Summary: What do you get the woman you love when she doesn’t fit any of the normal categories? Figure out what the woman wants with a little help from a friend.
Author’s note: This story bookends the season 3 episode The Debt.
Kid watched Lou stomp out of Teaspoon’s office, obviously upset about something. Her behavior lately was worrying him. This should be the happiest time of their lives. They were getting married. But it almost seemed as if she regretted saying yes. When they were alone together, she was as loving as ever. But any time he tried to bring up the wedding itself, she tried to avoid him. He just didn’t understand.
He sighed deeply. He needed some advice and there was really only one person he could go to, as much as he hated to admit it. Having decided on his course of action, the Kid resolutely turned back toward the door to the Marshal’s Office and determinedly put one foot in front of the other.
“I just don’t understand, Teaspoon,” Kid said, his chin resting in his hand as he contemplated the checkers’ board in front of him. Picking up one red circle, he twirled it absently in his fingers. “I know she loves me. But lately… I ain’t so sure she wants ta get married.”
“Well, son,” Teaspoon sighed, taking the piece out of Kid’s hand and setting it back down on the board before carefully looking over the line of black pieces in front of him. “Women are complicated creatures. And Lou’s more complicated than most.”
“Tell me about it,” Kid moaned. “I love her, but no matter what I do I just can’t figure her out.”
“My advice, son, is to stop trying.”
“What do you mean?”
Teaspoon shrugged as he picked up a black circle and jumped it over one of Kid’s red ones, palming the playing piece in the process. “Just take her as she is. Don’t try to understand her.”
“But… but….” Kid sputtered. “I can’t even figure out what ta get her for our wedding gift.”
Teaspoon sat up a little straighter and gathered his suspenders together between his two fists in front of him. “Now that I think I can help out with. What are you thinking about?”
“Well, I thought about getting her somethin’ fer the kitchen,” Kid started, laconically moving a red checker right in front of a black one. “But she seems so worried about startin’ ta work with Rachel I didn’t think that would be a very good idea.”
Teaspoon laughed as he nodded in agreement. “Probably not. So, what’d ya come up with after that?”
“Well, I’m plannin’ on surprisin’ her with weddin’ rings,” Kid smiled softly. “I’ve already ordered them. Gonna pick ‘em up on my next run.”
“Now that’s always a good choice,” Teaspoon smiled. “Women always love jewelry.”
“Yeah,” Kid sighed. “But that’s more of somethin’ fer both of us, ya know. It’s not really a weddin’ present just for her. I want ta get her somethin’ special. Show her how much she means ta me.”
“And what does she mean to you, son?”
Kid looked up at Teaspoon in surprise. “Everything,” he breathed. “I can’t imagine my life without her. She’s smart and funny and I look forward to spending time with her. I want to take care of her but I love the fact she can take care of herself, even if she doesn’t always believe that.”
Teaspoon smiled again, nodding. Kid knew their Lou pretty well.
“I think there’s your answer, son,” he said, moving another black piece and clearing the board of the last of Kid’s red ones.
“I don’t understand,” Kid answered, crinkling his brow in confusion.
“Think about things from Lou’s perspective. Don’t think about what you’d get a bride for her wedding. Think about what you’d get Lou to make her happy. Because Lou’s yer bride.”
Kid tilted his head, considering Teaspoon’s words, then began to nod, a grin forming on his face.
They were beautiful. The black, glossy leather glinted in the sunlight pouring through the store window. The seamstress and her husband, a leather worker and shoemaker, had come to town just a couple months ago. Those boots had been in the window almost since day one. Lou picked up one hand and placed it against the window pane longingly. She could almost smell the leather oil the shoemaker rubbed into them every day.
“You ‘bout ready?”
She jerked at the sound of Jimmy’s voice, then slumped a bit, letting her hand drop to her side. As much as she wanted those boots, they were a part of a life she was giving up. She wouldn’t really need them for cooking and cleaning. Besides, she had other things she needed to spend her money on, like a wedding dress. And they were still trying to save every cent they had so they could buy a place of their own and bring Teresa and Jeremiah home to live with them.
Shoulders slumping a bit, she turned to look up at Jimmy, pushing her glasses back up on her nose. “Sure. Let’s go.”
Stepping out of the Marshal’s office, Kid’s eyes automatically scanned the street for Lou. He knew she was leaving with Jimmy on some sort of special run and wanted to say goodbye before she left. He found her standing in front of the seamstress’ window talking to Jimmy. He knew what she’d been looking at. She’d been eyeing those boots ever since the store had opened. And they would look good on her, he had to admit. Her riding boots were about worn out, but she was so practical she couldn’t bring herself to spend the money for new ones when she was quitting her job with the Express.
He started to step off the boardwalk to go say goodbye when Teaspoon’s words rolled through his head. Think about what you’d get Lou to make her happy. He knew exactly what to do. Pulling back, he half hid behind the porch post, peering out to watch as Jimmy and Lou trotted out of town.
As soon as he was sure they were well on the road to wherever they were headed, he hopped down off the boardwalk and darted across the street to the dress/boot shop. Bells tinkled over his head as he stepped through the door.
“Can I help you?” a rotund older man with a balding head and a heavy German accent asked, wiping his hands on the heavy leather apron tied around his middle. “Do you vish I should make you some boots?”
Kid grinned. “More,” he said. “But not for me.”
Several days later….
“Aw, c’mon, Lou,” Jimmy begged. “Just a peek?”
“No way, James Butler Hickok,” she shook her head. “You’d never be able to keep it to yourself. You’ll just have to wait until the big day. Just like Kid.”
Jimmy groaned as the pair trotted into the Express yard. He was dying of curiosity about the dress Lou had tied in a big brown paper package behind her saddle. She’d spent the last two days closeted with the dressmaker, except for forays out for food and sleep. And when they’d stopped at the shop this morning, she hadn’t let him come in with her, made him wait outside with the horses while she went in to retrieve the large, paper wrapped package.
“Hey,” Kid smiled, jumping down off the bunkhouse porch and bustling over to grab their horses’ bridles. “What took you two so long?”
“Oh,” Lou smiled down at him besottedly, “Jimmy ran into a little trouble and I had ta go rescue him.”
“Is that so?” Kid asked, his eyes staying glued to hers as she dismounted.
She nodded. “Um hmmm.”
The two just stood there, staring deeply into each other’s eyes. Obviously wanting to greet each other more intimately, but refusing to do so in the middle of the yard, in plain sight of the townsfolk who still remained ignorant, for a few more days at least, of Lou’s secret.
Jimmy rolled his eyes and groaned. Dismounting, he stepped forward and grabbed the reins of both horses from Kid.
“Don’t worry,” he muttered. “I’ll take care of the horses.”
He started to walk toward the barn when Lou gasped and raced after him. “Wait! The…. my.. ah, package!”
He stopped and looked back as she quickly untied the wedding dress from her saddle and lifted it as carefully as if it were a baby into her arms.
“Can I help you?” Kid asked, coming up behind her.
She blushed and shook her head wildly, even as Jimmy resumed his march toward the barn. “No. I’ve got it.”
Kid eyed the package in her arms for a moment. “That ain’t gonna fit in the bunkhouse,” he said. “Not ‘less we make Jesse give up his bunk for it.”
Lou laughed. “I’ll just take it over to Rachel’s,” she smiled. “Wouldn’t want you boys to get too curious and start trying to sneak a peek anyway.”
Kid gave her a ‘who me?’ look, holding his hands out innocently. She just laughed and turned toward the big house.
Kid called after her, “Hurry up! I’ve gotta surprise for ya.”
She turned and walked backward. “Hope it’s better than the last ‘surprise’ you had for me,” she called, a touch of vinegar in her voice.
“I think yer gonna like this one,” he grinned.
“Kid?” Lou asked, poking her head tentatively through the bunkhouse door and peering intently into its dim interior. “You in here?”
No one answered her call. Stepping through the door, she carefully closed it behind her and began to pull off her brown coat. Her hand caught in a hole in the sleeve. Jerking, she grumped. “Great, more mending!”
She walked over to the corner with her singular bunk in it and hung her hat and coat up on a hook. Turning to the bed with every intention of collapsing on it in exhaustion, she paused her movement at the sight of the large, white box tied with a big red bow sitting in the middle of the bunk.
“Kid?” she breathed. Stepping up to the side of the bunk, she picked up the box and shook it. A small card drifted to the floor. She set the box back down on the tic and bent over to pick up the card. Flipping it open, she read, “This may not be a traditional wedding gift, but I think it’s what my woman wants. And if it makes her happy, it makes me happy. Love, the Kid.”
Setting the card gently down on the dresser behind her, she turned to the box. Lovingly, she ran one hand across the soft ribbon holding it closed. She didn’t know what was inside, but she knew she’d love it. Suddenly, she couldn’t wait any longer.
With the eagerness of a child on Christmas morning, she tugged on one end of the ribbon, undoing the bow and getting her fingers tangled in the ribbon as she practically ripped it off the box. Lifting the lid, she peeked around it.
The first thing she saw was a brown, leather sleeve. Setting the lid aside, she reached into the box and pulled out a beautiful suede chocolate brown jacket. It was designed to follow her curves, yet leave her free to do the sort of work she needed to do on horseback. It was perfect. As she lifted the jacket up in front of her to check the fit, a matching pair of lighter brown kid gloves fluttered to the bed.
That’s when she saw them. Dropping the jacket onto the bed by the gloves, she reached into the box with both hands, almost reverently, and pulled them out as if they were black gold.
“Do you like it?”
“Oh, Kid,” she gushed, turning to face her fiancé, standing diffidently in the bunkhouse door, cast in silhouette by the sunlight streaming in behind him. A smile split her face in two. “It’s perfect.” She hugged the boots to her chest and walked over to him. “How’d you know?”
“How could I not?” he asked, wrapping his arms around her waist and pulling her close. “You’ve only been casting lustful glances at them since they came to town. It’s almost enough to make a man jealous!”
She choked on a laugh. “But,” she began, “it’s all so impractical. What am I gonna do with ridin’ boots in the kitchen?”
“Well,” he whispered, lowering his mouth to speak directly into her ear. “I was kinda hopin’ ya might still come ridin’ with me once in awhile.”
She blushed and slapped one palm chidingly against his chest. “Kid!”
“No, I wasn’t jokin’,” he said. “I promised, remember? Never ta ride off without ya again? I can’t keep that promise if ya don’t come ridin’ with me. ‘Sides, I kinda got used ta you in pants.”
“Kid!” she gasped, half outraged, half titillated and completely certain she’d made the right choice. “Kiss me,” she demanded, pulling his head down to hers, the boots still sandwiched between them. Happily, he complied.