THE DECISIONS WE MAKE
Disclaimer: I own nothing. HBO and David Milch do. Take anything official up with them.
Summary: Sol Star wasn't the only person who played a major role in Seth Bullock's life during his time in Montana and afterwards. This is a continuation of her story...
Although his life hasn't turned out exactly as he thought it would, Seth Bullock contemplates both the good and bad of having staked his fortunes in the town of Deadwood. A slight coda of sorts to the storyline began with "The Fourth Type of Woman" from Seth's point-of-view. SEQUEL TO THE FOURTH TYPE OF WOMAN & A PALE IMITATION & SETTING THINGS RIGHT & CONVERSING WITH AL. One-shot. AU. Complete.
A/N: If you are reading a story about the TV series "Deadwood" and don't know this... I'm not sure how that could happen... but, just in case... by the very nature of the television show from which the story is derived, this story contains (some would say excessive) profanity, adult situations, adult themes, etc. Be warned. Also, this story slightly deviates from Deadwood after the first episode of Season Two, but tries to stay as close as possible to canon both before and after that point. Any recognizable dialog that is not an original creation is courtesy of one of season two's brilliant episodes, albeit slightly modified so as to fit the introduction of Allie's character into the new story line. The events beginning with Season 3 are completely ignored.
I watch them from a far sometimes. I look at Allie with the boys, and I wonder if a single decision had been made in a different manner, would they even be alive? Maybe, if we'd acted differently, would they be happier than they are now? Would they have had a better childhood than the one with which we provided to them? Would they have felt more love and safety if someone like Sol had been they're father instead of me? Is what I could provide for them enough? And most importantly, when they grow old and look back, are they going to wish their lives had turned out differently than had been determined by the choices of the man and woman who gave them life?
Michael, as the oldest, was the one who took the most getting used to.. especially when I see in his face the very image that used to stare back at me when I was a boy. Sol never knew me then, but the few times that John and Callie have visited Deadwood, Callie swears when she looks at Michael all she can see is me.
He was also, as the first, the one who I was most unsure about. It's one thing seeing other children and commenting upon them to their parents. It's another thing when you take in a boy of five, who's already a relatively independent creature when you tell him to stop calling you Uncle Seth, and, instead to call you 'Father'… as he can think and reason and speak and make the decision for himself. But, it's an altogether different situation when the Doc hands you a squirming bundle of wetness that only a moment before had been in his mother's belly, and you suddenly realize that a part of you helped make this child.
He is the abstract made concrete as you realize that this small miracle who you now hold in your shaking hands is the cause of you having to have held Allie's hair back when she spent the first three or four months vomiting at every turn. He is the reason why her stomach swelled and placed his mother in so much discomfort that the only way she could sleep comfortably in the later months was by using your back as a bolster. You come to realize that *he* is the one who spent endless nights kicking you, through her, when you all should have been sleeping. And, you realize that you love him all the more for it.
He wouldn't exist without you. He is your handiwork. And, as such, the responsibility that you feel for him is not only frightening, but also tends to overwhelm. He is also the one that helped you to rediscover your patience... something that you had thought was forever lost when you put on the tin of the sheriff in a place like Deadwood. While it is fair to say that Hickok's death took something from you, you must also admit that this little boy that Allie gave you has given you something infinitely more precious in return.
Thus, perhaps that's the reason why you felt so protective of this particular child when Allie took sick after his delivery with childbed fever. Once again, you spent all your time nursing first the mother, and then the child, much to the displeasure of denizens in camp.
Swearengen tried to press the issue only once, and that was the second time I've almost killed him, and he's almost killed me. When it was all said and done, when the Doc had finished bandaging me up quickly, so that he could return to caring for Allie, it was on that day that I almost quit for good. After that fight, Swearengen knew better than to directly press the issue again, and I never contemplated taking off the tin again after that day. The terms of my employment had been clearly stated, and seemingly accepted, when I stood up in that thoroughfare, bloody and covered in mud, a bit dizzy, but still the only one standing triumphantly over Swearengen's inert body. It was a day of revelations, and I've never quite felt as victorious in Deadwood as I did that afternoon.
Although Allie eventually recovered from Michael's birth, with the extensiveness of her fever, her milk dried up, and she was unable to nurse Michael once she was well. In my fear for her safety, I begged her to take all necessary precautions so that there would be no more children. I had meant what I said to her that day that I didn't care whether we had children or not. But, she only laughed and said she would take things as they came… much to my discomfort.
Despite her laughter, Michael's birth, and Allie's subsequent illnesses, they had put a divide between us. I no longer knew how to look at her as anything other than the mother of my child… because, every time I tried to think of her as the woman I loved more than life itself, I could only see her pale and wane body lying unconscious in our bed while we waited for the infection to heal. It scared me, you see, to know that through my own actions that I had almost lost her. I couldn't look at her, let alone touch her, without feeling an extreme amount of guilt. And, as the months passed, at last, it fell to Allie to act in order to break the stalemate. Much as she had the first night she had come to me in our youth in Montana, it was she who eventually came to me as the seducer. More importantly, for only the second time in our relationship, it was she who had stopped fighting me as I was the one who was fighting her. And, in turn, it was she who banished my fears and made me feel safe enough to not feel quite so guilty about loving her. After that one night together that we shared three month's after my son's birth, I never again gave Allie reason to doubt my feelings or my attraction for her. I've simply never been strong enough to put up as much a fight with Allie as she has done with me for so many years.
It was from Allie that Michael definitely inherited his patience and tenacity. Sometimes… sometimes I think that Michael is much too good a boy to be my son. The fact that he is a problem solver, that I can understand... He gets that stubbornness to see something through to its end from Allie, but somewhat more uncharacteristically given the personalities of his parents, Michael loves to laugh. He can handle a horse better than his mother, but, despite the fact that he is the spitting image of his father, Michael has such a relaxed countenance that neither Allie or I can figure out sometimes where he came from.
By the time Matthew was born, when Allie told me somewhat suddenly that she was going to have a second baby, it wasn't as big a shock to my system as it had been with Matthew's older brother. By the time Allie got pregnant with Matthew, she had been through it once before. As soon as Allie started throwing up on mornings when I was the one responsible for cooking breakfast, we both had a good idea that she was pregnant. I was worried at first, her becoming pregnant so soon after Michael's birth... only six months.
But, it pleased her, I think, in the end, that her second pregnancy was so much more of normal happenstance than her first. She endured so much when she carried Michael, that during her confinement with Matthew, one would have expected Matthew to be the one of the two boys who had the easy going nature.
While Michael may look the most like his father physically, I sometimes see more of my personality in Matthew than is probably healthy. His hair is of my coloring, but he has Allie's eyes, a lighter brown than my own that marks him as her son. However, in temperament, it is easy to discern who his father is. Matthew has a quick temper, and unlike his brother who has his mother's common sense, Matthew's temper usually gets the better of him. He has absolutely no patience and possesses such an inane sense of righteousness that he has gotten into trouble more times than I care to count. I've tried so hard not to be to him the father that mine was to me. As such, Matthew always tries to do the right thing, but Allie and I know that of all our children, Matthew would be the one with which we would always have the most difficulty...
He is the one I worry about the most, and I have since at the age of six when I saw him react, much as I would have done so, when he heard someone call his mother the epithet which had become so commonly applied to her after she had decided to stay in Deadwood. As soon as he heard the words out of Jonas Merrick's mouth, Matthew proceeded to punch that little boy so hard that three baby teeth got knocked out, and, in all honesty, when A.W. told me what had happened, I immediately knew there was little I could do to fault my son's actions. I knew I would have done the same thing, if not worse, if I had heard any man mutter within my hearing the nickname which camp had so unceremoniously duped on Allie - "Bullock's whore."
After the boys arrived, life had settled into a kind of routine which I enjoyed. William's death had put even more distance between Martha and I, but I kept my promise to her. I maintained her house, splitting my time between her home and Allie's. Allie didn't like it, but she understood that was the way things had to be.
There was only one time in my entire life that I ever came close to breaking my promise to Robert regarding the care I had promised to furnish for his wife. It had happened the spring after Matthew had turned one. Two particularly heinous outlaws, the DeMaticck Brothers, had come to Deadwood intent on raising all kinds of hell. They were wanted on warrants from three states, and I became personally determined to haul them into custody myself when I heard them bragging that they had once been in a gang with none other than the killer of Wild Bill Hickok, Jack McCall. It all happened after a particularly difficult mission out of camp, which took us longer than I thought it would. Charlie and I were gone for almost a month, and I would be lying if I said that the young brother, Mason, hadn't actually managed to get a bullet into my shoulder. Back in those days, rumors spread on the trail rapidly, and while I spent time hauling the DeMaticck brothers to Cheyenne, by the time we road back into camp, somehow word of my wound had not only reached Deadwood, but had been exaggerated to the point that I apparently had died on the trail from infection.
By the time of my return, it was only then I had realized how difficult William's death truly had been on Martha when I found out what she had done… or tried to do… when she attempted to take the boys from Allie.
I found out about what had happened not from Allie, who the Doc had had to sedate because of her hysteria, but from Trixie. Martha had gone to the federal marshal in Yankton and had pressed for guardianship of the boys from the territorial courts as soon as my 'funeral' had been held. While it pleased me later to know that I had been 'buried' not all that far from Wild Bill, I almost killed Martha when I went into the house I gave her and saw her acting as mother to Allie's sons.
How I managed to hold back my anger, I'll never know, as Charlie and I took the boys from Martha without a word. Riding across camp with our precious cargo, I can remember how Allie looked when she saw us riding up. She had somehow awoken during my absence, and I could see just how bad things had been for her while I was gone. She looked like she had been crying for weeks, which in all honesty, she probably had. Pale and thin, I was worried for her when I saw such deep desperation, and but also a touch of hope that burned in her eyes, when she saw that I had brought our sons back to her.
Rarely has a sight cut me to the quick like her running down the steps of the house crying, reaching up for me so hard that she almost yanked me out of the saddle, and all the while crying, "You almost let her take them, Seth. You almost let her take my boys….."
Things were never the same between Martha and I after that, while the incident only solidified my relationship with Allie. I stopped making any pretense of keeping up appearances with Martha after she tried to take the boys, and it made my life with Allie even more complete.
As time passed, Allie and I both getting older than either of us realized. In that time, Allie became pregnant twice more, and lost both children, much to her sorrow. The first was a little girl, born dead, which I think almost killed Allie more than the second which she miscarried in her fourth month. I remember discussing with her the health risks when she told me she wanted to try for another child.
"I want a baby girl, Seth... I want to have your daughter. Can't you understand that?" she had pleaded as I came to bed one night.
"But-" I began in protest.
Smiling that smile of hers that has always melted any resolve I might have had, she merely said, "I thought you told me that after Matthew, I'd never have to seduce you again?"
And, truth to be told, that night, after she smiled that smile at me, she didn't.
But, nine months later, in the end, I knew my instincts had been right. Maggie's birth almost killed her, the labor having taken so long that in the end, to save the lives of both mother and child, Doc Cochrane had to cut into Allie's belly to pull my little girl out of her. There were no more children after that, something for which I was outspokenly grateful, although Allie was resignedly sorrowful and sad until I shared with her that I had almost died myself when I saw what I saw the day of our daughter's birth. The image of all that blood, and Allie lying inert on the Doc's table while he worked to pull Maggie from her womb, it haunts me even to this day.
And, so here we are where we began. The boys continue to grow, and in my older age, I have come to care less and less about propriety where Allie and the children are concerned. Especially with Maggie; I take her with me when I can, riding about camp or keeping her in the store while Sol and I work. It gives Allie some much needed rest, for which I would be lying if I didn't admit that I was amply rewarded by Allie at a later date. But, more importantly, it gives us a chance to be together, me and Maggie, with me being able to watch my little girl grow up healthy and happy right before my eyes.
Every so often when I have Maggie in my arms, blowing bubbles in the air, or screeching with glee as we would ride about my rounds, I catch Martha watching her with longing. But, when I return the baby to Allie's waiting arms, it's difficult to feel compassion for a woman who I only married out of duty and loyalty to my dead brother, especially given the fact that she is the same woman who tried to take Allie's boys from her when I was seemingly out of the picture.
Not so long ago, I remember Matthew had gotten in another fight at school, and I had had to go and bring him to the store to tend his wounds, lest Allie see him bloodied and torn up looking in a worse state than he actually was.
As I tended to him, I remember him looking up at me, and asking, "Pa?"
"Hmmm?" I responded, as I dabbed the alcohol swab over a particularly nasty looking cut on his left cheek.
"Why is it that the children at school call me what I ain't?" he asked.
I put the alcohol bottle down, and looked him in the eye before saying, "And what do they call you, son?"
"They say it ain't fitting for me to call myself Matthew Bullock when my ma's name is Mitchell, and that since you two never married, my real name is Matthew Mitchell," he said carefully. Looking up at me, he added, "That true?"
Slowly, I shook my head, "You're my son. You understand what that means?"
Matthew slowly shook his head. "I thought I did, but now I'm not sure given what they say at school."
I reiterated, "That means I owned you as mine soon as you were born, Matthew. Just like your older brother and just like your younger sister. Despite what folks say, your name is Bullock just as much as mine is because you are my child."
"But. they said that ain't true since you and ma never married," Matthew protested.
Seth smiled, "You are just going to have to trust me on this. While it's legally true that your mother and I never took vows in a court of law, we are just as married as any two people can be any other way. You understand that?"
Matthew paused to process the words, but then slowly nodded.
"Good," I responded as I put the cap on the alcohol bottle. "Then come on, it's best time to get home before your ma flays both our hides for being late to dinner."
As I lay in bed later that night, I pondered on the words I had told Matthew. Such questions had been a long time coming, and I knew that as the boys and Maggie got older, the questions would only become more complicated and more persistent. Indeed, this was something I had known since before any of my children had even been conceived. I never told Allie about our conversation despite how much it bothered me, and I guess Matthew didn't either, because it was never brought up again.
I knew one day I might have to answer the adult questions of my children about the choices their father and mother had made in life. That isn't a day I look forward to... I could only hope that maybe by then each of them will understand that sometimes a person can only be so strong and do what it right for so long... and then, they have to make the best of the situation that they can and hope that history doesn't condemn them too harshly for it.