Love can build a bridge
Between your heart and mine

Jimmy Hickok was a man in love. He was not even certain how or when it had happened; just that it had. Louise McCloud was the best thing in his life and he was not about to let her go. She had ended her relationship with Kid to be with him: James 'Wild Bill' Hickok and he was going to do everything in his power to make sure she never regretted loving him.

He would walk through fire for her. He would cross through the desert without a horse, water, or even boots upon his feet to get to her. She had proven repeatedly that she could be trusted with the secrets of his heart and the torments of his soul. He knew that she could be trusted to honor the strong ties they shared. From the moment he first met her, she had shown him what true friendship, respect, and love was all about, and had forced him to be just as strong and determined to show her that her faith and trust in him was worth all of her time, energy, and devotion.

He could not wait to get back to Rock Creek and sweep Lou up into his arms. This overnight ride to St. Joseph had been difficult for him. It was the first time since he and Lou had consummated their love for one another that he had spent the night alone, and it had been excruciating for him. He knew that the other riders, except maybe Kid, would tease him about his inability or unwillingness to be away from Lou for any length of time.

I'd gladly walk across the desert
with no shoes upon my feet

The attack came from nowhere. One moment he and Sundancer were galloping down the trail heading back to Rock Creek, and the next moment he was flying backward out of the saddle. He hit the rough, rocky terrain of the mountain pass hard enough that it knocked the air out of him, and his head ricocheted off it. Intense pain lanced through his head and darkness threatened to close in, but he fought it off.

His breath returned with a constricting motion that instead of making him feel better, it made him instantly aware that his left shoulder was on fire. Red-hot sparks of pain shot through it at the slightest motion he made and he was instantly aware of a sticky substance oozing out of a wound in that side of his body; while at the same time, his nose recognized the coppery scent of blood. Although those two things were nerve shattering enough, he was even more aware that he was not alone. His unknown attacker was still near and he had only a few moments to prepare himself, before whoever was intent on killing him swept down upon his location to carry out their dastardly deed.

He rolled over into a crouch, gritting his teeth against the agonizing pain spiking through his torso, and keeping his head low, he slowly made his way over to a grouping of rocks. They lined the base of the mountain range he had been traveling around, and would make ideal place for him to make his stand, before his still unknown aggressor made his presence known.

Jimmy braced his bloodied shoulder against the rock wall and removed his Colts from their twin holsters. He cocked them both, placing the one that usually went into his left hand onto the rock in front of him where he would be able to use it at a moment's notice. He then took careful aim with his other Colt; his steely gray eyes peered cautiously around for any sign of movement.

"Hickok, you're a dead man! Do you hear me? You are going to pay for my brother's life with your own!"

*Not if I have any say about it.*

There was no need to answer the man who had called out the threat to him. It would only give his position away to his would be killers, and he was not about to aide them in doing him in. Instead, he concentrated on staying alert and tried to track the voice back to its owner, but it was difficult to see in the growing darkness.

He held his breath in the ominous silence that followed, waiting for any sign of his attacker in the darkening landscape, and hoping that he remained conscious long enough to take care of his stalker, thereby insuring his own survival, before he passed out from loss of blood and exhaustion.

Minutes ticked by, and then, he saw a flicker of light in the rocks across from his location, and Jimmy did not wait to fire his weapon in that direction. Visibility was difficult enough due to the surrounding darkness, but coupled with his blurring vision, he was not sure if he was capable of hitting anything.

"You missed, Hickok! I am still alive and I know exactly where you are! Prepare yourself to meet your maker, and Gideon Drummond is going to be the man to send you to hell!"

*Drummond? Snake eye, one-legged Drummond.*

Jimmy scowled as he recalled the ugly excuse for a man who had sworn vengeance against him for the death of his brother. Two days earlier, Abel Drummond, had died at his hands during a shoot out in the middle of Main Street. The two-bit outlaws had been playing poker and drinking heavily in the Wild Horse saloon, when Jimmy had gone inside to get a sarsaparilla.

He was at the bar, sipping his cool drink and minding his own business, when he caught wind of his moniker being passed around between some men who were in the middle of a high stakes poker game. Sensing that it was best for him to leave the saloon, before any trouble started, he'd made it as far as the porch, before he was called out. He had tried to dissuade the drunken man that he did not want any trouble, but Abel Drummond had not listened to him, and ultimately lost his life.

Now it seemed that the older Drummond brother was determined to follow Abel into an early grave. Jimmy was only too happy to do his part in seeing to it that the petty outlaw got his last wish.

More minutes ticked by, without another peep from Drummond, and Jimmy felt his eyes begin to close. He was finding it harder to stay awake as more time passed, and knew that was what Drummond was waiting for. Drummond knew that he was wounded, and therefore was just biding time until he had slipped into unconsciousness so that he could come finish the job, or believed him to be dead.

He did not intend to die any time soon, having promised Lou that he would return to her, but decided he could play possum long enough to draw Drummond out and end the standoff. Another ten minutes passed in silence, and Jimmy was on the edge of losing consciousness for good, when he heard a scuffling sound, and he knew that Drummond was on the move.

Adrenaline filled him, giving him the edge he needed to take careful aim once again, and peer out into the inky darkness. Timing and fate was on his side as he caught the barest outline of a form moving toward him and he squeezed the trigger. Drummond let out a sharp cry of pain, much to Jimmy's relief, and the next thing he heard was blessed silence.

I would whisper love so loudly

*Jimmy, wake up.*

Jimmy did not know if he was dreaming or if Lou was there with him. Her voice came low, barely more than a whisper, but loud enough for him to hear.

*Jimmy, please wake up. You have to get up.*

Lou's voice became more insistent each time she spoke, and Jimmy found himself struggling to do what she pleaded with him to do.

He awoke with a start. Dazzling light blinded him, and he reflexively closed his eyes against the brightness. Moisture gathered in the corner of them and rolled freely down the side of his face, as pain arced through his head. He felt like hell, fever racked his sweat-soaked body, yellow stuff oozed from his wound, and pain seared through his shoulder.

*Don't you dare give up, Jimmy Hickok, or so help me God, I will hunt you down myself.*

He had to get up, get moving, keep his battered and wounded body in motion long enough to make it back to Rock Creek. He could not allow himself to be the cause of insurmountable loss and grief to Lou, not when she had entrusted her heart and soul to him for well keeping.

With blurry vision, his shoulder bloodied, his torso battered, and weak legs threatening to collapse under his weight, he rose to a wavering standing position. His head swam and bile rose quickly to send him bending hastily over as he got violently sick. He retched until nothing came out and he wiped his mouth with the back of a bruised hand, as he stood shaking from head to toe in his stocking feet.

Even though his vision was still blurry, the overall dizziness had disappeared, and with some shock sweeping through him, he spotted Sundancer grazing a few feet away. He stumbled toward his faithful mount, skirting around Drummond's cold body, which lay in his path, and after a few agonizing moments, he reached the palomino's side. Dragging his body up and over the saddle, he allowed Sundancer to take charge of their destiny.

Jimmy hunched down in the saddle, ignoring the pain in his shoulder, as Sundancer galloped down the trail leading to Rock Creek. He did not know how much time had passed before horse and rider rode into the way station yard.

Cries of alarm welcomed him home and he was never so thankful to hear the sounds of his PX family members as they gathered close to help him down from his mount, and carried him into the bunkhouse to tend to him. Lou's alarmed, but beautiful face was a beacon of light in his world of hurt, and he knew that without her love, he might not have fought so hard to stay alive. Her love was the bridge that joined them together and he knew that he could endure anything as long as she stood beside him.