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24 January 2011 @ 08:19 pm
fic: blood on the saddle, blood on the ground (mccoy/chapel, 4/5)  
Blood on the Saddle, Part 4

(thanks to anneedelalune  for beta'ing)

blood on the saddle, blood on the ground

by halfpenny

She supposes they’re courting now, although very little has changed. In fact, so little has changed that she wonders if he was courting her all along. She spends her mornings in the poxhouse, her afternoons at the cabin. Once a week, she rides into town, although Janice Rand has abandoned the polite fiction of buying Christine’s books. Christine spends half the day looking over Rand’s General’s accounts, tidying up, hauling grain. She’s a paid employee now. Paid in food, yes, but paid nonetheless. Occasionally, she finds herself with a coin or two spare wages, which she squirrels away. For decent paint, she tells McCoy one evening, or even proper curtains. He doesn’t stay in the evenings as often anymore, and Christine misses it more than she’d thought she would, misses the two of them alone by the fire, the night spread out around them as the wind howled past.

They go for walks now. Polite, structured walks under Jimmy’s surprisingly watchful eye. The townspeople, more off the stagecoaches every day, tip their hats and smile at them, content in their expectations. People like them together, Christine knows. The doctor and the doctor’s daughter. It makes a certain, self-satisfied sense to them. Like calling to like, her odd interest in medicine justified at last. It chafes at Christine when she thinks on it, like she’s turning into someone from a half-remembered place, a world of long front porches lined with magnolia trees, green-scented in the soft twilight.

There’s no softness to the twilight here. It’s the cold wind off the distant mountains, the specter of hunger at the edges of faces each November. It’s dirt under her nails and prairie-grit in her eyes. There are no box socials to attend, no charity committees biding for time and attention. McCoy is no more a gentleman than Roger Korby was a doctor. They are years away from the people who stammered and blushed their way through a first courtship. Christine lives alone in a cabin on the flat of the plains, here at the edge of a young, empty country, and she wants him.

She can admit that now, to herself if no one else. This is not like with Roger, all fluttering stomach and nervous touches. This is something older, something new. It’s difficult to remember not to touch him. It’s harder when they’re alone. Once in the poxhouse, McCoy took her elbow to help her around one of the patient cots, and it was all Christine could do not to fall back onto the bed and pull him down after her. It’s not lady-like, these feelings. She knows that. But she has no father to chide her, no family to shame. She’s a woman and he’s a man, and she wants so much from him, it twists her up inside. Makes her feel light-headed.

McCoy has not touched her since the kiss in his room. The next morning, he watched Christine stitch up a ranch hand’s leg where a hayfork caught him unawares. As she cleaned up, he nodded his approval without a word about what passed between them. That Sunday, outside the church, Jimmy at his side, he asked her to take a walk. Christine thinks about that kiss too often for comfort. She conjures it before she sleeps, the pass of his fingers across her jaw, the jerk of his throat beneath her touch. She wonders if he thinks about it. She knows he must. Christine can feel his eyes on her, as she works on their patients, the cabin. He watches her, and she watches him watch her, and thinks it might be enough just to feel, just to know.

It isn’t.

Jimmy’s foreign friend, the railroad man, signs some kind of land deal with a group of Russian-born miners at the height of summer, which makes both him and the Russians very happy, enough to throw a shindig for Independence Day. McCoy asks her to attend, naturally, and the thought of two Rebs dancing to Yankee tunes is enough to make her laugh and accept.

It rains the entire day before. The canvas tents set up for the musicians sag with water, dipping down until the spacious dome curves into something more intimate, forcing dancers closer together to avoid muddy puddles here and there. Christine is enjoying herself, a cup of what Jimmy declares, blue-eyed and guileless, to be teetotaler punch. Her head has been spinning quite pleasantly since sundown. In the middle of a dance, Scotty appears and pulls McCoy away, whispering frantically. Christine wants to ask what he wants when Jimmy sweeps her up and twirls her away. He keeps her so entertained with stories of his stone-faced associate, who’s handsome enough to make Christine feel fifteen again, that she doesn’t notice McCoy’s absence.

Hours later, as the musicians pack up their instruments, Christine emerges from the water-dark tents on Jimmy’s arm. She’s looking up at him while he describes one of the Russian miners to her, so she sees his face blanch. He tries to tug her around, but not before Christine sees a slender dark woman wrapped around McCoy. He pulls away and folds her hands together in front of him. He leans down to say something. The woman laughs. Christine tears herself away from Jimmy. She thinks he’s trying to speak to her, she can’t be sure, not over the roaring in her head. The woman fades back into Scotty’s and McCoy turns toward Christine. She’s too far away to see his face, but she knows the tight line his mouth is forming, the tension settling in his shoulders.

She doesn’t quite run at him, but it’s a close thing. McCoy’s got his hands up, palms out toward her before she’s within ten feet. “Chapel, listen to me--”

“Since when,” Christine asks, in what anyone but him would agree is a friendly tone, “do the ladies of Montgomery Scott enjoy your patronage?” And oh, but he doesn’t like that at all, fingers flexing at his sides. Christine is sure there’s a simple reason, a harmless explanation that will diffuse the burning sensation behind her ribs, but the sight of his hands on another woman makes her physically ill. And Christine is too terrified by that to listen to McCoy’s low, patient murmur.

“There was a baby born upstairs an hour ago. That woman’s sister--”

“That woman? Does she have a name?” Christine is being irrational and uncharitable, but she can’t seem to stop herself. It feels too good to stop.

“Dammit, Chapel,” McCoy says, “Don’t make a scene out here in the street.”

“I’ll make a scene where I damn well choose.” He scrubs a hand over the back of his neck, stiff after the delivery, no doubt, and Christine is suddenly exhausted by her desire to touch him. It’s dark out, the night sky yawning over head, a few dim flickers from the saloons chasing each other on the dusty ground. She takes his hand, too tired to keep fighting, and he relaxes under her touch. “McCoy,” Christine says and it’s the first time she’s ever said his name, no doctor before it, just the name and the man.

“Girl,” he says, frustrated, and it’s all over for Christine, the utter destruction of the lovely Miss Chapel from New Orleans wrapped up in word. She walks away, his hand clasped tight in hers. Jimmy must be watching. Others must be, too. Christine climbs the stairs to McCoy’s room ahead of him, scared and sure. She opens the door, pulls him inside, and shuts it neatly behind her.

McCoy is perfectly still in the darkened room, a shadowy outline of a man against the shuttered window. Christine stops, her bravado fading. The voices of every respectable person she’s ever known are hurling admonitions at her, furious she’s come this far, but McCoy stirs, puts a hand on her hip.

“I don’t--” he starts, then reconsiders. “You-- what do you need, Christine?”

He is the first person who has ever asked her that. It nearly floors her.

“I know what I want. Christ, do I know what I want, but I don’t wanna--” He squeezes her hip, thoughtless for a moment, and Christine knows, knows with a crystalline clarity, what comes next. It’s so obvious, simplistic even, she feels foolish for not understanding it sooner. He’s McCoy and she’s Christine, and the distance between them is suddenly glaring, offensive.

“I need--” she says. Her hands dart around his waist, pulling out the tails of his shirt. He hisses at the slide of her cool palms on his overheated skin. “I need,” she says, tugging at the suspenders pinning everything in place.

“Yeah?” McCoy’s voice has gone raw, like a sick man, like a miner with a chest full of rock dust. “What? Tell me, girl, what do you need?” Heat drops through Christine to pool at the base of her spine. She sets her teeth into her lower lip, but McCoy reaches up and thumbs it free, rubs at the sore mark. “Anything,” he breathes against her mouth, his finger catching on the fastens of her dress. “Tell me and it’s yours, anything you want.”

She digs her nails into the heavy flesh of his chest, his sides. “This,” she says, gasps as her chemise finds its way to the floor. “Oh, oh, this, McCoy please.” She licks at the pulse in his neck, salt and stubble rough on her tongue.

He bites her shoulder, hard, then put his nose into her hair, breathes deep. “Shh, that’s fine, just this, fine, fuck Christine.” She whines in his ear, puts her teeth to the fine curve there. McCoy grasps under her thighs, pulls her legs around him. He sits down hard on the narrow bed next to the door, where Christine used to sleep so long ago, and lies down. Christine bunches her remaining skirts up while McCoy pulls at his breeches. He huffs out a breath and Christine feels something hot against her bare leg. McCoy drags her hand to touch and grits his teeth while she finds what makes him twist.

It’s the easiest thing Christine has ever done. She rises, then falls, and the pressure makes her head spin, makes her tense up on the length of him, inside. McCoy holds her hips, moves them in a tight circle, and the world slides sideways as Christine keens. “There, like that,” he says, breathless, amazed. “Go on, girl, take it. Take what--oh, what you need.” Christine moves again on her own, slower, drawing it out. This, she thinks, while McCoy arches and pushes beneath her, is the only thing. This is surely why she was brought to this wild, lonely place, to do this, to find this rhythm, to hear him call for her, shaking and lost, and answer in return.

After, damp and panting, sprawled out over him, Christine comes back to herself. McCoy strokes her back in easy, steady sweeps, to calm himself or gentle her, she’s not sure. Her skin prickles where the sweat is cooling and her arm is beginning to cramp. McCoy rolls free of the bed and fetches a flannel to wipe at the wet between them. They use the chamber pot, each in turn, and Christine cannot remember feeling so unbearably close to another living soul in all her life. She wraps herself around McCoy, feels the slow thump of his pulse against her cheek. McCoy toys with her hair until sleep takes him. Christine stays awake for a long time, listening to McCoy breathing.

Hours later, when the glow at the window goes soft and pink, Christine rises. McCoy wakes and helps her dress, slowly, peppering her back, her legs with kisses. She descends the wooden stair in the dawn light, face tilted up to the rising sun. She wonders if she’s only imagining the town watching her. She hopes not. She unties the nag and rides out. At the cabin, Christine falls into bed. She can still smell his sweat on her skin. She sleeps until dusk, waking only when the high, thin howl of a coyote splits the boundless silence.

Three days later, McCoy is gone without a word.
tiny lobsters are tearing this nation apartarctowardthesun on January 25th, 2011 04:28 am (UTC)

As always, AMAZING.
Penelope: Doctor Who- Ninehalfpenny_press on January 25th, 2011 07:50 am (UTC)

Thank you so much! One more to go :)
ljc: star trek (nuTrek chapel rosamund pike)taraljc on January 25th, 2011 04:44 am (UTC)
Penelope: McCoyhalfpenny_press on January 25th, 2011 07:52 am (UTC)

Stay with me!!

Tobinfringedweller on January 25th, 2011 06:09 am (UTC)
Fix it! Fix it!

Wonderfully lyrical as always, but you're breaking my heart...
Penelopehalfpenny_press on January 25th, 2011 07:52 am (UTC)
Thank you!! Just hold on...
caffeinekiddocaffeinekiddo on January 25th, 2011 12:15 pm (UTC)

Oh my gosh, the most poetic cliffhanger ever!! Can't wait for the next chapter...
Penelopehalfpenny_press on February 1st, 2011 08:23 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Part 5 is on the way!!
seren_ccd: Karl Urbanseren_ccd on January 25th, 2011 01:17 pm (UTC)
What? Wait! Where did he go? McCoy, you ass, get back here!!!!

Absolutely gorgeous. I do love this being from Christine's POV, it really makes for a fantastic read. ♥
Penelopehalfpenny_press on February 1st, 2011 08:23 pm (UTC)
Ahaha, oh McCoy. Such a loveable dumbass, this one.

Thanks so much!!
96 tears: skinsninety6tears on January 25th, 2011 05:59 pm (UTC)
This is not like with Roger, all fluttering stomach and nervous touches. This is something older, something new. Wonderful writing.
Penelopehalfpenny_press on February 1st, 2011 08:22 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked that! I really worried about that line!

Thanks so much!!
Freudian_slippedfreudianslipped on January 26th, 2011 02:00 am (UTC)
You sure do know how to keep us all hanging on.

Once again, loved the writing! Can't wait for the next chapter, and whatever you write after this.
Penelopehalfpenny_press on February 1st, 2011 08:20 pm (UTC)
Aww, keep holding on! It'll get better...probably ;)

Part 5 is on the way!
(Deleted comment)
Penelopehalfpenny_press on February 1st, 2011 08:19 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much!

Part 5 is in the works, never fear :)
wings_on_water: bones good god manwings_on_water on January 30th, 2011 11:14 am (UTC)
Ugh, so amazing. I am thoroughly looking forward to part 5!

I think my favorite sentence is the second-to-last one. Very poetic.
Penelopehalfpenny_press on February 1st, 2011 08:18 pm (UTC)
Yay! Thank you! Part 5 is in the works!
europa_koreeuropa_kore on February 2nd, 2011 06:03 pm (UTC)

Oh thank you for continuing this series. I am so glad you did. It's excellent and I am sort of ridiculously excited about it. I love the tender, quiet relationship they have, the way she acknowledges that she is alone but not willing to be lonely, the dignity of her attitude. It's all really nicely done.

*hug* Welcome back to the interwebs. :)
Penelopehalfpenny_press on February 19th, 2011 05:05 am (UTC)
Hee! It's basically all your fault, so yes! Glad you like!

Also that's such a great way of talking about Christine here, that this is her realizing she doesn't have to be lonely if she doesn't want to. You totally get it, which is so, so amazing.
hiddencaithiddencait on February 11th, 2011 05:31 am (UTC)
Holy cow I just discovered this series and yet it's cliffied??? Why is it cliffied now??? *flails*
Penelopehalfpenny_press on February 19th, 2011 05:05 am (UTC)
Part 5 is off for beta'ing! Hold on!!

And thanks for reading!
moonwalker47: ironmanmoonwalker47 on February 13th, 2011 03:35 am (UTC)
Amazing! Thanks for the update!
Penelopehalfpenny_press on February 19th, 2011 05:06 am (UTC)
Eee! Glad you liked!
Bether: 03hellokatzchen on February 16th, 2011 04:26 pm (UTC)
YES! YOU HAVE RETURNED! :D :D :D (I got into the mid-year last year, so you can imagine my WOE at discovering this series unfinished!) And this does not disappoint!

Ahhh, I'm just like... IDEK! All over the place, bouncing and excited and anxious for more!

You're amazing. Your writing is ridiculous, it's so good. And the language is so brilliantly used! I just-- can I please write like you when I grow up? :D
Bether: Angel facepalmshellokatzchen on February 16th, 2011 04:27 pm (UTC)
That should said I got into THIS FANDOM mid-year last year. >.< I can type.
Penelopehalfpenny_press on February 19th, 2011 05:14 am (UTC)
Squee!! I'm so happy you liked it!! I'm super insecure about my writing, so knowing it's working for someone out there is pretty awesome!!

As for finishing it, better late than never, right? :)
anon4077anon4077 on February 18th, 2011 03:01 am (UTC)
love it love it love it love it! Can't wait for the last part!
Penelopehalfpenny_press on February 19th, 2011 05:15 am (UTC)
Thanks so, so much!! Next part should be up shortly.