Saturday, October 20, 2012

What A Woman Wants

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.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

TYR Video: Forever and For Always by slidingricochet

I swear, one of these days I'll make a video of my own.  I have several songs picked out already.  I just don't have the time.  But it will happen.  Eventually.  In the meantime, here's another of my favorites from slidingricochet.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Missing Her Tonight

Abilene, Kansas
October 1871
Jimmy, and that’s how he still thought of himself although he’d long since given up trying to get people to call him anything but Wild Bill, stared in disbelief as his friend and deputy slumped to the ground, his belly full of Jimmy’s lead.  But he had no time to grieve or even try to understand what had just happened. 
His old nemesis Phil Coe still had his guns drawn and raised.  Without pausing, Jimmy lifted his pistols again and fired twice more, sending two bullets into Coe’s belly.  The man dropped to the ground, if not dead, then the next best thing to it.  Jimmy didn’t wait to find out.
He swung around to glare at the rest of the drunken brawlers in the street behind him. 
And now, do any of you fellows want the rest of these bullets?” he growled.  A ringing silence was his only answer.
I can usually drink you right off of my mind
But I miss you tonight
I can normally push you right out of my heart
But I'm too tired to fight
The tall Marshal sat on his regular stool inside The Alamo Saloon.  He’d hardly moved in a week.  The only time he’d left had been to attend his deputy, Mike William’s, funeral and then, later, to ascertain that Phil Coe actually had died of his wounds.  Even the saloon girls he usually enjoyed spending so much of his time with couldn’t rouse his interest.  They weren’t her.
Why was it, anytime something went wrong he had to learn how to forget her all over again?
He hadn’t seen her in years, yet it felt as if she were right there, standing next to him.  She was the only one who could convince him right now that he wasn’t a bad man, not really, not deep down inside.
Normally, if she dared raise her head in his memories, he’d shove her away with a whiskey in one hand and a pretty girl in the other.  But tonight it just wasn’t working.  He was too damned tired, tired of life, tired of death, tired of fighting to be something better than he really was just so he wouldn’t be too ashamed the next time he saw her.
Yeah the whole thing begins
And I let you sink into my veins
And I feel the pain like it's new
Everything that we were,
Everything that you said,
Everything that I did and that I couldn't do
Plays through tonight
He could hear her voice in his head, chiding him even as he downed yet another glass of whiskey, trying to burn her out.
“You’re a good man, James Hickok,” she’d say.  “Someday you’ll find the right woman for you.”
He had found her.  But he wasn’t good enough, not to be hers.  Her friend?  Sure.  But nothing more.  As the liquor spread fire through his veins, he remembered the fire in her eyes.  How it had set his own blood ablaze with a longing the likes of which he’d never felt again.
They’d been good together.  They’d been good for each other.  But evidently not good enough.  He’d had his chance, but hadn’t been able to follow through.
“Coward!” he muttered, cursing himself yet again, as he lay his head down on his arm and watched her dance through the half-emptied whiskey bottle on the bar in front of him.
Tonight your memory burns like a fire
With every one it grows higher and higher
And I can't get over it, I just can't put out this love
I just sit in these flames and pray that you'll come back
Close my eyes tightly, hold on and hope that I'm dreaming
He didn’t even have to close his eyes to see her gliding down the stairs in front of him, looking oh, so pretty in that dress.  He felt the punch to his gut as if it were the first time.
With painful determination, he once again rifled through each memory, holding it up to the light, forcing himself to live through it again, hoping that if he let the pain burn bright enough, hot enough it would eventually burn itself out.
Why he kept trying, he didn’t know.  The technique had never worked before.  His love for her was something everlasting, something brighter and purer than anything else in his life.  That’s why he’d let her go.  Hell, that’s why he’d pushed her away.  He wasn’t worthy.
But if he closed his eyes tightly and listened to the sounds of the room around him he could almost hear her there.  So he kept trying, thinking of all the things they’d been through together.  If he tried hard enough, maybe the dream might come true.
I know that you're movin' on
I know I should give you up
The last time he’d seen her, she’d been happy as a clam.  They’d built a beautiful house.  Had a wonderful family, still growing by the evidence of her belly. 
“Who gives this woman away to be wed?”  That question rang in his head over and over again with an echo that turned his stomach to ashes.  Why had he done it?  Because that’s exactly what he’d done.  He’d given her away.  Wed her to another man.
He’d never know what might have been, because he’d never really let her have a choice.  If she didn’t have a choice, then her not choosing him couldn’t hurt as bad.  That’s what he’d told himself when he’d said, “We do.”
But he’d been wrong.  Because not knowing, never knowing if she might have chosen him was killing him, faster than the liquor he drank by the gallon trying to kill her memory.
He knew he should give her up now as he had then.  But he couldn’t.  Not quite.  With a swing of his arm, he reached out and grabbed the bottle of whiskey, now nearly empty, and upended the last dregs into his mouth.
Standing, not quite steadily, he moved over to where the new girl, young, petitte, with short brown hair and big brown eyes, was hosting a game of blackjack.  Holding out his hand, he said, “Come on.  You’ll do.”
She smiled and giggled and followed him up the stairs, her small hand tucked in his much larger one.  All the while he tried to hear another voice from another time and another life.
Close my eyes tightly, hold on and hope that I'm dreaming

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Starting Over, Epilogue

Kid nervously wiped his hands down the sides of his suit trousers.  He was dressed in his Sunday best, a dark broadcloth suit with a black cloth tie around his neck.  He’d never particularly enjoyed dressing up so much, but certain occasions simply called for the special clothing.
He smiled down at the woman at his side and offered her his elbow.  She smiled up at him, happiness shining deep in her eyes, a halo of white flowers surrounding her face, more than content with the decision she’d made.
Tearing his eyes away, he turned and nodded jerkily at his children, and they were both his in all the ways that mattered.  Mary Kate smiled her mother’s smile and turned to help Carl open the church doors.
Kid experienced a moment of déjà vu as he stepped through the doors, leading the woman at his side down the aisle.  Hungrily his eyes searched for her, his bride.
“Relax, Lu,” the woman at his side whispered in her soft accent, tugging at his elbow to bring him back to the present.  “You’d think you were the one getting married.”
“Sorta feels like,” he whispered back.  She laughed as if he’d been joking, which he hadn’t, but then his brothers Buck and Cody, who’d arrived just that morning with his wife and children for a visit, stepped aside and she had eyes only for her groom.  Jimmy stood at the front of the church, next to Teaspoon, looking a little pale and a lot nervous.  His hands kept moving as if trying to caress the butts of his pistols which he’d left at home that morning.
The sight of his brother’s nerves calmed Kid’s.  Until Buck stepped back yet again and his eyes fell on his petite wife, standing up at Jimmy’s side.  She was his ‘matron of honor’ just as Kid was serving as Lydia’s ‘best man’.  It was an unorthodox arrangement, but it suited them and their family.  The townsfolk were slightly scandalized, but they were used to setting the town on its ears.  What was important was standing by a friend’s side on this, the most important day of their lives.
That sense of déjà vu returned as his blue eyes met his wife’s brown ones.  She smiled at him, biting her lip to keep from letting a full blown grin split her face in two.  She’d always been shy about showing too much emotion in public, outside the family, a trait left over from all her days first masquerading as a boy and then working undercover for the Marshal’s office.  He remembered her doing the same thing all those years ago when she’d been the one walking down this aisle toward him, while he’d waited nervously next to Teaspoon, eager to make her his bride, yet scared to death of the ramifications of the step they were about to take.
All these years later, he wouldn’t change anything.  Because that would mean he wouldn’t have this woman, as she was now, at his side.  And he might not have become the man she’d needed. 
After what felt like an eternity, he and Lydia reached the front of the aisle and he passed his best friend off to his best friend and stepped back, out of the way, as the ceremony began.  But he heard nary a word.  His eyes remained on his bride’s the entire time. 
They’d known after that trip to Fort Kearny six weeks ago that they were going to make it work between them.  The last few weeks they’d worked out the details of how to entwine their lives, all their lives, together into one.  It had taken a lot of late night discussions, a few arguments, and occasional threats from one or another of the hotheaded group, but eventually they’d decided to settle down together.  None of them could see separating the children from each other, or Carl from Kid, the only Pa he’d ever known. 
So, they’d bought a farm just outside of town, mostly with Kid’s savings that still sat in the Rock Creek Bank, and spent the last several weeks setting it up to hold two separate families.  Each family had its own private living quarters upstairs, reached by separate sets of stairways at opposite ends of the home accessed through separate front parlors, one on each side of the front door.  They shared a single kitchen and dining room at the back of the house. 
For the moment Lydia was going to continue working in town at Jarvis’ Restaurant, Jimmy had agreed to take over for Teaspoon as the town Marshal.  Lou would occasionally help out as deputy, when needed, but otherwise, he and Lou would start a horse ranch on the old farm they’d bought.  Teresa hadn’t quite decided what she wanted to do yet, but she’d been spending an awful lot of time down at the telegraph office with Buck lately.  Then again, she’d been making noises about leaving with Cody, ever since he’d arrived, about going back and joining his new Wild West Show as a sharpshooter.  They’d just have to wait and see.  Whatever she chose, the family would be there to help her make it.
Kid couldn’t wait to begin his new life with Lou and Mary Kate and Jimmy and Lydia and Carl, as a family.  It was the sort of family he’d always dreamed of, even before he and Lou had married the first time, the sort he’d walked away from when he’d ridden so foolishly off to war, but in a way he’d never imagined possible. 
He felt blessed to have this second chance.  Oh, things wouldn’t be perfect.  Life was always full of twists and turns, troubles and triumphs.  But, from now on, he and Lou would go through them together, holding tight to each other always. 
Today, he found himself mouthing his vows again, even as Jimmy took his for the first time.  He stared intently into Lou’s eyes, hoping she could feel the depth of his emotion at this moment, his commitment.  When she began to blush beneath his gaze, a slight smile quirked the edge of his lips.
The ceremony was short and soon the bride and groom were enjoying their first kiss as husband and wife.  Though a much less passionate one then the ones he and Lou had caught the two in several times since their return.  The day they’d arrived back from Fort Kearny, they’d ridden into the old station well after dark and, rather than wake the others up, had quietly taken their horses into the barn to stable them for the night before heading straight to bed.  He wasn’t sure who’d been more surprised, himself and Lou or Jimmy and Lydia when they’d walked in on the two literally rolling in the hay in one of the stalls, they’re mussed clothes plenty of evidence of what they’d been up to.
“Lydia?” he’d gasped.
“Jimmy!” Lou’d laughed chidingly.
“We’re gettin’ married,” Jimmy had sputtered as he tried to shield Lydia behind him, her beet red face hidden in his not quite clad shoulder.
As the guests began to clap, Lydia took Jimmy’s elbow this time and the couple practically flew down the aisle.  Kid held out his arm for Lou, who curtseyed more neatly then he’d ever before seen her do then slipped hers through his.  They moved more sedately down the aisle, like the long married couple they were supposed to be.  Except they ruined the impression with the constant, mischievous and heated glances they kept throwing at each other, nearly tripping over the threshold they were so caught up in each other.  Teaspoon laughed and pushed them on through the door and out into the sunny Saturday morning.
“May I have the pleasure of this dance?” he asked in a low voice, holding her hand clasped tightly to his forearm with his free hand.
She tilted her head up to look at him in the dim light of the interior of Jarvis’ Restaurant where they were holding the reception for Jimmy and Lydia’s wedding.  The newly married couple was already twirling around the area cleared for dancing, Carl riding happily in their arms between them.  Carl and Lydia were both laughing at something Jimmy said.  Mary Kate was happily ‘dancing’ nearby, riding on the toes of Buck’s boots as he swung her around the dance floor.
Smiling softly, almost shyly, she said, “You may.”
Taking one hand in his, his other hand snuck out to circle her waist as he pulled her out into the body of dancing celebrants.  Holding her as close as was socially permissible, closer perhaps, he enjoyed the feel of having her in his arms, knowing she was his and he was hers.  When the last notes of the song trailed to a momentary quiet, he reluctantly let her step back from him, his arms already feeling empty without her in them.
She just smiled and stepped into his side quietly, warming his heart in the process.  Together they strolled toward the table laden with punch and cake for the guests.
“Cake, madam?” Kid asked, bowing gallantly, holding a plate of the white frosted cake Rachel had made especially for the wedding out toward Lou.  He frowned in concern when she paused, her hand held halfway out toward the plate, and blanched.  Her hand flew to cover her mouth.  She leapt to her feet and raced out the door.  Setting the plate down on a nearby table, he quickly followed her.
“Lou?!” he called, worried.  He bent over next to her while she wretched into the bushes in the alley behind the restaurant where they were holding the reception.  “What’s wrong?”
She just shook her head frantically, while continuing to heave.  A moment later, apparently done, she took the handkerchief he handed her and wiped her mouth.
“What’s wrong?!” he repeated a bit more forcefully.
“Nothin’ a few months won’t cure,” she said, smiling up at him.
He tilted his head, frowning in confusion.  What could make her sick for several months?  And why was she smiling about it?  Then, it suddenly dawned on him.
“You’re….. you’re…. you’re….” he stuttered, unable to quite get the words out.
Lou nodded, beaming beatifically at him.  Reaching out, she grabbed his hand and pressed it to her still flat abdomen.  “Yes.  I’m……”
He laughed and pulled her to him, one hand cradling her cheek, the other staying pressed over where their baby nestled safely beneath its mother’s heart.  Unable to find the words to express his feelings, he used his lips to communicate them instead.  After all this time, he’d finally found the woman who could be his lover and his friend.  And, not only had she been his the entire time, she was willing to give him a second chance.  How much luckier could a bloke get, then to start his life all over again?  And this time, he swore to himself in a silent vow all his own, he wouldn’t mess it up or forget a minute of it.
The End.