"Velly solly, honorable sirs," he said, all the while thinking, fuck your mothers.
From the Slash Pile:"Wu is a traveling merchant and herbalist in 19th century America. One day he helps out a young prostitute in trouble, Belladonna, and invites her to journey with him until they reach the next decent-looking town."
From fail-fandomanon.dreamwidth.org: "Set in the wild wild west, where travelling apothecary Wu meets runaway whore Belladonna - though he quickly discovers 'she' is a 'he'. Contains lots of crossdressing, dirty talk, prostitution, age difference and identity hijinks."
From pinboard.in: "the one with the medicine quack and the shameless hooker"
From pinboard.in: "Story set in Old West about an older chinese-american man and the young crossdressing male prostitute he befriends!"
From http://recs-by-grac.dreamwidth.org/105154.html: "a Chinese snake-oil seller picks up an unlikely hitchhiker in this story set in the Wild West."
Riding Drag is unconnected to other stories or universes.
The Slash Pile recommendation suggests warnings for 'graphic sex, violence, dubcon, prostitution, racism and homophobia'. The author counters that there's hardly any violence at all and all the sex is very consensual, but accepts everything else as the story's due. The racism and homophobia are clearly marked as the views of some characters, and not the author.
This story is available for download/purchase on Smashwords.
Usually the genesis of any given story is complicated and goes through lots of twists and permutations and re-interpretations. However, this whole story can find its origins in a single line of IM conversation:
beeblebabe: Well, if you do card sharps of the old west, obviously you need to have, like, one be a Jew and one a Chinaman and maybe one of them crossdresses as a saloon girl, and then probably ghosts
...So I didn't get to the ghosts part of things (though if you like cowboys and ghosts, I've done that before, and Şehzade wound up more Turkish than Jewish, but! The challenge was laid, and I feel I rose to it.
'Riding drag' is a real term in cowboy lingo; on a trail drive, taking all the cows from one place to another, the folk riding drag are the ones at the back of the herd, getting all the dust kicked up in their faces. Obviously there are no cattle drives here, but I thought the term was too good to pass up.
And it really is just drag, from both of them. Şehzade no more dresses like a woman because he wants to be one than Wu dresses like a Chinese man because he wants to be a native-born Chinese man. They're not even being accurate, either, most of the time -- they're dressing as the ideas of what they're projecting more than the reality of it. Wu makes a great narrator in that sense because he's so fluid with Şehzade and all his identities. This isn't a commentary on how trans people are 'really' their birth-assigned sexes underneath their clothes; Şehzade is just a guy who dresses like a lady because it gets him tail and cash.
I also like having a sex worker who likes sex work! As with the cross-dressing, this isn't intended to be a commentary on all sex work at all times everywhere. Even Sehzade knows he has it better than a lot of other whores he's met, because he can, if the situation calls for it, put on a suit and walk around as a man. But Şehzade's life is his choice, and even when he's offered a 'way out' -- and you know Wu would not only have supported his giving up prostitution, he might slightly have preferred it -- he wants to keep on fucking guys both for money and for fun. He's a ravenous little homosexual, that one.
Technically, this story takes place in the Texas panhandle, though there's plenty of geographic hand-waving going on here. And obviously in terms of linguistics, this bunch has learned to cuss from the Deadwood School of Motherfucking Cocksuckery, and much for the same reason the Deadwood characters use modern swears: period-appropriate swearing makes you sound like Yosimite Sam. Consarnit!
Shukyou does it again. The romance between them is believable and takes its time - you get to savor each moment. Really well-written, smart, original characters. Oh, and the illustrations are awesome.