by Pun

Notes: Written for the Yuletide 2005 challenge. Thank you to Destina and Michelle Christian for excellent betas.

In his youth Seth's relations with women had been stilted and disappointing. When he was fifteen he'd gone to a whore, hoping to finally discover what all the fuss was about. When he was sixteen he'd given in to Prudence Bellingham's advances, letting her mount him in her father's musty hayloft. He'd thought, hoped that it'd been the money that made his prior experience so unsatisfying, but he found relations with Prudence left him equally cold.

And then he'd met Sol who taught him what it was to burn, but that had only happened once, the night that he'd learned of Robert's death.

Thus when Seth had asked his widowed sister-in-law to marry him, he'd done it believing himself to be indifferent to women. He'd done it believing he would harm no one and honor his brother's sacrifice, save his child and the woman he loved from a life of hardship.

How sure he'd been of himself and his future then, how prideful. Now, having sat and watched the life slowly drain from William's body, he saw how weak and foolish he truly was.

That night Seth wandered the camp blindly for hours, tortured by his grief and the accusations in his head. He had brought them to this, killed William and humiliated Martha before ruining her life. They'd have fared better if he'd turned them out in the street to starve.

Seth was not fully conscious of his surroundings, until he looked up and saw the store. The lamp burning in the back room cast eerie shadows along the walls. Seth extracted his key and turned it in the lock, hoping that he'd find Sol alone.


Trixie watched until she saw the little Bullock boy carried out of Doc's cabin, his head lolling lifelessly to one side. She staggered back from the sight, pain like a knife wound in her chest.

What use was there of trying in this world if even a bright little boy like William Bullock only wound up dead in the dirt of Deadwood? What hope could any of them have?

Trixie kicked the ground. Until recently she'd known better than to use words like fucking hope.

A whore should know better than to go having plans and aspirations. A whore should plan on dying rough and young, and the best she could fucking hope for was to maybe end up in the ground and not inside a pig's belly.

When Trixie was a girl back at the orphanage, she never pretended that her mother was a princess who'd gone into hiding because of a plot against her life, or that a rich man would see her on the street, fall madly in love with her and bring her back to his mansion to recline by the fire eating chocolates all day, like the other girls did. She used to slap them, pinch their arms and pull their hair when they'd spin their horseshit yarns. She'd gotten beatings for her brawling, but that hadn't stopped her telling the fucking truth. Trixie was born to be a whore so they all were too. She had known that with a bone-deep certainty.

But some stupid meddlesome cunts didn't know to leave well enough alone. They didn't recognize fate for what it was and instead wanted to be teaching her to dream. Getting it in her head that maybe she didn't have to die a whore alone in the dirt.

Tears blurred her path, and Trixie wandered with no conscious will where she went, but it seemed her feet at least still knew her place, even when her head was in the clouds. She climbed the steps to the Gem, pushing the door open hard enough that anyone in the way would have gotten a broken nose. There was a knot of crying whores gathered near the silent piano. Their faces were puffy and red, and they were making an awful racket. No doubt having a contest to see who could wail the loudest. There were only a few bedraggled old prospectors at the bar, and in the corner Dan was breaking up a fight. Death was bad for business, Al would say.

Trixie mounted the steps to Al's room and entered without knocking. It had been weeks since she last slept there, but Al, being Al, betrayed no surprise. He propped himself up on one elbow, looked her up and down, sighed and flopped back down against the pillows, flipping down one corner of the bed covering.

She climbed in beside him, and he turned his back to her, reaching over to extinguish the lamp. They lay there silent in the darkness.

"Is it over?" Al's voice made her jump.

"It's over." She thought she'd done all her crying, couldn't imagine there was any liquid left in her body to come out, but she could feel another sob trying to claw its way up her throat, cutting off her air and forcing her to make little choking sounds.

"Trixie," Al said in the voice she recognized as the precursor to a good hard smack, "let's get one immutable fact straight. There are plenty of little children get their chests stoved in, or their throats cut, their limbs blown off and every other fucking thing you can think of every single fucking day. Only difference between them and the Bullock boy is how good he had it while he was alive. Now you are welcome to snivel about that all night long if it suits your fancy, but you can do it downstairs with the other whores."

"You didn't see him," she hissed at Al, roughly wiping at her cheeks with both palms.

"No, it did not seem an opportune moment to make a call."

Trixie snorted angrily, some of her sadness mutating into exasperation at Al. There was nothing he wouldn't mock.

"But I can assure you, Trixie," he said, his voice deeper, serious and almost threatening. "I've seen worse."


Seth stood looking awkwardly at Sol, shifting his hat in his hands.

"I couldn't sleep," Seth explained. "I'm sorry to look in on you so late, but I couldn't sleep."

Sol made his voice gentle. "It's no bother, Seth. You should know that." He wished he could offer some other words of comfort, but he didn't feel it wise to broach the subject first.

Seth nodded, muttered some thanks. He continued to fiddle with his hat, not speaking.

"Perhaps we ought to take the air. A turn about camp might help to weary you and settle your spirits," Sol offered.

This garnered no response, but Sol waited rather than repeat himself. If Seth was planning to unburden himself to Sol, only patience would serve. Seth's confidences were like wild horses: rare, unpredictable and easily startled into flight.

When Seth finally spoke, the words came in fits and starts. "She's locked me out--the bedroom door, I mean. She locked the bedroom door, and I don't wish to disturb her. And I don't know—" Seth's steadfast expression began to crumble, his voice to falter. Sol was at his side in an instant, placing a steadying hand on his friend's shoulder.

Seth allowed himself to be led as easily as a child into the back room to sit on the bed, but then almost as soon as he sat down he made to stand up again. "I'm sorry for intruding. I should go."

"Stop that," Sol chided. "You insult me. Have I been such a poor friend to you that you think you can't call on me in a time of need?"

Seth's brows drew together in a frown. "Of course not."

"Then sit the fuck down and stay until you're ready to leave."

Seth couldn't be said to smile, but the lines around his mouth looked a little less grim. He thanked Sol in that serious, direct way of his and sat back down.

Seth shook his head. "The truth is, I'm dead on my feet. I long for sleep, but every time I close my eyes I see William laid out. There was so much blood," he murmured keeping his unfocused gaze straight ahead. "And he was so small. So fragile." All the starch seemed to leave Seth's spine suddenly as he hunched forward, biting down on his knuckles. The noises he was making were more grunts than sobs, as if he were struggling under a great weight.

"Seth," Sol said. "Seth," he repeated louder and again until Seth turned to look at him. "It's not your fault."

Seth made a choked noise of protest that sounded like his brother's name. He pressed his lips together, and after a moment, said tightly, "What would he say to me?"

"He would tell you that he knows how hard you tried to do right by his boy. He would tell you that you didn't cause what happened." Sol took Seth's head in both of his hands to keep it from shaking, to keep Seth looking him in the eye. "You didn't. Not by bringing him here and not because of any sin real or imagined that you've committed. This was an accident, a terrible accident, not some sick punishment meted out by a vengeful god." The look of grief on Seth's face made Sol's heart twist within him. He knew Seth to be a hard man. Few could live up to his high standards. How much harsher was his judgment when it was turned inwards? He let go of Seth and looked away, squeezing his stinging eyes shut.

"God, I need a drink," Sol said. He stood, intending to go for the whiskey bottle behind the counter, but he was stopped short by Seth's vise-like grip on his elbow. And then Seth's mouth on his, salty and hot, intoxicating enough to make Sol's knees buckle. He pushed Seth down onto his back, settling over him, letting their legs tangle, hands moving to frantically struggle with each other's clothes.


It had been a long fucking day, and Al was just drifting off to sleep when he felt Trixie's nimble fingers running up his thigh. He suppressed a chuckle. Now if that wasn't a busted fucking flush.

"Much as I appreciate the sentiment," he told her, removing her hand from his prick, "Dolly took care of me earlier. If only you'd given me some advance warning that you'd be gracing me with your exalted presence, I would have saved you the honor."

Trixie snorted at that, muttered a few obscenities before going quiet. Al counted silently backwards in his head, three, two--

"Well what are we supposed to fucking do then?" she exploded. "I can't fucking sleep."

"And because you can't, I'm not allowed to either?" He could hear her breathing heavy and agitated. "It's been a long fucking day, Trixie. Either shut your fucking mouth, or leave."

"You really ain't up to fucking me?"

Al felt an uneasy prickling sensation at the base of his spine. She had never asked him to fuck her before. That was surprising, and he hated surprises. "I'm sure there are a dozen or so more willing pricks downstairs if you really need to get fucked that badly. Or I could call Dan up. He's good at following orders."

"Fuck you, Al."

"Besides, I was under the impression that that was the exclusive purview of your Jew friend these days."

Trixie sucked her teeth. "He wouldn't do it like I wanted."

"Ah." Trixie's tone was irritated but also so full of sorrow; and Al couldn't figure out why. Sure, the kid's death was a pity and a waste, and doubtless it would make that cocksucker Bullock even more of a humorless pain in the ass for the foreseeable future, but that didn't explain the extremity of Trixie's distress. She was the last person he'd expect to go soft on him. Made him fucking uneasy. Next thing he knew maybe she'd go disappearing again. And maybe this time she'd come back with more than just a scar on her arm.

Or not come back at all.

Al reached out, hand hovering uncertainly over Trixie's arm before settling, rising and settling again in an uneven pat. She flinched away from the touch.


Sol was inside Seth and all around him. Each thrust sent a blessed bolt of pain radiating throughout Seth's body. But Sol would take his time about it, easing forward and back as carefully as if he were unpacking a shipment of glass lanterns.

"More." Seth demanded through gritted teeth.

"No. You're not ready." Seth on his hands and knees turned to look back over his shoulder. He could see Sol biting his lip, squeezing his eyes closed. He knew Sol wanted to drive into him as badly as he wanted it himself.

"Harder I can take it." Seth swallowed and said in a low voice, "Please."

"No," Sol moaned, then, "oh, fuck," as he pushed forward, the intentions of his gentle spirit clearly betrayed by the needs of his flesh. It hurt enough to make Seth gasp, but still not enough.

"Harder," Seth begged again.

"Shh, shhh." Sol attempted to soothe him, moving one hand from Seth's hip to rub his back.

This tenderness maddened Seth. He wanted to be cuffed, not caressed; bitten not kissed. He writhed angrily, pushing back against Sol, clenching and unclenching around him, attempting to inflame Sol's passion and make him stop being so careful.

His contortions had their desired effect, and they both shouted as one sudden hard thrust brought Sol's hips to rest against Seth's ass, causing a white flash of pain strong enough to still him. Seth listened to Sol's labored breathing, and he imagined he could feel Sol's heart hammering against his back as Sol leaned forward to cover him and wrap his arms around him.

Tremors ran through both of them as they waited, fused together like that. "Please," Seth said again, startled by the raw sound of his voice.

"Shh," Sol whispered against his ear. "I'm right here." He stroked his hands from Seth's collarbone down to his navel and then back again. "I'm right here," he repeated, kept repeating in time to his stroking. And then he began to move, rocking and circling his hips.

There was the sharp white pain still, but it was being overtaken by a sweet ache that traveled from Seth's cock to his teeth. He relaxed into the dueling sensations, focusing on the waves of feeling and the sound of Sol's voice.

They moved together, Sol's sinuous motions and steady voice drawing Seth into a trance-like state until Sol's strokes grew more urgent and less rhythmic, and his chanting was broken up with other cries. "I'm right here. I'm—oh God—here," he moaned. "I'm—oh God. God, Seth."

Hot wetness within him and the feel of Sol's strong hand on his cock. No time to think. Seth closed his eyes and saw only flashes of red and blue as the sweetness built in him, drew him unbearably taut and then snapped, pulsing out of him.

They lay together afterwards, Sol looking deep into his eyes, silently stroking the sweat from his brow and face. Seth didn't curse Sol's gentleness now.

"I want you to know…" Seth took a deep breath, looked away at a spot on the wall, "I didn't come looking for—" He broke off and forced himself to look Sol in the face. "I didn't even know I was going to come here until I did."

"I know." Sol studied him; his eyes were dark and unfathomable in the dim light.

"What I mean to say is, I didn't mean to put you in an uncomfortable position."

"I'm always in an uncomfortable position." A truth he'd known, but hearing it spoken so plainly wounded him despite Sol's even tone. "And I reckon you know that you're always welcome in my bed. I only wish the event were occasionally predicated by some less unhappy circumstance."

Seth sat up and moved to perch on the edge of the bed. A war waged within him between the desire to lie back down and rest his weary head on Sol's welcoming chest, and the knowledge that he had to go begin work on William's coffin. "Do you think me weak, Sol?"

Sol's hand was warm on his arm. "I've never known a stronger man."

"But you don't know how afraid I am sometimes, how uncertain."

Sol swung his legs to the floor so that he was sitting beside Seth. "Only a fool never doubts himself." He rested a companionable hand on Seth's thigh.

"That sounds like one of your father's."

"Nope. My mother's. She did manage to get a word in edgewise from time to time." One corner of Sol's mouth turned up. "Of course, mainly only after the old man had died."

And so it seemed that Seth could still smile, even laugh a little bit; threads of sweetness and pain all twisted up together.


Trixie got out of bed, picked her shawl up off the floor and wrapped it tightly around her shoulders before slipping out onto the balcony. She was surprised to see the first pink rays of sunrise staining the sky in the east. Her restless sleep had been plagued by dreams of naked bloody children writhing in the dirt.

She looked down, almost expecting to see the ground littered with the broken bodies from her dreams, but all that confronted her was the brown mud of the street. There were a few drunks staggering home from the Gem, and one of the fruit sellers was leading his mule and cart up the road, but the camp was relatively quiet and empty. The lightening sky promised fair. Even the early morning breeze seemed to smell less like rot and horse shit than usual. A fine day for a burial.

Movement in the corner of her eye made Trixie turn toward the hardware store. She squinted through the gray dawn and a moment later she observed Bullock stepping out into the street, adjusting his hat on top of his head and his gun by his side.

Awfully early to be making a call. Or, more likely, awfully late to be leaving. She supposed that was no business of hers. This was no time to begrudge Bullock his dependence on Star, even if he was bound to be the death of that crazy Jew one of these days.

Trixie wondered what it would feel like to have a friend who you could trust to ride right off a cliff with you. Hold your hand while you plummeted, look you in the eye and swear he'd do it all again. A true friend. Another fairytale she had never thought to wish for before she met those interfering cocksuckers.

She watched Bullock stride through the camp towards the house he'd built to give that little boy a home. Whatever burdens he carried his back stayed straight as ever, and his gaze remained focused ahead of him, challenging whatever fresh disaster the future might bring.


compliments or criticisms welcome, feedback to pun at