The Most Loyal Servant
A.N.: Those who know me know I'm usually not big on a lot of slash pairings. Usually, this is because a couple are thrown together without any rhyme or reason given, and usually, they end up being two obviously straight men. In the case of 3:10 to Yuma, however, even I had to say, "Good God, you could cut the sexual tension with a knife." Unfortunately, from what I've seen much of the fiction out there is still based upon, "X and Y spend Z amount of time together, I guess they're gay." No. Shame on you all, no. Now, you can make this work, with lots of back-story and detailed explanation, none of which I've seen, but perhaps I'm setting too high of standards for fanfiction. But no, I don't think so. The following is the only slash pairing that could conceivably work in a non-AU sense for this film, but damn if it doesn't do well for how small it is.
I have never read nor seen the short story or original film, but would like to do both very much. Having not read the original, my grasp on details is going to be slim and poor, for that I apologize and can only use the remake.
Princess Charlie, that's what they called him – and had, ever since his mid-teens when it was known he was not exactly like the other boys. For a boy like Charlie Prince, this was insufferable, the verbal and physical abuse hurled at him was not to be borne. Rather than being pulled down by it, however, he got tougher. He got meaner. He got so nasty a pit viper would have seemed tame by comparison. He made sure he could shoot better, brawl harder and kill more ruthlessly than any man west of the Mississippi.
It did not, however, always save his hide. Come one day in his early twenties, stopping through some tiny frontier town the name of which he did not even remember, he spent the night at a saloon and he did not spend it by himself or with one of the ladies of the establishment. He didn't really know how or with what reason the men that jumped him the next morning found out about his previous nocturnal passion or why it was such a fuss and bother to them, but apparently it was. To speak plainly, he was ambushed, tackled, and getting the living shit beat out of him.
Oh, but Charlie Prince was no easy target, he made sure of that. No sir, he managed to shoot one son of a bitch in the belly in the brawl. Unfortunately for him, rather than working to even the odds, this just incited the fury of the remaining posse, and they went after him with renewed vigor.
That's when he showed up.
There was a shot in the air and then another in the ass of one of his attackers, and the others stopped pummeling him. Charlie blinked through his swelling eyes and felt it hard to breathe for reasons other than the wind being knocked out of him by the gang of hillbilly thugs.
He was magnificent. All tall and black on that big black horse. With great ease he leaned casually over the front of the saddle, gun resting over the horn, balanced by his hand. "What is this?" he said in a whispered voice because he knew other people would be willing to strain to catch it. "Are you killing him? Is he rich?"
Nobody seemed quite able to respond to that, though it was obvious Charlie Prince did not lead a, "princely," life. "No, sir," somebody said, as if this stranger were the marshal.
"Then there's no point in beating the stuffing out of him if he won't give you anything for it. Best get out of here."
Charlie did not fall in love with him immediately; he didn't right away notice the way his dark hair curled or how hot those icy blue eyes could get in their most passionate moments, he was not instantly aware that he wanted to see those moments for himself – rather, he knew at this time that the possibility of falling heedlessly in love was there, if not the probability – if not the absolute necessity. No, he could see it; not out of his swollen green eyes, not physically, but in the other way we see things we know inside ourselves to be true.
The vicious crew had scuttled off and Ben Wade continued to sit unmoving on his horse while Charlie made the pathetic spasms necessary to try and pick himself up off the ground.
Wade blinked. "Must have shot your mouth off pretty decently to have people kill you for nothin'."
Charlie struggled. "Ain't ya going to help me?"
The other man shifted in the saddle, his head tilted elegantly. "Probably not."
He knew, he knew that he had to make this moment count, he knew that his destiny was tied up with this man and this was his only shot at making a good impression. Therefore, he willed himself to get on his feet. It took five minutes, he spat out blood, but he did it. Wade was patient, he sat there and waited and watched him pull himself up without so much as batting an eye. At last, Charlie was up.
"Guess I must have done somethin'," he agreed. "Or maybe they just didn't like the way I looked."
"Yeah. Well, you look like bloody hell right now."
Charlie looked down at his ragged and torn self, blushed beneath a layer of dirt and blood and some various other nastiness. "Yeah."
"Huhn." There was a pause. "Guess I can help you get cleaned up."
Wade was never generous, but he was fair; he saw that Prince was washed and bandaged up and put on his feet again, and when the outlaw rode out of town, Charlie rode with him. The first few days, Wade said nothing, but after that he told him, "You don't have to puppy dog me."
Prince was acutely embarrassed, but refused to show it. "I ain't puppy doggin'."
"Just felt like acting like my shadow."
"S'pose I do. I have nowhere else better to be and nothin' else better to do."
Wade examined him with those shivering-ly blue eyes, Charlie felt himself rattled to the core. "Okay, then."
Then a few unnumbered years passed. The weak in Wade's bunch passed off, got killed, got hanged thanks to the Southern Pacific. But Charlie hung on. He hung on the longest, made sure he was the toughest there was. In everything he did, he made sure he was indispensable. He was a yes-man to Wade with none of the sniveling that went along with it, instead there was single-minded devotion. Upon catching a conspirator plotting to get rid of Wade and steal their recent plunder for himself, it was Charlie who viciously went after him. Wade didn't even bother, he didn't have to, his right-hand would take care of it for him.
And Charlie Prince made sure to make it slow and painful, for there was nothing he hated more in his gut than that which challenged the boss' authority. When he had savagely beaten his victim as much as he'd been beaten at Wade's rescue, he pulled the man up by his lapels, snarling, "You're a yellow bellied traitor." Without batting an eye, he pressed the muzzle of his gun into the belly of the snake he was holding, growling, "I hate traitors."
Things could not run so smoothly for forever, though. Prince's emotions got in the way of his attempted cool, ruthless nature too much to allow that to happen. His fervent devotion to Wade was far too hotly intense to remain dormant underneath the skin.
That was why everything went wrong, one night, when the money was divvied up and the boys were off drinking and whoring. Not Charlie, though, no sir. Not when Ben Wade was of the mood to sit back in an empty room with his sketch book and doodle out what he saw. Therefore, Charlie was right at his side, respectfully away so that he wasn't hanging all over him, but devotedly with him as a dog is its master. Only he'd been drinking – and he'd had too much.
It was the handsomest Wade had looked in a little while, all freshly shaved and bathed and so forth. Charlie looked at him far more than he should have, studied the delicate way he held the pencil, sighed over every perfect imperfection.
Wade noticed. "You see something you don't like, Charlie?"
"Then why do you keep looking at me like that."
He was caught out, and the bottle he'd partaken so generously of was not allowing him much freedom of thought. "I…"
"If a man has something on his mind, I prefer he say it." Wade closed the book, fixed him with those amazingly blue eyes. Charlie shook head to foot. "Do you have something you want to tell me about, somethin' you don't like?"
"Sh-shit, boss," Charlie stuttered, pulling his chair up. "You know I think you do great. Done more for us than our own mothers, you know that."
Wade examined him a long time before deciding he believed him and flipped the notebook open again. "That's good to hear."
But Charlie's tongue was loose now and his heart was palpitating. "If anyone said anything against you, I'd rip 'em to shreds, tear their living guts right out of 'em."
Without looking up, the boss said, "Yeah, I know you would."
"Ain't nobody who thinks better of you, boss, not in the whole group."
"You're a good hand, Charlie."
It was like a Christmas present. "You think so?"
"Yeah, you do pretty good."
There was a moment of hesitation. He plunged forward. "Boss."
"You know, I…" He took a swig from the bottle to steady himself. "I love you, you know, boss." Wade blinked once. "Hand to God, I've never loved anyone as well as I love you."
"Yeah, well…" In a gesture that was purely platonic, Wade took a moment to pat Prince on the arm. "Love you, too, Charlie."
"I'd do anything for you. Shoot my heart out right here."
"I swear, I do love you. Ever since that day – you remember? – that day you shot off those fellas who were gettin' on me, you…" He couldn't help it, he sort of fell onto him the way lovers fall into each other's arms. "I've loved you ever since then." It could rarely be said that in the history of Ben Wade's life men had shocked him into doing nothing, but Charlie Prince – tougher than nails – just had when he put his arms around his neck and sweetly laid his lips against the outlaw's.
The moment didn't last. Wade shot out of that chair like a bullet from a gun, he'd got Charlie Prince off him faster than anything, quick enough that his right-hand tumbled to the ground in a crush of disappointment and heartbreak. Ben walked a few steps back and forth behind the table not saying much but, "What in the hell…" and being otherwise agitated. Charlie knew this was his judgment day, that the same thing that had nearly gotten him killed when his black knight came to his rescue was going to get him banished from that knight and probably killed by the rest of the gang, only too happy to see the prized pigeon fall.
Death didn't matter. Being exiled from Ben Wade did.
One of those large, rough hands (hands Charlie had all too often imagined running over him in a loving, caressing way) ran through Wade's dark, waving hair until at last he stood straight, posture good, and pointed at Prince, muttering, "We're not going to talk about this." And he walked out the door.
Charlie crawled his way off the floor the way he crawled out of the dirt the first time he'd set eyes on the only person he'd love for the rest of his life. He shambled upstairs to one of the free rooms, heard the other men hooting and hollering as they debauched themselves. Wondered where Wade was. He just crawled into a feather bed, embraced a pillow with the smell of whisky on his breath, and cried quietly to himself as the illusion of his ever having requited love slowly shattered around him.
Bisbee was the end of everything, of course. There had been other endings to other stories, but these had always been temporary. The second time Wade was sent to – and escaped from – Yuma prison, Prince waited for him. He made the whole gang wait, loyal as hell. The simple fact was that Charlie had no purpose to his life if Wade was not a part of it. It was easy to say walk away, but it was impossible to do. He was as knit to him as wife to husband, without the consummation, without the love. It didn't matter, he waited, faithful as a parishioner.
And then there was Bisbee. He saw the way he looked at that tavern wench, that common as dirt, skinny little fly speck of a girl, and he hated her because Ben looked at her in a way that he never had looked at Charlie. "I'll wait for you," Prince whispered, begging in his own way.
But Wade's gaze didn't change, he just said, "Alright, Charlie," and that was his dismissal, no more special than anyone else.
That was painful, but everything just got worse from there. That stupid rancher, that goddamn Butterfield. Charlie tried to go to his boss' rescue, he tried so hard to return the favor he'd done him years ago. But no, not this time. Unfortunately, Prince's reckless, burning rage did nothing to get Wade out of his current predicament, and all he could do was ride out of range behind the wagon that was dragging him all over Arizona. Where the wagon went, Prince went too, and he dragged the rest of the crew along with him when at last they were able to bring the wagon and its precious cargo to a halt in the desert.
Prince was the first one to the carriage, practically miles ahead of the others. His insides fluttered, it was the first time he'd allowed himself to smile in days. It was a small one, conservative, but it reached his green eyes as he dreamed of how appreciative Wade would be at his rescue.
"Charlie, you did good, you came through for me."
"Nothing would have stopped me, boss."
And we'll be alone and he'll lean over me and… "You've got them pretty green eyes like I like, Charlie."
"Had 'em special ordered just for you, boss."
"Don't you worry there, boss, we're going to get you out of there in just a second."
He's going to kiss me so gently and say, "You've been good to me these last few years." And I'll-
There was a quick, "BANG!" and a bullet grazed the skin of his neck, awakening him from his reverie. Now, alright, the boss didn't love him, but he certainly wouldn't shoot at him.
Charlie's insides went cold, his heart went hard. He was feeling particularly nasty. The men rode up, he ordered Sutherland and Jackson to make the arrangements for the stagecoach. He, meanwhile, clung to Wade's black felt hat, ran the rim between his fingertips. He swore, if anyone had hurt him…
He didn't even look at the sack of rat shit choking on the smoke of the burning coach, not until the very last moment. His every thought was on Wade, how to get to Wade, how to find him.
Contention. He didn't smile when he heard it, he was too busy working out the layout in his mind, working out how to get there.
"Charlie," one of the men was saying. "It's his own fault he got caught. He made a mistake." And this was true, he knew this was true. Ben Wade would have said the exact same thing to anyone else in his position – even if it were Prince. Yet he couldn't believe that of his leader.
"You think you could do a better job leading this crew?"
A beat. "Maybe."
This was too great an insult for Wade's most loyal servant, and without a moment's hesitation he backhanded the offender and drew a bead on him. His eyes glittered fiercely green from the fire of the stagecoach playing off them. He was as desperate, he realized, as a man in love could be.
"You forgot," he whispered, "what he done for us."
Nobody said anything. The flames climbed higher, the man on the ground got up. No one challenged Charlie.
"We're going to Contention!"
"Boss, you in there?"
The horse shifted nervously around beneath him. At last, at last, Contention and the reward he'd long been waiting for as recognition of his unswerving loyalty. And there, that lovely face peaked through the window, the brown hair hanging in lovely waves, framing his face. Charlie's heart beat faster, he noted the marks on his cheek.
When I have you, I'm going to kiss those away, I'll kiss every hurt you have, I promise.
"Charlie," he smiled. "Boys. Charlie, why don't you take the boys down to the saloon and buy 'em a drink."
He hesitated, lips parting, not caring about the boys right now. "You okay?" he asked, every thought centric around Ben Wade.
"Oh, I'm fine. Just sittin' up here with my four new-" He got cut off. But Prince knew what to do after that, and he did it splendidly. Check, he armed the populace. Check, he gunned down the damn marshals keeping him away from the one person in this life he worshipped. And check, he waited, patiently as he waited the whole time he'd known him.
But the best laid plans went awry. Those damn dumb-as-shit yokels couldn't keep straight who was the rancher and who was the illustrious Ben Wade – though this should have been obvious as one was day to the other's night. Wade glowed in his nearness, in how easily Charlie should have been able to get to him, and anyone standing in his way increased his furry, increased his determination. He could hear Wade calling his name and fervently he called back, "Boss! Boss!"
I've got to get to you.
And the rest, well, what was there to say about that? It was everything he'd felt the last few years – hope, elation, fear, despair, excitement – sped up and with greater intensity. Even the physical was sped up, all the hurts being rolled up and piled on him by the cattle that stupid boy had gotten out of the pen. It had to end, though. No one could keep him from Ben Wade, certainly not a nothing rancher.
He was what the world had made him, he was in the place where he could only experience his own cruelty, the only protection he'd been able to afford himself for what he was – which was a man. In love with another man. It should have been simple.
He did not even hear Ben Wade cry, "No!" it was the one order he could not follow. He had to make sure the whole world knew, no matter the cost, that he was Wade's forever – and in a sort of a way, unwilling and unintentional, Wade was his, and always would be. Nobody else would ever love him so much.
That was how he came to be clutched in Wade's hands – not in the loving way he'd dreamed of, not the dream he'd lived on – but with anger and malice. The very act of his devotion had damned him, this is why he'd felt tied to Ben Wade from the start. He was meant to die by his hand.
It didn't hurt, really. Or, it did, but he couldn't think about it, just focus on Wade. He wanted him to be the last thing he would see the way he had wanted him to be the only thing. He could not even speak (though whether that was from emotion or from wounds he could not say), just look at him and blink. There passed between the two of them a sense of knowing, of the inevitability this moment had. That there never could be love, but there could be fire.
The most two intimate moments man may have with one another are had in making love and murder. Charlie wanted the first, he got the second – and he still got Ben Wade.
He knew that his destiny had been out of his hands, he knew that, but still, he hadn't wanted things to end this way. He didn't know how they could have ended, but with how much he had loved him…it just seemed that…
A voice inside his head and heart told him, Charlie Prince, that man never loved you.
That's okay, he replied as the next bullet ripped him in two, even feeling his adoration swell as he was killed. I did enough loving for the both of us.