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Lou couldn't sleep. Every time she closed her eyes, she could see Elias Mills hanging from the end of the rope. She finally gave up and pulled on her pants and shirt. She needed to talk to someone and she needed to do it now.
She quietly opened her door and stepped out into the hall of the hotel in Fort Kearny. Jimmy and Kid wanted to rest up before heading back to Rock Creek, before riding out. They'd gotten three rooms for the night. Kid was on the right side of Lou's, and Jimmy was on the left. She turned to the right.
Lou lightly knocked on Kid's door and waited to see if he'd heard it. She heard movement within the room and knew she wouldn't have to knock again. The door opened to reveal a sleepy Kid. "Lou? Is everything alright?"
She looked around to make sure they weren't going to wake anyone up. "I can't sleep, I was wondering if we could talk?"
He also looked around and kept his voice low. "Now? It can't wait until tomorrow?"
She looked at her hands disappointed. "I guess it could." She turned to go back to her room.
He reached out with his good hand and took hold of her arm. "Wait Lou, I'm still half asleep. Come on in and we'll talk."
He took her into his room and tried to pull on his pants one handed, leaving them in a pile. Then he pulled the blankets back into place and motioned for her to have a seat on the bed. "What's wrong Lou?"
She sat on the bed and folded her legs in front of her. "Every time I close my eyes, I see Elias. It makes me want to cry."
"You got to know him pretty well I'm guessing." He said and sat on the bed in front of her, not touching her. He didn't want to crowd her again.
She nodded. "So did Jimmy. I think he saw himself in Elias. He's afraid he'll end up like him." She told him looking down at her hands.
"That's crazy, Jimmy is nothing like Mills. How can he think that?" Kid asked her.
She looked up at him. "Because he thinks his reputation will keep him alone and one step away from the noose."
He shook his head. "Did you tell him he was wrong?"
She looked down again. "Yes I did, but he doesn't want to believe that someone would love him enough to live with that kind of burden."
Kid noticed she was looking at her hands again and knew something was troubling her. "What's wrong Lou? I know you, and I know there's something else bothering you. I know it has nothing to do with Elias Miller."
She knew he'd figure something out. They could read each other better than the others. "I'm worried."
"I can see you're worried about something, but what is it?" He asked her.
She tried to tell him, but no words would come out. She knew she had to tell him if there was ever going to be a future for them. She wanted a future for them, but would he after she told him? Would what had happened between her and Jimmy, come between them, or him and Jimmy?
He lifted her chin with his fingers so she could look him in the eye. "Lou, you know you can tell me anything."
"I know, but this is something I'm afraid to say." She whispered as a tear fell from her eye.
He wiped the tear away with his thumb. "Lou what is it?" Has someone hurt you?"
She shook her head and his hand fell away. She felt a loss as soon as his hand was gone. "I was trying to tell Jimmy he was wrong, that someday someone will love him enough to ignore his past and reputation. I could tell that I had gone too far."
"It's only because you care Lou." He told her.
"That's my problem, I care too much sometimes. I care about you and what happens to you. I care about the boys, Rachel, and Teaspoon. My caring sometimes gets me into trouble." She said and looked at him.
He caressed her cheek. "I care about you too Lou."
"You know I was going to use this trip to talk to you about us." She said.
"What about us?" He asked, trying to remain calm, and not hope too much.
"I was hoping that maybe would talk about giving us another try, but slower this time." She replied.
"I'd like that Lou, I'd like that a lot. But why do you look so sad about it?" He asked.
"Because of what happened. When I tell you, I'm not sure if you will be willing to try again." She said.
He thought about what she was saying, but was too happy about the thought of them getting back together. "Lou, what's going on? You're starting to worry me."
"Alright, I'll tell you, but you'll have to listen to everything, and not interrupt me." She told him and he nodded.
"I told Jimmy I was sorry for going too far. I told him good night and kissed his cheek." She told him.
"Jimmy kissed me Kid." She whispered, afraid to look at him. "On the mouth, I mean."
"Did you kiss him back?" He asked her afraid to hear the answer.
"I don't know, it happened so fast and then Gilmore showed up and we fought him." She explained.
"Did you like it? I meant was it anything like when I kissed you?" He asked next.
She finally looked up at him. "No, it was nothing compared to when you kissed me, ever."
He smiled at her and pulled her into a hug with his one good arm. "I'm happy you said that."
She wrapped her arms around him and tried to be gentle so as not to hurt him. "You're not going to fight Jimmy, are you?"
"No, I'm not going to hurt him." He replied.
"I tried to talk to him about it, but he didn't want to. He said it would never happen again, and I agree. I'd rather kiss you." She whispered. "I was going to tell him I wanted to be with you, but he refused to talk about it." She said, still in his arms.
"Then none of us ever need to talk about it again, okay?" He whispered into her ear.
"Okay." She nodded and he let her go. "Thanks Kid."
"For what?" He asked.
"For coming after us. I was never so happy to see you ride in and save us. It was nice to know you were worried about me, and that you're so stubborn." She replied.
He smiled at her and readjusted his arm. "Me too."
"How's your arm?" She asked as she saw him wince in pain.
"The doctor said it'll be fine in a few days. I mean the wound will hurt for a while, but I can start using it in a few days." He told her.
She touched his wounded arm. "I'll take care of you on the way back to Rock Creek."
"I could get used to you taking care of me Lou." He stood and pulled her up with him. Then he pulled the covers back and sat on the bed, leaning against the headboard. He patted the space next to him and she sat down, pulling the blankets over their legs.
He wrapped his good arm around her shoulder. "I could get used to this Kid." She replied, leaning on him.
"I know, but we'll take it slow this time." He promised.
"But not too slow." She said and kissed him.
They stayed up talking late into the night. She'd told him about what she'd learned about Elias Mills and how sad she was that he was gone. Then about his daughter and how worried she was when he'd been shot, and thought she'd lost him. And how much it hurt to ride on without him after he'd been shot.
He told her it was hard to see her ride on without him too. Then about Gilmore finding him and stepping on his wounded arm. He said that was when he knew he had to go after all of them. He would never have forgiven himself if anything had happened to her.
They finally fell asleep early in the morning, with his arm still wrapped around her shoulders. Her head was on his good shoulder when he opened his eyes. He smiled when he remembered all that had happened the night before. They'd fallen asleep sitting up in bed, leaning against the headboard.
There was a knock on the door then Jimmy walked into the room. "Kid, I can't find Lou. Oh, never mind."
"She came in to talk last night and we fell asleep like this." Kid explained with a smile.
"Oh hey, good morning, Jimmy." Lou said sleepily, not caring about being caught in bed with Kid.
"What's going on here?" Jimmy asked them.
"Nothing Jimmy, why do you asked?" She glared at him.
"I was just worried when I knocked on your door and you didn't answer. That's why I knocked on Kid's door, thought he'd help me look for you. Never thought I'd find you in his bed." He said and smiled.
She got out of the bed and walked around it to help Kid get up. "It's not what you think Jimmy. We were up all night talking."
He nodded. "Is that what they call it now?" He asked with a wink.
"Now wait a minute Jimmy, nothing happened here last night." Kid said then saw the amusement on his friends face.
"That's not funny Jimmy." Lou said and pushed him out the door.
"I'll meet you both down stairs in half an hour. Hurry up though, (')cause I'm hungry and we need to head out." He got out before she closed the door in his face.
She turned around to face Kid and leaned on the door. "Nothing happened here last night?"
He walked over to her. "Well not what he was hinting at. I wouldn't call what we talked about nothing. I think it was the best thing that could happen to us." He said and kissed her.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and returned his kiss. "Good morning Kid."
"Good morning Lou." He said back to her.
She lightly pushed him back. "Now get ready so we can get breakfast. I'll meet you in the hall in a few minutes."
He shook his head. "I'm going to need some help getting dressed."
"Oh? I guess I can help you out there." She replied.
Lou helped him with his clothes, and then packed his saddle bags. After that he followed her to her room where she got dressed and also packed. Once they were done, they walked downstairs together and headed for the motel restaurant. They found Jimmy sitting at a table waiting for them.
They ate breakfast and were on their way back to Rock Creek within the hour. It was an easy ride home, as they talked and laughed. Lou kept her promise to take care of Kid all the way home.
Author's Note: Thanks to Wendy for beta reading this for me.