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“They don’t have any riding skirts in stock…” Catherine explained, doing her best to hide her disappointment.  The tailor apologized again, saying something about shipment schedules, but Jenny’s attention was fixed on her beautiful and proper friend.

“That’s a shame,” She said without inflection, then shrugged, hearing Karen and Mary-Beth giggling in the dressing room, “... Really, Catherine, I don’t know why you bother with those silly riding skirts anyway.”

“I only have the one petticoat, my dear, and it won’t support riding astride, even if I were to have a skirt that might-- which, I remind you, I do not.”

Jenny snorted, “So buy some trousers.”

The tailor stared at her.  Catherine stared at her. Jenny gave the tailor a dirty look, making clear it was wiser he find his own business to mind, and he scuttled over to fuss with one of the hanging outfits.

“Jenny… I’m a lady …”

“So?  Your legs split in the middle like everyone else, don’t they?”

“Well, yes, of course--”

“--So they’ll fit in trousers, which, as it turns out, were made with ridin’ horses in mind.”

“You cannot be serious…”

“Fine.  Don’t buy trousers.  I just ain’t gonna listen to your belly-achin’ about ridin’ in your tore up, foolish ridin’ skirt, that may as well be trousers wrapped in a skirt, anyway!”

The pale-eyed lady looked at her, then around at the tailor shop, the primary reason they’d come all the way to Blackwater, despite the risk, and then back at Jenny, “...It’s… highly unorthodox, my dear.  A woman of my status wearing trousers… it would draw a lot of attention…”

Sneering, Jenny teased, “You’re right.  Maybe you ought ask yer daddy first?”

Catherine startled like she’d been slapped, “What!--"

“-- Or your man--”

Straightening, the lady’s hands went to her hips and her voice turned ice cold and sharp, “--I don’t need anyone’s permission to wear anything , Miss Kirk, let us have that understanding first and foremost!”

“That’s more like it!” The other woman laughed, “Now come on, just try a pair on!  I’m sure you’ll like ‘em once you do…”

Slowly lowering her hackles, Catherine sighed and shook her head, “... Oh alright…”

 

The tailor had her measurements already, so despite any opinions on the matter he might have (which he wisely kept to himself) he provided a selection of trousers in various colors, fabrics, and styles in sizes that would best fit her (with minimal alterations).  Leaving the pale-eyed lady to her decisions, he gratefully left her to assist Mary-Beth with the vast selection of shawls.

Jenny started to step away also, apparently intrigued by the new hats on display, when Catherine called, “... I just realized… I don’t think I’ve ever seen-- Jenny do you wear trousers?”

“I own a pair I’ve worn once or twice.  Does it make a difference?”

The lady gave her dark-eyed friend a look, “Here you stand, taunting me about trousers when you hardly wear yours…?  It isn’t kind to make fun of me, Miss Kirk.”

Sighing her exasperation, the outlaw said, “I ain’t, either.  Do as you like, Miss Fancy! Wear your tore-up ridin’ skirt until you can buy a new one.  Or buy a less fancy petticoat, a new crinoline, and a skirt to wear. Or go nekkid for all I give a damn!”

They looked at each other a few moments, then Catherine said, “... Why do these have leather sewn on the backside?” holding up a pair of warm brown work pants.

Jenny laughed, “Oh, those’re padded work pants.  I think the leather is so you stick to the saddle better.”

Laughing also, the pale-eyed lady said, “... I might want to consider them, then… it might help save me from falling off another time before the year is up.”

“If anything can.” The other teased.

“How unkind!” But Catherine laughed still.

“You gonna try ‘em on?  Won’t be long before them Callander boys get bored-- or too drunk-- and start makin’ trouble.”

“Yes… Let me try these few, then…”

Karen stopped them on their way to the dressing room, on her way out from trying on a new blouse that had caught her eye.

“... Miss, what’re you doin’ with those trousers?”

Jenny ushered Catherine forward again, “She’s gon’ try ‘em on.  What you think she’s doin’? Keepin’ ‘em company?”

“... But they’re trousers …”

“That’s what I said!” Catherine laughed as Jenny pushed her into the dressing room.

Reaching over, Karen grabbed the curtain before the other outlaw could close it, and pushed her way in, “This I have to see!”

With a scoff and roll of her eyes, the pale-eyed lady handed her selections to the other two women, “You might as well make yourselves useful, then, if you insist on teasing me the entire time…”

The blonde ended up handing the pair of trousers she was holding to Jenny to help Catherine out of her coat and riding skirt, “You gonna wear these trousers with your corset?”

Jenny burst out laughing at the open bafflement on the fancy lady’s face.

“I… I hadn’t planned on taking it-- should I not?”

“You and Grimshaw are the only ones who wear one every day,” Karen told her, “Hell, I’m only wearing one because we’re in town and not at the saloon!”

“Trousers waist ain’t gonna work well with your corset if it comes down proper…” Jenny warned between laughs.

Catherine sighed, muttering something in one of her foreign languages, “...Well… alright, help me take it off, then… If I’m going to scandalize the town and the camp, I might as well do it right the first time.”

“Oh, we’ll call the papers,” Jenny rolled her eyes, “‘Miss Catherine’s got her tits out’…”

Karen snorted laughter, “The men’ll like that!”

“I’m still wearing my combinations and blouse, thank you!”

The blouse did have to come off first, to facilitate the removal of the corset.  Jenny and Karen both admired her combinations. Karen announced an intention to get some of her own some day, while Jenny shrugged and said she didn’t have a desire for ‘lacy fancy things’.

Catherine grinned as she pulled her blouse back on, “Maybe Mister Summers has a desire for lacy fancy things?”

“Did Mister van der Linde?” Jenny needled back.

“Yes.” Catherine shrugged, “As you might have guessed.”

“What about Mister Morgan?”

Shrugging, Catherine reached for the first pair of trousers, the padded work pants, “I don’t know.  I suppose we’ll have to ask him.”

Karen and Jenny exchanged a look before the blonde outlaw blurted, “You mean he didn’t see in Tumbleweed?”

Before the lady could answer, the curtain was suddenly drawn aside, and Mary-Beth was standing there, “I had wondered what you ladies-- Miss Catherine are you wearing trousers ?!”

Karen dragged her in and closed the curtain again while Catherine rolled her eyes and sighed long-suffering.

“Almost… certainly not enough for the public eye, Miss Gaskill…”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize…  But… trousers ?”

Finishing with the donning and fastening, the pale-eyed lady regarded herself in the mirror, smoothing her hands against her hips, turning this way and that, “... What do you think, Jenny?”

“You look fine.  How do they feel?”

“Strange.” She looked at the blonde in the mirror, “... What about you, Miss Jones?”

“They look alright, I guess,” Was the answer, then she grinned, “Nice to know you got a bit of a rump there and it ain’t all crinoline and paddin’...”

“Not all of us are blessed with your commanding, womanly physique, my dear.” Catherine smiled, “Mary-Beth?”

“... I think the boys are goin’ to have some things to say…” She answered, “... Not to mention Miss Grimshaw.”

“... I’ll deal with that when the time comes, I suppose.”

Jenny waved the pairs she was still holding, “You trying these on or am I just holdin’ them for show?”

“No, no… Here let me…” Catherine laughed as she worked the button-front, “... You think I’d know as often as I’ve done this for men… but it really is easier to get in and out of…”

Once again assisting, Karen grunted, “... Maybe.  But doin’ a necessary is gonna be a pain… Men can just open and pull out.  Yer gonna go bare arsed to make water.”

The lady blinked, apparently not realizing herself until it was said, “... That won’t be pleasant in the cold at all…”

The ladies laughed together, and Catherine put on the next pair of trousers, this one a dove gray pair of wide-legged pants.  Jenny didn’t like them, but could tell right away that Catherine very much did from her expression and the way she held herself straighter as she turned to admire them in the mirror.

“You want to get those, then?” She asked, wrinkling her nose.

“No…” Catherine started to open them again.

“No?  You liked those!  I could tell-- are they expensive?” Mary-Beth cried, “I can lend you a bit of money…  You looked so nice in them, really!”

“They’re lovely,” The lady said, “but not as practical as the other pair.”

“Get the ones you like,” Jenny told her, “These will do fine.”

“I’ll get those others.” Announced Miss Schofield stubbornly.

Karen looked at Mary-Beth and said, “... Keep your money, girl.  We’ll just let Arthur know…”

“Oh!”

Catherine looked over, “... Let Arthur know what…?”

“Oh, nothing,” The blonde grinned, “just how you was mooning over these pants you didn’t see fit to get for yourself.”

“... I don’t understand.”

“Yes you do.” Jenny told her, tugging on the sleeve of her new coat hung on the wall hook.  The one Arthur had bought for her. It was a nice coat-- certainly worth some good money, with thick fur on the inside and around the lapels and collar.

The reaction was immediate: Catherine flushed a dark pink from her hairline all the way down to what could be seen of her decolletage , “You will not !”

Mary-Beth giggled.  Karen and Jenny couldn’t help but cackle wickedly.

“There’s nothing wrong with letting a man treat you now and again, Catherine…”

“I’ve found that very much depends on the man, Karen…”

Batting her eyelashes, the freckled brunette said, “Oh, but Arthur’s a good sort…”

Jenny rolled her eyes.  Karen scoffed, “ Grumpy sort… but he does try to take care of us girls, I suppose…”

The lady frowned at the three of them, “... I’ll buy these two then, if only so you don’t try and put any ideas into anyone’s head that he should get them for me.”

“Fine,” Jenny laughed, “Is that you decided, then?  Can I go look at hats now?”

“By all means,” Catherine answered, “Before the tailor wonders what we’re plotting in here…”


“‘Ent roight fer a lass t’ware trousers.” Mac professed with all the blunt sagacity that could be expected of him at the bottom of as many bottles as he was.

“My dear, Mister Callander,” The pale-eyed lady sighed, “where were you ten minutes ago when I was being harangued by these brigands?”

“Wot?”

“Nevermind,” Laughed Miss Jones as she sashayed herself over to the bar next to the drunken outlaw, “I wouldn’t take any advice from this fool.”

“You hush, wench!” Scolded the man, “‘Ent roight, oi say.”

To be fair, the nature of the looks Catherine was getting were a little different from the usual.  Though she was often turning every head in any place with her looks and gracious mannerisms, it was clear her current apparel was giving them something to chew over they didn’t seem to much like the taste of.

“... If it’s all the same to you,” She said quietly, “... I’d rather we were on our way.”

That Mac didn’t answer, and his brother hadn’t even looked over a second time from his poker game in the corner, made clear that they weren’t for leaving any time soon.

Jenny didn’t often turn down a drink, but she was eager to get back to camp and see if Lenny had come back from his ride south, looking for leads. “Yeah, alright.  We’ll go, then. Miss Jones? Miss Gaskill?”

“I’ll keep an eye on these two,” The blonde replied, waving over the bartender.

Mary-Beth fidgeted a moment before letting out her breath, giving Catherine a hopeful look, “... I should head back too.  Miss Grimshaw wanted me earlier for something…”

The lady was, as ever, quick to catch on, “Best come with us, then.  I’ll just have to let her know you were helping me.”

Miss Kirk knew that they were betting on Susan’s good opinion of Miss Schofield to come through as it usually did-- the lady had a way with her, there could be no doubting-- but she didn’t put much stock in the old nan-goat’s ‘good opinion’.  Susan Grimshaw was a moody old bitch, and with the camp’s opinions turned against Catherine, Jenny suspected that the girls’ reliance on her to get them out of trouble would only get Catherine in more trouble.  Already she could hear the harsh voice cracking out about how ‘Miss Schofield fancies herself a lady with maids to help her spend up all their money’.

Nevermind how the money had been earned by Catherine herself.

 

Out by the hitching posts, the two more-experienced thieves mounted up while Catherine checked her leathers.  She’d grown even more strict about it since some mysterious incident where her latigo and one of the headpiece leathers of her bridle had needed replacing-- fortunately, more than one man in camp knew how to cut and stitch leather to suit, and there had been spare hide around.  Apparently finding everything in order, she too mounted up and they were on their way.

“It is strange how that happened…” Miss Gaskill observed, “your bridle and your latigo…”

Catherine shrugged, “Bad luck, I guess.”

“Maybe,” Then the curly-haired brunette looked at her, “... How do your trousers feel in the saddle?”

“... I’m not sure I want to say,” Was the answer with a grin, “as I’d rather not listen to Jenny’s ‘I told you so’s the whole ride back.”

“Ha!  I did tell you so!  They ride nice, don’t they!”


Susan had an earful for them when they got back.  Something must have happened, for she was in a temper, and could find pleasure in nothing.  Tilly had apparently rushed off in tears and was in hiding somewhere after being on the receiving end of the matron’s sharp tongue most of the day.  With new victims, she was quick to scold Jenny and Mary-Beth for being gone so long, for leaving Karen behind, for returning without the men, and for letting all the chores pile up.  Catherine quickly came to their defense, and though Susan quieted long enough to hear her, her hands were firmly on her hips and a scowl deep in her face.

When Miss Schofield was finished, the camp boss informed her sharply that if she wanted to be treated like a proper lady, she ought to dress like one.  Laughing at this, Catherine said that wearing trousers didn’t make her less of a lady.

“Ladies don’t wear such things.  You look foolish.  How can anybody take you seriously-- I don’t know how you can expect me to!”

“Well,” Catherine smiled, “if the way I dress dictates my treatment, will you treat me like a man , Miss Grimshaw?”

Mary-Beth slapped a hand over her own mouth.  Jenny didn’t bother and cackled loudly before catching sight of Lenny and heading over.  The old nan-goat was still gaping at Catherine’s retort.

Behind her, Jenny heard Catherine call loudly in a sugary tone, “What do you think, Mister Morgan?  Do I still look fine?”

From her peripheral, Jenny saw Arthur staring openly alongside Hosea where they had apparently been discussing something.  The big outlaw chuckled and shook his head, either bashful or embarrassed or both, “... Miss, you could be wearin’ a potato sack an’ still look fine…”

“... Your idea?” Mister Summers was saying quietly, taking her hands with a smile, clearly hearing the victory in her laugh.