Pain. That’s all Billy could feel when bullets went through him from Bogue’s gatling gun before he fell somewhere at the corner of the half burnt church in the bell tower. His body screamed in protest at the foreign strikes of lighting bolts that shot through mostly the left side of his body. But that wasn’t the pain that he was necessarily worried about. It was the one he felt deep in his heart when he gazed down at Goodnight’s fallen flask, heard the fragile wood breaking, and knowing nothing about what may have happened to his lover before falling asleep under the hot sun. The next time Billy awoke he was in what looked like a nice room of an inn, tucked into a bed with scratchy blankets and subpar pillows stacked under his head. That was somewhat normal. His every morning was always waking up in a different bed, in a different place and time. The only thing that remained the same was the man he found himself next to when he did. Despite the bed being fairly large, there was no Goodnight at his side, he could feel it just by the cold spot left where he would be. Billy was still confused by heavy sleep and it took him a while to finally get his stiff neck to turn his head. He could hear the wind rolling outside through the sun baked valley. He looked toward his right and felt his heart start to race in his chest when he saw a dearly missed dirty blonde sitting in an old wooden chair at the window. His gritty face was shining lightly with sweat as he stared outside with glazed eyes, failing to take drags at the cigarette in his mouth and letting it smolder into ashes. He only wore a navy blue shirt with pants and boots, and his usually oiled locks were flat on his head. Billy sat up, gritting his teeth in pain when his muscles screamed at him again and therefore struggled to help him get upright. “Goody.” He rasped desperately and realized how dry his throat really was.
Goodnight’s body seemed to go rigid in the chair at the sound of his voice behind him. For a few seconds he remained still like that as if he was unsure he was certain he had heard his Korean partner. There had been so much going on his head lately that he was doubting that the line between real and what his mind used against him even existed. Still, Goodnight slowly shifted backward to cast a glance at the body that been lying in that bed since it got there. His blue eyes widened when he really saw Billy up and staring back at him. Tears formed at the corners of his eyes as Billy pulled the blankets back with a concerned expression on his face. The sharpshooter leapt from his chair faster than his body had allowed in ages and began to rapidly limp toward the the bed. “Billy,” Goodnight was rambling breathlessly as he tried to hurry over, his voice breaking, “Billy!”
The assassin swung his legs over the side of the bed, wincing when discomfort rippled up his left side to his shoulder, but he didn’t care. He cared about how Goodnight practically trembled as he walked with one leg barely touching the ground because weight seemingly couldn’t be forced onto it. “Goody, be careful…!” Billy tried to warn, nervous at the teetering gait of the man, but he had already collapsed onto his knees before Billy. He watched with a pounding heart as Goodnight took his hand between his own and held it up against his warm face. Tears were running down the ex-Confederate’s cheeks gradually, because he was trying hard not to cry, but couldn’t help it because those fingers on his face were finally twitching again. Billy was grabbing at the shell of his ear and the short locks above it, tugging because he couldn’t break free from his lover’s strong grip to do anything else.
“I’m so sorry, Billy.” Goodnight muttered in that voice of his, rich with smoke and affection. The black haired man shook his head in uncertainty, because he really didn’t know why his companion was apologizing. He ripped his hand away and then used both to try and grab Goodnight’s upper arms who seemed to resist. Billy pulled, his own arms shaking with weakness and discomfort spreading through his sore torso as he attempted to heave him to his feet because he knew that his partner was just as unwell as he was even if he wouldn’t admit it. Which was uncharacteristic for Goody- to not tell Billy that he was hurting. Goodnight shook him off suddenly, gripping the end wood of the bed and grumbling, “I can do it myself.” before barely managing to stand without grunting in affliction. The knife thrower instinctively tried to put his hands on him again until he settled down on the edge of the bed next to him safely. Goodnight ignored his lover’s needy hands and starting to nudge him back on his side while saying softly, “You need to lay down.”
Billy slapped the hand touching him before almost glaring deep into the other man’s eyes because this was freaking him out. Goodnight always had a strange display of love for him when they were alone together and considering what they had been through, Billy expected a shower of relieved kisses or the mutual honesty as they cared for each other. Not this one-sided treatment where Billy was being babied. As if Goodnight didn’t want his help anymore. “I felt like I’ve been lying down for ages!” Billy snapped, maintaining where he was as he watched Goodnight sigh stressfully at him in response. His hand grabbed the back of Billy’s neck, trapping some fallen strands of hair between his fingers as he did, and tried to gently push him back down.
“Now, Bill…” Goodnight began, but he was cut off by his lover who dug his fingers hard into the muscled flesh of his upper arm to keep him at bay.
“What happened?” The Korean male demanded.
The older man furrowed his brow and inhaled through his nose. “What do you mean? What do you remember?” His fingers were wrapping themselves in the dense hair at the back of his partner’s head.
“I mean, what happened after...after we were shot?” Billy asked more quietly, but made sure to keep his serious tone.
“Well, Joshua managed to blow up the gun with some dynamite. He escaped the blast with a few bullets lodged in him. Jack got out, too, with only an arrow or two to pull out. And Bogue was shot dead in the church.” Goodnight informed with a nod, “The townspeople let us stay at one of their inns so we could all rest. They want to pay us back for what we did, I reckon.”
Billy could feel his heart starting to go back to normal pace as the feeling in his legs slightly returned. He leaned forward and rested his cheek against the front of Goodnight’s shoulder who continued to cradle the back of his head, but did nothing to further his advances of affection. Billy pulled away again and observed his lover’s weary face for a long time. “And what happened to me?” He inquired sternly.
Goodnight thought for a moment, eyes shamefully flickering toward the floor and then back to Billy’s thinned out and bony face. “You were shot in the left shoulder, and then grazed at the ribs and hip. All the bullets went clean through...and you managed to keep enough blood in your body until Red climbed up and carried you to the doctor.” He recalled with a more softened voice as his eyes continuously flipped from the side to his face in brief intervals. Billy could tell it was hard for his partner to speak of it, which kind of alleviated his worry because at least he knew that Goodnight still had that love for him in there, but he just wasn’t showing it as fluently as he usually would.
“How long have I been sleeping?” Billy asked as his throat strained unwillingly. He wasn’t sure if it was because he really needed water or because he was on the verge of crying although there was no moisture in his eyes.
Goodnight thought again, for longer this time, before answering, “Few days. A week maybe.”
Billy felt the air escape his lungs silently as his lover went back to staring at the floor, pulling his hand away so he could clasp it with the other on his lap. He finally realized how horrible it must have been for Goodnight. To see his best friend laid out across the bed like he was an undecaying body. To see him everyday unresponsive, despite needing him. Luckily for Billy, time passed quickly. He saw Goodnight next to him and then there was a minute of complete panic and then a nice, long sleep before he got to see him again. The sharpshooter got to see him, too, of course. But not like this until possibly five to seven days after. Billy had missed everything- from the recovery of the battle to the other five to his own partner. Guilt seemed to stir inside him like a tornado as he felt warmth finally rush into his eyes. He put a hand on Goodnight’s thigh as he muttered, “I didn’t see you go down with me. What happened to you?”
The dirty blonde sucked on his teeth before locking eyes with his lover, visibly hurt to see the tears threatening to escape Billy’s eyes. “I fell.” He shrugged while twiddling his thumbs.
“From the church?” Billy hoarsely spoke in surprise, making the other flinch.
“Yes. It gave away when I hit it and I rolled off the roof into the churchyard.” Goodnight explained calmly. His cheeks were still wet with tears. Billy didn’t know what to do but cover his mouth with his fist as he broke away from Goodnight’s gaze. How had he not known? How close had they actually been to losing each other? “I’m sorry. I truly am.” Goodnight hesitantly reached out and touched the side of his face, brushing a single tear away with his thumb.
“For what?” Billy looked at him with hard eyes. The dirty blonde swallowed the lump in his throat, drawing his hand away and staring at his lap. Billy felt the momentary fury he had fade away into worry again, because he felt like he was staring at the shell of a man he knew before he was hit with bullets.
“For leaving,” Goodnight admitted in despair, “for not protecting you like I should have. Maybe if I had convinced you to run with me...or if I had just stayed to make sure you got through alright then maybe…”
“Is this why you’re acting so odd? You blame yourself for what happened to me?” Billy interrupted. His partner was quiet, listening to the wind beat against the inn, and refusing to look into Billy’s eyes.
Goodnight replied, “It’s just that...you’ve always protected me. And I couldn’t do the same for you, not to mention I abandoned you all the night before.”
“No, Goody, you didn’t.” Billy insisted while turning to him. “You were going through a lot. You were scared.” He continued.
“Because I’m a coward.” Goodnight’s voice broke as he suddenly buried his face in his hands. “I don’t deserve you, cher. If I can’t protect you then what kind of man am I?”
“My man.” Billy tore his lover’s hands away, cupping his jaw and forcing him to look into his face. Goodnight’s blue eyes were soft with sadness and glistening with tears. His lips weren’t upturned handsomely like they would usually be, making him that much more heartbroken, which made Billy feel even more intensely for him. He placed a kiss on Goodnight’s mouth, relaxing at the familiar scratch of his beard before pulling away. “It will stay that way until something bigger than a gatling gun tries to kill us.” Billy continued while stroking the other man's jawline with the pad of his thumb.
“Billy, I can’t...can’t lose you like that again. I couldn’t even tear myself away from you for a whole damn day.” Goodnight tried to chuckle, but it was too empty to ever pass as genuine.
“You won’t.” The assassin promised while clutching his chin tighter in his hand.
“You don’t know that.” Goodnight argued sadly while closing his eyes so he wouldn’t have to stare any longer at his companion. It had been too painful to see the face of something he loved so much slip through his fingers in a matter of seconds. Too painful to know that it had been too close when they were surely meant to die if it hadn't been for their friends. How they would have died, because Goodnight was too hurt to protect or help Billy, and because Billy had been knocked into the next week quite literally.
Billy sighed, “Goody, you didn’t lose me. We’re alive, aren’t we? That’s what should matter.”
“You weren’t there, Billy,” Goodnight insisted, “you weren’t there for the blood and the people all around you thinking you were better off dead. That they thought you only had a couple more days. Or the voices.”
“I know.” The Korean admitted, stroking the soft flesh on his partner’s cheeks, “But I’m here now and so are you. We still have each other. We always will.” The two gazed at each other for a long time as the wind kept howling and the wood kept creaking. Dust blew across the roads outside and the sun hung above the distant mountain’s peak. It was a different time and a different place, but the same couple. The same set that would be with one another until death and most likely beyond that. The same pair who would argue over the same things, and love each other over the same quirks, and probably almost die in the same fights. He pinched Goodnight’s ear and yanked on it as they sat there. “You don’t have to protect me either. I can take care of myself, you know.” Billy scolded.
Goodnight almost chuckled as he rubbed where his lover’s nails had just been. “I know you do. You think I’ve forgotten how we met, mon cher?” He said with more personality in his voice again.
“I sure hope not otherwise I’m going to have to knock more than sense into your head.” Billy answered almost coldly, which made his lover smile a real smile in a long time.
Goodnight finally wrapped an arm around the petite man next to him and pulled him close. He placed a passionate kiss on his lips to which Billy gladly responded to because this was the man he knew. And knowing that, he also knew that in time they would be recovered and able to move on together like they did with everything else. That the two would be falling in even more love with each other on the roads again. That they would spend many more nights in inns, reading books together and doing everything they did before. That they would see dusk and dawn for hundreds of more times, and that they truly would have each other until the real end. No matter how difficult or heartbreaking it was. And that’s what made Billy finally smile although it was small.
Love. That’s all what Billy could feel when his mouth crushed against Goodnight’s, wrapped in his arms, on a semi-comfortable bed in Rose Creek.
“I love you, Goodnight Robicheaux.”
“I love you, too, Billy Rocks.”