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That Lived Within the Heart of Me

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1. She’s the prettiest thing Calamity’s ever seen.

There are plenty of things in Chicago to gawk at, but its Miss Adelaide Adams that knocks the breath clean out of her.  Calamity doesn’t know if she’s ever seen a finer lady and it makes her chest hurt a little to think of taking her back to Deadwood and the sharpshooter eyes of the men there.  Seems like Miss Adams, with her glitter and her big doe eyes, couldn’t even exist in the same world as one that has Deadwood in it; she’ll melt away like spun sugar candy the minute Calamity talks to her.

She doesn’t, though.  And then she says yes without near enough of a fight and then Calamity is too caught up in getting them on the train before she changes her mind to think too much more about it.

(When it turns out Miss Adams isn’t actually Miss Adams, well, that suits Calamity just fine.  Somehow all those fancy folks in Chicago looked right through Katie Brown.  Somehow they missed the smooth curve of her cheek and the gunmetal glint in her eyes, but Calamity Jane didn’t.  Calamity Jane stole Katie Brown from between their fingers and she brought her back to Deadwood.  Brought her home.)

2. She’s a fair shot, once she’s been trained up.

Calamity always feels, a bit, like she’s stealing something the times when Katie pulls out the guns and chivies her down to the old fence behind the cabin to practice shooting. She gets to move Katie around, touch the curve of her wrist and waist, and stand close behind her as she lines up her shot. At first she stood behind her and they breathed together and Calamity felt as though they were as close as any two beings on God’s green earth had ever been - now Katie makes nine shots out of ten and Calamity only gets to touch her sometimes, those days when nothing seems to work and Katie needs just a small correction. Just a touch, just a reminder to breathe and breathe and breathe, low into the bottom of her stomach so that her whole body expands against Calamity’s and the bullet bursts through the target like dynamite.

“Calam,” Katie says one day when they’re both leant up against the old fence, “do you love Danny?”

Jane is prepared for this question - has been for years - knows the right bluster and bombast to deflect it.

These are the words she’ll use: heck no, and not on your life, and all the right swearing to deny enough (but not too much because Danny is fine and handsome and untouchable and shiny in all the right ways).

Calamity Jane is prepared for this question, has been for all her life, but Katie Brown is leaning against the old fence behind the old cabin and she’s not looking up. She’s staring hard at the gun in her hands and her fingers are thin and delicate along the barrel and Calamity knows that Katie can make a kill shot nine times out of ten.

What Calamity says is: “Danny’s mighty fine - a good man and a gentleman.”

And: “Anyone would love him.”

And: “I been thinking’, lately, that maybe I don’t rightly love Danny. That he’s a good man to have at yer back and a dear friend but..”

And: “Maybe what I really need is someone who understands me, who is like me, who feels as I feel and lives as I live.”

And Katie Brown says: “Oh Calam” like she might shatter into a million pieces.

She says: “Oh Calam, I think Bill is wonderful,” and she smiles like she might die and she pushes off from the old fence and walks away towards the creek.

And Calamity thinks: shit.

3. She says what she means, and she means what she says.

Francis is the one that finds her, after the blow up has happened and the town’s turned against her and she’s skulking at the back of the Golden Garter.

He comes over with a couple of sarsaparillas and a hangdog expression and says “how’s it going, Calamity?” as though he wasn’t there for the whole thing.

She snarls at him but he sits down anyway, so she drinks the drink and stares at him.

After a while he clears his throat and says, “don’t suppose you know why Katie left?”

“‘Cause I shot her, didn’t I?”

“Well,” he says, “maybe that had something to do with it, but she did says something to me before she left.” He pauses to peer suspiciously at his drink and Calamity has to rap on the table to get his attention back on her. “Ah - she said she couldn’t stay because the person she loved was in love with someone else…”

“What, like Danny? She meant she’s in love with Danny?”

“No,” Francis says, and he stares at her some more - pointed like - “no, Calamity, she didn’t mean she was in love with Danny. Or Bill,” he continues a might uncomfortably. Now he’s staring even harder, and maybe blushing a bit, and Jane has a sort of sinking soaring sensation, like when she’s standing on top of the stage at a full gallop and it suddenly hits a rock and the whole world shifts under her feet.

“Why,” she starts, “why you don’t mean me, do ya?”

He doesn’t even need to answer, she sees the look in his eye and she’s off for her horse.

4. She is fearless.

Calamity Jane has never been called a coward, but coming nose to barrel with a gun when she yanks open the stagecoach door nearly makes her piss herself.

It's small consolation that Katie, on the other end of the gun, looks just as startled. She might look scared, but the gun’s steady in her hand, and Jane’s so proud she just about bursts.

There’s a fair bit of I almost shot you and don’t shoot me and I thought for sure it was some sort of attack what are you doing Calamity? Before they’ve both calmed down enough to have a decent civilized conversation.

Then is when Calamity gets nervous because riding hell-bent for leather across the prairie is one thing, hell, it's something Calamity does near every day, but this whole wooing thing is something else entirely. Calamity has a vague idea that there should be flowers, and speechifying, and maybe she should get down on her knees.

She takes off her hat and eyes the narrow floor between the seats warily - it don’t seem like a stagecoach is a very good place for any of the things she remembers other girls giggling over. If Danny was here he’d have no trouble with it, fine and eloquent as he is. Hell, probably even Wild Bill could manages it in his rough way. Calamity, though, is just Calamity, and she’s come to realize her own short-comings. She’s no Danny, she isn’t even a Bill, but she’s also no coward neither so she’ll face this like she’s faced everything else - straight on and with open eyes. True, it’s a lot harder when facing it means Katie’s wide eyes and the soft roll of her brow and the delicate arch of her fingers still loose around the grip of the gun, but Katie saying no won’t kill Calamity and saying nothing at all just might and so:

“Katie Brown, “ she says, “Katie, come back to Deadwood with me. Come back to the cabin and the Golden Garter and Deadwood. Come back because its where you belong and because I love you, Katie Brown, and I’m not sure what I’ll do without you.”

“Oh, Calam,” Katie says and it’s almost like being gut shot, almost like the sudden-sharp gasp before dying because she sounds so breathless and shocky. Jane will hear this in her dreams, she’s sure of it, like the first ringing shots of a raiding party the sound of Katie leaving her will jerk her awake forever. And then Katie’s arms are around her and Katie’s lips are on her’s, on her cheeks and her eyelids and her chin and Katie is whispering Oh Jane, so very soft into the space behind Calamity’s ear and the curves of Katie Brown’s body fit into all the empty spaces of Calamity Jane, just like everything else about her.

5. The first time Jane fetched her to Deadwood she traveled almost halfway ‘cross the country, the second time was a few hours hard riding.

6. Jane would ride around the world to fetch Katie back.

7. Katie won’t ever make her.