((Yes, yes, yes! I love nervous Walker!))
He glanced at himself in the mirror again, making certain he had not missed any spots or nicked himself shaving. He hadn’t, thankfully, and he blinked at his reflection. He was the only man in this little family that even considered going totally clean shaven- it took years from his appearance. His hair, though, was the problem- it was usually unruly and did not like being tamed, but he had managed to tie it back, and so far it seemed to be cooperating with him. His shirt was currently unbuttoned at the cuffs and collar, the tie he was despising draped around his neck. He had actually changed into a clean pair of trousers, not as formal as they could be, but not the rough denim he normally favored. With a sigh, he spoke to himself- another habit. “Well, Walker, this is about as good as it’s gonna get.” He nodded, as if satisfied, before rolling his sleeves down, buttoning the cuffs. He abhorred cufflinks, so the buttons would have to do. Next came the collar, which was not nearly as irritating- until he needed to adjust his tie.
“Figured you’d need help with that,” his sister’s voice rang out, softly. Annie was no longer in her arms- either back in her crib or dozing on Doc- but the former was more likely. Galatea looked simply stunning- she had used kohl and rouge sparingly, and overall reminded him very much of parties when they had been very young. She shook her head with a little laugh, crossing the floor to help him with the offending tie, competently tying it and adjusting it so it sat perfectly. “There. Perfect.”
“Thanks, Gallie.” He impulsively smacked his lips to her cheek, as he would have as a young child. Warily, she looked up at him. “What?”
“Just makin’ sure you’re not gonna throw a frog at my head,” she teased with a laugh. Ever since that story had been told, she loved to tease him just as she had when they were both still Sullivans- and he had noticed her slipping in and out of Galatea mode, especially where her man was concerned. She let him have the softer side of her personality far more than she had before- though she still raised just as much hell, that was for sure!
“Yeah, well…” He shrugged. “Guess I’ll have to find something else suitable, then.”
“Ya throw *anythin’* at my head tonight, I’ll tell that young lady of yours every deep, dark secret I know about ya.” She smirked triumphantly. “Anyway, we’re just about ready to head on out- I assume ya’ll will be meetin’ us there?”
“Yeah. I’m goin’ to fetch her.” He nodded confirmation.
“Good.” She smiled. “I’m goin’ to fetch Annie, and then…” she trailed off as she realized he was staring at her. “What?” He bowed, then, sweeping her hand to his lips lightly. “Walker?”
“You look positively radiant tonight.” He straightened. “Reminds me of when we were kids.” He laughed then. “Just wanted to be sure I could still do that.”
“Do what?” Now she was curious, and she leaned on the doorframe.
“Be charming and charismatic.” He shrugged. “Thought maybe I forgot how to be.”
“Right. I believe this is where I back away slowly.” The redhead teased, though she did actually need to get going. “Have fun pickin’ your young lady up. See ya later!” She breezed out, clearly heading back up the stairs to fetch both the infant and the gunslinger. He glanced back at himself in the mirror, before shrugging and heading to fetch Belle.
He hadn’t noticed the skirmish between Essie and Sarah- and even if he had he probably would have passed by anyway. It didn’t concern him, not yet- and Essie would have no way of recognizing him. He looked rough around the edges now, after all. He did, however, catch sight of a very amused Will, who was watching the whole thing with interest through the window, feet improperly resting on the desk in front of the window in a relaxed, unassuming pose that would have irritated Galatea to no end. Still, he passed by, entering the inn with that unassuming grace he had. It was quiet- and that was when he spotted HER. He nearly didn’t recognize her, at first, until he saw the eyes.
He actually had to remind himself to breathe normally as his eyes took her in. He was glad he had gone with a black tie, for it nearly matched her gown, and certainly her hair. His eyes roved her face, one brow arched curiously, until he was close enough to her- where he dropped into a formal bow and swept her hand to his lips again, eyes never once leaving hers. “Enchanté.” His voice was very soft, and his smile genuine, before he turned his eyes to the older woman nearby. He gave a bow of his head to her, in acknowledgement of the fairer sex, a smile seemingly permanent on his face. “Ma’am.” He had seen her around town, of course- it wasn’t exactly hard to have seen any single person at least once if you passed through, but he did consider here to be home. And his family was influential enough that he knew everybody worth knowing, which he liked. If he did not know them in name, he knew them in face. He was often seen in Tarquin’s company, and everyone knew the town doctor- he just hadn’t been formally introduced to the woman who ran the Inn. “I’ll keep an eye on this one for ya, I promise.” He let his smile reassure the matronly woman. He was not a troublemaker in these parts, and his reputation was fairly good, considering his family.
Tarquin and Sarah didn’t have so much as a blemish on their reputation, and as he was indeed part of their family, such as it was, he was respected in these parts. That, and his gentlemanly upbringing and former occupation, made for an all-around nice person. His sister was the one thing at odds with his reputation- even if she went out of her way to keep out of trouble- as was her man. But this did not faze him in the least. He’d stuck with Galatea when she had been a wh*re, he would stick by her now that she was, for all intents and purposes, a distraction.
“Walker Shaw,” he said it politely, knowing that he had not been introduced and his upbringing would demand nothing less. He smiled charmingly at Belle. “I realized when I went home I plumb forgot to tell ya my last name,” he said it softly, with a little chuckle, before offering her his arm, waiting for her to take it, before resting his free hand on hers. “Shall we?”
He kept his strides matched with hers, not wanting to tug her along like an animal- and this time he did notice the commotion on the street, thanks to his amused nephew who had come out and crossed to him, giving his a curious glance. Will had certainly inherited more of his father- the long, lean length, the kittenish smile, and that stubborn jawline- but his mother’s coloring and attitude. He gave Belle a little nod, the way he had seen his father acknowledge women, before his gaze shifted to his uncle.
“What’s that all about?” A quirked brow, which was much more Galatea than the more stoic Doc, accompanied the question.
“Huh?” Walker glanced in the direction, before a smile shot over his face. “I can’t believe it…”
“You know her, then?”
“She practically raised me an’ your mama.” He couldn’t stop the happy grin on his face.
“Really?” Will looked back over at the little group with more interest. “Doesn’t look old enough to have raised you and mama.”
“And your mama and father don’t look old enough to have a grown son and grandbaby,” he countered good-naturedly, before seeming to realize that his nephew had not yet met Belle. “Oh, Will… this is Belle. Belle, this is my nephew, Wilson Jonathan.” He didn’t tag the last name on.
“Ma’am,” Will extended his hand for a gentle shake, polite. “I apologize for earlier.” He chuckled, much as his father might. “Sometimes I am too much like my mama- I didn’t mean to offend.” Walker was mentally glad to see the sparkle in his nephew’s eye. The young man was starting to look better, starting to fall back into his old ways, and beginning to reconnect with his family. He had taken Allison’s death hard, but was overcoming it, now.
“We just can’t do a thing with his manners,” Walker teased. “Lord knows we’ve tried.”
“Because you’re such a saint yourself, Uncle.” Will laughed now, a musical blend of his mother’s throaty one and his father’s light, airy one when he was particularly amused. “I do hope you don’t mind charmers, ma’am- my uncle is just that.”
“And my nephew is a pool hustler,” he said pleasantly.
“I play straight.” He shook his head. “Unless Uncle Tarr isn’t. Then I simply tip the odds back in my favor.” He laughed. The men in his family all had a competitive spirit, but he and Tarquin were particularly vicious when they played. Will knew the ins and outs of poker, had learned it at his father’s knee, and was, of course, fairly good at it. But his passion was billiards, like his uncle. Tarquin had delighted in teaching Will the ins and outs of shooting pool, and the boy was almost as good as he was. Will had a remarkably sharp eye, and was eerily accurate with his shots, but Tarquin had that flash.
“I’m just teasin’ ya, Will.” He laughed outright, drawing the gaze of the woman- who had finally released Sarah - to the tall man. Her eyes widened, taking him in, and he felt himself start to blush under that scrutiny. He knew she saw his father in his features- but he was unprepared for her to storm in his direction, swatting his arm lightly before hugging him tightly- and he reluctantly released Belle. Will stepped up, though, not leaving her alone without a friend.
“Wilson Jonathan Sullivan…” she looked up at him. “Oh, my boy… my sweetheart.” She touched his cheek- he blushed, but grinned. His nephew tilted his head curiously, having nearly responded to his formal name before he had caught the last name. “All grown up now, aren’t you?”
“Sure am.” He leaned in to kiss her on the cheek. “Mama Essie. How did you…?”
“I didn’t,” she broke him off. “Oh, boy, I didn’t. Had I known you were here, I’d have come sooner.”
“I came in response to a request from a W.J. Holliday.” She smiled, confidently. “I am good at takin’ care of young’uns.”
“No one better,” Walker murmured, casting a look to Will, who shrugged before clearing his throat politely, to attract her attention. And her attention he got, her eyes snapping to his face, jaw dropping in astonishment. The young man was tall- probably only an inch or so shy of hitting his father’s height, though the two men were, more or less, on eye level. His hair color, though, was pure Sullivan, shot through with the gold from the Holliday side. The eyes were pure Sullivan, with just the faintest hint of blue, adding depth and interest. He didn’t flinch under the gaze, rather quirked up a brow with a half-smile on his face, just a bit brighter than his fathers.
“Oh, my…” her eyes devoured his face. “You…”
“Essie, this is Will,” Walker offered hastily. Galatea and Doc were not on the streets yet that he could see, and for this he was mentally glad.
“Wilson Jonathan Holliday, actually, ma’am.” He shook his head at his uncle, as if in chide. “I was under the impression you’d be on the train in two days’ time, or I’d have been there to meet you.” He gave a little half bow, as if not sure how to properly greet the woman who was staring at him as if she were afraid of him, or hesitant to believe he was real. “Ma’am?”
“I…” she touched her throat. “I’m sorry. It’s just… you look so much like your father.” She nearly reached out to touch, now. “You got your mother’s coloring, though.”
“And her temperament,” Walker sighed.
“Funny, father always said I was more hers than his,” he said it fondly, though- not realizing that he was, in fact, referring to the man in past tense. But these conversations had always taken place
“You’re a nearly perfect blend between them.” She blinked back tears. So, her precious girl had spent a few years with her man before dying. That was good. And this boy could never truly be denied by either- he was surely his father’s son. “Got your mama’s hair, though.”
“No, my sister got her hair. I got most of the color, but not all.” He held out a hand, beckoning his sister closer. She broke away from the young man dutifully, a demure smile on her face as she passed, embracing her brother with a smile fixed on her face. Her hair was a mass of curls, like her mother’s- and the same rich scarlet. “Celestine, this is Essie.” Her eyes widened- brilliant sapphire pools, before she looked askance at her uncle. Were they serious?
Essie looked at the girl carefully. She was her mother’s daughter, nearly a carbon-copy- except for the eyes. The eyes were blue- and she carried no other hint of the Holliday line about her. Clearly, she must have only been a half-sister of the young man. She did not have the same curves as her mother, though- a bit more petite, and slender, and shorter than her mother had been by a good five or six inches. Still, her figure was feminine, not boyish- and her face was pretty. The girl was looking at her the same way.
“Miss Essie.” She smiled, a welcoming one that echoed the smile of her mother, her voice softer than her boisterous mother, and without the lilting accent. “I’m Celeste.” She took the woman’s hand, gently. She was the softer of the siblings.
“Celeste…” she murmured the name. It was pretty- French for Heavenly- and suited the girl perfectly. “Aren’t you just the prettiest little thing?” She murmured to herself. So much like Gwen… she even had the fetching head tilt down to a science. Her gaze returned to Sarah, then- she sighed. “You’ve done a good job raisin’ these two in their mother’s absence.”
Celeste goggled. Will managed to bite his lip to keep from laughing outright. Walker, who had reclaimed Belle by now, laughed softly, but shook his head in protest when Will looked about to correct him. The young man looked at him as though he had lost his mind- they *should* tell the woman now, but Walker shook his head again, forcefully.
‘No, Will.’ His mind slammed against his nephews, and both cringed. ‘She doesn’t need to know yer mama and daddy are still alive. Not yet, anyway. Just let her fawn over ya for now.’
"God almighty, look at that body!"