The Rifleman
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Written by Morgan

Lucas, Mark, and Tom finally called for lunch after a long morning of working the cattle. They sat down underneath a tree and began pulling out their lunches, a distant look in Mark's eye.

“Something on your mind, Son?” Lucas inquired.

“... It's Cassie. Almost two years of marriage and I still can't figure her out.”

Lucas and Tom both let out a long laugh as they shook their heads.

“Son, I was married to your Ma for nine years and still didn't have her figured out.” Lucas chuckled. “Give up now.”

“What happened?” Tom asked, still laughing.

“The last few weeks she's been extremely sensitive. We've always teased each other and have had a healthy amount of banter in our relationship. Last night I said one thing and she nearly blew her top. Then this morning she was fine.”

“Well that's the positive side, they tend to get over whatever you said that was wrong.” Tom replied.

“I can't figure it out though. I'm always teasing her about her cooking…”

“Well, considering she hasn't been feeling the best as of late, it's understandable.” Lucas commented. “I'm sure once she gets to feeling better, she'll be back to her old self.”

“I hope so,” Mark replied with a sigh. “I almost spent the night in the guest room a few times last week.”

Tom and Lucas couldn't help but laugh, knowing all too well the position Mark was in. Mark didn't find it funny, and didn't appreciate Tom and Lucas treating it like no big deal.

The afternoon wore on, and finally Mark and Lucas said goodbye to Tom before returning to the homestead. As they worked in the barn, Lucas noticed Mark was deep in thought.

“Everything alright, Mark? ...Besides Cassie’s mood swings, I mean.”

“It's not just her change in behavior, I think something is really wrong and I don't know what. Cassie's never been extremely healthy, but she's been sick off and on for quite a while now. I keep trying to get her to go to Doc's, but she won't listen. She simply insists that she'll be fine. Usually I can eventually persuade her to go, but she's adamant. She won't even go to Anna for advice.”

“That's peculiar.”

“Part of me wonders if what happened with Oliver Lee affected her more than we realized. Every time something extremely stressful happens, it's almost like her body shuts down for a while.”

“We can hope that's it, and that she'll be back to her old self in no time.”

Mark let out a long sigh as he looked out the barn door before he chuckled.

“What?” Lucas asked as he eyed Mark curiously.

“You know all those times you said I'd understand when I was older?” Lucas nodded. “I think this is another one of those times.”

Lucas slapped Mark's shoulder as he picked up his rifle.

“Well Son, let's go see what's for supper.”

Mark and Lucas entered the kitchen to find Rachael setting the table while Milly worked the stove, Lydia on her hip. Lucas went to kiss his wife and took Lydia from Milly.

“Where's Cassie?” Mark asked.

“She’s lying down in my room.” Rachael replied. “She's fine now, but she fainted while we were working outside this afternoon.”

“Why didn't someone get me??”

“She wasn't out long,” Milly began. “I was going to send Rachael, but Cassie insisted she was fine and didn't want to worry you. Would you mind rousing her for supper?”

Mark shook his head in frustration as he excused himself and left the kitchen, heading for Rachael's room. He softly knocked on the door and opened it to see Cassie lying on the bed, peacefully asleep. Mark sat on the bed beside his wife and brushed Cassie's hair out of her face, waking his wife.

“Mark…?” Cassie asked as she sat up. “What time is it?”

“Suppertime. Cassie, we've got to do something, you can't go on like this…”

“I talked to Doc briefly Wednesday in town. He said to just give it time.”

“Is he good for anything else?”

“Mark!”

Mark sighed before giving his wife a kiss.

“... I'm sorry. I appreciate Doc, he's saved my life a number of times. I'm just frustrated that there's nothing I can do to help you.”

“I'll be fine, Mark, you'll see. You've got plenty on your mind with the cattle, don't worry about me.”

“Are you feeling up to supper?”

Cassie nodded as she began to get up, but then stopped and looked at Mark. She could still see the loving concern he held for her on his face.

“I don't know how I got lucky enough to get you as a husband.” Cassie gently kissed Mark on the cheek.

“Maybe we should-”

Mark suddenly stopped and just stared at Cassie, yet his eyes didn't seem focused.

“Mark?” Cassie asked, but Mark didn't move. “Mark?!”

Cassie ran out of the bedroom and to the kitchen.

“Cassie, what is it?” Milly asked.

“It's Mark, he's having a seizure!”

Lucas opened one of the drawers and pulled out a bottle and syringe before Cassie followed him back to bedroom. When they walked inside, they were both relieved to see Mark sitting on the edge of the bed, rubbing his temples.

“Mark, are you alright?” Cassie asked as she sat beside him.

“... I'm fine.”

“Mark, where are your pills?” Lucas asked as he relaxed a little.

“...I don't know, probably buried in a drawer up at the house. It's been so long since I've felt one coming on…”

“I’ll go look for them.” Cassie said.

“Don't worry, Cass,” Mark began, “It's too late now. I'll just make sure I find them before we go to bed tonight.”

“Mark, are you sure?” Lucas asked.

“Positive. Now let's get something to eat, I'm starving!”


1MC1


“Next stop, North Fork!”

A tall blond haired man with blue eyes stood to start collecting luggage.

“You look nervous, Helen.” The man began. “What's wrong?”

“I don't know, I suppose I feel strange showing up unannounced like this. Maybe we should've stayed home.”

“We're ready here, it's a little too late to be having second thoughts.”

“... I know, I'm sorry.”

“Then stop worrying, and let's enjoy the time we have.” The man replied with a smile. “Although I still don't understand why you would pick New Mexico of all places to visit.”

“I told you, I have a friend here.”

“She must be something special if you want to travel all the way out here to visit her.”

“Says the one who suggested New York. And it's not a she, he's a US Marshal.”

“He?” The man asked, a little on edge.

“Don't worry, Nathan, he's a respectable gentleman.”

After the train settled, the two found their way to the hotel and rang the bell. It wasn't long before a red haired woman was greeting them; child in one arm, and another holding onto her apron strings.

“Welcome ta North Fork,” Lou greeted with a smile. “What can I do for ye?”

“Two rooms, please.” The man replied.

“Of course, just sign the register, please.”

They both signed the register as Lou continued.

“Will ye be stayin’ in North Fork long?”

“Just a few days.” The woman replied. “I have a friend to see here.”

“Oh, while might I ask who that may be? I may be able to help ye.”

“It'd be your marshal.” The man replied.

“I'm afraid ye’ll have ta be a bit more specific than that. We have a Marshal, Deputy US Marshal, and two Deputy Marshals.”

“Ned Osborne.” The woman replied with a chuckle. “I forgot how many lawmen you had here.”

“How bad is this town?” The man asked in shock.

“Nathan, it's quite peaceable. Just a bit complicated.” Helen replied.

“If Ned didn't help Johnny meet the train, he'll be out checking on the outlining ranches, should be back by this evening. I'll send word over to the office and he'll make his way over when he can, I'm sure. Meanwhile, there's the restaurant if you're hungry.”

“Anywhere she could go shopping this afternoon?” Nathan inquired.

“Well there's the dress shop, and the jeweler’s, but several businesses have recently closed.”

“Thank you.”

Lou handed the two the keys to their rooms and they were soon settling in. After a while, Nathan knocked on Helen's door and waited for her to answer it.

“I saw the saloon on our way over here, I'm going to stop in for a while. Do you need anything?”

Helen shook her head with a gentle smile.

“Here's a few dollars if you want to buy yourself something. I'll meet you for supper at six.”

Helen nodded and closed the door behind Nathan before letting out a long sigh. A few minutes later, she found herself wandering the boardwalk, looking through the windows of the different establishments.

“Can I help you find something?”

Helen turned around to see a younger woman with soft brown hair walking towards her.

“Just looking. You have such a quaint, quiet town.”

“Thank you, I love it here. Are you visiting family?”

“Just a friend. My fiancé and I decided to take a short trip before we got married.”

“Well I hope you enjoy your stay. I'm Anna Osborne.”

“Anna? You must be Ned’s sister!”

“... I am. How do you know Ned?”

“Forgive my poor manners, I'm Helen Scottlock, I met your brother in California a few years ago.”

“So you're the one he talks so much about.” Anna chuckled. “It's a pleasure to finally meet you. Ned didn't tell us you were coming.”

“It was somewhat of a last minute decision, we weren't able to send word ahead of time.”

“You must join us for supper, Ned will be pleasantly surprised to hear that you're in town.”

“I… wish I could, but my fiancé already has plans for this evening.”

“Well then, you will have to join us for Sunday dinner tomorrow. Lou's always happy to have extra company. Do you attend church?”

“I do, my fiancé probably won't.”

“Have him meet you at the church around twelve-fifteen, and I'll be happy to take you over to Lou's.”

“I don't want to impose-”

“Any friend of Ned’s is a welcome part of our North Fork family. Besides, it's been a while since any hotel guests have taken Lih up on an invitation, and I think she's been a little offended.”

“Alright then,” Helen chuckled. “I'd be delighted to join you.”

“I need to get home, but I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.”

“Have a good evening.”

“You as well!”

Shortly after her conversation with Anna, Helen returned to the hotel and waited for Nathan. Quarter after six, he walked through the doors.

“I was getting worried.” Helen said as they walked towards the restaurant.

“Long game of poker.”

The couple sat down and quickly placed their orders with the waitress.

“Not a lot of variety.” Nathan commented.

“You have to keep in mind that this town is in the middle of nowhere. They have to make do with what they can get ahold of.”

“I'll be glad when we get back home. For the wedding-”

“Please, Nate, can we not talk about the wedding right now? I just want to relax.”

“I was just going to ask if you ordered the hors d'oeuvres yet.”

“I thought your mother was doing that?”

“No, I told you to do it before we left.”

“...Sorry, I must've forgotten. I'll do it when we get back.”

After supper, Nathan and Helen began to make their way to their rooms when Ned walked through the door.

“Helen Scottlock, why didn't you tell me you were coming to town?” Ned asked with a smile.

“It was sort of last minute.” Helen replied with a soft grin. “Ned, I would like you to meet my fiancé, Nathan Hewitt.”

Ned slightly hesitated before greeting the man.

“Mr. Hewitt, a pleasure to meet you.” Ned said as he shook the man's hand. “...How'd you two meet?”

Helen began to reply, but Nathan interrupted her.

“Our parents have known each other for years.”

“How is your father, Helen?”

There was a long silence before Helen replied.

“...My letter must not have caught up with you. My father passed away in December.”

“I'm sorry, I had no idea…”

“It's quite alright…” Helen replied, smiling again. “I know he's in a better place.”

“So what brings you out here?”

“You, actually.” Helen said. “You talked about North Fork so much, I decided I wanted to see it and you again before I got married.”

“Well congratulations to both of you.”

“Thank you,” Nathan began. “It is getting a little late. Helen, do you want to turn in?”

“It's hardly seven-thirty, why don't we go sit on the front porch?”

“Helen, you were exhausted on the train.” Nathan insisted. “I suggest you rest up, and then maybe visit tomorrow.”

Helen looked at him for a few seconds before replying.

“...Alright. Ned, your sister invited us to your family dinner after church tomorrow.”

“I’m glad to hear she did, you'll have a wonderful time. You haven't tasted anything until you've had one of Aunt Milly’s pies.”

“Well, I'll have to make sure I get a slice. Until tomorrow?”

“See you then.”


2MC2


Helen walked into Lou's home behind her fiancé, surprised at just how many people were there.

“This is just your family?” Helen asked Ned.

“It's a bit complicated, but yes. Except Micah, but he's like everyone's adopted grandfather.”

“I always wished I would've had more family around. You're truly blessed.”

“I won't argue that.”

Ned went around and introduced Helen and Nathan to everyone, Mark and Cassie last. As they were talking, He couldn't help but notice Cassie losing some color in her face.

“... I don't mean to be rude, but are you feeling alright? You look a little pale.”

Mark looked at Cassie in concern and couldn't help but agree.

“I think I just need to sit down for a while.”

Helen watched as Mark helped his wife to the kitchen.

“Ned, is she going to be alright?” Helen asked.

“Cassie hasn't been feeling the best as of late, but it usually passes in time.”

“I hope it does…” Helen replied. “So where's your second half?”

“I'm still not married.” Ned replied with a smile.

“Smart man.” Nathan chuckled.

“I'd love to settle down one day, but the right person hasn't come along at the right time yet. You were lucky to get such a catch, Nathan.”

“Just gotta learn to play your cards right.”

Johnny then came out and announced that dinner was ready, and everyone made their way to the dining room.

As Helen went to pull her chair out, Ned came up beside her and took over, seeing Nathan was already seated.

“Allow me.”

“Thank you.”

Johnny said grace before everyone began to serve up and conversation began to fill the room.

“Anna, where's Jason?” Johnny asked. “I was surprised not to see you hanging on his arm at church.”

“Johnny Gibbs!” Lou exclaimed as everyone had a good laugh.

Blushing, Anna replied.

“The doctor had to make a weekend trip to Vendix. He'll be back tomorrow evening.”

“The doctor?” Johnny teased as Lou gave him a playful slap.

“Lou, I hear you're thinking about selling the hotel?” Lucas asked.

“Now who on earth told ye that?”

“Mrs. Johnston.”

Everyone let out a chuckle, leaving Helen and Nathan a bit confused.

“Mrs. Johnston has a reputation for spreading less than accurate gossip.” Ned whispered to Helen.

“I'm simply looking for someone to manage it. I can't keep up with the hotel and the girls.” Lou informed. “When they're in school, I might be able to do a bit more.”

“Milly, you could do it.” Lucas teasingly suggested. “It's not like you have anything else to do.”

Milly raised her eyebrows as she stared at her husband.

“Oh, I don't, have I? I'm sure you and Mark would be happy to take over the cooking and laundry again.”

“Well it's not like it could get any worse.”

Everyone had a good laugh, knowing it was all in good fun.

“Nathan, Helen, I assure you my wife has excellent home making skills.” Lucas clarified. “...She could just use a few baking lessons…”

Milly gave Lucas a playful slap before replying.

“Since you don't like my baking, I guess Mark will just get another piece of pie.”

“No arguments here!” Mark exclaimed.

“Sorry, Son, but I wouldn't pass up your mother's pie for anything.”

“Nathan, Helen, how long do you plan on staying in North Fork?” Micah inquired.

“We aren't sure…” Helen began.

“I think we'll be leaving Tuesday morning.” Nathan replied.

“So soon?” Lou asked.

“I need to get back to work and Helen has to plan the wedding with my mother.”

“You ought to come to the town social tomorrow evening.” Rachael said. “You'll have a wonderful time.”

“I'd love to,” Helen replied. “Nate?”

“...I suppose we could come for a little while, but not too terribly long considering we're leaving the next morning.”

“Of course,” Micah said. “Nathan, what do you do for a living?”

“My family is in the steel industry. We manage over a hundred factories across the United States and its territories.”

“Do you enjoy it?”

“The administrative side of things does get a little dull, but someone has to do it.”

“And where are the two of you going to live after you get married?” Micah asked.

“We've talked of traveling for a while…” Helen began.

“But with business the way it is,” Nathan interrupted, “We'll be settling in Boston for the time being.”

“Do you two prefer the East Coast, then?”

“Most definitely.” Nathan responded. “It's much more advanced and the weather doesn't get as warm, thankfully. I don't know how you stand this New Mexico heat.”

“You get used to it after a while.” Lucas chuckled.

A while later people began saying goodbye, and before too long, Nathan and Helen were returning to their room.

“I'll meet you for breakfast at seven-thirty.” Nathan said as he turned towards his room.

“I'm not feeling well, I may need to sleep in a little.”

“I'm sure you'll be fine after a good night's rest. We have to make it to the barber’s by eight.”

“I'm sure you can get your hair cut without me there.”

“But I want you there.”

Helen looked at Nathan for several moments before nodding.

“Seven-thirty then.”


3MC3


“Ms. Scottlock, I figured you would be dancing with your fiancé.” Micah said as he approached the young woman.

“He's over at the saloon.”

“Well there's plenty of other men here who would be happy to dance with you.”

“I don't think Nathan would approve.”

Micah looked at the woman for a moment before sitting down beside her.

“Ms. Scottlock, may I ask you a question?”

“Of course.”

“Do you love him?”

“I'm marrying him.” Helen replied, a little shocked.

“But do you love him?”

“...Is it that obvious?” Helen asked.

“What's more obvious is that he doesn't love you.”

“I watched how all the couples interacted at dinner yesterday. There was plenty of banter and teasing, but you could tell they loved each other. You could tell they cared for each other. Especially Mark… he was so gentle with his wife. There's not any of that in our relationship.”

“Then why did you agree to marry him?”

“...It was what my father wanted. He wanted me to marry into a wealthy family. Nathan’s parents want him to marry me because of my connections, a lot of them could aid their business.”

“He told you that?”

“Not exactly, but he might as well have. We've both expected an arranged marriage for quite some time. And I'm not getting any younger…”

“I don't mean to stick my nose where it doesn't belong, but can I tell you something?”

“Go ahead.”

“I see the way he treats you. I see the lack of love you have for each other. Five years from now you will be more miserable than you could ever be single.”

“I feel that if I were to break off the engagement, I'd be dishonoring my father's memory.”

“I'm sure your father wanted his little girl to be happy. Do you think marrying Nathan is going to make you happy?”

“Not particularly…” Helen admitted.

“Break it off, before it's too late.”

“Thank you, Marshal.”

Helen excused herself and hesitantly made her way towards the saloon. For a brief moment she stood outside the swinging doors before taking a deep breath a pushing them open.

Heads turned as the beautiful young woman walked briskly past the men to the farthest table on the floor.

“Helen, what are you doing in here?” Nathan demanded. “This is no place for a woman.”

“I need to talk to you.”

“Wait outside, I'll be done-”

“Now, Nate.”

The man looked up at her, shock written all over his face. Helen unclasped the necklace that hung around her neck and gave it to him.

“I'm done, Nate. I'm not playing this game anymore.”

“Done? What do you mean you're done??”

“I'm calling of the engagement.”

“Helen, you can't do that!”

“I think I just did.” Helen stated as she began to walk away.

“You're going to regret this!”

Helen turned around as a smile crossed her face.

“No, Nate, I'm not.”

Head a little higher, Helen walked out of the saloon and stood on the boardwalk, letting out a long, satisfied sigh.

“Helen?” Ned asked as he walked towards her. “Micah said I needed to talk to you?”

Helen stood there confused for a moment before chuckling.

“I think your marshal may be trying to play matchmaker.”

“Micah knows you're engaged.”

“I'm not, actually.”

“What do you mean?”

“I just broke off the engagement.”

“But why?”

“...I didn't love him. I loved my father dearly, but I'm not going to marry someone for their money.”

------

“You don't want to dance?” Mark asked his wife in surprise.

“I just don't feel up to it.”

“Maybe you should go lie down at your Ma’s.”

“The summer social only happens once a year, and I'm not going to miss…” Cassie stopped as she saw something behind Mark.

“Don't faint on me again.” Mark teased, remembering the last year.

“Wonder of wonders, Ned is dancing with a girl…”

Mark looked behind him before he replied.

“An engaged girl.”

“There's nothing wrong with it, I danced with other boys after we got engaged.”

“I have a feeling Nathan isn't going to be thrilled about this.”

“Mr. Hewitt doesn't have a say in the matter.” Micah said as he came up to the couple.

“What do you mean?” Cassie inquired.

“Helen wised up and broke off the engagement.”

“That's wonderful news!”

Mark looked at his wife, a little shocked at her reaction.

“Don't look at me like that,” Cassie began, “You disapproved as much as I did.”

“I'd hate to be in his shoes right now.” Mark chuckled.

“She looks so much happier,” Cassie commented.

“Wouldn't you be?” Micah laughed. “Now all we have to do is get Ned to wise up a little.”

“By the way he talked of her, I don't think that will be too difficult.” Cassie replied laughingly.

The evening continued on, everyone enjoying themselves… except Mark. He could see how painfully slow his wife would move. He felt her grab him for extra support on multiple occasions. He saw how little she ate, and it all worried him.

As he rode BlueBoy next to the buckboard on the way home, Mark could see Cassie cringing at every bump in the road.

As Lucas and Mark worked to put the team away, Lucas could see the worry on his son's face.

“What is it, Mark?”

“Pa, how did you do it when Ma got sick?”

“What do you mean?”

“Standing there helplessly, unable to do anything about what she was going through.”

“A lot of prayer, Mark.”

“Pa, why do women try to insist they're fine when they're not?”

Lucas laughed and put a hand on his son's shoulder.

“The same reason we do, Mark. The same reason we do…”

After finishing in the barn, Mark walked up the hill and entered his home to see Cassie reading through the New Year's lists they had made.

Mark came up behind his wife and wrapped his arms around her, kissing the top of her head. Without warning, Cassie broke down crying as she crossed her arms and rested her head on the table. Mark knelt beside his wife and lovingly ran his hand across her back.

“It's alright, Cassie,” Mark said as he gave his wife another kiss. “What's wrong?”

Cassie just kept crying as Mark tried to get her to tell him what was the matter. Finally, Cassie looked at her husband.

“Oh, Mark, I'm sorry…” Cassie cried.

“Sorry for what?”

“I… I haven't been completely honest with you… and… and I should've told you sooner.”

Mark nodded and swallowed, preparing himself for the worst.

“What is it, Cass?” Mark put a hand on either side of his wife's face as he tried to wipe away the tears.

“You… you remember how I made that baby blanket after we lost our baby?”

Mark slowly nodded, unsure of what that had to do with anything.

“Mark, we… we're going to have to use it.”

Mark stared at his wife in shock for a moment.

“You're… you're pregnant?” Mark finally asked.

Cassie nodded before Mark gave her several kisses, followed by a long, passionate kiss.

“You’re pregnant!” Mark exclaimed. “How long have you known?”

“A little over a month…”

“Why didn't you tell me??” Mark asked, more excited than anything.

“I… I'm sorry, Mark. I was afraid of losing the baby again, I wanted to make sure… make sure I wasn't going to lose this one.”

“How far along are you??”

“...About four and a half months.”

“Four and a half months?!” Mark asked in disbelief. He looked at his wife's stomach and could now barely see the pregnancy. “But how…?”

“Doc said some women don't show a lot. He doesn't understand it, but I was thankful for it. I didn't want to announce it… prematurely.”

“But four and a half months, Cassie??”

“I'm sorry, Mark, I should've told you…” Cassie began to look away, but Mark gave her another kiss.

“You should've, but that doesn't matter anymore. We're having a baby, Cassie!”

Cassie began crying again, but tears of joy as her husband wrapped his arms around her.

“Aren't you happy?” Mark asked as he tried to wipe away her tears.

Cassie quickly nodded and smiled, taking a moment to reply.

“... I was just afraid this day wouldn't come.”

“But it is here, Cass.”

Cassie took Mark's hand and placed it over her stomach.

“You're going to be such a wonderful father.”

“Four and a half months… that means you're due in…”

Cassie laughed as her husband tried to do the math.

“Late October, Mark. Our baby's due in October.”

Mark again pressed his lips on hers before pulling back and tucking a strand of hair behind Cassie's ear.

“How do we tell everyone? When?”

Cassie smiled as she watched the excitement shine in her husband's eyes. His boyish grin was there, bigger than ever.

“We could just let them figure it out…” Cassie suggested.

“Our mothers would never forgive us.” Mark laughed.

“I know.” Cassie chuckled.

“We could tell your Ma tomorrow afternoon, and then tell my parents at supper tomorrow.”

“That'll be good, Doc is expecting some special medicine for me on the afternoon stage. Storm needs his shoe replaced, as well.”

“We can tie him to the back of the buck board, but I really don't think you should be riding until after the baby is born.”

Cassie chuckled as she gave her husband a kiss.

“Mark, I love you.”

Mark kissed her back before taking her hand and walking towards the bedroom.

“What are you thinking for a name?”

“Mark,” Cassie laughed, “The baby's not due for another four and a half months!”

“That doesn't mean we can't be prepared, and you can't tell me you haven't thought about it.”

“...Maybe just a little.”

Mark raised his eyebrows as he opened their bedroom door.

“A little?”


4MC4


“Cassie doing better this morning, Son?” Lucas asked as he entered the barn.

“A little.” Mark replied, trying to hide his smile. “Pa, could I take the buckboard this afternoon to take Cassie into town? I want to take her to see Doc.”

“She finally agree?”

“More or less.”

“In other words, she doesn't know what your plan is?” Lucas chuckled.

Mark just laughed, knowing his Pa would see through any kind of lie.

“Sure. Just don't forget those horseshoes again.”

“Who, me?” Mark innocently asked.

As they worked that day, Lucas noticed that Mark seemed a lot more relaxed than he had been in months. He wasn't sure what had brought on the change, but he was thankful for it.

Early afternoon, Mark left the range to pick up Cassie at the house. Their first stop was Doc's, where Cassie was happy to learn the medicine has arrived on time.

“Doc, since we're here,” Mark began, “Would you mind examining Cassie? I'd like to know everything is as it should be.”

“Mark…” Cassie began, but Doc spoke up.

“I'd be glad to, it's been a while since I've looked you and the little McCain over.”

Doc took the two to the examination room where he began to check things over.

“Where's Jason and Anna?” Cassie inquired.

“They went to get lunch, I asked them to bring me something back.” Doc explained.

“Do they know?” Mark asked.

“I think Anna has her suspicious,” Cassie began, “But Doc and I have kept this between ourselves.”

“Next time, could you clue me in a little sooner?”

“I promise.” Cassie replied.

Doc took a few more minutes before Mark helped Cassie off the table.

“Well, Mr. and Mrs. McCain, I'm happy to inform you that you seem to have a healthy baby.”

“Doc, why is Cassie so sick then?” Mark asked.

“Every woman is different. Most people get over the morning sickness and that type of thing within the first few months, just like most women start showing around three months. Cassie is an exception in both these cases, and I couldn't tell you why. It's just the way it is. But hopefully that new medicine will help some.”

“Thanks Doc, for everything.” Mark said as he shook the man's hand.

“Now you two get on out of here and start spreading the word before I slip something.”

“We'll be seeing you, Doc.”

Mark and Cassie left the clinic hand in hand and went over to Catherine's where they waited for her to get off work. It wasn't long before she was hugging Cassie and Mark, beside herself with the news.

At supper that evening, Milly couldn't help but notice the silent exchanges between Mark and Cassie. She kept giving her niece a questioning look, but Cassie just smiled back and would initiate conversation.

After supper, everyone sat out on the porch, enjoying the summer evening. During a lull in the conversation, Cassie nodded to Mark, who changed the subject.

“You know, Pa, I think we might need to look into getting another buckboard.”

“”Why do you say that? It's not crowded or anything.” Lucas chuckled.

“Well maybe not now, but come October it will be.”

“Uncle Dan coming for another visit?” Rachael excitedly asked.

Mark and Cassie laughed before Mark turned to Lucas.

“Not that I'm aware of. Have you heard anything, Grandpa?”

“Who you calling Grandpa?” Lucas chuckled.

“Well you're gonna be one come October.”

Lucas, Milly, and Rachael all stared at Mark before turning to Cassie.

“You're having a baby?!” Rachael exclaimed

“Well Lydia certainly isn't.” Mark laughed.

“Congratulations!” Milly replied with a wide smile as she and Rachael gave Mark and Cassie hugs.

Milly and Rachael began asking Cassie questions as Mark looked at Lucas, who was lost in a daze.

“...You alright there, Pa?”

“You're having a baby…” Lucas said in a whisper. Finally, Lucas looked up and pulled his son into an embrace. “Congratulations, Son!”

Suddenly, Milly realized something.

“If you're due in October… Cassie, just how far along are you?”

“Just about four and a half months. I wanted to be sure before I said anything.”

“Four and half months along, you better be sure!” Lucas replied.

“Are you sure you counted right, Cassie?” Milly asked. “You don't look pregnant.”

“That's what I thought, but Doc and I are positive now.”

“Who knows you're expecting?” Lucas inquired.

“Doc, my Ma, and maybe Anna.” Cassie answered. “Mark and I are talking about announcing it at Sunday dinner.”

“You can't expect me to keep quiet that long.” Milly laughed.

“You can always stay home from town tomorrow…” Mark replied.

“Oh no I'm not!”

Everyone laughed before Mark went on.

“In all seriousness though, I really think we need a second buckboard.”

“I have to agree with you.” Lucas replied. “We can see about getting one in town tomorrow.”

“You think they'll ever invent something to replace a buckboard or wagon?” Rachael asked. “Like a train that can work on the street?”

Lucas chuckled before replying.

“You and Mark come up with the craziest ideas. Next you'll be saying people live on the moon.”

“And what's so impossible about that?” Mark laughed.


5MC5


“Ned, you spend much more time at that hotel and your aunt will start charging you rent.” Micah laughed.

Ned shrugged as he closed the door and walked to his desk.

“How much longer is Helen staying in town?”

“She bought a ticket to go back Monday.”

“She going back home, then?”

“Yes, but she wants to come back here.”

“Really? How does she plan to support herself?”

“Aunt Lou took care of that one. She heard about Helen's administrative and secretarial experience at that college and wants to hire her on as the new hotel manager.”

“What's Lou going to do when the two of you get married?”

“Micah, she just broke off an engagement! Besides, we hardly know each other.”

“Right.”

“Helen's a beautiful, talented woman, but that doesn't mean I want to marry her.”

“Of course.”

“And just because we're such good friends, that doesn't mean there's any cause to start courting.”

“Naturally.”

“It would be entirely inappropriate to initiate a relationship with romantic intentions at this point and time.”

“Entirely.”

“So there's no point in trying to convince me otherwise.”

“None at all.”

“...But whoever does marry her will be one lucky man.”

“Oh?”

“She's patient, kind, humble… extremely organized. She's passionate about justice and has a surprisingly good understanding of politics. Then there's that gentle air she carries about her… and have you noticed her eyes? They're so calm… so peaceful. And her hands are soft, yet not unaccustomed to work.”

Micah tried to stifle his laugh as Ned gazed out the window, lost in a day dream.

“And you're not attracted to her in the least?”

Ned looked at Micah as he raised an eyebrow.

“Who ever gave you that idea? Micah, I've been in love with this woman for almost two years now!”

“Then what are you waiting for?”

“Micah, I'm a Deputy US marshal. I'm nobody. She deserves better. She deserves someone that can give the things she wants.”

“Look, Ned, I haven't known her for long, but I can tell you Helen doesn't care about money. She doesn't care about having the biggest and the best. If she did, she'd be halfway to North Carolina right now. Why do you think she's moving to North Fork? It's not to make money. It's not to manage a hotel. That girl's here for you, whether the two of you want to admit it or not.”

Micah watched as Ned grabbed his hat and started for the door.

“Where are you going?”

“Crazy.”

Ned left the Marshal's office and walked back to the hotel. He knocked on the open office door and stepped inside the room where Helen and Lou sat talking.

“Aunt Lou, would you mind if I talked to Helen for a minute… alone?”

“Of course not, I bet’r check on things in the kitchen, anyway.”

“Thank you.”

Lou left the room, a knowing smile on her face. Ned stood there, nervously toying with his hat as Helen waited for him to say something.

“...Ned, is everything alright?”

“Helen, why did you come to North Fork? I mean, really?”

Helen stood there for a moment, shocked by Ned’s question… at first.

“I think I knew that if I came here… if I… I… would be able to get enough courage to break off the engagement. I knew it was what I needed to do, I just needed someone to shove me in the right direction.”

“Why did you want to break it off? I know all the moral reasons, but was that all there was to it?”

“No, Ned. I was… am in love with someone else.”

Ned took a few steps closer to Helen as he threw his hat onto the desk.

“Helen, I love you. I don't want to spend the rest of my life without you. I know this is crazy, and that I have no right to ask this, but…” Ned took Helen's hand as he bent down on one knee. “Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”


6MC6


Lou looked around her dining room and couldn't take it any longer.

“Alright, something is goin’ on here, and I'd like to know just what that is. Some of ye have been just a mite too quiet this afternoon, and I don't appreciate my house being quiet!”

Jason cleared his throat as he shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

“Anna and I have an announcement to make…”

“It's about time!” Johnny hollered.

Everyone laughed as Lou told her husband to let the man finish.

“We're courting.” Jason simply stated, followed by a round of congratulations and banter.

“This may come as a little bit more of a shock,” Ned began, “But Helen accepted my marriage proposal Friday.”

After everyone got over the initial shock, they warmly congratulated the couple.

“Helen, run now, before it's too late,” Lucas teased. “Get as far away from this family as you can!”

“I love this family, and would be honored to be apart of it.”

“Well then you're definitely insane enough to be apart of it.” Johnny laughed. “Ned, what'd you do? Give her some of Doc's medicine?”

“Maybe…”

Everyone had a good laugh as conversation began to pick up, people beginning to ask the couples dozens of questions.

Eventually, Johnny asked Mark to give him a hand with bringing dessert out and he agreed. As they got to the front of the room, though, Mark called for everyone's attention.

“Mark, what are you going?” Johnny asked as Mark put a hand on his Uncle's shoulder.
“You know, Uncle Johnny, I just can't believe how grown-up you're getting.” Mark said as everyone let out a chuckle. “I just wanted to take a moment to tell everyone how proud I am of you. Great husband, great father, and a... “great uncle”.”

Mark slapped his uncle's shoulder as he turned to walk out the door. Everyone except the McCains held a slightly confused look on their face until everyone busted out in laughter… except Johnny. He sat there, thinking over what had just been said.

Mark turned back around and laughed at Johnny's confusion.

“If I'm your nephew, that makes you my uncle.”

“I know…” Johnny replied, still not understanding.

Mark shook his head, smiling.

“And if I have children, that makes you…?”

“Old.”

Mark shook his head and turned towards his wife.

“Cassie, we better start prayin’ this baby takes after your side of the family. There's not too many smarts on this side.”


Change of Seasons

Morgan's Corner

This is a story based on the TV series The Rifleman
Here are some other great stories. Enjoy!

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