Come on in boy sit on down and tell me about yourself
Jimmy found his wife hovering by the door, her fingers gently pulling back the edge of the curtain and peering out into the street. He knew every single weak spot of the floorboards and the soft knotted rugs beneath his feet allowing him to easily avoid them and sneak up on his wife.
"What are you looking for?"
At the first syllable she jumped and he had to grab her shoulders to still her and keep her on her feet. She whirled around, her fist bumping into his upper arm. "Oh!"
He couldn't help the laughter that shook his shoulders and raised color into his cheeks.
She stepped back and planted her opposite fist on her hip. "What were you thinking? You could have scared me to death!"
He folded his arms over his chest and gave her a smug look. "I was thinkin' how fetchin' you look when you get mad at me."
The bluster bubbled over in a minute and she was shaking with laughter instead of anger in another minute.
"You waitin' for someone special? A new love, perhaps? Have you thrown me over for another?"
Louise hooked her arm through his and pulled him close to the glass. "I'm waiting for young Thomas Seely. He told you he'd be over to take Missy to the church social."
Jimmy slid a free hand over the supple cotton of her sleeve and smiled. "Is that why you're so dressed up?"
She turned to give him a shrewd look. "Is that why you're wearin' your best suit?" She didn't wait for his answer; she turned back to the window. "Here he comes…"
He felt an unwelcome shudder through his body and smile through it. "Well then, why don't you get on upstairs and tell Lil' Missy Hickok that her beau's here."
Louise took a step away and turned back. "And what will 'you' do while I'm upstairs?"
He stepped to the door and set his hand on the knob. "Well, someone has to answer the door, darlin'…"
With that statement Louise shook her head and moved off a bit. "Well I'll just stand here to make sure you don't 'forget' to open the door."
"Now why would I do a thing like that?"
The boy's hand hadn't even touched the face of the door when James Butler Hickok swung the door open and gave him a wolfish grin. "Well how do? Little Tommy Seely isn't it?"
The boy drew up an inch or two taller and squared his chin. "Thomas Seely, sir. I've come to escort Missy to the social."
"Oh? Was tonight the night?" His good and saintly wife rolled her eyes and disappeared into the hall leaving himself to his own devices. "Well, I guess you should come on in and set a spell. Missus Hickok just went to get Missy and women; well they certainly like to take their time gettin' ready." He didn't turn around to see if the boy was following, he strode into the kitchen and gave his friend a conspiratory wink. "I must have plum forgot about the dance. You remember anythin' about it bein' tonight, Buck?"
The Kiowa warrior sat in the next seat to the right of the gunfighter. "Tonight? Don't recall." With practiced ease his had reached for the worn leather sheath on the table in front of him and drew out a knife that caught the lamplight in a fearsome flash of fire. "You know, I don't think you said anything about tonight bein' a dance."
"Well sir, I do recall that I asked you in your office just the other day if I could come and call on Missy and-"
"What's goin' on in here?"
The young man swung his gaze in the direction of the new voice. A tall blonde man with embroidered leathers leaned against the open doorway. He brought a cup down from his mouth and smoothed his brushed mustache down at the corners as he awaited an answer.
"Sir, I… uh… I'm here to escort … to escort…" the boy's brows knitted together as he searched frantically for the name, "I'm here to-"
"Ah hell, Cody… the boy can't even remember my daughter's name now, don't tell me you think she should go out with this-"
"How old can the boy be, Hickok? He barely looks old enough to shave."
"Shave?" Jimmy narrowed his gaze to peer at the boy's face. "You usin' a razor, son?"
The young man adjusted his collar so that he could breathe. "I know how to use a razor and strop, sir… but as of yet, I haven't had much call to… uh…"
"Too young to know better."
Thomas swallowed as lamp light flared along the blade and flickered in his eyes. "I'm apprenticed to my Uncle, sir. I make my own living with the work I do, I'm not too young to work and-"
"Son?" Cody stepped closer to the table and leaned against the ladder back of the chair. "You talkin' back to yer elders?"
"What? No!" The boy yanked at his collar, his face flushed with confusion. "I ain't talkin' back!"
"But now," chimed Jimmy, "you're raisin' your voice. Can't deny that can ya?"
Buck shook his head solemnly. "Can't."
The boy hung his head for a moment. "When did you say Missy was comin' downstairs?"
"I don't think I did… did I, Cody?"
"Buff… Buffalo Bill?" The boy was green in his complexion. "I didn't know-"
Just when it looked as though the boy was swaying dangerously on his feet the fates took pity on him.
"What are the three of you doing?" The reproachful tone wasn't lost on the three old friends, and even though they had the decency to look away as she entered the room they couldn't hide their smiles. As her foot reached the bottom step she held her hand out to the young man floundering in the kitchen. "Thomas, so good to see you, how is your mother."
He took her hand and shook it gratefully. "She's well, Missus Hickok and she says she'll see you at the dance."
"She wouldn't tell me earlier… is she making her cherry pie? I did have my heart set on a piece of that pie."
Thomas nodded and Louise could see the tension flow from his shoulders.
"Where's my daughter?"
Thomas tensed at the sound of Jimmy's voice and the boy nearly fell against the wall when he saw Jimmy place both of his Navy Colts on the table.
Louise's voice was full of warning for her husband. "She's comin'."
"Takin' sweet time… jus' like a-"
"Don't you say another word, Jimmy Hickok."
"Lou, we're jus' havin' a little fun… you see," Jimmy lifted up one of his Colt's and turned it over and over in his hands, "I grew up with a bunch of sisters and I know what a silly lot a gaggle of girls can be, but this particular girl that you're takin' to the social tonight is 'my' girl, son."
Thomas nodded, but before he could say a word jimmy continued on, "ever since the first moment I held her in my arms she held my heart and let me assure you of somethin'…" mindlessly he rubbed the gun with a polishing cloth and the already shining metal parts gleamed with light, "… I've been known to kill a man or two on occasion… never without cause and really what better cause than defending the honor of a woman you love."
"I'd listen if I was you," Cody directed to the already scared young man.
"I am sir, I am."
"So, while I'm goin' to the social with my wife tonight, know that I'll be watchin' your every move. Later-"
Buck huffed out a breath and slid his large knife home into its sheath with a satisfying sigh of metal against leather.
"When you escort her home, know that I'll already be here… waiting…" he set the gun on the polishing cloth down on the table, "cleanin' this gun…."
Jimmy nodded, somewhat satisfied by the wide-eyed expression on the boy's face.
Quick steps on the stairs brought the three men at the table to their feet and somehow all of them, father and uncles alike, managed to look at her without any shame on their faces. Missy looked around the room and settled on her father's wide grin. "What did you do?"
"Why would you say such a thing, darlin'?"
His daughter and wife exchanged a look between them. A matching set of knowing looks was his answer.
"I was just lettin' young mister Seely know how much you mean to me, sweetheart."
Missy gifted the young man with a smile. "And you stayed?"
Under her appreciative gaze Thomas Seely grew an inch or two, his chin lifting with a hint of pride. "Of course I did, Missy, I-"
"Well, we'll be off…" Missy stepped through the crowd of her relations and hooked her arm through Thomas's as she lifted her shawl up onto her shoulders. "We'll see y'all at the social!"
Louise had to put a restraining hand on her husband's arm. "She'll be fine."
He gave her hand a pat more to reassure himself than her. "I know she will." Over his wife's head he met the gazes of his old friends who nodded in turn. She'd be just fine… with all of them watching… and waiting up.