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22:19:00, December 1st, 2007
 
 
John Henry Holliday, DDS
Listed in order of posting, and cut for your viewing pleasure. Responding to this meme required a great deal of consideration - always a pleasure for which I hope. If you wish to participate in the meme, It is here.

magic_and_music: One of the things I like most about you, whenever a question comes to mind, I feel comfortable asking it. That said, have you ever been in love, John?

I am always in love. I have been in love as long as I can remember. When I was a child even, there was Mattie. I remember her, so like my mama in her goodness, and the way in which she always saw the best in everyone. She loved me best with warmth and care. She was a shelter, a foil, an encouragement, but more than that. She had her own infinite strength of belief in me and in best intentions. She always had a thoughtful word, a useful insight. She always listened, understood, added her gentle wisdom. I remember her, always cool even in summer, in a white dress against the background green of the grass, smiling back at me. I remember her arms open to me as I ran to her when I was very tiny. I remember her exhausted, washing blood from my mama's sheets in the candlelight during the war with her hair damp and loose, in a shift when I awoke in the night. I remember her, dusty and hungry when she came to us, after she walked across Georgia from ruined Savannah with her younger sister, when she was a girl of only fourteen and the roads were full of soldiers. I remember. Mattie loved me, with endless vast all-embracing invincible unquestionable infinite faith in God, and in me. I had to leave her, and when I came west I could not allow her to come. Not for her the harshness and darkness of the west. Not for her what I had become. The killing, the drink, the guns, the gambling, the rough men and evil of those frontier boom towns. How could I let her travel the circuit with me, when we had no home or belongings, no family or place? I should have been a dentist with a quiet home for her in Atlanta near my Uncle John's. I should have practiced and served as preceptor for my cousin Hub, started his dental school which would have been ours. Mattie wrote to me every week, sometimes more than once. And I bared my heart and soul to her. She blessed me and kept me, encouraged me with her love and gentle wisdom. Ten years. She waited for me ten years, for I had always intended to heal and return. And Hub waited too for me. Finally I was exiled in Colorado and could not leave. I could never return, and my health grew worse. I would never be well. And that year, Mattie joined a convent and became Sister Mary Melanie. I converted to Catholicism, learning the catechism in those distant mountains, with her guidance. Still we wrote and corresponded, but I could not allow her to face the darkness and war that was the west, nor expose her to the pain and agony of watching me die, as we had watched my beloved mother. She always had faith in me, always loved me, always helped me. She worked all her life for others, gave everything, and... shone an example of goodness such as there has never been. Mattie.

I have loved others, and my love is not sole, not exclusive. I loved Wyatt. I love Gabriel. Though I have never stopped loving Mattie for a moment. There have been others, but I will not speak of them now.

the_iscariot: Why do you try so hard?

If the value I see in you and appreciation are not enough:

Because I have come to be able to give myself innocence, to love myself and have faith in myself – to move through the world with pride, unmitigated by apology or regret. It is perfect and, I believe, valuable. But it is within me only and as I am dying – consider myself dead, lost and over – it is nothing so long as I hold it to myself. It is another way of dying – not to be useful or a factor in the world, or in causality. I am not a spy with something to offer beloved masters. I am not even a dentist any more. I am a gambler and sporting man, self-contained, giving nothing, adrift. And it is so cold. And it is terrifying, for though I say I am dead I yet breathe, feel and see beauty.

So, I wish to offer what I can. Most are not yet human. Most are too naïve to need innocence and believe they are somehow inherently worthy of love by virtue of their simple existence. Most do nothing dark enough to truly consider doubting themselves. So I move through them, courteous or otherwise as warranted. So I wait for those who have become human and earned a soul through experience and knowledge. So I wait for those to whom I could be useful and those with the qualities I myself hold and therefore recognise – those qualities of which I am proud and therefore admire. Sometimes I have waited long years.

I am ultimately selfish. Bat said so. But I dare not desire love or consummate friendship, for I have lost until I cannot bear to let myself hope for such things lest I be consumed by desperation, confusion, jealousy or panic. But I may desire to love without response or to be a consummate friend regardless of reaction.

Instead of my near-customary presumption of trying to reveal to you what I see in your own heart, I have attempted to answer your question by doing my best to reveal to you what I see in mine. I must confess a desire I cannot cast away – to be known and recognised as what I am.

I try so hard that I might live. I try so hard that in warming you I might warm myself without asking for warmth. And sometimes, for myself, I dare to ask the pleasure of your company, for friendly companionship alone.

John’s eyes, though direct as ever, are sad, his body resigned. This is his own game of intrigue, and he continually risks open words. His lip tries to curl in self-deprecation but does not quite manage it. “How are your teeth, Severus?”

ynez_castillo: Are you afraid of dying at all?

Well, this is the key to many things. I am not afraid of dying. I no longer look for death - it is not that. But I am not afraid. I have been dying for many years. I have been ill for many years. How long have I wished at night, in pain, held aware by coughing, that it might simply be taken from me? I have never had anyone to care for me. I faced it alone, keeping the grim and often gruesome reality from my friends, and from my family. Even in my last hotel in Colorado, I spoke cheerfully to my cousin, congratulating him on his new son, speaking of silver and politics, my thoughts and musings on the times. A long and warm letter, but I was dying. I watched my mother die, and I know what it is. I would never have missed that, for her sake, though it was almost unendurably hard. I would never burden any with that - with watching me with such pain, helpless and mourning. I understand your wish to do so, but I may not have it. May not. it is too much to ask of me. I believe in virtue, and I must do my best, be a gentleman, do as I see best, selfish though that is. Or I shall cease to be before I am yet dead. By this time I have moulded myself so it is almost impossible to do otherwise, unless I am wracked by momentary insanity. There is something else, that has changed everything. Gabriel. Gabriel will care for me and love me. He is not human, not mortal, but an angel of certain faith, and it is no burden to him. there will be no mourning, but simple care of my physical distress and love in my pain. And he will take my hand and bear me to Heaven, and I shall see my mother again, and Mattie, and Wyatt, Morgan, Billy, Gillie, Hub, my Uncle John - all those I have ever loved. And Gabriel will be there, and our love will not die, but remain joy and unimaginably more, until the end of days. It is for Gabriel to care for me - my beloved, and I beloved of him. It is his right, his place. And in his love, with his strength and faith feeding my own, I am not afraid. I do not fear dying. It is not that I do not thank you and deeply appreciate your kindness and your care - your thought for what it would be to me to die alone, with no one. But Gabriel will be there. The Angel of Death, as he has in so many ways always been with me. It is his place and I would burden no mortal so. Please, do not need to care for me so. I must decline, and it conflicts with my code of honour to deny a lady. Yet I must, for the one imperative supersedes the other. I left because I was confounded. Please forgive me and accept my explanation now. I pray that you will understand.

the_real_peace: Is there anything you could never forgive a man for doing?

Ah, now we come to it. On contemplating this at length, I have to say, honestly, that it depends on the man. There are some I find - to my astonishment - in whom I would forgive anything, without limit. And some, less to my surprise, in whom I could forgive very little. It is not acts that I can forgive, but men. There is absolutely nothing I would not forgive, given the right person. And, I must find, as I hold to it, that I do not believe this is wrong. Some people are just worth more, and it is not money or place or beauty or profession or respectability, but something less easily defined. I thought maybe... people who know what it is to be dead. Maybe. Talk to me about it, Hickey, if you are so inclined, if you might help me with your thoughts on the matter. Finding this was unexpected.
affect: pensivepensive
 
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