Heyes woke suddenly, completely aware in the space of time between one heartbeat and the next. There was something wrong. Even as he reached for his gun, he realized what it was: no Curry. He listened intently. No sounds of any trouble, so he sat up and looked around. Curry's bedroll lay there, rumpled and dark in the glow of moonlight. He at first overlooked the dark lump that had to be Curry himself because it was in such an unlikely place, sitting on the edge of the Rim. Heyes continued looking around, then returned his eyes to that shadowy form. No doubt about it, that had to be Curry, unless the local shrubbery had taken up wearing hats.
Heyes rose and made his way across the dry grass and shivered. Yes, that was indeed Curry. His partner perched on the very edge of the Rim, actually dangling his legs over the side, which created a very uneasy feeling inside Heyes. Not that he was afraid of heights, mind, but he did have a healthy respect for sheer dropoffs. And a keen sense of self-preservation, as well.
"Kid?" he called softly, hoping not to startle the man. He stopped a few feet back from the edge.
"Go back to bed, Heyes."
Heyes frowned. The man sounded rational enough, why the hell was he out there then? He moved a few steps closer. "What in hell are you doing out here, Kid?"
"Just thinkin'." Curry twisted around to look at him, and Heyes swallowed hard when the movement knocked free a rock that bounced down a very long way. "Why don't you come over here, if you're not going back to bed?"
"No thanks, Curry. In case you hadn't noticed, you're on the verge of a thousand foot dropoff." Heyes didn't much like the sight of his partner sitting there, although he had to admit the sweeping view of the moonlit desert below was quite impressive. "What are you thinking about, that you had to come out here?"
"Aw, come on now, Heyes, surely you can't be bothered by a little ol' bitty cliff?" Teeth glinted in the moonlight as Curry grinned at him. "Come on, sit with me. It's nice. An' I was thinkin' about evil."
"Huh." Heyes blinked. That was about the last thing he'd expected to hear. He edged a bit closer and sat down, although still a few feet back from the edge. "Why evil? And why here?"
"Here, because of the view." Curry leaned forward, hands on the edge of the cliff. Heyes resolutely looked away from his partner. "And evil because... well, y'remember how that preacher was out in that little town we was in?"
"Payson. And yeah."
"After hearing him goin' on and on 'bout sin, an' perdition, an' Sodom an' Gamorrahwell, I got to thinking."
"So what's your thoughts, Kid?" Heyes looked out at the fine view, noting that the eastern horizon was taking on a luminescence and the moon was nearly down. Then he settled his eyes on Curry, as being easier to look at than the dropoff to the desert.
"What exactly is evil, anyway? I mean, according to that preacher man, them kids was absolute evil, an' totally black with sin, just 'cause they was really good friends an' one of 'em liked hugging on t'other. What's so evil about that?"
"Huh." Heyes chewed his lip thoughtfully. "Evil is supposed to be destructive."
"An' God is love, or so we're told over an' over again. But you ever think that it's all just made by humans? I mean, you ever see God come down here and say, Thou art Evil, to a couple kids? Or to us, for that matter. I mean, wouldn't robbin' a bank be right up there with hugging on the evil scale?"
Heyes snorted with sudden amusement. "Kid, you sure do have a way with words. And you've got a point. How much of evil is just a man-made concept? Pretty much all, I'd say. And I ain't never heard God hollering down from Heaven, telling us to knock it off and be good little boys. 'Course, the Governor, now that's a different story."
"Yeah." Curry picked up a rock and fiddled with it aimlessly. "So what do you think evil is?"
"Hmm." Heyes stared out over Curry's head, at the glow on the horizon. That certainly wasn't evil. That was nature at its finest, the way the light snuck up gradually, then ran through a series of pale colors that turned the desert into a fantasyland. "Seems to me evil is kind of like the ultimate greed, and need for destruction. Evil can't see anything beautiful and good without wanting to posess it, but in the posession it destroys the beauty. Like the sunrise out there... evil would find a way to turn it ugly."
"Huh." Curry tossed the rock over the edge. It flew for a long way before they heard the sound of it impacting. "So then, by your definition, seems that preacher man would be more evil than the kids, 'cause he was trying to ruin a friendship."
"Kid, don't even get me started on evil preacher men," Heyes said. He kept his tone light, but there was an undercurrent of anger he couldn't quite rein in.
"Gotcha. But what about evil hugs?" Curry twisted around to look at him again, his grin clearly visible in the increasing light.
Heyes laughed outright. "Ain't no preacher man, evil or otherwise, going to convince me it's evil to care about another human being."
"Good." Curry's grin was gone as suddenly as it arrived, and he leaned out over the edge again, looking down. "And what about me? D'you think I'm evil?"
Heyes closed his eyes. "Kid," he said, in a tight voice, "evil or not, I think you'd better get back from that edge before you do me in."
Curry laughed. "What's the matter, Heyes? Got a problem with heights?"
"No," Heyes said, risking another look. Sure enough, Curry was leaning even farther forward. "I got a problem with you hangin' over that edge, though." He reached out and snagged Curry by the back of his sheepskin coat.
The Kid laughed, but allowed himself to be pulled back. "Why Heyes, I didn't know you cared. But you never answered my question."
"Do I think you're evil? Kid, you're askin' the wrong man. Or have you forgotten I'm every bit as much an outlaw as you are?"
"Hadn't forgotten. But I don't feel evil. Don't even feel like an outlaw, much. Just... different. Independent. Don't much like rules."
Heyes didn't realize he was still pulling on Curry's coat until the Kid moved closer, away from the edge. "I'd noticed," he said, letting go. Seen at close range, the Kid's eyes were dark and thoughtful.
"Got another question for you, then."
"What about lovin' someone? Is that ever evil?"
Heyes caught his breath, unable to look away from the sudden intensity of Curry's eyes. "Kid," he said deliberately, "love ain't ever evil."
"Glad to hear it. And what about this, then?"
For a brief moment, Heyes was taken completely by surprise. Then knowledge filtered through the surprise: he suddenly had a double armful of Curry, who was kissing him. Wow. Who was kissing him like he'd never been kissed before, in fact. Then Curry pulled away, intense gaze still on his face.
"Whoa," Heyes said. Uncertainty crept into Curry's eyes, followed by a faint hint of redness on his cheeks. "No, I'd not say that was evil. Unexpected, yes. But not evil."
Relief washed over Curry in a visible wave. "Nice?"
Heyes considered for a moment, replaying the sensations in his memory. "I'd say so. There's definite possibilities here."
"What kind of possibilities?" Curry scooted a bit closer on the dried grass, not taking his eyes off Heyes.
"Good ones, I'd say." Heyes reached out for Curry, even as the other man reached for him. Their lips met again.
"Where we gonna go with this, Heyes?" Curry asked, when they seperated for a breath of air.
"I've no idea." Heyes smiled. Excitement shivered through him. While he'd hardly expected Curry to jump into his arms, he wasn't averse to exploring new territory. "Where do you want to go with it?"
"I wanna be with you, Heyes. Wherever we go, I wanna do it together."
Heyes chuckled. "I kind of figured that. Shall we determine for ourselves if anything evil comes of kissing?"
Curry smiled, a slow smile that lit his eyes with brilliant joy. "Yeah. I think that sounds like a right good idea."
"Only please," Heyes said, with a hopeful look, "can we get away from the edge of the cliff?"
Curry threw back his head and laughed. "Oh, all right! Anything to make you happy."
He scrambled to his feet and Heyes followed him back to their campsite, already very happy indeed.
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