"I'm surprised," Rachel began as she moved her cup away from her lips, "that I haven't seen you on the dance floor."
"I have been," Louise countered, her hands busy with a cup and ladle, "I just have… other things that I'm doing at the moment."
"So," Rachel hedged as she looked over the edge of her cup, "you're not just 'waiting' around for someone?"
Picking up an empty cup, Louise dipped the ladle into the bowl. "I've had dances with Buck and Cody."
"Living dangerously are we?"
The two women managed to hold their laughter in for a moment then the pretense was lost. It was only when Rachel looked over Louise's shoulder that she was able to stifle her laughter.
Louise straightened, her expression changing from laughter to confusion before she turned to see what was behind her.
Jimmy "Wild Bill" Hickok resembled a potted palm as he stood up against the wall. He barely moved a muscle as people pushed past him as they moved about the room.
"Jimmy?" Lou set the cup down on the table behind her, surrendering the ladle to Rachel as she moved closer.
He looked at her and managed to crack a smile for a moment.
"What are you doing?"
His shoulders lifted and fell as he cleared his throat. "I'm just… waiting."
"Waiting?" The comment was odd, but then again, Jimmy wasn't really that comfortable in rooms this overloaded with revelers. "People will say you're hovering." She said the words cautiously, but her eyes sparked with laughter.
"They'll know how desperate I am to avoid the reel."
Louise looked out at the dance floor and saw Teaspoon and Polly at the center, their faces full of laughter. Teaspoon's feet were lively but he only made a mess of the steps. Polly laughed, clutching onto his shoulders as he swept her back and forth sometimes in time to the music. "Well, they're having fun."
Mercifully, the music ended a moment later and Jimmy sagged against the wall, barely avoiding a lamp near his shoulder.
Turning toward him, Louise shook her head. "Imagine," she began, "Wild Bill Hickok, afraid of dancing."
He leaned down, his nose a few inches away from hers. She felt the warm touch of his fingers along her arm, ending with a brush against the inside of her wrist. "I ain't afraid of dancin'."
The first pull of the bow on the violin's string brought a smile to her lips. "A waltz."
"That," Jimmy answered, his lips tight, "is what I was afraid of."
"Oh?" Louise blinked up at him, her eyes bright with humor. "Now 'that' is news to me. I seem to remember a certain night when-"
"That," he silenced her with a quick kiss on her lips, "was between you and me."
"And," she added, "a trumpet player."
He grimaced a little, curling his lips at the corners. "Not exactly the best music to dance to."
She held out her hand, just like she had done that night, her eyes full of hope. "I didn't mind it then. The company," she smiled as he took her hand in his, "more than made up for it."
The moment after she felt the warm weight of his hand at her waist she reached down and took hold of the side of her skirt, lifting the hem ever-so-slightly.
"Just remember that," he whispered, watching for a space to open up on the floor, "when I step on your toes."
Her laughter mingled with the music as they were swept into the waltz.
The dance wasn't nearly as dangerous as Jimmy had thought. Sure, there was a close brush of an elbow, but a quick smile and a whispered, "sorry," and they continued on. Louise hummed the music under her breath, leaning into the touch of his hand.
"Now isn't this better than standing along the side, holding up the wall?"
He looked down at her and a smile tugged up at the corner of his lips. "I'll say so."
She felt his hand clasp tighter around her waist and pulled her a fraction of an inch closer. She smiled up at him and managed to give him a little reproach under her breath. "Jimmy."
The musicians struck up the final chord of music and Jimmy held onto her hand as she started to step away from him. As the couples began to move off of the floor Jimmy drew her closer and tucked her hand into the crook of his arm. "Care to take a walk?"
She nodded and moved with him toward the door.
The air outside was a blessing. The nip of chill in the fall air felt like heaven after the heat of the common room. It was all too natural for Lou to slip her arm into the crook of his and as they walked along the boarded walkways and streets, she matched his stride with one and a half steps to each of his. They had nearly walked half the town before Louise turned slightly, stopping Jimmy in his tracks.
He looked down at her, his eyes hidden by the shadow of his hat brim. "Something wrong?"
She tilted her head slightly to the side and reached up a hand and took hold of the brim of his hat, laying it back behind his head.
The smile on his lips was enigmatic, a curious mixture that she couldn't quite understand. "I just wanted to see your face."
She felt the twitch of laughter that rolled through his body. "Now I know something's wrong if you want to put yourself through that."
Louise couldn't quite muster up the laughter she should have. There was just something 'else' on her mind. Something that was just beyond her reach.
Jimmy read the expression on her face and reached out with his free hand, brushing the back side of his knuckles against her temple. "Can I help?"
"Help?" She blinked at him. "With what?"
"Whatever you've got on your mind." He lowered his hand onto her shoulder and waited for her to answer.
"I don't even really know what 'that' is." She turned slightly, withdrawing her hand from his arm before reaching up to flatten the lapels of his frock coat.
She felt the slow intake of breath into his lungs and she waited… and so did he.
All she could do was smile. If he was confused at her sudden change of mood, he didn't say anything. Instead, when she stepped closer, slipping her arms around him, laying her cheek against his chest he just held on.
It was enough… for both of them.
Author's Note: Inspired by the song "To Know Love" sung by: Little Big Town