[P] Bury me smilin' next to my darlin'
#1
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It was lucky they had fallen in with like-minded coyotes, though Evelyn still felt a burning and insatiable itch to be on the road. The longer they stayed in one place, the more vulnerable they were. Or perhaps it had just become a natural part of her life now, like shitting and breathing. She pursed her lips and adjusted the shawl around her narrow shoulders, her eyes on the idiot in front of her without actually seeing him.


Maybe, she thought as he hemmed and hawed and turned the small bottle of clear liquid over and over in his thick, dumb fingers, it was better to stay in one place. They had... Evelyn twisted her lips, hesitating to call the coyotes they hung around friends but unsure of the right word to label them. Companions? Buddies? Compadres? Those all still felt too intimate to the fire-kissed coyote. At any rate, they had... individuals with whom they shared a similar desire, and who may come to their aid should trouble come calling.


That was the hope, anyway.


"Clears up the shits, ya say?" said the moron, and the Vicar flashed her eyes – one pale and dull in blindness, the other fiery and bright – to his stupid face.


"Takes away th' aches an' pains, too," she assured him flatly, having taken note of his advanced age and the way he was favoring his left hip.


The idiot whistled. "Well, I don't got no shortage of aches or pains," he admitted through a chuckle and Evelyn resisted the urge to roll her eyes. This was too easy. "How many do you have?"


"How many ya want?"


While he thought, scratching the back of his head with knitted brows, Evelyn considered their stock. With winter in full swing, and their store of mash dwindling, she had to be careful.


"What would you want for three?"


Three vials? "What d'ya have?"


While the fool dug through his belongings, offering up a sizable sack of jerky and a blanket – tattered and moth-eaten, but still usable – Evelyn stared stonily at him. It wasn't until, after an extensive period of serious consideration, he added in a rusted tin of fishing hooks that The Vicar nodded. "Got yourself a deal, I reckon."


Taking his three vials of useless moonshine, eager to ease his arthritis and cure his diarrhea, the poor sap left behind the items he had traded for them and limped on through Searsport while Evelyn smirked triumphantly.


[WC — 416]


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#2
Searsport was quite a bit bigger then Cuero, at least, when considering Cuero's main square was four streets and two blocks between them all and the edge of town. Up norther, however, he was starting to discover the mountainous terrain and the frozen earth wasn't prime for crops. He didn't see farmland, not that he could see very far. It was all a very different place from home and his stomach twisted. It may have been a long time since he'd been home, but he'd never be able to forget his family, his town, or the way the land stretched on forever with gnarled oak forests and threatening cacti. A green desert, he liked to remember it as. A green desert that he'd never return to again, unless he wanted to hang the same he'd hung men before him.

Atop Cochise with the echo of slight hooves rattling lazily against the walls, crystalline blue sights peered around the shadier corners of the small town. Undesirables either skittered away in objection of being seen, others offered a heavy, unwavering glare in retaliation. Waynescott didn't push his luck. They all might be ne'er do wells, but they all had their reasons. Even he had his own reason.

Clearing his throat he moved on at a snail's pace, keeping the corner of his eye and a rotated ear behind him. The brim of the shoddy, leather, pinch front gambler casting shade over his saturated and shifting gaze. The whole thing was held together with heavy leather cording but didn't protest as he lifted it up just long enough for his greasy scalp to breathe for a moment.

It was a refreshing movement of air, but his eye had caught something in one of the streets that planted the hat promptly on his head. Folding his arms over the horn of his saddle, he eased Cochise down to a halt as he watched from the intersection he'd ended up at. The one that stood there, seemed to be selling something, and seemed awfully familiar, too. A little more of a wait brought the resemblance into the frame of his mind. The scorched woman that had called her mates to her upon his arrival.

He'd not gauge familiarity with any less caution.

They went back and forth for a moment before Waynescott slid from his mount, a quick loose knot on an decrepit streetlamp had him secured before he quietly made his way down the street.

Head down, hat obscuring his features, he moved close with slow and steady steps. The deerskin chaps that overlapped blue trousers muffled the noise of his movement just enough, and the vest that layered over his wool undershirt shifted only lightly. Braced upon his throat, a muffler, that kept out the cold that his southern raised body wasn't made for. All in all, he didn't stand out, nor did he blend in well, either. A curiosity, but only if one should look close enough. Finally close enough, he was able to make out wording and could stop predatory pace and give in a good listen.

They were talking about... the shits?

Charcoal lip lifted crookedly in disgust, revealing an cock-eyed incisor that had loosed and latched back in incorrectly after a good sock to the jaw a few years ago. This was not a conversation he was really that interested in, anymore, but he was curious as to exactly what this one was up to with a trade like this.

Rough cut sapphires hardened at the pitch she had given. An cure all, huh? Dysentery, aches and pains? He was no medic, but he wasn't a stranger to snake oil. A little closer now. He tread cautiously, but if she were alert or over wary, she would find him out now if she hadn't already. Cochise snorted in the distance, protest that he didn't get to go alone with Wayne. The Coydog's hackles shivered as he shot a covert, but accusing glare from the corner of his eye back to the horse. The gig was up, but it seemed as if the transaction he had been following was nearing it's end.

Piercing sights settled on the 'yote woman, and he stood idly, any instance of his previous sneaking about gone from his posture,” I sure got some ache's'n pains, if'n you got any more of at oil you sellin',” Smart eyes were static against her own, but within him, there was more of a battle going on all the wars on earth. He'd not let her in on it, not if he could help it.

For some reason, he needed to know why it was she was in the market for swindling folks, and part of him wanted to believe that what she had traded was actually a tonic that worked. He was more street smart to not know better and he found himself standing exactly opposite of her on the street, not quite willing to cross it yet. It's not as if he could just jump to asking her about her history. Wounded souls didn't open up so easy, that much could be said,” What'che up to here, exactly?” Inquisitive tone roved in a slightly accusing, but roller coaster of tone. They both knew she was up to something, even if the items she traded weren't it. It was the reasons he needed, however. Reasons weighed much more than the answer to the question he'd asked, by far. There just needed to be that point where he could get a sliver of truth, if she dared to offer it.

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#3
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The old fool, with his imperfect hearing and rheumy eyes, did not notice the figure that lurked nearby. Perhaps he wouldn't have anyway, even with all of his senses working at full capacity, with how immersed he was on this divine liquid that would surely make him right again. How the man had managed to make it to his age with his hope in the world and his trust in others innocently intact could have been remarkable. But to Evelyn it was only idiotic.


While she and her victim bartered, the fire-kissed coyote swiveled a tattered ear in the direction of the loiterer and glanced his direction from the corner of her eyes, not daring to turn her head and alert the old fool to the presence of another. This was the most sensitive part of her work, and she would be damned if someone came along and ruined it for her after all the care she had put into ensuring the trade was a success.


To her relief, the skulking stranger held his tongue until she closed the deal and had her items in hand. Snapping her smirking head away from the retreating back of the poor old fool, Evelyn turned her ruined face to look upon the lurking figure that had nearly cost her a deal and stared coldly at him. "Waynescott Wyatt, if memory serves," she greeted flatly, wrapping herself in her new moth-eaten blanket with flourish before bending to retrieve her jerky and the rusted tin.


She considered him a good, long while when he asked after her oil, the sharp fire that burned in her good eye boring unblinkingly into an equally static face. "Out of luck," she said at last. This man had sort of fallen in with them. Or, at the very least, he was around their common acquaintances more than most of the other residents of Searsport were, and it was this that made her uneasy about a trade with him. "Ain't got nothin' to trade you."


From the dull winter sky, the color of which sometimes matched the ruined depths of her blind eye, a frigid wind clawed at the coyote's fire-ravaged face and ears and threatened to disrobe her entirely. She bowed her shoulders and squinted her eyes, tugging the blanket more tightly around her. When the wind died away again, The Vicar's narrowed eyes remained fixed on Waynescott. "Survivin'," she replied. "Ain't nothin' gonna help that ol' fool see another year." And the world would be greatly improved without more idiots in it, as far as Evelyn was concerned. "But this land ain't gonna do me in."


[WC — 447]


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#4
“So memory does,” The reply came neutral if not a little on edge, though not prepared to test the patience he'd already encroached on. That, of course, didn't mean he was submissive to it nor dismissive of the allegations that he had in mind for her.

He did his best to avoid looking into a glass eye, keeping his attention on the fiery Tuscany flame that drilled into him. She had made it evident with simply a look. This one was wise to what he was saying, and she was letting him know it, very clearly.

What she said thereafter did not dispute against his inner conflict, either. Without a bone to pick, save for the fact she was being moderately agreeable despite his accusation, there wasn't much he could do about it. A long sigh drew from him. What was he doing? He was no law here.

He was no law at all. He didn't have to do anything about it.

“Cryin' shame, that,” He relented in his own defeat. Even if he had no say, or right to say, his soul still questioned him about everything he was subject to,” I s'pose I'll have 'ta look somewheres else fer that,” Probably for the best, either way. What was he going to do with that tonic if it were snake oil? It'd be a waste of goods to trade for it.

While he couldn't do anything about her swindling another, he could still figure her out a bit more. A frozen breath moved between them. The woman, scarred and seemingly unashamed, braced herself with her newly won blanket. The dark gambler that braced his ears was stolen from his head, kept to his throat by a leather cord and a knot, but he didn't shift to catch it. He'd gotten used the the wind trying to take what he had. His hat. His warmth. His life.

They had something in common.

“Hmm,” An agreeable hum thrummed from his throat as he listened, respectfully. Maybe he was taking everything a step too far by what he was doing and what he was thinking. She was right, after all. Maybe it was peace of mind she sold. That could mean a lot for a little. He thought for a moment how many traders had thought the same as him. How many black market dealers he had met in secret, trying to bide his time and save his own life. The metal flute in Cochise's pack was proof of this.

That was another hellish story, completely.

What she said last, caught his breath in him. Blue diamond gaze met the snowy earth in a quiet kind of shame. Who the hell was he anyways? They had a lot in common. Nodding his head, he crooked his lips sideways and offered a thoughtful glance back to Cochise. The dumb animal was still digging in the snow, tethered to a lamp that was barely held there itself, looking for grass beneath the powder. From there, his eye caught the sky and it's rolling. Snow was comin'. The intermittent wind was claim to that.

“It'll certainly try...” An open palm caught the top of his hat and righted atop his head. He was cold, too. Frozen inside, but too damn stubborn to prove it,” Well, I fancy tryin'ta survive somewhere out'tha weather,” Everything in him begged him against his offer, but it was too late. Words were coming before his judgement could argue them,” I could, ah... Give 'ya a ride?” A pallid thumb gestured over his shoulder at Cochise. If she picked him, well he'd be sore about it, but if she was shivering out here? Well, he'd have a lot more to think about on an already heavy heart.

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#5
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Despite the poor condition that her new blanket was in, it was better than what little else she had and, with her shawl and cloak still wrapped about her thin frame, it provided more warmth than she would have had without it. Evelyn Escuella was a child of the West: borne from arid winds and sustained by radiant sunlight.


There was none of either here. Not in this country.


"Hn," she grunted from between closed lips, considering Waynescott with obvious indifference. It was still unclear who he was, what he wanted, or how much he could be trusted, and, more than perhaps anything else, Evelyn did not like being uncertain of a person's reliability.


Dependability was of utmost importance, so far as she was concerned. What they had done, or did not do, in the past could be overlooked and a man's desires, however dishonorable or cruel they might be, were his own. But trust... Evelyn felt her eyelids narrow ever so slightly as she considered him, silent and hard. Trust was everything.


"S'pose you will," she replied without emotion, refusing to allow her eyes to stray from the man's dark face. Was there sincerity in the tone that painted his words or the subtle changes of his look? Evelyn did not think so. But then, that was her default. It was safer to distrust everyone than to allow herself a moment of weakness. A beating heart could cease its rhythm with a single arrow, after all, and she did not care to try her luck.


Suddenly, finally, the dark-faced Wyatt allowed his icy gaze to sink and The Vicar felt a sense of pride for having won this unspoken staring contest. The corners of her lips twitched, though she kept them obediently straight and narrow despite their desire to curl with delight. She had no intention to reveal this side of herself, not yet and certainly not to him. And yet.


And yet...


She watched as he caught the top of his hat in his palm and listened, silently, as he carried on talking in that southern drawl she knew quite well. "Would be nice, I reckon," she agreed, thinking that he might take this as a suggestion to get out of her sights and let her go about her business. Instead, he did something she was definitely not expecting: an invitation closer to somewhere out of the cold and snow.


Again, her eyes narrowed. She held her gaze against Waynescott's dark face a beat before, hesitantly, she allowed herself to gaze upon the steed that he gestured to. If she was being honest, there was little more she wanted to do than decline his offer. But with her back against the icy breath of winter – even with the added layer, however threadbare, of her new blanket – she felt an unpleasant shiver grip her spine and shake it like she might do a rabbit.


"If it ain't like t' upset your steed," she agreed after a long while, shifting her eyes back on her acquaintance's face. It mattered more to The Vicar whether his horse would be bothered by the extra weight than whether the man truly cared to see her home. But she paused, suddenly hesitant again as she glowered at the coydog. "What's th' price?" she asked. Everyone had a price, and Evelyn wasn't about to be swindled herself.


[WC — 572]


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#6
The woman was guarded, well guarded, and high walls withing wouldn't crumble with things so easy as words. Sure, his changes in heart became sudden, but they were always true to what he really believed, even if he questioned himself in the long run. It was a strange place to be, standing where he could never have guessed he would be, befriending the type of man he killed and even working to save their lives. Waynescott didn't know who he wanted to be, but he knew what was right. No one needed to die anymore, if they didn't have to.

Making enemies here wouldn't do him any good, anyways.

Fingers rolled against his palm as she gauged him over, her narrowed gaze weighing on him. Finally, her eyes fell on Cochise as she debated. There was no need to rush her decision, either. He'd take the blame for sneaking up on her and falling into old habits. A lawman, no more, he'd given her a reason to distrust him. It was only fair that she'd have to take a moment to decide.

Her tune lifted before her eyes found him again, and it seemed the first of many fences had opened here. She was bound on survival, and she knew what would best keep her there, yet she still didn't know if Wayne was secretly a murderer. There way a lot she was laying on the line for a bit of warmth,” Not'ta tol',” Two arms offered her in the direction of the tied horse, his motions being jerky do to the frigid air that was seeping into him, even through his clothes.

“His name's Cochise. He's a good boay, but a li'l slo-,” Cut short, her inquiry took him back a bit. He turned to her, brows folded and a little surprised to hear her ask. Maybe, where she was from, people did things for ulterior motives. Wayne liked to think he was different,” N-no price,” One brow lifted, his voice revealing his confusion at the question. How rough was her world that everything had a price,” No, 'Miss,” He shook his head again, not even able to think of anything that could compare to the idea that he wasn't going to be the reason why she froze to death out here,” Survivin's hard 'nough. It shouldn't cost 'nuthin' more than it already does.”

With that, he turned from the woman and allowed her to do with that information as she would. Cochise was still tied, either way, so the equine wasn't going anywhere unless he was released. He'd reached the horse faster than he'd left him, the stallion nosing him as he fingered the reigns and released them from the lamp. Palm on the horn, he hoisted himself up and moved the Gruello painted beast beside her. A quarter turn of his rump was Wayne's offer, and a strong arm reached back, if she chose to take it,” We can head back to camp'er find a place out o'the wind to warm up before hand. S'up to you.”

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