A/N: Don't own Young Guns or Young Guns II. Title belongs to Kate Bush.
Chapter 1. Gravity
Charles Burns sat on the edge of his seat, the sweat on his brow finally drying. Cordelia, old and wrinkled, watched him out of the corner of her cool, blue eyes as she poured herself another glass of whiskey. She struggled not to laugh at his enthusiasm, even though it reminded her so much of him. She swallowed the liquor and took a deep breath.
She had never spoken so candidly of her fallen friend before, especially not to her late husband or any of her children. For the most part, that portion of her life before they existed to her was kept hidden in her mind under lock and key. Sharing it with a complete stranger made her feel slightly guilty, and yet safe, all at the same time.
"Nothing truly exciting happened to me until a year after the war had ended. I mean, I had turned eighteen and there were a few more deaths that I'd caused, but it was nothing like the War. It wasn't until Pat Garrett waltzed into my odd life did things begin to pick up again…"
"There's another black mark on our records," I laughed as I watched a man fall from his horse, a bullet hole blazing in the middle of his chest.
There had always been something perfect about the wind whipping my hair back toward the setting sun. An orange glow spread across the Territory, the sky appearing to have been painted with reds and purples. If I tuned out the sound of bullets flying, it was like being fifteen again: riding with the boys; listening to Chavez tell the stories of his people and Doc reciting poetry; laughing at Steve and Charlie bicker back and forth. It was as if I were defying gravity. For a time, I thought I would lose that feeling I had with them, especially since Billy was the only companion I had had for nearly a year.
Then we were joined by Arkansas Dave Rudabaugh. The two of us had gotten into more arguments than I ever imagined two people could possibly have. He often swore that it was his gang, when it was quite obvious that Billy was the only leader. "Read the papers," I used to tell him. "Do you think your name is mentioned more than once?"
"The papers are always wrong!" he snapped. "Hell, just look at your name in there."
Unfortunately, I had to give him that much: they were constantly getting my name wrong. Although my name had been Cordelia Brewer since the war had begun, the newspapers printed it as Cordelia Tunstall. Perhaps it was because I had killed to serve justice for Pa's death or because the people who these journalists were getting their information from had known me as "John Tunstall's girl." Either way, my late husband's name only existed in the memories of the people who knew him.
Our other cohort was a part of that group. Patrick Floyd Garrett had joined us almost immediately after we had arrived in Fort Sumner. His wife had begged him not to leave, but I suppose the Territory called out to him like it had long ago. Before arriving at the old fort in the February of '78, Garrett had been a cowpuncher and a buffalo hunter, giving him plenty of experience with a firearm (more so than other Southern men). I often forgot that he was at least eleven years older than me, forcing me to feel young and small again. It usually wasn't until the bullets started flying did I fell truly alive again.
"Damn bounty hunters!" Dave cursed as we flew through the canyons.
They were far behind us, yet Billy insisted on getting as distant from the law as possible. He led us up a hill and onto a small plateau that overlooked the New Mexican desert. He listened closely before dismounting his horse, hoping not to hear any hoofs pounding the hot sand. Silence swept over the land suddenly like a plague. It made me a little nauseous. The four of us dismounted and Billy quickly looked to me.
"What's the plan, Cordelia Marie?" he said with a grin.
"Why do you always assume I'm going to have some sort of plan or scheme?"
"Because you always have. Isn't that right, Pat?"
"It has been since I've known her. Even that first time back in Lincoln when she ran into me. She was so excited to tell you about something underhanded she'd done that she wasn't watching where she was going," he laughed, his slow Texas drawl escaping on a few syllables (a phenomenon that occurred with my own accent).
"You had to tell that story, Patrick," I sighed.
"I always do."
A chill ran down my spine. I ignored it as usual and continued to think. My eyes rose to the sky for inspiration. Wordlessly, I prayed to my father. Something he had told me once about using moral practices to achieve immoral ends ran briefly through me. I ignored that as well. His light English laughter filled my ears, as if he were beside me, and brilliance invaded me quickly. Thank you, Daddy.
Hooves pounded in the distance, a sign that trouble was on its way. The four of us got quickly into our positions: Pat and Dave behind rocks, Billy lying beneath a bush, playing dead; and I waited cleverly near the place I presumed the hunters would find us. It was a classic Chavez move, sneaking up behind people. The knife he had given me on one of my birthdays felt cool in my hand. I inhaled deeply as several ragamuffins rode up. They were clearly distracted and obviously only wanted the money that they were going to make off of Billy and I.
"Say what you will," the dirtiest one said, "I figured I get at least a hundred doggies for his trigger finger."
The man inched closer to Billy with a knife ready to slice off the index finger from his left hand. As the others watched, glancing around sluggishly, I pressed the icy blade to one of their throats and quickly hauled it across his skin. Shots rang out suddenly, taking the others hunters down as Dave, Billy, and Pat sprung into action. When the dust cleared, Billy stood and ran over to me. He wrapped his arms tightly around me and spun me around. As he placed me back down on the ground, his lips collided with mine. I could almost feel Patrick's eyes on Billy's back, practically plowing into it like a bullet.
Another chill came upon me. I shivered this time, reveling in the cold that ran down the middle of my back. It was new to me; this mixture of hot and cold whenever Patrick got too close, spoke in a certain way, or looked at me with those slate, gray eyes. Richard had never confused me that much and James was never allowed the chance (and Billy had been a different story entirely).
"Why you didn't want to hide up in the canyons don't make the sense God gave a mule," Dave sighed, annoyance dripping heavily form his words.
"Oh, Christ, Dave! I didn't see you coming up with any great ideas, you arrogant son-of-a—"
"At least I'm not a whore!" Dave snapped.
My gun was drawn upon him faster than it should have, but reaching for a weapon had slowly become a conditioned reflex. Garrett crossed over to me in four, long strides and pushed my arm down with his big hand. "There's no reason for that, Dave," he said slowly.
In the midst of the battle, one of the men had risen from his painful stupor and reached his gun. The bullet flew past me, just as Patrick too fired, lodging in Billy's thigh.
"Cordelia!" he shouted.
Patrick and I rushed to The Kid's side instantly, examining the wound closer. "We've got to get out of here, back to Fort Sumner. There's a woman who can take care of it," I said, the words pouring out quickly.
"You mean you can't do it?" Billy asked, confused. "I though you could do anything, Cordelia Marie."
My heart sank suddenly. That was the first time I disappointed Billy Bonney, but it certainly was the last.
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