...sometimes you're in the right place at the right time...

...sometimes you make it the right time...

Things had been souring between Kid and Lou for sometime, ever since she overheard Kid joking about what they had meant to each other. Even though thing's hadn't worked out with Samantha, Lou was not eager to pick up where she left off with Kid. She was still having trouble reconciling the Kid she fell in love with and the man who had made light of their relationship.

Last night, dinner had been hell...none of riders mentioned the fact that Kid spent the entire meal sulking at the end of the table. He spent the entire time pushing his food back and forth across his plate like he was parting the Red Sea.

Lou had tried to keep the conversation light, but everyone knew that everything she did was under the watch of Kid's glowering gaze.

This morning, Kid had volunteered to take Ike's run to Ft. Laramie. Everyone breathed a silent sigh of relief. As much as they cared for Kid, he had made a complete ass of himself lately, and no one was particularly sad to see him go.

"Rider Comin'!"

Jimmy rode in that evening and slowed his horse as Kid took the hand-off. Neither one looked at the other and Kid took off as Jimmy called out, "Ride Safe, Kid!"

When Jimmy turned Kid was already gone in a cloud of dust, Katy tearing up the ground beneath her hooves.

Jimmy guided his beautiful palomino over to the rail, and Ike moved in to take the reins from him. Sliding down, Jimmy gingerly lowered himself to the ground. He winced as his foot touched the ground, his muscles crying out.

"Well there Jimmy, " called Teaspoon from the porch, "What's with the 'tender foot?'"

Jimmy took off his hat and brushed it against his leg, sending dust flying. "Twisted it when Sundance got mired up in a mud pit just past the creek. All that rain we've been gettin' has messed up a few of the trails and it looks like we might get some more tonight."

"Doubt it!" Teaspoon clasped Jimmy around the shoulders, "Best get cleaned up, the social begins in an hour."

Rachel shook her head, "I think not! He'll be staying here, resting his ankle." Rachel turned to the others... "and before we leave, I want everyone to help me take the laundry in the house... if it rains I don't want a bunch of sopping laundry hangin from the lines!"

Jimmy nodded a greeting to Jesse as he headed into the bunkhouse,"Ain't no one from town I want to see at the social anyway. It might be nice to spend some time alone."

"Alone?" Teaspoon chuckled, "No one said anythin' 'bout time alone."

Jesse bounded the wagon behind Rachel and Teaspoon. Jimmy held the doorframe and felt his shoulder's tighten, "Just tell me it ain't Cody and I'll be happy."

Teaspoon started the team with a snap of the reins, "Nope, not Cody. You're stuck with Lou."

Jimmy called out after the wagon, "Then I hope Rachel left us some dinner!"

It took Jimmy a good half hour to clean up. Between his bum ankle and the dust caked into his hair he had a hard time of it. He put on a clean shirt and a pair of pants and headed into Rachel's.

He opened the door and stopped to watch for a moment. Lou was humming to herself as she set the table for two.

"Hey Jimmy."

"Hey there Lou."

"Rachel left us some stew and biscuits... I didn't think you would want me to make somethin'."

"You heard me?"

She shook her head, "Nope, but I figured you'd actually want something edible."

Jimmy sat down across from her and smiled. "Where's your glasses?"

Lou touched her face and laughed. "Guess I left them in the bunkhouse. Doesn't matter... they're only for show anyway."

Peaceful, that's the way that Jimmy would have described the meal. They traded stories and jokes... Cody seemed to be a favorite target for jokes. Buck had come up with a few while Jimmy was on a run and Lou retold each one with a devilish twinkle in her eye.

Lou had found two pieces of pie, amazing as that is with Cody around. She placed a slice of apple pie in front of each chair and sat back down. She looked a little nervous as the wind started to kick up outside.

"You worried 'bout something Lou?"

She nodded as she ate her pie, "I stayed behind from the social 'cause Lightning took a tumble this morning.. she threw a shoe and Teaspoon and I are worried she'll come up lame. It was a hard fall," she absently rubbed at her shoulder.

Jimmy motioned with his hand, "What 'bout you? You see a doctor today?"

Lou shook her head, "Nope, no time... 'sides I feel fine. Lightnin' took the brunt of the fall, I just took a spill in the grass."

"I'll take you to the doc in the mornin' if you want."

Lou smiled at her friend, "Thanks Jimmy. I like it when I'm asked what I want to do."

When they were nearly done Lou cleared her throat, "I wanted to thank you again for everything you've done lately, especially that night we had in Willow Springs. I haven't felt that good since.....I don't think I've felt that good in quite a while." She put her fork down and looked at Jimmy across the table. "I hope we'll get the chance to do it again, soon."

Jimmy stared down at his plate... he could still remember the sight of her with her neck inside a noose, all because of him.

Lou cleared her throat and stood up quickly, almost tipping her chair over. She was sure she had crossed some line that Jimmy wasn't comfortable with. Lou instantly wished she could take it back. She cared about Jimmy too much to ruin their relationship.

Wordlessly she started clearing the dishes.. scraping and stacking them in the sink for later. Her heart beat quietly in her chest and she felt color rising in her cheeks. She avoided looking at him and had just gripped the edge of his plate when his hand closed around hers.

"Lou," his voice was almost too soft to hear. She tried to take the plate a second time but his hand held on to her. "Lou." He wanted her attention, and he got it.

She dragged her eyes up to meet his. Unsure of what to say Lou only managed a simple and obligatory, "Yes Jimmy."

"Come 'ere Lou." She let go of the plate as Jimmy drew her around the table to stand in front of him. She looked like she was ready to bolt, but Jimmy had other plans.

His left leg propped up on an empty chair blocked he escape in one direction, "Jimmy, it's okay," she blushed, "you don't have to say anything."

"I want to," he answered, and before she could argue he placed both hands on her waist, anchoring her to the spot, "and you are going to listen."

In an instant it was bright as day-

A flash filled the sky, followed by a booming noise that shook the walls. Terrified shrieks could be heard, coming from the stable. Without a moments thought, Lou snatched a lantern off the wall and headed out into the rain and wind...

"Lou? You left your jacket- ah Hell Lou! You'll freeze out there..."

Jimmy stands and after struggling to put his own on, he grabs hers and heads to the stable. The rain pelted him as he hobbled across the wet ground. Fat droplets of water slanted across the sky, chilling whatever skin it could find.

"Jus' wait til I get my hands on her for draggin' me out here," he grumbled to himself, "I'll wrap them around her sweet little neck." A devilish grin spread across his face as a large drop of water fell from the tip of his nose to join its friends on the ground.

Inside the barn:

From the instant she entered the barn Lou was assaulted by the sound of drums. No, not drums...hooves. The horses were beating a frantic rhythm on the stall doors. Sheer panic prevails amongst the horses. Every attempt she makes to get near the stalls arouse another round of battering hooves.

The lantern that Lou had brought with her was casting long and flickering shadows around her. She wished for a moment that she had some help, This wasn't going to be easy. "Come on girl," she cooed. "Settle down, yes ....yes... just like that..."

She had made eye contact with Lightning and the horse began to lean towards her, slowing its movements. Lou kept her voice calm and sweet, "That's my girl, now let's take a look at that leg..."

Lou had a hand on the latch and was about to open the gate. A bolt of light hit the ground just outside the stable. All at once the racket started up again. Lollipop, a usually docile mount, reared and bit Lightning. In one terrifying moment, Lou tried to back away from the stall. She had only gained a few steps when Lightning, eyes white and ears flat against her head blew the door right off her stall.

Jimmy pushed the door open against the howling wind. He worked against the pain in his ankle... he was going to help Lou settle the horses before they injured themselves.

He could see her shadow first.. it wavered against the wooden walls, mimicing her gestures as she pleaded with the horses for calm.

The lightning strike out side drew his focus and watched as Lightning reared up and busted the stall door. The shadows were back to dancing on the walls and Jimmy saw the thick wooden mass of the door crash into Lou's slim form. Instead of being thrown back, the thick wooden planks covered her.

"Damn it, Lou!" Jimmy closed the distance in an instant, sinking to his knees. He lifted the door off her body and shoved it over onto a pile of straw nearby. Lightning bent her head towards the fallen rider and backed away.

The metal hinge had been pulled up away from the door. The metal that had once been fastened securely to the stall was now a twisted and jagged mess. Jimmy quickly realized that the hinge had cut her side, dark blood welled up under her shirt and stained his fingers.

Muttering curses under his breath, Jimmy opened her shirt to see the wound. Looking around for something to use as a bandage, he shrugs off his jacket. He fold it a few times and places it under her head.

His fingers prod the injury, it's deep, but not life threatening. No other option available, he tears the bottom of his shirt in a long strip to bind the wound. He gingerly winds the fabric around her stomach, tying it off tightly and tucking in the ends.

As he wound the bandage around her body he noticed the swell of her breasts over the edge of her binding. Even with the binding it was hard to see that anyone could mistake her for a boy.

Her shirt was damp from the downpour and Lou's skin was pale and cold to the touch... a whipping wind beat on the walls of the stable, thankfully the horses seem to be taking it in stride. Jimmy softly brushed her hair back and away from her face. He shook her by the shoulder "Wake up Lou... we gotta get you inside before you freeze.."

At the sound of his voice, her eyes flew open. A hand drops to her stomach. "What happened? 'better yet, what hit me?" She grimaced as she felt the bandage wrapped around her middle. Lou looks up at Jimmy hovering over her and blushes. Jimmy was inches away and it was causing Lou some difficulty remembering to breathe. His hair, dark and thick, fell forward over his shoulders.

A strange thought entered her mind. She pictured Jimmy lying next to her, his head resting on her stomach. Her hands softly combing through his hair, feeling the thick strands slip like silk through her fingers.

Jimmy was suddenly aware of how warm it was inside the well built barn. He knew that she was lost in her own thoughts and he took this moment to study her face. Her lashes lay on her cheeks as Lou kept her thoughts to herself. He wished that she would look up at him. Her eyes were so entrancing, he could lose himself in them if given the chance.

Her eyes flickered open and she peered up at him. She knew he had been watching her and she was a bit relieved...'please tell me I'm not the only one wantin' this.'

Jimmy seemed uneasy too and Lou smiles at his discomfort.. She looked at him and feigned shock, "Your shirt... why'd you have to go and ruin it like that?"

"Seemed like the thing to do when your friend is bleeding.."

Lou laughed softly... he loved the sound of it, warm and sweet against the wild rhythm of the storm outside. She struggled to sit up, one hand holding the front of her shirt together.

Jimmy tried to move out of the way. He sat back quickly and howled in pain, all his weight had come down on his ankle. He pushed his legs out in front and leaned back on his elbows to survey the damage.

"Oh Jimmy, I'm sorry. I completely forgot about your ankle." In the light of the lantern she noticed the sorry condition of his shirt. Lou moves forward on her knees to get a closer look. She is nearly face to face with Hickok, one of her knees between his legs. One hand on the floor to balance, she reaches out with the other to touch the ripped edge of the cloth but in the shadows of the lantern her fingers touch his skin...

Unable to breathe, he reacts in surprise. He is very concious of her every move as she leans closer. He finds himself looking up into her eyes, unsure of what is about to happen. Jimmy was caught in her gaze, "Now what it is that you wanted to tell me?"

His mind was a blank and he told her so.

Lou's shoulders shook with gentle laughter and she looked back at Hickok with a gleam in her eye. "Well, too bad. I guess I have you at my mercy." She leans forward and brushes her lips against his. A brief kiss, yes, but it rocks him deep down inside his soul.

...he freezes but doesn't pull away...

the horses softly nicker in the background, rain pelting the outside of the stable, but Lou has her eyes locked on Jimmy. She places the palm of her hand on his stomach, watching as his muscles contract with her touch. A soft seductive smile plays across her lips. "My cold hands bothering you?"

Jimmy swallows hard and she looks back into his eyes, "Nothing cold about you.." he pushed himself up, lacing a hand through her hair and pulled her back down for another kiss.

Jimmy gathered her close in his arms and kissed her like a dying man. Lou wasn't far behind. She held his face between her hands, marveling at the feel of his warm skin, the movement of his body under hers.

"Jimmy?" she pulled away slightly to look down into his eyes.

He stared back, his hand stroking her arm through the damp shirt, "yeah Lou?"

She looked a little uncertain, "am I making a fool of myself here?" She didn't wait for him to answer, "It's not everyday that I just haul off and kiss someone you know." He opened his mouth to answer and she rolled right over him like a steam train. "I know how I feel... 'cause...well.. you know...but -"

Jimmy leaned back and watched her tie herself up in knots. He was thoroughly enjoying her speech and her hands. While she talked herself in circles she had been unbuttoning his shirt... He doubted that she knew what she was doing.... but he wasn't about to stop her.

A moment or two later she looked down and noticed him smilin' at her. She froze...frustration flared in her eyes, "What's so funny Hickok?"

"Nothin' Lou..." one hand snaked out and slid under her open shirt. His hand, placed low on her back helped him hold her as he sat up, "You should know you got nothin' to worry about. I don't think there's a single person here at the station that don't know how I feel about you. Except for you of course."

Lou swatted him on the shoulder... her best pout on her face. Jimmy shook his head, a half smile tugging on his lips. "Well... I still haven't heard the words..."

Jimmy shrugged and pulled her up against him. He leaned over her shoulder and whispered into her ear.

Lou smiled and hugged him closer, her lips raining kisses on his face. He leaned back and laughed out loud. "Lord Lou, if I'd have known this is how you'd react... I'd have said it sooner!"

The two riders continued to talk until the rain has slowed to a soft drizzle.

They made their way back to the bunkhouse... Jimmy leaning on her shoulder a bit... their hours alone in the damp air of the stable had not done his ankle any good. He didn't complain... it was a good excuse to touch her again. "You think we should tell the boys Lou?"

"I think they're smart enough to figure it out on their own" she pointed out. She stopped at the door and looked up at him, "and I'm sure someone will fill Cody in sooner or later."

She helped him to his bunk and kissed his shoulder as she moved away.

Jimmy was shocked by the sweet expression and hooked her arm, drawing her back into his arms. He bent down and kissed her mouth, tasting the soft mist of rain on her lips. Slowly he let her go and watched as she walked across the room.

Lou had climbed into her bunk and covered herself with her blanket, "We'll talk about this later..." she smiled down at him, "I got the early ride tomorrow." She winked and turned to the wall.

Jimmy lay there in his bunk listening to her breathing in the silence of the bunkhouse. He kicked off his blankets and looked up at the ceiling, his hands braced under his head. "We'll do more than talk... that's a promise.."


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