Set after the Episode "Color Blind"
The night was clear, the clouds had been chased away by the late afternoon heat and as Jimmy poked around yet another can of half cold beans he tried to avoid looking right at Louise. Oh, he wanted to, but sometimes you just can't have what you want and that was made only too evident on this last run.
Sudden movement just along the edge of the campfire caught his attention and he lifted his eyes just in time to see Louise slip her hand beneath the curling ends of her hair and rub the back of her neck. He knew that she was feeling the welt that had been left by the rough hemp rope when…
He nearly threw the fork into the can and regretted the noise it made when Lou's shoulders tensed. "Sorry."
She didn't turn at the sound of his voice, but she did look over her shoulder her brown eyes nearly ebony in the dark night. "'ts alright."
Jimmy looked down into the can and swirled the can in a circle just to see if anything would move around inside. He held it up to her and tried to smile. "Hungry?"
Again, a hesitant glance and then a shake of her head.
He set the can down, his hunger gone. They'd ridden for the majority of the day and made camp when the horses were plodding along, their heads down they made camp for the night. Jimmy wanted to continue on and put as much distance between them and the town of Willow Springs as they could. He wanted to forget the picture he had in his head. The picture of Lou about to die… all because of him.
"Ah'm gonna turn in, got to get an early start in the morning if want to make the station by dinner."
"Sure." She answered him back, but she didn't turn to look at him.
"You need a blanket?"
"Aw, Jimmy… I have one, but you know that." There was laughter in her voice when she replied and for a moment it was like it was… before.
"I know. I know." He lifted the edge of his blanket and slid beneath it. "You gonna get some sleep?"
There was a silence for a few moments as Jimmy watched the fire and he began to wonder if she'd fallen asleep right there.
"Later, maybe…" Lou tilted her head back, her hair sliding down to the ridge of her shoulder blades, "there's a lot of stars out tonight."
"Thousands it looks like." Her voice was fading on the wind but it still reached his ears and he rolled onto his back to stare up at the sky above their heads. "I can't even count them all."
He looked up at the sky, the winking lights nearly spun over his head making him dizzy, dizzy enough that he grabbed the edge of his blanket and willed his stomach to settle. "There's a bunch of 'em all right."
There was a soft laugh from her side of the fire. "That's what's so fun about you."
Jimmy looked up at her. "What?"
She hugged her knees tightly against her body. "You see things just as they are. You know…" she paused and he saw her shoulders lift as she took in a deep breath, "you don't make them all complicated."
"So…" he drawled, half from wonder… half from fatigue, "I'm simple."
She shook her head and even though he couldn't see her face he knew she was smiling. "No… you're not, but I think you're bein' silly." There was a pause and then she pulled in a breath, "Look!"
He followed her arm and almost missed the last second of white streaming through the sky. "What's that?"
Her voice was wistful, young… happy. "A shooting star."
"Shooting star." He echoed her words but he didn't see the beauty in it. "So?"
"You make a wish when you see one."
His tone was flat, strange and soft, but that didn't stop her from making her wish, closing her eyes and feeling the wind brush against her cheeks as her mind whirled with thoughts. "I wish…"
He waited, ears straining to hear what she was saying. The same winds that chilled his skin helped to keep her words secret. Maybe it was the part of him that liked hurting… felt comfort in it as long as it was his pain. A certain amount of morbid curiosity told him he had to know what she was thinking. "You wish… what?"
She set her knees down to the side and turned around, looking at him across the fire. The smile gracing her lips was tentative… hesitant. "I wish… I wish a lot of things but right now-"
"You wish the last couple days had never happened." He knew what it was that she was going to say and somehow it was easier to hear it in his voice.
"No." The single word caught his attention. "That's not what I wished for." Her fingers drew a pattern in the soft dirt beside her bed roll and he waited this time. Waited for what she wanted to say… what she was ready to tell him. "We had fun, Jimmy Hickok. You and me. You helped me forget what was goin' on in Sweetwater and I was glad of it. Happy you came along."
"So what was it," he wondered aloud, "that you wished for?"
Louise turned her head slightly to the side as she watched the repetitive loop pattern that her finger was making. "I wished that…" she looked up into his face and gave him a hint of a smile, "that you'd stop blaming yourself for what that man did."
"Lou," Jimmy shook his head and gave a long loud sigh, "if it weren't for me-"
"If it weren't for you, Jimmy… I'd never have made it through that first night to Willow Springs and most likely when I'd got there I would've kept on riding." She tried to lighten the tone of her voice to keep the words light… but there was a lump in her throat that wouldn't go away. "You showed me that I don't need to be crying to feel the hurt… and I don't need to feel the hurt to be sad… and that I don't need to be sad," he looked up and saw the truth of it in her eyes. Knew that she meant every word. "When I have friends that care about me."
He nodded. The words were true. She'd begun to see that she didn't need to lash herself to someone else to be happy… that when she found the right person to make a life with she'd stand beside him and be the stronger for it.
Lifting up the edge of her blanket, Louise slipped under it and pulled it up to her chin, her eyes drifting closed as she looked at the fire between them. "So, no I don't want to forget, Jimmy… I want to remember… at least the time in Willow Springs… at least the time with you."
Time with him. If it were only that simple. If they could clip out the moment when a person's heart ached for another or suffered because of them, they could live happy and content. But who could do that? No one. Didn't stop him from wanting it and watching over his friend as she drifted off to sleep. "I wish…"
*written for the FANFIC100 Live
Journal challenge - prompt - Star