Jimmy arrived in Rock Creek tired, hungry, and emotionally exhausted. He hadn't remembered a run being this bad before. It started raining when he left (which was directly after he had dropped his mail at the handoff), so that by the time he had turned around to pick it up he had to dig the mochila out of the soggy, muddy ground. Shortly after he was mounted and back on route, his horse picked up a stone. When he arrived at the next station the manager had told him that he was going to have to go on an extra day because they were shorthanded. So the weary James Butler Hickok continued onward. He arrived at the handoff spot a half a day later. Then, much to his dismay, Jimmy could remember two distinct times of being called out while trying to eat his sandwich, and the one time when some drunk cowboy had tried to steal his horse.
All of these many things compiled helped to provoke Jimmy into snapping at Lou when she cheerfully greeted him on the porch. "Hi Jimmy! We were all getting worried since you were three days late. Buck was about to come out after you."
He grunted and tied up his horse. "Yeah, well that's real noble now isn't it"?
She noticed his sour expression. "Is something wrong"?
He stomped the dried mud off of his boots. Taking off his gloves he slapped them with his hand. "You could say that. So now if you don't mind, I'd like to go in and get something to eat. Or do you have more questions"?
Lou was completely taken back, and didn't hide her shock. She stood silently and shook her head in disbelief. "No, I got nothing to say."
He brushed past her. "Good, then I'll just go inside. See to my horse will you"? Without waiting for an answer he walked up the stairs and pushed open the bunkhouse door letting it slam closed. As Lou grabbed the reins of his horse she heard commotion that was unmistakably Cody and Buck putting up an objection to the arousing noise. Good thing Kid's on a ride. This would be the night where they would have killed each other. She rolled her eyes and took a deep breath, making her way to the barn with his horse.
The next morning proved to be just as rotten for Jimmy as the previous weekly days had been. He rolled over on his side and opened his eyes to see Lou sitting up at the table sipping a cup of coffee. She didn't seem to notice that he was stirring. Groaning, he heard the sounds of voices outside and looked out the window. The sun was almost full on the horizon, and he knew clearly that it meant it was past time to 'rise and shine.' I'll rise alright, but I sure ain't gunna shine! Lou noticed his movement and watched him sit up. "I thought we were going to have to use dynamite to wake you up. Everyone's been up for a few hours." She kept a stiff posture preparing for him to treat her as he had last night.
He didn't respond, just sat up quickly and slammed his head on the bunk above him. "Ouch!" He yelped rubbing his now very sore head.
Lou barely acknowledged the incident and stood up grabbing her hat on the way out. "They can't say you got up on the wrong side of bed....there's only one side for you to get up on." She mumbled to herself.
Slightly stumbling as he stood up Jimmy walked over to wash his face. Resting his hands on the table he looked down at the floor. What's happened to me? He wasn't sure why he was feeling so depressed and upset, he just knew he wanted it to end.
"Rider comin'!" Rachel yelled from the clothesline where she was gathering the few things that had been left out through the night, and were now covered with morning dew. "It's Kid." She announced.
"Uh oh, this won't be good with Jimmy acting the way he's been." Buck mumbled to himself more than Cody who was beside him helping to repair the broken gate on the corral.
Cody glanced up to watch Kid ride in. "Well, there's one way to look at it. If they kill each other, at least all we'll have to do is move the bodies. Do you think Jimmy would let me have his saddle when he goes"? Buck's expression clearly stated "no," and they both chuckled.
"Hi Kid!" Lou ran up to him with a warm greeting. She almost knocked him off of his feet as she rapped her arms around his neck.
"Woah, you'd think I'd been gone a month." He smiled hugging her closely.
She pushed back to look into his eyes. "Mmm, well that's what it felt like. Did it go well"?
He nodded affirmatively. "Yep, went great. Got a little something for you while I was in Denver too."
Her face lit up with her surprised expression. "What is it"? She begged.
He put his hands behind his back and stood his ground. "Nope, this is something special. Ask me after we're married. Until then, you're just going to have to wait." Kid continued gathering his belongings off of Katy.
Lou took a step closer. "You know Kid you only asked me to marry you two days ago, I can still change my mind you know."
He looked at her stone faced. "Yep, you could. Course then I don't know what I'd do with this." Opening a small pouch on his saddle bag, Kid pulled out a small hand-carved jewelry box.
Lou's eyes widened and she took it from him gently. "Oh Kid....it's beautiful!" Opening it she felt the soft velvet lining. "How did you know I always wanted one? My mother used to have a box like this. She always said it would be mine, but when the people took over our house I guess it was destroyed." Carefully she ran her hands over the delicate carved details. Finally, she looked up to Kid who was watching her with with a pleased smile. "Thank you." She embraced him and kissed his cheek.
He brushed the hair from her gentle face. "You know someday there might just be a few things to put in it too."
He stepped back slowly and grabbed his things. Turning he began walking up the bunkhouse steps. Lou called to him softly. "I'd be careful when you go in there. Jimmy's upset about something. Watch out he bites."
Kid gave her a confused look and proceeded inside; it didn't take long for him to figure out what she had meant.
"I'm sorry Jimmy! Since when has this whole place become your sole property"? Kid's voice was so loud that several people heard him outside and came closer to the bunkhouse to catch the upcoming show.
"Since now!" Jimmy snapped back.
Lou walked up the stairs and stopped in front of the door. "Oh great." She mumbled to herself.
Several heavy footsteps were heard stomping around inside. Lou and the boys just waited for the sound of something breaking. They all knew that with the war coming and the increased tenseness that seemed to loom around the bunkhouse, this fight was inevitable. Anxiously waiting for more arguing, the onlookers came closer. To their surprise and dismay, all grew silent.
"Guess it's over." Cody turned around and started his way back to the corral.
Buck nodded and followed, "Or they're dead."
Rachel, who had also now joined the scene, turned to Lou. "You better go in there. If one of them has been harmed we'll more than likely need a doctor." She sighed and returned back to the house where dinner was cooking.
Lou reached up to push the door open, stopping for a brief moment to take a deep breath. She stepping inside, not sure what to expect, but what she saw was definitely NOT what she expected. Jimmy and Kid were sitting peaceably at the table opposite each other. They both turned at her presence.
Lou's responsive look was quite unquestionably one of great confusion and bewilderment. She sat down at the end of the table and looked at both of them. "Sounded to me like the start of the war they say is coming was right here in this room."
"It's OK Lou, I was just apologizing to Kid here. I don't know what's wrong with me." He looked at both of them. They had always been such dear friends to him. Waiting patiently and silently, they waited for him to continue. Jimmy relaxed his clenched fists. "Everything's going wrong. I can't even make a simple run anymore without some half-witted kid to call me out. People I though I knew are changing. And I'm about to lose my...." He stopped in mid-sentence not letting himself finish. I'm about to lose my best friend to the woman I always felt like I could love.....and maybe still do. He looked down at his hands, ashamed of what he was thinking.
Lou moved over closer and sat next to him. Taking his hand she looked at Kid and then back to Jimmy. "You ain't losing anyone, Jimmy. We're always going to be your family. As for the other problems you're having, there's an answer to all of it. Why don't you let all of us help you"?
Jimmy stood up to go. Gently he released her hand. "Don't think anyone can help me, Lou....not anyone. My destiny's been sealed. I'm living by the gun forever, and there's no stopping that." He grabbed his hat and headed outside letting the door slam behind him.
Lou looked over at Kid who was staring at the table, absently picking at the knots in the wood. She gently touched his arm. "Jimmy will work through this. He always has before."
Kid looked up at her wanting to believe what she said. "I don't know, Lou. This time I just think it's different. I've never seen him like this before." With that he also stood up and walked outside.
Lou massaged her forehead with her hands. She was getting a headache, and it wasn't hard for her to figure out why. Things were falling apart faster then solutions could be found. I won't let this family slide apart. All we've got is each other. That's got to count for something.