Author's note: This moment happens sometime mid-Season 2, shortly after Requiem for a Hero, when Kid and Lou get together, but before things start to fall apart.
Kid sighed with relief as he and Katy galloped cautiously into the station yard. They’d already taken more than one spill on this run. He’d had more than that even before picking Katy up at th last waystation. He tossed the pouch to Noah without really looking at him, concentrating instead on bringing Katy to a safe halt in the knee high snow that had started falling that morning and showed no signs of stopping anytime soon.
He was so glad that run was over, he thought, gingerly crawling out of the saddle.
“I’ll put her ta bed,” Teaspoon said through the warmth of the muffler wrapped tightly around his head and shoulders, shouting to be heard over the howling wind. “There’s a warm meal and hot coffee waitin’ inside fer ya.”
Kid nodded wearily and trudged, carefully, up the steps to the bunkhouse, for once glad to let someone else take care of his precious horse. Muscles he didn’t even know he had were screaming at him after their unaccustomed workout that day. It had taken every ounce of strength and tittle of skill he’d possessed to not only stay in the saddle through the snowy run, but to keep each horse he’d gotten from sliding out from under him on the slippery ice that hid in a thick layer underneath the piles of snow.
The golden light glowing through the windows of the bunkhouse welcomed him home with a cheery insouciance. He slowly started to relax as he turned the handle, pulled open the door and stepped through the portal into what felt like another world.
The warmth of the blazing fire seeped through the wet cloth of his coat as he began to peel off his winter weather gear.
“Here, let me help you.”
He looked down at the small hands pulling his own frozen fingers away from the buttons of his coat and smiled.
“Thanks,” he said softly, letting his hands fall to his sides. It was strange. His Lou was such a contradiction sometimes. She was so independent minded. If he even looked like he was worrying about her, she’d read him the riot act. At the same time, she loved to coddle and cuddle him, something he didn’t mind at all. Though, she generally would only let that side of herself show when he was hurt or there was no one else around.
The thought brought his head up and he rapidly scanned the bunkhouse. Yep. Empty.
“Where is everyone?” he asked, as she peeled the coat off his shoulders, taking his scarf and gloves with it.
“Oh, Noah and Ike are off on mail runs. Teaspoon sent Buck and Cody to Fort Laramie for a special delivery. And Jimmy’s temporarily deputized and patrolling the town during this storm,” she explained, shaking the snow out of Kid’s coat. She laughed softly as she hung it up. “Me and Rachel practically had ta sit on Teaspoon ta get him ta agree ta that. But we could all tell this cold was hurtin’ his joints.”
Kid shook his head in wonderment. “I’m surprised he agreed, even then.”
Lou shrugged, towing Kid to the table by one hand and pushing him down onto the bench. “Oh, I think he was happy for the excuse. Especially after we pointed out that we’d need someone ta keep an eye on the stock, make sure they didn’t bust outta the barn durin’ the storm, like last time.”
She chattered on as she scooped up a plateful of Rachel’s stew, added a couple of her light, fluffy biscuits and turned to set the pile of food in front of Kid. She smiled and ran a hand through his hair, pushing the shaggy locks back off his forehead, wondering if she could talk him into a haircut. Probably not before spring, she grunted in laughter to herself.
“Eat up,” she murmured, not that he needed any encouraging. “I made cookies fer dessert while I was waitin’ fer ya ta get in.”
Kid paused, his spoon piled high with stew halfway to his mouth, and turned to look at her. “What kind?”
“Yer favorite,” she smiled at him. “Molasses.”
“Mmmm,” he moaned in appreciation. “Can’t wait.”
It seemed like just moments until he was scraping the last of the stew off his plate and shoving it in. Picking up his napkin, he carefully wiped his mouth and grinned up at Lou.
“That was good. I was hungry.”
She laughed, grabbing his plate and turning back to the counter. “I could tell.” She nodded toward the blaze in the fireplace and added quietly, almost shyly, “Why don’t you curl up in the special bed I made fer us while I get the cookies.”
Following her movements, Kid noticed for the first time the pile of comfy blankets laid out with several pillows on top of the fur rug in front of the fireplace. It looked soft and comfortable and, most important of all, warm and inviting. Suddenly, all the fatigue of the day’s hard ride caught up with him and he practically stumbled over his own feet in the few short steps it took him to get from the table to the fireplace.
He stripped down to his longjohns, leaving a trail of clothes on the bunkhouse floor behind him. He knew he’d have to pick them up come morning, before Rachel or Teaspoon came in for breakfast, but couldn’t make himself care at the moment. Curling up in the nest Lou had made with the blankets, he pulled the warm covers around him and rested his head on his bent arm so he could watch Lou’s graceful movements about the room.
It wasn’t often the two of them had the bunkhouse to themselves and he planned to enjoy every second of it. He loved watching her. And it wasn’t just that she was so physically appealing, which she was. Even in its exhaustion, his body was reacting to her presence and their solitude. But it was more than that. It was the way she made him feel, comfortable, at home, at peace. He loved the way she bit her lip when she was thinking, the way she seemed to dance as she moved from one chore to another, the way she concentrated on each task wholeheartedly. He could spend a thousand years learning about her and still not know enough.
He couldn’t wait for the day when moments like this were a daily event. Someday, someday she’d be his wife. He could see it in his mind’s eye already. After they put the children to bed, they’d work together to make sure the house was settled for the night, then crawl into bed together and fall asleep in each other’s arms every night. That was his idea of heaven.
Lou finished cleaning the dishes from Kid’s supper, wiped them dry and carefully put them away in the cupboard. Grabbing the plate with the cookies she’d made earlier, she bit her lip unconsciously as she tried to decide whether to bring him a cup of coffee, too. There was still a bit left in the pot.
Turning, she started to ask, “Kid, would you like some--“
A soft snoring buzz interrupted the question and she smiled gently at the sight. Kid was curled up in the blankets she’d set out for a romantic rendezvous in front of the fireplace. He was on his side, facing her, but his eyes had slid shut and he was snoring gently.
She sighed. There went her plans for the evening. But then she smiled as he snuffled slightly and tucked his cheek into his hand, just like her little brother had done when he was a baby. She knew just how hard and long his ride must’ve been today. It was no wonder he was tuckered out.
Setting the plate of cookies on the counter, Lou laid a napkin over them to keep them fresh and quietly leaned over to blow out the wick in the kerosene lamp. That left the only light in the room coming from the cheerful flickering of the flames in the fireplace. In their glow, she bent over to pull the blankets more tightly around Kid’s shoulders and gently kissed his brow. Then, she picked up his scattered clothes and carefully laid them out on his bunk to dry before removing her own outer layer of clothes, revealing the lacy, embroidered chemise and pantalettes she’d donned for the evening. She stood over the fireplace for a few minutes, holding out her hands and feet toward the warmth, then turned and crawled into the bed she’d made on the floor next to Kid, careful not to let any cooler air seep in under the blankets with her.
Wrapping her arms around him protectively, she nuzzled her nose into the back of his neck and kissed him.
“Night, Kid,” she whispered, closing her own eyes and savoring the chance to hold him close. “Sleep tight.”