This has been sitting on my computer for months waiting to be posted, so here goes nothing. Lots of Roy angst . . . just my idea of how Roy could have become the person he is in 1881. I have a vague idea of how to continue . . . but no solid plan yet. I'm grateful for your critique, as always . . .
NOTES AND WARNINGS – PLEASE READ:
I do not own Shangri Noon, nor any of its affiliated characters.
This takes place sometime just before the last scene of Shangri Noon – you'll see what I mean.
I am completely ignoring the line from the movie in which Roy says that his real name is Wyatt Earp. He is referring to a figure of Old Western legend who couldn't possibly have been roaming around as an outlaw in Arizona in 1881.
Chon Wang was not a fool.
Admittedly, he was in love, and people in love often act like fools. But Pei Pei (who had quickly discovered the situation, and was the only other person who knew) had explained to him that the Americans did not encourage the shared pleasure of two people of the same gender. And so he kept his feelings between himself and Pei Pei, and resigned himself to watching, and learning.
He knew that it was all an act; he could see the layers of masks in the blue eyes, not only hiding ignorance, but also burying pain. The way he would press his fingers against a cut or bruise, as if testing it for bleeding, was a hint of past wounds still unhealed. The way he had let his young body grow thin and tough, like dried meat, was an indication of low self-esteem. And the way he always played to win, no matter by what means, showed an insecurity that ran very deep.
But there was no way to expose it. Chon had tried to beg, plead, cajole, ask, tell, demand, and even force the man to accept the position of sheriff or at least get outside a little, but nothing had worked.
He'd locked himself up inside a hotel room and told Chen bluntly that he wasn't coming out until he'd drunk himself to death.
At first, Chon had simply given a sort of exasperated sigh and walked away, because he was sure that there was no more than one bottle of whisky inside the locked room. The man's statement, he reasoned, had to be an exaggeration; another one of those metaphorical expressions, like "I'll be a monkey's uncle."
Less than an hour later, Fifi had calmly informed him that, "That crazy idiot bought a whole case, and took it all up to his room, would you believe that? I thought maybe he was hosting a party, so I asked if I could come along, and he said he was going to be drinking alone tonight. Would you believe that? As if one man could drink all that. And it's strong stuff, too, no doubt about it . . ."
By this time, Chon had already covered half the distance from the brothel to the hotel.
He reached the door intending to break it down, but to his surprise, he found it unlocked – rare for Roy O'Bannon's room. Opening it as quietly as possible, he prepared himself for the sight of an extremely drunk Roy, but once again to his surprise, Roy was standing in front of the little shaving mirror . . . not wearing his shirt.
"What happened to your back?"
Though he had frozen at the sound of Chon's voice, Roy now turned around, not particularly quickly or slowly, just in his usual relaxed manner. Chon was not fooled by the masks. Instead of watching Roy's movements, he stepped into room and the light of the lamp to try to see the outlaw's eyes.
Chon was startled to see a sad dullness in those light blue windows of the man's soul.
Roy had picked his shirt up from the room's one chair and pulled it back on, shrugging it over his shoulders. Not bothering to button more than a couple in the middle, he sat down on the small bed, leaning back against the wall behind him.
Chon moved a chair around so that he could sit opposite to Roy. Now he realized why Roy had insisted on the bubbles in the bathwater, and frankly, he didn't blame him. Chon wondered if maybe he was finally going to get an explanation for Roy's odd personality: the suppressed genius hiding beneath layers of idiocy, both pretend and real.
But Roy's thoughts were a long way away from explanations . . .
Daniel, please, he didn't mean it –
That's the trouble with this boy, don't you see? He don't know what he mean or don't mean no more.
It's your fault, Daniel! It's all your fault and you know it! You made him what he is –
You shut your mouth, woman!
Feeling Chon's eyes on him, he pulled himself back to the here and now.
"First off, before you make any judgments, I'm not drunk. Hell, I barely had two glasses."
Chon looked around the room and, sure enough, the case of alcohol was sitting untouched in one corner of the room. The bottle of whisky was more than two-thirds full, and the glass sitting next to it was completely full. "I can see that. Why did you buy the case?"
Roy tilted his head back, exposing his long neck. Chon kept his thoughts to himself. "You know, I really don't know why I bought all that. I guess I was going to do something incredibly stupid, but I don't much feel like it now. The moment's gone."
"But . . ." Chon was lost. "But why die?"
Roy shrugged, letting his head fall back onto his chest. A few moments of silence went by, and the outlaw pulled his hat down over his face, as if to sleep.
Chon gritted his teeth together. Roy wasn't telling him something, and he wanted to know what. "Please. We are partners, Roy. I have told you of my life, my childhood in China. We can trust each other, can't we?"
The pleading note in Chon's voice must have twisted something in Roy's gut, because he angrily threw off the hat and sat up again. He still wouldn't meet Chon's eyes, though. "It's . . . a long story. From a long time ago. Dead and buried."
"But it haunts you now."
Roy gave Chon the most irritable look he could manage, which, in Chon's opinion, was almost adorable. Having lost the staring contest, he looked away, and after a long silence he spoke, hesitantly, unusual for a man with such normally flowing words.
"Well, my dad, he wasn't the nicest guy in the world, you know?"
It was a weak beginning, and they both knew it, but Chon let Roy keep talking.
"My mum, she was the sweetest women I've ever known. Kind-hearted, caring, compassionate, you name it. She wasn't much of a looker, though . . ." he paused. "When my dad popped the question, she didn't really have much of a choice. It was that, or . . . hard labor."
Roy was silently praying that there was enough similarity between China and the US that Chon would understand without his having to explain. When Chon merely nodded, Roy turned his sigh of relief into a short laugh.
"She always used to say she didn't know if the labor would've been better."
Chon gave him a small smile, to indicate that the joke had been understood. He didn't want to interrupt.
Roy did sigh, then, and continued. "So, well, when I was a kid, I kind of didn't spend much time at home, you know? Spent a lot of time running around with gangs. Most important thing I learned was that you could avoid a hell of a lot of trouble just by talking, and staying relaxed. Don't let anything faze you. Good for gambling, too, later on."
"Anyway, that didn't sit too well with pops. He wanted me to be like my brothers, all 'Yessir' and 'Nosir' like some kind of Redcoat army or something. He did a little of it then, tanning my backside a bit more'n most dads. I still don't understand what his problem was. Got to the point where he'd go off just cause I walked by him funny. Mind you, all that would've healed. Mum weren't happy, but she stayed quiet, so she wouldn't get her own lip cut."
Chon barely blinked, concentrating on Roy's tale.
"Now, I have no idea what exactly it was that pushed him too far. One minute, he was just being himself, scowling at this stump. We lived in the woods, you see. He'd cut down the tree a while ago, and he wanted to pull the stump up so there'd be enough clear room for a little garden – not for mum, mind you, but so we wouldn't have to pay so much for vegetables down at the Main Store. He'd tried all kinds of tricks on that stump, short of hacking it to pieces, and he was getting a little hot under the collar cause he figured that's what he was going to have to do, hack the stump to bits with his axe. He wouldn't be able to get all of it that way, and it would be a lot of work. So I was watching him, leaning against the wall of the house – he hadn't seen me yet – and I realized that the only thing holding the stump down was this one big root in the very middle of the bottom, and all he had to do was tilt the stump up and use the saw to cut through it, just like a tree trunk. So, I told him that, and I started walking over to him to show him what I meant . . ."
See, pa, it's just under there, if you can cut through that the whole thing'll come loose. Just move this rock, and you'll have enough leverage . . .
"He . . . just snapped. He grabbed me, tore my shirt off, took some rope he'd been tying round the stump to pull it out, and tied me down on top of it, face down, and he took off his belt and . . . I . . . I saw, later, the stump was all dyed red . . ."
You little varmint, you're nothing but trouble, you hear me? Always acting like you're better than all of us, like you're so goddamn smart! Well, you're not, you hear me? You're a piece of filth I'm ashamed to call my son! You deserve this!
"He went on for what felt like forever, cause my brothers and sisters didn't want to try and stop him. There were all watching, but they didn't do nothing. I guess I don't blame them . . . anyway, finally mum came back from buying something in town, and she sees dad . . . beating the shit out of me and she goes nuts. Not nuts like you'd think, lots of crying and wailing, nah. She'd done her crying a long time ago. She just picks up the axe he dropped, smooth as you please, and slams the flat of it down on his head. Well, he dropped like a stone, you can guess, but for good measure she goes round to get the shovel and brings it down on him a couple more times, saying stuff I didn't understand at the time in a real quiet voice."
I should never have married you, you and your drinking and you violence and your twisted little mind that thought you could use me however you liked. And you know, you were right, you did use me. But I'm done with that, Daniel. You tried to kill one of my kids. They ain't your kids anymore, they're mine. And I'm going to call in the sheriff and he'll fix you up and I'll see you hang, I will . . .
"Meanwhile, couple of the braver kids came over to untie me, try to stand me up. I can't walk much, obviously, but mum picks me up and brings me inside and washes it off the best she can quickly, and hands me some clothes and a pack with food and a little money, and tells me to run, and not to come back."
Get as far as you can away from here, Ronald. You go out real far south, in the real West, where it's warm and you can make a living however you want, you got that? You be strong for me now, alright, honey? You run like the wind.
"And . . . and I did. I must've been barely ten, and I jumped a train and found my way out here. Some nice doc patched me up a bit and got me a job with a crazy old guy who taught me math and mechanics and stuff. So, when he died, I struck it out on my own."
Silence fell over the room as Roy stopped speaking, and Chon blinked to clear his mind's eyes of the mental images. He moved from the chair to the bed next to Roy, and cautiously rested his hand on the man's shoulder. When Roy didn't pull away, he said, softly, "It must have been very painful, for both your mind and your body."
Blue eyes squeezed shut. "I just felt so . . . weak. I couldn't do anything. I saw what was happening, how he was hurting m- her, and I couldn't even protect myself." He changed the words he had wanted to say. He didn't want to mention that detail . . . not yet.
"It is not your fault," Chon assured him. "You were very small."
"I'm still small," Roy grumbled, hunching his shoulders and gesturing to his lean frame with disdain. "Tall, but thin as a wheat stalk. Can't hold my own in any kind of fight." He paused. "Not like you."
Chon balked. What was he supposed to say to that? "I am strong because . . . I needed to be strong."
"Oh, yeah?" Roy suddenly turned and glared at him. "I need to be strong! I needed to be bigger and stronger so I could take care myself. And what happened? Huh?"
Chon scrambled for words to explain his personal theories of evolution to Roy. "You needed to protect yourself, so you became faster, with greater endurance, able to live on lighter means. Very . . . predictable," Chon said, unsure if that was the right word. "I needed to protect my empire, so I gave up natural beauty for strength."
The moment he'd said the words, Chon wished he could take them back. He watched, fearfully, as the anger left Roy's face, and the corner of his mouth turned up into a disbelieving grin.
"Natural beauty?" Chon winced at his words being thrown back at him. "Natural beauty? Are you kidding?"
Chon blinked. This was not what he had been expecting. Hesitantly, he stuttered, "N-no?"
Roy threw back his head and laughed. "Natural beauty! Oh, that's funny! That's funny! Shit, Chon," he said, pulling himself together, "You've got a hell of a better chance with any girl than I do. The whole smooth-toned-skin-over-rock-hard-muscles thing really gets the ladies going, I'll tell you . . ."
He trailed off as he noticed Chon's face turning a rather nice shade of crimson. His grin because more of a smile, and his expression less harsh as he realized the true implication of the statement.
"You . . .you're not talking about ladies, are you?"
Chon bit his lip, and bowed his head in shame. "I am sorry. I know that this is not accepted in the West –"
He was cut off when Roy brought a hand up under his chin and gently turned his head so that their eyes met. The blue orbs were filled with a kind of quiet desperation that made Chon's breath quicken.
"You really think I'm . . . that I look . . . nice?"
Chon pursed his lips together, and decided to take the risk. He nodded, answering both the spoken question and all of Roy's silent ones.
Roy let his hand drop back down again, and leaned forward, letting his elbows rest on his knees. "Wow," was all he managed to say, the single word expressing the sheer disbelief his mind had created.
Chon did not speak. He was horribly afraid: afraid that Roy would no longer want to be near him, afraid that Roy would go back to regarding him as a foreign person, afraid that Roy could not be pulled out of the depression he was suffering from.
But all Roy said was "Wow," again, and shook his head, trying several times to start a sentence and failing. Finally, he managed to communicate. "You know, I always thought you were the good-looking one of us, you know? Smooth all the way, fighting, moving, just . . . just sitting there, you give off this . . . aura of power."
Chon still did not speak, but for an entirely different reason. Roy was not at all reacting in any of the several hundred ways he had in scenarios inside Chon's mind. This was completely unexpected.
Of course, Roy had to follow it with self criticism. "Me, I'm just a rough-n'-tough outlaw, and not even a very good one at that –"
He was cut off by what was possibly the most confusingly desperate and frightened kiss he had ever received. When they parted, both froze, speechless, watching each other carefully.
Chon finally worked up the nerve to place one hand on Roy's arm. "You are perfect."
He took some not so small pleasure in seeing that he had rendered the other man speechless.
Please R&R! TBC?