It was an evening like any other. Darkness hadnt quite fallen yet though. There was still a distant chirping of birds among the trees, but other than that, there was only the usual sound of wheels rolling against metallic railroad tracks. There really wasnt much else out there in the forest clad mountains except for them and their trusted train.
That was more than fine with Artemus. Traveling down this particular mountain path wouldnt take them anywhere important anytime soon anyway, which allowed them to relax for a bit. Artemus reached out to gently grab his cup of tea from the small table beside him. The drink had almost gone cold by now, but he sipped it anyway while his gaze traveled back to the book in his hand. For a moment, his thoughts went to his partner and he wondered what he was up to right now. He hadnt seen him in a while. Oh well..
The book he was reading was about guns. He wasnt really sure of why it had even crossed his mind to pick up such a book, but he had. Perhaps it was a way of trying to understand his trigger happy friend's love for the said weapons. He just couldnt see it though. Artemus had always thought of them as primitive and...well... uneccessary when a situation could be handled in a much more peaceful way. He of course could handle a gun if it happened to be called for. He was a U.S. marshal after all. He'd just rather not.
He yawned once as his gaze traveled over the various sketches of guns in the book, and then he turned the page. There was a sudden movement outside the window across the wagon and he looked up to focus on that instead. All he could see outside was bare trees passing by at a high speed. Perhaps he had imagined things... Must have been a bird, or a bat maybe. He started to take notice of how naked these trees were. Not a single leaf on any of them. Pale and.. hardly no branches. What kind of natural disaster could have caused this? Or was it a unnatural disaster caused by humans perhaps?
He was distracted from his thoughts when the door to the wagon swung open and in stepped his partner.
"Jim", he greeted him simply before putting his cup back down onto the table.
"What's up, Artie?" the younger man greeted him back and went straight to the bigger table at the other end of the wagon to grab himself a glass of water.
"Nothing much", Artemus replied and yet another yawn escaped him. Jim turned to face him while he was drinking, and his gaze went to the man's yawning mouth. It was with a hint of a teasing smirk on his lips that Jim lowered his glass and made eye contact wtih Artemus.
"You should go and get your beauty sleep", he commented and took another sip of his water. In return, Artemus raised an eyebrow at him.
"I dont need no such sleep", he replied. "I'm already quite handsome", he continued to look through the book. Jim smiled for a moment.
"I never said you werent", he replied and put his glass down before walking across the wagon and to the door.
"I'm going to check with Coleman", he swung it open. "see for how much longer we will be stuck on this train.", and with that said, he disappeared out the door. Artemus bit down on his lower lip for a thoughtful moment before he decided to stand and put the book aside. A couple of minutes had passed since he had last looked out the window. He did it again, and what do you know. Still pale, dead trees flashing by outside. He thought it a bit strange but decided not to dwell on it. He needed to focus on their oncoming mission. A league of bandits had apparently been causing a ruccus in a small village to the north, by stealing and burning down houses. Terrible really. It was obviously not one of their bigger missions to date, but it could be just as deadly.
He slowly stepped away from the window and walked down the hallway to the door. When he swung it open, he almost bumped into Jim and stopped dead in his tracks. The other man seemed just as surprised, but recovered quickly.
"We've got another two hours left", he informed and sighed.
"Right", Artemus replied and they stared at each other for a couple of more seconds before Jim stepped aside and gestured for him to go through the doorway.
"Why thank you, Jim", Artemus said as he passed him. "A true gentleman", he added with a short lasting smirk. He then continued down the new hallway towards the back of the train, thinking that he needed some fresh air.
"Always", Jim joked back and continued on his way into the wagon that Artemus had just left. He sighed again and decided on getting something stronger down his throat this time. Water just wouldnt do. Almost to the point of being irritated, he looked through the cabinet of various spirits. Patience wasnt on his side tonight. Hmm...Some whiskey would probably do. He grabbed the bottle and a glass and quickly proceeded with pouring the liquid into it. Then he brought the glass to his mouth just as quickly. He drank until it was empty, but he still didnt feel any sort of satisfaction. Damnit. Irritation stirred up within him again and he looked to the door where his partner had exited.
"Damnit", he sighed under his breath and put the glass down to go over to the couch. He sat and stared in front of him. His heart was throbbing faster than normal right now. He was quite used to it, but it never got comfortable. His gaze then moved to the door and he wondered if maybe he should see what Artie was up to. The thought alone made his heart speed up a bit more. What an idiot he was. He couldnt go and follow the other man around like a puppy dog all the time. No, he would have to entertain himself with something else for a while. Something that could distract him from the chaos that was currently going on inside him.
In the middle of his pondering, he noticed that the train was slowing down and he lowered his eyebrows in suspicion before standing. He knew that they had a long way to go before they would reach their destination, so why would they be stopping out here in the middle of nowhere? Especially when darkness was falling fast. He hurried down the hallway in the other direction this time. When he reached the cab of the train, he found an equally confused Coleman. Their eyes met and then they both scanned the area around them. Trees and trees yet again. Bare and pale.
"What's going on?" Jim asked him while he continously watched their surroundings cautiously.
"I dont know", the old man admitted, and he sounded slightly distressed. More so when the train was losing even more speed. Jim decided on trying a few levers, but nothing happened.
"It's no use", Coleman told him and gazed into the woods with a concerned look in his eyes.
"Damn..", Jim muttered in return. Must be something wrong with the engine. Or so he figured. He wasnt an expert. Far from it actually. They would have to fix this issue, and quickly! His mind automatically went to Artemus, as always when there were technical issues. But where was he? Jim hadnt passed him on the way to the cab. So then..maybe he was at the back. Without a word, he hurried through wagon number one, and then two. Then three. Still no sign of his partner. When he opened the door to the back and stepped out on the platform, he realized with fear creeping up on him, that Artemus wasnt on the train.
"Artie?!" he yelled into the darkness as the train came to a soft halt. No answer. Perhaps he had been wrong about the engine failing..Perhaps they were dealing with humans here... With a pounding heart, Jim pulled his gun from its holdster and gracefully jumped over the railing and onto the soft ground. As he sneaked around, he couldnt find any signs of people or any life at all actually. What in the hell was going on here?
He cautiously made his way back to the front of the train to warn Coleman of their situation, before taking off back down the railroad.
"Artemus?!" he called out for his friend again, but he still got no answer. He was starting to feel real anxious now. He decided to sneak into the forest to his left, thinking that maybe someone had come and taken Artemus away. The thought made him feel a bit sick to his stomach. He usually wasnt this anxious in the heat of danger, but tonight he was.
Artemus had come to mean a great deal to him since they had started working together and he wouldnt be able to forgive himself if something was to happen to him. A sudden crack of a branch made him freeze in place, and all that was still moving now were his eyes. He figured that it had either been an animal, or he was closing in on his enemies. He remained where he was for another minute, just listening. No more sounds came from anywhere around him and he decided to move on when he heard the sudden flapping of bird wings. Looking up, he caught the sight of birds flying by at a quick pace. They were coming from the direction he had come from and they seemed to have been scared off by something.
This made Jim decide on turning around to check the other side of the forest. Something or someone had definitely stirred something up in there. He hurried a bit more this time, but being careful not to make any sounds. His heart was beating so fast in his chest now. The longer he had to look for Artemus, the more anxious he got. If he didnt find him soon, there was a big chance that he was gone...abducted. That was better than being dead anyways.
It was getting harder and harder to see out there in the blackening forest. It seemed that it was getting darker by the minute. Something did stand out further up ahead though. Something that caught his eye. It made him stop once again and he focused on the slight movement in there. The next second he realized that it was actually a siluette of a person. Tense, but determined, he continued forward. As he got closer, he started to recognize the siluette as...
"Artemus?" still on his guard, Jim hurried over to towards the man. He was standing with his back to him and he didnt seem to react to his voice. When Jim reached him, he glanced at him and then around them to make sure that they really were alone.
"Hey!" he tugged at Artemus' arm but got no reaction whatsoever out of him. It seemed as if he was staring at something far off in the dark. Something that Jim couldnt see...and it made him slightly more nervous. Artemus didnt look distressed or anything though. He just had this empty, apathetic look in his eyes.
"Artie", Jim grabbed his shoulder this time and shook him roughly. Still nothing. Now Jim was getting really concerned and frustrated. Without a moment of hesitation, he brought his hand up and lightly slapped the man across the cheek. This time it seemed to have worked, because Artemus stumbled back a little and his gaze was suddenly focused again. Focused on Jim now. There was also apparent shock in his eyes.
"What the hell is going on?" Jim demanded to know, almost to the point of being angry now. It wasnt his friend he was angry with. He was just frustrated with the situation is all. Artemus thoughtfully brought a hand up to rub the sore area on his cheek, his brows furrowed in confusion.
"What was that for?" he demanded back and furrowed his brow even more before looking behind him. "and where are we?" Jim's eyebrows shot up in disbelief and he was actually speechless for a moment.
"Where are we? You tell me! I found you standing here like a dummy!" he blurted out in frustration. Artemus looked pretty confused in return, as well as irritated. "Dont go running off like that." Jim continued before the other man could reply.
"I didnt!" Artemus insisted on, equally as irritated as his partner. "....did I?" he added, much more softly this time. Well, that surely was concerning. How did he black out? Jim sighed and there was clearly concern in his eyes.
"I dont know, Artie", he replied. "Lets just head back to the train. now", he added and took the lead back through the forest. Still very confused, Artemus rubbed his cheek again and then followed Jim. The next couple of minutes were spent in silence as they were both pondering over the events that had just taken place.
When they eventually reached the train, Artemus stopped and checked his pockets, as well as the inside of his suits jacket. This earned him a questioning look from the younger man.
"Just making sure...", he started and then said no more. He just wanted to check ...that there werent any foreign objects on him. Or that anything was missing. Jim was still staring at him in that questioning way, but Artemus ignored him and stepped pass him to go and open the nearest door of the train. It was good to be back inside the warm and....very dark train? It seemed that the electricity had gone out. What had really happened during his blackout? He could hardly make anything out in the darkness and he almost stumbled over a small stool on his way inside the wagon. He cursed under his breath and felt Jim brushing pass him as if it was as light as day in there.
"Great", Jim said and sighed. He about to make his way to the front of the train when the door to wagon number two suddenly opened.
"Oh. Good. You boys are back", came Coleman's relieved voice from somewhere in the dark.
"Would anyone mind telling me what is happening?" Artemus asked with a hint of irritated expectance in his voice while he plucked some dead leaves off his jacket. All he could remember was going out for some fresh air and that the train was slowing down. Next thing he knew, he was in the middle of the forest, being slapped by Jim.
"Well. I think there is something wrong with the engine", Coleman answered him, which of course made Artemus realize that he was going be the one to fix this problem. He was the technician after all. A deep sigh escaped him and now that his eyes had gotten slightly used to the darkness, he could make his way towards the door.
"I'll take a look at it", he replied and then followed the old man through the train with Jim hot on his heels.
"You know", Coleman started as they walked. "These woods. I would be careful with wandering off in there alone", he continued as they reached the door to the cab. "Just some advice."
"Well..I didnt", Artemus answered, beginning to feel annoyed with their scolding. There wasnt much room for more words on the subject as they were now entering the cab. Just as Jim had done earlier, Artemus tried a few levers. He then crouched down a bit in a try to examine the machinery. It was...very difficult due to the darkness.
"Hang on", he heard Jim saying in the background suddenly. Then there was the sound of his fading footsteps. Artemus stood again and opened the door to step outside. He thought he should have a look at the boiler. He figured that Jim had probably gone to fetch a lantern. It would be greatly needed if they were going to solve this problem tonight.
"What were you indicating about the woods?" he asked Coleman who had followed him outside. He started to climb the small ladder up to the boiler and looked around for a handle of some sort.
"Well. They call it 'The dead forest'. It's supposedly haunted", he said and earned a strange look from Jim who was coming down the trail towards them. Artemus glanced down at Coleman at this, but he said nothing. He just proceeded with opening the lid to the boiler.
"There are no such things as ghosts", Jim spoke confidentally and went over to Artemus to hand him the lantern.
"Hmm...As long as they're kind ghosts", Artemus trailed off and then focused on checking the boiler.
"You dont need to worry about that, my friend", Jim promised him and looked over to Coleman. The man was currently looking into the forest with a slight nervousness in his expression. A moment later, the lantern was given back to Jim and he felt the cold skin of his partner's hand brushing against his own. It caused a tiny shock of excitement to rush through his body, but he quickly shook it off.
"The engine is probably overheated", Artemus informed them and stepped down the ladder. "We'd better wait for it to cool down and see if we can get it started later", he suggested, and Coleman nodded his head.
"If you boys would like to get some sleep, I will keep watch in the meantime", he offered and started his way back to the cab.
"Thank you", both agents expressed their gratitude in sync. They exchanged a glance and there was a hint of a smile on each of their lips. Without a word, they walked together to the door of their bed chamber wagon. Once inside, Jim placed the lantern on a small table at the back of the wagon.
"Uhm...Sorry about before", he started hesitatingly while walking back towards his bed to sit on it. It was positioned against the wall while Artemus' bed was across the room. "I was just....you know...worried", he swallowed and watched his partner removing his jacket.
Artemus suspected that Jim was talking about the incident in the forest. He had in fact noticed that his friend had been unusally protective lately. He had also become sort of scolding.
"Dont worry about it", he ensured him and started removing his bow tie. He neatly placed it on his bedside table and then proceeded with removing his shirt. He was well aware of the eyes watching him as he exposed his naked body, but he didnt really think much about it. When he was done, he sat on his bed and there was silence for a while.
Jim was currently laying down onto his back and Artemus decided on doing the same. It was really starting to bother him that he couldnt figure out why he had blacked out before. This was really serious. It could come to affect his job...and his life as well. He wouldnt jump to conclusions about his health just yet though. Getting worked up over possible deseases before having any facts was just stupid.
"You ok?" came Jim's caring voice suddenly, from the other side of the room. Artemus turned his head slightly to look at him. Had he looked so obviously concerned?
"yes..I'm ok", he replied and turned around to face the wall. "We should try and get some sleep so that we can fix the train first thing in the morning. Dont you think?" he didnt get any answer right away. Jim had just nodded to himself. Then he let out a soft hum as a reply before lookig out the window on his side of the room. Everything was now pitch black outside. He didnt think he would be able to sleep. He couldnt let his guard down enough to do so.
He turned his head to look over to Artemus. He had been painfully aware of his ...feelings for the man for a couple of weeks now. Once he had thought them over and stopped denying them, he had started to grow more anxious instead. He wanted something to happen. He wanted to act on his emotions. He just was really unsure of if it would be well recieved or not... Either way, it would be a problem for them at work.
This whole thing with keeping himself from being involved with women during missions....It didnt really matter anymore because his biggest distraction was laying right here next to him every night anyway. Unable to relax, Jim decided that he could as well get out of bed and do something productive, and so he left the room.
Chapter 2: chapter 2
I want to thank everyone who's been reading and reviewing this fanfic. I appreciate it so much and I hope you'll enjoy this second chapter.
The morning eventually came, and Jim realized that he had fallen asleep on one of the couches . He supposed that his try to stay awake last night had failed. Well...everything seemed to be fine? There were no obvious signs that things were not as usual anyway.
There was a sudden sound of metal being dropped on the floor, which alerted him. Maybe that's what had woken him up a moment ago, but who the hell was throwing things around then? Jim sat up in the matter of a second and stared at the wall to the other wagon. Just then, the door opened and Coleman appeared in doorway.
"Ah, there you are", the man said and rubbed his forehead. "I'm going to take a nap", he informed and Jim raised his eyebrows at him. Then he remembered that Coleman had stayed up all night so that he and Artemus could get some rest.
"Right", he replied and nodded, about to get up from the couch when the old man continued.
"In the meantime, dont play any games with my train", he warned Jim with a graver tone in his voice this time. Then he continued through the wagon to exit it.
"That's Gordon. Not me", Jim made sure to point out to him before standing. Speaking of his partner...where could he be? Maybe in bed, or outside, working on getting their train started again. Jim would check their bedroom wagon first thing. As he walked, he started to button his shirt, thinking that it was unusually chilly this morning. Fall was surely around the corner, but he couldnt remember having been cold until today.
When he reached the door that Coleman had just exited through, he saw the man disappear through the door to the cab up ahead. He was looking around their bedroom wagon but couldnt see his partner in there. Turning around again, he decided on checking the end wagon. The smell of... something being fried reached his nostrils as he walked, and he flung the door open a moment later. He finally found the man he was looking for. Artemus was seemingly in the process of making some sort of a breakfast for them. He knew that it was for him as well, simply because his friend had made a habit out of cooking for them on every single mission on this train. Without taking his eyes off Artemus, Jim closed the door behind him. He also took notice of the power being back on.
"Morning, Artie", he greeted him, feeling a tiny bit better this morning. Not as anxious as the night before. It was always a delight to see his partner, especially in the act of engaging in any of his silly interests. Even some of his more...stupid ones, according to Jim. Like installing unwanted devices on his equipment without having asked for permission. Lately though, he had come to appreciate it. Especially since it had once saved his life. Twice actually
"Morning, Jim", Artemus greeted him back, currently in the process of frying an egg. Jim sat in one of the armchairs and his eyes roamed over his partner's body with a slight dreaminess in them. Damn, he looked good in that tight vest, and those puffy, long sleeves. Subconsciously, he smiled, but stopped suddenly once Artemus' eyes met with his.
Artemus refrained from frowning. Not out of irritation or anything, but out of confusion and frustration. He had caught Jim staring at him in that weird way a few times lately. Was there something wrong with his face? Was it something he had done or said? It was a mystery... A mystery that he was becoming rather fed up with now. He turned his attention back to the egg in the frying pan and then flipped it onto a plate.
"Is there something on my face?" he asked meaningly and looked over his shoulder at the younger agent. Jim looked surprised in return and he kept staring, as if temporarily stunned. Then he suddenly seemed to snap out of it.
"...No", he replied softly and leaned back in the chair. "I was just...lost in my own thoughts...you know", he continued, thinking that it was certainly a good excuse. It wasnt completely untrue though. He was lost in his thoughts alot...about Artemus.
"Hmm..",Artemus hummed and put some fried potatoes and pork on their plates before bringing them over to the small table where Jim was sitting. "You've been lost in them alot lately", he pointed out. Jim had nothing to say about this. He just avoided the subject and started to dig into his food. Now it was Artemus's time to stare. He watched his friend with suspicion clear in his narrowed eyes. Jim was definitely hiding something from him. Well..He decided to shake it off for now as he was pretty hungry, and he took a step back towards the kitchen corner. He didnt get further than that though before a hand grabbed his wrist and stopped him instantly.
"Arent you going to eat with me?" he was asked before he could even react. His partner had been...quite physical lately.
"...I was just going to turn off the stove", he explained to the younger man, giving him a meaning look, expecting him to let go of him already. Jim did that eventually and started eating again, pretending that he didnt feel the least bit awkward. He listened to his partner's footsteps and the stove being turned off, but he didnt want to look at him. He was basically stuffing his face with food the whole time they were eating their breakfast. Artemus on the other hand was taking it slow while looking at a map.
Apparently, there was supposed to be a village not far from there. That meant that they could send for help with their transportation problem. Artemus had already done everything he could to figure out the problem, but from the looks of it, there was nothing wrong with the train. It was strange indeed. He studied the map for another minute and then broke the awkward silence for the first time in ten minutes.
"We will have to go to the nearest town and send for backup", he informed. "As soon as you're finished", he added and rolled the map. In the corner of his eye, he could see Jim straightening up to look at him.
"And why is that?" he wondered, obviously questioning the plan that had been decided without his knowledge.
"Because we cant get the train started", Artemus replied casually and pierced the last little piece of potatoe on his plate, with his fork. "the telegraph doesnt seem to want to work either", he continued and ate the potatoe.
"Hm..", Jim hummed thoughtfully. "I suppose you're right", he scraped the last food off his plate and then hastily stood. Artemus just raised an eyebrow at him with a hint of a smirk on his lips.
"I usually am", he replied and stood as well to put the dishes away. This earned him an 'oh really?' look from the younger man.
"Whatever, Artie", Jim said and walked off to his bed to put on a simple vest over his shirt. Then last, but not least, he put his black bowler hat on. And of course... He exited the wagon to pick up a suitable gun for the day. Not that he needed any special kind, but he liked the idea of choosing one fitting to his current mood.
A few minutes later, they had both prepared what they needed and could set off towards the village nearby. Dark clouds were slowly rolling in over the sky, and a light wind ruffled their clothes as they walked along the railroad track.
"Maybe we could get some means of transportation in that village", Jim suggested and adjusted his hat slightly. The forest around them was so uncannily quiet, and they both threw glances at it every now and then. Something definitely felt off.
"I dont think it would be a good idea to leave all of our things, and Coleman. Not in this place...", Artemus trailed off and cautiously looked behind them.
"So what do you suggest then? That we send for reinforcement and then just sit on our asses, waiting?" Jim asked him, so obviously skeptical to the idea.
"Hm... ... Yes", Artemus replied calmly. "We dont have much of a choice, now do we?" he said and they both went silent for a while. Jim's brain was working hard on a way to proceed with their mission without having to leave all of their belongings and their chauffeur behind... ... He wasnt coming up with anything good. That was a damn shame. Perhaps he would figure something out later.
"It feels like we're being watched", came Artemus' soft voice suddenly, like music in Jim's ears. He noticed that his friend looked rather concerned about their surroundings and he couldnt disagree with his feelings about it. He had felt it too. Something was seriously wrong with this place.
"Yeah..", he replied and sped up a bit. It was a long, eery walk through the forest that never seemed to come to an end. Neither of them usually felt afraid like this, but this was an unknown situation. It was something they werent at all familiar with, and something that they didnt know how to handle. The clouds were still hanging above them like an inpending doom, which didnt make things better. Eventually though, after about twenty minutes of walking, a border to the forest could be spotted up ahead. The trees had been replaced by open fields and ...a border of seemingly healthy, living trees. How could there be such a defined difference between this section and the next?
Artemus realized that he had been furrowing his brow for a couple of minutes now and relaxed his muscles. He also spotted something up ahead that resembled a small town.
"Look. There's the village", he pointed it out to Jim who sped up his pace again. Impatient as always. It didnt take them very long to reach the place, and when they did, it started to rain softly. It wasnt enough to get anyone wet really.
Another thing that they took notice of was that some of the citizens stared an awful lot at them. Could be that they knew most of the people who were coming and going in this place, and could instantly tell if someone was a stranger or not. Since it seemed like it was a market town of some sort where people came to trade or buy things, they shouldnt be too surprised to see new people. Perhaps some were just more suspicious than others. It was a small village after all. They wouldnt have much of a defense against inavders.
"What a nice little town", Artemus expressed as he looked around. There were small shops as well as market stalls all over the place. Many citizens seemed to be working on the fields also. They were probably living off what they could gather and sell.
"Hm", Jim hummed in return, clearly not as interested as his partner. "Are there really any merchants in this town?" he wondered out loud and then stopped walking suddenly. Artemus did they same and they both gazed towards something that looked like a tavern.
"Let's find someone to ask", Artemus suggested and they headed over towards the building. The lighting in there was pretty dim and the atmosphere was calm and a bit dull. Further into the room, there was a bar and a man was working behind the desk, sorting bottles and glasses. Without saying anything to each other, they both approaced the bar.
"Excuse me", Jim took the initiative to step up to the desk. The man behind it suddenly froze and turned around to look between the two strangers. "Might there by any chance be any merchants traveling through this place?" he asked, and the man seemed to relax a bit, as well as continuing his job.
"Sure there are. He's not here until lunch time though", he explained to them and pointed out the window. "See that spot by the barn?" both Jim and Artemus looked that way. "He usually comes there to park his horse. If you keep a look out, you wont be able to miss him."
"Ah. Thank you", Artemus replied and the two of them scanned the rest of the room. There wasnt alot of people in there. A few couples and a few business partners were occupying less than half of the tables.
"So, what now?" Jim asked and watched Artemus while he was waiting for an answer. It was a great opportunity to admire his beauty. Of course he would take it.
"How about we take a look around town?" Artemus suggested, and Jim agreed. It wasnt like they had anything better to do with their time anyway. With this decided, they exited the tavern and walked down the dirt road inbetween the houses and shops. The wind carried various scents of cooked meat and spices, but neither of them were hungry yet.
After a few minutes, walking and looking at houses soon became boring and Jim was already thinking of ways to entertain himself. Had this been a few weeks back, he might have looked for a beautiful lady to spend some...intimate time with, but not this day. His lust for sexual activity was a bit subdued at the time, and slightly replaced by a need for being close to his partner. He thought it a bit silly, but that's just how he felt about Artemus. He couldnt help it.
There was suddenly a scream further down the village, followed by a cheering crowd. The two of them exchanged a glance and then hurried in the direction of the sounds. They were both ready to interfer with a possible fight, or something worse than that. When they eventually found the source of the noise, it turned out to be something completely different.
"A rodeo", Jim smirked at the scene as they slowed down and stopped. There was a young man currently on the back of a wild bull. A very pissed bull.
"Hm", Artemus didnt have much to say about it. He didnt really care for that sort of entertainment. He noticed that his partner seemed interested though.
"Want to go and have a look?" he asked, amused by how Jim stared intensely at the whole scene. Then he looked at him and then back to the show.
"I'm going to participate", he told Artemus and removed his hat to give it to him. Then he started his way over to the paddock.
"Of course you are", Artemus replied and followed him. So typical of Jim. He supposed he couldnt complain though, as there wasnt much else for them to do but to wait for that merchant to arrive.
The cheering crowd got louder as the young man lost his grip and fell off the raging bull. Then they booed at the poor bastard. Another man was already climbing into the paddock to take on the animal, and Jim made sure that he and Artemus was getting as close to the fence as possible so that he could maybe be the next in turn.
They watched the new guy struggle alot, and the audience was already booeing at him. This made the corner of Artemus' lips twitch upwards a bit and he looked at Jim.
"Tough crowd", he said with amusement in his voice. "You think you will do better than him?" he teased his partner.
"I'll show them how it's done", Jim replied with his usual confidence. He wasnt taking his eyes off the struggling man on the bull. Soon, he fell off and Jim hurried through the fence and into the paddock. A couple of others were on their way over to the fence but Jim had been faster.
He grinned proudly at this and met with the man who was currently trying to calm the bull down. It took a minute or two and while they were all waiting, Jim tried to make the crowd cheer for him. This caused Artemus to roll his eyes. It was so typical of his partner. It was a tiny bit amusing though.
When the bull was finally presented to his partner, Artemus watched him getting up elegantly. He then seemed to be winking at a group of ladies in the audience. A second later, his gaze fell on Artemus. He hardly had the time to do anything else before the bull set off into a frenzy. Artemus made a face at this. He sure hoped that his partner wouldnt get seriously hurt by this, or they wouldnt be able to go on with their mission. Maybe it had been stupid of him to let Jim play this dangerous game...
He kept watching, feeling concerned for his friend, but he was suddenly distracted by a feeling of someone watching him. His gaze traveled over the crowd until his gaze eventually landed on a figure up by the edge of the forest. It was a very... light silhouette... He couldnt fully put his finger on it, but there was something off about the person. Something wrong... From what he could tell from across the field, the figure was a female.
A couple of shouts from his partner made him turn his head to see him struggle a bit, but he was still sticking to the bull's back. Artemus looked to the forest again and could see that the figure was now slowly moving along the edge of it. Then, alla of a sudden, it started to fade away into thin air, leaving Artemus shocked and stunned. He couldnt believe his eyes. Was he seeing right? Could this be connected to that strange occurence that happened yesterday...? He was either going crazy, or...this place was actually haunted. He was more open to that possibility than Jim was. He surely would prefer that over being insane.
Artemus felt that he really needed to investigate this, and so he left his place by the fence to make his way through the crowd and towards the forest. The rain was increasing a tiny bit and the dirt road beneath him was slowly becoming muddy. He didnt get very far though before he heard an especially alarming scream from his partner and spun around just in time to see him landing on his back on the ground. A cry of pain followed and Artemus hurried back to slip in through the fence. Jim was still on the ground, teeth clenched together and eyes shut tightly.
"Jim!" Artemus hurried to his side and crouched down, not sure if it was ok to move him or not. "Are you alright?" he asked quickly and the younger man forced one eye open to stare at him for a moment.
"Artie", he said, sounding unexpectedly cheerful, altough a little bit strained. "I'm...", he made a pause as if to think about how he felt. "I'm ok", he decided eventually and started to move to sit up. Artemus helped him of course. One of the organizers of the rodeo came over also to ask if they needed any help, but Jim kindly declined and stubbornly struggled to his feet.
"That could have gone way worse", Artmus scolded him as he supported him while they walked. Jim didnt mind being helped this way, because it meant he got to be close to his love interest. So intimate.
"But it didnt", he countered with and was given his hat back. Then suddenly, he remembered what had initially distracted him up on that bull. It had been the fact that his partner, who had really wanted to impress, had suddenly decided on leaving. It bothered him greatly.
"Hey, where were you even going anyway?" he asked, making sure to let Artemus know that he was a bit disappointed in him. It took a few seconds before the other man realized what he was on about.
"We need to talk about that", was the only answer he got. "but first, let's find someplace a little more private." Jim didnt mind that. He really felt like he would be able to start walking on his own now, but he pretended that he wasnt quite ready yet, just to get to be close to Artemus.
They moved back to the tavern and got seated at a table in the far back. Luckily, there still wasnt alot of people in there. Artemus' facial expression changed to a more grave one before he started explaining to Jim.
"I dont know if I've lost my mind or not... ...", he started and hesitated with getting to the point of his story. "... Or if there really is something supernatural going on here", he finished and watched his partner intensely. To his surprise, Jim didnt look like he was about to mock him or even question him. He glanced around the room while waiting for a response, just to make sure that no one seemed to be trying to listen to them.
"I saw a woman by the forest. She just disappeared out of thin air", he whispered and could tell that his partner was slightly concerned.
"Artie...I dont think there is anything supernatural going on", he replied in a low tone of voice. "Maybe we should take you to a doctor", he suggested then, causing Artemus to sigh and lean back in his chair, looking defeated.
"What if", he started again. "Coleman was right", he raised his eyebrows slightly at the younger man. Jim looked like he was thinking right now. Perhaps he wasnt sure of what he should believe anymore. He would rather it be ghosts actually. He didnt want to see his friend going insane. This was something he would rather not think about though, so he decided that everything was probably fine. For the time being anyway... That concern in his features disappeared and he smiled at Artemus.
"Let me buy you a drink, Artie", he stood without waiting for an answer and he patted the man's shoulder. "I think we could both use one", and so he passed his partner and walked across the floor towards the bar. Artemus wasnt going to stop him.
When Jim reached the bar desk, he casually threw a glance outside and had to do a double take. There was a man out by the barn, and he had a horse with him. It was packed with huge bags hanging off each side of it, like a donkey. That must be the merchant.
"Artie!" he called out for him and when he got his attention, he nodded his head towards the door and walked out of it without waiting.
Artemus pushed himself up from the chair, wondering what his partner was up to this time. It was probably for the best that he followed him, or he might get himself into trouble. When he walked out of the tavern, he looked around for Jim and spotted him up by the barn. Ah, the merchant. Good. Now they could finally, hopefully get their letter delivered to president Grant. He crossed the road and walked up to the two men.
"Good day, sir", he greeted the merchant once he arrived. "I suppose that my partner here has already told you of our request?" he glanced at Jim who nodded.
"Yes, he did", the man replied and started to open one of the bags that the horse was carrying. In the meantime, Artemus pulled an envelope from the inside of his vest to hand it to him, as well as the money that he was asking for.
"And remember what I said about it being urgent", Jim reminded the merchant, who nodded.
"Sure", he replied and put the envelope in his bag. Artemus and Jim then thanked him for his service and withdrew back to the tavern to get those well deserved drinks.
When they came back inside, Jim ordered whiskey for them and they both took a seat by the bar desk. Jim was rubbing his sore back a little and Artemus was deep in thoughts. He almost didnt notice when the bartender put their glasses on the counter. Slowly, he reached out and pulled one of them to him to sip it.
"You think we should go back and check on the train?" he asked Jim without taking his eyes off the wall across the counter.
"Why?" the younger man wondered and gulped down half of his whiskey.
"Just in case", Artemus replied and looked down at the drink in his hand. He hadnt even finished half of it, but Jim on the other hand was already ordering a new one for himself.
"I think Coleman will take great care of the train and our things while we're gone", Jim spoke casually and watched as two couples entered the tavern.
"I know, but still", Artemus said and rotated his glass a bit. To be honest, he didnt have much of an appetite right now.
"Let's enjoy ourselves for once", Jim said and smiled warmly at him. "Let's have some fun." and with that, he gulped down some more whiskey at a fast pace. They stayed for another half an hour, and at this point, Jim was getting rather tipsy. More than tipsy actually.
He smiled to himself every now and then and went on and on about various subjects. One stranger than the other. By now, more people were suddenly coming inside to sit by the tables. Most of them were couples, but there were also a few lone men and women. They were probably there to eat lunch.
"That's alot of beautiful women, huh, Jim?" Artemus smirked at him as they both glanced at the stream of newcomers. He had almost finished his drink now and contemplated ordering a second one. Jim had had far more to drink, and it was quite obvious by the way he turned back to the desk in an unsteady manner.
"Yeah..", Jim replied and decided that he should bring up yet another conversation. One that he was rather curious about.
"Heeey..Artie", he stopped himself and snorted, trying to keep himself from laughing. It got even harder to do so when Artemus gave him that questioning, slightly weirded out look. "Have you ever thought that...if you were into men, what sort of guy would you fancy?" He almost cracked himself up from this, but managed to control himself. He was just grinning like an idiot. There was this 'what the hell' look on his partner's face now, but for some reason, he didnt feel awkward or embarrassed from asking a question like that. Probably because of the alcohol.
"Why do you even ask that?" Artemus said and turned his gaze to the wall again, obviously feeling awkward. His brow furrowed a little and he pushed his glass forward on the desk, to the bartender, asking for a refill. To be honest, this conversation made him uncomfortable, and why would he even think such thoughts? He heard Jim snorting again.
"Because why not?" the younger man giggled and watched Artemus becoming more and more uncomfortable. There was silence for a moment where Artemus was considering his next move. He hardly knew what to say to that. His gaze moved from the wall, sideways to glance carefully at his partner.
"Are you into men, Jim?" he countered with, hoping to maybe embarrass him and end this conversation. There was silence for another moment and Artemus moved his gaze to his new drink instead.
"No, of course not", Jim suddenly said, sounding slightly defensive. Somewhere in that foggy, drunk mind, he had realized that he was on his way to accidentally reveal himself and his feelings. He couldnt have that. "Just a fun thought", he added and smiled happily at his friend.
Artemus narrowed his eyes a bit at Jim. He couldnt remember ever having seen him drunk before. Not that they had been working together for an awfully long time, but... He supposed it was a bit..charming. His behavior was sort of child like. Kind of cute actually. He furrowed his brow again and started drinking his whiskey faster than before. He still felt uncomfortable. Especially with his own thoughts.
"Very funny", he mumbled and put his glass down when there was suddenly music playing throughout the room. It was some sort of a cheery waltz. Was some show supposed to happen in here? Or did they just always play this at lunch time? There was a sudden tug at his sleeve and he looked over to Jim with a questioning look in his eyes.
"Artie, let's dance!" the man exclaimed and made his way off his chair clumsily and pulled at Artemus again.
"Are you crazy?" he asked him, clearly not amused, and he pulled his arm away from him.
"Oh, come on. I know you want to", Jim made another attempt to pull his friend with him, but Artemus had had enough.
"Damnit, Jim! Stop making a scene!" he hissed at him and finally got off his chair to get away from him.
"I'm not! I'm just asking", Jim sounded a bit offended, but he didnt try to pull at Artemus again. The said man sighed deeply and tried to gather himself a little.
"I need some air", he grumbled and turned to walk to the door. "Alone", he added when he heard Jim's footsteps following him. Fortunately, they stopped and he could finally get some space. Some time to breathe and think. He wouldnt do this right outside the tavern though. He needed to put some distance between himself and Jim, and so he kept walking down the muddy road.
Confusing thoughts were spinning around in his head constantly. Why had Jim been acting like that? Sure, he was drunk, but his behavior lately hadnt been affected by alcohol. Was his partner really into men? And would that explain his strange behavior around him the last few weeks? All that staring and... There was one question he feared to ask himself... Was he the man that Jim fancied...? No, he refused to believe that. It was ridiculous. Jim was the biggest womanizer he had ever met. He was probably just being his usual drunk self. As for the weird stares, among other things, it was probably just a coincidence.
He kept walking aimlessly down the road, still not feeling at peace with everything. He still couldnt convince himself fully of his own theory. In frustration, he ran a hand through his hair and stopped walking. What was he supposed to do now..?
Chapter 3: chapter 3
Artemus remained where he was for now. There was no point in going any further, and he didnt really want to go back to Jim either. Perhaps he could use this time to ask around about that forest and any mysterious happenings. Surely, these folks had to know something... Unless he was crazy, of course..
He reached inside his vest to pull out his watch. Lunch time was ticking by fast, but he... wasnt feeling up for eating anymore. Putting the watch away again, he started his way over to a row of market stalls across the street. He decided on starting with the older man at the end of the row. A sweet looking man who was seemingly trying to make a living out of selling vegetables. He looked approachable enough.
"Gooday to you, sir", he started as he walked up to the stall, catching the man's attention.
"Hello there. Care to buy some fresh vegetables?" the seller tried and watched Artemus with discreet hopefullness in his eyes.
"Not today, I'm afraid", Artemus replied kindly and hesitated for a moment before speaking again. "However....there is something I would like to ask", he said and waited for some sort of a permission to do so.
"Well...of course", came the answer eventually, although slightly questioning. Artemus shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He felt silly for asking, but if he didnt, he would never know.
"You dont happen to know anything about the forest around here? I mean..", what was it that Coleman had called it again? "The dead forest?" he watched the salesman intensively for a moment before he suddenly felt eyes on him and subconsciously turned his head to the neighboring stall. A young woman was staring at him, but quickly turned her gaze elsewhere when their eyes met.
"I sure do", the old man brought Artemus' attention back to him. "There are lots of ghost stories about that forest", he explained and started cutting a squash. "It's all humbug if you ask me", he added and then fell silent, leaving Artemus to ponder on it for a moment. Or so he thought anyway, until someone interrupted his thought process suddenly.
"It's not!" came a slightly upset voice from the next stall. It was the young woman who had been staring at him. Artemus thought this very interesting, and was starting to believe that maybe he wasnt crazy after all.
"No?" he made eye contact with her.
"There is something evil in that forest", she told him seriously, although a little hushed. "Please, stay away from it", she looked at him exhortingly, and when he didnt answer her right away, she added. "Dont you believe me?"
"I do", he was quick to reply. "I will definitely take your words into consideration, mam", he added and threw her a short lasting smile. Then he nodded to the man and started heading back the way he came.
"Wait!" came the girl's concerned voice again, stopping him dead in his tracks. "You should go and visit Miss Ella. She's a psychic",she said as he turned around to look at her. "She lives at number 54 down the street", she added. A psychic, huh? Artemus wasnt so sure about psychics. Alot of them were just phonies. If any of them were real at all.
"Thank you", he nodded to her and was on his way again. As soon as he spotted the tavern down the street, he felt uneasy and his heart rate increased a bit. He started to ask himself if maybe he had overreacted back there. Why had it made him so uncomfortable? All this time, he had been pretty comfortable with his partner, so why would a stupid thing like that change everything?
He hoped that Jim hadnt caused anyone any trouble while he was gone. Mostly because he would have to be the one to make everything right again. When he finally got there, he cautiously peeked inside before entering. Everything seemed....fine. When he passed the bar, he spotted Jim on a couch by one of the corner tables. The corner of his lips twitched upwards a little when he realized that he had mistaken his friend for being awake. The younger man was leaned against the back support, his head slightly dropped forward.
Artemus thought it best to let him sleep. It might make him sober up faster. Besides, he didnt really feel like babysitting him right now. Perhaps this would be the perfect time for some lunch. While considering this, he moved over there to sit, and he studied Jim's face a bit. Even though the recent events had made him uncomfortable, he was also feeling a bit curious. This was a side of him that he hadnt seen before.
If he was right about his friend, then... he supposed he was flattered. He wasnt used to attention like that. Especially not from other men... He could feel his cheeks warm up a little and then he quickly dismissed his suspicions as imaginations.
A loud chorus of laughter from a table further into the room pulled him back to the prescence and he stood suddenly to head over to the bar.
"Are you still serving lunch?" he asked the bartender when he arrived. The said man threw a glance at the clock on the wall before replying.
"Yes, we are, sir", he said and started polishing a wine glass.
"Good. Then I'll have some", Artemus replied and slipped his hand inside his vest to grab his wallet. The bartender looked out over the tables then and his gaze locked onto Jim eventually.
"And your friend?" he looked back to Artemus who then looked over his shoulder at the sleeping man.
"I'll remove him from the premisses as soon as I'm done", he promised, seeing how the personnel wouldnt want a drunk man sleeping at one of their tables. Especially as more and more guests kept coming in. This answer seemed to satisfy the bartender and he was now leaving for the kitchen to place the order.
Artemus slowly turned away from the bar and started his way back to the table where Jim was resting. He carefully sat next to him on the couch, trying not to wake him up.
He thought it best to let his partner sober up before they went back 'home' to the train. Because who knew what awaited them back there. Hopefully everything was still alright.
Time went by painfully slowly for Artemus. He tried enjoying his lunch for a longer time, and he also stayed for a bit to read one of the magazines on the table. Eventually though, he had to wake Jim up and drag his drunk ass out of there. That in itself was a pain as his partner needed to be physically supported. Worst of all however, was his fear of Jim possibly starting to behave weirdly again.
Luckily for Artemus, Jim just came to act like a child for the nearest hours and he was being pretty managable. Artemus spent the time with taking him for walks and shopping, among other things.
It truly was entertaining to see him picking rocks and flowers, as well as petting people's horses. Artemus was having a better time with this than he would have ever thought.
A couple of more hours went by and Jim was finally sobering up. Artemus made sure that he was getting some food in him and made the decision for them to return to the train. They had been gone all day after all. Jim didnt oppose this idea. In fact, he was being unusually conformable and unusually quiet.
The dark clouds that had been looming over them all day were now starting another downpour. Not a light one like earlier, but a more heavy rain. They walked in silence,back towards the unsettling forest where they would have to spend the night, and both were occupied with their own thoughts.
Jim for one was thinking about the things he had said and done while being drunk. He was still a bit tipsy, but he could think clearly now. He remembered teasing Artemus about embarrassing things like man crushes, but the details were really blurry. He also remembered Artemus being upset with him. He hoped that he hadnt given any hints away... He guessed he would apologize to him later....Later, when he had overcome his shame a bit.
Artemus glanced at Jim through the wet bangs covering his eyes slightly. He wondered if he was alright. He was so quiet and... there was a bit of a gloomy atmosphere about him. He figured that asking about his emotional state might not be the best conversation starter, so he decided on a more lighthearted subject.
"It was amusing watching you picking flowers, like a child", he said with clear amusement in his voice as he gazed softly at his friend. The corner of his lips twitched slightly upwards when their eyes met.
Jim couldnt help but to grin back at him and then he shook his head.
"Yeah... I bet it was", he said quietly and adjusted his hat to sheild his eyes from the increasing rain. He supposed that now that they were finally talking again, it might be a good time to...say sorry.
"Uh...listen..", he kept his gaze on the ground in front of them. "I'm sorry if I upset you back there.... or said some weird things", he said just as quietly and turned his gaze up ahead of them.
"That's alright, Jim", Artemus assured him, also looking ahead of them now. They were nearing that creepy line of dead trees up ahead now, and it was not a good feeling. As soon as they had entered the forest and found the railroad, Artemus cautiously kept a look out for anything unusual. He would rather not see any shadowy figures wandering about. Jim was also feeling uneasy, but he tried to cover it up. He knew that Artemus was very concerned about ghosts and what not, and he wanted to give his friend a sense of security by appearing confident.
When they finally arrived to the train, they knocked on the door to the cab to make sure that their chauffeur was still there and ok. Fortunately, the door opened seconds later and their gazes met with Coleman's. It was hard to tell what the man was thinking or feeling as he just stared at them in silence.
"You two look like drowned cats", he commented eventually and stepped aside to let them in.
"How have things been while we were gone?" Artemus asked him while he squeezed the water out of his sleeves, and Jim turned his attention to Coleman expectantly.
"I....well...... Things have been alright", he told them hesitatingly, not really looking them in the eyes. Jim and Artemus exchanged a glance before Jim decided to speak up.
"Go on", he urged him, knowing that there was more to it.
"Well.....If you must know....I've heard singing", the man admitted and look a bit scared now. Then he looked outside at the darkening forest. "..I cant put my finger on it..... but there is something not right about that voice..", he continued with a slightly unsteady voice and seemed to space out for a moment. Again, Jim and Artemus exchanged a glance.
"Maybe you're right, Jim", Artemus started. "Perhaps we should take our things and leave", he said and moved to open the door to the first wagon, which happened to be their bedroom. Jim followed him.
"Yeah, maybe we should", he agreed as they passed through and Artemus stopped here to remove his vest before pulling his soaked shirt over his head. This threw Jim into some sort of a trance and all he did was to stare at his partner while he stripped. It was a nice view indeed. He managed to snap out of it seconds later though, and started removing his own wet clothes. He really had to try and not get in that state around his partner... To avoid further moments like that, he turned his back to Artemus and placed his shirt, his vest and his hat on a coat rack by the wall.
A strong wind was picking up outside and it was howling softly. Jim thought that maybe that's what Coleman had heard. He still wasnt fully convinced about the ghost stuff. Artemus on the other hand was cautiously looking out the window across the room. The rain was still pouring down like a waterfall outside and it was difficult to see anything other than rain because of it. It was nice to be back on the train, but not so nice to be back in this forest.
A groan from behind made him turn away from the window to see that Jim had gotten seated in a chair. He was currently rubbing his forehead, looking tired and defeated.
"Headache?" Artemus asked kindly and wiped some water from his own forehead. Jim just nodded, his gaze locked on the floor in front of his feet. Mostly because it hurt his eyes to look around, or to move his head, but also because he still felt very awkward about the whole situation back at the tavern. He needed to start being more lowkey. He had already gone way too far with being obvious. He was more afraid of his friend finding out about his feelings than he would have thought.
"I'll get you something", Artemus promised him and went over to the door to the second wagon. He left it open and went over to the stove to boil some water. What an interesting day this had been. Very...different... He glanced over at Jim for a moment before he put some feverfew leaves in the water. As he stood there stirring, the wind picked up a little more and made a few things tremble inside the wagon.
He looked over to Jim again and met his equally confounded gaze. Then the wind died down a little bit again.
"You should go to bed. Get some rest", Artemus suggested and went over to a cupboard to get a cup for his friend.
"Nah... I think I will stay up for a bit", Jim replied, not wanting to admit that he felt uneasy tonight. Uneasy about letting his guard down and going to bed. He just had this gut feeling that something wasnt right.
"Alright then", Artemus said calmly and stirred the water in the pot once more. "You know... when you were woozy, I took the time to ask around about the rumors of this forest", he made a pause here, awaiting a possible response from Jim. None came however, so he continued. "Apparently there is supposed to be a psychic in this town", he pulled the pot off the stove and poured its contents into the cup. "I dont know if they're the real deal or not-" he started, but was cut off.
"They're not, Artie", Jim cut in as Artemus came over with the cup.
"Well, I wouldnt know", Artemus replied and handed him the cup. "This will help with the pain", he added and exchanged a glance with Jim before he was off to the stove again.
"Thanks..", Jim mumbled and brought the cup to his mouth to take a sip. It tasted real bitter and he made a face before forcing some more into his mouth. It was all worth it if it would soothe his pain.
"Anyway", Artemus started while he was soaking a piece of cloth in cold water. "We could go and see them tomorrow", he suggested, but got no response this time. He looked over to Jim and forced back a smile at the sight of him struggling to consume the liquid.
"I dont know why I'm even helping you", he sighed as he came over to him again. "You got yourself into this", he made sure to point out before he reached out to hold the cold, wet cloth against his partner's forehead. The said man put his cup aside to replace Artemus' hand with his own. There was a tense moment where he accidentally placed his fingers over his and he could feel him tense up as well.
Artemus didnt like this awkward feeling. It was all because Jim had made things weird between them earlier. All of that vanished from his mind though when there was suddenly a movement outside the window, and he turned his head quickly to see....nothing. Just darkness and raindrops running down the glass.
Having seen his friend's reaction, Jim turned his head too while Artemus' hand slipped from him. He couldnt see anything out there either so he turned back to gaze up at his partner.
"What's wrong?" he asked, studying the man's face. He was unsure if his question had gone unnoticed or not. The only thing that gave away any signs of life in Artemus was his narrowing eyes. Jim put the cloth away and stood, a bit wobbly as he was still affected by the alcohol.
"Nothing..", came Artemus' answer suddenly, but he still wasnt taking his eyes off the window. "I just thought I saw something..." This only made Jim more curious and he took a step forward, his eyes locked on the window. However, due to his current cognative issues, he lost his balance and fell forward. Luckily, Artemus caught his upper arms and Jim grabbed his lower arms in an instinctive reaction.
There was another awkward moment. Typiical. A few seconds passed before Jim steadied himself and let go to walk up to the window. He would rather escape this embarrassment than to face his partner right now. What he didnt know was that Artemus' heart was racing just as much as his right now.
Artemus cleared his throat and went over to his bed to sit. Why was he so awkward all of a sudden? It wasnt like him. He blamed Jim for it all. To distract himself from that uncomfortable feeling, he picked up a couple of metallic pieces from his bedside table. They were to belong to a small, mechanical animal that he had been working on just for fun. Then he glanced at his partner who was still staring out the window.
Eventually, Jim turned and took a few, slow steps back to his chair. He hated headaches, but most of all, he hated this desperate urge that he was having recently. Settling back into the chair, he grabbed the wet cloth again and slapped it back onto his forehead. Maybe he should consider telling Artemus of his feelings after all... He just hated suffering like this.
"Jim!" the said man jumped and got up on his feet, seeing Artemus standing and grabbing his gun. He quickly followed his gaze to the window and was shocked to see the dark silhouette of a woman on the other side. She was standing so close to the glass that only her head and shoulders were visible. He could see no facial features at all, but that could just be a trick of the dark. He slowly reached for his own gun but the figure disappeared to the left, away from the window. With a racing heart, he looked at Artemus and then started his way towards the door leading outside.
"Jim!" the man hissed and quickly came over to him, causing him to stop. "Dont go outside."
"We've got to catch her!" Jim insisted. He threw a glance at his friend and then grabbed the handle of the door. Before he could turn it though, a hand grabbed his wrist. Not that he didnt enjoy the touch, but he was beginning to feel annoyed with his partner by now, and it clearly showed in his expression as he turned his head to face him.
"That's not a human", Artemus warned him, very seriously, his intense gaze piercing through the younger man's. At this moment, a chill ran down Jim's spine.
"You're giving me the creeps", he replied, eyebrows raised meaningly at his friend. All he got in return was a sigh, and the hand slipped from him. This made Jim smile a little. It was cute of Artemus to be so concerned.
"You worry too much, Artie", he said and gave the man's cheek two pats before turning to finally open the door, his gun raised cautiously. "Dont worry. I'll protect you", he added. So far, he could see no one outside. There was only darkness and the deafening sound of heavy rain. Behind him, Artemus slowly brought his hand up to rub his cheek with a confused frown on his face. He snapped out of it a moment later.
"Oh, please", he sighed, sarcastically, hating it when Jim thought he knew best. His annoyance quickly turned into concern though when the younger man slowly stepped outside. He decided to follow him, but stopped in the doorway. His heart raced as he watched him looking around outside. The reason why he was pretty sure that the woman wasnt human was because he was remembering that horrifying experience from earlier. The silhiuette by the border of the town. Thinking it through only increased his distress and he couldnt stand it any longer.
"Jim! Please", he hissed in a hushed tone while keeping a look out for anything unusual. The scary thing was that he knew that they couldnt defend themselves against ghosts. Not with guns anyway. Unfortunately, Jim wasnt willing to listen, but kept inspecting their surroundings by heading for the back of the train. This was the point where Artemus felt he had had enough. Stubborn bastard. He decided to follow him outside.
"Just listen to me!" he demanded and kept following Jim to the back where he fortunately stopped to look around. "That woman", he made a pause. "I remember seeing one earlier today. What if they are the same? What if she had something to do with my...blackout..", Jim still didnt seem very concerned when he turned to face Artemus.
"Are you suggesting she's a ghost?" he asked, obviously skeptical to the idea.
"Yes!" Artemus exclaimed, clearly frustrated. Jim just remained unimpressed, which angered Artemus further. "Alright. Fine", he was getting tired of arguing with his partner about this. "You keep looking. I'll be inside", and with that, he turned and headed back into the wagon, closing the door behind him. And now his new shirt was wet as well. Great. He pulled it off and threw it onto a chair. Then he got seated on his bed with his back leaned against the wall. Again, he picked up the metallic pieces and a screwdriver from his bedside table.
To his surprise, the door opened a moment later and Jim came back inside. He didnt care to acknowledge him, but kept fiddling with his things. He was relieved at least, that his partner was safe and back inside.
Jim made sure to lock the door behind him and went over to sit in the same chair as before. He made sure to gulp down all of the brew that Artemus had made him, before anything more spooky could happen.
The first few minutes, he kept looking to the window cautiously, but as nothing was happening for a while, he started to relax again. As Artemus seemed busy, Jim took this opportunity to watch his friend working..on something. There was a slight fluttering in his heart at the sight and he realized that he was becoming much more calm from this. He was feeling better over all actually, and he allowed himself to enjoy the moment for a few minutes. Only for a few minutes though. Then his curiousity got the better of him.
"....Hey....watcha got there?" he asked carefully and put his now empty cup away. Artemus didnt look at him, but kept fiddling. He took his sweet time with delivering an answer.
"....Just a thing", came the reply then and Jim could tell that he was upset with him. He sighed.
"I can see that", he said. "What kind of thing?" he kept pushing and realized that someone needed to inform Coleman of what had just happened outside.
"You'll see when it's done", Artemus replied, still not looking at Jim. Not even when the man got up to leave. A moment later, Artemus stopped what he was doing to look out the window at the other side of the room. It still looked fine out there. He hoped that Jim would agree to see that psychic in the morning. If not...then he would go alone.
Jim eventually came back and Artemus was going to try and ignore him for a bit. He had just run out of patience for the day. That was until he heard the sound of something heavy being pushed across the floor. He was rather surprised when he looked up to see Jim dragging his bed from the other side of the room, towards his. He couldnt even start to fathom why he would do that.
"What are you doing...?" was the most natural question, and he watched as the bed came up next to his.
"I'm not sleeping under the window", Jim panted and straightened up to throw a glance back at it. He then went back to his bedside table to pick up a book before returning to his bed to sit. Artemus just stared at him for a few more seconds before he turned back to his own things, shaking his head.
A couple of hours went by and they were both trying to stay awake. Neither of them wanted to let their guards down this specific night. Artemus had moved to the middle wagon a while back and was now tiredly watching his latest little invention staggering across the table. With its four little legs, it slightly resembled an animal. Although its body was just made from a flat square. Everything had been pretty quiet and peaceful this last hour. No strange women. No strange sounds. No strange nothing. Even the wind had died down. It was almost....too quiet.
He jumped when the door to the other wagon opened suddenly and Jim stepped inside. A sigh of relief escaped him and he turned his attention back to the little creature. It was nearing the edge of the table, so he grabbed it and put it back at the start of it. In the corner of his eye, he saw Jim moving towards him. Neither of them spoke, but just watched the little device as it made its way across the wooden surface. Artemus suspected that Jim had gotten lonely in there in the bedroom and that's why he had come to find him. Just as he tended to do lately...
"Couldnt sleep?" he asked and leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms. Jim responded with a humming sound at first, his gaze still stuck on Artemus' little device.
"...I got bored", he said then and a short lasting smirk appeared on his face.
"Is this our new pet, or what?" he asked and looked up at Artemus who was currently rubbing his upper arms a bit. He had put on a new, dry shirt but was still a bit cold. "It reminds me a bit of a certain spider...", this brought a smile to Artemus' lips.
"Sure..", he replied and there was silence for a moment again. Of course he remembered that monstrosity.
"Are you cold?" Jim felt the need to ask eventually, and his brain was already working on ideas for what he could do for his friend. However, Artemus seemed to have other plans as he suddenly stood and grabbed the robotic creature just before it toppled over the edge of the table.
"A bit", he replied and turned the device off before placing it back onto the table. He then moved over to the pool table. "Care to join me?" he asked while picking up a cue stick. He got a nod from Jim, but the man stood and walked back to their bedroom wagon, leaving Artemus confused for a moment. He didnt dwell on it though, but started to arrange the balls on the table. He was thinking that moving around a bit could make him warmer.
He threw a glance at the window when he heard the sound of rain again, still paranoid that whatever that woman was might show up again. The only one who showed up up though was Jim, and he had brought a coat with him.
Artemus didnt think much of this and removed the triangle from the pool table. He froze when doing so as he felt the heavy fabric of the coat being hanged over his back and shoulders. Naturally, he turned to give Jim a questioning look. He couldnt help but to feel...slightly shocked...and of course, uncomfortable.
"What's wrong?" Jim asked him, acting as if this wasnt something out of the ordinary. "You said you were cold, right?" he then busied himself with grabbing a cue stick of his own. In the meantime, he was starting to fear that maybe he had made a mistake. Gone too far again.
Artemus straightened up a bit, his gaze moving to the table before them, a bit spaced out. He didnt know what to say. He really didnt. He didnt know what to feel either.
"Soo...do you want to go first?" Jim decided to ask to break the awkward silence. He was starting to feel a bit nervous about his partner's reaction. It took a moment for Artemus to gather himself and to put on a 'normal' facade so that he could get himself to reply.
"Sure...", he said, not really looking at Jim as he moved to place the white billiard ball at its rightful place. Thoughts were spinning around his head constantly, almost making him feel dizzy. Confusing thoughts and feelings. This day was just getting weirder and weirder. On the outside though, he looked completely calm. He supposed that it felt pretty nice to be cared for..... Jim had really gone out of his way to be caring lately. It actually scared him a bit, because he was currently realizing that his suspicions had probably been true all along.
He striked the white ball with his stick and watched as it hit the other ones, spreading them apart on the table. He then cautiously turned his gaze to Jim. He couldnt helpt but to smile a bit as he watched his partner contemplating his first move. It was weird seeing him in this other light. This other side of him. It was scary, but also slightly...interesting.
The two spent a couple of hours playing pool before deciding to sleep in shifts for the remaints of the night. After all, they needed to be well rested in the morning.