Part 1: Chapter 100: 1893 Red Deer, Alberta

"Ya Can't Keep Me Away," -Thomas McSweeney

Thomas, while still dutiful to his fathers needs and time, was across his back field, and across the road to the Grant home as soon as he could. Thomas had felt the loss of each Grant keenly. Nate was still his best friend. Colleen–dearest Colleen–he had started fights with other boys because they were realizing what a gem she was and the rarity of her type of female. The older boys were thinking they could break her. Thomas would push whomever said so down and then give him a kick. They thought it was because he still was loyal to Nate and therefore Colleen. While this was partially true, Thomas also felt that Colleen was the only girl he would want to marry. So, if his father hadn't caved to Colleen's persistence, he was figuring that he wouldn't marry at all.

Knowing that Thomas was coming over at some point, Colleen had made sure Nathan was in the yard. She was yelling at him to go fishing. Nathan was standing his ground protesting vehemently why he should not.

"THE ROOF ISN'T FIXED YET!" Nathan yelled.

"I NEED more fish for dinner," Colleen argued back.

"We have three in the ice box," Nathan pointed out as he pointed to the kitchen where their mother was standing and shaking her head at the two of them.

"We need seven more," Colleen told him.

Nathan sighed heavily before complaining, "even you aren't that bad at math."

Colleen glared at him. She saw her aunt's carriage with Rachel, Molly, and Sally. Uncle James was riding Ares. Nathan watched where his sister was looking before she turned back to smirk at him.

"That is only five," Nathan pointed out as he watched as his aunt descended to the stairs at their front door.

"Why are you here? We usually go to you," Ophelia pointed out as she gave Edith a hug.

"I needed to be here to see it for myself," Edith said with a wide smile.

"See what?" Ophelia asked before her eyes turned towards the back field. She widened them in surprise and then gave a wave to Thomas. Thomas returned it. "Hi, Ma. Hello, Mum, Dad," Thomas said in greeting to His honorary parents. Nathan finally turned around at Thomas' voice.

"Won't you get in trouble?" Nathan asked as he raised an eyebrow in shock.

"Nope. Someone gave me Pa the what for yesterday with witnesses. Me Pa gave me permission to be friends again," Thomas explained as his eyes fell on Colleen.

"Someone had to!" Colleen admitted to her role in the scheme. Colleen shoved Nathan's fishing poles under his nose again.

"Thomas makes six people," Nathan pointed out.

"You both eat like you're having your last meal," Colleen argued. "We need seven more. Take Thomas with you."

Colleen smirked as she shoved one of Thomas' poles into his hands after Nathan finally nodded his acceptance. She then pushed both towards the lake as she said, "Don't hurry back. Take your time."

Nathan shot her one glare but she just gave him a dismissive wave.

Thomas and Nathan were walking to the lake in quiet. Thomas was respecting Nathan's need to process his environment first. To be with Thomas again was a change.

Nathan prepped his line and cast out before he spoke.

"I'm surprised at this change in your father. Is the permission temporary?" Nathan asked with some fear and a guarded look.

Thomas cast his own line out.

"Nope. Colleen approached him with Dad as a witness. Dad will always be a great witness," Thomas said with a glint of humor in his eyes as he recalled what had happened the day before.

"Uncle James was there? How would he have found her?" Nathan asked.

"In their barn, I assume. They were both on General," Thomas explained.

Nathan sighed and rolled his eyes.

"Colleen still refuses to ride General," Nathan pointed out.

"Not yesterday."

Thomas then described in detail how both the horse and the girl had looked down their noses at his father.

Nathan had a real smile on his face after hearing that.

"Well, I am going to hold that image in my mind for when I feel bad," Nathan said as he closed his eyes.

"Oh, I will remember it forever," Thomas agreed as he nodded. "Not letting her live that one down."

Nathan smirked at Thomas. Thomas gave a laugh back.

"How have ya been?" Thomas asked sincerely.

Nathan shrugged. He messed with his pole for a moment before sighing heavily.

"I am so tired of everyone telling me to be okay with Archibald. It is not okay. I am not okay with any of it. I am exhausted all of the time. And when one problem is taken care of, another shows up that is more time consuming than the previous ones. I don't have the time to take a break, and yet, I need a real one," Nathan explained in a whisper.

Thomas nodded solemnly.

"I can't help all the time, but when I get the time, I will be here for your family. Even if it is to give you and Colleen a break. She needs one too," Thomas said.

Nathan shrugged.

"I would quit school if I hadn't promised Ma to stay in school," Nathan admitted.

Thomas looked at him in genuine shock.

"Something has to give," Nathan argued.

"School is the only thing that gives anyone here in these parts the skills that will help them be more than their parents. If you don't want to become like your father, then you need to stay in school. You especially," Thomas looked at him, his earnest brown eyes daring Nathan to contradict him.

Nathan gave a nod of acknowledgement.

"I know. Ma made us promise. Colleen made me promise to not break Ma's promise," Nathan said. "That doesn't stop the fact that I am bored during school and I can't help but think of the many things I have to do at home."

Thomas nodded, already knowing that about his friend.

"Perhaps school recess will be the break you need," Thomas said with a nudge at Nathan.

Nathan gave him a look of disbelief.

"Do you and I attend the same recess?" Nathan asked sarcastically as he rolled his eyes.

Thomas smiled brightly back to Nathan.

Both boys became distracted when both of their fishing lines were being tugged at. Nathan had his in before Thomas was done wrestling with his own. But they both looked at each other and showed off their prize.

"Two down, five to go," Thomas winked.

Nathan just smiled as he baited his line and cast out again.

The boys caught up with each other on all of the news between the two. Which was mostly Thomas telling Nathan that Luke was beginning to flirt with a lot of girls with varying success. And had been informing Thomas of what had worked and what didn't work.

Nathan had rolled his eyes at the description of Luke. He knew the same strategies from boys in Red Deer. Colleen had laughed at one who had approached Becky after school. She had said that Mr. Darcy made better proposals. Nathan had smiled at that knowing that it was an insult to the boy because the boy had insulted Becky.

At the Grant home, Ophelia was washing dishes as Colleen prepped dinner. Edith and James were both sitting in the living room. James was attending to her every need. Ophelia was finally done with her chore as she joined the Normandeaus.

"What brings you here?" Ophelia asked as she looked at the two of them.

"James told me about Thomas," Edith explained.

"And he could have directed your portrait of the reunion. Something else is wrong," Ophelia gave them both a look as she sipped her tea.

"Nothing gets past you," Edith said after she gave her husband a long look.

James closed his eyes to gather his thoughts. He then clasped his hands together, and slowly opened his eyes again.

"Archie's sentencing is in three weeks," James explained. "I have to be there as the arresting officer. I am quite sure that Nathan will refuse to go if asked, but what about you and Colleen? Do you want to be present?"

Ophelia looked at him in surprise that it was already time for Archie's sentencing.

"I shouldn't be surprised. But hearing about the sentencing is making it more real with Archie about to be gone years, not just a few months," Ophelia said after a moment of thought, she continued, "Colleen will want to go, but that means she would miss the start of school. I don't want her to miss that."

Edith nodded her agreement.

"I will have your darling children stay with us if you decide to go with James, just know that I am here as your friend, always," Edith said as she held a hand out to Ophelia in comfort.

Ophelia smiled over her cup of tea. While the idea of Archie being gone without question, Ophelia knew that she would have support of this darling couple.

"I don't know what we would do without you," Ophelia said in gratitude.

"Thankfully you won't find out," Edith winked.

Ophelia smiled at her.

"I should go, so at the very least I know what his full punishment is," Ophelia stated firmly.

James nodded his agreement.

"While we are waiting, I am going to help Nathan with the roof so it gets done before I leave," James explained.

"Thank you," Ophelia said again.

James just shrugged.

Thomas and Nathan came back the seven fish Colleen had demanded and they had already gutted the fish before handing them over. She smiled at seeing the two of them together. Thomas smiled his two dimpled smile back. Colleen felt her heart skip a beat. But she took them with her normal sass and banter. All of the family present were happy about the progress being made with Nathan's need for break…even a small one.

Colleen cooked the entire meal for everyone, while she wasn't as good as her mother, it was still a successful meal and everyone asked for seconds. Thomas got a third. Ophelia had baked cookies for dessert which didn't even last the first round as everyone grabbed three to begin with. It was after everyone had eaten the meal that James told the children about the update to their father. Nathan nodded in acknowledgement. Ophelia said that since school would be starting before the trial, she wanted both of the children to stay with their aunt, and she would go to the trial with Uncle James.

While Colleen was upset that she couldn't go, she also realized that Nathan needed her here while her mother went away. It would be the first time without both of their parents for more than a weekend. She sighed and nodded as well.

Nathan, Colleen, and Thomas walked to the edge of the McSweeney property together, catching up on things that had happened or hadn't happened in their lives.

Thomas and Nathan did their secret handshake in parting and Colleen rolled her eyes at them, muttering about how secret handshakes should be a secret. Thomas and Nathan both looked at her in annoyance at that mumble, and retorted that they can't keep secrets from Colleen because she was always around.

"See you, tomorrow," Colleen replied as she looped an arm through her brother's.

Thomas smiled broadly back.

"Most definitely," he retorted with a wink as he walked into the McSweeney crops.

Nathan smiled.

The next morning James was at the house before dawn and had ridden up on General to help with the work on the roof. Nathan looked at his uncle with surprise and suspicion before he smiled. Ophelia thanked him with a cup of coffee and a cinnamon roll for breakfast. Colleen dragged herself to the table–bleary eyed and yawning–she had sat at the table and laid her head in her arm as she sat down, before she noticed her uncle sitting at the table across from her.

"Wh…wh….hhhyyyyyy…?" was all she stuttered out before she yawned loudly.

James smirked at her.

Nathan and Ophelia both shook their heads in exasperation.

"He is here to help with your father's chores, before we leave for your father's trial," Ophelia explained to her daughter.

Colleen nodded once, but all three people present knew she hadn't processed that statement yet. She stabbed her eggs in habit. She shoveled a few mouthfuls into her mouth and swallowed before speaking again.

"Why is Uncle James here?" she asked again.

Nathan rolled his eyes at her.

Ophelia gave her a look. James smiled in humor.

"As your mother previously stated, I am here to help with your father's chores before we have to leave for his trial," James responded while also giving a slight reprimand.

Colleen did give her mother an apologetic look. Ophelia nodded in acknowledgement.

After breakfast James and Nathan went to the roof to keep fixing the shingles. Colleen and Ophelia cleaned up the house and then went to work on cleaning their laundry. Colleen was putting up the wet clothes onto their clothes line in the yard when Thomas walked out of his fields onto the lane between their properties.

"'Mornin'," Thomas greeted.

"It is afternoon, Thomas McSweeney," Colleen corrected him as she stood on tip toe trying to reach a taller line for Nathan's clothes.

Thomas grabbed the clothes and clothes pins and put Nathan's clothes up on his line so that it wasn't dragging in the dirt. Colleen glared at him with a toe tapping.

"I could have gotten that eventually," Colleen reprimanded.

"Oh really?" Thomas said skeptically, "show me."

Thomas gestured to other items that Nathan wore that had been washed.

Colleen grabbed one of Nathan's pairs of pants and four clothes pins. Then she attempted to reach high enough that she could hang her bigger-younger brother's clothes. The problem with this was that Nathan had grown five inches this summer and Colleen had long since stopped hoping that she wouldn't literally look up to him. She reached to her highest tiptoe and still couldn't reach high enough.

Thomas was enjoying watching her struggle, and while Nathan towered over Thomas too, Thomas wasn't as short as Colleen was. He could easily reach up and place Nathan's clothes over the line.

"Alright, you've proved yourself. I need help," Colleen finally admitted that this would take far less time than if she asked for help,

Thomas continued to place Nathan's clothes on the line as Colleen put up her own shirts and skirts.

Nathan and James had come off of the roof for a lemonade break. Both of them were breathing heavily and had discarded their overshirts. James was sitting on the porch chair. Nathan was sitting on the steps to the porch. Ophelia had come back outside with fresh lemonade as both drank deeply into their cups.

Ophelia observed them both. Nathan was growing into a young man. And while he hated the compliment, he looked like his father. He would be a handsome man. James was sitting regally in his chair. Both had taken off their overshirts in the summer heat. James was wearing a tank with his suspenders and pants, with his boots on. James had several scars that they hadn't seen yet.

"Uncle James, how did you get your scars?" Nathan asked as he noticed the same thing Ophelia had.

"When you fight in battles, you get hurt. I don't even remember how I got some of them," James replied with honesty as Nathan was taking in his uncle's form in such an informal setting.

"Do they hurt?" Nathan asked.

"Some do. The ones with a more serious injury," James replied.

James was taking his last drink of lemonade when Colleen and Thomas came through the house and came back outside through the front door.

Nathan looked at Thomas and shook his head in amazement.

"I said ya can't keep me away," Thomas replied.

Colleen smiled brightly as Nathan shook his head.

"Bet I can beat you to the road," Thomas challenged as he looked at both Grant siblings in a race challenge.

Colleen immediately perked up and got into the normal race challenge spot of their yard.

Both looked at Nathan.

Nathan sighed heavily as he looked at the distance, not really wanting to run after working on the roof. He shook his head in response, but stood up to watch.

Thomas and Colleen took off in competition. Both were neck and neck when Nathan surpassed them in sprint mode. Both were surprised when Nathan was at the road with a winner's smirk on his face.

"Well, I had to give you both a head start. It's only fair," Nathan bragged with a shrug when his friend and his sister both approached them. Thomas grabbed Nathan around the neck and began to horse play. Nathan actually played back.

James and Ophelia had watched the whole thing from the porch of the Grant home and both were smiling at the laughter and teasing coming from three children who needed time to be children. James went back to the roof for a short while, until the afternoon heat got to be dangerous to work in. The children played until they were called inside.

Hello everyone, sorry for the long update. It has been awhile since I have had time to sit and write. Thanks for your kind words and patience!