Blood Blisters and a Bruised Sky
AAAAH THIS HAS BEEN SITTING IN MY DRAFTS FOLDER FOR
M O N T H S
FUCK I LOVE ME SOME COWBOY ROMANCE!
Inspired by @banditobale and their beautiful work here!
I wanted to try something different and I pinned myself into a corner because between the Badlands being just... the badlands in the 1850s and also bouncing between both men's perspectives WITHOUT going into their heads was D I F F I C U L T but
HERE WE ARE!
The sky above bore the bruises of heaven, each cloud a broken blood vessel against its stary skin. A dying sun had crawled back to its cave far beyond the west mountains, and all that was left of the day was a bleeding trail of gold that glittered like a prospector’s vision of paradise, shimmering just out of reach of the badland’s rocky grasp.
Red watched the fire as Blue shuffled about in the tent. Crackling wood filled the silence between as the sausages sizzled on their pokers, sparks dancing on an evening breeze that swept down the mountain. Red blinked slowly, lazily, watching the embers lift into the air, taken in an updraft of smoke to join the stars above.
He yawned, stretching.
“How’s dinner coming?” Blue asked as he stumbled his way back to the fire, a flask in one hand, a guitar in the other.
“The more you ask, the longer it will take.”
The man grumbled as he took up a rock for a perch. “Somethin’ ‘bout the way you say that makes me think you’ll make it take longer out of spite if you feel like it.”
Blue couldn’t help but smile as he watched the mischief light up in Red’s eyes. The other man chuckled quietly, head bent low to hide a smirk, and Blue couldn’t help but roll his eyes.
That comfortable silence fell between them again, settling onto the soul. For the first time in a long time, Red allowed the tension to unwind from his shoulders as he watched his companion shuffle about in his spot as he fought the lid of the flask. Finally, Blue gave in with a sigh, handing it over. Red shook his head.
“Why you always screw it on so tight?” Blue asked, watching with a playful scowl as Red easily removed the lid. He flinched with a laugh as the cap was thrown at him.
“Maybe because I warned you I would if you kept buying cheap liquor. Maybe because I like it when you ask me to take it off. Depends on my mood.”
Blue laughed again, louder this time, and Red smiled as he drank deeply.
“You gonna be cheeky and do that too when we get out to California?”
Red lowered his chin, still looking at Blue as a grin split his face, “You won’t be able to open a single jar without me.”
“Careful now,” he said, “That’s soundin’ awful ‘Man of The House,’ of you. Don’t you go trying to domesticate me or nothin’.”
“Couldn’t even if I wanted to.”
“Ain’t that the truth.”
“Doesn’t mean it still isn’t fun watching you struggle.”
Blue shook his head, taking the flask back from him as he did so. “Well, you won’t have a reason to once we get out there anyway. It’ll be eh…”
Blue raised the flask in a toast, “That, yeah, what with your acres and acres of grapes you keep yammering on about that you want so bad.” He drank, sighing as he did so.
Red watched, quiet for a moment as he chewed the inside of his cheek. Then, with a shrug, he said, “Suppose I’ll start screw ‘em extra just because I feel like it then.”
Blue’s eyes went wide as he gagged, coughing and sputtering until laughter rattled his chest. Red watched lips pursed against his own laughter as he shook his head. Still, there was something in the way Blue’s shoulders shook and his eyes glittered, the way the sound of him echoed until Red could have almost believed there were dozens of him hidden in the stone, the joy too large and alive for just one man. Struggle as he might, he could keep the smile from his face, his own wheezing laugh scattering the embers before him.
Blue passed the flask back before slumping against the rock, still giggling, looking at Red through heavy-lidded eyes before letting his head loll forward as he shuffled his grip on his guitar, “And I suppose I’ll have to learn to live with that.”
Quiet fell again at the soft strumming of the guitar. Blue’s peaceful brow slowly twisted into a knot as he tuned it, plucking as he twisted the pegs gently. Turning back to the fire, Red fiddled with the sausages and listened as the warbling, out-of-tune strings hummed in the quiet and dark. In the distance, under the growing moon, a howl went up, then another, then another. The call echoed through the emptiness and bounced off the rocks like a coin tossed down a well, going on and on into the nothingness. Red breathed it in, slow and steady; the smell of smoke and stone and Blue’s cologne wafting on the faintest breeze.
Red felt Blue’s eyes on him as he took a long drink from the flask. He licked his lips, then passed it along.
The two men sat in silence like that, watching the way the fire lit up each other’s eyes, listening to the wild baying, the sound of the loneliest type of freedom, as the moon rose higher still.
Blue broke the stare first, blinking slowly, as he bowed his head. Red watched the man study him through his lashes before he smiled slow and lazy. Shifting his position to get more comfortable, he started to strum gently, something soft, something slow. Red allowed himself to rest his head in his hands as he listened, watching the firelight cast strange flickering patterns across his partner’s face. The humming started first, off-kilter and off-key, but as Blue got louder the humming turned to word, the words to singing, and he lifted his head to look at Red and grin.
Red couldn’t help but smile in return as he pulled a harmonica from his pocket, letting himself finally, fully, lean into the music.
Red could hear the laughter in Blue’s voice as he lifted it to heaven, singing loudly into the lonely wild, goading it in its inability to keep the men apart ever again.