Authors Note: This is an Alternate Universe story. It’s the first time I’ve tried writing something that departs from the show canon. Hopefully it was worth the effort.
Music: Concrete Angel, Martina McBride
Shallow Life, Lacuna Coil
Judgement Day, Lee Aaron
Everybody's Broken, Bon Jovi
Dido's Reply, Crüxshadows
“Don’t you dare open your mouth, young lady!” her father spat at her, even as he fell to his knees and folded his hands in a prayerful position. “If it’s burning, that’s God’s punishment for those unholy words you spoke.”
Louise could feel the tears streaming down her cheeks as the habanero peppers her father had stuffed in her mouth began to burn her tongue and cheeks. She hadn’t said anything that awful. She’d just told that nasty Billy Caldwell he should go to the devil for the way he’d been pulling her hair in church today. It wasn’t fair her father was punishing her.
“Kneel down and pray for forgiveness, child,” he snapped at her when she didn’t follow his motions quickly enough. Bowing his head, he began to intone, “Dear Lord, we humbly beg your pardon for the devil words this child spoke on your Holy Day.”
Louise sighed. From prior experience she knew she’d be here for several hours. But the only praying she’d be doing would be to escape. She didn’t know how much more of this she could take. And if this was what God wanted, she wasn’t sure she wanted any part of him.
“Oh, my poor baby,” Ma said, as she held out a bowl for Louise to spit out the mushy remnants of the peppers she’d held in her mouth for upwards of four hours now. “Does it hurt overly much?”
“I don’ know,” Louise mumbled, her tongue not quite working properly. “Ish kin’a numb.”
“Here, drink some milk,” Ma urged, handing her the tin cup. “I’ve heard it’s supposed to help. But hurry! Before your father gets back.”
Louise grabbed the cup and eagerly gulped down the milk, holding just the last bit in her mouth as long as she could, soothing the blisters that had formed from prolonged contact with the spices in the hot peppers.
“Now, off to bed with you,” Ma urged, pushing her toward the bedroom she shared with her brother and baby sister.
As she walked away, Louise could hear her mother muttering to herself. “Lyle Boggs, you’ve gone too far, this time. Somethin’s gonna change. And soon.”
“I won’t let you do what your mother did! You won’t get away with turning my child to the devil!” her Pa roared at her. She twitched and cowered away from him, even as he continued his diatribe. “Bad blood will tell! I spent 15 years trying to save your mother from herself. It’s a heavy burden I carry that I failed, with her and now with you. I won’t fail with Jeremiah and Teresa. God won’t let me!”
“No!” she shouted as she saw him raise his gun in her direction.
“Kid!” she heard Jimmy shout as he pushed her father to the side in desperation.
Bang! She flinched as she heard the gun’s report, clenching her eyes tightly in anticipation of the pain of the bullet tearing into her flesh. But… nothing. Cautiously opening her eyes, she glanced up to see her father on the floor, shot. Kid was already turning from him to her.
“You alright?” he asked, even as Jimmy came over to check on Jeremiah and Teresa.
Slowly, she nodded a yes. Walking over to the man who’d terrorized her childhood, she looked at him in fascination. He suddenly looked so weak. She almost jumped when he opened his eyes and stared malevolently directly into her eyes.
“Repent, harlot! Repent of your whorish ways! God will….” he trailed off, his voice losing strength even as his lungs shuddered one last time.
“He didn’t give me a choice, Lou,” Kid said, coming up to her and wrapping one arm around her shoulders.
She turned to him, leaning against him and hiding her face in his shoulder. “He never gave me one, either.”
Lou listened to the others discussing the situation distractedly. Moving over by the window, she cautiously flipped the curtain aside so she could get a better view of the jail. Kid was in there, his life in danger, and it was all her fault.
She looked down at the stupid dress she’d donned when she took the job at the saloon. She’d been so proud of herself, enjoying the attention wearing the dress brought her, finding a witness to Lambert’s murder of the saloon girl she’d replaced. She’d thought she was doing the right thing. But Kid was right. No lady would ever wear a dress like this. And, once again, she had only ended up putting someone else in danger with her headstrong ways. She had to fix it. She had to make things right.
Lou stiffened as she saw Lambert step out onto the boardwalk in front of the jail. The tip of the cigar he was lighting glowed red in the dark night.
“Why hello there, pretty. You’re new, aren’t ya?”
She could still feel his arms, pinning hers to her side. She’d felt something else, too, as he’d pressed himself tightly against her. Something that had scared her. Something that gave her an idea, now. Biting her lip, she turned her head back toward the others.
“I’ve got an idea,” she said hesitantly.
She glared down the barrel of her gun at Lambert as he stepped into the tub wearing nothing but his longjohns. Inside she was exultant. It had worked. She’d hated letting him paw her, playing nice with him. But it had worked. She had him in her power now.
Sudden shouts and shots drifted up from the street below, grabbing her attention. She looked anxiously toward the window. Standing up, she moved toward it and pulled the curtain out of the way to see what was going on.
“Sounds like yer friends are in trouble,” he sneered.
“Shut up!” she snapped, her eyes searching the street for her brothers. One, two, three and… four! They were all there and safely hightailing it out of town. Time to put her own escape plans into action.
“Ahhh!” she screeched as the rug flew out from under her feet, knocking her to the ground. Suddenly, his hand had her wrist in a death grip, twisting it until she let go of the gun. She turned her head away to avoid the fist she could see flying through the air toward her. It still smacked into her cheek with full power.
“No,” she weakly protested even as she lost consciousness.
Frigid water splashed in her face, waking her up.
“No, Teaspoon,” she mumbled. “I ain’t got a run today.”
“Wake up,” Lambert growled at her. “I want ta make sure you remember every moment of this!”
Opening her eyes, she saw him looming over her, his hand already at his buckle.
“They got away ‘cause of you. Now yer gonna pay!”
She jerked, trying to roll away from him, only to be pulled up short. Looking over her head, she saw he’d handcuffed her to the bedstead. Frantically she pulled at them, bruising and bloodying her wrists, but getting nowhere.
“Didn’t think I’d make it that easy, did ya?” he leered at her, jerking his pants off. “You promised me something and I mean ta collect. And when I’m done with you, I’m goin’ after that do-gooder beau of yers.”
Lou looked at him for a long agonized moment, realizing there was no escape.
“God is displeased when you break his rules, Louise,” her father’s voice rumbled through her mind. “And he punishes those who displease him. I’m only trying to save you from His punishments.”
Closing her eyes, she turned her head away even as she felt the bed dip under Lambert’s weight. Soon, he was crawling all over her, his lips slobbering on her, teeth biting, fingers pinching, hands jerking her this way and that.
“I’m sorry, Kid,” she whispered. “I’m sorry.”
“Get outta here,” he said laconically, even as he finished buttoning up his shirt. “Ride out on whatever horse ya rode in on. Find yer friends. Tell ‘em, we’ve got unfinished business.”
She lay there, unmoving, staring out the corner of the window, where the curtain had remained pushed aside. She could see the sun rising over the tops of the buildings on the other side of the street. She kept her mind strictly on her plans to ride into that sun as soon as possible, flying free across the prairie. She flinched as the door slammed behind him as he walked out.
Certain now that she was alone, she rolled over, groaning. She hurt inside and out, physically and emotionally. She hurt in ways she’d sworn she’d never hurt again. Looking around, she found the costume she’d worn to work in the saloon in tatters, scattered across the room. There wasn’t enough of it left to wear.
Sighing, she slowly, painfully, stood up and limped over to the dresser. Pulling out the drawer, she reached behind it, where she’d hidden her boy’s clothing. Soon, she was dressed in shirt and trousers, tying her gunbelt around her waist. She felt safer already.
Without a backward glance, she left the room.
She breathed easier now that she’d put some distance between her and Lambert. But she was afraid. She knew how Kid would react once he saw her, even after she’d hidden the worst of the damage, and she was worried. He wasn’t ready to face a tried and true gunfighter like Lambert.
Even worse, she was late. She should’ve met up with the rest of them hours ago. She just hoped the others had managed to talk Kid into waiting.
As she topped the hill, the rising sun at her back, she saw their horses. She sighed in relief. They were still here. And there was Kid, racing toward her. Sliding off her mount’s side, she let him gather her into his arms and hold her close.
Yet, even as she welcomed the love he poured into her through their embrace, her father’s words kept sliding through her mind. “Bad blood will tell, you whore! Bad blood will tell. You’re not worth putting out with the trash.”
Kid pulled back to take her face in his hands.
“Lou!” he cried, shocked at her appearance. “What happened to you?”
“I’m alright, Kid,” she reassured him.
“Lambert. He did this to ya, didn’t he?”
She didn’t, couldn’t, answer. She just turned her head to the side, avoiding both the question and his gaze. He growled beneath his breath in anger and turned toward his horse.
“Kid, ya ain’t ready for this,” Jimmy tried to warn him. “Ya ain’t never faced down a gunfighter, one on one.”
“Then it’s about time I did,” Kid muttered, never turning around.
Even as Kid leaped onto Katy’s back, Lou grabbed Jimmy’s elbow. “Don’t,” she said. “Just come with me. Back him up.”
Jimmy nodded and soon they were all pounding across the prairie after Kid. Lou avoided the curious, questioning looks from Buck, Noah and Jimmy. She couldn’t talk about it. With each hoofbeat, she could hear her father’s voice, berating her. This time, she finally admitted to herself, he was right. “Whore! Trash! Worthless! Bad blood! Better off dead!”
Pulling up to the first hitching post, she slid off Lightning’s back and started marching toward the center of town. Kid was already confronting Lambert in the middle of the street. She slowed to a stop a few yards behind him, where she had Lambert directly in her sights. She glared at him with hatred. He didn’t know, didn’t care what he’d stolen from her. Not just her sense of safety, but her future. He’d taken it all and thrown it out with the morning chamber pot.
She felt Jimmy move up next to her, even as Buck and Noah spread out down the side streets. They all knew Lambert wouldn’t ‘play fair’. Nudging Jimmy, she pointed out one of Lambert’s men, peeking over the curtain from the restaurant. Jimmy nodded in acknowledgement.
Lou moved her gaze back to Lambert and kept it glued there. She watched as his hand twitched over his gun, then made the move to draw it. Time slowed down as she watched his hand pull the gun out of its holster and aim it at Kid’s heart. At the same time she saw Kid’s arm coming up, but not fast enough. It was alright though. Her gun was already drawn and aimed. She gently squeezed the trigger and watched as Lambert fell, shot through the heart.
She saw the Kid gaping first at Lambert’s falling body, then down at his still unfired gun. She saw him start to turn in their direction. But he was too late.
She squeezed the trigger a second time. Bang!
“Nooooooooo!” she heard him scream as he started flying in her direction. Funny, she thought. She’d expected to see her life flash before her eyes. That’s what all the stories said would happen. But all she saw was Kid.
Even as she felt the thud of the earth meeting her back, Kid was skidding to a halt next to her.
“Louuuuuu!” he screamed. “Don’t leave me. Don’t go.”
“I’m sorry,” she whispered faintly as the world slowly shrank to a tunnel in front of her, the edges turning grey, then black. Finally, all she saw were his beloved blue eyes and mobile mouth. There were tears rolling down his anguished face as he begged her to stay.
“I love you,” she mouthed, not sure if he even heard. Then, nothing.
Kid sat there, on his knees, cradling her body in his arms. “Please, don’t leave me. I love you, Lou. I love you.”
He cried unashamedly, unable to stop. He could barely get the words out over his sobs. “Why? Didn’t I show you enough? Didn’t I love you enough? Whatever happened, we coulda worked it out, Lou. I love you, baby. I love you. Don’t leave me.”
His sobs and pleas were accompanied by a series of gunshots as Jimmy ruthlessly emptied his gun into Lambert’s corpse.
“Kid,” Noah said a moment later, squatting down beside the grieving rider, hand on his shoulder.
“Why?” Kid begged looking up at his friend. “Why’d she do it?”
Buck quietly pointed to the growing pool of blood beneath her legs. “That ain’t from her gun, Kid. He did that to her. That’s why.”
Kid’s eyes widened in horror as he realized just what Lambert had taken from her, from them. Leaning down, he slowly gathered Lou into his arms and stood. Putting one foot in front of the other, he began to move.
“Where ya takin’ her, Kid?” Jimmy asked, concern evident in his voice.
Ignoring the blood now slowly soaking into his shirt, Kid kept walking forward, out of town, cradling his beloved’s limp body in his arms.
“Home. We’re goin’ home,” he whispered.
Author’s Note: The idea for this story came to me after a former student committed suicide this week. The experience got me wondering.... what if? I pray he’s found peace and that others like him do not give up hope.