Kid awoke in a cold sweat. The dream was so real. He was back on the battlefield walking among the corpses. He looked down at the familiar faces who just yesterday were laughing among themselves at the campfire. They were the blue and the gray and he thought it almost ironic they lay here in the battlefield sprawled together to form somewhat of a mosaic after being so feverish about seceding they were together again. He walked slowly back to his tent and sat on the cot. It was kind of funny they made him a lieutenant he had no schooling and didn’t come directly from The Point. But somehow some crazy general saw him fighting and said he had the courage to do it. “I’m just crazy is all. I want to get the hell out of here just like the rest of these guys.” Kid thought pulling out a battered leather journal Louise had given him before he left. He pulled out the braid of her hair and smelled it. The smell of lavender was still on it even though he had been gone a year. “I want to go home,” he thought to himself. The war had been cruel to him. His troops were starving because the supply line had been cut. The size of his platoon had been cut. Literally ½ of his troops were dead or missing and the rest had yellow fever. “Lord” he sighed and began to write.
Comes the call
The fevered call
Come home to me
Comes the call
The fevered call
Come home to me
And he heard this call. He left his precious Louise 6 months after they had married. He lost his best friend Jimmy to his stupidity. Now Jimmy was taking care of Lou and his daughter Sarah who had been born only a few months ago. He shook his head. “What the hell are we fighting for anyway.” He said to nobody.
“I wished I knew son.” Colonel White said coming into the tent. “We don’t even know who we are fighting or why.”
“I’m tired of the fighting Jim. I’m tired of seeing these young men die in the prime of their life. What the hell am I doing here” Kid said sadly.
“You get any letters from home.” James White asked the sad young man before him.
“She hasn’t forgotten you. It’s just the mail. It’s been cut as well as the supply lines.”
“Well I’ve come with good news nonetheless.” Kid looked at his friend with interest. “We’re moving to Manassas and I believe from what you said that was your hometown.”
“Yeah it was.”
“Well you gotta pack up your gear because we are movin out in about an hour.” Kid nodded. “You know you can resign your commission. Lotta guys are doing that their families need them. I know if I was in your shoes I sure would with a new baby and all.” With that the colonel left his tent.
Kid sighed heavily and began to pack his gear. “I can’t leave” he thought to himself “ They know who I am now. I would hurt my father. I know he left momma but I can’t make him look bad. I can’t ruin his good name George McClellan, I just can’t do that.”
As they rode kid was lost in thought. He knew that if the southern army found out who his real father was he would be in trouble. They could use him as leverage against the northern army but then again his father wouldn’t know who he was. His momma didn’t even know she was pregnant when he left. Kid chuckled to himself “the northern army defeated by an illegitimate southerner. That would be the day.” Colonel White had said that he wouldn’t blame him if he left. But he could get caught by the northern soldiers on his way home. Just as they arrived in Manassas Kid made his decision.
“Are you sure you want to do this son” Jim said holding the resignation in his hands and staring at it. “I have to sir. My wife needs me. She can’t take care of the ranch and the baby herself.” Jim sighed heavily. “All right then. God speed son.” “ It was an honor sir”
“Kid you’d best get yourself out of here before sunup. The northern troops are lining up just over that ridge there. Avoid them if you can And I would get rid of that uniform before you leave” “Yes sir” Kid saluted. Colonel White rose from his chair and saluted back. “I hope to see you when this is all over sir.” “I’m to ornery to die Kid. Ain’t no way a yankee soldier will take me out without a fight.”
Kid looked back at the glow of fires behind him. “C’mon Katie let’s go.” He said tickling her ribs gently with his boot. She took off like wildfire.
“Lou,” Jimmy said coming up to where she was sitting on the porch of the Express Ranch’s new farmhouse. “Hi Jimmy” she said quietly. “You all right Rachel said some news came in this morning about the war.” “Yeah, I guess I’m all right.” “You know something. I don’t think Kid was one of those casualties that they’re all talkin’ about.”
“The revrend’s son was killed. He was nothing but a preacher.” Lou said sadly “They killed a preacher Jimmy.” “He was probably caught in the crossfire Lou” “Yeah and how many others were just ‘caught in the crossfire’” Lou answered flatly. “War is a terrible thing Lou. It’s a bloody drawn out business that nobody wins. Unfortunately others don’t see it that way. Some think of it as glory and honor. Until they get there and see what it truly is.” “Why couldn’t Kid see it that way.” Lou said tears in her eyes. “I don’t know honey. But the one thing I do know is that he won’t let anything get in his way when it comes to getting home to you.” Jimmy said taking her hand
Somewhere in Missouri -
I’m calling ye
Kid closed the book and sighed heavily. How could he hold his small daughter in hands stained by the blood of others. Kid shuddered at the thought. “C’mon kid. You’ll be in Rock Creek soon. Seeing Lou will change all that you are. It always has.” Kid tried reassuring himself. But somewhere deep inside he knew it wouldn’t.
By sunup Kid was already in St. Joseph, Missouri. He'd been traveling all night so he could get by the northern troops. He'd left his confederate uniform in his tent but had taken the Henry repeater that Jim had given him. He'd never liked using rifles but he needed all the protection he could get. He knew that the woman he loved was only a day's ride away and now nothing could get in the way of his journey back to her.
"Lou honey?" Jimmy called tapping on her door. There was no answer.
"Louise?" He could hear Sarah fussing in her crib; he opened the door a crack and walked over to the bed.
"Lou?" he said putting a hand on her shoulder.
"J-Jimmy." Lou said weakly.
"What is it Lou?" he said sitting down. He took his gloves off and felt her forehead. "You're burnin up. I'm going to get Rachel."
"Jimmy don't leave." Lou whispered.
"I've gotta get the baby out of here Lou. You don't want her to catch it."
"Jimmy, if anything happens"
"Shh Lou, I'm takin Sarah down to Rachel. I'll be back up, I promise."
"Hurry." Lou thought as Jimmy left the room.
"Rachel!" Jimmy called coming into the bunkhouse where she was cleaning up after the ranch hands' breakfasts.
"Jimmy, where's Lou?" Rachel said coming over to take the bawling Sarah out of his arms.
"She's burnin up with fever can you send Buck for the doctor?"
"I'll get him you get to the ice house bring back as much as you can. We need to ice Lou down to bring down the fever."
"Tell Lou I'll be back soon. We can't let her die."
"She won't Jimmy" Rachel said putting her free hand on his shoulder. "Now get out of here. The sooner she gets that ice on her the better."
A few hours later
"It's definitely scarlet fever." Doc Everly said coming out of Lou's room.
"So what do we do?" Teaspoon said as Sarah threw his hat on the floor for the thousandth time.
"Not much we can do except let it run its course." Everly said. "Keep icing her down and give her the quinine that I left in there. 1 drop to a cup of water every 4 hours but give her as much water as she can stand. When she's stronger give her some broth. I'll be back tomorrow to check on you."
"All right doc, thanks." Teaspoon said "I'll walk you out."
"Buck, can you get the cradle out and put it in my room." Rachel asked. Buck nodded.
"How much is this shirt Mister?" Kid asked the shopkeeper in Rock Creek.
"Four dollars." He answered with his back to him.
"How much is it for the pony express?"
"Don't you know, the pony express shut down months ago." The shopkeeper said turning around to look at him.
"Well I'll be." He murmured. "Kid! What in God's name are you doin in these parts."
Mr. Tompkins pulled him into a bear hug.
"I'm coming home."
"Lou's going to be really happy to see you."
"I can't wait to see her. Has she been eyeing anything in the store?"
"Kid, she ain't been in for some time now. She's taken ill with scarlet fever. Jimmy's in here every day getting ice and quinine for the Doc."
Kid put down the hat he was holding and ran out the door.
"Rider comin!" Buck called from the porch of the house where he was playing with Sarah. He stood up and walked down the stairs trying to see who it was. Teaspoon appeared on the porch of the bunkhouse.
"Who the hell is that?" Jimmy said coming out onto the porch.
"I don't know but he's running like devil's chasing him." Buck said.
"Oh my Lord it's Kid." Teaspoon whispered running to meet him. "It's Kid!"
Buck and Jimmy jumped off the porch and took off running towards him.
Ten minutes later Kid was at Lou's bedside holding her hand.
"Lou honey, it's me, it's Kid, open your eyes."
"Kid, am I dyin, is this heaven?" she whispered.
"No Lou, it's me. I'm home."
"Kid" she whispered opening her eyes to see his haggard face. She raised her hand to touch it. "I thought you were."
"I have too much to live for." He whispered with tears in his eyes.
"Kid" Lou whispered.
"Shhh, honey just rest now. I'll be here when you wake up."
The others looked on in silence, all of them shedding tears of joy.
The call rang loud
If the call falls
"Kid" Lou's voice woke him from his reverie. He put his book down.
"Hey" he said smiling at her. "You've been sleeping a long time. How are you feeling?"
"Do you see him Kid?"
"Ike, he's standin right there."
"Lou, Ike's dead. Don't you remember?"
"No, he's standing there with Momma."
"Lou, don't look at them." Kid begged. "Stay here with me."
He began to sob softly.
"Not yet, Ike." Lou whispered. "I'm sorry momma."
She closed her eyes.
"She's seeing shadows." Buck said appearing in the doorway.
"What does it mean?"
"She may be close to death, or close to life. I brought something that might help. It's willow bark tea my people use it to cure fever."
Buck held Lou's head while Kid poured some of the tea into her parched lips.
"Hang on Lou, please I can't lose you." Kid whispered.
"Kid" Rachel said from the doorway.
He turned to see the little brown haired, brown eyed duplicate of Lou in Rachel's arms.
"This is your daughter Sarah, Kid. This is Sarah Marie McCloud."
Kid reached for the beautiful two year old. She stared up at him wide eyed. "You don't know how long I've waited to see you Sarah."
She cuddled into his arms. "Mama"
"You're momma's sick, but she loves you and she'll come back to you." He promised.
A week later…
"She's doing a lot better, her fevers down." Doc Everly said walking out of Lou's room.
"That's good, Kid'll feel much better hearing that." Teaspoon said. "It's one thing to come home from war to a wife and child. It's another thing to come home to a wife hanging at death's door."
"I'm glad he made it back, so many boys are dying every day."
"He's one of the lucky ones that's for sure."
"I wanted to tell you that the baby will be fine too."
"Well she aint' come into contact with her mama since she first got sick. So we weren't too worried about it."
"Not that baby, the one she's carrying."
"What do you mean doc?"
"I mean Lou's pregnant."
"Oh Lord." Teaspoon said letting out a long sigh. "We didn't tell Kid about this."
"About what happened a few months ago."
"We didn't want to send him over the edge."
"He's going to have to know."
"I know." Teaspoon agreed. "Thanks Doc."
"Jimmy." Teaspoon said sitting down next to him on the porch swing. "Where's Kid?"
"He's putting Sarah down for her nap, why?"
"We have a problem."
"What's going on?"
"Remember those soldiers that came through last month and attacked Lou."
"Yeah, what about them?"
"Well she wasn't quite too forthcoming with all of the information."
"It seems pretty straight forward; they beat the hell out of Lou because they thought she was a southern sympathizer."
Teaspoon looked at Jimmy gravely.
"Oh, no no…." Jimmy said shaking his head "Why didn't she tell us."
"Because she knew we would go after them and kill them."
"Of course we would! Dammit Lou's family!"
"Well, the Doc just told me she's pregnant."
Jimmy let out a deep sigh. "We've gotta tell Kid."
"We're going to tell him tonight after he's put Sarah down."
"Rachel and Buck?"
"They already know."
"All right, I'll be there whatever you need."
"I know you will Jimmy."
They sat there in silence for a few moments.
"Did anyone tell Lou?"
"You're lying!" Kid said slamming his fist into the table.
"I wish we were Kid." Teaspoon said.
"Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
"Because we didn't know she was pregnant until today. We didn't want to upset you anymore than you already were." Rachel answered.
"She didn't tell us either." Buck added. "I think she was ashamed of what happened."
"She shouldn't have been, we're her family." Rachel said. "We'd have helped her through it."
"We still will." Teaspoon said. "That's what family's for."
"Does Lou know?" Kid asked his voice filled with sadness.
"I'm not sure if the doc told her." Rachel said. "But this is something that we have to handle delicately because she's only just started getting better."
Kid got up "I've got to get some air."
"Kid." Jimmy said. Rachel held him back.
"He's got to work this out on his own." Rachel said. "It's the only way that he can truly be here for Lou, especially now."
"Lou" Jimmy said quietly walking into the darkened bedroom.
Lou opened her eyes, turned, and smiled at him weakly.
"Lou, we need to talk." He said flatly pulling a chair up next to the bed.
She looked at him with a confused expression on her face.
"Lou, we need to talk about when those Union soldiers came here." Jimmy pressed.
"I already told you, they came looking for information on a Marion Bedford Forrest. I told them I had no idea who he was. They thought I was lying so they tried to beat the truth out of me." She said matter of factly.
"You're lying." Jimmy said sounding frustrated.
"Jimmy" she began.
"Lou you're pregnant!" Jimmy said looking at her angrily and not understanding why she didn't want to tell him the truth.
Lou's face paled and she drew in her breath sharply. Her body started to tremble.
Jimmy quickly took her hand instantly feeling guilty for what he had said. "Lou, I'm so sorry.. I didn't mean…It just came out that way, I didn't want it to it just did. Lou, please I'm so sorry."
Lou's hand reflexively moved to her middle.
"Lou honey, Kid knows about it." He said trying to read her thoughts. "I'm not sure what's going through his head right now but I promise you that no matter what happens I'll stand by you."
Lou slowly closed her eyes. "Kid" she whispered softly. "I thought he was only a fever dream like Noah, like Ike, like Momma." Her voice caught on the mention of her mother's name.
Jimmy could see she was trying to hold back the tears. "Lou, honey." He began.
"Please Jimmy I can't." She whispered hoarsely.
"Lou." Jimmy pleaded.
"Jimmy, please I just need to be alone." She said in a strangled sob.
"You don't have to be strong for me." He begged.
"Jimmy I can't, please."
"All right." He answered quietly feeling like a knife was being turned in his heart. "I'll be downstairs if you need me. Please Lou, if you need anything at all."
Lou nodded quickly turning away.
As he closed the door behind him he could hear her sobbing uncontrollably.
Kid stood beneath the bedroom window hearing Lou's tortured sobs. It tore at his heart. His hands balled into tight fists that he pounded on the side of the house in agony and frustration. Part of him wanted to run to her side but a darker, stronger part of him told him to turn away. He stomped off into the night.
Buck watched Kid's reaction to Lou's hysterical sobbing from his perch on the front porch of the farmhouse knowing that there would be long dark days ahead of them. Inside he too was dying.
Author's Note: Thank you Raye for all your awesome input. I hope this doesn't disappoint!