Millie's Western Adventure

by Lubrican

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Chapter Three

Bob had them prepare a plate to take back to his patient. When he brought the towel-covered food back to his office, the girl was still asleep. Her color was better. He examined the scrapes that weren't covered by her new dress and nodded with satisfaction that none of them looked inflamed.

Her mouth was closed now, which suggested she wasn't under quite so deep. He gazed at the lush lips. He hadn't kissed lips like those in ... he couldn't even remember how long it had been. Whores didn't like to be kissed, generally speaking, and since the war the only woman he'd ever had was a whore at the Silver Dollar Saloon which, though owned by a woman, employed the town's only prostitutes. That girl had left town and, having had to treat most of the other girls for problems related to their employment, he'd never had the stomach to pick another one.

And that had been at least three years back.

Of course, while this girl looked peaceful, and sweet, he knew that didn't mean anything. She might turn out to be a harridan of the first magnitude. But right now she was sweet, and beautiful ... and unconscious.

He leaned down and brushed his lips across hers. He concentrated on the feel of that ... her warm lips soft and pliable ... her scent clean and sweet. He kissed her lips harder, feeling both the thrill of it and guilt at abusing his patient. He pulled back, feeling shame.

Her eyes were open, staring at him.

"I'm sorry," he gasped.

She blinked, and licked her lips. Her mouth made sticky noises and he realized her throat was too dry to speak. He got the water pitcher off his dry sink and splashed some into the tin cup he used for drinking just about everything he imbibed. He watched her eyes as her mouth, knowing what to do, tried to sip. Her eyes, though, wandered lazily.

He realized she was still befuddled by the laudanum, and heaved a sigh of relief. Perhaps she wouldn't remember he had violated her. There was no chair, so he sat beside her on the bed and held her hand.

"You're fine," he said soothingly. "You're safe."

"Am I?" she asked, her voice slow and slurred.

"I promise," he said, meaning it. He still felt guilty, but he meant it.

"All right," she sighed.

"Try to eat something," he said. He fed her with a spoon, and she ate a few bites.

"It hurts," she complained.

He knew she needed sleep more than anything else, so he used a little more of his precious laudanum.

She closed her eyes again. In ten minutes she was sleeping deeply.

Bob got the horse blanket and used it as a mat to lie on. Draping his long, winter coat over himself, he drifted off into an uncomfortable sleep.

At breakfast the next day Bob looked up when Boots sat down across the table from him. It was highly unusual for Boots to venture into the hotel dining room.

"Buy me breakfast, Doc?" she asked.

"And why would I want to do that?" he replied.

"'Cause you're gonna need some help with Miss Millie. You got to talk to the - what'd you call them? Town fathers? You got to talk to them, and that old place you're going to dump her in is probably full of rat's nests. She ain't got no clothes. Folks round here ain't used to havin' a schoolmarm. Somebody's got to ride out to all the ranches and tell 'em school will be startin' up. Miss Millie sure ain't gonna do all that by herself, and I'm of a mind you ain't e'zactly all excited about doing all that yerself, neither. Now me? I ain't got nothin' to do right now. Got time to burn, I do. But the least all that's worth is breakfast, don't you think?"

Bob grinned. "I've always liked you, Boots," he said.

"That's 'cause when I got here you saw me in my altogether," she drawled. "Men only think about one thing, Doc, and you ain't no different. I seen how you looked at Miss Millie."

"Have I ever tried anything with you, Boots?" he asked, still smiling.

"You might be horny, like all men," she commented. "But you got more smarts than most of 'em. That's the difference. And that's why I put up with you."

"You ... put up with me ..." Bob grinned wider.

Boots stood up. "You kin do all that by yerself iffen you want to. Makes me no never mind."

"Sit down, Boots," said Bob.

"Why thankee, Doc," she said smoothly as she took her chair again. "I've always knowed you was a generous man."

The waiter approached. He smiled at Bob, but looked with distaste at Boots, who began ordering before he could say a word.

"Gimme flapjacks, and bacon, and some eggs too. Three I think. And some of that sweet stuff you got to put on flapjacks. And milk. I want milk. You got cold milk here?"

"We keep the milk in the cellar," said the man frostily.

"That's good," said Boots. "Now hurry along there pretty man, 'cause I'm powerful hungry."

The waiter didn't move. "That will be fifty cents," he said stiffly.

Bob lifted his fork. "Put it on my account, Martin."

"If you insist, sir," said the waiter. He looked disappointed.

Boots watched him go.

"How come I never see him around town anywhere?" she asked.

"I think he keeps pretty much to himself when he's not working here. I believe his uncle owns this place."

"Still, you'd think he'd be out and about. I don't even know where he lives!"

"He lives with his sister. She's the one who will be cooking your breakfast."

"Man lives with his sister?" Boots looked surprised. "Don't her husband object?"

"She's not married," said Doc. "Nor is he. They live in that yellow house down behind the livery."

"That little place?" Boots looked astonished. "There ain't but one room there, Doc."

"I know," he said.

"But that ain't natural ... a man and woman ... brother and sister ... living that close together."

"I don't think Martin is much interested in women," said Doc.

Boots' eyes went round. "I don't know which is more disgustin', Doc."

"Might I remind you you're not much interested in men?" Doc didn't smile.

"Well yeah," she said, looking uncomfortable. "But I don't live with no woman neither."

"If you had a brother, and he wasn't married ... would you let him live with you?"

She thought. "I guess I would at that, Doc. As long as he didn't bring no squealin' ninny home to bed." She swallowed and her eyes went round again. "Nor anybody else neither," she added hastily.

"I suspect it's none of our business," said Bob. "They aren't hurting anybody, and their personal tastes are nobody else's concern."

"That's a mighty strange way of lookin' at things, Doc," said Boots. "I mean it ain't natural."

"Neither is a woman who wears leather, cusses like a soldier, kills the man who raped her and makes a living hunting and guiding. That ain't natural for a woman's role in life. When's the last you heard of something like that?" he asked, smiling again.

"You know, Doc," she said, straight faced. "I like you ... but sometimes you're just a pain in the ass to be around."

"Then don't be around me. In fact, why don't you go on over to the surgery and see if she's awake yet, seeing as how you're helping me with her and all that."

"Got eatin' to do first, Doc," said the woman. "Then I'll take care of the new schoolmarm."

Millie woke, but the drug left her feeling like she was wading through molasses, and she hadn't even gotten out of bed yet. She was trying to do that, wondering where she was and what bed she was in, when Boots tromped into Bob's little bedroom.

"Yer awake!" she said, causing Millie to look blearily in her direction. She remembered seeing this person before, but her fuzzy mind wouldn't cooperate any more than that.

"Who are you?" asked Millie, beginning to feel tense. She knew something was wrong, but not what. It was as if she had awakened in a world different than the one she'd gone to sleep in, and it was both troublesome and frightening.

"They call me Boots, hereabouts," said the strange looking man who sounded like a woman. "How you feelin'?"

Millie realized she felt pain almost everywhere on her body. She remembered a doctor, and a train and a lot of dust.

"I got hurt," she said weakly.

"You could say that," said Boots calmly. "Took a knock on the head and it made you all squirrelly, 'cordin' to Doc."

"More than my head hurts," said Millie, looking at her arm. She stared at the arm of the dress she had on and knew, somehow, that this dress was wrong. She was quite sure she didn't own a dress like this. But there were too many other things to think about, so she put that aside.

"Where am I?" she asked.

"Beaverton," said Boots. "It's in the Nebraska Territory."

Millie's response was immediate and automatic.

"It isn't the Nebraska Territory anymore. Nebraska was admitted to the Union in 1867."

Boots shrugged. "Maybe. I don't pay much mind to that sort of thing. This town is called Beaverton, though. I know that."

Millie thought about that. The name meant nothing to her.

"Why am I in Beaverton, Nebraska?" she asked.

"Well, appears like you got off the train here," said Boots.

"Why would I do that?"

"Well, I 'spect it was to use the outhouse."

"Oh." She frowned. "But I didn't get back on the train?"

"That part is where things get complicated," said Boots. "Do you remember where you wuz goin' on that train?"

Millie's frown deepened. "No." She blinked. "Why am I so hungry?"

"Well," drawled Boots. "Could be 'cause you ain't et for a day or so. You know how to cook?"

"Of course I can cook," said Millie. "Every woman can cook."

"Not me," said Boots, calmly. "I kin open a can 'o beans, and burn a piece of meat on an open fire, but that's about it."

"You're a woman!" said Millie, finally making a solid connection as the drug leached out of her system.

"Let's not spread that around too much," said Boots, smiling. "The menfolk tend to get a bit ornery when they look at me that-a-way. You feel like you could stand up?"

Millie thought about that and then leaned forward. She stayed firmly seated on the bed, and leaned forward farther, only to wince at the pain in her abdomen, near her left hip. Finally Boots took her elbow and pulled. Millie found herself standing, but felt like her feet were nailed to the floor. She leaned and gasped as she tried to move a foot, but couldn't. The hand on her elbow tightened and steadied her.

"Doc gave you somethin' fer the pain," said Boots. "It prob'ly ain't all gone yet. Let me help you a bit."

It took another fifteen minutes of slowly walking around the office for her head to clear completely. They ended up in Doc's tiny kitchen, which consisted of a cook stove that had once been in a chuck wagon, a dry sink, and some shelves on the wall that supported a collection of items, only a few of which were foodstuffs.

"There's nothing here to cook!" said Millie when she finished her examination. "There's a bit of rice, but nothing to go with it. Does he keep chickens?"

Boots thought about the chicken someone had paid him with a few weeks back. It had been eaten the same day.

"Sure," she said. "I'll just go get one, while you get that rice goin'."

"And I'll need some milk," said Millie. "Or cream. Either one will do."

Boots suppressed her impatience. Finding a chicken somewhere was going to be bad enough. Adding milk to it didn't help. Maybe she could go back to the hotel and con them for a second glass. And if she had to use more forceful measures ... well this woman had treated her like everything was normal ... something that happened only rarely in Boots' world.

"Kin you start a fire in the stove?" asked Boots.

"Of course I can," said Millie. "Anybody can start a fire."

Boots thought it was purely fascinating that this woman could remember all manner of things ... except her name, and where she came from, and where she was going. But Boots wasn't going to complain. Things were a lot more interesting in town than they'd been in a long time. And that was something to celebrate.

"You just get that rice ready," said the scout. "I'll be back in a bit."

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