Harlequin's Slash Fic

Play for Blood

Title: Play for Blood
Author: Stew
Universe: Tombstone
Characters featured: Johnny Ringo/Doc Holliday
Category, Word count: Short story; 2500 words
Rating: R
Summary: Johnny Ringo kept haunting me until I told this story (which he dictated, mumbling and delirious, to me in the small hours one morning). Problem is, he haunts me still…
First published: 1 January 1996 in Espresso 1



Play for Blood


Night. A show at the Bird Cage Theatre, and Curly Bill making a fool of himself yet again. Ringo found it so damned embarrassing to be this man’s heir apparent, even if the inheritance was leadership of the most feared gang of outlaws in the land. Though, once you got to know them, the Cowboys were merely a ragtag group of rough and belligerent and stupid men; Curly Bill the stupidest of the lot. Johnny Ringo knew he deserved so much more than this.

‘That’s Faust; he’s going to make a deal with the Devil,’ explained little Billy Nilly. Obviously Curly Bill didn’t recognise the scenario that the actors were portraying.

In a loud voice, Curly Bill declared that he’d make the deal, then double‑cross the Devil, and kill him. ‘I’d drill that old crawfish in two!’ How ridiculous. That was the leader of the Cowboys all over: he didn’t even have the imagination to know who he was picking a fight with. Curly Bill asked, ‘What would you do, Johnny?’

What would he do if the Devil made him an offer? Ringo paused for effect. ‘I already did it.’

Curly Bill was suitably impressed. Yeah, that shut the fool up.

Faust wanted knowledge in exchange for his soul. But what good had knowledge ever been? Johnny Ringo certainly had no joy of it.

There was Doc Holliday watching the show from up in the balconies, sitting next to his friend, Wyatt Earp. Every now and then, not often enough to draw attention, Johnny Ringo observed the man.

Ringo’s reputation as the fastest draw in the country surely eclipsed Holliday’s. Or if it didn’t, it soon would. Holliday was his… Doc Holliday was an old legend, a renegade hero, possessing the sort of fame usually gathered posthumously. Yes, Holliday should already be dead: it was almost indecent for those rotten lungs to still be breathing, that heart to still be pumping blood, for all the world like he was any normal living man.

Late that night, empty desert surrounding them. ‘You don’t know whether to kill me or bed me…’ Doc Holliday had said.

‘Possibly both,’ Ringo replied.

Hellfire; Ringo had wanted to fuck Holliday a second time. Lying there in the scrub and sand, half a mile from Tombstone and a thousand miles from humanity, Holliday unresisting in his arms. Ringo had wanted it so bad because there was no one else good enough or safe enough to fuck.

How perverse: Doc Holliday was the most dangerous man in town, other than Ringo himself; there was no safety in that coupling. But how true: for there was no man safer, or even more convenient, to couple with. And how frustrating: for the encounter that night was so impossible, born of infinitely wary balance and wholly unlikely chance, that it was doomed to remain unique.

There were no other options.

Naive Billy Nilly would be too easy an alternative: to have Billy’s ass, all any man would have to do was promise him romance; and then put up with young Billy following him around forever after like a lost puppy. Well, perhaps it would be interesting to seduce and then destroy Billy Nilly. Not a challenge, by any means, but it would provide certain benefits: Billy the lost whimpering puppy would no doubt let you fuck him even after you’d kicked him up and down the street. Interesting, but too much bother.

There were a few among the Cowboys who weren’t too unattractive, and who wouldn’t be averse to letting Ringo have his way. But that got complicated. He’d have to lead these men one day soon, and he wanted the fewest possible snarls in his loyalties, the least number of favours expected. It was wiser to maintain his mystery and his distance.

No one else would do.

Slim Doc Holliday, pale in the moonlight, coughing up blood for Johnny Ringo to feast on, letting himself be taken once. If only twice. Why hadn’t Ringo just taken the man again? Frustration simmered inside him.

So much need, yet he could find nothing to satisfy it.

A different night. A barren anonymous room, secure against all except one. The Devil’s son had visited with Johnny Ringo years ago, or maybe it was just yesterday.

Beautiful. Blond hair long enough to reach from his high forehead back to the nape of his neck, stirring in some hot breeze Johnny didn’t feel, like the mockery of a halo. Striking face, large features. Divine. Modulated voice, both sensual and threatening. Powerful.

Johnny Ringo’s soul? Surely that was already in the Devil’s possession. What does a man have to do to reserve a place in Hell these days? Just how many people does he have to kill and maim?

His soul. Surely it was of no import, this tattered grey thing like an insubstantial ghost trailing him. Take my soul. I want to be the deadliest pistoleer since Wild Bill Hickok.

And he was.

I want to fuck you.

And he did.

Seductive beautiful dangerous spirit in the guise of a blond man. As perfectly formed as a Greek statue: but that marble long‑framed musculature had come to life; flesh warmed and fed by the blood pulsing strong. Deigning to indulge this mortal wretch, just this once, for the sake of amusement. Johnny felt that hot breeze as he moved over the man, felt the flames licking at his back and buttocks and thighs; felt the delicious peril of this encounter even as he surrendered to the too brief but so potent sensation.

And no one else would ever do.

Though it had been damned good to fuck Doc Holliday: no mortal could live up to the son of el Diablo, but Holliday was plenty good enough.

And afterwards he had been so still, wrapped up in Ringo’s arms, possessed and embraced by his enemy. So still, as if waiting, or as if content; and Ringo starving to thrust home again, to bear down on the man and force himself in between those slim pale buttocks. To seek again the precious oblivion of orgasm, that fleeting moment of contentment. That too brief answer, that was no answer.

Holliday had beaten Ringo in their confrontation at the saloon, humiliated him; then walked out into the desert, into the night, let Ringo follow him, let Ringo couple with him. How had Holliday even known Ringo only wanted it with a man?

That manipulative bastard. Pretending Ringo was the aggressor, when throughout the encounter Holliday was in control, playing Ringo like a mindless puppet, taking exactly what Holliday wanted.

So if Holliday wanted to be fucked, to be possessed, why in Hell hadn’t Ringo done it a second time?


Curly Bill, who could threaten people with good effect, then undermine it all by adding, ‘And I ain’t kidding, neither.’

What a fool. He was only feared because of the gun in his hand, the red sash at his waist, and the hundred Cowboys at his back.

Well, there was no point in hurrying him on to his inevitable fate: Curly Bill would make a fatal mistake sooner rather than later. And the Cowboys would be Johnny Ringo’s, to do with as he saw fit.

Johnny Ringo was ten times more intelligent than any of the Cowboys. He almost wished he wasn’t, sometimes: thinking drove him crazy. Endless circles, no satisfaction; myriad questions, no answers; incredible dreams, no hope.

Curly Bill might be stupid, but he was also content.

Some peace, some contentment, some rest would be welcome. But not at the price of intelligence: Ringo considered intelligence to be too rare and valuable a trait. Precious, though it would cost Johnny Ringo his sanity one day.

Ringo was smart, all right: just wise enough to realise all that he was missing, to see all his potentials and know them unfulfilled. Just clever enough to know that Doc Holliday was even cleverer.

So why wasn’t Holliday crazier than Ringo as well as smarter?

Wyatt Earp. Companionship. Against which, Curly Bill was no match.

So many people were like Curly Bill, bumbling through life half awake, unaware. But what had consciousness and awareness ever got Johnny Ringo?

Johnny Ringo deserved ‑‑ What? At least, sweet Lucifer, grant this man gentle oblivion: to not know that he’d never match let alone beat Doc Holliday’s reputation; to not know that he wasn’t worthy of Wyatt Earp’s loyalty.

Hell, if lawman Earp wanted to stoop so low for disreputable companionship, why not outlaw Ringo instead of gambler Holliday? Not fair.

Bastards. Smug arrogant bastards.

Well, if Johnny Ringo suffered, then Doc Holliday deserved to suffer, too. The Cowboys and the Earp brothers were spoiling for a fight, tension building like the heat before a summer storm. That was fine. Holliday provoked the situation whenever he could, and so did Ringo.

If Ringo killed Wyatt Earp ‑‑ What? Doc Holliday would lose that advantage, and be reduced to no more than Johnny Ringo.

Once Ringo had wanted intelligent conversation, intellectual stimulation, an equal to challenge him. He’d wanted to know he wasn’t alone. He’d wanted a beautiful man to fuck. He’d wanted to dream unfettered, and to make the dreams real. He’d wanted to achieve something in the world, with all these capabilities at his disposal.

But Ringo had never found what he wanted, and all those wants festered and grew into desperate needs, and all those needs increased and spread through him, becoming one great insistent raw coveting. A universal wolf, Shakespeare had called it. Ringo knew himself to be that rapacious wolf.

Now the man in Ringo had reached the point of wanting nothing more than to stop the need, the endless painful need. Killing didn’t do it. Unleashing the pain on others didn’t do it. Fucking didn’t do it. For one moment, in the answer of orgasm or of power or of death, Ringo wouldn’t need: but the momentary answer could never be an answer, and the yearning senseless terrifying need grew that much worse.

What? What could ever end the damned NEED?

It had been the worst decision, joining the Cowboys, even if Ringo quickly became heir apparent. Should have stayed alone, not sworn fealty in return for a red sash, not pledged himself to a miserable band of losers.

Of course, he’d thought they were the best option at the time. A band of a hundred ruthless outlaws would be invincible, he’d assumed, would be something magnificent. Ruthless, yes, and quite romantic with those red sashes their bold declaration. Unfortunately, the Cowboys lost their credibility up close. It had been a ludicrous mistake, with hindsight.

Individually, there was no one and nothing to admire in the band. It wasn’t just the stupidity of Curly Bill: there was the abject cowardice of Ike Clanton; the mundanity of the McLaury brothers; the smalltown sleaze of sheriff Behan; the silliness of deputy sheriff Billy Nilly.

Brothers to the bone, the Cowboys’ motto. So what? Bones were pale brittle chalk, dead things.

Blood brothers, that’s what counted. The red pulse that moved and heated a man. A blood brother, that’s what might quiet the need, so Johnny could forget himself and think about someone else for a change. Someone intelligent, who might have found a few answers, or at least be capable of exploring the questions with him. So that Johnny could ask, and receive at least an echo in reply instead of dead silence.

Too late to dream of a blood brother, though, and he knew it. Far too late for such silly and impossible hopes. Johnny feared he wouldn’t even recognise the man in the unlikely event of meeting him, wouldn’t be able to hear him or understand. Feared he’d long ago lost the ability and even the willingness to proffer or receive anything of value. Feared that, even if his blood brother walked up to Ringo this minute, and made himself known, Johnny wouldn’t have the time left to develop anything worthwhile with the man. Wouldn’t have the blood left to exchange.

Damn the stupidity and aimlessness of the Cowboys. Ringo should have realised there were other choices. Worthier men.

Day, too bright, hot as Hell though it was barely spring. Drunk, drunk and rambling, drunk and craving. Pathetically eternally grieving. He could pretend the grief was for the three Cowboys whom the Earps and Holliday had killed: but Ringo grieved for himself. Heart sick, mind sick, soul sick. No, lost my soul, he reminded himself; missed it, tattered flimsy grey thing though it was.

Worth it, worth his soul? No.

Didn’t want to be the deadliest pistoleer.

Wanted to be Doc Holliday.

If he couldn’t be, then he wanted to destroy Doc Holliday.

Couldn’t do that directly: second best wasn’t quick enough or clever enough, damn the bastard. Feared him; yes, he feared Holliday. Manipulative, unscrupulous, arrogant. So damned fast. Got to admire him. Got to admire him.

Never understood him. Holliday acts as vulnerable as a victim, yet he always wins. Doesn’t even care if people think he’s lost. Is mysterious and menacing, without maintaining any distance. How can that be? A man has to have defences, give nothing of himself away.

Friendship. Destroy Doc Holliday by destroying Wyatt Earp. That was the way. Reduce Holliday to no more than Ringo. Earp would be easy: too straight to be a threat, too hamstrung by decency, too slow, too steady.

Johnny Ringo had intelligence, was quick on the draw, had fucked Satan’s son. What good had it done him? Let Doc Holliday suffer, too.

The son of the Prince of Darkness sat beside him in the dimness of the empty saloon, amused. Encouraging, promising indulgence. As if killing Earp was an answer. Or at least worth another deal, worth a flimsy tattered soul. To fuck that most perfect of bodies again…

Whisky‑wish, this hellion, nothing more. Too powerful an imagination, that’s your trouble, Johnny boy. Day‑dreams and books; expectations of needs fulfilled and abilities used; always knowing there was something better, but never finding it. Doomed.

Day, never‑ending. Drunk. If only he could stop thinking. Want to please stop the thinking. Stop the damned needing! Lose awareness. Want to forget there’s no answers. Even sleep plagued with failure, hopeless craving, turmoil. Not fair.

Day. Same day? Wyatt Earp walking down the street between his brothers, like he owned the world. Probably did, the smug bastard.

‘I want your blood,’ Johnny Ringo declared once he’d secured their attention, ‘and I want your souls, and I want them now.’ Intent only on this doom, Ringo focussed on Wyatt Earp: ‘And it starts with you.’

‘I’m not fighting you, Ringo,’ the man said. Calm, dismissive. Bastard wouldn’t even take him seriously. ‘There’s no money in it.’

‘Won’t any of you play for blood?’ Ringo cried. Piteous, pleading, frustrated. Needing.

End this! Play this game, and end the damned misery of it all.

Won’t any of you play for blood?

‘I’m your huckleberry,’ Doc Holliday replied, emerging from the shadows like the son of the Adversary. ‘That’s just my game.’


Posted in: Slash fic, Tombstone

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