Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons Read 19394 times


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #60 on: January 31, 2014, 01:21:46 am »
He didn’t really understand women.  In his line of work he tried.  Women tended to hide things from their doctor, hoping that silence would make it all better, so he learned to read people early.  Sal was a puzzle.  She was obviously hurt, but seemed to want to get away.  Bill “worrying” could hardly be the motivation.

Must be she wants to get away from you.

She was smart in that regard.  Jake didn’t think much of his track record or past.  His heart ached as he watched her bravely move about when it was obviously painful.

He thought he was immune to tears, but Sal’s disturbed him.  He looked down at this hands, noting the dirt under his fingernails while he tried to compartmentalize the fledgling feelings.  Maybe it wasn’t too late to put the longing back in the box; to go back to just being friends.

Jake glanced up as Sally swore.  She started to cry in earnest.  Jake rose slowly from the bed.

We make quite a pair, don’t we.

One hand gently touched Sal’s shoulder to guide her back towards the bed.  He didn’t speak, or question.  With a tug on her wrist he prompted her to sit.  His shoulders had seen his share of tears.  He could sit quiet with the best of them.

Sally turned her cheek into the cloth of his shirt.  He let her fingers find hers.  He couldn’t offer words of comfort because he didn’t know what she found so sad.

After  a while he kissed her temple.  “Lie down, Sal.”  He’d move so she could find a pillow if she wished.  “Everything will keep until morning.”

Morris wasn't able to offer the same advice to the well dressed man who stormed into the stable and claimed his horse.   The other was cursing and swearing, and making veiled threats.  Morris stayed inside the stall he was mucking and only moved into the hall when he heard the clop of hooves.   He confirmed the horse belonged to the other, and that nothing else was disturbed.  With a sigh, he decided to lock up for the night.


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #61 on: January 31, 2014, 04:57:39 am »
Click or Click
She didn't even have the energy to resist his comfort. He urged her first to sitting, then took her hand, then told her to lie down.

She didn't put up a fight. I don't want to fight anymore. She laid down with him next to her.

She let his nearness comfort her, allowed herself these short few moments, though it  made her heart ache, the rest of her felt easier. "I have a feeling your going to break my heart Jake Sully," she whispered into the quiet. Break it irreparably if he died, if she got him killed, if he actually loved her and she couldn't love him back.

I'll be stronger in the morning. In the morning I'll be strong enough to leave him.

The tremors of her sobs stopped though her tears didn't ebb until exhaustion finally swamped her into a restless sleep.

Her brow kept furrowing, her hands balling up, and her body alternately clenching and flinching as she slept.

Some time later she woke, shouting and thrashing as she abruptly sat up. Intense pain flared and brought her instantly back to complete awareness and she clamped her good arm around her body tightly putting pressure on her painful ribs and trying not start crying again.  "Just a dream," she muttered to the dark, then louder,"Red and silver hell," she muttered before she heard someone stir near her in the dark, but she couldn't tell if it was Jake.

She could still hear music and the sound of patrons downstairs, but that wasn't really an indication of time at the Wagon Wheel. Even when Hank turned in for the night many of the girls stayed up entertaining and serving the card games that never seemed to end.

Sal was still trying desperately to slow the panicked breathing, it hurt to much. She tried to ease herself back to laying again, but after only a small movement she stopped as her ribs protested. So instead she scooted back so her back was resting against the headboard and her head drop back a little too. She reasoned that she couldn't have gone back to sleep anyway, not with the adrenalin pulsing through her. Not only that but her face felt sticky and swollen and her throat dry, and every bit of her ached. Maybe Hank was right, maybe she would be drinking.

"Jake?" she questioned the darkness.

Maybe he wouldn't answer. Maybe it wasn't him. Maybe she wouldn't have to leave him, maybe he'd already left her.

That thought hurt more than she wanted to admit.
« Last Edit: January 31, 2014, 07:28:39 am by Peregrine »


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #62 on: January 31, 2014, 11:44:39 pm »
Sal soon feel asleep.  Jake rested beside her for a while, unwilling to sleep.   He was exhausted, but his mind was too active.  Too many moving parts to understand.  He didn’t like the conclusion that he would break her heart, although he feared it to be true.  Life had a way of being more painful than it needed to be.

When her breathing became a bit easier, Jake sat up.  He gathered the quilt and gently tucked it around Sal before moving towards the door.  He hesitated as it opened, the small creak enough to wake her.  But, she slept on, so Jake went down stairs.

Hal was behind the bar.  Robert was nowhere to be seen.  “I take it Harlaw isn’t worried and awaiting news?”

Hal scrubbed a glass more vigorously than required.  He didn’t speak up and offer his opinion on the current love triangle.  “How’s Sal?” He asked.

“Sleeping,” Jake said.  “Figured I’d check in on the Sherrif.”

“If you wanna get cleaned up, I can have Leanne put a bath and some clothes together for ya.”

Jake shook his head in self derision.  Seemed he was relying on others for the basics these days.  Food.  Shelter.  Clothing.  “That would be nice,” was all he said.

The Sheriff was lying on the bunk in the storeroom.   Jake lifted his eyelid and checked his pulse.  The man moaned and stirred, leaving Jake to conclude he was sleeping and on the road to recovery.  The air in the room was musty, and Jake moved to open a window, struggling with the sticky frame until the glass swung on the hinge to let in the cool night air.

The street was quiet.  Jake shuttered the lantern and went to find Leanne.  She offered to scrub his back for him, but Jake declined with a smile, knowing it for the joke it was.  He had to admit he felt better without the smell of smoke clinging to him.  He was breathing easier himself when he returned upstairs to where Sal was.

She was still sleeping.  Jake went to the nightstand and gathered the bottle left there.  He closed the lantern and went to sit in a chair, planning to drink in the dark and make sure that Sal wasn’t disturbed.

It seemed though that her mind had worries of its own.  Sal woke with a cry and a whimper.  He didn’t move at first, unwilling to startle her in the dark.  When she called his name, he moved to the lantern and allowed a sliver of light in the room.   The half empty bottle of scotch was placed back on the table leaving his hands feeling far too free.  They found their way to his pockets.  “I’m here,” he said.

Sal was sitting up, but he could tell she was in pain.  “It’s not light yet,” he said, stating the obvious. 

He’d planned a lot of words as he’d sat in the darkness and stared at the wall.  Now his mind was blank as he took in the black eye on her face.  There was a pitcher of water and a glass, so he poured her a drink and then sat on the bed to reach towards her, offering the glass.  “Don’t drink too much, or too fast.”  A doctor’s instructions.  “The sherrif is downstairs.  Unless I miss my mark, he’ll be up and around tomorrow, worse case the day after.  We’re gonna have to decide what to do about Hitch.   He can’t go around lighting fires and threatening people.

“I need to know Sal.”  He laced his fingers together and let them rest on his knee.  “Did he do this to you?”
« Last Edit: January 31, 2014, 11:53:00 pm by Beau »


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #63 on: February 01, 2014, 05:58:14 am »
So it was Jake. Light spilled out of the lantern giving everything in the room a clearer shape. He had left at some point, he was clean and once again looking like the man she had always known was out of her reach.  She saw a look in his eye that spoke volumes about how bad she must look. She turned her bruised face away from him.

"You look a mite better," she said quietly.

Sal felt her throat tightened as he offered the water. She took it in her left hand and let it rest on her thigh as he talked about the Sheriff , it felt heavy. She noticed the way he sat far away from her now, the way he took his hand away as soon as she held the glass, like she might bite if he got to close.

It was what she needed him to do, but it hurt.

You had your moment.

She lifted the glass to her lips as he mentioned doing something about Hitch. She took a sip and forced herself to swallow it, her heart hammering in her chest when he asked if Hitch had done this to her.

The easy answer was no, because he hadn't touched her. She jerked her head "no" back and forth twice, the glass resting back on her thigh, suddenly too heavy despite her thirst.

She decided to avoid the question for now.She shrugged her right shoulder ever so slightly, "I don't know that we can do anything about Hitch. It's our word against his if the Sheriff doesn't remember anything that happened to him."

She looked up at him through her good eye, his face was in shadow since he was back lit by the lantern, but she could tell he wasn't going to let the other question go easily. She debated, tell him the truth- or part of it, or lie again. Her hand clenched against her sore ribs and she shifted in the uneasy silence.

She decided on a half truth and sighed, "You couldn't just believe I fell down the stairs." Well, a bruise from a fist or a boot must look different then a bruise from a fall she supposed and he was a doctor. "We both got secrets. The truth of mine is, I made some poor choices with some past problems and it's catching up to me." That was more or less the truth, even if it was vague.

We make quite the pair don't we.

She sighed and looked down again. She could see finger marks on her arm now in the dim light, she'd have to wear long sleeves until they went away or just stay out of sight. She could go to the Spring cabin and spend a few weeks alone, read... no, no reading.

She decided to try and change the subject. She didn't want to push him away, to have him leave, but she couldn't see clear of her mess. She turned the glass around slowly on her leg, watching the light catch and angle. She spoke slow and quiet, she wouldn't let herself cry again, "You sure you want to try and deal with Hitch. With your place burned and almost gettin killed and all, no one could blame you if you decided there wasn't a reason to stay."
« Last Edit: February 01, 2014, 06:04:09 am by Peregrine »


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #64 on: February 04, 2014, 03:23:16 am »
In Jake’s experience most people couldn’t stand silence.  They might not want to talk to their doctor but a quiet, ‘um hum’ in the right place typically caused them to elaborate.  Jake decided to be stoic as he awaited Sal’s reaction.  She wasn’t completely forthcoming, although it became clear that she hadn’t fallen down stairs, she didn’t elaborate either.

Jake tipped his head to the side.  He took a deep breath.

We both got secrets.

His eyebrows rose under the accusation.  He’d said she didn’t know much about him, but he figured she was more the open book.  For the first time he looked at her speculatively wondering what lay behind the calm exterior.  She was tough.  She took things upon herself.  That wasn’t much of a secret.

She seemed to expect him to hop a train and leave.  If he were honest he’d admit he hadn’t ruled out the possibility, although it didn’t appeal to him.  Part of the reason was sitting next to him.

We both got secrets.

“I was married once before.”  Maybe it was the weight of the pocket watch that loosened his tongue.  Maybe it was Freud.   “She’d dead.” He clamped his jaw on further admission, looking away rather than gauging her reaction.   He paused for a moment before saying.  “Figured I’d share at least one of my secrets.”  The hint was there if she chose to take it.  “I’m sorry if I’ve caused you not to trust me.  I wasn’t lying downstairs when I said I was scared.  Honestly,” he shrugged with a casualness he didn’t feel, “I’m more scared of you than Hitch.”

He finally looked her way with as much sincerity as he could muster.  “I wasn’t planning on leaving.  Be nice to have more reason to stay.”
« Last Edit: February 04, 2014, 03:24:55 am by Beau »


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #65 on: February 04, 2014, 08:39:30 am »
Click Click

Sal was prepared for him to tell her he was planning on leaving, or rebuilding, or he hadn't decided. So what actually came out his mouth startled her. She shouldn't have been shocked by his admission, but a part of her was. On some level she knew someone like him probably was, or had been, married before he came to her dusty little corner of earth.

She wanted to reach out to comfort him, but even if he hadn't been sitting so far away, she knew she shouldn't. She didn't know what to say either, so she said nothing and after a moment he kept talking. He might not have told anyone in all Black Falls what he'd just told her. She wanted to feel special to him, to be his confidant, but everything had gotten so messy. She took a larger drink of water.

She would have laughed at his joke, if she'd been able to. If it didn't hurt and ring of a horrible, terrible truth. Instead she forced the edge of her mouth to curve up for the briefest moment before dropping away again.

I'm more afraid of you than Hitch.

Then she could feel his eyes on her and she looked up at him as he spoke again. She swallowed the water left in her mouth and set the glass on the night table next to her. Her heart ached to give him reason to stay, to admit fully, how much she cared for him. To kiss him again.

Her hand now free she gripped the quilt by her leg and then looked down and picked at a loose thread. "I..." her throat caught tight and she swallowed and cleared it feeling, despite her best efforts not to, that she was going to start crying again.

She cleared her throat again and looked up at his shadowed face, "I want.. I can't... I wish I could give you what you're looking for, but after what happened tonight... Hitch, he won't... I'm the reason you bout got killed. I can't... If you stay round these parts cause of me..." Her thoughts were so jumbled, she closed her eyes to his scrutiny of her words.

She paused and took as deep a breath and pulled her shoulders back a little bit.

She opened her eyes, her lashes damp again, "I'm sorry." Her blue green eyes looked directly at him, "I could never forgive myself if I got you killed."  She didn't look away, thinking the words she couldn't let herself say. I love you. I want to trust you. But if I do, it could kill you.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2014, 01:49:24 am by Peregrine »


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #66 on: February 07, 2014, 01:33:20 am »
She didn’t reach for him.  Instead she kept her eyes averted  and played with the quilt. Sal’s tears affected him.  The fact they didn’t run down her face, but rather were bravely bottled up only made them more sincere.  He hadn’t recounted his conversation with Hitch in his office before the fire was set, but she had drawn her own conclusions.

“The horse is out of the barn,” he warned her.   “Hitch drew his own conclusions.  My denial.   Your denial – will change nothing.”

And yet, the logic didn’t matter.  He knew what it was like to be responsible for someone’s death.  He wouldn’t wish that on her.  Couldn’t fight his own empathy.   He tried to joke, “That would make two of us,” but forgiveness wasn’t what either of them needed.

He remained where he was on the edge of the bed, hands resting on his own leg rather than hers.  What he saw in her eyes made his heart ache.  But it wasn’t to be. The feelings were too new, too fragile to take root and grow.  He wasn’t strong enough to fight for them, believing he deserved nothing.

“I’m sorry too Sal.”   He stood and moved to the lantern, closing the shutter so that only a speck of light peaked through.  His face was clouded in shadow and his voice neutral.  Talking more wouldn’t do either of them good.  “As your doctor I insist that you rest here at least until daylight.   You will find riding uncomfortable.  You may want to remain in town longer, I wouldn’t advise you push yourself on Bill’s account.”

His booted feet made an oddly hollow sound as he turned towards the door.  “I’ll be downstairs.”   He didn’t add ‘if you need me,’ because it was clear that she didn’t.

The door shut quietly behind him as he went out into the dark hall.  He leaned against the wood frame, and let the dizziness pass.   He’d go and keep watch over the sheriff.

Things will look better in the morning.

With a sigh, he wondered who thought up that lie.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2014, 01:42:13 am by Beau »


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #67 on: February 07, 2014, 03:02:02 am »

Sal swallowed seeing him close up in front of her. There was a look in his eye and then it was gone, his "I'm sorry" echoing in her ears. She nodded and pulled her painful lips in as he stood up and shuttered the light again. She pinched her lips between her teeth to keep from begging him to stay.

In the dark, she let the tears slid down her face, her arms wrap tightly around her middle in an effort to keep the new, deep pain in her chest from tearing her apart. She stared into the blank darkness as he gave his doctors orders.

Back to how it was before, except everything's changed.

The door closed with a quiet finality and Sal fell over onto her right side, curling into a ball of sobbing agony.

It was some time later when she was finally able to pull herself back to stillness. She might have slept at one point, but she couldn't be sure. Jake's closed off face swam into her thoughts but she forced herself to close down too.

She was almost positive he wouldn't be coming to check in on her and despite what he'd said, Sal couldn't imagine staying here another minute, let alone days. She forced herself out the bed and opened the lantern. Moving was painful but it was physical pain and that she'd dealt with much in her young life. There was a deeper pain, one akin to three other times in her life, that had reared it's head again that she knew had no real fix.

She took a breath and forced herself to bend over for the pants on the floor and then stuffed her legs in them with a groan. They were far to big, and even belting them they were still loose.

She stepped her feet into her boots and gingerly slipped her arm through her coat. She looked at the tattered dress on the dresser and debated for a moment.

She shuffled around the room checking drawers for a minute and found a stubby pencil and some yellowing paper. She scrawled a quick note.

  I know you'll come lookin for me. Sorry I'm not here. I'll be alright, but it's like that winter after Pa died. I know you'll understand. I know I can rely on you to keep the boys in line until I get back. If Oly doesn't look to be gettin better in the next day or so, do me a kindness and help him go. Oh, and I don't know if Miss Lin can mend it, but I'd hate to throw out my Ma's dress, please take it back to her.

She reviewed the note, folded it, and set it on the dress along with the lacy gloves that had been in her coat pocket.

On an impulse she picked up the bottle Jake had been drinking from and took two long draws, forcing herself to swallow it, though it burned. If she was going to accomplish this, she had to dull the pain. She set the bottle back down and turned away.

She quietly shuffled to the door, glanced around the room once more and then left. She had to take her time, and go down the back stairs only the girls used. She didn't want anyone to see her and go running to tell Hank or Jake... No, you can't do that anymore. It's Doc again.

She stole a kerchief and a hat off a peg outside two of the girls doors and pulled it down over her face, tucking her hair under the kerchief and the collar of her coat.

She wasn't sure it was luck that got her out the backdoor and to the stables without running into anyone, but she managed it. Once she was outside she could tell sunrise wasn't far off, so maybe she wasn't completely flaunting the Docs orders.

Lucky for her too it was Darryl and not is Pa, Morris, who was at the stables already set to mucking and tossing down hay when she came in the back door. "Hey Darryl," She kept her hat low and stayed out of his lantern light.

He looked up at her shadow covered figure, "Hey Sal. Everything alright?" She tried to sound calm, open and friendly. "Yeah, I wonder if you'd mind loaning me one of your extra saddles for my horse. I came in with a buggy, Bill will be in for it later, but I need to move a little faster."

Darryl raised a brow, again "You sure everything's alright?"

She nodded, "Yah, I've just got to get back s'all."

The boy nodded and went to fetch the saddle. He was efficient and the horse was ready quickly.

Now would come the most difficult part, gettin' in the saddle. Sal took a breath and reached her right hand up to the pommel and gripped it with all her might, her left leg going a little stiffly into the stir-up. She took one more breath and used the strength left in her arm to pull herself up and swing her leg over.

She got in, but not without sound she realized as Darryl moved to hand her the reigns and caught a look at her face. "Sal, should I go get the Doc? You don't look right."

Sal grit her teeth, "I'm fine," and without further word she set heels to the horse and charged painfully out the stable and into the pinking sky.

"You gall durn IDIOT!" Bill bellowed, shoving past Robert as he pulled his suspenders over his shoulders and went grabbing for his coat.

He'd had a gut feeling that something had gone wrong with the peacock boy when Sal didn't come home, but whatever he was worried about only compounded when said peacock showed up twenty minutes ago, alone.

He had stayed in the parlor at the house waiting for Sally, and he'd dozed off. When Robert showed up alone and Bill told him she wasn't here, Bill had immediately made him explain all that had happened.

Robert charged after him, "Where do you get off calling me and idiot?"

Bill tossed his words over his shoulder as he stalked for the barn, Robert keeping hot on his heels. "Hank wouldn't lie, even to trash like you, 'bout Sally being hurt. Not to mention you didn't check before riddin' out here, only to get yurself lost on yur way. Been in the city to long," he muttered at the end.

Robert fumed, how many times could one man be insulted in a single night?! True he'd gotten a little turned around and it had taken him longer than expected to get here, but there was only a sliver of a moon and the trails looked the same in places.

Bill threw the barn door open and grabbed his saddle and shoved it into Robert's arms, "The paint in the back right stall, do it right and fast while I go let the others know what's goin' on."

Robert glared but did as was demanded. When Bill came back and it looked like Robert was about to go with him, he gave him a hard shove in the chest, "You go on back up the house, you've cause enough trouble for one night." Robert started to argue and Bill pulled a gun on him. "I've wanted to shoot you for a real long time boy, even if it is just a slug that would keep ya here and not kill ya. Now get up to the house."

Robert's anger flashed but he was exhausted and he doubted Hank would let him in, even in Bills company, so he strode angrily back to the house to wait.

Bill took off then, racing back to Black Falls.

The sun had fully broken the horizon when he reigned up at the Wagon Wheel and went storming in with his limp and right back to Hank's rooms in the back. He threw the door open with a bang and saw it wasn't just Hank in his room, but the new Sheriff and the Doc too. "Where is Sally?"

When taken to her room, Bill felt like he might pitch over and kick up his own grave when she wasn't here either, just her note.

He dropped heavily down into a wooden chair after reading it, his face pale. He shook his head, lifting his hat and running a hand through the deeply thinning hair. "Oh Sally, what have I let 'em do to ya girl?" he said quietly before offering up the note.
« Last Edit: February 07, 2014, 05:51:55 am by Peregrine »


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #68 on: February 09, 2014, 03:21:32 am »

The sheriff didn’t remember much of what happened.  The hour was early, he was awake.  Jake spoke quietly from his chair near the cot where he insisted the sheriff remain, at least for now.

“I’m not quite sure what the drug was,” Jake said.  He rubbed his eyes and longed for coffee.  With a yawn he added.  “Since you’re no longer dizzy I’m thinking that most of it is out of your system for now.  Will you go after Hitch?”

The sheriff said, “I don’t rightly remember what happened.  One minute I was having a drink, and the next I was waking up here.  If you hadn’t told me about the fire I might have thought I passed out.  Did you see who started it?  Was it Hitch?”

Here Jake paused.  He had his reasons for saying, “I got hit over the head.  I didn’t see who did it.”  Truthful yes, but he knew he couldn’t testify against Hitch.  He’d have to come up with another solution to the problem.
Before Jake could plot more, Hank came in.  He brought coffee and Jake thanked him with a smile.  His head hurt and the alcohol he’d let himself indulge in last night wasn’t helping.

Hank said, “Are you going to rebuild, Doc?”

Jake didn’t get to answer.  The door to the room flew open, and Bill stormed in.  He could imagine that the “Where is Sally?” was meant for him to answer.  Bill seemed worried and angry at the same time. 

It was Hank though that said, “Upstairs.” 

Bill didn’t need additional information.  It was clear they were heading towards Sally’s room with Hank and the Sherriff along for the ride.  Jake didn’t hurry to join them.  The drama over Sal’s note had already taken place by the time Jake did follow.  He wasn’t surprised to see that she was gone.

Jake lingered near the door, leaning against the wall. “I figure you might have passed her in the dark,” Jake said, “She was awfully anxious to leave.”

Three pairs of eyes looked in Jake’s direction, and then swung to Bill who shook his head at the answer.  “No, she’s…”  But he didn’t say what he thought, or explain where Sal was.

Jake said, “Somebody roughed her up last night.  She’s going to find riding painful.”

Hank chimed in, “She said she fell.”

Jake shook his head and explained, “Those bruises weren’t from a fall.  I could see the finger marks and she wasn’t talking about it.  Her gun was missing as well.”  He sighed, and then said, “Where’d she go, Bill?  Maybe the Sherriff should have a talk with her when he’s able.”


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #69 on: February 09, 2014, 09:19:41 am »
Bill had stood up after Hank took the note, but at Jake's revelation he'd plunked heavily back into the chair smashing his hat between his hands a bit.

Robert had said 'hurt' he hadn't known how, Bill had assumed singed in the fire he'd mentioned, or a run in with tripping up on her skirts but what Jake said shook him to his core, his face a ghostly white. He didn't register the suggestion that Jake wanted him to send the Sheriff after her for several long moments.

When it did sink in he stood and shook his head, glancing once at Hank before looking at the Sheriff and Jake, his face pale, his hands trembling a bit. "No, don't think she'll be tellin' the Sheriff. If things are as bad as that time after her Pa... She's hurtin' somethin fierce, and it ain't got much ta do with bruises." That was only a bit of and accusation, he tried not to sound too angry. The Doc and Sal were two folks that bore the weight of their problems alone, not accepting help or comfort easy. Bill sighed, he suspected who was behind her state and where she'd gone, she'd hinted at it with the line about her Pa.

He look Jake square in his tired face, resting a heavy hand on his shoulder, trying to read something there. His eyes softened a bit to sadness.

He looked away and dropped his hand, put his hat back on his head, and scooped up the dress and gloves. "I hope she didn't head there, but if I didn't pass her, she might be going to the old homestead." He shrugged, sad at the thought if someone did go, it probably wouldn't be the Doc, and he felt it ought to be.

"S'pose I ought to be getting back, the boys and Miss Liin are waitin for news. Hank you mind walkin me over to the stables?" He didn't wait for Hank to answer and headed out again, nothing more for him to say, least not in front of the Sheriff.


Sal was glad she'd broken her own rules and had those drinks, it kept her in the saddle longer, but once it wore away she had to stop and ease herself down the best she could. Then she had to move slow and lead the horse.

It was going to be a long, horrible day at this rate. She was glad for the canteen and the dried rations in the saddle bags, though she didn't have an apatite.

She simply limped slowly toward her destination, unsuccessfully trying to block out all the bits of conversations from last night, taunting her.

"There's nothing you can do Sally"

“Life is too short”

"You've gone and stuck your finger in a hornets nest and decided to shake it."

"Perhaps you don't know Sally as well as I do"

"If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right. Don’t leave"

"From what I hear, the Doc knows her best"

“You’re beau should see you home.  That’s what people who are courting do.”

"You're not meant for him, understand we'll hurt him if we have to."

“In case I didn’t say it.  You look really nice.”

"You can put fancy ribbons on a donkey, but it don't make it no show pony"

"Well, well, well Sally, we're in quite the tangle here."

“You’re not my responsibility.”

"We have an understanding, don't you think?"

“I can’t help if you run away. I know a runner when I see one."

“I was married once before.”

“I’m more scared of you than Hitch.”

“I wasn’t planning on leaving.  Be nice to have more reason to stay.”

“I’m sorry.”

She trudged on, a little delirious from the pain.


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #70 on: February 10, 2014, 12:52:58 am »
While Bill looked upset at the news that Sally had been beaten, he didn’t show the sort of indignation Jake expected.   No one insisted upon the law and that disturbed Jake more than being blamed.  He could see the hint of condemnation, the touch of worry, but it seemed Hitch had more sway than even Jake imagined.

What happened to the people of this town?  Jake had his reasons for avoiding public scrutiny, but the others didn’t have the complications he suffered.  Surely there is someone who cares enough to stand up to the bully?

Jake knew where the old homestead was, but Bill didn’t seem to be heading there.  Sal was tough but she didn’t seem to be the type that needed to lick their wounds in private.  Did anyone intend to offer comfort?  She wasn’t a dress that could be washed and mended.  People needed care.

He hissed in frustration as Bill and Hank and then the sheriff went down the stairs, seemingly to see Bill off on his return journey.  Jake remained behind in the room.  He took stock of the surroundings, void of personality now that Sal’s things were gone.  The bedclothes were ruffled, and Jake moved to straighten them. Jake picked up the note left on the dresser and read it twice, unsure how much stock to put into Bill's words.  He collected the glass of water, and went to the window to look out at the town, before he too went down the stairs.

The day passed quickly.  Several town members had bribes to entice him to stay.  A reconstruction party was planned for the weekend.  A couple of men, part of the volunteer fire brigade, were hauling out burnt timber already starting the process of demolition.  Jake hadn’t fully committed to staying, but he didn’t take what little he had left and head for the train.  The ambivalence seemed to be enough for the people of Black Falls to rally around the doctor.  Although, Jake suspected, that the new structure could also be occupied by any town business.  Their work would not go to waste.

It was close to dinner time before Jake returned to the Copper Wheel.  He figured he’d have a drink and check on the sheriff, but his patient was already waiting at the bar.  Jake took a seat and Hank brought a bottle over.  Jake didn’t pour right away.  “I’ve been thinking,” he said.  “Someone should ride out and check on Sally Hansen.”

“Um,” the Sherriff said.

Jake couldn’t tell if that was a yes or a no.  So he clarified, “I was thinking that someone should be you.”

Hank didn’t move off right away to visit with other customers.  He hinted, “The Sherriff is new in these parts.  I bet he don’t know the way out the homestead.”

Jake noticed that his glass remained empty.  He twisted the glass on the bar, thinking.  It was true that the desert could be tricky.  Directions like, ‘take the fork where the Miller’s barn used to be,’ wouldn’t work in this situation. 

Hank pushed, “Recon someone should show him.”

The Sherriff said, “From what I’ve heard, we could be there by sunset.”

Jake didn’t say anything for a long minute.

The sheriff parroted back,  “Someone should check on Sally Hansen.  Bet there’s no food out there.”

Hank nodded, “Gonna be tough to cart water from that old well.”

Jake stood up.  “I’ll take the hamper you’ve packed Hank.”  He knew they’d been waiting for him.  The sheriff was dressed to ride.  “Let’s go.  Time’s awastin’.”
« Last Edit: February 10, 2014, 12:56:17 am by Beau »


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #71 on: February 10, 2014, 03:13:26 am »
When they were outside and between the Wagon Wheel and the stable Hank turned to Bill, "What's going on Bill?"

Bill shook his head, "Nothing good Hank. Nothing good."

Hank raised a brow, "You don't seem as put out as I'd think bout Sal."

Bill sighed, "Any time that Harlaw boy's round, I expect it."

"You think he had somethin' to do with what happened to Sal."

Bill made and unequivocal motion with his head, "Yes and no. I'd like to go back to the ranch and string him up for what happened the last time, but I'm pretty sure he didn't directly have anything to do with this. I do know Hitch wasn't involved."

Hank looked confused, "How do you know?"

Bill half sighed, half scoffed, "Cause Hitch wants Sally. He wants her land and her money, sure, but he lusts after her somethin' fierce. He'd find a way to hurt her the didn't actually hurt her." He shrugged, he could be wrong. he didn't think so.

Hank shrugged too, "I can't say who done it. Sal and Doc had some sort of fallin' out it looked like, then Sal made a comment about goin' after Hitch and left. Next thing I know she's all beat up and tellin' us she fell down the stairs at the back of the Welford place. I didn't see Hitch or Harlaw until he came blusterin in demanding to see Sal and I wouldn't let him, and then he made some comments and I threw him out. Musta came out to the ranch after that."

Bill nodded, thinking, "Well, I thank ya for what ya done tonight and that other time. Sure wish that girl would let someone help her."

Hank shrugged, "Only decent thing to do either time, but I think pigs'll fly before that girl accepts help, but we'll keep tryin."

Bill nodded sadly and left.
Robert was treated well enough by Miss Lin, she even dusted and pressed his jacket, but he didn't like waiting around.

He walked around the ranch, he looked at old nick nacks that had been in the house from the time he was a boy, he ate the food pushed on him, and grew more irritated by the moment.

When Bill pulled up in a passengerless buggy he thought he might eat his hat he was so mad.

"Where is Sally?"

Bill got down slowly, handing the reins off to one of the workers, "Can't rightly say. Seems she felt well enough to leave but left word she wouldn't be comin back this way."

Robert's eyes narrowed, "Yes, but I suspect you know where she is."

Bill's face went hard, "I might and I might not, but I won't be tellin' the likes of you."

Robert stepped right in front of him, slightly taller, younger and broader, Bill had no choice but to stop. "I don't know what you think it is I did to Sally, but I have no intention of harming her."

Bill glared and shook his head, "You might not mean harm, but it comes in your wake."

Robert glared back. Truth told, he had meetings to keep himself, things that needed looking after, but he wasn't giving up either. "You better get used to me being around. I don't plan on going anywhere any time soon.

"Be that as it may, if I find out you had anythin to do with what happened to Sal, I'll shoot you where it counts. Now get out of my way, I got a ranch to keep runnin' till Sally gets back."

Robert moved, shocked at the threat clear in the older mans voice, no hint of bluff either. One more problem to put on the list to deal with.

He went back to the barn and saddled his horse and headed back for town. There were enough that liked to gossip he'd probably find more in two minutes of asking than an hour of going the rounds with Bill.


It had been a terrible time, a ride that would take two hours at the most, took Sal nearly six to accomplish. It was close to noon by the time she threw the reigns around the post outside, pulled the saddle bags off, and shuffled inside the three room cabin.

It was comparatively dark inside and she leaned heavily against the open door frame staring into the dark.

She dropped the bags on the table she knew was next to the door, stepped into the gloom, closing the door and collapsed onto the bed in the other room. Her exhaustion swamped her pain and she fell asleep.

When she opened her eyes she was a bit disoriented, there was an orange light in the main room. It was the wrong direction for sunset, so perhaps she's slept away 18 hours and the sun was coming up and through the old curtains.

All of her pain compounded as she started to move, sore muscles on top of bruise muscles and she winced. She heard movement in the other room and her hand went to her gunless hip and she almost swore. She shuffled quietly to the far wall and pulled down the rifle tucked up under a shelf and one armed it as she moved cautiously into the front room.

She wasn't quiet enough and one of the towns girls turned around with a little scream of fright. "Oh! Don't shoot me!"

Sal let the gun droop, "What are you doin out here Heather Sue?"

The girl helplessly gestured around, "Mr. Harlaw, he was worried and sent a few of us out different places with instructions that if we found you we should help you out. My Ma let me and my brother come here since it weren't too far. He's takin' care your horse and I made some soup. We didn't bring much since we wasn't sure you was here."

Sal let the gun rest against her leg and ran her hand down her face.

"What happened to ya Miss Hansen?"

Sal realized her bruised face was clear to view. She said a little grouchily, "I had a run-in with some stairs. Now I'm glad for the soup and your help, but you and your brother best get back to town. I'd prefer if you didn't tell Mr. Harlaw I'm here."

"I don't know Miss Hansen, he's aweful worried."

Sal shrugged, "He doesn't need to be. Now get, and don't tell him I'm here."

The girl got, and soon enough she heard two horses ridding away, she didn't hold out much hope of her not telling Robert.

She hadn't slept as long as she thought, it was late afternoon, drifting toward evening. She cursed herself for Robert's memory and wondered where else he'd sent folks looking for her.

She ate the soup, pushed a bucket of water Heather's brother had fetched inside and cleaned herself up a bit, tending to her hurts as best she could with cloth soaked in witch hazel, and putting on clothes she'd left here last fall. They were dusty, but they fit.

She pulled an old leather chair up to the fire and sat, staring into the flames. She was beyond weary but her mind wouldn't let her stop wondering just what she was going to do about the mess she'd made.

She heard horses in the distance getting closer and she sighed, pulling the gun up across her lap. Out here, she couldn't be sure. It was the perfect place for 'accidents' to happen. She just wanted to be left alone, but it seemed she was going to get company whether she wanted it or not.


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #72 on: February 11, 2014, 12:51:12 am »
Heather Sue and her brother crossed paths with the sheriff and the doctor as twilight set on the desert.  The two kids confirmed that Sally was at the homestead, and shared why they’d been sent.  Jake wasn’t thrilled to know that Robert was checking up on Sal, but he didn’t reiterate Sally’s request to keep the information private.  Secrets helped no one.

“She looked real bad,” Heather Sue said.  Of course to a young girl a black eye was disaster.  “I’m glad you’re going to see her, Doc.”

Two went on to town while the others continued on their mercy mission.  Jake considered returning to Black Falls as well, and his anxiety only heightened as they neared the homestead.  He wasn’t anxious to rehash last night’s conversation.

Jake was the first to dismount near the barn.  He took the lead for the Sherriff’s horse.  “Why don’t you go inside.  She’s more likely to talk without witnesses.”

“From what you’ve said before it seems like she won’t talk at all.” The Sherriff surveyed the land, hitching his pants up before marching to the door to knock.

In the barn, Jake took his time setting up a stall for the horses, and adding water to the trough.  He unpacked the additional provisions before ambling towards the house.  The moon was starting to rise.  There would be enough light to return by if the weather stayed clear.  And yet, as he knocked he wondered if he’d be making that ride back tonight.  Sal needed a friend.  He was her friend despite the latest set of crossed signals.  The sooner they got  back on that footing, the better.

It was the Sherriff that opened the door.  Jake went inside.  “Evening, Sal,” he said, placing the borrowed hat he wore on the post.  “You hungry?”

Ordinary talk.  For ordinary folks.


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #73 on: February 11, 2014, 04:13:36 am »
Sal heard conversation, so two people for sure, male by the sound of it.

She one armed the gun again, pushing it into her shoulder and waiting.

Knocking didn't mean it was friends. She sighed, "Go away, or I'll shoot." She tried.

"Doubt you want to kill the Sheriff Sal. I'm comin' in."

Sal didn't lower the gun. She didn't know the new Sheriff well enough to not suspect he was corrupt.

When he couldn't buy off the last Sheriff, Hitch had killed him. The door creaked open and she was satisfied to see the shocked look on his face at the gun pointed at him.

"You mind lowering that?"

"You mind stating your business and tellin me where your friend went off to?"

The sheriff rolled his eyes and shook his head, "It's Doc and he's settling the horses in that ramshackle building you claim is a barn. Bill gave a hint where you might have went off to."

Sal hesitated, but let the gun slide back down across her legs, though it made her ill at ease, he could still be lying. She didn't believe after yesterday Jake... the Doc, would have anything to do with her.

"Now, according to the Doc you were roughed up, sure as hell looks like it." Her bruises had settled in and bloomed from her cheekbone up her temple into her hair line on the left side. Most everything else was covered by her clothes. "Now, I'd like to hear your side of it and put the men away who did this," he walked all the way in and shut the door as he spoke. He sat in a dusty old rocking chair and gave her a hard stare. He'd seen women get slapped by their husbands, but this was more than that, and she wasn't married.

She looked back at the fire, to tired to put any feeling behind her words, "Ja.. Doc's got it wrong. Not much to tell. I'm not a gently bred woman, I tried to act ladylike and fell down some stairs when my dress caught and I didn't notice until to late."

"Stickin' to it then? Your face is tellin Doc's story." He moved his face to try and get her attention,"You can trust me girl, I want to help you."

Sal's eyes rolled back in his direction and she gave him a skeptical look, "I heard that before, from Hitch Soothby."

The Sheriff's face went red, and she turned back to the fire ignoring it.

"I came to help Black Falls. I wasn't assigned, I volunteered, it's a town needs fixin."

Sal shrugged a shoulder, "Good luck." It was so dismissive his mouth fell open. He shook his head and stood up and headed to the back of the room toward the kitchen area and stoked the stove before lighting a lantern or two and dipping water from a bucket someone brought in into a coffee pot.

Maybe when the Doc came in they could convince her.

Sal almost didn't believe Jake had come, she kept her hand on the gun, ready. It was more likely the Sheriff was corrupt now than ever. Who would volunteer to come to the brink of nothing? Jake did.

Sal didn't move from her spot as the fresh knock broke her brooding. She concentrated on the door through her periphery vision, ready to shoot if needed. After a moment the Sheriff went over and opened it. It was Jake... DOC! woman!

She didn't stir at his greeting or his question except for her hand moving to a more relaxed position on the rifle. She twisted her tongue against the top of her mouth, and kept her eyes firmly on the fire, not sure whether to be upset that he didn't seem to value his own life or glad to know he cared- even if the Sheriff had drug him here. 

The Sheriff shrugged at the Doc and said quiet, "She's been like that for the last twenty minutes or so, since spinnin her yarn about the stairs. Think something got scrambled in her head when she was beat?" He didn't know about such things so he filled the silence with something else, "I've got some coffee goin." He gestured to the stove and then walked back over giving them some privacy. 


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #74 on: February 11, 2014, 06:38:21 am »
Jake took his time taking his boots off and setting them neatly near the door.  He didn’t say much when the sheriff offered his revelation, even though he was a bit disappointed.  Sal was going to be stubborn.  Not surprising, but tiring all the same.  It meant he’d have to stay and he was a bit torn over how that made him feel.

He used silence again, coming and sitting near the fire in the other empty chair.  The Sherriff seemed to think the coffee needed constant scrutiny.  Jake stared at Sal instead.  He put the hamper of food down on the floor, finally reaching in and getting a sandwich.

“Well, I’m hungry,” Jake announced.  “You want pastrami or roast beef, sheriff?”

The sheriff considered, “Hum,” as though the choice were important.  “I’ll go with the beef.”

Jack tossed the wrapped meal across the room, where it was caught deftly. 

The sheriff went to find a mug, looking in the cupboard and generally making himself at home. “There an apple in there?”

“Yep.  Looks like it’s wrapped in pastry.  Can you suffer some pie?”

“Don’t mind if I do.”  The sheriff claimed his desert, but didn’t encroach on the couple near the fire.
Jake nudged the basket closer to Sally.  “You need to eat.”  He sounded like a doctor offering advice.  “I’m not leaving until you do.”

He wouldn’t be leaving after that either, but he didn’t have to clarify that point at the moment.  Jake decided to change tactics and talk.  He spoke about his day and how the town’s people started the cleanup process on his office.  He mentioned the rebuilding party for the weekend.  “Mary Kate seems to think I need wallpaper this time.  Not sure why, but she said the store already placed the order.  I hope it’s something simple like stripes, but I’m not sure I’ll be so lucky.”

The sheriff joked about women and their taste in frills.  Jake watched Sal out of the corner of his eye as he said, “I didn’t have curtains in the front before either.  Apparently that was causing some sort of a scandal with the decorating committee.”

“They made a committee?”

“Yep.”  Jake shook his head.  “I think they are planning some throw pillows.  A fancy couch for the waiting room too, since apparently my wooden chair wasn’t much fun to sit in.”  He leaned back in the chair he was in now and didn’t complain.  His body was too tired to care.  “Nobody tells me these things.  Now I have all sorts of women organizing me.”  A pause.  “Save one.”

He decided to look up at the ceiling.  “You don’t want me killed.  Well, Sally, I don’t want you killed either.  That gun in your lap tells me all I need to know.”  The stairs didn’t grow legs; they had been there all along.  “The sheriff is here to help.”

The sheriff took one more swig of coffee.  “I’ll keep first watch.”

Jake laced his fingers together and let them rest on his stomach, elbows on the arm rest of the chair. “I’ll take second.”

« Last Edit: February 11, 2014, 06:40:25 am by Beau »


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #75 on: February 11, 2014, 08:16:47 am »
Sal listened to them talk and hand food back and forth, and literally bit her curled tongue to keep from speaking more than once. She could see Doc eying her but she couldn't look at him in return. His comment about being organized did not go unnoticed.

Every time I try it almost gets one of us killed, or you run away. I think it was fair I get to run once!

Her jaw tightened.

She didn't stir though, not even when he mentioned the gun, not when the Sheriff went to keep 'first watch' and not for a good twenty minutes in the silence that followed. The fire finally settled down to low flames, almost embers now. The lower light cast dark shadows, making the bruises on her face seem to bleed further and look darker.

Finally, finally she uncurled her tongue, her eyes glazing over in memory her voice tired and flat. "I'm safe enough here, but I've carried some kind of gun since I was sixteen. Before that I'd go shooting with my Pa to keep up my aim, maybe have one when we'd drive the cows, but I never really understood why I should have one."

"Robert and I were practically engaged just before my sixteenth birthday, his father didn't approve of me though. I wasn't well-to-do enough for their back east riches. To much the ranchers daughter, not enough lady." Her eyebrows seemed to shrug, "We knew his parents were fixin' on leaving but I figured if we got married, he'd stay." She paused taking several slow breaths. Her chest felt tight telling him this.

"The night before my sixteenth birthday, we planned to meet not far from here at an old cottonwood we frequently sat under by the creek," she let out a scoffing laugh, "I must have waited for hours, but he never showed up. I liked to tell myself his Pa found out and he wouldn't let him come, but I've never found out if that was true." She shook her head. "Doesn't matter now I suppose. When I finally realized he wasn't going to show up I decided to come here, for the night at least, but my mind wasn't with where I was going and soon enough I was out on the flats in the pitch dark. Not that Thomas Harlaw knew what happened but, even if I was fit for Robert before that night, he certainly wouldn't have thought so after that night, even if.. well anyway... We had a lot more Indian problems back then."

She went quite for awhile, when she spoke again her voice was level, but tight, "I was lucky I suppose, before the first group had a chance to do to much or kill me, a second group showed up that frequently traded with my Pa and recognized me. Though I'm not sure lucky was quite right, being thrown over the back of a horse and then dumped on the back steps of the Wagon Wheel where my Pa was, didn't do me much good after everything else."

She leaned forward, wrapping her hand over her painful ribs, and poked the fire,"First time in my life I drank was that night, until today it was the only time." She cleared her throat, "Might have saved myself a heap of trouble if I hadn't been stupid, or if I'd had a gun. I made my Pa trade the pony he'd gotten me for my first six shooter and haven't felt comfortable without somethin since." She paused and spoke as an after thought, "I ate soup Heather Sue made before you came. If ya go soon, you could lie and tell all the folks I'd already left before you got here, safest that way."

She went quiet again for awhile, but eased herself forward some more and stirred the logs, bitting at the broken skin on her bottom lip a bit. The fire climbed a little higher. She turned and looked at him for the first time, her eyes were sad. A little truth now might just make him understand, "If they hear you're out here, if they think I didn't learn my lesson... they'll shoot you. Or worse."

She eased back in the old chair real slow and careful, feeling all the pains start prickling again as her eyes slid back to the fire. "So ya see, I ain't worth it. Not worth frettin over cause I'm too stubborn. Not worth fightin' for, unless you're like Hitch and Robert, and find yourself coveting my vasty patch of desert. And I certainly cain't think of a single reason I'd be worth dyin for."
« Last Edit: February 11, 2014, 08:33:48 am by Peregrine »


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #76 on: February 15, 2014, 06:24:40 am »
The fire continued to crackle as Jake sat with Sal.  The sheriff took his leave and it became more difficult to bear the silence.  Jake had said his peace at least to this point, so he should have been satisfied with the quiet, but he was anxious all the same.
She has a gun after all.

His sense of humor couldn’t liken the mood.  When Sal talked he leaned forward to listen.  He voice was quiet and her gaze vague.  He chose not to stare and looked down at the wood boards on the floor as she spoke about what happened and why guns were so important.

Jake had never made a point of being a doctor who sought audiences with the Indian nation.  If a body was injured he’d tend to it, but he preferred to steer clear of the native population, unwilling to seek trouble or complications.  He had enough of his own prejudice to deal with, but he had heard of the type of thing Sal was talking about.   Women raped and beaten.  Men shot for no reason.  Of course the citizen’s tended to give as good as they got.  That’s what war was.

Still, he hadn’t expected the stories to hit so close to home.  Rumor took on stark reality.

Sal leaned forward and stirred the fire.  The light flickered over them both, although he tried to keep his expression shuttered and neutral.  He held nothing against her, as some others might.   He fervently wished that things that happened ten years ago didn’t matter.  He’d say as much, but Sal didn’t want comfort. 

She finally revealed the true nature of the threat.  Jake said, “Who’s they?”  A simple question it would seem.  He wanted her to answer, but held out little hope.  “They can’t shoot me, or harm you if ‘they’ are behind bars.”

Maybe he was being naïve.  He honestly didn’t have the firm belief in the law he was toting.  With a sigh, Jake sat back in the chair.  He closed his eyes as she said the last, hearing perhaps a bit too much of his own self deprecation.

I don’t plan on dying. It wasn’t personal.  He was a coward, but something about this situation and the woman in the chair caused him to hold his ground, at least for the moment.

“I can think of one. “  He stood.  “Maybe two reasons if pressed.”

He gathered up the food remnants and put the wrappings back in the hamper.  She’d eaten.  He could listen to her on that account at least.  He let the papers rustle between his hands, his thoughts distant.

“I’m not a brave man, Sal.  Don’t mistake my fatigue for nobility.  I’ve heard what you had to say, but it doesn’t change much.  I'm still your friend.  You're still important to me. What’s in the past is the past.”

Maybe someday you’ll remember I said that.  Understand it's something that I too have to believe. 

He paused and turned to the fire, trying to see what she saw so fascinating.  “I wish your Paw was here.”
Jake turned to the door.  “I’ll go check on the sheriff.”  That man would have a gun.  Jake did his best not to carry if he could help it. He’d seen too much of what the weapon could do.   Sal saw things from a different angle, and it only emphasized their differences. 

But, he wasn't leaving. “Try to get some sleep.”
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 06:55:58 pm by Beau »


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #77 on: February 16, 2014, 10:07:16 am »
His words struck a tone, every one of them seemed to strike new blows, meant specifically for her. He could think of one or two reasons - if pressed-, he wasn't brave or he'd leave, they were friends- nothing more, she was important but the past was in the past. They were in the past.

Her eyes slid to watch him move around, but they soon went back to the fire. She shook her head slightly at his comment about her Pa. That, for Sal, would depend on which version of him was still around. Would it be the man people saw, the dedicated rancher, the fighter? Or would it more likely be the man Sal knew behind closed doors?

Then, belaying his spoken fatigue Jake left to check on the Sheriff, maybe leave all together for all Sal knew. The occasional pop of the fire the only sound interrupting the silence once his boot steps faded.

It wasn't nearly time for him to take over the watch, but Sal figured he just couldn't stand being in the same room with her anymore. She was even more tainted now, having spoken the truth, than she was before. He was from the city, he was civilized and straight laced, she was a tumbleweed rolled in the mud of many miles now. She'd only been roughed up, but it had been by Natives who'd done it, so everyone assumed the worst, probably would have been had fate not intervened.

Let him assume, it will be easier if he rejects you. What's a little more pain?

Sal sighed, a dull ache flaring all along her ribs, which she knew would be worse if she moved again. She knew she should follow Doctors orders and get some sleep, she wanted it, needed it. But she couldn't move.

The fire died down again, only occasional skittering flares from the blackened log, the searing embers peaking through the chard cracks. She looked down at the dark gun across her lap and wondered, not for the first time, how her life would have been different or the same if she'd had a gun that night.

She looked back at the embers. He would have been so easy to love. Her last thought before exhaustion claimed her and head dropped back against the chair.


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #78 on: February 19, 2014, 12:43:08 am »

Jake met the sheriff in the stables.  “So, what’s the plan?” he asked.

The sheriff shook his head.  “I can’t do much if she won’t name names.”  He put the saddle on his horse.  “I’m going to patrol around the lot. The smoke from the chimney is visible and I’ll use that as an anchor to make a circle.”

Jake nodded.  It made sense to check the area and be sure there wasn’t a trap being laid.  But if there wasn’t and if Sal insisted on remaining silent, the gunman would be gone by morning.  “Sal suggested that we make up a story about not finding her here.”

“I can do that,” The sheriff said.  “Where should I say you are?”

Jake smiled.  He hadn’t yet decided he was staying.  And yet, there was no decision really.  He wouldn’t leave Sal alone, even if the sheriff had other responsibilities to balance.  “Might not be bad to start the rumor that I’ve gone to Phoenix.”  But that would only buy so much time.  “Or, you could tell the truth, I suppose - that you don’t know for sure.”

“Suppose I wouldn’t…” The sheriff mounted the horse.  He took the riffle out of the saddle strap and handed it to Jake.  “Bring that back though.  Don’t take it to Phoenix.”

Jake nodded and watched the sheriff ride out, the dark swallowing him up.   Jake returned to the house and opened the door as quietly as he could.  Sal seemed to be asleep.  He took his shoes off and went to find a blanket to lay over her as best he could.

He needed to stay awake, but it was hard.  He let his mind dwell on memories.  Why he was here, and why he couldn’t leave.


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #79 on: February 19, 2014, 01:50:54 am »
"NO!" Sal woke with a painful jerk, half jumping to her feet. She winced, trying to catch the rifle sliding down her thighs that was tangled with a blanket she didn't recall having.

Half crouched, still holding everything she looked around, the fire casting a soft glow. Someone had built it up and her eyes came to rest on Jake. Her jaw tightened and she stood up straight. The butt of the gun made a thud on the floor as she held the barrel end clenched in her hand.

She couldn't tell what time it was, but it felt early. She almost laughed, it was probably an hour before sunrise or so, the usual time she woke up. She tossed the blanket back on her chair and turned and limped into the kitchen, setting the rifle on the table.

She went the bucket of water still on the stool by the stove and dipped the ladle in twice and took a drink straight from it before dumping some in the empty coffee pot and into a pan. She lifted the lid on the top of the stove and blew on the coals and slowly added fuel to the small fire.

The only reason she could think of for him to still be here was medical. Fine. The sooner she showed him she was capable of handling herself, the better.

She licked dry and painful lips before she spoke, keeping her back to him, "Coffee Doc?"

She moved the pot and pan over where they'd get the heat and the water could boil. She moved to a cloth covered cupboard and reached to grab a can of dry oats and the coffee can at the same time. Her left arm was stretched and her fingers just clenching a can when she jerked her arm back, the stretch a little too much for her tender ribs.

The can of oats dropped to the counter, the top popping and spilling it's contents across the counter before she caught and stopped its roll. She swore quietly and set the coffee can down and started to scoop the oats into a pile with her hand.


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #80 on: February 19, 2014, 05:40:10 am »
Jake hadn’t planned to sleep in the upright chair near the fire, but at some point his memories became dreams.  Life and death blended into Technicolor, broken only by Sal’s cry of ‘no’ so loudly echoing his own.

He stayed still.  Eyes opened, but he didn’t rise as Sal stood and adjusted the gun.  He watched her move about, critically appraising her fluidity of motion, or lack thereof.

She offered coffee.  “I’ll make it,” he said in response.

Before he could stand and walk over she was filling the pot with water and bustling about.  He came up behind her and the can of oats spilled.  She tried to scoop up the scattered contents. 

“Let me help you.” Of course that wasn’t allowed.  Her body positioned to be in his way as she scooped up the remains.

He tried to count to ten, but only made it to five.  “Damn it, Sal!  Go sit down.”  His tone brokered no argument, but he still expected one.  “You are by far one of the most stubborn women I’ve ever met.”  His look implied that wasn’t a compliment.  “I’ll heat the water.  I’ll make breakfast.”  Some of the sting went out of his words as he reached for her shoulder, before he hesitated and drew back, remembering her injury.  “Sit.” A pause. “Please.”

Comply or not, he’d fill the silence by explaining, “The sheriff went back to town.  He’ll spread the rumor you wanted – that you’re not here.  He took a look around last night, and the fire smoke doesn’t seem to have drawn any interest so far.  Hopefully it will be warm enough that we can let it die down and keep the secret for now.”  He shrugged, “Buys us a day, maybe two.”

A half smile, “You sure you don’t want to run away to Phoenix?”
« Last Edit: February 19, 2014, 05:42:06 am by Beau »


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #81 on: February 19, 2014, 08:22:53 am »
Sal's hand stopped on the oats when he yelled. He'd never yelled and sworn at her at the same time. Yelled yes. Sworn yes. But once was when her life was in danger, and once was when she'd deserved to be cussed at.

She bit her split lip at his command and stuffed the oats back inside the can. She turned slowly and leaned against the counter, her arms folded defensively against her chest as she took in his look and his words about her stubbornness.

She almost believed he actually cared as he reached for her. Her arms started to loosen in response to his reach that is, until he drew his hand back before he even touched her. She tightened up again, her hands clenched tightly to her sides. She grit her teeth and looked at the dusty floor boards to keep from showing her hurt.

She didn't ask any questions, but he kept talking. The Sheriff was gone, but the Doctor remained.

She moved her battered and be-smudged self away from him, sitting herself down quietly at the table in the semidarkness, her body ridged.

When he went quiet after his last question, she shook her head slowly. Then she said very quietly, practically mumbling, "It would only change the place, not the problems."

She sighed and spoke louder, "I have a day here, tops. Sara Smith is a friend, she'll keep her kids quiet but Robert won't sit still long. I'm 'too important' to be lost for long... I have other places I can go, or just back to the ranch if I have to..."

She might not have known he was coming, she might not know for certain what he wanted, but she had known he was getting bits of gossip about her the last few years. She also knew that his ranch wasn't worth much without some plots from her own... or all of it. Maybe he had good intentions, or at least honest ones, but she couldn't imagine his father did and she doubted Robert was here without his permission. Thomas Harlaw was a man who had few scruples.

She had serious doubts about Robert now though, in light of all that had happened all those years ago and all the years in between. If he'd really loved her, wouldn't he have written? Wouldn't he have kept in touch more than the three letters she had gotten. Was she anything more than a means to an ends? To anyone?

She waited a moment but decided she had to know. Doc was still here. Despite the fact he could have left with the sheriff, despite the fact that there was no real reason for him to be here. Despite the fact he'd been told his life was in danger and she knew he wasn't a fighter, not really, he was still here.

She freed one of her hands from the vice grip on her chest and scratched at the table. She swallowed hard before she finally looked up at him directly, her heart raw, her face really open for the first time since that night in her barn. "I need to know..." Sal hesitated, her hand shaking with small tremors she tried to still. She swallowed again, her words stuttering every once in awhile, "Wh-why'd ya come? You've made it pretty clear... ya don't want me, and I know now for sure I ain't ever gonna be good enough for you, even as friends. We both know there's nothing much you can do for my aches... But... but I gotta know, even if all we say from now on is how'da do, even if you decide to leave anyway, even if it won't change things... I need to know if I meant more'n dirt or a pile of pay to someone, even if it was just for a minute..." She glanced down and back up at him, "So why are you here Ja-Doc? Why'd ya come?"
« Last Edit: February 19, 2014, 08:36:25 am by Peregrine »


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #82 on: February 19, 2014, 02:58:43 pm »
Sal looked like a whipped dog as she hesitated, and Jake instantly regretted raising his voice.  He didn’t look her way as she moved to the table, ashamed of his own behavior.  The pot of water offered a convenient excuse to focus on breakfast instead.  His hands got busy, but he didn’t bang the pot against the stove to vent his frustration like he wanted to.

He heard what she said, but felt confused at first.  His feelings for her were new, but he thought them unwanted.  Hadn’t he already hinted that he needed some encouragement before he put his heart on his sleeve?  Hadn’t she told him to leave her be?

Her words gave him pause, and he half turned to see her at the table.  The silence stretched for a moment, “I just asked you to go to Phoenix with me.”

There it was –out there in the open.  Jake turned back to the coffee pot.  It was easier to speak to the metal than to see her surprise.  He spooned grounds into the pot.  “You shouldn’t think such things about yourself Sal.  You’re smart.  You’re funny.  Most days you look pretty good, even if you don’t like the fancy dresses.”  He’d had his fill of the fancy dresses.

“Me,” he shrugged, keeping his hands busy on the counter before him, “I’m fifteen years older than you. I have my secrets. I work with people everyday but I don’t really trust them.  You’re one of the few I talk to outside of work.  I commune better with a bottle of scotch most nights."  He was no prize. 

"Robert’s a rancher.  He can shoot a gun. He’ll come looking for you which says something about his character and what you mean to him.”

Jake set down the spoon and turned, “I came looking for you because…” He worried. He knew it was the right thing to do. He didn’t honestly believe she felt nothing.

She deserved to hear him say it, at least once. “I love you.”
« Last Edit: February 19, 2014, 03:17:25 pm by Beau »


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #83 on: February 19, 2014, 06:53:50 pm »
Sal felt stupid. He hadn't been telling her to run away, he'd been asking her. To go with him. She swallowed hard, feeling her heart start to race, and trying desperately not to breath to fast. She felt dizzy.

He wouldn't looked at her, but he kept talking, which was encouraging, his compliments starting to build her up... until he started talking about Robert. Her brow furrowed as she looked at his back. She was starting to regret asking, if all he was going to tell her were the merits of someone she knew better than he did.

Then he turned and she looked back up at him, trying to prepare herself for words that she was sure were going to crush her.

What he said though... she blinked slowly, once, twice. Had she imagined it? The look on his face said she had not. She wanted to be very careful how she reacted, but she could already feel that one of her cheeks had a wet streak she brushed away. He loved her!

She stood up slowly and cautiously walked over, standing about a foot from him. She worried her lip again, her eyes rapidly searching his face while she tried to find the right words. She wanted to keep him safe, but she knew she couldn't push him away, not now.

Finally, reaching forward she took one of his hands, and half smiled at him in the dim light, " Robert Harlaw is a spoiled city boy who doesn't shoot straight, who only lived on a ranch for a time and is not a rancher. As far as I can tell he is only here to make more money, and I could stand to make him a lot." She gave his hand a squeeze, "You're ten years older than me, maybe. You're a lot funnier with a few drinks in you and I've never had more stimulating or more frustrating conversations with anyone in my life. We both have secrets we might need to tell but... I love you too."

She let out a single slow breath and glanced down at their hands and back up again quickly. "If I didn't have so many people depending on me, I'd run away with you in a heartbeat. I would if I could Jake. I want to more'n I can say.. I think we could happy but I can understand if you still want to go, if it's too much to ask you to stay and fight."

And a fight there would be. If he loved her, if he stayed, they had a mighty fight- she wasn't sure they could win, but if he wanted her, she was willing to try.


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #84 on: February 21, 2014, 06:48:14 pm »

She didn’t slap him.  Jake supposed that was a good thing, although the look on her face didn’t seem to be a happy one.  When she took his hand he figured that she would do her best to dissuade him once again, the touch intended to let him down easy.  Instead she seemed to consider his words, and return feelings of her own.

It solved nothing.  Still his mouth twitched upwards in a touch of a smile as she mentioned that Robert couldn’t shoot straight.  Somehow it helped to know the competition was such a failure at that one particular thing.  “Good to know.”

He was still a threat though.  Jake knew it even as Sal mentioned they’d have a fight on their hands.  From whom and about what, maybe it didn’t matter in this moment.  “I wasn’t really planning on leaving, although maybe we could spend some time outside the prying eyes of Black Falls at some point.  Phoenix isn’t completely off the table.”

She hadn’t really asked him to stay, but he took the ‘I love you too’ as a positive sign.  Of course there didn’t seem to be any place on her face that wasn’t bruised where he could kiss her.   He chuckled a bit to himself before bending forward and pressing his lips to her temple near her hair line. “That will have to do for now.”

He sighed and said, “You really think I’m only ten years older than you?”  The least of his worries.  “Go sit down and let me make breakfast.  We’ll talk more and plan.”

He’d ask for details, but for now he wanted to simply be.  Eat like a normal person.  Maybe walk the grounds.  “I think I’ve only been out here twice,” he said.  It was fortunate he had a good sense of direction.  “Let’s see if we can enjoy this stolen day.”

Back in Black Falls, Carol Ann blushed under the attention of Robert Harlaw as she served him breakfast at the Inn.  It didn’t seem to matter that they were talking about Jake, his smile was nice and he dressed well.

“I found his pocket watch in the ashes,” Carol Ann said.  “You should have seen the sad look on his face when he took in the picture.  Pretty woman.  I bet she was his love back in New York.  She’s dead apparently, but he never talked about her.”  She warmed to the heart broken, “You could just tell he really loved her.”

She took a seat, ready to gossip.  "The Doc, he's really nice, but he's also a bit mysterious.  Keeps to himself.  Sure, he drinks and gambles like the rest but there's something clever about it.  He wins.  I heard Marty Olsen hinting that he pretends to be more drunk than he is sometimes to catch you off guard.  OF course that was the night Marty lost big in the poker game, so you gotta take that with a grain of salt.  Still..." Her eyes lit with speculation.  "He's real tight with the sheriff.  I've seen them with their heads together a couple of times.  And this sheriff turned up out of nowhere.  Claimed he was looking for someone, when he first rode into town - but if he found them, he never rode off to claim the reward.  Suits us all fine 'cause we could use a sheriff.  I only mention it because the Doc was kinda like that.  Showed up one day.  Didn't leave.  Almost makes you believe Black Falls is a great place to be."


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #85 on: February 21, 2014, 08:29:19 pm »
Robert smiled and nodded at appropriate times while he ate, keeping his face pleasant, all the while he was boiling on the inside. None of his searches for Sally had found out her hiding place, at least as far as he'd been told. She could have been at the ranch and Bill could have been lying the two times he'd suddenly dropped in yesterday and this morning. She also could have new hiding places he didn't know of. It had been ten years... He'd sent people looking again this morning and would keep at it until he found her.

He was less thrilled with the news he'd heard that the Doctor had supposedly left for Phoenix for a time, but was seen ridding out with the Sheriff, but not coming back with him. The Sheriff said it looked like Sal had been out to the old homestead but left before he got there. Robert had his doubts.

The information about the Doctor that Carol was supplying was interesting. So someone he loved had died, or he said she was dead. He came to Black Falls without warning or summons. He was apparently wily and becoming fast friends with the new sheriff... or perhaps knew him before he came here. How did this all add up and what did it have to do with Sally?

"That is terribly sad for the Doctor. It sounds like he may be trying to distance himself from bad memories. Black Falls seems an unlikely place Carol, but there really is a lot to love about this place." He smiled, "Thank you for the company and the conversation, and the great food." He set his napkin down and gave her hand a squeeze, "You be sure to find me or leave me word if anyone hears where Sally is."

He stood up and headed for his horse. Sally would show up, or he would find her, but today he needed to get to Red River and the telegraph station. If Doctor Jake Scully had a past, he was going to find it and turn it to his advantage. He also was supposed to check in with Thomas about how things were moving forward, which he was less thrilled about. You'd think he was still a willful teenager running out into the night after Sally when it wasn't allowed.

He yanked his horse around and spurred off. He could get all his business done and be back in Black Falls by late afternoon if he hurried.

Sal smiled at his smile and the bewildered look he gave her face before he kissed her temple. He wasn't going to leave, at least not right now. He was going to stay with her.

She chuckled at his question and looked at his face, "I'm not sure you know how old I am." She raised the brow on the non battered side of her face. "Maybe twelve years," she admitted with a half grin, "I did a little askin around and you let it slip during a card game once." She kissed his cheek and then mostly did as he asked, reluctantly letting go of his hand. "I can be agreeable though."

She would be too, she could pretend things were normal, even if it was only for a short time. She pulled down two tin bowls and coffee cups and set them on the table as she spoke, "I'd be surprised if you'd been out here that much," she commented. "This was the first place my parents thought to start the ranch, but the creek flooded high when I was four and half the herd was swept away. Besides, my Ma liked the plot where the ranch house is now. If it's not to wet we drive the cows here sometimes in the spring since the grasses are green and they can graze, but no one but me comes here much."

She settled slowly back down into her chair, for the most part she just felt a little battered and stiff, but if she moved too quickly or took to deep a breath her ribs sent sharp pains radiating through her back and torso. Her thigh ached, but she hopped walking around and pushing through that pain would loosen it and the limp it was causing.

Seated she watched Jake's back as he stood over the stove, the breaking sunlight spilling in through the old curtains to illuminate the room and him more. She sat patiently while he worked and smiled when he came over. For a few minutes she could lock up her worries and just enjoy the fact that he was sitting here with her and there was the clarity that they had this moment, despite all the rest.


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #86 on: February 23, 2014, 08:57:07 pm »

She had asked after him and his smile warmed at the thought that Sal’d been curious about him beyond their book club meetings.  Her questions hadn’t gotten back to him, else he might have taken Miss Lin’s persistent suggestion to dine at the ranch.  He’d enjoyed his time with Sal but he’d never considered a romance.  Something about the new admission felt like a secret.  It made him feel young again.

Sal sat and Jake went back to making breakfast.  He wasn’t much of a cook but he could make oats without it sticking to the pan.  He brought the pot to the table and dished out the servings, finding some sugar and dried fruit to mix in.

It all seemed so domestic.

Not that that was a bad thing.  He liked quiet.  He liked simple.  Contrary to an upbringing of city living Jake actually preferred the quiet life of Black Falls.  Or so he’d tried to convince himself in any case.

After breakfast they’d take a walk. Sal should move.  Sitting too long would only stiffen her bruised muscles.   The sun was good for everyone’s disposition.  Out here there were rabbits who seemed more tame than they should be.  One bounced across their path and wiggled his tail at them as though he hadn’t a care in the world.

“Tomorrow…” He paused, unsure if he wanted to think about tomorrow yet.  Then he went on, “we should ride out to the ranch.  Bill will be worried.”  And Bill’s opinion mattered.  He was family.

Dinner was a simple affair.  Cards afterwards something pleasant to pass the time.

“You’re not sleeping in the chair again tonight,” Jake said.  “I’ll heat some water for a bath for you.  Then I want you to rest.”

Orders given he went out of the house to tend the horses and gather the water necessary.  It would be dark soon.  Jake stood outside the barn for a few minutes listening to the quiet of the night.  He tried not to let himself imagine too much.  Out here it would indeed be easy for accidents to happen.


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #87 on: February 23, 2014, 10:07:28 pm »
Sal let out a small sigh at his mention of tomorrow. Bill knew where she was, it wasn't the first time she'd left him in charge. But she nodded and started the trek back to the house. Some of the tight aches had loosened from the gentle pace of their walk.

She'd pointed out a few things here and there, but there wasn't much to look at. It was a quiet day, but peaceful, rather than awkward.

He beat her handily at cards after dinner, she played chess more than cards, and even that she didn't get to play much.

She raised a brow at his orders, but didn't contradict him. She was being agreeable and even though she wanted to protest since she knew how much work it was going to be to haul and heat the water, she had to admit a bath sounded nice.

She wanted to tell him that it could wait until tomorrow if they were going back to the ranch, but again, she decided to be agreeable and simply nodded her head as he got up to go outside.

She wasn't going to do nothing though. She stoked the stove and carefully got out the three largest pots and set them on the stove. She then moved over to the corner of the kitchen area where the tub was and pulled on the thin sun-worn cloth hanging on a wire from the ceiling.

She chuckled to herself, not that it mattered whether he was a gentleman or not, at this point he'd seen most of her anyway, but she also didn't want assume anything or  to offend him.

She walked into the other room and gathered an old over sized shirt and some long john bottoms and an old wool blanket and set them all on the small counter behind the curtain.

She walked over to the door and looked out into the fading light. She saw Jake standing outside the barn. He hadn't seemed to notice her yet so she observed him, and not for the first time that day, wondered if she had any right to ask him to stay here. The way he carried himself spoke that this wasn't really where he belonged.

A more selfish part of herself said she'd take whatever she could get, for as long as he was willing to give it. 

She looked away out over the subtly undulating flats, the shadows growing deeper as she watched. There were many times she had thought about leaving, had almost done it, but then the guilt would hit her. The guilt and the weight of responsibility and the fear of the unknown.

There was a glint in the brush that caught her eye and she watched the spot for a long few minutes, trying to peer into the shadows. After another minute she convinced herself it was just the eyes of a coyote catching the last glint of light.

She stepped off the porch and headed toward the barn, "Everything alright?" She asked when she was about ten feet away. She walked over and slipped her hand into his again, mostly to reassure herself and enjoy the fact that she could.

Hitch waited until Sal had moved off before he moved from his spot. For a minute he'd thought she'd seen him.

He watched her move back to the Doc again. He'd watched them for the better part of the afternoon. His face was set in a grim rage as he turned to head back to his horse and the other two men he'd brought with him.

He couldn't touch them... yet, that much had been laid out clear to him yesterday. But that didn't mean he wasn't going to keep track of Sal, and tally up all the things he was going to do to the Doc before he made sure he was put six feet under.


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #88 on: February 24, 2014, 04:11:39 am »
He heard Sal before she spoke, but his thoughts were distant.  “I was considering the sunset.” That sounded too romantic, so he added,  “Without the clouds it’s rather boring.”  Perhaps there was some rancher in him yet as he smiled blandly and accepted the hand that slid into his, “if we don’t get rain soon…”

Not that it should be a worry of his.  He’d always been and would remain a doctor even if things did work out between him and Sal.  He squeezed her hand and then released the touch to gather the two buckets he’d set at his feet.  “Bathwater doesn’t heat itself,” he said.

He decided not to mention the feeling of being watched.  He’d make another pass to the well as soon as he started this lot to boil.  Maybe circle a little wider and check his suspicions if he could do it with haste.

Jake did his best to appear focused as he poured the water into the pots and noted Sal’s own preparations.  As discretely as he could he lifted the handgun and slipped it into one of the buckets before he went out again.  Once outside the door he put the barrel in the loop of his slacks and walked on towards the well.

It was darker now.  He took a longer route than necessary, but no wildlife of gun men greeted him in the twilight.  He missed the telltale boot prints a few yards to his left.  Jake shook off the apprehension he felt as he returned to the cabin.   He even said as much as he opened the door and replaced the weapon in plain sight.  “Didn’t see anything suspicious out there.”  The fire was burning lower.  He lit a lamp and didn’t poke the embers as he stared to fill the tub.  Best to let the smoke clear.  Jake rolled up his sleeves, too late to avoid the wet edges.  With a contented sigh he sat in one of the arm chairs.

“Do let me know if you need any help with the buttons.”  He was only half serious and the flirtatious look on his face said as much as he glanced at the curtain.   To his knowledge there was only one bed.  Jake rolled his shoulders into the cushions of the chair.  Confident they wouldn’t be interrupted his thoughts turned to sleep.


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Re: Pretty Paper, Pretty Ribbons
« Reply #89 on: February 24, 2014, 05:15:57 am »
She smiled at his observation and followed him back into the cabin. She watched him tackle the task of boiling the water with an overly intense concentration.

She raised a brow at him but had turned to gather the two plates from dinner and bring them over. No use wasting a chance to dip a cloth in hot water and give them a better cleaning. He moved out to go get more water and she set to the short task.

She'd finished cleaning a few minutes before he came back, she even dumped the first pot of water into the tub, she didn't feel like getting scalded on top of everything else. She got a taper from the dying fire and lit one of the lanterns near the stove and after putting the dried dishes away, set the lantern next to the clean clothes and the blanket by the tub.

She kept looking at the door at every little night sound, maybe he was just tired, but she felt uneasy at him being out in the deepening dark so long. She didn't want him getting attacked by anything. She tried to remain calm and casual when he came back in.

She couldn't pull it off when she saw him put the gun back in the holster. She wasn't sure she'd ever seen Jake hold a gun. Her face registered a question at just what he was doing, his words not reassuring her. 

Had he seen something and not told her? Had he been worried about men or animals? Was he just trying to make her feel more comfortable about her own gun totting after what she'd told him last night? She wasn't sure how to respond so she just busied herself with her hair. While he finished filling the tub, she pulled her hair over one shoulder and pulled her fingers through it to get the tangles out before she put a braid in it and twisted that up into a loose knot on top of her head.

At his flirting remark she gave him a return look from the unbruised right side of her face, a blushing smile. "Wouldn't want you to get your fingers dirty." Her face turned only slightly more serious as he moved to a chair, "I may need a better looking after though, I may be better off than you think. I bet half the bruises you think I have are actually dirt." A little humor at her own expense to lighten her mood, but she was who she was and she alone knew the full extent of what happened to her.

She pulled the threadbare curtain and turned her back to him as she eased out of her shirt and trousers and then eased into the tub. The heat felt good, but was also painful and she winced when the water hit some of the more raw abrasions and bruises.

She closed tired eyes as she finally let her head fall against the cool metal of the tub. After a few minutes of silence Sal turned her head so she could see him illuminated by the lantern beyond the curtain, and she tipped her head back farther so she could see him past the curtain. His eyes were closed.

"Jake, if I'm not sleeping in the chair, neither are you. If... if you don't want to share the bed, there's a camp mattress and bed roll in the cedar chest by the door." Again, she didn't want to assume anything. She wasn't very proper and she also wasn't completely inexperienced, though now wasn't the time to mention it. She'd also slept more than one night curled next to men out on the prairie to keep safe and warm. She knew that this was more intimate than that, for many reasons, even if all they did was lay next to each other and sleep. She wanted him to sleep comfortably, but didn't want him to feel awkward. 

The water was starting to cool down since it hadn't gotten to hot over the dying fire and so she turned back to the task at hand. She hurried and rubbed the sweat and dirt and ill feelings of the last few days away, almost tempted to let her hair down, but there wasn't a fire to dry it by, and she hated sleeping with a wet head. She let the last of the heat from the water seep into her skin for a minute after she was done and before she pulled herself half out of the tub and reached for the thin blanket to dry off.