She swiped at the hand that tickled her chin and grumbled a moment later when the voice came back.
Cracking an eye open she looked right into Kid's face. "Wa's wrong?"
"Huh?"He looked back into the darkness and then back into her face. "Nuthin'… I just wanted to see if you were awake."
She blinked at him. "I wasn't 'til you woke me."
"Oh, yeah…" he gave her a shy grin, "well, now that yer up, why don't you come on down and cuddle up with me?"
Lou lifted her head an inch from her pillow and touched her gaze on all the boys around the room. "It ain't safe, Kid."
He shrugged and leaned closer. "They all know you're a girl and that we're… real close. They won't mind."
Sighing she fell back against the pillow. "I'm warm right now, Kid. If I get down there, I'm gonna freeze."
"Yeah… it's cold." He looked down into the shadows and wiggled his toes. "So, that would be… not so good." He looked away his mind whirring inside his head like the insides of a clock. "So, I could get up there with you? Help keep you warm?"
"Sure… sure… just be quiet, don't need the others gettin' up to poke fun at us."
She didn't see his smile, but she felt it as she turned over and faced the wall, trying to give him as much room as she could so that he could get up and-
The world bottomed out and suddenly Kid and Lou were falling through the air.
"Holy Mother of-" Cody was up on his feet, his hands over his head, "are we under attack?"
Jimmy swore into the din of voices. "You ever heard an outlaw make a sound like that? More like the roof caving in…"
From the dark flared a light in a lantern. Ike had either moved quicker or thought quicker, but either way he was the one that provided light. Holding it aloft he moved carefully through the room and stopped short when-
"Ow! Careful!" Ike swung the lantern and Kid flung his hand up to block the light. "Put that down."
"You broke your bunk?" Kid glared at him, Cody always was the master of the obvious.
Kid struggled to untangle himself from the rubble of wood and sheets, waving them off as she gained his feet. "Go to sleep… you can laugh at me to-"
"What happened to Lou?"
Noah's simple question shocked them all and as the realization dawned on them Lou flung the blanket off of her head. "Right here."
"What were you doin' under-" Cody's mouth hung open as he took in the scene before them.
"Weren't nothin' like that goin' on…" Lou was struggling with the tangled mass to get to her feet.
"Well, how'd you know what we were talkin' about if…"
"Can it, Cody…" Kid's growl of a warning didn't do much to stop Cody's little train of thought. It just kept chuggin' along.
"No really, how much have we all missed in this little love affair?"
A pillow narrowly missed Cody's head.
"You know," he continued, "these bunks are made for ONE man… I guess I never tried to fit a woman in too-"
Lou was on her knees, working a cocoon of cloth from her foot. "That's enough, really."
"Then again, it might have been the added weight on Lou."
The room went ghostly silent and Cody had to stop for a moment to look around the room. "What?" Buck arched a look back at Lou and Cody turned back to the young woman who seemed frozen in time. "Oh, hell Lou, don't give me that icy look… you've been gettin' some real nice curves these days, like a real woman."
"I've always been a woman, Cody."
"And now it's noticeable."
Ike caught Kid's shoulder as the other man struggled to lunge at Cody. "Shut your mouth, Cody."
"I don't mean it like that, Kid, but you gotta know that folks 'round here can see the difference."
Cody looked back at Jimmy for agreement and that's when it happened.
Lou knocked Cody back on his rear, nearly two feet of wood held tightly in her hands. "Why have you been lookin'?"
"Who can help it?" Cody rubbed his chest where the wooden beam had connected with his ribs and sighed, "You're gettin' all these curves and fillin' out your pants in ways that a man just… doesn't."
"There'll be a few men in town real happy when you finally tell them you're a girl." Noah added in his own wry tone, but when Lou turned on him with her 'weapon' he held his hands up to ward her off, "I was just about to say that Father Michael was mentionin' that he's had a much larger congregation these last few months… confessions comin' out of his ears…"
"So's it just ain't the sorry souls 'round here that have been lookin' at little 'LOU' and seein'…. Somethin' more?"
The three gluttons, Jimmy, Noah and Cody collapsed on each other, their laughter shaking their shoulders and Louise's sanity.
Near ready to tear her hair out she swung her gaze around to Buck who was still partially hidden by the shadows of the room. "What about you?"
"Me?" Buck looked around at the group. "What?"
Her shoulders visibly relaxed. "I was just wondering why you hadn't said anythin' yet."
"Me?" He swallowed hard enough for the others to hear it. "I wanna live."
Louise raised the timber an inch or two higher. "Then stop laughin'!" She lunged after her friend and was nearly hit when the door suddenly opened.
"What the hell is goin' on in…" Teaspoon's words faded as he took in the scene. The destroyed bunk beds that Lou and Kid had recently occupied, the broken board in Lou's hands, Kid's disheveled appearance, "never mind." He held up his hands and shook his head. "I don't wanna know." He turned and left the bunkhouse and the boys to their own devices.
Thanks to Cindy for 'playin' in IM and helpin' me come up with the idea for this little stinker. Thanx.