Lou paced back and forth, hunching her slim shoulders in her jacket to defend herself from the chill of that early October night, and finally leaned against a fence post. Kid hadn't arrived yet, he should have come back that morning but neither Jimmy nor he appeared. What happened?

Rachel reassured her, telling that nothing would make Kid to be late for their wedding and that marrying her was the most important thing he had ever done, but she couldn't shake that silly fear that he might have changed his mind.

After all, he almost didn't propose to her back in Davenport, scared that something could happen to him, or to her. Maybe something happened and he got back into to that state of mind, maybe he realized she wasn't the right woman for him… or maybe he decided that fighting for the South was more important than marrying her.

Her stomach knotted in reaction. She might have been the one who was scared of the marriage at first, the one giving Kid hell before accepting the truth that she needed him more than she needed her independence. But now she was looking forward walking down the aisle and becoming his wife; she couldn't wait to share her life with him 'till death parts them'.

"Hey," someone called her and lightly patted her shoulder.

Lou turned around, her face breaking in a huge silly grin. Kid was back!

But Kid wasn't the one she found in front of her; it was Jimmy, with a purple eye and a strange, alarming sad, expression.

"Jimmy," her voice caught in her throat, "where's the Kid? Don't tell me you fought today too and I'll have him all bruised on our wedding day or…"

"We fought, Lou…" Jimmy said in a low, lost voice, "we fought but this isn't the point. We…we were attacked on our way back to Rock Creek."

Fear gripped Lou's heart, turning her blood in ice, "What do you mean 'we were attacked'? Tell me what happened to Kid," she said grabbing Jimmy's shirt. "Tell me what the hell happened to him!"

The young man closed his eyes; too overcome by guilt to look's in Lou's angry and scared eyes.

******

"If you don't trust me, then it doesn't make sense you stand up for my wedding!" Kid yelled from the bank, pointing down to Jimmy, who was still in the water.

Jimmy could barely breathe, he coughed and spit the water out of his mouth. They have just stopped beating each other and behind the anger, he could see the pain in Kid's eyes. But he braced himself against it and didn't say anything. It wasn't a matter of trust, he repeated to himself and, moreover, it wasn't a decision for him to make, it was Rosemary's. After all it was her husband and friends who were killed.

So he scowled back at him, he didn't intend to budge this time. He saw Kid turn, glaring at Rosemary as he reached for Katy and mounted up. A moment later a storm of bullets came buzzing from every direction.

Jimmy jumped in the water for cover, and watched in horror as a crimson flower opened in Kid's coat and he fell from his beloved mare.

"Kid!" he screamed.

He waded out of the river, the angry words of few moments before forgotten, and he attempted to climb up his way toward his fallen friend. He had no idea where the attackers were, he tried to respond to the fire but he couldn't do much alone.

In that moment the only though in his mind was Kid. He had to make sure he was fine, that stubborn fool couldn't die like that, he had the girl of his dreams waiting for him back home. Jimmy never felt so scared in his whole life. If Kid died Lou would be broken and he could never forgive himself for that.

"James!" the pleading voice of Rosemary made him turn his attention to the woman, who crouched behind the carriage, clutching that damned list.

"James!" she called again, "we have to go away! If you get to the buggy we may be able to escape!"

"I have to take Kid first!" he responded raising to his knees to take the sprint to reach his unconscious friend. Kid didn't move but Jimmy didn't even want to think about the possibility that bullet killed him.

"James! We will be captured if we remain here one moment more. We have to go!" Her voice was almost hysterical now, "there's nothing left to do for Kid! Let's go away!"

Her words stopped him and he turned to look at her astonished. Was she asking him to abandon Kid?!

"Like hell I'm leaving him here!" he retorted, but that moment of distraction was fatal, a shot hit him on the side, sending him falling backward on the ground.

"James!" he heard Rosemary screech, and in a moment she was near him, pulling and half dragging the man toward the buggy.

"You see," she whined, "we have to go away before it's too late!"

Jimmy struggled to free himself from her grasp.

"I'm not going away without Kid!" he said.

"I'm sorry but you don't give me any choice," the woman sobbed then, and viciously dig her fingers in his wound.

Jimmy screamed, a searing, burning pain shot through his abdomen, leaving him breathless and without force and Rosemary took her chance to haul him on the driver seat and spur the horse in a mad race.

******

"So you're telling me you left Kid, wounded, to those men…" Lou hissed, "You ran away with that woman and abandoned him?" she was almost shrieking now.

Jimmy looked back at Lou.

"I've come back here as soon as possible," he said; hating himself because it sounded like a stupid excuse, "and I'm ready to ride back there immediately."

"You'll bet we'll go back there," she responded sharply; but then she noticed how pale he was and the way he clutched his side.

"Your wound," she said in a softer tone, "let's have it dressed first."

******

Fortunately the bullet went through the flesh without damaging bones or organs so it left Jimmy sore and pained but nothing worse. The young man didn't intend to remain there because of his injury and he was ready to go back and look for Kid, after all he was the only one who knew where the Southerner was.

Cody, Buck, and Noah were ready to leave, all silent and tense; while Lou sat on Kid's bunk. Her eyes were blank, she was on the edge of the breakdown but she was using every inch of her self-control to not fall apart. She waited for Jimmy, clutching Kid's bedcover but refusing the comfort Teaspoon and Rachel offered. She needed to stay focused and she knew the tiniest gesture of affection would make her break.

Rosemary stood in a corner of the room, ignored, and she had the good sense to stay silent. She could feel their worry and resentment and she knew the last one was directed to her. She tried to protest when Jimmy said he would immediately go back, she was sure Kid was already dead by now and their search was useless and dangerous, but she was frozen by the cold stares of Jimmy and his friends. From then on she kept her mouth shut.

"Let's go," Jimmy finally said, holstering his guns.

Lou jumped on her feet and all the riders filed silently outside the bunkhouse.

They ran as fast as the darkness of the night allowed them, bringing with them the bandages and the first medicines they would need to tend the Kid. They didn't have any idea of how his wounds were, but they decided against bringing the doctor with them. He would have slowed them too much and they needed to find their friend soon.

After what seemed an eternity to Lou, they reached the spot where Kid, Jimmy and Rosemary were attacked. The starlight helped them to reach the right point along the river but, once they dismounted, they lighted the lamps they brought with them. Maybe Kid moved or was dragged somewhere to hide the fact there had been an attack and the riders didn't want to take any chance of missing him. Katy and Sundancer had wandered away, scared by the shots, but that wasn't their main worry. They were trained horses and surely they hadn't gone too far.

They started to fear when they realized Kid wasn't there.

"Jimmy. Are you sure this is the right place?" Cody asked.

"Of course I'm sure," the other responded irritated, the wound hurt him and he was starting to panic and fear the worst, when suddenly Buck cried.

"I found something! Here!" he raised the lamp and the riders ran toward him, Lou in the lead of all.

She was bitterly disappointed when she didn't find Kid. Only his hat was there and a dark pool on the dirt of the road that made her nauseous. She grabbed his hat and clutched it to her chest, crouching on the ground to get a better look.

"There are some traces," the Kiowa said, "They must have dragged him…" he added.

He followed them but Buck's heart stopped when he saw they ended to the cliff of the bank, "They had throw him in the river…" he said in a whisper.

"No!" Lou cried, leaping onto her feet and running to Buck's side. She leaned out over the cliff trying to see something in the dark water below her. "No…"

"We have to go down, we have to look for him along the banks, and the stream might have carried him away."

She looked frantically at her friends but they all had a pained expression on their face.

"Don't look at me like this! We'll find him! We'll separate and we'll find him!"

"Ok, Lou," Buck agreed but he feared that they would only find Kid's corpse, a lot of hours had passed and it would be very unlikely that Kid survived the fall in the river. But they couldn't stop their search, for Lou's sake they needed to continue to look for their friend and pray for a miracle.

******

Lou walked along the edge of the cliff, searching into the water under her with the help of the lamp. The river grew faster and deeper downstream the place of the attack and he could have ended everywhere.

She strained to look as better as she could in the night, she had arrived at a curve of the river surrounded by a high cliff, one of those places where the river went slower and deposited things along the edge. So she stopped and leaned forward, hoping to catch a glimpse of Kid's blue coat.

It was there, infact, and her heart leaped for joy. Kid was down there!

"Kid! Kid!" she called him, but he didn't respond.

He laid immoble, half in, half out the water. Was he drowned? Or had the shot already killed him? Lou couldn't help those thoughts to swirl in her head. She was alone, Buck, Cody and Noah all went to look for Kid in different directions, while Jimmy had remained near the horses.

"Buck! Cody! Noah!" she called her friends, shouting with all her force. They shouldn't be too far; at least it was what Lou hoped.

The minutes passed and Lou didn't know what to do, she needed the help of the others to get Kid, but at the same time she couldn't stand to be so near to him without knowing if he was alive or not. She kept glancing into the darkness around her, hoping to see one of her friends, and then back down to Kid.

"Please God, please let him be alive, I pray you, please!" she started to pray without even realizing it.

The boys found her, holding the lamp with her eyes huge and scared.

"I found him! He's down there! I have to go to him!" she said.

The two young men looked at each other, it was crazy to climb down that cliff at night, but they knew they wouldn't make Lou change her mind.

"Be careful, Lou," Noah said then, "I'll try to light your way the best I can but it won't be an easy trip."

"Ok," the girl said, "Cody, please go back to get the travois, we'll need it to haul Kid up there without hurting him too much."

She continued to consider Kid alive and everyone prayed she was right, because if Kid was dead, then also Lou and Jimmy's lives would be destroyed.

The girl started to descend without seeing almost anything, Noah secured a rope around her waist but she had to use her hands and foot to find her way down the wall. Her heart pounded in her ears and her skin was cold and clammy for the tension. She had almost the reached the bottom of the cliff when she lost her grip and slipped, landing heavily on her hands and knees.

"Lou!" Noah called her from above.

"I'm fine!" she yelled back to reassure her friend and then she ran to Kid.

He was freezing cold and soaked to the bones, she dragged him out of the water using all her force, his dead weight was almost too much for her. Feeling him so immobile and irresponsive filled her with dread and she immediately checked his pulse. She held her breath, laying her fingers on his neck and finally she felt it, it was beating slow and faint, but it was there.

"He's alive!" she yelled, half chocking the tears that have started to run down her cheeks, "I feel his pulse, Kid's alive!"

******

Jimmy saw Cody running toward him. Buck had arrived few minutes before with Katy and Sundancer while he had stayed there, useless, holding his throbbing side, and praying for Kid's safety.

Why the hell didn't he trust his friend? It wasn't Kid fight, and he shouldn't have been dragged into it; he agreed to bring along Rosemary without being aware of the danger she represented and he didn't warn him, but instead he listened to Rosemary's doubts and illations.

How could a woman fighting for the freedom and the equality of everyone have such prejudges toward a man only because he was from the South? She was ready to trample over Kid to reach her high ideals. She wasn't the woman he thought her to be, not at all.

"Lou found Kid!" Cody exclaimed breathlessly once he reached Buck and Jimmy, and his words distracted the gunslinger from his self-loathing, giving him a hope.

"How's he?" he asked.

"I don't know, he was down the cliff and Lou had to climb down to reach him. I ran back here to take the travois and the bandages."

"Let's go then," Jimmy said.

He was sore and stiff but he had no intention to stay back, he need to see how Kid was with his own eyes.

The three riders rapidly returned to Noah and Lou. The girl was frantic so Buck had to climb down to help her to dress Kid's wound the best they could and fix him on the travois which the others had lowered. The ascent was complicated and tiresome.

Everyone was exhausted when they finally managed to haul the unconscious rider up. Kid was pale as death and he didn't even stir once during the transportation, but Lou kept feeling that faint pulse in his neck and that was all she needed right in that moment.

******

The dawn found the riders tuckered out, lying on their bunks half dressed, yet unable to rest properly until they knew Kid's conditions. Lou was at Rachel's house, sitting on a bench outside the woman's guest room where the doctor was examining Kid, waiting for him or Rachel to exit. She finally broke into desperate sobs when Teaspoon went to embrace her. She wept with her head hidden in his shoulder until she had no more tears and now she sat, leaning onto the older man, with Kid's hat in her arms.

Jimmy was outside, he couldn't bring himself to rest with the others in the bunkhouse and he felt he had no right to stay with Lou and Teaspoon either. All of this was his fault, if he hadn't agreed to bring Rosemary with them, if he didn't keep information from Kid that they were a target, he would have been fine now.

If he'd told his friend about the danger, maybe he'd have chosen to leave without them and no outlaw would have shot him. Or maybe that stubborn old fashioned fool would have stayed all the same, because that thick head of his was convinced he couldn't leave a friend and a woman in need, but at least Kid would have known what to expect and, moreover, he wouldn't have his trust betrayed.

God, why did he make always the wrong choices?

Someone cast a shadow over him and he raised his head, unhappy to find in front of him Rosemary wearing a contrite expression.

"How is Kid?" she asked.

"What do you care?" Jimmy responded unkindly. She hadn't thought twice before running away and abandoning Kid so she had no right to ask about his condition now.

"This is cruel of you, James," the woman responded, "I didn't want him to be shot."

"You didn't do anything to prevent it either. You knew they were looking for that list and you bring it with you without telling us anything and then, you decided to tell me but kept Kid in the dark!"

"You don't understand, Jimmy. How could I know Kid wouldn't betray me?" she exclaimed defending herself, "and by the way, him knowing the truth wouldn't have changed much. Those men would have attacked us all the same."

"That's not the point! He would have been aware of the danger; he would have had the choice to leave without us! You kept saying you want all the men treated equally but you judged Kid only because of the place where he was born. I lived with him, worked with him, fought alongside him for almost two years; I know he wouldn't betray you!"

"Then you should have done a better job convincing me." She replied coldly.

"I know," he responded after a moment of silence, "I should have chosen better where to put my trust."

"What do you mean with that?" Rosemary asked alarmed.

"I mean that I can't help you anymore, Rosemary."

"What do you mean!? The Pierson gang is after me! They won't hesitate to kill me and get the list!"

"You can go to the Army. They'd be happy to chase a band of Southern outlaws."

"James, you can't leave me like this. I need your help!"

Jimmy hardened his heart at her words. In another time he would have helped her, maybe followed her in her Abolitionist Cause; because that woman had stirred his feelings more than he wanted to admit, even before she was a widow.

But what happened made him realize just how cold and determined Rosemary was. She followed a higher ideal but she was so driven by it she forgot about the people around her. In a way she reminded Jimmy his father, a hero for the Abolitionists but not caring enough as father or husband.

"I'll help you to contact the Army, if you want, and to make arrangements. But that's all I can do for you," he responded at last.

"No thanks," The woman responded straightening her back, "I'll manage by myself," she added proudly and then she turned to walk away from him.

******

Three days had passed since they brought Kid home, the doctor said he was lucky because the bullet only grazed his lung but he had lost a lot of blood and he had a lot of minor wounds and bruises due to his fall in the river. If they would have found him a few hours later it probably would have been too late for the Kid.

Lou never left her fiancé's side. She bathed him, she fed him with spoonfuls of broth - the only thing he could swallow- and she took care of his wounds the best she could. He looked paler and thinner with each passing day but the girl refused to lose hope; Doc Barnes said Kid was young and strong and that he could survive if he was well cared of.

The atmosphere at the Station was quite sombre, the remaining riders worked hard to cover Kid's runs and the other chores he and Lou were supposed to do. They even captured the Pierson gang when it arrived to Rock Creek looking for Rosemary but it didn't bring much joy because Kid was still fighting for his life.

Jimmy couldn't stop to torment himself for what happened, Rosemary had left the town, headed to Seneca but he hadn't said say goodbye to her. It hurt him, he couldn't deny that, but it hurt him more to have his friend lying between life and death and Lou slowly succumbing to the desperation. He didn't have the guts to approach her, nor to go and see Kid. It was his fault he was like this and he felt he had no right to be near them.

He gulped down the last shot of whiskey and rose from the stool. His wound had begun to hurt again but he didn't want to see the doctor, so he used the alcohol to numb the pain. Staggering he exited from the saloon and went to the Station, he had a run the next morning after and he needed to rest if he wanted to be in a shape good enough to ride.

Under the porch of Rachel's house he met Lou. The girl stiffened when she saw him and turned to walk inside. Her cold stare was like a stab in his heart.

"Lou, wait!" he called, unable to stop himself.

To his surprise she stopped and turned to look at him again.

"Lou, please forgive me…" he slurred while approaching her, but her lips were set in a strict line.

"Kid and I should have been married by now, we should have started our life together and instead he's in that bed, fighting for his life and you're the one who put him here. How could I forgive you?"

"I know that, Lou" Jimmy stumbled near her, and she was shocked and enraged when she realized he was drunk, "I know that. Every minute and every second I think that I was the reason Kid was shot. And I'm sorry Lou, you can't imagine how sorry I'm. If I could trade places with him I'd do it in an instant.

In his altered state he didn't realize he had raised his voice, that he'd grabbed Lou's shoulders too strongly, and that he had pushed her against the wall with his body.

Lou's strangled cry cut through the alcohol and, seeing the panic in her eyes, Jimmy immediately realized what he was doing. He knew what happened to Lou when she was only a young girl, she herself told that to them after Wicks' death and his action must have made that horrible memory resurface. He stepped back immediately.

"Oh God Lou, I didn't want to…"

But the girl remained plastered to the wall with a look of terror still in her eyes.

"Please Jimmy, go away now," she said in a whisper.

Her voice was trembling and this broke Jimmy's heart. He could just nod and leave.

******

Louise was shaking while she entered in the house. She knew Jimmy would never do anything to hurt her but his sudden reaction scared her, for a moment she was a helpless child in the hands of Wicks. Holding the rail of the staircase she went to Kid's room.

He was as still and pale as ever, the only sign of life was the slow rise and fall of his chest. She closed the door and slowly slid on the floor.

"Please Kid, wake up," she began to sob, overwhelmed by all those strong emotions, "please…"

Still sitting on the floor she leaned onto the bed and grabbed one of his hands.

******
The morning after Lou woke up sore, she had slept sitting on the ground for the entire night. As first thing she looked up at Kid, his hands still in hers. He hadn't changed during the night. He was pale and immobile and with each passing day she was losing the hope to see him open his eyes again.

She didn't want to despair, but it was becoming harder and harder to hold onto the belief that Kid would ever wake up. She choked back a sob and she straightened, starting the morning routine of checking his dressing and cleaning him.

She had turned to pick up the washbowl and rag when a sudden creaking sound, she stopped her in her tracks. She almost didn't believe her own ears, and the sound repeated.

"Don't…"

She whirled toward the bed, her eyes huge.

"Don't cry…" Kid said, his eyes were still closed and his voice nothing more than a whisper but he did talk and this was enough for Lou's heart to swell with joy.

"Kid!" she exclaimed and knelt near his head.

He slowly opened his eyes and stared into hers and, despite his plea, she started to cry.

"Don't talk, Kid, here drink this," she said, holding his head gently and making him sip a bit of water.

He swallowed the fresh liquid, a great relief for his cracked lips and dry throat and then he looked up at Lou.

"I heard you cry…" he managed to say, "you were crying and holding my hand but I couldn't do anything…I'm sorry…"

He heard her! That meant that he wasn't unresponsive as they thought him to be!

"Don't worry about that Kid…the important thing is that you're with me now.

He smiled weakly at her, the effort of talking had exhausted him and he felt he was slipping to sleep again. His eyelids felt heavy like lead but he forced his eyes open for a moment more, there was one thing he needed to know.

"Jimmy…" he said, "how's he?"

His question startled Lou and brought a tangle of unpleasant feelings in her chest, she didn't want to think about him right now.

"He's fine, Kid, he's fine."

"Good," was the last thing he said before he fell asleep.

******
"Doc, so how's Kid?" Lou asked anxiously when the man entered in Rachel's parlour.

Once Kid had fell asleep again she had gone downstairs to announce the good news to Rachel and the Stationmistress immediately sent one of the boys to call the doctor. After that everyone reunited in the woman's house to wait for his response.The older man smiled kindly to the petite girl in front of him, still wondering how someone so pretty and delicate could have passed as a boy and worked for the Pony Express.

"I'm glad to announce that Kid's condition is much better this morning," he responded, "the worse is passed and with rest and proper cures your fiancé will recover just fine."

That brought an immense sense of relief on everyone at the Station, the boys cheered loudly and Cody let even out a joyous cry. For the umpteenth time in that week Lou felt the eyes fill with tears but for once they were of joy. Teaspoon squeezed his girl's shoulders and Lou sniffed and looked up at him happy and relieved.

"No more tears, Lou." He said, even if his own eyes were lucid.

"This is something we have to celebrate!" Rachel announced "this evening I will cook one of my special dinner. Doctor Barnes, we'll be happy to have you as our guest!"

Benjamin Barnes nodded and gladly accepted the woman's invitation. Maybe it was a bit early, Kid wasn't even out of the bed yet, but those boys and girl felt like a heavy weight was lifted off their shoulders and the doctor understood perfectly their need to cheer up and be happy.

Jimmy was the only one who missed that good news, he had spent the night in the stables, too ashamed of his condition and, moreover, of what he did to Lou, to go in the bunkhouse; and the morning after he left for his run at the break of the dawn.

The wound at his side had begun to throb again but he ignored it. He had spurred his horse faster, wanting to put as miles as possible between him and what he did.

******
"Lou, I'm fine." Kid protested.

"No you aren't. You'll be fine when the doctor says so and he said you still need to rest so don't protest and lie down."

"But Lou, I've been lying flat on my back in this damned bed for three days. My bottom is beginning to be sore of this position," he tried to joke, but Lou wasn't convinced.

After he woke up his complexion wasn't pale and dull anymore, and he was stronger, but he still was sore because of his chest wound and he got tired easily so Lou didn't want to take any chance. She had been hovering over him like a mother hen, so much that, the day before, Kid had even asked his friends for help, asking that they free him from Lou taking her to a ride or something like that. Lou obviously got mad at this and Kid and her ended up having one of their usual fight.

Everyone at the Station was happy to hear them argue again, it was a sign the things were slowly returning to normal. Even if, for once, the roles were reversed and Lou was the one trying to smoulder Kid.

"C'mon Lou, let me prop against the pillows at least…so I'd be able to hug you properly. I'm missing your hugs, you know that…" he said looking at her with his clear blue eyes that made her knees tremble, she too had missed his hugs, and not only them.

"Okay," she conceded, and helped him in a sitting position against the headboard. "You sure you're comfortable?" she asked

"Yes I'm. But I'd be better with you lying near me. C'mon Lou." He held out his right arm to show her where he wanted her to be.

She was a bit unsure, she didn't want to hurt him, but his exaggerated puppy eyes were so cute and comical at the same time that she couldn't do anything else than lower herself to the bed and snuggle against his unwounded side.

She closed her eyes and smelled the soothing scent of the lavender water she used to clean him. Kid wasn't too happy to smell like a flower but the doctor advised her to use the lavender because it helped the wounds to heal and prevented the infection, so Lou was adamant about it.

The girl let out a contented sigh and draped her arm across his torso, careful not to touch sore parts. They remained like this for several minutes, enjoying the other's nearness, until finally Kid broke the silence.

"Where's Jimmy, Lou?" he asked.

"He's on a run," she said dismissively.

The coldness in her tone worried Kid, something must had happened between Lou and Jimmy while he was unconscious.

"Lou, what's happened?"

"Nothing Kid,"

"It doesn't seem like nothing to me." She only shrugged, talking was making her uncomfortable, but Kid continued.

"Before the attack, Jimmy and I had a very bad fight, we hit each other and I said things I don't really believe to hurt him, I don't know what he said to you but if our fight is the reason you're angry at him, don't be. We were both wrong,"

His words enraged her, Jimmy abandoned Kid and he was making excuse for the dark haired rider.

"Don't say that Kid!" she exclaimed, "Jimmy is the only one responsible of what happened, not you!"

The blue eyed rider was startled by her accusation, usually Jimmy and Lou were the ones who had the same opinion.

"He told me everything," she continued, "he told me that he knew Rosemary was carrying a list that the Pierson gang was looking for and that he didn't tell you anything!"

"Lou, that wouldn't have changed anything, we probably would have been attacked all the same…" he tried to reason with her.

He had been deeply hurt by Jimmy's lack of trust, but those days of forced immobility gave him the time to reflect. Kid was disappointed that he put Rosemary over their friendship, but he can somewhat understand his reasons. He could not like it, but Rosemary was important to Jimmy and he did what he thought it was the best thing to protect and help her.

"It's not only that Kid!" the girl responded, "When you were attacked, after you got shot, he abandoned you and left with that woman! How could he do something like that?"

"It's impossible Lou," he said but, even if he wanted to find a justification for their friend's actions, it was clear that her revelation had hit him "the Jimmy we know wouldn't do something like that, he must have had a good reason…" He couldn't think that Jimmy did what Lou said; they fought and often had opposite opinions, but Jimmy still was his closest friend.

Seeing his obvious distress Lou continued to speak, "He was shot too, and Rosemary carried him away…" she responded reluctantly, "but that's not the point, he was responsible for putting you in that situation and he should have saved you."

He took an inner breath of relief at his words.

"So Jimmy was forced to leave me there." He smiled.

"Don't find excuses for him, Kid" Lou sulked, "because of him and Rosemary you nearly die!"

"But I didn't; I'm alive and I'm still looking forward to marry you. Don't waste your time holding a grudge against Jimmy. You're too close for that and you're going to regret it one day."

"I never thought I would see the day were you'll try to get Jimmy and me on friendly terms again, considering how jealous of us you were in the past" she muttered.

Kid smirked.

"Let's say that I learned from my past mistakes and that today I'm feeling generous. After all I'm alive and I've the girl of my dreams in my arms, what else could I ask from the life?" he joked, bending to kiss Lou's frown.

"I'll think about it ok?" she responded, "I just can't forget that I was going to lose you because of him."

******

"Riders coming!"

Lou stopped what she was doing to look at the horizon, that must be Jimmy returning from his run. Her first thought was to return inside the house to avoid him. She still was very unsure of her feelings for him.

Kid seemed to not have problems forgiving Jimmy, but for her it wasn't so simple. The pain and the fear she felt during that dreadful night they spent looking for him were too fresh. But still, Jimmy was her closest friend, he helped her through her worst period with Kid and he cared about her, very much. She wasn't so naïve to not have guessed that, at least for a time, Jimmy's feelings for her ran deeper than simple friendship.

She sighed, Kid was right, she would probably regret one day to not have cleared the thing with him; especially because with the ending of the Pony Express and the beginning of the war, their future was pretty uncertain. So she waited on the porch, for Jimmy's arrival.

Sundancer stopped right in front of the bunkhouse, but there was something strange . Jimmy stood leaned against the gelding's mane and the reins hung loosely from his hands.

Buck and Noah approached him and Lou crossed the yard to reach the rider. When she arrived near him she was shocked to see the paleness of his skin and his laboured breath.

"Jimmy!" Buck called and, since he seemed unable to dismount from the horse, he and Noah helped him down.

"He's burning!" the black rider exclaimed when he touched him.

A sudden shot of guilt crossed Lou's heart. Jimmy was wounded and he took that ride all the same, they all were so worried because of Kid that no one remembered about his injury.

"H-his wound…" she stammered, "it must have gotten infected; do you know if he looked after it?"

Both Noah and Buck shook their head, helplessly.

"Get him inside, I'll go call the doctor!"

She ran toward the doctor's office with her heart in her throat; she had been so angry at him that she didn't think not even for a second that Jimmy had also been shot.

He hadn't complained and he'd brought them back to Kid, even if he had been in pain, and she didn't stop to put the blame on him.

******

Jimmy felt like a wagon had passed over him. He was exhausted and sore and he smelled ...of lavender? He took another deep breath, yes he decidedly smelled of lavender.

He opened his eyes, he was in his bunk, he must have been sick, because he remembered how awful he was feeling during the ride back home; someone had cleaned and dressed his wound and put a fresh rag on his forehead.

He slowly turned to look around him, slowly because his brain seemed to swim inside of his skull, and he meet two brown eyes staring back at him.

"Lou!" he said shocked.

She was the last person he expected to look after him after what happened; but probably she was there only because she had to.

"Hi Jimmy," she said and he was astonished to see a smile on her lips.

"Lou…but what…what are you doing here…and Kid?"

"Kid is fine, he woke up the day you left and he's already complaining because he feels coped(cooped?) up in that room. You, instead, were so foolish to go around without letting the doctor or at least Rachel see that wound of yours. What had gotten in your mind?"

He lowered his eyes, "They were already occupied with Kid, it wasn't fair to distract them from him, considering it was my fault."

"Don't do something so foolish ever again, Jimmy." She reprimanded him, but her voice was soft and she took his hand. "We all were worried. I was worried."

At her words Jimmy returned to look at her, surprised.

"I'm sorry for how I treated you, Jimmy," Lou continued, "I was so scared for Kid that I pushed my fear onto you."

"No, you were right. I should have never let Rosemary convince me. I'm sorry Lou, I'm so sorry, for everything."

The girl squeezed his hand, "Let's forget everything, ok? We both did and said things we didn't mean to and we don't want this to ruin our friendship, do we?"

Maybe it was the tiredness, the weakness or the emotional pressure he had to endure in those last days, but he felt a huge need to cry and he didn't want to do it in front of Lou. So he nodded and squeezed her hand back.

By the look of Lou, she too was going to burst out in tears but she restrained herself. Several minutes passed until Jimmy broke the silence again.

"By the way, Lou, why do I smell as a girl?"

That brought a smile to Lou's lips and she laughed heartily, all the tension vanished.

"You smell like the Kid, Jimmy," she grinned, "nothing to be ashamed of!"

She bent to give a quick peck on his forehead before she stood up.

"Speaking of Kid, I have to go to check on him. If I don't keep an eye on him he'd already be around the Station." She shook her head in mock despair.

"You hurry up to heal!" she said before leaving the bunkhouse, "You promised to walk me down to the altar, remember?"

"To the altar?"

"Yes Jimmy, to the altar," she responded, her voice kind and soft again, "see you later." She smiled once again and exited. Jimmy closed his eyes and this time he let the tears run free.

Author's note: Thank you Miss Raye for your great help with this story!

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