There was a rather insistent knock sounding at her door. Louise knew that at this late an hour the news was never good, but she knew she had to get up. Padding to the door in her stocking feet she opened the door a crack. "Who is it?"
"Sorry to bother you, Miss McCloud, but my boss… he said I had to find someone to come and get 'im."
Louise rubbed her eye with the heel of one hand. "Your boss wants me to come and get him?"
"No… well, yes," the man was small in stature but his anxiety filled the hallway, "your friend won't leave the Saloon."
"Ah…" She knew in an instant who he was talking about. "Where's the Saloon?"
She could see relief in the man's drawn face. "Walk to the center of town, turn North and you'll see it." He started to move away and then turned back. "It's the only building with the lights still on."
"I'll be right there." Louise shut the door and reached for her britches that she'd laid over the back of a chair. A moment after she had her shoes on and tied the last thing she grabbed on the way out were her coat and hat hanging beside the door.
Locking the door behind her she moved quietly down the stairs of the hotel. They'd taken rooms after the execution because it was too late to get on the road and put any distance between them and the town. As she walked through the empty lobby she wondered if it had been the wrong decision.
The night blew cold all around her and Louise pulled her coat tightly around her body and tipped her face down to deflect the stiff gusts of wind that had stirred up after the sun sank beneath the horizon. The Saloon was exactly where the man had said it would be and as Lou made her way up the stairs she found herself feeling relieved that there wouldn't be much of an audience. Jimmy had been through so much in the last few days, he didn't need the world watching him grieve.
The barkeep met her at the door, his face tired and eyes bleary. "I want to go home."
She nodded and tried to see past him into the Saloon. "I'm sorry… it's been a hard couple of days for him," she looked up at the man and knew he really didn't care for the whole story, "I'll have him out in a few minutes."
"Good." The man stepped aside and let her in the room.
Louise saw him the moment she stepped inside. Even in the low light of the room she could see that he was drunk. The staff had obviously tried the easiest method of getting rid of patrons by extinguishing the lights around the room.
That obviously hadn't worked in Jimmy's case and now alone and drunk as he was; he was the only man in the room besides the bartender. "Lou!" She almost felt bad when he winced at the sound of his own voice.
"Hey there." She walked toward him, slowly. "Looks like you had a party without us."
"I jus' came in here forruh drink…" he waved at the empties on his table, "or two."
"Bottles maybe, by the looks of it." She stepped closer, holding out her hand. "Come on, Jimmy… you've got to get some sleep. If you don't, you're gonna be hurtin' tomorrow when we head for home."
His expression mimicked that of a young man learning his first lessons about alcohol. "Come on, Lou," he pleaded, "don't scold me… I'm a man in pain."
"You ain't the only one, Jimmy." She was just a foot away from him and had to turn her head to avoid the full force of the smell of alcohol seeping from his pores. "Elias meant somethin' to me, too."
That got her his attention. Jimmy turned his head slightly to the side as he looked closely at her face. "I know…" his head hung limp from his shoulders as if he'd finally given up. "I've been tryin' to forget the things he said to me… but," he swept his hand out at the empty bottles on the table and only succeeded in knocking one over, "all I can hear in my head is him… warnin' me."
Louise reached out and swept his hair back from his face. "Maybe there's a reason for that."
He looked up at her, his opinion etched on his features. "You tryin' to drive me crazy too?"
She wanted to say that he was already there… that they were both teetering on the brink. A simple assignment had turned into anything but and had left her questioning so many things besides her sanity. "You know better'n that, Jimmy… you know what I think."
Jimmy shook his head. "No, not really." He sat up a bit, as though he was just starting to wake up from the whiskey stupor he'd tried so hard to drown himself in. "I know what you said by the fire… how good it sounded to hear you say it." He looked down at her hands as though he'd never seen something so interesting before. "How much I want to believe in the man you say I am."
She touched his cheek and felt the warmth burn the flesh of her palm. "Jimmy, it's time to get to bed, they're tryin' to close the Saloon."
She saw a note of frustration in his expression, a little bit of petulance mixed in with the alcohol.
"Maybe I ain't done here… not yet." His eyes followed his hands, one then the other reached out and settled on her hips, his fingers squeezing just the littlest bit as if to assure himself that he was actually touching her. "Maybe I think, I was a fool the other night…"
"What… what are you talkin' about, Jimmy?" She was watching his expression, the part of his face that she could see beneath the lengths of his hair, but her feet moved just a bit closer. Maybe it was due to the slight pressure of his hands, but she had to admit that she wasn't trying to pull away.
"By the fire… I heard all those things you said… and I knew," he looked up into her soft brown eyes and sighed, "I knew how much I wanted you to… care about me."
She couldn't help the soft laugh at his words. "I do, Jimmy… you know I care about you, we're fr-"
"Friends, I know…" his expression held a bit of resignation in his eyes, "and when I kissed you, I didn't know if you felt the same way, so I wanted to say I was sorry."
"Then why didn't you talk to me about it the next morning?"
"I wanted to forget it ever happened, if that man hadn't come around-"
"If that man hadn't come around, Jimmy." She lifted her other hand and brushed her fingers through the hair at his temple, "if we hadn't been interrupted," she stepped closer and was close enough to brush the inside of his thigh with the outside of hers, "you wouldn't be wondering."
Jimmy watched her move closer, slowly tilting her head to the side to press her lips against his. At their first touch his eyelids closed, his hands slowly moving up from her hips to her back. He splayed his fingers apart to hold her tight as her hand slid around to the base of his neck.
A moment later she was flush against his body, oblivious to the world around them, even as the bartender put out the last lamp in the room and locked the doors behind him.
Another shot of whiskey, can't stop looking at the door
It's a quarter after one I'm a little drunk and I need you now
Author's Note: Thanks (read that with loving sarcasm) to Dee for sparking this idea… I'll pay you back, really I will