Note: This entry is part of this year’s Covert Cupid challenge, in which each host drew three characters from a hat and used them to write a romantic fanfiction short. You can hear them all read aloud in Episode 80 of the podcast.

I had seen maybe one episode of Deadwood, ages ago, and I had NO memory whatsoever of Calamity Jane (except for the actual historical figure). Happily, in my research viewings of the show, I immediately glommed onto her as my favorite character, and though I didn’t quite make it to the end of season 1 I felt like I had a handle on her. My one regret is not watching far enough to see her enter a romantic relationship with another WOMAN on the show—I suddenly felt rather like I was straight-washing Jane, but Karen and Caitlin reassured me that Jane is almost certainly meant to be bi. Still, if I were to do it over again, I might have shuffled the pairing—or at the least, smoothed out the narrative tone of the whole thing.

At least this particular instance of an underaged character was as easily solved as changing his uniform color. –Liz

Jane watched as the shorter of the two visitors scurried away to find the doc. Her wound was something nasty, though she’d had worse—but the little feller was as panicked as if her whole leg had been shot clean off. “Oh! Oh no!” he’d said, “I’ll go find the doctor as fast as I can! Ay-ay-ay!” Before long, his sombrero disappeared around the next hill as he rushed back to the camp.

Meanwhile, the other stranger worked at stopping her leg bleeding out. He’d taken his shirt off and tore it all up into white strips, which he was wrapping around her thigh, tying them good and tight with firm and expert hands. Dizzy from the blood loss and winded from the fight, Jane just sat there and stared at the dark ponytail swinging from the back of his head as he worked. She took a swig of the liquor she had brought with her that afternoon, to dull the pain (or so she’d told the stranger). After a while, she felt as if she should say something. “So, uh,” she muttered, “You two’re Mexican? Come a helluva long way to get to Deadwood, I expect.”

“What?” The question must’ve surprised the young man—he tugged a little too hard on the bandage he was working on. Jane grunted. “No, we’re—uh.” He sat back on his heels, his eyebrows furrowed. Well shit, Jane thought to herself, who knew a man could have so many fuckin’ muscles! She tried to keep a neutral face, but only managed a slack-jawed stare.

“I mean,” the stranger finally said, “we’re from California.”

He looked like he might’ve been nervous, though Jane couldn’t be sure. Folks didn’t usually get nervous looking at her. “Oh,” she finally said. “Right, California that ‘bout explains it.” Seconds of silence passed between them, as neither knew what to say next. Jane offered him her bottle. He looked very tempted, but ultimately shook his head. She shrugged and took another swig herself.

The man escaped the moment by stooping back over his work on Jane’s wound. “Name’s Tommy,” he said, keeping his eyes on the bandages. “Tommy Oliver.”

“Jane Canary,” she said. “You fellers, uh…” she gave him another once-over. She told herself it was just to figure him out. She found new muscles on his back. “…Some kinda bounty hunters or somethin’?”

Tommy wagged his head and shrugged. “I’m a…” He blinked, and laughed. “Well, I’m a ranger.”

“Oh,” Jane nodded, “lawman.” She watched him for a moment, and a bashful grin emerged from the dirt on her face. “Aw, I shoulda figg’red you were a lawman. You look… Well, uh, fine… and upstandin’, I s’pose.”

Tommy laughed and paused to look up at her. Their eyes met, and his smile lingered long after he’d stopped laughing. Jane was covered in dust from derby hat to boots, and there wasn’t much about her that he’d exactly call “graceful,” but there was something charming about her. She had an honest demeanor, an expressive face that some part of him envied with the way he always kept himself guarded. He reminded himself not to get too attached—he wasn’t sticking around the Old West for long now that his mission was done.

“Those were some fancy duds ya had on for the fight,” Jane said, finally breaking the silence. “All covered in white, fancy helmet… California’s got some lawmen fer sure! Or I s’pose that cocksucker what got me must be a hell of an outlaw. Never seen a such a… a  lizardy lookin’ sumbitch before. And all you got’s that funny knife?”

Tommy laughed again. “It’s a sabre, but yeah. Usually does the trick. But I saw some fancy shooting from you out there. You were pretty good.”

“Ah shit, Mr. Oliver, that weren’t nothin’.” But then Jane shrugged and puffed herself up some. “Though I s’pose I got a few tricks even ol’ Bill Hickock didn’t know.”

Tommy secured the last of the bandages. He gave her thigh a little pat to signal that he was done, though a moment later he realized that might have been a pretty forward gesture. He offered a sheepish apology, but Jane waved it off. “Hell, I don’t mind. ‘Specially since you got such a… well, uh.” She grinned again, an embarrassed kind of half-smile. “A gentle hand.”

That “gentle hand” was still resting on her thigh.

It might’ve been the liquor at work, but Jane found the kind of courage she didn’t usually have. She sat forward, closer to Tommy, though her courage ran out when her face was just a breath away from his. Fortunately, that was about when Tommy’s courage took over—he closed the distance and for a long, ill-advised but shameless moment, his lips took in the new and unfamiliar mix of grain alcohol and South Dakota dust that was Jane’s kiss. Eventually they both parted, if only to catch their breath.

“Say…” Jane slurred between gasps, “you plannin’ to stay a spell at Deadwood? Awful long ride ahead o’ you and yer friend.”

Tommy let out a breathless, sultry laugh. He looked at her lips, then her eyes, before finally remembering himself and where—not to mention when—he was. “I can’t,” he answered, with pained eyes. “I… got a ride coming. She’s the only one who can take me where I’m going. And I don’t think she’ll want to wait around.”

“Oh.” Jane felt like the wind had been knocked out of her all over again. “Well… If y’ever find yerself round these parts again…”

“Yeah. I’ll look you up.” The sadness in Tommy’s smile told Jane that he didn’t believe it would happen either.

That dimply smile came back to Jane’s face. “Well shit,” she chuckled, “I don’t see why we can’t use the time we got now, anyhow.” As Tommy took her cue and leaned in for another kiss, she added, “Least until yer friend gets back with the doc—”

“I found him!” came a familiar squeaky voice from the direction of town. “Oh, I hope I wasn’t too slow!”

Jane and Tommy jumped and sat back from each other. Jane looked up to see Tommy’s poncho-covered friend shuffling toward them with the lean figure of Doc Cochran at his side. The doc’s eyebrows were furrowed right down to the tops of his spectacles as he sized up the sight of her. “Dammit, Jane,” he growled, “I sent ya out hours ago. You went and got yerself hurt?” Despite his stern voice, he twitch of the doc’s mustache betrayed his concern.

“Well you know it’s a dangerous fuckin’ road out this way! But you ain’t gotta worry, Doc,” Jane said, picking up her bottle again and taking a swig. “While, uh…” She looked uncertainly at Tommy’s friend.

The other Californian detected the sudden attention and tilted his wide hat further over his face with a hop. He looked panicked as he offered his name. “Alpha—”

Alfonso,” Tommy chimed in.

“…While Alfonso ran off to fetch ya,” Jane continued, “this here ranger patched me up good.”

Doc Cochran took his first good look at Tommy, then back at Jane. It was hard to tell if that piercing look had taken note of the flush in Tommy’s cheeks and the way Jane looked at the shirtless stranger, or if that was just the doc’s usual way of looking at people. In the end, he only gave a measured, gravelly, “Uh huh.”

The doc was just kneeling down to evaluate Tommy’s bandaging work when a hellish, roaring sound pierced the air. There was a rumble from just around the hill, and soon the group saw a beastly metal vehicle rolling toward them on the road, the likes of which had never been seen before in South Dakota (or anywhere). Jane scrambled off the road, half dragged by a bewildered Doc Cochran, to get out of the way of the trackless locomotive. The two strangers, though, didn’t look surprised at all.

Tommy and Alpha 5 stepped to the side of the road and waited as Furiosa’s behemoth of a truck rumbled to a stop. The Imperator herself leaned over the enormous steering wheel to peer at the group outside. “Time to go,” she called down.

Tommy turned back to Jane one last time. “Well,” he said, his voice thick with regret, “I guess this is it.”

Jane grabbed the doc’s sleeve and pulled herself up, leaning on Cochran’s shoulder to make up for her bad leg. “Yeah, s’pose it is.” She limped over to Tommy, but with all the extra eyes on them now, she couldn’t bring herself as close as she was before. She fidgeted in place as they shared one last, meaningful stare. She finally broke the silence with a punch to his arm. “Shit. Go on, git goin’.”

Tommy smiled. “You take care of that leg,” he said.

Alpha shuffled to the truck and opened the passenger door. “Oh! We’ve got company!”

At that, Jane finally took her eyes off her ranger. “Hey, I know those girls!” At the back of the cab sat a few of the women who offered their services to the men of Deadwood at the Gem, one of the settlement’s more popular saloons. “Got fuckin’ tired o’ the way Swearingen used ya, I ‘spect! Hell, I can’t wait to see the look on that evil cocksucker’s face when he finds half his whores up and ran out on him!”

Furiosa watched silently. She didn’t smile, but even beneath the mask of oil smeared across her face, her eyes showed their amusement. She looked between Tommy and the wounded woman who exchanged puppy-dog glances with him. “It might not be the last time you see that look on his face,” Furiosa said. “I plan to come back for another trip.”

Tommy tried to play it cool as he stole another look at Jane. Jane, however, literally didn’t know the expression “play it cool.”

After Jane eventually released Tommy from her excited grip, he climbed into the war rig beside Furiosa, then helped Alpha 5 to clamber in after him. His excitement momentarily getting the better of himself, he gave the dashboard a hearty slap and shouted “Go! Go!” as Furiosa hit the gas.

Jane hopped and balanced on one leg as the trackless locomotive thundered away. Doc Cochran looked at her, then back into the distance. “Jane,” he said at length, “why don’t you hand me that bottle?”