Topic #32: "He who hesitates is a damned fool" - Mae West
A Friend In Need IV by: Sameena
Time For Love by: Cindy
He Who Hesitates by: Michelle R.
Making A Move by: Debbie
Resolve by: Lori
Hesitation by: Karen
A Friend In Need IV
by: Sameena

Jimmy stared at his boots. That was not the reaction he had been expecting. He jumped backward as Priscilla made another gagging sound.

“Oh Lord,” she said again, covering her mouth. She ran toward the back of the hall and threw up once again.

Jimmy watched for a moment then went to her side, pulling her long brown hair back from her face as she retched again.

“I’m so sorry,” Priscilla said, finally recovering her equilibrium as she sat heavily on the ground.

“It’s okay,” Jimmy told her, taking a hanky from his pocket and handing it to her. Once she had wiped her face, he took it back and cleaned off the tip of his boots, tossing the hanky into the alley once he was done.

“I don’t think I want that back,” he grinned.

Priscilla drew her legs up and wrapped her arms around them, resting her chin on her knees.

“You coming back in?” Jimmy asked cautiously.

“No,” Priscilla answered. “I think I’d rather stay out here.” She looked glumly at the ground. “I have made a big enough fool of myself for one evening. You don’t have to stay out here with me,” she added softly.

Jimmy watched her defeated posture for a moment, then walked back to hall. He snagged a cup and went back out, filling the cup with water from the trough before he approached Priscilla’s side. He waved the cup in front of her. “Here.”

Priscilla’s head snapped up as she accepted the water. “I thought you were gone.”

“I told you I wanted to be here with you,” Jimmy replied.

“Even now? After that display?” she asked, incredulous.

“Even now,” Jimmy answered. “To quote Teaspoon, he who hesitates is a damned fool,” he grinned.

“What?” Priscilla exclaimed.

“I don’t want to keep putting off getting to know you,” Jimmy explained. “I’ve seen you at your worst, so how ‘bout you get yourself cleaned up and we go inside and you can show me a different side of you.”

Priscilla smiled and Jimmy was struck by how pretty she was once more. But everyone knew she was pretty. Jimmy was just sure there was something more to it. Every time he saw her, he felt it. She was living a life she didn’t choose for herself.

“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I didn’t feel like I was coming down with something,” Priscilla said.

“I think you had too much to drink.”

“I don’t drink,” Priscilla announced primly.

“You did tonight,” Jimmy told her.

Priscilla scowled fiercely.

“Maybe someone spiked the punch,” Jimmy offered. He was glad to see his words had some effect as Priscilla stopped scowling at him.

“Maybe,” Priscilla agreed reluctantly.

“So you wanna go back in and see who did it?” Jimmy asked, his eyes dancing.

Priscilla laughed, as he had hoped. “Are you always like this?” she asked, a quizzical smile on her face.

“Like what?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Priscilla answered. “So able to take life as it comes.”

It was Jimmy’s turn to laugh then. “No, almost never.” He sat on his haunches beside her. “But we could go back inside and try to get to know each other a little more.”

Priscilla watched him closely for a long time and Jimmy could not help but reach out and brush a smudge of dirt from her cheek.

“Okay,” Priscilla said finally. “Just give me some privacy to clean up.”

Jimmy smiled as he straightened up and walked toward the door. Maybe the night had just begun. He had just placed his hand on the doorjamb when he heard his name being called out.

“Hickok,” a tall black-haired man was saying. “Heard tell that you are the man who killed Gabe Caulder.”

“Gabe Caulder ain’t dead and if he is, I’m not responsible,” Jimmy replied as the knot that had developed in his stomach at the sound of his name grew larger.

“That’s not what they are saying inside,” the man said slowly.

“That ain’t my doing,” Jimmy said with a scowl.

“I think it is,” the man told him. He took a step into the street. “Let’s go.”

Jimmy shook his head. “I didn’t kill Caulder. He was alive last time I saw him.”

“I ain’t arguing the matter,” the man said coolly as he moved into the road. He stood, one hand resting on the butt of his gun, his eyes trained on Jimmy’s right hand.

“What’s going on?” Kid shouted, Lou hot on his heels as they rushed out of the hall. A few moments later, Priscilla joined them. She looked at Jimmy and even from a distance, he could see the confusion on her face.

“What’s going on?” she whispered, echoing Kid’s earlier question. But like Kid, no one answered her.

“Jimmy,” Kid said loudly, “get inside.”

“He can’t,” the man informed him, “he’s got business to attend to.”

“I’m gonna get Sam,” Lou told Kid, moving toward the door.

“Now!” the man commanded Jimmy, firing once. The bullet hit the wall just above Lou’s head. Kid’s grabbed Lou with both hands and pulled her close.

Jimmy turned away from his friends and stepped into the road. The last thing he saw before he focused on the man in front of him, was Priscilla’s face. She looked horrified.

Time For Love
by: Cindy

Sweetwater, Wyoming Territory, 1860

It had been a long, hard ride. Four days of trailing the gang that held up the stage just outside of Sweetwater – four grueling days of trying to follow a trail that crossed some of the roughest and most inhospitable land in the territory. And then two more days traveling back to Sweetwater with their prisoners.

Sam rode slowly into town, leading the way. Behind him, three sullen prisoners followed, hands tied securely to the horses’ saddles. And behind them, Teaspoon and Buck kept an eye on everything.

Sam pulled up in front of the jail and dismounted, then turned to grab the reins of the first horse behind him. He waited as the others stopped, nodding in satisfaction as Teaspoon stayed back just a little and drew his gun to cover the others. Buck rode up close and dismounted next to Sam. As the Marshal held the horse, Buck drew his knife and cut the ropes binding the man to the saddle.

The activity in front of the jail drew Barnett’s attention, and he came out just as Sam pulled the first of the bandits from his horse. “Glad you guys are back,” the deputy said.

“We’re glad to be back too,” Sam said as he handed the first man off to Barnett. Then he and Buck moved on to the second, and the third of the bandits. Barnett took over, herding the prisoners into the jail.

“Teaspoon, Buck, thanks for your help,” Sam said. “Jimmy and Kid too.” The other two riders had left the group outside of town, heading for the waystation to let the others know that the posse had been successful -– and that they had returned safely.

“Not a problem, Sam,” Teaspoon replied.

“Glad to help,” Buck added.

Sam reached for his back, stretching. “It’ll feel good to be out of the saddle,” he said. “And real good to sleep in a bed again.”

“That it will,” Teaspoon agreed. “But . . . I reckon you’d be more’n welcome for dinner out at the farm tonight.”

That made Sam hesitate. There was nothing he wanted more than to see Emma, but . . . “I don’t know,” he hedged. “She ain’t expecting me tonight.”

“You haven’t been out since the problem with van Dorn,” Buck said softly. “Emma was getting worried, even before we left on the posse.”

The problem with van Dorn . . . Sam just shook his head – that was the whole problem right there, wasn’t it? His past catching up with him, and catching Emma up in the process. How could he explain that, in some ways, the posse had been the best thing that could have happened? Coming only a few days after he’d been reinstated as Marshal, it had been an excuse to get out of town – to get away, and think. “She could have been hurt,” he said, almost whispering. “Being with me, it could happen again.”

“Suppose it could,” Teaspoon acknowledged. “But I think it’s up to Emma if she’s willing to take that risk.”

“She deserves better,” Sam argued. He could feel his knees shaking. God, he loved that woman! He wanted to protect her, but if Teaspoon or Buck could talk him out of the decision he’d come to, to leave her out of his life to keep her safe . . . well, his heart wouldn’t hurt nearly as much as it was right now.

“Emma loves you, Sam,” Buck said. Not that he was such a great expert on the topic – but sometimes it was pretty hard to miss.

“And I love her,” Sam said, his voice breaking. “But there are things in my past . . . and what I do now . . .”

“You keeping anything secret from Emma?” Teaspoon asked. His voice was friendly – but there was just a bit of an edge to it, hinting strongly that he wouldn’t take kindly to a positive answer.

Sam shook his head. “No, I told her everything that night after . . . well, after I killed van Dorn.”

“She’s ready to stand by you, whatever comes, Sam,” Teaspoon said. “Just like you stood by her when Crandall showed up.”

Sure, after he’d gotten past being jealous . . . Sam shook his head once, clearing away that thought. The fact he had been jealous was just another sign of how much he loved her. “What happens when someone else from my past comes gunning for me? Or someone comes to town wanting to prove himself against the law? How can I ask Emma to go through that?”

“Maybe that’s just it, Sam,” Buck answered. “You need to ask Emma.”

“Emma Shannon is a fine woman,” Teaspoon said. “One o’ the finest I’ve ever known.”

“She’s the best,” Sam agreed, his voice now barely audible. Out on the trail, when he’d had time at night under the stars, it had seemed so clear that he should walk away, let her go, keep her safe. But now, faced with the reality of doing that . . .

“Woman like that ain’t gonna wait forever,” Teaspoon said. He walked over and put a comforting hand on the younger man’s shoulder.

Sam nodded, searching for words. He was feeling pretty much like a fool. “I got prisoners . . .”

“Barnett’s here,” Teaspoon said quickly, cutting off the argument. “And I ain’t got nothin’ urgent tonight. I’ll stay in town ‘til you get back.”

“I can help too,” Buck offered.

Sam looked down at his dusty clothing. “I suppose I could clean up . . .” he started, knowing he was running out of excuses. He was even starting to think it was good he had no more excuses.

“Buck can ride out and let Emma know you’re coming,” Teaspoon said, trying to seal the deal. Sam’s earlier resolve was wavering, that was obvious.

“I’d be glad to,” Buck agreed.

When Sam didn’t answer right away, Teaspoon pulled out one more weapon. “I’ve heard it said, he who hesitates is a damned fool,” he commented. “You ain’t no fool, Sam.”

Fool . . . the word echoed for a moment in Sam’s mind – and then he pushed it away. Teaspoon was right – he was not a fool, even if he had been acting like one. “You’re right,” he said, standing up straight and taking a deep breath. “Buck, you tell Emma I’ll be out shortly.”

Buck grinned and nodded. “I’m practically there already,” he said. He paused just a moment, trading a smile with Teaspoon, and then he ran to his horse, mounted, and raced off.

“Don’t you worry about anything here, Sam,” Teaspoon said as he headed for the door of the jail.

“I ain’t worried about anything,” Sam said firmly. He turned to the older man and smiled. “I’m gonna go see the woman I love. What’s there to worry about?” Without waiting for an answer he headed off to get cleaned up.

Teaspoon just watched him go. Smiling to himself he said softly, “Not a thing, Sam. Not a damn thing.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Rock Creek, Nebraska, 1861

It had been a long, hard ride. Four days of trailing the gang that held up the stage just outside of Rock Creek – four grueling days of trying to follow a trail that crossed hills and rivers, finally taking them into the Missouri stronghold of southern raiders. And then even after that, two more days traveling back to Rock Creek with their prisoners.

Teaspoon rode slowly into town, leading the way. Behind him, three sullen prisoners followed, hands tied securely to the horses’ saddles. And behind them, Jimmy and Buck kept an eye on everything.

Teaspoon pulled up in front of the jail and dismounted, then turned to grab the reins of the first horse behind him. He waited as the others stopped, nodding in satisfaction as Jimmy stayed back just a little and drew his gun to cover the others. Buck rode up close and dismounted next to Teaspoon. As the Marshal held the horse, Buck drew his knife and cut the ropes binding the man to the saddle.

The activity out front brought Lou and Kid out of the jail. “Good to see you back,” Kid said.

“And good to see you caught them robbers,” Lou added.

“Long road, but we got ‘em,” Teaspoon said, pushing the first man in Kid’s direction. He turned his attention to the second man Buck was cutting free.

While Lou waited to take custody of the second prisoner, she glanced across the street – not surprised to see who was watching in relief. “Uh, Teaspoon,” she said, pointing.

Teaspoon followed the line of Lou’s arm – until his eyes found Polly standing outside her saloon. He watched as she waved in greeting. He gave a small wave in return, just a slight movement of his hand really. Then he turned his attention back to the third prisoner.

“She’s been over here everyday,” Lou said softly. “Several times a day, checking to see if you were back safe.” Having said that, she pushed the second prisoner into the jail.

Teaspoon didn’t answer, just watching instead as Jimmy took the third prisoner inside. “Buck, you and Jimmy did real good,” he said.

Buck just nodded his thanks, his eyes still fixed across the street. He watched as Polly stood there, seemed to start toward them, but then stopped and went inside the saloon. “You should go talk to her,” he said softly.

Teaspoon sighed. “I will,” he said evasively. “I got prisoners . . .”

“They’re taken care of,” Buck pointed out. “Jimmy, Kid, and Lou are in there already. And I can help them.”

Teaspoon glanced over at the now-empty entry to the saloon. The truth was, he wanted to go see Polly. He wanted to hold her in his arms, and be held by her. He wanted to hear her call him Sugarlips . . . he wanted to prove to her again how he’d earned that name . . .

But it wasn’t that easy.

“I was helping Polly fix something last week,” Buck commented, trying to sound casual. “She said you’ve barely been over there since just after Jarrod Randall died.”

“Been busy,” Teaspoon muttered. “Polly’s been busy too, what with all the damage Randall done at the saloon.” Of course, most of the damage had been because of the fight he’d had with Randall himself . . .

Buck just nodded, studying the older man. He was seeing a hesitation that he’d rarely, if ever, seen from Teaspoon Hunter. “She loves you,” he said softly.

Teaspoon sucked in a deep breath and held it a moment before finally nodding. “I know,” he said, his voice barely audible. “She shouldn’t,” he added.

Buck leaned up against the railing next to the older man. “Why not?”

“Almost got her killed, didn’t it?” Teaspoon shuddered, remembering how she had suffered at Randall’s hands.

“Guess that didn’t change how she feels,” Buck said.

“Don’t matter,” Teaspoon insisted, even though the words tore at his heart. “I can’t let her love me,” he insisted. “There’ll always be someone else coming after me.”

“Polly’s pretty tough,” Buck observed. “It’s the way she was raised.”

Teaspoon closed his eyes, remembering. He could see the first day he’d met her – the day he’d been captured by the fiery spirit of a beautiful young girl . . .”We had our chance,” he said hesitantly. “I shouldn’t have left.”

“You’re both here now,” Buck pointed out. “Polly came to Rock Creek because you were here.”

“It’s too late,” Teaspoon argued, though his conviction was wavering. He wanted to believe there was a second chance for him and Polly . . . but could he dare to believe that?

“Polly might not think so,” Buck responded. “You should ask her.”

Teaspoon took a deep breath and gave a slight nod. “I’d be a little afraid to do that,” he admitted softly. But was the fear more that she’d say no – or that she’d say yes?

“There’s a man whose opinion I usually value,” Buck said. “I once heard him tell someone that he who hesitates is a damned fool.”

Teaspoon glanced over at the younger man as he recognized his own words coming back to him. But instead of answering directly he cocked an eyebrow and asked, “Usually?”

Buck just grinned. “Usually,” he affirmed.

Having no real answer, Teaspoon settled for a loud “hmmmmmpph” before turning his attention back to the saloon across the way. Having been pushed to face the question, he really had to wonder – was there a second chance in the cards for him with Polly?

Well, there was really only one way to find out, wasn’t there? And given the way that just the thought of Polly was making his stomach twist and his legs feel weak, he really would be a fool not to find out.

Teaspoon took another deep breath, straightened his hat, and stepped off the boardwalk, heading across the street. He took one look back at where Buck still stood leaning against the railing, and then he turned his attention to his goal. “Usually,” he grumbled, even as he started to walk faster.

Buck just watched the older man for a moment, a smile widening on his face. “Pretty much all of the time, actually,” he said softly to himself. And then as Teaspoon disappeared inside of the saloon, he repeated, “Pretty much all of the time.”

He Who Hesitates
by: Michelle R.

The two young riders walked side by side down the main street of Julesburg. The ride from Rock Creek had been an exhausting one. If it wasn’t the unrelenting sun one minute, it was the heaven’s opening up above them and seemingly dumping every ounce of water it could upon them. As they walked towards the hotel from the livery, townsfolk would glance at them or even openly stare as if they were an odd sight.

Lou looked up towards Jimmy and then back at the people, shoving her glasses further up the bridge of her nose and then her hat further down her head, trying to hide her identity from the prying of eyes of the towns people.

That’s when Jimmy leaned in a bit closer talking quietly so the bystanders wouldn’t be able to completely hear their conversation.

“You’d think they’d never seen people who had ridden hard before, or ever been covered in mud.”

Lou glanced back at him with a small smile, “Well, if I look half as bad as you do, then I can see why they are.”

Jimmy noting her little giggle, which she was valiantly trying to hold back, patted her lightly on the back sending a poof of dried mud up into the air. “Then I guess we must be a site.” He couldn’t help but share in her sense of humor. A while ago, the people staring at him would’ve bothered him to no end, but as of late he’d calmed down. He felt as if he was a new man or at least he was startin’ to change into one. Sure it was many things that could attribute to it, but the main one was this woman standin’ by his side. Louise. Sure…he’d never told her how he felt. That was somethin’ he just couldn’t bring himself to do. Maybe it was the fear of bein’ hurt, or maybe it was the idea that he felt like he was betrayin’ his best friend by goin’ after the woman he loves. Or should he say loved?

Lou tuggin’ on his arm as they reached the front steps of the hotel interrupted Jimmy’s thoughts. “You gonna come in or are you gonna stand out here all day and collect more dust?”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, I’m comin’.”

Hmmm? I wonder what’s been eatin’ at him. Lou glanced back at Jimmy as he followed her into the hotel lobby.

As they approached the desk, the clerk looked up at them in dismay. “Can I help you?”

Jimmy took the lead on this one. Lou stood next to him, lookin’ down towards the floor.

“We’d like two rooms please.”

The clerk couldn’t believe that these people wanted to stay in his hotel. But alas, it was money comin’ in, and that’s one thing he could never turn down, even if the guests looked like they’d been run through the mud flats of the river. Not to mention they were leaving a trail of dirt and dust behind them, unknowingly of course.

“That’ll be two dollars. Oh…and you’ll need to sign in here.” He pushed the quill and ink along with the guest book towards Jimmy and Lou. They quickly signed and Jimmy paid for the rooms. That’s when Lou turned towards the clerk, “could you send up a tub of hot water please?”

“Make that two,” Jimmy popped in.

The clerk just stared at them as they trounced up the stairs towards their rooms. “Odd. Just odd.”

Back up at the rooms, Jimmy handed Lou her key to room number three. I’m right across the hall if you need me. “Thanks Jimmy, but I think I can manage.”

Jimmy blushed, not realizin’ how his offer had sounded. “Ah, Lou. You know what I meant?”

She couldn’t help but giggle again, “Don’t worry Jimmy. I know what you were sayin’. I was just playin’.”

Lou smiled at him. He really was a handsome man and such a wonderful friend. He’s stood by her and listened to her when she’s ranted about Kid. She still got a pang in her heart when she saw him or even heard the mention of his name, but with each day it’s lessened. Maybe it really was for the best for her and Kid to go their separate ways. She just wasn’t ready for marriage, and Kid was. Plus she couldn’t help but feel that at times she really couldn’t live up to his expectations. But, with Jimmy…sweet endearing Jimmy. He just let her be who she was. She couldn’t help but think that lately bein’ with Jimmy has been feelin’ more than like friends. Oh…but how could she tell him that? She knew he must be feelin’ it too, but he was doin’ such a great job at tryin’ to keep his distance that way. Even though at times he was startin’ to slip, just like she was. They were both so worried about hurtin’ Kid, but why were they? Kid was happy with the new girl in town, Rebecca. She seemed nice, and she also seemed exactly like the type of woman Kid had wanted.

Seein’ that Lou was lost in thought for a moment, Jimmy cleared his throat. “So. I’m hungry, so how ‘bout after we’re done cleanin’ up we meet for dinner. My treat.”

Bringing Lou out of her revelry, she slightly shook her head, “that sounds great. How ‘bout we meet in a couple of hours?”

Jimmy grinned at her, “You plannin’ on takin’ that long of a bath?”

She whispered to him so the other hotel guests couldn’t hear her, “I’m a girl Jimmy. Remember? I’d like to take my time, thank you very much.”

With that she turned away and opened the door to her room, with Jimmy watchin’ every step she made. “You sure are.” With a low whistle, hopin’ that she didn’t hear it, he quickly turned around and entered his room, with a slight blush risin’ in his face. Was it warm in here?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Jimmy was down in the restaurant of the hotel, it had been just a little past six o’clock and he was getting’ antsy. He and Lou were supposed to meet twenty minutes ago. He was just startin’ to stand up when he sat right back down in his chair. By the clanking of the silver wear droppin’ on a few plates, he knew he wasn’t the only who noticed her.

There standin’ before him was one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen. It looked like he wasn’t the only who thought so either. He glanced around the room as he saw a few of the other men begin to stand to offer a seat to her as she walked into the restaurant. To their dismay and to Jimmy’s absolute satisfaction, Lou walked up to him at the table.

“Is this seat taken, sir?”

Really…was it getting’ warm in here again? Jimmy stood back up again, “No. You can definitely join me.”

“Why thank you.” Lou smiled.

Jimmy sat back down and leaned in towards her. “Where’d you get the dress?”

She leaned in a bit closer. Yep, it was definitely warmer. “I told you I needed a couple of hours. I did a bit of shoppin’. You like it?”

“Yeah Lou. I definitely like it.” He just shook his head. He seemed to be the envy of every man in the room. All be it, now he wasn’t feelin’ like he did earlier. Now he minded them all starin’ a bit more.

“So…did you order yet?” Lou glanced down at the paper in front of her that offered quite a bit of different selections for food.

“Nope. I was waitin’ for you. But I’m hungry, so I hope they come out here soon.”

“Sorry it took so long,” she smiled again.

“It was well worth it.” Hoping that he didn’t go too far, Jimmy changed the subject. “So what’ll you have?”

Louise glanced at her menu again, “Mmm…I think I’m gonna have the steak and potatoes. I’m famished from our ride.”

“Sounds good to me.”

Soon after they chose their meals, they were eatin’ in companionable silence. Every once and a while they would make small talk, but they both kept getting’ lost in their own thoughts. Lou was worried she had gone too far in dressin’ the way she did. Maybe she was wrong in thinkin’ that Jimmy was feelin’ more for her than just friends, while Jimmy was bein’ reminded of what a wonderful woman Lou was, but he was still bein’ eatin’ away by the guilt over Kid and her.

Why I am feelin’ so guilty over this? She and Kid ain’t together anymore. He’s with Rebecca now and Lou seems to be getting’ better about them bein’ apart. He was still lost in thought, when the waiter came over and brought them the bill.

Noticing that the pair was beginning to leave, a man from the corner of the room watched them as they stood. He watched with a careful eye. This woman was enchanting and he wanted to meet her, but the man she was with, seemed to be enamored by her also. Let’s just see who the better man is.

As Jimmy and she stood up, Jimmy noticed the man in the corner. He didn’t have a good feelin’ about this fella. Jimmy and Lou turned around to exit, when the other man stood up also. That’s when the waiter caught Jimmy by the arm, “Sir. If you don’t mind me sayin’ this…He who hesitates is a damned fool.”

“Excuse me?”

“I didn’t mean nothin’ by it sir. I’m just sayin’ that she seems like a real nice lady and you don’t seem to be the only one.” He nodded his head towards the man in the corner that was now standing.

“Thanks. I’ll keep that in mind.” As Jimmy and Lou walked out the door, Jimmy slipped his gun belt back on. He really was hopin’ that this would be a restful night. Let’s just hope it stays as good as it’s started.

“Let’s take a walk,” Lou looped her arm through Jimmy’s and they began walkin’ through the town’s main street. This time, the town’s folk stared at them in awe.

“I guess they’ve never seen a pretty lady before.”

Lou grinned at him, and then gently placed a kiss on his cheek, “Thank you Jimmy.”

She stopped them from walkin’ for a moment. She was about to talk to Jimmy, she wanted to know if he was feelin’ the same way she was, or she was hopin’ he was. That’s when it happened. The man from the restaurant bumped into the back of them.

Jimmy was knocked back a bit, but he managed to keep his footing. “ ‘xcuse me!”

The man kept on walkin’ but he had some how managed to grab onto Lou’s arm, and was beginnin’ to pull her away from where Jimmy was standing.

She was irate, “who the hell do you think you are?! Get you’re hands off me!”

“Ah…you aren’t such a lady after all. Didn’t you’re ma teach you not to speak like that?” He roughly grabbed her by her upper arm.

“Who are you and why are you doin’ this?”

“I just think you need a real man, not a boy.” As he nodded his head towards Jimmy.

“He’s more the man you are.”

Jimmy was walkin’ towards them, his Colts were gleaming in the light of the fire pits on the grounds of the town. His anger was bubblin’.

“Let her go!”

Lou was strugglin’ again in the hands of the offensive man, “You’re drunk! Why don’t you go home and sleep it off?”

“I ain’t lettin’ you go darlin’.”

Jimmy walked up closer, this time his Colts were aimed and ready to fire at the stranger, “I said, let her go.” The anger was seethin’ through him. He was not gonna lose Lou to some drunk. He was finally getting’ to the point where he was getting’ past his guilt.

Lou had a trick up her own sleeve though. The man holdin’ her had no idea that she had her gun on underneath her skirts. All she needed was a distraction from Jimmy and she’d be able to help free her self. She looked over at Jimmy and then down towards her skirts. They always handled sticky situations so well together, she was hopin’ their luck was still with ‘em. It all started when the Snake Man caught them, when they first started ridin’ together for the Express.

Jimmy’s eyes squinted just slightly when he tried understandin’ what Lou was relayin’ to him. The idea clicked and he started their plan in motion.

“I said leave her be!” With that he started to quickly walk up to the pair standin’ on the boardwalk. The man who had been holdin’ Lou quickened his breathin’ and then started to lunge towards Jimmy. He had pulled his own gun and was about ready to dual Jimmy for Lou. That’s all the time she needed. As he lunged towards Jimmy, Lou was able to pull away and grab for her gun.

“Drop it mister!”

He turned around in complete shock. “How’d you get the drop on me?”

“I may be a lady mister. But, I know how to shoot.”

Jimmy stood there with a grin on his face. “I told you, she ain’t to messed with. She’s with me.”

Lou quickly walked towards Jimmy, still with her gun trained on the stranger.

“Next time a lady says leave her be. Leave her be.”

He couldn’t believe it. This sweet young woman had gotten the drop on him.

She continued talkin’ to him, “now go sleep it off.”

The man stood there, what had he done? “I’m sorry. You just remind so much of my wife Marybelle.” He had stood there and basically had broken into tears.

Lou had lowered her gun as had Jimmy. “Where is she?”

“She’s been dead for six months now. I’ve just been havin’ a hard time dealin’ with her bein’ gone. And here you walked into town and you resembled her so much.”

Jimmy was still leery of the man, “Well she ain’t her.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry. I just can’t believe she’s gone. I should’ve told her I loved her more.”

That’s when Lou walked up to him gingerly. “I’m sure she knew mister. Why don’t you go home.”

She patted him on the shoulder and he turned away, walkin’ towards where ever he lived. He had walked just a ways away when he turned back to Jimmy and Lou.

He pointedly looked at Jimmy and said, “Son. Just remember, he who hesitates is a damned fool. Don’t turn out like me.”

With that, he walked away, leavin’ them standin’ there in the glowing embers of the fires. That’s the second time someone’s said that to me. I’m thinkin’ they’re right. He turned towards Lou, “You ok?”

He checked her over, his hands grazing over her face.

“I’m fine Jimmy. Don’t worry.” She loved how he was so gentle, but he didn’t act overly mother hen like towards her either. She could tell he cared, but she knew he trusted her.

“How ‘bout you? You ok?”

“Fine. But I think you and me need to talk.”

“ ‘bout what?”

“You and me. Lou? You know I care for you right?” He was startin’ to get nervous. Sure he could face down a ton of thieves or Indians, but facin’ down this one petite and beautiful woman was a whole ‘nother story.

She was confused at first, but then the excitement was beginnin’ to rise in her, “Yeah. Of course.” She didn’t want to really get her hopes up.

“Well…I’m just sayin’ that I’m willin’ to take these fellas advice if you are.”

“Are you sayin’ you don’t want to hesitate anymore?”

He leaned down and gently kissed her. “That’s exactly what I’m sayin’.”

She leaned up towards him, kissing him again. “I was hopin’ you were gonna say that.”

They were both beaming. They certainly didn’t expect their ride to Julesburg to turn out like it had. It’s had it’s funny, scary and great moments, but they were both thankful that things turned out how they did. Sure…things were gonna get scary some times, and things were gonna be difficult, but the good stuff was definitely going to out weigh the bad. And Jimmy definitely thought, as he looked at the remarkable woman at his side, that she was definitely worth every one of them. She could handle her self, and she, dare he say, loved him, just the way he was. He couldn’t feel luckier. If he ever sees that man again, he’s definitely going to have to thank him. He wasn’t about to be a fool.

With those thoughts they walked back to the hotel, arm in arm. This was definitely an interesting beginning for them, but they wouldn’t have it any other way.

This was definitely the beginning of an adventurous romance that was sure to have its interesting moments, both agreeing that it was going to be well worth it every moment.

THE END

Making A Move
by: Debbie

Kid sat straddling the bench at the table, all the while staring at the closed bunkhouse door.

Dance.

That was the last bit of advice Jimmy had given him before leaving the bunkhouse and leaving Kid alone with his thoughts. Thoughts that Kid didn't think were proper to be thinking about, even though it seemed as if Lou wanted his mind to go in that direction.

He sat up and ran his hands through his unruly hair, sighing heavily. He had clearly understood Jimmy's implication at the word 'dance'. In fact, Kid had kind of hoped that was what Jimmy would suggest. But thinking it was one thing and hearing someone tell him to do it was something else.

Kid blushed, feeling embarrassed at the thought of sharing his bed with Lou. He shook his head, feeling silly for being embarrassed. Although he wasn't one to frequent saloons and their working girls, such as Cody or Jimmy would, he wasn't innocent in that area. He had just grown up a lot since the early days when he'd first left Virginia and took things more seriously now, especially where Lou was concerned.

How could his feelings change so quickly? One minute he was feeling embarrassment, the next guilt because he wanted to be with Lou so bad, so bad that it almost hurt. He leaned his elbows on the table and rested his head in his hands. Maybe he had read Lou wrong these past couple days - maybe she was just teasing him. Then why did she stop backing away from him whenever they were together? She was making him more nervous by the second. He felt that he needed to do something or he would bust!

Was he moving things along too quickly?

Kid looked behind him as he heard the door open.

"Kid!" Rachel said, walking into the building and closing the door behind her. "I didn't know you were in here. You alright?" she asked in a concerned tone. She took note of the way he was squirming on the bench.

"Yeah, just trying to make a decision, one that's been bothering me for a while and I'm not sure where to go with it," he admitted.

"Well, is it a good thing or a bad thing your trying to decide on?" Rachel asked as she went to the counter to retrieve a bowl she'd left behind from breakfast.

"Good, real good and I want it to happen, I just don't know if it should or if it's even the right time." Kid tried to keep the longing he felt out of his voice but was afraid he failed miserably.

"He who hesitates is a damned fool."

"I beg your pardon?" Kid asked, staring at her in confusion.

Rachel laughed. "It's something my mama used to tell me all the time. She was a very outspoken woman, that's where I get it from. She used to say that if there's something out there you want bad enough, you go after it. It's not worth putting things off 'cause if you don't make your move at the right time, by the time you do, it could be too late. Then where will you be?"

Kid took in every word she said, his mind reeling with new thoughts.

"Well, I best get back to the house. Teaspoon will be here soon for dinner and I need to check the schedule before he gets here." She made a move toward the door but stopped when Kid spoke.

"Why? What's up with the schedule?"

"Oh, he needs the next two riders up to leave tomorrow to pick a package up at the Redfern station." She headed toward the door once more, only to be stopped again.

"Redfern? Two riders?" Kid asked, excited. He smiled as an idea came to mind. "That's pretty far away, too far to make it there and back in one day."

"That's right," Rachel concurred. "They'd have to spend the night there." She looked at Kid, wondering where his questions were leading.

"Spend the night," Kid whispered, "away from here, from everyone. Dance."

He got up quickly as Rachel had given up on him and opened the door. He took her hand off the doorknob and closed it once again. He couldn't stop smiling - this was the sign he was waiting for, it was perfect and would be perfect, that he could promise Lou.

"Rachel, I need to ask a huge favor of you."

Resolve
by: Lori

“Hickok!”

With a sigh he swallowed his whiskey, trying to ignore the call from outside. Signaling to the barkeep, he ordered another, not even caring that the portly man kept shooting nervous glances from him to the faded wooden doors. He was used to this, and he wasn’t going to go rushing outside, even though he knew the person trying to call him out would not give up.

It was the same everywhere he went. People wanted to challenge “Wild Bill.” Take a shot at the legend, or avenge a friend’s death. Never mind that he never went looking for these fights, never mind that he tried to avoid them, never mind that he’d thought about disappearing into Mexico and changing his name, everybody wanted a piece of him. He was tired of the people who thought he owed it to them, which was why he was never very far away from the whiskey bottle these days.

“Hickok!”

This time the man’s voice was closer, and when the aged wood creaked in protest of being moved, he knew that the foolish challenger was inside the room. The darkened bar fell silent, and the barkeep paused in the act of wiping a glass. Jimmy kept his head down, staring into his empty shot glass.

“Hickok, I’m talking to you.”

“Go away.” The growl was soft, but carried through the bar. “I’m drinkin’.”

“I’m callin’ you out, old man.” He snickered, “I think you’ve gone soft.”

A young upstart, pup. These were the worst. Boys on the verge of becoming men, looking to make a name for themselves. What better way to do that than to challenge Wild Bill?

Jimmy turned, facing the man for the first time, and saw he couldn’t be more than a day over 15. Probably ran away from his momma who had too many mouths to feed, and thought he’d gain respect and notoriety by taking him on. Jimmy really hated these moments.

“I ain’t fightin’ you. Go on back home to your ma.”

“I ain’t leavin’ until you and I do this,” he countered, puffing out his chest in an attempt to look bigger than he was.

“I don’t want no trouble,” the barkeep said from behind him. “Get out of my bar.”

Closing his eyes, he bit back a tired groan. The young whelp practically bounced on his feet, knowing that Jimmy would have to leave the bar. There would be no reprieve today, no chance the boy would give up. He threw a few coins down on the bar, and pushed off the wooden structure, slowly walking to the door. The boy disappeared outside, and Jimmy knew he’d be waiting.

Walking outside, he squinted in the afternoon light and growled at the kid waiting in the dusty street. “Go home, son. I’d hate for your ma to get word of your death. You can just walk away now and forget this ever happened.”

But by now a crowd had gathered, and the boy was too far gone to heed the advice. “Let’s do this, old man.”

Feeling the press of age and fatigue on his shoulders, Jimmy stepped into the street and turned to face the young man. They stared each other down, waiting for an unspoken signal, hands poised above their guns. The boy moved first, grabbed his gun, but then paused, as if the reality of the moment had finally caught up to him and he wasn’t sure anymore.

The hesitation was all Jimmy needed, and just as the young man’s gun cleared leather, he was falling to the street, his blood seeping into the dried earth. Jimmy’s arm dropped, his gun held loosely in his fingers. He knew he’d just painted another target on his back, but he wasn’t so despondent yet to not draw his gun in a fight. Whenever the moment came, he knew it was him or them, and he always chose himself.

Maybe it made him selfish; maybe it made him a monster. He never asked for the trouble, but he couldn’t seem to walk away when it came calling.

Taking one last look at the boy whose name he never knew, never wanted to, he cursed him, and himself. The fool for not walking away, and himself for not just accepting his fate.

Hesitation
by: Karen

He stood in a trance. He was watching, but not seeing the events unfolding in front of him. The banging of the door next to him broke the spell. It brought to mind the gunshot that had taken her from him. He had been a fool! If he’d only gone right away instead of hesitating, he’d still have her with him. Because he’d hesitated and been such a damn fool he not only no longer had her, he was having to standby and watch his only child leave also. Silently cursing himself, Bill Tompkins turned and entered his store as the stage taking Jenny back East pulled away.

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