Harlequin's Slash Fic

Requiescat

Title: Requiescat
Author: Stew
Universe: Tombstone
Characters featured: Doc Holliday/Johnny Ringo, Doc Holliday/Wyatt Earp
Category, Word count: Short story; 8900 words
Rating: NC17
Summary: Doc Holliday is surprised by Johnny Ringo and fascinated by Wyatt Earp.
Warnings: This story includes the deaths of two main characters, as shown in the film.
First published: 1 January 1996 in Espresso 1

 

 

Requiescat

 

 

This was civilisation in Tombstone, Arizona: a night at the theatre, enjoying the songs and speeches and scenes of a company of travelling actors, then down the road to the Oriental saloon to lose money to Wyatt Earp at his faro table. And then the real drama of the night: the leader of the Cowboys, a gang of outlaws, confronts the former lawman. Tension, and the delicious anticipation of danger, spread through the bar like flashfire.

The scene is stolen by the antagonism between Earp’s friend, Doc Holliday, and the second Cowboy, Johnny Ringo. They shoot phrases of Latin at each other, to the bemusement of the less learned townsfolk. The beautiful actor and actress, previously the centre of attention, laugh their appreciation. Then Ringo draws one of his guns ‑‑ but only to twirl it faster than the eye can see, flashes of silver in those lightning quick hands, dark thunder in the intense eyes above.

Quick on the draw though he is, how can Doc match this display? Ringo holsters the gun at last, to a round of applause. Doc swallows the last of his dram of whisky ‑‑ and begins twirling his tiny silver cup, echoing all of Ringo’s fancy moves without even trying, parodying all the man’s skills. The applause is replaced by laughter. What does Doc Holliday have left to prove, after all?

Ringo does not have the style to be anything other than humiliated. The Cowboys leave the saloon, the second show of the evening is over. The excited talk rises, the faro game resumes, and all is frivolous and civilised.

 

 

‘Just in need of some fresh air,’ Doc said, making his excuses, and Wyatt and the others let him go because of this hole inside of him that was expanding from the spiritual to the corporeal, eating him alive. More prosaic people named that devouring hole consumption. But, prosaic or not, exceptions were always made for a dying man. Doc wandered out of the saloon and into the hot dry air, the dark desert night. Looking around, nonchalant, then selecting a direction apparently at random and sauntering along the road out of town.

Tonight Doc Holliday needed unhindered space and the non‑judgemental sky, he needed the rawness of nature ‑‑ not the refinements of Tombstone, the town Wyatt had adopted for its civilising influence.

As Doc had anticipated, he soon acquired a distant shadow: a man left the darkness of the last building in town and began following Doc into the trackless desert.

Less than half a mile ‑‑ but that was enough. The lights of town were as remote and disinterested as the stars from here; the stillness and emptiness surrounded him; his lungs had frankly had their fill of walking.

Shadow man approached, wary, resolved into a moonlit Johnny Ringo.

They considered each other for a long moment, from a safe distance.

Neither of them valued safety: Ringo walked closer and said, ‘That was some show you put on back there.’

Doc smiled his cocksure smile. ‘It took inordinate wit and skill to beat those hands of yours.’

So intense, those eyes of Ringo’s, never allowing a smile, even one of triumph. ‘Old man,’ he said, ‘when you finally drown in your own blood, then ‑‑‘

‘What then?’ Doc asked into the silence. ‘Second best going to be promoted to best by default? You looking to be the fastest man on the draw in Arizona?’

‘Fastest in the land,’ Ringo amended. ‘And I already am. You’re nothing more than a legend, you’re already history.’

‘And time is catching up with me,’ Doc muttered in agreement; ‘time and my own mortality.’ He assessed the man before him. There were many similarities between Ringo and he ‑‑ maybe Ringo, like Doc, had lost the only thing he’d ever wanted, so early on that the bitter grief blighted his growing years, became a canker in his soul. It got so as all a man wanted was more death, more violence and gun‑play, more sex and sensation and risk, just to feed that never‑ending hole, that thwarted hope.

Here was Doc, for instance, made even more reckless by the years‑long threat of slow death in a sick bed, exchanging hostilities and pleasantries with a man just as reckless, just as bold and wilful and suicidal. A man with eyes that burned, with handsome features marred by permanent dissatisfaction, a face seen only in scowls or in drink.

The difference between them was that Ringo lacked Doc’s range of humour, his insouciance, Doc’s ability to use the intensity rather than letting it use him, letting it run him ragged. Ringo was never going to become a legend ‑‑ short‑lived and infamous, perhaps, but he didn’t have the panache to be a legend.

And there was one other difference ‑‑ for Doc’s most prized possession was the friendship of a good and honest man. Ringo’s was the red sash that declared him a member of a band of desperate men.

None so desperate as Ringo. ‘Why are you out here alone, old man?’

‘I’m no older than you,’ Doc said easily.

‘You’re closer to death than I.’

Doc Holliday graciously allowed this claim to stand, and asked instead, ‘Why did you wait for me? Follow me?’

‘We have unfinished business,’ the man ground out. ‘You were lucky I walked away tonight, at the saloon.’

‘You were sensible,’ Doc replied: ‘I was surrounded by friends. Well, acquaintances,’ he amended with wry honesty. ‘It wasn’t luck: you were outclassed and outnumbered.’

‘I see no friends or acquaintances now.’

‘No, you don’t.’ Doc smiled again, that daring smile.

‘You think you got the better of me back there.’

‘I know I got the better of you. Is all this banter leading somewhere?’

Ringo’s glare intensified. ‘Why come out here alone, old man, if you knew I’d be waiting?’

‘I want to see what else you can do with those hands. They looked so… competent.’

Perhaps the lack of reaction indicated that Ringo was unsure of Doc’s meaning.

‘So… suggestive in their quickness, their sureness. What else can you do with them, Ringo?’

Disgust, then, though the eyes remained fixed firmly on Doc ‑‑ for safety or due to interest? Ringo spat on the ground between them. ‘Is that story true, too? That you’re not choosy about who you bed?’ And he added with some malice, ‘Or who beds you?’

‘So I couldn’t help wondering if those fingers twirled anything other than cold steel. A few inches of flesh, rather than firepower, perhaps?’

The disgust was still evident, though it was also glaringly obvious that Ringo hadn’t walked away yet. ‘Is it true? Because you know they say there couldn’t be any other reason for Wyatt Earp to be your friend.’

That was intended to wound, and to incite riot ‑‑ and Doc did indeed feel a flare of righteous anger in reply, though he didn’t let it reach his calm and careless expression. He valued Wyatt, and Wyatt’s friendship, above all things ‑‑ this good man who did not judge, who was so loyal to a reckless dangerous creature named Doc Holliday. And none of this sordidness should touch Wyatt in any way. On the other hand, a righteously angry reaction would serve to confirm rather than deny the allegation. So Doc said, very casually, ‘Sure, Wyatt and me go way back. But, you know, he has a wife now, and seems to have misplaced his heart somewhere, too. So why don’t you and I forget Wyatt and that scurrilous gossip, forget the fickle ladies, and concentrate on the present pleasant situation?’

‘What present situation?’ Ringo asked, exasperation heightening the intensity ‑‑ but what didn’t exacerbate Ringo’s intense anger at the world?

‘You tell me, boy. You’re the one who followed me out here.’ There was no answer, so Doc began filling in the gaps. ‘You don’t know whether I fascinate you or repel you… It’s possible that it’s both, of course.’ Doc smiled his winning smile. ‘You don’t know whether to kill me or bed me…’

‘Possibly both,’ Ringo said, quick to the humour, which was unexpected ‑‑ and then quick to regret, because that sounded like an admission of interest.

‘Really,’ Doc breathed. He’d been going to follow up on that promising line of conversation ‑‑ heaven knows Ringo needed smooth, careful handling ‑‑ but Doc was overtaken by a fit of coughing that left blood on his lips.

Dangerous, because the coughing consumed him, and he had no attention left for defence. When the fit subsided, Doc was on his knees, and Ringo had drawn near, peering intently at Doc’s face. A hand reached out, a finger trailed through the blood and raw tissue. ‘Can I catch this disease?’ Ringo asked.

‘Not from me,’ Doc replied easily. And damn Ringo to hell if that wasn’t true. He lifted his ever-present handkerchief, the linen blue‑white under the moon.

‘No,’ the man said, lifting his hand to his own lips, licking at the blood, like a cat cleaning cream from its paws. Then Ringo’s fingers reached for more.

Doc, still kneeling, watched with great interest. ‘Who’d have thought you’d be so… creative, Johnny Ringo,’ he murmured. ‘Why don’t you bring that mouth down here, and cut out the middleman?’

‘I’d get as close to you as I would a rattlesnake,’ Ringo said.

‘The comparison is flattering, of course, and I thank you for it. But even a rattlesnake likes to let down its guard and enjoy itself on occasion.’ Doc shrugged his coat off, and then he reached ever so slowly for the buckle to his gun‑belt, hands deliberately giving the ivory‑handled guns a wide berth, undid the buckle, then drew the lot off his hips ‑‑ belt, guns, ammunition ‑‑ and tossed it just out of reach.

‘What did you do that for, old man?’ Ringo asked, ominous, unsure.

‘I want that mouth of yours down here. The guns were only complicating the situation.’

‘I could kill you now.’

‘I always wanted to die with my boots on,’ Doc said wistfully. ‘But why don’t you bed me first, Johnny Ringo?’

The man knelt, to Doc’s surprise, to Doc’s pleasure, and only two feet away. Reached a hand to Doc’s bloodied lips again.

Doc caught the hand in his own, startling Ringo so that his free hand wandered towards his guns and then hovered. No sudden moves, Doc reminded himself. He asked easily, ‘Don’t you think a mutual expression of trust is in order?’

Ringo’s gaze had never once left Doc’s throughout this encounter, forever wary, watching for any indication of trouble. Because any worthwhile gun‑man could see the decision to shoot in another man’s eyes. Doc’s gaze had only left Ringo’s during that coughing fit. Until now ‑‑ he watched those fine long fingers quickly deal with the buckle, toss the gun‑belt away ‑‑ in the opposite direction to Doc’s, and only just out of reach. Well, no doubt Ringo was still armed, but that would do for now. In fact, Doc still had two knives and a small pistol hidden about himself.

‘Come now,’ Doc murmured, beckoning Ringo closer.

The man shuffled forward on his knees, closed half the distance between them. So Doc shuffled forward, too, then sat back on his heels, hands unthreateningly open, palm up, on his own thighs ‑‑ lifted his face for what he hoped would be a kiss. The blood must look black in the moonlight, like devil’s blood.

‘Come now,’ Doc whispered.

Ringo, perhaps encouraged by Doc’s vulnerable stance, towered over him. With his left hand, cupped the back of Doc’s head ‑‑ his right hand approached, then at the last moment was replaced by Ringo’s mouth.

It wasn’t a kiss. More like Doc was dessert, and Ringo a starving man. His tongue lapped at the blood and ragged tissue, his lips followed suit, attacking Doc’s mouth and chin until all was clean.

‘Don’t stop now,’ said Doc, and then it became more of a kiss, mouths meshing in something hungry and careless, Doc deliberately less aggressive than the other man, finally letting Ringo’s insistent tongue invade.

And all the while their distrustful gazes never left each other. Kissing with eyes open and wary ‑‑ Doc was used to it by now, of course, but he still found it exhilarating.

Perhaps that was why Wyatt liked him, but would never like Johnny Ringo ‑‑ Doc Holliday was so damned self‑aware. And, inevitably, self‑disgusted. Grant a dying man a little perspective on his no‑account life.

Grant him a little delirious, dangerous joy.

The kiss broke apart, and Ringo pulled back, still towering menacingly over the other man. ‘Carpe diem,’ Doc murmured, a heartfelt prayer: seize the day, seize the crazy night, seize all sensation available.

Ringo almost lightened at that ‑‑ at least, he seemed to agree with the sentiment. He asked, ‘Is it true what they say about lungers?’

Doc smiled his sardonic smile. ‘It seems I am a legend ripe for gossip in all areas of my life. Tell me, brother, what do they say?’

‘That you’re forever hot for it, hotter than a bitch in heat.’

‘It’s true I appear to be running a fever at the moment…’

Ringo’s hands seemed to want to confirm this ‑‑ they ran over Doc’s forehead, back through his hair, never once interrupting their shared wary excited gaze.

‘You’re a learned man, Johnny Ringo. You don’t need to ask me all these questions.’ No reply, but for a withdrawal of the hands. ‘You hunger, don’t you? Like me, you’ll seek anything to fill that void inside of you. Knowledge might have done it; but humanity has only found questions, never answers; so when knowledge failed us, we turned to less esoteric pursuits.’

‘You talk too much, old man.’

‘I wonder what it was that you lost, what it was that would have made you whole, what it was that left you with nothing but a thirst for revenge.’

The intensity had turned mutinous.

Doc smiled his infuriating smile, which under the circumstances was superfluous. ‘Never mind,’ he said reassuringly; ‘here’s solace for our wounds.’ And he began working at the belt to his trousers. ‘You do the same, brother. A mutual expression of trust.’

A begrudging moment then Ringo drew off the red sash that declared him a Cowboy. He held it in his hands for a moment, as if contemplating it, though his eyes remained on Doc. Rather than set it aside, he pushed the sash into a coat pocket, so the ends tumbled out and the silk threads swung with every move. Then, Ringo echoing Doc’s movements, they each loosened their trousers and braces, pushed aside their shirt‑tails, exposed their eager sex.

‘Show me what else you can do with those hands, Johnny Ringo,’ Doc murmured. And he slowly reached one hand to grasp the other man’s beautiful hard phallus. Waited a moment for Ringo to match the gesture, then began a teasing slide. ‘Show me what you can do.’

They began, at last, the competition each had hungered for: one would demonstrate a particular move or hold or rhythm on the other’s phallus; the other would match and then better it; roughly then gently, fast as silver twirling then exquisitely slow, complex then simple and direct. And both endeavoured to postpone orgasm until the other had succumbed to the pleasure. It was an impossible, doomed, wonderful game.

Doc loved it. Heart singing, he called on all his skills, all his years‑long knowledge, all his control. If he had let himself, he would have found orgasm within moments, could have found it ten times over by now. And all the while they stared at each other, endlessly suspicious.

Ringo at last knelt up on his knees again, and Doc happily followed suit. They crushed together, hands working, Ringo’s lips and tongue devouring Doc’s again.

And then Ringo did something Doc knew it would be more than his life was worth to mirror: Ringo’s left hand crept over Doc’s skin, within the loose confines of his trousers, caressed a hip, slid searching across a buttock, down to that magical pucker of flesh that was Doc’s anus.

Doc shuddered at the mere touch, let his eyes close for the briefest moment of surrender. Then a finger was insinuating itself, pushing in, demanding, and Ringo’s other hand began a devastating rhythm. No way to guide the man now but verbally: Doc whispered, ‘Further ‑‑ further ‑‑ inside ‑‑ there!’ and gave himself to a soul‑shattering climax, eyes all the while on this damned provoking brother of his.

Ringo watched him, serious, intent; not only letting Doc enjoy the pleasure but prolonging it; allowing Doc to initiate a tired but passionate kiss.

‘You win,’ Doc murmured when he was able. Ringo didn’t seem to revel in the victory ‑‑ like Doc, perhaps he found the game itself more important ‑‑ but Ringo did have a peculiar light in his eyes. Doc asked, ‘What prize should you claim, do you think?’

The finger hadn’t yet withdrawn: it was thrust deeper as an answer. Ringo’s phallus leapt in Doc’s hands, expressing eager anticipation as Ringo could never do verbally.

‘I’m not turning my back on you,’ Doc said, ‘and other positions, near fully clothed, would be… unpoetic.’ But he continued to consider the man’s expression. Serious and intent and hungry ‑‑ not aggressive or victorious or deadly. Johnny Ringo was indeed a handsome man. ‘I won’t turn my back on you, except under one condition,’ Doc amended.

Ringo lifted a brow in inquiry.

‘I get to hold this in my hand,’ Doc said. He sat back on his heels, letting Ringo slide out of his hands and his anus, and Doc drew the three inch knife from his boot. ‘I won’t even hold it close to you. But remember how quick I am.’ Not that he really cared to be this careful: Doc Holliday had dared and survived for so long that he felt immortal. Or he felt that death had its own plans for him, no matter how he lived life in the meantime.

There was no reaction, but the man’s phallus stood as hard and eager as ever.

Doc eased himself down amidst the sand and rock and scrub, watching Ringo all the time; lying back, hips twisted so that his buttocks were exposed, were in close proximity to where Ringo knelt.

A long moment, and then Ringo’s hands were pulling Doc’s trousers down a few more inches, and the man was on hands and knees over Doc ‑‑ belly exposed to Doc’s knife ‑‑ evenly balanced so that Doc would have a moment’s warning if Ringo shifted his weight to free a hand. And, in a co‑operation unthinkable an hour before, Doc lifted his rear and met Ringo’s phallus, already slippery with his own and Doc’s juices, and the two men found the right angle, and Ringo thrust home.

Too brief, as it had to be, but raw and urgent and roughly beautiful while it lasted. Ringo cried out as the orgasm crashed through him, eyes wide and holding Doc’s gaze, sharing the hard fulfilment with him as well as the careful fear.

Doc wished he had the wherewithal to coax another orgasm out of his tired body, but instead was racked with another bout of the damned coughing. Ringo landed behind him, held him closely with both hands spread unthreateningly on Doc’s chest, began licking at the blood, even as more overflowed the helpless mouth. Doc’s knife lay forgotten in the sand.

Eventually Doc stilled, and they lay close as the cold stars wheeled overhead.

Maybe half an hour stretched the fragile spent peace into a mockery of companionship, and then they stood, wary again. Ringo seemed self‑conscious, discomforted, not lifting his gaze above Doc’s chest. Doc wondered if ‑‑ perhaps hoped that ‑‑ he’d given Johnny Ringo food for thought. They rearranged their clothes and, after a pause, recovered their gun‑belts and strapped them on.

Began the walk back to town with a few feet separating them, though it felt to Doc as if they were shoulder to shoulder. Doc said, ‘You walking me home, Johnny Ringo?’

‘Guess I am,’ the man replied. ‘I might shoot you one day, but damned if I’m going to let you lie out here and choke on your own blood.’

‘Charming,’ Doc murmured, ‘and charmed.’ Silence, until the buildings loomed close. A handful of tenacious civilisation, and two men who preyed on it, though their allegiances made them enemies to each other. Doc said, ‘It’s never enough, is it?’ He was quiet, reflective. ‘That was… a truly entertaining experience, Johnny Ringo, and I thank you for it. But it’s never enough to fill that void.’

Ringo stood there, at the edge of the desert, and watched Doc safely back to the hotel. And then he turned and re‑entered the dark night.

 

 

Wyatt Earp stood in the street, in the thunderstorm, and all the torrents of rain weren’t enough to wash him clean. His brother’s life‑blood coated his hands, spattered his shirt: Morgan Earp lay dead on the pool table back in the Oriental saloon, shot in the back by a Cowboy; the last words of this young man, who often thought of things spiritual, were, ‘I can’t see a damned thing.’

But Wyatt could see something of the truth now. He lifted his bloodied hands for all of Tombstone to witness, and cried out, ‘This is who I am!’ The beautiful actress, Josephine, approached: Wyatt yelled a warning, ‘Get away from me.’ His wife, Mattie, stared at him with hostility, and then turned away.

Thus the long‑simmering war between the Earp brothers, and the Cowboys, at last erupted.

 

 

Johnny Ringo looked up, surprised. He hadn’t expected Wyatt Earp to take up the challenge, to have the nerve to finish this war, one way or the other, with Earp’s blood or his own. Then the approaching man’s head rose, and the hat brim revealed the godless eyes of Doc Holliday. Ringo took a breath, and swore that he should have known. This felt like fate, like Doc Holliday’s doom or his own.

The two men bantered words, circled each other at little more than arm’s length, endlessly wary. Doc was wearing a marshall’s badge: authorisation to kill anyone wearing the Cowboys’ red sash. Ringo wasn’t to know that the badge was Earp’s, that Doc had tricked the marshall into entrusting it to him. That Doc had come here in Wyatt Earp’s stead, without Earp knowing, because Doc knew the good man wouldn’t stand a chance against the mad one.

And at last they drew their guns, and Doc was far quicker, and Johnny Ringo staggered then fell to the ground with a bullet hole in his forehead.

It was over so soon that Ringo would barely have known he’d lost. Was that mercy?

Doc knelt over the body, this brother he felt he knew all too well, this man he had murdered for Wyatt’s sake. Ringo’s face was handsome without the hostility that was all life had endowed him. Though a frown knotted his forehead as if he was puzzling over his fate, and his eyes, once so intense, were nothing more than cold mirrors now. Streaks of blood had run from the wound: Doc almost smeared some on his fingers to lick at. Instead, Doc placed the marshall’s badge on Ringo’s chest.

Requiescat, shadow man. Leave the hostility and the puzzling behind, and go in peace.

 

 

Doc Holliday had spent the afternoon, as was usual these days, lying in his shirtsleeves on the sofa in his hotel room, more lazy than ill. He drank and he smoked and he contemplated life, but in moderation. He read all the books and newspapers he could acquire, and he wondered at how much longer he could endure this quiet civilised town. While he couldn’t really regret that Kate, the Hungarian witch, had finally left him, he did miss her devilish ways. He also missed the cash and other belongings of his that she’d taken, while admiring her style. It wasn’t often Doc found a woman who could not only keep up with him but at times surpass him.

The door opened and Tombstone’s marshall walked in to the room unannounced. Perhaps he was the only person who would dare surprise Doc Holliday but, as Doc’s only friend, the marshall was perhaps blind to the possible ramifications. Wyatt Earp sat on the chair facing Doc, and said thickly, ‘More blood on my hands.’

Doc lifted an inquiring brow. The war with the Cowboys was over, and he’d heard of no more gun‑fights. ‘Whose blood?’

‘Mattie. She took an overdose. I just had a letter from Virgil.’

Virgil, the oldest of the three Earp brothers, who had taken his own wife and Morgan’s widow and Mattie away from Tombstone to safety, before Wyatt declared war. Doc had a vivid memory of Wyatt, standing over a dead man, yelling at a terrified Cowboy, Tell them the law’s coming ‑‑ tell them I’m coming! And Hell’s coming with me! It had been Doc’s private joke that he felt absurdly flattered to be Wyatt’s hellish companion, to be part of this doom-laden threat. Even now he was distracted and amused at the idea, when he should be thinking seriously of Wyatt ‑‑ thinking of poor aimless Wyatt because, once he’d won the war, the marshall had soon reverted to his state of confusion, had again lost that essential fierce purpose. Doc sighed, and said, ‘I’m sorry.’

Wyatt looked at him. ‘Are you?’ he asked, dull. ‘I don’t expect you to follow social conventions.’

‘Nevertheless, I am sorry. For you, not for her.’

Flinching from this statement, Wyatt muttered, ‘It’s my fault, of course.’

‘That’s not true,’ Doc said: ‘but you believe it is, and that’s why I’m sorry. Wyatt, my friend, Mattie didn’t develop that laudanum addiction overnight. She must have been well on the way before you even met her. Trust me, I know about these things.’

‘Yes, I suppose you do.’ But the tone was heavy and disinterested.

‘The only thing that was your fault was to marry the wrong woman. You used your mind, not your heart and your balls, to choose her: you and Mattie were never going to make each other happy.’

‘You think not?’

‘Grieve for her if you must, and then get over this. Be who you are, not who you were trying to be when you married her.’

Wyatt flashed resentment at him.

‘You said to me once that you’d spent your whole life not knowing what you wanted. But then you found what you wanted, and who, and that was the damnable misery of it.’

‘Josephine,’ Wyatt murmured: ‘that’s who I found.’ He looked up at Doc, quirked a small smile. ‘I chose her with my heart and my balls.’

Doc nodded agreement. Wyatt had reached thus far in his muddled quest for self‑knowledge, but no further. What was the man doing here in Tombstone, Arizona? At least he had remained marshall, rather than try again for the normal life, whatever the hell that was: but, with the Cowboys out of the picture, everything was too quiet and too easy for the likes of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.

‘But she’s gone now,’ Wyatt said. ‘There was a chance, and I couldn’t take it.’

‘Or wouldn’t,’ Doc muttered.

‘I couldn’t take the chance because I was in the middle of the war with the Cowboys ‑‑ I wasn’t thinking of Mattie. I failed her.’

Doc felt like asking, Failed Mattie or Josephine or both? But that was too much for the man to contemplate just yet. Wyatt had dropped his head to his hands, and now gripped so hard that his fingers turned white. It seemed that if he could crush his own skull and tear it apart, he would do so. Doc said, ‘You loathe yourself, don’t you?’

‘Yes,’ Wyatt groaned, ‘but there aren’t the words for it. Don’t make me talk about it, Doc. I don’t have the damned words.’

‘That’s all right. I might have forgotten what I knew about grief, but I certainly know how self‑loathing feels.’

Wyatt peered up at him. ‘I once told Virgil that I liked you because you made me laugh.’

‘I guess neither of us are feeling very frivolous right now, my friend. Let’s wallow in self‑loathing instead. That’s what’s required: a catharsis.’

‘What do you mean? Shall we get blind drunk together? Tell each other the worst things we’ve done?’

Doc smiled his enigmatic smile. ‘Let me tell you a story first, about something I’ve done. I can’t quite decide if it’s the worst of me, or the best of me.’

‘All right.’ And Wyatt sat up straighter, gazed at Doc with those dark blue eyes, prepared to listen and to try to understand. No one else ever took Doc this seriously, unless they were looking down the barrels of his ivory‑handled guns.

‘There once was a man in Tombstone, Arizona,’ Doc started; ‘a drunken, violent, doomed wretch of a man ‑‑ Does that description remind you of anyone?’

‘Am I supposed to say it reminds me of you? Because you never do yourself justice.’

‘And you do me too much. Well, the description fits me, and it also fits Johnny Ringo, the late unlamented Cowboy. I killed him for you, Wyatt. I chose your life over his, and I risked my life rather than lose yours. I hasten to add, it wasn’t a particularly hard decision.’

Wyatt was staring. No doubt he’d barely considered any of this with the benefit of hindsight.

‘It was murder. It wasn’t a fair fight, I made sure of that. And I never was sworn in as your deputy, so it wasn’t legal. Why didn’t you arrest me?’

A pause as Wyatt tried to gather his thoughts. But, even then, all he said was, ‘Don’t be ridiculous, Doc. I wouldn’t dream of arresting you.’

‘I like a well reasoned argument,’ Doc responded with a hint of mockery. But then he continued, ‘I knew Johnny Ringo because he was like me. Less formed, less rounded, definitely; less likely to survive, if that’s possible, and lacking in necessary confidence; far fewer saving graces than yours truly, far less style and wit, no creativity to speak of ‑‑ except in one memorable instance,’ Doc amended with amusement. ‘But I understood him, better than he understood himself.’

‘All right,’ Wyatt said again. ‘I can’t say that I see the likeness, but go on with your story.’

‘I have no idea whether you know this about me, Wyatt; it’s the only thing I’ve ever tried to keep… separate from you. It’s not something people are usually comfortable with, I thought the gossip might harm you, there are ten reasons and none for me to be secretive. But I have had sexual relations with my fellow men.’

The serious blue eyes never faltered. ‘I’d guessed as much,’ Wyatt said. ‘I’m not about to judge you on it. Reckon it’s your business.’

Doc wondered if the harsh sun, that had darkened the colour of Wyatt’s skin, had also darkened the colour of his eyes. And then recalled the current topic. ‘Well, you might judge this and find me lacking in sense if nothing else: I coupled with Johnny Ringo, that first night, after we met at your faro table.’

A silence. Wyatt seemed to be having more trouble imagining such intimacies between mortal enemies, than between two men. He had never appreciated danger for its own sake.

‘Don’t misinterpret me: I won’t sentimentalise what happened, but I won’t trivialise it, either. Think what you like of me, but I am not usually in the habit of killing people I have had sexual relations with.’

Wyatt found his voice, and asked, ‘Why are you telling me this? Is it the guilt?’

‘It doesn’t keep me awake nights.’

‘But you want it to keep me awake at night? I have plenty on my mind already, Doc. I’d only killed one man before I came here, and that was bad enough to live with.’

‘No, I don’t mean to increase your burdens. I’m telling you because it’s what I’ve done for you, and I thought you might understand, being so mixed up in it as you were.’

‘I suppose that it’s both the best and the worst of you,’ Wyatt said, and then left a long silence. From the looks of him, the marshall was pondering heavy matters.

Doc reclined comfortably on the sofa, content to have made Wyatt think. There was a breeze now, which billowed the lace curtains and cooled the room a little. The dimness danced occasionally when the lace parted to admit the bleaching sunlight.

Then Wyatt said, ‘You’re asking me to love you.’

Pushing himself up straight, Doc stared at the man. It took a lot to surprise Doc Holliday. ‘Now, where did that idea come from, Wyatt?’

‘That’s why you told me the story: it was about what Johnny Ringo meant to you, and the fact that you killed him for me. You saved my life, you chose me over him, and I owe you for it.’

‘Of course I saved your life; you’re my friend, Wyatt. Don’t misunderstand me: Ringo was a rat, and he had to die. I simply did what had to be done, and I’m trying to tell you that you just have to go on living afterwards.’

‘You did what had to be done, and you deserve an appropriate reward.’

‘Wyatt,’ Doc declared, ‘I wasn’t bargaining for a favour.’ He couldn’t remember that Wyatt had ever annoyed him before now, he couldn’t recall that Wyatt had ever got him this wrong: Wyatt should know that Doc simply took whatever he wanted; Doc never asked for anything in return for what he did; Doc only did things for his own reasons.

But apparently Wyatt didn’t know, or had forgotten. The man asked, ‘Why else tell me of your sexual… inclinations, after all these years? You’re asking me to love you.’

No. I only told you that I bed men, in order to fully explain the story. But Doc didn’t say it, didn’t bother continuing this argument, didn’t try to bridge this gap in their perceptions. His mind raced. There was a slight possibility that, unconsciously, he had intended to suggest Wyatt bed him, but Doc didn’t think so ‑‑ and he was usually all too aware of his own motivations. The idea, though, did have a certain merit. And, he reflected, only the best of men would call this suggestion love. ‘All right,’ Doc said: ‘you need a catharsis. Take your loathing out on me. Visit your sins upon my body.’

Wyatt grimaced at him. ‘I can’t do that.’

‘Why? You’ve never thought about bedding another man?’

‘I guess I’ve thought about it. I don’t know.’

All right, so how to provoke him into this? ‘You’re full of anger, Wyatt, full of grief, full of frustration. Let it out before it all rises up and chokes you. You’re a man with needs that haven’t been met, passions that haven’t been fulfilled. Take me to that bed, and do anything you need to do. You hate yourself and you hate your life. Lose yourself in me, leave your guilt behind.’ Doc took a breath, and prayed this speech was having even half the effect on Wyatt as it was having on Doc himself. ‘Fuck me like Mattie never let you,’ he whispered; ‘fuck me like you wanted to fuck Josephine.’

Wyatt groaned at this last sortie, but repeated, ‘I can’t.’

‘Yes, you can,’ Doc said. ‘Why waste your life pretending to be something you’re not? The real Wyatt behind that civilised exterior is all passion and adventure and joie de vivre. You can be all that with me.’

‘How do you know that’s what I am?’

‘Trust me, I know you very well.’ Doc paused, then renewed his attack: ‘She was a drug addict, I’m a drunkard. Punish me in her stead. Unleash all that self‑loathing on me. Punish me for your neglect of her. And then, maybe after all of that, you can unleash that joy on me, too.’

‘That sounds ‑‑‘

‘That sounds irresistible, doesn’t it? You don’t have to be careful with me, you don’t have to hold back; I won’t mind if you hurt me.’

Wyatt looked at him. ‘Is that why you liked Johnny Ringo? Because he was able to hurt you?’

Surprised again, Doc drew a deep breath and let it out. He asked, ‘Are you talking dirty to me, Wyatt?’ Then he smiled his lascivious smile, stood and offered a hand to his friend. ‘Come now,’ he murmured. ‘I’ve talked myself into it, even if I haven’t made a dent in you. In fact, I’m ready to beg you for it.’

There was hesitation in every move, but Wyatt stood as well, and took the hand in his, and led Doc the few steps across to the bed. Doc began undressing the man with minimal co‑operation, until they were both in shirtsleeves and trousers. Then, while Wyatt sat on the bed to take his boots off, Doc stripped himself naked.

Doc was wary of this moment, of whether Wyatt would want to be so obviously confronted with the fact that this was a man he was about to bed. But, instead of being discouraged, Wyatt seemed inspired: he let out a startled moan, then laid his hands on Doc’s waist. ‘Look at you,’ Wyatt whispered in what sounded like appreciation. Before he knew it, Doc had been hefted and thrown back across the bed, and Wyatt was stalking him on hands and knees like a wild thing.

Raising himself up onto his elbows, Doc shifted away, sketching a mock‑fearful reaction ‑‑ and Wyatt pounced, began running hungry callused hands over Doc’s chest and shoulders and stomach and hips. Which was promising, if Doc could only get the rest of the man’s clothes off. He reached around to work at the shirt’s buttons running down Wyatt’s back, then managed to draw the garment off, first over Wyatt’s head, then one arm at a time. Then the trousers ‑‑ although half way through that operation, Wyatt had the presence of mind to push and kick his way free.

‘Come now,’ Doc whispered, ‘there’s nothing stopping you.’ And, for a while, the coupling was exactly how Doc had drawn it with his words: Wyatt was all energy and selfish need; he moved over Doc as if he were crazed; he seemed to be searching for relief, but could find none. Sensing that, this time at least, Wyatt needed to quickly reach completion, Doc said, ‘Come, fuck me now.’

But Wyatt slowed when he heard the invitation, then stilled, despite that the restraint cost him. He lifted his weight onto his elbows and, once he’d caught his breath, said, ‘I don’t know. I don’t want to hurt you.’

‘You won’t hurt me.’

‘No?’

Doc said easily, ‘It only hurts the first few times. And that was so long ago, my friend, I barely remember.’

Wyatt seemed discomforted. ‘You do that every time with a man?’

‘Most times.’ Doc left his arms loosely around Wyatt’s waist, let his fingers idly play with the tender skin there.

‘What about with ‑‑?’

‘Yeah,’ Doc drawled, ‘I let Johnny Ringo fuck me.’

The discomfort turned to anger.

Doc smiled his wanton smile. Wyatt had never been one to get jealous or possessive of his women ‑‑ surely there was something else going on here. Wanting to incite the riot in Wyatt’s soul, Doc added, ‘I even let him kiss me.’

Wyatt stared at the mouth that he hadn’t met with his own yet. The anger heated to fury, those blue eyes blazing dark. And then Wyatt moved again: he hauled himself to kneel upright, pushed Doc over to lie face down, lifted Doc’s hips; then positioned himself over the man, and plunged inside.

Doc couldn’t help but let out a yell of triumph. This was glorious. He arched to meet the maddened thrusts; Wyatt was so ferocious in his assault that Doc didn’t have the opportunity to even try to support himself on his knees; half of Doc’s weight was lifted in Wyatt’s hands, the rest pushed his shoulders and face into the bed. The yell segued into a delighted moan, then Doc reached down and, keeping pace with Wyatt, brought himself to orgasm. Wyatt’s cry as he completed was muffled, almost agonised, but the man’s pleasure seemed to roll through him forever. And then they lay together quietly.

Maybe quarter of an hour passed before Wyatt spoke. ‘Don’t ever make me do that again.’

Doc tried to lift his head to get a look at the man’s expression. ‘Do what?’

‘Hurt you.’

‘All right,’ Doc agreed easily. ‘But you can fuck me again, any time you want.’

Wyatt groaned, buried his face in the nape of Doc’s neck. ‘Hell, why did you do that? I mean, why put yourself in that situation with Ringo? Do you like danger so much that you’d die for the sake of fun?’

‘Is that it?’ Doc murmured. Protectiveness ‑‑ how charming ‑‑ which explained the anger, and the punishment. ‘And there I was thinking it was my masochistic streak, and my complete lack of dignity, that were stimulating your cruelty.’

‘I’m not cruel, Doc, I can’t hurt you.’ Wyatt sighed, then shifted so that they could talk face to face. ‘I don’t know. I don’t think I can match your speed. You’d be bored with me.’

‘I’ve been slowing down lately, if you haven’t noticed. I assure you, a good old‑fashioned fuck every now and then would be most welcome.’

‘You are asking me to love you.’

Doc smiled his sceptical smile. ‘Wyatt, you’re the only friend I have in the world, and I treasure you for it. But believe me: I’d never ask anyone to love me, let alone someone I care about.’

‘You never do yourself justice,’ Wyatt murmured.

‘And you do me far too much.’ Doc considered this man lying beside him, holding him in an easy embrace. One of Wyatt’s most endearing traits was that he could talk himself into anything. And it seemed he was already well on the way to convincing himself to have a love affair with Doc Holliday. How strange. How delightful.

‘Look at you,’ Wyatt said again. He was running a careful exploratory hand down Doc’s long‑framed body. ‘There’s almost nothing left of you.’

‘I’m being eaten alive from the inside. Not very attractive is it?’

‘You’re beautiful,’ Wyatt contradicted him. Then, in an unusual moment of poetry, he added, ‘You’re a wraith, you’ve never been quite of this world. You’re enchanting.’

‘And you’re too kind.’ Doc sighed, and decided to give Wyatt one last chance. ‘The medical men advise me to deny my marital impulse, as they so quaintly describe it. But damned if I will.’

‘And damned if you won’t.’

‘The story of my life. I’ve survived this long, haven’t I, without denying myself anything. And expiring under your loving hands, with my boots on, isn’t a sad prospect. Even a dying man has to live a little.’

Wyatt smiled. ‘That’s the trouble with you, Doc: you don’t know how to live a little; you live life to the full and then some.’

Doc let out an appreciative laugh. So they would do this and Wyatt, as self‑deluded as ever, would call it love. Doc’s hands began to match Wyatt’s curious explorations; except that Doc was far less shy. ‘You’re an oak,’ he murmured when he found hard evidence of Wyatt’s co‑operation.

‘I am an oak,’ Wyatt confirmed with a grin. He leaned up on an elbow, and said, ‘Doc, let me love you for a while.’

‘With pleasure ‑‑ under one condition.’

‘What’s that?’ Wyatt sounded distracted, his body obviously urging him to action.

‘When I die, let it be without guilt. I don’t want my last image to be of you agonising over more blood on your hands.’

Wyatt nodded once, and was about to recommence the love‑play.

Doc held up a hand to halt him. ‘Every now and then, Wyatt, you must take me seriously. I was consumptive before I met you, so you can’t blame yourself for that; and if I die any other way, whether it’s for your sake or not, then believe that I chose to do so. I don’t think that a sick bed is the place for me.’

Focused on him now, Wyatt was serious. ‘All right, Doc. You know,’ he continued reflectively, ‘Virgil used to try to warn me off you, which only served to start me wondering, but he must have realised nothing ever happened between us, because he let up after a while.’

‘Virgil doesn’t know who you are, any more than you do.’

‘I guess he doesn’t,’ Wyatt murmured, hands beginning to explore again, though he was paying attention.

‘Actually, there are two conditions,’ Doc said. ‘The second being that, sooner or later, we leave this place. Let’s go wandering, Wyatt. Adventuring. There’s a whole country out there waiting for us. Though I admit it appeals to me, to stay a while in Tombstone and have a passionate affair with the local lawman. Promise me you’ll be quite brazen about it. But when the novelty of shocking these good citizens wears off, let’s go wandering.’

‘All right, if that’s what you want.’ Wyatt still seemed reflective, which was promising. He finally said, ‘You were always there for me, Doc, and you’re here for me now. And I want to love you.’

‘Do you, my friend?’ Doc whispered.

Without replying in words, Wyatt lowered his head and met Doc’s mouth with his own.

The kiss was sweetly roughly hungry. Doc surrendered to it with a groan, used his hands to encourage this man to move over him again, encompass him. Wyatt was lean, and yet beautifully solidly built: such broad shoulders, and then a narrow waist and hips; a fine specimen. Add to these perfections the fact that Wyatt was weathered and used and starving; and Doc had never had anything as… spiritual as this. At least, not since he was young and full of hope and had found the one thing he wanted in life. Wyatt’s mercy was sensation in itself, exquisitely loving and giving and yearning to transcend the flesh; where Kate and Johnny Ringo had been bold and corporeal and greedily carnivorous. After his hope was blighted, Doc assumed he’d only ever have the latter style of relations.

He was being selfish, but he’d been a long time dying and would be a longer time dead. He could feel life was now measured in months and seasons, rather than years. So Doc would keep Wyatt with him for this last adventure, however long it took; a companion to balance the shade that had hovered at his shoulder for so long. Wyatt and death: Doc Holliday’s constant friends.

Selfish, because Doc should try again to break through to the real Wyatt, should send the man off to find Josephine, the woman Wyatt had chosen with his heart and his balls.

Well, perhaps Wyatt wasn’t quite ready yet. In the meantime, Doc would teach his lessons slowly, surely, thoroughly. The values of personal freedom and self‑knowledge, and of committing yourself to nothing but the joie de vivre. Wyatt would begin to learn and accept who he really was.

And maybe there would be other lessons, too. Wyatt was currently demonstrating his charmingly straight‑forward technique ‑‑ Doc might have dismissed it as naive and unimaginative, except that Wyatt seemed to know by instinct, if nothing else, that there was more to this act than simple flesh and blood. Apart from which, there was certainly something dark inside of Wyatt’s soul ‑‑ Doc had spoken directly to it not an hour ago ‑‑ and Wyatt should learn not to deny himself. Wyatt, too, could learn to abandon all dignity, all restraint. And perhaps, once they’d reached the truth, Doc could then add some sophistication and finesse to the man, smooth out the rough edges.

That spirited actress of his would find Wyatt a truly irresistible combination of parts, once Doc set him free: direct simplicity and detailed knowledge; a pure heart and a dark passion. Would Wyatt tell her in whose bed he’d learned such things?

Yes, when death finally claimed Doc Holliday, Wyatt would be well prepared to live life for both Doc and himself.

Wyatt was urgent now, demanding Doc’s full attention. ‘Are you ready?’ the marshall asked, caring and needing and short of breath.

Doc smiled laconically, and lifted himself so that Wyatt could push inside. As Wyatt moved over him, sweet and rough and so damned good‑hearted, Doc’s smile became an unfamiliar mixture of disbelief and joy. But he drawled the ironic words anyway: ‘My friend, I am always ready.’

 

 

The sanatorium in Glenwood Springs, Colorado: peace, and cream walls, and sunlight; Doc Holliday lying in his bed at the end of the ward; a priest praying over him in Latin ‑‑ and Wyatt came to a halt. Sadness, gentle on him because he’d known right from when he first met Doc that it would have to come to this some day. Today. But, just because Wyatt knew it was coming, didn’t mean he was ready to let go. When they’d become lovers back in Tombstone, Doc had said they’d have months together ‑‑ well, they’d had years of adventures since then, but it wasn’t enough. Wyatt sat by the bed, and bowed his head before his friend.

‘Hello, Wyatt,’ Doc said, in that blessed but now feeble drawl of his. ‘I am reinvestigating the mysteries of the holy church of Rome.’

Wyatt smiled, both relieved and amused: Doc was a gambler, and a winner, and never bet against the house.

The familiar argument began, as Doc told Wyatt not to come back again, as Doc refused to play yet another card game. He was done with all this. Even insults didn’t make a dent: Wyatt just nodded, and Doc knew the man would keep visiting, however long it took. But Doc was ready for death, after all these years, and he preferred to wait for it alone. To his surprise, he even appreciated that death was due to meet him in this peaceful place, though he’d always pictured a gun‑fight and a suitably legendary blaze of glory, or at least a marathon poker game.

Doc said to Wyatt, ‘You’re the only person who gave me hope in my entire life,’ and then told the story of what he’d lost, all those years ago, the too‑real melodrama that had first planted the canker in his soul. ‘I was in love once; with my first cousin. She was fifteen. We were both so ‑‑‘ He found he couldn’t quite voice the truth that sounded too close to cliche.

Wyatt, bless his simple soul, was fascinated, enthusiastic. ‘Yeah, Doc, that’s great. What happened?’

Doc looked at him and said dryly, ‘She joined a convent over the affair. She was all I ever wanted.’ He asked, ‘What did you want?’

‘Just to lead a normal life.’

‘There is no normal life ‑‑ there’s just life. Now get on with it.’

But Wyatt quietly confessed, ‘I don’t know how.’

‘Sure you do. Say goodbye to me. Go grab that spirited actress and make her your own. Take her beauty, and don’t look back.’ Though Doc knew that Wyatt, being the quintessential gentleman, would probably spend his life trying to take Josephine’s beauty and find to his amazement that she still had more than when he started. Doc felt a tear run down his face. His last present to Wyatt was truth and freedom. After that, surely Wyatt would listen to him: ‘If you were ever my friend,’ Doc said, ‘if you ever had even the slightest feeling for me, then leave now. Please.’

And at last Wyatt did take his leave, with suitable words of farewell. He’d probably rehearsed them. But they both knew that actions spoke far louder.

Doc lifted the present Wyatt had left him: a book he’d written and apparently published, called My Friend Doc Holliday. Doc smiled. So much for the man who didn’t have the damned words. Another tear or two, but the sadness was sweet and good.

Something unexpected, and Doc lifted his head to look at his feet: they were bare, and free of the blankets again, and a moment ago he could feel the fresh mountain air around them; now, he felt nothing. Death, at his shoulder since he was a young man of twenty, was apparently at Doc’s feet instead, and finally claiming him. ‘I’ll be damned,’ he whispered in surprise. The nothingness was spreading, and Doc lived this experience, this sensation, with great interest. ‘This is peculiar,’ he observed, and lay his head back on the pillow.

Graceful peace, with Wyatt’s book on his chest, and his hands crossed over it. Requiescat, Doc Holliday.

 

Posted in: Slash fic, Tombstone

Subscribe to these comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *