Acolyte - EpiKatt - Tombstone (1993) [Archive of Our Own] (2024)

Chapter 1

Chapter Text

Doc found that living in Tombstone without the threat of the cowboys lurking ever-present in the dark crevices of the town was downright refreshing. While he was never quite afraid of them, not even when he was dying at the hands of Ike Clanton, he was sure as hell annoyed by them. A lot, and often.

His new deal with the Devil was also… almost pleasant. While he was never called away on a weekly basis to places scattered across the developing west, he was occasionally tugged toward areas nearby enough that he wouldn’t be missed for too long. And thankfully, this close to the border in Arizona, there weren’t a whole lot of people part of the population attempting to make deals.

In his boredom, a few months after everything went down, Doc decided to open another dentistry practice within town. It was mostly a front for any tired townsperson to come sell their everlasting soul, but occasionally, an uninformed passerby would drift through his clinic and he’d just grin with sharp teeth and get to work. As much fun as being the Devil’s plaything was (read: not. Though the benefits to being immortal were certainly nice) he did once upon a time enjoy the profession he spent years of schooling to pursue.

Even with all these new activities taking up his days, they still left Doc with ample time to spend with Wyatt, and even Morgan sometimes. Though rarely Virgil, more so since the birth of his daughter was getting closer with each week. Allie was heavily pregnant, and anyone with working eyes could see how tightly wound Virgil was at any moment. While not formally taking time off from his position, he spent any moment he wasn’t absolutely needed with Allie, and practically bit off the head of anyone who attempted to move him. Doc could tell Allie found it amusing more than anything, and he always tried to sneak her a wink when Virgil’s back was turned.

Living with Wyatt was… nice. Beyond nice, really, but Doc found himself floundering on how he could describe how incredibly happy he was on the average day. While Kate still ‘technically’ lived with them, she more or less spent most of her time in Josephine’s lodgings, who’d decided quite randomly that she didn’t care to move on from Tombstone. So off went the rest of her troupe, leaving behind only Josephine with a suspiciously Kate-sized shadow always lurking behind her.

The middle of the summer happened to be Doc’s favorite time of year, for the sole reason that it wasn’t dark as long. Business usually petered out in the summer months, giving him relative peace, even more now that his stipulations had been lessened. Though it usually evened out in about January by the amount of poor depressed people desperately begging for better things.

So it was only with some mild surprise that Doc found the pull of a summons occurring a few counties over on his night walk home from the Oriental. Wyatt had decided to stay behind a little longer to keep an eye on things while Joyce closed up, but Doc was hungry and he knew there was a little bit of stew left in the pot back home. He was aware of the fact that he didn’t really have to walk the full distance there, but it was peaceful to do it, with the air nice and cool and the stars shining bright above.

Pausing in the middle of the road, he found himself fully contemplating just how much trouble he’d get in if he ignored these summons just this once. His answer was the tug in his chest getting stronger, causing him to let out an irritated cough. He grimaced. With a fleeting hope that he’d be back home before Wyatt even noticed him missing, he followed the tug with a weary sigh.

The moment he appeared at the center of the crossroads he’d been summoned to, a bad feeling settled deep within his bones. Frowning, he looked up and around himself, frown deepening at the sight of four men. He could smell the holy water on them even from his distance from them, and the blessed iron somewhere around was making his skin itch.

“Gentlemen, what a fine night it is to make a deal,” he drawled, trying to hide his unease behind the slow crawl of his smile. “How can I be of service to such… eclectic characters such as yourself?”

The one closest to Doc, obviously the leader by the way all the other men’s eyes darted to him at Doc’s words, stepped forward with an easy smile, though his eyes were glinting dangerously. Doc didn’t appreciate seeing his own strategy used against him.

“You must be Doc Holliday,” he mused, stepping even closer, until he was an arm’s length away. Doc made an attempt to step back-- the blessed iron was causing the burn in his lungs to verge on a cough --but found an impenetrable wall at his back.

Instantly, Doc’s hackles were raised. The iron, the holy water, the trap that he only now noticed beneath his feet. All that on top of the fact that they were armed to the teeth like any bounty hunter, but with more exotic tastes. These men were hunters.

Tilting his head, Doc bared his teeth in an uneasy grin before saying, “Nice to know my reputation has reached such circles as yours. You have yet to answer my own question, though.” He narrowed his eyes. “And I don’t much like being disrespected, you know.”

The lead hunter laughed, though his eyes never crinkled shut, they stayed locked on Doc’s caged form as the three other men slowly began to circle him.

“What we want ain’t much,” the man finally admitted, mirth still dancing in his eyes. Doc felt he wouldn’t like the answer to his question, suddenly.

“But me and my men, well, killin’ demons and the like don’t pay much, and we don’t get to put down roots enough to get women. Got some steam to let out, figured we’d grab the biggest crossroads demon this side of the deadline, rough ‘im up a little,” he said, smiling big enough that the yellow of his teeth was distinct.

The lead in his stomach was almost more distracting than all the iron around him. With how close all four of them were getting, the cough that’d been building couldn’t be held back anymore, and he hacked raggedly into his sleeve, blood catching on his lips.

Quite abruptly, he began to feel real fear. With Ike, he’d been stabbed by a normal steel blade. Other than the annoyance of having to explain his failures to the Devil and the whole hassle of being shoved back into his body, he hadn’t really been scared. But now? The men around him clearly had no intention of letting him live, and by the sound of it, his way of getting there would be painful. He didn’t even have the hope that they’d botch killing him, because now he could tell that the bullets in their guns were blessed iron, as were the knives hanging off their belts.

“And just what does that entail?” Doc asked, wary, eyes darting between each of the four men. The mention of women in regards to what they’d do to him didn’t bode well.

The hunter tilted his head while the other three men laughed nervously. Clearly, they were still scared of him despite him being contained. It made him feel a little less like a caged rabbit and more like a caged tiger, but a cage was a cage and its master could be just as cruel to either beast.

“Oh, don’t worry about your delicate sensibilities. We ain’t that far into degeneracy. Unlike you, we do have some morals,” he drawled, clearly enjoying the hunted look Doc wasn’t quite able to hide. He cast a fleeting thought toward Wyatt. Hoped the man wouldn’t wait up too late for him. Hoped he would send out the cavalry once he realized what had happened.

Before Doc could get in another word, the hunter jerked his head toward the man closest to him. “Knock him out. We’ve gotta get outta here before his pet marshall comes running.”

The dread didn’t even have time to fully form when a cloth soaked in holy water was being pressed over his nose and mouth. Instantly, burning agony ripped through him, a hacking cough filled with blood spilled out, another one following, and another several after that, each ratcheting up the searing pain in his lungs. It wasn’t long before it all became too much, and he went slack against the man holding him, soon unaware, and decidedly not looking forward to when he woke up.

Wyatt spent most of his walk home wondering if Doc had left any stew for him, or if the secret glutton had eaten it all, knowing Wyatt would be forced to eat the old hard tack at the back of their pantry.

Walking down the silent, dark road, he tried to ignore the faint whispering he had to strain to hear, or the edges of shadows flickering around outside the corner of his eye. Once he was home, he could draw the curtains on them until Doc drifted off to sleep, and then he’d start his nightly vigil. He was quietly grateful Doc was such a heavy sleeper, even though the man was well aware of Wyatt’s activities.

It didn’t take all that long until the house came into view, though what he found a little curious was the distinct lack of lighting. Normally, if he managed to stay out later than Doc, the house would be lit up nice and bright for Wyatt. A veritable beacon in the middle of the empty desert just outside the faint lights of Tombstone.

He thought for a moment that perhaps Doc had gone to sleep already, but the idea didn’t sit right with him. Doc always waited up for him, even if he was drifting off in one of the chairs in the kitchen, lamp flickering brightly beside him.

An uneasy feeling began to settle in his stomach, and his once confident steps faltered a little. Shaking his head, he regained his former cadence with an annoyed grimace. If something truly was wrong, putting it off by a couple seconds wouldn’t make a difference. Perhaps he’d done something to earn Doc’s ire, he thought, half desperate. They’d parted at the Oriental in good spirits, and Wyatt couldn’t imagine there was anything in the house to truly piss Doc off in such a short amount of time. He’d even thrown his dirty clothes in the bin this time, for God’s sake.

Cresting the steps of the porch, he went for the knob, but found it still locked. They’d only even installed it by Doc’s decree, as he wouldn’t put it past any of the victims of his former deals to attempt to get back at him. Wyatt hadn’t had the strength to disagree, nor did he really want to.

Staring at the locked door with the lights left unlit, dread began to envelop him. “Maybe he was summoned off,” he muttered to himself, trying to rationalize things while he fished out his half forgotten key and unlocked the door, quietly stepping in.

With a nervous swallow, he lit a lantern and wandered back to their room, staring down at the empty bed. It seemed there would be no one to keep him company on his watch, that night.

As he sat on the chest placed beneath the window for this very purpose, eyes wide and searching, he said to himself resolutely, “If he’s not back by the morning, I’ll go looking.” However, even as he said it, he was already making plans for what he’d be doing the following morning. He wanted so desperately for his suspicions to be wrong. God, did he want. But the weight to his stomach and bones did not lend much credence to a positive outcome.

Unfortunately, it seemed he was right. Doc did not appear by the next morning.

Stomach churning so badly that he ended up skipping breakfast, he wasted no time in going to find the posse that had helped him with the cowboys a few months prior. Looked like he had an errant demon to track down.

Chapter 2

Notes:

Haha I'm posting this chapter from San Antonio, TX, about five hundred miles from where I live. About six hours from now I've gotta make the drive back home. Help. Thought about posting this Wednesday, but I figured a Tues/Fri update schedule was better.

Hope y'all enjoy this chapter, it's where it begins to get graphic.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Doc was woken by the burning in his lungs first and the hand in his hair wrenching his head back second. The organs were still raw from the holy water dousing that put him in this state in the first place, and he couldn’t help the wet hacks that forced themselves up his throat, choking on the blood he wasn’t able to spit out due to the angle his head was being held at. With a grimace. He forced himself to swallow it down and look up at his captor with bleary eyes.

He tried shifting a little, as the wooden chair he was tied to was not comfortable, but hissed as new pain registered. He tried to ignore the glee in the hunter’s eyes as he assessed his newfound injuries.

The shackles binding him were clearly made for demons, with tiny symbols etched into the blessed iron. The ropes keeping him uncomfortably upright were soaked in holy water, and they were beginning to burn and chafe, even through his clothes. In essence: he was f*cked.

“Good mornin’ to you,” the man rumbled, fingers tightening in Doc’s hair when he didn’t immediately reply. In all honesty, with the state his lungs were in, he wasn’t even quite sure he could answer, but it seemed an attempt was needed.

“Not too good for me, I’m afraid,” he rasped, voice breaking on a couple syllables and trailing off into a barely audible squeak for a few others. Lord, he sounded pathetic.

The hunter hummed in consideration. “Yeah, I can agree to that,” he decided, abruptly letting go and causing Doc’s head to drop to his chest at the sudden loss. With a sneer, he quickly forced it back up, wrenching his neck around to watch as the hunter slowly circled him. Doc wasn’t too sure where the rest of his little followers were, but judging by the sounds of merriment in the room over, they were already well into their celebration for another demon caught.

Eyes narrowed, Doc vowed to make them regret ever placing that summoning box in the dirt.

His attention was once more dragged back to the lead hunter, which, now that he actually had the time to parse through his memories of the summoning, he realized was named Marcus Sinclair. A sharp smile crept up his face.

“So, Marcus, considering the fact that all your fellow hunters are in the other room while you’re the only one in here partaking, I have reason to believe this may be personal for you,” Doc murmured, not willing to raise his voice and deal with all the cracks. He escaped the clutches of puberty decades ago, and he had no desire to relive its effects in any way shape or form.

Marcus froze, back turned to Doc since he was grabbing something, and turned halfway toward him. “Took you long enough,” he finally said, stepping closer with something hidden behind his back. Wary, Doc watched him approach carefully. He forced himself to bite down the words he truly wanted to say, because while he may be a mouthy son of a bitch, he wasn’t stupid.

Another cough forced itself out, and quite suddenly he realized he was absolutely drenched in sweat, with fine tremors running through him, causing him to clench his teeth to fight against them chattering. All this exposure to blessed iron was not doing him any favors. He could practically see the Devil smirking at him, eyes ablaze. This one’s on you, Holliday.

While he may be right, Doc would never admit to it, on principle.

Marcus stepped forward, and he could finally see what the man was holding. A blessed iron knife dripping with holy water. Not great, he silently acknowledged. But it could be worse. He thought back to that chip of iron he’d swallowed from his drink in the Oriental, all those months ago. The burning in his chest flared at the memory, because as bad as it was now, it had nothing on what it was then. For that, he was thankful.

Marcus frowned, obviously a little put out by Doc’s lack of reaction.

“As we’ve established that this is already personal,” Doc forced out, trying not to obviously be watching the knife held in the man’s hand, “just what did I do to deserve such ire?”

The hate in the hunter’s eyes flared brighter for a moment at distant memories, though quickly refocused back on Doc’s hunched form.

“Wasn’t you, Holliday,” he said, creeping closer with slow, purposeful steps. It made Doc feel like prey. He hadn’t felt like prey since the first time he’d tried to trick the Devil out of his deal, in the very beginning. “Was your kind, though, and that’s good enough for me. One that did it is long dead by now, some other hunter, some other town.”

Stripped down to just his undershirt and pants, the burning heat of the cursed blade drawing near caused him to shiver harder, and the flesh nearest it to sizzle quietly. Biting his lip hard enough to bleed, he stayed silent, but with how hard he was gripping the seat of his chair, he knew there’d be indents hidden in the whorls.

The knife was drawn away, for just a moment, before the sharp edge was gliding along his cheekbone with just enough force to draw burning, blistering blood. He jerked his head away from the blade, but the hunter easily followed the movement, though it caused the line to become jagged. The smell of his own burning flesh was beginning to make him nauseous, and the idea of throwing up all the whiskey he’d drunk earlier was not a pleasant one.

The hand in his hair was back, somehow even tighter. He felt a few strands give under the pressure, but the rest held firm, kept him stock-still as the burning blade swept across his other cheekbone.

He couldn’t help the hiss from escaping between clenched teeth, or the way his eyes were burning, but he did make a desperate attempt to bite at the hand held a little too close to his face while Marcus looked over his work.

Getting close enough to practically taste the skin he was about to tear into, a burning agony erupted in his thigh, prompting an unsolicited yelp that he was too surprised by to bite back. Looking down, vision blurred by the unwanted tears in his eyes, he found the knife sticking deep into his thigh. Shifting a little to accommodate the pain made him realize that the tip was buried into the wood.

Gritting his teeth so hard they creaked ominously, he bared them at Marcus and glared with as much hellfire as he could summon in such a weakened state. The man managed to look a little surprised by the display, but not as afraid as Doc was hoping.

The attempt exhausted him, on top of everything else, and he slumped back against the ropes that burned only a little less than the knife stuck in him.

“You better kill me fast,” he growled out, words barely audible to his own ears over the rushing of his blood and the pounding of his heart. “‘Cause if you don’t, Wyatt Earp will find you red-handed and leave you a bleeding stain along these walls.” He paused, forcing a jagged smile onto his face. “And that’s only if I don’t get to ya first.”

At the mention of Wyatt, the hunter finally began to look a little unsettled. Doc had a faint memory of them seeming afraid of Wyatt in their initial encounter. If the whole group was afraid of the law, perhaps he could manipulate some of the more green members. He listed Marcus as a lost cause. His only priority with the other man was to hopefully live through the encounter. He didn’t hold much hope on being able to convert them toward any form of sympathy, though.

A roughly calloused hand grabbed his face, the nails digging into the soft skin right below the cut in his cheekbone. His eyes continued to water, with one eye overflowing and leaking a teardrop that slid right onto Marcus’ thumb. The man smiled and wiped it away with an almost gentle movement, though the other four nails still digging in hard enough to make his jaw ache belied the man’s real intentions.

“Crying already, Holliday?” He murmured, voice mocking. Suddenly, his head tilted, eyes curious. “Though, that’s not your real name, is it? It’s just the body of the man you’ve taken over. But judgin’ by the blood you’re coughin’ up, he didn’t have much life left to live when you stole it from him anyway.”

“My name is John Henry Holliday and it would do you well to put some respect to it,” Doc snarled, twisting his neck to try and pull himself from the man’s hold on his face, but it held firm, tightening even more. He wasn’t able to shut his mouth all the way, with Marcus’s pointer finger and thumb digging into the hinge of his jaw.

“Real cute,” he muttered, continuing to eye Doc for a long while. Finally, he released his hold and stepped back. In an act of finery that downright shocked the demon, the other man pulled out a pocket watch and flipped it over, frowning at the time he saw.

“Seems like you get a break from me,” he said, sounding not very happy about it, but then he lifted his head and that dark gleam to his eyes was back. “The rest of the guys, on the other hand…”

Ice cold dread slithered deep within Doc. One man’s cruelty, he could handle. But a merciless beating from three drunk, riled up men? Once again, he was f*cked.

He watched as Marcus laughed quietly to himself and left, the screen door out the main entrance slamming shut behind him with a squeal of the springs. The men in the other room continued to drink, but Doc knew it was only a matter of time until they realized he’d been left alone.

It took less than three hours to gather everyone up, most of whom Wyatt had to wake up. They’d all answered their doors, bleary eyed and disheveled, annoyed up until he said what he was there for. He was out extremely early, early enough that Virgil even looked a little disgruntled at being disturbed. But when Wyatt saw the faint traces of sunrise beginning to peek over the horizon, he couldn’t wait anymore.

So now he, Virgil, Morgan and Louisa, and Creek, Jack and McMasters were all crammed into the living room of Kate and Josephine’s house. Wyatt knew immediately to go to Kate, because otherwise there would be no lead. Doc going on deals was no surprise, but him not being back within a few hours was. Since the man was summoned places, there was no trail to follow. For all Wyatt knew, he could be in Goddamn Texas and be none the wiser.

So, he watched as Kate slowly shuffled her deck of tarot cards, everyone waiting impatiently for even the faintest clue.

The first one she laid down was Judgement, which was upside down. She paused for a moment and frowned, but slowly placed the second one. It said High Priestess, also upside down. Her anxious looks were not helping with Wyatt’s own unease, but he waited until she was done.

Carefully, she placed a third card, and that one was easy to make out. The Devil, upside down. Now Wyatt was frowning. Did the Devil have something to do with Doc’s disappearance? He’d been told things had settled down between them.

“What’s all that mean?” Virgil asked, voice rough.

Kate sighed, peering down at the cards. “Let me start with how the cards felt… strong, so I’m confident in saying he’s still in the state,” she said, looking up at them, her eyes slowly falling on Wyatt. “But these cards aren’t telling me a very good story,” she admitted.

“Out with it, please,” Morgan muttered, visibly upset.

Nodding, Kate pointed to the one that said Judgement. “The order here is important, but I’ll get to that. This card usually means punishment or destruction when it’s reversed like this. Basically, not nice things,” she explained.

Wyatt felt his stomach sink. “I take it all the cards being reversed like this isn’t a good sign.”

Kate looked sympathetic. “No. It isn’t.” She tapped the High Priestess card. “Normally, this one reversed could be pretty harmless, like secrets or white lies, but with Judgement, I’m more inclined to lean toward its harmful iterations.”

“Jesus,” Creek muttered. Everyone was quickly catching on. There was a picture being painted in front of them, and it wasn’t a nice one.

Finally, she picked up the third card, The Devil, and sighed again. “Believe it or not, this is usually a positive one. Freedom, choice, temptation. But with these other two… it can also mean to be restrained or held against your will.”

The room became so silent Wyatt could’ve heard a pin drop.

“Someone lured him into a trap, is holding him captive, and is most definitely hurting him. Does that sound right?” Wyatt said, voice flat.

Kate looked at him apologetically. “It appears the way,” she murmured, looking down at her cards.

“Is there any way of telling where he is?” Morgan asked, voice a little shaky.

“I can say he’s within a hundred miles,” she offered. “If he’s being held against his will, then somewhere secluded but, well, it’s Arizona… that’s most of the territory.”

“So there’s nothing we can do,” Wyatt said, crossing his arms angrily.

Shaking her head, Kate said, “Even if you looked through every abandoned house and building in the hundred miles surrounding us, it’d take you months. Though, knowing Doc, I wouldn’t put him out of the fight just yet.”

Suddenly, she frowned, hands grabbing her deck once more and shuffling the cards, picking another one out and laying it down on the table. The Hermit reversed.

“Though, he’d better hurry,” she murmured, eyes creasing in concern.

Doc got in probably a half of a smart ass comment before the largest guy in the bunch threw a punch so hard against the half-closed cut on Doc’s face that his teeth sliced into the soft meat of his cheek, causing blood to begin pouring from his mouth in an even greater quantity than it usually did when these things happened. Seemed all the holy water wasn’t doing much to help his blood clot. He was only a little grateful that the knife in his thigh had yet to be removed, because he wasn’t confident in his ability to not bleed out if was no longer there.

The stark burning pain had ebbed to an insistent throb, as had the cuts on his face, up until the fist to the face. He happened to like his face. The constant abuse to it was deeply upsetting. Looking at the expressions of the men around him, he decided to keep his complaints to himself.

The moment he complained in his mind, he felt a hand grip the handle of the knife sticking out of him, and he tensed so hard at the jolt of pain that his back began to hurt almost immediately.

The big guy held Doc still via a hand wrapped around his throat, just enough to obstruct but not completely block his airflow, while the smallest man slowly twisted the knife in his leg, drawing out an agonized gasp that was cut off by the man squeezing down harder. He tried to cough, but no air came out. Abruptly, the partial obstruction had completely blocked his airway.

His body couldn’t decide which pain it wanted him to focus on, and with the loss of air, they all decided to ratchet up exponentially. His diaphragm jerked in empty coughs, his lungs burning with both the need to spit up blood and suck down air. When black spots began to form in his vision, he tried kicking out with his legs, the heels and spurs of his boots catching on the ground with a muffled clang. Come to think of it, everything was becoming muffled.

The pain in his face and leg had faded away, but his lungs were burning worse than a forest fire and his head felt like it was going to split open. Somehow, his face felt numb. Distantly, he thought he should be concerned about that, but by then his kicking had slowed down, just reactionary twitches in his feet. Even the need to cough didn’t feel so prescient…

He wasn’t aware his eyes were closing until a hard knuckle straight to the sternum yanked him back to awareness, which made him realize the hand around his throat was gone. He sucked in maybe one lungful of air before the coughs took over. If he wasn’t tied to the chair, he’d be bent over his knees hacking up all the blood he was worth.

As it was, he kept coughing and coughing, with all the blood and small chunks of flesh landing on his shirt, and, notably, the big guy in front of him until the man thought to move. The two close to Doc quickly backed away, thankfully leaving the knife in him still, while the third man just smoked in the corner and watched, eyes glinting in the lamplight.

Desperately trying to catch his breath, he forced himself to ignore the blood and saliva dripping from his mouth and onto his shirt. Cleanliness was the least of his worries right now.

The shivering had gotten stronger. He was shaking hard enough that he had to clench his jaw to keep his teeth from rattling again. He felt cold, too, and with all the burning things on him, he found that a slight cause for concern.

It took a torturously long time to get his breathing under any semblance of control, swallowing convulsively and rubbing his face on his shoulder, smearing the blood over his face. Grimacing, he looked up at the three men still eyeing him, obviously contemplating what to do next.

Sneering, Doc said, “The righteous will rejoice when he sees the vengeance; he will bathe his feet in the blood of the wicked.”

He grinned at how unsettled they began to appear, blood stained teeth on stark display. They shuffled uncomfortably before the man who’d been smoking scoffed and stepped back forward, putting out his cigarette right on Doc’s arm. An almost inhumane growl slipped out of him at the pain, but compared to the holy blade sticking out of his thigh, it was almost nothing.

Seeming to realize this, the man pulled out his gun, the chamber absolutely reeking of iron. For a moment, Doc braced himself for a more permanent trip down to the Devil, but the man didn’t co*ck the hammer. Instead, he peered at it for a moment, just to annoy Doc further, before bringing it down with a faint whistle and hitting Doc right in the ribs.

Gasping, his hands jerked in their restraints, but his ribs held. However, the bloodlust the first hit seemed to have sparked didn’t bode well for their continued ability to stay intact. He swallowed again, tasting only blood, breathing harshly through his nose.

It seemed the other two men had gotten their fill, for now, as they just leaned back against the wall and stared, laughing when the butt of the gun was brought down again, and again, and again. By the fifth hit, he was beginning to feel something buckle in his chest, and at the sixth, there was a distinct crunch that drove any ounce of air left in him right out of his body.

He wheezed, twitching back into the chair in an attempt to escape the bludgeoning he was being put through, but the man just wouldn’t. stop. Ten hits and he felt another rib snap. Twelve and there went another. At this point, there was so much blood dripping from his mouth that his shirt was sticking to his collarbones.

“Hey, if ya kill ‘im too soon, Marcus’ll gut ya,” the small one warned, taking a hesitant step forward, but didn’t try too hard to stop him.

Insensate with pain, Doc’s head just hung forward, his chin digging into his bruised sternum as he tried to force air into his lungs, the sound rattling ominously. As far as he could tell, he hadn’t punctured a lung, yet. But he wasn’t too happy about his odds of getting out of here before it did eventually happen.

Thankfully, it seemed the man was smart enough to be more scared of his boss than he wanted to kill Doc, as he backed off with a sneer of his own. “Smartass. Unholy things like him ain’t got no right saying God’s words,” he spat, glaring daggers at Doc, who wasn’t even looking at him.

His fingers were clenched so hard on the sides of his thighs that he could feel the denim creaking beneath his fingernails. Trying to breathe through the pain was never going to work, and at this rate he felt like he’d never be lucky enough to pass out, so he just had to endure.

The chatter of the three men was soon drowned out by the ringing in his ears. He clenched his jaw again and squeezed his eyes shut, but it only got louder. The nausea was getting worse, and he could only assume it had something to do with the blessed iron soaking into his blood. Christ, he was in for a long night with that thing.

A minute later and he realized he was swaying slightly, as much as he could within his tight restraints. He tried to swallow down the nausea, but he could feel the bile creeping up his throat. It made him cough again, the pain sharp against his sore throat. All it did was exacerbate the nausea. Resigning himself, he tilted his head away from as much of his body as he could, feeling the saliva continue to pool hot and sour in the corners of his mouth.

One more swallow was all he could manage before he finally threw up, every heave causing every single wound on and in his body to scream in pain. He managed to get most of it on the floor, with only some landing on the edge of his sleeve and on his boot. The amount of blood was cause for concern, but something that could wait.

Exhausted, he sank against the ropes, ignoring the way his skin sizzled a little at the more direct contact. He swallowed again, and tried not to gag at the taste, but forced himself to keep it down. He didn’t have it in him to throw up again.

Faintly, he heard the three men slinking out of the room, muttering in disgust, but thank God, Doc was finally left alone. In the piercing silence, the ringing continued, but much quieter. He spared a tired thought for Wyatt; hoped the man wasn’t too worried.

Without quite realizing it, he’d drifted off.

Wyatt knew Kate was right about a search being hopeless. He dissolved the posse before it even had a chance to form, ignoring the pitying looks he got from everyone, excluding Kate.

His already erratic sleep schedule became nonexistent. He sat in the kitchen and stared out all the windows with wide, tired eyes, trying to see if he could pick out Doc’s drawl whispering in his ear. He didn’t sleep out of fear of missing the moment Doc joined in on the cacophony hounding him each night. With every fiber of his being did he dread the moment it happened, but he refused to not be there to witness Doc’s crossing.

Wyatt’s position as deputy was only held at this point because Virgil was sheriff. He spent most of his time riding wider and wider circles outside their home, faintly hoping to find a sign of Doc. Any sign. Each time, he came up with nothing.

Before he knew it, four days had passed, five since Doc was taken, and nothing new had occurred. Kate kept drawing the same four cards, beginning to look frustrated about it. The one comfort was she was confident he was alive. In what state, was the detail everyone was silently worried about.

On the fifth day, he stood up from his usual seat in the kitchen and walked mindlessly into their bedroom, opening the wardrobe and staring inside. For a long, long while, he just took in the sight of Doc’s over the top waistcoats and pretty patterned shirts, and the silk cravats he always asked Wyatt’s opinion on before choosing.

The faint smell of Doc’s cologne could be noticed, and Wyatt found himself angrily scrubbing his face, refusing to cry. “He ain’t dead,” he whispered harshly to himself.

“He’ll be fine,” he said, just as quietly, staring blankly at the clothes.

It was near on an hour before he snapped out of it. He only went back to his spot in the kitchen and stared at the window, unblinking, even in the daylight.

He’d be there to greet Doc home, should he ever make it back.

Notes:

Looking up bible quotes for this fic was really funny, because the searches were so random. However I felt it necessary that this Doc would be an ass and quote holy sh*t at hunters (he does it to Ringo in the fic this is based on so). This chapter and the next are the most graphic, if memory serves, so watch yourselves and do what you need.

If anyone finds an issue with my tagging, lmk and I'll fix whatever needs fixing. See you Friday :)

Chapter 3

Notes:

Back home!! The drive back was not as awful as the way down, but I still knocked out the second I got home.

This chapter is definitely my favorite. I hope you guys enjoy it lol.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Doc was left in an uneasy peace for several days, three or four if he had to guess. Marcus still hadn’t returned, and the other hunters didn’t want to do anything to possibly kill Doc before the man returned. They didn’t look too concerned by his absence, so Doc could only assume it was intentional.

Occasionally, they’d bring him water, for which he tried not to show just how grateful for it he was, but no food. He’d never actually tried to starve his body in this iteration of himself, so he wasn’t sure how it was going to go, but he knew he felt hungry. The ropes began to feel a little looser before the men came to tighten them, as well. He tried not to think about it. He was trying not to think about a lot of things, currently.

The men spent most of their time drinking in another room, sometimes coming in and kicking him in the feet until he snapped to awareness when they got bored. It was becoming increasingly difficult to remain cognisant.

The blessed blade had been in him so long that he could feel his blood burning beneath his skin, never letting him settle. It felt like ants stinging and pinching. He could say the one positive was that he wasn’t exactly prone to infections, so the poison entering his veins was not going to give him a slow death. It would just be incredibly painful up until he was finally killed.

He wasn’t sure where Marcus went, but he didn’t think it boded well for him.

It was at the end of the fourth day, when he was so wracked with shivers, that he didn’t even hear the sound of the front door opening, but he sure as hell heard it slam shut. Marcus was back.

Doc knew what a pathetic sight he must make. The men had done nothing to clean him up, only the floor around him. His face was covered in dried blood and crusted on saliva, and the front of his shirt was just completely disgusting. He was filthy, and if it weren’t for the blessed iron already running through him, his skin would be itching from that fact alone.

He barely had the energy to lift his head up to watch Marcus walk in, looking much too smug for Doc’s tastes. His head throbbed at the change in elevation, and he grimaced.

“No wise things to say?” Marcus goaded, crossing his arms.

“No point in wastin’ air,” Doc murmured, barely audible. His lungs hurt less than they did the first day, but they were still tender and flared up randomly.

Marcus hummed. “Suppose you’re right,” he agreed, nodding. Tilting his head, he asked, “D’you know where I went off to?”

“To father more bastard sons. What do I care?” Doc rasped, annoyed.

The hunter’s eyes narrowed, but he stayed where he was. “Hadn’t had to exorcise a demon as powerful as you. Went to go consult some sources,” he finally said, watching for Doc’s reaction.

As bone-weary as he was, he had no hope of hiding the sharp zing of fear he felt from showing on his face. Exorcisms were painful even for demons that were actually inside an unwilling host. It came from their inability to let go. Doc did not want to know what happened to demons whose host was actually their own body. He swallowed down the panic rising in his chest, but didn’t succeed very well. His heart was racing.

“Ah, I thought that might scare ya,” Marcus said, grinning.

“This is my body, you dimwit,” Doc snarled, almost unable to be heard over the beating of his own frantic heart.

“You stole that body, it ain’t yours,” the hunter growled, face dark.

“I am John Henry Holliday! I sold my soul for a chance to live!” He tried, voice desperate. He was ashamed of himself, but his overwhelming terror was winning out over dignity.

“Don’t try an’ save yourself now, hellspawn,” Marcus said, baring his teeth in a reflection of Doc’s usual intimidation tactics. “Come mornin’, we’re sendin’ your unholy self back down to hell.”

Doc could only watch, wide eyed and panting with fear as Marcus left the room, leaving Doc to his own devices.

He was going to die in the morning. He was sure of it. What he wasn’t sure of was its permanence. He was afraid he would never see Wyatt again. He was afraid he was going to have another never ending conversation with the Devil. He was downright terrified of how much pain he was going to be put through before he finally succumbed. He hoped it was fast. Silently, he knew it wouldn’t be.

It was the first night of his captivity that he couldn’t sleep. Instead, he just stared out the one window in the room he was in until his eyes burned, and still he stared. He wondered if Wyatt was staring out their bedroom window, like any other night. Routine unbroken by Doc’s absence. The thought hurt. He watched as the sun began to rise, and the sounds of people stirring filled the house.

Closing his eyes, he tried to breathe through the fear. These last few months with Wyatt had been paradise. He’d had his Eden with Wyatt, brief as it was. He was happy. Wyatt would remember him well after Doc was gone. It was about all he could hope for.

He tried not to grimace at the sound of footsteps heading his way. When Marcus walked in, the three other hunters trailing behind him, he met the lead man’s gaze unflinchingly. He would not die a coward. He was not so yellow-bellied as that. His father made sure of it a long, long time ago.

Immediately, his eyes zeroed in on the cup Marcus was holding. His stomach roiled. There was Holy Water in there, diluted, maybe, but Holy all the same. Marcus followed his gaze and smiled.

“Smell that, do you? Normally, just reciting the right verses is enough, but I was told for one as powerful as you, we’d have to weaken the hellish parts inside the host first,” the hunter explained casually.

Doc thought back to when Ike had put just a sliver of blessed iron in his drink, and how it’d laid him up for over a day. He could only hope that it was diluted enough to not kill him outright. Then, suddenly, he got ice cold with terror. If the exorcism killed him, would he still be able to be sent back? The unsurety made his heart race, and his lungs began to burn with his accelerated breathing.

“Phil, Danny, hold him down,” Marcus ordered, nodding his head toward Doc. The big guy, Phil, and the smoker from the first night, Danny, wasted no time in walking over and holding Doc in an iron grip. Between them and the ropes, he’d be hard pressed to move.

“Gene, keep the Bible ready for me on the right page, I’ll have to start reading real quick after the water’s down,” he said, to which Gene just silently flipped to the right page and waited.

Even as restrained as he was, Doc still fought when Marcus approached him. Mustering up the small amount of strength he had left, he shoved with his shoulders and pressed against the ropes, but they held, and the two men holding him down just gripped him tighter.

“I swear, this is my body, this is mine. I was a dentist, I had tuberculosis, I was born in Georgia please,” Doc begged, the words burning on his tongue. He canted his head as far away from the cup full of Holy Water getting closer and closer to his mouth as he possibly could. He kicked at the ground desperately, trying to force the chair back, but the two holding him down simply braced themselves behind him and it held firm.

“May God bless your unholy soul,” Marcus said, grabbing Doc’s jaw tightly, similar to the first night. He dug his fingers into the hinges of his jaw, forcing his mouth open. Then, against Doc’s frantic struggles, he tipped the cup into his mouth, forced it shut, and pinched his nose shut.

Immediately, his mouth began to burn, and he could hear it faintly sizzling. He couldn’t help the muffled groan of agony, and for a second he was so overwhelmed he couldn’t even think to swallow, even as the need for air grew.

“Swallow it, you idiot,” Marcus hissed, glaring down at Doc.

Finally, he managed to get it down, and the aching burn just traveled down his esophagus and into his stomach, where it began to permeate his whole body.

A ragged cry escaped his raw throat, his whole body shaking in agony, trying to escape a pain coming from within.

“Gene, I need that Bible,” Marcus called, not looking away from Doc’s sweaty and pale face.

He squeezed his eyes shut, and found that made the pain just worse, but he didn’t have the strength to open them again. However, he did hear Marcus take ahold of the Bible and clear his throat.

Maybe it won’t do anything, he thought desperately. Panting in short gasps, he could hear the wet rasp on each inhale and knew that it was not a good sound.

Then, Marcus began to speak. “Exorcizamus te, omnis immundus spiritus omnis satanica potestas.”

Instantly, Doc knew his faint hope was in vain. Something began to stir inside of him, not yet painful, but uncomfortable, like the words were awakening the demonhood inside of him.

Slowly, it went from uncomfortable to painful, then from painful to torturous. He estimated Marcus to be about halfway through by the time it was reaching unbearable levels.

“Vade, Satana, inventor et magister omnis fallaciae, hostis humanae salutis.”

“Please,” croaked Doc, shaking hard enough that the chair was rattling faintly beneath him. Marcus continued on as if he hadn’t heard.

Another few words, and Doc felt his eyes roll back into his head and his awareness fade away abruptly. His shaking turned more violent, and he quickly realized he was beginning to seize.

His whole body felt like it was on fire, his blood burning like molten lava and he could feel each muscle and tendon contract with each moment. With every passing second, he felt more and more disconnected from his body, with his only tether being the agony he was being put through. Distantly, he heard a scream, and it took him feeling the ache in the back of his throat to realize it was him. He’d never screamed like he was now. Not when he was shot and dying in that back alley, looking up at the dark haired man holding a hand down to him with a creeping smile and an unholy salvation on his tongue.

Not when he’d been poisoned, or stabbed, or shot, or any other method of his undoing.

But now, he screamed like it was all he had in him to do, and quickly, he figured out that it was. All he could do was sit there and take it and wait for it to end.

On and on it went, and Doc didn’t know an exorcism could take so long, but Marcus was reading it so deliberately slowly, drawing it out.

If he had the ability to speak, he thought he’d be begging some more, fruitless as it would be, but all he could do was cry out, straining against the ropes that burned him, crying out in agony. Praying for a benevolence he knew he had no hope, no right of receiving.

As they neared the end, the tearing pain in his chest eclipsed, and his screaming was cut off by loud, heaving coughs interspersed with hacked gagging. Within seconds, he was throwing up blood, with nothing else in his stomach. Far, far too much blood, with chunks he didn’t want to think about coming up as well. One of his ribs had finally had enough and punctured his lung. It was a dim realization, one he wasn’t even fully aware of. He only noticed it because it became harder to breathe, a feat he didn’t think was possible before that moment.

There was a ringing pressure building in his skull, drowning out everything but the wet sound of his breathing and Marcus’ voice. It was almost over.

It felt like a wet blanket had been thrown onto his brain, every one of his senses becoming dull and muffled, and even the pain began to distance itself. Soon.

“Terribilis Deus de sanctuario suo. Deus Israhel ipse truderit virtutem et fortitudinem plebi Suae. Benedictus deus. Gloria patri,” Marcus finished, snapping the Bible shut.

Doc felt the words wash over him, but he didn’t feel peace. Instead, all he felt was terror as his body gave one last frantic kick at the ground, before he went limp. From one second to the next, his consciousness winked out.

He floated in the gray nothingness for an indeterminable amount of time. He wasn’t worried, as this was what usually happened. Really, he was just inordinately grateful for the lack of pain.

Like usual, it didn’t take long for it to feel like he was being sucked down somewhere, and between one second and another, he found himself staring up at the Devil from where he’d landed on the ground.

“You again, Holliday?” The Devil sniffed, frowning in displeasure.

“Me again,” he affirmed, dryly.

“What idiocy did you get yourself into now?”

Doc swallowed, trying to push the memories of the last five days very firmly away. “Surprised you don’t already know. Seeing as you always seem to be in my business,” Doc muttered, flinching at the sharp look his response garnered.

“Believe it or not, John, I do have things to do other than keep a baleful eye on your tedious little life,” the Devil answered, not amused. He loomed over Doc’s body, and he tried not to let the slight fear he felt show too obviously.

“Some hunters got me,” he finally admitted, grudgingly. “They tried to exorcise me. As you can see, it didn’t go well.”

The Devil hummed. “No. No it didn’t.”

They stared at each other for a minute or so before Doc got impatient. “Are you sending me back?” He asked, pretending he didn’t hear the waver to his voice in the question.

“And why should I?” Asked the Devil, smoothing down his coiled mustache idly.

For a moment, Doc blanched. Managing to rally himself, he said, “I bring in lots of souls, even ones you don’t send me off to get.”

“This is true,” the Devil agreed, watching Doc unflinchingly. It was unnerving, but he forced himself to stay unrattled.

“I don’t know of any other demon this side of the deadline bringing in as many souls as I do,” he stated, trying to push how indisposable he really was. In truth, he couldn’t give a f*ck about how many souls he brought in, he just wanted to see Wyatt again, and he’d spout whatever he had to to get there. Of course, the Devil would be able to tell if he was lying, so he could only hope what he was saying was the truth.

The Devil hummed again, smiling. “You have brought me a good many souls, Holliday. Do you feel that business will continue as well as it has?”

Doc felt the weight of his soul in his chest all the more, now, since he knew what it felt like to go without one.

He swallowed. “Yes.”

The Devil sighed, taking a step back. “Oh, I suppose I’ll send you back up, but do be careful? This is getting repetitive, and one day I might not feel so benevolent.”

He could only nod, seeing the flash of hellfire in the Devil’s eyes at his words.

Tilting his head, the Devil said, “With your situation, your revival won’t be very complete.”

“What do you mean?” Doc asked, wary.

“No body of water for rebirth. I’ll only be able to fix your wounds well enough to keep you alive without assistance for a short while.” He grinned, teeth growing sharp around the canines. “But I can lend you a few things for a short while.”

Uneasy, Doc narrowed his eyes, but didn’t deny the offer. He would take what he could get. The sooner he could get out of this conversation as well, the better.

“If you die again today, that’s it, John. I don’t have much patience for mistakes,” the Devil warned, the hellfire growing stronger.

Before he could answer, he felt a yank in his chest, and everything went black.

Back in Tombstone, Wyatt was laying on the couch within Kate and Josephine’s home, trying to sleep. He wasn’t able to find any rest in his and Doc’s house, the bed feeling too empty, so he sought out Kate’s sympathetic company.

He hadn’t managed to fall all the way asleep yet, just quietly dozing. Distantly, he heard Kate begin to shuffle some cards, the sound loud in the silent house.

There came the slap of a card being set down onto the table, and then for a minute, there was no noise at all.

“Wyatt,” Kate called, voice half frantic. The tone was enough to jolt Wyatt back to awareness, blinking the sleep out of his eyes while he stumbled over to Kate.

“What?” He muttered, peering down at her. Silently, she pointed down at the card she’d placed down. Judgment. He noticed it wasn’t reversed.

“Explain,” he said shortly.

“Liberation,” she murmured, turning eyes full of excitement up to Wyatt. “I think he’s gotten out.”

The weight he’d been holding with his tensed shoulders seemed to dissipate at once. “Are you positive?”

“Well, you can’t ever be positive with these things, but within the context of everything happening, I am confident that he’ll make his way back to us,” she said, looking resolute.

Wyatt just continued to stare down at the card like it was a lifeline. “Don’t take too long,” he murmured, grateful when Kate pretended not to hear.

Landing back in his body was awful. He was instantly placed back into all the agony he’d felt earlier, and he found himself missing the lack of pain down in hell, even with as much as he hated the Devil, it’d been a nice reprieve. It took him a moment to get reacquainted with himself, and he realized two things.

One being that the pain wasn’t quite as bad as before, but that’s like saying the difference between being run over by a large horse and a small horse. The second being that his ropes had been undone. Flexing his arms, he felt them shift loosely around him.

The four hunters were talking to each other, with Marcus sounding distinctly confused. Idiots. I tried telling them.

Then, the panic set in. He had to get out. He wasn’t going to get another chance. He knew, knew, that if the hunters got ahold of him again, that it was over for him. No more annoying conversations with the Devil, no more second chances, no more mornings waking up in Wyatt’s arms once he’d crawled in bed after his watch.

Slowly, his body began to fill with adrenaline that was fueled wholly by desperation, heart pounding and muscles tensing. Then, he felt his teeth sharpen in his mouth, and his nails grew and sharpened as well. The Devil’s gifts.

Without wasting any time, he opened his eyes, grit his teeth together, and yanked the blessed blade out of his leg, grunting. The blood began to leak out almost instantly, but he ignored it. It hadn’t hit an artery, it could wait. Wait until he was free.

Phil was the first one to notice their prisoner back among the living, and his eyes widened in shock, but before he could get a warning out, Doc had launched himself across the room toward Danny, the one with his back to him. He felt an inhuman amount of strength surging through his bones, and he took advantage of that and the hunter’s surprise.

Danny didn’t even have time to shout before Doc’s teeth were in his throat, biting for all he was worth while at the same time he was stabbing the blade he’d torn from his leg into Danny’s chest. Without waiting for his heart to stop, he tore the flesh between his teeth away from the rest of the man’s throat and let his body drop to the ground with a thump.

It seemed the only one armed with a gun was Phil, the other two had only drawn their knives, so that was his next target. He felt disconnected from his body, with only his fear-driven instincts telling him what to do.

Immediately, he threw himself toward Phil, who desperately tried to lift the gun and aim, but Doc gripped the wrist holding the gun and dug in his newfound claws, causing the man to drop it with a shout. Before the other two decided to rush him, he slit Phil’s throat with the knife and whipped around, throwing the bloodied blade straight into Gene’s eye as the man ran at him.

Marcus was in the corner of the room, knife held defensively in front of him, panic shining in his eyes as he took in the carnage.

Doc turned toward him, panting, feeling none of the pain he knew himself to be in. Blood was dripping down his chin, but for once, it wasn’t his own.

He bared his teeth, grinning at how he knew their sharp ends flashed in the light. “I kept telling you this body was mine,” he said lowly, creeping toward Marcus, making sure the man wasn’t about to throw the knife, but it seemed he didn’t know how.

Doc found it laughable how sure they were in his demise that almost all of them had left their guns in the other room, likely next to their alcohol.

“I-I didn’t know, really,” Marcus tried, voice shaking as much as his body. The knife wavered back and forth.

“Oh, I’m sure you didn’t,” Doc soothed, tone sickly sweet as he got closer and closer.

“Look, I’m sorry!” Marcus cried, shoving his body as far into the corner as he could. Doc relished in this moment, the shift from being prey to being the predator. He could smell the other man’s fear in the air, and it made his blood rush in his ears.

“You aren’t, yet,” Doc murmured. “But you will be,” he promised. He watched Marcus’ face pale even more.

Without waiting any longer, he shot his hand forward and gripped the man’s wrist so tightly he dropped his knife, just like his friend on the floor behind him.

He only managed a panicked “Please--!” Before Doc was on him, teeth sinking so far into his neck he could taste the man’s frantic pulse.

Beneath him, Marcus squirmed, crying out, and Doc stabbed his claws into the other man’s soft stomach, hearing him gasp out. Twisting his hand in deeper, he clenched his jaw tighter, his teeth cutting through the artery beneath them.

Marcus had long enough to make his peace before Doc finally wrenched his head back, a spray of arterial blood following him back as he tore out a giant chunk from the man’s neck.

For a few seconds, Marcus stood there, uselessly gasping, before the excessive blood loss caught up and he stumbled forward, toppling over. He twitched helplessly for a few moments as the blood continued to grow around him, and Doc just watched, gasping for air.

Soon, the man stopped moving and fell still. Doc stayed for a few minutes just to be sure everyone was dead before he was satisfied. Haltingly, he made his way into the kitchen, grabbing his guns and his hat and stopping beside an open bottle of rotgut whiskey.

With a grimace, he picked it up and downed half of it in one go. He was going to need it. Already, he could feel the adrenaline fading and being replaced by pain. His teeth and nails were going back to normal as well. For a second, he mourned that they were temporary, but thought about it for another second and realized they’d definitely be more detrimental if they stayed.

Finally, after five days of being held in that sh*t hole of a house, he stumbled out into the fresh air of the desert at night. He sucked in a deep breath, hacking it back out, and still felt relieved despite it.

He was free.

With the loss of the adrenaline though did he realize just how exhausted he was, and summoning the energy to get back to Wyatt was a hard task. The intent kept slipping through his fingers, just out of reach no matter how hard he tried. After several minutes of more and more tiring attempts did he finally manage to latch onto the threads to get himself home.

Instantly, he held on tight and let himself follow wherever it took him. He just hoped the result was as close to their homestead as possible.

Notes:

If you noticed the fact that the exorcism I used is the one from spn, no you didn't <3

The scene with Doc tearing out throats and going batsh*t crazy is genuinely the entire reason I wrote this fic. I needed it. It only gets better from here folks, but we've still got a little ground left to cover. I'll see you in a few days.

Chapter 4

Notes:

Nearly done! The first scene of this chapter is probably my favorite scene, second only to the throat tearing of the previous chapter. Mostly Wyatt pov in this one, but you'll see Doc again in the next chapter. Enjoy <3

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The current Doc followed to get home was… long and unwieldy. It took twists and turns and followed the whim of his subconscious without his wanting it to, but after what felt like hours of trying to bring the journey under any semblance of control, he caught sight of the homestead.

With his end goal in sight, he fought even harder to get to his destination. However, it seemed the energy reserves in his body had been depleted of their last drop. Even the Devil’s assistance was no longer of any help, and the adrenaline he’d felt while taking down the hunters in the house felt like a long distant dream that he mourned.

He fell to the ground, hard, the impact driving all the air out of his laboring lungs. Inherently, he knew himself to be within the property line, but not within sight of their house. Cursing himself, he bit back a sob of frustration. He’d made it this far. He could go further.

On shaking arms, he dragged them under himself and attempted to lever himself up on them. After three tries left his chin sore and covered in dust, he finally managed to find his feet, though his ability to stay on them was precarious at best.

He took a slow step forward, lurching a little with the shift in his weight. Confident that he’d be able to walk at least a little further, he shoved his weight forward and forced his legs to follow, stumbling around like a drunkard. His vision kept graying out, fizzling a little at the edges, and his ears would go from putting everything in crisp sound to sounding like he was underwater.

The constant back and forth he was fighting with his body was draining energy he didn’t have left to give. He began to feel nauseous again, saliva pooling in his mouth hot and acrid, though there was nothing left to throw up, not even water.

He wasn’t sure how far he walked, he just knew it was in the direction of the homestead. Between one slow blink and another, he found himself hitting the sandy earth with a grunt he couldn’t even hear over the obnoxious ringing that was taking over.

Get up. He… he had to get up. He was out of chances.

But God. He couldn’t do it. Everything was spinning, and even the thought of turning his head made him want to heave. None of his limbs would obey him any longer. The stab wound in his leg was still steadily dripping his blood into the sand, and the burning pain in the limb was hardly distinguishable from the rest of the burning pain overtaking his body.

There were tears streaming silently down his face, but he wasn’t sure when they started. He couldn’t give up, but at the same time he could not stand. His body was done. He’d done all he could, and still it hadn’t been enough.

Wyatt would find his body once the vultures start circling, likely in the morning. It was still night, and the full moon cast a pale glare over the landscape. It made everything look like silver, cold and infallible.

“Forgive me, Wyatt,” he whispered, voice thick from pain and tears alike. “Forgive me, please. I tried. I tried. And I failed.” He swallowed, barely able to get the saliva past the obstruction in his throat.

“And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it,” he murmured, staring up at the stars above, spinning and spinning until his eyes were forced to close.

I think I’ll just lay here…

Walking home was a tired affair, Wyatt found. He’d finally been kicked out by Kate, who said he needed to keep an eye on the homestead, lest someone break in in his absence. Which, was fair, but that didn’t mean he had to take it lying down.

It was a particularly cloudless night, with the heavier wind likely being an attributing factor to that. The moon was full, and it was shining the full force of the sun’s reflection down onto the smooth sands.

Slightly chilled despite the earlier June heat, he tugged his coat a little closer and hurried up. Sooner he got home, sooner he could pretend the whispers in his ears weren’t there. Could pretend Doc was sleeping peacefully in the other room while Wyatt kept an eye out.

A heavier gust of wind forced Wyatt to turn away from the blowing sand, clutching his hat to his head. Just then, he happened to notice a dark shape on the ground some distance away. Frowning, he watched it for a while, noting when it didn’t move. He considered leaving it, since it was likely a dead coyote or some such, and nature would have its way with it eventually, but something tugged deep in his chest, urging him toward it.

Carefully, he took measured steps across the less-trodden sand off the well-worn path toward the homestead in the form’s direction.

The closer he got, the more sure he became that it wasn’t a coyote, but some poor soul who’d likely gotten lost in the desert and died just short of civilization. If you could call Tombstone civilization, that is, despite all of Behan’s prior claims.

Just a few feet short of the body, he managed to get a good look at the face, and his heart stopped. For several, long, dragging seconds, he stood stock-still, incapable of moving.

Then, the fact that the body in front of him also wasn’t moving drove him to action. His heart kickstarted back into action, racing so fast so suddenly he was dizzy with it as he dropped to his knees in the sand.

“John,” Wyatt gasped, reaching a shaking hand out and grabbing onto the man’s shoulder, holding tight. His eyes, mercilessly aided by the moonlight, scanned Doc’s still form frantically, helplessly cataloging the myriad of issues he could find at first glance. “Christ, they got you good, huh?” He muttered while trying to distract himself.

Heart in his throat, he pressed his fingers hard against the artery in Doc’s neck and sagged in relief at the thready, fast pulse he found. Alive, but not for much longer if left like this.

Indecision nearly rent him in two. They were halfway between the homestead and Tombstone, and he wasn’t sure which to go to. Mindlessly, he gnawed on the skin beside his thumb and thought.

The continued silence from Doc was what made up his mind. Taking a deep breath to steady himself, he grabbed onto what looked like the least injured parts of Doc and hauled him over his shoulder, flinching when the man groaned weakly. He didn’t move though, which concerned Wyatt more.

He couldn’t help but be a little grateful that despite no longer dying of consumption, Doc was still a very light man, mean like a feral cat and just about as heavy as one.

The rest of the trek home slipped by without him noticing, and he spent most of it trying to ignore the sheer amount of blood canvassing Doc’s skin and clothes. He hoped, desperately, that not all of it was Doc’s. And with that trail of thought, mindless rage began to take over before he managed to shove it down. Because who had dared to take John Henry Holliday from him? Who had the balls for such a blasphemous act against Wyatt’s person. And he was certain of that knowledge, because anyone who knew of Doc Holliday knew that the name usually preceding it was Wyatt Earp.

He added that to the list of things not to think about. His first priority was making sure Doc didn’t bleed to death, because even now he could feel his shoulder getting sticky from the wound on Doc’s thigh.

The dark silhouette of the homestead soon appeared, and Wyatt walked faster toward it, fishing out his key to the door before he even made it to the steps. He unlocked the door and bee-lined straight for the bedroom, setting Doc down onto the untouched blankets with all the care he could manage in his work-worn body. He was rewarded by Doc hardly stirring, but it made the ache in his stomach grow more than it soothed it.

He turned on his heel and marched into the center room, lighting one of the lamps and turning it low so it wouldn’t burn all the fuel before he returned. Thus finished with that, he marched outside and jogged toward the stable where Beauty and Keats were sleeping.

For a moment, he felt bad for forcing Beauty awake, sticking the bit in her mouth before she was even on her feet, but he promised himself he’d compensate her with carrots once Doc was all sorted. Seeming to sense his urgency at least, she didn’t complain beyond a few snorts of annoyance once she was on her feet, shoving at Wyatt’s shoulder irately while he slung her tack on.

He and Doc didn’t always ride their horses into town, and Wyatt lately had been taking the time it took for him to walk to let the action make him stop thinking. Quickly, he led Beauty out of her stall, avoiding her legs as she high-stepped in annoyance before settling at his tense whispers.

Keats had lifted his head, snorting sleepily at the sight of them. Wyatt spared him a quick pet to the blaze before he jumped into Beauty’s saddle, kicking her flanks lightly and setting her off into a canter.

It didn’t take him long to reach Tombstone again, and by that point in the evening, almost every building on the main road was dark. Uncaring of the noise he made, he urged Beauty faster down the thoroughfare until they reached the doctor’s office. Climbing down, he didn’t even bother hitching her, trusting she’d stay put for the minute or so it would take him to collect the doctor.

Instantly, he started banging on the door with a closed fist until he saw a light inside turn on. He waited impatiently for the doctor to open the door, not even letting the man finish his question.

“Doc’s hurt,” Wyatt said, cutting off the poor man, who knew by then to shut up. “Hurt real bad. He got taken a few days ago, and just came back, and I need you to go to the homestead and help him,” he paused, thoughts tumbling one over another inside his head. “He’s bleedin’ bad.”

The doctor, whose eyes had dark circles beneath them likely due to nights like these, nodded and went back inside to grab his medical bag. Wyatt didn’t stick around to monitor his progress, and instead hopped back on Beauty and steered her toward Kate and Josephine’s place.

He knew Kate had been just as worried as he’d been during Doc’s absence, and he knew she’d want to be there with him if… if something happened.

Wyatt arrived at Josephine and Kate’s place in no time at all, repeating what he’d done at the doctor’s to theirs as well, impatiently waiting in silence once he saw a light flare to life somewhere inside.

Kate was the one to answer the door, and he caught Josephine lurking somewhere behind her, eyes flashing.

“Wyatt, didn’t I just send you home?” She asked, sleepy.

“Doc’s back,” he rushed out, practically vibrating with the urge to turn tail and head back to the homestead to make sure Doc was still breathing. “He’s hurt, but the doctor should be meeting us there.”

Immediately, Kate began to look more awake. “Mind if I hitch a ride along?”

Peering behind her at Josephine, he asked, “And you, ma’am?”

“I’ll find my way there in the morning, leave the evening stresses to you folks,” Josephine said, crossing her arms.

Pretending he didn’t see Kate leave Josephine with a lingering kiss, he walked off to wait by the horse. She soon came back out of the house, a plain dress thrown on and replacing the gown she’d been wearing. Her hair was up, but he could tell she hadn’t put much thought to it other than getting it out of her face.

Once she drew near, he helped her up onto Beauty, settling her behind the saddle before he hauled himself up after her, wheeling the horse around and quickly setting back off home.

Her arms wrapped around his waist at the speed he took, but he didn’t mind. Her hold was gentle, and it reminded him that he wasn’t alone.

Once again that night, the homestead came into view, but the light inside was brighter than he left it, and there was an unfamiliar horse hitched up front. The doctor must have beaten them there.

He dropped to the ground and helped Kate down, hurriedly hitching Beauty beside the small brown horse in front of the porch and following Kate inside.

“Wyatt, that you?” Called Doctor Goodfellow, his voice originating distinctly from he and Doc’s room.

“Yessir, and Kate,” Wyatt replied, walking into the room with Kate on his heels.

They both froze in the doorway, though Kate was a sight paler than Wyatt. He could only assume it was because he’d already seen Doc in his current state, but it didn’t really help.

Goodfellow had cleaned the blood off his face and removed his ruined clothes, and Wyatt had to hold back a hysterical laugh at how pissed Doc would be once he realized the doctor had undressed him. Of all the things to think about…

“Good, come here, Wyatt. I doubt he’ll be movin’ any time soon, but I want your help to hold him down while I stitch this wound on his leg, just in case he starts twitchin’,” Goodfellow ordered, waving Wyatt over impatiently when he didn’t move fast enough.

“You can grab a chair from the kitchen to sit on in here, Kate,” Wyatt offered, sitting himself on the bed next to Doc’s hip slowly. He didn’t receive a reply, but when he looked up, she’d disappeared.

“Man took a beating, that’s for sure,” Goodfellow murmured, pouring some of Doc’s whiskey onto the stab wound on his thigh. It concerned Wyatt a little that Doc didn’t even twitch, but the doctor didn’t seem too worried. “Broken ribs for sure. Lucky one didn’t puncture a lung. There’s a cigarette burn on his arm, but I’m not too worried about that one. Other than the knife wound, I’m not all too sure just why he’s in this condition,” he paused, glancing at Wyatt from the corner of his eye. “Though I’m sure you’ve got some ideas.”

Wyatt didn’t reply, but he did tilt his head a little. The doctor only hummed and began stitching Doc back up after nodding his head for Wyatt to hold down Doc’s legs. Kate returned just then, dropping the chair with a clunk and sitting in it, face decidedly pinched.

“Surprised he ain’t got an infection, but this sonuvabitch has always had some wicked luck,” mused Goodfellow, pulling the thread through the skin, knotting it, then going the other way through and over again.

Kate laughed quietly. “Sure has,” she agreed.

They all sat in silence for a little while, watching the doctor apply stitch after stitch, brow creased in concentration. Not too long after he started, he pulled away with a sigh, stretching out his back a little.

“Most of these wounds’ll just take time. He lost a lot of blood, and on top of the ribs and… whatever else happened to him, he’s likely gonna sleep for a while. Once he’s lucid, get some water in him, some fruit, maybe. Something solid if he’ll take it. Keep him in bed for as long as you can, ‘cause knowing him, he’ll be back and tryin’ to reclaim his stakes at the poker tables within the week if y’all let him,” Goodfellow instructed, casting a tired eye over Doc’s body to make sure nothing else stood out.

“Yessir,” Wyatt murmured, setting the details in his memory. With a groan, Goodfellow stood and grabbed his bag.

“I’ll see myself out. Call on me if his condition worsens, but I’m fairly confident he’ll pull through,” the doctor said, reaching up to tip a hat he wasn’t wearing, grinning sheepishly at the realization and quickly leaving.

Wyatt waited until he heard the front door shut before he reached for Doc’s hand, pulling the limb toward himself and kissing the man’s knuckles. And, pointless as it may be for a man like Doc, he quietly dipped his head and prayed, knuckles still held firmly to his mouth.

Faintly, he heard Kate join him on Doc’s other side.

It was only hours later when the sun was rising did Wyatt realize he hadn’t stood watch at the window. Hadn’t heard whispers in his ears condemning him for the decision. He let out a shaky breath and stared at Doc’s pale face, the rest of him covered in a plethora of blankets. Just barely could he see the small rise and fall of Doc’s chest.

The man’s breathing had been particularly labored when he was first found, but as the night went on, turning to morning, Wyatt was relieved to hear it ease a little bit.

“I can smell the blessed iron and holy water on him,” Kate murmured, looking up at Wyatt from where she was holding Doc’s other hand, thumb gently moving back and forth over the back of it.

Wyatt sighed. “I figured. I’d say it was a miracle he came back at all, considering his state, but, well. I don’t think we have anything truly divine to thank for this one.”

Kate’s gaze slowly returned to Doc. “No,” she agreed, placing a hand on Doc’s cheek. “But I can’t help but be grateful nonetheless.”

Notes:

I will admit I don't like writing Wyatt's pov as much as Doc's, even tho he is a super interesting character to me, but I knew this fic needed his perspective a bit. I can only hope it didn't turn out too badly lol. Next update is the epilogue, and it is a little shorter than the main chapters, but not suffering in quality I hope. In any case, I'll see you then.

Chapter 5

Notes:

The end! I hope you guys have enjoyed so far. The epilogue is pretty short, but I really wanted to end it on Doc and Wyatt. There's a distant possibility of me adding another chapter but. It isn't very likely I think. Happy reading <3

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

When Doc slowly returned to consciousness, he was only mildly surprised he was able to wake up at all. He very vividly remembered the Devil’s warning of no more chances, and judging by the mattress beneath him, someone had picked him up out of the sand out of pity.

Shifting a little forced a creaking groan out of him. While he felt better than he last remembered, everything still hurt. Somehow, even his bones ached. Though, he had to be grateful for the lack of stabbing pains. Seemed the Devil hadn’t lied about life threatening injuries, or else he’d have drowned in his own blood by now.

His ribs were definitely tender, but they held, and the wound on his thigh only throbbed a little when he thought about it too long.

After taking several minutes to gather his bearings, he finally opened his eyes, only to close them again. Bewildered, he reopened them and yeah, it was still he and Wyatt’s room.

“My luck continues to provide,” he murmured, slightly amazed, taking in the familiar details of their room with a sharp rush of fondness.

The horseshoe above the door. The ace nailed under the window, something Doc did to give Wyatt a bit of extra luck on his night watches. It became a bit of a running joke, since now there was a jester card pinned up on Doc’s side of the wardrobe, courtesy of Wyatt.

Thoughts of Wyatt left him frowning, because where was the man? Straining his ears, he managed to catch the low murmur of the man’s voice, along with a few others across the house in the kitchen.

Certain he didn’t have the energy to yell, he just folded his hands over his stomach, carefully, and closed his eyes to wait.

He managed to doze for a little while, the voices in the other room settling him and keeping him from thinking he was still tied to that chair. He was a little grateful though when he heard approaching footsteps before he could fall back asleep. He wasn’t sure how long he’d been asleep, but he could hazard a guess and say a while.

Judging by the weight of the step, he figured it to be Wyatt. A small smile crept onto his face, and he forced his eyes open once more when he heard the door creak open.

Stepping inside, Wyatt was so focused on being quiet, he didn’t even notice Doc was awake until the door clicked shut behind him.

“Howdy,” Doc greeted, grimacing at how awful his voice sounded.

“John,” Wyatt breathed, frozen in place by the door.

Doc quirked an amused eyebrow. “You must be worried if you’re callin’ me by my Christian name.”

Wyatt’s face shuttered a little, but it seemed to finally break the spell he’d fallen under. He sat himself on the bed beside Doc, grabbing his hand in what Doc suspected was a practiced motion.

“I was worried, you damn fool,” Wyatt muttered, looking down at the bedspread instead of at Doc. “Gone five days without a trace. Kate did her card thing and all it said was you were being hurt, and I couldn’t do nothin’ about it. Then, I’m headin’ home and see your sorry self laying in the sand, bleedin’ out.” Glancing up at Doc, the other man sighed, shoulders slumping forward.

“I truly am sorry to have worried you, darlin’,” Doc murmured, squeezing the hand still holding his. “But I did not honestly intend for any of this to happen. I thought it was a normal summoning, and by the time things went sour, it was too late to leave.”

Wyatt sighed again, quieter this time. “I know.” He stared down at their joined hands. “You died, didn’t you?”

Gnawing on his lip, he tried to figure out a way to answer that. “What makes you think that?”

Wyatt stared at him out of the corner of his eye, a bemused smile on his face. “The injuries you showed up with were not near bad enough for the reaction you were having.”

Doc hummed. “Yes, I suppose I did. Had another unfortunate meeting with my least favorite boss, but I can’t rightly be too mad, he did help me get out of the clutches of my captors.”

Face darkening in barely contained fury, Wyatt twisted to look at Doc full on. “You killed ‘em, right? Because if not, you’d better give me a location so that they’re taken care of,” he growled, hand tightening around Doc’s, though not tight enough for him to issue a warning.

An evil smile formed on Doc’s face, teeth on display, where just before he collapsed in the sand had been covered in blood. “Oh, they are dead. That is certain. I’m afraid if I gave you a location, you’d find only rotten corpses torn apart.”

The relief and disappointment both were obvious on Wyatt’s face, but he only nodded.

Enjoying the silence with Wyatt and reveling in the fact that he had another chance to enjoy such simple pleasures, he allowed himself to be comforted by the slowly sweeping thumb caressing his own.

“How long was I unconscious?” He finally asked, curious.

“Three days,” Wyatt admitted, frowning.

Sensing he’d upset the man again, he tugged Wyatt’s hand closer and kissed the knuckles on it. “I’ll be just fine. I’m already feeling a sight better than when I made my way here,” he soothed.

“I know,” Wyatt said, echoing his words from earlier. In the ensuing silence, they both heard the voices in the other room.

“Kate’s been here since I found you. Morgan showed not too long after. They’ll wanna see you once they know you’re awake,” Wyatt said, looking at the closed door.

“Not yet,” Doc murmured, pulling Wyatt down beside him. He wasn’t able to move much, but it seemed Wyatt had gotten the idea and rolled onto his side, settling an arm across Doc’s stomach gently.

The warmth of the other man was a balm. He’d been so cold, tied to that chair, when he wasn’t burning hot from the holy water.

“I was so scared,” Doc breathed, staring up at the ceiling, Wyatt’s breath warm against his neck.

Wyatt pressed a kiss to his shoulder, tightening his arm around Doc’s stomach. “You don’t have to say, not if you aren’t ready,” he said quietly.

Swallowing, Doc turned his head to the side, laying his cheek on the top of Wyatt’s head. “Made me drink holy water. Diluted enough it didn’t kill me outright, but Lord it hurt,” he murmured, voice shaky. He had to get it out now, so that when he saw everyone later there would be nothing amiss about himself. “Tried exorcising me. Didn’t believe me when I said this body’s mine. That’s… what killed me, on top of everything else.”

He felt Wyatt exhale slowly, knowing it was the man’s attempt to rein in his temper.

“When I came back… I was so mad, so scared. The Devil gave me a few gifts, sharper teeth and nails. I tore those men apart, ripped their throats out with my teeth, and I enjoyed it.” He reached for the hand over his stomach, silently relieved when Wyatt tangled their fingers together without a word.

“Did I ever enjoy it. I made sure they’d never be able to have me again. But by then, I’d exhausted any of the energy I had after comin’ back up. Finding my way back here was-- hard. S’why I landed so far off,” he explained, focusing on Wyatt’s calloused hand in his. The softness of his hair.

Wyatt, somehow, pressed himself closer. For once, Doc wasn’t even mad at the man for keeping his boots on in bed. “You made it back. They’re dead, and you ain’t. That’s all that matters.”

Letting out a sigh that threatened to turn into a cough, he found he couldn’t argue. “I don’t want to be alone, I think. For a while,” he admitted softly, afraid to even think it let alone say it.

“People already think we’re attached to the hip. Won’t matter if it’s a little more time together,” Wyatt mused, sounding drowsy. The sunlight streaming in explained why the man wasn’t pacing in front of the windows, but not his exhaustion.

“You haven’t been sleepin’, have you?”

Snorting, Wyatt just shoved his forehead further into Doc’s shoulder. “House was too quiet without you. Lonely. No reason to sleep without you with me.”

Softening, Doc settled a kiss in Wyatt’s hair. “Romantic sap you are. Rest with me a little while, ‘fore we let the rest of the brood in.”

Wyatt’s sigh this time was decidedly one of relief. “You’re too good to me,” Wyatt groaned.

“Give it a week, you’ll change your mind again,” Doc mused.

He only got a sleepy hum in response, Wyatt well on his way to falling asleep already. He liked to say he never needed sleep, but Doc knew the man’s body began to get worn out if he went too long.

Comfortable for the first time in days, it was really no trouble to drift off with Wyatt, their hands clasped together a heavy and pleasant weight on his stomach. He had his Eden back.

He was safe.

Notes:

Look at me go! Another fic finished. Didn't even make it through posting this one before starting on another one. However, the writing for that one will definitely take more time because I really need to Lock In for my summer classes if I don't want to explode.

Once again, I hope you guys enjoyed, and I hope you'll stick around to see what else I've got in store. Plenty of fun things bouncing around in this brain of mine...

Until next time!

Acolyte - EpiKatt - Tombstone (1993) [Archive of Our Own] (2024)
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