Disclaimer: I dont own Tombstone. I'm just borrowing the characters for a little while. As for the original character, she is mine. Enjoy!
"Do you trust me?" She asks me, as if I have a choice but to trust her when, I can neither move nor breathe easily. How does one trust someone that they do not know?
"Do you trust me?" She asks again, calmly, patiently, as if she has all the time in the world, as if I have all the time in the world, which I, unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on whom you ask, I do not. I cannot answer her. One such as myself does not trust anyone or anything, such is the nature of being paranoid. I merely stare at her. I do believe that the young lady understands that I cannot answer her question. She may exude this certain charm, grace, and sense of reliability and compassion, but I still cannot say that I trust her. She nods once as if I had and lays a cool hand on my burning forehead. She stands up abruptly and moves away, her eyes wide as if in a state of shock.
"I will be right back" she says as she disappears out the door. Wyatt comes back in and sits with me. He knows that I'm dying even though he will not admit it to himself. I have already come to terms with the fact that my body is failing me. The woman breezes back into the room just as quickly as she had left.
"Drink. It will ease the cough." She says handing me a cup. I can barely hold it and so Wyatt helps steady my hand. Always there when I need him. I thank God…no a deity that he is there and I never have to say a word. I don't think my pride could withstand that powerful of a blow.
"There is little more I can do at the moment. The cook has this and I told her to make sure you drink a cup every morning. Excuse me." With that the young woman is gone. I finish the cup of honeyed something and lean back against my pillows. Wyatt nods and I drift into a peaceful slumber.
When I wake next it is nearing noon of the next day. I feel much more rested and get up. I take a warm bath and have my cup of medicine the woman gave me. Dressing, I feel better than I have in years. I wander down to the barber, I have no desire to shave myself, and would much rather have him do it with his steady hands.
I take my seat out on the porch and wait and watch. I can feel that something is going to happen today. I see it when Wyatt and his brothers run into Ringo. I have to back Wyatt in anyway I can, not to mention I'm always looking for a fight. When Wyatt backs down I step in.
"I'm your huckleberry." I say from my spot on the porch, granted I already have my gun drawn behind my back. I'm not above cheating. Ringo stares at me.
"Alright lunger…" Ringo starts but there is suddenly a knife pressed to his throat.
"Haven't you heard its bad manners to insult your betters?" The woman says. Neither of us saw her come out of no where. She's feisty and wears a gun as well. Curly Bill comes out and tries to pull her away and gets a light scratch on his face for his trouble, it looks like it stings, but she didn't draw blood. I have a new respect for her. She lets Ringo go and steps to the side. Ringo has a little indent on his neck where she drew blood with the tip of her knife. She tucks the knife back into the top of her tall boot, all the while keeping her eyes on Ringo. When they finally leave the street she relaxes.
"You're supposed to be in bed." She comments dryly.
"I feel better than I have in a long time, my dear, and I felt the need for fresh air and sunshine." I answer in an equally dry tone. She snorts in an unladylike manner and shakes her head. For some reason she intrigues me. I don't know what it is about her that draws me in.
"Since you have now made similar enemies, may I know your name? I didn't catch it before." I ask slightly hopeful. I want to know this woman better. She looks at me warily.
"Aeryn." She answers still watching me. I take her hand and act like I might kiss it, and she doesn't flinch. A little test on my part.
"Dr. John Holliday at your service." I reply, dropping her hand. "But please call me Doc, most do." She raises and eyebrow and nods. I lead her back up to the porch and call to the barber. "Please talk to me my dear. I would like to know you more about you." I look at her carefully. She has tanned skin of time spent on long rides but no wrinkles. This leads me to believe that she is quite young. Her eyes look like polished emeralds and her hair, the finest black satin.
"What do you want to know?" She asks.
"Everything." I reply. She sighs and narrows her eyes at the sunlit street.
"My name is Aeryn Jade Taylor. I was born in New Mexico. I learned herbal medicines from the Indians I lived with. My parents died when I was young and so I was raised by them. I met a young man about the same age and he taught me how to use a gun and a knife. I was 14 when I saved enough money running errands and being and interpreter to buy my own horse and tack. I traveled east to New York City and when I was 16 an older man took me in as his care taker. He taught me to read and write and about history. He even taught me to speak a couple of languages, French, Latin, a bit of Italian. He passed away after 2 years. He left me his properties and money, not that I wanted either of them. I lived very well on my own before that. I don't use it unless I have too. I didn't want his money and I still don't. It's been 8 years since I've been to New York." She stops. I raise my eyebrows and study her face again in greater detail. I can see a hard life in her eyes. She looks away, back out toward the street.
"Might I ask how old you are?" I ask, my curiosity getting the better of me. Again she looks at me warily. She has no reason to trust me or anyone else's and yet she asks others to put their trust in her.
"Old enough to know better…" She glances at me and I see the hint of a smile. For some reason I find this amusing and so I grin rakishly. She laughs as well. It's a beautiful sound like the little babble of a brook mixed with a soft wind chime. "I'm 26." She answers still smiling. She's not as young as she appears to be. I go to say something witty but my lungs get in the way and I cough. She frowns and rises. I know right then that I will do anything to see that smile and hear that laugh again.
"Back to bed with you, Doc. There is something else I would try, to help you." She takes my arm and leads me to the hotel and up to my room. Kate left me and suddenly I'm glad the little antichrist is gone. Aeryn helps me out of my guns and knife and then my vest. I kick my boots off and lay back. She covers me with the blankets. I relax but I hate myself for being weak.
"Rest Doc, I'll be back in a moment." Aeryn is gone before I can reply. She returns a few minutes later with a tray. It has broth and water on it.
"I want you to eat. What I'm going to do will help you if you have something in your stomach." Because she wants me to, I eat. When I'm done, she smiles again and I have to smile as well. It's contagious.
Aeryn climbs on the bed and straddles my covered legs, resting her weight on her knees. She unbuttons my shirt and I'm curious as to what she's doing until she places both hands on my chest and closes her eyes. I feel a hum fill the air and a cool sensation chased by a warm one, runs down from her fingertips into my body. Aeryn opens her eyes and stares into mine. I can't look away. Her eyes are lit with an inner fire.
I feel something loosen in my chest and my need to cough disappears. My throat no longer feels scratchy and sore, and my lips no longer crack. I take a deep breath and it's easy. My skin feels warm and comfortable dry. Aeryn closes her eyes and leans back.
"Sleep." That's all she says and I wait until I make sure she won't collapse, to sleep. I hear her flop down in the chair across from the bed. We both sleep straight through until morning. I wake first. I feel as though I've been given a new life. I dig through my closet for a clean shirt. For once I haven't perspired through the night. I wander down stairs and ask the host to have my bed sheets changed and breakfast for 2 brought up. When I get back to my room, I peek around the door just in case Aeryn is awake. She isn't. A maid bustles in and I motion for her to be quiet. She nods her head and goes about her business. When she's gone I gently lift Aeryn and lay her in the bed. She weighs next to nothing. Thankfully she already removed her boots. As I eat my breakfast, I watch her. She looks peaceful and almost relaxed, as if she is content to sleep but can jump up at a moment's notice, ready to do battle with any who wish it. It's like she has untamable energy.
Aeryn wakes a little later. She looks confused, and I figure it's because she's in the bed instead of the chair.
"Good morning, my dear." I say quietly. She looks at me as though she surprised to see me still in the same room. "Would you like some breakfast?"
"Yes please." She answers politely, something she almost always is. I gesture to the chair across from me. She sits down and I gesture again for her to go ahead and eat.
"May I ask what you did last night? I feel quite well." I ask. She looks at me with wide eyes and stops eating.
"Nothing, I did nothing." Aeryn answers. She won't meet my eyes.
"Please tell me."
"There's nothing to tell." She stands and walks back over to the bed. She only stays long enough to put on her boots and grab her coat, and then she's gone. I'm almost at a loss. I just wanted to know what she did, so that I could thank her properly. I hope that I will see her again soon but I highly doubt it.
With that weeks go by and I think of her every so often, wondering what she's doing or where she is. Wyatt, Jack, Creek, and I have been chasing Ringo, Curly Bill and the rest of the Cowboys. Now that I'm in good health I feel less inclined to drink and gamble, and wish for a life more like Wyatt's or perhaps going back to dentistry. But things are not very stable at the moment. They won't be until this is finished between us and the Cowboys. We've tracked Curly Bill and the gang to a small area across the stream from us. They are waiting, almost as if to ambush us. Wyatt is already seeing red and I feel that he is going to do something reckless. And there he goes dashing out into the middle of the river, shooting wildly, without cover. Curly Bill follows suit, both of them missing their targets. Wyatt finally hits him and the rest scatter like rats under our fire. Wyatt's breathing like he's run a race and I'm right next to him. I hadn't realized that I moved up to him. Both of my guns are smoking. Wyatt moves away, to another branch of the river and sits down on the bank. All we can do is watch.
I suddenly feel old and feeble. Jack is making camp, so I pull out my bed roll. Not only do I feel old, but tired too. I lie down and pull my hat down over my face and doze. Wyatt comes back and he Jack and Creek follow suit. When I wake in the morning, it's to creaking leather. I look up and Aeryn is staring down at me. I stand quickly but only fast enough for her to slip through my fingers again. She's gone again, much like a summer rain. The look in her green eyes stays with me. I want her. The thought comes to me and I'm startled. I'm attracted to her but that's not what surprises me. It's been a very long time since I have truly wanted someone. It's no shocker when I really think about it. She is quite beautiful and I have never been one to turn down a pretty face. However that isn't all that I'm attracted to. I think it's her eyes that draw me. They're so brilliant that they seem to shine with an inner light and yet they're so deep you could drown in them. Oh how I would love to drown in them.
I check for hoof prints just to make sure I'm not dreaming. Just for giggles I follow them until the go down into a wide creek and disappear. Damn but that woman is smart. I wander back to camp and Wyatt is awake.
"What has you up so early?" He asks.
"I saw her Wyatt. She stood over me like a goddess and then rode off." I answer.
"Why do you chase her like this? I saw nothing extraordinary about her" Wyatt wonders.
"That's because you are enamored with that spirited young actress." I say.
"Yes but answer me, Doc."
"She has something that draws me. She's lived a hard life for only being 26. Have you ever seen her smile? No? It's like a sun playing hide and seek behind the clouds and her laugh is the sweetest bell chiming over a stream. When I see her, I see an angel." Only around Wyatt would I be so open with out feeling foolish.
"Sounds like you love her." Poor Wyatt. Sometimes he's too simple.
"How can I love her, I barely know her?" I ask more to myself than Wyatt.
"Sometimes you just know. Love is love, Doc, in all its forms." I just shake my head. It is never prudent to argue with Wyatt, especially on the subject of women.
I walk down to the river to wash my face and rinse my mouth. Aeryn makes me so frustrated when I think about her. I need to forget her. She distracts me and that will get me killed.
"Doc lets go." I hear Wyatt call me. Its time to continue our quest, so to speak. God above how I wish I could forget that woman, but how does on forget such an angel. I walk back to camp, take a moment to roll up my bed and strap it to my horse's saddle and mount up. We ride again and for a few long miles I don't think about anything but staying in the saddle and the beat of my horse's steps.
Dusk comes faster than I realize and we make camp again. I'm tired enough that I don't even think. I roll my bed out and pull my hat sown. It seems it takes more energy to hold my thoughts back than it does to actually think them. I'm asleep before I know it. However my sleep is far from peaceful. I have vivid drams of things I have never seen or even thought could exist.
At dawn I wake up to Aeryn standing over me again. This time when I stand she doesn't run.
"Are you following us?" I ask.
"Someone has to watch your ass." She answers softly.
"Why thank you my dear. It's always flattering to know someone is watching my ass." I can't help but smile at my comment.
"Yes, well it is such a nice specimen. I wouldn't want it to get shot off." I'm coming to realize that this woman isn't all she seems.
"You my dear have spirit. I admire that."
"Why thank you Doc. You're living up to your reputation as a gentleman."
"It seems my hypocrisy knows no bounds." She laughs. The soft sound wakes the others. "Come my dear, have coffee with us, and tell us how many of those insects have been chasing behind us." Aeryn dismounts. I don't think I've ever stood next to her on level ground. She's reed think and would easily be tucked under my chin. Aeryn looks wary but sits next to me anyway. Her horse appears to be well trained because he stays at her back. Wyatt, Jack and Creek sit across from us and start the coffee.
"I never got a chance to thank you for what you did for Doc. It was very good of you." Wyatt said to Aeryn.
"It was nothing." Aeryn answers.
"So how…" Wyatt starts.
"Wyatt, leave the woman be." I interrupt him, not wanting to scare her off again. She finishes her coffee and rises. "My dear, are you leaving us so soon?" I ask.
"Yes. The day begins and we all have miles to ride." With that she swings up onto her horses back and rides away. I shake my head. A woman of so little words, and yet every word she says has meaning and a point. I think I may be falling in love with her. I re-roll my bed and attach it to my saddle. These long rides and the killing of the Cowboys is starting to wear on me. I wish for my free life of traveling and I want Aeryn by my side, but sadly I feel it won't happen. She can't trust me; I can see that in her eyes. Just like I can't trust her, even though I want to with every fiber of my being. Wyatt and the others are ready to go, so I follow. Today we ride toward Hooker's ranch. Things have come to a head between us and Ringo. Now Wyatt must go out and face him, but her wont win, should they face each other. Wyatt will die and I cannot allow that anymore than I can allow myself to trust Aeryn. Its midday and we can see the ranch below us. Hooker rides out to greet us.
"Sir." Wyatt greets him with a tip of his hat. "We'd like to rest our horses before we ride on, if that's alright."
"That's fine." Another person of few words. Hooker turns and rides back toward his ranch. We water out horses and as we sit and relax for a bit, a stage rolls up. The spirited young actress, over whom Wyatt obsesses, steps out. The lead actor, a pretty young man, was shot by the Cowboys, damn them. The stage only stays for a moment before it rumbles on. A man rides up and issues a challenge to Wyatt, who naturally accepts. As I have not seen Ringo since I was sick, I tell Wyatt I must stay behind and hopefully I can get to him before Wyatt does. I do and at first Ringo thinks I'm Wyatt.
"Well, well. I was beginning to think you weren't going to show." Ringo says and I can't resist.
"I'm your huckleberry." Ringo's eyes widen.
"Fights not with you Holliday." He's scared.
"But we have unfinished business…?" I say pretending to be hurt.
"And you don't have your woman with you. Alright lunger." Ringo's eyes adopt that crazed look. We circle and I tell him to say when. His hand hovers over his gun and I tap my finger against the butt of mine. He draws but I'm faster. Blood begins to well on his forehead and run in rivulets down his cheek. Ringo fires his gun but it's aimed at the ground. He stumbles back and falls against the tree. I look up as Wyatt comes running toward me.
"The excitement was too much for his heart, just couldn't take the strain." I say. Wyatt nods. Its over for the Cowboys. Wyatt is free to chase his actress and I feel the need to find Aeryn. Perhaps we'll make new lives together. We ride back to Hooker's. We'll head back to Tombstone in the morning.
It takes two days to get back to Tombstone. Virgil, Morgan and the girls are there to greet us, with sad faces. Wyatt's wife is dead. She overdosed herself. I can tell that Wyatt can't bring himself to care. He found his true love in Josephine the temptress. We all agree that California is the place to go and Wyatt goes to New York to get Josephine. I tell them I will meet them in San Francisco, when I find Aeryn, but she finds me the day I'm leaving Tombstone for San Francisco, after looking for her.
"I heard that you were looking for me." Aeryn says from the saddle of her horse.
"Yes I was. I'm headed to California and I want you to come with me." I say. Aeryn raises an eyebrow.
"Why?" She asks.
"Because I love you." I answer, for once without sarcasm.
"Good. Let's go." With that she clicks her horse into a trot. I shake my head and follow. Only love would make me follow this woman to hell and back.