The First Night
This one is for Leee, because she asked nicely.
Hannibal Heyes looked into the mirror, an uncertain expression in his dark eyes. "Kid, do I look any different?" He was wearing his good suit, and he straightened his tie.
Kid Curry laughed. "Scared. You look pretty scared."
Heyes didn't reply, but resumed his pacing.
The Kid sighed. "Heyes, if you don't stop that, Iím gonna--"
"Well, at least you won't be sharin' a room with me tonight."
"No, you'll be her problem. I probably should have warned her about the snoring."
For the first time all morning, Heyes smiled. "Why would you bother to warn her about your snoring? You ain't marryin' her."
"I don't--" Curry realized his partner had ceased his incessant pacing. He was willing to go along with anything, as long as Heyes would only stand still for a minute and stop making him seasick. "Yeah, well, you know what they say. Real men snore real loud. It's a known fact."
"Is that so?"
"Well then, Wheat Carlson must be more of a man than the two of us put together. Remember when we had to camp out on our way back to Devil's Hole that time?"
"Oh yeah. He scared off a grizzly bear with his snorin', didn't he?" The two men laughed.
There was a knock on the door, and Heyes called out, "Come in."
Jeremy Chadwick stood in the doorway, the top of his head almost brushing the doorframe. He was wearing a well-cut dark suit. Looks like he was born dressed like that, Heyes thought. He don't look all stiff and uncomfortable, like I feel.
"Just thought you might need a little encouragement. And seeing as how I've done this and lived to tell, I thought I'd come up and cheer you on." He ran a hand through his curly dark hair, and his wedding ring shone as the light from the window hit it.
"Not checkin' up on me to make sure I didn't change my mind?" There was a glint of mischief in Heyes' eyes now.
Jeremy winked. "I may not know you all that well, Heyes, but I know that once you make your mind up to something, that's it. But you've been footloose and fancy free so long that it's gotta be a little strange, settling down."
Heyes nodded. "More'n a little strange. Gotta admit, I always figured if one of us ever got married, it was gonna be the Kid."
"Have to disagree there, Heyes," the Kid chimed in. "I figured out a while back it was gonna be you and her. Remember when we were in Colorado that time, and ran into her?"
"There was this one point where you were goin' on about something. Well, you know how you get. Got one of your ideas and you were goin' off a mile a minute. Usually everybody just sits back and watches you talk yourself in circles. But she kept up with you. Understood exactly what you were talkin' about and started askin' you about some of the fine points.† That's when I said to myself, this is the one he'll never get bored with. Course, it took you a little bit longer to figure that out, but . . . I knew."
Heyes grinned. "And they say I'm the smart one."
The Kid smiled back at him. "No, you're just the one that talks a lot." He stood up and put on his jacket.
With a final look in the mirror, Heyes straightened his tie once more. "All right. This is it. Let's go before I do change my mind."
The wedding was going to be a small one, and they'd decided to hold it in the parlor at the new house. Ella had already moved in, leaving the rooms over her office for Heyes and Curry. Sandy Johnson and Melanie Chadwick had decorated the porch with bows around the pillars and as many flowers as Blue Sky, Montana had to offer. Heyes smiled as they walked into sight. It never would have occurred to Ella to decorate her porch, for this or any other occasion. She'd had a dress made for herself, and one for her ward, Caroline, and asked Judge Clayton to perform the ceremony. Beyond that, she'd left everything up to Sandy, with the constantly repeated admonition not to make a fuss.
The guests were all Ella's friends, of course, since this was the town she lived in, and since they'd decided to marry quickly, as soon as she was well enough. Heyes hadn't even thought of inviting Lom Trevors to come up from Porterville until it was too late. As he entered the house, he recognized Deputy Sheriff Sven Rasmussen, and Rick Johnson and his family, including Sandy's husband Raymond. There were quite a few other folks whose names he didn't know, but who he'd probably seen around town. Ella's older sister Rosa was there, in high dudgeon because Sandy was doing the honors as hostess and Jeremy was going to stand up with her.
"It isn't proper having a man stand up with you," Rosa had protested. Ella's only response was that Sandy would be preoccupied with keeping things running properly, ignoring Rosa's obvious insinuation that she herself ought to have been asked to do both.
"He's just signing the register as witness. It's not as though it's some big church wedding, anyway," Ella had pointed out, another sore spot for her sister. But although she'd forgiven her sister for previous bad behavior, she had not forgiven Reverend Bliss for his, and his church was the only one for miles around.
Heyes and the Kid looked at each other, unsure of what to do for a moment, when Judge Clayton walked in, and the crowd parted to let them through. They stood by him, their eyes sweeping the room to see which direction the bride would be coming from.
The front door opened and she walked through it, wearing a pale blue dress and holding onto Jeremy's arm as if for dear life. Heyes noted that she looked as scared as he felt. She'd refused to wear white; although it was not yet apparent that she was with child, the whole town knew it. She was still pale and thin from her recent illness; most of her clothes hung on her, but this dress had been specially made for the occasion, so she looked pretty in a deceptively delicate, ethereal sort of way. The blue in the dress set off the blue of her eyes, which looked enormous in her too-thin face.
And then she'd reached him and they'd said the words, exchanged the rings, and signed the book, and Hannibal Heyes was a married man.
There was an awkward moment, when Ella tossed her bouquet, aiming at young Caroline. Her aim was bad, and the bouquet flew straight to Sandy, which made no sense, because Sandy was married already. She blushed prettily, and handed the flowers to Caroline.
Afterwards, Sandy, Melanie and Caroline set out a huge buffet, and everyone ate and drank until Heyes began to wonder if they were ever going to leave. He was all for a good party, but these people were being terribly polite and no matter how much they had to drink, they all remained resolutely sober. It wasn't right being bored at your own wedding, he thought, but Ella was occupied with her guests and there were only so many times a person could smile politely at congratulations from complete strangers. Heyes was too keyed up to do more than nibble a little, but he noticed that the Kid had commandeered an armchair and was eating yet another plate of food from the admittedly sumptuous buffet. Trust the Kid and his appetite to find contentment anywhere the food was good and plentiful.
Heyes sidled over to him, through the crowded parlor. "Think anyone would miss me if I went for a walk?"
"Can't skip out on your own weddin', Heyes."
"Why not? I was here for the important part. And I'll come back for the, um, other important part. But just right now I got this awful feelin' that I'm trapped at a church social."
"Why don't you sweep her off her feet? Carry her upstairs? After all, these folks know you just got married. They're probably expectin' some kind of wild outlaw behavior from the notorious Hannibal Heyes."
The two men looked at each other and exchanged a smile.
"Kid, you're a genius."
"That's what I keep tellin' you, when you shut up long enough to listen." His partner winked at him.
A moment later, he was at Ella's side. "All right, I'm here to sweep you off your feet," he whispered. Close up, it was obvious that it would be a tricky operation, if taken literally. She was tall for a woman, almost as tall as he was, so that the whole thing was likely to be a bit awkward.
"Bored?" she asked, looking amused.
"Well, I know I am. And at a wild guess, this isn't exactly your kind of a party. I guess when you were running the Devil's Hole gang, making sure the mayor's wife got her plate of canapes wasn't high on the list at most of your social events."
"No, and the boys could pretty much fight it out for themselves about who was gettin' enough whiskey. But that's not really it." And he gave her a look that made it clear exactly what he wanted.
She blushed a little at the raw desire in his glance. Then she squeezed his hand and made an ostentatious show of sinking slightly backwards, playing up her pale and fragile appearance for all it was worth. "I'm terribly sorry," she murmured to the couple of guests who stepped forward to help her. "I'm feeling rather tired. After all, my . . . " she trailed off discreetly, letting the guests mentally insert her recent illness or her current delicate condition, whichever they liked. She turned to her husband. "Hannibal, will you help me upstairs?"
Before they'd even reached the top of the staircase, the guests had begun to take the hint and make their farewells to Sandy, Jeremy, and the ever-insistent Rosa, who formed a sort of vanguard by the door. Jeremy had waved the Kid over, as representative of the groom's side, and Heyes noted the polite smile plastered across his face as he shook the hands of a bunch of strangers. He'd managed to land the Kid right in the position he'd gotten himself out of. There was gonna be hell to pay for that, Heyes was pretty sure. Maybe the Kid would give him a break though, seeing as how he only intended on getting married just this once.
As soon as they'd reached their room and closed the door, Heyes turned to her and made a face. "Hannibal? You ain't gonna start callin' me by my first name now, are you?"
"Goodness, did I? I suppose I was being all proper and wifelike."
"Well, stop it. If I'd've wanted to marry someone proper and, um, wifelike, I wouldn't have married you, would I?" He kissed her, and thought how strange it felt, kissing her now that he was, well, expected to.
When they broke apart, she asked, "So you'd rather I kept calling you Heyes? Even though it's my name now, too, I suppose."
"Much rather. Nobody much has called me Hannibal since my folks died. And you've been callin' me Heyes all along, at least since you stopped callin' me 'Mister Smith.' No real reason to change, is there?"
"Suits me. Whenever I say Hannibal, I have this irresistible mental picture of elephants crossing the Alps, anyway. Or riverboats on the Mississippi. Sometimes both. When I say Heyes, though, what I see is you."
And then they just stood there and looked at each other for the longest time.
Finally, she spoke. "Well, honestly, I do feel a bit fatigued."
"Let's go to bed, then." His baritone voice was husky, as he removed his jacket, and folded it over a chair
"It's still light out."
"We just got married. If you're worried about what people'll think, remember it's the one night of our lives when everyone expects us to . . . " He untied his tie, and slid it off, with a sigh of relief.
"More like afternoon, and as you may recall, I'm not well-known for worrying about what other people expect me to do."
He looked at her with a serious expression. "Okay, Ella, I gotta admit, this feels a little strange to me. We're just talkin' and everything you say, I keep thinkin', that's my wife sayin' it. Someone I'm gonna come home to for the rest of my life.† It's like everything suddenly means something different, and I haven't quite figured it out yet. Like there's a code and I don't have the key."
"Feels strange, doesn't it? We can just walk upstairs together, and nobody thinks a thing of it. No sneaking into my house in the middle of the night, no posing as Mr. and Mrs. Smith, no worrying about whether anyone has seen us."
"Yeah, I knew there was a reason I steered clear of respectable women. Finally get mixed up with one and now look at what's happened." He broke into a grin.
"Trapped into marriage. Yes, that was my nefarious plan all along. I've said a polite no thank you to every man who took a shine to me, or more often, to my family's money, for the past dozen years because it was all part of my scheme to meet and marry the legendary outlaw Hannibal Heyes. And it worked."
The expression in his brown eyes was as wide and innocent as he could make it. "Your family's got money?"
She didn't even deign to respond to that one, just rolled her eyes.
There was another awkward moment.
Ella broke the silence, finally. "So, it sounds like everyone's gone, down there. Caroline's staying at Sandy's house tonight, and the Kid said he'd stay back in the rooms over the office, so we could have the place to ourselves. I was so busy afterwards that I didn't get much to eat, so if you want to . . . "
"Now hold on a minute." He gave her a long, deep kiss, and felt her body press against his in response. "It is our wedding night, after all."
"Kind of a strange wedding night, what with me going to have the baby and all."
Her expression was slightly clouded, frown lines he rarely saw surrounding her blue eyes. He could tell what she was thinking. If it wasn't for the baby, we wouldn't be here.† Between the two of them, they'd pretty much talked themselves out of it. Neither of them was exactly what you'd call marriage material, not the reformed but still restless outlaw and not the determinedly independent spinster. But looking at her now, all he could think of was how glad he was they were here.
Then he put his hand up into her hair, gently searching for the pins that held it up. He pulled one out, then a second, stroking her hair as he reached for them. "You know what the Kid said to me, this morning?"
She shook her head.
"He said my problem was that I talk too much. But, well, get you and me together, and that's two people that talk too much. So let's try something, tonight. Let's try not to talk at all. Let's just be together."
He found another pin, removed it, and stroked his hand through her hair. He felt her reach up and clasp his hand in hers, then slip away and head straight for the rest of the pins. As she let down her hair, far more efficiently than he could have done, he continued to stroke it. It was so soft, and so light, a much paler blonde than the Kid's.
Leaning over, he kissed the top of her head, and that soft, silky hair. She smelled good. He felt her arms slide around his shoulders and pull him closer, and his lips returned to hers, the kiss deepening as his tongue slid between her lips, exploring her mouth. Her breathing grew short and shallow, matching his own.
He reached to the back of her dress, beginning to unbutton the seemingly endless row of tiny buttons that fastened it. What had the dressmaker been thinking, making a dress like this for someone's wedding night? She slid around, and swept her hair forward, over her shoulder, to make it easier for him.
The dress, then a series of petticoats, a corset that was laced tightly not to compress, but simply to fit her too-thin form. He hadn't realized she'd lost that much weight. But then, he hadn't seen her naked since before her illness. A few more buttons, and he slid her camisole and drawers off, and looked at her.
Even healthy, she was more slender than the voluptuous saloon girls he was used to seeing unclothed. But she was beautiful in her own way. Now she looked fragile, delicate and almost breakable. Her breasts, though, had gotten fuller, thanks to the coming baby, and her belly had begun to swell slightly, the new arrival just beginning to make its presence felt.
He felt a rush of tenderness, and reached out his hand to touch it. She pulled away from him.
"I'm sorry," she said, catching herself. "When Melanie was expecting it seemed like the whole world thought they had a right to touch her where the baby was. It really bothered her. But I guess if anyone has a right to, it's you."
In response, he put a finger to his lips. No talking.
He saw her agreement in her eyes and she smiled, and took his hand, and placed it back where it had been resting, leaving hers on top. His eyes widened again, thinking that for the first time the idea that Ella was going to have a baby wasn't just an abstract idea. It was there, now, growing inside her.
All those years and all those women, and he'd always wondered if maybe there was a child belonging to him somewhere out there. Of course, he'd mostly been with saloon girls, who were known for being careful about such matters. What if one of them had wanted to bear the child of a famous outlaw, though? Not that most of them had ever known his real name. But there were a few who had, and of the others, some must have figured out what he was, if not exactly who.
But this was different. This was going to be his baby, with his name. He'd play with it, teach it things, like how to ride, and how to fish. Even if it was a girl. Especially if it was a girl. He'd read aloud to it, and tell it stories he made up in his own head. Those thoughts led him to think of his own childhood, the things his father and mother had taught him, and done with him. But thinking about his childhood was always dangerous, and for a moment, he drew back into himself, letting the dark images of his parents' murder flood through him.
She must have sensed it, almost immediately, because she let go of his hand, and let him withdraw. After a few moments, she put her hand out, and stroked the side of his face. "What's the matter?" she asked softly.
"Just the past. Just . . . thinkin' about my family. Time was, I didn't much like thinkin' about what their opinion would be of what I'd become. Right now I don't feel that way. I wish they could've been here."
He saw her eyes were wet. Thinking about his loss, or her own parents? Probably both. He caught her hand and held it there. Then he drew her to him, and kissed her.
"I'm afraid," he whispered. "You look so delicate right now, like I could break you, and I don't know with the baby--"
"It's all right," she said. "I'm still a little weak, a little too thin, but I haven't turned to glass. And as for the baby, Melanie told me it was okay."
"You've been askin' around about this?"
"Well, my sister likes to give out that she had her children by immaculate conception, though her husband claims otherwise. I think she probably did, and he's just trying to put a good face on it. Besides, she wasn't going to talk about it, because she wasn't willing to admit I was pregnant until after the wedding." Ella made a funny face. "I started to ask Jeremy, because usually we can talk about everything, but he turned bright red and left the room, and sent his wife in to tell me."
Heyes laughed. "I know he's your partner and all, and you always say that's just like me and the Kid, but you bein' a woman and him . . . not, has gotta put some limits on it. Sounds like it's more Melanie's department."
"She used to seem a little afraid of me. Not like she minded me spending so much time with her husband, because she knew he was something different to me than he was to her, but more like she thought I wasn't going to find anything she said very important. I think she's enjoying being able to give me advice."
"Ella, I'd enjoy it too, if I could tell you what to do and you'd actually listen."
"I listen to you," she protested. "Well, every now and then. Didn't you just say if you'd wanted to marry someone all proper and wifelike, you wouldn't have married me?"
"You realize we managed to stay quiet for all of fifteen minutes, and now here we are, yammerin' away at one another again."
"What I'm realizing right now is I'm stark naked and you're still mostly dressed. Why don't we do something about that?" She reached forward and unbuttoned his vest, and slid it off his shoulders. He shrugged it off, and she started in on the buttons of his shirt. Soon his trousers and underclothes had followed. He took a step towards where she was sitting on the edge of the bed, and she slid her arms around his waist, resting her head against his bare chest. He stroked her hair.
Silence reigned again, as he laid her down on the bed, and began kissing her, his hands wandering up and down her body while he did. They wandered to her breasts, stroking her nipples, which hardened under his touch, as she made little whimpers of pleasure. He cupped them in his hands, first the one and then the other, caressing them and enjoying her responses.
Then he swung himself around and straddled her, his erect member sliding into her. She was wet and welcoming, and his strokes, at first slow and gentle, gradually grew stronger and harder. Her body strained against his, pushing towards him as though she could never have enough of him. Her skin felt soft and silky against his. It had been months since they'd been together last, but their bodies felt so right together. As his urgency grew, he forgot about her fragility, then about everything outside the single act between them.
He thrust and thrust until everything exploded. Then, spent, he lay down beside her and held her close to him. "I missed you," he whispered.
"After I sent you away, I didn't think I'd ever feel warm again. I'm so glad you came back."
"I had to. And not just because of the baby. I would've gotten over bein' stubborn sooner or later." And right then, at least, he believed it. "There's never been anything in my life like . . . like us."
He lay there in sleepy contentment, but he felt a slight tension in the slender form he held against his own. A smile spread across his face as he realized why. Slipping one of his arms from around her, he reached down and touched her there, between her legs, and stroked her in her secret place until the little whimpers and moans began again. His fingers slick with her wetness, he rubbed gently as he felt her muscles tense, her entire body tense and begin to shudder, and finally heard her cry out in total release.
And then, although it was barely dark, they fell asleep in each other's arms.
In the morning, Ella woke up, a little disoriented. For a moment, she was confused to find she wasn't in the bed alone. My goodness, she thought, he's here, and he doesn't have to leave, and there's no worry about anyone finding out. How very peculiar.
She looked at her hand, at the wedding ring, and then at the dark head lying on the pillow next to hers. His features, relaxed in sleep, seemed younger by years, almost boyish. Gently, she slid back the covers to admire his lean, strong body.She gazed at him, admiring what she saw in what was probably a most unladylike fashion. And then she let the covers settle back down, nestled up next to him, and fell asleep again.
Later, she was awakened by a soft, deep voice whispering in her ear. "Good morning, Mrs. Heyes."
"Huh? Who? Me?" was her less-than-gracious response.
"Have you forgotten your new name already?"
"Um, no," she said, still blinking. As soon as she could focus, she realized he was standing by the side of the bed, dressed in shirt and trousers.
"Honey, Caroline came up a few minutes ago. Apparently Sandy's downstairs making you a huge breakfast. Caroline says you'd better hurry down, or instead of fattening you up, she's going to end up fattening up the Kid, instead. He's had his first serving, but he's ready to lay a claim on seconds and possibly thirds unless we show up soon."
She frowned, and sat up in bed. "Guess we don't have the house to ourselves, anymore. I don't want anyone trying to fatten me up. I know Iím too skinny right now, but I'll get back to normal. Anyway, with this baby, I'll be huge in a couple more months."
"Can't wait to see you march off to court with your belly out to here." He held his hands out to mime what he imagined a woman would look like when she was very pregnant.
"Heyes, I'm not going to get that big. I'm not having triplets. At least, I hope I'm not." She looked at him. "But I do want to go back to work soon. You're . . . not going to mind that, are you?"
"Wouldn't expect anything else. Besides, I can't exactly offer to support you when I haven't figured out what honest work I'm good at, other than cattle drives, and messenger work, and odd jobs. None of which pay quite so well as leading a successful outlaw gang does."
"With a mind like yours, when you figure it out, you'll be brilliant at it, whatever it is."
"You think so?" His expression grew serious.
"Would I be wasting my time with a dumb ex-outlaw? Not likely. Only the brightest of reformed criminals are good enough for me."
"If you say so, Mrs. Heyes." He grinned, went over to the wardrobe, and returned carrying a bundled-up dress, which he tossed to her. "Now, if you don' t mind hurrying up, I have to admit I'm a little bit hungry. You obviously haven't spent as many years eating with the Kid as I have, or you'd know we're in serious danger of not getting anything at all."
"All right, I'll come down in a minute. You go ahead and fend him off. That can be your first official act as a husband."
In response, he simply raised his eyebrows, and said, "Second, wouldn't it be? Hurry on down." And he left the room, closing the door behind him.
As she pulled on her dress, she looked around the now-empty room. His clothes were lying on a chair, his shaving things were on the washstand, and the scent of him was everywhere. "Well," she said out loud to herself. "Good morning, Mrs. Heyes."
Free counters provided by Honesty.com.