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“You best be glad that Dutch is gone.” Arthur stood at the edge of John’s tent, cigarette hanging between his lips as he looked down at the boy. “One smell of you and he’d be whorin’ you out for whoever’d pay a pretty penny for a chance to fuck you.”

“Go fuck yourself Arthur.” John’s snarl was weaker than usual and Arthur felt something akin to pity flicker through his chest.

Unfortunately, pity wasn’t something that was beneficial in the Van der Linde gang. Pity didn’t put food on the table or ammunition in your gun. So he crushed the faint feeling and loaded his gaze with steel.

“Doubt anybody would even pay for a scrap like you.” Arthur shrugged and took a long drag from his cigarette before tossing it to the ground and stomping it out. “You best wash off your stench and move your tent so your smell don’t offend none of the girlies.”

“You know I ain’t in no shape to move my tent.” It wasn’t that John sounded pathetic, no there was enough venom in his tone to fell a man. It was that he didn’t sound like himself. The snark was there, the venom was there, but there was an underlying air of not-quite-John to it that was off putting.

“Then sounds like you should just take a bed roll and pray some wolf doesn’t think you’d make a good bitch for it.”

There was a flinch from John and Arthur immediately realized he went too far.

“Look, Marston. The gang’s filled with… we ain’t good folks but we take care of our own, but an omega’s heat’s got a certain quality to it that makes even good men lose their mind.”

“So you’re just lookin’ out for me then?” John rolled his eyes. “Appreciate it, I’ll consider leaving my comfortable warm tent to go fuck myself underneath some tree. Maybe I’d get a nice nest of rotting leaves and deer shit to relax on, make it a real memorable first heat.”

Arthur spit on the ground and scowled. “If you ain’t gonna have the decency to move outside the camp, you best go wash yourself down so Miss Grimshaw don’t toss your sorry ass outside herself.”

The damn kid just crossed his arms and looked up at Arthur with a sneer. His face was flushed and slick with sweat thanks to his oncoming heat but he still looked like he was ready for a fight. “You too good to deal with an omega stinkin’ up the camp, Arthur? That it?”

Arthur’s eye twitched. “You know I don’t give a single damn about that shit. Get yourself clean, Marston, and stop acting like a goddamned jackass about it. I say the same shit to the alphas going through their first ruts; we don’t want none of your smell messin’ with heads and upsettin’ any of the ladies.”

“Well you stink enough to cover it up so—“

John shut up when Arthur stormed into his tent with a scowl and picked him up by the front of his shirt.

“The fuck are you doin’?” John half yelled, trying to break free.

“I’m draggin’ you to the river so I can clean your dumb ass myself.” Arthur scowled. “I was plannin’ on chopping some lumber for the camp today, but apparently I gotta babysit you.”

“I can take care of this myself.” John ripped Arthur’s hand from his shirt and took a few steps back before nearly stumbling and falling.

“It’s your first heat, boy and Dutch ain’t here to take care of you during it.” Arthur caught John by the arm and pulled him close before grabbing the back of his neck, not quite a scruffing. “You’re gonna listen to me unless you want Bill tryin’ his chances with the pretty young omega.”

“He wouldn’t dare, Dutch would kill him.”

Arthur pulled John out of the tent with him and began walking out of camp towards the river. He noticed a few heads turning their way but ignored them.

“Liquored up with the scent of a first heat in his nose? You are vastly overestimating the restraint some alphas have.”

“What about you then?” John sneered. “You ain’t gonna be overcome by your alpha nature an’ try to claim me?”

Arthur squeezed John’s neck in a warning. “I wouldn’t want to keep you more than I had to. ‘Sides, I’m trained nice and good by Dutch to not take what’s his.”

There was something nasty on the tip of John’s tongue, Arthur could feel it. But before he said anything, he just sighed deeply and looked up at Arthur. “I wish Dutch were here.”

“You and me both.” Arthur scratched at his beard and stared past John at the trees. Taking care of the boy in heat wasn’t even close to anything he wanted to do. He and Javier had been talking about hunting for deer in the next few days but with Dutch and Hosea out of the camp, he was gonna have to be the one to watch over John to make sure nobody did anything that they’d regret.

“Go sit at that tree while I get some soap from Miss Grimshaw and explain the situation to her.” Lightly, Arthur pushed John towards an old oak at the edge of the camp. He watched as John stumbled and barely avoided falling by grabbing a low hanging branch.

Arthur snorted and turned around to find Miss Grimshaw. He needed some strong soap and he carried a lot of things in his person, but that wasn’t one of them.

The camp was starting to get busy as the sun made its way over the horizon and Arthur had to duck past a few of the men. He knew he smelt like John’s heat and he didn’t want nobody getting any ideas.

“Arthur!” Javier waved him down and Arthur bit back a swear. Javier jogged over past a few tents and stopped a few feet away. “Sean and I were gonna see if we couldn’t shoot a deer or two.”

Arthur raked his nails against his palms. “I can’t. Marston is—“ he cut himself off and motioned for Javier to come closer. “Marston’s startin’ his heat and I gotta watch over him in Dutch’s stead,” he whispered quietly into Javier’s ear.

Javier winced. “Couldn’t have come at a worse time, could it?”

“You’re telling me.” Arthur raked a hand through his beard. “It ain’t that I don’t trust the boys but…”

“An omega going through his heat is trouble.”

“Exactly.” Arthur frowned and scanned the camp. “I need to find Miss Grimshaw so she can give me some strong soaps and then I’m gonna move John’s tent further from the camp so his smell don’t attract no unwanted attention.”

“You sure you’ll be fine with all this? If you want, I can watch over him.”

Arthur smiled, a tight lipped expression. “If It were just watchin’ over, I’d be more than happy to let you lend a hand.” He paused and chewed on his lower lip. “He’s gonna need an alpha to fuck him and… well…”

“A beta ain’t gonna cut it, I got it.” Javier scratched at the back of his neck. “If you need anything, I’ll be around camp.”

Arthur clasped Javier’s shoulder. “Appreciate it, amigo . Maybe you can play the guitar for us, nice and romantic like.” He snorted out a laugh and spit.

“Hysterical.”

“Ain’t it?” Arthur chuckled. “But just make sure nobody does nothing stupid while I’m busy and if Dutch comes back, send him my way.”

——

“You look like shit.”

“You smell like shit.” John glared up at Arthur and his lank hair was stuck to his forehead.

“You sure about that? I’m bettin’ that every cell in your body’s screaming, wantin’ to suck my dick here and now.” Arthur sneered at John before helping him up. The poor kid was shaking like a damn leaf and his skin felt superheated.

“Let’s just get this over with.”

As they walked towards the river, John leaned heavily on Arthur, legs as unsteady as a newborn foal’s. The smell of heat was rolling off him in thick waves and threatened to set off Arthur’s rut. It was only his goddamned will that held it back, the knowledge that if he let his instincts and biology rule him that he’d be worse than scum.

“Let’s get you clean.” Arthur kicked off his shoes and set John down on the riverbank. “Miss Grimshaw’s having some of the beta boys set us up a tent outside the camp.”

“Us?” John narrowed his eyes.

“Would you rather I send in Uncle to help you you?” Arthur started to unbutton his shirt. “Bet it’s the one job we’d get him to happily do.”

“Old man can’t even get his dick up with the amount he drinks.”

“Well it’s either the old drunk or me. Your choice, Marston.”

“Helluva choice you’re givin’ me.” John stripped from his sweat soaked shirt and Arthur had to bite his tongue as a wave of heat scent washed over him. John hadn’t even started his proper heat yet but he still smelled as intoxicating as anything.

Arthur kicked off his trousers and picked up the bucket that held a few bars of soap in it. “Ain’t like I wanna be doin’ this neither, but it needs to be done.” He winced as he stepped into the icy water of the river. “It’d be torture to have you go through your heat alone, Dutch wouldn’t want you to go through that.”

John finished undressing and slowly walked over to the water. “He help you out with your first rut?”

“He helps all of us out.” Arthur fixed John with a look. “He wouldn’t treat you none different just ‘cause you’re our first omega.”

John sighed as he sloshed over to Arthur in the knee deep water. “You understand why I’m a mite touchy about this, don’t you?”

“Course I do, boy.” Arthur grabbed John’s arm and sat him down on a rock. “I tried to hide my first rut. I didn’t want to seem useless.” He chuckled softly as he filled up the bucket with water. “Dutch dragged me to his tent until I admitted why I was actin’ like such a goddamned fool.”

Arthur paused as he dumped the bucket of icy river water over John’s head and began lathering him up with soap. “I thought he was gonna march my stupid ass outta camp and make me rub my dick raw against a tree or somethin’.”

John snorted. “What happened then?”

“Dutch fucked me into the ground.” Arthur began to lather the soap up in John’s lank hair in an attempt to clean away the scent of heat that the sweat and grease trapped in it. “I wasn’t too happy with that at first— I’m an alpha for Christ’s sake, I wanted to fuck not be fucked. But by the third time he knotted me I was beggin’ louder than any omega.”

John relaxed into Arthur’s touch as he lightly scratched at the boy’s skull, washing him as well as he could. It was miserable, bathing in the cold river like that, but a hot bath wasn’t a luxury they could afford at that moment.

Arthur filled up the bucket with water again and washed away the soap from John’s hair. Even with the strong smell of the soap, the scent of his heat was still overpowering.

“You know tryin’ to wash away my smell ain’t gonna work, right, Arthur?” John looked up at him with glassy eyes. Even with the cold water being poured over him he still looked feverish, hell he felt feverish against Arthur. “I just want to lay down, take a nap or something.”

“You’ll be glad soon enough that I washed you down.” Arthur hesitated for the briefest of moments before he took the soap to John’s flushed and feverish body. “The fever will pass soon enough and you won’t want that sweat on you for the next few days.” A pause and then a muttered, “ God knows we’ll be covered in who knows what at the end of it all .”

Arthur ran his hands over skin that was marred by scars, some from bullet holes, others from knives, and even more from falling off a horse. He mused that if any stranger looked at John, they’d think the boy was an alpha. A skinny alpha, sure, but none of them would think he was an omega.

Male omegas were usually kept to whore houses, made up all pretty in corsets and lace. Few people thought they were capable of riding a horse, fewer still thought they’d be able to commit the crimes John Marston had.

Arthur grinned a thin lipped, wry grin. Ain’t nobody was telling John what he couldn’t do. He splashed the boy down with more water from the bucket and dragged him up.

Dutch saw the fire in the boy’s eyes when he picked him off the streets six years previously. John was a goddamned spitfire and Dutch knew that he had to take the wild omega.

As Arthur helped the shivering John to the riverbank and wrapped him up in a thick, scratchy towel, he wondered how tamed the boy actually was.

Arthur lit a cigarette after he dressed himself back up and tossed the match into the river. “There ain’t no point in dressin’ you back up in those clothes, not with how they smell right now.” He hooked his thumbs in his suspenders and stared at the shivering boy. “I’ll take you to the tent and get us some food and then you can decide what we do from there.”

“What a gentleman.”

John stood up and wobbled on his feet like a drunk. He had to rest a hand on Arthur’s shoulder to prevent himself from collapsing on the ground and Arthur was amazed at how his hand felt like a brand it was so hot. He had never interacted with an omega this into their heat before, never saw the appeal of it. But with John’s scent so strong in his nose and the heat radiating off his body, all of Arthur’s instincts were screaming at him to take him, fuck him, claim him on the muddy edge of the river.

Arthur shook his head to clear any of those thoughts away. He wasn’t a man ruled by instinct. He was helping his brother, same he’d do for anyone else in the gang if Dutch or Hosea weren’t there.

“Come on, Marston.” Arthur hooked his arms around the small of John’s back and the backs of his knees, picking him up like a bride. It was easier to carry him than worry about the kid collapsing somewhere along the way.

Arthur glanced down to see John staring at him with clear hunger in his eyes and he had to swallow hard and take a long drag of his cigarette.

At the far edge of the camp, yards away from any other tent, Arthur could see one lone tent, hastily put together. It wasn’t big, maybe big enough for two bedrolls put side to side with a couple feet to spare, but at least it was something.

“You stay out here, boy.” Arthur set John down at the edge of the tent. “Miss Grimshaw should have grabbed some blankets and clothes of yours and Dutch’s so you can make a nest.”

John nodded slowly. The heat was beginning to take hold of him and Arthur noticed how his hands clenched into fists, pulling out clumps of dirt and grass. Trying desperately to not touch himself, Arthur guessed.

“John, listen—“ Arthur knelt down next to John and rested a hand on his overheated shoulder. “I ain’t Dutch, but I’m gonna take care of you during this.” There wasn’t a point in being nasty to John then. There was no way the kid would be able to retort with any sharp barbs or nasty insults of his own. “Just go lay down and get comfortable and I’ll come back shortly with somethin’ for you to eat and drink.”

Arthur paused briefly and gently pushed some hair out of the middle of John’s face. “You do what you need to until I’m back, okay?”

“I— yeah,” John said slowly. Then quietly he whispered, “I appreciate it, Arthur. I… I really do.”

——

Arthur was gone for maybe twenty minutes. Long enough to get a few extra blankets and canteens as well as two bowls of soup. He wasn’t quite sure how much John would be able to get down, he remembered how he was barely able to eat during his first rut, but he needed something to give to him.

When he was five yards from the tent, Arthur nearly dropped everything he was holding at how damn strong the stench of heat was. He bit his bottom lip until it bled, trying to stop his instincts. John smelt so sweet, so intoxicating. It was…

God it was a new form of Hell.

“You okay, Marston?” His voice shook slightly as he called into the tent. “I got you some blankets and food. Can you come out?”

“You didn’t tell me how bad this would hurt.” John’s voice wavered and cracked. He crawled halfway out of the tent, bare chest flushed. “I’d rather be mauled than go through this a few times a year.”

“Try and eat a little of this and then we can work on…” Arthur paused to consider his next words carefully. Making the pain go away sounded like something in one of Dutch’s trashier collection of books. Gettin’ you feeling better wasn’t much higher than that too. “Work on… you know.” His ears and cheeks felt hot and he looked away from John.

“I ain’t hungry.”

“Eat some anyway.” Arthur pushed a bowl towards John. “It ain’t nothing too heavy, you should be able to stomach it.”

John frowned but sat up and grabbed the bowl. Slowly he sipped from the hot soup.

“I don’t know if you needed more blankets or nothing, but I grabbed some from my tent.” Arthur chewed on a chunk of deer meat carefully and stared at the pine trees. “Grabbed some gun oil too just in case…” he wasn’t sure it was possible for his face to grow any hotter.

“That ain’t gonna be a problem,” John mumbled into his soup.

Arthur coughed. “Right, well.” He gulped down a few mouthfuls of soup. “I’ve… uh, I’ve got plenty of water for you.”

“I can’t finish this, Arthur,” John said suddenly, setting the still mostly full bowl of soup down. “My stomach’s in knots and my body aches worse than the time I rode for two days straight.”

There was no getting around it. “So do you want me to— you know?”

“Fuck me?”

Arthur scratched his beard and looked away from John. He wasn’t sure where the bashfulness suddenly came from, but when finally faced with the prospect of fucking the boy, he wanted to run.

“Yeah, fuck you.”

John sighed and tossed his head back. “If it’d make me stop feelin’ like I’ve been run over by a train, yeah I do.”

“It should help.” Arthur set his bowl of soup down and looked towards the rising columns of smoke from the various campfires. “And it gets less painful the more times you’ve gone through it, at least ruts did.”

Silently, John crawled back into the tent with a slight nod of acknowledgement and Arthur gathered his resolve. As much as he enjoyed antagonizing John, he wanted to make sure his first heat went well. It was a heavy weight for him to carry, but he had to pray that he had learnt anything from Dutch.

Arthur stripped from his shirt and unbuttoned his pants before he climbed inside the tent. In the close confines, John’s scent was overwhelming. Unconsciously, a quiet whimper left his lips as the scent of omega in heat overwhelmed his senses.

“You okay?” John stared at Arthur and it took him a few seconds to even parse the words.

“I — fuck — just give me a moment.” Arthur ran his hands down his face and swallowed hard. “It’s… it’s an overpowerin’ smell you’ve got there.” He was hard in his trousers and god he needed to control himself before he jumped John.

“So you’ve said several times today.” John’s cock was hard and straining against his thigh. It was smaller than Arthur’s, like most omegas’ cocks were, but Arthur desperately wanted to swallow it.

“I really do need you to do somethin’ soon, though.” John looked away from Arthur. He was probably just as embarrassed about the entire situation as Arthur was, a thought that brought little satisfaction to him.

Arthur closed his eyes and prayed a silent prayer that he would be given some form of restraint. “Right, come over here then.” He motioned towards his lap and John scrambled to him.

“Let me know if this don’t feel good.” Arthur rested a hand on the small of John’s back and brought the other to his ass which was covered in slick. “Easy,” he murmured softly, like he was riding a flighty horse, as he slid a finger into John’s hole.

John released a shaky sighing moan as Arthur carefully prepared him. He had been right, there was no need for the gun oil Arthur brought with how soaked he was.

“That’s it, nice and easy.” Arthur slid in a second finger and gently scissored them inside of John. He could feel the way the boy’s hips twitched, rubbing his cock against his thigh.

He took his time fingering and preparing John, whispering low murmurs of encouragement the entire time. The muscles on John’s back tensed and flexed as he fought back any reactions.

“Marston I know I give you plenty of hell, but I ain’t gonna give you none for this.” Arthur rubbed small circles on the small of John’s scarred back as he added a third finger. “You can let loose, I don’t give a shit.”

“It’s — hnngh — it’s embarrassin’,” John grunted.

“I get it, I do.” Arthur felt around for John’s prostate and lightly rubbed at the bundle of nerves. He felt the way John tensed around him and a light moan left his lips. “But what happens here can stay between you and me.”

Arthur pulled his fingers free of John and wiped them on the blankets of John’s hastily constructed nest. He tapped John’s thigh and brought him to a sitting position.

“How do you want to do this?” Arthur asked, face slightly flushed. He looked away from John’s dark eyes at one of the wooden tent poles as he spoke. For all his words trying to ease John into comfort, he was beyond embarrassed himself. “You could lay on the ground and let me take the reins or you can ride me, set your own pace.”

“I’ll ride you,” John mumbled. He was staring at Arthur’s chest, trying to avoid eye contact just like the other.

“Right… well…” Arthur stroked his cock a few times, coaxing it to full, straining hardness. His thighs were a mess from John straddling them, just the few moments he was sitting there left his legs covered in a layer of slick.

John laid a hand on Arthur’s shoulder and used the other to guide his cock to his hole. Arthur bit back a light moan at the touch, the feeling of his blunt cockhead pressing against John’s slick hole.

Slowly, slow enough that it tested Arthur’s patience and resolve to let John take it at his own pace, John slid down onto Arthur’s cock. His hand was clammy on Arthur’s shoulder and clenched down hard as he took more and more of its thick length.

“There’s a good boy— nice and slow,” Arthur murmured the encouragement quietly. He rested a hand on John’s side. His touch was soft and gentle.

Some part of his mind thought it was funny that he was treating John like he’d treat a horse, but there was no other way he could treat him at that moment.

Both men let out breathy sighs when skin met skin. John stayed still for a moment, adjusting to the thickness and Arthur rubbed his side in an attempt to comfort him.

John looked goddamned amazing, eyes shut, mouth slightly opened, and face flushed. Arthur wanted to tear into him, fuck him six feet under. But he forced his hand to stay gentle at John’s side, exert no pressure, let the boy slowly start moving.

Fuck ,” John groaned. His hand clutched Arthur’s shoulder in a death grip and he began to move, thighs straining. His pace was slow at first, still trying to get used to the thick cock in his ass, but he soon began to pick up the pace.

Quick, low moans left John’s lips as he bounced on Arthur’s cock. The warm, slick heat of his hole was amazing and Arthur threw his head back, moaning along with John.

John made to move his hand to his cock, but Arthur brushed it out of the way, wrapping his own hand around John’s leaking cock. It pulsed along with John’s heartbeat and Arthur jerked it in quick strokes, at a similar pace to what John was fucking himself on Arthur’s cock.

Ghh — Arthur, please.” John let out a keening moan. His thighs strained and flexed as he quickly bounced on Arthur’s cock, the slap of skin on skin loud and wet thanks to the amount of slick that drooled from his hole, even with Arthur’s cock in his ass.

“What do you want, boy?” Arthur asked, rubbing John’s cockhead as he jerked his cock.

“I need — aah, fuck — I need you to go harder.”

Arthur bit his lower lip and cautiously flexed his hips to meet with John’s as he lowered his and an almost pained moan left his lips.

“Like that, god, please, I need you to fuck me hard.”

Arthur chewed on his lip for what felt like decades as he thought about what to do next. As much of a sight John was, riding his cock, if he really needed to go harder, he’d need to be in a position where he could get a lot more leverage.

Quickly, Arthur flipped John around so he was laying on his back in his nest and raised his legs so they laid around his shoulders. He looked down at John and he gave a quick nod to let Arthur know that it was okay.

With the okay given, Arthur began to fuck John in earnest. His hands pressed hard enough to bruise on the boy’s hips, keeping him in place as he slammed into him, punching out loud moans.

Arthur moaned softly as he fucked into the tight, wet heat again and again and the slap of his balls on John’s ass was loud.

“Fuck— you feel — ah — god you feel incredible, Marston.” Arthur couldn’t help how the praise left his lips. He wasn’t sure if he could have ever truly described John as pretty before, but in that moment he was a goddamned sight to behold, panting and moaning.

Sweat dripped down Arthur’s back despite the chill of the outside world and he felt his knot begin to inflate. He knew it wouldn’t be long before he came.

Arthur moved a hand from John’s hip to his cock and began stroking him off, trying to get them to come at the same time.

“I— I’m close,” Arthur grunted.

“I can feel,” John murmured and then added. “Me too.”

The tent was quiet save for the sound of skin on skin and the moans from the two men.

Arthur came first, spilling inside of John with a loud groaning moan. His knot was fully inflated and locked the two men together as his cock pumped thick loads of cum into John. He came soon after, tightening around Arthur’s cock, coaxing more cum out of him.

John looked up at Arthur, eyes glassy and wide as he came down from his high.

“I… appreciate this, Arthur,” he murmured, cheeks flushing more than they had.

Arthur stared down at him, taking in the view of the boy, flushed chest splattered with the white of his own cum. The gorgeous sight was enough to make him glad that Dutch was gone, that if only for a few days the wild John was his and his alone.

“We ain’t done yet,” Arthur said softly and ran a thumb along the stubble on John’s jaw. “We’ve got a long few days ahead of us.”