"Silencing the Past" by Broedy
Author note: This story was first published on The Kid & Lou Shrine in 1998. There had been much speculation about Kid's real name, both first and last, so for the sake of continuity in this story and the others in this series, I decided to allocate him the surname of Morgan.
Dodge City, October 1867
The first couple of years after the war ended were strange ones for James Butler Hickok. The cause he had believed in so strongly had triumphed, the Abolitionists he supported had declared victory. Though he had never formally aligned himself with the movement, preferring to work alone in the background, his reputation grew unabated nevertheless. The stories of the fearless gunfighter Wild Bill preceded him where ever he went, so in the end bloodshed was rarely necessary. The legend had already taken on a life of its own.
Despite his notoriety, Jimmy was unsure where his future lay. Up until now he had been content roaming from city to town, living in saloons and playing poker—generally keeping to himself as much as possible. He had never been one for making plans and settling down, although there had been offers of sheriff positions in several Kansas townships where his name was well known and feared. The attention was unavoidable and not entirely undesired, but there were times when he wished he could simply disappear. He was growing tired of having to watch his back all the time in case some young fool liquored up on cheap whiskey decided to make a name for himself by taking out Wild Bill Hickok. Jimmy had an uncanny feeling that this was inevitable, that there was no way to cheat his destiny. But he sure as hell wasn't going to sit around and wait for it to happen.
Sitting in his dank hotel room above a seedy saloon in Dodge City, Jimmy decided what he would do, in the immediate future anyway. As the noise of the revelers below pervaded the quiet of the musty room, he pulled out a worn, crumpled letter from his breast pocket. It was dated over four years ago and the writing was getting hard to read now, but it was no matter—he knew the words by heart. Jimmy gently fingered the faded signature at the bottom of the sheet. Lou. This was the last contact he had had with her after the Pony Express disbanded and he left Rock Creek. Jimmy had never stayed in one place too long so if there were any other letters he had not received them.
It was enough that he had this one though, and the old photograph that Lou had enclosed within. It was a blurred image of the riders standing outside the Rock Creek bunkhouse. They were all there, Ike and Noah included, and Jimmy knew why Lou had chosen this one to send him. It was taken the last day they were all together, only days before Ike had been taken from them.
Hickok thought about those days now, just as he had caught himself doing all too often lately. After the war began and the Pony Express was disbanded with the completion of the telegraph, the remaining riders had gone their separate ways. Teaspoon kept his word and returned to Texas, though why he felt the need to do so he could not explain. It was his home, that was all. For this same reason Buck returned to the Kiowa, where he felt he might be of some use to his people. This was not his fight after all, especially when it had already claimed his friend Noah.
To avenge Noah's death, Cody vowed to serve with Captain Erbach and his men until they tracked down the murdering Rebels. He had become the captain's trusted scout and left only days after the funeral. Rachel, as far as Jimmy knew, had decided to stay and teach in Rock Creek, leaving only the newly wedded Kid and Lou.
Although he was a Southerner and had once talked of going back to Virginia when the fighting broke out, the Kid turned his back on the Rebels, and in turn on the North. Instead the couple returned to the one place where they knew in their hearts was their real home. The West. Lou had written the letter to Jimmy two months after he left Rock Creek with Rosemary, saying that they had settled in Sweetwater once again. In fact they were now living at the old Express station—the only real home the two of them had known, and the place where they had found each other.
So he was decided to go home too. Jimmy just hoped that his friends were still there after all these years, as he carefully refolded the letter and secured it in his pocket once more. He felt a sudden urgency to be on his way, to escape the run down room that had become his cell, and to be once more on the open prairies. Hastily he packed his few possessions in his saddle bags and made his way down to the smoky bar. Bidding farewell to the inept poker players he had consistently cleaned out during his stay, he paused in the doorway of the saloon as a dark haired woman, drinks tray in hand, approached him slowly.
Though he had shared her bed for the last month and was now leaving without any notice, her expression did not falter as he ducked outside. Instead she followed him silently and watched from the veranda as he readied his horse. She watched still as he mounted quickly, throwing her a nod goodbye, and then continued to watch with the same apathy as her lover rode out of town. He did not look back even once, and she was comforted when she realized his departure meant nothing to her. He turned out to be just like every other man she had known, even if his name was Wild Bill Hickok.