Monday, July 28, 2014

Virginia Nights

Author’s Note:  This is a gapfiller, a moment of experience, set within the events of Fighting For Love, while Lou and Kid are in the Confederate Army in Virginia. While reading the longer story can help with understanding points in this one, it is not necessary.

Lou paused her horse at the top of a rise and sighed as she looked out over the verdant vista before her.  She’d never seen anything like it.  She could understand why Kid loved this country so much.  She’d ridden and lived throughout much of the West, from Texas to Wyoming Territory, Colorado to Nebraska Territory, Kansas and Missouri.  She hadn’t thought there was anything the land could do to surprise her, but Virginia, ah, Virginia, was constantly doing just that.

“Pretty, ain’t it?” Kid asked as he paused his horse next to her.

She nodded. 

“What makes them hills look all blue like that?” she asked curiously.

“I dunno,” Kid shrugged.  “They just do.  You should see it down south of here, two, three days ride.  That haze gets so thick it looks like the slopes must be on fire.  They call ‘em the Smoky Mountains.”

Lou laughed lightly, reaching over to squeeze Kid’s hand.  He turned his bright blue gaze from the mountains to her and grinned.  Slipping his fingers between hers he lifted her hand to his lips and kissed the palm softly.

“Ain’t half as pretty as you, though.”

Lou blushed a fiery red to match the sun setting in the western sky.  Pushing Kid away with a laugh, she urged her mount into an easy lope that quickly ate up the green fields surrounding them.

It was nice to have this time alone with Kid.  These moments of peace, and the relief that came of being able to be herself, not having to worry any of their fellow soldiers would find her out and betray her, were all the happiness she could ask for in the middle of this dreadful war. 

Refusing to give free reign to thoughts of the death and destruction that surrounded her, that she’d agreed to participate in to be able to stay at Kid’s side, she lifted her face to the sun and smiled, determined to enjoy this time they had.

Gen. J.E.B. Stuart had sent them out, alone!, to scout for any signs of McClellan’s men in blue.  And he didn’t expect them back for at least a couple of days. All of which meant she was free for the moment.  Free to be a wife and lover.  Free to enjoy this beauty around her, to better understand Kid’s fascination with this land.  Free to ride with the wind.

The sound of pounding hooves closing the distance told her Kid was catching up and she urged her horse faster with a laugh.

Forgetting their assignment for the moment, the duo chased each other back and forth, up and down the hills, through corn fields and into stands of tall trees crowded so close you couldn’t see the sun through the leafed canopy above, laughing and smiling all the way.


Lou sat deep in her saddle, relaxing as she let her horse follow along behind Kid’s. They weren’t staying in town because they didn’t want to give away their position to any bluecoats that might be scoping out the same terrain.  Kid said he knew of an old hunter’s cabin, used only in the summertime, up on the side of a nearby mountain.

Despite their brief interlude of fun, they’d stuck to their duty and searched diligently for any sign of the Federals.  But they’d found nothing.  Now, she was happy to sit back and let Kid lead them to their evening camp, the gentle sound of their horses’ slow steps and easy breathing lulling her into a quiet sense of wonder.

As they climbed ever higher, she lost sight of the landscape around them, hidden by the trees of the wooded mountaintop.  She knew from a distance they grew so close together they looked more like a wooly green buffalo robe covering the top of the hill.  But up close, their horses slipped easily along the paths between the old growth trunks of maple, oak and hickory.

Then, with no warning, they stepped into a small clearing.  Not like she was used to back home, but a clearing in the sense that the trees were pushed back just far enough to make room for a small house on stilts.  But up above, the tree tops gathered close again, continuing to provide their welcome cooling shade from the hot Virginia sun.  Only occasional droplets of light filtered through the covering to illuminate the little building.

Made of handhewn planks of a dark wood, the house had a short set of steps leading up to small porch in front of the simple door with a rope latch.  The walls only rose two thirds of the way from the floor to the roof of the house, leaving a two foot wide gap at the top for cooling breezes to blow in.  Lou could see why it was only used in the summer.  This structure wouldn’t protect you even from Virginia’s comparatively mild winters.

Dismounting, she hobbled her horse and followed Kid into the house.

“Careful,” he warned.  “The steps are slippery.”

She looked down in surprise to note that they were covered in a thin film of water and wondered where the moisture had come from.  Taking a deep breath, she laughed at herself. The very air here was full of water.  She didn’t need to look any further for the source.

Inside, she found a small fireplace on one side and two, wide plank platforms, one above the other along the opposing wall.  Kid was already laying out their bedrolls on the lower and wider of the two platforms.  Their rucksacks rested on the higher platform.

She smiled.  It wouldn’t be the most comfortable place she’d ever slept.  But it would hardly be the worst, either.  And at least she and Kid would be able to share the platform tonight, never worrying about an accidental caress causing problems, only pleasure.

Running a hand self-consciously over her mouth to hide her grin, she hurried to Kid’s side to rummage through her rucksack for some lucifers and her mess kit.  She’d get the supper fire going while he set up in here.


With a sigh, Lou set her plate down on the ground next to her and snuggled closer into Kid’s one-armed embrace. She felt him press a soft kiss to the top of her head, as he was wont to do, and smiled against his chest, one hand splayed across the taut muscles of his stomach, grown even more steely in recent months with the shortened rations they’d been living on.

They both stank to high heaven after days in the hot, muggy Virginia sun without anywhere to clean up. Or a place to safely to do so, on her part.  They were in the sort of shape that would have Rachel banishing them from the bunkhouse until they’d cleaned up and Teaspoon dumping them in the horse trough for expediency’s sake.

But there was no handy creek here to wash up in.  Just the water they pumped from a nearby well. It was so deep and took so much effort they’d looked at each other, shook their heads and walked away once they’d refilled their canteens. It wasn’t worth the effort.  Besides, by now, they were so inured to each other’s smell, neither really noticed it.  Too much.

They had spread their woolen grey coats and butternut trousers out by the fire, hoping to dry out the smell of sweat and smoke out any bugs that might have infested them.  For now, the duo sat there, wrapped around each other, in nothing more than their longjohns.  Both had been a bit shy about wandering around outside in their underclothes, but had decided it was the best option open to them.  Besides, it was obvious from the ramshackle condition of the hunting house that no one had been by here in quite some time.

Lou allowed the comfort of Kid’s embrace to warm her against the oncoming chill as evening leached away the heat of day.  Staring into the dancing flames of the fire, she slowly let her thoughts drift, the soft sounds of chirping birds and buzzing insects, the swishing of leaves in the breeze, providing a musical lullaby conducted by Mother Nature herself.

“I think we better turn in,” Kid grunted, jerking her out of her somnolent trance.

“What?” Lou asked, confused.

“I’ve asked you the same thing three times now and you haven’t responded. It’s obvious yer dead on yer feet. Let’s get some shuteye.”

He heaved himself to his feet then reached down to offer her a helping hand. She gratefully took it and followed his lead up into their home for the night.


Lou rolled over and grunted in annoyance as the urge to pass water became more than she could ignore.  With a sigh, she pulled out of Kid’s warm embrace and crawled out from under their blanket wrapped warmspot.  She shivered as she scurried out of the little house on stilts and made for the nearby trees to do her business.

A few minutes later, walking back toward their ‘camp’, she paused as an odd sound registered.  It sounded almost like rain, but nothing was making it to the ground.  Looking up, she peered into the tree tops, trying to figure out what it was.

“Lou, whatcha doin’ standin’ out there in the rain?” Kid called, leaning blearily against the door post, a blanket wrapped around his shoulders.

“That’s just it, Kid,” she said in wonder. “It sounds like it, but ain’t no rain comin’ down.  I’m dry as a bone.” She held up one hand, palm out, to demonstrate what she meant.

Kid huffed a laugh. “Ya won’t be fer long.  It’s rainin’ alright.  Just the leaves up there are… slowin’ it down.  You stand out there long enough, ye’ll be plenty wet.  Without ever feelin’ a single drop o’ rain.”

Lou looked at him quizzically as she crossed to the steps and climbed to his side.

“What do ya mean?” she asked.

He reached over and brushed his hand across her exposed collarbone and she shivered at the moist feel of his touch.

“See?” he said, holding up his fingers for her inspection. “Wet already.  Just like those steps.  The water, it’s just in the air.”

“Hmmm,” Lou murmured, inspecting everything closely and wondering what else this state had to offer her.  Besides Kid, of course.

“Come on,” Kid said, tugging at her arm.  “Let’s go to bed.”

Still thinking things over, Lou followed him back inside and happily crawled under the covers, shivering despite herself as she snuggled into the residual warmth.  Kid slipped in next to her and wrapped her in his arms.

She grinned as his lips covered hers inside their own little cocoon, protecting them for the moment from all the world would throw at them, from rain that didn’t fall but still made you wet to a war that seemingly wouldn’t end.  For this one night, in this one place, in Kid’s occasionally magical, mystical state of Virginia, all was right with her world.

The End....

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