Harlequin's Slash Fic

For thou art framed of the firm truth of valour

Title: For thou art framed of the firm truth of valour
Author: Stew
Universe: Tombstone
Characters featured: Billy Breckenridge/Mr Fabian
Category, Word count: Short story; 3300 words
Rating: R
Summary: Everyone thinks Fabian is the most beautiful man in town – so what hope does a lowly bank clerk have of gaining Fabian’s attention?
Warnings: This story includes the deaths of two main characters, as shown in the film and written in the novelisation.
Notes: The classical words come from Shakespeare’s HENRY V.
First published: 1 January 1996 in Espresso 1



For thou art framed of the firm truth of valour


Billy Breckenridge had dressed carefully that night, as he always did. His small stature, and his earnest and honest nature, were apparently enough to make him generally unpopular: he did not wish to add slovenliness to the list of reasons why people avoided him. So he always dressed as dapper as possible on his bank clerk’s wage, and hoped that one day he’d find that one true friend he dreamed of. His life so far had been short, uneventful, and very lonely.

Anticipating no more than an evening’s entertainment, Billy walked into the Bird Cage Theatre. Tombstone, Arizona was known as queen of the boomtowns, and attracted a wide range of humanity, all eager for silver, whether it was dug from the earth or won across a gambling table or paid by people eager for the distraction of spectacle.

Billy paid the lower price for a seat in the stalls, but not because he was short of funds: this was where the Cowboys sat, the group of outlaws and ruffians who had adopted Billy as some kind of friend since he’d been made deputy sheriff. Sure, they laughed at him and teased him, but it was more good‑natured attention than Billy had ever had before.

One of them grabbed after Billy as he walked down the aisle, called, ‘Give me some of that!’ as he reached for Billy’s ass. Startled, Billy darted out of range.

‘Hold on, boys,’ Curly Bill cried. He was leader of the Cowboys, so they mostly listened to him. ‘Billy, sit with me.’ And there was a seat in the front row, and Curly Bill’s arm protectively around Billy’s slim shoulders. The handsome, educated, but rather alarming Johnny Ringo sprawled carelessly by Curly Bill’s other side.

The first act, a juggler, ran off the stage terrified when a Cowboy shot one of his clubs to pieces.

The next act showed more nerve, and remained on stage even as a shot impacted the classical column that served as set decoration. The actor threw off his cloak to reveal a white ruffled shirt, and scarlet tights, and a daringly large cod piece. Billy stared entranced at the man’s face: beautiful, in a bold and dashing way, with darkest eyes under dramatic brows and the palest skin, surrounded by waves of the darkest hair.

Curly Bill said, ‘Why, that’s the prettiest man I’ve ever seen.’

Silently agreeing with this observation, Billy gazed with eyes growing damp. A glance to the chalkboard to see the name ‑‑ Romulus Fabian ‑‑ was the only distraction Billy allowed from the man himself. Fabian won over the restless audience with a stirring rendition of the saint Crispin’s day speech from Henry V. Someone asked him what he thought, and Billy answered, ‘I think he’s wonderful.’ His companions laughed at that, but Billy didn’t care. He applauded as the man took his bows, and the Cowboys showed their appreciation by firing their guns into the ceiling.

After the show, Billy waited anxiously at the Oriental saloon. Fabian walked in to generous applause, acknowledged it with gratitude, shook a few hands. And then he was beside Billy, and about to pass by. ‘Mr Fabian, Mr Fabian, would you sit at my table?’ Graciously, the actor acquiesced to the request.

Billy Breckenridge was in love.

He’d been brave enough to invite Mr Fabian to sit with him; he’d been able to afford a bottle of the best champagne; he’d even managed to maintain his part in their conversation, though Fabian was of course providing all the wit and the fascinating anecdotes: Billy was quite proud of how he’d done under these most difficult of circumstances.

This was all Billy’s dreams fulfilled, that Fabian would sit here and allow Billy to worship him, when Fabian could have kept company with anyone in the room; it was fulfilment in itself because Billy didn’t have the nerve to wish for anything else. Perhaps there was some vague day‑dream that had flitted through his head while waiting at the saloon for the actors to make their appearance: running away with this troupe of travelling thespians, leaving his position as a bank clerk in order to perform menial tasks for them instead, helping ease these actors’ way through life’s mundanity so that they could remain focused on higher things. Perhaps Fabian would deign to notice him occasionally, perhaps he would speak his gratitude, that was all Billy would want in return.

Billy shook himself ‑‑ there was no point in indulging these wistful visions now, and wasting Fabian’s actual company.

One of the Cowboys pushed through the crowd, drunk of course, and performed a outrageously mock double take on seeing Billy sitting there talking with this beautiful man. ‘Getting lucky at last, Billy Nilly?’ the Cowboy asked, loudly to carry over all the noisy merriment. And then, to really make his message clear, the Cowboy attempted to plaster a lewd expression on a face loosened by drink and cruel humour.

Billy sat there stiffly, praying he wouldn’t blush. He was both unwilling and unable to look across at his companion to see how Fabian was taking this, all too conscious that the men and the few women within hearing distance were staring at them with the same cruel curiosity. There had been hints of this sort of speculation all evening, but Billy had hoped, so far at least, they had gone unnoticed by Fabian. ‘I’m sorry,’ Billy muttered in Fabian’s general direction. ‘My friends tease me ‑‑‘

‘Unmercifully, from the sound of it,’ Fabian said with good‑natured amusement. ‘I think a grand gesture is in order, don’t you?’

Bemused by the man’s equanimity, and unsure of what Fabian intended, Billy watched as the beautiful man stood, walked around the table to where Billy sat, and extended a hand ‑‑ which, of course, Billy took. Then Fabian, who had drawn even more attention by now, lifted Billy’s hand to his lips, then gestured expansively towards the door. ‘Shall we seek a little… privacy?’ he asked, in his actor’s voice so that it carried throughout the room.

Billy stood, blinking and trembling like a fool ‑‑ but he wasn’t going to fluff his part in this impromptu tableau, he wasn’t going to leave Fabian high and dry. They walked out of the saloon together, Fabian’s hand resting like a blessing on Billy’s waist, to the accompaniment of stares and laughter ‑‑ some of it, surprisingly enough, appreciative. The third show of the evening was over.

‘My hotel room, I think,’ Fabian murmured and, before Billy could find breath or words to protest, they were there.

‘Mr Fabian,’ Billy began, once the door to Fabian’s room was closed behind him. Belatedly, he took his hat off, and began to fidget his hands around the brim. The room was quiet and peaceful after the hubbub of the saloon, and fascinating if only for the books and clothes and illustrations scattered throughout by its latest occupant.

Fabian was over by the sideboard, pouring two glasses of port.

‘That was a kind gesture you made,’ Billy continued into the silence. ‘At least, I interpret it as kindly meant. But I ‑‑‘

‘Here you are,’ Fabian said, walking over and offering a glass. ‘Not as fine as that wonderful champagne, but drink up.’

‘That would not be wise,’ Billy said, though he took the glass.

‘Ah,’ Fabian said, the long syllable expressive of interest: ‘a man both brave and wise. How unexpected ‑‑ how wonderful ‑‑ to find such a creature in Tombstone, Arizona.’

‘You have been misinformed, or misled. I am neither brave nor wise.’

‘I beg to differ,’ the man declared. Then he smiled, and said, ‘But, before we begin talking again, come and seat yourself. Let us converse in comfort, rather than here by the door, quaint and rustic though it is.’

Billy allowed himself to be led to the sofa, where Fabian sat beside him. He took a polite sip of the port, but then put the glass aside on a table already cluttered. ‘Mr Fabian ‑‑‘

‘Just Fabian, if you will. It sounds more theatrical. But we were talking of you, Mr Breckenridge ‑‑‘

‘Billy,’ the young man insisted. ‘And I am of no consequence. I’d prefer to talk about you, your travels, your career.’

‘But in all my travels,’ Fabian said, ‘I have never met a braver man than you.’

This was painful, but Billy found his voice and said, ‘Please don’t tease me, Mr Fabian. You have been treating me with respect this evening, you have been very gallant, and it is unusual for me. Please don’t stop now.’

‘But that is exactly what I mean. Here you are in this rough and rude frontier town, which is full of the most unrefined characters, scoundrels all ‑‑ and you make no secret of your true nature. They tease you for it, they treat you as no better than a plaything, and yet you will not lie, you will not pretend to be anything other than what you are.’

‘I know no other way. What is there of bravery or wisdom in that?’

‘Everything of both.’

‘I spend my life in fear,’ Billy said.

‘And yet you continue. A good heart is the sun, for it shines bright, and never changes, but keeps its course truly.’ Fabian shook his head, and said, ‘Bravery is doing what you have to do, despite the fact that you’re wise enough to be afraid. You have impressed me beyond measure.’

‘I wish you would not exaggerate.’

Fabian was looking at him with a quizzical air. ‘I am not as brave as you. Will you believe me if I confess that? People often do assume that, because I’m an actor, I am romantically inclined towards men rather than women. And some men will try to belittle me because of it, or try to take advantage of me ‑‑ You know how cruelly they behave, as well as I do, Billy.’

‘Yes,’ he murmured.

‘I’ve even been run out of town on two occasions, for no other reason. So I do anything rather than let them know that it’s true.’ Fabian added, ‘You do know that it’s true, don’t you?’

Billy nodded, rather than trust to speech. He’d hoped it was true, of course, but had feared his wishful day‑dreams had misled him.

‘You interest me ‑‑ will you allow that rather than impress beyond measure?’

‘There are men in this town who would surely interest you more.’ Billy smiled wryly. ‘Legends walk among us.’

Fabian dismissed this with a wave of a hand. ‘It was no kind gesture to invite you here so publicly. I endeavoured to do justice to your courage, yes, but it was not a disinterested act: it was a genuine request.’

Billy looked at the man, feeling on shakier ground than ever. ‘What can you want of me?’

‘Brave, wise, and so humble. I want what you want, Billy. Be brave enough to draw close and kiss me.’


Fabian frowned. ‘Have I mistaken your interest in me? If so, I apologise.’

Billy admitted, ‘No, you are not mistaken.’

‘Then indulge us both.’

‘Please don’t tease me.’

‘I’m not teasing you, and I do not consider you my plaything. I simply wish to establish relations between us for the night.’

‘Then I thank you,’ Billy said with what dignity he could muster, ‘and I appreciate such an interest. But I cannot ‑‑‘

‘Why?’ The dark eyes examined him. ‘What is it that’s wrong? Have you no experience to draw on in this situation?’

‘I have a little experience. None very… instructive.’ And Billy tried not to recall those few humiliating, blundering, cruel encounters: the memories and the nightmares had no place here beside this beautiful man.

‘These rough men have abused your trusting soul,’ Fabian was saying. ‘They have used you, and discarded you. Your romantic hopes are in tatters.’

Billy acknowledged these insights with an abrupt nod. ‘Pathetic hopes,’ he amended.

‘I cannot promise you anything like happy ever after, but I can be what you want tonight. I can be your once upon a time… Is that enough for you?’

‘It is more than I ever expected.’

‘But less than what you dream of, despite these horrible experiences of yours.’

‘I’ll accept your offer,’ Billy said. He summoned a tiny nod from somewhere, trying to undercut the tone of formality. ‘I’ll accept it gladly.’

He is as full of kindness, as of valour, princely in both.’ Fabian smiled. ‘Draw close, my dear, and kiss me.’

It took great courage to approach that beauty, even though Billy kept reminding himself that he’d been invited. Knowing that it would be unwise to dwell on the mystery of this actor finding this bank clerk attractive, Billy girt his heart as if for fearsome battle: then he moved closer, and met those blessed lips with his own.

Hours of slow indulgence began: long deep soft kisses until there was nothing but a haze of sensual need between them; discarding each item of the other’s clothing with careful attention to everything thus exposed; lying together in Fabian’s bed, naked and exploring every nuance of skin, every subtle response; gentle hands teasing each other into beautiful completion once, twice, thrice; then sharing the golden feeling of needs fully satisfied.

Fabian fell asleep at last, and Billy watched over him, drinking in the sight and the feel and the smell of him ‑‑ Billy’s life until now had been desert. The actor was lovely in repose: his features were still bold and adventurous, but were sweeter without the studied flamboyance.

It was only the promising thought of waking beside this beautiful man, and perhaps sharing satisfaction with him again in the morning light, that convinced Billy to waste these few hours of Fabian’s company in sleep.

The war between the Cowboys and the Earp brothers had at last begun. Because the Cowboys were their friends, sheriff Behan and deputy sheriff Breckenridge rode with them against marshall Wyatt Earp.

The Cowboys were thundering down the trail towards their camp late one afternoon, when they overtook a carriage, and forced it to halt. Behan dismounted and walked over, and Billy followed him, because they recognised the carriage as belonging to the company of actors.

Billy joined the sheriff at the carriage’s open door, and saw Fabian lying dead: blood blossomed on his white shirt, and one arm was out‑flung. The actress, Josephine, held Fabian across her knees, and told them the story: two of the Cowboys had stopped them and tried to take Josephine’s watch; when Fabian had cursed them for cowards, they’d shot him. ‘You’re all ugly,’ she declared, tears in her eyes, ‘and he was beautiful. He tried to bring something fine into your ugly world, and you shot him for it.’

Behan turned away from this drama, but Billy reached out and clasped Fabian’s hand in his: the pale fingers were as blunt and strong as he remembered from that night they’d been together, but the fingers were cool now. Josephine looked at Billy with new eyes, as if realising that at least one man here would grieve for her beautiful friend.

‘It must have been Claiborne and Fuller,’ one of the Cowboys said. ‘They left here last night.’ But this information was accepted and dismissed as unimportant: no one cared for anything but fighting Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday.

Billy walked away from his last sight of Fabian, and climbed onto his horse. Justice is coming, he thought. In the person of Billy Breckenridge, if no one more suited was prepared to do the deed.

Behan made a token protest, but Billy was determined. ‘I’m sorry, sir, but we’ve got to have some law.’

And the Cowboys let him ride off alone.

It might have gone differently if Claiborne and Fuller hadn’t laughed at him.

Billy found them easily enough: they had made camp amongst a grove of trees by the river, and were apparently concentrating on nothing more taxing than getting drunk on the proceeds of their thievery. He rode up to them, and they were as little interested as possible, perhaps assuming Billy merely bore a message from Ringo or Behan. It was more than evident that they didn’t see Billy as a threat.

So he dismounted, and drew his gun, and advanced on them before they’d given him a second glance, and then demanded, ‘Did you kill Mr Fabian?’

They looked blank.

‘The actor,’ Billy elaborated. Had they killed the man without even knowing his name? ‘From the company leaving Tombstone today.’

Claiborne smiled his comprehension, and leaned back against a tree, nonchalant. ‘He insulted us; what were we supposed to do? Pity, though. Like Curly Bill said, there never was a prettier man.’

‘He called you cowards,’ Billy said. ‘And that’s what you are: stealing from a lady, and shooting a man who couldn’t defend himself.’

Fuller, at last sensing trouble if not danger, eased to his feet. ‘You thought he was pretty, too, didn’t you, Billy boy? And now you’re mad at us.’

Claiborne asked with a laugh, ‘You weren’t in love with the man, were you, Billy?’

‘He was too beautiful and too fine for you to appreciate. And he was kind ‑‑ I’ve never met anyone kinder. And you killed him for no reason at all.’ Billy stood straighter, and declared, ‘If you won’t let me arrest you for murder, I’m going to have to fight you.’

‘What?’ Claiborne said. He and Fuller seemed to notice the gun in Billy’s hand for the first time, but still didn’t take the threat seriously.

‘Which is it to be?’ Billy asked, though he knew the answer: these men would try to shoot him as soon as Billy was able to make his intentions clear. He had the gun aimed at Fuller’s heart, because Claiborne was the slower of the two.

‘You’re not going to fight us, Billy,’ Fuller said. ‘You’ve never even shot that gun at anything alive.’

‘Not yet. However, I might not be quick, but I am accurate.’

Fuller laughed his disbelief, and turned his head to share the joke with his companion. There wouldn’t be another chance: Billy grimaced, and squeezed the trigger; the gun leapt in his fist, forcing his arm up; and Fuller was clutching at his chest, falling to his knees.

Long seconds passed as Billy lowered his arm, turning to the other man; Claiborne was reaching for his gun, drawing it; Billy took a moment to ensure his aim was good; and there was a double explosion.

Billy watched as Claiborne fell to the ground beside Fuller; the first man was already dead, the second one dying; slow but accurate, that was the trick. But if either of them had taken him seriously, Billy knew he wouldn’t have had a chance.

Justice had been done, that was the important thing. It didn’t matter that Billy’s left arm was numb and his shoulder was screaming hot pain, it didn’t matter that the blood on the dirt was mostly his. Justice had come, and nothing could be unaffected.

Dropping his gun, losing his hat, Billy staggered closer to the river, seeking the cool waters. There was nothing left, except the need to walk away from those murdered murderers. For he was dying: Claiborne hadn’t shot him anywhere vital, but there was too much blood spilling far too quickly, and nothing to even try to staunch it with.

He let himself fall into the shallow water, landing on his back so that he could lie there and gaze at the distant blue sky. Time for one last wistful day‑dream: there was the angel Fabian in the highest of the clouds, leaning over a marble balustrade, beautiful in his samite robe and shimmering white wings; and, with a solemn smile, Fabian beckoned Billy to come to him.

Billy returned the smile, happily, and breathed his last.


Posted in: Slash fic, Tombstone

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