Chapter One: "Rescuing Prince Charming."
A/N: In this fic, I am making the following adjustments to the movie's ending:
1) The marshal didn't die.
2) Charlie was only shot twice. The last shot at the end of the movie didn't happen as far as this fic's continuity is concerned.
3) I don't know if Dan lived or not, but in this he does. I don't know if he'll even show up in this fic, but as far as I'm concerned, he lived.
Also, Mercy has a heavy southern accent. If anyone has a hard time understanding what she's saying, please feel free to tell me and I'll give some serious thought to changing it.
I own nothing but Mercy Wyndham, any other OCs and the plot of this story.
The marshal hovered over Charlie Prince – or what was left of him, anyway. He didn't seem to be quite dead yet, but he couldn't very well shoot the bastard. Too many witnesses. Then again, the marshal didn't feel like having to wait on the Princess to get better just so that he would have to go to the bother of hanging him.
That's why we have a story actually. Because of the marshal's decision that dry, scorching day…
Mercy Wyndham pulled the reins of her wagon to a halt when she spotted something on the road ahead of her. A man, by the looks of it, though whether dead or alive she couldn't yet tell. Her healer instincts kicking in, she jumped down off of the wagon and was by the man's side like lightning.
The man lay on his stomach, two bloody holes visible through the back of the dirt-covered white shirt he was wearing. He had no gun belt, boots, hat or britches on him, wearing only a pair of long underwear and his bloody shirt. He was obviously the victim of a robbery, and Mercy prayed to God that he wasn't dead and that she would somehow be able to save him. His face was facing away from her and she pressed two fingers to the man's jugular, his scruffy blonde beard brushing against her hand. A gasp of relief came out of her mouth upon realizing that the wounded man was still alive.
Mercy's heart pounded in her chest as she struggled to push the man onto his stomach so that she could get a better look at his wounds. Nothing could've prepared her for the shock she would get upon looking at his face.
"Charlie Prince…?" Mercy gasped, covering her mouth with her hand in shock.
Horror filled her as she realized that the man in front of her had killed numerous men, with little or no cause. Panic overcame her senses for a moment, not knowing whether to help him or ride the rest of the way to Contention and get the marshal. Then again, the marshal had never been much help before and Mercy doubted that now would be any different, especially if outlaws were involved.
Once Mercy's head stopped pounding, she realized that outlaw or not, she had to help him and fast. He had already lost a large amount of blood and he was fading fast.
Mercy was just beginning to consider how she was going to get him into the wagon when Charlie Prince's eyes snapped open and he grasped her wrist like a vice.
Mercy spent the next week watching and waiting, praying and hoping. She had used all of her seventeen years of healer's experience to keep the outlaw, Charlie Prince from dying on her watch.
When he had grabbed Mercy's wrist and regained consciousness that first day, she had managed to get him on his feet and into that back of her wagon where he passed out again. When she had arrived back at her house, she had managed to slap him awake, even though hitting him went against every healer instinct in her body and she winced at every slap as though she had been the one to receive the blows instead of the wounded outlaw. Once awake, she got him to stumble in the house, supported by her shoulder, and then onto her bed.
Mercy had cleaned up the wounds in his chest, grateful that both bullets had made it all the way through his back so that she wouldn't have to go digging around for them. It had terrified Mercy when he'd taken fever, and for days she sat in her mother's rocking chair by his bed, praying fervently that God spare him for better times and the chance at a better life. She'd wept in relief when wiping the sweat from his brow at around four in the morning one day she found that his fever had passed.
William Wyndham had always said that if it was hurt, his little girl would move heaven and earth, and fight the devil himself to save it. Said her big heart was her biggest, most beautiful downfall. Mercy smiled sadly as she thought back on those times when her father had teased her whilst her mother showed her how to heal the latest stray. Now there was no one to show her how to heal this stray, Charlie Prince, an outlaw and a murderer. She only had God and the gift of a healer's hands and heart.
Looking at the form of the blonde-haired man, sleeping peacefully for the first time since laying his head down, she thought that it might be all she'd need…
Charlie Prince heard rustling and he couldn't remember where he'd fallen asleep. A whorehouse? Hotel? And where the hell were his Schofields? He always kept at least one under his pillow when he was in a town. As he moved his hand further under the pillow his head lay on, sudden lightning bolts of agonizing pain shot through his body, tearing a groan from his chest.
That was when it all came back to him.
The Boss had shot him. Twice. The man he'd been loyal to through thick or thin, the man he'd risked his life to save, had actually tried to kill him. The earth seemed to be falling from underneath his feet and all Charlie could do was listen to the echoing words in his head.
He shot me… He shot me… He shot me…
The sound of footsteps brought him out of his dazed reverie. He panicked when he once again remembered that he had no weapon so he shut his eyes and pretended to be sleeping. The sound of wooden floorboards creaking told him that whoever was in the room with him was coming closer.
"Ah know you're awake," a female voice announced unexpectedly. Charlie immediately relaxed once he realized that it was only a woman. "Ah heard ya moanin'. Ah'm sure everyone this side of the Mississippi River did."
He turned his head to look at her and was taken aback at the sight of a very young woman dressed in men's clothes. Her dark, almost black hair was tied in a ribbon and hanging over one shoulder in a surprisingly feminine way, and her forest-green eyes sparkled back at him in a soft, friendly way.
"Who the hell are ya and whadda ya want?" Charlie asked, making his voice gruff to hide the pain ravaging his body and the vulnerability that he felt at not having his Schofields on him.
The young woman merely quirked an eyebrow at him, smiling in amusement.
"Not much on manners, are ya? Well, no matter. Mah name is Mercy Wyndham an' what Ah want is to change your bandage an' see if ya can stomach some of the soup Ah made," she said, pulling the covers down to pool at his waist. That was when Charlie first realized that he was stark naked.
Charlie yanked the quilt up to his neck violently, groaning in pain when he aggravated the bullet wounds in his chest.
"Ah did not spend a week making mahself sick worryin' over ya day an' night just so ya could die of infection because you're too much of a prude to let me change your bandages," Mercy said hotly, her hands on the top of her hips, one hip jutting out to the side.
"A week? I've already been here a week?" In Charlie's eyes shone disbelief. A whole week? But it couldn't have been a week since Boss had shot him and left him for dead… It just couldn't…
"Yes. Now if ya don't mind, Ah'd like to tend to those bullet wounds so Ah can feed ya an' get to mah chores."
Exhausted from pain and the shock of having been unconscious for so long, Charlie allowed Mercy to change his bandage and spoon feed him soup without further comment before finally giving way to his exhaustion and falling asleep.