The sun was just beginning to set over Horseshoe Overlook, bathing the camp in a warm orange glow. The camp was bustling with familiar chatter and noise as the day drew closer to an end. Arthur Morgan sat on a log near the campfire, a cigarette held between his lips and his attention on Hosea, who was telling one of his many, many stories. Little Jack sat near Arthur's feet, his eyes widened in wonderment as he listened to the story, the horse figure in his small hand long-forgotten in the dirt.
Arthur had just taken another drag from his cigarette when footsteps approached from his left, followed by a voice. "Arthur, you busy?"
He had to refrain himself from letting out an exasperating sigh, somewhat already knowing what was about to happen. "Depends," He said, flicking the cigarette on the ground and stomping it under his boot. Turning his head to see who was talking to him. He was met with Jonas, a young man who's been running with them for nearly four years now, and a con artist. "What d'ya need?"
"You know how Sean and John left earlier this afternoon?" Jonas questioned, just barely waiting until Arthur nodded before he continued speaking. "They aren't back yet."
Arthur paused for a moment, his eyebrows just barely pushing together in confusion. "That's nearly eight hours, they should've been back by now."
"You'd think so," The black haired male replied, his arms crossing over his chest. "You wanna come with me to look for them?" He questioned and Arthur has to, yet again, stop himself from sighing. Why was it that they always asked him to do the work?
Nonetheless, he agreed. He had nothing else to do. "Sure. Let's go get these idiots." He nodded.
Together they headed towards their horses, Jonas having to go to the other side of the camp to get his horse.
Approaching Atlas, Arthur untied the reins from the hitching post and patted the large animals neck, murmuring a small apology for taking him out so soon after they had just gotten back from a long trip earlier that morning. Once Arthur had lifted himself up and into the saddle, he met Jonas at the exit of the camp and the two rode off, bidding a goodbye to Lenny, who was on guard.
The ride to Valentine is silent other than the quiet snorts from their horses and the occasional sniffle from Jonas, who was just getting over a cold from the mountains him and Charles had just returned from a week before.
They stopped in front of the hotel and hitched their horses side by side.
"How much you wanna bet that they're in the saloon?" Jonas challenged with a little smirk, giving Luca, a beautiful Grullo Dun Mustang, a sugar cube he had pulled out of his pocket.
Arthur scoffed faintly, his lips twitching into a small smirk as well. "Ain't no bettin' if Sean is involved." He had no doubt that they're be in the saloon. Or, at least, Sean would be in the saloon.
The conman's light chuckling was cut off when the saloon doors flew open with a loud noise. Five people tumbled out from the building, grunts and cusses flying from their mouths. Angry yells were heard from inside the saloon, as well as cheers from drunken patrons as they stumbled out to watch the fight.
Three of the five men tumbled into the mud and Arthur let out a faint growl. "Goddamn idiots, I tell ya." He muttered, storming towards the group of men to grab ahold of John's arm before he could land another punch on the strangers face. He gave a sharp yank, pulling the younger man to his feet and dragging him away from the angry looking fellers in front of them. As he walked away, he could hear Jonas begin to talk to the three burly men, calming the situation as he usually does. The kid's nearly as good with words as Hosea is.
"The hell's the matter with you two?" Arthur hissed as he lead John over to horses by his forearm, ignoring the meek "'ey, Arthur" he received from the twenty-six year old. He glanced around the town, searching for John's horse. 'As if he'd be able to ride the damn thing in the state he's in.'
Jonas approached the two with a very drunk Sean, the Irishman's arm around Jonas' shoulders to keep him from face planting into the mud even more.
"We want'd to have a night out." John replied and Sean cheerfully agreed from where Jonas was trying to get him up onto Luca.
Arthur looked at John incredulously. "And how the hell did your "night out" turn into this?" He questioned, motioning to the shiny new bruises and split lip adorning the man's face. A look of slight confusion spread across John's face and he raised a hand to brush his fingers against the right side of his jaw, wincing when his fingertips brushed against a particularly intense bruise.
Realizing that John wasn't going to answer within the next minute, Arthur turned his attention to Sean. "MacGuire, you mind tellin' me what just happened?"
The kid is almost happy to answer, a proud little grin appearing on his stupid face. "We were 'avin' fun, Arthur! Then more fun, then arguably too much fun," He paused, his smile turning into a wince as his hand prodded at his ribs. "An' then no fun at all."
Arthur barely missed the faint look of infatuation that flashed across Jonas' face as he looked at the drunken Irishman.
He let out a sigh, figuring it was useless to talk to them while they were so unbelievably drunk, and climbed up onto Atlas, patting the horses neck as the animal snorted quietly.
"Meet you at camp?" Jonas asked, settling himself in the saddle in front of Sean. Once he had received a nod from Arthur, he saluted lazily and rode off.
After watching John sway in place for a few moments, Arthur held a hand out to the man and pulled him up. Once he was sure John wouldn't topple off of the large animal, he steered Atlas onto a rode that would lead them away from camp.
It took John a good ten minutes to realize they weren't going home.
"Where you takin' me, Morgan?"
Arthur contemplated ignoring him, kind of as a punishment for being so stupid but John let out a small noise of discontent and poked at Arthur's side. "Arth-"
"I ain't takin' you back to camp like this, you're a mess- would you stop that!" He smacked John's hand away from his side, putting a stop to the incessant poking. "Good grief, you're like a goddamn child."
A small huff is heard from the younger man and he goes quiet.
But the blessed silence only lasted a few minutes before the dumbass started singing.
'another reason not to bring him to camp; he'd annoy everybody with his damn singin'.' Arthur thought to himself with an eye roll.
It sounded god awful, words slurred and most of them coming out as incoherent mumbles. Every once and a while he'd go quiet for nearly a minute before he'd continue at full volume and Arthur found himself glaring blankly at the road ahead of them, his jaw clenching with each passing minute.
Five full minutes of the insufferable singing had passed before John abruptly stopped in the middle of the song. "...Think 'm gonna be sick-"
"If you even think about throwin' up on me or my horse, you'll be the one cleanin' it up." Arthur spoke, hastily steering Atlas into a small clearing in the woods and he dismounted, tying the reins to a thin tree. By the time he was done, John had already begun to get himself off of the horse, a look of discomfort evident on his scarred face.
Arthur stood nearby, stifling his quiet chuckles as he watched the drunken man dismount the horse. Though, he must've miscalculated his footing and stumbled forward, nearly tumbling into the dirt before Arthur caught him with a quiet grunt. "Jesus, Marston. How much did you drink?" He muttered, helping the man stand up straighter by placing his hands firmly on his shoulders.
Before John could even think to form an answer, he suddenly lurched forward and emptied his stomach into a nearby bush. Arthur barely flinched, being used to this from living with drunks for years, and he patted John's back firmly as the latter coughed and sputtered through his vomiting. A minute or two passed before he stepped away from the bush, a sour look on his face. "'M sorry." He cringed, most likely from the taste in his mouth.
Arthur blatantly ignored the apology and pulled out a canteen of water from one of the two saddlebags, holding it out for John to take.
As John took small sips of the water, Arthur glanced up at the sky and moved to begin setting up camp. He didn't feel like traveling anymore with a drunk John, especially now that he was getting sick from the amount of alcohol he had consumed.
Within fifteen minutes, Arthur had a fire going as well as his tent set up. He tossed another log into the small fire before making his way over to John, who was nearly asleep against the tree Arthur had left him at.
Stopping in front of the younger male, he stuck a foot out and landed a somewhat-light kick to Marston's boot, startling the poor guy awake. Arthur crouched in front of him, his knees popping faintly. "C'mon, you need to sleep this off." He instructed, grabbing John's forearm and pulling him up to stand. The latter quietly groaned, swaying on his feet and as he took a step forward, his boot caught on a small rock. A faint curse left Arthur's mouth as he shot forward to catch the idiot again. "Easy! Easy..."
He felt John lean heavily into his side and Arthur adjusted his hold on him. "That's it, just lean on me." He mumbled quietly, walking towards the tent slowly so John wouldn't jostle his stomach around even more than it already was. The last thing Arthur wanted was vomit on his new jacket.
He lowered John onto the ground in front of the tent and gave him a small push to urge him onto the bedroll lying inside. "Go on, get in there."
John grunted and planted himself on the ground, shaking his head. "'M not tired."
"You were just fallin' asle-" Arthur brought a hand up to rub at the bridge of his nose, an exasperated sigh threatening to escape through his lips. 'Actin' like his own damn son.'
Instead of arguing with a drunk and stubborn man, Arthur lowered himself down onto the ground as well and dug out a tin of crackers. He popped open the top and dug out a few of the thin crackers and handed them to the man next to him. "Get somethin' in that stomach o' yours." He told him, setting the can down between them.
They had both fell into a comfortable silence as John slowly ate the crackers. During that time, Arthur had dug out his journal, just to simply flip through the pages. An odd feeling settled in his chest as he read through the past events that lead them to where he and the gang are now. It all felt like so long ago... but in reality it had only been just under a year. He shook his head a little at the thought.
He went through a few more pages before his eyes settled on a drawing of a noose on the top half of one of the pages.
Underneath the picture was Arthur's own handwriting, his thoughts about the death of Micah written down in graphite. Two words and two words only; good riddance.
While he was flipping through the past, Arthur hadn't realized how close John had gotten. The twenty-six year old's shoulder was pressed against his as his gaze raked over the page curiously. Arthur slowly turned his head to look at the man, getting ready to scold him on invading privacy when John spoke. "D'ya think Dutch is mad that you let Micah die?" He questioned.
"The hell you talkin' about? I didn't let-" His argument his cut off by John. "Everyone else might think you jus' forgot-- sorry, "forgot" to get Micah out o' jail but I know you didn't." The little bastard had a knowing grin on his face and Arthur narrowed his eyes a bit. John noticed this and opened his mouth again. "I won't tell anyone... but 'm sure Jonas an' Charles already know... an' I think Hosea has a feelin'."
Arthur was silent for nearly ten seconds before he let out a silent huff of laughter. "Alright then." He said, knowing he'd be in no trouble with the people that knew.
Silence engulfed them once again, the sounds of wildlife bringing a sense of comfort to Arthur. Crickets chirped loudly from within the woods and the sound of an owl came from one of the many trees surrounding them. Arthur went back to flipping through his journal and came across a drawing he had started just a few nights before; a stag stood tall and proud, taking up both pages. A set of beautiful, intricate antlers were one of the focal points of the sketch, a set Arthur had only seen in his dreams and he doubted he'd ever see such an animal outside of them. The shading wasn't finished due to an interruption a few nights before and Arthur made to fix that before the man to his left spoke.
"Arthur?" His voice was quiet and Arthur figured it was because he was finally getting tired. Arthur replied with a faint grunt, his hands digging around his his satchel for a pencil.
When he didn't receive an answer, Arthur turned his head too look at John. "What do you wa-"
The rest of the word is muffled as John surged forward, his lips smashing onto Arthur's own in an uncoordinated manner.
Arthur's breath hitched in his throat and nearly every muscle in his body tensed. His first instinct was to push the younger man away, his hand moving to press on the middle of John's chest. He looked at the latter in bewilderment, his mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water as he tried to formulate any type of response. His fingers, at some point, had curled into John's shirt, gripping at the fabric so tightly that his knuckles nearly turned white.
John spoke again, the words barely a whisper and his hand curling around Arthur's wrist. "Arthur..."
It was like a switch was suddenly flipped and Arthur was moving forward to reattach their lips in a firm kiss. A soft noise reached his ears and he couldn't tell whether it came from himself or John but the thought promptly left his head as John pressed closer to him. Arthur raised his other hand to hold the back of the smaller man's neck, sighing softly through his nose.
Moments passed before John's tongue brushed against the seam of his lips and Arthur hummed shortly, pulling back. Though he couldn't stop himself from pressing a series of smaller kisses against to the other man's lips before pulling away for good.
John made a faint, pitiful sound as he went to initiate another kiss and Arthur let out a breathy chuckle. "You're drunk, John. No more," He said, shaking his head. The grip around his wrist tightened suddenly and John opened his mouth, "I-..." He stopped, his gaze averting for a split second. "I think 'm gonna go to bed now." He said, nodding at his own words.
Arthur said nothing as he let his hands drop from their hold on John and kept his gaze on the ground as the latter made his way into the tent.
Raising a hand to rub at his face, Arthur let out a long sigh. "The hell have I gotten myself into?" He muttered under his breath, shaking his head at his own stupidity.
He dug a pencil out from his satchel and went to work trying to distract himself from what had just happened.
They'd deal with it later.