Requiem For a Hero
Music: The Angel and The Gambler, Iron Maiden
"Have a good ride, Kid!" Lou shouted as she tossed the mochila to him and began slowing Lightning to a stop.
"See ya in a few days," Kid smiled, catching the mochila handily and spurring Katy into a flat out gallop.
"Yeah," Lou sighed to herself as she dismounted near the barn. "Unless somethin' comes up first."
As she started the process of cooling Lightning down, Lou pondered her growing relationship with the Kid. They'd been getting real close lately. Real close. The closer they got, the closer she found herself wanting to get. Something that not only surprised her but that she found surprisingly pleasing. But, now that she was getting past her own fears and nerves it seemed like Kid had some of his own rearing their ugly heads.
After she'd finished cooling down her horse, curried him, then given him an extra ration of oats, Lou decided to head to the hayloft for some alone time. She knew there was no way she could hide the way she was feeling right now from the boys. That meant, if she headed back to the bunkhouse, she'd be in for an afternoon of teasing. Ornery as she was feeling, one of them would just end up with a black eye, bloody nose or worse. And she couldn't afford to get in trouble with Teaspoon again. Lately, she'd been about as bad as Jimmy used to be. Except Teaspoon was a whole lot harder on her, especially since finding out she wasn't, exactly, one of the boys.
Lou flopped down in the hay, closing her eyes as she stuck a piece of straw in her mouth to chew on. Soon her thoughts drifted back to the last dance they'd all gone to, with Amanda.
He'd stood in front of her, hands in his pockets, looking at the ground as he asked, "May I have the pleasure of this dance?"
With a suspicious glance around to make sure they were alone, Lou'd answered, "You may."
They'd both started to laugh a little as they struggled to figure out what hand went where, but soon she found her fingers wrapped in his, his arm around her waist as they slowly moved to the music filtering out the open windows and doors of the hotel.
When the music stopped and the clapping started, Kid didn't let her go. Instead, he'd moved tentatively forward, almost backing off a couple times before finally committing himself and pressing on to claim her lips in a sweet, slow kiss.
Lou, already nervous about their behavior out in the open where others might catch them, finally started to pull away.
"Uh… hm," she'd said. "I think I'd better go."
But Kid's arms had tightened around her, holding her close as he leaned in for a second deep kiss.
Lou sighed, remembering the glint in Kid's eyes every time he'd seen her in a dress. She giggled as she thought about how the boys had teased her mercilessly when she'd gotten a similar glint while watching Kid do summer chores stripped down to nothing but his trousers and boots.
Letting the exhaustion from her long ride that morning claim her, Lou rolled over and snuggled down into the hay. Images of a shirtless Kid twirling Lou into his arms, her skirts swirling around his legs as they danced a dance full of tight embraces and hungry lips chased themselves through her brain as she fell fast asleep.
"Ain't ya the least bit worried she didn't show for supper?" Cody asked.
"Nope," Jimmy said. "Kid woulda said somethin' if she hadn't shown up on time with the mail."
"Ike's right," Buck added after a moment. "Lightning's in his stall, so she's back."
"She probably just went down to the pond," Noah spoke up. "Thank goodness!"
"Whatcha mean? Don'tcha like Lou?" Jimmy asked the newcomer suspiciously.
"I like her just fine," Noah flashed his bright grin. "It's just nice not to have to listen to her moonin' over Kid while he's gone."
The laughter that greeted this comment reached Lou in the hayloft, jerking her out of her slumber. She blinked her eyes open, slowly registering the twilight visible through the hayloft window. Startled, she sat up abruptly.
"Dang!" she muttered. She hadn't meant to fall asleep at all. Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, she started to move toward the ladder. "Probably missed supper, too! Hope Rachel saved me a plate or Cody'll have eaten ever'thin'."
As she was about to step over the edge of the loft onto the ladder, something Cody was saying stalled her movement.
"How long do you think it'll be before she finally catches him?"
"I lay bets she's got him firmly in her grasp by Christmas," Jimmy smiled.
"I'll put $2 on that," Noah chimed in.
"No, Ike, you can't bet Kid'll do the catchin'," Cody said. "We're bettin' on when Lou'll do the catchin'."
Lou peered over the edge of the hayloft and watched as Ike took out the little book the boys used to keep track of their bets. As Ike wrote them down, the boys laid out their money and their bets.
"I'll put two bits on Thanksgiving."
"Fifty cents says it'll take her until after New Year's."
Lou began to scowl. She hated it when the rest of the boys used her and Kid for their entertainment.
"I say Valentine's Day!" Buck put in, laying down a bill. "The way Kid's started runnin' it's gonna take her awhile."
"And who's to say once he stops, she won't start again?" Cody asked.
They all found that rejoinder hilarious. Lou'd finally had enough.
"I am," she shouted down at them. All five boys froze. Slowly, one by one, they began to look cautiously up at her.
"Now, Lou, we was just…"
Lou cut Jimmy off as she clambered down the ladder to join the other riders.
"Don't 'Now Lou' me," she said with a dangerous calm. Seeing the anger in her eyes all the boys backed slowly away. "Y'all were doin' exactly what we've both asked ya not ta do how many times? Why cain't ya just leave us ta figure things out our ownselves?"
"Cause ya don't exactly leave us out of it," Noah said. "Whatever's goin' on 'tween you two always affects all of us!"
"Let's see what I can do 'bout that," Lou muttered, starting to dig in her pocket. Pulling out a handful of coins she carefully counted them as she dropped them onto the pile of money on the hay bale in front of Ike. "I've got… 25, 50 cents, one, two dollars, two-fifty, three dollars says I've 'caught' Kid in the next two weeks."
"Lou," Jimmy put a hand on her shoulder, "don't' be rushin' things on account of us."
She angrily shrugged his hand away. Pointing down at the betting book, Lou glared at Ike. "Write it down!"
Ike looked helplessly at the other boys. Buck shrugged. "Better go ahead, Ike. She's still got her gun!"
The others noticeably paled as they realized Buck was right. Cody slowly started inching away. Ike started frantically scribbling in the bet book.
Lou looked on, arms crossed over her chest. Satisfied he'd gotten it right, she nodded and turned to exit the barn in search of food. After a frozen moment, Jimmy hurried to catch up with her.
"Lou," he said, "this ain't a good idea."
"I'm done listenin' ta all y'all," she said, cutting him short. Raising her voice to make sure all the boys could hear her, she added, "I always get the mail through, I always do what I say I'm gonna do and I always get my man!"
With that she stalked out the barn doors, letting them slam shut behind her in the stunned faces of the other riders.
Roll of the dice
You'd better go back again
Adrift on the ocean
Afloat in a daydream
Best make decisions
Nothing to lose
Is ready and waiting
I'll suffer my craving
Don't you think I'm a savior
There's like a hunger
You have been warned
The Angel on one side
Arrive at the crossroads