Disclaimer: Fireworks Entertainment owns Queen of Swords, even though it's been canceled. Some of Dr. Helm's complaints about Santa Helena derive from comments about QoS made by Peter Wingfield on PWFC. They're not my characters. It's not my universe, and I'm definitely not making any money off of this. On with the show.
Summary: Dr. Helm discovers that drowning your troubles can be more difficult some days than others.
Rating: PG
Characters: Dr. Helm, Tessa, Montoya, Grisham, Vera, Chico, Montoya's horse, various guards.
Spoilers: A small one for 'Betrayed'.
Comments: This is very silly. No, really. It is. It's also my first QoS fanfic, so please be kind. I'm harmless.
Shameless plug: This story, and my other stuff (Highlander and Star Trek) can be found at: http://www.geocities.com/RainForest/Andes/3071/arch.html
Archive: Sure. Just ask first.



WATCHING THE WORLD GO BY
by Paula Stiles


Dr. Helm saw the whole thing. What it was, exactly, he couldn't quite make out, having drunk far more wine than one should before noon. Still, he had seen it all. Ohh, yes.

He was sitting on the veranda of Santa Helena's one tavern, on the edge of the town square, watching the world go by and getting drunk, when it all began. It had been a bad week for town doctoring in early 19th century southern California, and he just didn't feel like soldiering on today, for some reason. So, he'd closed up shop and trudged over to the tavern. His usual seat was free, as the other drunks preferred to indulge indoors away from judgmental eyes and the larcenous attentions of the settlement's military governor, Colonel Montoya. Helm, for his part, preferred to make his drunken scenes as public as possible. Why not? He seemed to spend enough time in the town jail sober. Doing it drunk would be a novelty.

He sat down at his table. There were stains upon stains on the wood--wine, and other liquids that he didn't care to consider. Not that pubs were any cleaner in his native Wales--just colder. It concerned him a little when Jorge the owner came out, unprompted, with a bottle of red wine and a glass. Perhaps he was coming here a bit too often. When Jorge plonked the bottle and glass onto the table, Helm dumped a dead fly out of the cloudy glass and peered dubiously into the vessel.

"This glass is filthy, Jorge," he said.

"Ah. My apologies, Se–or Helm," Jorge replied. He helpfully picked up the glass, pulled his old, stained shirt out of his trousers, and briskly wiped out the inside of the glass with it. Then, he banged the glass back down on the table.

"Oh. Why, thank you, Jorge," Helm lied. "That was very...thoughtful." *A note for the future, Robert," he told himself. *Never bring up the subject of bar cleanliness with Jorge.* Not that it mattered. Hopefully, Helm would soon be too drunk to care.

He was on his third--no, fourth--glass of wine when Chico, the Queen of Swords' horse, galloped through the square riderless. Helm stared after him, alarmed. Where was the rider? Had she fallen, been captured? He was just getting up to go find out when the Queen of Swords, Santa Helena's very own masked vigilante (and object of Helm's unrequited lust), ran by, heading in the direction of Chico and leading Colonel Montoya's brand new stallion, saddled and bridled, by the reins. Helm's jaw dropped open. As soon as Queen and horse disappeared from sight, Colonel Montoya and his sleazy Captain of the Guards, Grisham--both in full parade uniform--appeared on foot in hot pursuit with several guards. Helm sat down. He downed his drink and poured another, fearing that he would soon need it.

Spotting Helm sitting at the tavern, Montoya started towards him. "Keep after them!" he shouted to the already panting, sweat-drenched Grisham, and waved in the general direction of the Queen's escape route. As Grisham stumbled off after the Queen, Montoya staggered up to the railing in front of Helm's table. Damn. So much for a quiet, morning drunk.

"Did you see where she took him?" Montoya demanded, as he leaned, panting, against the railing.

Helm paused with a fifth glass of wine halfway to his lips. "Who?"

"The Queen of Swords! Where did she take him?" Beads of sweat were forming at Montoya's hairline and running down his face. Helm briefly considered offering him some wine, then decided that he wasn't feeling all that charitable today. He knocked back half of his glass and swilled the sour liquid around in his mouth before swallowing it. It really wasn't that bad once you'd had a few glasses.

"The Queen of Swords is a man?" he asked finally.

"What?" Montoya gaped at him. "What are you talking about?" His ponytail, Helm noticed, had come askew. He was looking rather less elegant than usual. Really, he looked as though he could do with a glass of wine--and Helm was even less inclined to give him one than before.

"You said, 'him'," Helm explained in a neutral tone.

"What?! My horse, you idiot!" Montoya exclaimed. "The Queen has stolen my new stallion!"

"I see." Helm drank down the rest of the glass. He took his time refilling it.

Having caught his breath, Montoya appeared to have now lost his patience. He sprang up the steps and slammed his hands down on Helm's table, leaning over Doctor menacingly. "Where did she go with him, Doctor? You were sitting right here. Surely you saw her?" Instead of answering, Helm stared into the contents of his glass. No more fly legs. A very good sign.

"Well?" Montoya demanded.

"I'm thinking," Helm replied. He drank down a large swallow of wine.

"I am waiting for your answer," Montoya growled.

"Hmm." He'd probably given her a good enough head start, by now. "Yes. As a matter of fact, I *did* see the entire thing." He gestured in the direction of Grisham's departure. "Grisham had it about right, I think."

One side of Montoya's mouth twitched, but other than that, he looked perfectly calm. "Thank you, Doctor. Now, that was not so hard, was it?"

"Not as hard as finding your horse will be, I suspect," Helm replied, tracing an old wine stain on the table with one finger.

Montoya might have said more, but he was interrupted by a soldier running up with one of the general cavalry horses, saddled and bridled. Montoya backed away from the table and down the steps. "We shall finish this conversation later, Doctor," he promised as he mounted his horse.

"Whatever for?" Helm said to Montoya's retreating back as he rode off after Grisham, but doubted that Montoya heard him.

A few moments later, Helm heard a woman screaming in the distance. The screaming came rapidly closer. Suddenly, Montoya's stallion appeared from the direction in which he had disappeared. On his back rode Vera Hidalgo, Don Hidalgo's wife, clinging desperately to the saddle. Her terrified cries seemed only to spur the horse on. Only a length or two behind her galloped Chico with the Queen on his back. She seemed intent on stopping the horse and saving Vera. They disappeared from whence Chico, the Queen, and Montoya's stallion had originally appeared.

Helm decided it was high time he dispensed with the glass, and started drinking straight from the bottle.

A few moments later, Montoya, Grisham, and several guards, all on horseback, thundered by from the direction to which they had just left, disappearing after Vera, Montoya's stallion, Chico, and the Queen. They soon returned, milling about the middle of the square in obvious frustration. Montoya steered his commandeered cavalry gelding toward the tavern, this time with Grisham in tow.

"Colonel, what the bloody Hell is Vera Hidalgo doing riding your horse?" Helm said, before Montoya could speak.

"Vera?" Grisham yelped, scaring his horse. "That demon beast ran away with Vera?!" Oh, ho. What was this, concern for the buxom, blonde Vera from a womanising snake like Grisham? So, the rumours about Se–ora Hidalgo sharing Captain Grisham's bed were true after all. My, my.

"My dear doctor," Montoya said through his teeth. "You appear to be quickly losing ground with that bottle. Why don't you tell us where she went while you are still coherent?"

Helm took a swig from the bottle and wiped his mouth. "What for?" he said.

There was a pause, as Montoya digested this. "I beg your pardon?" he said at last, in a deceptively courteous tone.

Helm slouched down in his chair, which wasn't difficult, and stretched out his long legs under the table. "Now, Colonel," he chided Montoya. "You're always accusing me of being in league with the Queen of Swords. What reason will you have for throwing me in jail tomorrow if I cooperate with you today?"

"Why, you heartless, English bas--" Grisham began. Montoya cut him off with a wave of his hand. Montoya knew perfectly well that Helm harboured no love for either of them--let alone for Montoya's horse. After all, they had both tried to kill him and dump his body in the desert just a few weeks before. He did feel a little pity for Vera, though, who had clearly got into water well over her depth.

"Doctor," Montoya said in a strained voice. "Please tell us where they have gone so that we can rescue Se–ora Hidalgo."

"Actually, it looked as though the Queen had that situation almost under control," Helm said. "But if you insist...." He pointed in the direction of the Queen's and Vera's departure. "They went that way."

"Thank you, Doctor," Montoya gritted out, and led the cavalry after the fugitives. Grisham cast a glare over his shoulder at Helm as he rode off. Helm, unimpressed, drank down the rest of his bottle.

A few moments later, the Queen rode by on Montoya's stallion, with Vera, on Chico, in hot pursuit. Vera was shouting at the Queen in *very* unladylike Spanish. Helm didn't catch all of what she said, but what he did understand seemed to imply that the Queen shared parentage with Colonel Montoya's stallion. After they passed by, Helm called Jorge back out to his table.

"Jorge," he declared. "I think the day calls for something stronger than wine at this point." Jorge just nodded and vanished into the tavern. He came back out with a labeless bottle of gin. He dispensed with the glass, since Helm obviously wasn't going to use it. Helm uncorked the bottle, took a large swig of gin, and choked. The stuff was vile.

"Yes," he said approvingly. "That'll do." Jorge nodded and left. Now, the question was--the table or the floor? Helm decided to go with the table; it had a better vantage point. This was important, as soon somebody would surely be asking him what he'd seen. Standing on the chair, he stepped up onto the table and lay down on it, arms outstretched. The ceiling of the verandah was thick with old cobwebs, he noticed. Some of them had got into his hair, turning it more grey than usual.

After a few moments, the Queen rode up, on Chico, alone. Helm turned his head to squint at her. "Oh. It's you," he said. "Colonel Montoya is looking for you."

She shrugged. "I know." She spotted his half empty bottle. "Is that wine?" she asked.

"No."

"Good." She reached out across the railing, plucked the bottle from the crook of Helm's arm, and knocked back a healthy swig. When she'd stopped choking, she gave him the bottle back and said, "Dios, I needed that. Thank you, Doctor. It's been a long day already."

"Tell me about it." He watched her ride off. As soon as she'd left, he heard the thunder of hooves. Montoya, Grisham, and the Guard galloped into view. Montoya seemed to take in Helm's condition immediately, not that this was difficult, considering Helm's supine position on the table.

"Doctor, I have a few questions for you," Montoya said as he rode up to the tavern's railing, Grisham right behind him.

"Well, hurry up before I pass out," Helm retorted as he considered the tavern's rafters.

"I know that you saw the Queen ride through here, Doctor. I would like you to tell me where she went."

"*I'd* like a lot of things, too," Helm replied cheerfully, balancing his gin bottle on his chest. "I'd like some shirts whose sleeves I don't have to roll up because the cuffs don't reach my wrists. I'd like to find a bed in this godforsaken town where my feet don't hang off the end. I'd like a horse that actually pays attention to me whenever I tell it to do something. I'd like to speak English with somebody who doesn't butcher my native tongue. I'd like to get lucky--preferably with a certain masked vigilante. And I certainly wouldn't mind if you and Captain Grisham took a long dip in the deep end of the ocean."

"Will you just shut up and tell us where she went?" Grisham burst out in exasperation. Montoya looked heavenward imploringly and Grisham stammered, "I mean...oh, come on, you must have seen something!"

Helm rolled onto one elbow, hugging his bottle to his chest, and looked them both over. "Yes," he admitted. "Yes, I did. I saw the entire thing--from start to finish."

"So, what happened?" Grisham demanded.

Helm thought about that for awhile. He knocked back a slug of gin, grimaced, thought a little more.

"*Well*?" Montoya finally snapped.

Helm shook his head. "Haven't a clue," he replied, with absolute honesty. Then, he flopped back down on the table, closed his eyes, and fell asleep.

END