how had that happened? He spurred his mare gently and took off after the laughter of the small boy floating behind him as he raced, trusting Cody to make his life whole.

Jase stood on the front porch watching the sun travel, playing hide and seek behind the huge cumulus clouds that hung low in the sky. He knew they were fine. He knew he shouldn't worry. But then, he hadn't worried about Charity that day 4 years ago when she left for school. He hadn't hugged her goodbye or ruffled those blonde curls. He had been in the barn and just yelled, 'Drive careful', as if she would be coming home. But she hadn't. She hadn't ever come home again.

Jase sat heavily on the top step and peered out into the slowly gathering twilight, his mind flooded with Charity.....Charity and all the lies they'd told, all the pain she had held silently in her heart, all the secrets the two of them had shared. Every secret but one. Jase could feel it coming as if Edgar Taylor's death had set off some chain reaction.

They had lived here with Edgar, sharing his life, Charity tending to his needs since they had first come to ShipRock. He had needed the company; they had needed the house. It had been perfect. When he died, Jase already knew the house was his........his and Davy's. It wasn't why they loved Edgar but it was part of his giving them back some of the love they had all three blessed him with.

Jase ran his vet service out of the big barn and Charity had fallen in love with the beautiful faces of the children at the Four Corners Navajo Reservation School. Davy was just the icing on the cake. Jase had let the little baby into his heart and claimed him completely. He knew a time would come when Davy McBride would look in the mirror and question who he was and who his father really was. Jase just didn't want it to be today. He had no answers. Charity had taken the answers with her when she died.

The big question in Jase's mind now was where did Cody come from? Edgar had been white. Jase had seen pictures of Edgar's son and daughter in law, Cody's parents. They were white. All these years, and it seems Edgar had a secret too. Why had he not said anything after Charity was killed? Why had he let Jase tear into the very thought of an Indian and not say anything? He felt like his mind was gonna explode from all the directions it wanted to jump in all at once.

His mind a million miles away, he didn't hear the sounds of his son laughing or Cody calling out to him until they were almost to the house. "Hey, Daddy. We saw Ole Three Paws," Davy said, excitedly. "Out on the open range before We got to Lone Coyote Canyon. We saw him, Daddy."

"You sure? He doesn't show himself to people much."

Cody laughed, "If you're talkin' about a big gray coyote with a missing back right paw, we saw him all right. He was loping along, mindin' his own business."

Tell Cody about Ole Three Paws, Daddy," Davy begged.

'He doesn't............."

"Yes," Cody smiled, climbing off the mare and putting out a hand for Davy to steady himself, "he does."

Jase stood up, stretching and reaching for Davy's bridle. "Let's cool them down and settle them in for the night."

They all three worked in companionable silence, Davy knowing to wait, Cody not knowing quite what to say and Jase deciding whether he wanted to get any closer to this stranger who was turning their lives upside down. If all three of their minds had been turned to full volume, the sound would have deafened all of Arizona and New Mexico, all the way to Austin, Texas.

Brushing slowly, Cody rubbed the back of his hand along the long muscular neck and laced his fingers gently in the long flowing mane. Breathing in deeply, he knew he had missed this smell. Horses, the hay, the feed, the old worn leather.

"I found him one night," Jase's voice rumbled softly, "When I was out riding. He was lying in a ditch, covered in blood. I couldn't get near him, so I came home to get my gun."

Cody flinched, but Davy bubbled, "It's okay, Cody. My daddy'd never shoot an animal. He loves them."

"Hold up, Davy. I would if there was no other way. Like if Ole Three Paws was too far gone. You know that has to be the way sometimes, right?"

"Yes, Daddy," Davy said softly, his hand reaching for his daddy but falling back to his side. "I know."

"I came back for my tranquilizer gun and got him to sleep so I could bring him home."

"Whoa," Cody breathed, "How did you cage him?"

"I didn't. I cauterized the wound, bandaged it tight, took him back where I found him and laid him down."

"Tell Cody what we did, Daddy," Davy laughed and couldn't stop bouncing.

"You tell him, Davy Boy," Jase said, causing the little boy's eyes to widen. He hadn't called him that in years.

Cody watched the interplay between father and son, unwilling to break the flood of emotion.

"We, ummmm," Davy said quietly, staring at his father, "We went back every day and left food and rode off a distance. And, Cody, everyday Ole Three Paws would limp down from these caves in the ravine and take the food away. Daddy shot him one more time to check his paw and it was all better. He's our friend, right, Daddy?"

Jace raised his eyebrow, "I think comrade would be a better word. Never trust a wild animal, Davy. You know that. They can turn on you out of fear or hunger. Remember what I've taught you."

"Yes, Daddy." Davy eased over an inch and Cody watched him lift his arm as if he was going to pat his horse, letting it fall softly on Jase's arm just grazing the cotton.

"Well," he let out a huff of air, "That's some story. I'll be sure to wave at Ole Three Paws the next time I see him. Maybe share a beef jerky."

"Coooddddddyyyyy !" Davy giggled, "He's chomp your hand off."

"Then I'd be Ole Three Hands," Cody grinned, as he watched Davy pluck at the material of his Daddy's shirt.

"Homework," Jase said firmly, "And supper and a bath,"

"Oh, Dadddyyy," Davy half whined, knowing he never won this argument but always wanting to try.


"Yes, sir." They both watched Davy 'scoot' back into the kitchen.

Suddenly, the barn became very small, the air tight and the intimacy of their bare hands caressing the warm body of Cody's horse overwhelmed them both.

"I have to check on my ummm....... animals."

"I need to wash the dishes."

Not looking back, Cody walked quickly up the steps and into the warm lighted kitchen. Davy was sprawled at the table, a pencil in his fingers, notebook paper in front and a math book propped up on the sugar bowl.

"Need help?"

"I hate math," Davy moaned. "It hates me too."

"What are ya studying?"

"Uh, greater than, less than," Davy sighed. "I can do it when it's like 32 > 14. That makes sense but this wants me to do like 2345 m3245."

Cody smiled, remembering that so well. "K, let me explain," he said gently, settling down in the other chair, dishes forgotten. "If you were and alligator and you were hungry, would you want 2 thousand little fish or 3 thousand little fish? It's all in the place value, Davy." He started drawing little fish and huge alligator mouths, stretched wide with sharp teeth, making Davy giggle.

Jase walked in a little later to find them drawing alligator mouths gobbling tiny fish. "Um, is this homework?" he asked sternly.

"Oh yes, Daddy. Cody showed me thousands, hundreds, tens and ones. See?" He raised his paper and Jase saw neat answers written on his homework paper. He laughed to see little open mouths drawn. "Mrs. Bailey's gonna love that."

"She said whatever it takes to get us to understand, she's all for it," Davy smiled. "Math is hard."

Davy, bathed, homework in his backpack, school clothes laid out for tomorrow in the living room, came to hug Cody night. "Thank you for riding with me today," he said softly.

"Anytime. I had as much fun as you."

Davy hesitated, then whispered, "Don't forget your promise." He lurched in and hugged Cody tight and flew off to his room to get his rabbit, then cuddled down into his makeshift bed on the sofa.

'As if I could,' Cody groaned. He sat quietly at the kitchen table, a cup of decaf gripped in his hands. He wished he could just go in Jase's room, pick up that photograph of the three children, put it in Jase's line of vision and say, "Is this Davy's father?" he knew he was on very shaky ground and he didn't want to disturb this fragile start between Davy and his father or this apparent truce between he and Jase.

Cody thought back to lunch and that bolt of desire he'd felt as he had finally seen Jase's eyes. He knew there was no way this man was anything but a typical western cowboy type. He'd been married for God's sake. It was pretty much a given that Davy wasn't their child but he had no clue. Maybe he was the child of some fleeting moment between Jase and an Indian girl. There were too many possibilities.

Cody had been burned the one and only time he tried for anything serious. He had innocently played into MacKenzie Jerrfers's hands and he'd never do that again. If and when he ever opened his heart again, it would be to an uncomplicated man who wouldn't come with a book of instructions. That sure as hell wasn't Jase McBride.

Shaking off the bad memories, Cody watched as Jase poured himself a cup of coffee and leaned against the kitchen counter.



"How did Edgar, your grandfather, how did he come to leave half of his ranch to you and not your brother or your dad?"

Cody sighed. "I don't know. I've asked myself that same question."

Jase hesitated and then pulled an envelope out of his back pocket. "He left this with me to give to his family. I guess that would be you. He said I'd know who to give it to." He offered the wrinkled white envelope to Cody, being careful not to touch the younger man's fingertips.

Cody slid his knife under the flap and eased the letter open:

Dear Cody,

I know it's you that will be opening this letter. I hope Jase handed it to you without harsh words. He is a dear and trusted friend but he has his own demons to defeat. Perhaps you can help. You were always a kind child.

I'm leaving half of my ranch to you, Cody, because of your grandmother. I loved my wife, Soft Wind, with all my heart and am with her now. She watches over you and Davy and Jase, along with Charity. We all want your lives to be whole and happy.

You look so much like your grandmother and I hope, as you grew, you were always proud of your heritage. She touched you with her beauty and her joy of living. I see it in you.

I hope you and Jase can come to some understanding about the ranch and the water rights. I hope the little boy I knew grew to be a man I can be proud of.

Your father will understand. He knows why.

All My love,


Cody sat quietly, the letter in his fingers, tears flowing down his cheeks. 'Grandpa', he sighed, 'I'm so sorry. I hope I can make you proud.'

He silently handed the letter to Jase, watching as the older man read the words; watched as his face grew clouded and his jaw clenched.

Jase finally raised his eyes and stared at Cody. "Your grandmother.........,"

"Was a pure blooded Navajo Indian," Cody said proudly, locking his eyes with Jase's, neither looking away.

"I have a problem with Indians," Jase growled.

Cody took a deep breath. 'Here we go,' he thought. "I know and I'm sorry. I know your......you wife was................,"

"She was raped and killed by an Indian," Jase flung the words at him.

Cody stood up, his hands pressed to the table top, "But it wasn't me. Damn it, Jase, one bad Indian doesn't condemn the whole race. Not one black or one Chinese or one white person either. For every rotten person in an ethnic race there are ten thousand good and decent people. Look at me, Jase. Would I hurt her?" His voice raised, Cody felt his pulse beating a fast rhythm against his temples.

"I can't look at you right now," Jase snarled. "I can't." He slammed out the screen door and saddled Sazi.

Cody stood on the porch as he rode out of the barn. "You can't keep running, Jase," he called out.

The words followed Jase as he rode off into the dark desert, floating on the night air as if taunting him.

"I know I can't," he called back, that same night air carrying his words away.

Cody walked back into the house slowly, his mind exhausted and yet his body so tense, so exhilarated.


"Oh, Davy. I'm so sorry," he whispered. "We woke you."

"It's okay. Did you ask him? Was that why he was yelling?" Davy's voice quivered.

Cody sat on the edge of the sofa, pushing Davy's bangs back off his forehead. "No, sweetie. We were talking about the ranch."

"Does he hate me too?" Davy asked, a sniffle in his voice.

"No, Davy. Why would you say that?"

"Cause an Indian killed my mama." Davy threw himself into Cody's arms and sobbed.

"He's mixed up, Davy. He can't hate you. He can't hate me; for the color of our skin. He needs to see that."

"Can you help him?" Davy gulped back tears.

Cody looked into the chocolate eyes so much like his own and saw nothing but pure sweetness and worry. "I can sure as hell try."

Jase rode out to Wild Horse Ravine, sliding off Sazi and walking him to cool him down in the warm night air. Finding his old familiar place, he tethered the horse and sat down on the long slab of granite rock. It always felt the same, no matter how many times he came here. He ran his fingers over the little slash marks that had been carved so carefully years ago, remembering a long silenced voice:

"We'll always come here, right Jase? Even when we're old. We'll ride out here and make love under the same old moon."

"Yep," Jase had answered, his voice full of love, his arms full of Tommy. "We'll keep marking our rock till there's no rock left." He had cut off any more words with his mouth and his hands; loved his baby like they had all the time in the world. Tangled his hands in that long black hair and held on tight.

They'd been 15 and had the rest of their lives to be together.

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