Tombstone: One More Sunrise – Act Three

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March 21, 1882: Arizona Territory – Wyatt
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Morning dawned over the wagon train camp where Wyatt waited to meet the others. Doc was in the lead as they galloped in and dismounted. McMasters, Texas Jack Vermillion, and Turkey Creek Jack Johnson all exchanged greetings with Wyatt as Doc hung in the back, watching them all in silence. With a motion, he lead them to follow him to the center of the camp where he’d gathered what they’d need to carry out their grim purpose.

Turning to face his erstwhile posse, Wyatt asked, “Know why you’re here?”

“Way ahead of you, Wyatt,” Vermillion spoke up. “You want us to help you get Ike Clanton and Johnny Behan. Everybody knows they’re the ones to blame for your brothers.”

“They’re nothin’. They’re nobody, just cowards. I want the Cowboys. All of ‘em. I mean to break ‘em up, drive ‘em out of the territory.”

Johnson whistled. “Are you out of your mind? What on Earth’d make us –”

Wyatt took out a wad of bills, a stunning amount of money. “I’ll pay you $500 each in advance and I’ll mount you on those.” He pointed out five magnificent black horses tied nearby, all of them thoroughbreds. As they looked them over, he took out a stack of warrants. “Got a sheaf of federal warrants; bein’ in the territories it’s up to our discretion how they’re served. That means we got the Cowboys without quarter. The black flag. No prisoners, no mercy, amen.”

Vermillion whispered to Johnson, “A year’s wages – and I never even saw a horse like that.”

Ignoring his friend, Johnson answered, “You crazy? It can’t be done.”

“It might be done,” McMasters interrupted. “If we hit the waterholes through the southern Dragoons, the Whetstones and Huachucas, we could take ‘em on in pieces, run off their herds.” He faced Wyatt. “Keep your money, I’ll show you where those waterholes are. Just promise me you’ll finish it. No matter what happens you’ll see it through to the end. I’ll have your hand on that.”

They shook hands as Vermillion and Johnson conferred.

Vermillion turned to face them, smiling. “We come through this in one piece, can we keep the horses?”

When Wyatt nodded, Johnson added, “Okay, we’re in.”

The thoroughbreds were saddled and waiting, each with a rifle in a scabbard and a double-barreled shotgun across the saddle fork. They were loaded with supplies, too. Wyatt’s men, each carrying two pistols, faced their new boss.

Wyatt addressed them. “The minute we start we’ll be goin’ against local and county law. If we fail, the U.S. Government won’t be able to lift a finger to help us. Nevertheless, I want you to understand we carry the full force and authority of the law of this land.”

Doc, silent all along, loosed his wicked smile. “Whose authority, specifically?”

“Judge Spicer and other businessmen contacted Actin’ Territorial Governor George Gasper and Territorial Marshal Crawley Drake for help. They sorted it all out and gave me what I asked for: a commission as U.S. Marshal to go after the outlaws full-steam-ahead.” Wyatt returned his smile. “I guess Wells Fargo and the Southern Pacific Railroad were encouraged by our overdue show of justice. They both agreed to bankroll our posse and equipment.”

The men exchanged glances, each one aware of the magnitude of what they were about to attempt.

Wyatt took a breath and swore them in. “Raise your right hands. Do you solemnly swear to uphold the laws and Constitution of the United States of America and to protect her citizens to the best of your ability, even at the cost of your own life?”

All the men chorused, “I do”, except for Doc, who rolled his eyes. Wyatt pinned him with a frown.

“Oh … all right,” Doc conceded. Wyatt handed each of them a Federal Deputy’s badge, but Doc waved his away. “You know why I’m here.”

Wyatt shrugged and said, “Let’s ride.”

They mounted up and took off at a graceful lope, riding through camp to the desert beyond.

Wyatt called out, “All right, let’s wring ‘em out!”

His horse broke into a dead run quickly followed by the others. They crested a rise and as the ground seemed to drop under them, hooves striking air before shaking the earth again, they lined up five abreast and turned the land around them to a dull blur.

Johnson laughed aloud for sheer joy and shouted to Vermillion, “Like flyin’ son! Just like flyin’!”

*************************************
March 1882: Arizona Territory – Wyatt
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Wyatt’s men rode and Cowboys they found died. In those first encounters, Wyatt felt wild – even jumping his horse through the wide window of a saloon to shoot the men in red sashes they’d seen go inside it. His men were solid, deadly and fearless. When two Cowboys might have gotten the drop on him, Johnson and Vermillion burst through the doors firing and killed them.

~ ~ ~

In a tiny town a few hour’s ride farther, McMasters led them to a sporting house that was a favorite stop of his former companions.

Recognizing several of their horses’ gear, McMasters listed those present on his fingers. “Billy Grounds, Zwing Hunt, Wes Fuller, and Hank Swilling.”

Wyatt led the way. “All right. Upstairs, now – and quiet!” They caught most of the outlaws in bed and none of them was fast enough.

Springing in on Grounds who was with two prostitutes, Creek Johnson ordered, “Nobody move!”

Entering the room on his heels, Doc smiled. “Nonsense. By all means, move.”

Seeing that Johnson had Grounds, Doc turned at the sound of a squeak of floorboards and reentered the hall. One of their targets had come out of the room at the end of the hall and fired but Doc dropped him with no trouble with his rifle and kept moving, going to check the next room as Wyatt rejoined him.

Wyatt’s voice rang out, “United States Marshals! Reach!”

Two Cowboys sharing the same couple of prostitutes froze in bed at the marshal’s words.

Doc came in the room beyond Wyatt, leaned down, and poked his pistol into Zwing Hunt’s forehead. “Say something witty.”

Hunt was silent, but Fuller brazened up to Wyatt. “Hey, you can’t –”

A loud crack sounded as Wyatt’s riding quirt laid his face open to the bone. “One more word and I’ll blind you.”

Zwing Hunt found his tongue when he saw McMasters in the doorway. “Hey brother, what’re you doin’ –”

“I ain’t your brother, I ain’t none of your damn brothers.” Surprising Doc and Wyatt, McMasters moved into the room and shot them both.

The women screamed. Another gunshot nearby told them Grounds was dead. Returning to the hall, Wyatt and Doc encountered Swilling, dressed in his long johns.

“Bastard! Stinkin’ bastard! Like to eat you blood raw!” He held his gun on them but his hand was shaking. He seemed unable to decide which man to watch.

“All right, breed. Dig in,” Wyatt replied, making him flinch toward him. Wyatt shot him in the jaw before he could pull his trigger. Swilling dropped like a stone.

Doc looked down at the dead man. “It appears he missed an excellent chance to keep his mouth shut.”

As his men rejoined them, Vermillion reached down to haul Swilling into one of the rooms.

“Leave that trash where it lays,” Wyatt said, his dour frown darkening his features.

~ ~ ~

Out at Pete Spence’s ranch, though Pete had already left it, they encountered ‘Indian Charlie’, Florentino Cruz. Seeing them first, Florentino leapt onto his horse and galloped off bareback.

“Look, Indian Charlie! He’s gettin’ away!” McMasters pointed, pulling his rifle from its scabbard.

Wyatt’s voice was flat. “Drop his horse.”

McMasters drew a bead on the retreating form with his ’76 Winchester and fired. One hundred yards away, the bullet hit Florentino’s horse in the shoulder. It dropped, falling end over end and plunging Florentino face-first into the ground.

He jumped up, spitting out a mouthful of dirt, and started running. Wyatt charged after him on his black horse and it streaked forward, closing the distance in seconds.

Florentino gasped and ran faster, pulling a bellygun from his sash. Wyatt was almost on top of him when he turned and fired on the run. A rock next to Wyatt’s horse exploded.

Wyatt kept coming, drawing his Buntline, impervious, unstoppable. Florentino turned for another shot just as the black horse piled into him, sending him flying and tumbling him down an embankment. He scrambled to his feet as Wyatt dismounted, starting toward him with deliberate steps, eyes blazing, long-barreled pistol held in front of him.

Florentino backed up in terror, his gun at his side, shaking his head. “I don’t kill your brother! I don’t even know him. I was only lookout. It was money, they give me twelve dollars! It was money!”

“A human life. Twelve dollars.” Wyatt nodded, still coming, cold-blooded murder in his eye.

Florentino screamed, raising his gun. “No!”

Wyatt fired, blasting Florentino to the ground. He advanced, firing over and over, emptying his gun into him. “More of a chance than you gave Morg,” Wyatt declared.

He kicked dirt over the corpse before mounting up. Once again, their giant chargers took off like they were flying, their glossy black coats shimmering in the sunlight, hoofbeats pounding in unison.

In the next town, two more of them were in an opium tent. Wyatt slipped inside, silent and slow. As one Cowboy passed out at his feet, he lowered his gun to other one. Mistaking it for a pipe, the man put the barrel in his own mouth before he looked up and registered what it was. He raised his hands but Wyatt just stared down at him impassively as he pulled the trigger.

McMasters led them to the Dragoon Saloon after that, in a town that was more wooden building frames than finished structures. They hanged the two men they killed there from the saloon’s sign as a warning. Wyatt tied a red sash around the ankle of a boot before they rode away into a darkening sky.

~ ~ ~

The posse made camp in the desert just after nightfall. Vermillion and Johnson crouched by the fire, not far from Doc who sat shivering by himself. Their hunt had brought them closer to Tombstone than any of them wanted to be and it stirred up restlessness in Wyatt.

“You know, we might just pull this off,” Vermillion mused.

“Not so sure,” Johnson replied. “Somethin’ tells me it gets harder from here in.”

They glanced over at McMasters and himself as they conferred over a map a short distance away.

Wyatt pointed out a familiar spot. “I know that cut. You mean there’s a waterhole near there?”

“Yeah, but this time they’ll be ready.” McMasters sounded tired.

“We’ll see about that.” Wyatt stared at the cut in the mountains. He knew it well; it was where he and Josephine Marcus had finally met, after he had decided to emerge from a narrow trail that would have kept him quite hidden. A small smile crept onto Wyatt’s face as that restless feeling calmed into a steady anticipation.

~ ~ ~

“Let ‘em see us,” Wyatt told his men.

They watched as a man McMasters pointed out as Pony Deal led a party of ten Cowboys through the desert three hundred yards out from the cut, pushing a herd of cattle. The shock of the men as they were spotted was obvious.

“They saw us,” Doc noted. “Here they come”.

The Cowboys charged forward, outnumbering them better than two to one and only a hundred yards away now. The posse men choked up on their reins, alerting their horses for action, waiting for Wyatt’s word.

“Wait… wait… steady…” Seventy-five yards and the first shots rang out, ricocheting off the walls of the cut. But Wyatt remained cool, waiting. Fifty yards… forty yards… Wyatt waited until he could see their eyes and then shouted, “Now!”

Whirling around, they disappeared into the cut. The Cowboys kept coming. Wyatt’s group reached the little trail leading up the wall of the cut he had once used to avoid Josephine. They clambered up the side of the cut at a bounding climb, unseen, as moments later the Cowboys galloped by and continued through into the desert on the other side.

The posse careened up and around the high mountain wall as if thrown, following the tiny, narrow path at a breathtaking clip, the trail finally plunging them back into the draw behind the Cowboys. They sped up to the opposite mouth of the cut, drawing their pistols as the Cowboys went galloping before them, unaware.

“Lay on!” Wyatt ordered.

They charged forward, firing a volley of gunfire into their prey from behind, knocking four from the saddle. The others spun to face them just as the posse rode up and slammed into them, guns blazing.

Pony Deal called out, “Run!” and rode off to escape, followed by five others.

“Come on!” Wyatt took off in pursuit, his men at his side. The thoroughbreds closed the distance in seconds.

Vermillion stood in his stirrups, roaring like an animal as he plunged into them, swinging his quirt like a saber and lashing a Cowboy across the face, making him tumble to the earth and bounce over the rocks like a rag doll. McMasters closed with another, throwing an arm around him and jerking him from the saddle, snapping his neck.

Doc overtook another, jammed his pistol into his face and fired point-blank, blackening the man’s face with soot and blowing out the back of his head as he fell. Reins in his teeth, shotgun at his shoulder, Johnson came up behind the fourth rider and fired. The Cowboy’s head disappeared in a cloud of pink vapor, the body dropping like a stone.

Wyatt dropped another fleeing Cowboy as McMasters rode by, drawing a bead with his rifle on the lone survivor, Pony Deal. Only a few yards in front of them, he whipped his horse frantically, trying to get away. McMasters was about to fire when Wyatt rode up close and deflected the shot with a strike of his rifle. Pony Deal made it over a rise and disappeared.

“What’d you do that for?” McMasters demanded.

“So he can tell the story.” Wyatt met his stare and the two smiled at each other slowly. “We need him to bring us the rest of them.”

“Next waterhole’s Black Draw. We could be there by mid-mornin’.”

As the others rode up and joined them, Wyatt shook his head. “They’re wise by now. Which is next, Iron Springs?”

“Yeah.”

“Let’s try there.”

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March 24, 1882: Iron Springs, Arizona Territory – Wyatt
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Creeping up on Iron Springs through a grove of cottonwoods, Wyatt’s posse rode up to the rocks overlooking the stream and dismounted. They could see a camp on the near bank, with two Cowboys crouched by a fire, sipping coffee.

“There they are,” McMasters whispered. “No herd though.”

“We’ll go around that way, come up on foot,” Wyatt answered.

They pulled shotguns from their saddles and started down over the rocks on foot, creeping up on the camp, seemingly undetected. Then abruptly the Cowboys by the fire dove behind a log.

“Ambush! Get down!” McMasters cried out, none too soon. The tree line across the stream exploded in gunfire.

Vermillion took a graze on his cheek and dropped with the others, hugging the rocks. A bullet ricocheted into a rock at Johnson’s head, biting his face with fragments, making him wince.

Hunched behind the trees on the opposite side of the water with fifteen more Cowboys, Curly Bill raised his head, grinning and shouting, “Hey, Wyatt! How the hell are ya?”

Wyatt and his men reacted to his voice, aiming their weapons in his direction. The fire continued. Then there was a shock of movement in the rocks above them and bullets began to fire down over them.

Diving and rolling for cover, Wyatt and his men were pinned down.

“Got some boys workin’ around those rocks behind you,” Curly Bill shouted. “Got you in a little crossfire! How you like that?” His laughter rang out over the water.

They heard someone chuckle beside him as a confident ripple of laughter went through the Cowboy line.

McMasters shouted over to Wyatt, “Come on, think of somethin’ fast would ya?”

At the end of their rope, the men looked to Wyatt for a solution. He remained silent. But a strange calm began to wash over him, coupled with a cold anger. His voice, almost unrecognizable to himself, growled a word.

“No.” Wyatt took his shotgun and rose to his feet.

Doc watched him in horror, stuck on his back, helpless in the crossfire. “Wyatt!” Bullets whizzed around them. “Hey, Wyatt!”

Wyatt advanced quickly across the clearing, walking right into the teeth of the Cowboys’ guns, repeating “No…” His clothes jerked and rippled as bullets passed through, but he kept coming.

Curly Bill saw it and stood, a weird, manic elation coming over his face. “Look at that! Yeah! Come and get some, boy!”

“No…” Wyatt advanced.

Curly Bill waved his men down. “No!” His men’s fire ceased and he walked toward Wyatt into the water, 12 gauge shotgun in one hand, .45 in the other, blasting away. “Just me!”

“No…” Not firing still, Wyatt came closer.

Curly Bill fired again and again, but none of his shots seemed to hit. Taking dead aim with his .45, he squeezed the trigger, but the gun clicked – empty. He tossed it aside with a splash.

His eyes wild with battle rage, Curly Bill raised his shotgun. “Die! Son of a bitch!” He fired, but Wyatt kept coming.

The marshal didn’t seem to notice the shots. He took aim with his 10 gauge and screamed out, “No!” Wyatt shot, nearly vaporizing Curly Bill’s mid-section. The second shot almost ripped him in half as he fell back into the water.

Barnes cried out, “Christ!”

“No!” Wyatt shouted, pulling his .45 Colt Peacemaker, the Buntline Special. He aimed and shot Barnes in the chest, dropping him.

The others recoiled and seconds later, another Cowboy fell.

Doc pulled himself out of his waking nightmare and leapt from the rocks, guns in hand. He charged out into the stream and made every bullet count.

The others rose, advancing in loose formation, a wall of gunfire joining Wyatt and Doc, driving the remaining Cowboys off. They ran for their horses – and their lives.

Wyatt, his chambers empty, kept snapping his gun as the others ran up. Doc grabbed him, took the Peacemaker and holstered it for him. “Wyatt, my God!”

Helping him back to the bank and a nearby rock, Doc sat Wyatt down and began to examine him for wounds, frantically running his hands all over his body as the others fired at the Cowboys retreating on horseback.

Vermillion shouted after them, “Yeah, better run, you bastards!”

Johnson turned back to Doc. “How is he?”

Doc looked up at him, amazed. “I don’t believe it. He’s clean!”

“What?” Vermillion said, coming back to join them with McMasters. “But I saw ‘em –”

“There isn’t a mark on him,” Doc said, panting. They stared as Wyatt began to tremble. “We’ll make camp farther upstream where it narrows. Find a spot and start a fire, Creek. We’ll follow in a moment.”

“I’m on it,” Johnson replied.

Left alone as the others grabbed weapons and reins, Wyatt looked out over the water as Doc sat close and stared at him.

“I’m a man without fear, Wyatt. Most days, I literally don’t care if I live or die. But even I can’t fight human instinct. Somebody starts shooting at me, I duck. But you … what on earth were you thinking?”

“I don’t know. If I’d had a chance to think about it, I guess I probably would’ve been scared but – swear to God, Doc, I just don’t know.”

Shaking his head, Doc let the silence be.

~ ~ ~

Morning light dappled over the little camp under the cover of trees. The stream, narrower near the spring, made its presence known, trickling softly beside them.

Wyatt sat by the fire and sipped coffee. Vermillion and Creek Johnson approached, and Johnson dropped a wad of money on Wyatt’s bedroll. Wyatt looked up in surprise.

“Talked it over,” Vermillion said. “We decided we don’t need the money. Took out thirteen dollars each, though. Federal posse fee. That all right?”

“Sure…”

“One thing,” Johnson added, “we come through this alive, can we keep the badges?”

Wyatt nodded, picked up the money and quietly moved off by himself, near the running stream. Looking back at them all, he watched where Doc had collapsed by the fire to rest the night before, using his gear kit and saddle as a pillow. He had coughed off and on through the night. As the others talked, Wyatt observed them all in silence.

“Hey Creek, you ever see anythin’ like that before?” Vermillion asked as he handed him his rifle. They both looked shaken.

“Never even heard of anythin’ like that.”

Vermillion nodded. “I just thought of somethin’ I never thought about before.” He paused, looking at Creek Johnson. “I don’t want to go to Hell.” With a sigh, he headed up the short rise to check on their horses.

Moments later, McMasters approached Johnson. “Where is he?”

Doc’s voice answered him. “Down at the creek. Walking on water.”

“Well, let’s hope he’s got another miracle up his sleeve, ‘cause if I know Ringo, he’s headed straight for us.” McMasters squatted down by the fire, watching Wyatt put his scarf back around his neck near the water. “If they were my brothers, I’d want revenge too.”

“No, make no mistake,” Doc told them, struggling to sit up. “It’s not revenge he’s after. It’s a reconning.”

With a nod, McMasters rose to go speak to Wyatt.

Fighting to stand, Doc managed it as a coughing fit began to tear through him. Clutching a silver flask, he staggered.

Johnson winced watching him. “You ought to be in bed, Doc, what the hell’re you doin’ this for, anyway?”

Doc stared off at the winding stream. “Wyatt Earp is my friend.”

“Hell, I got lots of friends.”

“I don’t.”

Wyatt wondered at the intense lost look on his friend’s face as McMasters led him back to the fire. They sat on opposite sides of the map just as Vermillion walked up.

“Maybe you ought to have a talk with Doc, Wyatt,” Creek muttered. “I don’t know if he’s gonna make it.”

“There’s no reasonin’ with him,” Wyatt answered and began to plan their next move.

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July 1882: Arizona Territory – Wyatt
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John Behan’s posse rode by in the distance as Wyatt and his men watched from a plateau. Their enemy’s strength made Wyatt’s decision for him to hole up somewhere.

Looking through his spyglass, McMasters’s voice carried a tone of disgust as he confirmed their suspicions. “That’s Ringo and Behan out front – must be thirty of ‘em.” He folded his spyglass with a snap. “They’re all wearin’ badges.”

In the most ridiculous display of Behan’s justice to date, he had put together his own posse of outlaws which included the criminal Wyatt wanted most: Ringo. They had run a game of cat and mouse throughout Cochise County, and Ringo always managed to elude them.

“Mounts’re gettin’ jaded. We’re gonna have to find a place to rest ‘em up.”

Doc’s wracking cough broke the silence. They all turned to see him listing in his saddle, nearly unconscious, with thick smears of blood dripping down his bottom lip and over his chin.

“Doc?” Wyatt called out, seconds before the man began to fall from the saddle. “Grab him!” Wyatt ordered, jumping down off his own horse.

Johnson had dismounted faster than Wyatt and caught Doc, holding him up from falling until Wyatt could help him lower the sick man to the ground, half in Johnson’s lap.

Wyatt fished his own handkerchief from his pocket and wiped Doc’s mouth. He looked up at the others and shook his head.

“We have to get him to a bed, somewhere,” Vermillion said.

McMasters shaded his eyes and gazed out over the landscape below, away from Behan’s men. “Henry Hooker’s ranch is close.”

~ ~ ~

The men rode up the hill overlooking the ranch house. Vermillion and Johnson were keeping Doc in his saddle but he was going in and out of consciousness. They went slowly and carefully down the hill, Wyatt riding in front of Doc’s horse as he held one of the reins to lead it.

Crossing the plain to the house, they saw four riders coming to meet them. The man in the lead was bound to be Hooker. They had probably seen them from the hilltop and were riding out to challenge their right to be there.

Wyatt reigned in ahead of the others. “Is this Henry Hooker’s ranch?”

“That’s right, and I’m Hooker.”

The rancher was an older gent but hardy – he looked like he’d seen a few rough days. With the Cowboys around, he’d probably seen plenty, and as a cattleman, wasn’t likely to be a friend of them.

“We got a sick man … and our horses’re done in.”

Hooker looked them over appraisingly, and then nodded. “Put him up at my place – as long as it’s just tonight.”

“We’re in debt to you.”

Doc stirred again at the sound of their voices and seemed to stiffen with pure pride, near empty of strength. Holding his long coat they had draped around his shoulders, he escaped the assistance of the others and struggled to remain upright as Wyatt led his horse toward the ranch house.

~ ~ ~

Doc was installed in a guest room were he lay all the rest of the day, semi-conscious, white as a sheet, and drenched in sweat. The others looked on after they got him into the bed, and Wyatt saw his worry reflected in the faces of his men.

They’d gotten the doctor out of his clothes down to his white undershirt and long johns, something that could never have been managed without a fuss if he’d been awake for any of it.

Hooker, standing beside Wyatt, shook his head. “I know you boys have got to keep movin’, but he looks pretty bad to me.”

His face creased with worry, Wyatt didn’t answer. Sounds outside drew Hooker and the other men away but Wyatt couldn’t move as they left him alone with his friend.

When a noise distracted Wyatt from watching Doc’s ragged breathing as he slept, he glanced out the window and saw a red stagecoach stopping at the ranch house, one he’d seen before.

To his shock, he saw Josephine Marcus climb out of it to walk by on the porch. His heart abruptly hammering, he gave Doc a last worried look and then stepped out to speak to her.

Hooker saw him emerge. “They got held up, and their boss actor got killed. They came here to water their horses and then they’ll push on.”

His men and McMasters were helping the driver to water the horses while the other actors remained in the stagecoach. Only Josie had gotten out. She turned at the rancher’s voice, and when she and Wyatt looked in each other’s eyes, they both froze.

Wyatt had to prod himself to move and to remember how to talk. He approached her at the end of the long covered porch and stopped a few feet away. “I’m sorry about your friend.” He paused awkwardly, and then added, “And I’m sorry … that I…”

Her smile was brilliant and it hurt to look at her all over again, just like the day they’d met on their horseback ride, at the mountain cut – and later, beneath the trees on a blanket, surrounded by flowers.

“I forgave you the moment you said it.”

Wyatt was pulled out of carnal memories too sweet to be anything but pain, now. He hadn’t forgiven himself for yelling at her in the street the night Morgan had been murdered. He’d been a target and it was to protect her, but it had seemed so cruel in hindsight. The memory of her running from him in tears had haunted him.

“You did? Well … thank you.”

The driver had jumped back up onto the bench and McMasters held the stagecoach door open for her.

“All set,” McMasters told her.

“I have to go.”

“Wait!”

She stopped, her eyes hopeful. Wyatt realized she was waiting for him to speak, to say the things she needed him to say, things he wanted to declare desperately but couldn’t. Not now – and maybe not ever. Not until he was finished with his enemies. He faltered and the moment was gone; they both knew it. Wyatt felt defeated.

Her smile was sad as she turned away. She accepted McMasters’ hand under her elbow, helping her up into the stagecoach. The former Cowboy treated her with respect, carefully pushing in the long train of her purple dress before shutting the door.

She watched Wyatt through the window as the stage pulled out with a crack of the driver’s whip. Wyatt held her gaze until she was out of sight, the stage receding in the distance, into the sunset – leaving him behind in the gathering dusk.

See how she breezed out of here, like she had wings. Funny thing, but I can’t really remember how she looked. I can remember parts of her clear as crystal: her mouth, her walk, how she shut her eyes when she laughed, little bits and pieces – but not the whole package. Can’t put it together for some reason. Shaking his head, Wyatt sighed. I’m in love with every second of her life. Hell, I’ll probably love her when I’m dust.

~ ~ ~

Wyatt stood on the front porch late the next day, looking through the front door to the side bedroom where Doc lay unconscious, while Hooker and the others looked on, watching him in silence.

He had paced the floor at the foot of Doc’s bed for hours into the night until he’d finally collapsed and passed out in a chair.

“We should get movin’,” he said, barely more than a whisper.

Vermillion winced. “Doc’s just in no kinda shape.”

“Don’t have to bother about that,” Hooker broke in. “Took a vote. Cowboys or not, you can stay here as long as you want. Anyway, maybe you’ve done enough. I mean you whittled ‘em down considerable, now there’s talk of sendin’ the Army in here. Ask me, you done enough.”

Before Wyatt could answer him, one of the ranch hands pointed out across the plain. “Rider comin’ in – under a white flag.”

They watched as a Cowboy rode up with a white kerchief tied to the barrel of his rifle, which he held pointing straight up. “Got a message,” he called out, not daring to come too close. “Ringo wants McMasters to come over to our camp for a parley.”

McMasters glanced at Wyatt. “He didn’t figure on all the stink this is causin’. Might be he’s lookin’ to strike a bargain. If so, he probably figures he needs somebody like me who talks his language. Could be we got him.”

Wyatt frowned. “I don’t like it.”

“Might as well hear him out. Anyways, what choice we got?” He stepped off the porch and mounted his horse. Reining it over to where Wyatt stood, he leaned down and whispered, “But no matter what happens, see it through to the end. If you don’t, I’ll curse the day I ever laid eyes on you.”

Before Wyatt could answer, McMasters rode off with the Cowboy. They all remained on the porch, with Wyatt pacing back and forth between it and Doc’s room.

When he heard a shout an hour later, he rushed back out. The same Cowboy, whom McMasters hadn’t bothered to name for them, was returning without him – or so they thought.

Then they realized the rider was dragging something on a rope behind him. They ran off the porch with their weapons drawn. The rider stayed out of range, untied his horse’s burden, and rode back a safe distance, just within earshot, as Wyatt and the others ran up.

“They got McMasters,” Johnson said with horror in his voice.

What lay on the grass of the plains turned their stomachs. It was a human corpse but only by the filthy clothes could they identify McMasters. He’d been mutilated before he was dragged across the ground for miles. Flies rose in a cloud as they approached and Wyatt held his bandana up over his mouth and nose.

“Why couldn’t they’ve just killed him?” Vermillion said, before choking and backing away.

The Cowboy called across the distance, “Ringo wanted to be sure he got your attention, Marshal. He wants a straight-up fight, just you and him, settle this thing once and for all. You win, we quit the Territory; Ringo wins, your deputies get safe conduct to the Colorado line. Sundown today in the oak grove at the mouth of Sulphur Springs Canyon. Ride out with your escort, we’ll meet you.”

“You tell him I’ll be there,” Wyatt shouted back, enraged.

Johnson came closer. “Wyatt, are you crazy?”

Pushing him back, Wyatt repeated to the Cowboy, “I’ll be there!” The Cowboy rode away, and Wyatt stared down at McMasters. “It’s not finished,” he said, his voice a fierce growl, “I made a promise.”

Vermillion tried to be the voice of reason. “Wyatt, listen, you can’t beat him. You’re good and God knows you got the courage, but you ain’t in Ringo’s class. Hell, maybe no one is, ‘cept for Wild Bill. Everyone back in Tombstone knew it.”

“He’s right, Wyatt,” Johnson said. “Ringo could put five into you before you could even get one into him.”

“But I’d do it – I’d get that one into him. So help me God, I would.”

“All right, maybe you can,” Johnson replied, “but you gotta die to do it. Understand? You gotta die!”

Wyatt shook his head. “We have to finish it.” He turned to go back to the ranch house, his back stiff.

The ranchers arrived with a cart for the body. Vermillion and Johnson helped them, unable to watch Wyatt walk away. They knew he’d want to say goodbye to Doc, and they had a burial to deal with. If Doc didn’t improve, they’d have two. They didn’t want to think about needing a third.

~ ~ ~

The sun had begun to set. The last rays came through the window, falling on the bed where Doc lay, awake but looking like hell.

Wyatt had been sitting near him in the chair, staring at the floor. Restless, he got up and stood at one of the windows – the one he had seen Josie through, emerging from her stagecoach such a short time ago like a bitter, taunting dream. It felt like years.

Clammy fingers rubbed at the brim of his black hat held in his hand. His fingers were beginning to tremble. His stiff composure broke all at once and he found himself pouring out his soul to the one man who could listen – without censor or judgment.

“I spent my whole life not knowin’ what I wanted outta life – just chasin’ my tail. Now, for the first time I know exactly what I want – and who.” He turned his head to see Doc watching him, and then turned away. “And that’s the damnable misery of it.”

Moving to the other window to escape her memory, knowing he never would, he had to face the reason why he would never see her again. Drawing in a deep breath, he lifted a hand to lean it on the window frame and asked his friend a question that Doc was likely more able to answer than any other man alive.

“What makes a man like Ringo, Doc? What makes him do the things he does?”

He couldn’t see him, but he knew Doc was watching him closely as he answered. “A man like Ringo’s got a great empty hole right through the middle of him. He can never kill enough or steal enough or inflict enough pain to ever fill it.”

Doc’s breathing was still labored and shredded, his words spoken slowly and chosen with care. Wyatt wondered for a moment if Doc were describing Ringo or himself.

“What does he need?”

“Revenge.”

“For what?”

“Being born.”

He turned to face his friend, shocked to see a look of pure emptiness in his sunken pale blue eyes. Moving slowly, he walked around to sit beside him on the bed.

Wyatt looked out the first window again from across the bed for a moment, unable to meet those eyes. It was a long moment before he spoke again. “It all happened so fast with Curly Bill I didn’t really have time to think about it, but I’ve had plenty of time to think about this.” Meeting Doc’s haunted gaze at last, he asked, “I can’t beat him, can I?”

“No.”

The response was what he had expected, delivered quick and concise, too, with no side-stepping, no bullshit. Honesty for honesty, pressed in on all sides, Wyatt’s dour and laconic nature gathered up and reformed the old mask on a tight, quick nod of agreement. He stared down at the floor and nodded again.

Just like that, he was ready – ready to go, ready to say goodbye to all of it. He rose and put his hat back on, turning toward Doc to say goodbye.

Doc shook his head at him and immediately began to cough. “Wait… I’m goin’ with you…” He struggled to sit up, sweating and trembling, but finally fell back down, almost passing out. His hands drew up to his chest as if his arms were trying to squeeze his lungs, to help them work.

Wyatt frowned in worry, burying the urge to touch or try to embrace him, knowing it would anger Doc and that his friend had no strength left even to feel that anger.

Doc gulped air and gasped, “Oh, God. I’m sorry. I’m sorry, Wyatt.”

“It’s all right, Doc,” he whispered, barely able to speak at all.

Doc stared at the deputy marshal badge on Wyatt’s coat. “What’s it like to wear one of those?”

Wyatt took it off, pressing it into Doc’s hand. The hand fisted around it, and then Doc passed out. Wyatt walked slowly out of the room, turned outside of the open doorway and watched him breathe for a moment before turning away and heading out to the porch.

Hooker and the others were waiting for him. Three black horses were saddled, packed, and ready to go. Johnson and Vermillion were already mounted. Wyatt stepped into his stirrup and mounted up. He glanced back into the house, concerned for Doc and what the Cowboys might do if they found him here.

“Don’t worry,” Hooker reassured him, handing Wyatt his duster. “They want him, they’ll have to come over us first.” He extended his hand.

Wyatt nodded gratefully and shook his hand. He looked off at the fresh mound in the family graveyard, knowing that Doc might be there beside McMasters not long after he’d die at the hands of Johnny Ringo.

Stomach twisting, he turned his horse and rode away. The other two followed him at a slow trot and they disappeared into the sunset, the dust stirring in their wake.

~ ~ ~

At the oak grove at the mouth of Sulphur Springs Canyon, Wyatt and his men dismounted as a trio of Cowboys rode up.

One of them pointed to a thicket nearby. “He’s waitin’ for you by the big oak, quarter mile up that trail.”

Vermillion and Johnson kept them in their sights, and kept their hands near their guns.

Wyatt sighed and turned to his companions. “They’re not givin’ you any safe conduct. Shootin’ starts, you better kick east for the New Mexico line.”

He exchanged a knowing look with Vermillion, who turned away with emotion. He hid it by taking up watch over the waiting Cowboys. Wyatt stared at Johnson.

“I ain’t got the words,” Creek Johnson said, his voice holding back a tremor.

“I know. Me neither.” Wyatt walked off alone through the thicket bordering the narrow trail; the only sound around him was the musical clinking and chiming of his spurs.

****************************************************
November 8, 1887: Glenwood Springs, Colorado – Wyatt
****************************************************

“Most don’t know Doc killed Johnny Ringo. I’m surprised he told you.”

Kate watched him, a slight smile tugging at her lips. “He told me you did, first, as I said. Pure miracle, he called it.”

Wyatt shook his head in disbelief. “I remember goin’ down that trail. There were wild geese in the sky, oblivious to me. But I watched them, drinkin’ it all in. Tryin’ to grab what I could in the time left, I guess. I stopped once, to pray. Not to ask for my life, but to ask for the end of Ringo’s. ‘Let me live long enough for that’, that’s what I prayed. When I walked on, I heard shots ring out ahead of me and I ran to see what had happened.”

“You want to know how he did it?”

Silent, his emotions too close for words, Wyatt nodded. Afterward, he would tell her what they did next, and how they finished it.

Wyatt drank his whiskey and studied her as she spoke. She was beautiful, yes – but how many times had Doc been happier when she hadn’t been around? Seemed he’d said so often enough.

Then again, Wyatt thought, others said the same of him all the time, even Virgil. Maybe Doc needed her in his own way, for a while.

**************************************
July 4, 1882: Arizona Territory – Kate
**************************************

In a clearing by a cluster of small oaks, Ringo leaned against a tree, sipping from a hip flask and smoking a slim, dark cheroot. He turned at the sound of chiming spurs to see the tall silhouette of his enemy emerge from the shadows of the thicket.

“Well… I didn’t think you had it in you.” He smiled, confident of his win.

Then the silhouette spoke, the voice a low mocking tone. “I’m your huckleberry.” A face flared in the waning light of the setting sun as the hat brim lifted and the man drew on a cigarette, blowing the smoke out slow.

Ringo stiffened as the man stepped closer. It was the face of Doc Holliday, pale and drawn, looking like death – but awake and ready just the same.

“Why Johnny Ringo,” Doc said, mockery twisting into subtle sarcasm. “You look like somebody just walked over your grave.”

“My fight’s not with you, Holliday.” His confidence was pierced, flagging.

“I beg to differ, sir. We started a game we never got to finish. Play for blood, remember?”

“I was just foolin’ about.”

A smile, smooth and wicked, grew on Doc’s thin lips. The unholy gleam in his eye was eager. “I wasn’t.” He moved the edge of his overcoat to show the badge Wyatt had given him. “And this time, it’s legal.”

Ringo nodded, his shock replaced by a growing malice. He threw his cheroot away. “All right, lunger. Let’s do it.”

As they set themselves, their eyes began to blaze, boring into each other. Their concentrated rage focused only on each other, about to reach critical mass. Yet Doc was cool and calm; Ringo’s calm had been shattered the moment he knew his opponent wasn’t Wyatt Earp.

The man before him now, still holding his cigarette, was a legend in his own lifetime – and as still as the trees. When he spoke, his voice was low and polite but heavy with meaning.

“Say when.”

Ringo’s hand slid closer to his right holster. Doc held his cigarette up at the level of his lips in his left hand, his wicked smile thin, taunting. His right index finger tapped against the ivory butt of his .45 Colt Peacemaker under his right arm.

When Ringo’s hand moved, Doc’s hand pulled the .38 Colt Lightning and shot at an upward diagonal under his raised left arm, the gun barely out of leather. In a blur of movement, and before Ringo’s gun was fully drawn, Doc blew a neat hole in Ringo’s forehead.

He slapped the gun back in its holster as Ringo stumbled. The bullet hole began to drip blood, as frenzied messages flickered through his shattered brain. Going on pure hate, Ringo stumbled again and jerked forward, struggling to raise his pistol. He fired into the dirt as he lurched closer.

Doc danced in front of him, his hands out, beckoning, to urge Ringo on. “Come on! Come on!”

Finally Ringo began to fall over into the crook of the oak tree, his pistol falling harmlessly beside him.

Doc looked down at him, shaking his head. “Oh Johnny – you’re no daisy, you’re no daisy at all.” Doc crouched at his side, taking off the badge and laying it on Ringo’s chest. “Poor soul, he was just too high-strung.”

****************************************************
November 8, 1887: Glenwood Springs, Colorado – Wyatt
****************************************************

“I’ll never forget the shock of seein’ Doc there, crouched next to Ringo’s body. Just like that, he gave me my life back – again. And when I left him, I thought he might not live much longer than I would.”

“He said he got up and got dressed almost as soon as you all rode off. Hooker helped him. He and his men wouldn’t give Doc up to the Cowboys when they came for him, either, just like they promised.”

“I didn’t know they came after him,” Wyatt whispered. “Who came?”

“Ringo himself and a few others. They hated Doc as much as you, they didn’t care if he was laid out or not. But Hooker wouldn’t give him up. They hadn’t brought as many men as the ranch had, Doc said, so they gave up, threatened to return after, and rode to meet you. That was when Doc got up to follow you, when he’d have been better off staying in bed – again.”

Wyatt shook his head, the shock of that evening still fresh.

***************************************
July 4, 1882: Arizona Territory – Wyatt
***************************************

Doc twitched when he heard movement running at him from the trail, his hand going to his gun like lightning. He relaxed instantly when he saw Wyatt Earp’s shocked face.

Straightening, he moved back as Wyatt came up. “I’m afraid the strain was more than he could bear.” Taking in Wyatt’s surprise at his ability to stand up straight, too, he added cryptically, “Oh, I wasn’t quite as sick as I made out.”

Wyatt holstered his gun and knelt beside Ringo, picking up the badge and looking a question at Doc.

“My hypocrisy goes only so far.”

Wyatt stood with a tiny wondering shake of this head and put the badge back on his own coat. “All right. Let’s finish it.”

Doc faced him with a smile. “Indeed, sir. The Last Charge of Wyatt Earp and his Immortals.” The sound of a horse could be heard in the brush beyond them. Doc touched Wyatt’s shoulder when he startled. “My horse is over there. The enemy is back that way.”

Vermillion and Johnson jumped when Wyatt and Doc emerged from the thicket, Doc leading his horse.

Johnson’s voice was full of awe. “I’ll be dipped in shit. Where did you come from, Doc?”

Neither man answered and their companions didn’t ask again.

The other two were mounted, watching while Doc tried to climb up into the saddle with excruciating slowness. Though on his feet, it was clear that he was as sick as ever, sweating and panting, running on sheer animal courage.

Standing behind him, Wyatt’s hands were poised to help, trying to will him into the saddle. He jerked his hands behind him every time Doc looked back. Finally, with a last grunt, Doc threw a leg over his horse and dropped into the saddle.

Wyatt mounted quickly before Doc could comment. Pointing, he got their attention. “All right, what’s it to be? New Mexico’s that way.”

“Colorado’s closer,” Johnson replied.

“So’re the Cowboys.” Wyatt kept his tone casual. “They’re up that road right now, waitin’ to jump us, no doubt.”

“We’re the law, ain’t we?” Vermillion asked, grinning. “Well the law don’t ride around vermin, right, Creek?”

Johnson smiled. “Nope. It rides right at ‘em, Jack.”

Wyatt nodded. He didn’t need to ask Doc what he wanted. “Like McMasters said, we’ll see it through to the end. Till the last red sash falls.”

Doc smiled at the phrase, or perhaps he was distracted by some amusement of his own.

All of his men had caught the fever now. After the things they’d seen and shared, and after losing one of their number to men who’d proved themselves dogs, Johnson and Vermillion were as hot for their enemies’ blood as Doc and himself.

He glanced at Doc and away again. And what do the Cowboys have left? “They don’t have a decent leader, now,” he added aloud. “Ike Clanton or Behan, that’s about it.”

“Shabby pickin’s,” Johnson remarked.

Doc’s voice whispered to them, interrupted by stifled coughs. “We have slain … their last paladin. A headless beast makes … easy prey.”

Vermillion grinned, patting his horse’s neck. “Amen.”

Taking one last look around at them, Wyatt signaled to head up the north road. They started off at the lope, four abreast, and Hell rode with them.

**************************************
Summer 1882: Arizona Territory – Wyatt
**************************************

Wyatt’s men broke into a dead run, hurtling toward Ike Clanton, John Behan, and the clutch of Cowboys with them. From a hundred yards away, the fierce bloodlust on their faces was clear.

The Cowboys held for a moment longer, biting their lips and grinding their teeth, before they suddenly scattered, the mass of them exploding in all directions in a blind panic. Wyatt could hear Ike screaming at them, terror in his voice.

“Kill ‘em! Kill ‘em! It’s only four men! Why don’t you kill ‘em?”

One of his fleeing brothers asked, “Why don’t you?” Then he plunged away with the rest.

Ike Clanton went pale when he looked at the posse bearing down on him, and then kicked his horse after the others, quickly overtaking them.

Wyatt, Doc, Creek, and Jack shot many of them out of their saddles after they had scattered. It became a chaotic massacre that left nothing in their wake but dead men.

Wyatt bore down on Pony Deal at a dead run. Deal turned in the saddle and shot at him. Wyatt swung out of the saddle like a Comanche and ducked his body down against the side of his horse, hiding in its lee.

Pony Deal turned for another shot only to see an apparently riderless horse overtake him. In the next instant Wyatt darted around under his horse’s neck and fired, blowing the Cowboy head-over-heels off the back of his horse.

Wyatt bounded back into the saddle and rode into a loose formation with the others as they fell in behind the last two: Ike Clanton and Behan.

Chasing Ike, Wyatt and Doc watched him fumble at his waist as he fled. He stripped off his red sash, screaming wildly, and dropped it behind him. Wyatt and his men kept coming at a full gallop, and Wyatt and Doc reached out and shook hands as their horses chased Ike side by side.

~ ~ ~

Letting Ike and Behan go rankled them all but they weren’t worth Doc’s life. Everyone but Doc agreed.

“You should’ve let me catch that coward,” Doc muttered.

Wyatt half-hauled his friend into a hotel room while Johnson and Vermillion made a search of the town for any lurking Cowboys. He hadn’t bothered to learn the town’s name, but he knew they were close to the border with New Mexico Territory.

Having the sense not to mention that Doc had nearly fallen off his horse at a dead run, Wyatt told him, “He left his sash behind, good as givin’ up.”

“Won’t stop him, even if he can’t scrape up enough to make one more Cowboy to run with. He’s responsible for Virgil, damn it – and you know it.”

Wyatt got him to the bed. Sure he couldn’t get up on his own, he went to shut and lock the door. “You want to chase him all the way through Texas? Most places we’d stop would still love to hang you.”

Doc’s cough doubled him over. Wyatt leaned against the door and watched him wipe thick blood spotted with dark particles from his lips with his handkerchief.

Gasping, his voice was a low, tortured rasp. “Nonsense … they’ve had enough … new killers to forget about me…”

“I wouldn’t want to make that bet. Your style sticks in the mind. I’m sorry Doc, but you can’t ride anymore until you rest a while.”

A cruel gleam lit the thin man’s red-rimmed gray-blue eyes. “You’re leaving me behind?”

Wyatt shook his head. “I know better. Didn’t work so well last time, did it?” His dour features allowed a slight smile to spread on his lips, and to his relief the anger drained from his friend’s face. “We can hole up here a few days, get restocked on supplies, too.”

Doc fumbled for his flask and downed a shot of whiskey. His fingers trembled visibly. “Fine, then. But when you go, I follow.” He set the flask on the nightstand and sank against the pillows.

Wyatt stood there listening to his ragged breathing. Doc’s eyes closed and his body shuddered, convulsed, and erupted in coughing again. After heartily wishing for Kate, Wyatt knew he’d have to risk offending Doc to help him.

He set to it without giving the other man much chance to protest. He knew Doc wouldn’t hurt him, but he took his guns from him first, just the same. Sitting him up to take off his coat, he removed the harness and holstered weapons and hung them from the post of the headboard.

Draping the coat over a chair, he started getting the doctor out of the rest of his clothes. The cough helped him by rendering his friend largely unable to speak. When he was down to his white undershirt and long johns, Wyatt helped him under the thick blankets.

“Never saw you as a nursemaid, Marshal,” Doc whispered. His tone was a mix of irritation and relief.

Wyatt caught his eye and stared at him. “You’re not dyin’ on me, Doc.”

A bitter smile lifted the tips of Doc’s mustache. His eyes slowly closed. “Not just yet, Wyatt. Some day – but not just yet.”

~ ~ ~

“How’s he doin’?” Johnson asked.

“All right – but he needs real rest for a few days.”

“We can do that,” Vermillion replied. He nodded up the hallway. “I’ve got the room to your right, Creek’s to your left.”

“Not a sign of our quarry, either,” Johnson added. “Spence passed through, but that was two days ago. Ike Clanton’s probably halfway to Galveston by now.”

Wyatt nodded. “We can try pickin’ up Spence’s trail when Doc’s better. I’ll see you gents tomorrow.”

Doc slept restlessly. Wyatt shut and locked the door and went to poor a shot of whiskey from a bottle on the nightstand. Leaving the glass where Doc would see it, he set the bottle down and went to look out the window.

The sun was setting in a violent smear of red and orange over the tops of the buildings crowding the main street. The street itself was already in shadow.

Getting Doc up the stairs had been a trial, but they all felt safer on the second floor. The others hadn’t questioned his decision to stop here – it had been obvious to all of them that Doc would have fallen from his saddle if they’d pressed on. Johnson had even deliberately reined his horse right up next to Doc’s as if he’d had a mind to try to catch him on the fly.

They spoke of continuing the hunt but Wyatt had the sinking feeling that their days of rounding up the remaining Cowboys would soon be coming to an end. At their last stop in civilization, the local law had wanted to take him into custody. It was a ridiculous situation, but the so-called Sheriff Behan had put out a warrant for his arrest, for the murder of Frank Stillwell – the one kill with any reputable witnesses – on the train station platform at Tucson.

Those who tried to arrest him hadn’t been interested in hearing what Stillwell had done to get shot. A swift buffaloing to their skulls by Doc and Creek Johnson had made it a moot point, but how long would it be until another lawman tried? They couldn’t kill them.

Plenty of them were after Doc, too, for a myriad of sins. The more he considered their next move, the better getting out of the Arizona Territory altogether seemed to look – but where could they go?

Doc coughed in the darkening room and Wyatt turned to check on him, helping him drink the whiskey that seemed to be the only curative left to him. As soon as he finished it, Wyatt filled the glass again. Doc sank back down as Wyatt lit the lamp beside the bottle.

In the warm and soft glow his friend’s pale and sweating skin took on an unhealthy sallow tinge.

Moments after lying flat again, the cough drove him up, doubling him over. Wincing, Wyatt made a decision. He sat in a chair opposite from the bed, the one he’d planned to sleep in, and pulled off his boots. The spurs rang musically as they hit the boards.

Tossing his long coat over the chair as he rose, he drew his .45 Colt Peacemaker and set it on the bed. The nickel plating of the Buntline Special gleamed in the lamp light. Removing his belt and holster, he laid it over the coat. The whiskey bottle and shot glass were leaned against the headboard, not far from the gun.

Without a word, Wyatt stretched out on the bed behind Doc, pulling the extra pillow up so he could sit up against the headboard comfortably. Making sure the gun and bottle were in reach, he pulled Doc against him. The angle seemed to be a more easing one for his lungs, and the terrible cough subsided.

Doc’s first effort to protest was unsuccessful. Before he could manage to speak, Wyatt beat him to it.

“Hush, Doc. Let me help.” Wishing again for Kate, he sighed. “Keep your eyes closed and pretend you’re with Kate,” he added.

A bark of startled laughter set Doc coughing again. When he settled down, he muttered, “Damn fool…” Drawing in a careful breath, he spoke again. “The lady in question is considerably softer than you, sir.”

“Well, I’ve seen her do this, and feed you whiskey half the night, too. Nothin’ to stop me doin’ it but your pride, and I’m not givin’ you a choice.”

Wyatt couldn’t tell if he’d won the argument or if Doc couldn’t speak again. Silence filled the room, punctuated by the doctor’s labored breathing.

They passed the night waging war on the cough, drowning it with whiskey again and again. Once or twice Wyatt woke his patient, half afraid his friend might have died in his sleep. He did it again just as dawn was breaking, lighting the room after the lamp had died down hours before.

“Wyatt, rot you, let me sleep,” Doc mumbled.

“Sorry.” He glanced at the bottle – it was almost empty. “Is there anythin’ else Kate does to help that I don’t know about?”

Doc’s red-tinged pale lips broke into a roguish smile. “Indeed, sir. But nothing you’d care to try … or I’d want to allow.”

Surprised, Wyatt felt his face flush. He wasn’t entirely certain what he meant but decided not to ask. His friend’s experience with women of any sort far outweighed his own. “I should fetch another bottle out of the gear bags,” he muttered.

Laying his friend down as gently as he could, Wyatt stretched when his feet hit the floor. Trading the old bottle for the new, he emptied the old one into the shot glass and handed it to Doc.

~ ~ ~

The following night was spent like the first, though Wyatt had an extra bottle waiting. Now and then the cough seemed about to tear the frail man apart. Afraid for Doc’s life, Wyatt held his shuddering body close, wiping his mouth often. It wasn’t long before his fingers were smeared with blood.

Before dawn, Doc woke. His voice was a little stronger but it still rasped painfully. “You’re a fool, Wyatt. You shouldn’t be here.”

“You didn’t want us to leave you behind.”

“Here, you fool. Sharing a bed with a malady like mine … you’re likely to wake up with it yourself. Let me alone, I can … manage without…”

“No, Doc, I won’t. I’ll see you through this.”

“Damn stubborn son of a bitch. You think Kate was in more danger because of our … liaisons? This thing is lethal. Get away…”

“Sorry, Doc, I won’t.”

“Wyatt … I warn you…”

Wyatt laughed bitterly. “How will you stop me, Doc?”

As if to make Wyatt’s point for him, another wracking cough burned through the doctor’s frail body. Ignoring his stiffening response, Wyatt wiped blood from his lips again. Getting another dose of whiskey down his throat, he held him close.

With his lips at Doc’s ear, Wyatt whispered, “You have to live.” Holding Doc with one arm, his free hand brushed sweat-damp hair out of his friend’s eyes. “Try to understand. I was a dead man – Ringo would have killed me just like you said. But you hauled yourself out of bed and killed him for me – givin’ me back my life. As grateful as I am, I need you with me. I don’t care what I risk; if you get better, that’s all that matters.”

“Such a damn … child…” The voice was full of bitterness. “There’s no cure, Wyatt. Today – tomorrow – someday … this thing will kill me.” He drew a rattling breath, choked, and tried to calm himself. When he spoke again, Wyatt had to strain to hear him. “I killed Ringo so you’d live, you idiot – not so you could kill yourself breathing my air.”

Wyatt’s stomach clenched. “Stop me,” he whispered. Pulling him closer, he rested his forehead on Doc’s damp hair.

~ ~ ~

All during the third day, Doc seemed to improve. Kate’s words about his habit of pretending worried Wyatt, but he couldn’t tell if it was an honest recovery or not.

That he’d succeeded in irritating his friend past his patience was obvious in his distant air but if the dreadful cough improved, Wyatt could endure the silence between them stoically.

When the sun set and Doc cheerfully informed him he’d shoot him if he didn’t leave him be, Wyatt gave in and slept in the chair – but it was a fitful night and he woke any time the other man’s breathing broke rhythm. At every cough, Wyatt was up and administering whiskey.

Wyatt woke with a start on the fourth day to find the sun streaming through the window. A gentle splash of water made him turn his head.

Doc stood at the wash basin and mirror, his suspenders hanging at his sides attached to the tailored pants he wore. His fingers were steady as he shaved, though his eyes were blood-shot and his skin still looked like a dead man’s. Catching his eye in the mirror, Doc winked at him.

Wyatt was caught by a bone-crunching stretch as he stood. Moving to the window, he blinked and squinted as he studied the street below. “So you think you can press on?” He kept his tone neutral.

“There aren’t any Cowboys under the bed,” Doc replied, his sarcasm less biting than expected. “If we plan to finish our quest, we’ll have to look elsewhere.”

Turning to face him, Wyatt watched as he completed his ablutions and finished dressing in his fancy clothes. They were a little wrinkled from being folded in his saddlebags but the man’s chilly aristocratic air made up for that.

“Doc, I wanted to tell you –”

“Leave it, Wyatt.”

Doc held his gaze as he fastened his guns around his thin frame. The red satin embroidered waistcoat he’d put on over a black shirt glowed in the sunlight. Swirling his long gray coat around his shoulders, he slipped it on over the guns.

“It’s best we keep all that to ourselves, don’t you think?” he added, with a slight tilt of his head. “If Kate knew, she’d be more jealous than she was when I left her for you at the start of this madcap adventure.”

For a moment, the words hurt. He hadn’t been able to express what it had meant to him – seeing Doc crouched beside Ringo’s body. Taking care of him had left him feeling closer to Doc than he was even with his brothers. Yet he’d known this man long enough to know that he had little patience with sentimentality, any more than Wyatt did himself, normally.

Sighing, he let it go. If Doc chose to pretend the time they had spent in this room had meant nothing, he could pretend too – for him.

Yet as Doc left the mirror, he stifled a cough. Reaching for a bottle that still held whiskey in it, he finished it off. Silence rang between them after that, until Doc broke it.

“In time, you’ll see, Wyatt – why it doesn’t change a thing to wallow in a grief that’s beyond help. I’m a gambler who just drew the right hand … one more sunrise. The rest … is better left unsaid.” He ended the matter by picking up his repacked gear bag and leaving the room.

Wyatt splashed cold water from the pitcher on his face. Fingers pressed to his roughened cheeks, he stared into his own eyes in the mirror. In the distance, the doctor’s steps could be heard going down the stairs. The steps were cautious … and unnaturally slow.

~ ~ ~

Wyatt’s posse continued their hunt, but they were unable to find the others. Pete Spence seemed to have vanished and Ike Clanton had fled into the heartland of Texas. It wasn’t the last Wyatt heard of them, however. Within a couple of years, all the remaining Cowboys would die performing criminal acts.

Rumors reaching into Colorado said that Arizona Territory officials had begun researching Behan’s record. They were able to build up quite a file against him in no time. He resigned in disgrace in 1882 and left Tombstone.

The hunt ended officially when the warrant against Wyatt for Stillwell’s death continued to make remaining in the Arizona Territory a heavy risk. After one too many close calls, the posse broke up. Wyatt and Doc said goodbye to Johnson and Vermillion, who kept their horses and their badges.

The marshal and the gunfighter rode together, often in silence, to Silver City, New Mexico. Selling their horses there, they caught a stage to Deming where they could board a train for Colorado.

The moment Doc stepped off the train in Denver, authorities were waiting to arrest him for an old shooting – but their evidence was old, too, and he was quickly acquitted. Then they both faced an extradition order from the Arizona Territories, but after the governor of Colorado consulted with Tombstone office holders for the facts, he flatly refused to turn the men over to Arizona. Finally able to relax, they attempted to do just that.

Eventually, Doc’s restless nature sent him traveling again. Left to himself, Wyatt attempted to discover where Josephine Marcus had gone – but by then her trail was cold.

****************************************************
November 8, 1887: Glenwood Springs, Colorado – Wyatt
****************************************************

“How did you find out she was in Denver?” Kate asked, interrupting Wyatt’s thoughts.

“After I heard Doc was in the sanitarium, I got here as fast as I could. The minute I landed, the saloon talk placed her in a theater in Denver.” He shook his head when she offered to refill his glass again. She obviously had a tolerance closer to Doc’s but if he drank much more, he wouldn’t be fit to walk back to his hotel.

“I followed Doc’s progress the way I always did,” she said, toying with the stirrup cup. “The newspapers loved to report his every move. Just his arrival in town made most local papers’ front pages. Towns on the gambling circuit all knew him well enough to keep an eye on him.”

“Where did he go? He never told me.”

“Denver, Pueblo, and then Leadville – he was chased by trouble all the way, too. He came here to try the sulfur vapors but his health just got worse.” She looked thoughtful, and then added, “He never really looked for trouble, you know; he just didn’t look away when it found him.”

A smile tugged at his dour face at the thought. “I know. Virgil often said Doc could start a fight in an empty room, but I watched enough fools ask for it to know different. Even if they knew his reputation, they’d see his illness and assume they could best him.”

“Nothing could until that damn consumption had its way.” Her proud anger melted into wistful curiosity as she whispered, “Did he say anything about me? You said you visited every day.”

“I’m sorry,” Wyatt told her, feeling genuine regret for the hurt in her eyes. “Doc spent his last fifty-seven days in bed and was delirious fourteen of them. I didn’t speak to him much – or he didn’t speak to me. But I didn’t stay … to the end. He asked me to leave.”

He didn’t try to hide the pain he felt as he remembered their last talk, but he couldn’t bring himself to share it with her. Doc’s secrets should be allowed to die with him.

***************************************************************
November 8, 1887: Glenwood Springs Sanitarium, Colorado – Wyatt
***************************************************************

A constricting fear stole his breath as he walked along the ward and saw the Catholic priest, Father Feeney, standing at Doc’s bedside reading the last rites. As he finished, he looked up – and shook his head sadly at Wyatt.

The priest passed him and Wyatt almost fell into the chair at his friend’s bedside. The thin figure in the bed didn’t move, and his eyes were closed. Pale fingers lay, loosely laced and no longer trembling, on his chest.

Believing him dead, Wyatt bowed his head, his gift held limply in nerveless fingers. It was a thank you that arrived too late.

Moments later, Doc’s low rasped voice shocked Wyatt into looking up. “Hello, Wyatt…”

His body was painfully emaciated, his breathing shallow and labored, and he appeared to be so weak it seemed an effort to even move his eyes. Yet he was alive – and he brightened when he saw Wyatt.

With the tiniest smile, he spoke again. “Father Feeney and I were just … investigating the mysteries of the … Church of Rome. It appears my hypocrisy knows no bounds.”

“You’re no hypocrite Doc; you just like to sound like one.” He stood and offered his gift to Doc. It was a thin booklet. “I brought you somethin’.”

When he didn’t acknowledge it, Wyatt put the booklet under his hand. Doc didn’t react, and Wyatt swallowed hard. He turned to open the drawer of the nightstand, trying to pretend nothing was wrong.

“Well, let’s see … where are we today?” He took the deck of cards, notepaper, and pencil from the drawer. “I believe I’m seventeen dollars down to you. Two bits a hand. Stud?”

“You keep coming back here; I told you not to, and I meant it.”

“You’re the only person I can afford to lose to anymore.” Wyatt handed him some cards, placing them in his fingers. Sitting back in his chair, he asked, “How we feelin’ today, Doc?”

“I’m dyin’. How are you?”

Wyatt sighed. “Pretty much the same.”

“So now … we can add self-pity … to your list of frailties –”

“All right, Doc, all right. How many cards you want?”

“I don’t want to play anymore.”

“How many?” Not taking no for an answer, Wyatt took the cards back, discarded some, and replaced them with fresh cards.

Flustered, his breath fighting to allow him to speak, Doc started a round of familiar complaint. “Damn you. You’re the most fallible, stubborn, self-deluded, bull-headed man I’ve ever known in my entire life.”

“I call,” Wyatt said, showing his hand. Noting the hand he’d given his friend, he added, “You win,” and took the cards back, marking the win on the paper.

Doc drew in a short breath and the diatribe and tone of his voice changed, the words becoming wistful. “Yet, withal, even at your worst, you’re the only human being in my entire life who ever gave me hope.”

Wyatt, stunned to silence, stared at him.

Doc looked away from him, staring upward, but his eyes were gazing on the past. “I was … in love once. My first cousin. She was fifteen … we were both so.”

Attempting to hide his surprise, Wyatt encouraged him. “That’s good, Doc. That’s good. What happened?”

“We grew up together and I asked her to be my wife. Mattie Holliday – she didn’t even need to change her name.” His smile turned from wistful to grieving. “We were the only two who approved.”

Tears in his eyes, Doc’s expression took on a dreamy look. His slight smile was turned to Wyatt, seemingly oblivious to the shock he’d created in his friend.

“But when I knew I was sick and never to recover, I couldn’t make her a widow. I urged her … to rejoin genteel society before I left her to ride west. I hoped she might still marry, have a good life. Mine was over … but I saw no need for hers to end. She wrote at first, always with a dwindling hope we could still wed, and then the last letter almost put me in my grave.”

Doc fell silent for a moment. When he spoke again, his voice sounded like a ghost of himself.

“She joined a convent over the affair. She was all I ever wanted.”

The horrid wasteful pain of it pierced Wyatt’s heart, mingling with his grief for his friend’s fading life.

Doc’s whisper, expressing a question that harkened back to a frontier ranch at sunset, jarred Wyatt out of his thoughts. “What did you want?”

He didn’t hesitate. “Just to live a normal life.”

“There’s no normal life, Wyatt. There’s just life. Now get on with it.”

Abashed, Wyatt held his gaze and whispered, “Don’t know how.”

“Sure you do. Say goodbye to me. Then go and grab that spirited actress and make her your own. Take that beauty and run, don’t look back. Live every second, live it right up to the end. Live, Wyatt … live for me.”

Wyatt stared into his eyes, letting the words sink in.

Then Doc looked up, as if something were pressing on him. The tears finally slipped down his face. When Doc met his gaze again, Wyatt’s breath caught.

“Wyatt, if you were ever my friend, if you ever had even the slightest feeling for me, leave now … leave now. Please?”

As they looked at each other, something passed between them, something so personal and powerful it transcended emotion. Wyatt couldn’t have spoken then, had his life depended on it.

He struggled with his feelings, and his desire to stay. But he understood now what Doc was asking of him – had been asking, every time he’d told him not to return. He wanted to know that Wyatt would be all right, that unlike the woman he’d once loved, Wyatt would continue to enjoy a full life. It meant Doc was also asking him to let go of the anger and hate against those who had ruined his family, to set it aside along with his grief for Morgan, for Virgil’s health, for Doc himself.

For a moment, Wyatt felt numb, unsure if he could stand at all. Unwilling to leave this man, who had become as dear as his brothers, he now knew he had to. For Doc.

He stood and Doc nodded to him slightly. The love in his pained eyes shone with gratitude. Wyatt swallowed and found his tongue. “Thanks for always being there, Doc.”

Wyatt turned and walked down the length of the ward. To not look back, to not run back to Doc’s side, fall to his knees and weep, was almost more than he could do.

***************************************************
November 8, 1887: Glenwood Springs, Colorado – Kate
***************************************************

Kate had accused Doc of always preferring Wyatt’s company to her own, but now she could see that Wyatt’s brothers might have felt the same about Doc. The pair of them had cared for each other beyond kin or concubine, and Wyatt’s feelings, though unknown to her until now, had obviously been as deep as Doc’s.

She watched Wyatt struggle with his emotions. The normally dour face seemed about to shatter with grief and she knew a man like him, like Doc, wouldn’t be able to forgive himself for such a public display.

Kate rose and picked up Doc’s silver stirrup cup, leaving the empty bottle on the table. “Come and get the guns. He would want it.”

Did he realize what she was saving him from? He probably did. She watched him stand and decided he was drunk – but controlling it well.

“Where?”

“Upstairs. I’ve had a room here since…” Kate’s voice dwindled away. Much more talk about Doc and the marshal would shame himself.

She led him away. Just as they started up the stairs, she saw the blacksmith watching them. He’d been buying her drinks, treating her like a lady. Long ago, it would have made her surly, but after being so long with Doc it just seemed nice. She gave him a smile and mouthed the word, ‘later’ before climbing out of sight.

Her room was the fourth door to the left. She felt a stab of embarrassment at the state of it as he followed her inside. The only time this man had ever been in a bedroom of hers was when it had been Doc’s suite, always finer quarters than she could afford without him. Yet it was clean and orderly – a habit of living with the doctor she hadn’t yet broken.

“Won’t you have a seat?” she asked, her smile twisting as she recognized the hostess quality of her tone. Talking like the wife Doc once wanted you to act like. Don’t bother putting on airs for this man – he knows you too well. Well enough to be uncomfortable here, as if Doc would mind. He wouldn’t have. He’d have shared anything with Wyatt Earp.

She watched him standing there in front of the chair, looking like a lamed horse. Shaking her head, she took the guns out of the wardrobe and laid them, in their fine leather harness and holsters, down on the small table.

Wyatt reached out to touch them with the fingertips of one hand, stroking the ivory handle of the .38 Colt Lightning.

“That’s the one that killed Ringo,” she whispered. Her own loss rose in a lump in her throat.

He nodded and immediately covered his eyes with his other hand. Kate moved forward impulsively and slipped her arms around his waist, laying her head on his chest. She hadn’t expected him to accept the gesture but melted into him when his arms held her tightly.

When he released her, she led him instinctively to her bed. How better to say goodbye to Doc than to lie with this man he loved so much? He looked like he needed the comfort as much as she did.

He sat down beside her but when she tried to kiss him, he rose again with a sad shake of his head. “I’m sorry, Kate – I can’t.” He turned away and went to stand by the table again, looking down at the weapons.

She spoke from the bed. “He wouldn’t mind, Wyatt. I told you he loved you more than me. He’d want you to have,” she hunted for one of Doc’s fancy words, and found it. “Solace.”

“I know you mean well, but … I just can’t.”

Kate bowed her head. “Will you go to the actress?”

“I mean to try. If she’ll have me. I should go.”

“Don’t you want to know what the nurse said? She was tending a patient near Doc; she heard him … before he died.”

Wyatt faced her again, his eyes bright with tears. “Please…”

Kate stood slowly but didn’t approach him again. “He was crying, she said, very quietly, because she only heard the words. She turned to look at him when he cussed. He said, ‘I’ll be damned.’ She said he looked at his bare feet, and then looked up. He said, ‘This is funny,’ and fell silent. She didn’t understand it.”

“You did.”

Kate nodded. “I did … same as you.”

Wyatt gave her a sad smile. He picked up the harness and held the guns to his chest. “Thanks, Kate – for everythin’.”

She couldn’t answer him. After he left and closed her door, she went to a half-empty bottle of bourbon on the nightstand and filled the stirrup cup again. Holding it up, she toasted, “To you, Doc. I loved you – and you loved me. Not as much as Wyatt … but you did.” She tossed the whiskey down in one gulp.

Out in the hall, she heard voices: Cummings, the blacksmith, and Wyatt. Kate went to the door and listened.

“Is Kate in?” Cummings asked.

“Who are you?” Wyatt inquired. Was he being protective of Doc’s whore?

“George Cummings, blacksmith. She’s … a friend of mine. Who are you?”

Kate opened her door and stepped out. Wyatt had passed the man on the stairs. He seemed inclined to ignore the question.

“Wyatt,” Kate called out. When he looked up at her, she smiled. “I’ll see you later? At the funeral?” When he nodded and headed down the stairs, she greeted Cummings in a tired but casual tone. He approached but she didn’t turn away with him until Wyatt Earp was out of sight.

*****************************************************
November 8, 1887: Glenwood Cemetery, Colorado – Wyatt
*****************************************************

Wyatt watched as Father Feeney nodded to him and left the graveside. Only one other person remained after the short service: a woman. Though her black veil hid her face in the chilly glare of the afternoon sun, he knew it was Kate.

Not knowing what to say, he moved to her side and they watched the cold wind blow over the grave together. The world continued around them. Colorado was unmoved and people got on with their lives, as Wyatt had been unable to do. Many of them hadn’t even known that John Henry ‘Doc’ Holliday had been among them or cared that he had finally lost his long fight with the only enemy he couldn’t kill.

“I wish I had seen him,” Kate whispered, “before… I could have – but somehow I never did. He left the hotel, said he was going out. I heard later that he passed out in a saloon and was taken into the sanatorium. I thought he’d send for me to come and I was angry when he didn’t.”

Pain washed through Wyatt again. Sometimes it felt like he couldn’t breathe. He feared his voice would break when he answered her.

“He didn’t want me to come, told me every day. I guess – he didn’t want to be seen like that.” I can’t explain to her what we shared in that moment; no one else has a right to know about that anyway. Turning to her, he hesitated, and then reached out and touched her shoulder. “He fought it longer than they said he could. Back in Tombstone, you told me the doctor said he didn’t have much time left.”

“Two years or two days… Doc was enraged when that man suggested stopping his nightlife.”

“Then he lived about … six years longer … without ever slowin’ down, until the end. For a lot of those years, you were the reason he was happy.”

She took his hand in hers. He could see the ghost of a smile behind the veil. “You’re kind, Wyatt – but a poor liar. Doc wasn’t happy. I was good company, maybe, part of that wild life he hoped would kill him … but nothing more than that. The only thing he cared about all the years I knew him was you.”

The old question tugged at him. If anyone would know, it would be Kate. “Did he ever tell you why?”

She studied him for a few minutes in silence, dealing with her own grief. Had she loved Doc? He’d often wondered – but Kate talked about herself as much as Doc had; their thoughts and feelings had often gone unsaid. In that sense, and their chosen lifestyles, they had been perfect for each other, with or without a deeper feeling.

“Doc spoke of you often,” she replied at last. “In that high talk way of his. He told me once how he saved your life in Dodge City – but without your details.” Kate’s voice fell to a whisper. “No – he never told me why he felt the way he did. I’m sorry.” Her fingers squeezed his once before she walked away.

Wyatt watched her go, if only to delay looking back at the grave. Doc’s voice rose in his memory – weak, with labored breath – confessing a love he’d had once: his first cousin. They were to marry, against the wishes of everyone. When he knew tuberculosis would kill him, he couldn’t make her a widow and left her. The old heartbreak had been fresh, an eternal wound, as he told Wyatt about her joining a convent … and that she’d been all he ever wanted.

He didn’t know if Kate would care to hear about the childhood love whose loss had scarred Doc so. Yet the admission had been spoken with the intensity of a confession and he couldn’t have repeated it to anyone else.

The other confession, that Wyatt was the only person in the world that ever gave him hope, had astounded the lawman – but he didn’t understand it. And then, irrevocably, the moment was gone.

Doc had implored him to live, and then asked him to leave. When he’d returned later that day, Father Feeney had told him Doc was gone. The shock of it still hadn’t left him. He had gone to the saloon to drown his pain and ended up wallowing in it.

Before he could leave his friend’s side, he needed to say all the things he never could while Doc’s eyes looked back at him, shadowed with pain. His lips parted to speak but his voice failed him. The wind died down but the lawman still stood there, silent.

Wyatt looked down at the grave. The pain might never fade – but he had a promise to keep and a few things left to say.

“Kate was wrong, you never wanted to die. All the times you riled other men into a fight, it amused you, didn’t it? Did it hurt to breathe sometimes, enough to make you play with death? Maybe so. You might have wanted to die bloody, not sick in bed, but the real truth is you wanted to live. Knowin’ death was comin’, why deny yourself? Yet you fought it – and had more time than any doctor ever gave you because you wouldn’t give up. Was I part of the reason you fought it? You said I gave you hope; was my cause, my grief, worth living for? Maybe … but I don’t think so, so much – not anymore. Did you keep goin’ to help me keep my head above the sod? I have nothin’ left, Doc, but drownin’ in that insults your friendship, doesn’t it? Like spittin’ on a gift – and no man is allowed to insult you. I damn well shouldn’t.”

Wyatt sighed. If only he could hear that cultured rasping whisper berating him again; all he had for that now was his own conscience – and how many times had Doc told him to ignore it? It tugged at him even now, showing him ugly truths it found in his heart that he’d rather ignore. Yet one of them, at least, his friend deserved to hear.

“I’m not afraid to live, Doc. I’m afraid of livin’ without you – even if we’re not together, even if the whole world stands between us. I always knew you were out there and maybe, if I got in a scrape I couldn’t crawl out of, you’d be there.”

His hand rose to cover his eyes; tears slipped from beneath the trembling fingers.

“I always see you that way – comin’ through the door of the Long Branch Saloon, standin’ over Ringo’s body, or lookin’ at me sidelong with eyes that show what you can’t say. Can’t or won’t – and you’d never let me say it, either.”

Wyatt opened his eyes, his hand falling to his side as he allowed his tears to fall.

“I love you, Doc. I think I’ll love you till I’m dust.” He drew a deep, slow breath. “But I promised, so I’ll do it. I’ll live right on to the end. I’ll do what you did. When each night comes, I’ll look for one more sunrise … and I’ll live it as if it were my last – for you.”

FINI.

***********************************************************
Author’s Note: The extra details of Doc’s first cousin Mattie Holliday, I got from reading Matt Braun’s novel Doc Holliday and research. When Mattie joined the convent, she became Sister Mary Melanie of the Sisters of Mercy. She died in 1939. Kate married her blacksmith George Cummings in 1890, who turned out to be an abusive alcoholic, and they separated around 1900. Kate died in 1940. For the two people reading this who haven’t seen the movie, Wyatt found Josephine, married her, and they lived together until his death in 1929. Wyatt ended up a consultant on silent western films in Hollywood. He was the last of his brothers and the last survivor of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Thanks for reading! – AnonGrimm  (Twitter: @MET_Fic) (Tumblr: anongrimm)
***********************************************************

Act TwoLibrary

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